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Japanese Surge Reveals Broader Jump in Auto Imports

Rising numbers from Japan, Mexico, Korea, China challenge Trump 

by on Apr.20, 2018

Demand for the latest version of Nissan's Rogue has contributed to an increase in imports from Japan.

When Toyota and Mazda open a new assembly plant in Alabama in 2021, it will become the latest in a growing array of automotive plants Japanese manufacturers have set up in the U.S. since the mid-1980s – yet despite investing billions in their American operations, Japanese manufacturers have also been increasing exports to the U.S. from their home market factories.

The number of Japanese-made vehicles imported into the U.S. rose almost 10% during the first quarter of 2018. And Japan wasn’t alone.  Auto imports, as a whole have actually been on the rise, whether from Korea, Europe or Mexico, the latter country shipping about 7.5% more vehicles to the U.S. in March than the year before – despite Pres. Donald Trump’s high-profile push to bring more auto production back to the States.

Trade News!

“Japan sends us million and millions of cars, and we tax them virtually not at all. And we don’t send so much product because we have trade barriers and lots of other things,” the president complained during a news conference this week while standing alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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Walmart Set to Add Super Fast-Chargers in 34 States

Chargers will deliver up to 200 miles in 10 minutes.

by on Apr.19, 2018

The new Walmart chargers will be capable of boosting range by as much as 20 miles a minute.

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer could soon operate one of the nation’s larger vehicle charging networks.

The Arkansas-based company is partnering up with Electrify America to set up 100 fast-charger stations at stores in 34 states by mid-2019. That’s part of 2,000 chargers Electrify America aims to have in place by then at 500 stations across the U.S.

Electrifying!

“Along with providing our customers with an enhanced shopping experience through added convenience, this initiative also allows us to contribute to the expansion of our nation’s EV charging station infrastructure,” said Mark Vanderhelm, Vice President of Energy for Walmart, Inc.

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Brand boss de Nysschen out in Shake-Up at Cadillac

Move comes at launch of critical new products.

by on Apr.18, 2018

Johan de Nysschen, now former Caddy chief, said in New York last month Caddy's upcoming product lines could double current sales.

Just weeks after presiding over the debut of two critical new products, the CT6 V-Sport sedan and XT4 sport-utility vehicle, Johan de Nysschen is out as the head of the Cadillac brand, replaced by Steve Carlisle, a fast-track executive credited with major turnarounds for parent General Motors in Canada and Thailand.

With extensive experience in the global luxury car market, including stints with BMW, Audi and Infiniti, de Nysschen laid out broad plans for Cadillac’s revival after joining the brand in 2014. That ranged from additions to its product portfolio to the decision to move Caddy from Detroit to New York City to give it more distance from the parent company and put it at the center of one of the country’s biggest luxury car markets. But several sources suggested senior GM management was growingly increasingly concerned about Caddy’s weak performance in its home market.

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“We appreciate Johan’s efforts over the last four years in setting a stronger foundation for Cadillac,” said General Motors President Dan Ammann, who helped lure de Nysschen from Infiniti to Cadillac. “Looking forward, the world is changing rapidly, and, beginning with the launch of the new XT4, it is paramount that we capitalize immediately on the opportunities that arise from this rate of change. This move will further accelerate our efforts in that regard.” (more…)

Walking a Tightrope: Ford Trying to Please All with New Mustang Variants

The original pony car continues to draw new fans.

by on Apr.18, 2018

The Ford Mustang is celebrating 54 years, and the current best-selling sports car in the world intends to remain so.

(This story has been updated with new information.)

You can’t stand still in the muscle car market. What’s hot today could be all but forgotten tomorrow. That’s something Ford Motor Co. learned when rival General Motors brought back the Chevrolet Camaro in 2010, delivering a sucker punch to the long-dominant Ford Mustang.

Since launching an all-new version of the Mustang to mark the nameplate’s 50th anniversary four years ago, Ford has retaken its crown as king of the pony car hill. It has now been the world’s best-selling sports car for three years in a row.

More Than Just Headlines!

And Ford is determined to maintain that lead with a series of Mustang variants set to come to market during the next 18 months. That includes not only the latest version of the GT500 but a first-ever Mustang hybrid. (more…)

Model 3 Production Halt Raises New Worries About Tesla

Automaker wants to “improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks.”

by on Apr.17, 2018

Tesla is shutting down its plant temporarily to resolve production problems that have delayed Model 3 production.

Tesla is temporarily idling its troubled Fremont, California assembly plant for as long as five days, the automaker has confirmed, in order to “improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks.”

The factory, originally built by General Motors, is Tesla’s only automotive manufacturing facility and currently produces the company’s three battery-electric vehicles, the Models S, X and 3. The latter EV is Tesla’s first “affordable,” long-range vehicle and is meant to push the company into the mainstream – and its balance sheet into the black.

Product News!

But the factory has been in what CEO Elon Musk calls “production hell” since the first Model 3 rolled off the line last July, running up unexpected deficits and leading some to question the company’s very survival. (more…)

China Phasing Out JV Rule Limiting Foreign Auto Plant Ownership

Rule has been major chafing point with foreign manufacturers – also helped build up domestic Chinese auto industry.

by on Apr.17, 2018

China is phasing out the rules requiring foreign automakers to adopt a Chinese company for a joint venture to do business.

China announced plans to phase out rules requiring foreign automakers to partner with domestic Chinese companies if they want to open an assembly plant in the booming market. The announcement comes barely a week after President Xi Jinping indicated the country would begin rolling back its 25% tariff on foreign-made autos.

The rule required companies like General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota to give local companies like GAC and SAIC a 50% stake in their Chinese operations. That approach not only limited their profits but effectively also helped fund the development of the domestic Chinese auto industry, a number of those manufacturers now setting up brands of their own that they hope to turn into worldwide competitors.

Breaking News!

“Following a five-year transition period, all ownership restrictions will be lifted,” the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement. (more…)

Slot Car-Like eRoad Debuts Outside Stockholm – Could Eliminate Range Anxiety

System would allow an EV to constantly stay charged.

by on Apr.16, 2018

A truck using the eRoad heads from Stockholm out towards the city's Arlanda Airport

Battery-cars are great – as long as you don’t worry about running out of power without a place to charge back up. But a consortium set up by the Swedish Transport Administration may have come up with a solution for range anxiety it has dubbed eRoadArlanda.

The pilot project, which stretches for 1.2 miles between the capital city of Stockholm with Arlanda Airport, allows electrified vehicles to draw power from an underground electrical grid so that their batteries never run down.

Electrifying News!

It works much like an oversized slot car track, explained Hans Säll, the chief executive of eRoadArlanda, who said, “There is no electricity on the surface. There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is.”

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Caddy Triggers Battle of the Behemoths with $10,000 Escalade Discounts

Fighting off the new Lincoln Navigator.

by on Apr.16, 2018

A Cadillac Escalade Platinum can top $100,000.

If you’re looking for one of the biggest, baddest luxury utes on the market, Cadillac is hoping to lure you into one of its U.S. showrooms. Aiming to shore itself up against an assault by Lincoln’s newly updated Navigator SUV, Caddy is firing back with discounts of up to $10,000 on its own Escalade model.

GM has traditionally dominated the full-size SUV segment, both mainstream and luxury, and it gained significant traction when it introduced an all-new version of the ‘Slade for the 2014 model-year. But that’s a lifetime ago in today’s hotly competitive market and Lincoln has been building momentum fast with the all-new version of the Navigator it launched last year.

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While the two models don’t generate a lot of volume they serve up substantial profits for their respective manufacturers, providing plenty of room to load up the incentives. The question is whether Lincoln will now fire back with big givebacks of its own.

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First Drive: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

No, VW hasn't gone all-SUV, at least not yet.

by on Apr.13, 2018

The R-Line version of the 2019 VW Jetta.

Volkswagen officials have been talking a lot about SUVs, such as the new Atlas, these days. And when they change the subject, they’re as likely as not to focus on battery-electric vehicles like the upcoming I.D. Buzz microbus.

That might seem worrisome for fans of traditional VW sedans and hatchbacks. The good news is that the people’s car brand isn’t abandoning its traditional line-up. True, you won’t be able to get a diesel in the U.S. anymore, but there are some solid alternatives under the hood of offerings like the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta that we had a chance to spend some time with in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina earlier this month.

The Last Word!

“It’s one of our most important products in the U.S.,” said Jan Dickmann, head of the compact car line, before we headed off into a Carolina countryside just starting to burst with spring color. Worldwide, VW has sold 17 million Jettas, including 3 million in the U.S. alone. So, while the automaker might be gaining traction with products like the Atlas and smaller Tiguan, it has a lot riding on the success of the seventh-generation Jetta sedan. (more…)

Big Changes Coming at VW, Says New CEO

Diess targeting “slimmed down company” and focus on new technologies.

by on Apr.13, 2018

VW's new CEO Herbert Diess wants to both cut costs and shift focus to new technologies.

Volkswagen Group is likely to be a very different company in the coming years, at least if new CEO Herbert Diess has his way, the new chief executive outlining some of the key changes he has in mind during a Friday media briefing that followed a management shake-up the day before.

The one-time BMW board member has been viewed as a change agent since joining VW in 2015, just months before a scheme to rig diesel emissions tests was revealed by the U.S. EPA. Diess has already trimmed what is often described as a bloated workforce, in the process slashing almost $5 billion in costs.

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He is expected to further attack costs at the German giant while also putting more emphasis on new technologies and services. And VW officials suggested they could move to trim assets, though they cautioned that a rumored spin off of their truck business isn’t in the cards – yet. (more…)