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auto motive

Tesla and Prius Leave Others in the Dust as Hybrid Trend Falls Off

Posted by Dale Buss on May 19, 2014 05:12 PM

Electrified vehicles may—eventually—become the future of automotive transportation, but EVs actually seem to be slowing down in a takeover that many still believe is inevitable. In fact, except for Tesla and Prius, no hybrid or EV brand has really proven itself, and many remain in trouble or may become stillborn.

Because of Tesla’s success with its $70,000 Model S all-electric vehicle, traditional premium car marques believe there’s enough of a market at the top end for their own growing incursions into EVs to be worth the risk. BMW, for example, continues to grease the skids for the introduction of two electrified vehicles this year.

This month, BMW is rolling out its i3 city car, an extremely light-weight, small entrant that is available in an all-electric version or, for those afflicted by range anxiety, in a version with a small onboard gasoline engine. And later this year comes the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid supercar, which it will position as a worthy rival to the Tesla Model S—even though the latter is fully electric while the i8 won’t be. 

BMW is using an extension of its DriveNow car-sharing program in the San Francisco Bay area, which competes with Zipcar and other car-sharing services, to promote its EV lineup by injecting the program's available car lineup with a few dozen new ActiveE electric cars.Continue reading...

olympic effort

BMW Anchors Its Future in Headlining Olympics Campaign for Team USA

Posted by Dale Buss on February 10, 2014 09:47 AM

To kick off its huge Olympics sponsorship of Team USA and launch its new "i" EV sub-brand in grand style, BMW called on Arthur C. Clarke to talk about the far future in order to make an important statement about the automaker's near future.

While Volkswagen is the official automotive brand partner of the Sochi Olympics, BMW officially introduced its new, Tesla-fighting i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid with a TV ad, "Hello Future," that ran during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics on NBC on Friday.

The spot uses a 1964 recording of the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey talking about the future. Clarke spins it as inevitably more fantastic than humans could imagine, and soon the ad is showing the gull-winged BMW i8 as proof of the futurist’s prediction.

"We thought it was a perfect match, because 'i' in our sub-brand stands for 'innovation,' and Clarke's speech even from 50 years ago speaks perfectly to today's challenges, that require innovation," Michael Jobst, national marketing manager for BMW of North America, told brandchannel.Continue reading...

auto motive

How Do You Sell a Non-Japanese Car in Japan? Global Automakers Couldn't Tell You

Posted by Dale Buss on December 19, 2013 12:41 PM

The world benefits from a variety of Japanese exports ranging from anime to sushi cuisine to Toyotas. But its auto market remains a redoubt of isolationism a generation after American carmakers made a political issue out of it. More than 90 percent of cars sold in Japan are still Japanese brands.

And this, according to the Wall Street Journal, has hurt Japan's automakers in ways similar to how Japanese smartphone makers have been handicapped around the world by gearing the features of their phones, sold globally, to the particular tastes of Japanese consumers.

"Their shortcomings led to the coining of the term 'Galapagos' to describe the market," the newspaper said. "Like the group of islands catalogued by Charles Darwin: uniquely evolved and ultimately at a disadvantage because of its isolation."Continue reading...

green shoots

Hyundai Keeps Pressing Change, Now with Plans for Fuel-Cell SUV in 2014

Posted by Dale Buss on November 25, 2013 01:47 PM

Hyundai continues to be practically unsurpassed at doing interesting things in the US car market. The latest is its vow to debut for retail customers a fuel-cell version of its Tucson SUV by next spring.

Interestingly, such a showing would leapfrog the plans of both Toyota and Honda to introduce a retail fuel-cell vehicle in the United States. And while the fuel-cell Tucson will be extremely limited as a Hyundai sales opportunity for at least the first few years, the move does indicate that Hyundai wants to go hard and establish an unassailable foothold in fuel-cell technology as Toyota did over a decade ago with Prius to gain early dominance of the hybrid segment.

"Today, right here, the hydrogen fuel cell is making a shift from a research project to a real consumer choice," John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said at the unveiling of the fuel-cell Tucscon at the Los Angeles Auto Show, according to Automotive News.Continue reading...

auto motive

At Frankfurt, Volkswagen, BMW Express Interest in Electrified Fleets

Posted by Dale Buss on September 11, 2013 05:46 PM

Volkswagen has been pounding the drum for clean-diesel power so vigorously for a while that it's an interesting change-up these days when company and brand executives are promoting other green technologies.

So while Volkswagen of America executives have been pushing the company's clean-diesel TDI versions in comments to the automotive press and lobbying in Washington, D.C., among other places, it's been a somewhat different story at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week. About half the cars bought by Europeans are diesel-powered, of course, so the technology isn't very new to them.

But the idea of investing more heavily in electric and hybrid vehicles is only now catching on with Volkswagen and its German automotive rivals. And VW CEO Martin Winterkorn gave EVs and hybrids the company's biggest rhetorical backing ever at the show, promising that 14 models from several VW Group brands will be offered worldwide as EVs or some form of hybrid by 2014, according to the Detroit News.Continue reading...

brand strategy

Toyota Plots Improved Hybrids and Customer Care to Regain US Share

Posted by Dale Buss on August 29, 2013 06:22 PM

Toyota plans to keep pressing the advantages of its renewed mojo in the US market with sportier hybrids, a greater emphasis on customer care and the possible addition of more production in Mexico to supply American customers.

The company has seen its market share in the US slip from a peak of 17 percent in 2009 to around 14 percent this year through July, as it was afflicted by natural disasters, its safety-recall fiasco, and intensified competition that took advantage of Toyota's weakness.

"Of course many customers still believe in Toyota, but some don't trust us," said Kazuo Ohara, CEO of Toyota's US Sales arm, according to Automotive News. "To recover our reputation, we should get back to basics.Continue reading...

car talk

Toyota Remains King of Hybrids, but Ford Keeps Chipping Away with C-Max

Posted by Dale Buss on July 2, 2013 06:32 PM

Toyota finally has some serious competition for the American hybrid-car buyer. Ford has committed to the segment like no second brand has ever done before, and is making up huge ground with its C-Max and Ford Fusion hybrids.

But Toyota remains king of the battery mountain with its Prius brand. The company reported an overall increase in hybrid sales in June of 19 percent over last year, with sales of the Prius family of vehicles specifically rising by 10 percent, to more than 21,000 units for the month. Year-to-date, Prius sales are more than 120,000 units, and after the first half of the year, Toyota continues to account for more than half of all alternative-fuel vehicles sold in the US market.

"We're right on track to hit our target for the year," Bill Fay, Toyota Division Group Vice President and General Manager, told automotive journalists on Tuesday.Continue reading...

green shoots

Auto Brands Dominate Global Green Initiatives, New Report Says

Posted by Dale Buss on June 12, 2013 01:51 PM

No industry is in the environmental spotlight like autos. It transformed the globe and remains the most impactful on the planet and on humanity.

That's why it's especially encouraging to see car companies stepping up around the world to the sustainability challenge, certainly in how they're approaching the environmental impact of their vehicles but also in a myriad other ways including engineering and design, manufacturing practices, future-product planning and even marketing.

In fact, auto makers hold four of the top five spots in Interbrand's Best Global Green Brands 2013 report: No. 1 Toyota, No. 2 Ford, No. 3 Honda, and No. 5 Nissan.Continue reading...

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