April 11, 2012
U.S. Fuel Economy Breaks Record
Higher gas prices are prodding Americans to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to a report released Tuesday. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States has topped 24 miles per gallon for the first time. The Detroit News reports that average fuel economy of cars, light trucks, minivans, and SUVs purchased in March was 24.1 mpg, up from 23.9 in February and 23.6 in January. The fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in March is now 20 percent – or 4 mpg – higher than in October 2007, the first month of monitoring by University of Michigan researchers. Click here for a chart comparing fuel economy in recent years. Automakers report growing interest in more fuel-efficient models as gas prices topped $4 a gallon earlier this month in several parts of the country, including Michigan. The average price of fuel retreated below $4 over the Easter weekend in Michigan, but remains above that threshold in states such as California, Connecticut, and Illinois. Between two new sets of fuel economy regulations, the price of a new vehicle in 2025 will increase by about $3,000, the administration estimates. Read more about rising fuel economy by clicking here.
German Auto Sales Buoyant
German automakers Volkswagen AG and BMW AG set fresh sales records in the first quarter as booming demand for luxury cars at home and in the U.S. and China more than compensated for slack demand across much of Europe. According to The Wall Street Journal, strong German demand for new cars comes as the German economy at large – thanks in part to surging exports of items such as luxury vehicles – bucks the weaker trend elsewhere in Europe as the region's lingering sovereign-debt crisis and accompanying government austerity programs weigh on corporate and household spending. Strong gains in China, with sales up 13 percent, and the U.S., where sales rose 41 percent, more than offset a 3.7 percent decrease to 232,600 cars in Western Europe excluding Germany, Volkswagen said. The latest figures from BMW tell a similar story with a 12 percent increase in the luxury automaker's domestic sales in March boosting first-quarter new registrations in Germany by 2 percent to 66,222 vehicles. In March, demand in China rose 41 percent and in the U.S. 13 percent from a year earlier. Click here for the latest on German automakers’ sales success.
Vincentric Reveals 2012 Best Fleet Value in America Awards
According to Auto Remarketing, General Motors and Toyota secured the most honors in the seventh annual Vincentric Best Fleet Value in America Awards. Announced Tuesday for 39 different vehicle segments, seven Toyota models drew accolades. Other brands earning multiple awards were Ford, Hyundai, Chrysler Group, Volvo, and BMW. Toyota earned its awards with a well-balanced lineup in the passenger vehicle and crossover classes, including winners in three out of four hybrid segments. Vicentric also pointed out the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter performed strongly, winning three of the heavy duty van segments. Chrysler Group and Hyundai showed growing product strength in the fleet industry with three winners each, with the Hyundai Sonata laying claim as a serious fleet choice in the popular midsize sedan segment. To determine the 2012 Best Fleet Value in America Awards, Vincentric analyzed more than 2,700 vehicle configurations in 20 different lifecycle cost scenarios, using eight cost factors, including depreciation, fees and taxes, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance, opportunity cost, and repairs. Officials added the lifecycle costs were measured in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia with the resulting 21,000,000 lifecycle cost measurements then reviewed to determine the winning vehicles. Click here to read more about Vincentric’s awards for Best Fleet Value.
Saab Left $2 Billion in Debts
Bankrupt Swedish car maker Saab Automobile AB left behind debts of $2 billion backed by assets of just $500 million, which suggests creditors are unlikely to get much of their money back. The official receivers in charge of liquidating the 61-year-old auto maker said on Tuesday that 11.3 billion kronor of the company's 13 billion kronor debt was held by Saab Automobile and the remainder held by subsidiaries Saab Automobile Tools and Saab Automobile Powertrain. The company's combined assets amounted to 3.6 billion kronor, reports The Wall Street Journal. Saab Automobile preferred stock held by former parent General Motors Co. likely is worthless but won't trigger a write off at the U.S. automaker. GM wrote off the value of the shares coming receiving the stock and last year set aside $100 million to cover outstanding Saab receivables and bad debt. About 3,400 employees in Saab Automobile are unlikely to receive unpaid wages though staff at the powertrain unit can count on being paid some of their money. Saab Automobile owes 1.4 billion kronor in wages it was unable to pay. Read the latest on Saab’s bankruptcy here.
The Fastest Cars Under $50,000
Thanks to improved engine technologies that produce higher horsepower, and lighter materials that lower a car’s curb weight, the latest generation of relatively affordable, mass-market sports cars can go as fast if not faster than many of the fancier vehicles blazing down the highway, according to auto experts at Edmunds.com. Quantifying speed can be tricky. Automakers have been steering clear of advertising a car’s top speed for legal reasons, explains Bruce Harrison, a research director at IHS Automotive. So what about zero-to-60 times? “The numbers are getting so close and so good,” says Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury. “The fact that the Toyota Camry can go from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds is kind of mind-blowing compared to the muscle cars in the ’60s doing the same time,” he says. So what’s the best way to determine a car’s speed? Horsepower and weight: the lower the ratio of power to curb weight, the faster the car, experts say. Based on that metric, researchers at Edmunds.com helped us determine the fastest cars under $50,000. Forbes is featuring a review of the list, along with a slide show. Click here to see it. To read the full report, click here.
Securing the Future: Register Today for AIADA’s International Auto Industry Summit
Join fellow international nameplate dealers who are Securing the Future of their businesses May 23-24 at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. for AIADA's 6th Annual International Auto Industry Summit. The two-day event will bring together auto industry leaders and Washington insiders to equip dealers with the tools they need to successfully advocate on behalf of their businesses, brands, and employees. Some of Washington’s top insiders, an industry executive Q&A panel moderated by Automotive News editor Jason Stein, and the chance to visit with your Congressional members and their staff are just a few of the items on this year’s Summit agenda. Dealer involvement is crucial to securing the future of the international auto retail industry, especially in this election year. Don’t wait. Register today by clicking here or by calling 1-800-GO-AIADA.
Around the Web
Land Rover to Expand Range, Reposition Defender [MotorAuthority]
The Next Toyota RAV4? [Autoblog]
Infiniti LE Concept Video [Kicking Tires]
Take a Panoramic Look Back at the 2012 NY Auto Show [CNET]