Sonic Automotive, Inc. announced a new customer-centric guest experience called “One Sonic-One Experience’ which allows guests “to complete the buying transaction through one individual,” and to allow guests to control the process and pace so that once their vehicle has been selected, they can expect to be on the road in their new vehicle in under 45 minutes. Additionally, Sonic announced plans to open dedicated used-vehicle outlets apart from its existing 105 stores with its first “pre-owned specialty retail store” opening in Denver, Colorado late next year with plans to expand country-wide thereafter. [Press Release]
Japan’s rising number of elderly drivers injured or killed in motor-vehicle accidents appears to spur demand for safer, self-driving cars. According to Japanese automotive data from last year, out of 4,411 vehicle fatalities, over half were drivers 65 or older. Zhou Lei, auto-industry consultant at Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting Co. in Tokyo said, “Driver-assistance and autonomous-driving technologies will definitely help stimulate demand among the elderly by assuring them driving can be very safe.” [Bloomberg]
Toyota is recalling 803,000 US-made sedans from model years 2012 and 2013 due to defects with air conditioning condensers where water may leak from the unit onto the airbag control module and cause the airbag to inflate and deploy at the wrong time. Power steering may also be affected by the leaking condensers. Globally, the recall involves 885,000 Camry, Avalon, and Venza sedans across Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and 15 other countries. [Reuters]
A contract dispute which prompted 2,000 Baltimore Port union longshoremen to walk off the job and close the port, puts pressure on the supply chain of Mazda Motor Corp. and BMW as shipments are caught in the middle of the walk-out. The dispute revolves around a contract signed by the International Longshoremen’s Association which needs to be signed by all local labor unions. Local 333, one of four Baltimore chapters, rejected the contract and prompted a work stoppage on October 15. Chrysler shipped about 124,000 units through the port in 2012, while Mercedes-Benz also said about one third of its sales are processed through Baltimore Port. [Bloomberg]
Tesla Motors Inc. was the top seller of California zero-emission vehicle credits last year with 1,311.52 credits, while Toyota topped hybrid-car credit trades with 507.5 AT PZEV credits. Companies listed by California that acquired ZEV credits for last year were: Chrysler, GM, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Subaru, and Volkswagen. Tesla has reported $119 million in ZEV credit sales this year, with each Model S generating up to seven ZEV credits. [Bloomberg]
A class action lawsuit against BMW Group claims the automaker “failed to disclose that neglecting to replace the transmission fluid – per BMW Group’s instructions – leads to sudden and premature transmission failure” in some Mini Cooper vehicles. The lawsuit also alleges the warranty “expressly misrepresents to consumers and to automotive services that, although transmission fluid must be changed for the standard Mini Coopers, this service was not necessary.” A spokeswoman for Mini said the company could not comment on any pending litigation. [ABC News]
Four workers from Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant filed charges with U.S. labor officials alleging German VW officials are coercing them to agree to UAW representation and that the plant would not get additional vehicle production and future jobs unless a Works Council – which, according to one anti-union group, would force workers to accept the representation of UAW union officials – was installed at the plant. U.S. labor law requires any such council to be recognized through a U.S. trade union, or else be considered an illegal company union. [Reuters]
Fiat SpA’s union leaders will meet United Auto Workers officials next week in hopes to beat the stalemate over the Italian automaker’s efforts to merge with Chrysler Group LLC. A UAW retiree health-care trust is forcing Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to prepare for a listing of Chrysler because the two sides cannot agree on the value of shares held by the union fund. Fim Cisl national secretary in charge of Fiat relations, Ferdinando Uliano, said, “We are concerned that a Chrysler initial public offering would harm a combination of the two carmakers . . . We’ll tell the UAW that only a merger of Fiat and Chrysler would grant a positive future for both companies’ workers.” [Read the Article]
Advance Auto Parts Inc. will buy General Parts International Inc. for $2.04 billion in an all-cash acquisition. Advance Auto said in a statement, “[the takeover] creates the largest automotive aftermarket parts provider in North America, with combined sales of over $9.2 billion.” The companies plan to close the deal by early 2014; Blackstone Group LP and JPMorgan Chase & Co. were financial advisers to Advance Auto. [Bloomberg]
American Honda’s Senior Vice President of Automobile Operations, Mike Accavitti, said the company needs to take more risks with marketing to strengthen its bond with consumers. Accavitti also said Honda has already reallocated about 30 percent of its yearly marketing budget to allow for more risky endeavors – 20 percent for marketing initiatives which may advance Honda’s business goals using new mediums, and 10 percent for “cutting-edge” initiatives which may also carry a high probability for failure. The remaining 70 percent of the budget will be used to continue Honda’s standard marketing procedure of vehicle launches, TV advertising, digital advertising, and other mainstream efforts.
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