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Inside this issue
Auto Finance, Sales Look Strong for 2015
Cadillac Boss to Introduce 'Boutique' Store Concept to 700 Dealers
Hyundai Q4 Profit Falls 19% on Weak Yen, Ruble Plunge
Safety Unit Broadens Its Scrutiny of a Ford Recall
BMW Names Former Audi Executive as New Head of Mini Brand
Balance Shift in Motown-Silicon Valley Talent Quest?
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Top Stories
Auto Finance, Sales Look Strong for 2015

SAN FRANCISCO -- The good outweighs the bad in the current outlook for auto finance, analysts said during a panel at the American Financial Service Association’s Vehicle Finance Conference here on Tuesday. For dealers, the high points are that U.S. auto sales are expected to keep on growing in 2015, for the sixth consecutive year, reaching as high as 17 million units, analysts say. In addition, lenders are competing harder and in greater numbers for loans originated at dealerships, according to panelists at the AFSA conference. Steven Szakaly, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said in the longer term, risks to auto finance include higher interest rates and a return to higher gas prices. Specifically, he said the threat isn’t so much whether interest rates or gas prices rise -- both are bound to rise sooner or later. Rather, it’s whether they rise gradually and predictably, or suddenly and unpredictably.
Source: Automotive News

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Cadillac Boss to Introduce 'Boutique' Store Concept to 700 Dealers

Emphasis will be on high-tech showrooms, high level of customer service

Cadillac plans to ask about 700 of its dealerships to invest in small "boutique" stores that would that would offer "high technology showrooms" and a higher level of service than they offer. Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen plans to outline the plan in an appearance at the Washington, D.C., auto show and at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco this weekend. Cadillac's network of slightly more than 900 dealerships includes about 200 "flagship" standalone stores. Another 700, many of which are paired with Chevrolet or other brands, will be asked to convert to "smaller, boutique locations," the brand said in a statement.
Source: Automotive News
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Hyundai Q4 Profit Falls 19% on Weak Yen, Ruble Plunge

Hyundai Motor's fourth-quarter profit fell 19 percent after the weaker yen and ruble eroded overseas earnings. Net income declined to 1.66 trillion won ($1.5 billion) in the quarter from 2.06 trillion won a year earlier, the company said in a statement. A weaker yen gave Hyundai’s Japanese rivals including Toyota Motor Corp. a competitive edge in overseas markets including the U.S., while a plunge in the ruble lowered the value of earnings in Russia. To reassure investors, the company will increase its annual dividend by 54 percent and consider paying out an interim dividend this year, Chief Financial Officer Lee Won Hee said on a conference call.
Source: Bloomberg
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Safety Unit Broadens Its Scrutiny of a Ford Recall

A week after the nation’s top auto regulator warned automakers that he would be more vigilant on safety, his agency has taken the unusual move of revisiting the 2013 recall of Ford’s biggest pickup trucks. The original recall, to fix a stalling problem, was limited to almost 3,000 trucks used as ambulances. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, citing 30 complaints from drivers it had received on its website, has told Ford that it is now investigating whether that recall should be vastly expanded, to include nearly 197,000 additional pickups that have similar engines but are not used as ambulances, according to a report made public recently on the agency’s website.
Source: The New York Times
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BMW Names Former Audi Executive as New Head of Mini Brand

BMW named former Audi executive Sebastian Mackensen as head of its Mini brand. Mackensen, 43, will succeed John Goller, who has headed Mini since 2013, BMW said in a statement. Goller, 48, will move to China to take over responsibility for sales and marketing at the BMW Brilliance joint venture. Goller was previously BMW China's marketing boss before returning to Europe. BMW hired Mackensen as Mini's sales boss in 2013 from rival Audi, where he oversaw sales in North and South America. BMW is seeking ways to boost Mini's long-term profitability.
Source: Automotive News
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Balance Shift in Motown-Silicon Valley Talent Quest?

This year's auto show [in Detroit] demonstrated more than ever the narrowing gap between the technologies of Motown and Silicon Valley. Not long ago, auto executives whined that all the best young engineering minds would rather write a new iPhone app than find a way to make an electric car more efficient and less costly. There also was a trend to shift more engineering work to India or other low-cost venues. General Motors is reversing that trend because it has rediscovered the value of its experienced technical people.
Source: Detroit Free Press
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Quotable

"It's just a frenzy right now. Low gas prices are a huge factor. People have extra money and they're putting that into new cars and SUVs."

   
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