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Buyers Question Value of Trouble-Prone Tech Features

New JD Power APEAL study finds buyers, on whole, less satisfied with latest vehicles.

by on Jul.23, 2014

Porsche dominates APEAL with products like the 911.

Automakers are intent on entering the connected world, loading their latest vehicles up with high-tech features such as 4G WiFi hotspots, voice-operated navigation, and even infotainment systems that can read out Facebook posts. But while these may appeal to young, tech-savvy shoppers, other buyers question the benefits, according to a new report by J.D. Power and Associates.

The quality consultancy’s latest APEAL study finds that, on the whole, car buyers are slightly less pleased with the new cars, trucks and crossovers they are being offered this year. But the survey of recent buyers did find gains in owner satisfaction when it comes to improvements in vehicle fuel economy. Buyers are much more ambiguous about high-tech additions to their new vehicles.

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Porsche was the highest-ranked brand in the latest study, while Hyundai delivered a surprise by landing the top spot among mainstream brands.

“Manufacturers often look to new features and technologies to keep their vehicles fresh and attractive, but designing systems that consumers find intuitive and easy to use has been a challenge,” said Power Vice President Renee Stephens.

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Honda Records Q4 Profit of $1.67 Billion

by on Apr.25, 2014

Honda reported significantly improved Q4 and full year profits today based on a weak yen and strong auto sales around the world.

Honda rode the benefits of its own peculiar “double play” of a weak yen and strong sales to an impressive fourth quarter result. However, the positive impact of the yen is going to decline going forward, the company said.

The automaker reported a quarterly profit of $1.67 billion (170.5 billion yen) compared with less than $800 million (75.5 billion yen) during the same period a year ago. Honda reported sales increased 13% to $30 billion, or 3.1 trillion yen.

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Japanese buyers seeking to beat an April 1 rise in sales taxes helped push Honda to 1.2 million vehicles sold during the quarter, which was nearly 200,000 units more than last year. (more…)

Smart Electric Drive Named America’s “Greenest” Vehicle; Ram 2500 the “Meanest”

Battery cars, hybrids dominate Top 10, while full-size pickups and sports car rank at the bottom.

by on Jan.28, 2014

The third-generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive is named the "Greenest Vehicle" on U.S. roads.

The 2-seat Smart ForTwo Electric Drive battery car is the most environmentally friendly vehicle on American roads, according to the 2014 Greenest Vehicles list, with an assortment of battery-electric vehicles, plug-ins, hybrids – and one natural gas model – rounding out the Top 10.

The Smart ED, as it’s often called, scored a record 59 out of 100 possible points, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  But Toyota and Honda overwhelming dominate the ACEEE list of “Greenest” models.  At the other end of the spectrum, Chrysler’s Ram 2500 gets razzed as the “Meanest” vehicle on the market with a score of just 18.

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“We’ve had such an influx of hybrid and electric vehicles in recent years that the race to earn a spot on the “Greenest” list is more competitive than ever, particularly for conventional vehicles,” said ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan, adding that, “It’s encouraging to see automakers investing heavily in eco-savvy vehicles on the whole.”

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Mitsubishi the Latest to Slash EV Pricing

Maker cuts i-MiEV battery car price by 20%.

by on Dec.04, 2013

Mitsubishi is cutting the price of its 2014 i-MiEV battery-electric vehicle by 20%.

Mitsubishi plans to drop the price of its little i-MiEV battery-electric vehicle by an “astonishing” 20%, making it the latest manufacturer to cut battery-car pricing in a bid to charge up demand.

Electric vehicle sales have been lagging well behind expectations this year in part, analysts say, due to declining gasoline costs that have made it less attractive to buy hybrids, plug-ins and full battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs. In fact, a new study of nearly 1,100 potential battery-car buyers indicates high pricing, rather than low range, is the single-biggest obstacle to building demand for the technology.

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A wide range of manufacturers, including Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet, have already trimmed their prices this year and there are signs that has helped turn on more potential buyers. (more…)

Mitsubishi Takes Last Shot, Names New US Chairman

Will maker follow Suzuki out of the American market?

by on Nov.06, 2012

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is among the few new models coming anytime soon.

Mitsubishi Motors has named a new chairman for its struggling U.S. subsidiary, the first time that post has been filled since 2007 when the Japanese-owned maker was struggling for survival.

With 35 years in at the maker, Gayu Uesugi appears to carry the credentials needed in his new post, having worked at Mitsubishi’s Japanese headquarters overseeing product strategy and development and cost control.  The maker let costs run out of control over the past decade – in part with an ill-conceived marketing strategy that saw thousands of young buyers get a year’s free use of Mitsubishi products before handing the keys back to the company.

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With its U.S. market share at less than a half percent, analysts warn that Mitsubishi cannot long sustain a presence in the States without a major breakthrough.  The alternative would be to follow the example set by American Suzuki which has declared bankruptcy and will now stop selling cars in the U.S. market.

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That New Car Smell Could Make You Sick

New study names least toxic automobiles.

by on Feb.15, 2012

The Honda Civic interior has been faulted by some critics - but won praise from the Ecology Center for its lack of potentially dangerous chemicals.

There’s something about that new car smell.  Unfortunately, while some folks love the scent of a vehicle that’s just rolled out of the showroom the volatile chemicals found in many automotive interiors can make others quite ill.

So, a new study is naming names and pointing fingers, identifying the 2012 Honda Civic as the safest automotive interior, while listing the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport as the vehicle most likely to make you sick.

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“Automobiles function as chemical reactors, creating one of the most hazardous environments we spend time in,” says Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center.

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Nissan, Mitsubishi Expand Ties

Makers plan to swap more products, including new version of Mitsu Diamante; unclear if Americans will see the results.

by on Sep.23, 2011

Mitsubishi will get a version of the Infiniti M to replace its old Diamante.

Few automakers are more intent on partnering with the competition than Nissan, which is stepping up its cooperative alliance with erstwhile rival Mitsubishi just two weeks after confirming plans to significantly increase its ties to Germany’s Daimler AG.

Nissan and Mitsubishi first agreed to help fill holes in each others’ product line-up in December 2010.  They will now expand the number of vehicles covered by that deal, they confirm.  Among other things, Nissan will get a new battery-powered commercial vehicle, while Mitsubishi will get a replacement for its flagship passenger car, the Diamante.

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The expanded alliance focuses on the two makers’ home market, a jointly-issued statement declaring, “These initiatives are intended to strengthen the competitiveness of both companies in Japan.”

It is unclear whether any of the products developed under the partnership will be marketed outside Japan.

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Honda Earnings Tumble – But Mitsubishi Rides Out Quake With Rare Profit

Both makers anticipate earnings upturn over coming months.

by on Aug.01, 2011

Honda's earnings could rebound if new products like the next-gen CR-V catch on in the months ahead.

With some of its key models still in short supply in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Northeast Japan, few analysts were surprised when Honda Motor Co. reported a 90% plunge in profits for the latest quarter.

The real shock came from long-troubled Mitsubishi Motors, which rode out the impact of parts and product shortages to post a rare profit for the first quarter of the Japanese fiscal year, which began on April 1, just weeks after the natural disaster struck.

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Both companies – like most of the Japanese industry — are betting that as shortages are made up, earnings will steadily improve in the months ahead.  Honda, in fact, raised its full-year profit forecast, underscoring its confidence in a strong recovery.  But the maker has several critical challenges.  It has to get the new 2012 Civic into full production mode.  Its spring launch unfortunately coincided with the Japanese disaster and U.S. officials warn the new small car may not reach normal production levels until autumn.  Meanwhile, Honda has to hope there will be no more setbacks as it prepares to launch the next generation of its compact CR-V crossover.

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Mitsubishi’s New “i” Battery Car Tops Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt

Japanese maker gets top EPA rating with 126 MPGe rating.

by on Jul.08, 2011

Mitsubishi hopes buyers will be drawn to the low price and high efficiency of its new "i" battery car.

While it may not have the marketing muscle behind it, Mitsubishi is likely to get some serious buzz for its new “i” battery car thanks to a 126 MPGe rating from the EPA – significantly higher than its two key electric vehicle competitors, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt.

Originally known as the iMiEV, the curiously named Mitsubishi subcompact will also have a significant price advantage when it hits market in the coming months.  That could complicate the battle for supremacy in the small but potentially fast-emerging battery car market.

Since electric vehicles don’t use gasoline, the Environmental Protection Agency has adopted a complex formula to help motorists rate their energy efficiency in a way that can be reasonably compared to a conventional automobile, hence the designation Miles Per Gallon equivalent, or MPGe.

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The Mitsubishi i is rated at 126 MPGe in urban driving situations and 99 MPGe on the highway.  (Battery-based vehicles typically don’t do as well at freeway speeds because it takes more energy to move faster and there are less opportunities to recapture wasted energy.)

By comparison, the Nissan Leaf is rated at 106 MPGe City and 92 Highway, while EPA pegs the Chevy Volt’s numbers at 95 and 90.  Even the tiny Tesla Roadster doesn’t match Mitsubishi’s 4-door offering.  The latest version of that electric sports car has a 119 MPGe rating.

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Deal With UAW Saves Mitsubishi Plant in Illinois

Outlander Sport-Crossover key to reviving struggling brand.

by on Feb.04, 2011

Mitsubishi launches U.S. production of the Outland Sport crossover in 2012.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has announced plans to build a new version of the Outlander Sport-Crossover Utility, starting in mid-2012, at the Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) plant in Normal, Illinois.

The Normal plant has been operating at barely half its capacity for the past several years and was thought to be in danger of closing. Mitsubishi, however, was able to strike a deal with the United Auto Workers Union that will bring new products to the plant.

The official announcement came today during a ceremony that included MMNA President Shinichi Kurihara, Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn, and UAW President Bob King.

The current version of the Outlander Sport went on sale in North America in November 2010.  Outside of the United States, Outlander Sport is also badged as RVR and ASX, and represents Mitsubishi Motors’ latest offering to the globe’s fastest-growing automotive segment, the entry-level crossover.  The vehicle is built upon the same flexible vehicle platform that underpins the Lancer compact car and Outlander SUV, both of which are sold globally.

Mitsubishi Motors North America anticipates adding production of Outlander Sport to the Normal plant by mid-2012, noted Kurihara, replacing the slow-selling models currently assembled there, such as the Eclipse sports coupe.

“With the new model, the plant will have better utilization, and, of course, we will see improved efficiency when we eventually consolidate to one model with higher production volume,” said the Japanese executive.  “I fully expect this plant will strongly improve its performance further down the road.”

Kurihara noted that bringing production of the Outlander Sport, currently built in Japan, to the Normal plant reinforces MMC’s commitment to the U.S. market.

“Mitsubishi Motors remains fully committed to producing vehicles in Normal.  We will build vehicles here not just for the United States, but for many nations around the world,” declared Kurihara, estimating that about half of the Outlanders produced in Illinois will be exported.

That underscores a significant trend for Japanese manufacturers large and small.  With the yen surging to record levels against the dollar, it is becoming increasingly difficult to produce vehicles in Japan, and Mitsubishi is just one of numerous brands, a list also including giant Nissan, shifting production out of the home market. (For more on the hollowing of the Japanese auto industry, Click Here.)

Kurihara also expressed appreciation to the State of Illinois for approximately $29 million in EDGE Grant support over the next ten years. Governor Quinn expressed his pleasure at the ceremony.

“Mitsubishi’s decision to produce a new generation of automobile here in Illinois is a strong testament to the strength of our workforce and the state’s appealing business climate,” said Governor Quinn. “By working to stabilize our economy and investing in companies that are investing in Illinois, we’re helping to keep thousands of jobs in Illinois, helping reinvigorate our automobile industry and continuing our economic recovery.”

MMNA is one of the only Asian or European auto manufacturers currently partnering with the UAW, and the only one to do so in a plant solely operated by a foreign-owned maker.  About 1,000 of MMNA’s 1,300 employees are members of the union.  Toyota recently abandoned a UAW-organized plant, near San Francisco, that it had operated in a partnership with General Motors, the U.S. maker stepping out of the joint venture following its 2009 bankruptcy.  Mazda operates a unionize plant, near Detroit as part of a partnership with Ford.