March 19th, 2012 at 12:00pm
Ward’s Auto is forecasting that new car sales in March will be the highest in five years. Willie G. Davidson, the senior vice president and chief styling officer at Harley-Davidson is set to retire. Kia is suspending production at its plant in the U.S. due to a fire that broke out at a factory operated by one of its suppliers. All that and more, plus a look at how Mazda came up with a strong but lightweight structure in the new CX-5.
This is Autoline Daily for March 19, and there’s lots to report about on what’s going on in the automotive industry.
STRONG SALES CONTINUE IN U.S. (subscription required)
Looks like the strong showing in the American car market for the first two months of the year will keep on running strong. Some analysts wondered if that was just an aberration, but Ward’s is forecasting that new-car sales in March will be the highest in five years. It predicts automakers will sell 1.45 million light vehicles, for a SAAR rate of 14.8 million. That’s down a bit from last month’s 15.1 SAAR, but is 12.4 percent better than a year ago. Ward’s says higher gas prices are not hurting sales, yet may be pushing some consumers into more fuel efficient cars.
GM DEFENDS PEUGEOT DEAL (subscription required)
We’ve been saying that this GM deal with Peugeot doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. And we’re not the only ones saying it. In its defense, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson is claiming that this deal is actually a whole new way of looking at the business and will produce significant gains. Now, let me get this straight. Designing and manufacturing cars with Opel for the global market is a disaster, but designing and manufacturing cars with Peugeot for the global market will be brilliant. Did I get that right? So far, the only specifics we know are that GM and Peugeot will jointly start development of two new cars by the end of this year, including a super-mini car for South America.
AMERICA: HOME OF THE PARKING LOT
America, the land of the free and the home of sprawling parking lots. It’s estimated there are some 800 million parking spaces in the United States – three non-residential spots for every car. That’s more than the total land mass of Puerto Rico! Keep this in mind the next time you’re looking for a place to park. Aside from aesthetic issues, these asphalt deserts also cause environmental issues. They absorb and radiate heat in the summertime and they cause drainage issues when it rains.
WILLIE G. DAVIDSON RETIRES
Willie G. Davidson, the senior vice president and chief styling officer at Harley-Davidson is set to retire. The 78-year-old grandson of company founder William A. Davidson will hang up his helmet on April 30. He’s been with the company for almost 50 years. Ray Drea will take over the styling department of Harley Davidson when Willie G. steps down.
DESIGN SHAKE-UPS (subscription required)
And man, are there a lot of changes going on in the design end of the industry right now. Get this: Bentley, BMW, Chery, Hyundai, Volvo and Volkswagen are all experiencing studio turnover as various designers get promoted or leave their companies.
KIA SUSPENDS U.S. PRODUCTION
Kia is suspending production at its plant in the U.S. due to a fire that broke out at a factory operated by one of its U.S.-based Korean suppliers. The company will shut down production today and tomorrow and will resume operations on Wednesday. The Kia plant, which has an annual production of 300,000 units, builds the Optima, Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.
NISSAN BRIBES MANNING WITH A TITAN
NFL superstar free-agent Peyton Manning is being wooed by a number of teams to join their franchise after he was let go from the Indianapolis Colts. So what does that have to do with the auto industry? In an effort to get the quarterback to join the Tennessee Titans, Nissan, whose North American headquarters are located in the Volunteer State, is offering to build Manning a Titan pickup truck. But in an effort to remain neutral and to keep the publicity stunt alive, Nissan will give him a truck regardless of which team he signs with.
Coming up next, a look at how Mazda came up with a strong but lightweight structure in the CX-5.
MAZDA CX-5 WALKAROUND
The Mazda CX-5 is a small SUV, but one that most enthusiasts will find a delight to drive, at least when they’re forced to drive small SUVs. One reason it is fun to drive is that the overall structure of the vehicle is so good. And here’s an overview of how they achieved that.
(Our overview of the Mazda CX-5 is only available in the video version of today’s program.)
That CX-5 could turn out to be a hit product for Mazda. They had planned on selling about 8,000 a month globally, but so far the sales rate is running at 20,000 a month.
And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.