June 4th, 2012 at 12:06pm
Audi’s North American CEO, Johan De Nysschen, has resigned from his post. Chinese automaker SAIC announced it will offer its first electric vehicle for sale this October, the Roewe E50. A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold last month in a private transaction for $35 million, a new record. All that and more, plus we take a deep dive into last month’s car sales.
Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily for June 4. I’m John McElroy and here’s what’s happening in the world of automobiles.
MAY SALES MEDIOCRE
New-car sales in May in the American market were up 16 percent over a year ago. And they were up nearly 4 percent compared to April. But the SAAR, the seasonally adjusted annual rate dropped to only 13.7 million vehicles. Most analysts were expecting the number to hit 14.4 million. You don’t want to read too much into one month’s numbers, but this could be a sign that the new-car market is slowing down amongst other signs that the global economy could be headed for a downturn. We’ll have a full sales report later in the show.
VW SHAKES UP MANAGEMENT
Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn is leaving no stone unturned in a quest to shake things up. He just replaced the top executives in charge of China and in charge of trucks and added three new members to the Audi board. Bloomberg reports the moves are part of Winterkorn’s drive to make the Volkswagen group the world’s largest automaker. In other news, Audi’s North American CEO – and a personal friend of mine – Johan De Nysschen, has resigned from his post. No reason has been given for his departure but I bet he ends up in the top spot at another big car company.
ROAD & TRACK MOVES TO MICHIGAN
Speaking of surprising changes, Road & Track magazine will be leaving its long-time home in Newport Beach, California and is moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan. The magazine is also getting a new editor-in-chief. Former honcho Matt DeLorenzo will be replaced by Larry Webster, a veteran journalist who had been working at Popular Mechanics. Road & Track’s move will make Ann Arbor home to three of the industry’s big car magazines including Car and Driver and Automobile. Hearst Publishing owns both Road & Track and Car And Driver and this sure reeks of consolidation. I just hope this is as far as they try to consolidate it.
FORD PARTNERS WITH STATE FARM
Ford’s Sync infotainment system lets you do a lot of things with your vehicle and now it can help you save money on insurance. According to Motor Trend, State Farm Insurance will offer Ford and Lincoln owners with Sync a 5 percent reduction for signing up and if they drive fewer than 1,000 miles a month they can save even more. But you have to allow State Farm access to your Sync system to verify the numbers. State Farm already offers the same program to GM customers with OnStar.
Chinese automaker SAIC announced it will offer its first electric vehicle for sale this October. It will be a production version of the Roewe E50 concept that was unveiled at this year’s Beijing Auto Show. It will have a range of 135 kilometers or about 84 miles and it can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in 30 minutes. No official price has been announced but it’s expected to cost less than 200,000 yuan or about $31,000.
FERRARI GTO SETS RECORD
The biggest, the highest, the longest, the coldest – humans love extremes, and in the world of cars a new record has just been set. According to Bloomberg, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold last month in a private transaction for $35 million! This green beauty was one of just 39 copies produced between 1962 and 1964. It was made for famed racing driver Stirling Moss. The previous record for world’s most expensive car was held by Peter Mullin, a private collector in California. He paid between $30 million and $34 million for a 1936 Bugatti Atlantic. I interviewed Peter a number of years ago. Follow the link in today’s show notes for a peek at his astonishing collection.
Coming up next, we’ll take a deep dive into the sales numbers because there are definitely some surprises that turned up last month.
MAY CAR SALES
Here are more of the details of what happened with new car sales in the American market for May. Total sales came to 1.3 million vehicles, up 16% from the 1.0 million that were sold last year, and up nearly 4% compared to April. But as we pointed out at the top of the show, the SAAR only hit 13.7 million vehicles, down sharply from the 14.4 that most analysts were expecting.
The Japanese automakers really came roaring back, since a year ago they were still reeling from the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota’s sales shot up a jaw dropping 73%. Subaru and Honda jumped over 36%. But Chrysler also had a great month, with sales up nearly 20%. Nissan did not move nearly as much, up 11%, but that’s because it was not impacted by the earthquake as heavily as the others.
The best selling car was the Toyota Camry which hit 39,000 units, up 94% from a year ago. Second place went to the Honda Civic with 33,000. Rounding out the top five were the Corolla/Matrix, the Honda Accord and a big surprise here, the Chevrolet Malibu.
On the truck side the Ford F-series easily topped the list with over 54,000 units sold. The Silverado came in at 34,000 and the Ram had a pretty good showing with 24,000 units sold.
One interesting development is that the Ford Mustang outsold the Chevrolet Camaro for the first time in quite a while. Mustang came in at 10,000 units, up 45% from a year ago, the Camaro at 9,000, down 12%, and for comparison purposes, the Dodge Challenger hit nearly 5,000 sales, up 30%.
At the opposite end of the product spectrum, hybrids, e-assist cars and electrics were up a whopping 90%. But that big increase is due to Toyota restoring inventory levels of the Prius and Camry. Take them out of the equation and the alternative vehicle segment grew about the same as the overall market. But adding those e-assist cars, such as the Buick LaCrosse, to the total means that the alternate vehicle segment now comes to 3% of the total market, up from the 2.5% it’s been hovering at. And just because people like to keep track of the electric car segment, the Chevrolet Volt sales came to 1,680 cars, the Toyota Prius plug-in came in at 1,074, the Nissan Leaf came in a 510, BMW sold 251 of its Active E’s, while Mitsubishi could only sell 85 of its electric i’s.
As I said earlier, sales were up strong versus a year ago mainly because Toyota and Honda were back in the game. But that SAAR rate of only 13.7 million units should be a big concern to everyone involved in the automotive industry.
And that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching, and please join use again here tomorrow.