Tag: Industry

By on September 16, 2017

Hyundai santa cruz concept

After Hyundai’s American division canned former CEO David Zuchowski for failing to meet internal sales targets last December, it’s no mystery what Job One is for the new guy.

Kyung Soo Lee, a 61-year-old veteran of the company who started his career back in 1982, takes the helm of a troubled ship next week, Hyundai announced Thursday. As president and CEO, Lee (Kenny to his friends) is responsible for reversing a dismal sales trend that sunk his predecessor, as well as the company’s U.S. fortunes. (Read More…)

By on September 14, 2017

Bangle butt, Image: Wikimedia

No car designer in recent history comes close to touching former BMW Group design chief Chris Bangle for controversy. For decades to come, auto scribes will pen articles looking back on his influence on BMW’s lineup, most of which will mention the “Bangle Butt” within the first 100 words.

Bangle’s 17-year tenure at the German automaker ended in 2009, after which he vacated the auto industry, started up a design firm bearing his name, and left his past products for the punditry to debate for all time. Well, Bangle is back, in a manner of speaking, and he’s working on a vehicle from an unlikely source.

He also spilled his guts at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The man known for avant-garde flourishes and risky design adventures claims “hyper-conservative, hyper-terrified” automakers are just re-toasting the same slice of bread. (Read More…)

By on August 29, 2017

flooded cars (public domain)

You’ve already noticed an uptick in prices at the pumps, all courtesy of Texas oil refineries shut down by Hurricane Harvey, and further gas price hikes are on the way. However, the stalled storm’s impact on the automotive industry is only just beginning to be felt.

The damage inflicted on the hard-hit Texas coastline and especially in the swamped greater Houston area has the potential to make August a grim month for new car sales, coming in a year that hasn’t been kind to automakers in the United States. (Read More…)

By on August 11, 2017

2018 Honda Accord

One reason why this post was published Wednesday instead of earlier in the week is that I was at a Chicago-area event where Honda PR was presenting the all-new Accord to local media.

This particular presentation was unusual in that Honda focused less on the new car’s specs and features and more on a major question that’s hovering over the midsize-sedan class – namely, will the segment even exist in a few years? Or will crossovers (CUVs) have fully taken over by then?

(Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt, Image: General Motors

Despite the protestations of many members of the green car crowd, dollars and cents do seem to play a major role in the motivation to purchase an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. Right now, EV proponents and domestic automakers are worried the U.S. won’t renew the green car tax credit — a segment-boosting incentive that shaves thousands off the price of a new electric vehicle.

Some would argue if green car buyers are really devoted to the planet’s health, purchase price wouldn’t be an issue (assuming the buyer’s bank balance is sufficient). Individuals being what they are, motivations and circumstances will vary. Still, no one can argue that a tax credit doesn’t sweeten the pot, just as dealer incentives on the hood of a truck help move sluggish inventory.

In Denmark, however, lawmakers have discovered that once-steady sales of EVs will slow to a trickle when green vehicle buyers are treated like regular car buyers.  (Read More…)

By on May 27, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry - Image: Toyota

Which automaker stands the best change of gobbling up more of the U.S. light vehicle market in the near future? According to the results of a newly released study, and not entirely unsurprising, it’s two of the world’s largest automakers.

General Motors and Toyota are each planning a slew of new and refreshed products over the next few years — something which should serve to lure buyers away from other brands. Among domestic automakers, one brand is forecast to suffer at the hands of its Detroit rival’s success. You know the one. (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2017

lansing assemblyl

As the clock counts down to the beginning of talks aimed at revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement, automakers in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada know one thing they don’t want to see changed — rules of origin.

Auto manufacturers must abide by minimum regional (NAFTA-wide) content rules in order for vehicles to remain free from import tariffs. President Trump’s proposed reforms aim to benefit U.S. companies, but could lead to greater costs heaped onto automakers — something no profit-minded company desires.

Naturally, automakers wants their feelings known well before the three countries get down to brass tacks. (Read More…)

By on May 9, 2017

2016 Ford Focus RS

There’s a reason we run Midsized Sedan Deathwatch. North American consumers want space for six dogs, and nothing’s going to stop them from forking over big bucks for cargo volume and a third row. Traditional passenger cars be damned.

Increasingly, it looks like the market has been condemned — it’s down 12 percent over the first four months of this year. But the shrinking market presence isn’t solely the domain of the midsize. Compacts are in trouble, too. Full-size cars? You know the answer. However, if the vehicle in question started out as a conventional grocery getter but piled on the horsepower before leaving the factory, chances are it isn’t hurting. (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2017

2018_toyota_tundra_trd_sport_01_8ee19ebe1c41ad354b59edf3a42fdf0bac4ded48

As automakers dial back sales projections in a year that’s seen a rough start, the industry could be holding out hope for a legislative solution to lagging demand.

Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz made this claim during the opening of the company’s expanded Ann Arbor research and design center on Thursday, adding that incentivizing new vehicles to draw down bulging inventories can’t continue forever. In his view, automakers are keeping extra vehicles on hand for a reason, not just because production hasn’t adjusted for slow sales.

Lentz, like other auto executives, is hoping for a sales bump in the event the Trump administration green-lights its proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. (Read More…)

By on April 28, 2017

1-Ethanol-Gas-006

Higher-octane fuel holds more energy than bargain basement gasoline, giving it the potential to generate more horsepower and deliver highly marketable fuel economy figures to automakers. It should be at the top of every car manufacturer’s wish list. But, because an extra-high octane rating would warrant an extra-large bill at the pump, muscle car owners are left hunting for that one station that sells 94.

Unlike Europe, it’s a low-octane lifestyle here in North America, though hushed, tentative first steps are being taken to give car manufacturers what they so desperately crave.

Still, no automaker wants to say it. (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2017

BMW 4 Series

To industry watchers, the manual transmission’s future seems as rosy as that of the Steve Miller Band, circa 1983.

Automakers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific have pried the stick shift out of an ever-increasing number of vehicles, and some manufacturers have chosen to drop the technology altogether. With market share reaching never-before-seen lows, the three-pedal lifestyle seems headed towards an unavoidable (and imminent) grave.

Blame technology. Blame laziness. Blame yourself.

Over in Munich, the sentiment seems quite similar. BMW has long occupied the ranks of true driver’s cars, but its leaders make no bones about the brand’s eventual abandonment of the row-your-own transmission, even in relatively stick-happy Europe. Lately, even dual-clutch transmissions appear to be in Bimmer’s bad books. And as for an American solution to its manual transmission problem, well, forget that. (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2017

lansing assemblyl

General Motors will be idling multiple North American plants for 10 weeks this year to allow for the factory retooling necessary to build upcoming models. It also provides a buffer for the overabundance of product it currently has. At the moment, GM has a 97-day supply of vehicles. That’s well above industry average and substantially higher than its domestic peers. As of April 1st, Ford Motor Co. had 80 day’s worth of product and FCA had 82.

“Our inventory is high because we’re going to take 10 weeks out in the back end of the year as we’re modifying our plants, particularly with pickup trucks,” Alan Batey, GM’s head of North America, explained to reporters after GM unveiled a redesigned Buick Enclave. (Read More…)

By on April 9, 2017

ford-raptor-china

Ford’s Mark Fields had plenty of positive things to say about last week’s meeting between Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. After spending months of his campaign accusing China of stealing American jobs, Trump left the conference optimistic at the prospect of improving the relationship between the two countries.

That’s welcome news for Ford, which wants to dramatically expand its presence in Asia over the coming years. The automaker has already decided to launch Lincoln models in the Asian market, hoping to piggyback off Buick and Cadillac’s success in China. On Thursday Fields also outlined a company decision to have 70 percent of all Ford nameplates sold in China by 2025 be part or fully electric — helping the company meet stricter emission standards and maintain volume in the East.  (Read More…)

By on April 7, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

So far, there’s no evidence the Trump administration plans to extend the federal tax credit incentive for the purchase of electric and plug-in vehicles.

Designed to kick-start the fledgling technology, the credits — totaling up to $7,500 per vehicle — will run out after automakers finish selling their first 200,000 eligible vehicles — a date that could occur as early as next year for some companies. This means a segment still as embryonic as the infrastructure meant to serve it could soon bite the dust.

A recent report from Edmunds predicts what will happen if the credits die, using a cancelled state credit as a crystal ball. Despite the hype around EVs, those incentives are an intravenous bag keeping the patient alive. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2017

tesla factory fremont

Workers are likely spinning in office chairs and there’s probably a second frozen yogurt machine on its way to Fremont as you read this.

After hitting a springboard on Monday morning, Tesla’s stock market value has now surpassed that of the former top-ranked U.S. automaker General Motors. This comes just a day after the electric automaker’s surging shares pushed past Ford, placing it in the number two spot.

There’s nowhere to go except down. What, too cynical? (Read More…)

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