Archive for December, 2013

Hyundai North America CEO Krafcik Leaving Company

No official reason given for departure, but contract not renewed.

by on Dec.27, 2013

John Krafcik is no longer CEO of Hyundai North America. No explanation was given for his departure.

In a surprise move and without clear explanation, John Krafcik is out as President and CEO of Hyundai North America despite the fact he oversaw the maker’s most successful rise in sales and market share during his five-year run.

Dave Zuchowski, currently Hyundai’s executive vice president of U.S. sales, will take over as President and CEO on Jan. 1, 2014.

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It has been widely reported, several Hyundai competitors targeted Krafcik for senior management positions. While no official explanation was given for his departure, sources tell the recruiting was not the reason his contract was not renewed. (more…)

Michigan Approves Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Governor wants state to be the leader in new technology.

by on Dec.27, 2013

Ford expects to have its autonomous vehicles on the road by 2025.

The move toward autonomous vehicles becoming a reality took another step forward when Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation today allowing the vehicles to be tested on the state’s roadways.

Michigan joins Nevada, California and Florida as the only states allowing on-road testing.

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Snyder’s blessing wasn’t a surprise given the number of automakers and suppliers based in Michigan involved in these projects as well as the fact that he’s been an advocate of this type of work for some time. (more…)

Aiming for #1, Audi Investing Over $30 Billion

But BMW, Mercedes aren’t ready to roll over.

by on Dec.27, 2013

Audi is looking to add a wide range of new models. The Sport Quattro Concept is shown here.

It’s a race to the finish as the year winds down and BMW and Mercedes-Benz ramp up their efforts to position themselves as America’s best-selling luxury brands, a battle they’re repeating in other markets around the world.

But the two makers are spending a lot of time looking over their corporate shoulders lately as the upstart Audi takes aim – and rolls out a massive investment program that it hopes will make it the world’s biggest luxury brand before the end of the decade.

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The Volkswagen AG luxury brand has announced plans to spend 22 billion euros, or $30.3 billion, between now and 2018, to add new models, bolster its presence in the emerging electric vehicle market, and add capacity around the world.

“We are now decisively steering toward our next milestone,” said Audi CEO Rupert Stadler in a statement outlining Audi’s expansion plan. “This is why we’re keeping our foot on the gas pedal regarding investments.”


For Venezuelans, Nickel Gas May Soon be a Memory

Fuel subsidies are bankrupting oil-rich nation.

by on Dec.27, 2013

A Venezuelan motorist driving an old gas-guzzler tanks up on fuel that's cheaper than water.

For drivers in most parts of the world it might seem like a fantasy, but for those in oil-rich Venezuela, nickel gas has long been the norm – and it’s encouraged the sort of fascination with fuel-guzzling vehicles that were common in the U.S. back in the 1970s.

But struggling to deal with a worsening smog problem, as well as increasing financial woes, the Latin American nation’s new President Nicolas Maduro has been dropping strong hints that it’s time to finally boost fuel prices that have been frozen at 5 cents – and even less at black-market rates – for the last two decades.

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“As an oil nation, Venezuelans should have a special price advantage for hydrocarbons compared to the international market,” Maduro, who replaced Hugo Chavez after the Socialist icon’s death last year, said during a December 18th speech. “But it has to be an advantage, not a disadvantage. What converts it into a disadvantage is when the tip you give is more than what it cost to fill the tank.”


Ford’s Aluminum F-150 a Likely Star at Detroit Auto Show

Big challenge overcoming concerns about durability.

by on Dec.27, 2013

The Ford Atlas Concept at its January 2013 Detroit Auto Show debut.

While most major automakers have already dropped broad hints about what they’ll reveal at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, Ford has been unusually quiet about its plans for the annual show’s opening debut.  But the likely unveiling is expected to be a big one: an all-new version of the maker’s best-selling truck, the F-150.

And it’s not just a restyled pickup with a few more features.  The 2015 Ford F-Series is expected to mark a dramatic shift in a market segment that’s come roaring back over the last 12 months, the Detroit maker opting for a new, aluminum-intensive design that should shed 100s of pounds compared to the outgoing pickup – in the process improving fuel consumption by perhaps 5 miles per gallon.

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That said, the automaker could face a serious challenge with a redesign of what has long been America’s best-selling vehicle. Even though buyers in every segment of the market are demanding better mileage, the question is whether the generally more conservative buyers in the pickup segment will feel comfortable with this major shift from rugged, time-tested steel.  Ford will have to convince potential buyers they’ll not only save fuel but also get a durable truck that won’t offset those savings with higher maintenance costs.


VW Emerging as Sales Leader in China over GM in 2013

Ford making big strides to gain sales, passes Toyota.

by on Dec.26, 2013

VW appears to have wrested the sales crown away from General Motors in China this year.

In what has been a fierce battle for sales supremacy in China, it appears that Volkswagen is going to emerge victorious over General Motors for the first time in nine years.

The two automakers, which have announced ambitious investment plans for the country, have been running neck-and-neck all year. VW hit the 3-million vehicle mark in early December with GM eclipsing the mark shortly thereafter.

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Volkswagen plans to invest $24.6 billion through 2018 to expand in China. In the first 11 months of this year, the automaker boosted sales by 17% to 2.96 million vehicles, according to Bloomberg News. VW accounts for nearly 80% of the vehicles sold, but the numbers also include Skoda, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Seat. (more…)

Rising Consumer Confidence Driving Surge in Car Sales

2013 set to end as best year since recession began.

by on Dec.26, 2013

Consumers are feeling more upbeat about buying a car as the economy continues to improve.

With the New Year fast approaching, there are new signs the auto industry will finish 2013 with a flourish as consumer sentiment continues to improve along with the job market.

Sales for 2013 are certain to be the best in six years, according to industry analysts who continue to debate just how much more upside potential there is for 2014 and beyond.

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“We expect December to finish strong,” said Larry Dominique, President of ALG and Executive Vice President of ”Consumers are taking advantage of low lease rates and inexpensive financing, which continues a shift from buying used to buying new.”


Automakers Join the Smart Watch Procession

New devices could check your pulse, answer your phone - and find your lost car.

by on Dec.26, 2013

Mercedes will formally reveal its smartwatch at the 2014 CES in Las Vegas next month.

Calling Dick Tracy!

One of the hottest gifts trends this year is the smartwatch, a case of comic book technology coming to life.  The devices are designed to let you quickly check e-mail and even make calls without the hassle of having to pull your smartphone out of your pocket.

With automakers already investing heavily in infotainment systems designed to pair up with your iPhone should it be any surprise that several manufacturers are also looking to launch their own lines of smartwatches?  Nissan recently announced its Dick Tracy-like device and Mercedes-Benz plans to formally introduce its smartwatch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

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The Nissan and Mercedes timepieces add some appropriately automotive features, as you might expect.

The Japanese maker’s smartwatch is designed for use in its performance NISMO models and, as that might suggest, will provide a wearer with all sorts of performance telemetry, such as  vehicle speed as well as fuel consumption – as well as the driver’s heart rate.


Consumer Reports Names 10 Worst Values on the Road

Nissan Armada claims a dubious honor.

by on Dec.26, 2013

The Nissan Armada had the highest cost per mile in the Consumer Reports study.

Buying a new car has always had its emotional element, especially when it comes to factors like design – but there’s also the rational side to the purchase equation where one tries to make dollars and sense out of what is typically among the most expensive purchases you’ll ever make.

The folks at Consumer Reports did the numbers, working in such data as fuel economy, price and reliability to come up with projected operating costs. In turn, it has come up with what it has dubbed the 10 worst values on the road.  At the top of that list?  The massive Nissan Armada SUV, a full-size beast that delivers a minimal 13 miles per gallon and, according to the non-profit magazine, costs a whopping $1.20 a mile to operate when everything is factored in.

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A relatively low price is no assurance that a car is a good value, however.  CR also has harsh words for the Nissan Versa which may be $1,500 cheaper than the rival Honda Fit but, in the end delivers far less for the money, the magazine’s auto editor Rik Paul declaring that the Honda subcompact “provides almost twice the value.”


RoboCop Orders Drivers to Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

Feds team with automakers to make alcohol detection system.

by on Dec.24, 2013

RoboCop is warning drivers to "drive sober or get pulled over" as part of an ad campaign about law enforcement efforts to crackdown on drunk driving.

New cars and trucks are safer than ever, but now the Obama administration is focusing on making drivers safer by enlisting the help of the nation’s best-known policeman: RoboCop.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is about to unleash a $7.5-million ad campaign featuring RoboCop reminding folks to “drive sober or get pulled over” and that police departments across the country will be cracking down on the behavior between now and Jan. 1.

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In 2012, deaths in crashes involving drunken drivers increased 4.6% to 10,322 deaths – the first increase in six years – and above the overall 3.3% increase in road deaths in 2012. (more…)