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Today’s FirstUp

October 31, 2014 

Takata, Supplier of Defective Airbags, Ordered to Submit Records

Reviving an inquiry that it had once started but then quickly closed, the nation’s auto safety regulator ordered the airbag supplier Takata to turn over documents and answer under oath questions related to defective airbag inflaters. According to The New York Times, the order, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), demanded that Takata turn over records regarding the production, testing, and subsequent concerns raised internally and by automakers over the airbags, as well as communications between the company and automakers about defect concerns. Details of litigation against Takata dating to January 2000 were also requested, as were facts related to Takata’s supply chain management and quality control. “We are compelling Takata to produce documents and answer questions under oath relevant to our ongoing investigation into defective airbags they have produced,” David J. Friedman, NHTSA’s deputy administrator, said in a statement. More than 14 million cars have been recalled globally because of the faulty Takata airbags, including 11 million in the United States. At least three deaths and more than 30 injuries have been attributed to the defect, which can cause airbags to rupture, sending metal shards at people in the car. For the latest on NHTSA’s inquiry into Takata’s airbag recall, click here

Lithia Will Continue Rapid Acquisition Pace After DCH
Lithia Motors Inc. will continue its rapid pace of acquisitions over the next year despite just closing a huge deal to buy DCH Auto Group Inc., executives said yesterday. According to Automotive News, their remarks came as Lithia reported its third-quarter net income increased 11 percent to $34.5 million. Revenue rose 21 percent to $1.30 billion, on double-digit revenue increases in all areas of operations. “We’re still on the acquisition hunt, and there still seems like there’s a lot of activity out there,” Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer told Automotive News. “Prices have been up there, that’s why we’re pretty particular on what we buy. But we’re still able to find acquisitions that meet our hurdle rates.” In comments last week, Asbury Automotive Group Inc. said it would quicken its acquisition pace, but Group 1 Automotive Inc. said it was pulling back in the near term, citing high prices. On Wednesday, Chairman Roger Penske said Penske Automotive Group Inc. would focus its acquisition efforts during the next 12 months on international expansion and snapping up businesses such as heavy-duty retail truck dealerships. For more on Lithia’s dealership acquisition plans, click here

Driving the Undead: Millions of Zombie Cars and Trucks on U.S. Roads
Just in time for Halloween, do you wonder if your car is a zombie? No, it doesn’t want to eat your brain. According to Forbes, a “zombie” car is the cute – and seasonal – moniker Experian Automotive came up with for vehicles on the road that sport the names of discontinued brands. There are a whopping 14.7 million zombie cars driving around in the U.S. today, according to Experian. If discontinued brands are “zombies,” the Great Recession was something of a Zombie Apocalypse in the auto sector. A bunch of brands got the ax in the run-up to the recession and bankruptcy restructuring for General Motors and Chrysler in 2009. GM’s Pontiac brand is probably the most prominent victim. GM also killed Saturn and Hummer. Some 32.1 percent of zombie cars on the road are Pontiacs. Pontiac has three of the Top 5 “dead” models on the road – the Pontiac Grand Prix, the Pontiac Grand Am and the Pontiac G6, according to Experian. According to Experian Automotive, 19.4 percent of zombie cars and trucks are Mercurys. Saturn is the next-most numerous zombie brand, at 16.1 percent, followed by 11.7 percent for GM’s Oldsmobile, and 4.9 percent for Suzuki. Click here to read more about Experian’s list of zombie cars still on American roads

Improving Economy Pushes Interest in More Expensive Used Rides
An improving economy and falling gas prices may be pushing interest for more expensive and perhaps less fuel-efficient models, making certain large sport utility vehicles and sporty cars hard for dealers to find, reports Auto Remarketing. According to’s latest installment of vehicle scarcity data provided to Auto Remarketing, popularity of these types of models in the used market “mirrors what is happening in the new market.” And this popularity is cutting into used supply for models such as the certified pre-owned Toyota Land Cruiser, which moved up by seven spots on the national CPO scarcity report in September. The model jumped from No. 8 to No. 1 nationally from August to this past September, taking the spot of hardest-to-find CPO vehicle in the country. The CPO Lexus LX, which shares its underpinnings with the Toyota Land Cruiser, moved up to No. 5 from No. 9 nationally in terms of scarcity, according to AutoTrader. The analysis also pointed out that large SUVs, both used and new, have been gaining popularity, too, as the economy ramps up and gives households a bit more extra cash for these more expensive vehicles. Read more about how expensive used vehicles are gaining popularity by clicking here

Mercedes, VW to Put Brakes on Google's In-Car Data Inroads
Volkswagen Group and Mercedes-Benz called on fellow automakers to establish separate platforms for data on vehicle use to avoid handing over sensitive customer information to Google, reportsAutomotive News. "We seek connection to Google's data systems but we still want to be the masters of our own cars," VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said Thursday at an industry conference here. "Potential conflict arises around making data available." With consumers increasingly expecting seamless connectivity, automakers are making more Internet services available in their vehicles as well as outfitting cars with systems that allow them to communicate with one another. Google as well as Apple see in-car systems as an opportunity to expand, offering systems such as Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto to connect with people while they're driving. "It's very good" that automakers are discussing their own systems for processing and storing car data to avoid becoming dependent on "third parties," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said, speaking alongside Winterkorn in a discussion at the event. "That'll boost our position when working with Google." Google is seeking to move beyond providing an in-car interface and mapping services to automakers. Read more here about how automakers are working to preserve customer information

Around the Web 
2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Pullman Spy Shots [MotorAuthority]
To Honk or Not to Honk? [BBC News]
On the Trail of the Aston Martin Racer Who Helped Change WWII [Autoblog]
Racing, Tech Events Draw Crowds to Hoffman Auto Stores [Automotive News]


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