May 23, 2012

Fiat Announces Alliance with Mazda
Fiat SpA – the parent company of Chrysler Group LLC – today announced a new alliance with Mazda Motor Corp. The Detroit News reports that the two companies signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to jointly develop and manufacture two new rear-wheel-drive roadsters based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 platform: a new Miata and an as yet unnamed Alfa Romeo. The cars will be produced at Mazda’s factory in Hiroshima, beginning in 2015. “Establishing technology and product development alliances is one of Mazda’s corporate objectives, and this announcement with Fiat is an important first step in that direction,” said Mazda Chairman and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi in a statement Wednesday. “It is especially exciting to be collaborating with such a prestigious marque as Alfa Romeo.” The two companies said they are also discussing further “opportunities for collaboration in Europe.” Fiat, which took over a bankrupt Chrysler in 2009 as part of a bailout agreement brokered by the Obama administration, says it needs a third leg to its stool in order to be a real player in the global auto business. Shares in Mazda jumped Wednesday after news of the possible tie-up with Fiat was first reported. Read more about Fiat and Mazda’s alliance here.

Nissan Plans Global Head of Infiniti to Bolster Sales in China, Elsewhere
Nissan Motor Co. is preparing to appoint a global head for its Infiniti luxury brand after setting up the unit's headquarters in Hong Kong to boost China sales, reports Automotive News. Nissan has made its pick and the executive will be named "at a fitting time," CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Nissan, which introduced the luxury brand to China in 2007, plans to increase China sales by 50 percent this year, he said. Nissan is counting on China to help drive growth and challenge Volkswagen AG's Audi, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG. Ghosn plans to more than triple Infiniti sales to 500,000 units in five years to raise its share of the global luxury car market share to 10 percent. Global management, sales, and marketing staff for the brand will be based out of Hong Kong, while engineers will remain in Yokohama, Japan, said Haruko Wada, a spokesman for Infiniti in Hong Kong. The new headquarters will have a workforce of about 100 by the end of this year, mostly hired externally, she said. Click here for more on Nissan’s plans for its Infiniti brand in China and elsewhere.

Alternative-Fuel Vehicles Gaining Favor with Motorists
This year’s near-record run-up in fuel prices has clearly had an impact on the choices American motorists are making when it’s time to buy a new vehicle – in fact, three in four U.S. drivers now say they’re ready to consider an alternative-fuel vehicle, according to a new study. While many motorists still aren’t ready to trade in their roomy SUVs for high-mileage subcompacts – at least if recent sales are considered – there’s little doubt that there are significant changes under way in the American car market, with fuel economy now a much more important factor than vehicle quality or safety, according to research by Consumer Reports. MSNBC reports that one of the more significant findings of the new study was the growing willingness of shoppers to consider alternative powertrain technologies, especially E85 ethanol and hybrid technologies. Young motorists were particularly open to these new options, though the figure was still 73 percent among all the buyers surveyed by Consumer Reports. A full 90 percent of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "Auto manufacturers should offer a greater variety of cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles in the near future.” Click here for more on the growing favor of alternative fuel vehicles among today’s drivers.

The Top Cars for Graduates: Beyond the Used Camry
High school and college graduation is a time for thinking about new destinations – and how a new diploma holder will be getting to them. Parents who want to buy a car for their high-school or college graduate will find a richer array of vehicles that are safe, reliable, and reasonably priced than in years past. Unless they land in one of the few U.S. cities fully served by public transportation, graduates are going to need a car to get to a job or find one. So, what to buy or recommend? Not their first choice, which is likely to be something sporty and fast. Also to avoid: a decked-out pickup or a truck-framed SUV designed for off-roading. Even with those limitations, The Wall Street Journal reports that parents now have a more diverse array of safe, reliable vehicles to choose from than in the past. Click here to check out the vehicles recommended by The Wall Street Journal’s Joseph White. For this list of recommended models, White merged the IIHS crash-safety ratings with Consumer Reports' reliability ratings and a separate Consumer Reports list of cars for teen drivers, in addition to other factors. Read more about the best cars for graduates here.

Toyota Pushes Past GM (Again) To Become the World's No. 1 Carmaker
The seesaw battle between General Motors and Toyota for global sales leadership just tipped in Toyota’s direction again, reports Forbes. Figures from the company show Toyota sold 2.49 million vehicles in the first quarter, putting it ahead of GM with 2.28 million. Germany’s Volkswagen ranks third, with 2.16 million. Toyota had grabbed the top-selling title in 2008, but lost it to GM for 2010. Now, Toyota is picking up sales and market share in the United States, particularly through sales of the newest Camry and new Prius models, while GM is giving up some of the market share gains that boosted it into the top spot. It’s likely that the title will be changing hands frequently as Toyota, Volkswagen, and GM introduce new vehicles. Volkswagen, in particular, is on an aggressive sales push, aiming to sell 10 million vehicles world wide by 2018. Meanwhile, Toyota said Tuesday it has sold 4 million hybrid-electric vehicles around the world, since it put its first hybrid Prius on sale in Japan in 1997. Of those hybrids, 1.5 million have been sold in the United States. Click here for more on Toyota’s ascent.

Around the Web 
A More Realistic Idea of What Steve Jobs' iCar Could Have Been [Motoramic]
2013 BMW 4-Series Convertible Spy Shots [MotorAuthority]
Junkyard Finder, Denver Style [The Truth About Cars]
Audi R8 Facelift Comes Into Focus [Autoblog]

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