January 10, 2013

Marysville to Build Honda Accord Hybrid

Honda is scheduled today to announce a plan to build the Accord Hybrid in Marysville, Ohio; it will be the first gas-electric vehicle produced in the state. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the automaker is hiring 50 workers and spending $23 million on factory upgrades to make the vehicle, which will go on sale in the fall as a 2014 model. “With more than 30 years of continuously building eight generations of the Honda Accord close to our customers, our team now is using its experience and flexibility to add this sophisticated Accord Hybrid model,” said Jeff Tomko, plant manager in Marysville. Until recently, Honda made all its hybrids in Japan and shipped them to North America. The Marysville plant will be the second Honda factory in North America to produce a hybrid, closely following the plant in Greensburg, Ind., which has begun making the Civic Hybrid and Acura ILX Hybrid. Among international automakers, Nissan was the first to commit to making an all-electric car in the United States, and this week, it began production of the Leaf in Franklin, Tenn. Click here for more on Honda’s decision to move production of the Accord Hybrid to its Marysville, Ohio, plant

BMW Aims for Record 2013 Sales Despite 'Headwinds'
According to Automotive News, BMW Group predicts 2013 will be an even better sales year than 2012, during which it increased worldwide volume 11 percent to a record 1.85 million vehicles. "We enter the new year with positive momentum and despite the prevailing headwinds in some markets, we aim to achieve another record year in sales in 2013," BMW sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson said today in a release. The company got a big boost in December as global sales for the final month of 2012 rose 15 percent to 181,571 vehicles. Overall, BMW Group finished 2012 as the world's top-selling premium automaker easily topping its previous record of 1.67 million sales, set in 2011. Led by strong demand for the 1 series and 3 series model lines, BMW brand boosted 2012 sales 12 percent to 1.54 million. Audi was second with global sales of 1.45 million vehicles, which is an all-time for the Volkswagen Group subsidiary. Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand also set a new record for annual sales, finishing third in the premium-car race with a worldwide volume of 1.32 million vehicles. Click here to read more about the global luxury sales race.

Carmakers Hit Refresh Button More Frequently
For many years, auto shows were all about the latest new vehicles and eye-catching concepts. Not anymore, reports The Detroit News. Today, what the industry calls "midcycle refreshes" – extreme makeovers of existing cars and trucks – have become just as important for some automakers, particularly those trying to avoid the mistakes of the past. Back in Detroit's golden age, automakers used to come out with new versions of each of their vehicles annually. While the underlying platforms and powertrains would remain unchanged for years, each year would bring some different bend or curve in the sheet metal, a new grille or the addition of some new feature. But that stopped in the early 1970s when new fuel economy and safety regulations forced automakers to spend their money elsewhere. The switch from body-on-frame to unibody construction also made such changes prohibitively expensive. As domestic automakers stopped trying to keep their products fresh, their Japanese rivals saw an opening. By the end of the 1980s, companies like Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. had begun making regular changes every two or three years to the nonmetal front and rear fascia of their cars. Read about today’s auto design schedule by clicking here.

The New Way to Tax: Pay Per Mile Driven
Have you ever heard of the vehicle miles traveled tax? No? Well get ready to hear more about it, because the vehicle miles traveled tax, or VMT, is the latest way states are looking to make up for falling gas tax revenues, according to CNBC. "The VMT is likely the way states will raise money in the future for their roads and infrastructure," said Joshua Schank, president and CEO of the ENO Center for Transportation. "The states aren't yet to the point where they've figured out exactly how to implement the VMT, but they'll get there.” States are looking at implementing it as a way to make up for falling gas tax revenues. Those revenues are the primary way states pay for maintaining their roads, highways, and bridges. In recent years those budgets have been under pressure. Blame it on the double whammy of a recession prompting people to drive less, which means they are filling up less often. On top of that, Americans are increasingly driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, which means people make fewer trips to the gas station. Click here to read more about the future of driver taxation.

Obama Administration Cuts Hybrid, Electric Buys
According to The Detroit Free Press, President Barack Obama's administration, which set a goal of buying only alternative- technology vehicles for its fleet by 2015, cut purchases of hybrid and electric models by one-third last year and bought mostly Asian brands. About 54 percent of the 1,801 alternative-fuel vehicles purchased by U.S. government agencies last year were built by Hyundai, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda, according to data obtained under a Freedom of Information request from the U.S. General Services Administration, which coordinates most vehicle purchases. The Korean-made hybrid version of the Hyundai Sonata unseated Ford's Fusion hybrid as the top-selling alternative-technology vehicle purchased for the federal fleet. U.S. hybrid purchases in previous years were made almost exclusively from domestic automakers. The figures show how fitfully the U.S. – even the government – is moving toward alternative-fuel vehicles. They also indicate the head start that international brands have in the segment, at least for now. Green-car purchases by the government fell for the third year in a row. The Obama administration bought about 8,139 alternative-technology vehicles in 2009 and 6,467 in 2010, when economic-stimulus spending fueled $300 million of fuel-efficient vehicle purchases for the federal fleet. Click here to read more about federal spending on alternative fuel vehicles.

Fiscal Cliff Deal: Mostly Good for Dealer Owners
A “win” for dealers is the cut off for the enacted tax increases -- $450,000 for filers who are married filing jointly, as opposed to $250,000, since the first $450,000 of income is permanently set at the Bush-era income tax rates. Another “win” is the tax increases for capital gains and dividends that are less than anticipated. Families earning $450,000 and above will see their capital gain and dividends tax rate rise to 20 percent. This may benefit dealers building long-term wealth who balance their “take home” incomes from the dealerships and their investment income. Dealers who compensate themselves between $250,000 and $450,000 may still see higher taxes as the result of the phasing out of exemption and itemized deductions as well as the 3.8 percent surtax on investment gains, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. For dealers who re-characterize their compensation to fall under that $250,000 threshold, everything will stay relatively the same. While the law has no direct impact on Northwestern Mutual products or operations, it does raise questions primarily related to estate and tax planning for clients. The Estate and Gift Tax exemption will remain above $5 million per person and $10 million per family, though the estate tax rate will ascend from 35 percent to 40 percent. For more information on Northwestern Mutual please contact us at 1-855-55-AIADA or David.Markley@nmfn.com

AROUND THE WEB
Nissan Begins Building Leaf EVs in U.S. Plant [Driver's Seat]
This is the Brand New Lexus IS [TopGear]
New Toyota Highlander Snapped While Testing [Autoblog]
The 10 Toughest Motor Races in the World [Jalopnik]

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