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Top 5 Stories
EPA Votes Will Put Some Senate Democrats on the Spot
Toyota Restricts Parts Orders; Honda Cuts Output
U.S. March Auto Sales Seen Up, But Gas Prices Weigh
Consumer Spending Up, Energy Prices Dent Growth
Hyundai Dropping Job-Loss Protection, Cites Improving Economy
Top 5 Stories
EPA Votes Will Put Some Senate Democrats on the Spot

Numerous Democrats up for reelection in 2012 will cast at least one vote, and perhaps as many as four, on President Obama’s climate-change rules as early as Wednesday that will come back to haunt them on the campaign trail—no matter how they vote. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and a dozen or so other Democrats from energy-intensive states will face intense pressure from political opponents and interest groups on all sides. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on Tuesday he will allow a vote on an amendment filed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would preempt EPA’s climate-change rules. Reid’s office was unable to confirm which amendments would get votes, but a spokesman reiterated what Reid said earlier on Tuesday: He plans to hold the votes.
Source: National Journal

Editor's note: NADA outlined its support for Sen. McConnell's amendment in a letter to all senators today. In it, David Regan, NADA vice president of Legislative Affairs, says auto dealers support the measure because it would:

  • End, after 2016, the current triple regulation of fuel economy by three different agencies (NHTSA, EPA and California) under three different rules. 
  • Restore a true single national fuel economy standard under the CAFE program, with rules set by Congress, not unelected officials. 
  • Ensure jobs, consumer choice and highway safety are considered according to federal law when setting a fuel economy standard.
  • Save taxpayers millions of dollars by ending EPA’s duplicative fuel economy regime after 2016.

A vote on Sen. McConnell's amendment is expected as early as today.

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Toyota Restricts Parts Orders; Honda Cuts Output

DETROIT -- Shortages of auto parts from Japan are hitting North American operations at Honda and Toyota. Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday said it wants its U.S. car dealers to stop ordering more than 200 replacement parts made in Japan because it's worried about running out of them. And Honda Motor Co. said it will temporarily cut production at its North American auto factories starting Wednesday due to shortages. Toyota spokesman Steve Curtis said he did not know specifically which models were affected. "We are asking the dealers to refrain from ordering parts in excess of what they need," he said. Meanwhile, Honda has run short of some engine, transmission and electrical parts that come from Japan. As a result, it will cut the number of hours that some North American assembly lines operate each day.
Source: The Associated Press

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U.S. March Auto Sales Seen Up, But Gas Prices Weigh

DETROIT - U.S. auto sales in March are expected to rise about 12 percent from last year's depressed levels, but high gasoline prices and production problems caused by the Japanese earthquake could slow a recovery, analysts and investors said. March is traditionally a stronger sales month than February, but lower incentive spending by General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp and others likely resulted in a lower growth rate than February's stronger-than-expected 27 percent gain, analysts said. For the sixth consecutive month, sales on an annualized basis are expected to top 12 million vehicles in March. The average forecast of 34 economists surveyed by Reuters was 13.2 million vehicles on that basis, up from 11.78 million last year, but off slightly from 13.4 million in February.
Source: Reuters

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Consumer Spending Up, Energy Prices Dent Growth

U.S. consumers increased spending for an eighth straight month in February, but much of the gain went to cover rising food and energy costs, providing only a modest lift to the economy. Many economists expect spending to grow at a fairly tepid rate of between 2 and 2.5 percent in the first quarter, with the overall economy expanding between 2.5 and 3.5 percent. But some see auto sales firming and expect overall spending to be fairly solid. "Anecdotal reports suggest at least moderately strong auto sales are in store for March which could add to total consumer spending for the first quarter" said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh. Automakers release March's sales figures on Friday.
Source: Reuters

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Hyundai Dropping Job-Loss Protection, Cites Improving Economy

Hyundai will stop offering the original job-loss-protection portion of its Hyundai Assurance program at the end of the month, pointing to waning participation as a sign that the economy is improving. Hyundai introduced its Assurance program in January 2009, offering customers a complimentary return of their financed or leased vehicle if they lost their income within a year of buying the car. But participation has declined, spokesman Jim Trainor told the Free Press [Tuesday], so purchases made Thursday will be the last to qualify for the program. “It’s another small indication that things are getting a little bit better,” Trainor said.
Source: Detroit Free Press

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For more auto industry news, visit NADAFrontPage.com

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Quotable
"Anecdotal reports suggest at least moderately strong auto sales are in store for March which could add to total consumer spending for the first quarter."

    -- Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh, Reuters, March 28

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