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Top 10 Automotive Stories of 2012
With a heavy heart the staff of AutoGuide.com say goodbye to 2012, along with its triumphs and tragedies. We await the New Year with open arms, and welcome its promise of a better world.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 was a year of the dragon, and it proved to be the stuff of legend, but thankfully it wasn’t a fire-breather. The Mayans were flat-out wrong; their doomsday prophecy was about as accurate as Bernie Madoff’s promise of a sound investment opportunity.
Still, the year brought other significant stories. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland discovered a subatomic particle consistent with the legendary Higgs boson. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, passed away, and in a brutal political battle Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States.
Of course the automotive industry made its share of headlines throughout the year. Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 stories from the past 12 months.
J.D. Power has released a study today which details the top five new technologies which car buyers want in their cars.
You’ve probably been noticing that fuel prices have been creeping up lately, as usually jittery investors see signs that the economic outlook is improving.
In the automotive sector there’s also some positive news; JD Power and Associates, along with the LMC Authority, are predicting that new vehicle sales in the US will reach 13.4 million this month, up from 12.7 million in December last year, this despite a reduction in sales incentives to move metal during 2011. Current estimates from both groups predict even stronger demand in 2012, with current projections set at some 13.8 million units.
“For the third straight time, light-vehicle sales are posting strong selling rates at the close of the year,” remarked Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president. ”Next year, the automotive industry will look to build upon the strong finish to 2011, but the real test in 2012 will be weathering a summer selling slowdown and posting a full year of a progressive recovery,” he said.
[Source: Automotive News]
The current state of economy and the ever rising price of fuel is changing car buying habits in American households. Where once mid-size sedans like the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry ruled, those spots are now being replaced by smaller cars like the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra (above).
Consumer survey specialists J.D. Powers and Associates is forecasting that for the first time in two-decades, the compact car will outsell the mid-size car by the end of this year. It also predicts that by 2015, about 20% of cars sold in the U.S. will be compacts, and mid-size vehicles will occupy only 14% of the market.
Part of the reason for this shift in vehicle sizes has to do with the size and technology of compact cars sold currently. These days, you can find all manner of gadgets and luxury features in a compact car, plus they are getting bigger in size. For instance, the current Corolla is only 10-inches shorter than its Camry sibling, so it is no longer a small, small car.
With all the advantages of a bigger vehicle available in a slightly smaller, more fuel efficient package, at a considerably lower price tag (typically $5000 less), no wonder more and more people are choosing to downsize their vehicles.
It’s official, J.D. Power and Associates has ranked Porsche‘s 911 as the most reliable sports car in the US.
The noted market research institute came to that conclusion after conducting it’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study, in which it surveyed cars registered between September 2007 and March 2008, with some 43,000 individual vehicle owners taking part in the poll.
Not only was the 911 rated the most reliable sports car in the survey, but Porsche was also deemed the top German manufacturer, with the company gaining high praise for quality in manufacturing – the Zuffenhausen assembly plant in Stuttgart deemed the best auto factory in the world. Not surprisingly Porsche AG was happy with the outcome.
“These results confirm our rigorous focus on the very highest quality throughout the entire process chain,” declared Porsche’s Director of Corporate Quality, Dr. Stefan Knirsch. “At Porsche we are never satisfied with our achievements. Traditionally we have striven to become even better because we take a very sporty view of quality.”
When it comes to retaining customers, there’s some reason for domestic automakers to celebrate about 2010. According to a recent J.D. Power Customer Retention survey, a total of 69 percent of those who own a vehicle from one of the big three, said they’ll go back and buy domestic when the time comes to get a new car or truck.
The numbers for the year also represent a growth in conquesting sales from foreign automakers with 14 percent of vehicles traded in at of GM, Ford and Chrysler dealers being foreign brands. That number is up from just 10 percent in 2008.
Unfortunately for the big three, they still have a long way to go in competing with foreign automakers in customer retention. According to the same J.D. Power survey, a solid 90 percent of foreign brand owners say they’ll buy an import again.
Automakers know how important customer loyalty is to the success of their companies. That’s why the good ones concentrate not only on making a safe and reliable vehicle, but one that’s fun to drive as well, and then back it up with great service. And J.D. Power is on top of which automakers are doing just that with their 2010 Customer Retention Study that shows which car buyers coming back for more.
New-vehicle owners are increasingly citing fun-to-drive vehicles as a top reason to remain loyal to their brand, while shifting away from expected resale value. Topping the list are Ford and Honda in a tie with a 62 percent rate of customer retention. Following close behind are Hyundai, Lexus and Toyota with a rate of 60 percent each.
The study shows that import manufacturers have the edge on the domestics but that gap is closing, thanks in part to customers realizing that American automakers are producing a greater number of good products. In the study, nine of the top 10 automakers are imports.
The automaker with the biggest jump is Kia, which has climbed the most compared to the 2009 study. They have jumped 21 percentage points, and is now seeing a retention of 58 percent (that’s 10 points above the industry average).
In addition to customer retention, the study also looks at the rates at which automotive brands capture customers from their competitors (this is known as conquesting). The importance of a fun-to-drive vehicle has also risen as a reason why brands conquest new customers from their competitors, as has vehicle styling.
Lexus continues to slide in J.D. Power VDS ratings
J.D. Power has just released its Vehicle Dependability (VDS) Study for 2010, giving the top spot to Porsche, followed closely by Lincoln and Buick. Only one of the three, Buick, was on the podium last year, but has dropped from first to third. Also of significance is the continued slide by Lexus, which finds itself in fourth place this year. Last year Lexus placed third, marking the first time in 14 years the luxury Japanese automaker didn’t take first. That’s nothing compared to Jaguar, however, which dropped a total of 21 spots from second last year to 22nd for 2010.
Other big movers include Ford, moving up six spots to 8th overall.
Included in this year’s results, J.D. Power thought to mention several automakers that placed highly, but which aren’t generally considered by consumers due to poor brand perception about reliability. These include Cadillac, Ford, Hyundai, Lincoln and Mercury. No doubt these brands will all see improved brand perception and sales in the years to come.
Despite its recall woes this year, Toyota continues to perform highly, placing sixth overall and taking home the most vehicle segment awards, for models such as the Highlander, Prius, Sequoia and Tundra. Honda, in seventh place overall, took home three for the CR-V, Fit and Ridgeline.
Overall, J.D. Power found that vehicle dependability has improved by 7 percent.
The 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study was based on responses by more than 52,000 vehicle owners with three-year-old (2007) models. Scores are based on the number of problems per 10p vehicles, with lower scores indicating a higher quality.
GALLERY: J.D. Power 2010 Vehicle Dependability Study
Official release after the jump: