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Today’s FirstUp

July 23, 2014 

Nissan Pledges to Keep it Quirky After Cutting Cube

According to Automotive News, Nissan pledges to add an “iconic” design to keep its lineup quirky after cutting two of the brand’s most polarizing nameplates, the Cube and Murano CrossCabriolet. Andy Palmer, the chief planning officer who wants to make Nissan known for styling as well as technology, says the brand needs a head-turner to underscore its innovative image. Since 2009, that role had been filled by the boxy Cube compact, which detractors dubbed the rolling refrigerator. Nissan pushed the design envelope again in 2011, when it introduced the Murano CrossCabriolet, a convertible version of its Murano crossover. Both of those slow-sellers were dropped from the company’s 2015 lineup, but Nissan wants another offering that will generate just as much buzz. “To be clear, we will morph this space in our portfolio into something iconic,” Palmer told Automotive News in an e-mail. “The space is held to make sure we have something iconic.” Nissan has dangled plenty of concepts that would fit the bill. Chief among them is the wedge-shaped BladeGlider, which debuted at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Another might draw from the IDx, a Datsun 510-inspired sporty coupe concept unveiled at the same time. Click here to read more about Nissan’s plans for future “quirky” vehicles

Daimler's Plan Helps Improve Profit at Mercedes
According to The Detroit News, Daimler AG’s plan to restore its Mercedes-Benz brand to the top of the luxury-car market gained traction in the second quarter as surging deliveries of the flagship S-Class sedan propelled a jump in profitability. Earnings before interest and taxes at Mercedes-Benz Cars, which also includes the Smart urban-vehicle marque, widened to 7.9 percent of revenue from 6.4 percent a year earlier, Daimler said today. Mercedes is attracting customers with a new S-Class version that reached showrooms a year ago and additional variants that will culminate in 2015 with the $1 million Pullman limousine featuring three rows of seats. Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche laid out a strategy for Mercedes to retake the worldwide lead in premium- vehicle sales by the end of the decade after the brand fell to third place in 2011, ranking behind German manufacturers BMW and Audi. Zetsche’s plan also includes making Mercedes the most profitable luxury-auto producer, with a margin target of 10 percent. “Our strategy is paying off,” Zetsche told journalists on a conference call. “We’re growing and, what’s more, we’re growing profitably.” For more on Daimler’s plans to improve profit at Mercedes, click here

Marchionne says Fiat Chrysler Tie-Up with VW Was Never on Agenda
According to Automotive News, Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, quashed all speculation of a possible tie-up with Volkswagen Group, saying the idea had never been on the agenda. Germany's Manager magazine reported last week that Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech had held talks with the owners of Fiat Chrysler about buying all or part of the group. John Elkann, the head of holding group Exor which controls Fiat Chrysler via a 30 percent stake, said at the same event as Marchionne that there was nothing else to add on the matter. Fiat and Exor had already denied the German report, while Volkswagen said it had no takeover plans. Marchionne said he still expected to list the merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in the United States in the first two weeks of October. He also said second-quarter results, which will be released next week, were in line with expectations, adding he did not expect to report losses for the April-June period. In the first quarter, the company reported a net loss, hit by one-off charges linked to the deal to buy out in full its U.S. unit Chrysler and by currency fluctuations. Click here for more on Marchionne’s comments debunking rumors of a Fiat-VW merger

Google Dominates Autonomous Car Influence as Auto Makers Lag Behind
Self-driving cars are not yet on dealer lots, but the space is heating up and it’s being led by tech companies while traditional automakers make efforts to catch-up. According to Forbes, a new Appinions’ Influence study released today, found Google to be far and away the leader of the “10 Most Influential Companies” in the autonomous cars sector, a market that saw rapid fluctuations in conversation over the two-month study period steered largely by product announcements and demos. Intel claimed the number two spot in the “10 Most Influential Autonomous Cars Companies” ranking in the influence study, followed by carmakers GM, Mercedes Benz, Audi , and Nissan. To create this report, Appinions identified and analyzed over 200 million opinions from a pool of over 2 billion documents, plus social media posts. The opinions and the reactions generated were then ranked using a proprietary scoring algorithm, which considers the people or entities reacted to these opinions, the credibility of the outlet where the reaction was published, and the overall volume of reactions to each opinion. Click here to read more about the leaders in autonomous vehicles

Volvo XC90 to Feature Two World-First Safety Features
For the launch of its upcoming 2016 XC90 crossover, Volvo is debuting two new driver assistance systems: run-off road protection and auto brake at intersections, reports MSN Autos. “These two world-firsts are further examples of how new technologies target substantial real-life traffic problems,” Lotta Jakobsson, senior technical specialist for safety at Volvo Cars Safety Center, said in a statement. According to Volvo, half of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. are due to road departure accidents, in which a vehicle veers off the road because of driver distraction, fatigue or foul weather. To help decrease the occurrence of run-off accidents as well as the severity of injuries to vehicle passengers, Volvo developed what it calls Safe Positioning capability for the new XC90 crossover. The system detects when a car leaves the road and tightens the front safety belts to keep occupants cinched in their seats while the car is in motion. To help prevent spinal injuries that are common when cars make a hard landing on off-road terrain, Volvo also added energy-absorbing material between the seat and seat frame cushions to reduce (by up to one-third) the vertical force on passengers that can result in such a scenario. Read more about Volvo’s innovative safety technology here

ADESA Launches New LiveBlock Mobile App
Registered auto dealers can now participate from virtually anywhere in live vehicle auctions at ADESA locations across the country—all from their smartphone. The company recently announced the launch of its free LiveBlock mobile app, available for iPhone users from or by texting ADESA to 89800. Like LiveBlock on, dealers can use LiveBlock mobile app to easily search for specific inventory or browse run lists for upcoming sales right from their hand-held device. Users can even access photos and condition reports or add specific vehicles to their Watch Lists. Vehicles purchased and added to a Watch List through the app are conveniently synced to a user’s account. So no matter when or where they log in, everything is consistent across all their devices. For additional information about ADESA LiveBlock mobile app, contact ADESA Customer Connection at 888-526-7326. 

Around the Web
Meet the 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Spider [Yahoo! Autos]
Who's Driving All the Convertibles? [CNBC]
A VW Beetle That Refuses to Go Kaput [WSJ]
9 Ways a Well-Designed Dealership Site Will Boost SEO [CBT News]


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