By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACTION Magazine
Shaping up: It’s looking like a strong year for auto sales in North America. At the end of the first quarter of 2012, reported new car sales were up across the board with the three main U.S. nameplates showing a substantial increase over the same period last year.
It appears that a rising tide lifts all boats; GM has stated that it now sells more cars outside North America (notably in China) than on this continent.
Elsewhere: Maybe not so much. New car sales in Europe dropped precipitously, due in part to the financial troubles afflicting many governments and European Community as a whole. One standout was Germany, where sales actually increased by over 2 percent. Audi and BMW’s competition for the top slot rivals anything seen during the Ford vs. Chevrolet sales battles of the 1960s and ‘70s.
Asia countries reported mixed results with some providing increased sales and others falling a few points. Japan saw a hard drop in new car sales, and some famous-name makers are actually finding it too expensive to manufacture in the home country. For one, Toyota has said it will move some manufacturing out of the country and import vehicles to keep costs down.
It’s on, but slowly: Although they still provide less than 3 percent of the total market, hybrids and pluggable electric vehicles show continued growth. Overall sales in the class grew in the first quarter. Sales of the Prius family of cars has exceeded even the factory’s expectations and dealers are clamoring for more cars as soon as possible.
Chevy’s Volt is younger than some others and still establishing its market, but it also showed gains in sales and buyer interest. Ford has just begun taking orders for the upcoming C-Max hybrid and is targeting Prius in the sales race.
Surprise! From the “Different strokes for different folks” file, we note first that Ferrari recently let slip that the news that the new limited-edition Enzo will contain the company’s first hybrid drive system, coupling electric drive to a new V-12 engine. Rumors price the car somewhere north of $800,000.
And in the U.K, Mazda has produced commercials mocking the “range anxiety” of EV owners and touting its own high mileage gas-engined vehicles. The company has said it wants to increase its overall fuel efficiency by roughly 30 percent within three years through both engine technology and lightweight construction methods.
Not dead yet? SAAB has long since crashed and closed, yet attempts to save the company by finding a buyer continue. Several potential players have shown interest but backed off before writing any checks. One reason is that although GM backed out of SAAB a few years ago, the Detroit company still owns a variety of patents and intellectual property that they will not release or license to a new buyer—and particularly not to a buyer from China.
Now, representatives of one of SAAB’s largest trade unions, IF Metall, have written to President Obama asking him to intervene with GM and untie some knots so the Swedish company can pass to a new owner and perhaps reopen. No word from the White House on the matter.
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