Toyota Set to Reclaim World Sales Crown as GM, VW Vie for No. 2

First Up 12/17/12

December 17, 2012 

Toyota Set to Reclaim World Sales Crown as GM, VW Vie for No. 2
Toyota Motor Corp. is poised to take back the title of world's biggest automaker for 2012, as Volkswagen fights General Motors for second place heading into the final weeks. The battle among the world's biggest carmakers comes as the industry is headed for a record year. Global 2012 sales will top 80 million cars and trucks for the first time, as robust U.S. and Japanese purchases offset a European downturn, according to estimates from LMC Automotive. Toyota is rebounding from Japan's 2011 tsunami to take the title from GM, while the fight for second between Volkswagen and GM remains too close to call, with less than 1 percent difference between their sales. According to Automotive News, all three companies have benefited from the strength of the U.S. light-vehicle market, which is heading for a third straight year of gains following the 2009 collapse and industry bailout. U.S. sales are projected to increase again next year, which would match the longest string since the end of World War II. The industry is headed for a more contentious battle in 2013, with LMC forecasting Volkswagen will add 600,000 units of production capacity next year. Click here for more on Toyota’s successful year

7 Acura Dealers Pledge $500K for Boston Children’s Hospital
According to Auto Remarketing, seven Acura dealerships have made a pledge to raise $500,000 over the next two years, to benefit one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers. Announcing the pledge to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital on Friday were the New England Acura Dealers. As part of the relationship, a portion of the proceeds from every Acura sold in each of the seven participating dealerships will go toward the hospital. Also, Acura will be recognized as the Official Car at all signature fundraisers benefiting Boston Children’s Hospital. The seven dealerships of the New England Acura Dealers, which are located throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, are Acura of Auburn, Acura of Boston, Acura of Peabody, Herb Connolly Acura, Prime Acura, Prime Acura North, and Sunnyside Acura. Executives from these dealerships were recently hosted by Boston Children’s Hospital for a check presentation, and car-painting activity for kids at the hospital, to celebrate the new relationship. The half-million dollar donation by the dealers will go toward the Children’s Fund, an unrestricted fund that supports the hospital’s areas of greatest need. Click here for more on how seven New England Acura dealerships are helping 
Boston Children’s Hospital

Mini-Crossovers Could be Next Big Thing in Domestic Auto Industry
Mini-crossovers – small SUV-styled vehicles that share parts and systems with compact and subcompact cars – could be the auto industry's next boom, reports The Detroit Free Press. "We'll see every automobile manufacturer enter this segment with multiple vehicles for their brands," said Eric Noble, president of the Carlab, an Orange, Calif., consultant that advises automakers on product development. "We're seeing interest in it from most of our clients. It's a super-promising segment." You may not have seen one yet, but small crossovers will be all around soon, starting when the North American International Auto Show opens at Detroit's Cobo Center in January. From the performance-oriented BMW X1 to a Honda concept vehicle based on the subcompact Fit, there's likely to be a micro-crossover for just about every taste. "It's part and parcel with the trend to smaller vehicles," said John Sousanis, analyst with WardsAuto. "Crossovers accounted for 25 percent of vehicle sales in November. We've grown to love the utility of these vehicles. Getting that combination of people and cargo-carrying capability in smaller vehicles is a natural evolution." Click here for more on the potential success of a “mini-crossover” segment

Survey Finds Car Shoppers Crave Online Info
According to USA Today, car buyers are doing as much digital driving on auto-buying research websites as they are when it comes to shuttling between dealerships. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 89 percent say they visit at least six websites, and a third say they browse more than 20 websites to load up on auto information, says consulting group Accenture. It looks as if they're trying to get past automaker and auto dealer fluff. Nearly three of four say they turn to "traditional off-line media" for information when they find that current digital marketing approaches among automakers and dealers don't fulfill their research needs. And there's some frustration out there. Nearly 80 percent feel that the auto sector lags other retail sectors in the use of digital media tools, such as video and 360-degree website tours. Accenture says the survey also finds that by overwhelming margins, buyers want to be able to compare additional options within the same automaker's product line, and want easier and clearer pricing. Additionally, 94 percent would consider having the option of making the entire vehicle purchase online, including financing, price negotiation, back-office paperwork, and delivery to their homes. Read more about what today’s car buyers are looking for by clicking here

Nissan Shifts Leaf Marketing Strategy
According to Automotive News, Nissan admits its launch strategy on the Leaf miscalculated the short-term market potential for the electric vehicle and says it will do a better job of targeting potential buyers. Al Castignetti, Nissan vice president for sales, said sales momentum began slowing in February when Nissan started supplying Leafs to dealers in all 50 states, regardless of whether their local markets had adequate EV charging infrastructure. "We were a little bit arrogant as a manufacturer when we went to the 50-state rollout," Castignetti told Automotive News in late November. "We had assumed that there were people just waiting for the vehicle who would raise their hand and say, 'Give me a Leaf, give me a Leaf, give me a Leaf.' Limited production of the Leaf began this month in Smyrna, Tenn. The plant will begin regular production of the 2013 Leaf next month. To kick-start sales, Nissan plans to offer a lower-priced U.S.-built Leaf, reducing content slightly to cut the base model sticker price of $36,050, including shipping. Click here for more on Nissan’s reinvigorated Leaf marketing strategy

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