Category Archives: Automotive News

Tell Congress: Stop the TAFTA!

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The Obama administration recently commenced (unconstitutionally, and thus illegally) negotiations with the European Union on the subject of a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA).

Although it is being presented by Obama propaganda media as a win-win for the US and the EU, the fact is that it will be yet another act of unilateral disarmament by the United States to yet another trade partner, as all free trade agreements historically have been.

In parallel, Obama has also proposed a similar free trade agreement for the Pacific, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Both of these “free trade agreements” must be stopped dead in their tracks NOW. Here’s why.

CDN readers know that for a long time, I have been warning against unilateral disarmament by the US, because, quite simply, it dismantles America’s defenses and thus leaves America open to aggression.

So-called “free trade” and the unilateral abolition of tariffs, subsidies, and other protective barriers to foreign imports is also unilateral disarmament – in the trade arena. And just as unilateral disarmament in the military arena is a supremely stupid, suicidal policy, so is unilateral disarmament (i.e. “free trade”) in the trade arena.

Since the 1960s, the US has dramatically cut its tariffs, subsidies for domestic producers, and other barriers to foreign imports, has turned a blind eye to currency manipulation by foreign countries, and has signed numerous free trade agreements. The result has been an economic disaster for the US.

Let the facts speak for themselves:

A country that was once the world’s industrial powerhouse, the economic and industrial envy of the world, the world’s largest producer of goods, a fully self-sufficient country producing everything it (and its foreign customers) needed, is now heavily dependent on foreign countries for virtually everything it buys and uses – the clothes and shoes Americans wear, the cars they drive, the computers and TVs they use, etc.

Real median wages of US workers have not risen at all since the mid-1970s and have been stagnant for over 40 years now.

Since 2000 alone, over 6 million well-paying manufacturing jobs and over 55,000 factories have been lost, shipped to China, India, and other “developing countries” by US companies allowed to outsource jobs because of “free trade agreements” that allow them to produce all kinds of stuff abroad and then ship it back, free of any tariff or duty, back to the US. This drives those companies that chose to stay in the US out of business.

Since signing “free trade agreements”, the US has begun to run massive trade deficits with its trade partners. Last year, the US had the following annual trade deficits with the following countries:

  • $20 bn with crisis-stricken Italy, $25 bn with crisis-stricken Ireland, and $60 bn with that exporting economic powerhouse, Germany; $125 bn with the entire European Union as a whole;
  • $32 bn with Canada;
  • $61 bn with Mexico;
  • $76 bn with Japan;
  • $16.6 bn with South Korea;
  • $315 bn with China.

Before NAFTA was signed, the US had trade surpluses with Mexico and Canada; now it has huge annual trade deficits with them – to the tune of $32 bn with Canada and $61 bn with Mexico.

In 2012 alone, the first year under the Korea-US free trade agreement, America’s trade deficit with South Korea skyrocketed by 25%. In April 2012, the first full month under that agreement, the trade gap with Seoul increased by 33%!

With Japan, it’s even worse: America’s trade deficit with that country last year was $76 bn, the largest ever between the two countries. (But that’s not good enough for Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who has successfully pressured the Bank of Japan into devaluing the yen to boost Japanese exports further.)

Last year, America’s annual trade deficit with China was the largest ever between ANY two countries in recorded human history: $315 bn. That’s the largest trade gap not just between the US and China, but between ANY two countries in human history!

Such are the disastrous results that the geniuses advocating free trade – politicians from both parties, pro-free-trade think tanks, and their corporate bundlers – have achieved.

But free trade is actually good for their corporate sugar daddies. Which is why it was implemented in the first place.

You see, while “free trade agreements” have resulted in over 55,000 US factories being closed and over 6 mn Americans losing their manufacturing jobs – forced into unemployment or tedious jobs – it has allowed multinational corporations to ship jobs and factories overseas (e.g. to China), produce stuff there, and then ship it back to the US – free from any US tariffs, duties, or laws – sell them in the US, and pocket all the resulting profit increases.

And who exactly pockets these higher profits? Their CEOs, who get seven- and eight-digit annual salaries after throwing off US workers into unemployment and hiring Chinese workers for $2/hour.

And who enabled these multinational corporations to do that? Politicians of both parties… but mostly Republicans.

Some of them have simply been fooled by the dogmatic theology of free trade being spread by these corporations themselves and think-tanks sponsored by them (e.g. the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute, the Mercatus Center – all of them funded generously by corporate sugar daddies).

But many Republicans, and the party as a whole, did that for a more sinister reason: to get lavish campaign contributions from these multinational, outsourcing corporations.

You see, there’s a good reason why the GOP is called “the party of the rich”, “the party of big corporations”, and “the party that cares only about rich people and big corporations”: it’s true.

The GOP cares ONLY about them. If you’re not rich or a multinational corporation, the GOP doesn’t give a rat’s turd about you, if you pardon my language.

This explains why tens of millions of Americans, including the Reagan Democrats, have deserted the GOP, and why the Party has lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections.

Everytime it came down to choosing between Corporate America and ordinary Americans, Republicans sided with Corporate America. They have always chosen K Street over Main Street. They allowed Corporate America to outsource millions of jobs overseas.

So the working class – Reagan Democrats – left the GOP, which betrayed them. And without them, the GOP will never win any election ever again.

But today’s Democrats are not much better. Few of them care about the US industry or US workers. Most of them, including Barack Obama, are in the pockets of big corporations and rich people, too. (How do you think Obama amassed so much money for both presidential campaigns, and why do you think is he so cozy with wealthy CEOs like Jeffrey Immelt?)

Hence why both parties support the idiocy of “free trade”, despite Gallup telling us that 64% of Americans would prefer to buy American-made goods, EVEN if it meant paying more than for foreign-made goods.

The only way politicians will start listening to the people is if they’re told, in no uncertain terms, that they WILL be voted out of office if they continue to disarm America unilaterally – in the trade or military arena – no matter how much money they get from their corporate sugar daddies.

Folks, please call your Congressman and both of your Senators and tell them you will NEVER vote for them EVER AGAIN if they vote for any new free trade agreements.

Ford Motor Company U.S. Sales Up 18 Percent

Ford Fusion, Ford Escape and new Lincoln MKZ Set Sales Records

DEARBORN, Mich., May 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ —

  • Ford Motor Company April U.S. sales up 18 percent compared to last year – best April sales since 2007, with cars up 21 percent, utilities up 16 percent and trucks up 16 percent
  • Fusion and Escape both establish April sales records, with sales increases of 24 and 52 percent respectively
  • F-Series, America’s best-selling pickup for 36 years, posts a 24 percent increase, with sales of 59,030 – best April sales results since 2006
  • Lincoln overall sales up 21 percent; MKZ delivers its best monthly sales performance ever – with April sales passing the 4,000 vehicle mark for the first time in MKZ history

Ford’s April sales climbed 18 percent with gains across the portfolio – with cars up 21 percent, utilities up 16 percent, and trucks up 16 percent. Retail sales were up 27 percent.

“We are working harder than ever to keep pace with record demand for our all-new, fuel-efficient Fusion and Escape – with sales growth particularly strong on the coasts,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “F-Series pickups also continue to build on their momentum as the housing and construction industries rebound.”

Fusion continues its strong sales run with best-ever April sales results of 26,722 vehicles, a 24 percent increase over record year-ago April levels. The strongest retail sales increases for Fusion continue to come from the western and southeastern U.S. – with the sales in the West doubling in April and the Southeast up 70 percent.

Escape also had its strongest April sales since its launch 13 years ago, reporting a 52 percent increase with 25,826 vehicles sold.

Sales of America’s best-selling pickup, the Ford F-Series increased 24 percent, with 59,030 pickups sold. This represents F-Series best April sales results since 2006. It also is the 21st straight monthly sales increase for F-Series – with sales up 19 percent year to date.

In April, Lincoln sales increased 21 percent. The new Lincoln MKZ established an all-time monthly sales record, with 4,012 vehicles sold for the month – breaking the 4,000 vehicle mark for the first time ever.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY APRIL 2013 U.S. SALES
April % Year-To-Date %
2013 2012 Change 2013 2012 Change
SALES BY BRAND
  Ford 204,969 174,042 17.8 787,553 692,453 13.7
  Lincoln 7,615 6,308 20.7 23,514 27,144 -13.4
    Total Vehicles 212,584 180,350 17.9 811,067 719,597 12.7
SALES BY TYPE
  Cars 78,513 64,789 21.2 289,949 257,814 12.5
  Utilities 59,089 50,724 16.5 237,561 201,139 18.1
  Trucks 74,982 64,837 15.6 283,557 260,644 8.8
    Total Vehicles 212,584 180,350 17.9 811,067 719,597 12.7
FORD BRAND
Fiesta 6,080 5,135 18.4 22,108 20,657 7.0
Focus 22,557 19,425 16.1 84,455 85,468 -1.2
C-MAX 3,608 0 NA 13,285 0 NA
Fusion 26,722 21,610 23.7 107,280 85,559 25.4
Taurus 5,887 6,664 -11.7 22,871 21,535 6.2
Police Interceptor Sedan 1,166 547 113.2 3,624 575 530.3
Mustang 7,751 7,801 -0.6 25,071 27,934 -10.2
Crown Victoria 0 372 -100.0 0 2,044 -100.0
  Ford Cars 73,771 61,554 19.8 278,694 243,772 14.3
Escape 25,826 16,986 52.0 98,809 75,590 30.7
Edge 10,357 10,520 -1.5 41,891 43,428 -3.5
Flex 1,808 2,724 -33.6 7,252 9,531 -23.9
Explorer 14,204 13,419 5.8 62,853 47,037 33.6
Police Interceptor Utility 1,236 667 85.3 3,784 694 445.2
Expedition 2,785 3,335 -16.5 10,713 11,757 -8.9
  Ford Utilities 56,216 47,651 18.0 225,302 188,037 19.8
F-Series 59,030 47,453 24.4 227,873 191,280 19.1
Ranger 0 1,990 -100.0 0 15,919 -100.0
E-Series 12,573 11,810 6.5 40,212 41,004 -1.9
Transit Connect 2,779 2,892 -3.9 13,205 10,324 27.9
Heavy Trucks 600 692 -13.3 2,267 2,117 7.1
  Ford Trucks 74,982 64,837 15.6 283,557 260,644 8.8
  Ford Brand 204,969 174,042 17.8 787,553 692,453 13.7
April % Year-To-Date %
2013 2012 Change 2013 2012 Change
LINCOLN BRAND
MKZ 4,012 1,863 115.4 7,770 8,944 -13.1
MKS 730 1,298 -43.8 3,485 4,585 -24.0
Town Car 0 74 -100.0 0 513 -100.0
Lincoln Cars 4,742 3,235 46.6 11,255 14,042 -19.8
MKX 1,740 1,882 -7.5 7,806 8,309 -6.1
MKT 453 654 -30.7 1,946 2,139 -9.0
Navigator 680 537 26.6 2,507 2,654 -5.5
Lincoln Utilities 2,873 3,073 -6.5 12,259 13,102 -6.4
  Lincoln Brand 7,615 6,308 20.7 23,514 27,144 -13.4

SOURCE: Ford Motor Company

Vindication for Romney? Jeeps to Be Built in China Come 2014.

Gratuitous Jeep

In case you’ve forgotten last Fall’s election (and, really, who can blame you if you’ve wanted to), Mitt Romney was called a liar for nearly every statement he made, this one included.  Last October, the former governor from Massachusetts said he’d read a story claiming that Chrysler might move production of Jeeps from the U.S. to China.  At the time, he was accused of trying to scare voters, but, as of this week, it turns out Chrysler does have plans to start building Jeeps in the world’s most populous nation by 2014.

Chrysler signed an agreement today with a Chinese automaker to build Jeeps in that country, part of worldwide expansion plans for the iconic American brand.  –ChinaCarTimes.com

Chrysler does claim, however, that while they will begin producing vehicles in China, they have no plans to cut the jobs currently held in the United States.  We’ll have to wait and see, but as of this moment, it looks like Romney didn’t pull the whole “build Jeeps in China” thing from thin air.

We’ll have to keep an eye on Chrysler and see how this plays out.  Until then, enjoy a gratuitous video of the Jeep Grand Cherokee from the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.  (video below)

UPDATE: Cash-4-Clunkers Impact

Remember this program? One of the first ideas from the Obama administration was to enable people to trade in their old cars for new fuel efficient, green cars thus bolstering the floundering auto industry. Free money to buy a new, car from the government? What could go wrong?

A lot of us sitting on the sidelines, with real life experience, expected that things wouldn’t go as planned. And they didn’t. As always, when taking a plan from chalk board to reality, there are unexpected consequences. Here were just a few:

Program didn’t help poor people and hurt many. Of course, those with real clunkers, couldn’t afford a new car no matter.  Auto_scrapyard_1What the program could have done was allow people to upgrade from their super gas guzzler to a more efficient used car. Instead, the used car market crashed because the Cash-4-Clunkers program required the older cars to be destroyed. Those I knew personally who participated were going to buy a new car anyway that year but simply took advantage of the free government money.

CNN Money estimated taxpayers about $24,000 per car.

Ouch.  

But surely the program did help the bailed out and struggling American automotive industry?

See for yourself: The top ten vehicles purchased using the program

1.Toyota Corolla
2. Honda Civic
3. Toyota Camry
4. Ford Focus FWD
5. Hyundai Elantra
6. Nissan Versa
7. Toyota Prius
8. Honda Accord
9. Honda Fit
10. Ford Escape FWD

Double Ouch.

So at least the program was helpful to the environment. Right?

Not according to E The Environment Magazine.

You remember the 3 R’s of helping the environment: reduce, reuse, and recycle? Apparently, the Obama administration missed this part. Because the car engines had to be destroyed, even though most were still in good operating condition, they were not reused. According to the Automotive Recyclers Association up to 95% of a car, including the fluids could be recycled. But since the regulations required a freeze up the engines many of the cars were sent to the scrap yard bypassing the recycling centers. Because the mandate demanded quick destruction of the used vehicles salvageable parts were not available, raising prices at the salvage yards and toxic residue was lost to the environment with waste was added to the landfills. Even MSN Now called the program an environmental wreck.

In the meantime, my friend who had a clunker car that she struggled to get through local emissions tests could not afford to buy even new ‘used’ car because their prices suddenly shot up.

Are you surprised? Common sense caused me to realize this was a program that had not been thought through. The consequences were surely ‘unexpected’ to this administration. It’s a darn shame this update was not widely shared prior to the election. Perhaps even the ‘greenies’ would have rethought their position.

Despite lack of privacy protections, government to order black boxes in cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is soon to propose regulations requiring auto makers to install “black boxes” in all new automobiles even though federal rules governing the use of the data collected are non-existent.

The boxes – known as event data recorders – record vehicle data constantly and save up to 10 seconds of it in the event of a crash. Vehicle speed, steering, braking, seat belt, stability control, seat positions and other data are collected by the boxes.

Associate Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Lillie Coney shares the concerns of many drivers that the government is collecting the data without any policies in place on how it can be used. “Right now we’re in an environment where there are no rules, there are no limits, there are no consequences and there is no transparency,” said Coney. “Most people who are operating a motor vehicle have no idea this technology is integrated into their vehicle.”

While auto industry experts state that the boxes are intended to help engineers understand how cars perform in crashes, the restriction to using black box data in that manner doesn’t exist. Ownership of the data isn’t even codified in law which could allow insurance companies or the federal government to use the data in ways car owners wouldn’t expect.

As much as 90% of new cars are already equipped with the sensors even before the regulations are released. Up until three months ago, there was no requirement to inform the vehicle owner that a recorder was installed.

Who Should Get Credit for “Saving” the Auto Industry?

First, before I start, I need to get this out there: I was/am firmly against the auto industry “bailouts.” I don’t care who did it; I do not believe the government should have rewarded poor business decisions. It’s quite simple in my book. If you make good business decisions, you survive. If you don’t, you fail. By bailing out GM and Chrysler, the government ultimately mitigated risk away from a company and ensured that they would be preserved no matter how badly they performed. The cost of setting this precedent outweighs the short-term benefit of saving these companies. I wrote about this in one of my first ever blog posts: http://loudmouthelephant.blogspot.com/2011/11/too-big-to-fail-dangerous-precedent.html

But why am I writing about this now? For one, Vice President Joe Biden and Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan are set to debate tomorrow, and I’m sure this will come up. Joe Biden is often heard at campaign rallies touting the “Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive” line. Take a look: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120903/POLITICS01/209030369. He even said it in his DNC speech in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKCwQnIygcw

It’s interesting: President Obama tends to blame George W. Bush for the bad things he “left” us, but he doesn’t give Bush the credit he deserves for the good things. No, Obama tends to take credit for those himself in the most cherry-picked fashion he could. Never mind that the mission to hunt Bin Laden began under Bush, and Obama merely continued the task… I won’t even get into that. I want to talk about the claim that Obama saved the auto industry.

Going forward, I ask a simple question: how does one dole out credit for a success? Well, if I built 75% of a house, and my partner built 25%, I think I would get 75% of the credit and he would get 25%. Or heck, maybe I’d be a nice guy and say it’s even. That’s not the case the democrats are making with respect to “saving” the auto industry. In my opinion, Team Obama tends to think Americans are stupid. They champion the phrase, “we saved the auto industry” while also repeating, “Mitt Romney would have let them go bankrupt.” I will get to that later.

Let’s focus on some simple facts surrounding the auto industry bailout. According to this CBS article (read it here: CBS Fact-Checks DNC Speeches), the auto bailout was started by Bush. Out of a total of $17 billion given to GM and Chrysler, George W. Bush authorized the release of about $13 billion of it. According to the New York Times (Bush Aids Detroit), Bush even left Obama with a manageable situations with various options on handling the developing crisis. The Times article states, “The auto bailout plan sets ‘targets’ rather than concrete requirements about what those concessions may be, meaning that Mr. Obama and his advisers have enormous latitude to decide how to define long-term viability.” It sounds like George W. Bush did a swell job and even left Obama with options. In fact, with respect to whom spent the most money, Bush gave $13/$17 billion, and Obama gave $4/$17 billion. In my book, Bush should get about 76.5% of the credit, and Obama should get about 23.5%  It’s sad, however, that we don’t hear this discussed much in the media, and we constantly hear that phrase “Mitt Romney would have let them go bankrupt.”

So when the left talks about Mitt Romney’s recommendations, what are the referring to? As it turns out, Team Obama is referencing an op-ed Romney published in the New York Times (see it here: NYT Mitt Romney Op-Ed). Interestingly enough, Team Obama plays on the word “bankrupt,” again, while thinking Americans are stupid. They think that if Americans hear the word “bankrupt” they will feel the negative connotation behind it, forgetting the fact that it’s a regulated, potential company-saving instrument. Yes, Mitt Romney advocated for a restructuring of the automaker’s business operations, and most importantly, he called for new leadership. He said:

– “Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.”

Perhaps the last line of the article is the most important:

– “In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.”

You know who else advocated for the auto industry to go through bankruptcy? That’s right: President Obama. As seen in the CBS article highlighted above:

– “Where Mr. Obama put his real stamp on the bailout was setting the parameters in March 2009, allocating General Motors and Chrysler an additional $4 billion in exchange for agreeing to major restructuring of their operations…

Bankruptcy was not off the table for Mr. Obama: in his March 2009 restructuring announcement, Mr. Obama gave GM and Chrysler one month to shape up or face bankruptcy. In fact, Chrysler did file for bankruptcy at the end of April 2009, GM shortly thereafter, though both emerged from bankruptcy stronger than before.”

Wait?! WHAT?! President Obama “let Detroit go bankrupt?!” Yes, you read it correctly: President Obama and Joe Biden, while thinking that Americans are sheer suckers (there really is no other way to put this), gave a minority amount of bailout cash to the automakers and chastised Mitt Romney, all while implementing the EXACT SAME program that Mitt Romney himself suggested.

To go “off the cuff,” I just want to say, “come on, President Obama. Do you really think you can fool us?” I fear, based on how many times I see Team Obama’s “we saved GM” claim on Facebook, I think he believes he can. Please, Paul Ryan, when Joe Biden comes out with his deceitful little quip, be sure to give him a cold bucket of water known as facts.

Yes, facts are facts, truths are truths, and I think it’s my job to pass this one on. What do you think? Please share this with a friend.

Ford Tops Car Rankings While Obama’s GM Takes Hit

SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — TrueCar.com, the authority in new car pricing, trends and forecasting released its Performance Scorecards for automotive manufacturers and brands. The Performance Scorecards grade each manufacturer and brand on eight different measurements including pricing, sales, incentives, customer loyalty, market share and days in inventory.

Overall, the top manufacturers on the Scorecards in March were Hyundai, BMW, and Ford. Near the bottom of the list were Mazda, Jaguar, and Smart. The brands that received the highest grades were Hyundai, Scion, Kia, and BMW. The brands with the lowest grades were Mazda, Jaguar, and Smart.

The manufacturers with the largest gains, from February 2012 to March 2012 were:

  • Mitsubishi moved from a C to a B
  • Ford moved from a A- to an A+
  • Jaguar Land Rover moved from a B to a B+
  • Subaru moved from a B- to a B
  • Toyota moved from a B- to a B+
  • Daimler moved from a C+ to a B

The manufacturers with the steepest declines, from February 2012 to March 2012 were:

  • GM moved from an A to a C+
  • Honda moved from a B+ to a C
  • BMW moved from an A to a B-
  • Suzuki moved from a B- to a C-

Below are the highest and lowest manufacturer and brand rankings by TrueCar.com:

Highest Grades by Manufacturer Lowest Grades by Manufacturer
Rank Manufacturer Grade Rank Manufacturer Grade
1 Ford A+ 1 Mazda D+
2 Hyundai A 2 Suzuki C-
3 Jaguar Land Rover A 3(tie) Honda/Volvo C
Highest Grades by Brand Lowest Grades by Brand
Rank Brand Grade Rank
1 (tie) Hyundai A+ 1 Smart D-
1 (tie) Ford A+ 2 (tie) Infiniti D
2 (tie) Land Rover A 2 (tie) Mazda D
2 (tie) Scion A 3 (tie) Suzuki D+
2 (tie) Dodge  A 3 (tie) GMC D+
 3 (tie) Acura D+

Chevy Introduces NEW Impala At The New York Auto Show

The tenth generation Impala was introduced today at the New York Auto Show as a 2014 model, and so far it looks to be an improvement over what we’ve come to expect from the Impala nameplate.

From CNN:

The car will go on sale early next year. The new Impala’s exterior offers a preview of how future Chevrolets will look, according to GM.

Inside, the new Impala has an upscale-looking two-tone design that visually splits the cabin into a “twin-cockpit” look. That sort of design, vaguely reminiscent of early Corvettes, has become a Chevrolet signature.

The new car will also have a host of luxury-like hi-tech options, GM boasts, including cruise control that automatically maintains a set distance from other cars, even in city traffic, and radar that warns of cars coming from either side while backing out of a parking space.

It will be available with a choice a 195-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, 3.6-liter 303-horsepower engine or GM’s eAssist “mild hybrid” system. The eAssist system combines 2.4-liter four cylinder engine with electric motors to achieve an expected 35 miles per gallon in highway mileage.

Pricing and fuel economy details are not expected to be revealed until closer to the Impala’s actual on-sale date.

The front end looks almost as if Chevy's Camaro and Ford's Taurus decided to hook up.

The rear, however, seems to have some Hyundai influences.

The interior, while feeling more modern, echoes the design language that Chevy started using with the Camaro.

It’s worth noting that Chevy offers this car (larger than the Malibu) with a 4 cyl engine.  Toyota is said to be offering a competitor to the Impala at this very car show some time this week (The Toyoata Avalon).  It will be interesting to see what engine choices they offer, as they typically stick with larger V6’s for this segment.

 

Strength in New-Vehicle Retail Sales is Driving Performance in February

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., Feb. 23, 2012 — New-vehicle retail sales performance in February has been strong month-to-date, with the selling rate outperforming January’s, according to a monthly sales forecast developed by J.D. Power and Associates Power Information Network® (PIN) and LMC Automotive.

Retail Light-Vehicle Sales

February new-vehicle retail sales are projected to come in at 857,400 units, an increase of 5 percent fromFebruary 2011. This represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 12.0 million units, which is more than a million unit increase in the selling rate from January 2012. Retail transactions are the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.

“Retail light-vehicle sales in February are strong, which makes us modestly optimistic about the growth of sales going forward,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “More so, we’re increasingly confident that the fundamentals are in place to continue to support an upbeat sector outlook for the coming year.”

In addition to pent-up demand due to an aging fleet, factors driving this optimism include a rebound in leasing and availability of consumer credit and long-term financing.  Through the first 17 selling days ofFebruary 2012, lease penetration is at 20 percent, up from a low of 13 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 72-month loans account for 23 percent of all retail sales in February 2012 — the highest level in five years — up from 19 percent in February 2011. In fact, 72-month loans have increased in 20 of the 27 vehicle segments, with the largest increases in the compact sporty, sub-compact conventional and large utility segments.

“We’re seeing a rebound in leasing and a slight improvement in credit availability, which is bringing customers that were shut out of the market two or three years ago back into dealerships,” said Humphrey. “Both of these elements bode well for consumers in terms of making vehicles more affordable, which will drive more traffic into showrooms.”

Total Light-Vehicle Sales

Total light-vehicle sales in February are expected to come in at 1,064,700 units, which is a 3 percent increase from February 2011. After a robust fleet mix of 25 percent in January 2012, levels are expected to settle in the 19 percent range in February, which is slightly below levels one year ago.

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons

  February 2012(1) January 2012 February 2011
New-vehicle retail sales 857,400 units

(5% higher than February 2011)(2)

682,171 units 785.698 units
Total vehicle sales 1,064,700 units

(3% higher than February 2011)

911,370 units 991,576 units
Retail SAAR 12.0 million units 10.9 million units 11.0 million units
Total SAAR 14.0 million units 14.1 million units 13.3 million units

(1) Figures cited for February 2012 are forecasted based on the first 17 selling days of the month.

(2) The percentage change is adjusted based on the number of selling days (25 days vs. 24 days one year ago).

Sales Outlook

As pronounced recovery in vehicle sales continues through February, LMC Automotive is increasing its forecast for total light-vehicles in 2012 to 14.0 million units (from 13.8 million units) and to 11.4 million units for retail light-vehicle sales (from 11.3 million units).

“Concerns about the financial crisis in Europe are not holding back the momentum of the automotive recovery in the U.S.,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “The industry is currently well positioned for the best performance since 2007 and is expected to approach full recovery in the next two years with total light-vehicle sales at 16.0 million units by 2014.”

North American Production

North American light-vehicle production was up 22 percent in January, compared with January 2011.  The Japanese OEMs, particularly Toyota and Honda, are working to replenish inventory stocks from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters, which is evident in their collective January year-over-year increase of 26 percent. The Detroit 3 and European OEMs each had approximately a 19 percent year-over-year increase in production volume, while the Hyundai group was up nearly 24 percent for the same period. Production levels are expected to continue to increase in the first quarter of 2012, with volume forecasted at 3.7 million units, up 10 percent from the first quarter of 2011.

Vehicle inventory rose to a 66-day supply at the beginning of February (compared with a 52-day supply at the beginning of January). Car inventory is at normal levels with a 60-day supply in February, up from 55 days in January, while truck inventory levels climbed to a 72-day supply (previously at 50 days).  Several manufacturers (Hyundai, Subaru, and BMW) continue to have supply constraints with inventory levels under a 40-day supply, which could impact sales performance of some models.

“As the outlook for demand improves and inventory stabilizes, LMC Automotive has increased its North American production outlook for 2012,” said Schuster.  The forecast now stands at 14.0 million units (from 13.8 million), which represents an increase of 7 percent from 2011.

Hybrid MPG Myths




I recently received an e-mail from Rich Mitchell encouraging CDN contributors to write about subjects other than politics, to “expand our horizons.” So I decided to research and write about a subject in which I have knowledge and about which I know nothing: automobiles. I grew up when muscle cars were king, and I worked as a mechanic to put myself through college. But I’m afraid that technology has passed me by, specifically about hybrids.

On January 22, 2012, while watching the NFL championship games, I was “treated” to some hybrid automobile commercials and what great gasoline mileage they delivered. The commercials got me to thinking (yes, it hurt) and, as a result, I did some research on hybrids. As we all have heard and read, the Chevrolet Volt has been a sales and engineering fiasco. Chevy sold 7,671 Volts in 2011. It was outsold in 2011 by the Nissan Leaf, at 9,674, its main electric car competitor. Further, GM will strengthen the structure around the batteries in the Volt to keep them safe during crashes, and GM has offered to buy back any Volts that are considered as fire hazards by owners. And it was #3 on Yahoo!’s “Worst Product Flops of 2011.”

But I digress – this post is about hybrids, not about the Chevy Volt.

Here is what I found on the Internet (not TV commercials) at this source:

  1. 2012 Nissan Leaf – 92 miles per gallon (mpg)
  2. 2012 Chevy Volt – 90 mpg
  3. 2011 Toyota Prius – 48 mpg
  4. 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid – 43 mpg
  5. 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid – 36 mpg

Yes, hybrids can get good gas mileage – IF!!! But 92 or 90 or even 48 mpg is a bit much, even for hybrids. So let’s take a look at hybrids, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing procedure, and the “real world.”

To get 40 mpg, or the mpg promised by advertisers, from any hybrid the speed must be kept under 50 miles per hour (mph), and the accelerator must be treated as if there is an egg under it. Going any faster will ruin your mpg. Driving slowly (under 50 mph) can be an adventure. You will impede the progress of most motorists, and merging into traffic can really become an adventure. But driving under 50 mph negates most wind resistance (something missing from EPA testing – but claimed by adjusting rolling resistance).

But the biggest problem for hybrids in the real world are hills. Nowhere in the EPA testing can I find anything about hills in their testing procedure. Hybrids work best on a flat, level surface. Once rolling, it doesn’t take much power to keep hybrids rolling. Many hybrids can actually shut down the gas engine and keep rolling only on batteries. But (and there is always a “but”) there are hills in the real world. As hybrids tackle hills two things simultaneously happen: the gasoline engine starts, and the batteries are depleted as the electric motor tries to help the gasoline engine maintain speed. When the gasoline engine, which is typically quite small in hybrids, starts it struggles to do two things. First, it tries to cope with the increased load caused by the hill. Second, it tries to recharge the depleting batteries. Asking the gasoline engine to do two things at once quickly ruins the mpg. Of course, slowing down when a hill is encountered is always an option.

Further, as the batteries age, they deplete faster and require the gasoline engine to run more to keep them charged, also depleting mpg. Often two or three year old hybrids will not deliver the mpg of a new, similarly sized, half as expensive, conventionally powered automobile. And, as this source illustrates, the breakeven mileage between a hybrid and a conventionally powered car can be quite high.

And, while doing research for this article, I found out about Heather Peters, a former attorney, and her lawsuit against Honda in California small claims court. Peters says her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid never came close to getting the promised 50 miles per gallon, and as its battery deteriorated, it was getting only 30 mpg. She wants Honda to pay for her trouble and the extra money she spent on gas. No high-priced lawyers are involved in small claims court and the process is streamlined. “I would not be surprised if she won,” said Richard Cupp Jr., who teaches product liability law at Pepperdine University. “The judge will have a lot of discretion and the evidentiary standards are relaxed in small claims court.” Peters has launched a website, DontSettleWithHonda.org, urging others to take the small claims route.

So, where are we? Well, the EPA testing procedure is a farce. But, as they say, EPA ratings are a useful tool for comparing the fuel economies of different vehicles but may not accurately predict the average MPG you will get. The problem arises because manufacturers advertise EPA ratings, and represent them as actual mpg that can be expected in the real world.

But that’s just my opinion.

Ford Motor Company U.S. Sales Increase 7 Percent in January

DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 1, 2012  — Ford Motor Company U.S. sales in January totaled 136,710 vehicles, a 7 percent gain compared with January 2011; retail sales increased 8 percent

  • Focus contributed to 30 percent of Ford Motor Company sales growth in January, more than any other vehicle in the Ford product lineup. Focus sales were 14,400 vehicles, up 60 percent – the  best January Focus sales performance since 2003
  • F-Series sales of 38,493 vehicles, up 8 percent. Ford has more than 75 percent share of the retail V6 full-size pickup market and most fuel-efficient full line of pickups on the market

Ford Motor Company U.S. sales totaled 136,710 vehicles in January, a 7 percent increase versus year-old levels. The Ford brand totaled 131,589 vehicles in January, making it the best January sales month for the Ford brand since 2008.

“January started off with solid sales versus year-ago levels,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Ford saw the same solid month, with smaller vehicles in higher demand. Escape continued its record-setting run, and Focus set the pace for car sales in California, Texas and the Southeast.”

Ford brand grew small car, utility and truck sales in January versus a year ago. Focus small car and Escape utility combined provided 49 percent of Ford Motor Company volume growth in January. With 17,259 Escape vehicles sold, it was another best-ever January for Escape, topping last January by 24 percent.

Sales of the Ford Explorer totaled 9,966, a 36 percent gain versus strong year-ago results.

Ford F-Series, America’s top-selling vehicle for the past 30 years, posted January sales of 38,493 vehicles, representing an 8 percent increase. EcoBoost-equipped F-150s represented 42 percent of retail sales in January, providing Ford a retail F-150 V6 engine mix (EcoBoost V6 and Ford’s 3.7-liter V6) of 54 percent for the month.

Fuel Economy Proposal Will Price Millions Out of New Car Market

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 24, 2012  — The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) said today that more than 7 million Americans would no longer be able to afford to buy a new car or truck in 2025 if the most expensive fuel economy rule ever proposed goes into effect.

The comments were made by NADA director Forrest McConnell in testimony today at the final hearing on proposed fuel economy rules held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in San Francisco.

McConnell, a Honda and Acura dealer in Montgomery, Ala., said the EPA’s projected $3,200 increase in vehicle prices over model year 2010 will also limit the ability of many other consumers to buy the vehicles they want or need.

McConnell’s testimony stressed the importance of credit availability to auto sales, noting that with most consumers, if they don’t qualify for an auto loan, they can’t buy the vehicle. However, because he is unaware of any lender who will “fund an auto loan based on promises of fuel savings,” McConnell expressed concern that the proposal’s vehicle cost increases would significantly dampen sales. And, McConnell warned, “if new vehicles don’t get sold, their fuel saving or environmental benefits won’t materialize.”

McConnell also explained that a 2011 U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis found that if the rule takes effect, cars under $15,000 will no longer be available in 2025. He underscored that these least expensive cars are the only option for many college students and working families looking for a new car.

“How is a rule that eliminates the most affordable new cars on the market pro-consumer?”  McConnell asked the EPA and NHTSA officials who are considering a new mandate to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles-per-gallon by 2025.

“America’s auto dealers support continuous improvements in fuel economy,” McConnell added. “Instead of fighting the consumer, NADA urges the administration to act in a manner that will leverage consumer demand, thereby maximizing fleet turnover and ensuring maximum feasible fuel economy increases.”

Chrysler Group LLC Introduces Chrysler 200 Super S by Mopar

AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Jan. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire/ —

  • 2012 Chrysler 200 sedan modified using Mopar parts and accessories
  • Stage One appearance package amplifies refined styling of Chrysler 200
  • Stage Two amplifies performance with coil-over suspension, cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust
  • Mopar package will be available on Chrysler 200S sedans in 2012

Chrysler Group LLC’s Mopar brand set its sights on the 2012 Chrysler 200. The Chrysler 200 Super S by Mopar is a rolling showcase for the latest Mopar exterior parts that will be available for the 200 sedan in 2012. The Chrysler 200 Super S by Mopar will debut at the 2012 North American International Auto Show.

“The Super S is Mopar’s interpretation of the Chrysler 200,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “The extensive list of high-quality Mopar parts enhances the performance and appearance of our Chrysler 200.”

For Stage One, Mopar’s long list of modifications starts at the front of the car with a large chin spoiler, satin chrome fog light trim, satin chrome grille surround and mesh in the upper and lower grilles. The upper grille is gloss black with a recessed Chrysler wing badge.

Body sides feature new side sills, satin chrome belt molding, black chrome “200” badges and gray or hyper black 18-inch “S” alloy wheels.

From the rear view, the new look is capped off by a new trunk lid spoiler, satin chrome light bar and a matte black lower diffuser with attached exhaust openings.

Stage Two adds performance with a coil-over suspension, which also lowers the center of gravity for the vehicle. In addition, Stage Two includes a cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust.

This Mopar package on the Chrysler 200 Super S will be available on Chrysler 200S later in 2012. Mopar’s Chrysler 200 Super S will be one of many Mopar-modified vehicles that will debut during the 2012 auto show season.

Polaris Introduces RANGER RZR XP 900

MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — ShowStoppers @ CES 2012 — To ring in the New Year, the RANGER RZR family welcomes a whole new class of Side x Side, introducing the RANGER RZR XP 900!

The RANGER RZR has the only family of Sport Side x Sides with Razor Sharp Performance for all types of recreation. For 2012, the family adds the RANGER RZR XP 900, a whole new class of Side x Side that continues to offer the ultimate combination of power, suspension and agility and takes it to the extreme.

Built for razor-sharp, Xtreme performance, the RANGER RZR XP 900 has a new 88 horsepower, 900 Twin, Electronic Fuel Injected (EFI) engine, a new 3-Link Trailing Arm Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) with 13-inches of ground clearance and 14-inches of travel, and is light weight with a low center of gravity for unmatched cornering. These features make the RANGER RZR XP 900 the only extreme performance Side x Side on the market.

The RANGER RZR XP 900 is offered in Indy Red and a White Lightening limited edition model, and is now available at Polaris dealerships. More than 70 PURE Polaris accessories, including cargo boxes, winches and protection also are available.

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