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Archive for June, 2013

GM Quality Chief Gets Bigger, Global Role

Boler-Davis takes on overseas and customer satisfaction duties.

by on Jun.26, 2013

GM's quality and service chief Alicia Boler-Davis wants to use the "voice of the customer" to both solve current problems and prevent issues on future models.

A week after landing at the top of the closely watched J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey – for the first time ever — General Motors has elevated the role of its top quality official.

Alicia Boler-Davis is being promoted to senior vice president, Global Quality and Global Customer Experience, expanding her customer experience role from a U.S. position to oversee the rest of GM’s global empire, CEO Dan Akerson announced during a speech to GM employees on Wednesday morning.

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“Alicia Boler-Davis is a proven leader whose diverse experiences in manufacturing, product development and customer experience give her a unique insight into customer expectations,” said Chairman and CEO Akerson. “She will lead a companywide, global approach to infusing the voice of the customer into everything we do.”

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VW Postpones Decision on Tennessee Plant Expansion, 2nd Product

But announcement likely before year-end.

by on Jun.26, 2013

VW says the CrossBlue Concept was designed specifically for the US market.

Volkswagen has some big news for Tennessee – but not the news many had expected.  The German maker has invested another $40 million in the state, about two hours from its sprawling Chattanooga assembly complex, to add a new regional distribution center. But the announcement sidestepped the really big decision many have been expecting.

VW has signaled that it will soon decide whether to add a second product line to the U.S. plant – a move that could lead it to double the size of the Chattanooga facility, expanding capacity to as much as 500,000 units annually.

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“We expect a decision in 2013,” Carsten Kreb, communications director for Volkswagen Group of America Inc. said in an e-mail. But no decision has yet been taken as to whether and, if so, which model this could be built at the plant.

However, it appears almost certain – as TheDetroitBureau.com reported last week – that the Chattanooga plant will eventually produce a version of the CrossBlue Concept, a three-row crossover-utility vehicle that would help expand Volkswagen’s presence in the rapidly expanding CUV market.

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Chevy Names Batey New Global Brand Boss

Move comes days after Docherty’s unexpected resignation.

by on Jun.25, 2013

Chevy's new global brand czar Alan Batey.

Just days after the head of Chevrolet’s struggling European arm unexpectedly tendered her resignation, General Motors has appointed Alan Batey as its new global brand czar.

The appointment is one of a series of actions by GM meant to shore up Chevy’s image not only in the U.S. but in worldwide markets that have come to increasingly dominate the bowtie brand’s sales.  Nearly three of every four products badged Chevrolet will be sold outside the U.S. in 2013, GM forecasts.

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“Chevrolet is our mainstream global brand, and with the growth we are experiencing and the barrage of new products we have coming, the time is right for us to have a single leader responsible for managing the brand around the world,” said GM CEO Dan Akerson.

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Stock Market Sell-Off? June Car Sales Stay Strong

Customers paying record transaction prices.

by on Jun.25, 2013

Ford is rapidly ramping up production of vehicles like the F-Series to keep up with rising demand.

As Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neumann frequently asks: “What, me worry?” it seems like the recent stock market tumble, the worsening situation in Europe and ongoing economic concerns here in the U.S. are, at most, background noise – at least to American car buyers.

Sales of new cars and trucks continue to move along at a steady clip during June, according to new estimates from J.D. Power & Associates and LMC Automotive.  A monthly sales forecast based on direct dealer data indicates new-vehicle retail sales are showing no signs of letting up at the start of the summer selling season.

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New-vehicle retail sales in June are projected to come in at 1,118,800 vehicles, which represent a Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate of 13.2 million units, a healthy increase of 500,000 from the May SAAR. Retail transactions are the most accurate measure of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.

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First Drive: Volkswagen Golf GTD

Blowing by 3 motorcycle cops at 120 mph.

by on Jun.25, 2013

VW is giving serious thought to finally bringing the high-performance diesel Golf GTD to the US.

There’s a sickening twist to the stomach when you blow by a cop doing triple digits on the freeway – never mind three of them riding along in the center lane.  Happily, seeing the word, “Polizei” on their jackets reminded us we were on the German Autobahn.  Squeezing back on the throttle, we nudged our little Volkswagen hatchback back up to 120.

It’s been a slow and difficult slog trying to get American motorists to change their perceptions of diesel cars. If any manufacturer has been successful, so far, it’s Volkswagen, oil-burners now accounting for as much as a third of the sales for some of its key models, such as the Passat, Golf and Jetta.

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We’re betting demand could surge even higher once U.S. buyers get access to the Volkswagen GTD, the diesel-powered alternative to the familiar GTI.  Make that “if” they get a chance to buy the sporty Golf variant, as the German maker is still waffling about whether to bring the GTD to the States.  But based on our recent drive of the peppy diesel hatchback we’d be surprised and disappointed if it doesn’t roll into U.S. showrooms in the very near future.

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Jaguar Prepping 700-HP Hybrid F-Type

Leapfrogging Porsche.

by on Jun.25, 2013

A new Jaguar F-Type V6 S navigates the Circuito Navarra in Spain.

As regular readers might have noticed, hybrids are no longer for fuel economy anymore.  Well, not exclusively.  There’s a growing list of manufacturers using alternative technologies to add a big performance punch, as well, notably including Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche.

And you’ll soon be able to add Jaguar to that list, if the scuttlebutt proves accurate.  Borrowing a bit of technology from the now-cancelled C-X75 supercar program, Jaguar is reportedly working up a 700-horsepower hybrid driveline for the upcoming coupe version of the new F-Type.

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The new drivetrain – if it makes it beyond the planning stage – would provide a significant bump over the still-new Jaguar F-Type convertible’s 495-hp V8 S model.  And it would bump the top speed from an already impressive 186 mph to something north of 200, according to British auto mag AutoExpress, which broke the story.

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Ford May Begin Exporting Products from China

US maker races to catch up in booming Asian market.

by on Jun.25, 2013

The 7 Millionth Ford Transit Van rolls off an assembly line in China. The factory will soon expand.

With rare exception, what happens in China stays in China – at least when it comes to the booming Asian nation’s automotive market. Domestic demand has been more than strong enough, so far, to absorb production and still leave manufacturers racing to add more capacity.

But the situation may soon change. While a number of makers have been considering export opportunities, Ford appears to have that clearly in mind as it prepares to significantly expand production under a variety of different Chinese joint ventures.

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“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally today said during an interview on Bloomberg TV. “Over time, all of our facilities are positioned so we can support all the markets around the world from any location.”

After a late state that has left it lagging key rivals like Volkswagen AG and General Motors Corp., Ford is racing to add new capacity in the world’s largest automotive market. Exporting from China could give the maker an opportunity to keep its new plants running if it can’t gain more of a foothold in China.

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Hyundai Mulls Adding To U.S. Production Capacity

Maker may tweak Alabama plant to build more vehicles.

by on Jun.24, 2013

Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik.

Despite a harried sales pace for the year featuring a record-setting performance in May, Hyundai is still pondering whether to add more assembly capacity in the United States.

Hyundai Motor America Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik said during a visit to Detroit that automaker isn’t sure it’s the right time to add more production capacity in the U.S.

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The maker’s U.S. plant in Montgomery, Ala. is running three shifts. Hyundai added the additional shift last September, which bulked up production by 20,000 units annually.

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Docherty Latest GM Exec to Exit From Europe

Europe becoming a sinkhole for senior GM managers.

by on Jun.24, 2013

European chief Susan Docherty shown during a recent product preview.

Europe has become a sinkhole for once-promising senior General Motors executives – claiming a number of top managers in recent months including one-time Chevy Volt powertrain overseer Mickey Bly, and now Susan Docherty, who had been spearheading efforts to turn Chevrolet and Cadillac into major players in the European market.

Docherty, president and managing director of Chevrolet and Cadillac Europe, has announced she plans to leave General Motors “to spend more time with her family.”

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The parting is an amiable one, according to GM insiders, who noted that the Canadian-born Docherty will remain at her post until September 30. If Docherty was leaving for another job, her departure from GM would have been immediate, they noted. A successor for Docherty will be named at a later date, GM officials said.

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Cadillac XTS to Get Twin Turbo V-6

New Vsport model to make 410 hp.

by on Jun.24, 2013

Cadillac adds a new performance model to the XTS line-up, the XTS Vsport.

Cadillac is continuing to put a premium on performance, a niche it clearly believes it has to fill in its bid to regain credibility in order to tackle its import competition.

The latest addition to the Detroit luxury maker’s line-up will be the new 2014 XTS Vsport which will give the big sedan the same new 3.6-liter twin turbo V-6 that will also be offered with the new-for-2014, third-generation Cadillac CTS.

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“The addition of the new Cadillac twin turbo expands and elevates the XTS luxury sedan,” says Cadillac’s global brand boss Bob Ferguson. “This is a compelling enhancement to what is already one of the most technically advanced sedans in our history.”

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