Filed under: Car Buying , Plants/Manufacturing , GM , Toyota , Volkswagen Toyota still holds the title of World’s Largest Automaker. The Japanese automaker ceded the claim to General Motors in 2011 following a series of natural and man-made disasters that stifled production in Asia. Production is back up to full speed and, coupled with the introduction of a new Camry midsize sedan, Toyota retook the title in 2012 and has so far been able to keep it by selling 2.43 million vehicles in the first quarter of 2013. The race is still tight – General Motors reports sales of 2.36 million vehicles, earning it the second spot globally with Volkswagen’s 2.27 million sales nabbing the German automaker third place. It’s not all smooth sailing for Toyota, either, as the brand’s first-quarter figures were down 2.2 percent when compared to last year. GM posted a 3.6-percent gain and VW managed a 5.1-percent gain over the same period. Sales in China may be a deciding factor as to which automaker performs best in 2013. Toyota’s figures were down 13 percent in China. Meanwhile, GM and VW are continuing their upward trajectories in the crucial Chinese market. As ever, each of the automakers says publicly it doesn’t care much about the title.
Filed under: Motorsports , Chevrolet , Toyota As the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season wraps up, teams and drivers start preparing for next year and the big changes the sport has in store. All 2013 Sprint Cup cars will get a new look in an attempt to make the cars better resemble the production cars they mimic. As a part of the new design, NASCAR has also changed some of the rules for the paint scheme and decals that are placed on the cars’ exteriors. To keep the automakers happy, teams will no longer be allowed to clutter the front or rear of the cars with sponsorship stickers and logos. Since these are pretty much the only areas in which to distinguish the different makes any more, keeping them clean will make it easier to tell the models apart. Teams will be allowed to place a small logo on the front of the car and the car number on the front and rear fascias, but for the sake of visibility in night races, no decal can cover the headlights or taillights (insert laugh track). The biggest decal change for 2013 is that drivers’ last names will now be on a decal across the top of the windshield. With Dodge pulling out of NASCAR , that leaves just three automakers still involved with the series: Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet. We’ve already seen the new Fusion and Camry Cup cars, but we’ll have to wait until November 29 to see the new Chevrolet SS racer . The newly designed Sprint Cup cars will run for the first time at the 2013 Daytona 500 in February.
Filed under: Car Buying , Ford , GM , Hyundai , Kia , Toyota , Earnings/Financials The annual “Car Wars” report by Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy predicts that, despite their seizing of U.S. market share over the last few tumultuous years, Korean brands Hyundai and Kia will give it all back and then some to companies like Ford , General Motors and Toyota by 2016. Murphy bases his predictions not on tea leaves or crystal balls, but rather the rate at which automakers launch new products. Ford will replace 26 percent of its product line over the next four years, a number that represents 46 percent of its volume, while General Motors will replace 25 percent and Toyota 24 percent. On account of these new product launches, Murphy says Ford can expect to add 0.8 percentage points of market share, General Motors will recover 0.5 points and Toyota will add another 0.3 points. Other automakers that won’t be so aggressive in turning over their lineups with new models include Chrysler , Honda , Nissan and the European brands, which Murphy surmises will all remain flat in terms of market share. Hyundai and Kia, meanwhile, will be introducing fewer new models than the rest and therefore, Murphy predicts, will see a 0.5 decline in U.S. market share. Of course, these are all just predictions and can be blown to bits with the next unforeseen economic crisis or natural disaster, just like the last three years were. And there are other factors that might affect market share for each automaker during the next three years, including the availability of raw materials, exchange rates, union contracts, recalls and a million another minor things that might grow to become big things, not the least of which is consumers deciding they actually like all those new products being launched.
Filed under: Car Buying , Honda , Nissan , Toyota Japanese automakers are turning to new lease programs in an effort to lock down buyers who may stray to other automakers due to a lower-than-average supply of popular models. Toyota , Honda and Nissan are still in the process of restoring production to pre-earthquake levels, and as a result, buyers may not find the exact model they are looking for on dealer lots. Honda has authorized its dealers to extend current lease customers’ arrangements by up to six months. Additionally, the company is offering $500 to drivers who move from an old lease into a new one and promising to honor current incentives if buyers commit to an unavailable model. The automaker calls the effort the Honda Promise Program. But Honda isn’t the only company sweetening its deals. Automotive News reports that Toyota is extending its lease offers by six months and handing out a coupon worth $750 to customers who return to lease another Toyota product. Nissan is offering dirt-cheap lease options for its most popular model – the Altima . Buyers can snap up the sedan for $179 per month for two years. Manufacturers are also pushing for better lease deals due to a dearth of quality used vehicles this season.
Filed under: Etc. , BMW , Ford , Honda , Toyota The auto industry has been through a lot since 2009, but it appears that consumers have a lot more confidence in the industry two years later. Brand and marketing consultancy Prophet polled 4,900 U.S. consumers about 145 Fortune 500 companies from 18 different sectors, and the numbers reveal that most automakers are more highly regarded now than in 2009. BMW and Honda lead the pack, as both automakers ranked in the top 50 overall brands. Ford finished with a score of 60, which is up from 72. General Motors made a big leap from 123 to 85, in part because of new technology like the Chevy Volt . Those are all good stories, but then there is Toyota . The Japanese automaker, which was saddled with the recall of over 10 million vehicles for floor mat and gas pedal issues, dropped all the way from number 18 to number 139. That number hasn’t exactly resulted in horrible sales totals for Toyota, but there is little doubt that demand has softened a bit for the brand.