Cold weather depresses January auto sales

2013 Ford Ranger

The weather has been bone chilling all across the country so far in 2014, and many automakers are blaming weaker than expected auto sales on the chilly temperatures.

Four of the top five U.S. auto sellers on Monday blamed extreme winter weather for poorer-than-expected sales in January, as analysts and executives predicted a rebound in February and March.

U.S. automakers Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co as well as Japan’s Toyota Motor Sales USA and American Honda Motor Co saw auto sales plummet in January, missing analysts’ estimates for the month.

Sales results were mixed for other companies and brands, with Chrysler Group, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and Nissan North America reporting increases and topping forecasts.

Total industry sales in January, as compiled by Reuters from the manufacturers, fell 3.1 percent to 1,011,188.

Tye folks at Chrysler took the opportunity to crow a bit that the weather only affected their competitors, but having spent some time in Ohio in January, I’m not suprised by these disappointing results. Let’s see what happens in February and March.

The Safety of SUVs

On January 23, 2000, a famed American football player, Derrick Thomas, lost control of his 1999 Chevy Suburban on a main road that was covered with snow and ice, and the car rolled. His friend, Michael D. Tellis, was declared dead at the scene, while Thomas died two weeks after from a pulmonary embolism.

Thomas’ mother initiated a lawsuit against General Motors, claiming that flaws of the Surburban’s design were at fault. In 2004, a jury declared the Thomas family to be due no money. Neither Thomas nor Tellis had been wearing seatbelts, while a third passenger, John C. Hagebusch, had used a seatbelt and suffered only minor injuries. Witnesses attested that Thomas had been driving excessively fast and weaving between traffic.

While the SUV was surely clearly not at fault in this instance, it caused “SUV” and “safety” to be mentioned in the same sentence. The scandal of the tyres of the Ford Explorer SUV from 2000 to 2002 was firmer cause for concern over the safety of SUVs. People came to believe that SUVs were unsafe, which is something anyone contemplating which are the best SUVs will wish to settle conclusively.

The Safest SUV


The Ford Ranger, arguably the safest SUV around

It can be strongly argued that the Ford Ranger is the safest SUV. It made motoring history when it received a five star rating from both the European New Car Assessment Programme and the Australian New Car Assessment Programme. A Ford Ranger review by Motoring will provide full details.

The Safety of SUVs

Figures released by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that large and mid-size SUVs are safer than regular cars. An SUV’s size and weight entail that any car with which one collides will probably be more at risk. Car makers have greatly changed SUV design, making the centre of gravity lower. Some safety features are as desirable in SUVs as in any car, but three are particularly useful.

Rollovers, and One Way to Prevent Them

According to another US body, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in excess of 10,000 people – over a third of fatalities – die yearly from rollover-related crashes, and most occur in SUVs. Technology, however, has improved this, and the fatality rate of SUVs has fallen by two thirds in the space of a decade.

Electronic stability systems can prevent some of the circumstances that cause rollovers by applying anti-lock brakes when control of the SUV is lost. The IIHS reported that these can reduce the risk of rollover by as much as 75 percent. Manufacturers proliferated this safety feature even before the US government made it compulsory in all vehicles for models built from 2012 onwards.

Rollover Prevention Systems

Dedicated rollover prevention systems are also available. These are widely considered to be the Holy Grail of SUV safety. They detect an impending rollover and trigger the electronic stability system to avoid the prospect.

Side Curtain Airbags

Side curtain airbags deploy downwards from the ceiling to cover side windows. While other vehicles are more likely to strike the doors of an SUV, these airbags protect occupants in the event of a rollover over several rolls. To be worthwhile, the airbags should be designed to deploy during a rollover, and the third row of seats should also be protected, if one is present.

Anyone wishing their SUV to be safe should ensure that the SUV they purchase possesses these features.

Ford Raptor jumps 90 feet

I’ve been off road on a Ford Raptor with a professional driver and it’s fun as hell, so I can really appreciate this cool video.

Hat tip: Guys Gab

Ford is shutting down UK plants

Ford is cutting capacity in Europe to stem losses as sales have plummeted with the economic crisis. Overcapacity is a real problem in Europe for all the automakers, and we’re now seeing a bit of a death spiral as the slowdown creates more problems. The Europeans have been dealing with a debt crisis, but the central bank there has not been nearly as aggressive as the Fed in the US, where massive monetary stimulus has helped to keep the economy afloat. Austerity measures in Europe are needed but they have compounded the problem with the weak monetary response.

Meanwhile, in the US, after the auto bailout, the Fed stimulus and the Obama stimulus, the economy is slowly growing, but at least it’s growing. The auto bailout trimmed the number of dealerships, and that has helped those left over to be successful. You go into a dealership and you’ll see plenty of activity. The used car market is also robust, and that helps dealers, independent used car dealers and online sellers. This activity helps ancillary businesses, like advertising and business printing services, that rely on this economic activity. Sellers and dealerships are buying ads, making car repairs, and getting promotional materials and print brochures online at UPrinting and other online outlets. This ripple effect is critical.

Those in the US who opposed the auto bailout and the stimulus should look at what Ford is doing in the UK.

Ford and the future

Ford Motor Co. recorded strong earnings for 2011 but the market didn’t flinch and the stock price sunk? Is there something we don’t know because with great management and strong products isn’t Ford on the right track? Here is a good article that digs a bit deeper than most reporting on Ford’s future.

From TheDetroitBureau.com:

Sometimes it can be difficult to please Wall Street. As trading for the week neared its close the automaker’s shares were on track to drop about a half dollar as trader’s lamented the sort of figures that they might have only fantasized about during the depths of the Great Recession. The maker reported a full-year pre-tax operating profit of $8.8 billion, or $1.51 a share, an increase of $463 million over 2010.

But what didn’t sit so well is that Ford still fell about a nickel a share short of early estimates, and more worrisome, total automotive pre-tax operating profits for the fourth quarter dipped to $586 million, a decrease of $155 million from the fourth quarter of 2010.

Read the full article.

Ford takes a chance by replacing the Econoline with Euro Van!

After decades of dominating the commercial van market Ford is taking a huge risk by killing the best selling Econoline Van and replacing the workhorse with the Euro Transit Vans! Obviously the E-Series neded a redesign but will Ford leave some commercial consumers wanting more than what the Transit will deliver? If that indeed happens there will be openings for competitor to snatch some new sales from former Econoline buyers.

From StraightLine.com:

I think we all have an Econoline story. I know at least one person in this office learned to powerslide in a modern one. Another would consider selling his child for a first-generation, flat-nose pickup version. And I don’t know how many families I knew growing up in New England that needed every one of those seats to haul the kids to school.

But, all things must end and the body-on-frame, big-engined Econoline (now E-Series) is set to be replaced by 2013 by the full-size Ford Transit.

The New Transit will be built in the same Kansas City Assembly plant where the F-150 is built, but Ford is injecting some $1.1 billion into it for the new production. “The new Transit will be the smartest, most fuel-efficient way to move cargo or people,” said Tim Stoehr, Commercial Truck Marketing Manager for Ford.

Read the full article.

Ford riding the new popularity of hatchbacks!

Here’s some news on smaller cars from From the Detroit Bureau:

Hatchbacks are hot at Ford Motor Co. and the maker’s new Evos Concept – which officially debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show next week – suggests that even more 3- and 5-door models are in the works, according to the maker’s head of global product planning.

Long considered unacceptable to U.S. motorists, hatchbacks are gaining ground fast with younger buyers and influencing even older motorists to take another look. That convinced Ford to go with a 5-door design for the Evos Concept which introduces a new look that “will become increasingly familiar” to the company’s customers around the world,” said product czar Derrick Kuzak.

“The (hatchback) body style is becoming increasingly popular worldwide and especially in North America,” Kuzak told TheDetroitBureau.com, in sharp contrast with years past.

Where hatchbacks were offered on past-generation Ford products sold in the U.S., said the product chief, they accounted for perhaps 20% of total sales. Now, Kuzak noted, “It’s just the opposite,” hatchbacks generating 60 to 70% of demand for models like the 2012 Ford Focus and 2011 Ford Fiesta.

Check out the full article.

Ford Teases Frankfurt Concepts

The Frankfurt Auto Show is rapidly approaching so automakers are already trying to build buzz for their debuts. Ford is no exception. Not only are they touting their largest display to date, but also four new vehicles. Not many details are known, but one is a concept and the other three are production models. One production model is forecasted to be the Focus ST. The performance Focus is slated to debut with a 240hp eco-boosted 4 cyl, and the looks to match the performance. However, details of the Focus ST have been widely known for some time, so Ford must have something really exciting up their sleeve on the concept side.

I’m placing my bets on either a Focus coupe/Capri remake. A coupe version of the Focus is the missing link in the lineup so it is logical addition to have debut. It would probably compete with the wildly successful VW Scirocco that we don’t get here in the states.

On the other hand, the Capri is a much-loved icon in Europe, and has been long heralded to make a return. Additionally, in July, Ford debuted a Falcon concept in Australia , so a performance concept for Europe is not completely unfounded. It’s a long shot, but if they could make a RWD compact like the old Capri, for the price of a Focus, it would be heaven. All these debuts are slated to go global, so hope for the best because we will get them too. Stay tuned for September’s Frankfurt Auto Show

Vintage Rally Goodness

Make sure to take a peek at the video above to see the cobwebs being shaken off some historic rally stars. Shot at this year’s Vintage Acroplois Rally in Greece, the video features everything from old Porsches to Group B rally monsters.

10th Historic Acropolis Rally

Ford’s Mulally lays down the law with big forecasts!

From AutoNews.com:

DETROIT (Bloomberg) — Ford Motor Co. said growth in Asia and increasing demand for small cars will boost global sales 50 percent to 8 million vehicles annually by 2015 as the automaker switches gears from restructuring to expansion.

“Growth is a new skill to learn for us,” Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said today in an interview in New York. “We’ve been good at restructuring businesses over the last decade. Growth takes practice.”

CEO Alan Mulally told investors today that the automaker expects that by 2020, 55 percent of vehicle sales will be small cars and a third of sales will be in Asia, Booth said.

“Fifty percent is a large number,” Mulally said of the growth target on Bloomberg Television today. “But it’s off a tremendous foundation we have laid to support that.”

Ford executives, on a tour of Wall Street today, also said:

• Total Automotive debt will be reduced to about $10 billion by 2015, down from $16.6 billion at March 31, 2011 and from $33.6 billion at the end of 2009.

Read the full article.

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