September 18, 2012

Japanese Automakers Idle China Plants, Dealerships Amid Island Dispute
Several Japanese automakers temporarily shuttered assembly plants and dealerships in the world's second-biggest economy as a territorial dispute and the anniversary of Japan's invasion of China prompted thousands to protest in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities. Toyota Motor Corp. planned to halt operations at some of its factories in China on Tuesday as the anti-Japan demonstrations escalate across the country, Kyodo news agency said. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara triggered the dispute in April when he said he may use public funds to buy islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, from a private Japanese owner. According to Automotive News, tensions escalated after Japan's cabinet approved the purchase of the islands for 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) on Sept. 11. China has said it doesn't accept the move. Thousands protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing today, demanding control of the islands and calling for boycotts of Japanese goods. Toyota, Nissan, and Honda all reported damage to dealerships in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao. Nissan halted production at two factories in China Monday and today. Click here for more on a dispute between China and Japan that is impacting auto production and dealership operation in China.

How Much Should it Cost to Charge an Electric Car?
Electric cars are a novelty, with fewer than 50,000 on American roads. But their refueling cost is making them an even bigger standout. Some companies installing chargers – often with federal subsidies – wanted to get their networks up and running before initiating fees. So public charging often is free. What’s clear – about one year into the rollout of mass-produced electric cars – is that the market is “wrestling with what, if anything, to charge for charging,” says Richard Lowenthal, founder and chief technology officer of Coulomb Technologies Inc. Mr. Lowenthal says 80 percent of ChargePoint locations currently are free to use, and the rest collect fees set by location owners. ECOtality Inc., another big installer of charging stations, said in August it is dispensing free electricity at about 3,000 Blink-branded public charging points. But it expects to begin charging fees this fall. The Wall Street Journal reports that as charging companies begin collecting fees, it looks like the most common approach will be to bill customers by length of time spent charging or by a monthly subscription fee, not the amount of electricity dispensed. Read more about changes to the cost of charging an electric vehicle here.

Obama, Romney Look to China for Scoring Political Points
In an election that may be decided on the strength of the American economy, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are looking to China to score political points as they compete for political support from working-class voters. But, reports The Detroit News, both candidates also are taking some heat about their dealings with the communist superpower. Republicans accuse Obama of failing to follow through on promises to crack down on China's trade policies. Democrats, meanwhile, raise questions about Romney's leadership of a private equity firm that invested in companies operating in China. Beyond politics, there are real policy differences that could have a dramatic impact on the relationship between the United States and the country that is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt. The White House on Monday filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Chinese subsidies to its auto and auto parts industry. The move came four days after Romney launched an advertising campaign accusing the president of allowing American manufacturing jobs to be lost to the Asian power. The issue hits home among working-class voters in manufacturing swing states such as Ohio. Read more about how China’s auto industry is playing a role in this year’s fall campaign here.

Young Americans Ditch the Car
America's young people just aren't buying cars like they used to. The share of new cars purchased by those aged 18-34 dropped 30 percent in the last five years, according to the car shopping web site Edmunds.com. Some say the economy is mostly to blame – that the young aren't buying because they've been particularly hard hit by the recession. But, reports CNN Money, others say the trend could be part of larger social shifts. One reason is demographic: The re-urbanization of America is giving more people access to public transportation. The advent of Zipcar and other car-on-demand businesses is eliminating the need to own and insure an expensive vehicle that often isn't driven much. But mostly it's the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be. Couple that with more recent restrictions on driving – later ages for licenses, limits on how many people can be in the car, restrictions on cell phone use – the Internet may be surpassing the automobile in the category that gave cars so much appeal: freedom. Click here for more on what is fueling Gen Y’s avoidance of vehicle ownership.

75 Percent of Drivers Say Tech in Cars Goes Too Far
A new Harris Interactive poll of 2,634 adults reveals 76 percent think in-car connectivity is too distracting and even dangerous. More than half think manufacturers have taken interior auto technology too far. But, reports the New York Daily News, it turns out the poll reveals more than people’s thoughts about the dangers of driving while distracted. 62 percent of those polled are also worried about their privacy, including where they’ve been and how they drove while getting there. And just over two in five U.S. car owners (41 percent) think that their insurance rates could increase because of what in-car technology reveals about their driving habits. That’s more of a concern among younger drivers between 18 and 35 (46 percent) and men (46 percent). Motorists are ambivalent overall about gadgets in their rides, though. 61 percent see their car as a haven from the outside world and don’t wish to be connected to the outside world. At the same time, more than 50 percent say in-car connectivity makes driving more enjoyable (58 percent) and makes them feel safer (57 percent) while on the road. Read more from a new study examining driver attitudes toward in-vehicle technology by clicking here.

There’s a Cash Cow in Your Service Bays
The average age of cars and trucks in the U.S. is at a record high of nearly 11 years old. Traditionally, most dealer service work is performed on vehicles under five years of age. But with the majority of cars now outside that “sweet spot”, the priority at many dealerships is keeping cars in their service cycle, especially after those cars change hands. AIADA member dealers are becoming part of the Carfax Service Network to help drive more service revenue. Jeff Ranalli, vice president of Carfax says, “Carfax Service Network helps increase business by attracting more new and repeat business to dealer service bays. Members can promote their quality work and experience with specific vehicles right on the Carfax Report.” History shows that new owners tend to take vehicles back where they were serviced regularly. The more times your service records appear on a Carfax Vehicle History Report increases the likelihood of retaining that vehicle after change of ownership. Service revenue grows and more homegrown vehicles stay with your dealership. Carfax Service Network members also have access to work performed at over 24,000 service locations with Carfax Service History Check. Boost ticket averages and build trust with first-time customers by using this information to make more informed service recommendations. For more information or to become a Carfax Service Network member, call 888-655-5362.

Around the Web 
Land Rover Could Go Smaller Than Evoque [MotorAuthority]
Toyota Drops 4-Cylinder Sienna [KickingTires]
Redesigned 2013 Mazda CX-9 Gets 'Kodo' Styling Treatment [CarScoop]
BMW's xDrive Coming for 1 Series Line [Autoblog]

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