Entries in Autos (5)


Obama Challenges China at WTO over Auto Tariffs

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(MAUMEE, Ohio) -- As he embarked on a campaign swing across northern Ohio, President Obama announced new action against China in the World Trade Organization, challenging duties imposed last year on U.S. auto exports.

“Just this morning my administration took a new action to hold China accountable for unfair trade practices that harm American automakers,” Obama said during a campaign stop in Maumee, Ohio. “We’re going to make sure that competition is fair. That’s what I believe. That’s part of our vision for America.”

The tough line toward China coincides with Obama’s appeal to blue collar workers in Ohio, home to many U.S. auto manufacturers and suppliers.  The bus tour — themed “Betting on America” — will promote the 2009 Obama-backed bailout of GM and Chrysler and portray the president as a champion of American manufacturing.

White House spokesman Jay Carney disputed that the timing of the announcement was anything other than coincidence.

“This is an action that has been in development for quite a long time. USTR [the U.S. Trade Representative] studies these issues and prepares actions with great deliberation to ensure their success at WTO. This one has been under development for many, many months,” Carney told reporters on Air Force One. “It can’t suddenly be a political action because it happens during the campaign.”

Carney noted that the new WTO complaint is the seventh the administration has filed against China and that the previous six have been “successful.”

Administration officials say the duties, which target Ohio-made cars like the Jeep Wrangler, affect $3.3 billion in exports, hampering prices and potentially imperiling jobs.

“The Chinese duties in question cover more than 80 percent of U.S. auto exports to China, including cars manufactured in Toledo and Marysville, Ohio, and Detroit and Lansing, Michigan,” said Carney. “The duties disproportionately fall on General Motors and Chrysler products because of the actions that President Obama took, as you know, to support the auto industry during the financial crisis.”

China cites Obama’s 2009 taxpayer-funded bailout of U.S. automakers GM and Chrysler to claim that the companies received an unfair advantage in the global marketplace, akin to subsidies that are forbidden by WTO rules.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Survey: High Prices Major Complaint About Auto Repairs Shops

Comstock/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Just hearing the words “auto repair shop” can send shivers up the spines of motorists who dread bringing their cars in for anything other than a tune-up.

Still, the latest Consumer Reports survey on auto repair experiences seems to indicate that most people are generally happy with the work that gets done.

Of the 5,400 respondents to the Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey, just over three quarters said they were either completely or very satisfied with their repair shop.

That leaves one in four who weren’t.

Of that group of disgruntled customers, 38 percent said they were bothered by the high cost of repairs.  This complaint was more prevalent with dealerships than independent shops.

Consumer Reports learned that number two on the list of repair shops gripes, which was about equal for dealerships and privately-owned businesses, was that the work wasn’t done right.

Beyond that, car owners complained about the length of time it took to get work done and having to bring their vehicles back to the mechanic because the repair “didn’t hold up.”

Among customers who decided to give up on an auto repair shop with which they were unhappy, 30 percent of women respondents said the reason they stopped using a dealership or independent was due to being taken advantage of because of their gender, even when the service manager was a woman.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Honda Plans to Build New Plant in Ohio

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- Honda announced on Monday that it plans to build a new facility in Ohio to make the Acura NSX supercar, which it debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The iconic sports car has not been sold for more than five years and the original NSX was built in Japan from 1990 to 2005. Honda says the new NSX will be on the market within the next three years.

The car will not only be built in central Ohio, it will also be designed there as well.

While the new facility will create jobs, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Honda officials have told the paper the number of jobs created will be significantly fewer than GM’s Corvette plant in Kentucky, which has 400 workers.

The company says the new plant is another investment in its almost 30-year relationship with the Buckeye State. Honda says it builds more cars and light trucks in the state than all of the other automakers combined.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Car Manufacturers Have Record December

Steve Gorton/Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Chrysler announced its best monthly retail sales in four year years, leading the pack of U.S. car makers who had capped a robust 2011 with strong December sales. Consumers unleashed pent-up demand -- although sales of an estimated 12.8 million vehicles for the year were still far short of their peak of 16.1 million reached before the recession began in 2007.

Chrysler Group reported 138,019 U.S. car sales in December, a 37 percent increase compared with December 2010 and its best monthly sales since May 2008. The company reported strong sales of the Chrysler brand sedans and Jeep sales.

Chrysler sold 1.37 million units in 2011, an increase of 26 percent from 2010, the largest percentage sales gain of any full-line manufacturer, the company said in a release.

Sales of Chrysler-branded cars increased 83 percent from a year ago, the largest percentage sales gain of all the Chrysler Group brands, and represented its best monthly sales since August 2008. The Fiat brand surged 44 percent compared to November. Compared to a year ago, Jeep sales increased 41 percent and Dodge sales increased 28 percent.

"December sales are so far proving that 2012 will be another strong year for the industry, Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said. "Healthy automobile sales are a positive signs in terms of consumer spending which is quite important for the economy as a whole."

Consumer spending makes up for 70 percent of U.S. GDP, and vehicle sales are one of the largest household expenses.

A little more than 11.5 million vehicles were sold through November and with the over 1.2 million sales likely come for December after all manufacturers announce their numbers, Gutierrez estimates about 12.8 million vehicle sales in 2011.

Interest rates remain at historic lows which add fuel to the fire for consumers shopping for cars, said Paul Taylor, the National Automobiles Dealers Association's chief economist.

"Cash incentives and low interest rates are likely to be a part of manufacturers' efforts to regain market share," he said.

Gutierrez projects industry sales to be slightly greater than 1.2 million units overall this month, which equates to a 13.4 million unit annualized sale pace.

Car inventories were tighter toward the end of the year especially for Japanese manufacturers, after a supply disruption from the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan in March, and massive flooding in Thailand. Gutierrez projects sales of Japanese manufacturers Toyota will increase 6 to 7 percent for the year while Honda may increase 3 to 5 percent. Gutierrez projects sales of Korean manufacturer Hyundai will increase around 20 percent.

"We're expecting to see strong gains from all three manufacturers but not as strong as Chrysler," Gutierrez said.

Manufacturers prefer to have a 60-day supply of cars ready to sell, according to Gutierrez. Chrysler Group finished December with a 64-day supply of inventory, or 326,087 units.

GM had an inventory spanning 67 days at 583,407 units.

General Motors reported sales of 234,351 units in December, up 5 percent compared to last year. Sales for the calendar year increased 14 percent for the year to more than 2.5 million units.

GM's Chevrolet Volt sold more than 1,500 units in December, its best month ever. Sales of the Chevrolet Cruze increased 54 percent and sales for the Chevrolet Sonic increased 42 percent year-over-year. The Chevrolet brand had the most sales at 161,158 units in December, an increase of 8.9 percent from the previous year. There were 1.8 million Chevrolet cars sold for the year, an increase of 13.4 percent from 2010.

Ford Motor Co. sold 2,148,806 vehicles in 2011, up 11 percent for the year. The company had its best December for retail sales since 2005 with 210,140 cars sold in the month, up 10 percent from the previous year.

Ford's small cars, utilities and truck sales boosted sales. Small car sales increased 25 percent in 2011 with 244,291 cars sold. The company said it expects the U.S. economy to expand 2 to 3 percent this year and industry sales of13.5 million to 14.5 million.

Gutierrez said small cars have been strong sellers because of higher gas prices this year. The monthly national average in May for a gallon of regular gas was $3.91, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The national weekly average is $3.30.

Nissan Motor Co. reported a strong year, with an increase in sales of 7.7 percent from last year with 100,927 cars sold in December. The Japanese car maker's Nissan division set a new December sales record, increasing 10.7 percent with 89,937 cars. Sales of the luxury Infiniti vehicles fell 12.1 percent from the previous year to 10,990 vehicles.

Nissan reported 1,042,534 vehicles sold in 2011, up from 908,570 in 2010.

Sales of the all-electric Nissan LEAF totaled 954 units in December, with deliveries totaling 9,674 since the vehicle's U.S. debut a year ago. With sales exceeding 21,000 globally, Nissan says the LEAF is the world's best-selling electric car.

"Although 2011 had some unique challenges stemming from natural disasters in Japan and Thailand and uncertain economic conditions around the globe, Nissan managed the crisis better than most, allowing our lineup to gain momentum throughout the year," Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Sales, said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


2012 Small Cars: Safer and More Affordable Than Ever

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Small, safe and affordable: That’s the latest trend seen in the 2012 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top safety picks.

This year’s top selections are vehicles that earned the highest crash-test ratings in four categories; a frontal-offset crash test at 40 mph, a side-impact test that mimics a collision with an SUV or pickup truck, a rollover roof-strength test, and a rear-impact evaluation test, institute spokesman Russ Rader said.

Vehicles are then categorized as good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on their test performances. Each of this year’s picks was rated “good” in all four categories. The Fiat 500 was among the top-four picks in the mini category.

Of the 29 top-rated mini and small cars, 20 of them cost $20,000 or less. The new numbers indicate continuing demand for safe but affordable small cars, Rader said.

Rader expects such a trend to continue in the future.  “Automakers are really focusing on safety because they know it’s a selling point and they know that consumers are paying attention to safety,” he said. “No automaker wants to be seen as behind the curve in crash-test safety.”

Although compact cars are safer than ever before, “the laws of physics still apply,” Rader warned. “Even though these small cars are top crash-test performers, it doesn’t mean they are just as safe as bigger vehicles with the same rating.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio