Volkswagen Leans on Electric Vehicles and Nostalgia to Grow in U.S.

First Up 02/22/24

Volkswagen Leans on Electric Vehicles and Nostalgia to Grow in U.S.

Probably only Americans of a certain age remember when the Volkswagen Beetle was the best-selling imported car in the United States and the hippest ride to a Grateful Dead concert was a Volkswagen Microbus. Volkswagen is trying to tap some of that nostalgia in its latest push to regain the status and sales it enjoyed in the United States during the Beetle’s and Microbus’s heydays in the 1960s. But this time it hopes its top models will be electric, reports The New York Times. The German carmaker is second only to Toyota globally but is a niche player in the United States. Part of its plan to revive its fortunes here is to lean on a new electric model that resembles the Microbus, the ID.Buzz, and to revive the Scout brand with a line of electric pickups and sport utility vehicles. Last week, as giant earth movers kicked up clouds of dust, Volkswagen executives and local officials gathered near Columbia, S.C., to inaugurate the site of a factory that will build vehicles bearing the Scout badge for the first time since 1980. Click here for the full story.

Mercedes-Benz Walks Back EV Sales Target on Waning Demand

Mercedes-Benz Group AG warned that electric vehicles will remain more expensive than their combustion-engine siblings for years to come as the luxury-car maker braces for cooling demand for cars with a plug. The manufacturer on Thursday forecast lower returns in 2024, citing challenges from a slowing economy. Mercedes also pared back its outlook for EV sales, with demand mainly in the small and medium segments where it’s not as present. Variable cost parity between EVs and traditional cars “is many years away,” Chief Executive Officer Ola Källenius told Bloomberg Television. “You can see that in the pricing.” Mercedes still rose as much as 5.4 percent — the steepest intraday gain since November 2022 — after announcing a $3.2 billion share buyback program. The CEO flagged potential for additional buybacks if Mercedes can keep producing free cash flow like it has in the past years. While the company is rewarding shareholders, its push to sell more top-end cars like the S-Class to bolster profits and fund the costly transition to battery technology is running into first roadblocks. Click here for the full story.

Audi and Verizon Business Partner on New Tech at Test Track

An Audi test track is set to receive new technology to demonstrate and develop advance communications and mobility capabilities via a partnership with Verizon Business. Audi and Verizon are building what the brands are calling a private wireless network and tech-testing environment at the luxury automaker's proving ground in Neustadt, Germany. Neustadt is northwest of Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt. According to Automotive News, the companies said the wireless network is designed to duplicate conditions in global markets and will feature replicas of Verizon's U.S. public network, local European networks and the roaming network of Audi's mobile virtual network partner in Asia-Pacific. The wireless telecommunications company says the network will utilize a dual 5G and LTE platform from Nokia, infrastructure that uses Amazon Web Services and real-time video and data-transmission technology. The setup will allow Audi to develop and test vehicle-to-cloud communication, automaker-customer interaction and cellular vehicle-to-everything technology, or C-V2X, among other uses, the companies said. Click here for the full story.

Cox Automotive Chief: Car Dealers ‘Meaningful’

Three years into his job as president of Cox Automotive, Stephen Rowley marvels at the inner workings of the auto industry, particularly retailing. Before leading Cox Automotive, he spent 30 years in telecommunications. Now, he leads an array of digital brands, including Autotrader (inventory listings), Kelley Blue Book (pricing information), (website design and marketing), Dealertrack (finance and insurance), vAuto (inventory management) and Manheim (auctions). Rowley spoke with WardsAuto during the recent NADA Show: The conversation included his thoughts about dealers, managing a multi-brand company and where he thinks auto retailing is headed. Here’s an edited version of the interview. WardsAuto: Here’s a standard question, but it can elicit interesting answers: Where do you see auto retailing going in the next five to 10 years, and where specifically does Cox Automotive fit in?  Rowley: I can see out three to five years, that’s about it. Ten years is too far out. Digital retailing is something that needs to continue to be perfected. Click here for the full interview.

Toyota prices 2024 Land Cruiser at $57,345

After a nearly three-year hiatus and a complete redesign, Toyota Motor Corp. has given its next-generation Land Cruiser SUV a starting price of $57,345 including delivery when it goes on sale in the U.S. this spring. Based on the Land Cruiser Prado that the Japanese automaker sells elsewhere — which also is the basis for the redesigned 2024 Lexus GX — the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser is significantly smaller and almost $30,000 less expensive than the previous model, which ended a 63-year uninterrupted run in the U.S. in 2021. It will be imported from Japan, reports Automotive News. The 2024 Land Cruiser is 4.4 inches narrower than the previous version and 1.2 inches shorter, and it is built on the automaker's global F1 body-on-frame platform. With ground clearance of up to 8.7 inches, it has an approach angle of up to 31 degrees, maximum departure angle of 22 degrees and a breakover angle of 25 degrees. Under the hood, it will be powered by a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that has an integrated 48-hp electric motor and small, separate battery. The iForce Max hybrid powertrain generates up to 326 hp and 465 pound-feet of torque. Click here for the full story.

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