By Brendan Moore
After a six-month interruption in deliveries due to the fact that the parent company’s survival was decidedly tenuous, Saab Cars North America has shipped new product to their 218 dealers in the United States.
Saab dealers in the US should start receiving new 2010 9-3 models sometime this month. And in a bid to jump-start sales, Saab’s new owner, Spyker, has lowered prices.
How much? Quite a bit – anywhere from a 4% to 12% reduction in base price, depending on the model.
As an example, the 2010 9-3 base model has an MSRP of $29,725 USD, compared to the 2009 9-3 base model, which had an MSRP of $31,135.
The 2010 9-3 Convertible has an MSRP of $40,815, compared to the 2009 9-3 Convertible, which had an MSRP of $42,905.
By Brendan Moore
Toyota had a 9% drop in new vehicles sales in February and thinks it lost approximately 18,000 sales last month due to public uncertainty over the current recalls, and it is going to do something about it.
That something is what Toyota describes as the most far-reaching sales program in its history,” and includes 0% financing on eight of its models, and subvented lease deals on nine. It also includes a customer loyalty bonus to past customers who buy a new Toyota in the form of up to two years of free regular maintenance.
The incentives, which expire April 5, also include cash back on certain Toyota vehicles. This is something that happens rarely in the world of Toyota. The company prefers to spend money subsidizing finance rates as opposed to giving rebates on the vehicles themselves; rebates tend to devalue the vehicle in the eyes of consumers.
Many auto industry analysts, however, were surprised that that Toyota didn’t lose even more sales. There is some feeling that the Japanese automaker actually exceeded expectations in terms of sales, particularly in the area of retaining their customers. Toyota themselves say it appears that almost all of their customers are sticking with the company so far; the problem is that the company is not picking up new customers at the same rates as they were previously.
By Chris Haak
Overnight, we had yet another snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic region. When I woke up this morning, I looked outside and saw that heavy winds had blown most of the snow off of my driveway and the 2010 Infiniti FX50 Sport that I’m reviewing this week. The office opened on time this morning, so I decided to venture out into the unknown for the 26 mile drive to work. Knowing that I had a fallback – remote access – if conditions turned out to be too poor, there was no pressure on me to make it the whole way into the office.
But alas, I had a trump card. The kind folks who delivered the FX50 to me earlier in the week slapped a set of low-profile Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires onto its 21 inch rims. It’s always comforting to receive a car during the winter – particularly when snow is expected – that has the appropriate tires mounted to it. When I took an Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT on a several hundred mile road trip last month that included considerable portions of bad weather, it was not equipped with snow tires. In fact, it didn’t have all-seasons – it had summer tires. That’s not far from the notion of wearing flip-flops to shovel snow.
But, is this the answer to a question that no one is asking anymore?
By Brendan Moore
For most of you, the excitement over ethanol is probably sort of a hazy memory; you remember when all the fuss was being made over ethanol fuel, but you also remember that it was rather quickly shown that making ethanol from corn was not a good deal from an environmental and energy standpoint.
So, it just sort of went away, right? Didn’t we move on to hybrids and electric vehicles?
The public moved on, but not the federal government. In those heady days (2007) of optimism about ethanol, the brave talk about the American Midwest being the new energy capitol of the world, and our sturdy corn farmers saving America from the clutches of Middle Eastern oil despots, Congress passed energy legislation that actually set mandatory targets for fuel blending each year.
That’s right. Is this all coming back to you now?
By Brendan Moore
In a surprise move, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Fiat and Sollers executives that the Russian government would provide the major portion of a 2.4 billion euro ($3.29 billion USD) financing package for their proposed joint venture intended to become Russia’s second-largest auto manufacturer. The Russian government will also act as guarantor for loans made by any other lenders, thereby effectively making the government the default lender for the joint venture capitalization.
Fiat plans to manufacture up to 500,000 Fiat and Chrysler brand vehicles a year in the plant by 2016, in tandem with its local partner, Sollers. Fiat and Sollers currently produce vehicles together in Russia, but the annual production is only around 19,000 units annually.
The forecasted production of the joint venture would enable Sollers to leap from their current 18th place in the ranks of Russian vehicle manufacturers to a firm 2nd place, right behind AvtoVAZ. Fiat owns a large stake in AvtoVAZ, by virtue of a billion dollar investment two years ago in the struggling Russian automaker. AvtoVAZ has production capacity of approximately 750,000 vehicles per year.
By Chris Haak
Eras in the automobile industry continually wax and wane as time passes. Just going back 40 years, we started with the muscle car era of the 1960s and early 70s (with low, wide, squared-off cars), then moved to the malaise era (from the mid-70s through the early 1990s, as the global auto industry struggled to keep up with increasingly stringent fuel-economy, emissions, and safety requirements.
I’m not sure what we’d call the 1990s, which saw a number of unfortunately homogeneously-designed vehicles with cheap interiors early in the decade, followed by the rebirth of serious performance cars as quality began to improve and cars grew beyond the size of their 1980s downsized predecessors. Then there was the first decade of the 21st century, with a continuation of the performance and vehicle-size trends of the 1990s, but with a renewed focus on design and perceived quality as well. Let’s call the 2000s the second performance car era – or the second horsepower wars era.