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Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

First Look: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250

A small SUV with room for seven.

by on Jun.11, 2019

Mercedes-Benz had a gap in its utility line-up between the GLA and GLC. There isn't one anymore with the debut of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB.

There’s a war out there among luxury automakers, the Germans, in particular, determined to fire a new model into every possible bit of “white space.” Nowhere is that more apparent than over in Stuttgart where Mercedes-Benz has rolled out an array of new offerings, including its first long-range all-electric model, the EQC, which was previewed at the New York International Auto Show a couple months back.

Now, Mercedes has pulled the wraps off yet another significant new offering: the even more downsized GLB, which was previewed at an event in Utah overnight. Slotted in-between the GLA and GLC models, the downsized crossover appears to have plenty going for it, including an array of tech features that should appeal to young buyers. But there’s another surprising plus. Despite its diminutive footprint, the GLB manages to offer seating for up to seven passengers.

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It’s the first three-row offering from the Stuttgart-based automaker in this segment and, considering the market demand for seven-seaters, could gain a leg up on its two-row competition. (more…)

Tesla Workers Less Keen on EV Maker than Last Year

EV maker not sweating the satisfaction slide.

by on Jun.10, 2019

Tesla took 5,000 orders for the Model 3 last week, Musk said, but ultimately its production goal is 10,000 a week.

Tesla employees expressed concerned about layoffs and executive losses in feedback to Glassdoor.com.

Tesla Inc.’s employees aren’t enjoying their jobs as much as they once did citing concerns about potential layoffs, executive turnover and changing corporate strategy, according to two job websites that track these rankings.

The Palo Alto, California-based EV maker placed 16th on LinkedIn’s annual “Top Companies 2019” list, which came out in April. That’s a significant decline from its fifth-place spot last year and sixth place in 2017.

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Meanwhile, Tesla’s overall company rating at Glassdoor.com fell to 3.2 out of 5.0 stars based on reviews written in the first quarter of this year. That’s down from its high-water mark of 3.6 in 2017, according to historical data compiled by Glassdoor at Reuters’ request. The average rating of the nearly 1 million employers reviewed on the site is 3.4.  (more…)

BMW Opens $1 Billion Plant in Mexico

Automaker opens site despite Trump administration's tariff threats.

by on Jun.10, 2019

BMW opened its $1 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, despite the turmoil surrounding the Trump administration's tariff threats.

Amid the turmoil about U.S. tariffs on Mexican made goods, the BMW Group dedicated its newest assembly plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

“The new plant in San Luis Potosi is an important pillar of the BMW Group’s global production strategy. We aim to achieve a balance in our production and sales in the different world regions,” Oliver Zipse, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Production, said during the ceremony.

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“We want to strengthen our footprint in important and growing markets. San Luis Potosi will significantly boost our regional production flexibility in the Americas. From here, we are delivering our locally produced BMW 3 Series sedan to customers worldwide.” (more…)

Fiat Chrysler Teams Up With Autonomous Vehicle Start-Up Aurora

Move could fill a gaping hole left open after collapse of merger talks with Renault.

by on Jun.10, 2019

Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley hasn't stopped looking for partners the wake of the FCA-Renault falling apart.

Fiat Chrysler will form an alliance with autonomous vehicle start-up Aurora to develop technology for commercial vehicles that could range from hands-free taxis to driverless delivery trucks.

Aurora currently runs operations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as San Francisco and Palo Alto, California, three of the hotbeds of autonomous vehicle research, with more than 200 employees. Earlier this year it raised $530 million through a Series B funding round, with Amazon one of its key investors.

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“As part of FCA’s autonomous vehicle strategy, we will continue to work with strategic partners to address the needs of customers in a rapidly changing industry,” said Mike Manley, chief executive officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “Aurora brings a unique skillset combined with advanced and purposeful technology that complements and enhances our approach to self-driving.”

The deal, which officially links Aurora with Fiat Chrysler’s North American unit, FCA US, was announced only days after the parent company broke off merger talks with Renault. One of the potential benefits of that tie-up would have been access to autonomous and electrified vehicle technologies being developed by the French automaker’s Japanese alliance partner, Nissan.

(French government blamed for collapse of Fiat Chrysler-Renault merger plan. Click Here for the story.)

Fiat Chrysler also supplied Waymo with 65,000 Pacifica minivans for its Waymo One service.

FCA insiders have blamed French government interference for scuttling the proposed “merger-of-equals,” but sources in France have, in turn, claimed that they were concerned that the deal could have fractured the two decade old Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

What is clear is that Fiat Chrysler has needed help when it comes to autonomous technology. Under Sergio Marchionne, the former CEO who passed away unexpectedly last summer, it was little more than an afterthought. There was little work done in-house, in sharp contrast to other major competitors such as Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford.

Prior to this announcement, FCA’s biggest move in the autonomous field was to agree to provide as many as 60,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for use in the new Waymo One ride-sharing service started by the Google spinoff Waymo in the Phoenix area – which is scheduled to expand to at least 20 more cities in the coming years.

In an ironic twist, Aurora’s CEO Chris Urmson, a pioneer in the autonomous field, previously headed Waymo before it was spun off by Google and new CEO John Krafcik came onboard.

In the non-monogamous world of high-tech transportation, the connecting lines crisscross all over one another. Amazon, which is now paired with FCA though Aurora, led a consortium that purchased a major stake in electric vehicle start-up Rivian earlier this year. While the digital retailer hasn’t explained its goals, it is widely believed to be working up plans to field a fleet of driverless delivery trucks.

Meanwhile, another investor in Rivian is Ford Motor Co., a key rival of Fiat Chrysler’s in the commercial vehicle market.

(Click Here for more about the failed FCA-Renault merger.)

Neither FCA nor Aurora would discuss specific details of their new alliance, including any financial arrangements. Earlier this year, after the Series B funding round was completed, the start-up reportedly had a $2.5 billion valuation, according to the Reuters news service.

Along with the new FCA deal, Aurora has also forged relationships with Hyundai, Volkswagen and Chinese electric vehicle start-up Byton.

“We are thrilled to forge a partnership with FCA US to develop a meaningful business model for delivering the benefits of self-driving commercial vehicles,” said Sterling Anderson, Aurora co-founder and chief product officer.

Precisely what those vehicles will be isn’t clear, but the dozens of automakers and research firms exploring autonomous technology see a number of possible options. The general consensus is that costs will run too high, at least in the early years, for most consumers, putting the focus on commercial ventures. These include autonomous cabs like those Waymo One is fielding, with General Motors and its Cruise Automation subsidiary promising to launch their own operation later this year.

Local delivery services would like to dispense with costly drivers, as well, though the challenge is resolving the “last 100 foot” problem, getting packages from the truck to the door. Some experiments have required customers to go and pick up their packages but that isn’t seen as a popular option. Drones are a possibility, but Ford last month demonstrated a robot that could take packages from truck to drop-off.

(Waymo kicks off autonomous taxi and ride-sharing service. Click Here for the story.)

Long-haul trucks are also a possibility, though not an area in which FCA competes. Its former partner, Daimler AG, however, has been fleet testing hands-free technology through several subsidiaries, including the U.S.-based Freightliner.

Automakers Push Back on Trump Plan to Relax Mileage Rules

Expected White House plan would trigger legal actions and “untenable” uncertainty, 17 OEs warn.

by on Jun.07, 2019

Pres. Donald Trump thought he would win industry support from industry leaders over CAFE cuts but has seen opposition, instead/

In an unusual move, 17 automakers, including giants General Motors, Ford and Toyota, have sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him not to move ahead on plans to roll back federal fuel economy standards – a move that puts the industry more in line with environmentalists than the anti-regulatory White House.

The Trump Administration has signaled since it was first inaugurated its intention to roll back Obama-era guidelines that would have seen the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard rise to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The administration’s draft plans would freeze the numbers at 2021 model-year levels, or about 37 mpg.

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The proposal has already generated significant opposition from environmental and consumer groups, as well as the State of California which would effectively lose its current right to set standards higher than those established by the federal government. California has played lead in the various legal actions that have been filed to block any rollback even before the original outline of a plan the White House announced was formalized.

(more…)

Mercedes-AMG Unveils Most Powerful 4 Cylinder Ever

New powerplant puts out 416 horsepower.

by on Jun.07, 2019

Mercedes-AMG produced a new 416 horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder: the most-powerful ever.

The days of anemic four-cylinder engines passed long ago, and most of us have had a chance to push a peppy four banger to its limits with a fair bit of enjoyment.

However, in recent years, the horsepower numbers have been creeping up to unprecedented levels surpassing 300 hp. Mercedes-Benz and its performance partner, AMG, have now taken it to a new level with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder that puts out 416 hp.

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The new figure is 40 hp more than the M133 engine it replaces. The M139 is now the new titleholder for most powerful four cylinder at 416-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That engine is for the S-badged AMG. The lower trim, non-S model gets a 382 hp and 354 lb-ft four cylinder. (more…)

EVs Will Reach Cost Parity with Gas Cars “Sooner than People Think,” says GM’s Reuss

That would be good news for an industry pumping billions into EV development.

by on Jun.07, 2019

GM's Mark Reuss believes that EVs will reach cost parity with gas-powered vehicles sooner than people think they will.

The auto industry is planning to spend in excess of $100 billion over the next decade on the development of electrified vehicles, pure battery-electric models, in particular – so much that even industry giants like Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota are opting to partner with traditional competitors to spread out spending.

One of the concerns is that manufacturers will have to not only put out that money up front but then swallow some of their production costs to keep those battery-cars competitive once they reach market because they will be more expensive to build. That was a warning delivered by a top Toyota official during a briefing in Tokyo on Friday morning.

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But that may not prove nearly as dire a problem as anticipated, General Motors President Mark Reuss said during a conference early this week where he said he sees the cost of a BEV and a comparable gas model will “reach parity a lot sooner than people think.” (more…)

Toyota Speeding up EV Program; Partnering with Subaru on New Platform

Finding enough batteries could pose a problem.

by on Jun.07, 2019

Toyota EVP Shegeki Terashi discusses the automaker's plans to accelerate its BEV program with the media.

Though it was a pioneer in the launch of hybrid technology, Toyota Motor Corp. has long been skeptical of more advanced forms of battery propulsion. But a senior official said today that the largest Japanese automaker now plans to speed up development of plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or PHEVs and BEVs, so that electrified vehicles account for fully half of its global sales by 2025.

That would be five years ahead of Toyota’s original timetable and reflects the broader industry transition that sees major competitors like Volkswagen and General Motors rapidly accelerating their own electrification efforts.

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One of the ways Toyota hopes to get there will be through a new partnership with Subaru that will see them working together to develop a new, dedicated BEV platform. (more…)

Auto Loans, Payments Reach Record Highs

New benchmarks set for new and used vehicles.

by on Jun.07, 2019

People are taking out bigger loans for their vehicles, and that means bigger payments: Both have reached record highs.

Despite the fact that automakers are selling fewer vehicles, they continue to make more money per sale because buyers are borrowing more and, as a result, paying more each month for those new vehicles.

The average amount borrowed to buy a new vehicle hit a record $32,187 during the first quarter, according to Experian, which tracks millions of auto loans each month. The trend has spilled over to used vehicles where the average loan also hit a record, $20,137.

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“We have not seen a slowdown in loan demand. In fact, volume for new and used loans is up from previous years,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive financial solutions for Experian. (more…)

Electrify America Puts in 120 EV Chargers at Walmarts

Goal is get in 180 units by year's end.

by on Jun.06, 2019

Electrify America is installed 120 charging stations at Walmarts across the country.

Seems like you can get just about everything at Walmart these days, and if you own an electric vehicle, you can even get your vehicle charged up while you’re there … well, at some of them anyway.

The world’s largest retailer is home to 120 new chargers from Volkswagen AG unit Electrify America in 34 states with plans, according to Reuters, to add 180 more by the end of the year. The move is part of Electrify America’s goal having 2,000 charging stations at 484 sites in 17 large metro areas.

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Partnering with Walmart gives the company an easily identifiable place for EV owners to go to get their vehicles charged. There multiple benefits to the Walmart partnership as it allows users to shop at the store or head over to other locations, such as restaurants, that are often near a Walmart. (more…)