The Worst Car Flops of the Year

First Up 12/11/12

December 11, 2012

Obama Criticizes Rush to Pass Right-to-Work Legislation in Michigan
Backed by hundreds of Detroit Diesel employees represented by the UAW, President Barack Obama praised their work ethic and attacked Gov. Rick Snyder's and Michigan Republicans' rush to pass right-to-work legislation. "We should do everything we can to encourage companies like Daimler (which owns Detroit Diesel) to keep investing in American workers," Obama said. "What we shouldn't be doing is taking away your rights to bargain for better labor agreements." The Detroit Free Press reports that Obama went to the Redford Township factory to drum up support for his proposal to raise tax rates on Americans earning more than $250,000 a year. He also hailed Daimler's $120-million investment that will result in about 115 new jobs at the plant where about 2,300 workers make diesel engines and transmissions. But about halfway through his speech, Obama took aim at right-to-work legislation that state lawmakers are poised to pass today in Lansing. Snyder has said he will sign the legislation that would make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state. Thousands of union workers opposed to the law are expected to face off against the law's supporters today at the state Capitol. Read the latest in Michigan’s battle over right-to-work legislation here.

U.S. Traffic Deaths Fall 2% in 2011, But Up This Year
According to The Detroit News, traffic deaths fell 1.9 percent in 2011, but are on the upswing in 2012 as Americans are driving more. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Monday that traffic deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1949 and a 1.9 percent decrease. NHTSA had previously said in its preliminary findings that traffic deaths fell 1.7 percent last year. The final 2011 data shows road deaths have fallen 26 percent since 2005. NHTSA said 2011 had the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010. But U.S. traffic deaths rose by 9 percent in the first half of 2012, the largest increase since the government began collecting detailed data on crashes in 1975. NHTSA also said fatality rates on the nation's roads hit its highest level since 2009. Road deaths were up 13.4 percent in the first three months of the year – in part because more people were traveling during an unseasonably warm winter – and up just 5.4 percent in the second quarter. Click here for the latest on U.S. traffic fatalities.

Opinion: Who Do You Trust?
People who sell cars are considered the least-honest, least-ethical professionals, according to a Gallup poll released last week. They were the only ones to rank lower than members of Congress. Survey respondents also ranked them below advertising executives, stockbrokers, HMO managers, and folks who sell insurance. Car sales people do not deserve our deepest mistrust, according to Al Lewis at The Wall Street Journal. Someone who sells you a car is not going to blow your retirement accounts, foreclose your home, ship your job to China, or shove the entire nation over a fiscal cliff. The honesty and ethical standards ranking of bankers has skyrocketed from its depths following the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing bailouts. Twenty-eight percent put bankers "high" or "very high" on the scale – up from 19 percent in 2009. And they are ranked a full peg higher than journalists. There are also state governors. Lewis says he doesn’t think they should rank higher than car sales people, either. The survey overlooks the fact that there are honest and ethical people in every profession, even car sales. Read more of Al Lewis’s commentary on today’s most distrusted professions.

The Worst Car Flops of the Year
Last month the Smart Fortwo sold 704 units, a 70-percent spike from the 404 it sold during the same period last year. That’s not a lot of cars, but it’s remarkably better than the Acura ZDX, which sold 37 units nationwide last month, or the Dodge Nitro, which sold exactly zero. These are the vehicles on Forbes’ list of the Worst Car Flops of the Year. To develop this list of cars, Forbes consulted several expert analysts: Jake Fisher, the exacting senior automotive engineer for Consumer Reports; Matt Hardigree, the famously contrarian head of the car blog Jalopnik; and, for some input on design, Vanity Fair’s discerningly astute Brett Berk. Each discussed what they think are the most over-hyped, worst-looking, or poorest drivers on the market today, all things considered. The publication allowed nominations for any 2012 model-year vehicles. Click here to see the list. While some of these cars have loyal followings, overall the cars and trucks on this list failed to meet critics’ expectations or, even worse, hurt their parent companies either financially or from a branding perspective. Click here to read more about Forbes’ appraisal of the worst car flops of the year.

Public Dealership Groups Expand Their Brands
When AutoNation announced last week that it would purchase three Volkswagen stores and a Chrysler dealership, it proved the company's interest in diversifying its brand base. AutoNation's leaders have long expressed interest in acquiring a wider variety of brands, including domestics. But the nation's largest retailer hasn't bought any stores since acquiring a Florida Toyota dealership in early 2011. According to Automotive News, last week it said it would buy six Texas dealerships, including three Volkswagen stores and Audi and Porsche stores in metro Dallas and a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram store near Houston. AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson says he's a believer in both VW and Chrysler. "It's a statement that the renaissance of Chrysler is real, is sustainable," Jackson said last week on CNBC. "Sergio Marchionne has done a walk-on-water turnaround performance there." Asbury Automotive Group, the nation's seventh-largest retailer, also bought VW and Bentley stores with $60 million in annual revenues in suburban Atlanta from Gossett Motor Cars. Asbury CEO Craig Monaghan has said Asbury is interested in a wide variety of brands. During the next three years, the retailer plans to acquire stores representing $400 million to $600 million in annual revenue. Read more about the recent acquisitions of large auto groups 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

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