BMW Gives First Look at Big X7 on the Road

First Up 01/09/18

Trump Courts Economic Mayhem
President Trump’s new National Security Strategy argues that the U.S. must compete in a hostile world. Yet, writes Robert B. Zoellick in The Wall Street Journal, the White House also wants to retreat behind trade barriers. The Trump administration has stacked up a pile of trade cases that will come tumbling down early in 2018. More important than any specific case is the signal of a strategy of economic defeatism. But these amount to an overture to the big show: likely withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement or both. The continuing negotiations to “fix” Nafta are doomed. Mexico and Canada would probably agree on eliminating barriers and setting new rules for the digital age. But Mr. Trump’s real aim is to dictate market outcomes. The administration wants to start with the goal of eliminating the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and then manipulate rules to that end. True competitors honestly assess their weaknesses, adapt and then grow stronger. Those are the qualities that made America great. This will be the year that trade policy could define Trump’s fearful America. Read more here

VW Taps U.K. Skoda Exec to Lead U.S. Sales
Volkswagen of America has tapped an executive from its sibling Skoda brand in the United Kingdom to take over sales operations for the Volkswagen brand in the United States, reports Automotive News. The company said Monday that Duncan Movassaghi will replace Ron Stach as senior vice president for U.S. sales, effective Feb. 1. Stach, 49, who had been head of U.S. sales for VW since March 2016, left Jan. 4 to "pursue other career opportunities," Volkswagen said in a statement. Details of his departure were not released. Movassaghi will oversee Volkswagen's U.S. sales operations; its retail, fleet and remarketing efforts; and operation of its U.S. sales regions. He will report to Derrick Hatami, Volkswagen of America's executive vice president for sales and marketing. Movassaghi most recently was managing director of Skoda UK. He joined VW in 2010 in the United Kingdom after working in the pharmaceutical retail and banking sectors. Movassaghi is a 1998 graduate of Cambridge University with a degree in engineering. For more, click here

Toyota Joins Uber, Amazon, Pizza Hut for Driverless Pod
The automotive industry is finally getting ready to deliver on its long-promised future of advanced, driverless cars. To get to the marketplace first, companies are pairing off to share technology and co-develop business models. According to The Detroit News, the latest of those pairings came Monday when Toyota Motor Corp. announced at the CES technology show it is joining forces with five other companies — including Uber, Amazon, and Pizza Hut — to develop an autonomous pod-like vehicle called the e-Palette that’s a blank canvas to be presented in a variety of ways: An illustration shows it being used for everything from a rolling sneaker store, to a mobile pizzeria, to an on-site laboratory. “I would argue that we are moving from software to a platform as the thing we’re all after,” Toyota president Akio Toyoda said at the reveal of the e-Palette concept vehicle at CES. “It’s a platform that will be the backbone of mobility-as-a-service for autonomy, for car-sharing, for any number of services that we want to make possible.” For more, click here

BMW Gives First Look at Big X7 on the Road
It will be almost a year before anyone can buy the new BMW X7, its biggest SUV yet, but the German automaker is already releasing images of it in pre-production. According to USA Today, the X7 is among five SUV models manufactured in South Carolina. Before it's released to the public, the X7 will be put to the test by the engineers and assembly personnel at the more than 9,000-employee facility outside Greer. "This is a very special vehicle, and our employees are looking forward to yet a further member of the X family," said Knudt Flor, the head of the Spartanburg County plant, om a statement. "Together with the BMW X7, a total of five BMW X models will be exported from Spartanburg to all four corners of the globe.” X7 pre-production team members have already started taking the vehicle out for a spin. But don't expect to get a good look at it — a camouflage wrap obscures its contours. The X7 models being built at the Greer plant are on the same assembly line as the BMW X5 and X6 models, according to the company. The pre-production team is sorting out the full production process and future training. Read more about the vehicle here

Nissan Wants to Make Cars That Can Read Your Mind
Nissan is working on making cars that can read your mind, reports Business Insider. The company plans to demonstrate its Brain-to-Vehicle technology at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Drivers would wear a skullcap covered in electrodes and wires that would read their brain waves to make the car's reaction time faster. If the driver decides to turn the car, for example, the technology could initiate the process before the driver can react to his or her thoughts. A Brain-to-Vehicle system could also be used in an autonomous car, allowing the car to adjust its driving style based on the owner's desires. "When most people think about autonomous driving, they have a very impersonal vision of the future, where humans relinquish control to the machines. Yet B2V technology does the opposite, by using signals from their own brain to make the drive even more exciting and enjoyable," Nissan Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci said in a statement. Read more about Nissan’s cars here.

Plug the Profit Leaks
The dealership’s general manager asked a staff member to go get treats for an employee meeting, giving the employee a demo to use to run the errand. On his way to the store, the employee ran a red light while texting, and broadsided another vehicle in the intersection, severely injuring the other driver. Police discovered the employee had a suspended license. CLAIM AMOUNT: $750,000

Do you know who’s driving your vehicles? Federated Insurance recommends several best practices to help manage risks like these. For example, order motor vehicle records (MVRs) on anyone who has access to company vehicles or who drives any vehicle on behalf of the dealership. Never allow anyone to drive a company-owned vehicle without ensuring their driving record meets your MVR standards. To learn more, contact your local Federated Insurance representative and request a copy of our Auto Dealer “Keys to Success” risk management packet. Visit for more risk management resources.

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