December 6, 2012

International Carmakers Ship More Made-In-USA Cars Overseas
When Honda Motor first started producing cars in the United States 30 years ago, the idea was to build vehicles closer to its customers and to show that American-built cars could match the quality of those assembled in Japan. Now, reports Forbes, after building its one millionth automobile in the U.S. for export, a silver 2013 Accord on its way to Korea, Honda is on the verge of becoming a net exporter of vehicles from North America. Within two years, the company says it will be exporting more North American-built vehicles than it imports from Japan. For both international and domestic carmakers, the U.S. has become a more attractive place to assemble vehicles for sale in other countries for multiple reasons: currency exchange rates that effectively lowered U.S. labor costs, new free-trade pacts, high quality, and available plant capacity. Automakers exported more than 1.56 million U.S.-built vehicles to more than 200 countries in 2011. That number could rise to more than two million vehicles as early as 2015, experts say. Top export markets include Canada, Mexico, Germany, China, and Saudi Arabia. Learn more about international automakers’ U.S. manufacturing operations at AIADA’s site, WhatisanAmericanCar.com. Click here for more on Honda’s manufacturing leadership.

1 in 4 Vehicles Already Meet 2016 Emission Standards
About one-quarter of all new vehicles sold today would meet federal emissions standards for 2016, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official said Wednesday. Nearly 90 models sold today either meet 2016 emissions targets or can meet them with the addition of expected air conditioning improvements and with no powertrain improvements, Jeff Alson, senior policy advisor at the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said. According to The Detroit News, Alson said the pace of emissions reductions and fuel efficiency improvements, especially in the past five years, are on a "pace that none of us would have predicted a few years ago." But half of those vehicles that could meet the 2016 requirements — which include a 35.5 miles per gallon average for passenger vehicle fleets – run on gasoline, and none of those would meet the end goal in 2025. Only 25 current models – all hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and fuel-cell vehicles, which make up only 3 percent of overall sales today – meet the 2025 emissions standards. Those standards require a 54.5 mpg average for passenger vehicle fleets. Click here for more on the ongoing efforts of automakers to increase fleet wide fuel efficiency.

Two Hands on the . . . Phone? Industry Study Looks at Driver Distraction
Seventy-percent of Americans sleep with their cell phone within arm’s reach; 61 percent check their phones every hour; and an overwhelming 90 percent of drivers keep it in their hand, lap, cup holder, or on the passenger seat while in their cars. According to The Wall Street Journal, these are among some of the findings released Wednesday in a new study by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Click here to see the report. States have taken some steps to curtail cell phone use while driving. But the debate continues about how exactly to address it and it’s unclear who exactly has authority over the actual use of cell phones in cars. Among the biggest concerns irking drivers today are gas prices and distracted driving. Of course, the cost of gas was far more a concern for young drivers, those ages 18-29, than driving while distracted. The reverse was true for drivers age 65 or older. The findings are based on polling of about 5,000 vehicle owners a month. AIADA and its Affinity Partner, Federated Insurance, have teamed up to provide dealers with resources to combat distracted driving. Click here to learn more. Read more about the realities of distracted driving here.

Nissan Names Mexico Exec to Head Sales for U.S., Canada; Carolin to Retire
José Muñoz, who has spent the past three years helping to solidify Nissan's position as Mexico's biggest brand, will take over the automaker's top U.S. and Canadian sales and marketing operations next year. Muñoz, 47, senior vice president over Latin America, will additionally take the title of senior vice president for sales and marketing for the United States and Canada, responsible for both Nissan and Infiniti, effective April 1, 2013. According to Automotive News, he will replace Brian Carolin, 56, who will retire from his position as senior vice president for North American sales and marketing, which he has held since 2008, Nissan said in a statement Tuesday. The change comes as Nissan's wish to overtake Honda as America's No. 2 import brand proves hard to fulfill. Nissan's market share has fallen this year while Honda's has risen. Muñoz' full new title will be senior vice president, sales and marketing, U.S., Canada & Latin America. He continues to have responsibility for customer quality and dealer network development for the entire Americas region. Both Carolin, who plans to return to his native England next year, and Muñoz came from Nissan's European operations. For more on Nissan’s leadership changes, click here.

When Mass Automakers Go After Luxury Brands
The news couldn't have come at a worse time. Just as Skyfall was packing pre-Christmas movie theatres, there was word that James Bond's favorite automaker, Aston Martin, was falling further into foreign hands. Published reports had it that Indian tractor maker Mahindra and Mahindra was eager to buy up to half of Aston from a Kuwaiti investment group. The disclosure ignited much handwringing. What would ownership by a maker of farm equipment from the subcontinent mean to the very British high-end Aston brand? "It's difficult to visualize a tractor and an Aston Martin in the same garage," said Mads Kaiser, a Denmark-based fund manager, quoted by Reuters. In fact, high-end automotive brands have for decades been used like shiny Christmas ornaments to brighten the image of manufacturers of more pedestrian products – some with more success than others. CNN Money is featuring a look at how mass has handled class. First on the list: Tata’s ownership of Jaguar. Since 2008 when Tata bought Jaguar, worldwide sales of Jaguar vehicles have been climbing, new models are emerging, and Jaguar is extending its reach into developing markets in China, Russia, and South America. Read more about other pedestrian brands that have successfully bought luxury brands here.

Around the Web 
Haggerty Profiles Sandy Survivors and Their Classic Cars [Autoblog]
2014 BMW 4 Series Coupe Previewed [Edmunds Inside Line]
Infographic: The Ebb and Flow of Natural Disasters and Car Sales [Bloomberg Businessweek]
10 Coolest Concepts of 2012 [Speed]

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