By Chris Haak
India’s largest utility-vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra & Mahindra, Ltd., has been working for several years toward the goal of selling its basic, but apparently very sturdy compact pickup in the US. Although the company had hoped to launch its truck in the US in 2009, that did not happen, but the company expects to determine a final timeframe for its launch within the next two or three weeks.
The current holdup is the required safety and emission certification. Mahindra executive Pawan Goenka, president and member of the management board, told Reuters in an interview that his company is still testing the pickup before submitting a formal application to the EPA, and their testing should conclude in a few weeks. The EPA then usually takes about a month to review – and hopefully for Mahindra approve – an application.
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 Brendan Moore
Fiat’s new Giulietta is not just a new model; it also represents a new platform for the Fiat line, the “Compact” architecture. Fiat says the new platform will delight its demanding customers in the areas of safety, road-holding and agility.
It’s also the platform that will underpin the next generation (the 2012 model year) of Chrysler small vehicles, spreading out across Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars and trucks.
By Brendan Moore
Proton has ended speculation on whether their Emas vehicle concept is actually going anywhere with the news that it intends to sell versions of the car in Europe within the next three years.
The plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid minicar, whose name means “gold” in the Malay language, also has a meaning derived from the acronym in its name – it simultaneously stands for Eco Mobility Advance Solution. There are three different body styles: the standard model is a five-door four-seat hatchback, the Emas Country is a three-door five-seat hatch and the Emas3 is an urban vehicle with a three--one seating arrangement. The cars will be produced with both hybrid and regular gasoline engines.
The hybrid is one model in the new Emas family, developed in tandem with Italdesign Giugiaro. Lotus Engineering, owned by Proton developed the hybrid powertrain. The hybrid system includes a 51 bhp, 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine that can burn petrol, ethanol, methanol or natural gas.
By Chris Haak
Not content to watch many of its primary rivals struggle without any response, Ford has clearly seized the initiative in the monthly sales race as the economy slowly climbs its way out of the Great Recession. GM is weakened by the stigma of its 2009 bankruptcy, production constraints, and the loss of Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab. Chrysler is weakened by a thin product lineup in desperate need of update. Toyota is still reeling from its millions of recalled vehicles. Meanwhile, Ford has climbing quality scores, did not need bankruptcy or a bailout, and is in the thick of a series of new-model launches. In fact, for the first time in more than a decade, Ford managed to top GM’s US sales. GM has held the annual sales crown in the US since the 1930s.
Ford’s February 2010 performance was very impressive – more than triple the overall industry’s 13 percent gain in February – ringing in at a 43 percent gain in the US. Leading the charge for Ford was the Fusion midsize sedan, which saw an impressive 116.5 percent gain over February 2009. Overall, each Ford car model was up at least 38.4%, and collectively the cars were up 63.1 percent. Ford utilities (SUVs and crossovers) were up 41.4 percent, with all current models showing double-digit gains, and Ford trucks were all in positive territory with the exception of heavy trucks. Combined, Ford trucks were up 36.2%.
By Chris Haak
General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who is perhaps the most active septuagenarian in the auto industry, and a man who has forgotten more than most others in the business will ever know, is retiring from GM on May 1.
Lutz, 78, who had pulled a Brett Favre in 2009 when he called an audible and announced that he in fact would not be retiring as planned in 2009, appears to be leaving GM for good this time. In February 2009, he had announced his retirement, and then in July 2009, he changed his plans and became head of marketing. At that time, he remarked that he had been complaining about GM’s marketing for years, and how marketing efforts weren’t selling what he believed to be excellent products developed under his watch as head of product development.
By Kevin Miller
The Volkswagen Golf TDI had big shoes to fill when it arrived at the Techshake Garage, as it replaced our Porsche Cayman. When it arrived I had to head right out on some errands, so I hopped in, adjusted my seat and mirrors, and took off. I was immediately impressed and surprised by the bolsters on the front seats. The steering wheel and shifter had a nice feel from their leather appointments.
Entering its sixth generation in 2010, the new Golf wears Volkswagen’s new corporate face and manages to look more mature than the 5th’generation car. I started inspecting the cabin as I drove along, and found plenty of things to like. Large bins in the front doors (as well as the smaller ones in the back doors) are lined with felt, to keep contents from rattling as you are driving. Audio, phone, and computer controls on the steering wheel offered convenient controls of their respective systems.
By Brendan Moore
Wait for it, wait for the punchline.
You’re too clever for me. That’s right; we don’t get the wagon or those engines in the North American market.
The new Focus wagon is the fifth iteration of Ford’s new C-Class platform. The tally so far is the new C-Max, the Grand C-Max, the Focus sedan, the Focus 5-door hatchback, and now, the wagon. The last piece of this puzzle (for now) is the upcoming Kuga, the attractive little crossover that has been shown just about everywhere in the last couple of years. Ford reportedly has another four cars derived from this platform in the product pipeline, scheduled to be brought out over the next few years.
As to the reason why the wagon won’t be sold in North America, it is no secret that almost all of the American public finds the idea of driving around in a wagon repellent to their very being, and that pretty much sums it up.