It’s a battle for bragging rights, with two automakers saying they each had the world’s best-selling car model last year. Can they both be right? Ford hasn’t been shy about its ambitions to steal the World’s Best-Selling Car title away from Toyota, whose Corolla usually holds the crown. After the sales totals came in for the first half of 2012, Ford boasted that its Focus was the top seller, with 489,616 units worldwide over the six-month span. “The nearest competitor, Toyota Corolla, sold 462,187,” a Ford press release stated. And since the sales tallies for all of 2012 came in recently, Ford has been trumpeting the fact that the Focus is “officially the world’s best-selling vehicle.” But is that, in fact, a fact? Using R.L. Polk & Co. data, Ford stated that a total of 1,020,410 Focuses were sold worldwide in 2012. The Toyota Corolla seemingly came in a distant second place, with 872,774 cars sold. (MORE: The Trouble Lurking on Walmart’s Empty Shelves) But the actual wording Ford used in its announcement was that the Focus was the “best-selling vehicle nameplate in the world” (our emphasis) last year. That’s not the same as being the clear-cut best-selling vehicle. As Reuters reported, Toyota insists that the Corolla is still the overall sales champ. Once all versions and alternate names of the Corolla are included, there were really 1.2 million “Corolla” models sold in 2012. “Toyota still sees the Corolla as the world’s most popular car,” Toyota spokesperson Ryo Saka stated. This is hardly the first time that competing automakers have looked at the same data and drawn very different (and very obviously biased) conclusions. According to Automotive News, several automakers are currently simultaneously playing with the numbers in order claim that their trucks have the best fuel economy and/or the most towing capacity. The results — and the claims — all depend on how they slice the data. Regardless of whether the Focus truly earns the World’s Best-Selling Car title, Ford comes away from 2012 with legitimate bragging rights. Focus
Lexus has long had a fascination with self-driving cars—their participation in the near-future movie Minority Report was well-publicized—but their focus at CES isn’t on self-driving cars as an end in and of themselves. Rather, the company set its sights on how pulling more smarts and sensors into a car can help reduce on-road fatalities.
This afternoon, Lexus showed off its Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle, a heavily modified and be-sensored LS 600hL, and discussed the “layered introduction” of autonomous driving technologies. The company was quick to emphasize that “autonomous” doesn’t necessarily mean “driverless,” however. Even with states like California passing legislation to legalize and regulate self-driving cars, there are huge acceptance and trust issues with letting them roam around the roadways without a person at the helm.
Rather than tackle that immediately, Lexus (and its parent company Toyota) intend to gradually move in that direction by adding technology to enhance and augment a driver’s abilities. The Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle is a huge part of that.
(LOS ANGELES) — Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it has reached a settlement worth more than $1 billion in a case involving hundreds of lawsuits over acceleration problems in its vehicles. The company said in a statement that the deal will resolve cases involving motorists who said the value of their vehicles was adversely affected by previous recalls stemming from sudden acceleration problems. Lawyer Steve Berman, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said the settlement is the largest settlement in U.S. history involving automobile defects. “We kept fighting and fighting and we secured what we think was a good settlement given the risks of this litigation,” Berman told The Associated Press. (PHOTOS: The Rise of Toyota) The proposed deal was filed Wednesday and must receive the approval of a federal judge. As part of the settlement, Toyota said it will offer cash payments to eligible customers who sold or turned in their leased vehicles between September 2009 and December 2010. The Japanese automaker also will launch a program to provide supplemental warranty coverage for certain vehicle components, and it will retrofit additional non-hybrid vehicle models that are subject to a floor mat recall with a free brake override system. The settlement would also establish additional driver education programs and fund new research into advanced safety technologies. “In keeping with our core principles, we have structured this agreement in ways that work to put our customers first and demonstrate that they can count on Toyota to stand behind our vehicles,” said Christopher Reynolds, Toyota vice president and general counsel. Toyota has recalled more than 14 million vehicles worldwide due to acceleration problems in several models and brake defects with the Prius hybrid. Toyota has blamed driver error, faulty floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals for the unintended acceleration. MORE: Toyota Prius: Niche Car No More
Automakers are realizing that millennials are not like older consumers—and that the trusty old car models and classic sales pitches just won’t cut it. Aren’t today’s younger drivers just like their older counterparts, but without the gray hair and memories of life before TiVo? Well, no. The differences run much deeper. For one thing, millennials tend to be more uncomfortable with haggling than their parents or their older siblings in Gen X. Few consumers actually enjoy dickering over prices, but millennials, who came of age with the rise of price-comparison sites and simple, straightforward “point and click” purchasing via the Web, are especially likely to be turned off by high-pressure negotiations. This is doubly the case because they’re not particularly keen on car ownership in the first place, often feeling more comfortable with using public transportation, car sharing, or perhaps just borrowing their parents’ wheels. Drawing on new car-buying data from IBM—which is backed up by previous research—the Detroit Free Press reports that members of Gen Y are also more likely than older consumers to have little or no loyalty to a specific automaker brand: There is evidence that millennials (consumers between ages 18 and 34) are brand fickle. They also placed more emphasis on word of mouth from parents and siblings than older Americans. (MORE: Top New Cars of 2013) Likewise, an AdAge story about how food companies try to market to millennials describes today’s young consumers as “mercurial and disloyal.” What, then, appeals to them? A Frito-Lay executive points out that products that are “out of the ordinary” have a better chance of becoming hits with millennials, compared to the usual stale old offerings. “Out of the ordinary” seems to be appealing to young people in terms of automobiles as well. A CNN Money gallery displays several new small cars that feature colors that are nearly as wild, bright, and filled with personality as the spectrum of iPhone covers in a college classroom. Why is it that young drivers are especially drawn to tiny vehicles such as the
In generations past, there were Ford families, and there were Chevy families. Switching allegiances was akin to converting to a new religion, or voting for the Democrats after being raised in a stalwart GOP household. The truth is that sticking with any auto brand simply because of tradition never really made sense. As market forces, industry standards, and automaker innovations destroy age-old assumptions about car brands, blind loyalty seems sillier than ever. According to data from Experian, a large chunk of car buyers can still be described as brand loyal: In the second quarter of 2012, 47.3% of new Toyota purchases were made by consumers who previously owned another Toyota vehicle (Scion, Lexus, or the flagship brand). That percentage leads all automakers. But neither Toyota nor any other car manufacturer should expect customers to cling to any specific auto brand, and here’s why: We’re buying cars less frequently. The average car on the road is old—over 11 years old, compared to 8.4 years in the mid-1990s. Cars are being kept in action longer for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they’re built to last (getting 200,000 miles out of a vehicle is fairly commonplace), and that the troubled economy has made many consumers reluctant to upgrade to a new car when their old one still runs OK, or is fixable. (MORE: 12 Things You Should Always Haggle Over) Even as new-car purchases increase in 2012, data from the auto research firm Polk indicates that the trend for Americans to hang onto cars longer is here to stay. Not long ago, drivers were accustomed to hopping behind the wheel of a new car every four or five years. Today, the average driver is expected to purchase 9.4 new vehicles over the course of a lifetime, down from 13 in the heyday before the Great Recession. If a driver wants a new car three or four years after purchasing one, it’s likely he’ll stick with the same vehicle, provided he’s been happy with its performance and reliability. On the other
TOKYO — Scores of Japanese-owned factories and stores in China were shuttered Tuesday as anti-Japan demonstrations erupted in dozens of cities. At stake are billions of dollars in investments and far more in sales and trade between Japan and China, the world’s third- and second-largest economies. The two are so closely entwined that both would [...]
The headline for a recent Detroit News story has it that the “20,000 sales target [is] unlikely” for the Nissan Leaf. But “unlikely” is probably understating things. It appears as if Nissan won’t get halfway to its 20,000-Leaf target for 2012, nor will it top last year’s mark of 9,679 units sold—which was itself a [...]
RAYONG, Thailand — Ford Motor Co. says its Focus small car is on track to become the best-selling car in the world this year, trumping the Toyota Corolla. Ford sold 489,616 Focus sedans and hatchbacks worldwide in the first half of 2012. That was almost 27,000 more than the perennial best-seller, the Toyota Corolla. Ford [...]