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October Sales Expected to Defy Economic Uncertainty

Incentives rise, and pose risks, analyst warns.

by on Oct.29, 2014

The Jeep Cherokee is selling well and is responsible of much of Chrysler Group's stellar year.

Recent big swings in the stock market and dire headlines about an economic downturn haven’t put any kind of dent in U.S. auto sales, industry analysts are predicting demand for October will be up between 5.4 and 6.0% when sales numbers are totaled up next week.

Total demand, including retail and fleet sales, is expected to reach 1.27 million vehicles, according to various forecasts. On an annualized basis, known in industry terms as the SAAR, that would work out to 16.3 million vehicles, nearly a million about the rate for all of 2013.

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“The industry continues to demonstrate strong sales growth and robust transaction prices, resulting in another record-breaking month for industry consumer spending,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power and Associates. (more…)

Rearview Cameras Saving Lives, Says AAA

But some systems are better than others.

by on Oct.29, 2014

Backup cameras are already common - even before the new government mandate takes effect.

Advancing autumn darkness increases concerns about pedestrian safety and one innovation that does help reduce accidents is the back-up camera, according to studies by AAA.

On average, these rear-view systems improved visibility an average of 46%, the travel and safety organization found. That’s a significant improvement, and something that can save 100s of lives a year, which is why federal regulators will beginning mandating the technology a year from now.

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“Rear-view cameras are a great supplement for drivers,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering.

(more…)

No Room for Complacency, Says GM CEO Barra

Maker aiming to “annihilate the opposition,” she tells Detroit leaders.

by on Oct.28, 2014

GM intends to win, proclaims CEO Barra, during a speech to Detroit business leaders.

General Motors is no longer going to act a polite competitor, GM chief executive officer Mary Barra said during an appearance before the Detroit Economic Club.

“I want to win,” Barra said. Not get by. Not hold on. Not be competitive. But win.

“I want GM to excel. To build relationships with customers for life. To be the most valued automotive company in the world,” Barra added. “If we aren’t here to win, to lead, to excel, why are we here?”

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In her speech to the leaders of the Detroit business community, Barra made it clear she wasn’t chosen to be CEO just to put a friendly face on the once-bankrupt automaker. Already having walked through fire as she has had to steer GM through an embarrassing and costly recall crisis, Barra has shaken up the maker and is clearly planning more major changes.

(more…)

Gas Prices Continue to Slide in US

Saudis continuing strategy to keep prices low.

by on Oct.27, 2014

Gas prices are at their lowest levels in four years and the slide is expected to continue.

The ongoing drop of gas prices in the U.S. is confounding experts, delighting consumers and being ignored by U.S. fracking companies, which are helping to push U.S. oil production to record levels.

The average price at the pump dropped 18 cents in the past two weeks. Gas prices are now at their lowest level in nearly four years, thanks to a steep drop in oil prices, according to the latest Lundberg survey released on Sunday.

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Prices fell to an average of $3.08 per gallon for regular grade gasoline, according to the survey conducted on Oct. 24, the lowest price since Dec. 2010. In some markets, the price of gasoline has now fallen below $3 per barrel. In northern Virginia, for example, the price of gasoline had dropped to $2.72 per gallon. (more…)

Takata’s Troubles Don’t End with Faulty Airbags

Japanese supplier investigated for price fixing.

by on Oct.24, 2014

Takata's problems are bigger than the 7.8 million vehicles recalled due to its faulty airbags.

The Japanese auto supplier at the center of a massive recall of due to potentially explosive airbags, Takata Corp., is also mired in a criminal price-fixing investigation by the Department of Justice.

Four Takata executives pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges brought by the Justice Department’s anti-trust division, which charged the company’s executives with colluding with other suppliers to rig bids for seat belts against Honda, Toyota and Mazda.

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In addition to the charges by the DOJ, the U.S. District Court in Eastern District of Michigan has levied fines against Takata totaling more than $71 million. All three Japanese carmakers also have been heavily impacted by the concerns over airbags supplied by Takata, which have exploded and in a number of cases injured motorists. (more…)

Daimler Reports Mercedes Expected to Hit Sales Record

Company turns profits despite sluggish global economy.

by on Oct.23, 2014

Dieter Zetsche said Daimler's Q3 profits were due in large measure to strong sales by Mercedes-Benz.

Daimler AG used a surge in sales of new Mercedes-Benz models to boost its revenue by 10% in the third quarter despite the soft global economy, which the company expects to slow further by the end of the year.

Daimler Group AG net earnings also increased significantly to 2.82 billion euros compared with 1.89 billion euros in the third quarter of last year and Mercedes-Benz cars is on its way to record sales this year.

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The group’s third-quarter revenue of 33.1 billion euros was 10% above the prior-year level; adjusted for exchange-rate effects, revenue increased by 11%. (more…)

GM Goes Solar

Installing major solar array at Lordstown plant.

by on Oct.22, 2014

GM continues adding solar arrays at plants around the world. The maker announced it's adding an array at its Lordstown, Ohio, facility.

General Motors is aiming to bolster its green credentials by installing a huge solar array that will be visible from the well-traveled Ohio Turnpike outside the company’s big assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

GM’s new 2.2 megawatt, ground-mounted solar array will be complete by the end of the year. When the last of more than 8,500 solar panels are in place, it will be GM’s largest solar installation in the Western Hemisphere, the maker claims – but not necessarily the largest sun-power system, producing just a fraction of the output of the solar park in use at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant.

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GM has been adding solar arrays and waste-burning power generators at its assembly plants in the U.S. as part of a concerted effort to reduce costs and clean up the environment by eliminating waste and limiting the use of carbon-based fuel such as oil and coal. (more…)

Chinese Officials Express Concern over Indigenous Brands

Government pushing companies to develop technologies.

by on Oct.21, 2014

China's indigenous automakers are struggling to keep up with companies like Volkswagen, General Motors and others in its own market.

China is the world’s largest and fastest growing automotive market in the world, but the focus of the biggest Chinese policy makers, pundits and executives now is the well-being or fate of the country’s indigenous brands.

Some companies, such as Geely, are doing fine and governmental agencies, particularly local governments with a stake in the so-called state-owned enterprises, or SOEs, are doing what they can to assist the homegrown, according to information presented during the course of the two-day Global Automotive Forum, which was held last week in Wuhan, China.

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China is clearly willing to use subsidies for energy-efficient vehicles, rationed parking stickers and anti-trust enforcement to help bolster the indigenous brands, which have have steadily lost marketshare during the past 18 months. In addition, a new study by the Boston Consulting Group found the more than 80% of the Chinese consumers who expect to buy a car soon prefer foreign brands. (more…)

Despite Downturn China’s Economy Still Strong

Current growth rate near sweet spot of expansion.

by on Oct.21, 2014

Fan Gang, director, National Economic Research Institute, suggested China's economy will be strong for several years.

Despite the fact that China’s economy isn’t living up to predictions this year, the overall picture for the country is bright even as it faces significant challenges to its growth, one of China’s leading economists posited yesterday at the Global Automotive Forum in Wuhan, China.

Fan Gang, director, National Economic Research Institute, suggested China’s economy will grow at a slightly slower pace, 7.3% rather than the 7.5% rate projected by the central government at the beginning of the year. However, a growth rate of between 7% and 8% is more manageable and more sustainable for what is now the world’s second-largest economy behind the United States’.

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In fact, a hotter rate of growth would be problematic, Fan said. If the economy grew faster than 9%, inflation would become a problem for the country as a whole, while a growth rate of better than 10% could create an “asset bubble” either in real estate or elsewhere in the economy. (more…)

China Plays Critical Role in GM’s Intelligent Vehicle Development

Maker plans to leverage expertise to produce smart cars.

by on Oct.20, 2014

General Motors is planning to further develop its autonomous vehicle technology in China, in particular its ENVI-style vehicles.

General Motors plans to bring its latest technology to China and use its technical resources in there to develop vehicles that can fit into the country’s growing megacities that continue to expand, GM top executive in China said this week.

“China has indeed has been a very rewarding market for GM we’ve benefited from the tremendous growth,” noted Matt Tsien, president of GM China. China plays very big role in GM strategic considerations and China’s voice is a very strong voice within GM, Tsien added during a discussion at the annual Global Automotive Forum in Wuhan, China.

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China became the world’s largest single automotive market in 2009 and the size of country’s car fleet has doubled in the last five years and is expected to double again by 2020. (more…)