March 5, 2013

8 Southern States Unite to Woo R&D

According to Automotive News, eight Southern states, organized by a Michigan research group, are forming a coalition to encourage overseas automakers and suppliers to locate R&D centers in the Southeast. The effort, called the Southern Automotive Research Agenda, hopes to attract engineering talent to support automakers and suppliers doing business in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina. Texas and Florida may join the group. The South has attracted a large share of international assembly plants in recent decades. An organized effort to win more R&D work would increase the South's competitiveness for high-paying auto jobs and fend off Mexico, which has attracted a number of assembly plants. Leading the effort is the Center for Automotive Research, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. On March 12, the center will hold an organizational meeting in Washington, D.C. "We want the engineers to be here," Baron said. "These technicians and engineers are higher-end jobs." Southeast Michigan, with its pool of engineering talent, has been a magnet for R&D centers built by international automakers such as Toyota, Nissan, and Hyundai. Click here for more on an effort by southern states to attract more automotive R&D.

Q&A: Hyundai Design Chief
German national Peter Schreyer is a rare bird: a non-Korean in the top ranks of a South Korean conglomerate. After being scouted to join Kia Motors Corp. as its top designer in 2006, he was elevated in January this year to chief design officer and president for the Hyundai Motor Group, comprising the Kia and Hyundai brands. He’s one of five company presidents and the first non-Korean. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 59-year-old was formerly chief designer for Audi and Volkswagen, where he worked on Volkswagen’s modern take on the Beetle. At Kia, he’s known for helping the company shed its image of a bargain brand by overhauling its designs and introducing the “tiger-nose” grille. Kia’s sales last year were 2.72 million units, more than double 1.27 million in 2007. Mr. Schreyer is based in Frankfurt but shuttles to Seoul and the U.S. This week he’s at the Geneva Motor Show, where Kia is rolling out new versions of its C’eed hatchback. The Wall Street Journal met with Mr. Schreyer in Seoul recently to talk about his new challenge. Click here to read excerpts from the interview.

Female Buyers Continue to Prefer Internationals
Women helped drive vehicle sales last year, influencing four of every five purchases, and with their names on the registration of a record 39 percent of all new cars sold. But, reports The Detroit News, domestic automakers still face challenges when it comes to female buyers: Many women prefer international automakers over domestics. According to data from R.L. Polk & Co., no domestic brand was among the top 10 with the highest percentage of female buyers; Mini, Kia, Nissan, Honda, and Fiat topped that list. In fact, Buick was the only domestic make that topped the industry average of female buyers: 39.3 percent of Buick buyers were women; the average for the industry was 38.8 percent. "It's not surprising," said Anne Feighan, strategic planning director at advertising agency Campbell-Ewald. "When you look at the big segments in the industry, like midsize, and you think about the top reasons for the purchase, it's quality, reliability, dependability, fuel-efficiency, and long-lasting. And the imports dominate those areas." Although 39 percent of all new-vehicle buyers are women, the percentage of female drivers is much higher: For the first time last year, women outnumbered men in the number of driver's licenses in the U.S. Read more about female vehicle preferences here.

Cities with the Most Frustrated Motorists
Ever feel like tearing your hair out while stuck in traffic? Do you scream expletives that would make a dockworker blush in reaction to other drivers’ ineptitude? Are you aggravated by sky-high gas prices or costly repairs necessitated by poorly kept roads and pot-holed pavement? According to Forbes, the personal finance website nerdwallet.com recently aggregated the results of assorted statistics and surveys to compile a list of the ten worst big cities in the U.S. for drivers. Though only 28 percent of its residents drive to work, New York City tops the list of cities with the most frustrated drivers, thanks to an average 59 hours stuck in traffic per commuter, gas prices that run around 7.67 percent higher than the national average, and a tightly packed population of 27,012 people per square mile. Chicago came in second; motorists in the Windy City are subjected to fuel costs that are 30 percent higher than the U.S. average. San Francisco was deemed the third most frustrating city in which to drive, with commuters spending a traffic-delayed 61 hours behind the wheel each year. Click here to click through a slide show to find out if your city ranks among the most frustrating for drivers. Read more here.

VW Unveils 'World's Most Efficient Car'
Volkswagen unveiled what it is calling the "world's most fuel-efficient car" at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland today. Called the XL1, the car is a two-seat diesel plug-in hybrid. VW claims the car will get an estimated 261 miles per gallon with an all-electric driving range of a little over 30 miles. Click here for a photo. Fuel economy for plug-in hybrids can vary enormously depending on how far past that all-electric range they're driven. A car that is driven, say, 37 miles then plugged in for a full charge will use much less fuel per mile, overall, than a car that is driven 237 miles before recharging. According to CNN Money, the XL1 should be more efficient than other plug-in hybrids, though, because it is has a tiny 0.9-liter two-cylinder diesel engine. Diesel engines are generally much more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines. For instance, the diesel-engined Volkswagen Beetle sold in the United States is 28 percent more fuel efficient than the gasoline-engined version. The XL1 is also very small, low to the ground, and extremely aerodynamic. VW boasts that it has a coefficient of drag of just 0.189. Read more about the XL1 here.

Federated Launches Risk Management Program Designed to Help Protect Your Profits
Federated Insurance is introducing a new risk management program titled “Risk Management Culture: A Vision for Your Future.” Designed to help policyholders identify and prevent the risk exposures that negatively impact their bottom lines, the program was inspired by feedback received from business owners across the country. These individuals explained that having a risk management culture helps them avoid the hidden costs of losses, including expenses associated with hiring and training new employees, lost productivity, damaged company reputation, and decreased employee morale. Unlike property damage, medical costs, and legal fees, these hidden costs are not covered by insurance. Additionally, losses can impact your workers compensation experience mod which can lead to higher insurance costs. Based on this input, Federated crafted “Risk Management Culture: A Vision for Your Future” to help its policyholders realize the tangible and intangible benefits of implementing sound business practices. Support for this program comes in the form a compelling video and brochure which highlight real-life experiences, both good and bad, from business owners across the country.

Around the Web 
CEO Says Bad Tesla Review Cost Company $100M [U.S. News and World Report]
Alfa Romeo 4C Landing Soon on American Soil [Motoramic]
Kia Reveals Provo Concept [TopGear]
Ferrari LaFerrari is Beautifully Redundant [Autoblog]

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