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auto motive

New Dodge Dart Misses the Early Mark

Posted by Dale Buss on August 31, 2012 03:27 PM

Anticipation has been heavy for the success of the new Dodge Dart, the Illinois-built compact car that represents the first complete-vehicle collaboration between Chrysler and its new Fiat parent. The just-launched model has been saddled with hopes and responsibilities ranging from reestablishment of Chrysler's design chops to re-ignition of the company's hopes in a small-car market where it hasn't excelled for a long time.

But all of that has been delayed, at least, by Dart's slow start out of the gate, according to the Wall Street Journal. Noting that Chrysler sold fewer than 1,000 Darts in the car's first two months in dealer showrooms, June and July, the newspaper blamed Chrysler, in part, for producing many more manual-transmission Darts than the market requires.

An increasing number in the auto industry are talking about stick shifts these days, as a way to entice financially strapped Millennials into purchasing automobiles. In mainstream product segments, stick shifts are less expensive to manufacture, purchase, drive and insure. (Of course it's an entirely different market for stick shifts in pricey luxury makes, where they're provided for driving feel.) Continue reading...

auto motive

GM Vet Bob Lutz Dusts Off Soapbox to Rail Against A123 Sale to China

Posted by Dale Buss on August 8, 2012 05:53 PM

The auto industry continues to move in fits and starts — some huge, some tiny — toward the future of the electrified automobile. It hasn't been pretty getting this far, and there will be many ups and downs for electric vehicles before U.S. and global consumers presumably someday embrace them.

One of the inevitable shifts along that path came today when a Chinese auto-parts company rescued cash-strapped A123 Systems, an American lithium-ion battery maker for the U.S. electrified-car market that has been in lots of financial trouble in part because of how slowly the market has developed. Wanxiang can acquire up to 80 percent of A123 Systems in return for an investment of up to $450 million.

Quickly, a very public critic of the deal emerged: Bob Lutz, former GM vice chairman, in a column on Forbes.com. The father of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid is opposed to the "green-technology" mandate on the U.S. auto industry by the Obama administration, which had made a $249-million loan to A123 Systems.

Lutz characterized the acquisition of the high-tech company by the Chinese concern as a downfall of trying to "mandate" an EV-car market to an American public that isn't ready for it yet.Continue reading...

auto motive

European Woes Drag On Auto Brands

Posted by Dale Buss on August 3, 2012 04:13 PM

Eurozone difficulties and fading business and consumer confidence in Europe are creating something of a black hole for global automakers in that market. So far, Fiat, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Ford and General Motors seem to be getting the worst of it, while Volkswagen and Toyota struggle to float on top of the difficulties.

The latest development is that politicians and unions are trying to get the Italian government to intervene to reverse Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's proclamation that the company can't give "any indication concerning future investments" in Italy because of the "economic crisis and current difficulties in the European auto market," according to Automotive News Europe.

Italy has been dancing on the fringes of eurozone difficulties along with Spain. And for months, Marchionne has been defying others in his industry by insisting that automakers need to put their heads together and figure out how to pare some of the excess capacity in the continent's car market — before the marketplace does it for them, more brutally. Marchionne even called out Volkswagen leadership this week for not being a team player on that issue.Continue reading...

auto motive

Chrysler's Marchionne Aims Dart at Critics

Posted by Dale Buss on July 31, 2012 11:16 AM

Everything is coming up red, white and blue for Fiat these days — everything that's profitable, anyway. Once viewed as a long-shot and even an irresponsible lark by some, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's investment in taking over Chrysler now looks more briliiant every day. That's especially so given what's befalling Fiat in Europe.

Chrysler has once again underscored its new chief's wisdom by reporting an $800-million turnaround in its bottom line during the second quarter. It's up from a year ago thanks to rising U.S. sales and stronger pricing. And for the year, Chrysler said, it expects an 18-percent revenue gain on continued strong increases in U.S. vehicle shipments.

"They are tearing the cover off the ball when it comes to volume, revenue and gaining market share," Richard Hilgert, an analyst for Morningstar, commented to the Wall Street Journal.Continue reading...

auto motive

Marchionne Keeps Dishing Fiery Rhetoric, But VW Calls Him On It

Posted by Dale Buss on July 27, 2012 05:17 PM

Volkswagen is by far the dominant automaker in Europe. And Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, arguably is one of the most colorful and forceful personalities in the entire global industry. So it's not surprising that the two forces would create a dust-up when they disagree about a fundamental issue.

Throw in the fact of the spreading European auto recession, and the continent's overall economic troubles, and you've got the recipe for fireworks.

That's exactly what occurred this week after Marchionne used his soapbox as the president of ACEA, the European auto-trade group, to call VW's corporate behavior to task. In remarks published in the International Herald Tribune, the sweater-favoring, shoot-from-the-hip chieftain raked "the French and the Germans" for not reducing production capacity in a shrinking European automotive market.Continue reading...

auto motive

Fiat Happy To Be "Coming To America" With New Marketing Push

Posted by Dale Buss on July 16, 2012 04:35 PM

The "next wave" of Italian immigrants is coming to America, Fiat says in its new U.S. TV ad that begins running today. That's great news for Fiat dealers across the country who want more models to display in their showrooms. But how much will American consumers care?

For the first time in the year or so that Fiat has been advertising (again) in America, its new commercial, titled "Immigrants," leaves no doubt about the heritage of the company that owns Chrysler, or their cars.

The spot depicts all three members of the Fiat USA brand that are increasingly fillingl distribution pipelines in the United States — the standard Fiat 500, a convertible version and a souped-up Abarth version — plunging into the Italian seacoast and "swimming" to America, where they proceed to look good and cause head-scratching and then smiles as they emerge onto beaches on the Eastern Seaboard like some postindustrial lungfish.Continue reading...

auto motive

Chrysler Needs Dodge Dart To Be a Game-Changer Beyond All-Star Game Debut

Posted by Dale Buss on July 10, 2012 03:09 PM

When Chrysler airs the first TV commercial for the 2013 Dodge Dart tonight during the All-Star Game, a lot more is at stake than may be readily apparent.

The spot opens with the line, "'How to change cars forever," features cameos by Tom Brady and other athletes, runs for an unconventional 90 seconds, and positions Dart as a game-changer. It really needs to be that for Chrysler, for a number of reasons.Continue reading...

brand news

In the News: Barclays, Best Buy, Chrysler and more

Posted by Dale Buss on July 3, 2012 09:00 AM

In the News

Barclays CEO resigns as banking scandal spreads.

Best Buy stock rises on speculation of founder takeover.

Chrysler June sales beat estimates for five-year record.

Amazon buys 3D mapping startup.

Apple, Google and Facebook are engaged in a "message" war.

Boeing boosts long-term forecast for jet market, while jumbo jet demand wanes.

Cargill helps food companies reduce sodium.Continue reading...

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