Honda, Suzuki Receive Most Segment-Level Model Awards in Mexico Study

Honda and Suzuki brands each produce three of the models with the highest vehicle ownership satisfaction scores in the 10 award segments of the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Mexico Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study.SM In addition, models from (in alphabetical order) Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Toyota and Volkswagen brands rank among the top three in each award segment.Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates Continue reading ›

New-Vehicle Owners in Mexico More Satisfied with Dealer Service in 2011


Gerardo Gómez

Mexico has bucked the recession trend this year by achieving higher light-vehicle sales than a year ago, according to our forecasts. Through August, year-to-date light-vehicle deliveries in Mexico were up 11% from the same period last year, and deliveries are expected to reach 874,000 units this year and may surpass 1 million unit sales by as early as 2013.

In addition to good news about sales recovery in Mexico, there is encouraging news from the country’s new-vehicle buyers, who report higher average levels of ownership satisfaction with the quality, reliability and appeal of their new cars and light trucks, as well as higher satisfaction levels with the dealer service experience than a year ago, according to our latest 2011 Mexico Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study. Our study is based on responses from more than 6,000 owners of 2009 and 2010 model-year vehicles in seven of Mexico’s largest auto markets.

This year, overall satisfaction with vehicle ownership in Mexico has risen by 7 points from 2010, to an industry index of 896 (based on a 1,000-point scale) from 889 in 2010. Three of four factors* measured in new-vehicle ownership satisfaction with 2009 and 2010 model-year cars and light trucks in Mexico advanced notably. Continue reading ›

Partners in China: A Perspective on EV Joint Venture for GM and SAIC

Tim Dunne

The complicated pas-de-deux carried on between General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC)* in China may have gotten just a little more complex.

The two companies, which already operate 10 automotive-related joint ventures together, added an 11th JV company to their stable on Tuesday, September 20. This new JV was entered into specifically to develop electric cars in China. The new electric vehicles (EVs), according to General Motors, will not be based on the proprietary technology developed by GM for its Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, or based on its Sonic small-car platform.

The EVs will be designed at GM’s Pan Asian Technical Center (PATAC) in Shanghai, another GM and SAIC joint venture. Who gets the new electric vehicles—and how they will be branded—was not announced. Continue reading ›

European Output in North America Climbs the Most from 2010

Through the first 8 months of 2011, light-vehicle output in North America climbed 8% from a year ago, to 8.5 million units. The Detroit-based automakers ramped up their production by 16%, while the Japanese automakers lost 8% due to shortages of parts following the March 11 earthquake in Japan. Output for the European OEMs climbed by 38% from a year ago, with the added production of the BMW X3 and Volkswagen Passat in North America. Demand for the new VW Jetta has also boosted European output. Continue reading ›

September US Retail Light-Vehicle Sales Show Surprising Strength

Jeff Schuster

Solid Labor Day sales in the first week of September and stronger-than-expected retail sales during the second week of the month boosted US retail light-vehicle sales in the first half of September to much stronger levels than in the prior month of August, despite continued anxiety about the US and European economies and stock market volatility.

Sales were primed by recovering inventory levels bringing buyers back to dealer showrooms. In news reports, Toyota Group said its production was back to 100% after setbacks following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. However, it should be noted that the retail sales pace in the second half of September may give up some of the month’s early strength as the economy remains a concern. In addition, J.D. Power analysis indicates that incentive levels remain flat compared with August. Continue reading ›

The Maruti Suzuki Labor Strike in India and Why it Matters

Ammar Master

The ongoing strike action at the Manesar* plant of Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest producer and seller of vehicles, is more than a battle between workers’ rights and an unjust management. In fact, Maruti Suzuki is one of the better-paying automakers in India.

Some questions to consider: Why did the 2,500 workers at Manesar put down their tools at the end of August? And, why did 5,000 more workers at Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd., Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt Ltd., and Suzuki Castings (part of Suzuki Powertrain India) also walk off the job for two days to support them?

Contract and Permanent Worker Gap is an Issue

We see two main issues behind the Maruti Suzuki labor stir. The first, and perhaps most important, is the widening income gap between contract and permanent workers. The automotive industry is increasingly hiring cheaper contract labor, which accounts for an estimated 60% of the workforce employed at OEMs and their suppliers. Continue reading ›

Frankfurt Motor Show Provides a Cornucopia of Products and Raises Some Questions

Charles Mills

This year’s Frankfurt International Motor Show, known as the IAA* in Europe, was well attended by the international press. There was lots of money spent on displays and concepts spread throughout nearly a dozen exhibit halls in this major German city, which is the home of the European Central Bank. There was lots of talk at the biennial show by automakers, especially Europe’s major manufacturers, who provided a veritable cornucopia of new cars and trucks for every potential buyer’s need.

Big and small; fast and slow; and products that were kind of green to completely clean propulsion were on display. There was high tech and, well, just tech. The IAA had it all and more. And yet, some really big questions persist. For instance, I wondered, can that premium roadster that can travel from 0-100 kilometers per hour in around 4 seconds really be called a “green” car? Continue reading ›

Reducing Vehicle Weights Helps Automakers Meet Fuel Economy Rules

Mike Omotoso

All the major auto manufacturers are making efforts to reduce weight in order to meet tighter CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards in the United States and to meet CO2 reduction targets in Western Europe.

Vehicle weight reduction in conjunction with powertrain improvements are the two main tools for improving fuel . . . Continue Reading Reducing Vehicle Weights Helps Automakers Meet Fuel Economy Rules

Lighter Vehicles are One Way to Reduce Fuel Consumption

Mike Omotoso

Automakers at this year’s Frankfurt International Motor Show agree that future cars and light trucks are going to have to become lighter for better fuel economy, according to most news reports. However, manufacturers at the event continue to have a number of different ideas and approaches to powertrains and alternative fuel choices for their vehicles and concepts, ranging from oil to electricity to hydrogen.

Admittedly, reducing the weight of a vehicle is an important tool for lowering fuel consumption. A rule of thumb is that fuel economy improves by 1 mile per gallon (mpg) for every 100-pound reduction in vehicle weight. Using lighter materials helps to reduce vehicle weight without having to make the vehicle smaller. In most cases, it is also cheaper to reduce vehicle weight than to make changes to the engine and/or transmission. It is also far cheaper to switch from steel to aluminum than it is to build a hybrid or electric vehicle. The reduction in fuel consumption won’t be as large, but it is still beneficial to carmakers and consumers.

What about safety? Some auto industry people have mentioned that lighter weight also affects driver and passenger safety—especially with smaller, light vehicles in crashes with heavier trucks or large SUVs. Yes, it is true that if a small car or other sub-compact collides head-on with a full-size pickup truck or SUV, the small car will probably have more damage. However, all cars have to pass federal crash safety tests so people should not think that small, light cars are unsafe and not roadworthy. Continue reading ›

Honda Faces Major Challenge in Southeast Asia


Ammar Master

Honda has had a tough sales year in Southeast Asia, as the automaker’s total sales in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have shrunk by 18%—to 110,000 units—in the first seven months of this year vs. the same period in 2010. Yet, Honda did not start the year poorly. Sales in the first quarter were up 19% year-over-year, to about 60,000 units, partly boosted by the facelift of the Accord and minor changes to the Jazz (sold as the Fit in the United States). The Japanese automaker was betting big on the launch of the Brio, its first eco car model, to further drive up sales volumes in Thailand.

Then, disaster struck Japan in March with the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami. As a result, Honda was forced to slash output by as much as 50% in the second quarter, as key vehicle components from Japan dried up. The lack of supply at dealerships led to a sales downfall in subsequent months. Continue reading ›