January 18, 2013

From Flash to Substance (with Flash)

AIADA Chairman Ray Mungenast writes that earlier this week he traveled to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with a few fellow AIADA board members. In the early and mid-2000s, the Detroit show defined the phrase ‘over the top. The flashy atmosphere of those years disguised a deeper truth. The auto industry, and the economy as a whole, was in trouble. Now, after five years of uncertainty and grinding work, our industry is climbing back on solid ground. The 2013 Detroit Auto Show reflected the industry’s shift from flash to substance. The emphasis this year was on quality, good looking vehicles that Americans will actually want to buy. International nameplates, in particular, stood out for their thoughtful design choices, excellent fuel economy, and sleek looks. The tone of the show has changed since the early 2000s, but that doesn’t mean the flash is entirely gone. Glitz and glamour are core to who we are and what we provide. After this week’s trip, I am very happy to report that we haven’t lost that sense of fun. The auto industry is back, and it’s still a good ride. Read the rest of Mungenast’s most recent Ray on Point blog post here.

Automakers Strain Suppliers With 50% Surge in U.S. Intros
Automakers plan to introduce 61 new or redesigned models in the U.S. this year, 50 percent more than any year since 2006. According to Bloomberg, while the resurgence gives consumers more choices, suppliers could be hard-pressed to keep up. “As the demand continues to heat up, we are potentially looking at some areas of the market that could be running short in terms of supply,” and delay the introduction of new models, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC. “That really is where the risk is. The buyer who wants to come in, they want a vehicle now.” Auto parts suppliers cut thousands of workers and closed factories during the industry’s collapse, and the survivors are stretched after three years of at least 10 percent U.S. vehicle- sales increases. Scarred by the recession, many are cautious about adding engineering or manufacturing capacity. Adding to the pressure, new models introductions may rise to 74 next year, compared with 40 in a typical year, Schuster said. Automakers are racing to brighten stale showrooms with new models to attract the growing number of vehicle shoppers. Click here for more on the state of auto suppliers following the recession.

Feds Confirm Auto Recalls Rose 4.5% in '12
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed Thursday that vehicle recalls in 2012 rose by 4.5 percent to 16.2 million. In total, automakers and other vehicle manufacturers issued 586 recall campaigns, down from 596 in 2011. Some 15.5 million vehicles were recalled in 2011. According to The Detroit News, Toyota Motor Corp. led all automakers with 5.3 million vehicles recalled. But complaints from vehicle owners are falling – down by one-third since the intense publicity around Toyota's sudden acceleration recalls. In 2012, NHTSA received 41,912 complaints, compared with 49,417 in 2011, and 65,765 in 2010. In total, vehicle manufacturers have called back 518.8 million vehicles since 1966. Honda Motor Co., which led 2011 with 3.9 million recalls, called back 3.4 million vehicles in 2012, second among automakers. Third among automakers was General Motors Co. It had 17 recall campaigns involving nearly 1.5 million vehicles, compared with 22 campaigns covering just 500,000 vehicles in 2011. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "We have one of the most effective programs in the world and will continue, in 2013, to pursue investigations and recalls wherever our data justifies doing so." Click here for final 2012 recall tallies for the U.S. auto industry.

Toyota Settles First Wrongful Death Lawsuit
According to USA Today, Toyota Motor Corp. has settled what was to be the first in a group of hundreds of pending wrongful death and injury lawsuits involving sudden, unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles, a company spokesman said Thursday. Toyota reached the agreement in the case brought by the family of Paul Van Alfen and Charlene Jones Lloyd, spokeswoman Celeste Migliore said. Toyota issued a statement saying that the company and its attorneys may decide to settle select cases, but "we will have a number of other opportunities to defend our product at trial." It went on: "We sympathize with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles." However, the statement said, "we continue to stand fully behind the safety and integrity of Toyota's Electronic Throttle Control System, which multiple independent evaluations have confirmed as safe." Last month, Toyota agreed to a settlement worth more than $1 billion to resolve hundreds of lawsuits claiming economic losses Toyota owners suffered when the Japanese automaker recalled millions of vehicles. Hundreds more lawsuits involving wrongful death and injury remained. Click here for more on Toyota’s wrongful death lawsuit settlement.

Self-Driving Cars: Are They Just Around the Corner?
Driverless cars are no longer the domain of science fiction, according to The Wall Street Journal. Auto manufacturers such as Audi AG and Toyota Motor Co. are beginning to roll out advanced prototypes of vehicles that can drive themselves, adopting new technologies like self-parking, lane-departure correction, and collision avoidance. The idea of driverless cars has been around for decades. What’s changed is that the advanced computers and sensors needed to make this technology work is cheaper and more accessible. That type of technology is already what powers devices like Google Inc.’s driverless prototype car, which began road tests in 2009. It uses various cameras, global positioning sensors, and lasers to orient itself on the road, watch for obstacles, and map its route. “This [technology] is the starting path to the ultimate fully autonomous vehicle,” said Derek Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing at Research In Motion Ltd.’s QNX software unit, which writes software for major auto manufacturers. Changes are also happening under the hood, he said, where various sensors placed in modules and separate computers throughout the car are beginning to be consolidated, allowing them to work together in quicker and more efficient ways. Click here for more on the future of self-driving cars.

AROUND THE WEB
Why Winter is the Best Time to Drive Across the U.S. [Jalopnik]
2015 BMW 5-Series Spy Shots [MotorAuthority]
The Cockpit of Your Future Car [CNN Money]
Fiat and Mazda Seal Deal to Build New Roadster [The Detroit News]

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