Women Celebrated at Urban Wheel Awards

First Up 01/14/13

January 14, 2013

Women Celebrated at Urban Wheel Awards
An impressive group of women were celebrated for their achievements in the auto industry at the 17th Annual Urban Wheel Awards show in Detroit Sunday night. Automotive News’ Arlena Sawyer reports that Jenell Ross, dealer principle at Bob Ross Auto Group, in suburban Dayton, Ohio, was the recipient of the 2013 Urban Wheel Pioneer of the Year Award. Cody Lusk, president of AIADA; Bill Underriner, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association; and Damon Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, presented the award. A second-generation dealer, Ross is a member of AIADA and takes over as its 2013 chairwoman on Feb. 11, at AIADA’s Annual Meeting and Luncheon in Orlando. Ross became dealer principal of her family-owned dealership group in 1997 at age 27 when her father, Robert Ross Sr., died. She operated the business with her mother until she passed away in 2010. Ross and her brother, Robert Jr., who is vice president of fixed operations, manage Bob Ross Buick-GMC and Mercedes-Benz of Centerville, started by their father, and Bob Ross Fiat, added in 2011. Click here for more on last night’s Urban Wheel Awards, held in Detroit.

Luxury Car Models Back in the Spotlight at Detroit Auto Show
There's a serious luxury vibe building for Detroit's North American International Auto Show. The New York Auto Show traditionally has been the U.S. venue for introductions by premium marques, and Detroit was more about bread and butter – high volume vehicles and buzz cars. But, reports The Detroit News, this year, Acura, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Lexus, Lincoln, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and even Maserati are unveiling luxury cars or concept models at Cobo Center in Detroit. Why? Because luxury is the most recession-proof segment of the auto industry. "We think the luxury segment is definitely back," said Chuck Schifsky, spokesman for American Honda's luxury brand, Acura, whose sales jumped 27 percent in 2012. "We are pretty bullish going into 2013." Some unexpected players are hunting this ground, too. Hyundai, for example, will show a premium concept car at the Detroit show. "Hyundai's share of the premium segments in which it competes is now 9 percent, significantly higher than our overall brand share of about 5 percent," said John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America. For photos and further coverage of what to expect from the luxury segment at this weeks’ North American International Auto Show, click here.

Mercedes-Benz Reveals Lower-Priced Sporty Model
Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept with hints of its highly anticipated CLA-class sedan Sunday night at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. Click here for video from the event. When it goes on sale this fall the CLA-class will be Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level model aimed at younger buyers. It will be priced below the popular compact C-class with a starting price of about $30,000, about $5,000 less than the starting price for the C-class. “We are going to offer people a whole new way to enter the Mercedes family,” said Joachim Schmidt, head of sales and marketing for Mercedes. “It will be much more attainable . . . and win over customers who never thought they could consider a Mercedes.” Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, said the CLA-class is built on a new platform and will be the basis for five new models for the brand, including a small crossover. Not all of those models will come to the U.S. According to The Detroit Free Press, Mercedes also said it has developed a new all-wheel drive system for front-wheel drive cars that will debut on the CLA-class sedan and will be rolled out globally. Click here for more on Mercedes-Benz’s new, lower-priced model.

Nissan to Introduce Infiniti Brand to Japan Market
The Wall Street Journal reports that Nissan Motor Co.’s upscale Infiniti vehicles will be introduced into its home market in Japan in as soon as two years for the first time, some 25 years after the brand was launched. “Nissan needs to accommodate the Infiniti platform in Japan. It’s a must,” Infiniti division president Johan de Nysschen said Sunday. Mr. de Nysschen, who took over the Nissan premium brand last July, told reporters in a meeting ahead of the Detroit Auto Show, that he wants to bring Infiniti into the Japanese market “within the next two years.” Nissan currently sells vehicles under the Infiniti brand in about 50 markets globally, but sells its upscale vehicles at home under the Nissan brand. Mr. de Nysschen said that a study is underway to determine how best to integrate Infiniti into the Yokohama-based company’s domestic dealer network. Nissan wants to expand Infiniti sales globally to 500,000 vehicles a year by 2017, he said, up from about 160,000 in 2012. Nissan and Toyota Motor Corp. both launched luxury car brands in 1989. Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, was introduced into the Japanese market in 2005. Read about Nissan’s plans for its Infiniti brand here.

J.D. Power Gauges Consumer Satisfaction Levels with Navigation Systems
Despite many new-vehicle owners saying their factory-installed navigation system is better than their previous system, navigation system satisfaction has declined from 2011, "as owners are frustrated by the complexity of menu systems, voice control commands, and inputting destinations," according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Navigation Usage and Satisfaction Study released late last week. And it seems smartphones may be a danger to the relevance of these navigation systems, as well, reports Auto Remarketing. "Manufacturers of navigation systems face a serious challenge as smartphone navigation usage continues to rise and gains preference among vehicle owners," said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power. "Free apps, up-to-date maps and a familiar interface allow for quicker routing and improved interaction, including better voice recognition. Manufacturers have a window of opportunity to either improve upon the current navigation system platforms or focus on new ways to integrate smartphones,” he continued. Now in its 14th year, the study identifies six factors that contribute to overall satisfaction with factory-installed navigation systems: ease of use, routing, navigation display screen, speed of system, voice directions, and voice activation. For coverage of J.D. Power’s findings regarding navigation system satisfaction, click here.

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