Small-Car Sales Rise Driven by Shift in Demand Since Recession

Mike VanNieuwkuyk

Small-car sales in the U.S. market are up by nearly 102,000 units in the first quarter of 2012 vs. the same period a year ago, based on our research. The increase in small-car sales, especially sub-compact deliveries, during the first quarter, may be a direct effect of several key market drivers coming together. Manufacturers’ advances in powertrain technology in addition to automakers enhancing feature content in smaller vehicles have appealed to consumers’ shifting needs. Continue reading ›

Collaboration on Green Car Technologies Makes Good Sense

David Sargent

Earlier this month, BMW and Toyota Groups announced that they will work together to develop lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid cars. In addition, BMW will supply diesel engines to Toyota in Europe. Officials from both automakers signed a MOU at the Tokyo Auto Show for mid- to long-term collaboration on next-generation environment-friendly technologies.

The cost of new powertrain technology is very high and so it makes sense for automakers to form alliances in order to share development costs. This is especially so when the two automakers concerned have complementary strengths. BMW produces some of the most highly regarded diesel powertrains, which have been extremely successful in Europe. In turn, Toyota is a clear leader in electric and hybrid powertrains. Therefore, the agreement seems to make a lot of sense. Continue reading ›

Concessions in New CAFE Proposal to Have Positive Impact

Kevin Riddell

The White House has made a couple of important concessions to automakers in the 2025 fuel economy proposal that doubles CAFE standards to 54.5 mpg. President Obama announced the revised proposal last Friday, July 29.

The first concession is that fleet fuel economy increases for light trucks and SUVs will rise at a slower pace than the requirements for cars during the first few years. Since trucks are generally much heavier than cars, it requires more adjustments to help them go further on a tank of gas. Two good examples are the Ford Edge midsize crossover and Ford Fusion midsize conventional sedan, which are both based on the same platform. However, with the V-6 powertrain option, the crossover’s curb weight is over 600 pounds higher than the car’s, making significant fuel economy gains much more difficult to achieve for the Edge.

Trucks continue to make up a high percentage of US new-car sales (50% of new light-vehicle sales through June 2011, according to our Automotive Forecasting Division’s analysis). This trend continues in the face of higher fuel prices and increases in the CAFE requirements over the last couple of years. Continue reading ›

CAFE Changes Boost Powertrain Efficiency Improvements

Kevin Riddell

Even though a 56.2-mpg CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) average in 2025 is not yet written in stone, automakers do realize that the national standards will continue to rise well into the next decade. As a result, we expect to continue seeing trends such as: engine displacement reduction; the increased use of direct injection and turbocharging; an increasing number of gears in automatic transmissions; and increasing hybridization from start-stop systems to dedicated electric vehicles (EVs), to name a few.

A few years ago, when the 35-mpg standard for 2016 was announced, it was generally thought that hybrids would begin to make up much more of automakers’ sales than they currently do. Cost continues to hinder the growth potential of this technology. As a result, between 2008 and 2010, the share of new hybrid sales has remained at around 2.5%, despite higher fuel prices during the past few years. The hybrid market is expected to grow, but the price of the technology will temper this increase over the next few years. Continue reading ›

Ford Boosts Fuel Efficiency in Car Models with New Smaller Engine

Ford Motor Company recently announced that it is working on a new small engine—a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder powertrain with its EcoBoost technology. This smaller, fuel-efficient engine may reach the US market later this year in 2012 model-year cars, or will arrive early next year. Ford claims it will deliver horsepower and torque output equivalent to or better than their naturally aspirated 1.6-liter gasoline engine.

Mike Omotoso

The engine is expected to be used in the Ford Fiesta sub-compact, and will possibly be offered as an entry-level engine in the newly redesigned Ford Focus. The Focus and the Fiesta are both selling well, but Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are getting tougher every year, and Ford and other manufacturers need to improve the fuel economy of all cars and trucks in their lineup to meet the higher miles-per-gallon requirements between now and 2016.

Downsizing of Powertrains Continues to Accelerate

In addition to Ford, other automakers have been downsizing their powertrains for the US market, and this trend will only accelerate in the future. The next-generation Chevrolet Malibu (2013 model year) will drop the V-6 option and the new Malibu will only be available with 4-cylinder engines. Continue reading ›

Demand for 4-Cylinder Engines in Cars, Large Pickups Rises

Mike Omotoso

Through most of April, more than one-third of Ford F-150 vehicles sold were equipped with a more fuel-efficient powertrain, a Ford marketing official told Automotive News. In addition, Ford reported that 40% of its latest large pickup truck orders included the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Demand for the smaller, more fuel-efficient powertrains has surpassed the company’s forecasts, in part due to higher fuel prices.

In addition, we also expect other OEMs to offer more efficient engines in their cars and some trucks. It won’t be just in response to Ford, but mainly due to the 2016 CAFE requirement of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) fleet average.

General Motors unveiled the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu at the Shanghai Auto Show in mid April without a V-6 engine option. The current Malibu has a standard 4-cylinder engine and offers a V-6 option, but the next-generation Malibu will follow the example of the Hyundai Sonata and only be equipped with a 4-cylinder engine (plus a hybrid) for improved fuel economy. In addition, GM effectively replaced the Northstar V-8 engine in its Cadillac cars with a direct-injection, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Continue reading ›

Economic Factors Shape Consumer Attitudes on Green Vehicles

Christopher Malott

When asked to consider a hybrid electric (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV), clean diesel engine or battery electric vehicle (BEV) for their next new-vehicle purchase, a large proportion of consumers express interest in at least one of these options.

While vehicle price remains a primary concern impeding consideration of these powertrains, the ability to save money on fuel costs through improved economy is the most often cited benefit of ownership, according to the  J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Green Automotive Study.SM

However, even though the financial benefits relating to fueling are recognized by these consumers, oftentimes the upfront price premium of an alternative powertrain option is too high to overcome. Price, in fact, may become a more prominent concern for consumers considering HEVs and clean diesel engines, since tax credits from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 were phased out at the end of 2010. Continue reading ›

Demand Rises in US for Smaller, More Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

Higher prices at the gas pump definitely increased buyer demand in the US market for compact models as well as for models with more fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engines and hybrid powertrains in February 2011, compared to the same month a year ago. Our Power Information Network® (PIN) retail transaction data reveals that nearly half (49.8%) of the vehicles purchased or leased in February in the United States were powered by 4-cylinder engines, up 4 percentage points from February a year ago (45.8%).

Mike Omotoso

At the manufacturer level, we expect new model offerings from General Motors, Ford, Hyundai and Honda to not only stabilize the compact vehicle market, but also to help the market grow. The ninth-generation Honda Civic will be launched this summer, and the newly redesigned 2012 Ford Focus will arrive before the Civic. We expect US light-vehicle sales to grow from 11.6 million units in 2010 to 13.0 million in 2011. This growth is also due to a steadily improving economy, stock market gains, and increased consumer confidence. Continue reading ›

Powertrain Choices are Touted at Detroit Auto Show

Mike Omotoso, senior manager, global powertrain, Automotive Forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates, attended OEM press briefings and reviewed some of the products and concepts that are on display at this year’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, MI (the show is open to the public Saturday, Jan. 15 through Sunday, Jan. . . . Continue Reading Powertrain Choices are Touted at Detroit Auto Show