Auto Notes - January 2016
Top award. Subaru of America President and COO Thomas J. Doll has been named the Motor Trend “Person of the Year.” Awarded for the first time, the honor recognizes the No. 1 individual on the Motor Trend Power List which, since 2005, has highlighted the top 50 most influential people in the auto industry. The list includes a broad range of industry personalities, including designers, CEOs, race car drivers, and others.
Doll was selected because his company is entering its eighth consecutive year of record sales. Subaru of America has tripled its U.S. sales since 2007 and was on mark to hit 600,000 unit sales for 2015. The company has moved from 19th in industry sales to 10th in the nation, outselling brands such as Mazda, VW, BMW, and Buick.
“At first glance, Tom might seem an unlikely choice for this award,” said Angus MacKenzie, Motor Trend editor-at-large. “He’s not an engineer or a designer or a marketer by training, but his unique vision and quiet leadership has have guided Subaru to outstanding success over the past few years. The recognition is richly deserved.”
Sales review. Despite record recalls, YTD 2015 light-duty vehicle sales in the U.S. are on track to hit about 17.5 million units. While November is a generally quiet sales month, many automakers posted modest increases in the range of 1 to 4 percent, with Hyundai at a 12 percent sales boost and Jeep up almost 20 percent. While the overall sales numbers are relatively low, and their market shares are below 1 percent, Land Rover, Scion, and Volvo all had exceptional double-digit November sales.
Volkswagen had a dismal November with sales down about 25 percent. The legal ramifications of the TDI emissions issues the company is facing will likely have an effect on VW sales in the U.S. for the next few years, according to industry analysts.
Medium- and heavy-duty truck sales also appear to be brisk for 2015 and may set records once all the figures are compiled later this month.
Trends. Record recalls, numbering at about 100 million vehicles in 2014 and 2015, have not slowed car and light truck sales in the U.S. Almost every manufacturer has had safety or mechanical recalls, with some 34 million affected by defective Takata air bags.
A large portion of recalled vehicles are older models with newly discovered problems, industry analysts said, and the issue of shared parts from a variety of global sources is of concern to both automakers and government enforcement agencies.
Some industry analysts have said recalls are becoming part of the culture of vehicle ownership, and that motorists are generally not overly concerned about recalls as long as noted problems are fixed at local dealerships.
Tech award. Cadillac’s Rear Camera Mirror has been named a 2015 Popular Science “Best of What’s New” award winner. The annual awards cover the magazine’s choices of the year’s top 100 technology innovations. “The awards honor the innovations that surprise and amaze us; those that challenge our view of what’s possible in the future,” said Cliff Ransom, editor-in-chief of Popular Science.
The streaming video mirror improves the field of vision for drivers by an estimated 300 percent, or about four times greater than a standard rear view camera. The high-resolution video function reduces glare and removes obstructions of passengers, headrests, and the vehicle’s roof and rear pillars. Using a high dynamic range, the camera’s in-mirror display offers an industry-leading 1280 by 240-pixel TFT-LCD display with 171 pixels per inch. A water-shedding hydrophobic coating is applied to the camera to keep it clean and able to maintain visibility regardless of driving conditions.
The Rear Camera Mirror, with 10 patents awarded to Cadillac researchers and engineers, will be available on upcoming CT6 sedan and XT5 crossover models, Cadillac representatives said.
Most loved. FCA US did well in Strategic Vision’s 20th annual Top Quality Index ratings for 2015 with five of its vehicles named on the “Most Loved Vehicles in America” list.
The full-size Dodge Charger car and Dodge Durango mid-size SUV, Jeep Renegade entry SUV, Fiat 500 micro car, and the Fiat 500e small alternate powertrain car were all named the “most loved” in their respective categories.
“FCA continues to establish a strong foundation of vehicle finish, pride, and excitement among owners of Fiat, Jeep, and Dodge,” said Christopher Chaney, senior vice president of Strategic Vision, a leading global research-based consultancy organization. “All of this, combined with increasing trust from the overall ownership experience, is causing buyers to absolutely love the choices they made.”