October 30th, 2012 at 11:58am
The results are in and Chrysler had a strong showing in the third quarter of 2012, while Ford started to struggle. All the details inside. Ford takes another on the chin as it tumbles to the bottom of the Consumer Reports Reliability Survey. How much would you pay for a super-sized version of a Hot Wheels Camaro? Find out the price. All that and more, plus John McElroy has his review of the 2013 Toyota Avalon.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily, where we’re going to give you a little bit of rest from all the news about the big hurricane hitting the East Coast of the United States. So here’s what’s going on in the automotive universe.
FORD EARNINGS ALL OVER THE MAP
Ford and Chrysler have reported their third-quarter earnings so let’s get to the numbers, starting with Ford. The company saw its vehicle sales drop by 17,000 units worldwide. That pulled down its revenue by $1 billion, and yet Ford’s operating profit increased to just over $2 billion. However, the bottom line is what counts the most and Ford saw a slight decrease in its net profit to $1.6 billion. On a regional basis, Ford’s performance was all over the map. Its North American operations set an all-time record profit and achieved an operating margin of 12 percent. But in South America, Ford’s profit plummeted to only $9 million and racked up $468 million in losses in Europe. And yet in the Asia-Pacific region Ford showed a strong rebound.
CHRYSLER’S SPECTACULAR GROWTH
Meanwhile, Chrysler showed spectacular improvements across the board. Vehicle sales easily topped half a million units, a gain of 12 percent. Chrysler was able to get better pricing for those vehicles and revenue was up 18 percent to $15.5 billion. The company achieved a 46 percent improvement in its operating profit, and a staggering 80 percent improvement in net profit to $381 million. Chrysler’s cash holdings now stand at just under $12 billion, which is up significantly from a year ago but down a little bit from the previous quarter.
Here’s my Autoline Insight. It’s good to see that Ford is now taking drastic action in Europe. It’s out in front of everyone else in making the moves that will fix its problems. But its lackluster performance in South America certainly is puzzling. A 12 percent drop in sales practically wiped out the company’s profit there. And while Chrysler’s financial performance is truly impressive it’s hard to see how the company can continue posting these kinds of increases. Unless Chrysler can substantially boost sales outside of NAFTA, we should look for its growth to start slowing.
CONSUMER REPORTS TRASHES FORD
Consumer Reports trashes Ford and Lincoln in its annual Reliability Survey. Only two years ago, the company was in the top 10, but this year the Blue Oval dropped to next to last among the 28 brands in the survey. Several of its new vehicles came out with more problems than normal, MyFord Touch continues to have issues and three of its more reliable vehicles weren’t included because they were refreshed for 2013 and data isn’t available yet. While Ford took a beating, Toyota was declared king of the hill. Each of its brands, Scion, Toyota, and Lexus finished first, second and third respectively. The top American brand was Cadillac and the top European brand was Audi.
HOT WHEELS CAMARO
You can tell the men from the boys by the price of their toys so the saying goes. Maybe that’s why Chevy revealed a Hot Wheels version of the Camaro at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. The company will build a limited number of them. It’s available as a coupe or convertible and can be equipped with a 3.6L V6 or a 6.2L V8. It shares a few exterior cues with the ZL1 including the rear spoiler and front upper grille. And the exterior and interior also feature the Hot Wheels logo, along with other unique styling cues. The price of the Hot Wheels package is about $7,000, so you’ll really have to like Hot Wheels if you want to get this.
CAR THEFT DROPS
There’s good news for drivers in the U.S. The FBI says car thefts dropped by 3.3 percent last year, to about 715,000 vehicles.. That seems like a lot but it’s a drop of 43 percent since 2002.
INDY AXES CEO
IndyCar announced that CEO, Randy Bernard, will step down from his position but will remain as an advisor. Bernard joined the series in 2010 and even though he has two years remaining on his contract the split was called “amicable.” Indy Motor Speedway President and CEO, Jeff Belskus will take over on an interim basis.
Coming up next, Toyota is counting on swoopy styling, solid chassis dynamics and impressive fuel economy numbers to build back sales of its flagship sedan. That’s coming up next.
2013 TOYOTA AVALON
The Toyota Avalon used to be one of the best selling big cars in the American market. But then Toyota seemed to lose interest in the car. So far this year it only sold around 22,000. But with the all-new 2013 models, Toyota ultimately hopes to boost sales to 70,000 a year in the American market, as well as export it to Canada, the Middle East, and South Korea.
As it always has been, the Avalon is built off the platform that is shared by the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES. But now it represents a big step forward for Toyota’s U.S. operations. This car was designed in California, engineered in Michigan and is manufactured in Kentucky.
Toyota especially wanted to make something of a styling statement with this car. The design features crisp lines, tight radii and compound curves. The body panels have a greater depth of draw, and the car has a decidedly more sculptural look than we typically see from Toyota. Take note of the split projector beam headlights. It’s really kind of a styling trick, there’s only one bulb behind those projectors.
Inside, Toyota wanted to show off its craftsmanship. Many interior trim pieces are wrapped by hand and stitched together by sewing machine, instead of wrapped by machine with molded in stitching. The Avalon uses a three tone color scheme to give the car more upscale look. It paid close attention to the graphics on the gauges to make them attractive and very easy to read. And look at those big radio knobs, which are perfectly placed so you don’t accidentally hit the other capacitive switches.
But the beauty is more than skin deep, this car drives far better than previous models. The body structure is far stiffer and even has 70 more spot welds on it. The front springs are counter wound to offset twisting motions when they are compressed. And there are rebound springs in the dampers to improve handling. It all pays off. This car handles far better than before. In fact, the sport version with 18-inch wheels can actually be fun to drive on a tight, twisty road.
The base engine is a 3.5 L V-6 that develops 268 hp and 240 pound-feet of torque. With its six-speed automatic transmission, it’s rated at a combined 26 miles per gallon. And Toyota claims it will run from 0 to 60 miles an hour in only 6.7 seconds.
There’s also a hybrid version, powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a CVT. It’s rated at a combined 40 miles per gallon and will accelerate to 60 miles an hour in 8.2 seconds.
Prices of the new Avalon started just under $32,000 for the base model and just over $40,000 for the top-of-the-line Limited. If you want a hybrid version you can add $1,750 on up to $2,360 depending on the model.
Toyota hopes to sell around 30,000 Avalons in the American market in its first year, and then build sales back to 70,000 units a year. With all the other full-size cars out there now, that’s not going to be easy, especially with competitors like the Chrysler 300, Chevy Impala and Hyundai Azera. But there’s no question the new Avalon gets Toyota a better shot at that target.
The average age of an Avalon buyer is about 65 years old. Toyota is hoping the new car lowers that average age to the mid-50s.
And that wraps up today’s report, thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.