Posted by Dale Buss on January 3, 2013 05:12 PM
Toyota's report of a 27-percent gain in U.S. sales in 2012 is the latest welcome sign of recovery and revival by a company that has been tortured — by itself, by economic forces and even by Mother Nature — for the last four years. Management led by CEO Akio Toyoda has been clearing the decks for what promises to be Toyota's best year in several.
"With sales nearly doubling the [percentage] increase of a healthy industry" overall in the U.S. last year, Toyota "had a breakout year," said Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., in a press release. "As we move into 2013 and the market sees continued growth, we expect to outperform the industry once again with another nine product launches on the horizon."
What's more, Toyota in 2012 reclaimed its title as the world's largest automaker, selling 9.7 million vehicles globally and leapfrogging GM and Volkswagen to get back on top.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on December 10, 2012 06:34 PM
Things have been getting a bit testy in the high-profile, low-sales world of electric vehicles. Late last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show, a Fiat executive took a none-too-veiled shot at Nissan for the styling of its Leaf. And Nissan quickly shot right back at some of Fiat's own design executions.
The spat began when Matt Davis, head of Fiat product marketing in the United States, was talking about the coming all-electric version of the Fiat 500 and told Bloomberg News on Nov. 28, "Let's be honest, ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution. The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car."
Now, in Davis's defense, he was absolutely right about the design of most all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids so far. They're at best uninspired, at worst an arrogant reflection of the notion that because they're powered in a "superior" fashion, such models don't need to look like conventional vehicles either. So you end up with the minimalist wedge shape of the Toyota Prius, the prosaic design of the Chevrolet Volt — and the pragmatic styling package comprised by Leaf.
With that in mind, fast forward to Fiat's first US campaign for the 500e — one using the oldest rule in the marketer's playbook ("Sex Sells"). The racy new commercial aims to estabish its EV as the hot, sexy car in the category.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 29, 2012 05:11 PM
General Motors is out in full force at the LA Auto Show this week, where it's not only showcasing 2013 models, but the futuristic Volt Squad, described as "a new electric vehicle system to meet the challenge of a highway system now brimming with cutting edge technologies."
If the current love for its Chevrolet Volt brand persists, GM should be sitting pretty by the time these concept cars hit the highway. Chevy Volt may not have caught on with the American general public as initially hoped, but its manufacturer can take solace in one very important attribute of the Volt brand: The people who buy the car really love it and would make the same purchase again. Now if only there were a cutting edge technology to create more fierce brand loyalists.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on November 14, 2012 04:58 PM
General Motors is saying "uncle" in a key area of vehicle electrification: conventional hybrids. At the same time, the automaker indicated today that it'll redouble efforts to stake out a brand-defining position on one end of the electrified-vehicle spectrum, in highly electrified so-called "plug-in" hybrids like Chevrolet Volt and in all-electric vehicles.
The move essentially is surrendering the conventional-hybrid field to Toyota, which created and is dominating that segment with the Prius sub-brand. Interestingly, GM's move — ceding what once was a prime battlefield in green cars, where it invested heavily — comes at the same time that its cross-town rival, Ford, has just introduced an entirely new hybrid-only brand, C-Max, to battle Prius in the U.S. market.
Mary Barra, GM's product chief, told reporters today that the company has narrowed its future development plans to emphasize plug-ins like Volt, and EVs such as the all-electric version of the new Chevrolet Spark that GM will unveil at the Los Angeles Auto Show this month. Both kinds of cars are propelled only by batteries, while conventional hybrids rely on a combination of an electric motor and a gasoline engine.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on November 2, 2012 04:21 PM
It's not the kind of message that auto marketers want to hear as they experiment feverishly with social media and get ready to plop down really big bucks on TV ads in the next Super Bowl, but brand loyalty is fading among American car buyers.
Among the reasons — according to Experian's 2012 study on corporate and brand loyalty (see infographic below) cited by Time.com — is that Americans are holding on to cars longer. The average age of the nation's "car park" has exceeded more than 10 years for the first time. The resulting "pent-up" demand is helping fuel a strong and steady recovery in U.S. car sales. But the fact that buyers wait longer times before visits to dealerships is eroding their brand loyalty.
Another factor swaying car brand loyalty: the plethora of information now available online that makes it easier than ever to assess vehicle models. The more car buyers learn, TIME notes, the more likely they are to switch brand loyalty.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on November 2, 2012 09:07 AM
Chrysler exec tweets a rebuff about Donald Trump comment on Jeep jobs, as UAW leads ethics complaint vs Romney over auto rescue remarks.
Apple's iPad Mini launches globally to shorter than expected lines; secures Lion trademark.
Barclays facing a $470 million fine for alleged energy market manipulation, and a corruption probe.
Australian court rejects free range trademark move.
BlackBerry 10 is on schedule for early next year, RIM says.
Bloomberg Businessweek pins Sandy on global warming in cover story.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on October 22, 2012 01:13 PM
The market for all-electric cars continues to slump, with the bankruptcy filing of one of its largest suppliers of batteries, struggles for Nissan's Leaf, and the continued difficulty of the top end of the EV market, Fisker, to get over the hump.
But meanwhile, the market for hybrids continues to brighten — espeically if that hybrid has a Prius nameplate. Toyota continues to extend its dominance of the hybrid-electric market by promoting its Prius family of four models. Having left its competitors' hybrids in the relative dust, Toyota now is girding for an effort by Ford to plug (so to speak) its own hybrid-only sub-brand, C-Max.
In fact, Prius now is doing so well in America's biggest hybrid market, California, that it has passed long-time leaders Honda Civic and Honda Accord to become the No. 1-selling vehicle line of any kind in the state.Continue reading...