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With Competitors Gaining Ground, Toyota Plans Major Camry Update

Maker promises more than the typical mid-cycle “refresh.”

by on Apr.03, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Camry update may borrow key design cues from the NS4 Plug-in Hybrid Concept.

It’s been a tough winter for Toyota, the maker’s traditionally best-selling Camry line unexpectedly losing some of its momentum in a hotly competitive midsize sedan market.

And that has the Japanese giant scrambling to hang onto the sales lead it has held in the U.S. market for the last dozen years. Toyota confirms it will unveil a new version of the Camry at the New York Auto Show later this month, and it promises that the 2015 update will be more than just the usual mid-cycle refresh.

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Just how far it will go without a complete redesign remains to be seen, but with the Nissan Altima actually having led the sales race during January and February, Toyota officials are rapidly buying into the philosophy set by CEO Akio Toyoda who is demanding more “passion” from its future products – or “waku-doki” in Japanese.

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Toyota Adding “Limited-Edition” Camry Spin-Off in Bid to Bolster Sales

Nissan and Ford continue making inroads toward the top spot.

by on Feb.05, 2014

Toyota is bringing out a new Limited Edition Camry in the middle of the 2014 model year to keep ahead of the Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion in sales.

Toyota will roll out a “Limited Edition” version of the midsize Camry sedan during this week’s Chicago Auto Show media preview – and it could arrive at a critical time for the perennially popular midsize sedan.

The Camry Hybrid SE Limited Edition, which delivers a 40 mpg City rating, will reach U.S. showrooms at a time when the sedan may be losing momentum and risking its position as America’s best-selling passenger car.

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Camry sales declined by 27% in January and Bill Fay, Toyota Motor Sales vice president, said the decline was in part due to a short fall in deliveries to fleet buyers. The sharp decline left the Camry roughly 800 units ahead of the Nissan Altima in the race for best-selling car title. The Altima also surged past the Honda Accord, which found itself in fourth place in the critical mid-sized car segment after being passed by the Ford Fusion – a result most analysts would have dismissed as unlikely only 18 months ago. (more…)

Ford Claims Early Victory in Sales Sweepstakes

Maker declares itself America’s best-selling brand – but may get an argument from Honda.

by on Dec.30, 2013

Ford's Fusion set a sales record this past year.

They’re still testing the ball before the big celebration in Times Square tomorrow night, and the industry won’t officially announce final 2013 sales numbers until later in the week – but no matter, Ford Motor Co. is already declaring victory, pronouncing its flagship Ford marque North America’s best-selling brand for the fourth year in a row.

The maker notes it has a significant lead over second-place Toyota as it regains strength in parts of the country long dominated by imports. But at least one of the Detroit maker’s Japanese competitors has been downplaying the sales numbers, claiming victory of its own.

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“The great news is that we are not overly reliant on any one segment – we’re seeing double-digit sales growth in cars, trucks and utilities,” said John Felice, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a year-end statement. “The Ford brand has had more retail share growth than any other brand in the country, with our most significant gains coming from import-dominated coastal markets. With 16 launches next year, we’re looking to keep our sales momentum going.”

There’s no question Ford had a good 2013 – albeit with a few headaches that could cause it problems next year.

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Ford Pioneers Online Gaming Technology to Raise Quality

Maker connects engineers globally and cuts development time.

by on Dec.16, 2013

Ford is using virtual technology similar to online 3D games to improve the quality of its vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. top executives constantly talk about “One Ford” and how it important it is to the company’s future. In the past, the concept has referenced everything from employee morale to commonizing components.

Now the company has a new meaning for it: 3D ultra-high-definition technology used by engineers and designers around the globe.

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Ford engineers on different continents are using a virtual reality space to collect input from designers and engineers around the world. The objective is to use the high-definition technology to improve quality before vehicles reach the prototype stage in vehicle development. (more…)

Some Surprising Winners and Losers in August Numbers

Ford F-Series dominates, but Camry makes its move as Acura ILX piles up on dealer lots.

by on Sep.05, 2013

U.S. auto sales were hot in August and perhaps no vehicle was hotter than the Range Rover Sport.

August saw the U.S. automotive market deliver its strongest sales surge since at least 2006, with double-digit increases the norm, rather than the exception.

Little Subaru posted the biggest gain for the month of any major maker, up 45% over August 2012. Volkswagen, meanwhile, was among the rare losers, with a decline of 1.6% – even though it had one of its best months in the U.S. market in the last 40 years.

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Strong sales can mask some big problems, but a closer look at the August sales numbers clearly revealed some winners and losers. (more…)

Speeders Pay – at the Pump, Anyway

Magazine says driving 75 mph instead of 55 costs $30 more.

by on Jul.11, 2013

Consumer Reports found that driving 75 mph compared with 55 mph costs drivers an extra $30 on a 1,000-mile trip.

So you dodged the speed traps and cut an hour off your drive from New York to Boston, but you’re still going to pay for that lead foot.

The faster you go the worse your fuel economy, studies have routinely demonstrated, but just how much may come as a surprise. A new study by Consumer Reports magazine suggests that the penalty of driving 75 rather than 55 can add up to as much as 14 miles per gallon – which can add up to an extra $30 in fuel costs over a 1,000 mile trip.

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In fact, on long drives, the increased fuel consumption may have an unintended consequence. By burning more fuel you’re likely to stop more often to fill up, the magazine notes, and that means you may lose much of the extra time you hoped to save by speeding in the first place.

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Ten Best Base Model Cars

No econoboxes, these.

by on Jun.13, 2013

The base Honda Civic LX offers some big surprises for a "base" car, including a rearview camera.

New car prices have been rising fast in recent years.  That’s priced a lot of potential buyers out of the market while others have been forced to downgrade their aspirations.

Not all that long ago, trying to find a nice new car, truck or crossover on a budget meant settling for some stripped-down econobox that offered little more than basic transportation.  But these days, makers seem intent on upgrading their base models to keep customers happy – betting that will increase loyalty and return sales when owners can afford to trade in on something more lavish.

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“Just because you might not be able to afford all of the bells and whistles in a car doesn’t mean you have to sing the base-model blues,” said Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief of the website Cars.com. “Some automakers are packing even their base models full of features making them more valuable to shoppers looking for a good deal.”

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Ford Putting the “Stock” Back into Stock Cars

But do new NASCAR models really represent much of a difference?

by on Feb.20, 2013

Ford wants its NASCAR entry to look at least a little bit more like a real Fusion sedan.

What is today one of the most popular sporting events in America has some humble roots, NASCAR tracing back to the days when moonshiners would tune up their cars to outrun the “revenuers” and then give each a challenge to see who was fastest.

But the days when the familiar sporting event could claim to field “stock cars” is long past. When NASCAR organizers began ordering the switch to the so-called “Car of the Future,” a few years back, the design may have been safer and better on track, but about the only thing it had in common with the cars of today were decals designed to make it look, sort of, like the Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas you’d find in a showroom.

That triggered a backlash from fans, something that was measurable in both race attendance and TV viewership, and it has forced NASCAR and its teams to do a little soul-searching – as Ford is demonstrating with its latest stock car entry which actual shares at least a few body panels with an actual Fusion sedan.

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This is a day so many of us at Ford and Ford fans have been waiting for,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. “When we first unveiled the 2013 NASCAR Fusion in Charlotte in January 2012, we said we wanted to help return the ‘stock car back to NASCAR.’ Without question, with this car, we have.”

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Chevy Struggles to Kickstart Sluggish Malibu Sales

Price cut could help – but “emergency refresh” also coming.

by on Feb.12, 2013

Chevrolet has had little success taking on the dominant Japanese with the new 2013 Malibu.

Chevrolet’s goal of regaining its once-lofty position in the U.S. midsize sedan market have failed to materialize –forcing the maker to slash prices and order up an “emergency refresh” of the only recently redesigned Malibu.

General Motor’s largest brand will slash the price on its midsize Malibu by as much as $770 hoping to keep the sedan from losing more ground to its import and domestic competitors. Introduced in early 2012, the domestic 4-door faces a formidable assortment of competitors in one of the market’s toughest segments, including all-new versions of the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord, as well as the midsize sales leader, the Toyota Camry.

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Malibu sales did post a modest gain in 2012, according to tracking firm Autodata, but the 3.3% rise, to 210,951 units, lagged well behind the overall 13.5% increase in the U.S. market. Malibu’s unanticipated shortfall is one reason why parent General Motors lost 1.5 points of market share in 2012, industry analysts report.

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Jurors Name North American Car, Truck of the Year Finalists

Chrysler, Mazda, Cadillac, Honda make list; Ford lands two.

by on Dec.12, 2012

The C-Max is one of two Ford products up for North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards.

Ford Motor Co. is in the rare position where it could land both the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year. The maker’s new Fusion sedan and C-Max “people mover” were among the six finalists named today by the 49-member NACTOY jury.

Also on the list are the Cadillac ATS luxury sedan and Honda Accord sedan in the car category, and the Ram 1500 and Mazda CX-5 crossover in the Truck/Utility category.  If Ford were to score in both categories, it would be only the third time in the 20 years of the widely-followed award that a single maker won both Car and Truck honors.

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But Ford won’t have a cakewalk, stressed Lindsay Brooke, a member of the NACTOY organizing committee.  “These candidates,” he declared during a Detroit Automotive Press Association luncheon called to announce the finalists, “they’re all knock-outs. Many jurors have said it’s the toughest year.”

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