October 25, 2012

VW to Build New SUV in U.S.
According to The Detroit News, Volkswagen AG is stepping up investments in the United States as demand for its vehicles is flagging in the European market. VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said the company expects to build an all-new SUV in the U.S. designed for American customers after the success of the new Passat sedan. A final decision is expected next year. Strong demand for the Passat, also designed for Americans, has transformed the U.S. into a growth hub for VW, which faces rough conditions in Europe. The company said Wednesday its profit margins narrowed in the third quarter as pricing and demand for cars deteriorated. VW expects to restore its U.S. operations to profit in 2013, as part of an objective to be the world's leading automaker by 2018. It's on track this year to attain record U.S. sales, Winterkorn said, after investing more than $4 billion in five years. The VW Group's U.S. sales are up 30 percent in the first nine months at 432,000 vehicles. Its U.S. sales peaked at 577,000 in 1970, but retreated as Japanese imports surged. Click here to read more about VW’s plans to expand its U.S. production.

Scion Launches Small-Business Incubator
Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion youth brand is launching a small-business incubator competition for young people full of ideas but short of cash, reports Automotive News. The competition, which begins today, has young, entrepreneurial artists, musicians, designers, and fashionistas vying for a chance to get start-up funding from Scion. "This is about turning people's passions into a career," Owen Peacock, Scion national manager of marketing and communications, said in an interview. "It's not for the dreamer who thinks, 'Someday.' This is for the person who has taken the first step, signed a lease and incorporated," Peacock added. The 50 individuals with the best ideas will be brought to Los Angeles for a three-day small business conference with panelists and speakers, all of which will be streamed on the Web for those who didn't win. The 50 semifinalists will then compete for 10 winning spots that will each receive $10,000, a new Scion vehicle, and a six-month mentorship from a successful small-business owner. Scion will also document through Web video how the 10 winners' first six months of business went. For more on Scion’s new small business development program, click here.

Honda, Ohio State Join on Distracted Driving Research
USA Today reports that Honda and Ohio State University have opened a $1.3-million Driving Simulation Laboratory aimed specifically at driver distraction issues. It will monitor heart rate, blood pressure, eye movement, and stress levels to gauge the psychological and physiological state of the driver in varying conditions. Honda plans to make extensive use of the facility. "It presents both the university and Honda with the chance to conduct leading-edge research into the psychological components of the driving experience and its impact on issues such as driver distraction and overall vehicle safety," said Frank Paluch, senior vice president of Honda R&D America in Raymond, Ohio, in a statement. The lab will allow researchers to study how certain age groups differ in their driving habits. Teenagers and the elderly, for instance, may not pay attention to the road like middle-age people. In 2001 Ford opened a $10-million driving simulator lab in Dearborn to assess the impact of in-vehicle electronic devices including cell phones and navigation systems on a driver's ability to cope with common traffic situations. For more on Honda’s venture into distracted driving research, click here.

Who's The Bigger Car Guy: Obama, Romney, Or . . . LBJ?
With industrial powerhouses Ohio and Wisconsin prominent among the all-important “swing states” that will ultimately decide the 2012 presidential election, you can bet that the fate and fortunes of U.S. auto business will be of prime focus in speeches from both candidates. But Forbes thinks American voters, particularly those with ties to the auto industry, would be more interested in knowing which candidate, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, is the bigger “car guy.” For better or worse, Forbes believes Romney has the edge in terms of automotive street cred. What about previous residents of the White House – how do they stack up as car guys against the likes of Romney and Obama? Forbes has created a slideshow that highlights some of the most-treasured rides of our Commanders-in-Chief, with perhaps the coolest cars of all being owned by Bill Clinton (an ice blue 1967 Ford Mustang convertible) and John F. Kennedy (a 1961 Ford Thunderbird convertible). Most of the vehicular choices our leaders made over the years tend to be less flamboyant. These include Franklin Roosevelt’s opulent Packard Twelve, Harry Truman’s middle-class Ford Super Deluxe and Richard Nixon’s conservative Oldsmobile 98. Click here to see the list. For more on the cars of the presidents, click here.

J.D. Power: Consumers Increase Their Use of Smartphones in Car Shopping
Consumers’ reliance on their smartphones to obtain information about new cars is growing, according to the 2012 Automotive Mobile Site Study, released this week by J.D. Power and Associates, the market research company. According to The New York Times, the study found that the number of shoppers using smartphones this year increased to 31 percent from 24 percent in 2011, and from 17 percent in 2010. It also found that 53 percent of those shoppers accessed information from their smartphones at the dealership. The study, conducted in August, included 9,131 evaluations of automotive mobile Web sites from shoppers who said they intended to buy or lease a vehicle within the next two years. Most shoppers, 66 percent, were looking at the sites to glean information about vehicle pricing; 54 percent were seeking information on a particular model; 53 percent were looking at photos; 52 percent were accessing vehicle reviews or ratings; and 47 percent were in an active comparison between vehicles. Using a 1,000-point scale to gauge overall consumer satisfaction, the study found user satisfaction with the mobile-phone equivalents of the Web sites was 767 – lower than satisfaction levels for desktop-accessed Web sites (818) and tablet versions (824). Read about how car shoppers are using their smartphones here.

Engage Service Department Customers With go.drive.® Magazine
go.drive.®, a magazine published by TKO Multimedia exclusively for SOPUS, aims to help drivers get the most out of their dealership experience. By educating readers about issues pertaining to vehicle maintenance, go.drive.® helps engage customers during their visit to a dealership service center. Customers will learn about services from motor oil to nitrogen tire inflation, why dealerships are the experts in vehicle maintenance, how to make vehicle purchase decisions and more. Shell Lubricants, an AIADA Affinity Partner, is dedicated to helping its dealer customers grow their business through consumer trust and loyalty. You can view the online version of the fall issue here. Service and sales managers can order additional quantities for their customers to support improving customer relationships. How can you fully leverage this program? Contact your Shell representative or Don Moser, North America OEM/Automotive Dealer Group Marketing Manager at (713) 546-8120 or Don.Moser@shell.com. If you have any questions of the product — or to take advantage of the publication as a direct mail campaign, combining go.drive.® with an in-store offer — contact go.drive.® support at (800)379-5692.

Around the Web  
Fiat 500 Gucci Edition [Motoramic]
New Audi RS3 Coming as Early as 2014 [MotorAuthority]
Subaru Raises Forecast on Strong U.S. Transaction Prices [Autoblog]
Neiman Marcus Sells a Dozen $354K McLarens Within 2 Hours [Driver's Seat]

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