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Archive for September, 2013

GM Truck Offensive Picks Up Momentum

Chevrolet, GMC, add more models, target up-market buyers.

by on Sep.26, 2013

The upcoming launch of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon will highlight GM's new truck offensive.

General Motors plans to unveil  its new mid-sized pickup trucks during the press previews at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November – the new Chevy and GMC models part of a broad offensive the Detroit maker hopes will take advantage of the sudden surge in truck sales.

The introduction of the two midsize pickups will follow the launch of GM’s new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size models, and target a segment of the market now dominated by the Japanese.

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“We think we have a real opportunity with that truck,” said Chris Perry, marketing chief for the Chevrolet division, referring to the new Chevy Colorado pickup. The GMC model will be dubbed the Canyon.

Since GM killed off the old Colorado and Canyon models, Detroit makers have left the segment to the Japanese, with models like the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and the Honda Ridgeline. And with sales on the decline, it has been anything but certain whether the domestics would try a comeback.

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Toyota Latest Maker to Expand Exports from US Plants

Growing list of American-made cars now heading abroad.

by on Sep.26, 2013

Toyota will begin shipping American-made Corolla sedans abroad next year.

Toyota plans to begin shipping U.S.-made Corolla sedans to 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean starting next year.

The move is part of a rapid ramp-up of exports from the U.S. by the world’s largest automaker which already ships vehicles from the States to markets as diverse as Europe and Asia. And Toyota isn’t alone, a growing number of its competitors also using the U.S. as an export base to take advantage of the weak dollar – and their expanding North American production networks.

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“Toyota’s U.S. manufacturing operations continue to grow as a key supplier of cars and trucks for global markets, which is only possible thanks to the dedication and high-quality work of our team members here,” said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota’s North America Region, “the export of U.S.-built Corolla sedans to Latin America and the Caribbean will help to further solidify our U.S. manufacturing base.”

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Compact Crossovers Becoming a Full-Size Market Segment

Small CUVs rapidly gain traction with mainstream, luxury buyers alike.

by on Sep.26, 2013

The Lexus LF-NX may have been the single most controversial vehicle to debut in Frankfurt this year.

It created quite a buzz – and more than a bit of controversy – when Lexus officials lifted the covers off the angular LF-NX concept vehicle during the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier this month. But while the edgy look is a subject of hot debate among industry insiders and potential buyers alike, there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on: Lexus, like its competitors, critically needs to add a compact crossover to its line-up.

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And the maker isn’t alone.  In fact, an assortment of production models and compact crossover concept vehicles shared the stage during this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and even more are expected to make their debut in the months ahead as brands as diverse as Infiniti, Lincoln, Cadillac and even Jaguar enter the fray.

“We’re all reading the same tea leaves,” suggests Mark Templin, the new global chief executive for Lexus, Toyota Motor Co.’s luxury brand.

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A Woman CEO “Inevitable” at a Detroit Big Three Automaker, says GM Chairman Akerson

Current chief exec’s talk of a “car gal” puts focus on GM global product chief Mary Barra.

by on Sep.25, 2013

Is GM product czar Mary Barra on her way to becoming the maker's next CEO?

While he has said he is in no rush to retire, General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson dropped a big hint about who might eventually replace him, telling his audience at an automotive conference in Detroit that it is “inevitable” a “car gal” will eventually run one of the Motor City’s Big Three automakers.

GM has already come a long way from the days when its management team was dominated by “car guys” in gray flannel suits. It currently has four women on its board of directors and six women rank among its corporate officers. And there has already been buzz that Mary Barra, the maker’s senior vice president of global product development could be on the short list of those with a shot at eventually replacing Akerson, who turns 65 next month.

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“You’ll have more women in board rooms and more women in senior management 10 years from now, at least I hope so,” Akerson said during a speech to the 2013 Michigan Automotive Summit.

Women have been slowly gaining a foothold in the auto industry over the last three decades, but for the large part, most have been assigned to traditionally “female” roles in senior management, such as Human Resources, public relations or environmental affairs.

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Bentley Adding Coupe-Like Sedan, According to Reports

New four-door would be ready by 2018.

by on Sep.25, 2013

Bentley's SUV concept, the EXP-F9, is coming to life and may be joined by a new coupe-like sedan.

There was a time when Bentleys were little more than rebadged versions of old partner Rolls-Royce models. But, in recent years, the British maker has been generating significant demand with an expanded and updated line-up of offerings such as the new Flying Spur and the big Mulsanne.

Now, it seems, Bentley’s line-up is set to get significantly bigger. As we’ve already reported, the maker is moving ahead on the development of its first-ever luxury SUV, a model that will be based on the EXP 9F concept vehicle the world got a first glimpse of in Geneva at the 2012 Motor Show. But could there be still more to come?

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Apparently, yes. Reports from Europe suggesting the next model will be a coupe-like sedan – think Mercedes-Benz CLS on an even grander scale – due out in 2018, according to the U.K.’s Car magazine. (more…)

Mercedes Has Big Plans for Small Cars

CLA provides new “gateway” for brand to attract Millennials.

by on Sep.25, 2013

Mercedes is looking to make inroads with younger buyers with the CLA model.

Mercedes-Benz is betting big on its new small car line-up, the launch of the 2014 CLA part of a strategy designed to provide a “gateway” for the next generation of luxury car customers, explains the German maker’s U.S. marketing chief.

The CLA is the first U.S. model based off Mercedes’ New Generation Compact Car platform, or NGCC. But it will be followed by two others, the GLA compact crossover and an electrified version of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class already on sale in Europe.

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Slightly smaller than the current Mercedes C-Class, the new CLA carries a downsized price tag starting at just $29,900 – which is meant to appeal to buyers who might otherwise be attracted to well-equipped mainstream products, such as Ford Fusion Titanium edition, or the top-line version of the Honda Accord, said marketing chief Bernie Glaser. (more…)

Honda Getting Ready to Launch Fit Production in Mexico

New compact crossover in the works.

by on Sep.25, 2013

The Mexican plant will produce both the Fit and a new crossover based on the same small platform.

Honda has begun construction of a new transmission plant in Celaya adjacent to the new automobile plant that will begin mass production early next year of the all-new 2015 Honda Fit in the spring of 2014, as well as a Fit-based crossover vehicle next autumn.

Rick Schostek, Honda North America senior vice president, said increasing sales of the Fit and the new crossover next year are a key element in Honda’s plans for growing sales across North America. The demand for small vehicles will grow and the new operations in Mexico will help Honda reach its objectives, he said.

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“We want to introduce a new generation of customers to the Honda and Acura brands,” Schostek said. “Our product has never been better. Nevertheless, we’re facing a challenging marketplace,” added Schostek, who added Honda will continue to emphasize retail sales.

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Alfa Romeo’s U.S. Re-launch Delayed Until Mid-2014

Neither Fiat nor Chrysler will offer reason for delay.

by on Sep.25, 2013

The Alfa 4C will make extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum to hold down weight.

The long-awaited return of Alfa Romeo to the U.S. market has once again been delayed, Chrysler officials confirm, until sometime close to mid-2014.

But the precise reason for rescheduling the U.S. launch of the new Alfa Romeo 4C isn’t being revealed. The lightweight sports car’s European introduction is proceeding on schedule, with journalists from across the Continent getting their first drive in the 4C this week.

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Earlier this year, Sergio Marchionne, who serves as CEO of both Chrysler and Fiat, the parent of Alfa Romeo, told journalists “For sure, it’s coming back this year,” in reference to Alfa’s long-promised U.S. re-launch. The revival of the brand, which abandoned the American market two decades ago, was tied to the launch of the 4C. “We’re finalizing the car now so it should be here by the end of the year.”

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Honda Accord Hybrid to Come in Just over $30,000

New gas-electric model to deliver segment best 50 mpg.

by on Sep.24, 2013

Honda bests the competition - at least in the city mileage category.

Honda will price the all-new 2014 Accord Hybrid model at just over $30,000, a bit higher than comparable offerings from key competitors like Ford and Toyota, but it is hoping to win over buyers with a segment-best fuel economy rating of 50 mpg.

The new Accord Hybrid debuts a year after the launch of both the conventional, gas-powered sedan, as well as Honda’s first extended-range offering, the Accord Plug-In.

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To be offered in three grades, the new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid will carry a base price of $29,155 plus a $905 destination fee – for a total of $30,060.  The mid-range EX-L model will come in at $31,905 plus delivery charges, the top-line Touring priced at $34,905 plus delivery.

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VW Axes Routan Minivan

Move comes as last Microvan rolls off the line. But new CrossBlue Model in the works.

by on Sep.24, 2013

Gone -- and largely forgotten -- the VW Routan.

Volkswagen has taken the axe to not one but two of its minivans. Just days after confirming the end of a 60-year run for the aging Microbus, the legendary Hippie Van of the ‘60s, the German maker says it has also pulled the plug on the newer – but far less successful Routan minivan.

The Routan was the product of a joint venture between VW and Chrysler, and was little more than a slightly revised version of the American maker’s Dodge Caravan minivan. First introduced during the 2009 model-year, the three-row people-mover failed to generate much demand, sales averaging barely 11,500 a year, barely a quarter of the 45,000 and 50,000 units VW had originally hoped to sell annually.

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Only a handful of 2014 models have been produced and none will be sold to the public, according to Volkswagen.

Introduced at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, the Routan was actually a holdover project originally conceived between Volkswagen and the former DaimlerChrysler.  It came to market about the same time the German and U.S. auto arms of that ill-fated alliance broke up.

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