Detroit Automakers Gain Traction with May Light-Truck Sales in U.S. Market

CarDealership Compact CUV 06This spring, strong demand for large pickups and compact crossovers (CUVs) shored up May’s light-vehicle totals. Both Ford Motor Co. and Fiat-Chrysler Group reported double-digit increases and said their results were stronger than before the Great Recession that ended in 2009. Ford officials said commercial truck purchases increased related to positive changes in the housing and energy sectors.

Some 156,000 more new cars and light trucks were sold in May 2013 than in the previous month this year (April). According to analysis from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and LMC Automotive, May deliveries rose 7.8% from April on a selling-day adjusted basis. Sales totaled 1.442 million units, up 8.2% from year-ago tallies. The seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR) in May averaged 15.2 million units, which was significantly stronger than a weaker 13.9 million-unit pace in May 2012. Continue reading ›

Battery Capacity is Only One Hurdle in Promoting EVs in China

In 2009, four of China’s ministries launched collaborative energy-saving and New Energy Vehicle (NEV) promotion programs, identifying 25 pilot cities to participate in the programs. The cities included Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, and Shezhen.

China-02A year later, in May of 2010, the four Ministries* issued a subsidy policy for private alternative energy vehicles. This subsidy is based on battery capacity at a rate of RMB 3,000 RMB (US $484) per kWh. Buyers of plug‐in hybrid cars will receive up to RMB 50,000 (US $8,070.50) in subsidies, and as much as RMB 60,000 (US$9,6840.60 will be given to buyers of pure electric vehicles.

The pilot cities also launched their own “new energy” development plans to provide further local incentives based on the subsidies of the four ministries in order to reach a target of 53,000 NEV sales before the end of 2012. Continue reading ›

Green Doesn’t Seem to Sell BEVs

Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Vehicle owners are well aware that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) such as the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus BEV and Honda Fit EV are green and eco-friendly, but green sentiment and “green habits” don’t seem to impact consideration and eventually purchase of a BEV, according to findings in our latest U.S. BEV Market Study.

We see that consideration rates for purchasing BEVs are nearly the same among owners who indicate they already conserve and recycle (44%) vs. those owners who say they are just beginning to take some kind of eco-friendly action (43%). The consideration rate is slightly lower for those owners who are exploring ways to reduce their carbon footprint and conserve resources, but say they have not taken any specific action (39%).

As for intent to purchase, we also find from our study results that only 3% of vehicle owners who indicate they “strongly agree” or even “somewhat agree” that they would pay extra for green or eco-friendly products, indicate that their next vehicle will likely have a battery electric powertrain. This is only 1 point higher than the percentage of owners who are likely to buy a BEV, but are basically indifferent to green products (2%). Continue reading ›

Sales of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Models Surge

Two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) performed well in August and during the first 8 months of 2012, while the pure electric vehicles have lost some of their first glow, according to transaction data and analysis from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and strategic partner LMC Automotive. In August, Toyota announced strong deliveries for its new Prius plug-in hybrid model, while Chevrolet Volt deliveries have recently gotten a boost. Sales have been a little  lackluster for the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i EVs. Highlights:

• After its first 6 months on the market, the Prius plug-in model (PHEV), which offers a standard 50 mpg-EPA rated Prius hybrid powertrain with extended electric vehicle (EV) driving, tallied more than 6,000 unit sales. Continue reading ›

Power Up: Hybrid/Electric Vehicles in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia’s hybrid/electric vehicle market may yet get another boost with the announcement from Honda that it will assemble its Jazz Hybrid in Thailand. Initially, Honda had contemplated assembling the Civic Hybrid in Thailand, but decided that it was not the right business proposition.

The popularity of the Jazz in Thailand means that a hybrid version will potentially do well. We expect the Jazz Hybrid to follow in the footsteps of Toyota’s locally assembled Camry Hybrid, which is slowly gaining sales. Planned for introduction in the first quarter of 2013, we estimate the hybrid version to improve Jazz annual sales by 25‐30%.

Although Honda has been an active participant in the global hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) market with the launch of the original Insight a decade ago, it has taken its time to bring HEVs to Southeast Asia. The Jazz Hybrid will be the third HEV to be built in Thailand, following the rollout of the Camry Hybrid in July 2009 and the Toyota Prius in December 2010. Continue reading ›

Wait and Hope—the Honda Fit EV Needs to Come to Market

What better place to test drive the new Honda Fit EV than Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, in one of the large parking lots, and take it for a short spin on the surrounding park road on a cloudless summer day.

Alongside the Reflection Blue Pearl Fit EV, which has a masculine, aerodynamic front end without a grille but a flourish of a ducktail spoiler, was a curvy white Nissan Leaf  for comparison driving. The Leaf was heavier, with more exotic-looking technology inside, while the Fit EV was more traditional with a user-friendly three-mode driving system and a key to turn instead of a remote that is used to start many alternative and hybrid vehicles. Both cars were easy to steer, quiet, and filled with the latest technology. The Leaf seemed looser to drive while the Fit EV seemed slightly more responsive, with less torque steer. Both compact car models allegedly seat 5 people—three of whom must be pint-size children. Both cars are earth-friendly.

Fit EV Coming to U.S. This Month

The Fit EV will begin to roll out in California and Oregon on July 20, according to Honda. Unfortunately, there is a catch with Honda’s new battery electric vehicle (BEV). It is a limited-production car—only 1,100 will be available during the next three years in the U.S. All 1,100 will be lease vehicles—3-year leases at $389 per month through Honda Financial Services, which computes to a suggested retail price of $36,625. Closed-end leases will include collision insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, and navigation updates. The reason that the output is so low is that Honda’s sub-compact EV is being produced to comply with California’s rules to require a certain number of ZEVs (zero-emission vehicles) to be sold in the state. Continue reading ›

Avoidance of Domestic Models in US Market Dips to Low Point

Jon Osborn

The percentage of new-vehicle buyers in the US market who avoided considering domestic models due to their origin has declined to just 6%—which is a historically low level, according to our 2012 Avoider Study, which includes responses from more than 24,000 owners who registered a new vehicle in May, 2011. At the same time, the study finds that the percentage of buyers who avoided imported models because of their origin has risen to 14% this year.

The lower level of avoidance of US domestic light-vehicle models due to origin reflects a “buy-American” sentiment that surfaced as the economic recession beginning in 2008 led to job losses in the US, which adversely affected major companies, such as the three Detroit automakers. In addition, the quality, dependability and appeal of domestic models has improved during the past several years as well, and this also may be a reason behind declining avoidance of these models. Continue reading ›

Utility Customers Weigh In on Owning an EV

Jeff Conklin

Nearly every major automaker plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or battery electric vehicle (BEV) during the next 3 years, according to J.D. Power research. During the remainder of 2011 through 2014, consumers can expect to see as many as 16 new vehicle models with alternative powertrains launched in the US market, according to analysis in Charging Forward with Electric Vehicles: A Primer for Electric Utilities, a J.D. Power special report that features national and regional analysis about EV owners and intenders who are electric utility customers. A few EV trends from the report, which is based on several of our J.D. Power studies*and analysis, are highlighted:

• Through this fall, five more BEVs, in addition to the Nissan Leaf, will be introduced in the US market.

• J.D. Power finds that nearly one-third of US utility customers say they “definitely would” or “probably would” be interested in buying or leasing a PHEV for their next new car or truck.More than one-fourth of these utility customers are interested in considering a BEV. Continue reading ›

Lower Interest Rates Prevail, Trade-Ins on the Rise

Grace Hamulic

A majority of new-vehicle buyers or lessees (77.5%) received APRs on their purchase or lease deals below 5% in July this year, much higher than in the same month a year ago (71%). In addition, the average APRs were 4.30% for financed transactions and 2.68% for lease deals, slightly lower than the average 4.48% (finance) and 3.02% (lease) APRs in July 2010, based on our Power Information Network® (PIN) retail transaction data. In the first two weeks of August, 77.6% of buyers and lessees received APRs that still averaged below year-ago rates (4.35% for financed deals and 2.70% for lease transactions).

Additionally, more than one-half of all transactions in July this year included a trade-in (52.6%), which was up 4.4 percentage points from the same month last year, when only 48.2% of all deals included a trade. More than half of all deals in the first part of August this year have included a trade-in (51.6%).

Which models are most (or least) likely to have a trade- in? In July 2011, the model with the lowest trade-in percentage (only 12.2%) was the eco-friendly Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle (BEV), which suggests that buyers are likely purchasing it as a second (or even third) vehicle. On the flip side, another Nissan model and a Chevrolet model tie for the highest rate of trade-ins. Among models purchased or leased in July 2011, 76.1% of Nissan Titan and Chevrolet Avalanche deals included a trade-in. Continue reading ›

Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf Buyer Profiles Differ Slightly

Mike Murray

During the first 6 months of 2011, buyers or lessees of the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) tended to be slightly older and more often male than buyers of the Nissan Leaf battery-electric vehicle (BEV), based on Power Information Network® (PIN) retail transaction data from J.D. Power and Associates. Both models launched in the US market in December 2010.

PIN data indicates that in the first half of 2011, nearly one-fourth (24.3%) of Nissan Leaf transactions were by females, while only 17.4% of Volt transactions were by female buyers—a significant difference of 8.9 percentage points. In addition, the average buyer age for the Leaf was slightly younger—the average customer was 51 years old compared with 52 years of age for Volt buyers or lessees. Continue reading ›