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Dealers Ready to Invest in Lincoln Revival

New MKZ winning retailers over.

by on Feb.08, 2012

The new Lincoln MKZ Concept will reappear in production form at the NY Auto Show, in April..

One of the things Ford Motor Co. desperately needs as it rebuilds the Lincoln brand is help from its dealers.  But despite some grumbling over the high up-front costs to convert showrooms to match the new Lincoln theme, the automaker seems to be making some headway on that front.

More than half of all Lincoln dealers in the top 130 U.S. markets have committed to upgrade their facilities, according to Ford.  And the new Lincoln MKZ – first seen in concept form at last month’s Detroit Auto Show – is helping win more over.

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“We have shared our plans about future Lincoln products, the (direction of the) brand going forward and the consumer experience we have envisioned, and already a majority of our dealers have said they are with us,” said Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.

“Ultimately, this is good news for our customers, who will see our new approach to the luxury consumer experience at every touch point,” he said.

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Cadillac Planning Numerous Product, Concept Roll-outs in 2012 – 2013

New crossover, update of Ciel premium luxury model in mix.

by on Jan.13, 2012

Advanced designer Clay Dean's studio is busy working up new Cadillac products, including a follow-up to the ultra-luxury Ciel, shown here..

It’s been a busy few months from Cadillac, what with the L.A. Auto Show launch of the new XTS premium-luxury sedan and the introduction in Detroit of the new ATS entry-lux model.  “But we’re not getting any time off,” a senior Caddy official told TheDetroitBureau.com during a background conversation at the Detroit Auto Show.

For his part, General Motors North America President Mark Reuss acknowledges there are a number of “open spaces” in the Cadillac line-up, and that it will be essential to fill at least some of them if the maker aims to regain a level of competitiveness against the dominant German and Japanese luxury brands, like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

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Reuss declined to discuss specifics for Cadillac’s expanded line-up, but in a series of background conversations, company officials provided an outline that hints at an aggressive new product strategy that will bring at least one, and possibly two new crossovers to market, while we will also be seeing a follow-up to the well-received Ciel super-premium luxury concept that Caddy rolled out at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last August.

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Tata Unveils $20,000 Battery Car

An “intimate understanding” of frugal engineering.

by on Jan.12, 2012

Tata used "frugal engineering" to hold the estimated price of the eMo battery car concept to $20,000.

Electric vehicles don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, insists Indian automaker Tata Motors.

Its research arm, Tata Technologies, has unveiled a prototype for a $20,000 electric car that can carry four passengers without adding to the pollution in crowded cities around the world.

“The eMo project symbolizes the coming of age of Indian automotive engineering,” said Warren Harris, Tata Technologies President and Global COO. “It is a tangible example of the capability of Tata Technologies to engineer a full vehicle – a first for any India-based engineering services company,” added Harris during a press conference at the North American International Auto Show.

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Harris added, “Because we are India-based, Tata Technologies is intimately familiar with developing markets. Additionally, our experience and presence in Europe and North America means we also have an understanding of developed markets. It’s a combination that provides a competitive advantage to our clients,” added Harris, who noted the company also does extensive work for clients such as Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group in the U.S.

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Buick Back for an Encore

Maker targets emerging compact luxury crossover market.

by on Jan.11, 2012

The Buick Encore making its debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show this week.

It wasn’t all that long ago that most analysts were ready to write off the Buick brand, many being shocked by General Motors’ decision not to abandon the long-struggling nameplate – as it did Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Hummer – when it emerged from bankruptcy.

Senior officials said that was something they were loath to do considering Buick’s strong success in China, where it has been greatly out-selling the U.S.  But sales in both market are on the rise and a wave of new products, such as the Regal and recently added Verano can explain.

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But now Buick is hoping to be out in front, rather than lagging behind rivals as it continues its push to develop a niche it has been describing as “affordable luxury.” And the latest model to target that self-defined segment is the Buick Encore which is getting its world debut at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

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Nissan Going Crossover with Next Pathfinder

Shaving 500 pounds in the search for better mileage.

by on Jan.11, 2012

Nissan will reveal the production version of the new Pathfinder this spring.

Only a few years ago, many in the mainstream media seemed intent on writing the obituary for the SUV.  Those reports, like those of the death of Mark Twain, were “greatly exaggerated.” Well, maybe not. The traditional SUV definitely isn’t dead, but more and more manufacturers are migrating away from classic truck-based ute designs to lighter, more fuel-efficient car-based crossover-utilities.

The latest to do so is the newly-updated Nissan Pathfinder, the concept version making its debut this week at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. A production version will reach showrooms later this year, following in the treadmarks of domestic competitors Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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The alternative should have a big payoff, Nissan officials tell TheDetroitBureau, with the 2013 Pathfinder expected to yield about 25% better mileage than the outgoing, truck-based SUV.  While the maker declined to provide hard numbers for the new truck, the current offering gets about 16 mpg in the EPA Combined rating.

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Shelby American Offering Special Edition 50th Anniversary Mustangs

Begins tour celebrating 50 years.

by on Jan.11, 2012

The distinctive 50th Anniversary Shelby Mustang.

Carroll Shelby is the Energizer Bunny of the automotive world.  He’s had his heart and any number of other vital organs replaced over the decades but keeps on ticking – his car company, Shelby American, continuing to roll out new products.

A half-century after making a name, first as a race driver, and then as the producer of the legendary Shelby Cobra, Shelby American is getting ready to celebrate with a 50th Anniversary Tour – and the launch of three new versions of the Shelby-tuned Mustang.

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It is, the maker noted during an appearance in Detroit, the first time it unveiled a new product at a conventional auto show.

“The golden anniversary is a remarkable milestone,” said John Luft, president of Shelby American, “many people did not think this company would make it that long.”

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First Look: Honda Accord Coupe Concept

by on Jan.11, 2012

Honda reveals a Coupe Concept for its ninth-generation Accord line.

“To say last year was an incredible challenge would be a gross understatement,” suggested John Mendel, the chief U.S. executive with American Honda, as he opened up the maker’s Detroit Auto Show news conference.

The maker suffered a double-digit decline in U.S. sales, largely as a result of production shortages following the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11 – but it also had problems with some of its new product launches, the 2012 Honda Civic, for one, taking serious criticism.  So, the upcoming launch of that long-time midsize market mainstay, the Honda Civic, will be a critical step in the maker’s efforts to turn things around.

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Honda is offering a glimpse of what’s to come in the form of the new Accord Coupe Concept making its debut at the 2012 North American International Auto Show.  A production version of the 2-door will be unveiled at an upcoming auto show, with both the ninth-generation Honda Accord Coupe and Accord Sedan set to join the maker’s line-up for 2013.

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Kia Expects U.S. Sales to Surge Past 500,000

Pushing for more product.

by on Jan.10, 2012

The midsize Optima sedan has been a transformational product for the Kia brand.

After setting a blistering pace during the past three years, Kia Motors America expects sales to continue climbing well past 500,000 units in 2012 even though it will not be launching any new products for the first time in recent years.

Kia sales increased 36% last year to 485,000 units in the US as its rebuilt product line and its clever and aggressive advertising — featuring dancing hamsters and stars from the National Basketball Association — helped draw new customers into U.S. showrooms. Overall, sales of new light-duty vehicles increased 8% in 2011, so Kia gained market share as well as volume.

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“You have to remember we were capacity constrained last year,” said Michael Sprague, Kia vice president of marketing and public relations.“ Between November of 2008 and November of 2011, Kia sales grew 78% as it rolled out the Kia Soul, Kia Optima and Kia Sorento.

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Nissan to Double Sales of Leaf Battery Car in 2012

CEO says new Titan pickup coming; also says still more joint projects with Daimler likely.

by on Jan.10, 2012

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn insists the battery car is far from a failure.

Nissan expects to double sales of its Leaf battery-electric vehicle in 2012, CEO Carlos Ghosn said during a meeting with members of the automotive media at the North American International Auto Show.

The make sold just 9,674 of the cars last year, its first entry into the nascent field of electrification.  But Ghosn downplayed the concerns expressed by many industry analysts, some going so far as to suggest battery propulsion has already proven to be a failure.

“The only reason we couldn’t sell more is because we couldn’t build more,” the Brazilian-born executive emphasized, suggesting the biggest issue was a shortage of batteries, and adding that “We’re expecting in 2012 to double that number.”

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He better hope so considering the commitment to battery power being made by Nissan and its French alliance partner Renault.  Globally, they plan to have production capacity in place for 400,000 battery cars annually by 2015, with a sizable chunk of that in a new facility Nissan is building alongside its existing assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

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Acura to Develop, Build New NSX in the U.S.

Using high-performance hybrid, supercar returns in late 2014.

by on Jan.09, 2012

Acura races back onto the scene with a long-delayed remake of its legendary NSX supercar.

The original Japanese supercar will make its return late in 2014, Acura officials have announced, but the next-generation NSX will be quite a bit different from the original, which debuted more than two decades ago.

For one thing, it will feature a new hybrid-electric drivetrain. And the Japanese maker, the luxury arm of Honda Motor Co., will develop and produce the reborn NSX in the United States, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito announced during a news conference at the Detroit Auto Show.

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The new Acura NSX will serve as a halo car for the brand, which has been struggling to catch up with Asian rivals Lexus and Infiniti in recent years.  Acura used its briefing to also unveil the next-generation RDX crossover and all-new ILX entry-luxury sedan, two mainstream models that could use a bit of momentum.

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