By on January 28, 2020

Renault has appointed the former boss of Volkswagen Group’s Seat brand, Luca de Meo, as its new chief executive. Eager to remove former CEO Thierry Bollore and further distance itself from any ties to Carlos Ghosn, the company has been without an official leader since October.

The automaker made an announcement Tuesday, saying that after a selection process led by the Governance and Compensation Committee, the Board of Directors under the chairmanship of Jean-Dominique Senard had settled on de Meo.

Clotilde Delbos, currently serving as interim CEO, will continue to assume her functions until Luca takes office at the beginning of July. Viewed as the most-likely successor since 2019, de Meo was simply waiting out the non-compete clause in his contract with VW. His official hiring still needs approval from Renault shareholders, with the next meeting taking place in April.  (Read More…)

By on January 23, 2020

Porsche Cars North America is the latest automaker to join the expanding list of manufacturers abandoning monthly sales reports in favor of a quarterly format. Detroit has made the changeover entirely, with General Motors swapping to quarterly reports in 2018, only to be followed by Ford and Fiat Chrysler the following year. While Asian manufacturers tend to prefer monthly updates, both Hyundai and Nissan are considering trying quarterly reports within the next twelve months.

As for the German manufacturer, Automotive News cited Porsche as wanting to keep a better eye on the bigger picture. But the plan also runs some risks, especially when some automakers are on the monthly schedule and others report just four times per year.  (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2020

The FCA-PSA merger is progressing nicely. According to Fiat Chrysler CEO Michael Manley, the joint timeline established last month is totally feasible. Both companies hoped to get this settled before 2022; Manley now believes everything could be settled within the next 12 to 14 months.

The manufacturers have inked a binding agreement — worth an estimated $50 billion — to collaboratively prepare themselves to fend against slowing global demand and the unpleasantly high cost of developing greener vehicles to appease regional emission laws. They’re also attempting to establish an effective comprehensive strategy for the numerous auto brands involved in the deal. While we speculated about Chrysler’s future yesterday, over a dozen other marques that cater to fairly specific customer groups also need to be considered.  (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2020

Chrysler has certainly changed since emerging from the ashes of the Maxwell Motor Company in 1925, spending the better part of the 20th century purveying all manner of car to the American public. The current century has seen the company merge with Daimler, followed by Fiat. Now it’s cozying up to PSA Group, leaving many to wonder what purpose Chrysler serves beyond being the corporate namesake.

Officially, the merger isn’t supposed to impact any FCA or PSA brands. But the Chrysler brand isn’t exactly a model of industrial health. Its current lineup consists of four vehicles, one of which (Voyager) is just the lower-trim version of the non-hybrid Pacifica. The minivan sales are enviable, comprising over half of all vehicles sold within the segment for the United States last year — if you incorporate the Dodge Caravan — but Chrysler’s overall trajectory leaves much to be desired.  (Read More…)

By on January 17, 2020

The U.S. Senate approved changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement on Thursday, effectively replacing the 26-year-old deal with the new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. USMCA embraces stronger automotive content rules for the region, updates language for new technologies, and enacts sweeping labor protections aimed at uplifting the Mexican workforce. As a byproduct, it’s also likely to discourage automakers from isolating themselves south of the U.S. border in an effort to secure cheap labor.

Passing with a 89-10 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, USMCA also allows President Donald Trump to keep his campaign promise of replacing NAFTA — a pact he often referred to as “the worst deal in history.”  (Read More…)

By on January 14, 2020

With nearly a decade’s worth of articles suggesting millennials never liked cars and are an industry boat anchor in waiting, a new report claims they may actually be the group that saves it. Using the same data from the Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration that showed present-day teens holding off on getting their driver’s license, the report placed Bloomberg under the impression that millennials will pick up the slack once they start cranking out offspring.

Millennials never actually hated cars. They’ve simply been, on average, too poor harness the same purchasing power of their ancestors, forcing them to put off major life decisions like getting married, having kids, buying a home and/or purchasing a new automobile. While some assuredly prefer public transit for environmental or social reasons, plenty of this has nothing to do with personal preference. The good news is that this fact appears to be reflected in the number of licensed drivers among their ranks, now that they’re getting a little older.  (Read More…)

By on January 13, 2020

Ford has struggled to improve market share in China for years now, as decades of economic growth made the region’s overwhelmingly large population too tempting for global manufacturers to pass up. But it hasn’t been an easy road for foreign automakers. Many entered the region saddled with a lack of brand awareness and were required to enter into joint ventures with Chinese firms to gain access (Ford has three). U.S. products have since faced additional scrutiny as American-Sino relations soured; at the same time, the whole of the market appears to be heading in the wrong direction.

While this hurt plenty of automakers that aren’t Ford, the Blue Oval has really taken it on the chin. The company reported a 26.1 percent sales decline for 2019, marking its third straight year of negative growth in China. At first blush, that may not appear relevant to what’s happening in the West. But Ford hasn’t seen its market share in the People’s Republic rise above 5 percent since 2008 (it’s about half that now), despite putting plenty of resources behind the project.  (Read More…)

By on January 13, 2020

Despite Nissan and Renault spending much of 2019 attempting to reassure the world that their 20-year relationship was soundly intact, fractures have been impossible to hide from the public. If you want an analogy, imagine a carton of milk being left to curdle near a radiator and someone attaching a post-it note that reads “fine for drinking.”

While legitimate efforts to fix the relationship have been made (parts sharing, more collaborative projects, management changes, etc.), a lot of it has been undercut by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance attempting to cleanse itself of the old guard — many of whom had ties to former alliance chair Carlos Ghosn. At the same time, Nissan has sought autonomy from the French automaker, enacting corporate reforms to give it a bit more independence. It also has a cogency plan ready in the event it has to break from Renault entirely; reportedly, Nissan’s been updating that strategy ever since Ghosn escaped Japanese custody last month.  (Read More…)

By on January 10, 2020

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) has announced the start of production of the new RAV4, the best selling vehicle in America that isn’t a pickup. Officially, TMMK is handling the hybrid version while other sites — like Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) — takes care of the non-hybridized crossover.

Considering the RAV4 Hybrid just had its best sales year on record, moving 92,525 units in 2019, Toyota’s probably feeling pretty good about its decision. Total U.S. deliveries of the RAV4 hit 448,068 last year, marking another sales record for the brand. The redesigned models (introduced late in 2018) are already everywhere, making one grateful that they don’t necessitate the same cordial acknowledgement expected from motorcyclists and Jeep Wrangler owners. Your arm would be exhausted before making it out of the driveway.  (Read More…)

By on January 10, 2020

us-capitol, public domain

Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced new legislation on Wednesday in a bid to improve the uptake of electric vehicles in the United States. The bill, known as the USA Electrify Forward Act, would appropriate $2 billion annually for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program between 2021 and 2035.

Dingell cited a May 2019 AAA survey that reported just 16 percent of Americans as saying they would consider an electric vehicle for their next automotive purchase, claiming something needs to be done address EV pricing, repair costs, and range. The primary focus of the bill is to help in the development and manufacturing of advanced battery technologies and anything else that might help get more Americans into EVs.  (Read More…)

By on December 27, 2019

Next year, the European Union plans to adopt aggressive new rules that would see automakers fined if their total annual vehicle sales exceed predetermined carbon limits. Obviously automakers aren’t thrilled with the new fines and higher emission mandates, but France is facing additional criticism for its decision to take things a step further.

France’s parliament has adopted a new law penalizing cars that emit carbon dioxide above a certain threshold while still adhering to EU regulations. Vehicles failing to adhere to the French rules will be subject to a 20,000 euros ($22,240) tax in 2020, nearly twice the current fine. Meanwhile, the country is mulling the possibility of culling EV incentives — an odd move, considering its aim to transition its populace to zero-emission vehicles. (Read More…)

By on December 18, 2019

Vehicular privacy is one of those things we never thought we’d have to gripe about but, as automotive connectivity becomes the norm, it’s become one of the most nagging issues in the industry.

Taking a cue from tech giants like Google, Facebook, and pretty much every other website you’ve ever connected to, automakers have begun leveraging customer data on a massive scale. Always-on internet connections exacerbated this problem (feature?), but it’s extremely difficult to tell exactly what kind of information is being shot up into the cloud before ending up at a manufacturer’s data center.

While we’ve seen cars hacked for the purpose of assessing how they’d stand up to malicious entities bent on wreaking havoc, few have attempted to decode the surplus of information emitted by your vehicle. We know this because people would probably be pretty upset to learn of the pathetic level of anonymity currently afforded to them. Despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new vehicle, privacy is rarely considered standard equipment.  (Read More…)

By on December 16, 2019

While Europe appears infinitely suspicious of German automakers, it hasn’t been nearly as eager to cuff suspects and cart them off to the slammer. Considering how unappealing Japan’s treatment of a former Nissan employee happened to be with the general public (regardless of his guilt/innocence), that’s probably wise. Slow and sure is the ideal strategy for tackling corporate corruption — it just has the unfortunate consequence of dragging everything out.

In 2018, BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen Group became the focus of an investigation aimed at uncovering illegal cooperation. Allegations going back to 2017 stipulated the three had coordinated on the rollout of clean emissions technology (specifically AdBlue); at the same time, Germany was under heavy scrutiny for the leeway it was giving automakers after VW’s diesel emission scandal. Before long, claims arose that Germany’s manufacturers had been effectively running an automotive cartel for decades, with supporting evidence slowly mounting.  (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2019

The Board of Directors of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has elected Michael “Mike” Manley, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as its new leader. Tapped to replace PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares as chairman on January 1st, Manley is currently engaging in some mobility related foreplay to get us hot and bothered.

“As an industry we want to take the lead in transforming mobility in a way that puts the consumer first, but also enables us to remain globally competitive and resilient,” Manley said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, the ACEA’s stated priorities for the coming year revolve around “developing a pathway for the transition to carbon-neutral road transport, while ensuring the economic sustainability of the European auto sector.” Presumably, those are goals shared by the English businessman who’ll be taking the reins in 2020 — but he’ll have to manage environmental progress with market realities while doing so.  (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2019

Russia’s largest automotive manufacturer, AvtoVAZ, announced Monday that it plans to buy General Motors out of its regional joint venture. The duo previously assembled Chevrolet-branded automobiles for the local market; however, GM lost interest after the market took a turn for the worse.

While sanctions from Western nations and falling oil prices upended Russia’s economy a few years ago, it was already headed for hard times. Wages have stagnated and average citizens no longer possess the same level of buying power they held a decade earlier. The Russian Economic Development Ministry predicts just a 1-2 percent growth rate up to 2030 and leadership doesn’t seem terribly interested in improving the situation for the citizenry, deciding instead to raise taxes on just about everything. GM was probably right to get out.  (Read More…)

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