Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reid Bigland, Pres/CEO Dodge and Head of U.S. Sales


Reid Bigland, President and CEO of the Dodge Car Brand and Head of U.S. Sales describes the 2013 Dodge Dart that just went into production and will go on sale in mid-June supported by a major ad campaign that will kick off in mid-July. Bigland also gives a rundown of the other new vehicles coming from Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Fiat this year. In a speech to journalists, Bigland emphasized the focus on California and how the market is outpacing the overall growth in Chrysler sales. A new Southern California-based Chrysler center has been tasked with helping sales and distribution and has already been responsible for adding 37 dealers. The Chrysler brands have seen fast-paced growth in sales that boosted it's first quarter 2012 profit to the highest in 13 years.

I test drove the six speed manual versions of Rallye and Limited new 2013 Dodge Dart and found strong low end torque, nimble handling with a solid feel, especially given the price in the high teens to low-$20,000s depending on features and options. The trunk is roomy, seats comfortable and the touchscreen display somewhat intuitive. One thing a test drive can't answer is the durability question - will it still feel like new in 5 years or 60,000 miles with just routine maintenance. The Dart, based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, starts at $15,995 - check it out in 4 weeks at a Dodge showroom near you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Carroll Shelby Dies At 89

Saxton & Shelby - 2011
Legendary race driver and car designer Carroll Shelby died today at age 89. Twenty-two years after a heart transplant and sixteen years after a kidney transplant, the man most famous for his Shelby Cobra brand of high performance Ford Mustangs has left us. He was an auto industry legend who set speed records as a driver in the 1950's and was twice Sports Illustrated's driver of the year - in 1956 and 1957.

More Muscle to Muscle Cars
When car executive Lee Iacocca introduced the Ford Mustang in 1964, he asked Shelby to make a high performance version and in the early 1980's when Iacocca ran Chrysler, he asked Shelby to supe up the Dodge Charger. His Mustang-based Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT500 helped make his legend.

Carroll Shelby will be missed as a fixture at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas and at a corner table in the Bel Air Country Club telling stories.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Andy Palmer, Nissan EVP, On Growing EV Line-up

Andy Palmer, Executive Vice President of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. expects Leaf sales to grow when the Smyrna, Tennessee plant starts making the electric vehicle helping to overcome the dollar-yen currency challenge. That was one of the reasons Palmer gave in explaining why last year's Leaf sales of 9,000 missed the projection of 25,000. Another factor was Japan's March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which impacted manufacturing. Learning how to mass produce batteries was another issue. With a $4 billion investment in developing the Leaf, the expectations are high.

The NV200 compact cargo van, Infiniti LE and a "city car" will be added to the Nissan EV line-up. Palmer said the Infiniti LE (Luxury Electric) has the underpinnings of a Leaf but taking the hatchback to a sedan was a challenge. The LE is expected to go on sale  in 2014 as part of Nissan-Infinti's 51 launches in the next 5 years.



I spoke to Andy Palmer after he participated on the concluding panel - The Global Campaign for Consumer EV Adoption - at EVS26, the 4-day International Electric Vehicle Symposium that ended in Los Angeles Wednesday.

Bob Lutz Discusses The Case For Electric Vehicles

Former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz believes electric vehicles have the essential "energy security and efficiency" but "batteries have to hold a larger and longer charge" and prices have to come down to be competitive. Lutz believes that "demand drives what is built and right now 95% want gasoline powered cars".

 "The price/value relationship for EVs has to get better", says Lutz, a board member of VIA Motors, which is showing that electrifying gas guzzling trucks already makes sense.


I spoke with Lutz just prior to his appearance on the concluding panel - The Global Campaign for Consumer EV Adoption - at EVS26, the 4-day International Electric Vehicle Symposium that just concluded in Los Angeles.

Friday, May 4, 2012

General Motors Manufacturing Manager Gerald Johnson

The April sales data translates into a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of Sales (SAAR) of 14.4 million vehicles which is better-than-expected according to Gerald Johnson, Manufacturing Manager at General Motors Corp. Johnson, who was speaking on a manufacturing panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference this week in Beverly Hills also discusses China, global quality and vehicle mix.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April 2012 U.S. Auto Sales

General Motors reported April sales of 213,387, an 8.2 percent drop while year-to-date sales of 821,707 represernt an 0.4 percent slip from 2011.

Ford Motor Company April U.S. sales totaled 180,350, a 5 percent decline while year-to-date sales are 719,597, a 4.8 percent increase over last year.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. reported sales of 178,044, an increase of 11.6 percent over the year-ago month on a raw volume basis. The Toyota Division posted April total sales of 160,493, an increase of 13.1 percent over the year-ago month and the Lexus Division reported total sales of 17,551, flat compared to last year.

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 141,165, a 20 percent increase compared with April 2011 and the group's best sales in the month of April since 2008. Year-to-date sales are 539,216, a 33 percent jump over 2011.

American Honda reported April 2012 U.S. sales of 122,012, an increase of 10 percent based on the daily selling rate. The Honda division posted April 2012 sales of 109,837, an increase of 9.2 percent compared to April 2011 and Acura's U.S. April sales of 12,175 were up 18 percent compared to April 2011.

Nissan North America reported April U.S. sales of 71,329, down 0.3 percent.  Nissan Division sales decreased 0.9 percent for the month at 64,200 while sales of Infiniti vehicles were up 5.4 percent over the prior year, to 7,129.

Hyundai Motor America announced an all-time April sales record of 62,264, up one percent over last year's all-time April record, and the second best sales month in company history after last month's all-time record. Year-to-date sales of 225,837 is a 10.5 percetn gain over the same period last year.

Kia Motors America best-ever April sales of 47,550 was a one percent gain over April 2011 and year-to-date Kia sales are 185,610, a 22.2 percent rise over 2011.
   
Volkswagen of America reported sales of 37,525 in April, a 31.5 percent increase over prior year sales, 38 percent increase year-to-date and the best April since 1971.  Year-to-date sales of 131,898 is a 38 percent gain over last year. Audi reported record-setting April sales of 11,521 a 15 percent increase, marking the 16th consecutive month of record sales in the U.S.  Year-to-date are 40,991, a 15.8 percent increase over 2011.

Subaru of America reported record sales for April 2012 of 26,310 vehicles, a six percent gain over April 2011 and year-to-date sales of 106,878, a 16 percent gain over prior year.

The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported April sales of 26,793, an increase of 6.1 percent from the same month a year ago.  Year-to-date, BMW Group is up 13.7 percent on sales of 102,522 in the first four months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

Mercedes-Benz USA reported April sales of 22,336 for its Mercedes-Benz models, a 23.8 percent improvement over April 2011, delivering a year-to-date total of 83,849 new vehicles to customers, up 17.5 percent.  Combined sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, smart and Sprinter for the month totaled 25,066, up 30.8 percent bringing a year-to-date total of 91,972, up 22.4 percent, making this the company's highest April on record.

Mitsubishi Motors North America reported April 2012 sales of 5,280, down 34.7 percent compared to April 2011. 

Porsche Cars North America announced April 2012 sales of 3,437, an increase of four percent. For the year, Porsche sold 10,596 cars in the U.S., which is a four percent increase over last year.

American Suzuki reported April sales of 1,774, down 17 percent from April 2011 for a year-to-date total of 8,335, six percent lower than a year ago.