October 19, 2012
Electric Car Market is Badly in Need of a Charge
The electric vehicle industry is in serious trouble, or at least far behind where its proponents had hoped it would be. The Detroit News reports that on Tuesday, one of the nation's largest electric car battery companies – A123 Systems Inc., which has 1,000 workers and contractors in Michigan – filed for bankruptcy. It has lost $900 million since 2007 amid sluggish electric vehicles sales. After years of promises that electric cars would end the nation's reliance on imported oil, the bad news has been steady in recent weeks, with reports of lagging sales and projects being pushed back. Despite high gas prices, established automakers and start-ups are struggling to convince Americans to buy the cars. In Washington, the political consensus in favor of electric vehicles has evaporated. Electrics remain far more expensive than gasoline-powered vehicles, despite hefty government tax credits. Recharging stations remain limited. That's part of the reason why plug-in hybrids, like the Chevrolet Volt, which have an auxiliary gasoline engine, are doing better in the marketplace than battery-electrics. Click here to compare sales figures of several leading electric models. Read more about the current electric market, click here.
Volvo Replaces CEO Jacoby with Former MAN Boss Samuelsson
Volvo today named Hakan Samuelsson, the former head of German truck maker MAN, as its new CEO. Samuelsson, 61, replaces Stefan Jacoby, 54, who suffered a mild stroke last month. The move is effective immediately. According to Automotive News, the board's vice chairman said Jacoby's health was not the reason for the decision and the board wanted a new CEO to take the company "into a new phase." Li Shufu, chairman of Volvo's owner, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, said in a statement: "I see big possibilities for Volvo Cars to improve profitability and increase the pace of growth, not least in China." He added that Samuelsson's experience would help toward these goals. Samuelsson already holds a seat on Volvo's board. "My time on the board has provided me with insight in the Volvo brand and the company. My focus will be on execution and performance, to secure profitability and meet our sales objectives," he said in the same statement. Samuelsson was CEO of MAN between 2005 and 2009 and has been an independent member of Volvo's board since 2010. A Swedish national, he started his career at truck maker Scania in 1977 after studying mechanical engineering. Read more about Volvo’s executive shake up here.
Nissan Pushes Safety Features
Electronically managed steering that bypasses the mechanical link of a clutch is among the new safety technology from Japanese automaker Nissan. Other vehicles are smart enough to park themselves, and some swerve automatically to avoid pedestrians. Nissan Executive Vice President Mitsuhiko Yamashita said the latest safety advancements are proactive, unlike air-bags and other passive features that are triggered by a crash. Next-generation steering uses electronic signals to control tires, not a mechanical link. It's set to be introduced in an Infiniti luxury model within a year, and would be a world first for a commercially produced car. In the auto industry, the technology is being touted as the biggest innovation in steering since the widespread adoption of power-assisted steering, which uses hydraulics to make turning the wheels easier. According to The Detroit Free Press, Nissan also showed "autonomous emergency steering," designed to avoid collisions through turns when braking would be too late. Although many automakers, including Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford, offer automatic braking, Nissan's still-experimental system takes the idea a step further to steer away in unexpected situations such as a pedestrian suddenly moving into the path of a vehicle. Read about Nissan’s safety-focused vehicle innovations here.
Luxury Units Remain Hard to Find this Fall Season
Auto Remarketing reports that when securing supply for their used-car lots, dealers may be having trouble finding enough luxury units this fall. The AutoTrader.com analysis of last month's supply trends found that, once again, vehicles in this segment remain elusive. According to September’s installment of vehicle scarcity data provided by AutoTrader.com, CPO luxury vehicles in particular are becoming increasingly scarce nationally. Seven out of the top 10 hardest-to-find CPO vehicles in the country are luxury cars or SUVs. One luxury brand, in particular, is proving to be the most elusive. AutoTrader said Audi's S4 (No. 6), S5 (No. 10), and A8 (No. 7), all made the Top 10 scarcest CPO vehicle list on a national basis. Topping the CPO national scarcity list was the Honda S2000, followed by the BWM M3 Series in the No. 2 spot. For the late-model used vehicles, the Scion FR-S is No. 1 on the list, with the sporty Porsche Cayman in second. The BMW 7Series, Hummer H3T, and the BMW MSeries, respectively, round out the Top 5 scarcest late-model used units on a national level. For more on the scarcity of certain luxury models on used vehicle lots, click here.
Honda Hybrid Sales Top One Million – Can it Catch Toyota?
Automobile Magazine reports that after 12 years and 11 months of global sales, Honda sold its one-millionth hybrid. Honda’s hybrids have come a long way since the original Insight first went on sale in Japan in 1999. In the U.S., Honda introduced the Civic Hybrid, original six-cylinder Accord Hybrid, CR-Z, and the Acura ILX Hybrid, which has the distinction of being the one millionth Honda Hybrid ever sold. While the original Honda Insight arrived less than a year after the first-generation Toyota Prius in Japan, it actually beat the Prius to the market here in the hybrid-loving United States. Despite that advantage, Toyota has long surpassed the million mark for its hybrid vehicles. Honda isn’t taking rival Toyota’s hybrid sales lead sitting down. Within the next couple years Honda will be introducing a new generation of hybrids it hopes will slow Toyota’s lead. The new Accord will be getting a plug-in hybrid variant next year and a traditional hybrid after that. In the coming years, Acura may get three new all-wheel-drive hybrids: the four-door RLX hybrid sedan, the reborn Acura NSX, and possibly even an MDX hybrid crossover. Read about Honda’s quest to oust Toyota as the U.S. hybrid leader here.
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