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New Vehicle Sales Booming in May, Tracking for 17 Mil

Sluggish April being offset by this month’s results.

by on May.22, 2015

Sales in May are outperforming expectations, led in some measure by strong SUV and truck sales.

The economic “showers” that slowed new car sales in April are resulting blooming results in May as new vehicle sales are exceeding expectations thus far this month despite the slow tempo of economic growth in the U.S.

“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

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Total light-vehicle sales in May 2015 are projected to reach 1,591,100, a 3% increase on a selling-day-adjusted basis compared with May 2014. Fleet volume is expected to hit 290,500 units, accounting for 18.3% of total sales, up from 17.6% a year ago. (more…)

Hyundai Likely to Build Santa Cruz Pickup, New B-Segment SUV

Approval for both models could come by mid-year.

by on May.20, 2015

Hyundai said show-goers gave a thumbs up to the Santa Cruz concept, and now the company appears to be giving it a thumbs up too.

Look for Hyundai to add two important new models in the near future, including a production version of the unusual Santa Cruz pickup concept first unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January.

The automaker is also likely to add a new subcompact crossover to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Trax and Jeep Rendezvous, said Dave Zuchowski, chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor North America. While final approval on both projects has yet to come from Hyundai headquarters in South Korea, Zuchowski said he is confident the carmaker will move ahead with both projects.

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In addition, Hyundai also plans to show off a new version of the compact Elantra sedan during the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. (more…)

Dodge Hellcat Orders Bust Bank

Buyer demand outstrips supply capability.

by on May.19, 2015

Sales of the 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and its four-door Charger sibling are smoking hot. So hot, they've been capped for 2015.

With the introduction of the new Chevy Camaro and the celebration of the 50th anniversary the Ford Mustang, FCA’s muscle cars – Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcats and the Viper – are almost getting lost in the shuffle … except with buyers.

In fact, sales are so strong that FCA US, the old Chrysler Group, capped orders for the hot-selling 707-horsepower Hellcat models. Dodge and SRT received more than 4,500 orders for the new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat in just the first five days after orders opened in September.

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Tim Kuniskis, president of the Dodge and SRT brands, said the Hellcats have been a major success. Their popularity put too much pressure on the order bank because buyers were putting in multiple orders in an effort to secure one of the popular cars so they shut it down. (more…)

GM Puts Its Products on a Diet

Efficiency is part of performance, says product czar Reuss.

by on May.19, 2015

The 2016 Chevy Camaro lost 200 pounds.

Pressure to improve fuel economy in the face of tough new federal rules is forcing General Motors to put its future products on a diet – something that will also require a major change in its internal culture, said the maker’s global product development chief.

The new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is an example of this shift in direction, said Executive Vice President Mark Reuss. In years past, each new product was heavier than the model it replaced. But the sixth-generation muscle car is 200 pounds lighter. Cutting mass, Reuss said, not only translates into a more fuel-efficient vehicle but one that is quicker and more nimble.

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“It still needs to be a wicked fast track car,” he said. But Reuss added that, “I include efficiency in performance.”

(more…)

DriveNow Gets Tagged with Lawsuit

BMW-owned company violated wage laws, according to suit.

by on May.15, 2015

Employees from BMW's DriveNow subsidiary sued the company alleging it violated wage laws in California.

Employees of DriveNow, the electric car-sharing unit wholly owned by BMW, are suing the company for failing to meet the minimum wage and overtime laws in California.

The lawsuit claims the BMW subsidiary, which operates in the San Francisco Bay area, avoids paying minimum wage and overtime by designating workers as independent contractors, according to a Private Attorneys General Act lawsuit filed by employees in San Francisco Superior Court.

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Citing company policy, BMW spokesman David Butchko, declined to comment on the lawsuit. (more…)

GM Invests $1 Bil to Speed Product Development

Sixty-year-old tech center getting first-ever overhaul.

by on May.14, 2015

Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president for global product development, discusses the changes coming to the automaker's tech center.

The need to speed up the product development cycles helped expedite the big automaker’s decision to spend $1 billion dollars to rebuild and refurbish the company’s aging technical center in Warren, Michigan, a Detroit suburb.

Mark Reuss, GM vice president for product development, noted the Technical Center was 60 years old and had never undergone a complete renovation. However, GM now has the resources to plan for the future, he said. The last major addition to the Technical Center, the Vehicle Engineering Center of VEC, was completed more than 10 years ago.

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“For awhile, we were just putting out fires,” said Reuss in an oblique reference to the company’s financial crisis and bankruptcy during the previous decade. (more…)

Nissan Reports 17.6 Percent Profit Increase

Strong sales in North America, Western Europe aids results.

by on May.13, 2015

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn reviews the automaker's 2014 financial results. Nissan saw profits rise 17.6% last year.

Aided by a strong showing in North America and Western Europe, Nissan reported a 17.6% increase in profits for the fiscal year March 31.

Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive officer for Nissan and for Renault, said Nissan delivered solid full-year revenues and profits. The robust demand, especially for new products in North America and Western Europe, along with cost cutting and a favorable shift in the yen-dollar exchange rate, offset challenging market conditions in Japan and several emerging markets.

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“These are solid results in a highly competitive marketplace,” Ghosn said. (more…)

First Drive: 2015 Honda CR-V

Mid-cycle makeover keeps crossover ahead of pack.

by on May.13, 2015

Honda's CR-V was redesigned for the 2015 model year and captured Motor Trend's SUV of the Year.

Sales of compact crossover vehicles are going like gangbusters while standing a large element of the conventional wisdom about what appeals to American car buyers on its head.

After all, small crossovers, basically a utility vehicle built a passenger-car chassis, have five doors. Until recently, the convention was that Americans didn’t want five doors or they didn’t until recently. Crossovers are also smaller than a conventional sport utility vehicle and run counter to the conviction that American’s don’t like small vehicles.

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To some, they also call to mind the hatchbacks from the 1970s – vehicles long ago consigned to dark and forgotten closets in car design studios all over the western world. (more…)

Steady Rise in Gas Prices May be Nearing an End

Drivers continue to pay more, but crude prices leveling.

by on May.12, 2015

Gas prices may level off in the near future due to an expected halt to rising crude oil prices.

The price of gasoline increased again this week, rising to $2.66 per gallon, which is the highest average price of the year, according to AAA. But the increases might be coming to an end as the rally that has lifted the price of crude oil runs out of steam.

Drivers are paying about four cents more per gallon than one week ago and 27 cents more per gallon than one month ago. However, relatively low crude costs continue to translate to significant savings at the pump for consumers. The national average is about a dollar less than a year ago and is at the cheapest level for this date since 2009, AAA said.

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Month-over-month, the price has moved higher in every state and Washington, D.C. by a dime or more per gallon. Pump prices are up by a quarter or more in 22 states, with the largest monthly increases taking place in the western United States. Consumers in California at 61 cents per gallon, Nevada at 44 cents per gallon, Utah at 39 cents per gallon and Arizona at 39 cents have seen the largest increases over this period, due largely to the refinery issues in the region. (more…)

FCA Appealing $150 Million Jeep Verdict

Maker claims award violates Georgia law.

by on May.11, 2015

Despite testimony by CEO Sergio Marchionne saying the Jeep's rear-mounted fuel tank is safe, jurors awarded a $150 million to a Georgia family.

Fiat Chrysler asked a Georgia judge to set aside the $150 million verdict levied by a jury against the company and grant a new trial in the case of a boy who burned to death in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee after a rear-end collision.

In its appeal, which is pound to prolong the high-profile case, which has garnered substantial media attention, FCA US is claiming that the damages were excessive and unconstitutional under the state of Georgia’s laws. The case, which was decided in April, featured a video deposition of FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne, who argued FCA US should not be held liable in the case.

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The jury awarded $150 million to the family after finding that the rear-positioned fuel tank in the Jeep posed a fire risk and killed the child. (more…)