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Archive for April, 2014

Move to Texas Could Help Toyota Tackle Truck Market

Japanese maker struggles to gain ground in full-size pickup segment.

by on Apr.29, 2014

A TRD Pro Tundra goes through its paces.

One of the key motives for Toyota’s decision to move its headquarters and marketing staff from Southern California to Texas undoubtedly involves gearing up for another assault on the lucrative North American truck market, industry experts suggests.

While Toyota has gained ground in SUVs and CUVs, and dominates the small midsize pickup segment, it has failed to gain any real traction in the lucrative full-size pickup segment dominated by its Detroit rivals, despite spending billions on its Tundra line and the plant that produces it.

Beyond the Headlines!

Art Wheaton, an automotive industry expert and faculty member at Cornell University, said cost savings are only part of Toyota’s motivation for leaving Southern California. Suggesting the Japanese maker “has been woefully falling behind Ford, Hyundai and others in (its) plain or boring designs,” Wheaton said “The move, for Toyota, may help increase the willingness to be bold and take risks as a large turnover in employees is expected.”

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Senators Ramping Up Pressure on GM

Letter asks feds to issue Park-It-Now advisory.

by on Apr.28, 2014

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, above, and Sen. Edward Markey sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to issue a "park-it-now" order for the 2.6 million vehicles recalled by GM.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey continue to beat the drum to force General Motors to ask owners of the 2.6 million small cars it recalled to stop driving them immediately.

Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Markey (D-Mass.) jointly penned a letter asking Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to force the automaker to make history and issue a “park-it-now advisory.”

Global Outlook!

“Every day that unrepaired vehicles remain on the road increases the risk of more injuries, deaths, and damage,” the pair wrote. (more…)

Toyota Confirms Plans to Move US HQ to Texas

Maker also plans major expansion at its Michigan tech center.

by on Apr.28, 2014

Toyota has had its U.S. headquarters operation based in California since 1957.

Toyota has confirmed plans to move its U.S. headquarters from the Los Angeles suburbs to a new complex it will build in the Dallas suburb of Plano. It also plans to significantly expand its technical center in the Detroit suburb of Ann Arbor.

All told, about 4,000 current employees will be impacted by the move from California and a separate facility in Kentucky – the announcement coming just days before a corporate restructuring was set to take effect. It remains to be seen how many of those employees will actually make the move when the Japanese giant relocates its U.S. manufacturing, sales and marketing, financial services and corporate operations.

Beyond the Headlines!

The maker says that by combining those operations under one roof, if will be in a position “to better serve customers and position Toyota for sustainable, long-term growth.” But according to reports that had begun leaking out prior to the company’s official announcement, the automaker also wants to slash its expenses and get out from under California’s strict regulatory environment.

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A Decade Later: Olds Was the Canary in GM’s Coal Mine

Last Alero rolled down the line on April 29, 2004.

by on Apr.28, 2014

Lansing workers watch the last Oldsmobile Alero as it comes off the assembly line.

It was supposed to be the car that would help save the troubled brand. But instead, it was the last car Oldsmobile would build.  This Tuesday marks the 10thanniversary of the demise of the once popular brand, a decade since a dark red Alero sedan rolled off the line at the old Lansing Car Assembly Plant as the last car Oldsmobile would ever build.

Lansing had been the home for the brand for more than a century, Ransom Eli Olds cobbling together his first motorized carriage in his father’s shop in Michigan’s capital city in 1897. The Curved Dash Oldsmobile he started producing four years later was to become the country’s first truly mass-produced automobile, an early pop culture sensation that inspired the 1905 hit song, “In My Merry Oldsmobile.”

Perspective!

Purchased by General Motors in 1908, Oldsmobile would eventually sell as many as 1 million vehicles a year. But as the new millennium approached, the brand was clearly past its prime, and like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, it was sounding the alarm for a crisis that would ultimately drive GM itself into bankruptcy.

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UAW Likely to Get Seat on GM Board of Directors

Union’s health care trust nominates UAW VP Ashton.

by on Apr.28, 2014

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton was nominated to the General Motors' Board of Directors.

Change is in the air at General Motors as the company’s board will likely have a top official from the United Auto Workers for the first time in history. If elected, it will be the second union-influenced nominee on the board.

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton has been nominated to fill a seat on the company’s board of directors, GM said in a proxy statement for its 2014 annual meeting of stockholders with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, also known as the VEBA, put Ashton on the ballot. He is scheduled to give up his post as head of the UAW’s GM Department in June following the UAW constitutional convention. If elected, Ashton will begin his board term in August. (more…)

Toyota May Move Majority of California HQ to Texas

Japanese giant would follow rival Nissan’s departure from California.

by on Apr.28, 2014

Toyota's U.S. HQ has been in California since 1957.

Hoping to save money, Toyota Motor Co. reportedly plans to move a substantial portion of its U.S. corporate operations from Torrance, California to the suburbs of Dallas, according to several reports.

The move would be another blow to the Golden State which has struggled to retain automotive jobs over the years and would follow rival Nissan’s decision to flee suburban Los Angeles for a new headquarters near Nashville.

 

Breaking News!

Toyota is expected to inform its employees on Monday of the move, according to several reports, though the maker’s chief spokesperson, Julie Hamp, said that the company “does not comment on rumors and speculation.”

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New Car Sales Picking Up April Momentum

Warm weather, new products, rising consumer confidence are factors.

by on Apr.28, 2014

A flood of new products, like this Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, has helped warm up the U.S. market after a cold winter.

As much of the country shakes off the winter doldrums and heads for what has traditionally been the year’s busiest season, sales of new cars, trucks and crossovers appear to be picking up some significant momentum.

After a frigid start to the New Year, demand has been heating up in April, according to a number of preliminary reports which see the warmer weather as one key factor – though buyers also are being lured back to showrooms by a flood of new products. And improved consumer confidence is helping, as well.

By the Numbers!

Sales appear to be heading for the 16 million mark on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, or SAAR, for April, according to new surveys. By comparison, the industry sold 15.5 million new vehicles for all of 2013. Meanwhile, J.D. Power & Associates estimates consumers will spend $33.5 billion purchasing new vehicles this month, a record for the month, topping the $30.5 billion motorists spent in April 2005.

“Auto sales are hitting their stride as the spring selling season begins, and the pace has returned to the level expected at this stage of the recovery,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

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Honda Records Q4 Profit of $1.67 Billion

by on Apr.25, 2014

Honda reported significantly improved Q4 and full year profits today based on a weak yen and strong auto sales around the world.

Honda rode the benefits of its own peculiar “double play” of a weak yen and strong sales to an impressive fourth quarter result. However, the positive impact of the yen is going to decline going forward, the company said.

The automaker reported a quarterly profit of $1.67 billion (170.5 billion yen) compared with less than $800 million (75.5 billion yen) during the same period a year ago. Honda reported sales increased 13% to $30 billion, or 3.1 trillion yen.

Global Outlook!

Japanese buyers seeking to beat an April 1 rise in sales taxes helped push Honda to 1.2 million vehicles sold during the quarter, which was nearly 200,000 units more than last year. (more…)

Big Flo is Watching: Americans OK with Insurers Monitoring Driving Behavior

But many are concerned about hackers, loss of privacy.

by on Apr.25, 2014

Big Sister is watching. Flo and the Snapshot data tracker, Progressive' user-based insurance device.

It’s not quite “Big Brother,” but many American motorists are now letting their insurance companies keep a close eye on what they do while behind the wheel. And millions more could soon follow.

More than half of all American drivers are willing to give insurance companies the authorization to review their driving habits in return for lower insurance rates, according to a new survey.

The research, conducted by the Deliotte Center for Financial Service,s noted that auto insurers are increasingly interested in telematics, or mobile technology used to gather individual drivers’ data, to help better determine what to charge motorists for their insurance.

The Last Word!

More than a million drivers across the country are already taking part in pay-as-you-drive or usage-based insurance coverage from large providers, such as Allstate, Progressive and State Farm, according to the most recent estimates.

In its survey, Deloitte found that consumer sentiment is changing when it comes to possible insurance savings based on their data.  The new study found 53% of the respondents said they would allow their driving to be tracked via a mobile device in exchange for premium discounts based on their performance.

Younger drivers in the “Millennial” generation were the most open to data tracking, nearly two-thirds of those between 21 and 29 willing to give telematics a go, compared to only 44% for those 60 or older.

The survey found about half of the respondents expected discounts of between 11% and 20% percent discount to have insurance companies monitor their behavior. About on in four anticipated savings of between 11% and 15%, while the rest of those surveyed  thought they’d be entitled to discounts of over 20 percent.

Furthermore, interest among drivers could also spur insurers to “gamify” driving by leveraging data to encourage or reward good behavior, thus making the driving process more interactive, according to Deloitte’s analysts.

(That simple ticket can double your insurance premiums. Click Here for more.)

Allstate, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies, now allow drivers in 30 different states to prove they are safe drivers and save money  through usage-based monitoring.  Allstate’s “Drivewise” policy tracks mileage, hard braking, speed, and time of day when a vehicle is in use. Using telematics technology to gather the data, Allstate rewards drivers for being safe on the road, the insurer claims.

After enrolling in the program, Drivewise customers must connect a monitoring device and take their first trip before getting an enrollment reward check of 10 percent. Customers can keep earning reward checks every six months based on their actual driving behavior. Customers can track their recorded driving behavior online or through a Drivewise tool within the Allstate Mobile app.

“We are committed to helping create a safer, more self-aware driver and, in doing so, we are able to pass along significant savings for safer driving,” says Allstate’s Drivewise Program Director Sarah Inciong. “Having more customers participate offers us even more insight into the impact of various driving behaviors, which can help improve the product and our customer’s driving habits.”

Allstate claims the average client receives rewards equal to 13% of their normal insurance bill. Progressive says its Snapshot data tracker has yielded motorists and average $150-a-year discount.

(Breakthrough technologies allow motorists to “see” in new ways. Click Here to find out more.)

Not everyone is comfortable with having an insurance company come along for the ride.

A majority of Americans, Australians and Britons believe that so-called “connected-vehicle” technology will make driving safer, but most are also concerned about security and privacy, according to a recent survey by researchers from the University of Michigan.

More than three-fourths believe that Internet connectivity in connected vehicles is important and approximately 86% are interested in having connected-vehicle technology.

(Feds want vehicles to “talk to one another” to improve highway safety. Click Here for more on planned new V2V rules.)

However, 30% of the online respondents in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. also said they are “very concerned” about the potential for breaches in vehicle security by hackers and they also worry about data privacy in tracking speed and location. Another 37% of the respondents are “moderately concerned” about the same issues and nearly a quarter are “slightly concerned,” according to the survey results.

Despite concerns about security and privacy, the majority believe connected vehicle technologies will reduce the number and severity of crashes, improve emergency response times and result in better fuel economy. In addition, more than 60% expect less traffic congestion, shorter travel times and lower vehicle emissions.

After Missteps, Daimler Hopes to Rebound in China

The faster it runs, the behinder it gets.

by on Apr.25, 2014

Officials from Daimler and BYD reveal the new Denza battery-car they jointly developed.

No issue has bedeviled Daimler AG more than China, where the company’s underwhelming performance lags archrivals BMW and Audi, which have used their successes with Chinese consumers to vault ahead of Mercedes-Benz in global sales.

Mercedes is hoping that this year’s Beijing Auto Show will serve as a tipping point, however, as it sets out to recapture some of the lost ground. Indeed, the China Daily suggested that Mercedes-Benz outspent its rivals at the crowded show this year in an effort to capture the attention of both the press and Chinese consumers.

Global Outlook!

Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler’s board of management, made the long journey to China after skipping the New York Auto Show, and Daimler hosted separate press conferences for its Mercedes-Benz and Sprinter brands, as well as a joint preview of a new electric vehicle it will build with Denza, one of its Chinese partners.

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