August 28, 2012

BMW Battles to Retain Dominance in Luxury Market

Last year, the BMW logo adorned more luxury cars than any other brand sold in the U.S., and BMW’s formidable reputation for making “ultimate performance machines” established it as the king of the hill that virtually every high-end automaker targets. But, according to NBC, that certainly doesn’t mean competitors are backing down. Audi, for instance, is making inroads with products that deliver a mix of solid handling and acceleration along with eye-catching design. Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, Lexus' parent company, has vowed to put more “passion” and “performance” into new and redesigned products like the LS 460 sedan that will go on sale later this year. “I would not tell you the truth if I said I did not care” about the challenge the competition is presenting, said Ludwig Willisch, who last year became the CEO of BMW of North America. He added he's also intent on maintaining the position BMW gained in 2011 as the U.S. market’s luxury sales leader. BMW has rolled out a number of new models in recent months, including an all-new 3-Series, several high-performance M models, the new X1 compact crossover, and, for 2013, it will update its flagship 7-Series. For more on how BMW is working to maintain its market leadership, click here.

Survey: Toyota Vehicles Have Fewest Defects, But VW Scores Higher Overall

Owners of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles reported the fewest problems in a recent survey by the consulting firm Strategic Vision, but using a broader gauge of how well a model anticipates the customer's wants, Volkswagen AG led the pack. Volkswagen, last year's winner in the survey, again had the highest Total Quality index, followed by Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. "With Total Quality, we factor in all the perceptions," said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision in San Diego, Calif. "This is ultimately how people think about vehicles and spend money." The Detroit News reports that Toyota didn't have any models leading their segments in total quality in the 2012 survey, though its scores when it came to problems in vehicles and their severity was the best in the industry. The survey of 45,390 people who bought cars in the last three months of 2011 confirmed other survey findings — that in terms of defects and malfunctions, quality has improved dramatically in recent years and across the board. Volkswagen's VW Golf hatchback, the Tiguan SUV, and the Audi A4 and A8 cars were winners in their segments. Ford's Flex and its F-Series trucks led their segments. For more on the survey results, click here.

Suzuki and Mitsubishi Left Behind?
The all-but-empty product pipelines at Mitsubishi and Suzuki may provide the answer to a frequently asked question: Do the two struggling Japanese small fry – once tough competitors in this country – have a future in the United States? Mitsubishi and Suzuki insist they are here for the long haul. But Automotive News says that given their anemic new-product plans, their future looks dim. While rivals Hyundai, Kia, and Volkswagen have gobbled up market share in recent years, Japan's second-tier automakers have fallen behind. Sources familiar with Mitsubishi's plans say the company has only two major introductions in place for the United States between now and 2015. And Suzuki has no new or redesigned product launches scheduled before 2015, according to company sources. Both are focusing on emerging markets as their U.S. sales and market share dwindle. Mitsubishi and Suzuki held a combined 0.6 percent share of the U.S. market through July, down from 0.8 percent for all of 2011 and 1.4 percent in 2007. In an overall market up 14 percent, Mitsubishi sales are off 29 percent to 37,067 through July. Suzuki sales were down 4 percent to 15,260. For the full story, and how dealers might be impacted, click here.

Presto! Google Kills Your Good Reviews
Early this month, dealer Scott Pitman watched in dismay as Google deleted 400 of his customer reviews over two days. Google left his Suzuki of Wichita dealership with just nine reviews – all negative – on a Google page, which cratered the store's stellar consumer-review rating of 29 of 30 possible points to no score, Pitman told Automotive News. The purge came without notice or explanation, he said, and Google offered no chance to appeal. "Google believes it can do whatever it wants and has no accountability," said Pitman, whose store in Wichita, Kan., is Suzuki's top-selling U.S. dealership. Google also unilaterally deleted all but a handful of customer reviews from the Google+ Local pages of Fisher Auto Inc. in Boulder, Colo.; North End Motors, a used-car dealer in Canton, Mass. – and, by Google's own admission, numerous other dealerships. The Internet giant, which since has restored some of the reviews, offers no detailed explanation of why or how it did what it did. But the company said in a statement that it seeks to prevent "spammy" content, even at the risk of sometimes removing legitimate reviews. For Google’s statement, and more on how dealers are responding, click here.

Volt 'Doing Great,' But GM Idling Plant for 4 Weeks
General Motors will idle the Michigan assembly plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt for four weeks from the middle of September to the middle of October, plant suppliers and union sources said on Monday. It will be the second time this year that the plant has stopped making Volts. GM confirmed the plant idling, saying it will continue to "match supply with demand" for both the Volt and the Chevrolet Malibu sedan that is also made at the plant. The automaker declined to specify how long the plant will be closed. During the shutdown, GM will do some retooling and other work to prepare for production early next year of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala sedan. The plant will begin building preproduction prototypes of the redesigned Impala this fall. The Volt is "doing great" and gaining sales each month and GM officials expect to report strong August sales as well, said GM spokesman Dave Darovitz. MSNBC reports that sales of the plug-in hybrid car are up 272 percent since last year, but are below initial expectations when GM launched the Volt in late 2010, followed by its near-identical version for Europe, the Opel Ampera. For more on the Volt, click here.

Is Your Business Ready to Capitalize Upon The Future of Payments?
We are currently witnessing a sea of change in the payments industry, especially when it comes to customer expectation in terms of overall value, payment choice, and personalized offers. Hundreds of new payment types and customer programs have entered the marketplace within the past year, and the end is nowhere in sight. The combination of these converging payment types, along with customer expectations and demands for loyalty rewards, personalized discounts and other value-add benefits, is leading to confusion and disruption for businesses of all shapes and sizes, including those within the automotive industry. The emergence of these new payment types and customer engagement options also provide you with the opportunity to differentiate and grow your business. Determining how and when you will leverage these trends are the challenges many business leaders, like you, face when it comes to meeting the growing expectations of today's consumer and driving incremental revenues to your business. Is your business prepared for the future of payments and how you can leverage the changing landscape for your business? Learn More.

AROUND THE WEB

  • Nissan Dealer Uses 'Chevy Defense' to Keep Franchise [Automotive News]
  • Watch Greg Tracy Snap the 10-Minute Pikes Peak Barrier [Auto Blog]
  • How Ferrari Is Losing A Generation Of Buyers [Jalopnik]
  • Tropical Storm Isaac to Boost Gas Prices Even Higher [Time
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