OEM News

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. (TMS), announced on June 1 that it will conduct a voluntary safety recall involving approximately 52,000 2001 through 2003 Prius vehicles sold in the U.S. to replace the electric power steering pinion shaft attachment nuts. This announcement is for U.S. vehicles included in Toyota Motor Corporation’s global recall of 106,000 vehicles.

If the steering wheel is repeatedly and strongly turned to the full-lock position, there is a possibility the nuts securing the pinion shaft in the steering gear box assembly may become loose. If the vehicle is continuously operated in this condition, over time, the customer will gradually notice significant increased steering effort when making a left turn.

Toyota dealers will install improved nuts that secure the pinion shaft at no charge to the vehicle owner. The repair will take approximately 4 hours depending upon the dealer’s work schedule.

Owner notification letters by first class mail will begin in early July, 2011.

Forecasts 13.2 million new units sold in 2011 and 16 million in 2013

Buyers from the 15 million post-recession "newly sub-prime" group could be a $3.2 billion opportunity for original equipment manufacturers

A newly released study by A.T. Kearney forecasts 13.2 million new autos will be sold in the U.S. this year. The study further anticipates an upward trend toward pre-recession levels of about 16 million units by 2013. Since 2007, total new and used pent-up demand has accumulated to 32 million units, of which more than nine million will materialize in the new vehicle market over the next five to seven years. The remaining 23 million units will sell in the used-car market.  The study cautions, however, that the availability of financing, total cost of ownership and the unfolding events in Japan will impact vehicle sales in both markets.

German auto supplier Bosch said May 5 that it plans to add about 1,000 employees in North America this year as its automotive business continues to grow.  The auto supplier, whose headquarters for North and South America is in Farmington Hills, expects to employ about 23,000 in North America by the end of this year.

Last year, Bosch's North American workforce increased 8% to 22,000 as the company recovered from the Great Recession, said Peter Marks, Bosch's chairman, president and CEO for Bosch's North and South American operations.

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Ford continues to have problems with its top selling F-150. In April the automaker recalled 1.3 M vehicles over a possible short-circuit in model years 2004-2006 F-150s that could cause airbags to deploy unexpectedly. Owners of the recalled vehicles won't begin receiving notices until May, but if an airbag warning light is illuminated, Ford says owners can bring their F-150 into the dealer ASAP for the fix, which requires about a half day.

Now NHTSA is investigating a problem with rusting fuel tank straps that could impact 2.7 million F-150 trucks. NHTSA says it has reviewed around 300 complaints of fuel straps rusting and failing, including two reports of fires. The investigation is looking at model year 1997-2001 F-150 trucks.

The straps hold the truck's fuel tank in place but might corrode and break, causing the tank to tilt and to drop from its proper position, possibly making contact with the road and causing a potentially dangerous fuel leak.

NHTSA says it is "upgrading this investigation to further investigate the frequency, severity and scope of this problem."

NHTSA said there are two reports of fires. In one, leaking fuel ignited, but quickly burned out. In the other incident, Ford said "the leaking fuel ignited and the … fire destroyed the vehicle." No injuries have been reported.

Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said the company was working with NHTSA. "We are aware of the matter, and we're going to continue to cooperate," he said.

NHTSA said its investigation "yielded information that strongly suggests the subject defect as the cause of the reported problem."

The agency cited that of the incidents reported, 243 involved the fuel tank dropping below the vehicle — with some dragging on the ground. Of those, 95 involved fuel leakage, and nine included reports of sparks from the tank being dragged on the road.

The F-series truck line is the best-selling vehicle line in the United States.


Friday, 29 April 2011 14:31

Stars are aligning for Detroit 3 surge

Automotive News reporter Mike Colias reports that there are no more excuses for the Detroit 3.

Just two years removed from their near-death experience, U.S. automakers have a glistening opportunity to take back some of the market share they have hemorrhaged over the past two decades.

Toyota’s recall crisis last year cracked open the door just as the Detroit 3 were picking themselves up off the mat. Now Toyota and other Japanese rivals will be hobbled by quake-related production drops of as much as 50 percent in the coming months — just as a recovering U.S. economy is bringing shoppers back into showrooms.

Brad Sowers, a Chevrolet dealer in St. Louis, says Honda and Toyota customers are showing up at his store.

“We’ve been talking about it forever, but we’re actually starting to see it,” says Sowers.

A dearth of colors or trim packages on Japanese brands could be just enough to nudge lifelong import customers — or first-time buyers — into Detroit 3 dealerships. They might be surprised with the rejuvenated product lineups they find.

Friday, 29 April 2011 14:30

Facebook, Fun – but sells few cars

Automotive News Reporter Dave Barkholz writes that despite the hype, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube do little to help dealers sell vehicles.

Just 3 percent of 4,005 new and used car buyers polled last summer said social media influenced their purchase decision, according to a survey by market researcher R.L. Polk & Co. and AutoTrader.com, a car shopping Web site.

“It’s amazing that we put so much priority on social media when it’s not making us a lot of money,” said Kevin Frye, eCommerce director for the nine-store Jeff Wyler Automotive Family in Cincinnati.

Frye said he has experimented for four years with social media — with little success turning that engagement into sales. He’s sticking with it, but he’s doubtful that direct vehicle sales will result.

Dealers across the country are racking their brains to understand what social media can do and how much money they should spend on it.

Many dealers say that social media are good for building relationships and awareness. Many add that that social media’s role in auto sales is bound to grow, so dealers need to jump in. On the social sites, dealers can post videos, pictures, blogs, answer questions and converse with customers on various topics.

Friday, 29 April 2011 14:28

South regroups after killer storms

Automotive News Southern Bureau Chief Lindsay Chappell writes that tornadoes last week caused hundreds of deaths, destroyed communities and snarled operations at automotive businesses across several Southern states.

On Friday, April 29, industry sources in Alabama said companies still were coping with widespread power outages and humanitarian concerns. Repeated efforts to reach suppliers and auto dealerships in the path of Wednesday’s destructive storms were unsuccessful, complicated by downed telephone lines, toppled cell towers and a lack of electricity.

“I haven’t been able to get through to any of our dealers north of Birmingham,” said Tom Dart, president of the 300-member Alabama Automobile Dealers Association in Montgomery.

An estimated 1 million people in Alabama were without power Friday morning, interrupting business for companies, including Toyota Motor Corp.’s engine plant in Huntsville.

The power loss shut down the Huntsville plant on Wednesday through the weekend, curtailing output of engines for the Tundra and Tacoma pickups and the Sequoia SUV. Utility officials in the state said power could be out for up to a week in some areas of the state.

In Vance, Ala., 150 miles to the south, winds of up to 100 miles an hour in advance of the more destructive tornadoes caused light damage to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., which builds the Mercedes M-, R- and GL-class vehicles. The damage did not affect the plant’s operating capability, says spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald. But the plant closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday because of supply chain difficulties.

Mercedes-Benz USA announces today that it is opening the company's first Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy in Los Angeles in October 2011, offering a fully integrated driver's education program and school that incorporates online, classroom and behind-the-wheel training for Los Angeles-area teens.

The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is unveiling details for its teen driving school at the annual California State PTA Convention, where approximately 2,500 California PTA members are attending from April 28 – May 1, 2011 in Long Beach, CA.

Mercedes-Benz is appointing Carolyn Duchene as Director for the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, and she will be responsible for the launch and management of daily operations. A Mercedes-Benz USA employee since 1994, Duchene has held several positions in the areas of marketing, digital media, training and education, and customer service.

"In addition to a unique educational approach, our highly qualified staff will be a key differentiator for the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy. We are recruiting and hiring the best talent for all areas of operation," said Duchene. "The Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy will connect with students and parents using a personalized, customer-centric approach that truly creates a unique offering among driver's education services for new teen drivers."

Chrysler announced April 28 that it will repay its U.S. Treasury, Canadian Federal and Ontario aid loans within a few months.

The automaker will achieve this by refinancing that debt in a new term loan facility and through a private offering of newly issued debt securities to institutional investors. The offering will be exempt from registration under the U.S. Securities Act of 1933.

Chrysler said it will use the proceeds of that offering — plus the gains from Fiat’s plans to purchase an incremental ownership interest in the automaker — to completely pay down its debt to the aforementioned U.S. and Canadian governments and take care of the related fees and expenses.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer, said, “We have chosen to accelerate the pace to bring about, in the shortest possible time, the birth of a single group capable of fully leveraging the joint development of the respective international activities.
“Chrysler is undergoing an extraordinary industrial and financial turnaround, and Fiat is ready to take control, in order to bring even greater stability and strength to the relationship in the interests of both,” he added.


Plug-in electric vehicles may just be entering the market, but most U.S. consumers are ready to buy them. E Source recently analyzed data from the Nielsen Energy Survey and found that 85 percent of U.S. consumers say they would purchase a battery-driven car either right away (3 percent), when their current car needed replacement (57 percent), or when the technology is proven and it becomes more mainstream (25 percent). The caveat is that consumers strongly prefer (58 percent) plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) versions such as the Chevrolet Volt. PHEVs have greater range than electric-only cars like the Nissan Leaf and only 8 percent of consumers prefer them. "We are seeing a substantial willingness for drivers to move to plug-in electric vehicles, but only if the manufacturers can provide the easy extended range of travel that Americans are used to," says Bill LeBlanc, senior advisor at E Source.

E Source also reports that younger drivers are more willing than older drivers to purchase the electric-only cars, and people who describe themselves as liberals are similarly more inclined to desire the all-electric cars than those classified as conservatives. "We see that all ages and all political mindsets like the plug-in hybrid vehicles equally," says LeBlanc. "But when it comes to the all-electric car, it appears to be seen as more of a 'green' purchase, rather than as a practical upgrade to a more-efficient vehicle."

Another factor that E Source looked at was how far people drive each day and how that affects their desire for a plug-in electric vehicle. Daily driving habits don't seem to affect desire for the all-electric vehicle; however, desire for the PHEV grows as people spend more time in their cars. "Overall, the survey supports the existence of a huge untapped market for electric vehicles that can be charged at night at home. People seem very ready to move to the next generation of cars and dramatically decrease the frequency of their visits to the gas station," reports LeBlanc.