November 16, 2012

Nissan CEO: Electric Leaf Sales Won't Meet Target
The Detroit News reports that Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn said the automaker will not meet its sales target for its all-electric Leaf, another sign of the broad struggle of the electric vehicle industry. "The forecast we have given ourselves for the year will not be reached," Ghosn told Bloomberg Television in Mexico City on Thursday. Despite months of lagging sales, the Japanese automaker has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that it could not double sales in 2012 to 20,000 after selling nearly 10,000 in 2011. In October, the Leaf also had its best month all year, selling 1,579, up 86 percent from a year ago. For the year, Nissan has sold 6,791 Leafs, down 15.6 percent from this time a year ago. It sold 9,679 Leafs in 2011. Ghosn, who has been far more bullish on EVs than any other major auto executive, said at the New York International Auto Show in March that the company would double sales of the Leaf in 2012 to 20,000. "We're not worried about it," he said then. "I feel very good about this objective." Nissan and its alliance partner French automaker Renault have invested $5.6 billion in electric vehicles in recent years. Click here for more on falling electric vehicle sales.

Toyota Hopes Avalon Redesign Lures Younger Buyers
When Toyota President Akio Toyoda declared that the Japanese automaker needed to inject more excitement into its styling, he shifted more engineering resources to the U.S., including the company's technical center south of Ann Arbor, Mich. According to USA Today, Toyota now is showing off the first result of that change – the all-new 2013 Avalon, a redesign that the automaker hopes will attract younger buyers to the vehicle, whose average buyer has been in his or her mid-60s. The car will hit showrooms in December. Click here to see a photo. President Toyoda "challenged the whole team" to deliver vehicles that evoked "heart-pumping excitement and enthusiasm," Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president, said Tuesday. So how did the leader react when he first saw the new Avalon? "It looks cool. Don't change a thing," Fay recalled. The sleeker profile was a key objective because the sedan has historically had a "reputation for being a car your grandparents would buy," the company said in a video shown to journalists. Fay said Toyota marketers have identified about 100,000 interested people with a median age in the low 50s. Click here to read more about Toyota’s work to make its Avalon more appealing to younger buyers.

Subaru Expects Sales to Keep Growing in U.S.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. forecast at least 6 percent growth in U.S. sales of its Subaru-brand vehicles next year amid growing momentum in North America, the head of the company’s U.S. unit said. The automaker expects its U.S. sales to reach at least 350,000 vehicles next year with the gains helping the company achieve its longer-term sales target ahead of schedule, said Takeshi Tachimori, president and chief executive of Subaru of America Inc. “Obviously, the U.S. is the most important market for Subaru,” Mr. Tachimori said, adding that sales in the region could account for 60 percent of targeted global sales of one million units within the decade. According to The Wall Street Journal, the remarks indicate the automaker’s growing confidence in the anchor role of the North American market in its future growth – a market it has geared its products toward in recent years. Fuji Heavy is the smallest Japanese car maker by volume, but was one of only two domestic car makers to lift its profit outlook recently thanks to healthy sales in the U.S. Those sales will make up half its world-wide total in the current fiscal year through March. Click here to read more about Subaru’s U.S. success.

Mitsubishi Outlines New U.S. Comeback Plan
Despite Mitsubishi’s lackluster sales year, Automotive News reports in this week’s issue that its president, Osamu Masuko, isn't discouraged. He has a U.S. comeback plan that aims to boost sales 45 percent to 80,000 units in the next fiscal year, from a projected 55,000 in the one ending March 31. Masuko wants to pump up Mitsubishi's eviscerated lineup with two new vehicles next year and a third in 2014, and ramp up local production. He has appointed a new North American boss and is targeting annual sales of 100,000 as early as 2014. Above all, Masuko says, Mitsubishi has no plans to follow fellow Japanese niche player Suzuki Motor Corp. in exiting U.S. auto sales. "We have no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the U.S. market," Masuko told Automotive News. "The U.S. market is a very important market.” Mitsubishi will start selling the redesigned Outlander crossover in the United States in July and begin importing the Mirage small car from Thailand in September, Masuko said. The plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander crossover will go on sale in the United States in January 2014, he said. Read about the rest of Masuko’s plan here.

Black Book: Hyundai MPG Issue to Have Little Impact on Vehicle Values
Black Book took a closer look at used-vehicle value impact stemming from Hyundai and Kia admitting last week they overstated the fuel economy of models sold during the last two years. While there has been talk of broader ramifications to the brands, Black Book believes this acknowledgement will have little impact on future retention values. According to Auto Remarketing, Black Book editors arrived at that determination based on three points. First, roughly 900,000 vehicles sold during the last two years were included in the overstated fuel economy admission. Both brands said they would reimburse consumers and restate mileage estimates on specific models. Second, Black Book did not see retention and vehicle values on used models change noticeably on Toyota models impacted during the large recalls of 2008-2009. Beggs said these vehicles continued to follow segment trends. Finally, Black Book indicated larger market drivers will continue to impact vehicle values going forward. The Hyundai Elantra is part of the compact cars vehicle segment, which has a current Black Book overall segment average of $7,176 today and down 6.9 percent since the end of August when it stood at $7,710). Read about Hyundai and Kia’s expected resale values here.

Around the Web  
Why Your Next Set of Tires May be Made from Weeds [AutoGuide.com]
TextBuster Automatically Blocks Texting Behind the Wheel [Consumer Reports]
Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Concept is a G-Class for the Future [Autoblog]
Americans Are Buckling Up Like Never Before [NBCNews.com]

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