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July 2009 U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Final Results

Nothing but the numbers.

by on Aug.04, 2009

The following chart from AutoData Corporation breaks down results by automaker compared with one year ago.

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Taurus Technology Featured in Ad Campaign

Putting the Taurus name back in play was the easy part.

by on Jul.31, 2009

Ford is focusing on the many electronic systems included in the new 2010 Taurus as part of its advertising campaign, including the MyKey system, which gives parents control over how their teens drive.

Ford is focusing on the many electronic systems included in the new 2010 Taurus as part of its advertising campaign, including the MyKey system, which gives parents control over how their teens behave behind the wheel.

Ford has to show people that while the Taurus nameplate remains, there is a whole new car behind it. Matt Van Dyke, Ford marketing director, says good news about Taurus is that it has very high name recognition, something like 87%. The bad news is that a lot of the people who recognize the name don’t think much about.

The challenge for Ford’s marketing team is to create a more favorable impression of the car through an aggressive advertising campaign that will use television and newspapers, and a broad digital campaign complete with some clever videos “experiential” advertising that drives home the point that Taurus is completely new and is vastly different from the old sedans that populated rental fleets from coast to coast.

“This is a transformational car for us,” Van Dyke said. “This is a whole new approach to using ‘word of mouth’ that will showcase our fantastic new Taurus. Just as Taurus is reshaping the idea of what a sedan can be, this campaign will reshape how people learn about Taurus.”

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe 2010 Taurus is priced starting at $25,995 but running up to almost $40,000 for SHO performance model. The base price is the same as the outgoing model. But the “Webisodes” pit the technology features and quality found against more expensive luxury sedans from Audi, Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.

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Michigan GM Plant Wins Small-Car Face Off

Orion Township beats plants in Wisconsin and Tennessee.

by on Jun.26, 2009

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Orion will not only build a tiny subcompact car, but also will be equipped to build larger models.

The state of Michigan has won out over Tennessee and Wisconsin in a battle over when GM will build a new small car. As many as 1,400 jobs were at stake.

The General Motors  plant in Orion Township beat out GM plants in Wisconsin and Tennessee where the old Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee now appears headed for sale with the assets of the old GM that will linger on in a bankruptcy liquidation after the ‘new” GM emerges.

A consultant familiar with the competition between the three states said officials from Wisconsin had offered $70 million in tax credits. It appears Michigan’s offer was larger and “that might tip the scales,” the consultant said privately. Michigan has not released details of Michigan’s offer, pending GM’s announcement.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson had said last week the decision would be reviewed by the Obama administration. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke  said during a visit to a solar panel plant in Auburn Hills, Michigan this week that the administration plans to do all it can to help the economy in Michigan where unemployment is at record levels with no improvement in sight. GM had announced plants to close seven plants across the state as part of bankruptcy-driven restructuring, including Orion.

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Henderson said last week the chosen plant would be re-equipped not only to build a new small subcompact GM was planning to import from China, but another vehicle as well, starting in late 2011 or early 2012. The new plant will not only build a small subcompact car, but also will be equipped to build other models, he said. A nearby stamping plant is also expected to remain open as part of the deal.

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GM Executive Exodus Now Underway

Purchasing Chief Bo Andersson resigns to “pursue other career opportunities,” the CEO announces.

by on Jun.12, 2009

Bo Andersson, General Motors Group Vice President Global Purchasing

More senior GM executives are expected to depart.

The Exodus Has Begun.

General Motors’ parts purchasing chief, Bo Andersson, has announced he’s leaving the bankrupt automaker to “pursue other career opportunities,” words that, in corporate-speak, usual mean someone has been pushed out of the airplane, with or without a golden parachute.

“Bo has made tremendous contributions to the development of our global purchasing and supply chain strategy as we’ve globalized our product line portfolios and manufacturing footprint,” said GM CEO Fritz Henderson, of the 53-year-old Andersson, who joined the automaker through its Swedish Saab subsidiary, in 1987.

Henderson has also noted, in recent days, that he is working up a list of management changes he hopes to implement, in the weeks to come, as General Motors works its way through the bankruptcy courts, where it tossed its fate on June 1st.

One of the most significant personnel changes was announced on June 9th, when Edward Whitacre, Jr. signed on as the troubled maker’s new chairman, replacing Ken Kresa, the board member who’d been holding that position on an interim basis since the firing of Rick Wagoner by the White House, in late March. Kresa had made it clear he was not seeking to stay in the chairman’s post.

There is expected to be a wholesale housecleaning among the board of directors when the “new” GM emerges from Chapter 11, optimistically within 60 to 90 days of its filing. The White House has made no secret that it is playing an active role in the search for replacement directors, even though President Obama maintains the position that his administration will not be playing an active role in day-to-day GM management since that’s what the new directors will do. (more…)

UAW, GM Reach Tentative Settlement

by on May.21, 2009

The UAW has reached a tentative understanding with the U.S. Treasury and General Motors on an addendum to the 2007 UAW GM collective bargaining agreement. 

Details are being withheld pending explanation and ratification meetings for UAW GM members, which are in the process of being scheduled. The union apparently wants the ratification complete before the June 1 deadline imposed by the Treasury, meaning the company and the union had to come to terms this week.

The UAW officials, however, said the tentative understanding contains modifications to the labor agreement and to the independent Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust.

The union didn’t offer any hints on whether its bargainers had received some assurances on plant closings.    (more…)

Ford Solicits Scarce Buyers with Advantage Plan

Payments are covered for 12 months if purchaser loses job.

by on Mar.31, 2009

Ford marketing flatters Hyundai by emulating incentives.

Ford marketing copies Hyundai incentives.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Hyundai Motor America marketing executives should be blushing bright red as General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company followed it today with buyer payment protection plans that emulate its breakthrough Hyundai Assurance Program that has boosted sales by at least 10% in Hyundai’s estimation.

In the face of frightening U.S. sales declines in February that made it the lowest February sales on record going back to 1967, automakers are desperately trying to reassure customers that now is the time to buy with a variety of incentive packages. (February year-over-year comparisons ranged from -53% at GM, -48% Ford, -44% Chrysler, and -35 to -37% at Toyota, Honda and Nissan.)  Auto sales in the first two weeks of March were down 40% compared to a year ago, and running at a dismal annual rate of  9.2 million units, according to J. D. Power and Associates.

Automakers are increasingly using as an inducement guaranteed-payment of car loans, if the buyer loses his or her job — certainly a very real threat at domestic car companies, if not for workers in the slumping economy as a whole. 

controversial bill has also been introduced in the U.S. House of representatives (H.R. 1550, or the CARS Act) could help kick-start the American automotive market by providing cash incentives of up to $5,000 for those who trade in a vehicle at least eight years old for a limited selection of  fuel-efficient products produced in North America.  The legislation, as initially proposed, would offer the biggest tax credits for U.S.-made vehicles, though products made in the NAFTA countries, Canada and Mexico, would also qualify.  (more…)

U.S. Issues Tougher Fuel Economy Standards

A 2 mpg increase is required for 2011 cars and light trucks.

by on Mar.27, 2009

Moving ahead towards an energy policy?

Moving ahead towards an energy policy?

The Department of Transportation has issued new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks for the 2011 model year. They will raise the industry-wide combined average to 27.3 miles per gallon — a 2.0 mpg increase over the 2010 model year average– as estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It will save about 887 million gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8.3 million metric tons, according to DOT.

“These standards are important steps in the nation’s quest to achieve energy independence and bring more fuel efficient vehicles to American families,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

The 2011 standard will use an attribute-based system, which sets fuel economy standards for individual vehicle models based on size, unlike the old CAFE standard that used broad averages for cars and light trucks. The standards adopted are not as aggressive as originally proposed after an analysis showed that the lead times were too short to adopt fuel economy improvement technologies that were also deemed too expensive in the current environment.

Secretary LaHood noted today that work on the multi-year fuel economy plan for model years after 2011 is already well underway. These plans are crucial for automakers who must decide on vehicle size and performance three or more years before they go on sale.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) says that model year 2011-2020 CAFE standards must be set sufficiently high to ensure that the industry-wide average of all new passenger cars and light trucks, combined, is not less than 35 miles per gallon by model year 2020. This is a minimum requirement. NHTSA must set standards at the maximum feasible level in each model year.

The DOT release was silent on the proposed initiative in California to regulate greenhouse gases. The proposal by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), 13 states and the District of Columbia to establish their own fuel economy and greenhouse gas programs continues to be controversial for its fragmenting of federal  fuel economy regulations. All told, these states comprise more than 40% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. (more…)

Department of Burning Interest

Is Mohammed “the torch” helping people fight the recession?

by on Mar.24, 2009

By burning vehicles, fire patterns were studie, which leads to identifying the cause.

By burning vehicles, fire patterns are studied, which leads in turn to identifying the cause.

The Great Recession continues to have interesting side effects on the automobile business. In the United Arab Emirates if you’re a guest worker and lose your job unless you find another — now non-existent — one you become an illegal immigrant. You then have 30 days to get out of the country. If you’re in debt and don’t pay it off, you face debtors’ prison if caught. This has created another source of, ahem, used cars as thousands of former workers – they make up almost 90% of the population – are now fleeing as jobs evaporate. More than 1000 visas are being canceled every day. Local newspapers say that there are thousands upon thousands of abandoned cars at the Dubai airport as a result.

One growth area may be Mohammed “the torch” helping people fight the recession, though arson statistics are hard to come by since the government isn’t exactly transparent. Worse, it takes a dim view of media even talking about such things and is considering levying hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines on reporters who hurt the country’s reputation during the current crisis, which could lead of course to debtor’s prison. Think any self-censoring by reporters is going on?

“We look forward to a new law that eliminates the long list of bans in the media law that was issued in 1980, and allows freedom to publish newspapers and other publications. The fact that one needs a license to publish a newspaper means there is no freedom and media is being controlled by the government,” said Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf News.

UAE prime minister Sheik Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoumm said more than a year ago that he favors a new press law, but when this will occur and what will be in it is unclear.

It is then, perhaps, just a coincidence that General Motors recently held training in vehicle fire investigation. The sessions, said to be the first to be offered by any car manufacturer, were run in Dubai during February and March in conjunction with regional Police and Civil Defense authorities. The GM Middle East Technical Assistance Centre (TAC) invited 20 participants from the Dubai Police, Abu Dhabi Police, Kuwait Civil Defense, Qatar Police, Kingdom of Bahrain Police and the Sultanate of Oman Civil Defense to “help them enhance their investigation techniques in cases of burned-out vehicles.” (more…)

Spy Shots: BMW X1

It’s no longer just a concept as the X1 is caught during shoot.

by on Mar.20, 2009

BMW X1 at undisclosed West Coast location.

BMW X1 at undisclosed West Coast location.

Unfortunately for this European film crew, they were no match for our team made up of six determined shooters and “diversion extras” as we approached their makeshift studio on a beach here in one of our many coastal states.

The BMW photography team was attempting to do interior photos when we crashed their thought-to-be-secure party, but they still kept the wraps on most of the exterior panels. Even so, we can tell that BMW is sticking very close to the Paris concept when they launch this “real” X1 for the 2011 model year (2010 model in Europe).

Based on the new 1 Series, but taller and stockier, the new mini ute will arrive during the 2010 calendar year with optional all-wheel drive, and all the normal BMW bells-and-whistles.

Size-wise, the X1 is supposed to be comparable to Toyota’s RAV4 – and will actually be sharing components with the new Mini Crossman.
More pictures are available at:  LEFTLANENEWS.COM/

First Drive: BMW Z4

Bigger and more expensive meets a downsizing marketplace.

by on Mar.20, 2009

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It's hoped that the new roadster will generate more showroom traffic and sales for dealers.

On May 9, the BMW Z4 arrives in showrooms worldwide; it will undoubtedly get a warm welcome. Not only from fans of the Bavarian brand, but also from the dealers, as they expect the new roadster will generate a more showroom traffic than has been seen of late.

“February was another downer for the whole market,” says Jim O’Donnell, president of BMW of North America, in a statement after BMW group sales plunged 35% last month. In 2008 the parent company’s profits almost halved as the global economic crisis took hold.

U.S. dealers are relying on used cars sales to get by; they sold 27,000 in January and February. Of these 19,000 were certified pre-owned, while 17% of the cars came from leases that were ending.  The challenge in 2009 and 2010 will be big, as even more 3-year lease contracts expire that were initiated in the boom years of 2006 and 2007.

The new Z4 made its worldwide debut at the North International Auto Show in Detroit and had its European premiere at the Geneva show.

This week, the driving events for the new model started in Spain. In fact, you can hardly compare the 2010 Z4 with the outgoing one, as the roadster is completely new, according to BMW. First in keeping with traditional auto marketing, the size increases inside and out. The length is now 166.9 inches, and width and height are respectively 70.5 inches and 50.8 inches, while the wheelbase measures 98.3. Thanks to the larger width and higher roof line, the cockpit offers more space and 14% better all-around visibility than the outgoing model. The two-piece retractable aluminum hard top folds away with the push of a button in the center console in 20 seconds. With the top down, there is 10.9 cubic feet of luggage space (- 3.6 cubic feet.), enough to stow two golf bags, provided you have chosen the through-loading option.

The Z4 was styled by two women, exterior designer Juliane Brasi of BMW’s Munich studio and interior designer Nadya Arnaout, who works in DesignworksUSA in California. The two worked together in a program that BMW initiated, in order to see if the communication between the exterior and interior designers in an early stage could be beneficiary for the package. Both ladies could not have guessed that their designs would be chosen, which “was quite a coincidence”, said Anders Warming, head of exterior design BMW Automobiles. (more…)