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.

  

GM CEO takes off the gloves in swipe at Lincoln’s viability

Things are heating up again between the General and the Blue Oval as GM CEO Akerson takes a hard swipe at the slumping Lincoln brand. GM must be very confident in the new Cadillac models coming very soon and flat out unimpressed on the new Lincoln’s coming to showroom floors. It’s time both brands look at targeting the real sales leaders in the luxury market and at this point I have to say the new Cadillac XTS and ATS are good starts.

From Auto Blog:

“They are trying like hell to resurrect Lincoln. Well, I might as well tell you, you might as well sprinkle holy water. It’s over.”

So says General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, speaking to reporters from The Detroit News. Fightin’ words to be sure, though it seems the suits at Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand that competes with Cadillac here in the United States, have declined to comment on Akerson’s statement.

The dismissal of the Lincoln brand seems especially interesting given Akerson’s reported take on the current state of Cadillac. Akerson is said to believe that Cadillac isn’t yet where it needs to be, saying the brand needs another 12 to 24 months of gestation. By that time, there ought to be bookends to the current CTS in place in the form of the ATS (smaller) and XTS (larger, replacing the STS and DTS).

Still, Akerson doesn’t expect to “blow the doors off” Cadillac’s competition, saying instead that “they will be very competitive.” We’d think Caddy would be aiming squarely at something more like “class leading,” but what do we know?

Read the full article.

  

Chevy Volt sales are picking up

I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials for the Chevy Volt, and this advertising blitz might be paying off. The Chevy Volt outsold the Nissan Leaf for the first time in October. In October GM sold 1,108 units of the Volt, which is a significant increase over the 723 units sold in September.

The Volt is still running behind GM’s sales targets, and it seems like the company was banking on all the PR buzz around the vehicle to drive sales. Perhaps a marketing push was also needed. The commercials are pretty good. They stress the gas savings of an electric car with some humorous situations at gas stations.

As more and more automakers go electric and introduce plug-in hybrids, it will be interesting to see if this segment really takes off. Right now the sales numbers are miniscule but that could change quickly.

  

GM clocks in with a $3.2 Billion first quarter profit!

From the Detroit News:

Detroit— General Motors Co. posted a $3.2 billion profit during the first quarter – its fifth consecutive quarterly profit, and further evidence the automaker continues to build momentum after its 2009 bailout.

“It’s a solid quarter,” GM’s Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann said this morning. “It’s good progress. It sets up a good foundation for the rest of the year.”

Revenue from January through March was $36.2 billion.

The first-quarter results also included a number of one-time gains, including $1.6 billion from the sale of its interest in Delphi Automotive, and $300 million for the sale of preferred shares in Ally Financial, Inc., the financial arm formerly known as GMAC. Excluding special items, interest payments and taxes, GM earned $2 billion, compared to $1.7 billion in the first-quarter last year.

The financial results – GM’s best first-quarter results in more than a decade — benefited from growing demand its fuel-efficient vehicles, like the all-new Chevrolet Cruze, and robust sales in China, where GM is a market-leader.

Read the full article.

  

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