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Toyota Expands Tech Center as Part of North American Reorganization

Maker getting as much as $8.6 million in incentives in Michigan.

by on Aug.27, 2014

Toyota is getting as much as $8.6 million in incentives to offset the cost of a $32.5 million expansion of its tech center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

As Toyota moves ahead with plans to reshape its North American operations, the automaker may get as much as $8.6 million in incentives to offset a $32.5 million expansion of its technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Toyota is moving 250 purchasing jobs from Kentucky to Michigan necessitating the larger facility. In addition to the expansion in Michigan, the maker is moving its headquarters from southern California to a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

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The State of Michigan is providing a $4 million grant while York Township, near Ann Arbor, is also considering a 12-year property tax abatement valued at $4.6 million. (more…)

Ram Diesel, Toyota Highlander Hybrid Win Consumer Reports Nods

Both deliver unexpected mileage, magazine says.

by on Aug.27, 2014

The Ram EcoDiesel delivers sedan-like mileage, according to Consumer Reports testers.

Consumer Reports has placed Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 EcoDiesel at the top of its full-size pickup truck ratings due to its performance in fuel-economy tests, while the influential magazine also lauded the Toyota Highlander SUV.

The choice of the Ram Diesel underscores the growing intensity of the competition in the full-size pickup segment, which is undergoing a technical revolution as truck makers roll out new, more fuel-efficient powertrains and make other significant improvements meant to boost fuel-economy.

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Ford Motor Co. will launch a new, aluminum-bodied F-150 this fall that sheds up to 700 pounds and is expected to gain significant mileage, but the all-new truck wasn’t included in this round of tests by Consumer Reports.

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GM Moves Forward with Grand IT Plan

Maker opens new innovation center in Arizona.

by on Aug.26, 2014

General Motors recently opened its newest IT Innovation Center in Chandler, Arizona.

General Motors continues moving forward with its ambitious three-year plan to overhaul its information technology services by bringing them back in house with the opening of its next innovation center.

The automaker opened its newest IT innovation center in Chandler, Arizona and hired 500 employees to staff the facility. Overall, the company expects to hire 1,000 employees during the next two years.

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Randy Mott, GM senior vice president, Global Information Technology & Chief Information Officer, said the innovation centers are part of a companywide transformation to improve performance, reduce the cost of ongoing operations and increase its delivery of innovation. (more…)

Auto Industry Outperforms Other Industries in Comeback

Sector provided higher median returns since 2008.

by on Aug.26, 2014

Strong auto sales have helped automakers and suppliers provide better than average shareholder returns since the financial downturn of 2008.

Few economic sectors have mounted a more impressive comeback from the financial crisis in 2008 than the auto industry, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The study found that auto manufacturers and component makers delivered five-year median annual returns that were well in excess of the 21% median return for the 26 industries tracked by the group.

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On average, carmakers produced a median annual total shareholder return, which traces both dividends and share price appreciation, of 29% from 2009 through 2013, while component makers posted a median annual TSR of 33%. (more…)

Toyota Adding 300 Workers to Meet Highlander Demand

Maker spending $100 million in Indiana plant expansion.

by on Aug.25, 2014

Toyota announced it would be adding 300 workers to its plant in Princeton, Ind., to meet the sales demand for the Toyota Highlander.

Much of the news lately about automakers expanding their production capabilities seems to be tied to Mexico; however, Toyota is adding 300 jobs at its plant in Princeton, Ind. as part of a $100 million expansion to increase production of its Highlander.

The project is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2016. Toyota has invested more than $4 billion into its Indiana facilities.

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Since production of the third-generation Highlander began in the Indiana plant in December 2013, sales have been strong. From January through July 2014, Toyota sold about 90,000 Highlanders, an increase of 16% over the same period the previous year. (more…)

Car Sales Still Hot, Even as Summer Cools Down

Month likely to bring best sales - and highest prices - for 2014.

by on Aug.22, 2014

New products - such as the redesigned Toyota Corolla - are helping push car sales higher.

Robust sales of new vehicles during the early summer months have continued in  August, with demand for new cars, trucks and crossovers on pace to surpass May for the  highest levels in 2014, according to a monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

That echoes the findings of another new study showing that U.S. motorists have run up record levels of automotive loan debt this year.  John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power, notes that continued high levels of consumer expenditures on new vehicles demonstrate continued improvement of the health of the industry.

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“We expect consumer spending on new vehicles in August to approach $39 billion, the highest level on record for the month of August and second-highest month ever behind July 2005 when it was $39.7 billion,” said Humphrey. “The record consumer spending is fueled by both high sales volumes and high transaction prices.”

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GM Tech Center Still Reeling from Flooding

R&D and Design operations hard hit.

by on Aug.21, 2014

The GM Tech Center was one of the premier projects of architect Eero Saarinen.

General Motor Co. is still struggling to get its huge, suburban Detroit technical center back in operation 10 days after it was flooded by a huge storm that dumped more some five inches of rain on the Motor City.

The rain and flooding, which claimed three lives in the Detroit area, also forced GM, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group to shut down production at some key plants around Detroit.

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But the largest disruption was at the General Motors Technical Center in the suburb of Warren, which is normally home to more than 19,500 full-time employees and contractors. Almost all of them were forced to abandon their work stations in the immediate aftermath of the flooding, which began during the late afternoon and early evening of Monday, August 11 when what has been described as a 100-year storm hammered the city.

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Auto Sales Soar – But So Does Auto Loan Debt

Sub-prime lending and delinquencies raise concerns.

by on Aug.20, 2014

Sub-prime lending has sharply increased - though it remains lower than before the recession.

Car sales may be soaring to their highest levels since the depths of the recession but, in the process, U.S. motorists are running up record auto loan debts.

The combination of rising car prices and a negligible growth in wages has only compounded the problem, buyers going deeper into debt to drive off showroom lots. Outstanding auto loans hit an all-time record of $839.1 billion during the second quarter, a whopping 11.7% year-over-year increase, according to debt tracking service Experian Automotive.

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It marks the 13th consecutive quarter auto loan has increased, according to a separate report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Overall, outstanding household debt was essentially flat, the Fed noted.

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Ford Heeds Call for Right-Hand Drive Mustang

Truly a global vehicle, pony car goes on sale in 120 countries.

by on Aug.19, 2014

Ford will being selling right-hand drive Mustangs next year in selected markets.

Ford Motor Co. has been churning out Mustangs continuously for a half century half a century now. During that time, the fabled pony car has seen many changes ranging from body styles to engine offerings and even the ill-fated Mustang II.

However, the iconic machine will see a new first with the sixth-gen version: right-hand drive. Ford is finally catering to the demand for the pony car in foreign lands and will make the right-hand driver version available for sale in markets, such the United Kingdom, Japan and Thailand.

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The Mustang goes on sale this fall in the U.S. and globally in more than 120 countries next year, including a total of 25 right-hand drive markets, such as Ireland, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Africa and Kenya. (more…)

Russia Ready to Retaliate – and Automakers Could Take a Big Hit

One unexpected winner could emerge.

by on Aug.19, 2014

A worker on the AvtoVAZ assembly line in Togliatti, Russia, a plant now run by Renault-Nissan.

Slammed by sanction for its role in the Ukranian revolt, Russia is warning it may tighten retaliatory sanctions against the West by banning automotive imports.

The crisis in the Ukraine has made stock traders around the world nervous, leading to some major swings in key indexes and raising fears about the overall strength of the European economy, which is just beginning to recover from a steep recession.

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But retaliating against Western automakers could have unforeseen consequences for Russia itself as it struggles to build momentum for its own economy. Car sales in the heart of the former Soviet Union also slumped badly along with the rest of Europe.

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