Washington Spins its Wheels

First Up 01/08/13

January 8, 2013

Washington Spins Its Wheels
While many of us rang in 2013 surrounded by friends and family, AIADA Chairman Ray Mungenast writes in this week’s blog post that Congress and the president spent New Years reluctantly hammering out a non-compromise to reach a non-deal to address a fiscal crisis they brought entirely on themselves. Happy New Year, indeed. Americans everywhere scratched their heads on January 2nd when, after weeks of squabbling, the Senate and House of Representatives approved a bill that accomplished almost nothing. Congress could learn a lot from dealers. First and foremost: GET THE DEAL DONE. It can be tempting, especially during times like these, to let frustration overtake good sense. Dealers, and all small business owners, have a lot riding on the legislation that Washington produces. The best we can do for our families, employees, and customers is familiarize ourselves with the legislative process, develop a relationship with our legislators, and ensure that we are making our voices heard on Capitol Hill. I suggest you start today by arranging a congressional visit to your dealership. Who knows? Maybe your representative will learn something from being in a deal-positive environment. Read the rest of Mungenast’s newest blog post regarding Washington’s stalemate here.

How Honda Hustled to Redo the Civic
After internal study teams expressed concern that the 2012 Civic was underwhelming, Honda executives faced a big decision. Honda could let the Civic run for the traditional three model years of the five-year cycle before implementing midcycle improvements, or give them attention sooner. Fortunately for Honda, the decision to quick-change the Civic was made as most development team members were putting the final touches on the 2012 model. They had not yet been reassigned to their next projects. With the decision to fast-track the update, the team stayed in place, including chief engineer Mitsuru Horikoshi. "Normally, there are different chiefs for [the redesign] and the minor model change," Vicki Poponi, American Honda assistant vice president of product planning, said. "But the 2012 Civic development team wasn't fully disbanded, so they just stayed with the process. There was no loss in the cadence." According to Automotive News, Honda may not be done with the Civic. More changes could be down the road. "Our intent is to keep Civic the best vehicle in the segment," Poponi said. "We won't sit on our laurels. We'll react. We can't say, 'This is it.'" Click here for more on what led to the redesign of the Civic compact.

Lexus Aims Gadgets at Increasing Vehicle Safety
Among the panoply of gizmos and gadgets taking bows this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, relatively few are intended to keep you safe in an automobile – even in an automobile that’s driving itself. But, reports The New York Times, while Google may have a head start on developing the blue-sky “autonomous” car, Toyota’s Lexus division today gave CES an auto show feel by showing off its advanced “active safety research vehicle” project in the form of a 2013 LS sedan. The car certainly has gadgets, including advanced GPS functions, three high-definition color cameras, forward- and side-facing radar, a Lidar laser on the roof that detects objects up to about 75 yards away with a 360-degree view, plus various gyroscopes, accelerometers, and more. While some of these features could lead to a driverless environment, that’s not the only aim, Mark Templin, Toyota group vice president and general manger of the Lexus Division, said at a news conference. “For Toyota and Lexus, a driverless car is just a part of the story,” he said. “Our vision is a car equipped with an intelligent, always-attentive co-pilot whose skills contribute to safer driving.” Click here for more on Lexus’ vehicle safety goals.

NHTSA Proposals Would Raise Volume on Quiet Cars
According to The Detroit News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing new rules to require minimum sound levels from electric vehicles, hybrids, and other quiet cars to warn pedestrians. NHTSA's proposal, mandated in 2010 by Congress, sets minimum sound levels for hybrid and electric vehicles to help make pedestrians, especially visually impaired people, aware of approaching vehicles. Electric and hybrid vehicles do not rely on traditional engines and at low speeds can be hard to hear. NHTSA plans to phase in the new rules over three years, starting with 2016 models. It expects the proposal will cost the auto industry about $23 million the first year, and estimates the additional per-vehicle cost at $35. NHTSA estimates the odds of a hybrid vehicle being involved in a pedestrian crash at 19 percent higher compared with traditional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles. For a car-bicycle crash, it's 38 percent higher. The sounds would have to be audible in a range of street and background sounds when the vehicle is traveling less than 18 mph. Click here to read more about NHTSA’s plans to require minimum sound levels on certain vehicles.

Mazda6 Will Compete on Price
Now that Mazda is putting the new 2014 version of its midsize Mazda6 sedan into showrooms, how it is going to compete with the likes of Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Ford Fusion? The quick answer: On price. USA Today reports that besides dramatic new looks and more fuel-efficient engines, Mazda is bringing the base price of its sedan in below major competitors, which should give it room in the most competitive segment in the industry. The 2014 Mazda6 starts at $21,675, including a destination fee, which is $155 more than the outgoing model, according to Mazda. By comparison, a 2013 Accord starts at $22,470 and the 2013 Fusion is $22,495. The base price is for the entry-level Sport model with a six-speed manual transmission. You'll have to spring another $1,615 for the optional automatic transmission to get standard features such as Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio capability, a backup camera, keyless entry, remote start and a touch-screen audio interface. For now, the only engine is a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that's EPA rated at 25 miles per gallon in city driving, 37 mpg on the highway, when equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission. Click here for more on the new Mazda6.

Top Auto Experts Team Up for "Best Training Day Ever"
On February 8, 2013, five of the automotive industry’s leading performance strategists collaborate for the first time in “The Best Training Day Ever,” will feature Dave Anderson of Learn to Lead, Jeff Cowan of Jeff Cowan’s Pro Talk, Paul Faletti of NCM and Associates, Alan Ram of Proactive Training Solutions, and Joe Verde of Joe Verde Training. Each contributor specializes in a different segment of automotive retail and will provide training ranging from service, sales and communications to management, leadership, motivation, and business analytics. “We are excited to be involved in ‘The Best Training Day Ever’ with the most highly respected trainers in the industry,” said Mike Burns, Sector Manager, OEM/FWS, North America for Shell Global Lubricants. “When the idea of the most extraordinary day of training and information unique to the automotive business was presented to us, we did not hesitate.” Sponsors of the event include NCM and Associates, Covideo, and Shell Lubricants. It will last one day and be held at the Hilton in Orlando. Space is very limited, so register now! Click here to register for “The Best Training Day Ever" using the registration code SHELL2013.

BMW's New Infotainment System Turns the Car Into a Mobile Office [MotorAuthority]
Houston Issues a Ticket to a Car Parked on a Wall [Jalopnik]
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Prototype Charging Toward Production [Autoblog]
Hyundai Bringing Concept Car to Detroit Auto Show [Detroit Free Press]