June 22nd, 2011 at 12:00pm
Ford says it’s tweaking the software behind its SYNC and MyFord Touch systems because of customer complaints about the technologies. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing another reduction in the use of cellulosic ethanol, the third-straight year it’s slashed requirements. Over the last year, Detroit automakers have boosted sales in California while their Japanese rivals have seen their market share drop in the state. All that and more, plus, we find out the draft order in next week’s automotive draft on Autoline After Hours.
This is Autoline Daily for June 22, 2011. I’m Mark Phelan, auto critic from the Detroit Free Press and — coming up next week — one of your Draft Analysts on the After Hours Automotive Draft. But more on that later. Right now let’s get to the news.
FORD TWEAKS SYNC & MYFORD TOUCH
At a safety and technology briefing in Dearborn yesterday Ford announced it’s tweaking the software behind its SYNC and MyFord Touch systems. According to the Detroit Free Press – the best newspaper around I might add – the automaker is addressing customer complaints that these technologies are hard to use. What’s strange in all this is that the company is actually admitting fault. It’s a rare day when corporations do that. Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, said internal quality evaluations showed some issues with the systems. He said they’re working to address the problems quickly. It will be interesting to see if Ford takes a hit on the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which is due out tomorrow. Last year it was the highest-rated non-luxury brand in the survey.
EPA CUTS ETHANOL REQUIREMENT
Ethanol is the drama queen of the fuel industry, and it’s in trouble again. The Detroit News reports the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing another reduction in the use of cellulosic ethanol. Back in 2007 the U.S. enacted a law requiring 500 million gallons of alcohol end up in gas tanks in 2012. Now it’s suggesting no more than 12.9 million gallons of the stuff get burned. It blames “market availability” for the cutback. This is the third straight year the EPA slashed its cellulosic ethanol requirements. By 2013 America was supposed to consume 1 billion gallons of the fuel, but this goal will certainly get scaled back as well.
GM LOSING PONTIAC & SATURN OWNERS
Remember Pontiac and Saturn? Of course you do. Millions of people still drive these vehicles today even though GM sent them off to the big parking lot in the sky when it went through bankruptcy in 2009. In a bit of bad news for the company, two thirds of Pontiac owners and THREE QUARTERS of Saturn drivers are defecting to other automakers when it’s time to buy a new car. According to The Detroit News, Chevrolet is a top choice for these “abandoned” customers but Honda, Toyota and Nissan are popular as well. In March of last year GM started offering Pontiac and Saturn owners a $1,000 incentive to stay with the company, a deal that’s still in place today, and apparently not doing as much as executives had hoped.
ZETSCHE WARNS ABOUT SLOW MARKETS
Most major car companies are making huge investments in emerging markets like India and China, but Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche warns of mounting risks in these countries. According to Reuters, inflation in China could but the brakes on growth. Sales in the country this year have been slowing down but Zetsche says the company’s business is diverse enough to balance the volatility in emerging markets. But it’s not just those markets Zetsche is concerned about. According to the Wall Street Journal, he says slow economic recovery in the U.S. could hurt the auto industry’s growth (subscription required) this year. He also says the debt crisis in Europe is a threat and that it’s necessary to preserve and strengthen the euro.
DETROIT THREE GAIN SHARE IN CALIFORNIA
California’s auto market is dominated by import brands, but over the last year, the Detroit automakers have been gaining share in the state. According to the LA Times, California buyers are turning to the Detroit automakers because their newest crop of small cars and SUVs are competitive with their Asian rivals. Last year the Chevy Cobalt only accounted for 1 percent of sales in California but its replacement, the Cruze, has boosted sales to just over 3 percent of the market. Ford’s retail sales jumped 37 percent the first four months of the year and the company’s overall market share in the state is the highest it’s been since 2002. Japanese automakers on the other hand have seen their market share fall nearly a full percentage point in the last year.
MAYORS SUPPORT RED-LIGHT CAMERAS
Mayors across the U.S. recently voiced their support for red-light cameras in order to reduce traffic accidents. According to the Detroit News, the mayors say the cameras reduce red-light running and speeding through traffic lights. A recent study from the IIHS found that red-light cameras do help reduce fatal crashes because people are more cautious if they know a camera is around. But many argue this is just a way for the government to raise revenue and there have been several challenges in court to stop their use. So what do you think? Are cameras a good safety technology, or do they represent too much government intrusion?
Now don’t go away because coming right up is an Autoline Daily exclusive about next week’s After Hours Automotive Draft. Stay tuned…
AFTER HOURS AUTOMOTIVE DRAFT
As I mentioned in the open, I’ll be one of the After Hours Draft Analysts along with some guy named Scott Burgess. Just kidding, as many of you know he’s the auto critic from The Detroit News who will, in fact, be sitting in for John here tomorrow. Anyway, Scott and I will be equipped with our own executive power rankings as we watch along with you all who John, Peter, Jim and Ed draft, and then telling you what we think. Should be a lot of fun.
Anyway, you can’t have a draft without an order — who chooses first, second…you know what I mean. So to keep it unbiased and fair, we asked the panelists and guest on a recent Autoline to help us with the process. So we recorded it and thought we’d premier it here today on Autoline Daily. Check it out.
Wow! Do you think the hat was fixed? Well, the Autoline staff swears it wasn’t. So the order of round 1 is McElroy and Dymaxion Motors choosing first, followed by De Lorenzo and Renzo Motors with Ed Lapham’s DeWard Auto Group third and Jim Hall’s Bistango last. But remember, each round will be reversed so Hall will pick first in round 2, followed by Lapham, De Lorenzo and McElroy.
So that’s the first annual Autoline After Hours Automotive Draft next Thursday, June 30th at 7pm though you might want to tune in early. You never know what’ll happen.
That’s it for today. I’m Mark Phelan, auto critic of the Detroit Free Press…we’ll see you next week at the After Hours draft. Take care.