Consultant pulls curtain on Big 3 in Detroit

After the Detroit Auto Show wowed everyone with new models, some were left noticeably nonplussed, skeptical and doubting. James Bell, an independent consultant for the automotive industry with nearly 20 years of experience, including Kelley Blue Book and General Motors, instead opined on what he saw at the Detroit Auto Show from the Big 3.

“Much has been made of the recent resurgence and sales success of the “Detroit 3”, said Bell, who also offered to look a little closer behind each curtain:
  • Ford disappointed many at the last month’s Detroit Auto Show when their “big news” was not a new car or truck but rather BIG investments in connectivity, autonomy, mobility/ride sharing, and the customer “experience.”

Not until later in the week did they make decent product news by announcing four new SUVs in next few years.

  • FCA provided some fun with the “this is NOT a minivan” Pacifica and lots of love for the high margin Jeep and Ram brands in effort to avoid its darker ironic reality of overall financial drama as evidenced by delayed updates to key products such as the Grand Cherokee and Ram. And they announced the death of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart sedans until another maker can be roped into producing one car for both brands. In both cases, it seems that, as in the early 2000’s, the hypnotic dance of the cheap fuel cobra has worked its magic once and lulled these companies into complacency thanks to profitable truck and SUV sales.
  • Only GM seems to be planning for a more realistic future by using today’s false windfall to keep the pedal down on alternative fuel vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Bolt, even in the face of fewer sales in the near term. Seems GM might have learned a lesson from bankruptcy after all.”
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Who’s your crisis intervention team? Superman, Batman, or a Jeep Renegade?

2016 Jeep® Renegade ‘Dawn of Justice’  Special Edition.FCA US Launches One-of-a-Kind Co-Branded Partnership With Warner Bros. Pictures’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

  • Jeep® and Dodge brands debut marketing campaigns as part of promotional partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures’ highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, opening nationwide in theaters on March 25, 2016
  • Jeep brand introduces all-new 2016 Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition available now in dealerships across the country
  • Jeep and Dodge brands to launch commercials using hero scenes from the film
BY GERRY MILES
We all know it takes super powers to pull off the supernatural crisis intervention. That’s why Dodge and Jeep have paired up with marketing campaigns in the March release of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Such product placement invariably ensures accompanying special editions.

Right on cue, there’s an all-new 2016 Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition (available now in dealerships across the country), in addition to branded television spots with the Jeep and Dodge brands, and social/digital extensions creating consumer engagement leading up to the film’s premiere next month. (That’s fancy millennial  speak for you’ll see it all over your apps, smart phone and tablets as well as everywhere else they can push it out to the masses.)

“Thanks to an extensive brand and product portfolio, we were able to address every automobile need for the movie including Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, FIAT, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, and from our sister company CNH Industrial, Iveco heavy-duty commercial vehicles,” said Olivier Francois, Chief Marketing Officer, FCA Global. “With much of the film’s production taking place in our own backyard of Detroit, our ability to creatively collaborate with the WB team reached new heights. The product integration was so organic to the filmmakers’ vision and storyline, all we had to do was incorporate scenes from the movie for our commercials.”

Of course placement means getting eyeballs to see your product in action regardless of how much danger you put it in at home, at the ballfield or recycling center.
“Our partnership with Warner Bros. and the highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justicefilm allows us to expose the Jeep Renegade and its best-in-class capability to an incredibly vast audience,” said Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global. “The new Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition boasts a unique, dark appearance package for the most capable small SUV that we’re confident consumers – including millions of moviegoers – will love.”

What you’ll see in the TV commercial
The advertising campaign launched Feb. 22, when Jeep debuted a 30-second commercial “Into the Storm” across television and online. The spot features footage from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) behind the wheel of the Jeep Renegade. The commercial speaks to how he feels compelled to move toward danger rather than run away from it. Opening on city street ruins, the narration by actor Jeremy Irons, who portrays Alfred in the film, speaks to that impulse: “You’re not afraid. You like chaos. The madder, the better (as Bruce Wayne is seen driving toward the destruction in the Jeep Renegade — navigating its way in the mayhem). And in these times, we need that. We need you to rush in when everyone else is running away.”

2016 Jeep® Renegade ‘Dawn of Justice’  Special Edition.About the Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition
Available in Granite Crystal or new, exclusive Carbon Black exterior paint colors, the Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition features new 18-inch Gloss Black wheels with Gloss Black accents around the exterior. The DOJ Special Edition models with Granite Crystal paint also feature a two-tone Gloss Black roof. A unique exterior badge hints at the inspiration for this special-edition Jeep SUV.

Inside, the Renegade’s blacked-out theme continues with a black interior, black premium cloth seats and High Gloss Black finishes. Metal Diamond accents are found throughout on key touch points such as the shifter knob and door handles.

The DOJ comes standard with a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with MultiAir2, nine-speed automatic transmission, Jeep Active Drive 4×4, Selec-Terrain with four drive modes and a variety of features, including the ParkSense rear backup camera. Also standard on the Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition is the Popular Equipment Group, which includes remote start, power driver’s seat and dual-zone automatic temperature control.

Arriving at dealer showrooms later this month, the Jeep Renegade Dawn of Justice Special Edition will be available for a U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $26,250 (not including destination).

Kelley Blue Book names 2016 Best Family Cars

KBB.com Conduct Extensive Tests, Determine Vehicles that Best Fit Family Needs;
All-New Car Seat Section Details How Rear-Facing & Forward-Facing Child Seats Fit 

IRVINE, Calif.  – The vehicles deemed the 16 Best Family Cars of 2016 were announced today by Kelley Blue Book, http://www.kbb.com, the only vehicle valuation and information source trusted and relied upon by both consumers and the automotive industry. After extensive testing and evaluation, with a keen focus on safety, comfort, convenience, spaciousness for both passengers and cargo, and fit of various rear-facing and forward-facing child safety car seats, the KBB.com expert editors recommend their choices for a diverse group of vehicles that best meet the needs of today’s modern families.

“For two weeks’ time we drove, lived-with, folded-down-seats-of, paired-phones-to and installed-baby-seats-in each and every one of the contenders,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst of Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. “We loaded cargo, contorted ourselves into third rows, watched movies on rear-seat screens, toted rowing teams to marinas – in short, we did everything that you and your family might do with a vehicle day-to-day. And we did all this with a certain sense of what a family needs and wants, since many of our testers are simultaneously parents of kids ranging from mid-twenties to newborn. So this wasn’t just a cursory exercise, but instead it drew heavily upon our family-car experiences, needs and wants.”

After extensively testing two dozen Best Family Cars finalists, the KBB.com editors decided upon a list of 16 vehicles that they feel are befitting the title Kelley Blue Book Best Family Cars of 2016. While 16 might seem like a high number, the goal is that these vehicles can be divided into logical subsets that will make each family’s new-car shopping much easier. The list contains three minivans, six sedans, three two-row crossover/SUVs and four three-row SUVs.

Kelley Blue Book’s 16 Best Family Cars of 2016

Vehicle Type  Year    Make       Model        Model’s Best Family Car Highlights

Sedan           2016    Honda    Civic         All-around great car, KBB.com’s Overall Best Buy of 2016, generous standard equipment, loads of safety features, cool new redesign.

Sedan          2016     Honda    Accord       Roomy, high-quality interior, added style and safety from recent refresh, solid drivetrain, good economy.

Sedan         2016      Kia         Optima       KBB.com’s Midsize Car Best Buy of 2016, stylish, feature-packed, family friendly.

Sedan         2016     Chevrolet Malibu       All-new redesign, additional safety and efficiency, comfortable and accommodating interior makes it easy to stay connected.

Sedan         2016     Chevrolet Impala       Roomy cabin and trunk, technologically sophisticated, contemporary looks, multiple drivetrain choices.

Sedan         2016     Hyundai  Sonata       Value pricing and class-leading warranty combined with solid resale value and refinement all can take on class leaders.

2Row Crossover/SUV

2016   Honda      HR-V           All-new nameplate in hot segment, surprisingly roomy second row, great for a small family in the city.

2016     Honda      CR-V            Versatile, enjoyable and practical, makes excellent use of space, one of the roomiest small SUVs available, enviable resale value.

2016     Subaru      Outback       Outstanding room for both passengers and cargo, benefits of both wagon and SUV, excellent AWD and capable off-roading abilities provide peace of mind.

Minivan

2016      Kia           Sedona           Style and function, modern interior, impressive available safety features at affordable price, less bulky feel compared to other minivans.

2016       Honda     Odyssey          Unparalleled combination of flexibility, seating, on-road dynamics/features, Wide Mode easily fits three car seats across 2d row.

2016      Toyota       Sienna             Versatile, flexible, capable, only minivan to offer optional AWD, high resale value and IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for minivans.

3-Row Crossover/SUV

2016      Nissan       Pathfinder        Available around-view monitor, no child seat hassle with EZ Flex & Glide system, pitch-perfect on the road.

2016       Toyota        Highlander       Solid combination of comfort, quality, space and convenience features, unsurpassed level of powertrain choice.

2016        Honda        Pilot                Totally redesigned, “the family-friendliest midsize SUV in existence,” sophisticated suite of available driving technologies, all-star accommodations.

2016         Chevrolet     Tahoe             Truck-based SUV w/ towing/off-roading capabilities, recent redesign, various connectivity features, carries up to 9 people and gear.

In addition, all-new for the 2016 KBB.com Best Family Cars list, this year the editors took specific notes about how three different types of child safety car seats (a rear-facing infant seat, a convertible seat that can be installed either rear-facing or forward-facing, as well as a forward-facing booster seat) fit specifically into each of the vehicles on this year’s list. This section details helpful information for parents who have children of car-seat age (which typically is from birth through the elementary school years), including ease of installation, how leg room and passenger fit is affected in each vehicle when using various types of car seats, and more.

The KBB.com editors extensively tested 24 potential Best Family Cars contenders for 2016 over a two-week period. Runners-up for this year’s KBB.com Best Family Cars list included the 2016 Ford F-150, 2016 Ford Explorer, 2016 Hyundai Tucson, 2016 Kia Soul, 2016 Ram 1500, 2016 Subaru Crosstrek, 2016 Toyota Avalon and 2016 Toyota Camry.

Potholes cost drivers $3 billion annually

Pothole-Infographic-2-2
AAA finds two-thirds of American drivers concerned about potholes on local roadways

BY GERRY MILES

As the warmer temperatures sneak into our weather pattern, interrupting Mother Nature in the New England winter, so too do the crop of potholes in our road ways begin to spring up.

A new study from AAA reveals that pothole damage has cost U.S. drivers $15 billion in vehicle repairs over the last five years, or approximately $3 billion annually. With two-thirds of Americans concerned about potholes on local roadways, AAA cautions drivers to remain alert to avoid pothole damage, and urges state and local governments to fully fund and prioritize road maintenance to reduce vehicle damage, repair costs and driver frustration.

“In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage.”

According to the survey, households with incomes less than $75,000 are the most worried about the wheel-wrecking winter rascals, due to the expense of damage and ensuing repairs.

“On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage,” continued Nielsen. “Adding to the financial frustration, those whose vehicles incurred this type of damage had it happen frequently, with an average of three times in the last five years.”

Pothole-InfographicTo help reduce possible damage, AAA urges drivers to ensure tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth, to help cushion the distance and time between the pothole and the vehicle. If you can’t avoid a pothole, AAA urges drivers to slow down, release the brakes and straight the steering before hitting the pothole. of course, drivers who constantly scan the roadway and remain alert have the best chance to avoid the ravages of winter’s wrath.

in 2015, AAA says Congress increased transportation funding to help pay for road repair, but as much as $170 billion in additional funding is needed per year to significantly improve America’s roads and bridges.

Every year, AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by potholes. Spare tires, an important feature missing from one-third of 2015 model year vehicles sold, are critical for drivers affected by pothole damage.

Tire inflator kits, which have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 model years and, due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for pothole damage. Inflator kits are best for tires that sustain a small puncture hole in the middle of a tire where it can be patched. Any tire that sustains a slash on the sidewall or too large of a whole is rendered useless and no inflator kit will fix the problem.

AAA has called on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of spare tires in new models.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Forgot your Volvo key? There’s an app for that

Volvo Cars digital key

Volvo Cars digital key

BY GERRY MILES

No one likes being locked out of their home or their car. And we realize that the key we misplaced is where it shouldn’t be as soon as we hear the lock click or pull the front door shut and securely behind us.

For 2017, Volvo has stakes claims to be the world’s first car manufacturer to offer cars without keys from 2017.

Volvo customers can download an app on their smart phones that will interact via Bluetooth technology, offering more flexibility and connectivity to their car through the doors, trunk, or starting the engine.

Customers can also store more than one digital key on their app, allowing them to access different Volvo cars in different locations, if it’s required.

Volvo Cars digital key

Volvo Cars digital key

Using the app people could potentially book and pay for a rental car anywhere in the world and have the digital car key delivered to their phone immediately. On arrival a customer could simply locate the rental car via GPS, unlock it and drive away, avoiding those frustrating queues at airport or train station car rental desks.

Are you lending your car to someone? You can send your car’s digital key to that friend’s mobile phone to allow access.

“At Volvo we are not interested in technology for the sake of technology. New technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time. Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way,” said Henrik Green, Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”

Volvo will pilot this technology in spring 2016 via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.

“There are obviously many permutations when it comes to how this shared key technology can be used,” added Martin Rosenqvist, New Car Director, Special Products at Volvo Cars. “We look forward to seeing how else this technology might be used in the future and we welcome any and all ideas.”

Volvo is a pioneer with new digital key solutions. In 2015 the Swedish premium carmaker launched the world’s first commercial offer to have online shopping delivered directly to the car, by providing a one-time digital key to a delivery company. Now the digital key technology will also be made available for customers.

Physical keys will continue to be offered for people who want them.

New vehicle sales may jump 8.1% in February: JD Power

DETROIT, Mich. — New-vehicle sales in February 2016 are expected to increase 8.1% from a year ago, according to a monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

New-vehicle retail sales in February are projected to reach 1,046,700 units from 968,316 in February 2015, with the same number of selling days (24 days).

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for retail sales in February 2016 is expected to reach 13.9 million units, up significantly from 12.8 million units in February 2015 and the strongest retail SAAR in the month of February since 2002 (14.7 million).

Total light-vehicle sales are expected to reach 1,357,800, up from 1,255,769 from a year ago.

The SAAR for total sales is projected to reach 17.7 million units in February 2016, up 1.4 million units from 16.4 million a year ago and the highest rate since 2000 (18.9 million).

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons

February 2016    January 2016     February 2015

New-Vehicle Retail Sales
1,046,700 units    892,119 units    968,316 units
(8.1% higher than Feb. 2015)
Total Vehicle Sales
1,357,800 units     1,147,132         1,255,769
(8.1% higher than Feb. 2015)
Retail SAAR
13.9 million units   14.1m units        12.8m units
Total SAAR                           17.7 million units    17.6m units        16.4m units

Figures cited for February 2016 are forecasted based on the first 11 selling days of the month.

Thus far this month, the compact car segment posts the highest retail sales in the industry for the second consecutive month. Demand for compact cars is driven, in part, by product activity: high incentives that are offered on outgoing vehicles ahead of the launch of the redesigned vehicle attract the budget-conscious, while all-new or redesigned models revitalize interest in the segment. Unfortunately, the improvement in compact car sales is not enough to offset weakening demand for cars overall, with market share for cars at only 42%, the lowest level on record for the month of February.

Consumers are on track to spend more than $32 billion on new vehicles in February, nearly $3 billion more than in February 2015 and for the first time exceeding $30 billion in the month of February.

Customers are opting for leasing and long-term loans at record levels. So far in February, leases and loans of 72 months or longer combine to represent 65.1% of all retail sales, a record level for any month. The previous record was set in January 2016 at 64.3%.

John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power, said: “The year-over-year sales growth projection for February is strong, but we need to keep in mind that it is aided by the fact that sales in the upper East Coast, Midwest and Texas were hampered by weather last February. To further put the February sales projection into context, while the retail SAAR of 13.9 million is unquestionably a high level of vehicle demand, it is the lowest monthly level since last June and well below the 15.3 million pace last September.”

Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said: “Thus far, 2016 is off to the races, with February looking to keep the selling rate in line with expectations. Consumers seem to be shrugging off the volatility in the stock market and higher interest rates. Very low fuel prices and many new vehicles in showrooms should help drive another strong year for auto sales.”

LMC Automotive’s forecast for 2016 remains 17.8 million units for total light-vehicle sales and 14.5 million units for retail light-vehicle sales.