Toyota, Honda Race Back in the U.S.

First Up 10/01/12

October 1, 2012

BMW to Offer 3-Bangers in the U.S.
BMW, known for high-performance engines, is considering a three-cylinder powerplant for vehicles sold in the United States, reports Automotive News. "Hybrids with a three-cylinder engine are coming rapidly," said Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, at the Paris auto show. A BMW source said the three-cylinder will be used for the Mini brand and the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid in the United States. In Europe, the automaker is looking at using three-cylinder engines in vehicles based on its new front-wheel-drive UKL platform. The engine could be used in hybrid and nonhybrid vehicles, the source said. At the show, BMW displayed a plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Concept Active Tourer, a compact fwd wagon. The concept is powered by an electric motor and a 1.5-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 190 hp, Robertson said. "It behaves like a six-cylinder, it is half of a six-cylinder engine and has the noise of a six cylinder," he said. "The output from a relatively small engine is not what you would have imagined." With higher fuel economy rules looming, carmakers are giving more attention to small gasoline engines in North America. Click here for more on BMW’s engine plans.

Technology Dominates Paris Auto Show
As Europe's troubled mass-market car manufacturers concentrate on just staying alive, the luxury carmakers used the Paris Auto Show to strut their stuff. The Detroit News reports that premium automobile makers are concentrating less on speed and bling, and bragging more about technologies which increase fuel efficiency and allow public relations departments to embrace the environment. "The definition of premium is undergoing a subtle shift from outright performance and luxury, to technologies biased toward boosting overall efficiency," IHS Automotive analyst Tim Urquhart said. Jaguar Land Rover unveiled the next-generation Range Rover, which is new from the ground up for the first time in almost 10 years. Europe's recession has crippled sales of expensive electric cars, but that didn't stop Mercedes-Benz from unveiling its SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive, priced at $540,000 after tax in Germany. The SLS Electric Drive shares its exterior styling – including gullwing doors – with the gasoline-engine SLS AMG. The SLS Electric Drive has motors at each corner, providing permanent four-wheel drive. Mercedes says the car will reach 62 mph from a standstill in 3.9 seconds and is electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph. Click here to read more about the technology that’s dominated the Paris Auto Show.

Toyota, Honda Race Back in the U.S.
Automakers on Tuesday will report new-vehicle sales for September and are expected to show healthy growth. Market researchers such as and predict sales of about 1.1 million cars and light trucks, a rise of almost 11 percent from a year earlier. But a close look at forecasts indicates that much of the gain is driven by two manufacturers: Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. TrueCar forecasts that Toyota's sales rose 33 percent in September and that Honda's rose 27 percent. That compares with depressed levels a year ago, when the two still were reeling from disruptions caused by the March earthquake in Japan. Their Detroit rivals are on track for smaller increases. TrueCar sees Ford Motor Co. reporting a 1.3 percent rise, and General Motors Co. GM a 2.5 percent bump. Sales at Chrysler Group LLC are expected to increase 8 percent. According to The Wall Street Journal, the difference reflects just how tough the competition is in today's auto industry. Overall, the industry has wind at its back. Many consumers are driving older vehicles that they must replace, and banks again are eager to lend for auto purchases and leases. Click here to read about Honda and Toyota’s resurgence.

The 8 Most Important Vehicles from the Paris Motor Show
One thing is clear in surveying the new vehicles unveiled at the Paris Motor Show: automakers are not shying away from high performance, even as governments the world over continue to tighten fuel economy and emissions standards. A spate of new rides prove just how committed car companies are to preserving the passion of motoring while seeking high-mileage alternatives to the gasoline engine. But not all of the significant announcements in Paris were performance oriented – some were quite the opposite, in fact. BMW touted its new front-wheel drive architecture, which signals a major shift for the company. Historically, it has focused on rear-wheel-drive powertrains, which are great for performance and driving dynamics, but less efficient than front-wheel drive. The Paris Motor Show, which alternates years with the Frankfurt Motor Show, is a huge production with scores of new vehicles on display, reports Forbes. It has reviewed eight of the most important new vehicles (with a focus on the North American market) debuting at the Paris Motor Show, which continues through Oct. 14. All are likely to have an impact throughout the industry. Click here to read about the vehicles making waves at this year’s Paris Auto Show.

Automakers Grapple with Rising Tide of Industrial Espionage
The rate of industrial espionage activities in the auto industry and the United States as a whole is on the rise, according to government data – with Toyota, Ford, and General Motors all on the receiving end of the trend in recent years. Automotive News reports that the latest case involved a former Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. IT contractor, who was accused of hacking into the company’s network last month and stealing trade secrets. Meanwhile, GM and Ford were burned by employees who allegedly stole and shared sensitive information with foreign competitors, prosecutors said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) opened 1,212 intellectual property investigations in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2011, up 66 percent compared with 2009, and made 574 arrests that led to 291 convictions, according to the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s annual report. Protection against cybercrimes could get tougher in coming years because of the proliferation of devices such as smartphones and laptop computers that can connect to the Internet, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive said in its October 2011 report to Congress. Click here for more on how automakers and law enforcement are dealing with industrial espionage.

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