Mazda's Shift to Premium is Back on Track

First Up 12/02/19

Mazda's Shift to Premium is Back on Track
Mazda is getting back on track in its journey from a small, mainstream brand to a more premium player after something of a rocky year. According to Automotive News, U.S. sales have suffered beyond the industry as a whole, the launch of the redesigned Mazda3 sedan drew stronger media accolades than consumer demand, and there was some dealer pushback on store upgrades designed to replace the breezy zoom-zoom aesthetic with something more like an upscale department store. But there's good reason for optimism, said Jeff Guyton, who took over as president of Mazda North America in April after holding the same position at Mazda Europe for a decade. The new CX-30 subcompact crossover is likely to find a sweet spot in the U.S. market based on price, features and body style, Guyton said on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show. A new U.S.-built crossover is coming in 2021. And the brand has reached a milestone in the transformation of its retail experience, a key piece of Mazda's strategy to improve its performance. Read more here. 

UAW, FCA Reach Proposed Tentative Agreement
The UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have reached a proposed tentative agreement that adds nearly 8,000 jobs over the life of the deal. The agreement potentially starts the last lap of months of union and automaker contract wrangling, reports The Detroit Free Press. The announcement of an agreement came Saturday morning following meetings at FCA's Conner Center in Detroit, formerly the production plant for the Dodge Viper. The proposal now goes to the UAW FCA National Council, where local union leaders are scheduled to meet Wednesday to decide whether to recommend it to the membership. If they do, the proposal would then face a ratification vote by the approximately 47,200 FCA workers represented by the UAW. Details of the deal were not released, other than the union saying, "In addition to the $4.5 billion in major investments previously announced, negotiators secured an additional $4.5 billion for a total of $9 billion of investments adding 7,900 jobs during the contract period.” Sources said Friday that workers were in line for $9,000 ratification bonuses. Read more here. 

Mercedes Exits NY Auto Show for 2020
Once a star of America's biggest car shows, Mercedes-Benz is now abandoning them, one by one, reports Automotive News. The German luxury maker plans to skip next year's New York auto show, after having been a central figure at the influential luxury-leaning consumer event for at least four decades. It is part of a bigger move by Mercedes — and one also being made by other brands around the world. In recent years, Mercedes also has dropped out of the premier U.S. auto shows in Detroit and Chicago. Only its presence at Los Angeles continues among the Tier 1 American events. But even that commitment could be in doubt. A Mercedes spokesman noted last week it is too early to say whether the brand will attend the 2020 Los Angeles Auto Show. The exit from New York could foreshadow Mercedes' rejection of the auto show business model entirely, as the company focuses on digital and retail-based ways to engage with customers. A Mercedes spokeswoman cited the automaker's desire to launch new products through nontraditional marketing methods to create brand awareness and engage shoppers. Read more here. 

Nissan's New CEO Takes Over with Long List of Problems to FixOnly once before has a leader of Nissan Motor Co. inherited challenges as monumental as those confronting Makoto Uchida, who is starting his first week as chief executive officer. According to Bloomberg, the last time Nissan faced an existential crisis was two decades ago, when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and was rescued by Renault SA, which took a stake in the Japanese carmaker and sent in Carlos Ghosn to turn it around. Ghosn later added Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to the pact, which became the world’s biggest carmaking alliance under the former chairman and CEO. Once again, Nissan needs to get its business in order. And fast. Ghosn’s arrest a year ago on charges of financial crimes unleashed corporate infighting, and damaged Nissan’s relations with Renault. Profits are at decade lows, 12,500 jobs will be cut and there are few new models to refresh an aging product lineup. Autonomous vehicles and electrification are poised to disrupt the industry in a once-in-a-generation shift. Read more here (subscription required). 

Japanese Hybrids Are Beating the Slump in China's Car Market 
China’s once-in-a-generation car slump is hobbling carmakers around the globe that placed their bets on what is the world’s biggest auto market. But one group is weathering the slowdown unscathed: Japan. Iconic car companies like Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are increasing sales in a market that has fallen almost every month since June 2018. They’re doing it by targeting what’s proven to be a sweet spot in the faltering market — demand for hybrid gasoline-electric cars. According to The Detroit News, iconic car companies like Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are increasing sales in a market that has fallen almost every month since June 2018. They’re doing it by targeting what’s proven to be a sweet spot in the faltering market — demand for hybrid gasoline-electric cars. Japanese automakers are leaders in the technology, which appeals to Chinese consumers keen to heed the government push toward new-energy vehicles, but aren’t ready to shift to pure-electric autos just yet. “The hybrid I drive now is as reliable as the one I used before but more fuel-efficient,” said Charles Wang, who bought a hybrid Toyota Camry in 2019 after driving a gasoline-powered Honda Accord for six years. “I never regretted my choice of sticking to Japanese cars.” Read more here. 

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