Posted by Dale Buss on March 28, 2013 05:29 PM
The stagnation of the U.S. market for all-electric vehicles has automakers thinking more creatively about how to address American consumers' desire for maximum fuel economy without attempting fruitlessly to guilt them into buying EVs.
The evidence of this trend has been abundant this week during the media previews at the New York International Auto Show, and news that the Obama administration is planning to get tougher on car emission standards, with "sweeping rules" expected from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requiring cleaner gasoline and cars.
"I think green has gone mainstream" as automakers employ fuel-efficient technologies across their lineups, not just in electrified vehicles, Consumer Reports director of auto testing Jake Fisher told WWJ-TV in Detroit. "It doesn't matter what you get, you can get green in your car, whether or not it's a sports car or an SUV."
That's why, for example, Dodge is able to claim that the new 8-speed transmission in its 2014 Durango SUV qualifies as a "green" advance: It helps boost fuel economy of the nameplate by close to 10 percent, Reid Bigland, Dodge brand CEO, told the TV station.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on March 1, 2013 10:16 AM
Kate Ochsman is exactly the kind of customer that Ford is seeking for the C-Max hybrid in California: "Young, artsy, indie, environmentally conscious," as the 26-year-old actress and overall creative talent puts it.
So after the Los Angeles-based Ochsman bought a new C-Max last fall and suggested to the dealer that she would be available to appear in ads for it, Ford took her up on the suggestion. Now "Kate Bowen"—stage name—just began appearing in a Ford dealers' TV ad in the state and also has been the star of a radio spot. Ford also plans to bring out more national TV ads soon using the same "La Linea" creative theme that made its initial TV ad for C-Max last fall—directly challenging the Toyota Prius hybrid line—so popular.
Ochsman bought a C-Max Hybrid, the main member of Ford's new all-electrified-vehicle sub-brand, for exactly the reasons Ford would suspect. "I liked the way it handled" on a test drive "and the space inside," Ochsman told brandchannel. "I have a dog and I do lots of traveling and outdoors stuff."
When she decided she needed to replace her 2002 BMW X-5, Ochsman looked at a Toyota Prius—the specified comparison-sales target of the C-Max—and found it "not very comfortable or esthetically pleasing," she said. She went to a Ford dealership because her first ride had been her father's Ford Escape; but the Fusion sedan was "way too big," while the Ford Focus "seemed a little too cheap." Continue reading...
start your engines
Posted by Dale Buss on February 7, 2013 01:33 PM
GM's introduction of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is a big surge forward for what has been a little piece of the U.S. auto market. The unveiling of the diesel-powered small car at the Chicago Auto Show today represents the most significant investment yet in the rise of clean diesel in the American market by a Detroit Three automaker.
About 40 percent of Cruze models sold in Europe — like most of the continent's small cars — are diesel-powered. But GM's adaptation of a new diesel powertrain for the U.S. represents a bold return to diesel power for the company. Its diesel cars in the 70s and 80s were dirty, smelly and unreliable, and tarnished the reputation of diesel power in America for decades.
Based like all clean-diesel models on new low-pollution technology, Cruze "represents a new era in diesel performance for American cars," Jens Wartha, GM chief engineer, said in a press release.Continue reading...
detroit auto show
Posted by Dale Buss on January 16, 2013 12:20 PM
It's too early to determine whether the new Cadillac ELR truly will be a game-changer in the sluggish U.S. market for plug-in hybrids. But in unveiling the new vehicle to the world's automotive press at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, at least General Motors is bidding to change the dynamics of the segment in a significant way. Already, it's been deemed best production car of the show, as Cadillac proudly tweeted.
ELR isn't expected to go on sale until early 2014 ("winter" is what GM is promising) and at a price tag (before U.S.-government tax credits for a "green" car purchase) of more than $50,000. GM is relying on the same basic powertrain in Volt, a combination of powerful batteries that can take the car 25 or 30 miles on a charge and a small gasoline engine that takes over once the batteries are out of juice and provides an effective range for the vehicle of about 300 miles.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on January 9, 2013 11:13 AM
One of the grandest commitments made to alternative fuels is sputtering. GE is backing away from its ecomagination-spurred promise two years ago (see CEO Jeff Immelt's announcement above) to be the largest fleet buyer of electric vehicles by purchasing 25,000 of them by 2015, the largest single EV commitment to date.
Instead, GE has decided to include models powered by other fuels — natural-gas-powered pickups and propane-fueled vehicles — along with the 11,000 plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars it has purchased so far, mostly from GM and Ford, according to Bloomberg.
General Motors, however, says that it hasn't heard about any change by GE in its purchase plans for the Chevrolet Volt, the original plug-in hybrid that was included by name by Immelt in his November 2010 announcement.
"We've heard of no plans of anything changing," Alan Batey, GM's VP of U.S. sales, service, and global marketing and the company's interim CMO, told brandchannel. "We have a very strong relationship with [GE], and they've purchased lots of Volts."Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on December 10, 2012 06:34 PM
Things have been getting a bit testy in the high-profile, low-sales world of electric vehicles. Late last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show, a Fiat executive took a none-too-veiled shot at Nissan for the styling of its Leaf. And Nissan quickly shot right back at some of Fiat's own design executions.
The spat began when Matt Davis, head of Fiat product marketing in the United States, was talking about the coming all-electric version of the Fiat 500 and told Bloomberg News on Nov. 28, "Let's be honest, ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution. The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car."
Now, in Davis's defense, he was absolutely right about the design of most all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids so far. They're at best uninspired, at worst an arrogant reflection of the notion that because they're powered in a "superior" fashion, such models don't need to look like conventional vehicles either. So you end up with the minimalist wedge shape of the Toyota Prius, the prosaic design of the Chevrolet Volt — and the pragmatic styling package comprised by Leaf.
With that in mind, fast forward to Fiat's first US campaign for the 500e — one using the oldest rule in the marketer's playbook ("Sex Sells"). The racy new commercial aims to estabish its EV as the hot, sexy car in the category.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on November 14, 2012 04:58 PM
General Motors is saying "uncle" in a key area of vehicle electrification: conventional hybrids. At the same time, the automaker indicated today that it'll redouble efforts to stake out a brand-defining position on one end of the electrified-vehicle spectrum, in highly electrified so-called "plug-in" hybrids like Chevrolet Volt and in all-electric vehicles.
The move essentially is surrendering the conventional-hybrid field to Toyota, which created and is dominating that segment with the Prius sub-brand. Interestingly, GM's move — ceding what once was a prime battlefield in green cars, where it invested heavily — comes at the same time that its cross-town rival, Ford, has just introduced an entirely new hybrid-only brand, C-Max, to battle Prius in the U.S. market.
Mary Barra, GM's product chief, told reporters today that the company has narrowed its future development plans to emphasize plug-ins like Volt, and EVs such as the all-electric version of the new Chevrolet Spark that GM will unveil at the Los Angeles Auto Show this month. Both kinds of cars are propelled only by batteries, while conventional hybrids rely on a combination of an electric motor and a gasoline engine.Continue reading...
Posted by Dale Buss on October 22, 2012 01:13 PM
The market for all-electric cars continues to slump, with the bankruptcy filing of one of its largest suppliers of batteries, struggles for Nissan's Leaf, and the continued difficulty of the top end of the EV market, Fisker, to get over the hump.
But meanwhile, the market for hybrids continues to brighten — espeically if that hybrid has a Prius nameplate. Toyota continues to extend its dominance of the hybrid-electric market by promoting its Prius family of four models. Having left its competitors' hybrids in the relative dust, Toyota now is girding for an effort by Ford to plug (so to speak) its own hybrid-only sub-brand, C-Max.
In fact, Prius now is doing so well in America's biggest hybrid market, California, that it has passed long-time leaders Honda Civic and Honda Accord to become the No. 1-selling vehicle line of any kind in the state.Continue reading...