Archive for November, 2013

Ford Produces 10 Millionth Sync-Equipped Vehicle

Technology draws in new buyers – but also creates headaches for Detroit maker.

by on Nov.27, 2013

Ford's latest Sync update permits th maker to draw a number of smartphone apps into the vehicle, including the Pandora music service.

Depending upon your point of view about in-car technology, the announcement from Ford could be seen as good news or bad news – or perhaps a little bit of both.

The maker this month produced its 10 millionth vehicle equipped with the Sync infotainment system.  That’s just six years after Ford first rolled out the technology developed in cooperation with tech giant Microsoft.

“SYNC has helped us to think and act more like a technology company,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service. “It has forever changed how we look at our business and how we respond to our customers.”

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Since its introduction, Sync has fostered some major changes in the auto industry and there’s not a brand to be found today that isn’t offering at least a basic in-car infotainment system. But while Ford claims Sync – and the MyFordTouch and MyLincolnTouch infotainment systems – have drawn plenty of young, tech-savvy buyers into the brand’s showrooms, the technology has also created plenty of headaches for owners and for Ford which has seen its quality ratings tumble, in large parts due to problems with its infotainment systems.

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Former Renault/Nissan Star Carlos Tavares Lands Peugeot’s Top Job

Faces major challenges at floundering French automaker.

by on Nov.27, 2013

Carlos Tavares, seen during his years at Renault/Nissan with a Nissan Leaf battery car.

Less than three months after falling from grace as the likely successor to Renault/Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn, Carlos Tavares has resurfaced – and he won’t have to move very far, taking on a new assignment as the CEO of the troubled PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Considered one of the global auto industry’s rising stars, the 55-year-old Tavares had a potentially career-ruining flame-out in August when he announced during an interview that he’d like to leave his job as chief operating officer of Renault for a job as CEO of one of Detroit’s Big Three makers.  That didn’t sit well with his then-boss Ghosn who quickly gave Tavares his walking papers.

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Exactly why Tavares spoke out was unclear.  So was the potential fallout, some observers wondering if the Portugese-born executive was simply letting the world know he wanted a better job – others warned that Tavares might have made himself untouchable.  But it turns out his timing was close to perfect and his method far from madness.

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Cadillac ATS Lands in China

Luxury model joins XTS in Asian line-up.

by on Nov.27, 2013

The Cadillac ATS makes its Chinese debut.

Hoping to build momentum in what is rapidly becoming the world’s largest luxury car market, Cadillac is introducing its compact ATS model into China where it will join the bigger XTS model introduced earlier in the year.

For now, however, the smaller of the two luxury cars will continue to be imported from the U.S. which means buyers will have to pay a premium in the form of import duties. Caddy began producing the XTS model in China this year.

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The ATS, which Cadillac bills as a luxury sports sedan, is making its official debut at the Auto Guangzhou 2013 car show in Southern China. The imported model will be offered in four trim levels along with five exterior and two interior color options, and will be priced from $52,000 to $72,000, General Motors officials said.

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Automakers Join the Black Friday Binge

Industry wants to share the spoils.

by on Nov.27, 2013

Automakers are joining the frenzy with big Black Friday sales this year.

Turn on the TV this week and you’ll be hard-pressed to go more than a few minutes without hearing about one Black Friday sale or another.  With the economy still struggling, U.S. retailers are desperate to ensure they get momentum going as we enter the traditional holiday season.

But while Black Friday has traditionally been the purview of discount, department and toy stores, the auto industry is going for a piece of the action this year – and perhaps for good reason. As consumers gear up for gift-giving, they often put car buying on hold.  With some worrisome signs that the spring-summer surge in the U.S. car market slowing down, automakers also want to end the year with a bang.

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“Big-box retailers aren’t the only ones broadcasting Black Friday discounts. Automakers have thrown their, uh, pilgrim hats in the ring,” says Ethan Hertzberg, a marketing programs associate for Cars.com.

The website tallied the special deals being offered by various manufacturers and found some running as much as $5,000 for what has traditionally been the busiest shopping day of the year.

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GM’s Mary Barra Takes Crown on Most Powerful Women List

Magazine picks two other GM execs for top five spots.

by on Nov.27, 2013

GM EVP Mary Barra topped Fortune's list of the Most Powerful Women in the auto industry this year.

With Christmas around the corner, putting together lists becomes a priority for some and when it comes to the most powerful women in the automotive industry, there’s a list for that too: General Motors’ Mary Barra tops it.

Barra, executive vice president of global product development and global purchasing and supply chain, captured the No. 1 position on Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women in the auto industry list. Barra is considered a potential successor to GM CEO Dan Akerson.

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While being considered for the top dog spot at GM certainly gave her plenty of cache, the remainder of the list is a mix of engineers, communications and marketing executives with a CEO of a supplier and a race car driver mixed in for good measure. (more…)

China Highway Deaths Surge to Record Levels

Actual numbers could be more than four times what officials claim.

by on Nov.26, 2013

A routine sight on Chinese roads.

When nine people were killed and 76 other injured during a massive pile-up in China’s Anhui Province over the weekend it barely made the headlines.  After all, it was just another in an ever more common tally of fatal accidents in what is now the world’s largest automotive market.

According to new statistics from the World Health Organization, an estimated 275,000 people were killed on China’s roadways last year.  That’s nearly nine times more than died in the U.S. – even after a slight, unexpected surge in American highway deaths during 2012.  That figure is more than four times higher than the official government number, 60,000 traffic fatalities last year.

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Even adjusting for the fact that China has four times the U.S. population, the total is astounding, accounting for 20.5 citizens out of every 100,000.  The American death rate is 11.4 per 100,000. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that China still has barely a third as many cars as the U.S., and its citizens clock far fewer miles than the 12,000 to 15,000 average in the States.

Only a handful of countries, including Argentina, Iraq, El Salvador and Chad, suffer a higher percentage of their populations killed in automobile accident each year.

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Despite Slow Start, Chrysler Insists Viper Building Momentum

Volume “not our be-all and end-all,” says Gilles.

by on Nov.26, 2013

SRT chief Ralph Gilles - also Chrysler's corporate design chief, plants a welcome kiss on the new SRT Viper during its 2012 NY Auto Show debut.

Launched with plenty of ballyhoo last year, Chrysler Group’s reborn Viper has generated more buzz than business. But the head of the fledgling SRT brand insists the Detroit supercar continues to build momentum.

If anything, SRT CEO Ralph Gilles – who also serves as Chrysler Group chief designer – insists that dealers have been a bottleneck and that the order books for the Viper are close to full.

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Nonetheless, the maker is not looking at sales alone when it measures the success of the Viper. “Volume is not our be all and end all,” said Gilles.

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Volkswagen Likely Bringing Budget Brand to China in 2014

Maker working on cost while ensuring safety of vehicle.

by on Nov.26, 2013

VW's Martin Winterkorn said earlier this year the company plans to have a budget brand for China.

Volkswagen looks to have its “budget” brand ready to roll next year in China with other markets possibly getting variants of the vehicles.

The German maker recently reiterated its plans to bring a lower-cost, localized brand to China: a strategy similar to other foreign automakers in the country.

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During the North American International Auto Show in January CEO Martin Winterkorn said VW would be ready to make its intentions known by the end of the year, but VW brand development boss Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser has said in recent reports that the company is still doing its homework in a budget lineup for China. (more…)

Hyundai Moves Even More Up-Market with Gen-2 Genesis

Distinctive design, new features, improved ride and handling.

by on Nov.26, 2013

The new Hyundai Genesis, codenamed DH, will reach U.S. showrooms for the 2015 model-year.

In the beginning, there was Genesis.  The first effort by Hyundai to crack the luxury market was a shock to those who thought Korean carmakers could produce little more than econoboxes.  The big sedan – targeting no less formidable a competitor than the BMW 5-Series – went on to win the coveted North  American Car of the Year trophy after its debut in 2008.

In hindsight, while the original Genesis sedan was unquestionably a big leap for Hyundai, it probably wasn’t quite up to its European competitors.  Its design was generic, its ride was h but hardly the stuff of a 5-Series when it came to flogging the Genesis around corners.  Value pricing was a critical part of the equation – much like the original Lexus models, nearly two decades earlier.

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But Hyundai’s aspirations are anything but modest.  During a recent visit to the maker’s R&D center in the Seoul suburb of Namyangju, senior company officials made it clear that they’re readying a number of additional entries into the luxury segment, including an update of their full-size 7-Series fighter, the Hyundai Equus.

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Ford Recalls Escape CUV – Again

Leaks can lead to fires.

by on Nov.26, 2013

The 2013 Ford Escape has now been subject to seven different recalls.

Ford Motor Co. is yet again recalling its Escape crossover-utility vehicle, the seventh time that has happened since the hot-selling vehicle was redesigned for the 2013 model-year.

The latest problem centers around potential oil and fuel leaks that could result in vehicle fires. The maker says the problems are the result of two separate problems, including faulty work done on the assembly line.

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A total of 13 fires connected to the oil leak issue have so far been reported, though there have been no reports of injuries.

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