November 13, 2012
Dealers: Take Suzuki Deal or Fight?
Suzuki dealers face a decision: Give up their franchises in exchange for cash or fight the factory in bankruptcy court. American Suzuki Motor Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, Nov. 5, to wind down its U.S. automotive division. It seeks to reject the franchise agreements of its 220 U.S. auto dealers. The question for dealers: Are the offers comparable to what they would have received under state franchise laws? Had Suzuki simply canceled the franchises outside bankruptcy court state franchise laws would have compelled the automaker to buy back new-vehicle inventory and parts and to compensate dealers for facilities and other costs. Suzuki dealers can choose not to sign the settlement offers and file a claim in the bankruptcy case for what they believe they are owed. But such a move means a dealer's claim could be worth just pennies on the dollar by the time Suzuki pays off other, higher-priority creditors. According to Automotive News, if dealers accept Suzuki's offer, they are guaranteed to collect the full settlement amount, calculated by measuring dealership sales, rent, vehicles in inventory, facilities investment, and other metrics. Click here to read more about the choices facing Suzuki dealers as the automaker pulls out of the U.S. market.
Toyota Testing 'Smart' Cars
Toyota Motor Corp. is testing car safety systems that allow vehicles to communicate with each other and with the roads they are on in a just-completed facility in Japan the size of three baseball stadiums. According to The Detroit News, the cars at the Intelligent Transport System site receive information from sensors and transmitters installed on the streets to minimize the risk of accidents in situations such as missing a red traffic light, cars advancing from blind spots, and pedestrians crossing the street. The system also tests cars that transmit such information to each other. Click here for a picture. The nearly 9-acre test site looks much like the artificial roads at driving schools, except bigger, and is in a corner of the Japanese automaker's technology center near Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan. Toyota officials said the smart car technology it is developing will be tested on some Japanese roads starting in 2014. Similar tests are planned for the U.S. Such technology is expected to be effective because half of car accidents happen at intersections, according to Toyota. Click here for further coverage of Toyota’s car safety systems, which are now in their testing phase.
Honda to Unveil Reworked 2013 Civic at Los Angeles Auto Show
Honda Motor Co. offered a peek this week at the revised 2013 Civic compact car it plans to unveil at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Nov. 29 – the same day it goes on sale. The Wall Street Journal reports that the carmaker tweaked the styling and trim of the Civic after some critics expressed dissatisfaction with the 2012 model’s looks. Click here for a picture. Honda said the coming Civic will have “a host of safety, feature, comfort, chassis, and interior styling enhancements” aimed at giving it a more upscale look and feel. Changes to the Civic reflect increased competition in the economy-car segment and the pressure it puts on car makers to keep their vehicles fresh. The old standard of redesigning vehicles every six years or so, with a mild “face lift” after three years on the market, is no longer enough to keep some models current and attractive. For 2013 the Civic will get a new “open-mouth” lower bumper and a sportier-looking, black mesh grille with integrated fog lights on cars with higher trim levels. The front end is subtly reshaped and Honda is offering a larger range of optional wheel designs. Read more about the reworked Honda Civic here.
More Women Drivers than Men on U.S. Roads
Women have passed men on the nation's roads, reports USA Today. More women than men now have driver's licenses, a reversal of a longtime gender gap behind the wheel that transportation researchers say is likely to have safety and economic implications. The share of teens and young adults of both sexes with driver's licenses is declining, but the decline is greater for young men, according to a study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute. The study looked at gender trends in driver's licenses between 1995 and 2010. Over the 15 years the study covered, the share of men ages 25 to 29 years old with driver's licenses dropped 10.6 percent. The share of women of the same age with driver's licenses declined by about half that amount, 4.7 percent. Male drivers under age 44 are still slightly more numerous than women of the same age, but that's only because young men outnumber young women in the general population, the study said. Researchers have theorized that digital media and technology may make driving less desirable and public transportation more convenient, contributing to a decline in driving rates among young people. Read more about gender driving differences here.
Sandy's Hit on Auto Fleet Debated by Insurance Experts
When Superstorm Sandy smashed into the metro New York coastline two weeks ago, the winds and waves ravaged everything in their path, from homes on Staten Island to the roller coaster on the Seaside Heights, N.J., boardwalk. Also caught up in the deluge were tens, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of automobiles. Just how many vehicles were caught up in the disaster remains to be seen, reports NBCNews.com, and the tally could take months to complete. It could add billions to the total damages from what is expected to become one of the most expensive storms ever to strike the United States – but experts are already debating whether Sandy’s automotive toll will come anywhere near what was seen in other recent disasters, such Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "It's not anything near what we're talking about in the Katrina situation," James Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, told AP. “We had nearly 5,000 cars at Port Elizabeth, N.J., and a little over 1,000 more cars in dealer stock up and down the East Coast that are unsaleable and must be destroyed,” said Dave Reuter, chief U.S. spokesman for Nissan. For more on the extent of Hurricane Sandy’s damage to vehicles in the northeast, click here.
Around the Web
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2013 MotorTrend Car of the Year: Tesla Model S [MotorTrend]
Infographic: What is the Fiscal Cliff? [Detroit Free Press]