Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New York Auto Show Video: Don Esmond, SVP, Toyota Motor Sales, USA

Toyota's Don Esmond, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., at the introduction of the Scion FR-S concept in New York discusses the impact of the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on Toyota and the auto industry. Esmond also comments on the new or refreshed vehicles that Toyota will be bringing to market this year, next year and beyond.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New York Auto Show Video: Laura Soave, Fiat North America

Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America, shows the new Fiat 500c cabriolet with soft top at the New York Auto Show and discusses models, dealer network, sales and sales projections for the entire Fiat line-up in the U.S.

New York Auto Show Video: Linda Marshall of OnStar Describes IntelliLink

Linda Marshall, President of OnStar, General Motors' technology unit, describes IntelliLink, a hands-free and touchscreen interface coming on the 2012 Buick Verano, Regal and LaCrosse and the 2012 GMC Terrain. IntelliLink is an in-vehicle wireless connectivity and customizable infotainment system using Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver’s smartphone to a new 7- or 8-inch, high-resolution, full-color touch screen display radio allowing smartphone control via voice activation and steering wheel-mounted controls. It also enables streaming stereo audio from the phone through services like PANDORA® Internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio®. Buick IntelliLink enables seamless integration of stowed portable devices with each vehicle’s infotainment system, allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

New York Auto Show Video: Michael Sprague, Kia Motors America

Michael Sprague, Vice President of Marketing at Kia Motors America describes features packed into the all-new Rio sedan and Rio5.

New York Auto Show Video: Carlos Tavares, Nissan Americas

Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President of Nissan Americas and Board Member of Nissan Motor Corporation comments on the new Versa sedan, U.S. production of the next generation Rogue crossover, the all-electric Leaf and gives an update on the Japan supply issues following the earthquake and tsunami.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New York Auto Show: Bob Lutz "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters" June 8th

Bob Lutz, who has been an executive with many auto manufacturers, the latest as Vice Chairman of General Motors, is now a consultant for Lotus Cars and held a presentation at the New York Auto Show last week with media more intense on learning about his thoughts on GM than Lotus and Bob more than willing to deliver because he discusses much of that in his new book due out on June 8th. Lutz reviewed his thoughts on the demise of U.S. auto industry:
1. 1970 CAFE rules gave the Japanese an advantage because they already had small more fuel efficient engines and the U.S. was forced to change their large engine past.
2. The State Department allowed the dollar-yen foreign exchange rate to give the Japanese a $3-$4,000 per vehicle advantage.
3. The focus on financial results by management.
4. UAW with unrealistic demands that made the U.S. uncompetitive.
5. The media's pro-import bias.

We'll have to wait for the June 8th release of Car Guys vs. Bean Counters from Penguin Books to learn about Lutz' narration on his impressive career in the automotive business which is far from over.

New York Auto Show: Scion FR-S Concept - Star Of The Show

Scion unveiled the rear-wheel drive FR-S Concept sports coupe at the 2011 New York International Auto Show. The FR-S Concept, which stands for Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport; is Scion's definition of a rear-wheel-drive sports car using Subaru's 2.0-liter flat-four boxer engine that can mate with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission incorporating Toyota's D4-S injection system, which utilizes both direct and port injection, resulting in increased horsepower and torque throughout the entire powerband, without sacrificing MPG.

The FR-S is 168.2 inches long on a 101.2 inch wheelbase and 71.5 inches wide. Toyota says it's most inspired by the AE86 generation of the Corolla, better known as the Hachi-Roku, meaning "8-6" in Japanese but some will say Ferrari, especially with the rich coats of Code Red, the appropriately named color that consists of a custom blend of candy and a developmental additive from BASF called Mearlite SSQ.

It's a sharp departure from the typical Scion vehicle and a welcomed change. Scion FR-S gets my vote as the Star of the Show from New York this year.

New York Auto Show: 2012 Nissan Versa

The 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan goes on sale this summer with a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $10,990 with a second-generation 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that includes a range of technologies such as a dual injector system and twin Continuously Variable Timing Control (CVTC) system.  Fuel economy is estimated at 30 mpg City, 37 mpg Highway and 33 mpg combined mpg. (CVT transmission), an improvement of five mpg versus the 2011 Versa Sedan.  The 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan will be available in S, SV and SL models.

The Nissan LEAF NISMO RC (for Racing Competition) utilizes a production Nisan LEAF powertrain wrapped in a 2-door carbon fiber body with removable front and rear sections and a large adjustable rear wing. Like the production Nissan LEAF, the NISMO RC is powered by a lithium-ion battery composed of 48 compact modules and a high-response 80kW AC synchronous motor that generates 107 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque.

New York Auto Show: 2012 Kia Rio & Soul

Kia Motors America unveiled the all-new 2012 Rio sub-compact sedan at the New York International Auto Show to join its hatchback sibling unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last month. The all-new ISG technology helps produce fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon.

The 2012 Rio's all-new platform is longer, wider and lower than the previous generation with an overall length of 171.9 (Rio sedan) or 159.3 (Rio5) with a platform measuring 67.7 inches wide and 57.3 inches high. Rio is available in LX, EX and SX trim levels with a 138 horsepower 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine with the option of either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic providing 30 city / 40 highway mpg.  Rio now offers ISG technology where the engine turns off when the vehicle is not in motion such as at a stop light or in traffic. The engine restarts automatically when the driver releases the brake pedal, resulting in lower levels of fuel consumption.
The 2012 Soul gets a new 1.6-liter gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission to produce 135 horsepower (an 11 percent increase in horsepower from the previous engine) and 121 pound-feet of torque.  A new 160 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (a 13 percent increase in horsepower from the previous engine) is available with either the six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission and is standard on Soul+, Soul! and Soul sport models.  Fuel economy for the 1.6-liter comes in at 28 city / 34 highway, three miles per gallon more than the previous engine while the 2.0-liter offers 27/33 mpg for both the automatic and manual transmissions.

New York Auto Show: 2012 Honda Civic

The all-new 2012 Honda Civic, shown as a concept in Detroit in January and for real in New York has a manufacturer's suggested retail pricing ranging from $15,605 for the value-oriented Civic DX Coupe (plus $750.00 destination charge) to $26,750 for the Civic Hybrid with leather-trimmed seating surfaces, the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ and XM Radio®.

The 2012 Civic lineup includes a sedan and a coupe with conventional gasoline models, a new "HF" high fuel-economy version with an EPA-estimated 41 mpg on the highway, two sporty "Si" performance versions, along with one hybrid and a natural gas alternative-fuel variant. The Honda Civic and hybrid went on sale April 20th, the day they were unveiled in New York, the Civic Si will hit showrooms a month later with the HF and Natural Gas models to be available this Fall.

New York Auto Show: 2012 Hyundai Accent

Hyundai Motor America introduced the all-new fourth generation 2012 Accent subcompact sedan and Accent five-door to hit dealerships this summer. It has the all-new 138 horsepower 1.6-liter GDI “Gamma” engine producing 123 lb-ft of torque, paired with proprietary six-speed automatic or manual transmissions with fuel economy of 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway.

New York Auto Show: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

The all-new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 arrives this summer as one of four vehicles from Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team. The others are the Challenger, Charger and 300 sedans with owners of any SRT vehicle receiving one day of professional driving instruction from the Richard Petty Racing School.

The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 has an all-new 6.4-liter HEMI® V-8 with Fuel Saver Technology that delivers an estimated 465 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque, an improvement of 45 horsepower and 45 lb.-ft. torque over the 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 it replaces.

Standard Fuel Saver Technology and a new-for-2012 active valve exhaust system allows four-cylinder operation to engage over a wider rpm range, to deliver both improved fuel efficiency (an estimated 13-percent increase on the highway) and an extended range of approximately 450 miles on one tank of gas. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 goes on sale in the 3rd quarter of this year.

New York Auto Show: 2013 Malibu ECO

Chevrolet introduced the all-new 2013 Malibu ECO, based on the all-new, 2013 Malibu sedan, which will be sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents. Sales of the new Malibu begin with the ECO model in the United States in early 2012. The Malibu LS, LT and LTZ trim level offerings join the ECO in summer 2012. Pricing will be announced later.

Malibu ECO's eAssist system is mated to a 180 horsepower 2.4 liter Ecotec direct-injection four-cylinder engine and next-generation six-speed automatic transmission. It features eAssist™ "light electrification" technology which is engineered to deliver an estimated 26 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway without compromising performance.

An ECO gauge in the cluster continuously responds to driving behavior, encouraging fuel-efficient driving, while an Auto Stop Indicator on the tachometer informs the driver when the engine is in start-stop mode.  Malibu will include Chevrolet's new MyLink infotainment package at launch. It builds on the safety and security of OnStar and seamlessly integrates online services like Pandora® Internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio®. MyLink integrates wireless connectivity through Bluetooth to enable hands-free use of selected smart phone apps while the device remains safely stowed. It features a high-resolution, full-color touch screen display designed to manage the number of steps required to complete a task.

New York Auto Show: 2012 Subaru Impreza Four-door and Five-door

Subaru of America introduced the all-new fourth-generation 2012 Impreza four-door and five-door compact Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive models which will arrive in Subaru dealerships this Fall. The 2012 ImprezaPowered by an all-new 148 horsepower 2.0-liter Boxer enginewith a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or the second-generation Lineartronic® CVT (continuously variable transmission) with projected EPA ratings of 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.

Impreza is offered in base, Premium, Sport Premium, Limited and Sport Limited models. The wheelbase grows to 104.1 inches compared to 103.2 in the outgoing model while length and width remain the same as before for both sedan and five-door models. Rear seat passengers gain nearly two inches of legroom. Sedan trunk room and five-door cargo room are both increased, and the five-door now provides a completely flat load floor with the standard 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded.

New York Auto Show: 2013 Ford Taurus

The new 2013 Ford Taurus is the first car in Ford’s North American lineup to offer the advanced 237 horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost™ engine, combining a turbocharger with gasoline direct injection for expected highway fuel economy of at least 31 mpg. The EcoBoost engine will deliver 250 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard Taurus engine is a 290 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with the addition of twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT), enabling increased fuel economy while delivering 27 more horsepower, a reduction in part-throttle emissions and increased responsiveness. Both engines are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions.

The Taurus technologies include SYNC® with MyFord Touch™, which replaces many traditional buttons, knobs and gauges with clear, colorful LCD screens and steering wheel-mounted five-way toggles. These screens can be personalized to display information relevant to each driver by using voice command, keeping the driver’s eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. We can expect to see the Ford Taurus early next year with its new front & rear.

The Taurus SHO with its distinct grill will have a 365 horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, delivering 350 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed high-capacity 6F55 SelectShift Automatic™ transmission.

Monday, April 18, 2011

2012 Volkswagen Beetle World Debut in Shanghai, Berlin & New York

The third generation of the Volkswagen Beetle is celebrating a transcontinental world debut simultaneously in Shanghai, Berlin and New York. The 2012 Beetle is 71.2 inches wide (3.3 inches wider), 58.5 inches tall (.5 inches lower) and 168.4 inches long (6 inches longer). The new focal point is the C-pillar and a rear spoiler that is integrated into the design (standard on 2.0L TSI engines with 200 hp).

The 2012 Beetle will offer three engines: the 170 horsepower 2.5 liter gasoline five cylinder, the 140 horsepower 2.0 liter TDI® Clean Diesel and the 200 horsepower 2.0 liter TSI® turbocharged gasoline engine. Transmission choices will include a 5-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic on 2.5L models. Volkswagen’s DSG® 6-speed dual-clutch transmission will be offered on the TDI Clean Diesel and 2.0L TSI turbocharged gasoline models, while a 6-speed manual will come standard.

The transparent, panoramic tilt/slide glass sunroof is 80 percent larger than on the previous model. The insulating glass blocks 99 percent of UV radiation and 92 percent of heat energy. All scheduled maintenance is covered for the length of the New Vehicle Warranty – three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio With Dual-layer Power-operated Cloth Top

The new 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio features a dual-layer power-operated cloth top that goes up and down with just the push of a button and retracts up to the rear spoiler during speeds up to 60 mph. The Fiat 500c with room for four passengers has three exterior soft-top colors, 14 exterior colors, 12 unique seat colors and material combinations plus a choice of two interior environments to allow customers to personalize “their own” Fiat 500c.

Scott Vazin Leaves Nissan For VP Post At Volkswagen Of America

Scott Vazin

Scott Vazin left Nashville last Friday after nearly 15 years at Nissan North America to join VW as vice president of Volkswagen Public Relations reporting to Tony Cervone, Executive Vice President, Group Communications, Volkswagen Group of America. Vazin joins Volkswagen from Nissan where he most recently served as Director of Product and Consumer Communications. Vazin started his automotive career at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America in California in 1990. Congratulations Scott! Vazin starts at VW Monday in time for the New York International Auto Show next week.

VW also announced that veteran automotive journalist Mark Gillies has joined the Volkswagen team as product and technology communications manager.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu Photo Revealed Before Monday's Kick-Off

The all-new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet’s and General Motors’ best-selling car in the U.S. in 2010, will be revealed on Monday night at 8:30 p.m. EDT in high-definition video streamed live over the Internet at www.watchthenewchevymalibuinhd.com.  The new Malibu will be sold in nearly 100 countries on six continents. This photo was on the GM website today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Edsel B. Ford II Speaks On Racing in America at The Henry Ford Museum

Edsel B. Ford II spoke to a packed gathering of automotive media in Los Angeles yesterday and gave a chronology of Ford's racing heritage dating back to his great-grandfather, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford's winning debut race on Oct. 10, 1901. The prize was a cut-glass punch bowl which has been missing for more than 50 years so the search is on to get it back. It was that racing win 110 years ago that led investors to line up and contribute to the formation of Ford Motor Co. 20 months later in June, 1903. Ford also spoke about his Racing in America exhibit aiming to educate today's youth on automotive technology developed through racing.

In attendence yesterday were racing legend Parnelli Jones (right) who won six Indy races including the 1963 Indianapolis 500 and 88 year old Caroll Shelby (middle), a retired designer and racing driver most well known for his Mustangs and Mustang Cobras.

Parnelli Jones by the famous Boss 302 Mustang that he raced in the early 1970's.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Countdown To 2011 New York Auto Show: Lexus LF-Gh Hybrid Concept

The Lexus LF-Gh hybrid concept will make its world debut at the 2011 New York International Auto Show. The LF-Gh, which stands for Lexus Future Grand Touring Hybrid, conveys original thoughts and ideas that may migrate to future Lexus vehicles on a global scale.

Lexus is teasing us with the left rear and left front photos and we'll bring you the entire vehicle in two weeks from the New York International Auto Show.

Get Behind The Wheel Of An All-New Chrysler At The Mall

The Chrysler brand is bringing its re-engineered and re-designed 2011 vehicle lineup directly to consumers to generate awareness and has launched a new test drive campaign at local malls across the country that will offer you an opportunity to get behind the wheel and experience the 2011 200 sedan and 200 Convertible, Chrysler 300 sedan and Town & Country minivan.

The test-drive program will have product specialists to answer questions and provide information on Chrysler brand products "without any sales pressure" and those of you who test drive a Chrysler vehicle at the event may end up in a future Chrysler commercial and you will receive a $15 shopping mall gift card for completing a test-drive. Go for it!

Countdown To 2011 New York Auto Show: 2012 Mazda3 Refreshed

Mazda will debut its refreshed 2012 Mazda3 with SKYACTIV technologies at the New York International Auto Show in two weeks and goes on sales in the Fall.

SKYACTIV is a suite of technologies, including completely redesigned, highly efficient, internal combustion gasoline and diesel engines, manual and automatic transmissions, and an advanced body and chassis to improve the driving experience, including the vehicle's performance, handling, fuel economy and safety.

The MINAGI Concept (left), a compact SUV which was shown in Geneva a month ago will also be on display in New York. It's the first Mazda concept vehicle to fully adopt its new SKYACTIV suite of technologies and its new KODO ("Soul of Motion") design theme, which was initially seen in the SHINARI Concept that debuted last year.  Combining Mazda's latest technology and design elements, MINAGI provides direction for the brand's next generation of vehicles, and is the inspiration for an upcoming production model.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chrysler's Marketing Push For 16 New Vehicles Hitting Showrooms

Sixteen all-new vehicles, with the same model names except the Sebring to 200, were introduced by Chrysler last year and the marketing push is hard to sell them as they hit showrooms. Chrysler executives and engineers are making the rounds to remind the automotive media that the latest Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep vehicles are better than ever. Chrysler brand executives showed off the Chrysler 300, 200 sedan and convertible and Town & Country mini-van at an all-new dealership in the heart of Los Angeles yesterday.

The 2011 Chrysler 200 LX starts at $19,245 with fuel economy of 21 mpg city / 30 mpg highway from the standard 173 horsepower 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine on the LX, Touring and Limited models. A 3.6 liter Pentastar Flex Fuel V6 Engine is available on the Touring and Limited versions.

The all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 is a little less "bad ass" than its popular predecessor but still maintains that character with the ability to be customized to suit the owner's personality. The 300 starts at $27,995 (including $825 destination) and runs up to a starting price of $41,145 for the 300C AWD. The all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 and 300 Limited models feature the 292 horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with EPA-ratings of 18 mpg city / 27 mpg highway. The all-new 2011 Chrysler 300C has the 363 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI® V-8 engine delivering up to 25 highway mpg. The engine’s Fuel Saver Technology allows for transition between high-fuel-economy four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand.

The 2011 Chrysler Town & Country has the all-new 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 engine for improved fuel economy of 36 mpg highway with a new fuel-economizer mode that helps maximize fuel efficiency. There are more than 40 safety features including a new driver-side knee blocker airbag, front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring. It also comes with the Super Stow ‘n Go seating and storage system, with larger, more comfortable seats and a new one-touch fold down function.

The pressure is on Sergio Marchionne and his team to make Chrysler profitable and there's no better way than new vehicles to add sizzle to a comeback brand where sales are up 23 percent over the first 3 months of last year. The upscale Chrysler brand trails Ram, Dodge and Jeep in sales so the push is on to boost sales of the nameplate that carries the company name.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2012 Audi A7 Starts At $60,125 Later This Month

The all-new 2012 Audi A7 3.0T quattro® Tiptronic® five-door coupe starts at $60,125 (including $875 destination charge, taxes, title, options, and dealer charges) with the first models reaching U.S. showrooms later this month. (photo from 2011 North American International Auto Show Detroit)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

March 2011 U.S. Auto Sales Led By Ford

Ford’s March sales of 212,777 topped all U.S. sales, an increase of 19 percent versus a year ago. Lincoln sales were 8,501, down 2.2 percent in March. Year-to-date, Ford sales totaled 496,720, up 16 percent.

General Motors retail sales for its four brands was 206,621, an increase of 9.6 percent. Cadillac sales in March were 12,164, up 5 percent from March 2010.Year-to-date GM has sold 592,545, a 24.1 percent increase of 2010.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. reported March sales results of 176,222 units, down 5.7 from the year-ago month. Year-to-date Toyota, Lexus and Scion sales. For the first quarter, TMS reported sales of 433,924 vehicles, an increase of 12.5 percent over 2010.

American Honda Motor posted March sales of 133,650, an increase of 18.9 percent based on the daily selling rate. Honda sales were 121,039, up 25 percent and Acura was 12,611, up 8 percent. Year-to-date sales of 307,978 is an increase of 18.5 percent based on the daily selling rate.

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 121,730, a 31 percent increase compared with March 2010. This was the best March since 2008, and the highest sales for any month since May 2008. Year-to-date sales are 286,950, a 23 percent increase over 2010.

Nissan North America reported sales of 121,141, an increase of 26.9 percent for a record U.S. market share of 9.7 percent in March – the highest share ever achieved in any month in the company's history. In addition, the Nissan Altima sold 32,289 units in March to become the best-selling sedan in America, the first time the model has ever achieved this distinction. Nissan sales were 109,854, up 28 percent while Inifniti sales were 11,287, up 14 percent.

Hyundai Motor America record March sales of 61,873 units, up 32 percent compared with the same period last year. For the year, total Hyundai sales are 142,620, up 28 percent.

Kia Motors America announced its best ever monthly sales of 44,179, a 44.7 percent increase from March 2010. The record March total helped KMA achieve its best-ever quarterly sales of 104,774, surpassing the previous record of 97,955 units sold in the third quarter of 2010.

Volkswagen of America reported sales of 27,176 in March 2011, a 22.7 percent increase over prior year sales.  Year-to-date sales are 67,039, a 15 percent rise over 2010. Separately, Audi of America reported sales of 9,818 vehicles in March, 14 percent more than 2010 while year-to-date sales are 25,383, a 19.1 percent improvement over last year.

Subaru of America announced its second best sales month ever, with 26,916 vehicles sold in March 2011, a 13.2 percent increase, helping Subaru deliver its best first quarter retail sales ever with a total of 67,457, a 17.3 percent jump over 2010.

The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported March sales of 26,382 vehicles, an increase of 21.7 percent from the same month a year ago. Year-to-date, BMW Group has sold 64,958 vehicles in the first three months of 2011, 18 percent more than the 2010 first quarter.

Mazda North American Operations reported March 2011 sales of 30,905, an increase of 33.3 percent versus March of 2010.  Through the first three months of the year, Mazda's sales are 64,559, up 15.4 percent over 2010.

Mitsubishi Motors North America reported March sales of 7,560, an increase of more than 39 percent compared to March 2010.  It was Mitsubishi's largest month of sales in two-and-a-half years (August 2008).

Porsche Cars North America announced March sales in the U.S. of 2,588, an increase of 36 percent. So far in 2011, sales are 7,007,  a 34 percent increase.

American Suzuki sales were 2,497 in March, an 11 percent increase and in 2011 so far sales are 6,702, an 18 percent rise.