Asian Automakers Reveal New Cars, Concepts at Detroit Auto Show

First Up 01/15/13

January 15, 2013

Honda Targeting Record 2013 Sales in U.S.
Automotive News reports that American Honda is forecasting a record U.S. sales year for its combined Honda and Acura divisions, even as projections for the overall market waver under economic uncertainty. Honda is aiming at its 2007 sales record of 1.55 million sales for this year, American Honda CEO Tetsuo Iwamura said. Hitting that number would represent a 9 percent sales gain for the automaker, up from 1.42 million units in 2012 and 1.15 million in 2011. “Our target is to challenge for our record sales,” Iwamura said in a roundtable interview at the auto show. Honda is in a strong position, with recent redesigns of its three top volume lines: the entire Accord lineup and CR-V crossover, as well as the rescuing its underwhelming 2012 Civic with a confident 2013 freshening. “This is a really good chance for our business,” Honda Motor CEO Takanobu Ito said. “We have a lot of momentum. We are at full production for the U.S. market.” Next year will mark the arrival of a redesigned Fit and a new Fit-based crossover, both of which will be made at the plant in Celaya, Mexico. “Compared to others, [our North American production] is in a very advantageous position,” Ito said. “We want to increase that even more.” Click here for coverage of Honda’s plans in 2013.

Asian Automakers Reveal New Cars, Concepts at Detroit Auto Show
In addition to Toyota's widely anticipated Furia, which likely will become the next Corolla, Asian automakers Honda, Infiniti, and Hyundai unveiled new cars and concepts Monday. According to The Detroit News, Honda unveiled its Urban SUV, a concept design, built on a future small-car platform and similar in shape to Nissan's small Juke SUV and Hyundai's Veloster. Infiniti launched its new and renamed 2014 Q50 sports sedan Monday. Infiniti is renaming all its cars, with "Q" referring to all sedans and "QX" for all its SUVs. Hyundai wants to move up-market, and is providing some clues of what's to come with the new HCD-14 Genesis concept vehicle unveiled Monday. The show car "gives a hint of the design direction we'll be taking, and an indication of the focus we're placing on driving dynamics and technology," explained John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America and a former Ford senior engineer. "We instilled HCD-14 Genesis with a premium-sport 4-door coupe road presence," explained Chris Chapman, the former BMW designer who is now running advanced design operations for the Korean automaker. Read about the Monday unveilings of Asian brands at the Detroit Auto Show here.

German Auto Makers to Shake Up Luxury Market
Germany's luxury carmakers, fresh from record 2012 sales, plan to launch new, lower priced models that would draw younger, less affluent U.S. customers away from mass-market brands. On Monday, BMW AG unveiled a new version of its top-selling 3 Series sedan designed to have a starting price about $4,000 less than its current least-expensive $37,000 U.S. 3 Series. A day earlier, Daimler AG showed its coming 4-cyclinder Mercedes-Benz CLA, which executives hinted could start at a price just below $30,000. Audi is working on 2014 release of a four-door version of its new A3 compact expected to cost in the mid- to high $20,000 range in the U.S. According to The Wall Street Journal, the three vehicles represent the most concerted effort in a decade to lower the barrier to entry to their brands in the U.S. The key target, especially for Mercedes, are consumers in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s whose numbers rival the size of the baby boom generation. "This group is 75 million strong," Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said during Sunday's launch of the CLA ahead of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Click here to read about how German automakers intend to capture today’s younger buyers.

As Sales Lag, Nissan Cuts Price on Leaf Electric
After disappointing sales last year for its Leaf electric car, Nissan announced on Monday that it was cutting the price of the base model in 2013 by 18 percent, increasing the car’s driving range and offering two other trim lines with more features. According to The New York Times, the new Leaf S, which goes on sale in February, will be built in Tennessee and carry a suggested retail price of $28,800. Various federal and state incentives for electric cars will bring the effective price below $20,000 for many buyers. Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chief executive, said that beginning production in the United States instead of Japan, where the car is currently made, would allow the lower price because Nissan won’t have to contend with the high value of the yen. As noted earlier, Nissan previewed the car for California Leaf owners on Saturday. But the company offered more details of its thinking at a news conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Mr. Ghosn said Nissan had forecast a 50 increase in sales of the Leaf globally in 2012. “We got 22 percent. It was a disappointment for us,” he said. Read more about the repriced 2013 Nissan Leaf here.

Hyundai, Kia Dealers: Little MPG Backlash
According to Automotive News, Hyundai and Kia dealers, after lavishing owners with apologies, free service and car washes, report little – if any – backlash from customers who bought vehicles with inflated fuel economy ratings. And the dealers are pleased because the reimbursement program brings customers back to the dealerships. In November Hyundai and Kia admitted that the fuel economy ratings of 13 nameplates from the 2011-13 model years were misstated. The companies apologized to dealers and owners. "The first thing they did was apologize to us," said Henry Primeaux, owner of Primeaux Kia in Tulsa, Okla. "I've been with a lot of franchises and nobody's ever done that before." Hyundai and Kia gave dealers cash to help pay for freebies or other goodwill-related charges to please owners of vehicles with inflated mileage ratings, dealers say. "Hyundai did reimburse the dealerships to cover the goodwill that we needed to do to make these customers happy," said Mike DeSilva, general manager of Liberty Hyundai in Mahwah, N.J. "We've given free service, car washes. Little things like that." To read about how Hyundai has helped dealers minimize MPG backlash, click here.

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