Posted by Dale Buss on September 16, 2013 03:41 PM
It may be time for Walmart's leadership to bring about another huge change in retailing. This time, the chain has forged a new requirement that suppliers disclose and eventually phase out several hazardous chemicals from Walmart products, and the move could lead to making such a practice standard across the American marketplace.
"It's a significant step forward," Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, told USA Today about the move Walmart announced late last week. Walmart could "shift the whole industry," she said.
Specifically, Walmart said that, beginning in January, it will begin to monitor suppliers' progress on reducing 10 different chemicals from fragrances, cosmetics, household cleaners and personal-care products at its stores. The requirements will also apply to its private-label cleaning products as well as the "Design for the Environment" label promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency to identify "eco-friendly" goods.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on August 15, 2013 01:45 PM
Those cute TV ads for Ford using the La Linea stick-figure character to tout the superior fuel economy of its C-Max Hybrid—and poke fun at the Toyota Prius v—take on a whole new cast now that Ford reportedly plans to announce a mea culpa and reduce the stated fuel-economy ratings of the C-Max.
The restatement, expected tomorrow, according to Automotive News, will comprise "a rare and potentially costly move that Ford spent months feverishly working to avoid," as the publication put it. Cutting the ratings would be "a blow to Ford's carefully cultivated image as a fuel-economy leader, a core tenet that CEO Allan Mulally has emphasized since joining the company in 2006."
Not to mention, well, embarrassing. Ford has run into a number of problems lately of similar magnitude that clearly have dinged its brand if not its sales, including owner frustrations with operating its MyFord Touch telematics system and logistics and quality problems with some key vehicle launches including the Ford Escape SUV and the new Lincoln MKZ sedan.Continue reading...
Posted by Abe Sauer on June 6, 2013 04:38 PM
The recent announcement that China's Shuanghui International was buying US pork producer Smithfield Foods has produced much reaction. Some claim the deal is good. Some say it's bad on grounds ranging from food safety to national security. One of the more interesting opinions comes from the China Private Equity blog which complains that "a Chinese company isn’t buying Smithfield. A shell company based in Cayman Islands is."
The latter is a legitimate clarification. "China" isn't buying Smithfield—the Cayman Islands are. It's a little reported note that could provide meaningful leverage to groups both looking to force corporations to pay taxes and groups looking for straightened environmental agencies.
The claim that Smithfield is being bought not by China but by the Cayman Islands is, while true, a little like saying America doesn't sell iPhones, the Cayman Islands (or Ireland) sells iPhones. The fact that the media does not mention that the Shuanghui that is doing the buying is a Cayman-located extension of the China-based Shuanghui should be no surprise as every report on Apple's quarterly earnings makes no mention of the fact that all that money goes to a company that, almost literally, does not exist. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out last week, Shuanghui is made up of "multiple subsidiaries and holding companies."Continue reading...
Posted by Abe Sauer on May 28, 2013 11:57 PM
Apple is the mine's canary. That's the takeaway from a recent press conference in China where the head of corporate sustainability for China tech giant Huawei told reporters that, unlike Apple, it will "learn from the issues that Apple has faced in China" and "never let supplier issues tarnish our brand.”
Whether Huawei means to "learn" from Apple or just copy it, the brand that has been singled out for a beating in the last few years over everything from China labor issues to tax avoidance has come under fire for a failure to innovate. But those critics all have tunnel-vision for Apple's electronics products.
What about innovating its "cultural product"? What if buying a iPhone 6 meant buying a better future? That just might be what Apple's aiming for with its latest high-profile hire. (Plus, the one better future we already have with Jackson's addition.) Continue reading...
start your engines
Posted by Dale Buss on April 1, 2013 03:02 PM
No part of the automotive business is more important than the pickup-truck segment, where the biggest profits are made by each of Detroit's Big Three automakers. It's also a crucial time for pickup-truck sales because they're the vehicle of choice for the construction contractors who are finally benefiting from a significant bounceback in the U.S. housing market.
But there was another reason that General Motors made a big deal on Monday of the announcement of first mileage specifications for versions of the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups that are due out this spring: It gave GM a chance to tweak arch-rival Ford on the issue of fuel economy, which is increasingly important to American truck buyers.
GM said that the Silverado and Sierra version that is expected to be by far the most popular configuration—a crew-cab truck with an 5.3-liter EcoTec3, eight-cylinder engine—will offer better mileage than directly competitive V8 models and will even barely beat out a version of the 2013 Ford F-150 pickup with a six-cylinder EcoBoost engine.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on March 28, 2013 05:29 PM
The stagnation of the U.S. market for all-electric vehicles has automakers thinking more creatively about how to address American consumers' desire for maximum fuel economy without attempting fruitlessly to guilt them into buying EVs.
The evidence of this trend has been abundant this week during the media previews at the New York International Auto Show, and news that the Obama administration is planning to get tougher on car emission standards, with "sweeping rules" expected from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requiring cleaner gasoline and cars.
"I think green has gone mainstream" as automakers employ fuel-efficient technologies across their lineups, not just in electrified vehicles, Consumer Reports director of auto testing Jake Fisher told WWJ-TV in Detroit. "It doesn't matter what you get, you can get green in your car, whether or not it's a sports car or an SUV."
That's why, for example, Dodge is able to claim that the new 8-speed transmission in its 2014 Durango SUV qualifies as a "green" advance: It helps boost fuel economy of the nameplate by close to 10 percent, Reid Bigland, Dodge brand CEO, told the TV station.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on December 6, 2012 06:45 PM
Just weeks after taking egg on the face again from Consumer Reports over its confusing MyFord Touch system, Ford again is a target of the influential consumer bible over mileage claims for its new hybrid vehicles.
According to Automotive News, Consumer Reports researchers found that the Ford Fusion hybrid delivered only 39 MPG in its real-word tests on the highway and in city driving, far short of the 47 MPG claimed by Ford for the model. And Consumer Reports said that the C-Max hybrid hit only a combined 37 MPG, far short of the 47 MPG Ford claims for it.
"These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen among any current models," Consumer Reports noted. "Among current models, more than 80 percent of the vehicles we've tested are within 2 mpg."
A Ford spokesman told brandchannel that "driving styles, driving conditions, and other factors can cause mileage to vary." Ford's Fusion website puts an asterisk on the 47 mpg figure: *EPA-estimated 47 city/47 hwy/47 combined mpg. Actual mileage will vary.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on November 28, 2012 04:04 PM
So far, the brand brain trusts for Kia and Hyundai have been keeping their own counsel about how they might react further to the equity damage done by their gas mileage misstatements that surfaced earlier this month. But early returns suggest they might not want to wait too long.
The sibling Korean-owned brands are suffering declines in "purchase intent" as measured by Edmunds.com, with most Hyundai and Kia models taking hits in that specific indicator for the few weeks ending November 18, a couple of weeks after the brands disclosed that they had mistakenly inflated gas-mileage ratings for several of their most fuel-efficient vehicles, admitted it to the EPA, and began reimbursing owners financially for the violation.
The errors reportedly arose from procedural errors, as Canada's Globe and Mail noted: "The joint testing operations in South Korea led to incorrect fuel consumption ratings. Hyundai and Kia have revised upward their average combined fleet fuel consumption ratings by 0.3 litres/100 km for the 2013 model year. 'I sincerely apologize to all affected Hyundai and Kia customers, and I regret these errors occurred,' said Dr. W. C. Yang, Hyundai/Kia’s chief technology officer."
As part of the response, Hyundai US created a website explaining the adjusted fuel economy reimbursements, as did Kia. Kia also released a nostalgic TV commercial, above, evoking its 60 years in the US and "how far we've come since that first bicycle." But it may need to do more to reassure car buyers.Continue reading...