Welcome back everyone as we kick off a new year of Auto News. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday week! Things were slow on the auto front last week with many auto HQ’s shut down, but now with the CES and the Detroit show on the horizon there is lots of news, so let’s get to it!
Ford is canceling plans for a new $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and investing $700 million to expand the Flat Rock, Michigan plant. Ford said it will build its next-generation Focus at an existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, to improve company profitability. The Flat Rock plant will build high-tech autonomous and electric vehicles along with the Mustang and Lincoln Continental. The expansion will create 700 direct new jobs. “Our investments and expanding lineup reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. Further, he said the move to build the next generation Focus in Mexico will “make way for two new iconic products at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, where Focus is manufactured today – safeguarding approximately 3,500 U.S. jobs.”
The company also confirmed it will, in the next five years, produce an F-150 hybrid, a Mustang hybrid and a Transit Custom plug-in hybrid.
(To my readers: Obviously there are political implications to the Ford announcement. Those various machinations are widely available elsewhere. It is and will continue to be my desire to keep politics, as much as possible, out of this column.)
The Blue Oval also pointed out that the F-150 has now been the nation’s best-selling truck for 40 consecutive years and the best-selling vehicle for 35 years.
Fiat Chrysler has unveiled the Chrysler Portal at the Consumer Electronics Show – an all-electric, self-driving concept vehicle that previews equipment that will appear in future products. It is aimed squarely at millennials. FCA estimated the Portal will have a range of 250 miles on a full charge. With a fast charge, FCA said owners can roam for 150 miles after less than 20 minutes of plug-in time. The interior offers occupants a “third space” – an open and serene atmosphere that provides an alternative environment between work and home, the company said. It is powered by a single electric motor driving the front wheels, aided by a lithium-ion battery pack rated at around 100 kwh.
It was a record year for Infiniti. The company sold more than 230,000 vehicles, or 7 percent more globally than the previous year. Sales rose 4 percent here in the U.S.
Ford and Toyota are forming a consortium to manage an open source software platform with the goal of giving consumers more choice in how they connect and control their smartphone apps on the road. Mazda, PSA Group*, Subaru and Suzuki are the first automaker members of the consortium. Elektrobit, Luxoft, and Xevo join as the first supplier members. Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer and QNX have signed Letters of Intent to join. Adopting the open source platform gives automakers and suppliers a uniform standard with which to integrate apps. Developers benefit because they can focus on creating the best experience for customers by integrating one linking solution for use by all participating automakers. And it will take some in car smartphone control away from Apple and Google.
The estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $35,309 in December 2016, a record high. New-car prices have increased by $521 (up 1.5 percent) from December 2015, while rising $166 (up 0.3 percent) from last month, according to Kelley Blue Book. Percentage wise, the biggest average price gain came at Nissan. The smallest was at GM.
*Peugeot, Citroen and DS Automobiles, its luxury brand.