Mazda Gets Respect, Now It Wants More Sales

First Up 03/14/17

VW Brand's Cost-Cutting Likely to Slow Down on Product Offensive 
Volkswagen Group's core VW brand reduced its fixed costs in Germany for the first time in nearly a decade last year, but management doesn't expect the brand can maintain the same momentum as it launches its biggest product offensive to date. According to Automotive News, VW brand plans to launch more than 10 new vehicles this year, five of which were not previously in its range. In November, VW announced that as part of its long-term strategy plan, the brand wants to permanently reduce its cost base by 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in Germany by 2020 in order to double its operating margin to 4 percent over the 2015 level. VW brand chief Herbert Diess said last week at the auto show in Geneva that fixed costs were reduced last year by 300 million in Germany, where the brand employs about 120,000 workers, the first time that has happened since 2007. For more on VW’s cost-cutting plans in the midst of its product offensive, click here.

Intel Buys Mobileye in $15.3 Million Bid to Lead Self-Driving Car Market 
In the world of driverless cars, household names like Google and Uber have raced ahead of rivals, building test vehicles and starting trials on city streets. But, reports The New York Times, when it comes to what is under the hood, a wide array of lesser-known companies are looking to supply the technology required to bring such driverless cars to the masses. And in a $15.3 billion deal announced on Monday, Intel made a play to corner the market on how much of that technology is developed. The chip-maker’s acquisition of Mobileye, an Israeli company that makes sensors and cameras for driverless vehicles, is one of the largest in the fast-growing sector and sets the stage for increasing competition between Silicon Valley giants as well as traditional automakers over who will dominate the world of autonomous cars. Read more about Intel’s purchase of Mobileye here.

President Trump to Visit Detroit Area to Talk Auto Jobs, Deregulation 
President Donald Trump is planning to hold an event at the American Center for Mobility in Detroit on Wednesday to talk about jobs — specifically automotive jobs — and may announce a plan to roll back fuel efficiency standards. The Detroit Free Press reports that the president plans to hold the event at Willow Run, home to the American Center for Mobility, a testing center for self-driving vehicles. Administration officials said the president also will meet with auto executives, union officials and hold a rally with workers. Two people familiar with the president's plans said they expect the president will talk about easing fuel economy and emissions standards set to take place between 2021 and 2025. The automotive industry has been lobbying hard for the standards, adopted by the Obama administration in 2011, to be relaxed because of unanticipated changes in the types of cars consumers are buying and lower than expected oil and gas prices. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump plans to visit both Nashville, Tenn., and metro Detroit and said the visit will highlight "the need to eliminate burdensome regulation that needlessly hinders job growth." For the full story, click here.

Mazda Gets Respect, Now It Wants More Sales 
Mazda makes vehicles that win praise. Accolades include Consumer Reports giving 100 percent recommendations to every Mazda it tested. Mazda also touts getting high average transaction prices in every segment it competes in. And its demographics averages are strong for customer income ($93,000) and schooling (74 percent college-educated). But, according to Wards Auto, the Japanese brand has work to do regarding vehicle sales in the U.S. Mazda sold 297,773 units in 2016, off 6.7 percent from the year before. MNAO President and CEO Masahiro Moro shuffled leadership positions following Mazda 2016’s sales performance at a time when industrywide deliveries hit a record 17.46 million units. He did so “in order to seize more than our share” of the market, he said in a statement announcing the reorganization. But the company vows it will not resort to whatever it takes to boost sales. “We are not going to beat Toyota and Honda at their own game,” says Jeremy Barnes, MNAO’s director-public relations and brand experience. “We want to play our game. Our approach is less ‘price, price, price’ and ‘deal, deal, deal.’ That’s one reason to go to ‘Mazda Premium.’” For more on Mazda’s plans, click here.

Audi's Equal Pay Spot Helps Brand Top Automakers in February Twitter Engagement
Automotive News reports that Audi topped auto brands in Twitter engagement in February with help from its Super Bowl spot that addressed pay equality. The brand’s online success was followed by Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and BMW, according to ListenFirst Media. ListenFirst aggregates conversations about manufacturers, their models, and their owned engagement – engagement that’s directly attributable to their Twitter accounts. The company says it then normalizes the stats by the total engagement earned by all of the manufacturers to find the “share of voice” earned by each company to rank them. In Audi’s commercial “Daughter,” which was posted on Twitter, a girl’s “Little Rascals”-like drag race is voiced over by her father, who struggles internally with how to explain the wage gap to his daughter. Audi’s tweet, which accrued more than 34,000 likes and nearly 12,000 retweets, was posted less than two weeks after the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21. For more on Audi’s Twitter engagement, click here.

What Could the Border Adjustment Tax Mean for Your Dealership? 
On the heels of AIADA’s Washington, D.C., Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) Fly-In this month, join AIADA for a special AutoTalk session with AIADA President Cody Lusk on Tuesday, March 21, for an in-depth look at the issue and its importance to international nameplate dealers. The 20 percent BAT is a provision in the “Better Way” tax proposal, which is currently being discussed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lusk will provide insight into the status of this destructive tax proposal and its potential ramifications for dealers and their businesses and take questions from participants.

Topics covered in this special AutoTalk webinar will include:

  • Just what is the BAT?

  • Who is proposing the tax, and is it part of a larger tax plan?

  • Does the tax apply to vehicles assembled in the U.S., like the Toyota Camry? Or does it only impact cars and light trucks that are imported into the country?

  • What is the projected impact on the annual vehicle sales rate?

  • How will this affect consumer affordability?

To register for the 10:00 a.m. EDT session, click here. To register for the 4:00 p.m. EDT session, click here.

Around the Web

Mazda to Add Android Auto, Apple CarPlay Capability [

Nio Previews  U.S.-Bound Electric Car Due in 2020 [MotorAuthority]

The $1.2M Electric Croatian Supercar You've Probably Never Heard Of [Autoblog

As Stella Bears Down, Heed This Winter Car Advice [