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Archive for May, 2012

Chevrolet Inks Deal with Manchester United as it Expands Marketing Efforts Worldwide

“It’s all about efficiencies,” says marketing czar Ewanick.

by on May.31, 2012

"There are no sacred lines in the budget," says GM Marketing Czar Joel Ewanick.

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?  That may have been the automaker’s mantra in the 1950s and ‘60s, but with six of every 10 Chevys now being sold in markets as far afield as Berlin and Beijing more and more of the maker’s marketing effort is focused overseas.

The latest move links Chevrolet with what is generally considered the world’s most popular soccer team – football to most of the world – Manchester United.  The five-year partnership comes only weeks after Chevy’s parent General Motors confirmed it is pulling its ads off the 2013 Super Bowl.

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Calling the tie-up with the British team a “natural synergy,” GM’s global marketing czar Joel Ewanick stressed that “Where they’re strong we want to grow. Where we’re strong they want to grow.”

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GM Kicks in on Global Soccer Charity Program

Will supply 1.5 million free “indestructible” soccer balls to needy children worldwide.

by on May.31, 2012

GM Marketing Chief Joel Ewanick and One World COO Lisa Tarver.

Even as it announced a new marketing alliance with the world’s most valuable soccer team, Manchester United, General Motors revealed plans to donate 1.5 million soccer balls to needy children around the world.

The charity program is “the work I’m most proud of,” said GM global marketing czar Joel Ewanick, during a Thursday news conference called to announce the automaker’s deal with Manchester United.

(For more on the Chevy deal and its changing global marketing strategy, Click Here.)

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The “virtually indestructible” soccer balls will be distributed through the One World Futbol Project, which spent more than a year developing a ball that could be played with in even the most rugged environments without damage.  The project has already lined up support from a number of companies and celebrities such as pop singer Sting.

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Bill Ford Wants to Turn Michigan into the “Silicon Valley of Mobility”

Emphasizes benefits of “green, smart technologies.”

by on May.31, 2012

Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. believes Detroit and Michigan can shed their rust belt personna.

Can the Motor City shed its rust belt image and take on a persona more in line with high-tech communities like San Francisco, Palo Alto, California or Seattle? Yes, says Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford, who contends Michigan, as a whole, can be repositioned as the “Silicon Valley of Mobility.”

In a sense, it’s a matter of been-there-done-that.  In its heyday, in the early years of the 20th Century, Detroit was the quintessential American boom town, much like Silicon Valley is today.  It was dubbed by many the “Paris of the Midwest” because of its art, architecture and sophisticated lifestyle.  But things began to rapidly decline in the post-War years and today some old industrial sites are being converted back to farmland.

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But in a speech during the annual Mackinac Policy Conference, Chairman Ford insisted continuing decline is not inevitable – especially if Detroit and Michigan embrace new “green, smart technologies.”

“To address this issue, we will once again need new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world.  We will need to view the automobile as one element of a transportation ecosystem,” the great-grandson of Ford founder Henry Ford declared.

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“Eco” Models Aren’t Worth the Money, Finds Consumer Reports.

The Toyota Prius C “fuel efficient, but not a deal.”

by on May.31, 2012

Despite great mileage, Consumer Reports pans the new Toyota Prius C.

Hoping to squeeze every last mile out of a gallon of gas?  Automakers have been launching a flood of new “eco” models designed to do just that.  But a new report warns that the minimal extra mileage isn’t worth the hefty price tag – which in some cases would require as much as 38 years of driving to recover in terms of lower fuel costs.

The new study by Consumer Reports raises questions about a variety of conventionally powered Eco models, such as Ford Focus SFE, Chevrolet Cruze Eco and Honda Civic HF. But it was also skeptical of the benefits promised by some hybrid models, such as the new Toyota Prius C which, it declares, “is fuel efficient, but not a deal.”

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The problem is that the savings are offset by hefty initial premiums averaging between $500 and $800 above standard models.  But in some cases, the savings on fuel may be as little as $20 per year.  And, in some cases, consumers wind up sacrificing further in terms of cheaper interiors and poor road dynamics.

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Lenders Loosen Up Car Loans

Sub-prime lending returns – for those willing to pay the price.

by on May.31, 2012

Lenders are returning to the automotive market, according to a new study.

Even in the depths of the Great Recession there were plenty of folks willing and seemingly able to buy new cars.  The problem for many was a lack of loans.  Banks and other lenders all but shut off the spigot, refusing to do business, in some cases, with even the most credit-worthy customers.

While financing still isn’t quite as readily available as it was during the bubble years – when some lenders were willing to offer so-called NINJA loans, for those with no income, no jobs or assets – consumers are once again beginning to find credit easing up, according to a survey by Experian Automotive.

The good news for both new and used car shoppers is that loans are not only more readily available they’re also being offered at lower rates.  Experian’s latest survey also found lenders beginning to wade back into the waters of sub-prime lending – though shoppers with risky credit histories are paying substantially higher rates.

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“During the first quarter of 2012, car shoppers definitely found more favorable conditions for their vehicle loans,” said Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian, which tracks lending and credit. “A reduction in average credit scores, lower interest rates and a lengthening of loan terms are all very good signs for the market and offer great opportunities for consumers looking to make a deal on a new or used vehicle.”

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New Volkswagen Midsize SUV “Under Discussion”

Maker considering range of additional products, including Polo and Up! to support soaring U.S. sales.

by on May.30, 2012

VW Group CEO Jonathan Browning -- shown here at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show -- wants more product in the U.S. line-up.

With U.S. sales expected to increase by as much as 30% for May Volkswagen is looking at all its options to keep that momentum going – including the addition of all-new products to its American line-up.

The maker could start importing several models not currently sold in the U.S., said Volkswagen Group of American CEO Jonathan Browning.  But the executive says the more likely move would come with the addition of an all-new midsize SUV now “under discussion.”

“A midsize SUV would be a great opportunity for us,” Browning said following a speech to the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

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The vehicle would slot into the line-up between the compact Tiguan and the full-size Touareg sport-utility vehicles.  It might be developed as a joint project between the U.S. and “another region around the world,” Browning hinted, but he stressed that the American market would take the lead in the vehicle’s development.

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Rail Strike Ended, But Impact May Still be Felt by Automakers, Buyers

Aftermath could take time to unsnarl.

by on May.30, 2012

Cars being loaded by CP Rail.

The rail strike that crippled freight service across Canada and parts of the American Midwest has ended, but it has left automakers with a backlog of undelivered vehicles that could take weeks to unsnarl.

More than 4,000 employees of the Canadian Pacific Railroad are expected to return to work this week, clearing the way for shipments from assembly plants operated by General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group, Honda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. in Southern Ontario and the Midwest where the railroad operates nearly 15,000 miles of track.

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The impact of the strike varies by manufacturer, but shipping schedules have been thrown into disarray. Inbound freight – parts and components used on vehicle assembly lines — is delivered on a just-in-time schedule but outbound shipments of finished vehicles take weeks to complete and were already complicated in recent months by a shortage of car carriers.  The situation could grow worse as a result of the strike.

The good news is that the walkout, which began on May 23rd, does not appear to have gone long enough to disrupt vehicle production schedules.

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Does Zagato Coupe Reveal a New Design Direction for BMW?

The end of the Bangle-Butt?

by on May.30, 2012

The BMW Zagato Coupe concept takes a tour of the Alps on its way to Villa d'Este.

Is this the end of the Bangle-Butt?

Since the re-launch of the flagship 7-Series sedan, a decade ago, BMW has adopted a very distinctive styling language perhaps best defined by the high rear deck critics quickly labeled the “Bangle-Butt,” a reference to the maker’s then-design chief Chris Bangle.

But is the Bavarian maker about to migrate to a distinctly different look?  That’s the question it has provoked with the unveiling of the new Zagato Coupe, a 2-seat concept that made its debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este.

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The annual event, staged along Italy’s exclusive Lake Como, is normally reserved for classic cars but BMW gets a little leeway as the events principal sponsor and used the opportunity to gauge reaction to what is clearly not just another German roadster.  The concept was designed by what is now the only surviving independent coachbuilder it Italy, a firm more traditionally associated with the likes of Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo.

But perhaps, a few industry observers are suggesting, BMW needed to reach outside to help it envision such a dramatic shift in styling strategy.

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It’s Driving Season. Why are Gas Prices Tumbling?

After spring run-up, U.S. motorists are catching an unexpected break at the pump.

by on May.30, 2012

Fuel prices have tumbled 27 cents a gallon since their early April peak and the trend is downward.

It wasn’t all that long ago that American motorists were being greeted with shrill headlines forecasting $4, even $5-a-gallon gas by summer.

It certainly seemed plausible after the rapid run-up during late winter and early spring, prices at the pump coming within pennies of the all-time record set back in July 2008.  But a funny thing happened just as the traditional driving season approached: fuel prices began to tumble and the downward trend may well continue through the summer.

Over the Memorial Day holiday various tracking services showed that fuel prices dipped to around $3.65 a gallon, about 27 cents lower than their national peak in early April.

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“Had you asked me back in January if the national average would have been that low on Memorial Day, I likely would have chuckled,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst with GasBuddy.com.  Looking forward, he told TheDetroitBureau.com, “prices could go either way,” depending upon a variety of factors, though for now, the trend appears to be downward.

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VW Beetle: Mini 911 or a Big Mistake?

In an effort to broaden its appeal Beetle is more aggressive, less cute.

by on May.30, 2012

Everything old is new again: the newest Beetle lined up against a silhouette of the original "people's car."

This is a story about the Volkswagen Beetle, not the New Beetle, which is actually the old Beetle. But not the really old Beetle, the one designed by Ferdinand Porsche for Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. That’s because the old Beetle was actually called the New Beetle while this new Beetle is simply called Beetle. Or you can just call it Bug. Whatever is easier.

VW’s goal with the new Bug is to broaden its appeal beyond its mostly female base who loved the old car because of its iconic – and more importantly cute – styling.

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So the new Beetle is less bubble-like. It’s wider and lower with a flatter roof. The front end is more aggressive. There’s a bit of wedge shape rising toward the back end. Inside, it’s not surprising that the flower vase is gone.

It’s a huge gamble. While sales had slowed, there was still a core group of people who were mesmerized by the cute-as-a-bug-in-a-rug styling. There have been plenty of slick wedges, but the New Beetle was different in a world of same. It’s still different, but a little more normal.

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