Monday, October 31, 2011

GM set to invest $385 million in Romulus plant

  Details and  timing of the investment are still being worked out, but General Motors says it plans to invest approximately $385 million to prepare Romulus Engine for production of an all-new, fuel efficient engine program, creating or retaining about 320 jobs. 
“Customers care about fuel efficiency and performance,” said Gerald Johnson, GM manufacturing manager. “We continue to innovate to meet both these expectations and the Romulus team will be an important part of our efforts."
The plant, which currently has about 840 employees on two shifts,  produces a variety of V6 and V8 engines that power GM full-size vans, SUVs and pickups, including the Chevrolet Express, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban and Colorado, GMC Savana, Sierra, Yukon, Canyon, and Cadillac Escalade.  Romulus-built engines also are used for marine and industrial applications.
“The gains we achieved through collective bargaining not only help our membership, but also provide opportunities to members of the communities where GM builds vehicles,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president representing the GM Department. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, October 27, 2011

 After several false starts, the Chinese automaker BYD is finally ready to start selling its electric vehcles to consumers in China.  The five passenger sedan is the very first domestic, long-range, all-electric vehicle for sale to consumers in China, BYD officials noted. The BYD e6, will be available for consumer purchases Consumers in Shenzhen where the vehicle is being launched will receive a substantial government subsidy – about $18,000. The e6 unsubsidized price for e6 is $56,900.  BYD said  EV charging infrastructure  in the city of Shenzhen is steadily sight in Shenzhen and have been in operation in government and taxi fleets for nearly 18 months.  The  Shenzhen taxi fleet is already using BYD’s e6 exclusively, having accumulated over 3.8 Million fleet miles, helping prove out the  battery performance The new e6 will be powered by BYD’s independently developed Iron-Phosphate, which have a driving range of over 190 miles before need to recharge, which is nearly double the range of its closest 4-seat competitor.  In addition to the longest driving range, BYD also provides superior charging solutions for both consumers who want to charge at the rapid-charging  stations in Shenzhen or own their own private parking and prefer to charge overnight or with renewable
power.  By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Zipcar takes on government jobs

 Rather than buying or leasing cars, governments are beginning to borrow cars from Zipcar Inc., the expanding  car sharing network,  has been awarded a blanket purchase agreement by the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Motor Vehicle Management  as a vendor for the Federal government's Short Term Rental (STR) program.
  This marks the first time that car sharing has officially been part of the GSA Fleet's list of approved vendors for  Federal government entities, which now have access to Zipcar's entire fleet of car sharing vehicles in the company's 12 major U.S. markets. The term of the BPA is from October 6, 2011, through September 30, 2012, with four one-year options to renew.
  The GSA Fleet selection comes after several other city and state government contracts that Zipcar has recently secured.  The company also has signed a new contract with the State of Illinois's Department of Central Management Services to provide car sharing to state employees. "Alternative transportation is an important part of our efforts to reduce costs and improve efficiency, while helping to reduce our environmental impact," said CMS acting director Malcolm Weems.  "Through this partnership with Zipcar, we will lower costs by paying for vehicles only when needed and help minimize emissions by using Zipcar's fuel-efficient fleet of cars."
Through Zipcar's Z4G - Zipcar for Government    program, which offers a number of state agencies will have on-demand access to nearly 500 Zipcar vehicles currently located across the city of Chicago, as well as a new fleet of vehicles in the city of Springfield.  State employees will be able to reserve Zipcars as needed for state business use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the State paying only for the time the car is actually reserved.

 In March 2011, Zipcar announced a partnership with the City of Chicago to provide an integrated fleet and car sharing solution for city agencies, and in October 2010 launched a partnership with the City of New York to provide car sharing memberships to Department of Transportation (DOT) employees as a part of a pilot program.  In Washington D.C., Zipcar launched a program called Fleet Share in April 2009, which provides FastFleet technology to 50 departments and agencies throughout the District.  Zipcar also provides a range of car sharing and FastFleet technology services to a variety of additional City, County and State government entities including the cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Sacramento, Portland, OR; Cambridge, MA; and Wilmington, DE; as well as to the county of Santa Cruz.
"We are proud to offer our car sharing services and FastFleet technology to a broad spectrum of government entities on the Federal, State, City and County levels.  Zipcar fits into a new era when governments are trying to do more with less by utilizing new technologies, methods and practices," said Zipcar Chairman and CEO, Scott Griffith.  "Our partnerships across a range of government agencies have already helped to create efficiencies and streamline costs for many levels and facets of government.  We are thrilled by the Federal government's addition of Zipcar to the GSA Fleet program," he said. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2012 Range Rover Evoque hailed by Motor Trend

The award season in the car business is getting revved up and Motor Trend has dislcosed the all-new 2012 Range Rover Evoque has been named 2012 Sport/Utility of the Year by Motor Trend. The executives at Jaguar Land Rover are ecstatic.  "It is a significant achievement for the Range Rover Evoque to be deemed the best new SUV on the market by Motor Trend, one of the pre-eminent brands in automotive publishing," said Andy Goss, President, Jaguar Land Rover North America. The Motor Trend award is certain to make the Evoque a contender for North American Truck of the Years as well.
The 2012 Range Rover Evoque is the smallest, lightest, most fuel efficient Range Rover ever produced. The vehicle stays true to the core values of Range Rover, providing premium levels of craftsmanship, luxury, performance and Land Rover multi-terrain capability while embodied in a more compact package.  The Range Rover Evoque also sends a message that the company is serious about sustainability and determined to deliver vehicles that are both relevant and highly desirable.
"The Range Rover Evoque is a bold move into the fast-growing compact luxury SUV sector," said Angus MacKenzie, Editor-in-Chief, Motor Trend.  "Refined and capable both on and off the road, it artfully combines traditional Range Rover values with stunning state-of-the-moment design and impressive efficiency. The Evoque is a worthy winner of our award, and I have no doubt it will be a worldwide hit for Land Rover."
The Range Rover Evoque will be available in two versions: a coupe and a five-door, with starting prices of $44,995* and $43,995*, respectively.  The two versions are identical in overall length and width; however, the five-door has a 1.18 inch higher roofline. Every Range Rover Evoque destined for the United States will be equipped with all-wheel-drive and will feature a 240-horsepower, turbocharged, direct fuel injected, four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, according to Jaguar Land Rover, which is part of India's Tata Motors.  By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ford, Chrysler win out at TAWA rodeo

 The results are in for the 2011 Texas Truck Rodeo and Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group dominated the competition, according to the Texas Auto Writers Association.
Ford won every category it entered, winning the 2011 Truck of Texas with the Ford F-150 and six other categories.  “These honors show Ford trucks still reign supreme in Texas, and it is rewarding to see that the truck-savvy Texas auto writers appreciate just how innovative our F-Series pickups are,” said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas.
A total of 48 vehicles were entered in the rodeo and were evaluated by the 57 registered TAWA members.  A list of the important winners in each category is below.
 Ford’s honors included: Truck of Texas: 2012 Ford F-150; Truck Line of Texas: 2012 Ford lineup of trucks; Outstanding Feature of Texas: Ford’s EcoBoost engine technology; Full-size Pickup Truck: First, 2012 Ford F-150; second, 2012 Ram 1500; third, Chevrolet 1500 and Heavy-Duty Pickup Truck: First, 2012 Ford F-250 King Ranch; second, 2012 Ram 2500 HD Power Wagon; third, 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD
  Nissan Frontier was named the best mid-sized truck.
 Jeep Grand Cherokee has been named "SUV of Texas" - for the second consecutive year.  The 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited   was named "Mid-size SUV of Texas," and the ultra-premium Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit was named "Luxury SUV of Texas."
 "We are delighted that the influential journalists representing the Texas Auto Writers Association have once again recognized Jeep vehicles with several awards, and particularly the Jeep Grand Cherokee as the 'SUV of Texas,'" said Mike Manley, President and CEO - Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group LLC.
The new Dodge Durango stood proud as the winner of the prestigious "Full-Size SUV of Texas" honor.
 Other notable winners in the SUV category included: Ford Edge, which was named compact vehicle of Texas and the Nissan Xterra, which was named the compact SUV of Texas. For a complete list of winners go to TAWA’s website, By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chrysler adds new Ram models

 Just in time for the annual Texas Truck Rodeo Crysler rolled out new models of the Ram  Power Wagon,  which will now be available in two additional models--ST and Laramie, and the Ram 1500.
 The new 2012 Ram 1500 Mossy Oak Edition,  which is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts, will be a limited-availability model that further extends the multi-tiered relationship between the Ram Truck brand and America's top camouflage brand.
 "Ram Truck owners are deeply involved with the outdoors and proudly participate in hunting and fishing," said Fred Diaz, President and CEO, Ram Truck Brand and Chrysler de Mexico - Chrysler Group LLC.
 Diaz said the Ram 1500 owner demographics underscore the point as Chyrsler’s research indicates 30 percent of Ram owners hunt, 44 percent fish, 27 percent are boaters and 42 percent are campers.
 Meanwhile, the new Ram Power Wagon ST will offer off-road enthusiasts all of the Power Wagon's legendary capability in a value-oriented package. The Power Wagon Laramie will offer more comfort and luxury features. Each of the three Ram Power Wagon models will have its own distinctive look.
"When it comes to off-road capability, no other pickup truck compares to the Ram Power Wagon," Diaz said.  "Expanding the Power Wagon's availability to ST and Laramie models is not only what our customers have asked for, but also a true measure of the truck's success and popularity with truck buyers," he added.  By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Azure Dynamics expans sales network in Europe

 Oak Park-based  Azure Dynamics is increasing the size of the  dealer network in Western Europe, selling commercial vehicles announces equipped with its hybrid powertrains. Ford Motor Co. dealers  in Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden will be responsible for  selling and servicing the Transit Connect
Electric sales and service under the new agreements. Along with previously announced dealer appointments in U.K., Germany and Norway, Azure now has sales locations in six European countries. By partnering with market-leading dealerships that often have multiple store locations, Azure now has 13 European dealer relationships with 57 distinct locations, including sales sites in five European capitols. "We continue to receive strong demand for Transit Connect Electric from various businesses throughout Europe," said Ricardo Espinosa, Azure's managing director in Europe. "Each European country has its own set of rules and regulations regarding sales and service activity for new commercial vehicles. As we establish new dealerships, Azure Dynamics and its Transit Connect Electric essentially become 'open for business' for customers in each new country," he said. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Buick, Lincoln, Volvo, Ford, Lexus models make list

 N    NADAguides, a leading online provider of vehicle pricing and information, has announced  it new "Must Consider" vehicle list for Fall 2011, which includes the 2012 Buick Enclave, 2012 Ford Fusion, 2012 Lexus CT 200h, 2012 Lincoln MKX and the 2012 Volvo S60. 
 T   The  Must Consider List offers an overview of worthy vehicles that may not be seeing much in the way of advertising, promotional support or press, but that those researching a new vehicle should consider purchasing, according to the editors.  The vehicles on the list are selected by the analysts at NADAguides and offer a combination of quality engineering, design and features, great performance and excellent fuel efficiency  and overall, comparative value
  T   For example, the 2012 Buick Enclave was described by NADA guides as an enticing premium crossover with ample cargo and passenger space, eye-catching good looks, comfort and performance.  With front- and all-wheel drive configurations, while the 2012 Ford Fusion got high marks for its spacious interior comfortable ride and Ford SYNC voice-activated communication and entertainment system. The hybrid 2012 Lexus CT 200h  gets an estimated 43 MPG and offers far far better fuel efficiency than any other luxury vehicle on the market.  The 2012 Lincoln MKX,  is a mid-sized luxury crossover, the 2012 Lincoln MKX that features include navigation system with SYNC, adaptive cruise control with collision warning, rear view camera system, leather interior, ambient lighting, panoramic vista roof, heated second row seats, heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, and dual-zone electronic climate control.  The 2012 Volvo S60 is ergonomically designed while still maintaining impeccable styling, the 2012 Volvo S60, making it a great entry level luxury sedan that achieves up to an estimated 25 MPG combined, according to NADAguides. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Loyalty of Kia buyers growing.

 Kia Motors America is definitely on a roll.  Experian, a leading global information services company,  recently released a report on automotive brand loyalty, which noted during the second quarter of 2011, 47.9 percent of the 54,268 Kia owners that returned to the marketplace purchased another Kia vehicle. Experian also reported that the Kia Forte compact sedan received the highest loyalty ranking of any vehicle with 67.7 percent, while the popular Soul urban passenger vehicle and Forte Koup two-door landed not far behind with 59.3 percent and 56.4 percent rankings, respectively.
  "Our design-led transformation has delivered nine new vehicles in less than three years and we are not only seeing more and more new consumers come into Kia showrooms but also a sharp increase in owners returning and purchasing another Kia vehicle," said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing & communications, KMA. 

 "Customers are recognizing Kia vehicles as smart purchases and understand that you don't have to sacrifice performance or styling in order to get impressive fuel efficiency or the latest technologies at a low starting price.  As our residual values continue to outpace the industry, Kia's value proposition is all the more powerful."
  Experian Automotive leverages its North American Vehicle Database to track vehicle ownership and purchase activity. 
Design-Led Transformation and Product Line
  Sprague said Kia Motors' design-led transformation, which has been delivering dynamically styled vehicles in several important segments has come at exactly the right time, contributing to the brand's continued gains in U.S. market share. Kia has already sold more vehicles this year than it did in 2010 and is poised to continue its momentum, he said.  During September, Kia's also added production the critically acclaimed Optima midsize sedan  to the model mix at its assembly plant in West Point, Ga.. for the first time. By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, October 17, 2011

Buick teaming up with Pandora

Pandora, the personalized radio service, will be integrated in Buick IntelliLink, the lbrand's in-car infotainment system, starting with Buick's 2012 sedans, Verano, Regal and LaCrosse, later this year, followed by Enclave in 2013, General Motors has announced.
"Today's consumers expect more from their cars' infotainment systems, and Buick IntelliLink is designed to meet and even exceed their expectations for connectivity and customization," said Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president of Buick Marketing. "Pandora is an excellent example of the customizable entertainment options made available through Buick IntelliLink."
 The Buick IntelliLink system uses Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver's smartphone to a new 7- or 8-inch, high-resolution, full-color touch screen display radio. The system offers three methods by which drivers can access Pandora stations, including controls on the touch screen display radio, buttons on the steering wheel, and voice commands. Pandora executive vice president of business and corporate development Jessica Steel said, "Fleet-wide integration of Pandora is one of the most expedient ways to expand Pandora listening in cars and we're delighted that Buick is rapidly making personalized radio an option for their drivers." By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

GM confirms plans for compact pickup

General Motors has confirmed  that version of the all-new Colorado midsize pickup will be built and sold in the United States. The first version of the truck is launching this month in Thailand, to be followed by other regions around the globe. “The new Chevrolet Colorado is generating a lot of excitement as we begin its launch in Thailand,” said Chris Perry, vice president, global marketing and strategy for Chevrolet. “We think the design, capability and fuel efficiency of the new Colorado will make it attractive to U.S. customers,” he said.
Perry said the all-new global Colorado builds on Chevrolet’s strong truck DNA and award-winning heritage, and the show truck versions generated significant attention at global auto shows in Thailand, Argentina, Australia and Germany. Thailand is the world’s largest market for midsize pickup trucks. Product details, timing, pricing and the production location will be announced later. The current-generation Colorado will be produced in Shreveport, La., through the 2012 model year.
In Thailand, the model lineup will include 2WD and 4WD regular, extended-cab and crew cab variants. New 2.5L and 2.8L turbo diesel engines that produce broad torque bands engineered for excellent cargo and towing capability will be offered. Engine availability for U.S. versions will be announced at a future date, GM said. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, October 7, 2011

New fuel standards to save Michigan drivers $1 billion annually

 Michigan drivers will save $937 million a year at the pump in 2030 as a result of new fuel economy and vehicle emission standards, according to a new analysis released by Great Lakes Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation.

The analysis, from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), shows that the average Michigan household will save $240 a year.  Fuel savings from driving higher-mileage vehicles will far outweigh the cost of new automotive technology used to meet standards for cars and light trucks in model years 2017 to 2025, currently under development by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Other studies, notably one by Center For Automotive Research have suggested the new standards  could boost the price of new vehicles by as much as $5,000.
 The National Wildlife Federation report  also finds that the new standards cut oil use in Michigan by 622 million gallons per year in 2030, and eliminate 7.4 million metric tons of carbon pollution.
 “It’s the equivalent of taking 1 million vehicles off the road, without taking the vehicles off the road ” said Frank Szollosi, Climate and Global Warming Associate at NWF. “The beauty of it is, we’ll be driving cleaner cars and light trucks, equipped with the latest technology, with value added and jobs created here in the industrial Midwest.”
  In July, President Obama outline the framework for the new 2017-2025 standards, which will ensure that new cars and trucks meet the equivalent of a 54.5 miles-per-gallon fleetwide average by 2025.  Nationwide, the new analysis projected that these standards will  save Americans $44 billion a year by 2030, cut oil use by 23.6 billion gallons, and reduce global warming pollution by 280 million metric tons, making this the single biggest step this country has ever taken to get cut the nation’s dependence on oil and tackle global warming, according to the National Wildlife Federation. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, October 6, 2011

GM, Ford and Chrysler get spot on list for new award.

The Motor Press Guild of Los Angeles , the largest automotive media association in North America, has selected cars from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler Group as finalist for the first MPG Vehicle of the Year Award.  The finalists for the new honor, which is certain to command broad attention, include the 2012 Audi A7, 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, 2012 Fiat 500, 2012 Ford Focus and 2011 Hyundai Elantra. The Fiat 500 is sold by Chrysler across North America.and built at a Chrysler plant in Mexico.
 The five finalists for the "VOTY" were chosen by a panel of 18 MPG journalist members who drive and review new vehicles on a regular basis. All MPG journalist members will evaluate the final five vehicles and vote on the winner at the organization's annual Track Day event in mid October. The winner of the award will be announced during the LA auto show’s press days.
Eligible vehicles must be all-new or substantially changed for calendar year 2011 and available at dealerships on or before January 1, 2012. In addition, MPG members are encouraged to select vehicles that represent the unique Southern California marketplace. The winner of the 2011 Motor Press Guild Vehicle of the Year will be announced during the Los Angeles International Auto Show Press Days on Nov. 16-17, 2011.
 "We're proud of the top five cars nominated by our MPG jury," said Laura Burstein, Motor Press Guild President and VOTY panelist. "Not only are these finalists excellent vehicles overall, they represent a variety of segments and price points -- and they show a little So-Cal flair, too. Any of these vehicles would be worthy of the VOTY award," Burstein added. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ford to unveil new Escape in LA

Ford Motor Co. is planning to unveil the next generation Ford Escape during the press preview at next months Los Angeles Auto, company officials have confirmed. The next escape will come with 4-cyliner EcoBoost engine rather than a V6 engine, Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development told reporters this week.
 Kuzak added the Ford Escape Hybrid will disappear from the company's model line and be replaced in Ford's model line by an all-new C-MAX Hybrid that’s 25 percent more fuel efficient than even today’s Escape Hybrid.
“Customers are prioritizing fuel economy above every other trait when they make most vehicle purchases,” Kuzak said.  “Ford is meeting people’s needs by offering a family of fuel-efficient vehicles – from hybrids to electrics to traditional gasoline-powered cars – packed with class-leading technology, giving customers both exciting and greener driving choices,” Kuzak said.
  Kuzak said the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, which uses turbocharging, twin independent variable camshaft timing and direct injection to deliver the performance of a larger engine and the fuel -economy of a smaller motor. In its  North American debut in the new Escape, it  is expected to deliver even higher highway fuel economy than the current Escape Hybrid, which is EPA-rated at 31 mpg. The new 1.6-liter engine also is expected to deliver better fuel economy than  larger four-cylinder engines such as Toyota and Honda, he said.
 The Escape will also be Ford’s first SUV to be available with two versions of  fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines, which will be offered as standard at more popular trim levels, Ford officials added. The 2.5 liter Ti VCT has been earmarked as the base engine in the new Escape, which will no longer be equipped with a V6.
Escape’s new 2.0-liter EcoBoost will have better fuel economy than competitors’ V6 engines while delivering unsurpassed performance compared to those larger six-cylinder engines, Ford  representatives added.
"Expanding the availability of EcoBoost technology in the all-new Ford Escape will give customers a great range of choices for the fuel efficiency and performance they want in a small SUV,” said Joe Bakaj, vice president, Powertrain Engineering. “This advanced technology in the new Escape delivers on our commitment to provide class-leading fuel efficiency in every new Ford product.”
 Since launch, sales of the 1.6-liter EcoBoost in Europe in Focus and C-MAX are exceeding expectations by 40 percent. Ford holds more than 125 patents on EcoBoost technology, a global approach to provide affordable fuel efficiency for millions of drivers that will extend to 90 percent of Ford vehicles by 2013. EcoBoost increases fuel economy up to 20 percent while reducing CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent.  
With the addition of EcoBoost engines to the Escape, Ford will offer more advanced technology engines in its utility vehicle lineup than any other full-line manufacturer. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Japanese lose big chunk of market share

Kelley Blue Book is  reporting that automotive brands are losing ground, while the domestics and Hyundai benefit, as covered in the company's Blue Book Market Report for October 2011.  The Japanese brands' revenue and volume are at stake as they replenish inventory, following the March earthquake and tsunami.
September inventory figures for Japanese brands improved slightly over August, giving the first indication that the worst may be over.  An increase of nearly 15,000 units provides a signal that in the coming months more inventory should become available.  "Additional product cannot arrive soon enough for dealers in the U.S. as they continue to give up share in their most important high-volume segments," kbb said in its new report.
Overall, Japanese market share has declined 4 points since 2010, dropping from 38.6 percent in 2010 to 34.8 percent through August of this year.  The 4-point translates into a loss of more than 300,000 potential sales that were diverted primarily to the domestic and Korean manufacturers.  In addition,  there are more pronounced declines in a handful of crucial segments. 
  Market in the ultra-competitive compact car, mid-size car and compact crossover segments are down significantly for the Japanese Additional inventory is crucial in these segments, especially for highly anticipated redesigns such as the 2012 Toyota Camry, 2012 RAV4, 2012 Honda Civic and 2012 Honda CR-V.  Among all Japanese brands, Toyota and Honda have taken the most significant hit in terms of overall market share.  Toyota and Honda suffered most from the earthquake, shedding 2.5 points and 1.5 points, respectively, allowing Hyundai, Chrysler and GM to each benefit by 1 point or more.  "While a gain or loss of a few points may seem insignificant, when we examine the impact to volume and potentially lost revenue, we begin to see the importance of market share," the kbb report noted. By Joseph Szczesny