August 30, 2012

European Automakers' Feud Grows as Policies Clash
Europe's struggling mass-market carmakers are furious with Volkswagen for ramping up production at a time when the continent faces huge overcapacity, but the profitable German market-leading automaker shows no sign of slowing down to save its rivals. Automotive News reports that a feud between Europe's biggest carmakers erupted last month when Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne accused Volkswagen of contributing to a "bloodbath" by seizing the euro zone's debt crisis to wage a price war in Europe. Volkswagen, which dominates the European car market with a share of 23.9 percent, responded by threatening to quit the region's main industry body, the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association, unless Marchionne gives up the body's presidency. The quarrel has divided Europe's successful producers – above all VW – from its money-losing or barely-profitable rivals including Fiat, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, Renault, and General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall division. Volkswagen and other successful companies that make profitable larger and higher-end vehicles, say governments are manipulating carbon dioxide emissions standards to penalize luxury marquees and help wounded mass-market rivals. Tensions may increase further as auto executives return from summer holidays. For more on the conflict between European automakers, click here.

U.S. Auto Sales Forecast: Double-Digit Gains
The auto industry is expected to post double-digit U.S. sales gains in August, led by the resurgence of Japanese automakers and an upturn in fuel-efficient vehicle sales, according to a trio of automotive market trackers. Total light-vehicle sales are expected to rise between 16 percent and 19 percent in August, and surpass 1.25 million when automakers release sales figures Tuesday, according to data from TrueCar.com, J.D. Power & Associates and Kelley Blue Book. Those figures are enough to boost the annual sales rate to about 14.2 million, according to TrueCar.com, up from the 14.1 million sales rate last month. The Detroit News reports that both Toyota and Honda will see overinflated gains when compared to August 2011, when parts shortages as a result of an earthquake and tsunami caused sales to plummet. Sales for all automakers could be rising thanks to one economic indicator: Home values in June rose for the first time since 2010, according to the S&P/Case-Schiller index released Wednesday. Home values and home sales are often indicators of automotive sales success. Incentives have also dipped in August to the lowest level this year, despite the push to get rid of older-model inventory. For more on August sales, click here.

With Seat Heaters, Santa Fe is a Truly Hot SUV
In a review posted yesterday, NBC announced that Hyundai Motor America has a hit on its hands with the company’s new Santa Fe crossover SUV. With the introduction of the Santa Fe, HMA president and CEO John Krafcik says Hyundai is going to offer seat heaters, front and rear, in all new Santa Fe SUVs, whether with fabric or leather upholstery. Then they are going to do the same thing with the rest of the lineup. In addition to those seat heaters, the Santa Fe offers a heated steering wheel and a de-icer for the windshield wipers. It is also ready for summer, with a chilled glove compartment for keeping that bottle of white wine cool on the way to a dinner party. It seems like Krafcik’s accelerator foot is on the floor and he doesn’t plan to lift it any time soon. To handle its target demographic of "alternadult's" need to juggle kids, adults, and sporting gear, the Santa Fe’s back seats are not only heated, but are also multiadjustable. They slide fore-and-aft, and the split is 40/20/40 for maximum flexibility between people and long, bulky items. Like many of its "alternadult" target customers, Hyundai is pursuing weight reduction to improve efficiency. For the full review, click here.

Study: Drivers Desire Assisting Devices
Nearly 9 in 10 drivers say they are interested in driver-alert and driver-assist technologies in their vehicles, according to a study commissioned by Ford Motor Co. But more than half said they still aren't comfortable with the idea of self-driving automobiles. The study of 2,506 drivers age 18 and older, conducted by market researcher Penn Schoen Berland, found that drivers overwhelmingly crave driver-assist technology. But many don't know that some technologies — including the ability to choose top speed limits and block incoming text messages and phone calls — already exist. "People are not very aware of these features that are available," Billy Mann, managing director of Penn Schoen Berland, told the Detroit News. The survey also found that most drivers participate in and admit to distracted driving. Nearly 50 percent of drivers have fallen asleep while driving or know someone who has. Nearly 6 in 10 surveyed blame blind spots for accidents or near collisions, and four in 10 are afraid of parallel parking. Remarkably, 99 percent of those surveyed considered themselves "good" drivers. Approximately 84 percent said they are interested in steering wheel vibration if they drive too close to lane markings. For more on what today’s drivers want, click here.

Will Buyers Ante Up for Mileage Gains?
By 2025, the U.S. government wants large pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado to get about 44 percent better mileage than today. That could be a daunting challenge, particularly if General Motors doesn't want to cut the towing capability, payload, or power of its best-selling pickup. According to the Wall Street Journal, the auto industry's challenge isn't inventing technology or materials that can do that. It is convincing consumers to pay the price for those changes—a price the Obama administration estimates at $1,800 a vehicle by 2025. If gas is cheap, some industry officials say, the longer payback could have consumers balking at paying higher car prices. Obama administration officials say consumers who buy 2025 cars can expect to save more than $8,000 over the life of a car compared to 2011 models, more than offsetting higher purchase costs. The calculations are based on a gas price of $3.87 a gallon. The key requirement of the new mileage standards is that vehicles in a given size class meet the targets for that class. Large pickup trucks get a big break, especially between the 2017 and 2021 model years. For more on the new realities manufacturers face, click here.

AuctionTrac Launches Free Mobile Dealer App
AuctionTrac, a subsidiary of KAR Auction Services, Inc., recently launched its new mobile app, AuctionTrac Dealer. The software is available free for iPhone and iPad devices and will be released for Android soon. AuctionTrac Dealer was designed specifically for the in-lane auction buyer. And according to the company’s SVP, Michael Newman, the technology will change the way buyers do business. “The use of this app will cut an auto dealer’s pre-sale prep time in half. Plus, it gives them the ability to view up to 20 percent more cars on sale day.” The app’s customized set of organizing tools also enables users to remain in the auction lanes during a sale. Since it automatically refreshes available inventory every three minutes, buyers won’t miss late sale-day check-ins; sellers benefit from more eyes on their vehicles. Users can access the latest detailed condition reports—complete with photos, create vehicle lists based on specific search criteria, browse vehicle run lists, and immediately review market value information from top guides such as Kelly Blue Book, Black Book, CARFAX, and more. The app is also fully integrated with the company’s satellite-based, GPS technology, so users can even pinpoint specific vehicles on-site at ADESA auction locations. Download it for free from the Apple App Store.

AROUND THE WEB

  • Details on Next Volkswagen Golf Emerge in Leaked Presentation [Autoblog]
  • Winston Churchill’s Land Rover Could Be Yours [Jalopnik]
  • Sun Visors That Come Up Short [Kicking Tires]
  • Slow-Selling Mazda2 May Not be Renewed for U.S. [Autoblog
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