January 26, 2012

New U.S. Car Plants Signal Renewal for Manufacturing
Not so long ago, the U.S. was considered a high-cost place for making automobiles. But, helped by favorable foreign exchange rates, and an ample supply of affordable labor, The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. has emerged as a surprisingly competitive producer of cars and trucks, and a favored location for making vehicles to be exported to markets around the world – especially for Japan's big three auto makers. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and Nissan Motor Co. are ramping up capacity in their U.S. plants with the intention of shipping U.S.-made models to Europe, Korea, the Middle East, and other parts of the world. This comes as all three are seeking relief from the strong yen, which causes them to lose money on many of the vehicles they export from Japan. "The weaker dollar makes it more advantageous to export" from the U.S., Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan's operations in North and South America, said in an interview. "We continue to grow our capacity in our U.S. plants. We're adding shifts and hiring workers." Read about the plants operated by Toyota, Honda, and Nissan at AIADA’s website, www.whatisanamericancar.com. For more on the move by some automakers to manufacture vehicles in the U.S., click here.

Hyundai Q4 Profit Rises 38 Percent, Led by Elantra Sales in U.S.
Hyundai Motor Co. reported a 38 percent increase in fourth- quarter profit, fueled by surging sales of its Elantra compact sedan in the U.S. Net income climbed to 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) in the three months ended Dec. 31, from 1.45 trillion won a year earlier, the carmaker said today in a regulatory filing. Analysts expected a 2.24 trillion won profit, according to the average of 13 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue climbed 11 percent to 20.5 trillion won. Automotive News reports that the results capped a year where Hyundai generated more profit than the combined estimated earnings at Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Fourth-quarter operating profit, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, rose 72 percent to 2.13 trillion won, Hyundai said. U.S. sales increased by 20 percent in 2011, double the market's 10 percent overall growth. Deliveries of the Elantra, winner of the North American Car of the Year award, jumped 41 percent in the U.S. last year, exceeding sales of General Motors Co.'s entire line of Buick vehicles, Ford Motor Co.'s Focus, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius. For more on Hyundai’s success, click here.

VW the Favorite in Super Bowl Car Ads
When it comes to car commercials, VW runs well ahead of the pack in popularity and buzz without any bombast or boasting. Take last year's Super Bowl spot, "The Force." It showed a young boy no taller than a tailpipe in a Darth Vader costume unsuccessfully testing his supernatural powers until he fires up the family's new Passat (with an assist from his keyfob-holding father). For the 2012 follow-up to "The Force," VW has produced "Bark Side," another Star Wars-inspired creation. Eleven – count 'em, eleven – dogs of different breeds bark out a doggy version of John Williams's "Imperial March". It hasn't even aired yet, and the teaser has been seen more than five million times. Click here to watch it. Is Super Bowl money well spent for any of the automakers? The answer appears to be yes, according to CNN Money. The broadcast provides an opportunity to reach an enormously wide audience – more than 100 million people – that is ideal if you have an equally-wide message to get across. One ad expert compared the reach of a Super Bowl ad to 250 ordinary TV commercials. For more on VW’s lead in the Super Bowl commercial wars, click here.

A Tale of Two Brands: How Land Rover Makes 14 MPG Sexy
The brand new Land Rover Range Rover Evoque started 2012 off right – with a prestigious North American Truck of the Year win at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. This topped off a terrific 2011 for the brand, with Land Rover sales up an impressive 19.6 percent to 38,099 in a new car market that grew by 10.6 percent. The success of this off-road brand is in stark contrast to its former competitor, GM’s Hummer. Land Rover has been in the U.S. since 1948. It is known for its amazing trail conquering capabilities packaged in an understated, refined, terribly British design. The Hummer, by contrast, is the all-American, blue-collar, “get out of my way” TRUCK brand. Certainly, there are many theories about why the two brands had such different fortunes in the U.S. market. Consumers make their buying choices based on a myriad of emotional and subjective decisions. According to Forbes, what we can conclude is that decades of cultivating a distinct and solid image with high-quality products to match served Land Rover well. And the loss of at least one aggressive competitor has helped it rebuild quickly and grow even stronger in the aftermath. Click here for more on Land Rover’s recipe for success.

For Many Luxury Car Buyers, Small is Now Beautiful
When Mercedes-Benz pulls the covers on the all-new A-Class hatchback during the Geneva Motor Show this March, car buyers will get a glimpse of the changes rapidly sweeping through the luxury car market. The pint-sized Benz clearly doesn’t fit the classic mold. In today’s world even luxury buyers are well aware of fuel costs and crowded urban streets. That’s especially true in markets like Europe, where downsized models have been gaining traction for more than a decade. But, according to MSNBC, manufacturers are betting that even in the U.S. the mantra for many luxury buyers is now “small is beautiful.” Compact models, such as the A4 and 3-Series, appeal to a wide range of buyers and for a number of different reasons. For some they are the affordable entry point into the luxury market. For others they are all you need “to get the luxury look and conveniences you want,” said Rebecca Lindland of IHS Automotive. While it remains unclear just how small is too small for American luxury buyers, there’s no doubt that the battle for the entry-luxury buyer with products like the 3-Series, A4 and ATS only now heating up. Read more on the shrinking size of luxury autos here.

Cars.com Adds Carfax Reports to Mobile Apps
Carfax and Cars.com today announced the integration of Carfax Vehicle History Reports into the Cars.com mobile app. Anyone searching for used cars using the Android or iPhone Cars.com app now gets free Carfax Vehicle History Reports from subscribing dealers. This valuable information helps smartphone shoppers pinpoint vehicles that fit their needs and make faster buying decisions. Cars.com app users will find a ‘Free Carfax Report’ link on the vehicle details page for cars listed by Carfax-subscribing dealers. With a single screen tap, vital information such as ownership history, mileage readings, service details and more is instantly viewable. “Getting a Carfax Report is a crucial step in the used car buying process,” said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax. “Carfax and Cars.com are meeting the demands of car buyers who prefer to shop using the Cars.com mobile app and need Carfax information right here, right now.” Cars.com is one of the leaders in providing online shoppers with access to Carfax information for vehicle listings. Last year, Cars.com included access to Carfax Reports from its mobile website. Cars.com has automatically linked Carfax Reports purchased by dealers to its main website listings since 2005. To become a CARFAX Dealer Subscriber call (800) 274-2277 or click here to learn more.

Around the Web 
Spy Photos: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe [MotorAuthority]
BMW M Goes Diesel [Autoblog]
MIT City Car Heads to Production [Wheels]
Suzuki Unveils its 'Mush See' Super Bowl Ad [DriveOn]

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