January 2008

Texas is facing a great pickup battle having Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Toyota as contenders. Toyota Motor Corp., meanwhile, works to lure true truckers in Texas to win over more customers. This is why it has unleashed its redesigned Tundra to steal a portion of Ford F-150’s sales. But the best-selling pickup is not the only potent rival. There is the new Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram. Moreover, the Japanese automaker is expected to exert extra effort in order for its goal to materialize.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, Ford F-Series dived nearly 3.6 percentage points across the nation to hold 30.7 percent of the market. In Texas, the models lost 5.5 points to fall to 31.9 percent, reported the Michigan-based R.L. Polk & Co. In comparison, the Tundra, sources divulged recorded nearly 3.5 points nationwide and 3.7 in Texas in its first year since a major redesign.

“Those numbers might not seem huge, but when you consider truck buyers are second only to luxury buyers in terms of loyalty, Ford’s drop and Toyota’s climb are significant,” said Lonnie Miller, the director of industry analysis at Polk. “There’s no doubt been a very aggressive push by Toyota.”

“We certainly had a lot more full-size pickups traded in for Tundras in ’07,” said Tom Shopoff, the director of truck support for Gulf States Toyota, a network of dealerships that includes statewide Tundra best-seller Fred Haas Toyota World in Spring. “We have a tremendous product.”

But Shopoff predicted the Tundra would see a bubble burst. “You’ve seen the big bubble,” he noted.

Increased competition from Toyota comes at a time when auto sales in general and pickup sales in particular, are down, according to Houston Chronicle. Auto sales in 2007 fell 2.4 percent, and large pickups were down 2.7 percent, Libby said in an interview.

“That means more competition, which in turn means more incentives and lower prices,” Libby concluded. “The winner in all this is the consumer.”


Audi’s Godfather-themed Super Bowl commercial

Audi AG is revving up its image as the new luxury auto brand through a high-budgeted Super Bowl commercial.

The first Big Game ad of the Volkswagen-owned automaker in two decades will be featuring the new R8. The said ad utilizes a send-up iconic scene from The Godfather to poke fun, without naming names, at luxury auto rivals, reported USA Today.

The German automaker will be competing with several rivals in the auto industry for attention in the game. General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motors are in the game. Additionally, Nissan Motor Corp. and other automakers are acquiring ‘spot’ ads in individual markets.

Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco, the advertising company behind Audi’s ad, took that into account. “The fact that people don’t pay attention to auto ads unless they are in the market for a car is exactly the ammunition we used to do something different and provocative,” said Paul Venables, the agency founder and co-creative director. “We have this slow, methodical open; it’s eerie and not a gag a minute. The light bulb is going to go off that it’s The Godfather. All those things contribute to a pause that’s going to deliver an entertaining story and brand message.”

Audi paid Paramount Pictures a licensing fee that it would describe only as ranging from $500,000 to $1.5 million.

Who will get to see Audi’s ad first? According to reports, the lucky ones are the registered users of the automaker’s official Web site. The ad will be e-mailed to approximately 35,000 registered users of audi.com on Super Bowl morning.

Audi, to note, is already etching a positive standing in the industry. In 2007, global sales of the automakers surged 6.5 percent from the previous year to 964,000. Additionally, the limited production of the R8 for this year is already sold out. Moreover, the automaker hopes its Super Bowl ad will make its image shine even brighter at the same time drive more gains to its coffers.

Recently, Chrysler also pointed out that the Canadian auto manufacturing sector is in danger of losing automakers.

With the increasing value of the Canadian dollar, automakers producing vehicles in the country can no longer take advantage of huge profits from importing the vehicles into the United States. In the past, automakers have set up vehicle assembly facilities in Canada as they can build vehicles in the country at lower wages and raw material price. But with the soaring loony, importing vehicles from Canada into the United States does not necessarily translate to huge profits. In fact, Canadian auto buyers are looking more and more at purchasing vehicles in the United States.

LaSorda pointed out that to build an assembly facility in Canada that will produce 200,000 vehicles per year would cost about $800 million. That figure is much higher than what it would cost if the new assembly facility will be built in China or Mexico. If a new vehicle manufacturing plant is built in China which can also produce 200,000 vehicles annually, it will only coast $250 million and in Mexico, around $450 million. That disparity is what LaSorda is warning Canada about.

“We can get approvals in other states here much faster than in Canada,” added the Canadian-born LaSorda. “If you’re competing with an investment in different locations and others are faster, you lose out.”

With the United Auto Workers union agreeing to lower contracts from automakers, it is expected that Canadian manufacturing facilities have lost its bargaining chip. After the contract with the UAW was signed, it was official that wages in Canada are $25 an hour better than in the United States. Thus, automakers will no doubt look to just build vehicles in the United States if they are forced by Canada to maintain the wages. If that happens, it will negatively affect the Canadian auto industry.

Japanese automaker Mazda is one of the automakers pursuing growth in the United States and the global auto market. Recently, the automaker held their annual ceremony to celebrate the first shipment of the year. The said ceremony was held at the automaker’s cargo dock located just within the vicinity of its headquarters in Hiroshima.

About 500 people were present at the ceremony. Attendees of the ceremony included Hisakazu Imaki, Mazda’s representative director, president, and Chief Executive Officer. Other senior executives of the company were also present at the event as well as employees. All of them witnessed the loading of Mazda’s first shipment of vehicles which will be unloaded in different countries across the world. Among the vehicles to be shipped around the world is the award winning Mazda2 as well as the Mazda CX-7.

At the ceremony, Hisakazu pointed out that this year, the automaker will be aiming to go forward and attain more growth. He said that “2008 will be the second year of our mid-term Mazda Advancement Plan, and it will be extremely important year for us”.

“The automotive industry’s operating environment is tougher than ever, but we will confidently go forward this year, taking steady steps in our operations toward achieving our goals,” he continued.

Mazda’s CEO pointed out that there are three areas where the automaker will be focusing on in their quest to further their growth. “To do so, we will emphasize three major issues: improving brand value, strengthening our business efficiency, and improving quality throughout the Mazda Group,” said Imaki.

He said that to attain their goal, they will be launching new vehicles this year. “Notably, this year Mazda will launch a number of exhilarating products here in Japan and overseas, including the all-new Mazda6. Leveraging these exciting products to come, we want to see this year made outstanding by a dramatic improvement in Mazda’s brand value,” stressed Imaki.

Dearborn automaker Ford owns a certain share of Mazda and it is quite possible that the American automaker will have a hand in the development of Mazda’s new vehicles. Last year, Mazda announced their Mazda Advanced mid-term plan after Ford had formulated their turnaround plan.

Mazda’s mid-term plan states that the automaker is targeting to sell 1.6 million units of vehicles by fiscal year 2010. To attain that sales goal, the automaker has increased their production output in Japan and also in China.