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Inside this issue
Auto Dealers' Put the Brakes On Renovation Demands
As Obama's CO2 Regulations Get Tough, Automakers -- Especially Japanese -- Have Already Earned a Big Cushion
Opinion: A Flaw in Tesla's Plan: It's Chargie McVanish
Lean U.S. Inventory Could Mean More Production in Second Quarter
Refining the Hyundai-Kia Brand Plan
Mid-Sized Crown Up For Grabs
Fisker Automotive Firing as Much as 75% of Workforce
Opinion: New China Leaders May Boost Auto Industry
As Workload Overwhelms, Cars Are Set to Intervene
Flying Cars on the Rise
Click here for more auto industry news at NADAFrontPage.com. .
Top Stories
Auto Dealers' Put the Brakes On Renovation Demands

With manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors requesting auto-dealers shoulder the cost of premise renovations, some are showing signs of pushing back

US auto dealers are pushing back against manufacturers' requirements for upgraded facilities as a new industry-sponsored study analysing the investment returns confirmed previous concerns. Meanwhile, recent data from Sageworks Inc., suggests that privately held auto dealers are understandably focused on the programs' payoff, considering auto dealers historically work with thinner margins than other types of retailers and private companies as a whole. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have some programmes to help dealers pay for renovations. But at the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual convention last month, industry consultant Glenn Mercer expressed concern that manufacturers' push for dealers to build more expensive and more brand-customised stores will result in excessive and wasteful spending, according to NADA. Mercer's study found that while dealer service expansions can pay off, modernizations are harder to justify and OEM-mandated standardisation “was a bad investment.”
Source: Manufacturing Digital

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As Obama's CO2 Regulations Get Tough, Automakers -- Especially Japanese -- Have Already Earned a Big Cushion

As automakers ratchet down the fuel consumption of their cars to meet tougher federal standards, the top Japanese automakers already have an enormous head start from credits they earned since the 2009 model year. Because they outperformed old fuel economy standards before new requirements were phased in, Toyota, Honda and Nissan have a huge cushion that will help them meet increasingly tight standards. Last month the EPA quietly posted a report that shows these three companies have so many credits that their current fleets, unchanged, could meet EPA requirements through the 2016 model year, said David Friedman, a senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Source: Automotive News

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Opinion: A Flaw in Tesla's Plan: It's Chargie McVanish
By Mark Rechtin

Driving range and recharging time have been significant hurdles for electric vehicles to gain mainstream acceptance. Few quick-charge stations are available, outside of a few clusters of ChargePoint stations in cities. Tesla Motors is addressing the problem with stations -- located at mid-way points between major cities -- for Tesla owners only that can recharge 150 miles of range in half an hour. For free. That's a game changer. I asked Tesla to loan me a Model S in Los Angeles to prove the system works. My destination: Las Vegas. The outlook was good because Tesla had installed a supercharging station in dusty Barstow -- 133 miles from L.A. and 152 miles from Vegas. Both distances are no problem for a charged Tesla. But Tesla overlooked the annoying human factor.
Source: Automotive News

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Lean U.S. Inventory Could Mean More Production in Second Quarter

U.S. light-vehicle inventory ended March on the lean side but in good shape overall for a market running at a 15.3 million-unit annual sales rate. However, the relatively low stocks means North American LV production, three-fourths targeted at the U.S. market, may have to be boosted, particularly if sales improve. Currently, second-quarter output is forecast at 5.2% ahead of like-2012.
Source: WardsAuto

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Refining the Hyundai-Kia Brand Plan

Schreyer's vision: look at function, not just design

Only two months into his new job as the first joint global design chief of Hyundai and Kia, Peter Schreyer is guarded about his burgeoning makeover plans. But this much, he says, is clear: The sibling brands need more distinct identities. And that goes beyond sheet metal. They need greater differentiation in market positioning and in segmentation. That means, he says, that Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. need fewer cars overlapping in type and function.
Source: Automotive News

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Mid-Sized Crown Up For Grabs

Altima, Fusion emerge as sales title contenders

The Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion have entered the thick of the mid-sized sedan sales chase -- long a battle mainly between the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord -- leaving the rest of the pack a few laps behind. The also-rans include the Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata. A lackluster design has hampered sales of the Malibu, and short supplies have held back the Sonata. Meanwhile, the Altima and Fusion have become legitimate threats to end the Camry's reign as the top-selling U.S. car. In the first quarter, the Camry, Accord, Altima and Fusion each posted sales of more than 80,000 units, enough to make them the top four cars overall.
Source: Automotive News

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Fisker Automotive Firing as Much as 75% of Workforce

Fisker Automotive Inc.'s mass firings after receiving federal loans to build luxury plug-in cars is adding to the political debate over the U.S. government's funding of clean-energy programs. Most of the assets of Fisker's battery supplier that received a $249.1 million federal grant, the former A123 Systems Inc., were acquired last year by a Chinese company. Now Fisker, awarded $529 million in U.S. loans, is firing 75 percent of its workforce after failing to secure a deal with an automotive partner to fund operations.
Source: Bloomberg

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Opinion: New China Leaders May Boost Auto Industry
By Yang Jian

China's government has kept a tight grip on the domestic auto industry for years. But that may be about to change: The country's new leaders seem likely to take a more open and pragmatic approach to the industry. China started shifting from a controlled economy to a market economy in 1978. Thirty-five years later, the government maintains close ties with state-owned companies, including automakers, and continues to favor them over private businesses. While letting state-owned automakers and their joint ventures with global brands add plants, it remains reluctant to let private companies enter or expand in the domestic auto sector on the grounds that overcapacity would result. But now that China's once-in-a-decade leadership change has brought a new premier, president and ministers into power, private automakers in China likely will receive faster government approval to increase capacity. Li Keqiang, the new premier, vowed last month to further shift China toward a market-based economy.
Source: Automotive News

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As Workload Overwhelms, Cars Are Set to Intervene

Heading south on Route 34 toward Jersey Shore beaches on a summer weekend, drivers confront a daunting array of highway quirks, not limited to jughandle intersections and baffling exit signs. The simple act of turning left on Allaire Road in Wall Township, for example, is confounded by a traffic circle, where an attempt to head east casts the driver into a ballet of choosing the proper lane, looking for the exit and maintaining a high alert in the crush of beach-seeking vehicles. Now imagine that during this encounter a low-tire warning flashes on the dashboard. Next, a chime alerts the driver that a text message — maybe important — has landed. Then the cellphone rings. The overload of inputs, perhaps amplified by foul weather or a demanding toddler, presents a real challenge to the driver — and a danger to all road users. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that distraction and inattention contribute to 20 to 30 percent of reported crashes. Much as regulators and automakers have rushed to deal with the flood of distractions that invade the automobile — GPS displays, Internet radio, e-mail and even Facebook apps — there is a growing effort by engineers to build cars that gauge the difficulty of situations and recognize a driver in distress. Then the car would react, delaying all but the most urgent alerts, sending phone calls to voicemail and freeing the driver to focus on the task.
Source: The New York Times

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Flying Cars on the Rise

Excuse us for asking, but what's taking the concept of a flying car so long to, uh, get off the ground? A "roadable aircraft" has been a geek's dream since the idea first surfaced in the early 1900s. Even Henry Ford predicted that a flying car was inevitable. However, the idea has lingered in relative obscurity — that is, until recently. Next year, Massachusetts-based Terrafugia says it expects to begin delivering the Transition, a small aircraft you could drive home from the airport. And Terrafugia isn't alone, as several other innovators are about to unveil vehicles that are ready to fly and drive. Click here for more aerocars set to debut in the near future.
Source: MSN Autos

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Quotable
"The housing market continues to recover, business spending has picked up, and pent-up demand for vehicles is offsetting any drag from tax or federal spending issues."

   
-- Kurt McNeil, General Motors' vice president of U.S. sales operations, commenting on the strong outlook for auto sales during 2013, Automotive News, April 8
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