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Archive for May, 2012

Chrysler Killing Town & Country, Keeping Dodge Caravan

Chrysler model to be replaced by new crossover.

by on May.30, 2012

The Chrysler Town & Country is likely to end its long run in 2014, leaving the maker with just one minivan.

With the market for minivans steadily declining Chrysler will kill off one of its two remaining models and replace it with a more trendy crossover vehicles, according to company sources.

But the automaker has apparently reversed its original plan and will now drop the more upscale Chrysler Town & Country model and keep the mainstream Dodge Caravan, one of the original models the maker introduced to much fanfare back in 1984.

According to comments made this week by CEO Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler will also abandon the slow-selling Jeep Compass, the brand’s least traditional SUV offering.

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The apparent 2014 demise of the Town & Country underscores several dramatic changes that have occurred in the U.S. automotive marketplace over the past three decades.  When former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca revealed the original Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models revolutionized family transportation with their vast interiors and easy access sliding doors and tailgate.


Maserati, Ferrari, Lambo Plants Shuttered After Earthquake

Some possible damage reported.

by on May.29, 2012

There are some conflicting reports suggesting damage to the Maserati plant in Modena.

Another sizable earthquake has been reported in Italy, this one shaking up a region known to automotive aficionados as Speed Central.  It’s not yet clear how much damage has been suffered in Modena, home to high-performance makers Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati but all three have halted production and sent workers home.

The three makers are located roughly 25 miles from the epicenter of the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Northern Italy today. Initial reports suggest at least 15 and possibly 16 people were killed, with 100s more injured, though none of those appear to have occurred at any of the automakers’ plants. has been told it is likely that Maserati, and perhaps the other makers, will have to remain shuttered for several days until authorities can inspect their plants to be sure there is no hidden damage.

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Reporting from the scene remains sketchy but there are conflicting reports suggesting the Maserati plant, in the center of Modena, may have suffered at least some damage, though that was not confirmed by an official at the plant at the time of the temblor.


Shake-Up at Lotus

CEO Dany Bahar ousted over alleged misconduct.

by on May.29, 2012

Lotus's now suspended CEO Dany Bahar.

Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has been ousted due to alleged irregularities connected to a lavish expense account that he reportedly used, among other things, to bill two homes in Norwich, UK to the sports carmaker.

The oft-controversial Turkish-Swiss Bahar is the man behind an aggressive product development program intended to transform Lotus into a major player in the global exotic car market.  It’s unclear what his suspension will mean to that effort.

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Lotus has confirmed that, Bahar was “temporarily suspended from his role, to facilitate an investigation into a complaint about his conduct.”

The Swiss-born executive was reportedly playing fast and loose with his expenses, according to reports in the British press.  Bahar was already involved in a legal dispute involving one of the two Norwich homes.


Canada Forcing Rail Workers Back on Job

Strike threatening shutdown of much of North American auto industry.

by on May.29, 2012

An idled CP Rail locomotive.

Canadian government officials are hoping to have the trains running again by as early as Thursday now that legislation has been put before parliament to order a halt in a strike by thousands of Canadian Pacific Railway workers.

CP operates nearly 15,000 miles of track in the U.S. and Canada, much of it serving the industrial portions of Ontario, as well as much of the American Midwest.  So, the walkout has already begun to have a severe impact on Detroit’s Big Three and a number of foreign-owned makers, including Honda, which heavily depend on the railroad to supply plants with parts and then ship finished vehicles to dealers across North America.

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“The strike can’t go on,” Labor Minister Lisa Raitt told Parliament during a heated session in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. “We need to get the trains running again.”

The railroad and workers have not completely broken off talks but appear stalled on a variety of issues, including pensions, work rules and fatigue management.  Complicating matters, Canadian Pacific has been locked in a bitter battle with an activist investor that led to the forced departure of its CEO Fred Green earlier this month.


McBlog: Fiat Delivers a slap in the face.

Where’s the lease?

by on May.29, 2012

Supermodel Catinel Menghia poses with a Fiat 500 Abarth. She can slap us any day, but why is Fiat punching out its customers? asks McBlog author Denise McCluggage.

Doug, a friend and regular at Santa Fe’s Tuesday Car Table, test drove a Fiat 500 Cabriolet that I had for a week and loved it. But considering our city’s 7000-feet altitude decided a turbo was indicated. He’d wait for the Abarth. He told Fred Vang, another Car Table regular, to order one for him. That’s what Fred does, connects people and cars.

As a Personal Car Consultant he helps clients decide what new car best suits their needs and does all the wheeling-dealing and sees that they get the best deal delivered ding-free and clean to their door.

Fred is fond of telling clients: “You seem to know what you want but do me a favor: dance with a couple more before you get married.”

In this case since Doug had driven a number of alternatives, the dancing was Fred running numbers, checking with many sources for prices on three cars, all with Doug’s options. The three: Mini Cooper S, VW Golf GTI and the Fiat Abarth.

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Fred compiled the numbers on a grid and presented them to Doug with a detailed explanation. Doug said it was like “a slap in the face” like in the Fiat Abarth ad featuring the leggy model Catrinel Menghia, dressed in red and black. And that’s why Doug arrived at our monthly Car Table driving a new VW Golf GTI.


Despite Earlier Concerns, May Car Sales Could be Best in Five Years.

Toyota, Honda, VW expected to deliver strong gains.

by on May.29, 2012

Japanese makers, in particular, appear to be having a very good month. Toyota, in particular, is recovering well from last year's production cuts.

With motorists reportedly flooding dealer showrooms over the long holiday weekend, May could turn out to be the best month since mid-2007 for new car sales – with Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda driving much of the upturn as they recover from last year’s devastating, earthquake-led production cuts., which tracks new car pricing, trends and forecasting, estimated new light vehicle sales in the U.S. — including fleet — should reach 1.401 million, up 32% from May 2011 and an 18.3% increase from April of this year.

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Exactly how strong a month May proves to be will depend on the final sales figures from the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.  But that is expected to offset some apparent weakness in the market earlier in the month.


First Look: Volkswagen CC R-Line

Sporty new look, sportier performance.

by on May.29, 2012

Volkswagen officially reveals the new CC R-Line this week in Germany. U.S. sales begin later this year.

Only a few months after revealing its updated, coupe-like sedan Volkswagen is ready to give the CC some more muscle, introducing the sporty new R-Line edition.

Set to reach U.S. showrooms later this year, it’s the latest in a fast-growing series of “R” models that includes the new Golf R.

The Volkswagen CC R-Line will feature a more aggressive face, with a larger lower air intake, unique bumper and projector-style foglamps and the distinctive R-Line logo will grace the grille.

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Other exterior revisions include new side skirts, distinctively tinted taillamps, 18-inch alloy wheels and, when you open the doors, R-Line sill plates.

The interior gets a few key modifications, as well, including stainless steel pedals and a new multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters if you opt for the 6-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox.


First Drive: 2013 Nissan Altima

Can a one-time also-ran topple the midsize king-of-the-hill?

by on May.25, 2012

Nissan is aiming to dominate the midsize sedan segment with its all-new 2013 Altima.

Japanese automakers have long dominated the U.S. midsize passenger car market.  Or, to be more precise, Toyota, with its Camry, and Honda, with the Accord, have been the manufacturers to reckon with.

But in recent months, the established order has shown signs of coming undone.  Sales of the Camry took a dive – in part due to last year’s production shortages – until the maker ramped up its marketing and incentives and dumped tens of thousands of the sedans into rental and other fleets. The aging Accord has had even more trouble as it approached the end of its lifecycle.

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Surprisingly, even though it was also due for replacement demand for the outgoing Nissan Altima, however, showed some unexpected resilience, surging towards the top of the sales charts. And now, with Nissan about to roll out an all-new 2013 version of the sedan CEO Carlos Ghosn has boldly predicted the new model will topple Camry as the king-of-the-hill.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia: Hype, Hope and Hysteria

Score a big win for GM.

by on May.25, 2012

GM marketing czar Joel Ewanick, shown with the Chevrolet Volt.

Hooray for Joel Ewanick! He had a helluva week breaking molds, traditions and profligate spending while making new ad biz rules. He’s gone where few CMO’s have dared to go with the outlandish premise of getting a measurable return on every component of the corporation’s massive advertising budget.

Part 1 was killing GM’s Facebook ads, a media trip into the unknown that was not working: i.e., generating measureable interest or involvement. Feeling good is not a Metrix element of marketing. Results count, right?

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Part 2 was the cancellation of three 30-second commercials on next year’s Super Bowl because they become too expensive. What a bizarre concept. GM not on the Super Bowl. OMG!

But the media buy of $11.4 million based on a price tag of $3.8 million apiece is chump change when one considers the other elements of the major expenses for a traditional Super Bowl package for Gargantuan Motors that could boost the bill by another $10 million or more.


First Look: 2013 BMW 7-Series

More power, more technology and your own Attention Assistant.

by on May.25, 2012

BMW officially reveals the 2013 7-Series tonight.

As bells chime midnight along Lake Como the folks attending the annual concourse at tony Villa d’Este will get their first look at the updated 2013 BMW 7-Series.  Lucky for us had a chance to get an advance look at the new flagship sedan following a media ride-and-drive in Santa Barbara.

The redesigned 7-Series will go through a number of notable changes for the upcoming model-year, with exterior design revisions starting from the trademark kidney grille back, as well as significant revisions to the powertrain line-up.  The 2013 sedan will get more power, better mileage, plenty of new technology, and improved safety systems including something BMW has dubbed “Attention Assistant.”

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Even the classic and oft-debated iDrive system undergoes some big changes to match the improvements to the updated 7-Series infotainment system, which now features a super-high-resolution video display that even Apple might envy.