September 11, 2012

VW Plans Multibrand Product Blitz as it Pursues Sales Title
Automotive News reports that Volkswagen Group is expanding the product range of all its brands at a ferocious pace as it fights to become the world's top-selling automaker. VW, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, and Bugatti will enter new segments in the next several years, challenging rivals with vehicles built on cost-effective group platforms. Volkswagen also is likely to develop and produce more vehicles for the United States. The Passat, which is built at a new plant in Chattanooga, is the first and will be followed by a mid-sized crossover. Audi will also launch the A3 sedan, which was developed primarily for the United States. Porsche will add the Macan, a crossover smaller than the Cayenne, and expand its Panamera family. Luxury brands Bentley and Lamborghini are scheduled to add crossovers aimed at the United States. The VW Group isn't ignoring electric vehicles but is proceeding cautiously. Like its German rival BMW, Audi will add a plug-in electric at the top of its range when the R8 e-tron debuts this year. VW will add the plug-in hybrid Jetta this year and an electric Golf in 2013. Click here for coverage of VW’s anticipated product blitz in its quest for the title of top-selling automaker.

The Most Anticipated Cars of 2013
Fall is always an exciting time to shop for a new car. It marks the start of the new model year, when the latest cars and trucks begin rolling out of factories and on to dealer lots. But the 2013 model year is shaping up to be better than most, with more than 30 all-new nameplates headed to showrooms and many existing models being thoroughly reinvented. According to Forbes, the market for mid-sized family cars will be especially competitive, with appealing new versions of the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima. Newcomers are also entering the fray, including Tesla Motors, which is rolling out its Model S electric sedan. With so many new vehicles being introduced, Forbes culled a list of what it thinks are the most important 2013 models coming to market. The list is based on factors such as breakthrough technologies, significant powertrain advances, and, in some cases, the car’s importance to a company’s business model. Here, then, is Forbes’ list of the Most Anticipated Cars of 2013. Click here to read the rest of the accompanying commentary.

Higher Gasoline Prices Drive Sales of More Efficient Cars
A bump in gasoline prices in many parts of the country during the past month nudged consumers toward more fuel efficient cars, according to a new survey by auto shopping information site Truecar.com. The average fuel efficiency of vehicles sold in August rose to 23.2 miles per gallon from 21.7 mpg a year earlier, and 23.1 mpg in July 2012. Truecar attributed the trend to higher gas prices – the Energy Department’s latest survey found that regular gasoline prices rose about 10 cents a gallon on average to $3.84 cents a gallon between Aug. 20 and Sept. 3, nipping the budgets of late summer and Labor Day travelers. According to The Wall Street Journal, Hyundai Motor Co.’s U.S. arm led the major car makers competing in the U.S. with average fuel economy of 28.1 mpg for the vehicles it sold. Chrysler Group LLC, with a fleet average of 19.9, sold the least efficient fleet. The Truecar mileage numbers are derived from the fuel economy ratings of cars sold. For more on sales of fuel efficient cars and how they correspond with rising gas prices in recent weeks, click here.

The Dark Side of Obama's Auto Industry Bailout
President Obama is running for re-election as the man who saved General Motors. More than that, he wants us to believe he saved the entire U.S. auto industry and something on the order of 1.5 million jobs up and down the automakers' supply chain. It's a specious argument, writes Peter Roff at U.S. News & World Report. As we now know, the bailout had more to do with preserving the existing contracts the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) have with GM & Chrysler than with the health of the corporate bottom line or institutional longevity. Lost in the discussion of what might have been saved has been any thorough examination of what has been provably lost. Of the number of jobs lost due to the government's closure of dealerships. Of the impact on ordinary Americans who held warranties on General Motors and Chrysler products made by divisions that have ceased to exist. Of the impact on workers who were not members of the UAW. For example, those who worked for Delphi, the primary auto parts supplier for GM were not members of the UAW. By some estimates, close to 20,000 Delphi employees were harmed. Read the rest of Roff’s commentary on the untold story of the 2009 auto bailout here.  

Chinese Auto Sales Growth Slows to a Crawl
It was only a few months ago that Chinese auto sales were cruising down the superhighway, leaving the U.S. and Europe in its wake. Now, reports USA Today, they've slowed down to join much of the rest of a world struggling economically. China's auto sales growth tumbled to 3.7 percent in August compared with the same month last year, adding to a deepening economic slowdown. Earlier this summer, it was in the double-digit range. The Associated Press says customers bought 1.23 million cars. The lower growth extended a steady decline from July's 11 percent rate and June's 15.8 percent. The slowdown is a blow to a global auto industry that's looking to China, the biggest market by number of vehicles sold, to drive sales growth amid weak demand in U.S. and European markets. China overtook the United States as the biggest auto market in 2009, when sales jumped 45 percent over the previous year, boosted by sales tax cuts and other incentives. That rapid growth prompted many automakers to invest in additional factories, raising the threat of a glut of unneeded production capacity after sales growth unexpectedly plunged. For more on the Chinese auto market, click here.

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