AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
AutoGuide’s regular “Under the Hood” segment has already explained the vagaries of octane and the advantages of Top Tier gasoline, but there’s so much more to fuel than that. Ethanol, for instance, is a major component of gas, and something that’s a potential peril for consumers. But what is ethanol? And what is E85? Should you run these fuels in your vehicle?
It seems to be an emerging trend amongst Japanese automakers, one of transferring critical aspects of operations to locations outside of Japan. Nissan has already done it by opening a new HQ in Hong Kong, now Lexus is looking to shift key units, notably it’s global marketing operations, from the Japan to the US.
Executive vice president Yukitoshi Funo says that the move is part of a plan to make the brand seem less Japan-centric and reinforce it’s image as a global powerhouse. In some respects it’s perhaps a bit ironic since Japan was one of the later markets where Lexus, as a brand was introduced (many JDM versions of Lexus cars and SUVs being labeled as high zoot Toyotas for many years).
With the move of global marketing operations, there are also rumors circulating that Lexus could move its actual global headquarters overseas, though as yet such reports are unfounded. If such a scenario were to materialize, many say that the US would be a logical choice, as the brand has been established the longest here.
Whether that happens or not, the shifting of marketing responsibilities Stateside indicates that a new mentality is taking hold at Toyota, reinforced by one company executive during a Tokyo Motor Show reception who elected not to use chopsticks while eating. “We [as a company] don’t want to be blatantly Japanese,” he said.
[Source: Automotive News]
Circuit of the Americas is halting of the Formula One circuit in Austin, Texas, effective immediately.
The organizers came to this decision after they didn’t receive a contract to assure that the Formula One United States Grand Prix will be held at their venue.
“We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern,” said Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of The Americas in a press release. He went on to say that more than 100,000 fans expressed interest in the event.
The track would be the first purpose-built Grand Prix facility in the United States, but it seems that construction which otherwise had proceeded as expected, will only continue with a contract.
The announcement came shortly after Texas state comptroller Susan Combs said there wouldn’t be money paid out until after the race takes place.
That stacked on top of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone’s $25 million sanctioning fee means the whole thing faces serious challenges.
Produced at Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant, the Sienna has long been a top seller in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Now, scheduled early this November, South Korea will mark the Sienna’s first distribution outside of North America.
Toyota has been exporting U.S. built vehicles since 1988 and the addition of South Korea bumps the number of countries that will receive U.S. built Toyota vehicles to 19. Models that are currently exported included the Toyota Avalon sedan of Georgetown, Kentucky, the Sequoia SUV of Princeton, Indiana and the Tacoma/Tundra pickup of San Antonio, Texas.
Yoshimi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America, Inc. is optimistic of Sienna’s success in South Korea, “Toyota’s North American operations are constantly working to identify and expand new export opportunities for the vehicles we produce here, building on our extensive investments in auto production, research and development in the U.S. and helping to maintain a strong, stable base of jobs… With this development and other possible achievements in the future, we hope to continue boosting exports from our North American operations.”
Toyota North America has exported about 100,000 units for calendar year 2010. Initial sales of the Sienna in the South Korean market is a modest 600 units annually.
GALLERY: 2012 Sienna
Porsche‘s profits rose by 25 percent in the first 9 months of the year, as overall revenue and vehicle deliveries rose by 20 and 31 percent respectively.
Cayenne sales were up 74 percent, as the SUV became the brand’s best selling model, with 43,924 units sold. The Panamera was second with 18,750 sold. Sales of the 911 sports car were down by 13 percent to 13,777, although a new model will be launching in December. Sales of the Cayenne outrank Porsche’s sports cars by an astonishing 2:1 ratio, an unthinkable statistic as little as a decade ago.
Europe remained Porsche’s strong market, followed by the United States. Chinese sales were up 82 percent and show no signs of slowing down. Porsche’s upcoming Cajun small crossover should help push sales to even greater volumes when it launches in 2013.
[Source: Wall Street Journal]
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is making Alfa Romeo’s U.S. re-launch a top priority, calling it “the most difficult thing I have to do”. Alfa Romeo last sold cars in the U.S. in 1995, but the brand still has a strong image in the U.S., spurring Marchionne to focus efforts on North America.
Alfa Romeo’s image has taken a beating in Europe over its legendary quality issues, and this factor provided further impetus for Fiat to focus their efforts in the U.S., where Alfa’s are viewed with nostalgic fondness. Marchionne hopes that Alfa will sell 80,000 cars in the U.S. in 2014, with 400,000 units sold globally – up from 150,000 currently.
Alfa will offer the 4C sports car and a compact SUV will be offered initially with the Giulia sedan and wagon, the Mito hatchback, a new Spider and a Chrysler 300C-derived 6C sedan coming as well. The 4C is said to be a key halo designed to capitalize on memories of Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Spider in the iconic film The Graduate.
Discuss this story at 4CForums.com
Along with things like baseball and celebrities, America is known for its cars. It might surprise you to learn then that in a newly compiled list of the top auto-producing nations, the U.S. of A. doesn’t place very highly. In fact, according to the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association of a total 58,478,810 cars produced last year the U.S. ranks just 7th, responsible for assembling some 1.2 million cars.
As for the top spot, it might not surprise you to learn that the world’s most populous nation, China, ranks first, churning out some 13.9 million vehicles. In second place is Japan (8.3 million), then South Korea, Brazil and India.
If the European Union member states were to rate as a single country however, then they would finish in the top spot. Last year more than 15 million plus units, were produced in the EU.
Given this rather bizarre and perhaps biased survey (the list only includes cars, and not trucks, which America produces plenty of) it begs the question, with Europe currently in the economic doldrums and experiencing near record unemployment in some member states, who in the heck is buying all these cars?
[Source: Woman on Wheels]
After Volkswagen found themselves briefly at the top of the industry during Toyota’s recall fiasco, it seems that they’ve grown fond of the achievement and aim to legitimately take over the top spot in the future.
Volkswagen will invest 62.4 billion Euros ($86 billion) across a five year span for this endeavor. According to CEO Martin Winterkorn, “The Volkswagen Group is investing a record amount in forward-looking projects to achieve its goal of becoming the world’s best automobile manufacturer… Top of the agenda for us are investments in environmentally friendly, sustainable models and drives.”
On top of the 62.4 billion investment, another 14 billion Euros will be invested through 2016 exclusively for VW’s Chinese ventures– Shanghai-Volkswagen Automotive and FAW-Volkswagen Automotive. The investment is intended to add at least two more manufacturing plants in China.
As Volkswagen projects their growth in China to reach 2.4 million units sold, Winterkorn wants to make sure that Volkswagen will have the facility to meet demand.
Moreover, Volkswagen has recently opened a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee specifically designed to accommodate an American Market specific Volkswagen Passat.
The needs for Russian expansion are recognized as well.
Following the lead of Atlanta and Washington D.C., New York City is due to get around 300 parking meters that will allow drivers to pay for parking via their smart phones.
Drivers will have to register for the service initially, but will be able to input the parking meter’s ID number via a text message or mobile app, and can buy parking time via their phone. Drivers will also receive a warning when their time is about to expire, and will be able to add additional time without having to return to their cars.
Pay by phone systems are in place in other locales (mainly Europe) and frankly, we think that their implementation on our shores is long overdue. With an increasing number of parking transactions paid via credit card rather than spare change, these systems only make sense when it comes to a broad implementation.
[Source: New York Post]
Mazda will shift production of their mid-size Mazda6 from the current AutoAlliance International plant (a joint venture with former owner Ford) to Mazda’s facility in Hofu, Japan.
“Currently, production of the Mazda6 [known as Atenza in Japan] exists in three locations,” said Takashi Yamanouchi, Representative Director and Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Mazda Motor Corporation. ”At our Hofu Plant in Japan, AutoAlliance International in Michigan, USA, and at FAW Car Co., Ltd. in Changchun, Jilin province, China. Our intention is to transfer production of our next CD-car for North America from AAI and consolidate it at Hofu in order to improve production and investment efficiencies and optimize our business.”
Mazda is currently collaborating with Ford to study the longevity of the AAI plant, but will continue to build the current model Mazda6 until its life cycle is over.
Concerns have be raised about relaunching Fiat in the United States, however early sales figures of the 500 have exceeded expectations. A cabriolet version of the hatchback is now appearing in showrooms, with the Abarth and EV versions to follow soon after.
Fiat does not want to interfere with Chrysler’s traditional markets in the U.S, so Fiat won’t sell any vehicle larger than a Focus.
US brand boss, Laura Soaves said “Fiat will be the small car brand,”. “It will never have anything larger than a C [segment].”
Alfa Romeo’s planned ‘halo car’ will offer a modest amount of vehicles when first released. However Alfa Romeo hopes to sell 150 8C cars before the 4C is deemed effective for launch in North America.
Discuss this story at Fiat500Owners.com
Volkswagen wants to produce the Tiguan SUV model in North America in an effort to slash production costs on the compact crossover. VW is already producing the Jetta and Passat in North America and is considering moving production of the Tiguan, according to a report by WirtschaftsWocke magazine.
Presently, the Tiguan model is only produced at the Wolfsburg plant in Germany.
The shift in production from Germany to North America will allow VW to guard against exchange rate fluctuations that can eat away at profits, analysts said.
Producing Volkswagens in the U.S will also allow the automaker to keep closer track of changing tastes in the world’s second largest auto market, where consumer trends often originate.
It is unclear whether the Tiguan will be produced at the Chattanooga, Tennessee plant (currently VWs only plan in North America), however, production is scheduled to rise to 150,000 vehicles annually by 2012.
Chevrolet will build their 2013 Malibu in China and South Korea before it beings production Stateside, solidifying Chevrolet’s aims for the Malibu to be a “world car”.
South Korea will be the first country to build the Malibu, starting in late 2011. China and the United States will begin building the car in early 2012. South Korean Malibus will be built domestically in order to dodge substantial levies on imported cars, while America will get cars built in both Michigan and Kansas.
Chevrolet notably debuted the car in China in advance of the car’s American introduction, with GM touting strong sales in Asia for the car.
Rolls- Royce is expecting a massive sales increase in the second quarter of this year, thanks to increased demand spurred by their “cheaper” Ghost model, which retails for a mere $246,500.
The introduction of the Ghost in 2010 helped sales jump 167 percent, spurred by enormous growth in China. The brand expects to open 11 showrooms in the country by year’s end, with China eventually overtaking the United States as its largest market. Nevertheless, Rolls-Royce will open a further 4 dealerships in the US by year’s end.
After a brief announcement on March 23rd stating that the natural disasters in Japan may affect North American production, Toyota has announced that it is still “too early to predict” whether plants in Canada and the United States, which build both Toyota and Lexus cars, will face shutdowns due to a shortage of parts from Japanese factories.
Toyota claims that most of their factories on this side of the Pacific use North American sourced parts, and that stocks of Japanese parts are still plentiful. However, the depletion of these stockpiles and the failure to restart production at Japanese part plants could mean shutdowns occurring here. While most of the news surrounding the condition of the Japanese auto industry is speculation, the hypothetical consequences of such a shutdown could be catastrophic.
Economic effects, like a lack of work for plant employees, a dearth of cars for dealers to sell and the associated economic effects of a crippled auto industry could occur at a time when an economic recovery is in a fragile infancy, and a blow of this nature could be very hazardous to our economic health.
[Source: Left Lane News]
Kia‘s Rondo small minivan and Borrego SUV have been dumped from the U.S. lineup, ostensibly after slow sales forced Kia to cease importation.
Although originally reported by Automotive News, Kia declined to comment on the matter. The Borrego was never a strong seller in the U.S., although the large SUV, along with the Rondo small minivan will continue being sold in Canada and other markets. The Rondo is successful north of the border, and with the arrival of the Ford C-Max and Chevrolet Orlando (also exclusive to Canada), the car’s future looks pretty solid in that market.
With Porsche sales having recovered on par with pre-recession levels in the United States, Porsche’s CEO Matthias Mueller said that the brand is looking at adding production facilities in the United States or China so that the brand can meet its target of 200,000 sales by 2018.
“We will consider this year whether to start production in Asia or North America,” Mueller said to German magazine Focus. Porsche’s German plants are judged to be to small to handle this sort of capacity. With the Boxster previous built at a factory in Finland, Mueller said that building Porsches in China or America would not betray the brand’s heritage.
Porsche is eyeing production of its ucoming Cajun SUV in China. The company will also open up a test track for customers near Shanghai’s Formula 1 track, and expand its Chinese dealer network from 35 stores to a total of 100 sometime in the future.
BMW‘s upcoming X1 crossover will be delayed by almost a year, due to extreme demand in the European market. BMW’s Leipzig, Germany plant can barely produce enough vehicles for Europe, and BMW USA has decided to delay the small crossover’s American launch until at least the fall of 2011.
Canada will be getting the X1 on schedule, due to their smaller market and the fact that Canadian consumers overwhelmingly gravitate towards compact vehicles. The X1 makes its North American debut at the Montreal Auto Show today.
[Source: Car and Driver]
Things are tough in Europe right now. Recent freezing temperatures almost ground things to a halt in parts of the continent, causing many people to become stranded during the important Christmas holiday season.
On the economic front, things have been equally glum – several member states continue to struggle with crippling levels of debt, while austerity measures have been enacted in others. In Germany, Europe’s engine room, things are also far from rosy, particularly as it relates to goods and services in the luxury sector.
As far as demand for premium cars, things are in a deep slump, with sales down more than 25 percent compared with a year ago. However, several companies, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz have cut their employees’ traditional holiday between Christmas and New Year, keeping plants and components suppliers humming along. Why? Well despite demand for premium cars having fallen off in the home market, export orders are up – specifically in Brazil, China and the United States.
According to results compiled by Autodata Corp in the US, the premium car market has seen an overall growth of 11.1 percent in 2010, with BMW sales up by 11.6 percent, Mercedes-Benz by 18.6 percent and Audi by a whopping 23.6 percent.
In China, things are even better. Currently, 9 out of the top 10 best selling luxury car brands in the country are German and the market has expanded by approximately 40 percent in 2010.
There are also signs of slowly rising demand in some European countries too – according to the VDA, the German Car makers Association, projected demand for luxury vehicles is scheduled to rise from 2.7 million to 5.5 million vehicles next year. So while German auto workers might be grumbling about shorter ‘traditional’ holidays, it appears that they’ll at least have something to smile about as we head into the new year.
[Source: Detroit News]
According to statistics, today Americans are using approximately 8 percent less fuel to power their cars than they did in 2006, which is recognized as the peak for U.S. oil consumption.
However, Americans still remain the number one consumer of oil of the planet, gobbling up 8.2 million barrels of the black gold each day. According to experts in the oil industry and in government, future forecasting predicts gasoline consumption will continue to drop, by as much as 20 percent in the next two decades, even as an estimated 27 million vehicles join the roads. Some of the reasons cited include less driving by baby boomers and more and more fuel efficient cars augmenting the existing vehicle fleet in North America.
However, there are those who predict that increased consumption from countries like China and India, as well as parts of the Middle East, will negate a lot of that decrease, so overall global demand for oil is likely to remain much the same, at least during the coming decade.
[Source: The Associated Press]
Audi’s craziest TT, the TT-RS will officially make it to the United States after an online campaign by Audi convinced the automaker to bring the 360-horsepower sports coupe to America.
Audi executives were initially skeptical of the sales potential of the TT-RS, but planned a limited run of just 250 cars for the Canadian market, where a strong economy and higher vehicle prices would allow Audi to turn a profit on the car. A subsequent petition by Audi showed 11,500 handraisers, as well as a series of positive reviews from American media led the company to go ahead with sales in both markets.
So far, we only know that the only TT-RS available will be the coupe variant, with specifications and pricing still under consideration. We look forward to the arrival of the TT-RS, and the chance to sample a 5-cylinder turbocharged Audi yet again. On the other hand, they will be pricey, and the number of potential buyers is likely a fraction of the 11,500 petition signers.
In advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show, where the U.S.-spec Fiat 500 will make its North American debut, the company held a dealer meeting for 400 of its franchise holders.
According to the AFP, Fiat told Chrysler dealers that it wants to open 165 showrooms in small car markets, with the goal of selling 50,000 Fiat 500′s. A statement released by the company stated that “”The new Fiat retail network will begin selling the US version of the Fiat 500 late this year, and the Fiat 500 Cabrio model in 2011.”
The 50,000 sales figure is similar to the total number of vehicles sold by MINI in the United States.
Consumers in China and the United States are fueling the fortunes of German luxury car makers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Buyers in both countries are going wild for the re-designed Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A8.
“The Chinese appetite for German nameplates is absolutely bottomless,” Sascha Gommel, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Commerzbank AG, told Automotive News. “There are more than 900,000 millionaires in China and many of them are bursting to show off their wealth.”
BMW’s all-new 5-Series is sold out across the world, while Mercedes-Benz is developing a long-wheelbase E-Class just for the Chinese market and hiring 1,800 temporary workers to help meet demand for its vehicles. Audi has also reported strong demand for their new A8 flagship.
“German luxury cars are a synonym for status, comfort and safety,” Gommel said. “Those are the traits you want to embody when you’re courting future partners for business. In China, buying a German luxury car is seen like buying a ticket to future wealth.”
[Source: Automotive News]