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Millennials Wants Wheels After All

MTV study finds Gen-Y would give up texting before their cars.

by on Jan.26, 2015

Millennials may be more interested in buying cars than the auto industry has realized.

It’s become conventional wisdom that Millennials would rather text their friends than drive over to visit, but a new study by youth-oriented MTV suggests that, as is often the case, conventional wisdom has things upside down.

A survey of 3,600 Millennials reveals that three out of four would give up their social media for a day, and texting for a week, rather than hand over the keys to their cars. One reason more teens aren’t rushing out to drive, the study suggests, is that new licensing rules make it harder for them to get behind the wheel.

Consumer Insight!

“Millennials, like other generations, see car ownership as a way to establish independence,” Berj Kazanjian, Senior Vice President of MTV’s Ad Sales Research, said at a presentation of the new finding during the annual National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco. “Millennials,” he added, “also see car ownership as a way to craft their unique adult identity.”

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Scion Aims to Regain Youthful Allure

Flood of new products promised.

by on Jan.23, 2015

The Scion tC Release Series 9.

Scion is turning to an old idea in its bid for young drivers, giving its tC Coupe a two-tone paint job based on a popular custom car show concept.

Originally aimed at youthful “influencers” who would draw buyers into showrooms for parent Toyota’s products, Scion has lost a lot of its early momentum in recent years, recent models like the micro-sized iQ and second-generation xB falling flat in the marketplace. Despite speculation Toyota might give up on the Scion brand-within-a-brand, the Japanese maker has no intention of pulling the plug and is, instead, promising to roll out an assortment of edgy new models that it hopes will recapture Scion’s original energy.

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“We’re committed to Scion,” declared Bob Carter, head of Toyota’s U.S. auto operations, during a speech at an industry confab in San Francisco this week. The sub-brand remains “a test bed for Millennials,” and a significant part of Toyota’s broader strategy.

It sees Scion as a critical bridge to help it gain new buyers for the Toyota brand which has long been dependent on now-aging Baby Boomers.

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Ford Opens Silicon Valley Research Center

The lines blur between tech and auto worlds.

by on Jan.23, 2015

Ford expects to employ 125 at its new Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto.

As modern cars become increasingly dependent on digital technology, whether for safety, emissions or infotainment systems, the lines have been blurring between the rust belt and Silicon Valley. The latest example is a dun-colored office building in Palo Alto not far from such high-tech giants as Apple and Google. But this one will soon be staffed by 125 employees reporting to Ford Motor Co.

Ford was an early pioneer in the world of telematics with its Sync infotainment system. But as the maker – like its competitors – has come to learn, the pace of development in the electronics world operates far faster than in the auto industry. So, Ford’s new Research and Innovation Center will act as an outpost, tapping into the talent and technologies that have made Silicon Valley one of the world’s most important high-tech centers.

High-Tech News!

“The valley here is a marketplace of ideas,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields, who was on hand for this week’s dedication of the Research and Innovation Center. “It’s about being in the right neighborhood because of all the collection of companies. Our folks going to the coffee shops will run into folks from other companies and strike up conversation.”

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Jaguar Land Rover Adds Bike Sense

Prototype safety system could reduce collisions with bikes, motorcycles.

by on Jan.21, 2015

The JLR Bike Sense system would help motorists spot hidden bicycles and motorcycles.

Sometimes, it takes a tap on the shoulder to get your attention. That’s one way Jaguar Land Rover’s prototype Bike Sense system could help prevent collisions between cars and bicycles.

Bicycle deaths have been on the increase in recent years, in the U.S. rising nearly 20% between just 2010 and 2012, and most are the result of accidents involving a collision with a car. In the U.K., where Jaguar Land Rover is based, nearly 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured on the roads each year.

Safety News!

The carmaker has decided to address that problem with what could be a high-tech solution that would not only be able to spot a bicycle or motorcycle in harm’s way, but which would also take steps to advise a driver of the potential danger. The system under development would use lights and other warnings, even tap a driver on the shoulder, if necessary.

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Mileage Still Critical to Shoppers, Despite Plunging Prices

Technology, exterior and interior design, also critical, finds Power study.

by on Jan.19, 2015

Power's Avoiders study warns that motorists still won't pay a stiff premium for alternative power models like the new 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

With gas prices down below $2 a gallon in most of the country, there’s been a surge of demand for pickups and other big vehicles. Even so, fuel economy remains the key factor most motorists consider when buying a new car, truck of crossover, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

But even the highest-mileage vehicles may not connect with buyers turned off by poor design or by the lack of the latest technological features, notes Power’s 2015 U.S. Avoiders Study. The annual report looks at both what motivates motorists to buy, reject or avoid particular models.

Consumer Insight!

For the fourth year in a row, it turns out, fuel economy has remained the most influential factor in choosing a new vehicle. According to the 2015 study, 14% of shoppers listed mileage as number one on the list of why they bought a particular vehicle, while 16% said they rejected a vehicle because of its poor mileage.

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Ford Slashes Global Product Platform Count

Fewer platforms but more new products.

by on Jan.19, 2015

Ford's new CEO Mark Fields with the 2015 Edge, one of many new models based on Ford's global platforms.

Hoping to improve its efficiency, driving up margins and driving down costs, Ford has been pushing to eliminate as many regional product platforms as possible. And it’s found ways to go further than originally planned, according to the maker’s CEO.

It will now use just eight separate platforms for its global product line-up, said CEO Mark Fields, during an appearance at an industry confab in Detroit. That’s barely half as many as it had at the beginning of the new millennium, when Ford’s North and South American, European and Asian operations functioned as virtually autonomous entities. And it’s one lower than the goal the maker had set for itself by 2016.

A Global News Platform!

“That yields tremendous benefits to improving the rate at which we introduce new vehicles,” noted CEO Fields during his comments at the Deutsche Bank Global Industry Conference.

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Mercedes-Maybach Sets $190k Price Tag for S600; Hints at SUV to Come

An option for customers to “step up.”

by on Jan.16, 2015

The new Mercedes-Maybach S600.

With sales of its new super-premium line set to begin barely three months from now, Daimler AG has announced a price tag of $189,350 for the new Mercedes-Maybach S600.

The maker’s new sub-brand is looking at other options to flesh out its line-up, with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche telling British publication Auto Express that a super-premium SUV is “most likely” going to follow.

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It would join a small but growing list of ultra-expensive sport-utility vehicles, Bentley this week confirming it will call its upcoming ute the Bentayga when it reaches market later this year. Maserati, meanwhile, will launch the new Levante for the 2016 model-year, while Rolls-Royce is reportedly looking at an SUV of its own.

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Local Motors Planning Two 3D Micro-Plants

Building cars at the Detroit Auto Show.

by on Jan.16, 2015

Local Motors is 3D printing one of its Strati cars at the North American International Auto Show.

Most automakers are content to show their vehicles at the North American International Auto Show – which opens up to the public this weekend. But the folks from Local Motors has been building vehicles on the show floor.

The start-up brought some of its 3D printing technology to Detroit’s Cobo Hall to demonstrate how it can produce one of its models, the electric Strati, just about anywhere, directly from a digital file. The first of these battery cars will go on sale later this year.

Plugged In for News!

Don’t expect Local Motors to print out a car in your garage. The company is currently operating two micro-plants, one in Phoenix and the other in Las Vegas. But it is confident enough about its future that it expects to add additional facilities in Washington, D.C., and Knoxville, Tennessee. (more…)

Infiniti Set to Decide Future of Eau Rouge

New brand chief Kruger will soon decide if it’s go or no-go for performance sub-brand.

by on Jan.16, 2015

The original Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge concept made its debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

Infiniti’s new President Roland Kruger will be facing a tough decision in the coming weeks: whether to pull the plug on the high-performance Eau Rouge project launched by his predecessor.

The 550-horsepower Q50 Eau Rouge was meant to serve as the halo car for a brand desperate to establish a stronger global identity. But the project has been wracked by turmoil following a series of key defections from the automaker and its parent Nissan, notably the departure of former Infiniti President Johan de Nysschen who left to become the head of Cadillac.

Auto Show Insight!

Despite some reports that the Japanese luxury maker has scrubbed Eau Rouge, Michael Bartsch, the head of Infiniti operations in the U.S., stressed that no decision has yet been made. “We still don’t have an answer on whether it’s a go or no-go,” he said during an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“We’re waiting for Roland to find out how he feels about (Eau Rouge),” Bartsch added.

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Ford Won’t be Rolling Out Aluminum Passenger Cars, Says Top Exec

Benefits don’t justify the cost, complexity says Pres. Hinrichs.

by on Jan.15, 2015

Ford President Joe Hinrichs helps unveil the new Ford F-150 Raptor during the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

Though Ford Motor Co. has ballyhooed the benefits of the aluminum used to build its 2015 F-150 pickup, don’t expect to see the automaker start building passenger cars out of the lightweight metal, cautioned a top executive.

The benefits just aren’t as competitive when used on lighter vehicles, stressed Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, during an appearance at an annual industry confab in Detroit.

No Lightweight!

“You don’t get those same benefits to a consumer on a car side,” he explained, adding that, “truck buyers will pay for more capability. Car buyers will pay for better fuel economy, but there’s other ways to get fuel economy in a car.”

Facing stiff new emissions and fuel economy mandates, automakers like Ford are struggling to find ways to improve the efficiency of their vehicles. They’re adopting advanced powertrains and alternate fuels, adopting more aerodynamic designs, and putting a premium on “lightweighting.”

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