Friday, December 30, 2011

Ford has plan for cutting water use

Ford Motor Co. is entering 2012 with plans to reduce substantially the amount of water used to make vehicles. The new goal calls for Ford to cut the amount of water used to make each vehicle 30 percent globally by 2015, compared with the amount of water used per vehicle in 2009. Ford is also developing year-over-year efficiency targets as part of its annual environmental business planning process and has established a cross-functional team spanning several divisions to review water usage more holistically.
"Water remains one of our top environmental priorities and our aggressive reduction target helps ensure continued focus on this critical resource," said Sue Cischke, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.
If Ford meets its goal of reducing the amount of water used by 30 percent between 2009 and 2015, the amount of water used to make a vehicle will have dropped from 9.5 cubic meters in 2000 to approximately 3.5 cubic meters in 2015. One cubic meter is equal to 264.2 gallons of water.
The water challenge is particularly acute in places such as Mexico, China and India where Ford has or is developing extensive operations.
Drought and extensive population growth are just two of many challenges in places such as Mexico's Sonoran Desert, home to Ford's Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant where  Ford Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ are built. Production at Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant doubled between 2000 and 2010. However, water usage at the plant dropped during the same period by 40 percent."We applied innovative technology to our Hermosillo plant to reduce water consumption, minimize impact on the community and build vehicles in a more sustainable manner," said Larry Merritt, manager, Environmental Quality Office. To reduce water use in Hermosillo, a membrane biological reactor - a biological water treatment system - was installed. The complex system is able to make up to 65 percent of the plant's wastewater suitable for high-quality reuse elsewhere in the facility or for irrigation. The water treatment system also is being used at Ford plants in Chennai, India and Chongqing, China.
Another approach is to cut the amount of water necessary to complete a task - a strategy afforded by the use of advanced technologies and processes. "As we invest in new and existing facilities globally, our water strategy prioritizes sustainable manufacturing technologies," said John Fleming, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. "This disciplined approach allows us to make significant progress in water reduction and other environmental efforts over time." By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Luxury sales crown still up for grabs

 Mercedes-Benz and BMW are locked in a tight duel for the honor of being the top luxury brands sold in the United States.
  Publicly at least both BMW and Mercedes-Benz executives are playing down the importance of the crown, which is a highly visible symbol of automotive supremacy.
  “We’re not going to chase the title with incentives,” Mercedes Benz USA new chief executive Steve Cannon told reporters during a luncheon in Detroit.
 However, Cannon also noted Mercedes has completely overhauled its product line in the U.S. this year and the latest models such as the new C-Class Coupe and M-Class are now available at dealers across the U.S., bolstering chances for strong sales in December as well, Cannon said.
 Ian Robertson, BMW Board member for sales and marketing, also said the German automaker was pleased with its position. “This was our best ever November sales month, “ he noted at the beginning of December. The U.S. has recorded positive sales growth for BMW, Robertson said.
 BMW also ramped up is incentive spending as the sales duel intensified.  Starting November 1, BMW  began offering a finance credit  of up to $2,500, on its some of its most  popular models, including 3 Series and 5 Series Sedan and X5 crossover vehicles. However, Mercedes has increased its incentives by 57 percent this year, according to estimates from TrueCar. com.
   For the past 11 years, the luxury vehicle sales title has been the property of Toyota’s Lexus Division,  which has been hobbled during this year’s race by the fallout from Japan’s Great Northeastern earthquake and tsunami, which hobbled Japanese industry for months.
  Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst, noted recently, “ I anticipate Lexus will push its iconic 'December to Remember' message hard next month in the hopes of  closing the gap with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, though there is no chance Lexus will keep its leader status this year.
 Joseph Phillippi, an independent analysts based in New Jersey, said the March earthquake wasn’t the only reason for Lexus decline. Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have invested heavily in new vehicles designed to fit in more market niches, Phillippi said. Lexus hasn’t kept pace. The rise of Audi also has cut into Lexus, he said.
 The race is expected to close, a genuine side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel sprint to the finish.
 Right now BMW holds a slight lead but Mercedes-Benz’s sales in the U.S. surged during November, climbing more than 40 percent. Sales of BMW-brand vehicles climbed  only 7 percent, leaving it clinging to slender lead of only 1,500 units. BMW has 221,073 vehicles, while Mercedes has sold
219,491, according to the latest sales figures from both companies.
 Jesse Toprak of True also predicts a Mercedes-Benz victory. Based on our December forecasts, MB will sell a total of 265,325 units vs.
247,399 of BMW in 2011.
 “Our December sales forecast projects that Mercedes will squeak out a victory by about a thousand units. Still, that number is unofficial, and at least for the moment, the race remains too close to call,”  Aaron Lewis, Edmund’s com analyst, said in a e-mail.
 “In any case, it's definitely very exciting that the race between these two is coming right down to the wire,” Lewis said. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chrylser moves 300 upscale

 With brands like Acura and Lexus foundering, Chrysler is continuing to move upscale. An all-new 300 Luxury Series expands the 2012 Chrysler 300 lineup with more style, efficiency and personality, according to Chrysler Group executives.
It is the first domestic luxury sedan to feature a  state-of-the-art eight-speed automatic transmission, which helps deliver Best-in-class 31 highway miles per gallon all-wheel-drive fuel economy when matched with award-winning 292 horsepower, 3.6-liter aluminum Pentastar V-6 engine.    Exclusive Luxury Series appointments include ultra-premium leather and hand-sanded matte wood, which enhance the most luxurious Chrysler sedan ever.
"The new 2012 Chrysler 300 Luxury Edition is more than just our flagship car, it's the trophy for the tireless majority, an automobile designed and built to meet the most discerning of expectations," said Saad Chehab, President and CEO - Chrysler Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. "It's fitted with a paddle shifting eight-speed transmission found only on cars twice its cost, dressed with the highest grade Italian Poltrona Frau leather and finished with hand sanded real wood found only in exotic cars - all to deliver a surprising combination of hyper craftsmanship, style, technology and 'uber' best-in-class fuel economy at 31 mpg."
 The 2012 Chrysler 300 Luxury Series combines ultra-premium leather - once limited to some of the most exotic Italian luxury cars - with world-class refinement and handling, state-of-the-art safety and connectivity features., Chrysler officials said.  Luxury Series models start at $40,145 and arrive in the first-quarter of 2012. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hyundai signs top BMW designer

 Christopher Chapman, formerly of Izuzu and BMW Designworks  has been named chief designer of the Hyundai Design Center in Irvine, Calif. Chapman is replacing Philip Zak, who left Hyundai last spring to rejoiin the General Motors desiign staff. In his new position, Chapman will be responsible for new vehicle and concept design for Hyundai and his appointment is widely considered a sign Hyundai will continue to pursue an aggressive design direction. "With over 22 years of experience in the industry working on esteemed automotive brands, Chris provides a level of talent that will help further our design portfolio," said SukGeun Oh, Vice President Hyundai Design.
Champman started his career with the Isuzu Technical Center of America in Cerritos, Calif. in 1989 and was the designer selected for the exterior of the XU-1 show car, which won Best Concept at its 1993 Tokyo Motor Show debut.  In 1994, Chris joined the BMW Group at DesignworksUSA in Newbury Park, California.  Among the variety of concept and production programs, Chris designed the exteriors of the X5 Sport Activity Vehicle and X Coupe concept car.  Chris and his family relocated to Munich, Germany for a two year assignment to immerse in the BMW culture. There he also designed the CS1 concept shown at the Geneva Auto Salon in 2002, followed by the 1 Series production Coupe and its derivatives.
In 2002, Chris was appointed Director of Automotive Design at BMW’s California studio and has been responsible for guiding several advanced and production vehicles including the new X5, X3, Z4 and the first BMW 1-series E87.  Since 2008, Chris has additionally directed the Transportation Design department, which includes Designworks' external partners in aviation, marine, and public mobility.
"Christopher Chapman is an outstanding addition to the design team at HATCI," said John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer, Hyundai Motor America. "We are proud to add such a talented individual to lead the team of dedicated designers at HATCI that will continue to develop innovative vehicles for both the United States and global auto markets."
A native of Pasadena, Calif.Chapman graduated from Art Center College of Design with a Bachelor of Science degree in Transportation Design.  By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nissan expands LEAF availability

 Nissan North America Inc. has again expanded the availability of the all-electric LEAF into new U.S. markets.  Nissan has re-opened reservations and has begun taking orders from the general public for the 2012 Nissan LEAF in Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Deliveries of the LEAF, enriched for the 2012 model year with additional standard equipment including quick charging and cold-weather features, will take place in these key markets beginning in spring 2012. iNissan’s dealers in Michigan are scheduled to start selling the Leaf  this coming March when the Leaf will be available in all 50 states.  "Nissan LEAFs have been on the U.S. roads for one year now, and thousands of drivers have become living proof that a 100-percent electric, zero-emissions vehicle fulfills the daily needs of drivers from all walks of life," said Brian Carolin, senior vice president, Sales and Marketing, NNA. "We are seeing already-strong interest in the LEAF continue to grow across the country. This market expansion brings us one step closer to true, nationwide availability."
 After one year and 20,000 global deliveries, the Nissan LEAF remains the world's first and only all-electric car for the mass market,  Carolin said. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Plug-in Ram fleet grows

 Chrysler Group LLC, working in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is delivering 10  Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle from ipickup trucks from its demonstration fleet to DTE Energy of Detroit.Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of the Chrysler Group's advanced hybrid vehicle project, said the vehicles are part of a national demonstration fleet of 140 vehicles that will be used during the next three years to evaluate customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions and impact on the region's electric grid. In addition to DTE Energy of Detroit, more than 100 vehicles have been delivered to 16 different cities in the past six months.
"Cities have been carefully selected to help the Chrysler Group LLC collect a wide range of data," explained Abdullah Bazzi, senior manager of Chrysler's advanced hybrid vehicle project. "Working with a local energy partner like DTE that is in our backyard offers a great combination of suburban and rural driving, as well as ever-changing Michigan weather, is ideal as a test cycle for these vehicles. The constant charging will allow us to measure the impact on battery life and charging efficiency," he said.
"The trucks will provide us with a glimpse of what kind of fuel savings cans be afforded with PHEV technologies so we can, at some point, make our truck fleet more environmentally friendly," said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president Marketing and Renewables. "We'll be using the trucks at our service centers and in the field at our renewable energy facilities," Lauer said.
As of right now, however, Chrysler has  no plans for a production version of the PHEV Ram 1500 trucks at this time. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, December 16, 2011

LaSorda joins Fisker Automotive

 Former Chrysler chief executive officer Tom LaSorda has been named Vice Chairman of the Fisker Automotive board of directors and chairman of the board's strategy council  LaSorda will also work as an executive advisor to the management team on day to day operations, reporting to co‑founder and CEO, Henrik Fisker.  Fisker Automotive is launching its first vehicles into the automotive markets.
 LaSorda has more than 30 years of experience  with both General Motors where he held several executive positions and Chrysler, which he joined in 2009. He retired in 2009 when the company was facing  bankruptcy.
He is currently a co-founder of a venture capital fund – Stage 2 Innovations – with Manoj Bhargava, the sole investor and owner of 5-hour ENERGY based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. 
In his new role, LaSorda will work closely with Fisker Automotive’s Chief Operations Officer, Bernhard Koehler, Chief Financial Officer, Joe DaMour, and newly appointed Chief Commercial Officer, Richard Beattie.
“We are delighted to welcome Tom to the leadership team of Fisker Automotive,” said co-founder and CEO Henrik Fisker. “The company is entering a new stage of growth, to which Tom’s strategic vision and experience will be vital," Fiskers said.
Ray Lane, Fisker Automotive's chairman said, "LaSorda is joining a Board that has recently been expanded to include Mindy Grossman, Scott Sandell and Timothy Shriver."
Grossman is CEO and a Director of Home Shopping Network, Scott Sandell is a general partner with New Enterprise Associates where he focuses on investments in information technology and alternative energy and Shriver is an entrepreneur and film producer, who is also Chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ford shows off new Ford Focus electric

 Ford Motor Co. is launching production of the 2012 Focus Electric,  the first five-passenger, all-electric car to achieve more than a 100 miles per gallon equivalent fuel efficiency rating. Focus Electric also is the first of its kind to feature faster charging, which will halve Nissan Leaf’s time to fully recharge the battery and help drivers to more than double the expected single-charge range in a busy day of driving and recharging, according to Derrick Kuzak, group vice president global product development
“The Focus Electric is a shining example of the leading fuel economy Ford is offering for each new vehicle,”Kuzak said.. “Whether people want a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full battery-electric vehicle, we have a family of vehicles for them to consider, providing a range of options to best meet their needs and support their driving habits and lifestyles.”
 The Focus Electric is designed to offer enough range to cover the majority of daily driving habits of Americans. Its expected 100 MPGe is better than Chevrolet Volt and all electric vehicles with seating for five. It will be the first electrified vehicle to offer faster charging with 240-volt outlets, which can be installed in customer homes. The battery can be recharged in just more than three hours using a 240-volt charging station, about half the charging time of the 2012 Nissan Leaf.
 Faster charging with 240 volts also can extend range as drivers can more quickly recharge between stops – up to 30 miles per charge hour – so they can more than double the vehicle’s range with multiple charging stops during a busy day of driving, Kuzak said. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Volvo read to unveil three-way plug-in hybrid vehicle

Volvo says its ready to unveil its most advanced car ever - the V60 Plug-in Hybrid. The V60 plug-in is the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid is an electric car, hybrid car and muscle car all rolled into one, Volvo officials said. It can run up to 50 kilometers or about 50 miles oon pure electricity with zero tailpipe emissions or operate as a super-efficient hybrid . It also has 285 hp to create a muscle car with acceleration from 0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds.
“The on-demand possibility to choose between the car’s three different temperaments makes the V60 Plug-in Hybrid superior to all other hybrids on the market. Thanks to the Pure, Hybrid and Power buttons, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is the perfect choice for the uncompromising customer who wants minimum carbon dioxide emissions combined with maximum driving pleasure,”
Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of the Volvo Car Corporation:
“There is immense interest from the markets. We are convinced that the first thousand cars will be sold even before production gets under way next autumn.”
Sales of the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid start at the beginning of 2012 as 2013 models. The indicative price of the world’s first plug-in hybrid with diesel engine is starting at $76,000 depending on market.
  After the initial batch of 1000 cars for model year 2013, production of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid will increase to between 4000 and 6000 cars as of model year 2014. About 30 percent of total volume will go to Sweden and the other Nordic countries. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Britain will have a share of between 5 and 15 percent each.
“With the V60 Plug-in Hybrid we boost our leading position in electrification. None of our competitors can offer customers an equally ingenious car. It elevates hybrid technology to an entirely new level,”  Jacoby added. By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ford safety expert plans retirement

Sue Cischke,  Ford Motor Co. group vice president sustainability, environment and safety engineering, has elected to retire effective Feb. 1, 2012, after 35 years of service in the automotive industry Cischke will be succeeded by Robert Brown, currently vice president of ustainability, environment and safety engineering, Ford of Europe “Sue is the very best example of someone who is committed to being part of the solution,” said Ford president and chief executive officer Alan Mulally “Sue knows how to bring people together, find common ground and make progress on the world’s big issues, especially environmental sustainability, energy independence and economic development.”
Cischke was appointed to her current role in 2008 and she has served as the company’s top environment and safety officer since 2001. In this role, she has been responsible for establishing Ford’s long-range sustainability strategy and environmental policy and assuring that Ford meets or exceeds all safety and environmental regulations worldwide. She also has been responsible for establishing Ford’s long-term safety strategy, promoting aggressive standardization of product technology that delivers real world safety benefits. Cischke led the company’s participation in the effort to develop one national standard for fuel economy, resulting in industry-wide commitments to nearly double fuel efficiency by 2025.
Before joining Ford in 2001, Cischke was senior vice president of Regulatory Affairs and Passenger Car Operations at DaimlerChrysler. She began her career at Chrysler Corporation in 1976 and held various engineering positions until 1994 when she was named general manager of Scientific Labs and Proving Grounds. In 1996, she was named vice president of Vehicle Certification, Compliance and Safety Affairs.
In his new role, Brown, 56, will assume direct responsibility for the company’s environment and safety strategy, policy and performance.  He will report to Alan Mulally.“Robert has the right combination of skills and experience to lead Ford forward in this very important area for our company and our stakeholders,” Mulally said.  “Robert’s appointment ensures we will be positioned to continue our leadership in the areas of sustainability and safety, and demonstrates our continued strong commitment to working together with all our stakeholders to develop holistic solutions that contribute to a better world.”
Since joining Ford as a compliance engineer in 1979, Brown, has held a variety of leadership positions including serving as Ford’s environmental regulatory manager working in Washington D.C., assistant director in the company’s Automotive Safety Office and director of Vehicle Environmental Engineering. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, December 9, 2011

Traffic deaths dropping as safety equipment improves

   Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announcement that 2010's road traffic fatality and injury rate reached an historic low of 1.10 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was a testament to the safety advancements, including innovative, lifesaving vehicle technologies that come with modern cars, the highest safety belt use rate ever and comprehensive efforts to prevent drunk driving.  This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded history.  NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System also showed a 2.9 percent decline in actual fatalities from 2009 to 2010, even as miles traveled  increased by 1.6 percent. "We all have a role to play to keep our roads safe," said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President and CEO Mitch Bainwol. "For our part, automakers are continuing to build on years of manufacturer-initiated safety enhancements. Today, motorists take for granted such lifesaving technologies as side air bags, electronic stability control systems, anti-lock brakes and protected passenger compartments. Yet automakers are not sitting back; our engineers are hard at work on the next generation of innovations to help make drivers and passengers even safer.
"Strong laws with visible enforcement also are critically important to sustaining this positive trend," noted Bainwol. "Recent NHTSA data showed that while 16 jurisdictions have safety belt use rates above 90 percent, too many states are below the national average of 85 percent. This gap must be reversed so we can continue to save even more lives.  The safety belt remains the most significant piece of safety equipment in the vehicle.  The Alliance will continue the industry's longtime, strong support for increasing belt use through enactment of primary enforcement state belt use laws and the annual "Click It or Ticket" national enforcement period.
"Safe driving practices, particularly when it comes to drivers paying attention to the road, are important as well," Bainwol added. "Alliance members have continued to combat the issue of distracted driving with national campaigns designed to raise public awareness of the risks of being distracted while behind the wheel. Since 2003, Alliance members have been designing in-vehicle technologies to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Bainwol also said automakers are continuing  to focus on vehicle innovations that make the biggest safety contributions in the real world, and on the advancements of strong and effective traffic safety laws and practices. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fiat spot getting star treatment

 Who says automotive advertising is boring. After making its debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Fiat brand’s racy  new digital video, “Seduction,” is receiving a pop-up video treatment from VH1.  A pop-up version of the digital hit will be featured on’s “Pop-Up Video” site ( starting today through Saturday, Dec. 31.  Fiat and VH1 fans will be able to view fun facts about the 60-second spot that has intrigued more than two million people.“’Seduction’ was created to generate awareness for the introduction of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth – it’s an edgy video that captures the intensity of this all-new vehicle,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of FIAT Brand North America. “VH1 has taken “Seduction” to the next level by giving it another unique and fun twist that both FIAT and VH1 fans will thoroughly enjoy.”
 “Pop Up Video has grown into a pop culture institution of its own, intriguing and entertaining our viewers with an added layer of engagement over their favorite music videos,” said Mark McIntire, Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing, VH1.  “Fiat's ’ ‘Seduction’ spot has already attracted a lot of buzz around the world, making it an excellent candidate for ‘popping.’  Giving their video fun, behind-the-scenes details in our unique pop-up format will help expand the viewership for the spot and keeps the conversation going among consumers,” he said.
  The Seduction spot also was something of a swan song former Fiat North America Laura Soave, who was had a reputation for creating edgy advertising while she was General Motors and Volkswage. Soave  was relieved of her duties because of the slow sales of the Fiat 500 by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne right after the Seduction spot had made its debut. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Volt get "collectible" hnor from NAHC

 The Chevrolet Volt, of all the cars launched during 2011, is most likey to become a collectible vehicle n the years to come, according to the Friends of the National Automotive History Collection.
Members of the organization, which supports theDetroit Public Library's Automotive History Collection,, vote annually to predict the “Collectible Vehicle of the Future” from each year’s new North American-built cars and trucks.  The Volt was selected from 23 all-new vehicles launched in 2011.
“This selection is unique among all the ’Vehicle of the Year’ awards, because it is selected by ’car buffs’ who know what future collectors will value. We asked our members to predict which of this year’s new vehicles will turn heads in the Woodward Cruise of 2036,”said Charles K. Hyde, chairman of the NAHC Board of Trustees. Cristi Landy, Volt marketing director, said, “Chevrolet is delighted for this recognition from the NAHC friends for the Volt’s breakthrough technology and its role in changing the landscape of the automotive industry.” Last year's winner was the Chevrolet Camaro. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BMW, Toyota set to collaborate on technology

 BMW and Toyota have signed a memorandum of understanding involving a medi-to-long-term collaboration on next-generation environment-friendly technologies. Under the agreement, which has been finalized yet, the two companies agreed on a collaborative research in the field of next-generation lithium-ion battery technologies.
In addition, Toyota Motor Europe and BMW Group have entered into a contract under which BMW Group will supply 1.6 liter and 2.0 liter diesel engines to TME starting in 2014. The engines will be installed in certain Toyota-produced vehicles planned for sale in the European market. Through this agreement, Toyota plans to expand its European lineup and sales of fuel-efficient, low CO2-emission diesel-powered vehicles. Other targets for the collaboration haven't been identified yet, Toyota and BMW officials said.
 Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, noted the agreement with Toyota represented an important strategic step for BMW.   “Toyota is the leading provider of environment-friendly series technology in the volume segment and the BMW Group is the most innovative and sustainable manufacturer of premium automobiles. We are now joining forces to further develop environment-friendly technologies and to expand our innovation leadership in each of our segments. Supplying Toyota with our fuel efficient and dynamic diesel engines represents another important step in the planned expansion of our sales activities for engines and powertrain systems,” Reithofer said.
  Toyota president Akio Toyoda haild the agreement.  “In the spirit of contributing to furthering the development of the auto industry and society, both companies will bring their wide-ranging knowledge - starting with that concerning environmental technologies - to the table and make ever-better cars,” Toyoda said. By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Four Wheeler" nams Ram Power Wagon pick up of the year

 Four Wheeler magazine has nonored  the 2012 Ram Power Wagon with its highly regarded Pickup Truck of the Year award, marking the vehicle’s fourth win since the competition’s inception 23 years ago. The magazine puts  the newest trucks on the market through a week of rigorous testing to deterimine the winner. Each vehicle was evaluated in trail performance and highway performance as well as interior and exterior design.
The field was comprised of three trucks this year in which the Ram Power Wagon squared off against the Ford F-150 FX4 and the Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Mega Cab, according to the magazine's editors. “You can’t beat the versatility of the 2012 Ram Power Wagon,” said John Cappa, editor of Four Wheeler. “It’s aggressive BFG All-Terrain tires, tuned suspension, disconnecting sway bar, selectable lockers front and rear, and a Warn winch make it nearly unstoppable off-road, yet it’s still civilized enough to be daily-driven. The Power Wagon crawls over the most difficult rocky terrain just as easily as it speeds over rough dirt roads or commutes on smooth highways. Add in a 10,200-pound towing capacity along with multiple useful storage compartments, including the RamBox, and you end up with a remarkable factory-built ¾-ton truck that easily deserves Four Wheeler’s 2012 Pickup Truck of the Year award.” By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fiat 500 honored by Men's Journal

 The 2012 Fiat 500 has won a unique award from "Men's Journal" magazine. The magazine named the Fiat 500 as  part of its 'Gear of the Year' collection. The 500 has now won more than 15 U.S. and 80 international awards  for  its unique styling, engaging driving dynamics and fuel efficiency, officials from the Chrysler group noted.
"We're extremely honored to win the 'Gear of the Year' award from Men's Journal," said Tim Kuniskis, Head of FIAT Brand North America. "The new Fiat 500 is truly distinctive and we will continue to expand the appeal of our Cinquecento, with the upcoming introduction of the Fiat 500 by Gucci, aimed at Italian style lovers, and the Fiat 500 Abarth, targeted towards Italian performance enthusiasts," Kuniskis said.
The magazine said the Fiat 500 frepresents the” adventurous, modern and 'live the interesting life'  spirit of the magazine's readers." Men's Journal's 'Gear of the Year' award also marks the new Fiat 500 as one of the most innovative consumer  products of 2011, it said.
 A team of Men's Journal editors, writers and correspondents tested hundreds of new products to create their annual list - a product list that represents more than 40 of the most innovative and game-changing products including sports equipment, apparel, technology and culinary tools. In addition, the 2011 Gear of the Year award marks the first time cars have been included on the list. For more information visit By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Car dealers earn higher marks on annual survey

 New car dealers across the country are getting higher marks from consumers in the new "Sale Satisfaction Index" prepared by J.D. Power & Associates.
 Satisfaction with the new-vehicle sales process has improved notably from 2010, according to the 2011 edition of the Index.
 Overall sales satisfaction averages 648 on a 1,000-point scale in 2011, improving by 13 points from an average of 635 from 2010.
All measures improve notably from 2010, with the greatest gain in the delivery process, despite the fact that the average length of time to complete the delivery portion of a new-vehicle sale has increased by four minutes to an average of 32 minutes in 2011 Overall, the average length of time a buyer spends at the dealership has increased by 11 minutes, to an average of 4.3 hours in 2011 from 4.1 hours in 2010.
 A primary reason for the lengthened delivery process is the increasing proportion of buyers who are receiving more in-depth demonstrations of technology in their new vehicle, including audio, entertainment, navigation and communications features. Approximately 88 percent of buyers in 2011 say they received a technology demonstration at vehicle delivery, according to th survey.
"Although technology demonstrations add time to the delivery process, those explanations substantially improve satisfaction, as well as customer loyalty and advocacy," said Jim Gaz, director of automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates.
"It would intuitively seem that buyers are most satisfied when the sales process is completed in the shortest amount of time possible. However, buyers actually appreciate it when sales staff spends additional time with them, as long as that time provides them with added value."
 Gaz said the increased technology demonstrations may also help improve perceptions of new-vehicle quality. The J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Initial Quality Study(SM) (IQS) has found that rates of owner-reported problem incidence with audio/entertainment/navigation technology systems have increased steadily between 2009 and 2011.
 Some of the “perceived” problems may stem from users not understanding how to operate features, so technology demos provided by sales staff can be a powerful tool in lowering problem rates and improving satisfaction with vehicle design, Gaz said.
The 2011 U.S.SSI was based on responses from 24,045 buyers who purchased or leased their new vehicle in May 2011. The study was fielded between August and October 2011 and measured customer satisfaction with dealers. It also measures satisfaction with brands and dealerships that were shopped but ultimately rejected in favor of the selling brand and dealership.
 Lexus ranks highest among luxury brands in satisfaction with the new-vehicle buying experience. Cadillac and Mercedes-Benz follow in the luxury-brand segment rankings. The luxury brands with the greatest improvement from 2010 are Lincoln, moving from ninth rank position to sixth, and Audi, which climbed  from 11th to ninth.
 MINI ranks highest among mass market brands for a second consecutive year. Buick and GMC, respectively, follow MINI in the mass market segment rankings. The mass market brands with the greatest improvement from 2010 are Volkswagen, which went from 13th to fourth, Scion, moving from 11th to fifth and Nissan went from 18th to 12th. By Joseph Szczesny