A dealer attending Toyota’s U.S. dealer meeting in Atlanta earlier this month has told the Automotive News that the automaker is now letting its dealers drop underperforming Scion franchises without any penalties. Those dealers that keep their Scion stores open will likely get two new products that were teased at the convention. Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter declined comment though he hinted at changes, “We’re not ready to go public with that yet.” Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay recently told WardsAuto that Scion “has a few too many stores.” (Read More…)
Tag: Product Planning
It’s been a fascinating year for the compact car, as all six of the segment’s leading competitors brought out new or updated models over the last 18 months. But as our Chart Of The Day shows, the competition has hardly sent the segment into overdrive, as after an early-year boom, compact car sales have slackened considerably. Intriguingly though, Honda and Toyota, which lost sales early this year due to supply interruptions in the wake of the Japanese Tsunami, seem to be the only brands with recovering compact sales. What’s especially interesting about this is the fact that Toyota’s modest refresh and Honda’s poorly-received new Civic were once widely considered by automotive pundits to be under threat from the resurgent competition. Indeed, Honda’s Civic has been especially hard-hit by media criticism, earning a harsh review from TTAC’s Michael Karesh, losing its coveted “recommended” rating from Consumer Reports, and engaging in some ugly media-bashing. But now that the Civic seems to be one of the only compacts to enjoy a late-year sales rebound, Honda’s announcing that it will be upgrading the Civic for the 2013 model-year, just one year after the new model was introduced.
The big news around here yesterday came from Bertel’s interview with Toyota’s Chief Engineer, in which it became clear that Toyota takes the developing world’s growing demand for oil very seriously. With global demand already outstripping supply, the giant automaker’s embrace of a petroleum-constrained business model seems to make it clear that gas prices will play a significant role in the future. But markets are, by their natures, both difficult to predict, and shaped by predictions. And Edmunds CEO Jeremy Anwyl reckons that, although gas prices are high and could well go up in the short term, fears of a runaway gap between supply and demand may not materialize over the longer term. He writes:
Here’s the twist: As I said, the consensus belief (or story) on future oil prices is that they will be higher. And short term, this may be the case if and/or when the global economy recovers and/or demand grows in emerging markets.
But there is a longer-term story as well. This story suggests that peak oil may be nigh and the future holds shortages and sharply higher prices. Buying into this story, companies, acting individually, will see profit in expanding exploration, developing sophisticated new extraction technologies, etc.
The aggregate result of all these individual activities is that the future supply of oil will improve and prices will actually drop.
In fact, we have seen this paradox play out before. Through the Seventies, we were first shocked by rapid price increases and then conditioned to believe they would continue. And, of course, oil prices collapsed in the Eighties.
Do you badly want a new mid-engined Porsche? Is the Boxster/Cayman combo still a bit rich for your blood, given the weak economy? Chances are you have been waiting patiently for news about Porsche’s “Baby Boxster,” the long-discussed, entry-level, flat-four-powered version of Volkswagen’s Bluesport concept. The sad news: you may be waiting quite a bit longer. In an interview with the FT Deutschland, Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller says
There is no decision to develop this car into production. The decision is due soon, but they may well drag on into next year
Why? Well that’s easy: Porsche’s number one priority is to remain the world’s most profitable automaker, with “at least” a 15% operating margin and a 21% return on capital. And it can hit its 200k sales by 2018 goal without adding a sixth or seventh model… thanks to the fact that its fifth model is an entry-level SUV, called the Cajun.
According to two independent sources within FoMoCo, FIN has learned that Lincoln has killed off plans for the MkC. Instead, Lincoln will focus all compact energies upon their new CUV, which is internally named the MkD. According to one source, Ford feared that the MkC would cannibalize sales of the larger MkZ sedan… According to a source who has seen the “MkD,” the Escape based CUV sports a design that is more of a tall hatch rather than a traditional CUV. When it comes to interior dimensions, it will be slightly less than that of the Escape
OK, let’s get this straight: a Focus-based “MKC” competes with the MXZ but a next-gen Escape-based CUV doesn’t compete with the MKX? It’s good to see Lincoln trying to focus its efforts, but it’s hard to say that a reborn Mercury Mariner is the place to be focusing. Meanwhile, this wasn’t the only spooky news coming out Ford’s struggling luxury brand over Halloween weekend…
On the way to TTAC’s Southern Tour, I filled some of the gaps in my automotive history by reading Car Wars by Robert Sobel. Written in the same year that Nissan opened its first US plant, a sprawling complex in Smyrna, Car Wars documents the early years of the Detroit-Import wars, starting with the Beetle and ending with the rise of the transplant factories. The book is full of lessons, but its most rattling reminders was that Nissan was the major Japanese automaker during the early days of the Japanese industry. Nearly thirty years after Car Wars was written, Nissan often gets lost in Honda and Toyota’s shadow when it comes to perceptions of the Japanese OEMs. And lately Nissan has fallen off more than a few radar screens for the simple fact that its key products are aging: Sentra, Maxima and Altima were introduced for the 2007 model-year, while Rogue is just a year younger. Together these four models account for over half of Nissan’s monthly volume… and yet despite this aged core lineup, Nissan’s sales (as a brand) are up over 17 percent year-to-date, maintaining the brand’s consistent growth.
According to svd.se, this is an image of the next-generation Saab 9-3, as revealed in a presentation to Sweden’s National Debt Office. Based on a new Phoenix platform that is supposedly under development (although with what money is unclear… new platforms typically cost around a billion dollars to develop), the new 9-3 will be the first Saab developed by the brand since gaining independence from GM. If, in fact, the company survives long enough to bring it to market in the 2013-2014 projected timeframe. And, based on all the news we’ve seen, the chances of Saab surviving, let alone developing a new car on a new platform, are extremely slim. But if you’re still holding out hope for The Industry’s Most Troubled Brand ®, this might inspire some more wholly unjustified optimism… as might the leaked image of Saab’s future product “plans.” Just don’t come crying to us when this all falls apart again in mid-November…
It’s a phenomenon with some precedent: import manufacturers will get nowhere with a certain bodystyle or drivetrain until one of the US domestic brands jumps on the bandwagon and popularizes it. And Jeff Breneman, executive director of the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars, is hoping the same dynamic plays out in the world of diesel power when Chevy brings its Cruze Diesel to the US. He tells WardsAuto
The fact that Chevy will offer a diesel Cruze in 2013 is huge. The gas-powered Cruze will get 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), so the diesel is expected to get 50 mpg-plus (4.7 L/100 km), and that will make it a game-changer.
Ford, Toyota or Honda haven’t got a diesel for the U.S. yet, but get ready for 2013-2014. That’s when we’re going to see a lot more diesels.
And, as the diesel booster-in-chief, it’s not surprising that Breneman would come to that conclusion. But what are folks inside GM saying about the Cruze diesel? In a recent interview with TTAC, senior advisor Bob Lutz suggested that we shouldn’t expect the Cruze diesel to conquer America or “change the game” all that much.
When word first began circulating that BMW was considering an X4, I wondered
is BMW trying to prove a kind of automotive Zeno’s paradox, in which niches can be infinitely subdivided?
It was a rhetorical question, of course, and the answer was “pretty much, yeah.” This official BMW sketch preview of the X4, which has been approved for production, shows a three-door version, but according to Autocar,
The car is also depicted in a pair of official BMW sketches. Although they reveal a three-door model badged X3, they hint strongly at the X4′s design, mainly its roofline and front-end styling; BMW sources insist that too much shouldn’t be read into the fact it has three doors.
But if MINI and Range Rover already have three-door “sport activity coupes,” isn’t it just a matter of time before Audi or Mercedes jump on the trend, forcing BMW’s hand? The only problem: there’s only one number between X3 and X5. Which means we will probably end up with an X4 xDrive28i (say) and an X4 xDrive28i Coupe. You know, the coupe version of the coupe version of the X3. Or maybe they’ll just move on to the inevitable X2 coupe version of the X1 and leave the task of trying to tear logical holes in space-time to the crazies manning the supercolliders.
The executive shake-ups show no signs of stopping at GM, as Ed Whitacre ended the week with yet another re-shuffle. And this time Whitacre himself is the big winner. Automotive News [sub] reports that Whitacre has assumed control of GM’s global product planning, leaving former planning boss Tom Stephens with the more prosaic responsibility of overseeing new product development. Whitacre will be assisted by new VP for product planning Steve Carlisle, who, unlike Whitacre, actually has some experience in product planning. Carlisle replaces Jon Lauckner, who will head up GM’s new venture capital unit. But the big news here is that a man who only just learned the term “segment” about five and a half months ago, is now in charge of GM’s global product planning. Quick learner or egomaniac?