German cars and trucks maker Daimler said it would revamp the management of its finance, production, and development portfolios to remove duplicate layers between Mercedes-Benz and Daimler AG. As a result, Daimler's Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm will take over responsibility as finance chief at Mercedes-Benz AG from April 1 and Mercedes-Benz Chief Financial Officer Frank Lindenberg will leave, the company said. Wolf-Dieter Kurz will take on responsibility for product strategy and steering at Mercedes-Benz Cars.
PORSCHE REACHES TOP OF CR BRAND RANKINGS; TESLA RISES TO 11TH
Porsche and Genesis took the top two spots of Consumer Reports' annual ranking of the most reliable automotive brands. Subaru, which won the top spot in 2019, fell to third place.
Fiat came in last in the brand rankings for the fourth straight year. The lowest spots on Consumer Reports' rankings stayed relatively the same from last year, including Mitsubishi, Jeep, Land Rover, Cadillac, Jaguar, and Alfa Romeo. "CR only recommends one of the 36 total vehicles it has tested from that group — the Jeep Grand Cherokee," a press release Thursday said. Acura fell eight spots to 24th place in 2020 due to its MDX and RDX crossovers, Consumer Reports said.
Tesla, which fell below the brand rankings last year, rose eight spots to 11th place due to improved reliability of the brand's Model 3 and Model S sedans. It ranked higher than any other U.S.-owned brand. Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln line was the second-best American car brand, placing 13th but falling five spots. Buick finished the highest among General Motors' brands, placing 19th, down one spot from last year. "The brands at the top of our rankings do a great job of producing cars that perform well in our road tests, and are reliable, safe, and highly satisfying," Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports, said in the release. "That's especially remarkable for brands like Subaru, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia that offer many affordably priced options."
Consumer Reports also revealed its list of best-performing vehicles in 10 categories Thursday.
Toyota led brands again for the third consecutive year with four top vehicle picks: the Corolla, Prius, Avalon and Supra models. The Tesla Model 3, which won a top picks spot, is not without safety concerns, CR said in the release, due to the optional Autopilot system that "does not require the driver to stay engaged." "Tesla Model 3, they've had some issues and some growing pains," Fisher said at a live-streamed press event Thursday. "There was a lot of changes early on in this vehicle.... They were changing suspension systems and seats and glass.... Then they went and upped the production and there was a lot of activity. "So there's been some stabilization and our latest reliability data shows a marked improvement in the Model 3 and Model S." "The Model X is the lone Tesla that CR does not recommend," the release said.
How to be recommended
To be a top recommendation, a vehicle must score well in road tests, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction and safety. Consumer Reports said only models that come standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection were considered for the top picks list.
The acclaim was perceived by some as a major coup for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who eschews the traditional advertising that costs major automakers billions. Many car buyers consult Consumer Reports for big-ticket purchases because it's built a reputation for thorough and meticulous testing. The organization buys all the vehicles it tests and doesn't accept any marketing dollars from manufacturers.
Source: Automotive News and Bloomberg
MEASURING C8 CORVETTE SUCCESS
The success of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette won't solely be defined by the car's profits, performance or initial sales, which the company is describing as "unprecedented." The success of the eighth-generation Corvette will largely rest on whether the mid-engine vehicle can attract a new generation of buyers that have a growing number of high-performance sports cars to choose from, including all-electric vehicles from Tesla, Porsche, and others.
SIMPLER NAMES COMING FOR VEHICLE SAFETY FEATURES
Many drivers have no idea which safety systems their cars have, or what they can do, thanks to a confusing muddle of names automakers use. Buyers want to be safe, frequently paying thousands of dollars for optional advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, but the lack of standard names makes it hard to compare one vehicle to another. "ADAS features are increasingly common, but there's lots of misinformation based on names that don't make their purpose or function clear," AAA director of automotive engineering and industry relations Greg Brannon said. According to AAA, automakers use 20 different names for adaptive cruise control, which uses radar and other sensors to automatically maintain distance from the vehicle ahead, accelerate and brake on the highway. There are 40 different names for automatic emergency braking, which slows or stops a vehicle without the driver's intervention when a collision is inevitable.
The profusion of names — some reasonably intuitive, others as spacey as "Distronic" — makes it hard for shoppers to compare safety systems. It can also lead people to overestimate their vehicle's capabilities. I get emails from people who think help staying in their lanes means their car can drive itself. IT DOESN'T. Keep your hands on the wheel. Organizations including automakers, Consumer Reports, AAA, JD Power, the National Safety Council, U.S. Department of Transportation and the Society of Automotive Engineers are working to end the confusion.
The solution is near
"It's important that when a customer hears a system's name, they understand what it does," said Chad Zagorski, GM safety and driver assistance lead engineer and chair of the SAE International task force on safety system standards and names. The task force includes automakers and the groups that called for the standards. A list of terms they agreed on is making the rounds for approval. They could be in use soon. The standard won't keep automakers from trademarking the packages in which they offer safety systems, as many do today. The goal is to use common terms everyone can understand for the basic feature, and allow manufactures to explain what makes their version special, including names like Toyota's TSS-P, Subaru's EyeSight and Volvo City Safety. "We need to have a solid foundation so manufacturers can sell the features and consumers are sure of what they're getting," Funkhouser said.
Source: Detroit Free Press
REJECTED BY WALL STREET, FORD'S CEO HAS SUPPORT WHERE IT MATTERS
Days after another dismal earnings report, Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett sent a blunt message during an internal town hall: I'm not going anywhere. If there were any doubts in the crowd about that statement, Hackett underscored it by discussing the early retirement of Joe Hinrichs, a Ford president whom many had seen as a potential successor to the CEO. The comment was a surprising display of force from a man who had just overseen another disappointing quarter that deepened the sell-off in Ford stock during his almost three-year tenure. The reason for such confidence: Hackett, 64, retains the backing of Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
CANADIAN AUTO GROUP GOES TO TEXAS
Steele Auto Group of N.S. buys Texas dealership and has high hopes for more
Steele Auto Group of Dartmouth, N.S., is expanding into Texas with ambitions of creating "some critical mass" in the Lone Star State. The dealership group said on Tuesday it has purchased Luling Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in Luling, about 100 kilometres east of San Antonio. The dealership is the group's first U.S. store. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"We have been planning to establish a foothold in the Austin-San Antonio area and are excited to have a presence here. This is a great, well-run dealership," Steele Auto Group CEO Rob Steele said in a statement. Steele bought the dealership from longtime owner Carroll Barron, who didn't immediately say why he chose to sell the store.
Luling is a small city of 5,400 people, but the dealership serves customers from the greater San Antonio-Austin area.
Steele Auto Group President Kim Day said the dealership is "well established" and that Luling General Manager PJ McCafferty will continue in the role. "I am thrilled to continue on as general manager of the dealership moving forward," he said in the same statement. "I am confident that being part of a larger dealer group will bring new benefits to our customers and employees.
Steele Auto Group already has 40 dealerships selling 27 brands and employs more than 2,200 people in Canada. "While this is our first venture into the U.S., our plan is to continue to seek out opportunities in the Austin-San Antonio area in the near term," Rob Steele said. "We would like to create some critical mass in Texas and are open to opportunities in the U.S. that fit our acquisition criteria."
Steele Auto Group officials weren't immediately available for comment.
In 2019, Steele Auto Group became the first Canadian GM dealership to be awarded the GM Canada Innovation award. Day said the group plans to bring that creativity and innovation to Texas. "There are some innovative solutions that we plan to deliver here to enhance the customer buying experience. As an example, we would intend to roll out real time video updates from service technicians while customers' vehicles are being repaired," Day said. "We pride ourselves on creating new and innovative ways to enhance the experience for our customers; it's a benefit of being part of a larger network and group. "This will also create new opportunities for the existing Luling team members."
Luling Chevrolet-Buick-GMC employs about 15 people, according to the dealership's website.
Steele is the second Canadian dealer group in less than eight months to expand into Texas. Calgary-based dealership group Foundation Automotive Corp., in late June 2019 purchased three Texas dealerships — and two in North Dakota — in what it called at the time "just the beginning of our 2019 growth."
Source: Automotive News
RIDE-HAILING INCREASES EMISSIONS, CONTRIBUTES TO CLIMATE POLLUTION
Ride-hailing services are increasing carbon emissions, with such trips creating more pollution than comparable private car rides and drawing passengers away from public transportation, according to a study released on Tuesday that examined the impact on seven U.S. cities. The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit advocacy group, called on companies like Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc to electrify their fleets, increase the share of pooled rides and improve connections to public transit hubs. Several studies over the past two years have found that ride-hailing contributes to growing inner-city congestion, with fewer people taking public transportation and no decrease in private car ownership.
EVEN A MOBILITY REVOLUTION CAN'T CRACK AMERICAN CAR CULTURE
There's also little evidence the mobility industry has decreased the number of car owners—or the number of miles people drive. In research published in January, transportation consultant Bruce Schaller examined the top eight cities for ride-hailing since the mid-2000s. He found no statistically significant reduction in car ownership in any of them. Nationwide, the average number of vehicle miles traveled per person—a key stat if you're concerned about carbon emissions—has risen about 8% in the past decade, according to federal statistics. Only seven states have seen declines over that period, and they're not the ones with the dense cities favored by mobility startups. The biggest drop was in Oklahoma.
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