December 21, 2012

World's 10 Most Popular Cars in 2012
Ford has built its global strategy around a handful of cars that sell in large numbers around the world. The Focus compact is the best example. LMC Automotive says Ford will sell an estimated one million of them worldwide in 2012, including about 250,000 in the U.S. It's enough to unseat the Toyota Corolla as the best-selling car in the world. Forbes reports that the Corolla did come in second place with 966,000 Corollas sold in 2012, one reason Toyota Motor is poised to recapture the title of world’s biggest automaker this year after ceding leadership to General Motors in 2011. GM is now vying with Volkswagen for second place. All but one of the 10 most popular cars in the world are small, fuel-efficient compacts, which are popular in Europe, Asia, and developing countries where affordability is an issue. The exception is the mid-sized Toyota Camry sedan, which is America’s most popular car. Click here for a slideshow. The Volkswagen Jetta, also called the Vento or Bora in some markets, is Volkswagen’s top-selling vehicle, and the third most popular car in the world. For the complete list of the world’s most popular cars, click here.

December U.S. Auto Sales Expected to Rise 14%
Car shoppers have been "unfazed" by uncertainty related to the so-called fiscal cliff looming at the end of this month, and U.S. sales are expected to be up 14 percent in December, J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive said yesterday. The firms estimated this month's seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate to be 15.3 million. Automotive News calculated the November SAAR to be 15.6 million, which was the highest since January 2008. If the forecasts prove accurate, total U.S. light-vehicle sales for 2012 would be 14.5 million. "The U.S. light-vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment," Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said in a statement. "The only major roadblock ahead for the U.S. market is the fiscal cliff. Assuming that hurdle is cleared, 2013 is one step closer to a stable and sustainable growth rate for autos, with volume above the 15 million unit mark." December has been a particularly good month for luxury vehicles, whose sales are on pace to account for 16 percent of retail sales, J.D. Power said. That would mark the segment's highest share since December 2009. To read more, click here.

American Suzuki Says Demand for Autos Rises After Bankruptcy
American Suzuki Motor Corp., the U.S. distributor of Suzuki cars and motorcycles, will import about 2,500 more autos to meet demand that jumped after the company filed for bankruptcy with plans to end U.S. sales. "When we told dealers, 'We have one last chance,' the dealers said, 'Go get them,'" M. Freddie Reiss, the company’s chief restructuring officer, told Bloomberg. "No more cars are being manufactured" for the U.S. market, he said. American Suzuki’s November auto sales rose 22 percent to 2,224 units, the company said this month. Dealers reported that sales also climbed in December, mainly because of generous incentives and a seven-year warranty program, Reiss said. Even with the spurt in sales, the company still can’t justify staying in the U.S. auto market. Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp. put the distributor into bankruptcy Nov. 5 to end losses in the U.S. market, avoid the costs of federal regulations, and shut down a sales network in which 69 percent of dealers sell fewer than five cars a month. Suzuki's U.S. sales last topped 100,000 in 2007. Dealers will sell their remaining cars and continue to provide parts and warranty work and other repairs. For more on what’s next for Suzuki dealers, click here.

Toyota Looks Forward to Mazda-Built B-Car
The plan for Mazda to build 50,000 Mazda2-derived small cars annually for Toyota at its new plant in Mexico is being welcomed by Toyota’s U.S. sales unit. While the pact was engineered by officials in Japan, the American arm is “pretty excited about the product we’re going to get,” says Bill Fay, U.S. Toyota Div. group vice president and general manager. Members of Toyota’s U.S. dealer council were shown photos of the car two weeks ago and responded positively “about the overall look of the product,” Fay told WardsAuto during a media preview for the ’13 RAV4. The new model is set to begin production in summer 2015 and may or may not be called Yaris. The subcompact sector is one of the rare U.S. car segments Toyota isn’t leading or close-to-leading. Yaris sales were flat through November, up 1.4 percent. Fay says the Yaris has not been a marketing priority in the U.S., and Toyota remains comfortable with that. “I think we’ve made a conscious decision at this point to put more of our attention and resources to making the Corolla a success, as opposed to Yaris,” said Fay. However, with the upcoming, Mazda-sourced B-car, “down the road, that could change.” For more on Toyota’s plans, click here.

Auto Industry Trends For 2013
Auto sales soared in 2012, and, as of mid-December, are on track to rise nearly 14 percent to a post-recession high of 14.5 million. Even more auto sales growth is expected in 2013; Edmunds.com's forecast is 15 million. For a chart showing what’s in and what’s out for 2013, click here. Auto sales, along with the recovering housing market, will lead economic growth, reducing the need for government stimulus programs. There will even be additional growth from the return of subprime lending and an expected nearly 500,000 additional lease returners, compared to 2012. Indeed, competition will be fierce among automakers, with no major automakers fighting bankruptcies or recovering from natural disasters. And, as 2012 has shown, the potential market share battles will extend beyond the top tier of the U.S. market, with traditionally smaller players such as Volkswagen throwing their hats into the ring in a serious way. In addition to the typical evolutions in fuel efficiency, comfort, and style, automakers will strive to distinguish their vehicles by developing and offering more active safety technologies on more vehicles — from lane departure warnings and blind spot alerts, all the way to driverless cars. Click here for the full story.

AROUND THE WEB

  • Video Opinion: The Death Tax Cometh [WSJ]
  • Top 12 Most Searched Cars of 2012 [AutoWeek]
  • Tornado Takes Out Cars At Mercedes Dealership [Jalopnik]
  • The Land Of The Crooked Car Buyer [The Truth About Cars]
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