January 11, 2013

Nissan Shifting Murano Output to Miss. From Japan

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, following through on a vow to lessen the company's reliance on expensive Japanese manufacturing and compete better in North America, has ordered output of the Murano crossover shifted to Canton, Miss. According to Automotive News, the shift is scheduled to take place during the second half of 2014 when the next-generation Murano is expected to go on sale. Nissan, in a statement, said the move "will require several hundred employees for production." Next week at the Detroit auto show the company will show a crossover concept – the Resonance – that signals future styling of the crossover. The Murano will become the eighth model on Canton's plate and the third nameplate that Ghosn has shifted out of Japan in recent months. About 90 percent of Muranos are made at Nissan's Kyushu plant in southwestern Japan. About 70 percent of that plant's output was exported to the United States. The Murano is also assembled in China and Russia. Nissan's factory in Smyrna, Tenn., has just started commercial production of the electric Leaf. This year, the Smyrna plant also will begin production of the Rogue crossover, which currently is imported from Japan. Click here to read more about Nissan’s U.S. production plans.

3 Members of Obama's Cabinet coming to Detroit Auto Show
Three members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet will attend the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week, reports The Detroit News. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, and Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson are all planning to tour the show floor, meeting with automakers and seeing the new models. LaHood will make remarks during the show's opening – his third straight year in the role. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland will also tour the show. Michigan members of Congress will be in attendance including Reps. John Dingell, Gary Peters, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Also expected to attend are Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Republican Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who has announced plans to convert city's entire government fleet to plug-in or hybrid by 2025. U.S. auto sales in 2012 rose to a five-year high, up 13 percent to 14.5 million vehicles — and 2013 is expected by many automakers to top 15 million vehicles. The boost in auto sales has been a key driver of economic growth. Click here to read more about the officials that will be in attendance next week at the Detroit Auto Show.

Survey Pinpoints Car Brands with Most Traction Among Luxury Buyers
Three brands, in particular, stand out in the minds of luxury buyers and inspire trust, satisfaction, and customer loyalty, according to a recent survey. Ranking highest in the 2013 Luxury Consumer Experience survey conducted by the New York-based Luxury Institute were Lexus, Audi, and BMW. "Wealthy consumers' perceptions of brand experience encompass everything from the physical quality of the car to interactions with the sales and service departments at dealerships," says Luxury Institute chief executive officer Milton Pedraza. "Especially at the high-end, luxury automakers must be aware of how people and products combine to affect a brand's reputation. According to Auto Remarketing, the survey that averages wealthy respondents' ratings across ten areas of consideration, including evaluations of the vehicles they own or lease, their dealership experience, and their overall brand buying and ownership experience. Audi ranked first in several areas, including the consistently superior design and quality materials of its cars. Next up was Lexus, which the Luxury Institute explained was based largely on the dealership experience and its positive representation of the brand. Click here to read more about which brands are most popular among luxury car buyers.

Car Functions Now Controlled by Waving a Hand
Drivers have depended on gestures to maneuver through traffic since the dawn of the automobile age. Now, reports USA Today, automakers are starting to use gestures to let drivers control functions of the car, whether it's an approaching hand to activate a dashboard infotainment system or the kick of a leg to open a crossover's tailgate. Not only are the latest gesture technologies on display this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but more will be featured at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week. Hyundai plans to introduce a sleek concept car that incorporates "3-D gesture" control so a driver can operate an audio system with the wave of a hand. The goal: Make it "safe and easy to use," says Mitchell Zarders, a Hyundai senior engineer, who notes the functionality is still in its infancy. "You are going to be amazed in a couple years. (Gesture control) isn't going to resemble anything that you see today." Designers are striving to find ways that drivers can avoid fiddling for buttons, knobs, switches, or icons on an electronic display screen as a car barrels down the interstate at 70 miles an hour. Click here for coverage of vehicle gesture technology.

Best New-Cars (And Features) For Senior Drivers
While older Americans are feeling and acting “younger” these days, it may not be wise for empty nesters to trade in their sedans and SUVs for something sportier to cruise through their golden years. According to AAA, 90 percent of motorists age 65 and older suffer from a variety of health issues – ranging from arthritis to diminished vision – that could adversely affect their driving. “With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, we know that families will be coping with these age-related driving safety issues for years to come,” says AAA president and CEO Robert Darbelnet. “The good news is that specific ‘smart features’ on today’s cars can help older drivers and their families deal with these conditions.” Unfortunately, a recent AAA survey indicates that only one in 10 seniors is driving a vehicle that’s equipped with features that can not only make driving safer, but more comfortable. Of course, any of these features can also benefit younger drivers who favor function and comfort over sheer flash and fashion. Check out Forbes’ list of the best cars for senior drivers here. To read more about which features should be most important to today’s senior drivers, click here.

2013 J.D. Power Intl. Automotive Roundtable & NADA Welcome Reception
Get to Orlando early to hear the latest insights and analysis on the global automotive industry and for an opportunity to network with NADA attendees the day before NADA’s Convention. The J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable and NADA Welcome Reception will take place on Friday, February 8, 2013 at the Peabody Hotel. The Automotive Roundtable provides a single day packed with valuable information, including J.D. Power’s exclusive Annual Franchise Assessment and Global Automotive Outlook. An elite group of industry experts, including Stephen Cannon, President and CEO-Mercedes-Benz USA and John Mendel, Executive Vice President-Automotive Sales – American Honda Motor co., Inc., will provide attendees with new insights into emerging automotive trends, marketplace actions, and successes in customer satisfaction. Click here to view the complete agenda. CLICK HERE to register and fax your form to 805-418-8566. For more information, contact Stephanie Haina at (805) 418-8607 or Stephanie.Haina@Jdpa.com.

AROUND THE WEB
GM, Isuzu Planning New Truck Development [Autoblog]
10 Most Valuable Corvettes [CNN Money]
NY Parking Signs to be Revamped [NY Times]
Hard Times? Not for Rolls Royce [WSJ]

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