April 3, 2012

Toyota Sets Prius Sales Record on Bigger Lineup, Gas Prices
According to Bloomberg, Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. sales of Prius hybrids reached a record in March and in the first quarter, propelled by higher gasoline prices and two new models. Toyota, the largest seller of gasoline-electric autos, sold more than 25,000 units in March of the Prius “family” now comprised of a plug-in Prius and c subcompact, along with the original hatchback and v wagon. The previous monthly best for Prius was May 2007, when it delivered 24,009 units. The fast start for the world’s top-selling alternative powertrain car keeps Toyota on track to meet a goal of 220,000 Prius sales in the U.S. this year, up from 136,463 in 2011. The vehicle accounts for half of U.S. hybrid sales, and a shortage of the car last year due to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami cut industry-wide deliveries to about 273,000 units from about 275,000 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Toyota and other automakers report complete sales results for March later today. Toyota may report a 15 percent increase in sales from a year ago, the average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. For more on Toyota’s Prius sales record, click here.

Auto Exports from U.S. on the Upswing
As the auto industry regains its footing here, automakers both international and domestic are exporting more cars from this country than they were five years ago and plan to dramatically expand exports in the next five years. Excess plant capacity, currency exchange rates that effectively lowered U.S. labor costs, quality, and free-trade pacts have combined to make the U.S. a more attractive place to assemble cars for sale elsewhere. With a slow car market here in the past couple of years, capacity at U.S. plants was hardly being reached, reports USA Today. "One way to fill that capacity is to build cars for overseas," said Ed Kim, director of industry analysis at AutoPacific. "It's a smart allocation of resources." Also, Kim says, "there are currency issues at play here." With the yen strong compared with the dollar, it makes sense for Japanese automakers such as Nissan, Honda, and Toyota to ramp up production in the U.S. "We are a low-cost manufacturing zone at the moment," Kim says. "That makes building here attractive." Nissan exports its U.S.-built models to 46 foreign countries and U.S. territories, while Toyota exported 85,000 vehicles last year from its various U.S. plants. Read more about U.S. auto exports here.

TrueCar Launches National Dealer Council
TrueCar Inc., the online vehicle shopping site and lead generator, has formed a national dealer council to improve communication with auto dealers, reports Automotive News. In a statement, TrueCar said it will preview major changes to its service and policies with the 21-member council, and council members will give feedback. The site has been working to mend frayed relations with auto dealers after regulators in several states began cracking down on the company over alleged advertising and brokering violations late last year. The formation of the council follows the March hiring of Pat Watson, former CEO of the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, to be TrueCar's vice president of industry relations. TrueCar also hired Ken Potter to build its network of participating dealers as vice president of dealer development. Potter had been a vice president at Internet Brands, overseeing CarsDirect.com, an online auto shopping site. TrueCar says it has corrected its business model to ensure compliance with state laws governing advertising, brokering, and other provisions that spurred the regulatory controversy. Click here to read more about TrueCar’s new national dealer council.

Hail to the New NYC Taxi; Nissan Cab Unveiled
The iconic New York City taxi cab is getting a new look. And some new functionality. According to MSNBC, new cabs hitting the streets of New York City next year will have charging ports for riders' electronics. They'll also have more leg room, a large skylight roof to gaze at the city skyscrapers, and even odor-reducing and anti-microbial fabric to help deal with, well, you know, anything you might smell in the backseat of a cab. A prototype of the Nissan NV200 will be unveiled today. Click here for a picture. The model was selected from among three finalists in a city competition. With a boxy shape and painted a brighter yellow than the city's current taxis, the cab offers a different experience for riders – starting with a flat, hump-less floor that makes shifting from one side to the other a simple task. City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky said busy New Yorkers looking to get from point A to point B would find plenty to appreciate about the rides that get them there. "New Yorkers are pragmatic but they also appreciate quality. This is a higher-quality taxi ride than what they're getting today," he said Monday. Click here to read the latest on NYC’s newest taxi cab.

Designers’ Big Dreams Roll into Manhattan
Dreams have always been the currency of auto shows, where the admission price buys unlimited fantasies of awe-inspiring cars that never get dirty, break down, or gulp premium unleaded at $4.50 a gallon. But before the latest models and futuristic design studies could take form in sheet metal, somebody had to dream them up. In far-flung studios, designers seek inspirations – perhaps from nature or technology, sometimes from brand traditions or the fine arts – for the shapes that move the world. When the New York International Auto Show opens to the public on Friday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the crowds will see the fruits of designers’ imaginations. There will be commercially important 2013 models. Further out, in style and in their timelines, will be sexy concept cars like the Acura NSX and styling test beds like the Chevrolet Tru 140S. How did the cars at the New York show take shape? Seeking the inspirations behind the visions, The New York Times talked with some of the designers about the choices they made along the path from initial sketches to final execution. Click here to read more from five designers whose cars will be making their New York debuts.

Protect Your Legacy! Free Estate Planning Webinar for Auto Dealers
Are you part of the majority that has not created (or updated) their estate plan? It’s no surprise many dealers are having a hard time figuring out what they need to do – during the past ten years, the estate tax exemption amount and the top tax rate have changed six times. However, up-to-date estate planning documents are essential to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Join AIADA and our Affinity Partner, Federated Insurance, on Thursday, April 12 at 11 a.m. EDT for a free webinar. The webinar will be hosted by Nichole Crawford, Manager & Counsel of Advanced Life Sales for Federated Insurance. Prior to joining Federated, Nichole spent time on both the financial and legal consulting sides of estate planning. She received her law degree from Arizona State University College of Law and an LL.M in Taxation from the University of Denver. She will address the timeless questions you need to consider when planning your estate, and offer insight to help simplify the planning process. Whether you are creating a new plan or updating an existing one, register today!

Around the Web  
Mercedes-Benz Made Entirely Out of Wood [Jalopnik]
Automotive April Fools' Joke Roundup [Autoblog]
Bugatti will Show $1.9 Million Veyron in NY [Driver's Seat]
Auto Brands Hunt Millennials [Forbes]

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