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Top 5 Stories
Shifting Auto Recovery into Higher Gear
Automakers Hope To Rev Up Sales In 2011
Improved Fuel Efficiency Leads SUVs to a Comeback
Charged for Battle
U.S. Seeks Chief For Financial Consumer Agency
Top 5 Stories
Shifting Auto Recovery into Higher Gear

With the economy on the mend and a generation of new electric vehicles headed to market, 2011 could be a key year in reshaping the auto industry after the Great Recession caused so much turmoil. Some automakers enter the year with strong momentum and high-quality cars and trucks in the offing. Ford embarks on the new year with an expected $7 billion in profits from 2010. General Motors has a newfound confidence after its successful IPO and positive buzz about its Chevy Volt extended-range electric car. Hyundai has quickly stepped up to fill the void left by Toyota's quality problems, snapping up U.S. sales at twice the pace of the industry. Others have much more to do: The UAW will negotiate new national labor contracts with the Detroit Three. Chrysler will launch its IPO and a fleet of new and revamped models. Toyota will attempt to stage a comeback. Volkswagen, with just 3% of the U.S. market, will try to be more relevant in the U.S. -- just as GM must repair its European operations, and Ford will try to gain steam in hot Asian markets. All the while, some will push to resolve serious industry challenges.
Source: Detroit Free Press

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Automakers Hope To Rev Up Sales In 2011

The best thing that can be said about car sales this year is that they were better than in 2009 — the worst year for auto sales in three decades. Roughly 11.5 million Americans bought a new car in 2010, up from 10.4 million last year. But that's still well below the level of sales automakers achieved throughout the past decade. "The number of vehicles on the road actually declined in two years — the first time that happened in well, almost recorded automotive history," says George Pipas, the U.S. sales analyst for Ford Motor Co. During the recession, automakers implemented some austerity measures, and millions of Americans held on to their old cars or waited as long as possible to buy. Despite having to fight for every sale this year, many automakers made money — even General Motors. That's primarily the result of the forced crash diet the industry was put on in 2008 when plants were shuttered and workers were laid off. In the case of Chrysler and GM, massive debt was erased in bankruptcy. Pipas says Ford wasn't the only one to toe the fiscal line this year. Almost without exception, automakers built only as many cars as needed, and they kept those profit-robbing incentives to a minimum. "If you would have told me a few years ago that Ford could be profitable in an 11 million-sales year, I would have scoffed," he says. "I would not have been in the camp of believers."
Source: NPR

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Improved Fuel Efficiency Leads SUVs to a Comeback

Sport-utility vehicles and crossovers in November hit their highest share of new vehicle sales in eight years compared with sales of cars and pickups, a USA TODAY analysis shows. With gas prices rising — now more than $3 a gallon for regular nationally — the comeback is a sign that family haulers are beginning to shake their image as gas guzzlers. Many new SUVs no longer have heavy truck frames, but are car-based, with unibodies that integrate that frame and body. That cuts weight and raises gas mileage. Crossover SUVs had half the sales share industrywide of traditional SUVs in 2002, General Motors says. Now crossovers outsell them 3-to-1. Families that put off new vehicle purchases are starting to open their wallets. "Pent-up demand is slowly being released," GM's Tom Henderson says. For families, the rolling box is a necessity. "They have always needed 'utilities,' whether it was minivans or sport-utilities or car-based crossovers," Ford Motor sales analyst George Pipas says. While 2010 auto sales through November are up 11.1% vs. the same period last year, SUV and crossover sales are up 19.3%, Autodata reports. And December results may widen that.
Source: USA TODAY

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Charged for Battle

The first serious contenders for a mass-scale electric car are on the road. They've already changed GM and Nissan; will they change the world? Most of the drivers on the 101 Freeway in Marin County, Calif., on this foggy December morning are oblivious to the black snub-nosed car gliding along beside them. Every so often, however, someone does a double take, gives a thumbs-up, or snaps a cell phone picture, because the car in the next lane is one they've never seen before: a Nissan Leaf, the world's first affordable, mass-produced electric vehicle, or EV. This particular Leaf happens to be No. 1: The very first sold anywhere. At the wheel is Olivier Chalouhi, who took delivery an hour before amid some impressive hoopla at a Nissan dealership in Petaluma. Now, driving south to San Francisco with Nissan Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares riding shotgun, Chalouhi, a 31-year-old Web entrepreneur, is explaining how he came to be the first person to buy this car.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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U.S. Seeks Chief For Financial Consumer Agency

White House adviser Elizabeth Warren and a top lieutenant are quietly asking business and consumer groups for names of people who might run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, people familiar with the matter said. The hunt suggests that Ms. Warren, a lightning rod for some bankers, might not be selected to lead the bureau, a centerpiece of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul bill that passed this summer. Still, many liberal groups will push to get her in the post. President Barack Obama's choice could signal how he intends to deal with resurgent Republicans in Congress. The feelers to business groups serve as a reminder that any nominee would likely need support from at least seven Republicans in the Senate to win confirmation. Among the names being discussed are Iowa's attorney general, Tom Miller; New York state bank regulator Richard Neiman; and former Office of Thrift Supervision director Ellen Seidman.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Quotable
 
"You have about 5 percent of the market that is green and committed to fuel efficiency. But the other 95 percent will give up an extra 5 mpg in fuel economy for a better cup holder."

    -- Mike Jackson, the chief executive of AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the country, The Washington Post, Dec. 29
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