April 13, 2012
The Race to become the World's Uber-Automaker
Global auto sales have grown 18 percent since 2005 to more than 75 million cars and trucks, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch is expecting the industry to tack on another 3.9 percent increase this year. However, the rewards from those sales are not being shared equally. Increasingly, the profits are going to a handful of mega-companies in North America, Europe, and Asia that are using their size to make best use of the industry's economies of scale. According to CNN Money, these companies are expected to grow even larger in the years ahead. The question of size, sales volume, and how best to achieve it is preoccupying the minds of some of the industry's most forward-looking CEOs. Five manufacturers are extending big leads. Click here to see who they are. The quintet is led by General Motors, which reigned as the world's largest automaker for half a century but now must contend with Renault/Nissan and a resurgent Toyota. Trailing this Big Three are the fast-rising Hyundai Group and a newly ambitious Volkswagen. For more on what is required to stay on top in today’s competitive global auto industry, click here.
Hyundai: Industry Sales to Top 14M
Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said his company expects U.S. auto sales to top 14 million units in 2012, raising its estimate by about half a million vehicles. "The market was stronger than we thought it would be in the first quarter," Krafcik said during a press event on Thursday. "We actually outsold our (own) sales plan." If the first quarter sales pace continued, automakers would sell about 14.5 million cars and trucks. But, reports The Detroit News, Krafcik, whose company has consistently outperformed the industry and wrested market share from its rivals, said that selling rate isn't sustainable. Krafcik said the strong results for January, February, and March were helped by mild weather and rising gasoline prices. "We haven't seen that much segment shifting – yet," Krafcik said, noting that vehicles of every size are getting better gas mileage these days. He said the weather has pulled ahead some sales that would have happened later in the year, which is why Hyundai predicts a cooling in the sales rate. "A lot of it depends on jobs and housing still, which continue to improve.” Read more about John Krafcik’s 2012 sales outlook here.
U.S. Regulators Seek Brake-Throttle Override Mandate for All Light Vehicles
According to Automotive News, U.S. regulators on Thursday proposed a requirement that light vehicles have an override mechanism that enables a driver to stop a car or truck if the accelerator pedal gets stuck. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was proposing the brake-throttle override rule because research showed it can reduce the risk of high-speed unintended acceleration and prevent crashes. The override technology, which many automakers already make available, enables drivers to stop a vehicle if the brake and accelerator are depressed at the same time. NHTSA will hold a 60-day public comment period once the proposal is published in the Federal Register. After the public comment period, NHTSA will review the proposal before it finalizes the requirement. The federal agency didn't offer an estimate on how much it would cost manufacturers to add the technology. NHTSA, by ordering all vehicles be equipped with the systems, said it aims to reduce the risk of drivers losing control if accelerator electronics fail or the pedal gets stuck or trapped by the floor mat. Read more about a potential new rule requiring throttle override technology in new vehicles by clicking here.
Forget Parent Error: Car Designs Make Seats Hard to Install
Installing a car seat can cause plenty of parental frustration. But, reports Today, a new study says what many have suspected all along: Improper installation is not the fault of parents. Blame car design. Much of the problem stems from the vehicle rear seat design, which works against parents’ best intentions, according to the study, released Thursday by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The study found that belt buckles or other seat hardware often got in the way of the connectors for car seats, or the connectors are buried so far in the seat, that they were often difficult to locate. A federal regulation designed to make correct installation of car restraints easier by standardizing attachment hardware went into effect in 2003. It’s called LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, and all cars have it now. However, the IIHS study found that only 21 of the 98 top-selling 2010-11 model vehicles evaluated had LATCH designs that are easy to use. Click here to see which models made the cut. For more on how car design is affecting car seat installation, click here.
Latest Electric Cars Are Loaded with Luxury
The next round of the electric car saga promises to be more interesting, or at least, more comfortable, as the Infiniti LE, Cadillac ELR, and BMW ActiveE cars arrive in showrooms over the next year or two. According to MSNBC, these primo EVs are important because it turns out there are not multitudes of would-be planet-savers desperate to shell out $40,000 for an electric economy car. BMW is hearing from its prospective ActiveE customers that today’s budget models just didn’t measure up to their requirements. “They were reluctant to take delivery of some of the available cars,” reported Rich Steinberg, BMW’s manager of electric vehicle operations. He agrees that today’s EV and hybrid drivers are ideal candidates for luxury EVs. BMW’s ActiveE looks like the company’s familiar 1-Series sedan, so it will inherently carry whatever cachet that model has, plus the appeal of its electric drive. Look for premium EVs to include power-sucking amenities like killer sound. Infiniti plans to offer drivers a wireless inductive charger that installs in their garage floor and transfers juice to the Infiniti LE’s battery pack as if by magic. For more on what luxury EVs will soon offer customers, click here.
Around the Web
What Kind of Car is President Obama? [Resurgent Republic]
Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse Makes YouTube Debut [Autoblog]
Where Does Your Gas Money Go? [Detroit Free Press]
Scion Loses No Time Making Hot FR-S Racer [DriveOn]