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Inside this issue
Big Auto Makers Post Weaker February Sales
Mercedes Stokes U.S. Lead as New Models Fuel February Record
Geneva: Automakers Cast Wary Eye Toward Russia
Large Ford Stores Say Cost of Aluminum Body Shop Will Surpass $70,000
Apple Debuts CarPlay Technology for iPhones in Vehicles
First Cars Pulled From Sinkhole at Corvette Museum
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Top Stories
Big Auto Makers Post Weaker February Sales

Demand stayed strong for Ford, Chrysler pickup trucks

Winter storms chilled U.S. auto demand in February as overall sales were flat on big gains at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan Motor Co. Single-digit percentage declines at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and several others kept sales at 1.19 million cars and light trucks last month, off slightly from a year earlier, said researcher Autodata Corp. Dealers and auto makers remain optimistic and are expecting consumers to stream back into showrooms as the weather moderates in the coming months.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
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Mercedes Stokes U.S. Lead as New Models Fuel February Record

Mercedes-Benz, the top-selling luxury-auto brand in the U.S. last year, extended its 2014 lead with record February sales on the strength of new models. The Daimler AG unit sold 22,609 vehicles last month, a gain of 2.6 percent from a year earlier, led by the revamped S-Class sedan, which starts at $92,900, and the new entry-level CLA car, with a base price of $29,900, according to a statement. Mercedes beat Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's BMW, which reported a 3.3 percent February gain to 22,017, for the second month this year and now holds a 4,943-vehicle lead. Munich-based BMW ceded the annual U.S. luxury-sales crown to Mercedes in 2013, ending a two-year reign.
Source: Bloomberg
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Geneva: Automakers Cast Wary Eye Toward Russia

European automakers cast a wary eye toward Russia on the first day of the Geneva Auto Show on Tuesday, poised for a quick strategy rethink as the threat of sanctions hangs over the country because of its intervention in Ukraine. Russia has been a key market for recession-battered European automakers that have looked to expand sales and find partners for lucrative joint ventures. But new uncertainty has been raised by growing tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. “There is always going to be a surprise out there. Ukraine is an example. You have to be flexibile,” the CEO of Ford Europe, Stephen Odell, told journalists on the Geneva Auto Show's opening press day. With three plants and annual sales volumes around 120,000 units, Russia is important to Ford Europe's goal of returning to profitability by 2015. Odell says the company is not giving forecasts for 2014 volumes in Russia “and frankly, given the volatility we have to wait and see.” The key going ahead, Odell said, is to have a plan but not be so rigorous in the face of changing realities. Toyota Europe chief Didier Leroy says he is in frequent touch with his team leader in Ukraine, where Toyota has 33 Toyota and five Lexus dealership, and watching developments in Russia, where Toyota Europe sold 172,000 cars last year.
Source: Associated Press
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Large Ford Stores Say Cost of Aluminum Body Shop Will Surpass $70,000

Michigan Ford dealer Ed Joliffe has been calculating the cost of getting his body shop ready for the 2015 aluminum F-150 pickup, and finds the numbers sobering. "It's going to cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. That's a hell of a chunk," says Joliffe, who owns Gorno Ford in suburban Detroit. "I don't think it's for the faint of heart. All the small shops won't be able to touch it." He figures it could take five to seven years to recoup that investment, which he deems essential to stay in the body shop business. Ford is targeting dealers with large body shops as it attempts to organize the F-150 aluminum body repair system. For those dealers, the investment will exceed the $30,000 to $50,000 Ford has cited for a single repair bay. Like Joliffe, many dealers say the cost could be $70,000 or more. Ford's effort is creating the Ford National Body Shop Network of dealers and independent shops capable — Ford shies away from the term "certified" — of large structural repairs. The network, whose members have the proper tools and training, will be Ford's conduit for insurance company repair referrals.
Source: Automotive News
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Apple Debuts CarPlay Technology for iPhones in Vehicles

Apple Inc. said technology letting drivers use iPhones with voice commands or steering-wheel buttons will be available in vehicles as early as this year. Fiat SpA's Ferrari supercar division, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz luxury unit and Volvo Car Group will show customers the CarPlay system this week, with other auto producers introducing it later, Cupertino, California-based Apple said in a statement. CarPlay will be available as an update to the iOS 7 mobile software on iPhones, and works with the Siri voice-recognition feature. While many Apple products, beginning with the iPod more than a decade ago, have had the ability to work with car audio systems, CarPlay takes the integration a step further, giving users a familiar interface for music, maps and voice-based actions. Carmakers adopting CarPlay can easily appeal to Apple's large customer base, according to Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The car effectively becomes the second screen for the iPhone,” said Gillett.
Source: Bloomberg
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First Cars Pulled From Sinkhole at Corvette Museum

The recovery of eight classic cars swallowed by a huge sinkhole has begun at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. The first two cars were pulled out of the giant hole Monday by a crane at the Bowling Green museum. Cheers went up when the engine of the 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil was cranked up and the car was driven a few feet. It had only minimal damage with shattered running boards, scraped paint and a small crack in the windshield, despite falling nearly 30 feet. The worst damage mechanically was a split oil line. “If you fixed that, you could drive the ZR-1 back to Detroit,” John Spencer, manufacturing integration manager for Corvette, said in a statement. A 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette was recovered later Monday. Photos showed a smashed windshield. Museum Katie Frassinelli said workers hope to recover a third car Tuesday. GM said the team plans to recover a 1962 Corvette and 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette this week, and the other cars within the next 60 days.
Source: Associated Press
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Quotable
"Over the next few years, our industry will face one of the greatest upheavals since the invention of the automobile."

    -- VW chief Martin Winterkorn, commenting on the impact of digital technology on vehicles, Associated Press, March 4

 

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