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Entries in Cars (71)

Tuesday
Jan312012

Obama Touts Auto Industry Recovery at DC Auto Show

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hailing an economic recovery story that he hopes will propel him to re-election, President Obama declared Tuesday, “The U.S. auto industry is back.”

“When you look at all these cars, it is testimony to the outstanding work that’s been done by workers — American workers, American designers,” the president said in a surprise visit to the Washington Auto Show Tuesday afternoon.

While he did not mention Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney by name, Obama, who has made his efforts to rescue Chrysler and General Motors a key part of his campaign strategy, was quick to point out that some people opposed the auto industry bailout.

“It’s good to remember the fact that there were some folks who were willing to let this industry die,” Obama said. Romney has criticized the bailout, saying it “was the wrong way to go” and that the companies should have gone through bankruptcy instead.

Touring the latest electric and hybrid American-made models in the showroom Tuesday, the president, who is forbidden from driving by the Secret Service, was practically giddy to get behind the wheel.

“This is a classic here,” the president said with a grin as he sat in the driver’s seat of a bright blue Ford sports car. “This is what I needed in high school.”

“This was the first new car I ever bought,” a nostalgic Obama said as he surveyed a cherry red Jeep.

But it was the Corvette that really won the president over. “I got to get in the Corvette,” Obama said eagerly. “How fast does this thing go?”

“I had a friend who had a Corvette. He let me drive it one time. One time,” Obama said wistfully.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan172012

Average Years Americans Keep Cars Reach Record High

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- The clunker in the driveway's reached a record-old age. The average age of a car or truck in the U.S. is now almost 11 years, according to an analysis released by automotive research firm Polk. Job security and other economic worries kept many people from making big-ticket purchases such as a new vehicle.  

Back in 1995, Americans kept cars for an average of 8.5 years, according to the analysis that looked at vehicle registration data.

Polk global aftermarket practice leader Mark Seng said the increase in vehicle age could bring positive outcomes for vehicle maintenance services and parts dealers.

"Dealer service departments and independent repair facilities, as well as aftermarket parts suppliers, will see increased business opportunity with customers in need of vehicle service," Seng said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

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

Monday
Jan092012

General Motors Sells Record 2.5 Million Vehicles in China

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(DETROIT) -- General Motors and its joint ventures sold a record 2,547,171 vehicles in China in 2011, up 8.3 percent from a year earlier, the automaker announced on Monday.

The company, which in 2001 regained its mantle as the world’s largest automaker, now sells more cars in China than in the United States.

“GM stayed ahead of the competition despite a slowdown in the growth of industry demand thanks to our broad portfolio of appealing vehicles,” Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group said in a statement Monday. “GM and our joint ventures introduced 12 new models in 2011 while expanding our manufacturing and product development capability to meet rising demand.”

GM was the sales leader in China, the world’s largest car market, for the seventh consecutive year.

It’s part of a turnaround for the automaker which in 2008 accepted $4 billion in operating cash from the U.S. government, arranged by the Bush administration, and then a bailout of more than ten times that -- at least $50 billion -- from the Obama administration.

The company is not out of the woods yet, and U.S. taxpayers have yet to recoup the bailout money loaned to the company, however.  The stock, which trades at about $23, needs to get to $50 a share for the government to get all its money back. GM’s pension plan is still short about $22 billion, according to its regulatory filings. The company reported a $1.7 billion profit in the third quarter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan042012

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

Tuesday
Jan032012

Automakers Expected to Release Strong Sales Figures

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- American automakers on Wednesday will release what are expected to be encouraging sales figures for the year 2011.

“We're seeing pretty strong growth towards the end of this year as we exit and come into 2012,” said Ford sales analyst Erick Merkle.

The industry, Merkle says, is seeing a trend -- one that indicates people are more confident about their economic futures.

“People are starting to feel a little more easy, a little more secure,” said Merkle.

“[Consumers are] going out and buying things again,” he continued, and one of those things, Merkle says, are automobiles.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec272011

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

Thursday
Dec152011

Record Number of Vehicles Score Insurance Institute's Top Safety Pick

Fstop/Photodisc/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) came out with its list of the safest car models for 2012 on Thursday, and a record number of vehicles made the cut.

"In all, 115 vehicles earned the top award and that's up from 66 at the beginning of 2011 and just 27 at the beginning of 2010," said Insurance Institute spokesman Russ Rader.

The 2012 Top Safety Picks include 69 cars, 38 SUVs, five minivans, and three pickups.  Eighteen new models were among the winners, while the remaining 97 were vehicles that received the honor last year.  The award is given to vehicles that score the highest in tests that measure how well drivers are protected in front, side, rollover and rear crashes.

Toyota/Lexus/Scion led the 2012 crop with 15 winners, while General Motors followed with 14.  Volkswagen/Audi claimed 13 spots, and Ford/Lincoln and Honda/Acura both received 12 awards each.

[CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL LIST OF WINNERS OF THE 2012 TOP SAFETY PICKS]

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov182011

Coming Soon: An iPad in Your Car's Center Console?

Alex Stone/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- The next car you drive could have a major high-tech upgrade.

The big automakers are giving people a preview of the technological advances they have in the works at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opened to the public on Friday.

While eco-friendly cars are still popular, they say consumer demand for high-tech vehicles is even bigger.

“They want voice activated controls and they want to be able to customize the interior of their car like they would their tablet device,” says Jim Farley, vice president of sales at Ford.

Ford, General Motors and Toyota have flashy new systems they hope will attract buyers.

At Cadillac, which is owned by GM, engineers have designed a new system called Cue that is equivalent to putting an Apple iPad into the center console of their vehicles.  Drivers can move from screen to screen with the slide of a finger, and the pinch and stretch features popular on the iPad can be used to move maps in the car navigation system.

“We’ve really taken the interface that people are used to using in their everyday consumer electronic products like tablets and brought that user experience into the automotive space,” Stuart Norris, the engineer behind Cadillac’s Cue System, told ABC News Radio.

Toyota’s new system for its cars, premiering in the Camry, will allow users to use their center console screen to make dinner reservations on Open Table or buy tickets.  Apps will be downloaded and available much like they are on an iPhone and stored on the computer system within the car.

At Ford, the automaker is updating its MyFordTouch system, which has been criticized recently by some drivers who have become more accustomed to newer systems for being hard to use or finicky.

“We’re making it simpler, faster to respond and easier to use,” explains Alan Hall, an engineer on MyFordTouch.  “It launches on the new 2013 Escape, and Edge, and Flex.”

Current owners won’t have to take their Ford to a dealer to get updated.  Instead, Ford will be mailing USB drives to current owners of their compatible vehicles so they can update their MyFordTouch system themselves.

There are critics who believe giving drivers too much information and access to services like the Internet while driving is not a good thing.  TrueCar Vice President Jesse Toprak says automakers are walking a very fine line right now of giving customers what they want without giving them too much, such that it will distract their attention from the road.

“How badly do you need to check your Facebook updates while you’re driving?  Can’t you wait until you get home?” asks Toprak.

He also sees the other side of the issue, and says if car companies don’t offer the technology in their vehicles, drivers will seek it out on their phones anyway.

Most of the new iPad-like systems will be launching in the 2013 model year vehicles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov032011

Chevrolet Centennial: 100 Years of Iconic Cars

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Chevrolet celebrates its centennial anniversary Nov. 3, 2011. The Chevy division of General Motors prides itself on its rich place in U.S. auto history and its standing as an affordable global brand.

Auto racer Louis Chevrolet co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Co. with William C. Durant in 1911, with the goal of creating a racer’s dream car.  The Series C “Classic Six” vehicle premiered in 1912, and sold for $2,150.  Louis left the auto-making industry in 1913 to focus on racing, but granted Durant the rights to continue using the Chevrolet name on future models.

Over the past century, Chevrolet has produced several iconic cars and trucks that have revolutionized General Motors’ reach. Chevy has also secured a place in U.S. pop culture history, popping up in the songs of Don McClean, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, among others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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