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Trump Coming to Detroit Bearing Regulatory Gifts

President likely to announce plans to rollback fuel-economy standards.

by on Mar.14, 2017

President Donald Trump, center, met with the CEOs of Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler to discuss a variety of issues, including fuel economy rules.

President Donald Trump is expected to visit the Detroit area Wednesday and is expected to come bearing gifts for the Motor City’s automakers in the form of lower fuel-economy standards.

The move comes as automakers have been lobbying the new administration to roll back the tougher corporate average fuel economy standards set down by Obama administration just prior to Trump’s inauguration in January.

Regulatory News!

The plan has not been confirmed officially by the Trump White House. However, the President and his selection to head the Environmental Protection, Scott Pruitt, have zeroed in fuel-economy regulations, saying they need to be revised. (more…)

Waymo Escalates Battle with Uber

Waymo claims former employee stolen intellectual property for autonomous technology.

by on Mar.13, 2017

Waymo is suing Uber to prevent the company from using or selling intellectual property it claims a former Waymo employee stole and gave to Uber.

Waymo, Google’s self-driving vehicle subsidiary, is escalating its legal battle with Uber Technologies and its subsidiary Otto Trucking by asking a federal judge to prevent the car sharing service from using or selling any of the technology that Waymo claims was stolen by a former Google employee who went on to start his own company now owned by Uber.

In documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Waymo is seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting Uber Technologies, Inc., Ottomotto LLC and Otto Trucking LLC .

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The filing would prohibit them “from accessing, using, imitating, copying, disclosing, or making available to any person or entity Waymo’s Asserted Trade Secrets, including but not limited to the Asserted Trade Secrets as embodied in LiDAR systems that contain or are designed to operate with the printed circuit board depicted in the schematic attached as Exhibit 1 to the Declaration of William Grossman or any colorable variation thereof. (more…)

First Drive: 2018 Toyota C-HR

New subcompact crossover designed to appeal wide audience.

by on Mar.10, 2017

The 2018 Toyota C-HR is designed to appeal to younger buyers looking for fuel efficiency and utility.

Conventional wisdom suggests American consumers don’t have much use for small vehicles — except for small crossover utility vehicles, and that is an awful big exception as carmakers move to offer new models that are certain to attract new buyers into small vehicles.

The 2018 Toyota C-HR, for example, was originally designed to fit into the automaker’s Scion line. But with Scion’s demise, Toyota expects the newest vehicle in its portfolio to appeal the youthful demographic of 20- and 30-something buyers with its contemporary styling, sophisticated technology, fuel-efficient performance, maneuverability and overall utility.

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The new C-HR was also designed as global vehicle – the one coming to the U.S. will be assembled in Turkey – It is built around one of Toyota’s new modular architectures and was basically can fit into heavy traffic anywhere or out onto back roads in Europe and North America. (more…)

GM, Ford Squeeze Out Small February Sales Gains in China

Small gains welcome after difficult January.

by on Mar.10, 2017

Matt Tsien, who heads up GM China, said the steady stream of new product will help the automaker increase sales this year.

With both companies benefiting from the growing interest of Chinese buyers in sport-utility vehicles, General Motors and its joint ventures eked out a small sales increase of 0.4% on an annual basis, while Ford Motor Co. posted a 2% sales jump.

GM said its sales increase was led by the XT5 SUV, Cadillac kept up its momentum with double-digit growth for the twelfth consecutive month. Sales of the Baojun 510 SUV exceeded 6,000 units following its launch on Feb. 20, and contributed to the Baojun brand’s record deliveries. Cadillac and Baojun set February delivery records as GM and its partners delivered 246,730 vehicles last month.

Global Auto News!

“The expanding SUV portfolio has helped us maintain our growth momentum,” said GM Executive Vice President and GM China President Matt Tsien. “The upcoming launch of the Chevrolet Equinox will further enhance our competitiveness in the fast-growing midsize SUV segment.” (more…)

Car Buyers Getting Longer Auto Loans

Terms continue get longer as buyers look for lower payment.

by on Mar.09, 2017

Car buyers are using longer-term loans with increasing frequency to lower their monthly payment.

Consumers continue to use longer-term loans to reduce the costs of monthly payments when they purchase a new vehicle with almost one third opting for loans of between six and seven years, according to new data from Experian, the credit monitoring service.

Experian, in its latest report on the State of Automotive Finance Market, also found the average loan amount for a new vehicle reached a record high of $30,621 in the fourth quarter 2016. The average loan amount for a used vehicle also reached record levels, jumping from $18,850 in fourth quarter 2015 to $19,329 in in the fourth quarter of 2016.

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Total open automotive loan balances reached a record high $1.072 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2016, up from $987 billion the same period in 2015 but the growth in loan balances has slowed, the report said. (more…)

Fuel Economy Gains Remain Flat in February

Consumers getting more fuel economy bang for their buck, new study shows.

by on Mar.08, 2017

The average fuel economy for the current U.S. fleet of vehicles remained flat in February.

With sales of truck and utility vehicles continuing to rise, the average fuel economy window-sticker value of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in February was 25.1 mpg—unchanged from the value for January, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The value for February is up 5.0 mpg since October 2007, the first month of UMTRI began tracking it, but down 0.4 mpg from the peak of 25.5 mpg reached in August 2014.

Fuel Economy News!

The short-term number continues to decline as gas prices remain below $2.50 per gallon. Since the dramatic fall in fuel prices nearly two years ago, buyers have been buying full-size trucks and SUVs in ever-increasing numbers, driving the average down. (more…)

GM May Trim Other Operations, Barra Says

Barra notes two other groups not meeting GM profitability targets.

by on Mar.07, 2017

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra suggested that the company may not be done shedding unprofitable units.

General Motors’ top executive has left the door open to the possibility of selling off other pieces of its international operations.

Mary Barra, GM’s chairman and chief executive officer, did not offer any specifics or confirm any discussions were underway.

Financial News!

However, in separate conference calls with reporters and analysts that followed the official announcement of GM’s plans to sell Opel/Vauxhall to the PSA Group for $2.5 billion, she indicated she would not rule out such a development. (more…)

Mexico Trade Chief Says NAFTA Redo Must Benefit All

Ildefonso Guajardo spoke to the Detroit Economic Club.

by on Mar.06, 2017

Mexico's top trade official Ildefonso Guajardo told the Detroit Economic Club that any renegotiation of NAFTA must benefit all the parties.

The North American Free Trade Agreement should be revised, but only if all three signatories to the treaty benefit, Mexico’s top trade negotiator said in a speech in Detroit.

Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, told the Detroit Economic Club that NAFTA is 23 years old and said revisions could benefit Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S. However, he rejected the notion that the revisions should only help the U.S. as President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested in comments on NAFTA.

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“It is not very wise to sit down with the skewed view there has been only one winner. We were all winners,” he said.  (more…)

PSA Purchasing Opel for $2.5B

But GM will remain on the hook for up to $4.5b in pension liabilities.

by on Mar.06, 2017

The ldeal between PSA Group and General Motors was sealed with a handshake between PSA chief Carlos Tavares and GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

This story has been updated with additional information.

General Motors Co. and PSA Group have agreed to a deal in which the French automaker will take over GM’s long-struggling Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary, as well as the Detroit maker’s European financial operations for 2.2 billion euros or $2.5 billion.

For GM, deal ends the company’s long history in Europe, stretching back to the Opel acquisition in 1929. However, it doesn’t completely end the massive losses that have piled up for Opel since it last went into the black in 1999. As part of the deal, GM will retain all of Opel Vauxhall’s pension liabilities and is expected to take a $4 billion to $4.5 billion one-time charge once the deal closes later this year.

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While it ends GM’s long legacy as a truly global automaker, the sale will allow the Detroit carmaker to more fully focus on its two key markets: the U.S. and China. For PSA – which pulled out of the North American market a quarter century ago, the acquisition transforms it into Europe’s second-largest automaker, with a 17% market share, behind only the Volkswagen Group. (more…)

Toyota Puts North American HQ on the Market

Automaker delayed sale to allow employees to move to Texas.

by on Mar.03, 2017

Toyota has finally put its former Torrance, California headquarters building up for sale.

Toyota has officially put its North American headquarters campus in Torrance, California, up for sale, company officials have confirmed.

Hundreds of Toyota employees have already left Torrance for the new headquarters campus that the Japanese automaker is building in Plano, Texas, north of Dallas.

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Toyota announced its plans to leave Torrance for Texas back in 2014 but held up putting the company’s buildings in Southern California up or sale. The delay stemmed from the fact the company didn’t want potential buyers, tramping through the property while the work spaces were still occupied by Toyota employees, noted Scott Vazin, Toyota North America vice president of communications. (more…)