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Honda Further Undercuts Prius With New Base Insight

By Chris Haak

Honda’s second-generation Insight, which is based heavily upon the Fit’s architecture, but without the conventional car’s peppy drivetrain or much of its sporty handling, has not been a sales success for Honda so far.  While the company initially hoped to sell 60,00o Insights annually in the US, sales have been barely over a quarter of that number, with 17,789 units sold through the first ten months of 2010, against 17,530 units sold during the first ten months of 2009.  Meanwhile, the Prius is whooping the Insight in terms of sales:  Toyota’s standard-bearer has moved 115,065 so far this year (again, through October 31) and 118,290 during the same period last year.

So does Honda’s solution involve developing a trick new hybrid system, tossing out the underperforming IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) mild hybrid system?  Nah, instead they just stripped content from the car to lower its price point.

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GM, Chrysler Each Set to Add 1,000 Engineering Jobs

By Chris Haak

GM and Chrysler – yes, the same two companies that shed tens of thousands of white-collar and production employees over the past few years as both firms stumbled into bankruptcy in 2009 – announced separately today that they plan to hire a considerable number of engineers.  Most of the new jobs will be located in Michigan, where it seems likely that there is a large number of out-of-work, qualified engineers with automotive experience ready to start working again on a moment’s notice.

For Chrysler, which saw its US-based employment fall from 64,750 in 2006 to just 32,250 in June 2009, the new hires will come in large part from stepped-up campus recruiting efforts at 35 schools, but the company also wants to hire a mix of new grads and experienced hires.  Since exiting bankruptcy in June 2009, the company has already hired some 5,000 workers, of whom at least 500 are engineers.  Of the 1,000 projected new hires, about 600 will actually be on Chrysler’s payroll, and 400 will likely be contract employees.  Chrysler expects to fill the openings within the next four months.

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New Explorer Orders Double Ford’s Expectations
Nov30

New Explorer Orders Double Ford’s Expectations

By Charles Krome

According to a report this weekend from The Detroit News, Ford has received nearly twice as many orders for its all-new 2011 Explorer as the company originally projected. But the actual numbers may surprise some people: According to the article, the 15,000 or so orders include approximately 3,000 from retail customers and 7,500 from dealers, with the remainder—roughly 4,500—coming from fleet buyers.

It’s good news overall for Ford, but I do have some mixed feelings about that last number. On the one hand, in the context of a (hopefully) improving economy, it makes sense that fleet orders would be on the rise, especially for a vehicle like the next-gen Explorer, which offers both iconic name appeal and an all-new model. But I’m certain Ford is hoping fleet sales will represent significantly less than 30 percent of Explorer purchases once the vehicle actually goes on sale.

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Review: 2011 Lincoln MKX AWD
Nov29

Review: 2011 Lincoln MKX AWD

By Kevin Miller

I don’t watch much TV, but I read plenty plenty of automotive websites and I travel a lot. Both on those automotive sites and in national news publications such as USAToday, the Lincoln MKX is being heavily advertised. Ford is doing a great job in getting the word out about the MKX and its class-leading MyLincoln Touch system.

After spending a week in a 2011 Lincoln MKX, I came away conflicted. It has some great features, is more fun to drive than many competing five-passenger crossover vehicles, and for the most part is nicely finished.

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China’s 2010 Auto Sales Could Top 18 Million

By Chris Haak

Fresh from snatching the title of the “world’s largest new-vehicle market” from the US last year, China’s new-vehicle sales could top 18 million vehicles by the end of 2010, which would be an all-time record for a single country.  Who held the previous record?  The US, of course, before the market started sputtering.

According to [sub], part of what’s leading to the sales growth in China is a government tax incentive that cuts the purchase tax on vehicles with engines displacing 1.6 liters or less from 10 percent to 5 percent starting in January 2009.  That tax cut helped spur China’s explosive auto-sales growth, but early in 2010, the central government raised the tax to 7.5 percent.  The expectation is that the purchase tax will be restored to the original 10 percent level after December 31, though that has not been confirmed.

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