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Despite Solid July Sales, Ford CFO Sees US Auto Recovery at an End

Sedan, coupes already signal a slowdown, but trucks holding momentum.

by on Jul.29, 2016

Ford may see a weakening of the U.S. market but its F-Series is still delivering solid numbers.

U.S. auto sales have been taking some uncertain detours in recent months, May numbers tumbling before the industry showed signs of rebounding in June. Preliminary estimates, meanwhile, suggest the market will look good for July, the industry back on track for another record year.

But senior Ford officials say that we may be at the end of the line for the current recovery, with sales likely to begin another cyclical slide in the near-term.

The Last Word!

“The growth is over,” Ford Chief Financial Officer Robert Shanks told the Reuters news service. The executive separately told analysts and reporters that, “We see the second half being softer than the first half. Looking into 2017, we think we will see further softness.”

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Mercedes-Benz Pulls Controversial, Self-Driving E-Class Ad

“You have to evaluate the environment,” especially after Tesla crash, says spox.

by on Jul.29, 2016

In "The Future," a new Mercedes-Benz E-Class (r) catches up with an autonomous F 015 concept.

Mercedes-Benz is pulling out of rotation a controversial ad for the new 2017 E-Class sedan that, critics contend, implies that the vehicle can be driven autonomously.

The issue has become particularly sensitive in the wake of a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S sedan in Florida on May 9th. The vehicle was being operated in Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot mode and, some evidence suggests, 40-year-old Joshua Brown may have been watching a video rather than remaining positioned to take control of the battery sedan in the event of a malfunction.

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“The intent was never to suggest this was (an autonomous vehicle), but that this is the latest of the building blocks” that will eventually lead to self-driving technology, said Mercedes spokesperson Donna Boland, when asked about the video ad dubbed “The Future.”

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Another Surprise: VW Lands in Global Sales Lead Despite Diesel Drop

Toyota slips to second after production problems.

by on Jul.29, 2016

VW hopes to keep momentum building - despite its diesel woes - with new products like the Alltrack.

A day after reporting a sharp drop in second-quarter earnings, embattled German automaker Volkswagen AG got some good news. Despite its ongoing diesel emissions problems, VW is once again the world’s best-selling automaker – albeit because of a series of unexpected production problems that have been hobbling Japanese giant Toyota in recent months.

Hit by both natural and man-made disasters, Toyota has repeatedly been forced to trim home market production, and the result was a global slide of 0.6% in sales for the first half of 2016, to 4.992 million vehicles. A year earlier, the automaker sold 5.021 million Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu-branded vehicles from January through June.

By the Numbers!

Though sales have been down in some markets, notably including the U.S., where it can’t sell its once-popular diesel models, VW managed to deliver 5.116 million cars, trucks and crossovers for the first half of this year, a 1.5% increase.

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Mercedes Breaks Ground for First US Van Assembly Plant

Other plans, including an electric Sprinter, may be in the works.

by on Jul.28, 2016

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has traditionally been big with contractors, but is gaining demand from e-commerce.

While Daimler AG may best be known for luxurious passenger vehicles like the all-new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the SL roadster, there’s another side to the maker’s ledger sheet. It also lays claims to being the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, about 850,000 of them last year alone.

And it’s bound and determined to grow that business, starting with the U.S. market. It will clearly help when, in a few years, it will be able to start producing the big Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van from a plant going up on the north side of Charleston, South Carolina. That will end the costly dependence on bringing partially assembled bodies in from Germany and then finish them in Charleston.

Keep on Truckin'!

The lower costs could help make Mercedes more competitive in what has turned out to be a fast-growing U.S. market for European-style vans. But the maker is also looking at other ways to boost sales. The factory will be flexible enough to assemble the smaller Mercedes Metris van. And the maker is looking at other options, including possible battery-electric versions of those vans.

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VW Q2 Earnings Hammered by Emissions Scandal

Subterfuge slams sales, as well as reputation; more hits to come.

by on Jul.28, 2016

Volkswagen AG saw its Q2 profits drop 86% compared with year-ago results.

After reporting a rosy picture for the first half of 2016, a different reality has set in for Volkswagen AG, the embattled automaker reported today that second-quarter profits fell by more than half year-over-year, largely the result of its ongoing emissions cheating scandal.

The news came just days after a federal judge in California approved a $14.7 billion settlement to resolve the rigging of 475,000 vehicles with 2.0-liter turbodiesels to illegally pass U.S. emissions tests. That expense was largely covered by money set aside against 2015 earnings. But VW still has to settle a number of other lawsuits and solve problems involving its higher-end 3.0-liter diesel.

Financial News!

After taxes, VW said it earned $1.2 billion euros, or $1.32 billion between April and June, down from 2.7 billion euros the year before. On an operating basis, the figure many analysts prefer to focus on, the impact was less severe, though down 12%, nonetheless, at 808 million euros, or $895.5 million, compared with 914 million euros during the period a year ago. (more…)

FCA Earnings Increase Overwhelmed by Sales Reporting Scandal

Maker says profit rose 25% for second quarter.

by on Jul.27, 2016

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has reason to celebrate Q2 - albeit cautiously.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 25% year-over-year increase in profits for the second quarter, despite hefty recall costs, thanks to strong demand in North America and Europe. That has led the maker to up its guidance for all of 2016.

But recalls aren’t the only problems the maker is dealing with. The trans-Atlantic automaker yesterday acknowledged misreporting its sales numbers in recent years, a problem that has reportedly led to a grand jury investigation. The problem could lead to closer scrutiny by industry analysts and investors.

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“Overall we had a good quarter,” Fiat Chrysler Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer said during a conference call with analysts and reporters.

FCA earned 321 million euros, or $352 million, for the second quarter, a 25% jump from last year’s 257 million euros, or $282 million.

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High-Tech Safety Features “APEAL” to Consumers, Finds New JD Power Study

European luxury makers overwhelmingly dominate 2016 APEAL study.

by on Jul.27, 2016

BMW's new 750i is expected to bolster the company's sales, but it's also improving its image with buyers.

New vehicle buyers have come to expect – and appreciate – the latest in high-tech safety systems. And those manufacturers who offer such technologies as blind-spot detection and forward collision warning scored especially well in the latest J.D. Power APEAL study.

Designed to go beyond traditional quality and reliability numbers, APEAL probes buyers about what features they find most exciting – and which are likely to get them back into showrooms to buy the same model or brand in the future. The results of the 2016 study show European brands such as Porsche, BMW and Jaguar, that offers the broadest suites of safety gear coming out on top.

The Journal of Record!

“Technology-enabled safety features help drivers feel more comfortable and confident while driving their vehicles,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. (more…)

Grand Jury Looking into FCA Sales Reporting Scandal

Maker acknowledges fudging numbers.

by on Jul.27, 2016

The FCA scandal could prove a new headache for CEO Marchionne' search for a merger partner.

A federal grand jury is issuing subpoenas as government investigators expand their investigation into potentially illegal Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales reporting practices, according to published reports.

The news comes a day after the automaker acknowledged that it has misstated its sales figures for a number of years and that rather than having six straight years of sales records, its upward climb actually came to an end in September 2013.

Auto Insider!

But several sources who have spoken to TheDetroitBureau.com caution that any probe of sales policies could eventually spread beyond Fiat Chrysler and look at broader industry practices that can misrepresent the numbers. Such practices, said a senior executive at one of the nation’s largest automotive retailers, can negatively impact investors, dealers and consumers alike.

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Judge Approves $15 Bil VW Diesel Deal

But more legal problems await.

by on Jul.26, 2016

Judge Charles Breyer gives the deal a tentative go.

The $15 billion settlement last month in the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal has won the tentative approval of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer — but despite the record price tag, it doesn’t end the automakers legal problems.

The deal includes $10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 VW vehicles equipped with diesel engines that were rigged to illegally pass emissions tests. The rest of the settlement will go to various programs meant to compensate for the excess pollution those vehicles produced.

Breaking News!

“Volkswagen appreciates the constructive engagement of all the parties,” the maker said in a statement that followed Breyer’s ruling, “as the settlement approval process moves forward. The parties believe that the proposed settlement program will provide a fair, reasonable and adequate resolution for affected Volkswagen and Audi customers.”

The ruling brought an equally positive response from those on the other side of the courtroom.

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Nissan Expands Titan, Titan XD Line-Up with New Single Cab Models

Both models deliver added cargo, tow capacity.

by on Jul.26, 2016

Nissan introduced its new single cab versions of the 2017 Titan and Titan XD.

Aiming to do a better job competing with the established Detroit pickups, Nissan is adding an assortment of different versions of its second-generation Titan truck, and the latest to roll out is the Single Cab model.

Make that “models,” as there will be single-row version of both the standard-duty 2017 Nissan Titan and the maker’s medium-duty Titan XD.

Your Auto Insider!

“Once we complete the roll-out of all Titan cab, bed, powertrain and grade level configurations, our all-new TITAN family will cover about 85% of the total light pickup marketplace,” said Rich Miller, Nissan North America’s director of Product Planning for Trucks, SUVs and Commercial Vehicles. (more…)