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Inside this issue
North American Production Shifts to Steady Mode
Automakers Tout Fuel-Efficient Technologies
GM Lays Foundation For 10% Margins By Mid-Decade, Exec Says
Fisker Furloughs U.S. Workforce For a Week
Ford Seeks Best Real-World Mileage Measurements
Some Cars Will Read Texts and E-Mails or Take Dictation
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Top Stories
North American Production Shifts to Steady Mode

The North American automotive market has entered a period of steady going after several turbulent years caused by recession and destructive weather, and WardsAuto's production forecast for the region calls for some normalcy for the next two years. Since 2008, year-over-year comparisons, especially at the monthly and quarterly level, have seen fluctuations sometimes marked by extreme, double-digit percentage changes. For 2013, WardsAuto is forecasting a 3.0% increase from 2012 to 15.85 million units, followed by 2.7% growth in 2014 to 16.27 million – moderate changes compared with the past five years. These next two years will be marked by several plants making strong sellers running overtime, and auto makers matching capacity to meet rising demand after having to rebuild it since the crash of 2008-2009.
Source: WardsAuto

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Automakers Tout Fuel-Efficient Technologies

Automakers expressed optimism Wednesday about fuel-efficient technologies at the New York International Auto Show, talking up plans for electric vehicles, diesels and hybrids. Prompted by rising fuel prices and higher fuel efficiency mandates, automakers are boosting alternatives to traditional gas-powered vehicles.
Source: The Detroit News

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GM Lays Foundation For 10% Margins By Mid-Decade, Exec Says

General Motors Co. is laying the groundwork to achieve 10 percent profit margins by mid-decade by launching new models and taking better advantage of its global scale, North American Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said. The largest U.S. automaker needs an additional $2.5 billion to $3 billion in earnings against its current revenue base to reach its goal. From 2010 to 2012, the company's margins averaged 7.4 percent. Over the next four years, GM will be launching new vehicles at twice the pace of the previous four years. By 2016, nearly 90 percent of GM's sales volumes will be drawn from recently launched models, which will help boost prices. GM expects an additional revenue boost from turning its luxury Cadillac nameplate into a global brand.
Source: Reuters

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Fisker Furloughs U.S. Workforce For a Week

Fisker Automotive, the struggling maker of $100,000 plug-in hybrids whose namesake founder abruptly resigned earlier this month, has furloughed its entire U.S. workforce this week to preserve cash as it seeks a financial lifeline. Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher confirmed the furloughs, which involve just over 200 employees. Fisker workers began their furloughs on Friday, March 22, and are scheduled to return to work on Monday, April 1.
Source: Automotive News

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Ford Seeks Best Real-World Mileage Measurements

Carmakers that figure out the best ways to help consumers measure their real-world fuel economy could enjoy a competitive advantage, Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.'s global marketing chief, said today in a speech at the New York auto show. Seeing that opportunity, Ford will offer software developers $50,000 in prizes to develop apps that help consumers measure their fuel economy based on actual driving behavior via their mobile devices, he said. Ford will open one of its software platforms to developers to use as a "sandbox" for testing innovative ideas, Farley said. Competing fuel economy claims by manufacturers have overwhelmed and confused consumers, he said.
Source: Automotive News

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Some Cars Will Read Texts and E-Mails or Take Dictation

Automakers including Chrysler, BMW and General Motors are racing to make driving less distracting for those who want to text, e-mail and even check social media behind the wheel. "Integrating certain apps into a vehicle limits eyes off the road and will remove the temptation to hold, look and manipulate the phone," says Tom Baloga, the recently retired engineering VP at BMW. Several Chrysler models, including the Dodge Dart, can turn text to voice or allow drivers to read messages on dashboard screens. Drivers can respond with a few select responses, such as "I'm on my way," says spokesman Eric Mayne. Some vehicles with higher end radios, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, can send more "free form cloud-based text messages," Mayne says. When phones are paired with BMWs, drivers can get e-mail messages on dashboard screens that are limited to three lines. Text-to-speech will read the whole e-mail back. BMW's 7-series has a dictation function that turns speech into text that can be forwarded by e-mail or text.
Source: USA Today

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Quotable
"Given the connectivity in our cars and the proliferation of mobile devices, we have the opportunity to give consumers better and more relevant data to understand what they can expect in on-the-road fuel economy performance."

   
-- Jim Farley, head of global sales and marketing for Ford, commenting on the use of mobile technology to help customers better understand fuel efficiency, Detroit Free Press, March 27
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