Auto Notes - March 2013
Special service. On Jan. 24, the first customer hand-over of two all-new Range Rovers took place at a state-of-the-art visitor center in Solihull, UK. It’s the first Jaguar Land Rover facility of its kind in the world and was designed to offer customers the opportunity to undergo a high-quality multimedia experience as part of receiving their new Range Rovers.
With the appearance of a boutique hotel, the Solihull visitor center offers customers special parking, a personal concierge, and a VIP lounge that features 16-foot ceilings. A Meridian cinema-style theater provides Land Rover buyers an introduction to the brand. Guests then move to a room where their Range Rover will be unveiled using a 3D projection technology that silhouettes the actual building of the vehicle, all with dramatic lighting and Meridian audio sound to enhance the experience.
More than 6,000 guests currently visit Solihull each year to take part in factory tours and off-road experiences, and Jaguar Land Rover expects an additional 2,000 guests will visit in 2013 with the opening of the new visitor center.
Bad economy? Apparently plenty of buyers have money to spend on luxury cars, as Porsche Cars North America reported a 32 percent increase over January 2012 with sales of 3,358 vehicles for the first month of 2013. This follows a record-setting 2012 in the U.S. with 35,043 vehicles sold.
January’s sales leader was the Porsche Cayenne SUV with 1,500 units sold (993 were sold in January 2012). The other hot seller was the combination of 911 models, including the 911 Carrera 4 models that hit the market.
Industry report. At the recent Portland International Auto Show, Ford Motor Co. U.S. Sales Analyst Erich Merkle provided automotive media with data on the auto industry and projections for the future.
Citing 14.8 million unit sales for 2012 in the U.S., Merkle said the 13-percent increase over 2011 was tied to housing starts across the country and shifts in buying habits by consumers.
“In the 1970s the industry sold small cars and minivans, shifting to larger vehicles and SUVs in the 1990s,” Merkle said. “Moving forward, Boomers began downsizing from SUVs in 2004-2005 forward as the cost of ownership, including fuel costs, became vital. In 2012, small cars represented 21 percent of sales, the highest ever, and consumers are focusing on smaller and mid-size vehicles.” He added that hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles now represent 4 percent of industry sales and are growing with monthly sales of 50,000 units.
Merkle also said that smaller utility vehicles and crossovers represented 12.5-13 percent of sales in 2012 and will continue to be aggressive, with fuel efficiency being an important issue for any vehicle. “Trends will be toward smaller engines that provide better fuel economy but top performance,” he said. “At Ford, we sold 334,364 vehicles with our EcoBoost engines in 2012, and we expect that number to increase to 500,000 in 2013.”
Hot show. The recent 2013 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit had 42 vehicle debuts, 38 of those worldwide introductions. More than 5,000 automotive journalists from 58 countries were on hand and the show drew 771,000 visitors, according to NAIAS producers. The most expensive car on display was the Bentley Mulsanne, a hand-crafted luxury sedan priced at $368,000.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS was crowned the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit show, while the 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 was named the 2013 Truck/Utility of the Year. Both vehicles utilize an extensive amount of advance high-strength steel in their bodies.