August 5, 2011
VW America Creates Post to Strengthen Ties With U.S. Buyers
According to Automotive News, Volkswagen of America tapped a senior executive to fill a newly created post aimed at improving its relationship with customers. Mark Barnes, 52, has been named VW's vice president of customer experience. VW said Barnes will develop strategies and programs to "support the customer experience in all business activities" on the dealer and corporate levels. Barnes is Volkswagen of America's COO and head of sales. He joined VW four years ago. He will be replaced by Frank Trivieri, 48, a General Motors veteran. The job changes are effective Aug. 15. VW has ambitious plans to boost U.S. sales to 800,000 units by 2018. The automaker's sales are up 22 percent to 183,191 this year through July. "We know we need a systemic approach to better manage the entire customer experience within VW," said Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen of America. "Now that we've put actions in place to address the customer voice in the product development process, and built a strong quality organization, this is the next step in improving the foundation of our business." Read more about VW’s new post to improve its relationship with American customers by clicking here.
Why Small Cars Are Actually Selling Now
Engineers have long known that designing smaller, lighter vehicles is an ideal way to meet tighter fuel-economy standards. According to CNN Money, automakers are finally breaking their dependence on heavier models and managing to create comfortable, luxurious small cars consumers actually find appealing. As new models roll out, the category is gaining in popularity and competitiveness. That trend is likely to continue as regulations grow tighter. Through July, the small-car segment rose to 17.4 percent of all car sales, accounting for nearly 1.4 million cars built in the U.S. Midsize, large, and luxury cars gained as well, though less so proportionately. In other words, small cars, accounting for a third of all car sales, were the only category to gain share. Toyota's Corolla leads the segment, trailed not far behind by the Chevrolet Cruze from GM, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford's new Focus. The price of gasoline remains a wild card for the future of small cars. Conventional wisdom says gas will only grow more expensive. Should the opposite happen, consumers may once again seek big and powerful transportation, leaving automakers with lots of little flivvers on hand. Read more about the demand for small cars by clicking here.
Mazda Poised To Take Zoom-Zoom To The Mainstream?
Through a massive initiative called SkyActiv, first announced three years ago, Mazda has given its engineers a clean slate to take a fresh look at all aspects of vehicle engineering, aiming to improve fuel economy (and cut emissions) by 30 percent from 2008 levels by 2015. The goal of the effort is to "radically evolve base technologies," said executive officer Kiyoshi Fujiwara, who with his engineering team recently gave TheCarConnection a sneak preview of a host of future technologies that will be featured on all Mazda's models. Through this effort the automaker hopes to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles that are also more enjoyable to drive – in turn appealing to more people than it currently does with its products. Mazda would like to increase its worldwide shares by the end of the SkyActiv initiative to 1.7 million annually, up from 1.2 million. Weight is certainly a big obstacle for meeting fuel-efficiency targets, so structurally, Mazda has managed to cut about 220 pounds while actually improving rigidity as well as safety. Vehicles will be built with three safety rings, and the use of high-tensile steel in core structures will go from about 40 percent to 60 percent. Read the rest of TheCarConnection’s coverage of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology by clicking here.
Toyota Tops Interbrand's First 'Green Brand' Poll
Edmunds Auto Observer reports that Toyota led a group of seven automakers that were named on a list of so-called "Global Green Brands" in a first-ever survey by New York-based branding consultant Interbrand. Click here for the results of the survey. Toyota, Volkswagen, and Honda placed No. 1, No. 6, and No. 7, respectively, among the top 50 global green brands listed in the Interbrand poll, which took into account both company efforts towards boosting environmental sustainability and the public perception of those efforts. Hyundai, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz also finished in the top 20. "The automotive industry and electronics category lead the way not only in their ability to implement sustainable practices across their organization, but also in their ability to communicate their efforts effectively to the public," Interbrand said in a statement. Volkswagen's environmental performance likely benefitted from its fuel-efficient diesel models in Europe as well as its plans to introduce a number of battery-electric models worldwide over the next few years, while Honda's longtime emphasis on fuel efficiency and more recent expansion into the hybrid field through models such as the Insight and CR-Z also likely scored points in the Interbrand survey. Click here for more on Toyota’s success in a recent environmental perception poll.
AIADA’s Dealership of the Week: DCH Auto Group Spearheads Teen Safe Driving Initiative
Vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teenagers today. Unfortunately, the majority of these crashes are preventable as they are the result of mindless, distracted driving. Through DCH Auto Group’s Teen Safe Driving Program, which began March 2008, its dealerships are partnering with local high schools and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to raise awareness and educate teens and parents about smart decisions and safe driving. Currently DCH dealerships sponsor 30 SADD chapters in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Southern California, which now include about 2,000 members. Each program is tailored to the needs of the individual high school, allowing dealerships to contribute resources where they are needed the most in their communities. “The number of crashes involving teens is staggering and the tragic results are devastating,” said Shau-wai Lam, Chairman of DCH Auto Group. “We are automobile retailers and this is an area where we can make a difference by working together with high school students and parents to save lives through education, action, and advocacy of teen safe driving in their schools and local communities.” Thanks to the program’s effectiveness, it has been recognized by several groups, including The Governor’s Highway Safety Association and The National Safety Council Teen Safe Driving Coalition. For more information on DCH Auto Group’s Teen Safe Driving Program, visit www.DCHTeenSafeDriving.com, or contact Roy Bavaro at RBavaro@dchusa.com.
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