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Archive for April, 2013

Honda Profits Rise in Spite of China Problems

Mazda Back in black for first time in 5 years, but Kia earnings hurt by labor dispute.

by on Apr.26, 2013

Strong U.S. demand for the new Honda Accord helped buoy the maker's earnings.

Despite slumping sales in China, the world’s largest automotive market, Honda Motor Co. managed to eke out a 6% increase in earnings for the January-March quarter – largely because the year-ago numbers were still impacted by production cuts from a series of natural disasters.

The maker also benefited from the weakening yen, and Honda CEO Takanobu Ito said he anticipates doing even better in the months ahead as exchange rates shift, reducing the penalty on Japanese-made goods.

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That was also good news for smaller rival Mazda which crept back into the black for the first time in five years — but in Korea, Kia reported Friday that a bitter labor dispute resulted in a big drop in its earnings.

Honda earned 75.7 billion yen, or $765 million, during the final quarter of its fiscal year, compared with 71.5 billion during the same period in 2012. For the full fiscal year, which ended on March 31, earnings soared 73.6% to 367.15 billion yen, or $3.7 billion. Its operating profit, meanwhile, climbed to 544.8 billion yen, up 135.5%.

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Consumers Willing to Spend on Advanced Automotive Technology

Strong interest in tech for fuel economy, connectivity – and autonomous driving.

by on Apr.26, 2013

Consumers want a growing number of high-tech systems that include autonomous driving technologies.

Interest in the latest in advanced automotive technology is growing but consumers are put off by the high cost of many of the latest features, a new study indicates.

A solid majority of vehicle owners say they interested in technology related to fuel economy, device/application linking for smart phones, wireless connectivity, natural language voice activation and a variety of infotainment features in their next vehicle, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study.

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Of the 22 technology features included in the 2013 J.D. Power study, fuel economy indicator and active shutter grille vents –both energy-related technologies – showed the highest level of interest from vehicle owners.

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GM’s Akerson Takes Home $11.1 Mil, up 44%.

CEO adds millions in stock to base pay.

by on Apr.25, 2013

GM CEO Dan Akerson with the Chevrolet Volt.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson got a 44% increase in total compensation last year, taking home a total of $11.1 million in total compensation.

That news, detailed in a federal filing, comes after GM tried to downplay earlier reports that the executive was looking for a big pay hike despite the limits imposed by the terms of the maker’s 2009 federal bailout.

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Akerson continued to receive a base salary of “just” $1.7 million last year, the same as in 2011. The big jump came in stock awards that rose by 57%, year-over-year, to $9.3 million.  That includes $2 million in restricted stock options he won’t be able to cash out on until at least 2014.  The executive also received $70,149 in miscellaneous compensation, up from $55,514 in 2012.

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Chevy Spark Captures US Mileage Crown

Battery model also faster than gas-powered minicar.

by on Apr.25, 2013

The Spark EV will do 0 to 60 in under 8 seconds, significantly quicker than the gas model.

General Motors claims its new Chevrolet Spark has captured the U.S. fuel economy crown with a 119 MPGe -- or Miles Per Gallon-equivalent – rating. The new battery-electric vehicle has meanwhile been rated at 82 miles range on a full charge, according to the EPA.

The Spark is the Detroit maker’s first pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, since the GM EV1 was pulled from production in 1991. The Chevy Spark EV is part of a wave of new electric vehicles aimed at consumers in California where that state has mandated that manufacturers must sell so-called Zero-Emission Vehicles.

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While automakers are challenging that mandate in court, a number of them, including GM, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda and others, are covering their bases by coming up with what critics have dubbed “compliance cars,” vehicles they will offer only, or at least primarily, in California.

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Detroit Electric Signs Deal With China’s Geely

US maker will get financial boost – and added know-how.

by on Apr.25, 2013

Detroit Electric will handle the battery drivetrain development for Chery's Emgrand EC7-EV.

Bucking the slower-than-expected start-up of the battery-car market, little Detroit Electric plans to have its first model, a battery two-seater, in production this coming summer – and the Michigan-based start-up now hopes to get a helping hand from Geely, the owner of the Volvo brand, as part of a new joint venture with the ambitious Chinese carmaker.

The two companies have entered into a strategic partnership to co-develop pure electric vehicles and related electric drive systems for the Chinese market. Under the terms of the partnership the first model will go on sale through Geely’s Emgrand brand starting in 2014.

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The partnership with privately-held Geely represents a major coup for fledgling Detroit Electric, which claims it is being courted by automakers from around the world eager to penetrate the Chinese market. China’s bureaucrats, eager to address that nation’s endemic air pollution problems, are putting a premium on the growth of the battery-electric vehicle market.

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I, Me, My? No, Me.We, Says Toyota

Japanese maker reveals “anti-crisis” concept.

by on Apr.25, 2013

The flexible little Toyota Me.We concept.

“I, me, my,” sang the Beatles – for the younger generation, that’s the group Paul McCartney was in before Wings.  Meanwhile, Toyota is responding with its Me.We concept, a show car it describes as “anti-crisis,” and intended to “address contemporary human, economic and environmental challenges.”

The Me.We Concept was developed as part of a collaboration with French designer Jean-Marie Massaud and unveiled at the Le Rendez-vous Toyota event in Paris.

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For the owner – the Me – the concept is designed to be flexible, convenient and extremely customizable, with removable body panels that can transform the micro-hatchback into a pickup, convertible, even an off-roader.

For the We, the little concept is designed to be environmentally friendly, with most of the vehicle being recyclable.  That includes the polypropylene body panels and the renewable bamboo floor.

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Bankruptcy Real Possibility, Fisker COO Concedes

Maker, Obama Admin hit hard during House hearing.

by on Apr.25, 2013

Shown here with the $103,000 Karma, former Fisker Automotive Chairman Henrik Fisker was grilled on Capitol Hill.

Fisker Automotive may be running out of options other than bankruptcy, the floundering battery-carmaker’s chief operating officer conceded during an often contentious hearing on Capitol Hill.

The maker — which recently laid off 75% of its U.S. staff and this week saw the U.S. Energy Department seize the company’s emergency reserve funds – has been at the heart of a partisan battle over a program created by the Obama Administration to support clean car technologies. The GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee ordered three current and former Fisker executives, as well as the head of the Energy Dept. loan program to testify about the likely collapse of the automaker.

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“I do not know exactly what the future holds for Fisker Automotive, including whether the company will be able to find new investors,” said COO and co-founder Bernhard  Koehler, “or whether the company may be obliged to seek bankruptcy protection to facilitate its continued efforts to preserve value for all stakeholders.”

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Toyota Still Tops – But Sales Gap Narrowing

GM comes in a close second for Q1, VW close behind.

by on Apr.24, 2013

Akio Toyoda with the new Lexus ES.

Toyota maintained its title as world’s best-selling automaker for the first quarter of 2013 – though the gap began to close as the Japanese maker struggled to regain its momentum in the critical Chinese market.

The industry giant — which regained its sales crown last year after a disastrous loss of production in 2011 due to Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami — reports selling 2.43 million vehicles between January and March. But that was a 2.2% decline.  General Motors maintained its second-place position at 2.36 million vehicles, but closed much of the gap with a 3.6% increase.

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Volkswagen, which finished 2012 in third-place, maintained that podium position for the first quarter after a 5.1% increasing in global demand brought its sales to 2.27 million. VW officials have openly set a goal of becoming the world’s number one maker before the end of this decade.

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Daimler Q1 Earnings Fall by Over Half

German maker slashes full-year forecast.

by on Apr.24, 2013

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche is under increasing pressure to deliver a turnaround.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche is under increasing pressure to deliver a turnaround - fast.

Daimler AG suffered through another disappointing quarter as both earnings and revenues tumbled more than analysts expected during the January to March period, putting more pressure on the company’s top executive, Chairman Dieter Zetsche, to produce a turnaround.

The German parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart car brands scrapped its 2013 forecast after reporting first quarter earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, collapsed by more than half, to 917 million euros from 2.1 billion during the same period a year ago.

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“The company’s margins have collapsed,” observed one analyst during a conference call in which the company’s top executives discussed the quarterly report.

It was an observation senior management struggled to downplay during the call.

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NHTSA Announces Distracted Driving Guidelines

“Voluntary” rules meant to keep drivers’ eyes on the road.

by on Apr.24, 2013

U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Battling against a distracted driving “epidemic” blamed for causing more than 10% of all U.S. highway fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has unveiled new voluntary guidelines meant to keep driver’s eyes on the road rather than on smartphones and in-car devices displaying text messages and Web content.

The guidelines are meant to limit the amount of time drivers look away from the road even when doing mundane tasks like changing radio stations or checking onboard navigation directions. The proposal appears to take particular aim at text messaging and posting to social media sites like Facebook.

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Among the proposals, NHTSA would like to see the industry to find ways to block motorists from texting while behind the wheel.

According to NHTSA, motorists should not need to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time – and since some functions require paging through multiple screens, no task should take more than 12 seconds, according to the nation’s top auto safety regulators.

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