Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kia Officially Opens West Point, Georgia, Plant Producing Sorento CUVs

Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the first manufacturing site in North America for Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, Korea, had the official grand opening of its facility in West Point, Georgia on Friday. The plant, capable of producing 300,000 cars annually, has been making the all-new 2011 Kia Sorento CUV since Nov. 16, 2009. The 2011 Kia Sorento which went on sale in the U.S. in January selling 7,398 units in its first month was Kia's best-selling vehicle in January.

The ceremony was attended by approximately 500 VIPs from Korea and the U.S., including Chairman of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group Mong-Koo Chung; Group President and CEO of KMMG and Kia Motors America (KMA) Byung-Mo Ahn; Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue; and a number of other high-ranking Korean government and State of Georgia officials.

Representing a $1 billion investment by Kia Motors Corporation, the new 2.2 million-square-foot automobile manufacturing plant is situated on more than 2,200 acres of land consisting of four main shops: stamping, welding, paint and assembly. The site also includes a transmission shop, module shop and a two-mile test track where every vehicle produced by KMMG will be thoroughly tested. KMMG's general assembly area is outfitted with more than a half mile of height-adjustable conveyors to achieve the most favorable installation position for each team member and reduce physical fatigue. It is outfitted with wood flooring, which provides a more comfortable and forgiving work environment for team members. KMMG currently employs more than 1,200 team members and is expected to nearly double that number by the end of the year, while onsite and nearby suppliers will create up to 7,500 additional jobs in the region. 

Audi Q7 Takes Russian Olympians Around Vancouver

Audi Q7s, both black and white, shuttled Russian Olympians around Vancouver during the 2010 games that wrap up Sunday, Feb. 28. The Canadian Olympic hockey team which, after the preliminary round games, had to win every game to get to the Gold Metal Game vs. USA. Canada knocked off Germany 8-2, shocked Russia 7-3 and then beat Slovakia 3-2 in the semi-finals to advance to the Gold Metal game Sunday at noon. The undefeated US Men's hockey team defeated Switzerland, Norway and Canada in the preliminary round and then beat Switzerland in the quarter-final and Finland in the semi-final to advance to the showdown game against Canada - a game all Canadians will remember from the Olympics they hosted. The official Olympic vehicles were a variety of GM trucks and cars, 4,600 in total.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

HUMMER Brand Drives Into The Sunset

General Motors announced that Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co., Ltd. (Tengzhong) was unable to complete the acquisition of HUMMER.  As a result, GM will begin the orderly wind-down of the HUMMER operations. GM will continue to honor HUMMER warranties, while providing service support and spare parts to current HUMMER owners around the world.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saab Story Continues Thanks to Spyker

Spyker Cars N.V. has finalized the deal with General Motors to purchase Saab Automobile AB. Saab Automobile and Spyker Cars will operate as sister companies under the umbrella of the Amsterdam Euronext listed parent company Spyker Cars N.V. (Ticker symbol: SPYKR).  This transaction secures the future of Saab Automobile. 

Jan Ake Jonsson, CEO of Saab Automobile AB said:  "Today's announcement is great for Saab's customers, dealers, suppliers and employees around the globe, the level of passion and support shown to Saab over recent months has been remarkable and this does bode well for the future.  Now we aim to get back to the execution of our business plan, starting with the introduction of the new 9-5 later this year, and with the continued support of our employees and business partners I am confident we will succeed."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hyundai Ad Voice Jeff Bridges Gives Oscar Spots To Friends

Hyundai, which jumped into General Motors Academy Award TV ad slots last year with four and half minutes of the expensive commercials ($1.4M per 30 seconds) is having it's Oscar-nominated voiceover talent solve a conflict rule. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences which runs the Oscars says that no commercial spots featuring participating stars (even in voiceover) can run within an hour of that star’s appearance on the Oscar show. To solve this, Jeff Bridges, nominated for Best Actor for Crazy Heart and also the voice on the Hyundai commercials has asked his friends, other well-known actors, to voice the spots for him. This could be an interesting twist that may give the Hyundai ads an added attraction - name that voice.

Tune into the 82nd Oscar telecast on ABC Sunday March 7th hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin to find out who will voice the Hyundai spots for 4-time Oscar nominee, Jeff Bridges.

(Photo Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Friday, February 19, 2010

General Motors - Olympic Sponsor With 4,600 Vehicles In Vancouver

General Motors supplied 4,600 vehicles for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and you see them everywhere frequently. The Chevy Traverse along with the Tahoe, Yukon, Suburban and their hybrid and Flex-fuel versions are driving VIPs, Olympians and their families day and night. The above photo was taken at 11pm. on Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver. No hospitality tents just the vehicles for GM's role. The weather is spectacular - clear, sunny and too warm for some venues.

                             Team Canada Celebrates Shoot Out Win Over Switzerland

The hockey arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks was known for years as GM Place, not now. The host of the men's Olympic hockey games is now Canada Hockey Place where yesterday Team Canada needed a shootout goal to defeat the impressive Swiss team who had the game tied 2-2 after overtime on the amazing goaltending of Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks who stopped 44 of 46 shots before the shootout.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Toyota Execs Hold Media Discussion At NADA After Dealer Meeting

Don Esmond, Senior Vice President Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. along with Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division and some dealers fielded media questions about the "sticky accelerator recall". Carter emphasized that the sticky pedal was a "very rare occurance, 13, 10 in the U.S. out of 2.3 million vehicles." Carter says they are repairing the problem at a rate of 50,000 per day and now more than 500,000 have been fixed. The stop sale affected 60 percent of Toyota's unsold U.S. inventory or 112,000 units of which 88,000 have been fixed and are back on sale. Carter emphasized that dealers priority was to fix customers vehicles first. Five million reinforcement bars in 7 different sizes are available to make the repairs with many dealers open 24/7 and adding technicians to get it done.  Carter said, "the message is Toyota is open for business".

Esmond says they have to "rebuild the brand, restore confidence Step1. Step 2 is a fine balance between rebuilding the brand and getting back customers." "Did we tarnish the brand? Yes. Did we rust through? No."
Esmond went on to say, "we're a quality brand, we stumbled, I'm sorry for that - we'll recover."

In regards to the 8,000 Toyota Tacomas with a crank shaft part issue, Esmond says that Ford has 14,000 and Nissan 11,000 vehicles affected by the same issue.

Many questions come out of the Toyota sticky accelerator recall and the media's over-attention to it. There have over 10,000 recalls since the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act went into affect so why the heavy focus on this one - because Toyota is the global sales leader? - because they claim to be the quality leader? - because it was known for some time before it was dealt with? - because the auto industry is under such scrutiny and focus after last year's bankruptcies and disastrous sales? Today's media passion for bandwagon over-blown coverage? All of the above?

More importantly is Toyota's fix to the damaged brand image which they will also try to repair quickly.

General Motors Repairs NADA Relations, They'll Be Back

General Motors did not have much of a presence at the NADA in Orlando this year but promises to next year in San Francisco after discussions among NADA brass and GM's North American President Mark Ruess and Susan Docherty, GM's Vice President of U.S. Sales resulted in commitments. Docherty had a private meeting with 300 dealers in Orlando.

K.C. Crain, Mark Ruess, Keith Crain, Richard Saxton at Automotive News booth on NADA Show floor. Ruess was happy to be at NADA and looks for strong participation next year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NADA In Orlando - A Better Year Than Last

Car dealers, from mainly the U.S., are having their annual gathering in Orlando this year where it's colder than Vancouver, host city of the Winter Olympics, but conversations are running hot, especially in light of Toyota's troubles. Notably absent is Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and member of the company's board of directors, who apparently was summoned to Japan on Friday amidst their massive recall challenge. Other car manufacturers, as much as they want business from the Toyota fallout, are concerned that Toyota's floor mat and stuck accelerator issues will create increased regulatory oversight  from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) creating more reporting headaches affecting everyone.

Yesterday's keynote speakers provided enthusiastic upbeat vibes for the dealers. Stefan Jacoby, CEO of VW of America, stated that, "good products are essential" and they must do "a better job of listening to customers on safety and quality" and he boasted that VW has eight vehicles recommended by Consumer Reports. Catering to his audience he emphasized that "dealers are a vital part of the industry... woven into the fabric of America... we need each other."

Mike Jackson, CEO of the country's largest dealership group, AutoNation, is an amazingly entertaining speaker, holding no punches when it comes to industry mistakes and government stupidity. Jackson was critical of how Chrysler tackled dealership reduction and how governments make more money off car sales than dealers with their high state sales taxes. Jackson had some simple logical thoughts about vehicle brands, like "look at your lease guide... what's the residual value? That's your brand." Jackson expects sales to improve to 11.5 million new car sales in the U.S. this year and with the job, housing and credit markets stabilizing looks forward to returning to 16 million vehicle sales years in three to four years from now.

This is my fourth NADA Show, starting in Las Vegas in 2007, then to San Francisco and last year in New Orleans when it looked like the end of civilization and people were wondering whether there would even be an NADA Show this year. Of course, they book the convention halls years in advance so there had to be an NADA, the question is what would it look like. I'm told attendence is up 20 percent over last year but the exhibit space is smaller meaning fewer businesses that cater to dealers are showing their products and services. Aspen Marketing who in the past have hired bands like Styx, America and Jefferson Starship, didn't have a party but still had a few Playboy centerfolds at their booth signing autographs.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 Toyota Tacoma 4-Wheel Drive Models May Have Cracked Shaft Part

Toyota will conduct a voluntary safety recall to inspect the front drive shaft on approximately 8,000 2010 model year Tacoma 4WD trucks.  The front shaft may include a component that contains cracks that developed during the manufacturing process.  As those vehicles are used, the cracks may eventually lead to the separation of the drive shaft at the joint portion.

This condition only involves two specific front drive shaft production lot numbers installed in certain 2010 model year Tacoma 4WD vehicles. No other Toyota or Lexus vehicles are involved. 

The inspection is estimated to take ten minutes.  The inspection and/or replacement will be performed at no cost to the vehicle owner.

Chrysler Announces A “Minivan Pledge” - Not Happy, Return It

It worked for General Motors so why not Chrysler - a money back guarantee. Chrysler Group LLC has announced its “Minivan Pledge” for consumers trading in a competitive vehicle for the purchase of a new 2010 model year Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country minivan. From now and valid until March 31, consumers who aren't completely happy with the purchase of their 2010 model year Dodge or Chrysler minivan can return the vehicle to the selling dealer, no questions asked within 60 days. Consumers should see their participating local Chrysler, Jeep®, Dodge and Ram Truck dealer for full program rules.

A nicely equipped 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan SE has a starting U.S. manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $23,995, including the $820 destination fee. The 2010 Chrysler Town & Country LX has a starting U.S. MSRP of $26,745, including the $820 destination fee.

Chrysler invented the modern minivan in 1984 and the first luxury minivan in 1989, and has sold more than 12 million minivans.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kia Ray Plug-in Hybrid Concept

Kia Motors America unveiled the Ray Plug-in Hybrid concept during a press conference at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show. The Kia Ray concept showcases a futuristic four-seat compact sedan based on the Kia Forte platform. Ray is designed to reach driving distances of more than 50 miles using its electric motor on a single charge, and has a fuel economy rating of more than 202 miles per gallon, and has a total range of 746 miles.

2011 Honda Odyssey Concept - Preview to Next Generation This Fall

The 2011 Honda Odyssey Concept, on display at the Chicago Auto Show, shows the direction for the next, fourth generation of the industry's best-selling minivan, set to debut this fall. Compared to the current Odyssey, the Concept has a slightly lower roofline (-1.0 inch) and wider stance (+1.4 inch).

The all-new 2011 Odyssey is expected to achieve an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 19 city/28 highway miles-per gallon on select models (preliminary estimate determined by Honda).

2011 Ford Edge Debuts In Chicago, On Sale This Summer

The 2011 Ford Edge and Edge Sport (pictured above) has an extensive exterior redesign, available MyFord Touch™ driver connect technology, and an all-new powertrain lineup that includes Ford's global 2.0-liter EcoBoost™ I-4 engine, the new 285 horsepower 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V-6 and 305 horsepower 3.7-liter Ti-VCT V-6 for Edge Sport. The new 2011 Edge was shown at the Chicago Auto Show.

The 2011 Edge offers several new brake-related features: Hill Start Assist, which reduces rollback on hills; Trailer Sway Control, which provides greater towing stability when equipped for trailer tow; Hydraulic Brake Assist, which provides greater braking force in emergency stops; and available segment-first Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Warning with Brake Support, which helps reduce speed and automatically pre-charges brakes and engages an electronic brake assist system to help drivers stop more quickly when the system detects a collision is imminent.

The 2011 Ford Edge will be built at Oakville Assembly Complex in Ontario, Canada, and will be available in dealers this summer.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Trucks Go On Sale This Summer

 The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup truck, with 20,000 lb. towing capacity (3500HD crew cab/long box can tow up to 20,000 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch) and 6,335 lb payload, has an all-new chassis and more powerful 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine mated to a stronger Allison 1000 six-speed transmission. No horsepower ratings as yet - stay tuned. The Silverado HD has a strengthened Vortec 6.0-liter V8 standard powertrain.

The Silverado heavy-duty lineup grows to eleven 2500HD models and eight single- and dual-rear-wheel 3500HD models – including a new 3500HD Crew Cab with a 6.5-foot cargo box. WT, LT and LTZ trim levels are offered and features, including the EZ Lift tailgate and rearview camera system. The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD trucks go on sale this summer along with Chevrolet's 2010 75th Anniversary Diamond Edition Suburban.

2011 Toyota Avalon Debuts In Chicago, At Dealers This Spring

The redesigned 2011 Toyota Avalon was introduced at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show with upgraded equipment and technology features, such as a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic, and Bluetooth® hands-free phone capability with music streaming to the audio system.

The 2011 Avalon is powered by a 268 horsepower 24-valve, dual-overhead cam 3.5-liter V6 engine equipped with the latest dual VVT-i electronic valve-control mechanism that is mated to a multi-mode six-speed automatic transmission. The 2011 Avalon is an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle, EPA-estimated to deliver 20 mpg in the city, 29 highway, and 23 combined. The 2011 Avalon will be available in two grades when it arrives in showrooms this Spring, Avalon and Limited. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Honda Expands Older Model Recall To Replace Airbag Inflator

Honda has expanded a previously announced recall of certain 2001 and 2002 model-year vehicles to replace the driver's airbag inflator in an additional 378,758 vehicles in the U.S. The driver's airbag inflators in these vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which can cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury or fatality. Certain 2001 and 2002 Accord, Civic (pictured above), Odyssey, CR-V, and selected 2002 Acura TL vehicles are being added to this recall. Last July Honda expanded that recall to include approximately 440,000 model year 2001 and 2002 Accord, Civic and certain 2002 Acura TL vehicles. To date, Honda is aware of a total of twelve incidents.

Toyota Starts Recall on 2010 Prius & Lexus HS 250h For Brake Software


Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., announced it will conduct a voluntary safety recall on approximately 133,000 2010 Model Year Prius (above) vehicles and 14,550 Lexus Division 2010 HS 250h (below) vehicles to update software in the vehicle's anti-lock brake system. Only Prius vehicles produced since May 2009 and all HS 250h vehicles are subject to this recall. No other Toyota, Lexus, or Scion vehicles are involved in this recall.

The ABS, in normal operation, engages and disengages rapidly (many times per second) as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage. Some 2010 Model Year Prius and 2010 HS 250h owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the ABS is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction.

Toyota has responded to owner concerns with a running production change for 2010 Prius that was introduced last month, improving the ABS response time, as well as the system's overall sensitivity to tire slippage. The production change for the HS 250h is planned for later this month.

2010 Camry - Power Steering Hose
Separately, Toyota will conduct a voluntary safety recall on approximately 7,300 early production - 2010 Model Year Camry vehicles equipped with the 4 cylinder engine to inspect for a power steering hose that may be in contact with a front brake tube. This contact could lead to a hole in the brake tube and cause a brake fluid leak, increased brake pedal stroke and greater vehicle stopping distance.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kia Sorento Super Bowl Ad - A Departure From The Expected

Kia's first-ever Super Bowl ad titled "Joyride Dream" is scheduled to air during the third quarter on Sunday so let's hope the Saints and Colts keep it close because this is worth watching. The 60-second spot follows a colorful cast of life-size children's characters – including Muno (from YO GABBA GABBA!, the award-winning series and live tour, produced by W!LDBRAIN and The Magic Store), Sock Monkey (Fox River Mills, Inc.), MR. X (BLABLA KIDS collection), Robot and Teddy Bear – who take the all-new 2011 Sorento CUV for a spin through a series of dream-like adventures and encounter exploding bowling pins, jumping jet skis, snow angels and a mechanical bull along the way. The rockin' soundtrack for the characters' epic adventure is "How Do You Like Me Now" by indie rock band The Heavy.

This ad makes me wonder what I've been doing with my life - a lot jammed into a 60 second spot. The tag line on the commercial is: Sorento, A Departure From The Expected. It certainly is!

Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel Focus Of Green Police Super Bowl Ad

Green Police is the Audi 60-second spot that will appear in Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast changing Cheap Trick's Dream Police song lyrics to "Green Police" which could relaunch the popularity of that 1979 hit. Though you wouldn't know it from the teasers, Audi says "the main premise of the Green Police commercial is to show how driving an Audi A3 TDI clean diesel car is one of the easiest decisions we can make to help the environment among the dizzying array of green choices facing us each day."

The commercial itself, however, does a great job of delivering a socially responsible message but you have to wait until the 47 second mark to realize who is behind the ad - that's when the Audi A3 wagon hits the screen. The Audi A3 TDI (above) speeds through the Green Police checkpoint because it qualifies as "green". The A3 TDI won the 2010 Green Car of the Year Award presented by the Green Car Journal at December's Los Angeles Auto Show. The A3, Green Car Journal judges concluded, stood out by delivering an EPA-rated 42 mpg in highway driving. The 2009 Green Car of the Year, also went to a diesel, the VW Jetta TDI.

More than half the cars sold in Europe have diesel engines, let's see if this Audi ad can convince the U.S market to go diesel.

Toyota's Sticky Gas Pedal & Floor Mat Fixes Are Underway

Toyota says their dealers nationwide have received the parts, information and training they need to fix accelerator pedals which requires about 30 minutes of work.

Many Toyota dealers will offer extended service hours, and some are planning to stay open 24 hours a day until all customer vehicles have been fixed.  Others are adding greeters to their service drives, dedicating body shop capacity to expedite repairs, providing free car washes and oil changes, increasing owner communication and providing complimentary maintenance service, among other customer-focused activities.

To support these efforts, Toyota is sending checks of between $7,500 and $75,000 to its dealers in acknowledgment of the additional costs they are assuming to make it easier for customers to have the necessary repairs done quickly and conveniently.

Separately from the recall for sticking accelerator pedals, Toyota is in the process of recalling vehicles to address rare instances in which floor mats have trapped the accelerator pedal in certain Toyota and Lexus models and is already notifying customers about how it will fix this issue.  In the case of vehicles covered by both recalls, it is Toyota’s intention to remedy both at the same time.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hyundai To Feature New Sonata & Tucson In 8 Super Bowl Sunday Ads

Hyundai will be one of the most visible sponsors of Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, February 7 with a total of eight ads airing throughout the day. 2010 marks Hyundai’s third consecutive year of advertising during the nation’s largest sporting event and second consecutive year sponsoring the Kickoff Show.

Hyundai’s Super Bowl blitz will be highlighted by two in-game ads. The first, titled “Paint,” slotted for the first quarter of the game will feature the all-new 200 horsepower 2011 Sonata sedan which will hit dealerships this month.

The second in-game ad, titled “10 years/Favre,” scheduled for the second quarter, will feature Brett Favre, quarterback of this season’s NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings. Favre, who holds the NFL “iron man” record for most consecutive games started, will be included in a spot featuring Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty. In the 30-second ad, Favre accepts the Most Valuable Player award after the 2020 football season.

Hyundai, the title sponsor of the “Hyundai Kickoff Show,” which begins at 6:00 p.m. ET, will air three different 30-second ads during the Kickoff Show, including one in the time slot immediately preceding the game. In addition to highlighting the all-new Sonata, pre- and post-game spots will showcase the all-new Tucson and revamped Hyundai Assurance consumer protection program.