Monday, 30 September 2013

NOVO ACORDO DE CONCÓRDIA PODE DEFINIR ELEIÇÃO DA FIA

Foto: www.grandprix.com
O quartel-general da FIA, 8, Place de La Concorde, Paris

Anunciada nesta sexta-feira em Dubrovnik a renovação do famoso Acordo de Concórdia, que vai influir na próxima eleição da FIA. No Chile, governo libera a importação de carros de corrida usados

Acordo de Concórdia é renovado
“Podemos nos orgulhar deste acordo, que estabelece um cenário mais eficiente para a administração do Campeonato Mundial de F-1 da FIA”. Estas foram as palavras de Jean Todt, atual presidente da Federação Internacional do Automóvel, ao anunciar nesta sexta-feira (27/9), em Dubrovnik, Croácia, a renovação do famoso Acordo de Concórdia para o período 2013–2020. Criado em 1981 diante do impasse entre a categoria e a Federação Internacional do Automobilismo Esportivo (FISA), braço desportivo da FIA e então reguladora do esporte em nível mundial, o acordo estabelece, entre outros pormenores, o valor que a FOM (sigla em inglês para Administração da Fórmula Um) paga à FIA pelos direitos comerciais de explorar o mundial da categoria. Este documento é considerado o principal item na batalha eleitoral pelo controle desta entidade e que ocorrerá em dezembro.
CONTINUE LENDO >>>

Sunday, 29 September 2013

NOVO FOCUS VEM COM FORÇA


Preparando-nos para sair do estacionamento do hotel em Mendoza. Ao volante, o Fernando Calmon nessa primeira etapa; na seguinte, eu

O novo Focus foi apresentado à imprensa brasileira e sul-americana nesta sexta-feira, em Mendoza, na Argentina e o AE estava lá, a convite da Ford. Gostou do que viu e sentiu. O Ford fabricado na Argentina, em General Pacheco, na Grande Buenos Aires, a 37 quilômetros a noroeste da capital, passou por grande mudança em sua terceira geração e chega com força para disputar o mercado dos médios. O estilo atualizou-se, em especial o hatchback, cujos grupos óticos traseiros "desceram" das colunas e estão num local que ser harmoniza mais com o resto do carro.

A maior novidade, sem nenhuma dúvida, é a injeção direta de combustível do motor 2-L Duratec Direct Flex, que trouxe grande aumento de potência, 175 cv/178 cv, a 6.500 rpm, gasolina/álcool, ante 143 cv e 148 cv, a 6.250 rpm com injeção no duto. É o primeiro motor flex de injeção direta do mundo, que começou pela versão de mercado americano, onde o álcool contém 15% de gasolina (E85), para depois chegar ao Brasil, com o nosso exclusivo álcool puro (E100). É o único motor do sedã e pode vir opcionalmente no hatchback.

Potência de 178 cv e nada de capas para esconder o motor

CONTINUE LENDO >>>

NOVO FORD FOCUS

Caros leitores: aguardem o post sobre o novo Ford Focus, hoje excepcionalmente às 13 horas em vez do nosso horário habitual de novos posts, 12 horas.

Bob Sharp

Saturday, 28 September 2013

FIAT 500L, SUBSTITUTO DO IDEA?

Fotos: autor e divulgação
Versão Trekking: Adventure brasileiro faz escola

Com motor MultiAir Turbo 1,4, o Fiat 500L apenas lembra visualmente o pequeno Cinquecento. Muito mais espaçoso, seu interior é de minivan. Um clássico caso de "parece, mas não é”. Para os leitores com maior quilometragem, ele recorda exatamente o slogan do Denorex, xampu anti-caspa dos anos 1980, que parecia remédio, mas era xampu. O 500L parece o Fiat 500, mas não é. Bem mais longo, com 4.250 mmde comprimento, sua plataforma básica vem do Punto e tem apenas alguns acessórios e recursos visuais para lembrar o pequeno 500. Parece um carro, um hatch, mas não é. Sua arquitetura, principalmente interna, é de monovolume, apesar do capô pronunciado. Tanto que Betim estuda sua produção por aqui para substituir o Idea, outro monovolume. Nada existe de oficial, mas o Idea não embalou mais em vendas mesmo se tornando o “carro do Papa” aqui no Brasil.

Apesar do visual, o 500L nada tem a ver com o Cinquecento

CONTINUE LENDO >>>

Friday, 27 September 2013

Maryann Keller Speech to the NADA/JD Power Conference, NYC, MArch 2013

For the over four decades I’ve been involved with the auto industry, first as an investment analyst and now as a consultant and director serving on the boards of both automotive companies and auto dealers. Over those four decades, I’ve heard many arguments made against the franchise dealer system…which dealers never fail to disprove time and time again.

One myth promulgated in the 1990s - and now resurfaced by Tesla - is that factory stores save money by reducing distribution expenses wrongly estimated at 30% of total expense. Let’s put aside for the moment that the percentage itself is nonsense, Ford’s ill-fated Auto Collection experiment proved conclusively (as told to me by a former Ford executive last week) that corporate guys are not risk takers and lack the entrepreneurial spirit to manage dealerships. Big corporations control from the top but selling cars requires street smarts and adapting to local market and competition. Ford ended its experiment after a couple of years of market share losses amid mounting evidence that factory stores do not deliver a better customer experience nor reduce costs, in fact they proved to be bad at both. GM, perhaps after watching Ford’s travails, and despite repeating the same nonsense about reduced costs through factory ownership, canceled its plans to buy 10% of its dealers, plus the Saturn stores, and operate them in through what it called GM Retail Holdings. Ford’s failed experiment demonstrated that, franchise laws notwithstanding, dealers are essential partners in the long process of a car’s journey from the factory to a customer’s garage. Franchise laws protect dealers from arbitrary actions by automakers and given the financial commitments they continue to make in response to factory demands in image programs, equipment, training and even vendor selection, the laws are entirely reasonable. Given the intense competition in auto retailing, it’s hard to understand how anyone could suggest that franchise laws hurt consumers.

Franchise dealers’ cumulative investment in land, equipment and facilities easily exceeds $100 billion. Dealers fund 60 days of inventory and another month of inventory in transit that would otherwise fall to the car maker. The inventory buffer allows automakers to adjust future production levels. For a company like Ford US inventory funding equals about $15 billion at any point in time.

Tesla may be the first start up to launch a car and change the retail process as well but it is definitely not the only company that saw dealerships as a costly impediment to customer bliss. A few years ago I was involved with one such company funded by venture capitalists, and led by a non-automotive executive, that invested in a small car promising to build to order sold though mall-based stores. The car never made it to production and the company folded after consuming the investors’ capital. . Despite evidence to the contrary and lacking any real world understanding to the business, a journalist writing on Yahoo Autos last year stated “Instead of building cars and selling them to dealers who hawk them to shoppers, Tesla wants to build only cars to customers orders, eliminating part of the auto industry’s massive overhead costs in inventory. By selling cars directly Tesla’s executives believe they can make their customer happy, and eventually sell more cars for less money.” Well we will see if it is fact is more economical for the factory to pay the rent, salaries, delivery and service or have someone else do it using his or her own capital. And build to order works only as long as there is an order bank…what happens when the orders dry up…do you send the assembly workers home, tell your suppliers to send to stop producing until you call?…..unfortunately auto assembly really doesn’t lend itself to build to order. It is capital and labor intensive even when work is farmed out to suppliers.

Every dealer knows that the vast majority of customers want their car that day not a date convenient to a manufacturer. The dealer has always been the buffer with the automaker facilitating inventory management through various incentives and production adjustments. It is the dealer who finds the market-clearing price for a vehicle even at the sacrifice of his or her profits. Others have tried experiments in selling away from the traditional retail dealer location on the notion that a big box retailer or mall would mitigate advertising expenses by placing cars where the customers are.

Early in the 2000s, Asbury struck a deal with Walmart to sell used cars in the parking lots of Walmart stores. Asbury would take the cars to where the retail customers were at America’s busiest retailer. A few dealers have experimented (as Tesla is now doing) renting inline space in large shopping malls as storefronts to sell cars. So far, the history of non-dealership settings to sell cars – with perhaps the exception of the infrequent offsite tent sale – hasn’t worked. The Asbury/Walmart experiment ended in less than two years when both parties discovered there were too few car buyers among the static population of regular customers who shopped for food and other necessities at their local Walmart each week.

I suspect that once the novelty associated with Tesla wears off, it too will also discover that mall locations aren’t ideal places to market or sell cars. The enclosed shopping mall typically has several large anchor stores – Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, etc. – and perhaps eighty to one hundred or so “in line” shops like GAP, the Limited, Zale’s, Sunglass Hut, Apple, etc. A large successful mall might have more than a million or more visitors a year – and that’s about 3,000 folks per day. Those big numbers can dazzle but they aren't what they seem. Much of this traffic represents repeat visitors, as it did at Walmart, coming each week or so to see the changing merchandise at her favorite stores – new fashion and seasonal clothing, makeup, shoes or the latest Apple gadget. Everything can be purchased on a credit card. I used the pronoun “her” deliberately because the vast majority of mall stores are dedicated to women and children not the men who would be the targets for an expensive, high tech performance car.

Furthermore, new car models are only really new only every four to six years. The merchandise doesn’t change very often – so on the second or third visit to the mall, the car store looks exactly as it did last month or even the month before. What was fresh once is now stale with the passage of time…so visitors to the mall just skip past that new car display.

What the uninformed forget – or figure out after an attempt or three – is that automotive retailing is very different from traditional retailing. The product car dealers sell is expensive, generally requires financing, and often involves a trade. It often includes helping shoppers match their budget to a car that might not be their first choice but rather one they can afford. The process is slowed by required disclosures and regulations resulting in a pile of documents that have to be signed even for the most straightforward transaction.

A car weighs 4,000 pounds and takes up 50 square feet of space. It can’t be delivered overnight to one’s front door by Fedex. And most folks don’t have a big enough credit limit on their Visa card to pay for it. And what do they do with their trade? Or get it serviced?

While we are talking about myths, how about the still repeated one that people hate dealers so, if given the chance, they will buy a car online. I almost don't know where to start in taking this one apart…..In the early days of the Internet, Silicon Valley funded and lost hundreds of millions, maybe even a billion dollars, on ill-fated ventures that promised to do just that. CarOrder.com, Greenlight.com, and CarsDirect.com (in its original configuration), among others, all promised to avoid the dealership experience. A few actually did that by buying cars from dealers and then reselling them at lower prices to customers until they blew through their capital. Build to Order.com proposed that you would place your order for a fully customized car while lounging in a company-owned showroom entertainment center. Again here the premise was to build these cars using an automaker’s parts and technology but avoiding high labor costs and dealerships and give the customer the exact car they wanted. Build-to-order.com never built anything for anyone. In 1999 and 2000, I ran priceline.com’s experiment with selling cars online, which like most others of the era no longer exists. The essential elements of the priceline model were replicated by TrueCar.com and of course they too ran afoul of franchise laws for the same reasons as priceline. What I learned then – and this is still true today – we could connect buyers with dealers and that the price of a vehicle was the easiest part of a deal. The other elements are harder to control and often the cause of frustration for the customer and the dealer. People don’t like to hear that their trade isn’t worth the value they saw online or that their poor credit doesn’t qualify them for the no down payment, zero percent loan. There are few people who would think about buying a house online from a few photos taken make rooms seem larger than they are or the neighbors Beware of dog sign. Buying a car is comparable to buying a house, why should we think it should be as easy as buying a pair of shoes from Zappos with a return receipt in the box in case they don’t fit.

Although many automotive websites claim to have “sold” millions cars, even today twelve years after priceline decided to concentrate exclusively on travel, automotive websites link a buyer to a dealer who actually sells the car. The Internet has mostly replaced the newspaper as a source of information about cars and dealers but it has not reduced advertising expense per vehicle or made buying a car as easy as buying a book.

Add up all the monthly traffic to all automotive sites, including automakers, dealers and independent sites – and you’d get more than 100 million possibly close to 200 million unique visitors using the web to get information about buying or selling a new or used car. Except there’s one problem if this traffic is somehow suppose to represent potential sales…the total number of new and used cars sold by dealers at retail and excluding fleet each month is only about two million units, and that is probably generous given that not all retail customers go online..some might just release the same brand of the leased car they are returning to the dealer. So the real shoppers – however you want to define that number – are only a small fraction of the total visitors. So just like newspaper, radio, or TV advertising, dealer spend on the internet is likely no better targeted – once again dispelling the notion that the internet would solve the age-old problem of knowing which 50% of a dealer’s advertising works.

And what was once promised as to the beauty of the Internet for used cars…listings of available cars with pictures, even videos, and stated pricing would make it easy for shoppers to find the best car at the best price. But what has happened is that for any given vehicle, within a similar bandwidth of age, mileage, trim, the price range for specific models is usually within a few hundred dollars, not enough to make price the deciding purchase factor. The Internet hasn’t created a pricing advantage for any seller and customers simply have confirmation that similar cars within a market are priced the same. With the exception of hard to find cars, the differentiating factors are having the car the customer wants, proximity of the dealership and the dealer’s reputation in providing a good customer experience.

In summary, technology is a wonderful thing…and dealers have adopted it nearly full tilt. Sophisticated software to manage every aspect of the business is now de riguer…BDC’s to support internet sales…and eDocuments will eventually become the norm. But the point is that the system of franchised dealers – using their own risk capital to fund their businesses and guarantee millions of dollars of inventory, promote their own brand and that of their OEM, provide the expensive tools needed in their service departments, and manage the endless headache of a workforce – will not be superseded by technology or factory owned mall stores. Factories have learned that they cannot do a better job than independent businessmen at the retail level. And new start ups – many of whom will come and go – with new systems of selling and servicing retail automobiles will all reach the same conclusion: the dealer network is the best way. Thank you for listening today.

“Moral Motors” vs the Traditional Franchise New Car Dealer.

First, some ground rules.  This is not to imply that the “traditional” franchised new vehicle dealers aren’t “moral.”  But there is a perception among many consumers and certain consumer watch dog groups that certain “traditional” dealer practices are “unsavory,” at best.

It is a given that a new car dealer needs about a 10% gross profit on each transaction, front and rear combined, about $3000 in today’s market based on an average new vehicle sale for the Dealer to break even and provide a small measure of ROI.  Most consumers and advocacy groups don’t disagree with this, when asked in a survey.  Where these groups differ with the “Traditional Dealer” is when all buyers aren’t charged the same 10% margin.  The idea that one consumer could get away with paying a $1000. gross profit while another pays $5000. to maintain the $3000. average seems outrageous to them.  
Of course, 10% doesn’t seem like much to a consumer until they figure out that that is about $3000. on a $30,000. vehicle.  Consumers tend to have no understanding of the difference between gross profit and net profit.  Perhaps they think the factory absorbs facility overhead, taxes, utilities, staff, etc.  Many consumers also tend to think that new inventory is provided on consignment by the manufacturer.

So let’s do some arithmetic while making the assumption that all other factors are equal.  Let’s assume that two dealers have equal overhead expense, and that their sales staffs are equally adept at product knowledge and “building value.”   The “Moral Motors” dealer never asks for full gross profit and hence, never receives it on any car deal.  After all, they want everyone to pay the same margin.  In addition, the “Moral Motors” dealer passes on the “cheap deals” out of principle, when efforts to justify the price fail in the face of a better price from competitive “Traditional Dealers.”  The “Traditional Dealer” gains extra volume via the “cheap deals” he/she can accept, and gains the additional trade ins, F&I income, and warranty and repair opportunities.  He/she also gains in Units in Operation, which can be leveraged down the road into repeat business.  Plus, there is the additional gross profit that comes with at least making an effort to make full price or additional gross profit and giving everyone the opportunity to pay it.  So add in this extra gross profit to the extra profit from being able to take the “cheap deals,” and the math is easy.  The “Traditional Dealer” sells more cars and makes more money.

Advocates of the Moral Motors business model try to make the case that word of a “no hassle” buying experience will bring additional buyers to their store to make up for the loss of gross profit from the deals and gross profit they turn down.  Great experiments in the past to prove this concept have failed miserably, despite the fact that advocates can always come up with the occasional anecdote.

The comparison gets even more interesting when the two dealers want to buy another dealership.  The additional “cheap deals” of the “Traditional Dealer” translates into additional market share.  Auto manufacturers look at 3 primary factors when considering the approval of a buy/sell agreement.  First, does the purchasing dealer have a record of consistent profitability and the money available to properly fund and operate the additional dealership?  Second, does the purchasing dealer maintain a satisfactory CSI score?  And third, how does the purchasing dealer penetrate his/her current market?  Any dealer who has ever tried to get factory approval for a buy/sell knows how important market share is to an auto manufacturer.  Despite this fact of life in the auto industry, we weren’t able to get any specific comment from any of the OEMs we contacted, other than in very general terms.

Consumer advocacy groups would like us to think that the “Moral Motors” dealer carries higher CSI. but they are unable to cite more than anecdotes.  There are MANY “Traditional Dealers” who maintain more than satisfactory CSI scores.  Without satisfactory market share, the “Moral Motors” dealers will be found wanting, all other things being equal, and will not likely be approved for expansion even if the other two critical items are without issue.

“Moral Motors” can make money if his or her overhead is controllable, especially if his/her dealership is in a market with other less aggressive dealers.  But it also means the dealer has to take a strong stand with his OEM regarding “factory image programs,” where the dealer is expected to increase overhead to bring the dealership facilities in line with OEM standards.  This is not a good way to gain favor with an OEM one might be asking for factory approval to add another dealership.

Our industry is either blessed or cursed, depending on your outlook, with a variety of companies who are quite willing to collect dealer money to help the industry sell more cars and keep customers happy.  They tend to cite surveys done by others, or conduct their own in justifying their approach.  Some of these vendors have actual front line dealership experience and are much more than theorists.  Others? Not so much.  Vendors who would tell dealers to charge everyone the same have probably never worked in or owned a car dealership.  We now have “experts” telling us that our industry should provide a buyer experience like Disney, Apple, or Amazon.  When they have to start negotiating price, taking trade ins with negative equity, and dealing with complicated financing issues, they might have credibility.  Until then, now so much.

Frankly, many of us thought the issue was settled when the factory owned “Ford Collection” vanished from the face of the earth, but this really bad idea of “everyone pays the same” lingers on.  We had this great debate 20 years ago when Saturn was launched, and many opportunists cited the so called “success of Saturn” to “prove” the theory was sound.  Saturn lost money from the start, and never made money, which explains why it is currently extinct.  Saturns were sold for a loss from the start.  Not by the dealer, but the factory lost at least $1500. a car from 1991.  Most wouldn’t call that “success” even if their customers were happy.

I experienced a similar situation in Japan with Toyota about 12 years ago.  A client there asked me how I thought it would work out.  My answer was, “As long as demand and supply are properly balanced, and dealers stay disciplined, it will work great.”  I also mentioned the chances of that happening are “slim and none.”  In Japan, franchises are awarded by region, similar to the old Saturn model.   If the idea of charging everyone the same was ever going to work, it was going to work in Japan.  Imagine a single dealer owning every sales outlet in a particular region or state for a brand.  Toyota even created a new sales channel for the great experiment, combining Auto and Vista into a new one called Netz.  In Japan, Toyota calls their various divisions “channels” and they have 5.  Toyota cut back the markup on Netz vehicles to the point that there was nothing left to give away.  As a consequence, the degree of discounting was minimal from the start.  But sure enough, once demand waned compared to the factory’s need to build cars, along came the “trunk money.”  And dealers took advantage of it to discount, even though the same dealer owned all competitive dealerships.

If this isn’t a commentary on the human nature that drives a new car buyer, I don’t know what is.  Consumers tell surveyors they hate negotiation.  But the first thing they try to do when buying a car is negotiate.  It would seem that what consumers say and what they mean are two different things.

CIZETA V16T

Lembra o Diablo, e com motivo

Em 1987 a Lamborghini foi comprada pela Chrysler, que via no fabricante italiano um negócio atraente para expandir sua capacidade de fazer carros exclusivos e vendê-los com muito lucro. Até mesmo um motor Lamborghini na Fórmula 1 existiu, de 1989 a 1992, através dessa injeção de dinheiro, que visava tirar o honorável fabricante italiano dos problemas financeiros de muitos anos, algo que até mesmo Franco Gozzi (1932-2013), o veterano assessor de imprensa e braço direito de Enzo Ferrari, lamentou certa vez. Diante de um Silhouette com o qual o jornalista Mel Nichols fora visitar a fábrica do Commendatore, ele disse, balançando lentamente a cabeça: “Que tragédia que as coisas estejam tão ruins para uma empresa que faz carros como esse”.

Óbvio que entrar na casa italiana com soluções americanas não poderia dar cem por cento certo, e alguns funcionários e prestadores de serviços resolveram abandonar a área, levando com eles décadas de conhecimento.

Quase ao mesmo tempo, Claudio Zampolli, um ex-engenheiro de testes de desenvolvimento que trabalhou na Lamborghini de 1966 até 1973 nos projetos do Miura e do Countach, fundou uma empresa junto com o produtor musical e compositor Giorgio Moroder, para fabricar um carro considerado excessivo.

Um modelo não funcional ainda na Lamborghini. Seria bastante modificado.

CONTINUE LENDO >>>

DE CARRO POR AÍ













End eletrônico: edita@rnasser.com.br                      Fax: +55.61.3225.5511           Coluna 3913  25.setembro.2013
O bem que a Toyota faz à Argentina
Com orgulho o governo argentino anunciou investimentos e planos não divulgados pela Toyota no Brasil. No parceiro do Mercosul, a japonesa investirá 800M de dólares para receber a nova geração IMV de seus picapes Hilux e o utilitário esporte SW4.
Festa argentina não é pelo aporte, mas por sua missão. A Toyota de lá quer fazer 140 mil destes veículos após as obras em sua fábrica em Zárate, beirada de Buenos Aires. O volume é assemelhado à capacidade da marca em suas duas fábricas brasileiras, onde faz Corolla e Etios, mas a diferença de propósitos é enorme. Num comparativo simploriamente numérico, o Brasil neste ano fará 143 mil veículos e exportará em torno de 26.500 — menos de 20% do total. No projeto argentino a relação é diferente. Das 140 mil unidades a ser produzidas, as exportações são projetadas em 110 mil, grosso modo 70%, destinando-se a suprir toda a América Latina, a começar pelo Brasil, cliente maior.
Ao tornar sua empresa base de abastecimento continental, a Toyota dá empregos diretos e indiretos. Seu projeto na Argentina é muito mais interessante para o país, relativamente à atuação da empresa no Brasil, mercado cinco vezes maior que o do vizinho. Projeta o governo de dona Cristina Kirchner, surfando na boa notícia em difícil época eleitoral, as exportações da Toyota em 2015 representarão 1,2B de dólares.
Registro de crescimento, em 2005 a Toyota fazia circa 15.000 unidades anuais, crescendo quase 1.000% num período aproximado de 10 anos.
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Cross, o próximo Etios
Tentando correr atrás do Hyundai HB20, sua referência de mercado, lançado em data próxima, mas de quem tomou surra desanimadora por má recepção, a Toyota insiste no Etios. Não pode desistir, não tem tempo hábil para mudanças externas. Ao lançamento, enquanto o HB20 escriturava filas, seu Etios sobrava na fábrica e nos revendedores, provocando crescentes descontos para desovar os imprevistos estoques, e um relançamento disfarçado, corrigindo as críticas da imprensa e reclamações dos compradores. Além destas alterações a Toyota criou novidade para aproveitar o 13º salário, as festas de final de ano e as férias, quando a razão é usualmente embaçada pela emoção, e pretende aumentar vendas com a versão Cross.
Nada novo ou criativo, segue o receituário criado pela Fiat, inventora do sub-segmento, seguido com amplidão, mesclando a fórmula aviada pela dita coreana em sua versão S do HB20, e busca socorro no VW CrossFox, situando o carro no topo da tabela, e aplicando pintura sólida, mais barata que a metálica oferecida pelo HB20.
Fórmula conhecida, pouco criativa, uma polegada a mais em distância livre ao solo, apliques de plástico nas laterais, revestimento no para-choque frontal para sugerir ser peça resistente, arcos no teto, adesivos, spoiler, rodas aro 15 pol., em liga leve. Função prática, nenhuma e tão desconhecido quanto improvável ganho em performance para o sugerido pelo nome.
Furo pelo sítio Autoblog.ar, autor das fotos.

Etios Cross. Mira o HB20, mas na decoração...

...copia o VW CrossFox

CONTINUE LENDO >>>

Thursday, 26 September 2013

$2 billion and counting: the supplier conspiracy

The conspiracy of Japanese wiring and electronics suppliers to put the screws to Toyota and other customers has now led to the largest antitrust action in history. What we know appears stupendous in scope. To date 20 suppliers have paid fines totaling $1.6 billion in the US (an additional $347 million in fines in Europe and Japan brings the total to $1.95 billion). Some 21 executives have pleaded guilty to felony antitrust charges including jail time and financial penalties. Wired participants, secret locations, coded communication and an expanding list of auto parts and firms, spanning 10 or more years and at least 4 continents. Wild!

...once customers have been screwed for a while, it starts to feel normal

Then there's what we don't know. To date all of those charged have pleaded guilty. As a result, the Department of Justice (and their counterparts in Japan, the EU, Canada, Mexico, Korea and Australia) have not had to enter detailed charges into the public record. With no trial, no evidence need be made public – and even though every corporate law firm in Detroit is racking up billable hours beyond their wildest imagination, those involved have done a truly impressive job of keeping their mouths shut.

And with cause: private lawsuits in the US can seek treble damages, and at least 45 such have been filed (and for now consolidated in the District Court in Detroit). The fines that firms have willingly paid suggest those fines are well below the maximum – though back of the envelope calculations suggests DOJ used a rule of thumb of 8% of revenue for the early wire harness settlements. These and other firms may however have benefitted from the antitrust Amnesty Plus program, which provides for low or even no fines for those who 'fess up' early and help the prosecution. So the amounts could easily hit $5 billion. However, without evidence, such suits will go nowhere, and Federal courts have put a stay on those while criminal investigations are ongoing. Attorney General Holder has indicated that the Department of Justice is far from concluding their work; for their part, the Europeans raided six companies this month. But then there are those wiretaps of phones and tapes of meetings: it appears that the DOJ is limiting itself to central players, and going at them with such ironclad cases that they can avoid wasting resources on the morass of a jury trial.

NPR segment …Nine Suppliers Plead Guilty… [mea culpa: they interviewed me]

In some ways, the industry invites conspiracy. The design and engineering process for a new vehicle involves so many components that doing a full start-from-scratch purchase for each part in a vehicle is administratively infeasible; purchasing departments just aren't large enough. So when a Toyota comes out with the next generation Camry or a Ford the next F-150, they will naturally lean towards the incumbent supplier – they know the engineers, they will have the manufacturing capacity. With suppliers involved in the actual design process, they have to be selected before specifications are firm. Yes, the car companies pursue outside bids to try to keep the process honest, and when there is an entirely new component it's a fully competitive bid. Likewise firms with new technology can get their foot in the door – and those are exactly the firms I see as a judge of the Automotive News PACE award competition.

With so many vehicles under development – in the US alone carmakers will launch 365 new vehicles between now and 2015 – it's clear that purchasing departments have fallen down on the job of tracking costs. But these are not the highly engineered items where at present one or two firms control the technology, such as turbos or common rail diesel systems. When I look at a list of the components named in the guilty pleas, they are for the most part not items where new technology is changing the game: starter motors, alternators, seat belts, wire harnesses. While new materials are coming, in the case of harnesses leading to thinner gauges and now even lighter-weight and cost aluminum wires, these products are mature. But this is necessary: you can't readily fix prices when a good isn't a commodity. When you know your and your competitors costs are similar, then you can agree on what the price could be and the level at which your conspiracy can fix it.

Part of the reason is again administrative: car companies with few exceptions have no internal manufacturing capability for the items they procure. They thus rely upon comparisons with past prices, adjusted for changes in the price of materials and known or anticipated productivity improvements. Therein lies the opportunity for a cartel: once suppliers have started screwing their customers, the car companies can come to believe that it's normal. Bids look sensible given past prices. Since harnesses with their miles of wire and hundreds of connectors are one of the most expensive component purchases a car company makes, companies always seek outside bids – but thanks to the conspiracy either find few firms express interest, or come in with ridiculous prices. [For an example see "Ford Alleges…" Automotive News, Aug 5, 2013] This should raise suspicions, but apparently did not set off alarms. While Toyota was firm mentioned in initial guilty pleas, the list of victims now includes most of the industry's major firms. Toyota's purchasing department may have been overwhelmed in its go-go years of the noughts (ending with the early retirement of the firm's top 4 executives), purchasing departments throughout the industry clearly were not up to the task of sniffing out carefully coordinated price fixing.

With wire harnesses, 4 suppliers dominate the Asian market, with Delphi Packard (yes, the name I use is anachronistic) a strong contender elsewhere (and as the one major player not named in this segment, finding that it's suddenly gaining market share in Nagoya). So how did the conspiracy arise? In Japan (as elsewhere) suppliers share panels in engineering conferences and industry associations; ironically, as I found in my own PhD research in the mid-1980s, they may even play golf together at events hosted by their customers. Put them together in the ex-pat supplier community in the US and informal interactions become more likely. Or at least that's my supposition of how things got started, and why it remained undetected in some cases for a full decade.

With stays on the private lawsuits, with uncontested guilty pleas in all the criminal cases, and with those involved so far keeping their lips sealed, few details have come out on the US end. It may be that journalists in Japan can find out more – what goes into the public record may be different, Japan's Freedom of Information Act is stronger than that in the US, and when plied with drinks officials and mid-level auto industry managers may be more willing to speak less-or-more off the record. Journalists and stock analysts should also be asking Toyota about their purchasing operation, about how they could be bamboozled out of so much money and how they're working to fix that. Finally, all should be lauding the Japanese Fair Trade Commission, which in its pursuit of this case is showing that it is more capable than in the past – handling the domestic side of a multinational price-fixing conspiracy – and is willing and able to act in the interest of consumers.

Mike Smitka

Justice Department Press Release

Auto Dealers Take CFPB Issues to Washington DC

Excerpts from NADA Front Page; comments by Ruggles follow

More than 400 fran­chised auto deal­ers weighed in with Wash­ing­ton law­mak­ers ear­lier this week on the Con­sumer Finan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau’s (CFPB) effort to end the dis­counts that cus­tomers can nego­ti­ate when financ­ing a car or truck through a deal­er­ship. The vis­its to Capi­tol Hill were orga­nized as a part of the National Auto­mo­bile Deal­ers Association’s Wash­ing­ton Conference.

Deal­ers asked their sen­a­tors to sign the let­ter authored by Sens. Rob Port­man, R-Ohio, and Jeanne Sha­heen, D-N.H., request­ing that the bureau explain how elim­i­nat­ing a dealer’s abil­ity to “meet or beat” a competitor’s rate is good for consumers.

A key ally in the deal­ers’ fight, Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., told the deal­ers in a speech on Thurs­day that he’s “very con­cerned” about the CFPB’s recent effort to alter the $800 bil­lion auto finance mar­ket­place with­out a hear­ing or offer­ing analy­sis for pub­lic scrutiny.

“I believe it’s absolutely essen­tial that we have a very com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place so that folks can get the low­est rate they can for their loans, and cer­tainly dealer-assisted financ­ing is about that,” said Peters, who along with 12 Democ­rats on the House Finan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee sent a let­ter to the CFPB demand­ing greater transparency.

“The CFPB has not pro­vided any infor­ma­tion about its study or how they com­pare the numer­ous fac­tors that can affect auto inter­est rates,” said NADA Chair­man Dave West­cott, a new-car dealer in Burling­ton, N.C. “Even more shock­ingly, the bureau failed to exam­ine how this change could impact the cost of credit for con­sumers. In-dealership financ­ing has been enor­mously suc­cess­ful in both increas­ing access to credit, and reduc­ing the cost for mil­lions of Americans.”

Ivette Rivera, NADA vice pres­i­dent of leg­isla­tive affairs, said that sen­a­tors were recep­tive to the dealer’s request to sign on to the Portman-Shaheen Auto Finance letter.

“Early reports from our Hill meet­ings indi­cate that mem­bers of Con­gress on both sides of the aisle think that greater trans­parency from the CFPB is needed,” Rivera added.

Ruggles writes:  The issue is over dealer "rate participation."  Dealers "buy" money from lenders at "wholesale, and distribute it at "retail."  The CFPB alleges that all consumers aren't treated equally.  They have set out to regulate dealer rate participation via a proxy strategy.  Using laws against discrimination and an obtuse theory called "disparate impact," the CFPB seems to want to abolish rate participation and replace it with some kind of a flat fee arrangement.

WIKI on the subject:

"In United States employment law, the doctrine of disparate impact holds that employment practices may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate "adverse impact" on members of a minority group. Under the doctrine, a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be proven by showing that an employment practice or policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of the protected class as compared with non-members of the protected class.

The doctrine prohibits employers "from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class. A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect." Where a disparate impact is shown, the plaintiff can prevail without the necessity of showing intentional discrimination unless the defendant employer demonstrates that the practice or policy in question has a demonstrable relationship to the requirements of the job in question. This is the so-called "business necessity" defense.

Disparate impact contrasts with disparate treatment. A disparate impact is unintentional, whereas a disparate treatment is an intentional decision to treat people differently based on their race or other protected characteristics."

Ruggles again: Even though disparate impact pertains to employment law, the CFPB, along with the FTC and the DOJ, have chosen the theory to try to bully the auto financing industry. What is especially interesting is how the CFPB proposes to determine how one is a member of a "protected class."   They propose to use zip codes and surnames, along with other data they are less than transparent about. 

A recent decision in California was settled where a Mitsubishi dealership was alleged to have provided better interest rates to Asians, than to the general population.

BMW 328i TOURING E36: MORTE E RESSURREIÇÃO

Fotos: Bill Egan, Rafael Tedesco, PK e MAO (AE)



Eu estava realmente me divertindo. Em qualquer marcha que estivesse, era só pisar para ouvir aquele sofisticado, discreto, mas rasgante berro do pequeno seis em linha, acompanhado de um empurrão gostoso nas costas. Com aquele câmbio de relações longas, a aceleração é comprida, esticada, um longo passeio até a faixa vermelha que é demais de bom, e extremamente viciante. E quase completamente livre de vibrações indesejadas, apenas o suficiente para se sentir aquela gostosa impressão de algo vivo, pulsante e real que só um motor de combustão interna nos dá. O oposto completo do tão falado motor elétrico, que de tão perfeito chega a ser inerte, insosso e virtual como um videogame.

O tráfego não deixava atingirmos as altas velocidades de cruzeiro nas quais a peruinha está feliz e em casa; mas mesmo assim, era uma delícia o modo com que, em qualquer marcha que estivesse, a resposta  satisfazia. O carro na estrada é simplesmente sensacional; a direção, pesada a baixas velocidades, fica perfeita, a estabilidade direcional é incrível, a aerodinâmica bem cuidada mantendo baixo ruído interno. O incrivelmente preciso e multifuncional computador de bordo, apelidado por meu amigo RT de HAL9000 (o computador inteligente que dizia "bom dia, Dave" mas secretamente plotava seu assassinato no famoso filme de Stanley Kubrick "2001, uma odisséia no espaço"), marcava bem razoáveis 10 l/100km, e agradáveis 24 graus Celsius de temperatura lá fora. A minha peruinha BMW 328i pode já ter passado dos 15 anos de idade (aos 17, está bem perto dos 20 na realidade), mas ainda tem uma saúde de ferro, e me deixa feliz como nenhum outro veículo que tive.  


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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

PONTEIRO ONDE O CLIENTE QUISER

 

Recentemente, numa viagem, aluguei um Celta por uma semana. Uma das coisas que estranhei bastante nele foi o seu marcador de temperatura. O marcador de temperatura do Celta é um mostrador dividido em quatro quartos. A primeira marcação dele é o motor frio e a última é o vermelho (superaquecimento). Pois bem, saindo com o carro, reparei que o ponteiro demorava para se mexer. Problema de termostática, imaginei. Porém, mesmo pegando pista expressa, o ponteiro não baixava, o que não condiz com uma situação de termostática defeituosa. Além disso, o carro alugado era novo demais para já estar com esse tipo de problema.

Outra coisa estranha: ao pegar trânsito com o carro, quando o marcador chegava um pouco antes de 3/8 (o meio do caminho entre ¼ e ½), entrava a ventoinha. Sabendo que a ventoinha entra por volta de 100 °C, concluí que o 3/8 da escala indicavam 100 °C. O ponteiro baixava até o pouco acima do ¼ novamente, que imaginei ser a marca de 90 °C. Quando pegava pista expressa, o ponteiro ali ficava, cravado na marca de ¼, condizente com a termostática do Celta, construída para manter o motor acima de 92 °C ± 2 °C. Ficando mais tempo com o carro, comecei a “sacar” mais o marcador e perceber o que eram suas marcações. A primeira marcação parecia ser 70 °C, porque o ponteiro demorava a se mexer.

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

MEU PORSCHINHO 914, QUARTA PARTE

Raio-x: carsinpedia.com
A lógica

“Cavalo que é muito manso, todo mundo monta e desce o relho”. Esse é um ditado da roça que recomenda que não sejamos sempre muito bonzinhos e calados, que é bom meter uns coices de vez em quando. É um ditado que serve para muita coisa, desde um povo explorado por governantes ladinos a uma esposa maltratada. No caso ele também serve para o Porsche 914. Explico.

O 914 não era lá muito potente, mesmo para a sua época, e já era um carro muito estável, seguro, de comportamento superior em curvas, ótimos freios, mesmo para os padrões de hoje. Em suma, no 914 sobrava carro para o motor. 

Equilíbrio (luiscezar.blogspot.com)
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CONVERSA DE PISTA

 

 

Custos da F-1 intrigam até Bernie Ecclestone






Ecclestone comenta finanças da F-1 (foto TracksideView)

Chefão da categoria manda recado e fala de sua preocupação sobre as finanças das equipes. Permanência de Massa na F-1 pode envolver direitos de transmissão para o Brasil


São raros os jornalistas de F-1 que tem acesso a Bernie Ecclestone tanto quanto o suíço Roger Benoit, que apesar do nome é do cantão alemão do país e é conhecido por sempre usar sapatos sem meias e portar sempre um charuto nos lábios ou nãos mãos. Correspondente do jornal Blick — um tablóide com DNA sensacionalista, mas com credibilidade acima da média para o setor —, Benoit ouviu de Ecclestone uma confissão no mínimo preocupante: duas equipes da categoria estão em sérias dificuldades econômicas e uma terceira estaria bem perto de ser incluída nesse grupo. O promotor inglês não confirmou nem desmentiu quando perguntado pelo escriba se a Sauber estaria entre essas equipes:

“Nos conhecemos há tempo suficiente para você saber que eu não tenho nada a declarar sobre isso!”, foi a resposta de Ecclestone, que ainda esclareceu uma certa mudança nas regras do jogo que o levou a construir a categoria mais ativa do esporte mundial. Não há como contestar que nenhum outro campeonato se apresenta quase que quinzenalmente em tantos países do mundo com a audiência e freqüência da F-1. Segundo Bernie, os dias de emprestar ou adiantar dinheiro para equipes em dificuldade estão longe e é algo que a atual estrutura da FOM (da sigla em inglês para Gestão da Fórmula Um), não mais permite fazer.
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Monday, 23 September 2013

FIAT GRAND SIENA ESSENCE DUALOGIC, NO USO



Eu havia dirigido o Fiat Grand Siena apenas no lançamento há um ano e meio, em Santiago do Chile e cercanias; faltava ver como ele se comporta no dia a dia na nossa terra. Como já disse aqui, nesses eventos não se tem a indispensável intimidade com o veículo, dá apenas para conhecer suas características básicas e dirigi-lo um pouco. Cada vez que via um rodando em São Paulo, pensava que devia pedir um para teste, por seu porte me chamar a atenção. Ficou realmente maior, cresceu em relação ao primeiro Siena, surgido em 1997. No post anterior sobre o Grand Siena, que está com link acima, essas diferenças podem ser vistas.

O Grand Siena custa hoje R$ 42.630, mas pode chegar a R$ 55.386 se forem pedidos todos os opcionais, o mais caro sendo o teto solar Sky Wind, nada menos que R$ 3.102. O câmbio Dualogic, já de segunda geração, com avanço lento, custa R$ 2.536, mas traz junto rodas de alumínio 6Jx16 e controle de cruzeiro. Há o kit Sublime, que o carro testado tinha, com vários itens como equipamento de áudio com todas as funções conhecidas, inclusive Bluetooth, vidros traseiros com acionamento elétrico etc, mais o câmbio Dualogic, por R$ 4.450. Sensor de estacionamento traseiro é item isolado, R$ 651, como o são os sensores de chuva/crepuscular e espelho interno fotocrômico, R$ 750.

O Grand Siena ficou grande aos olhos

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Sunday, 22 September 2013

DA DEMONIZAÇÃO DO AUTOMÓVEL AO DIA MUNDIAL SEM CARRO

A faixa incita à proibição de veículos automotores na cidade (clique na foto para ampliar)


A foto que abre este post, feita por Leandro Jefferson, de São Paulo, foi-nos enviada pelo leitor Hélcio Valvano, de São José dos Campos. É revoltante ver uma instituição bancária como o Banco Itaú emprestar seu nome a uma nojeira dessas. Claro, com a "gloriosa" CET, símbolo-mor da incompetência brasileira, por trás.

Nesta quinta-feira precisei fazer hora no Conjunto Nacional, onde fica a SAE Brasil e de onde eu saíra de reunião de pauta da nossa revista Engenharia Automotiva e Aeroespacial, da qual sou consultor editorial há dez anos. Fazer hora, esperar dar 20 horas, devido ao maldito rodízio, pois o carro com qual eu estava, um Peugeot 408 Allure automático, de teste, tinha final de placa "proibida".

Na andança pelo saguão do térreo vendo lojas, inclusive a Livraria Cultura, me deparei com uma exposição de desenhos de Andy Singer, cartunista americano, parte de um movimento que conheci ali, a "Virada da Mobilidade".

Painel "Virada da mobilidade" no saguão do Conjunto Nacional, em São Paulo

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Saturday, 21 September 2013

F-1: TURBULÊNCIA NA FERRARI, MASSA SEM DEFINIÇÃO

Nuvens pesadas sobre a Ferrari....(foto Sean Heavey/Barcoft Media)

O passado recente da F-1 mostra que cada equipe tem suas características, algo nem sempre lógico e fiel à realidade, mas sempre útil para o entender da estratégia desse mundo. Enquanto caía a noite, ontem, na Europa, um movimento com potencial de tsunami era notado em uma cidade-estado bem longe dali, mais exatamente em Cingapura, onde o Cirquinho do Tio Bernie se apresenta neste fim de semana. O rumor-mais-que-rumor-mas-por-enquanto-apenas-rumor que detonou a instabilidade do sistema foi uma declaração de Martin Whitmarsh, o chefe da McLaren, à reportagem da BBC quando perguntado se ele contrataria Fernando Alonso: “Sim, qualquer equipe o contrataria, ele é o melhor piloto. Não conheço sua situação contratual, mas assumo que ele está sob contrato”.
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Friday, 20 September 2013

BRINCANDO COM TECNOLOGIA - QUARTA E ÚLTIMA PARTE

O futuro do autorama pode estar no futuro dos jovens engenheirandos
Nas três primeiras partes deste artigo, comentei duas grandes experiências não convencionais envolvendo alta tecnologia e autorama. Elas chegaram, passaram, mas deixaram frutos que, semeados, formam muito da minha base como profissional e como pessoa.

Mas será que essa experiência não poderia ser aproveitada? E se fosse multiplicada entre os jovens?

Novas aventuras

Hoje, eu diria que já atingimos um ponto onde boa parte dessa brincadeira com autorama perdeu a graça. Os smartphones que levamos nos bolsos tem potência computacional superior aos maiores supercomputadores daquela época. Acelerômetros, magnetômetros, GPS que naquela época eram sensores enormes, hoje estão dentro dos chips dos celulares.

Um microcontrolador desses dentro de um carrinho ou de um acelerador e um pouco de treino para a eletrônica embarcada, e o principiante vai brigar de igual para igual com o melhor piloto do campeonato regional, isso se ele não se mostrar ainda melhor.

Como diz o velho ditado, se macumba ganhasse jogo, o campeonato baiano terminaria empatado. Se houver a introdução em larga escala de sistemas de controle eletrônico avançados cada vez mais baratos sobre carrinhos de autorama tecnicamente perfeitos, somente a aleatoriedade nas corridas será capaz de definir um campeão. Em vez de um esporte de capacidade e habilidade, ele se torna um jogo de azar.

Vejam este controlador eletrônico moderno:

Controlador com recursos que facilitam a condução dos carrinhos

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DE CARRO POR AÍ

L


End. eletrônico: edita@rnasser.com.br              Fax: +55.61.3225.5511            Coluna 3813  18.setembro.2013

Audi anuncia fábrica, A3 e uso de motor Volkswagen 1,4
Com direito a audiência com a presidente Dilma Rousseff em dia de decisão de não viajar aos EUA em protesto à arapongagem estadunidense sobre nossos assuntos, Rupert Stadler, presidente da Audi mundial, com Bernd Martens, membro do Conselho e autoridade sobre Jörg Hofmann, presidente da Audi Brasi,l anunciaram a produção do Audi A3 sedã no segundo semestre de 2015, e do utilitário esporte Q3 no primeiro trimestre de 2016. Investirá 150M de euros para produção na fábrica da Volkswagen em São José dos Pinhais, PR. Volkswagen e Audi pertencem ao mesmo grupo, facilitando uso de instalações e efetivar processos comuns.
A produção dos Audi será paralela à ainda não anunciada do Golf 7ª. geração, sobre a mesma plataforma flexível. Na entrevista, informação do motor VW 1,4 TSI — duplo comando de válvulas, injeção direta, turbo, flex —, equipando o Q3, como o fará para o Golf 7. Tal engenho será produzido pela VW em São Carlos, SP, e seu uso auxiliará cumprir os flexíveis índices de nacionalização.
Internacionalizar-se tem sido caminho para fabricantes europeus, ainda no rastro da quebra estadunidense, e neste ano, pela primeira vez, do milhão e meio de Audis produzidos, mais de metade será vendida fora da Europa. Os mercados em desenvolvimento, em especial China, Índia, Rússia, Brasil e África do Sul, têm merecido atenções pelas respostas em vendas e lucros. O Brasil é o último a ver a Audi surfar na onda, e a explicação era o aguardar a chegada do novo Golf e sua plataforma moderna.
Dado curioso é a relação entre os 150M de euros anunciados como investimento, e as providências simplórias de fazer galpão, equipamentos para montagem e ampliação do setor de pintura atendendo às duas marcas. Para desenvolvimento de fornecedores, Bernd Martens, que morou no Brasil, fala português, e quem estará adstrita a operação, buscou auxílio com a Volkswagen, que dedicou uma equipe para auxiliar.
Última das alemãs a subir ao barco do mercado nacional, seus produtos suprirão, de princípio, mercado doméstico e América Latina. Briga alemã transcende às fronteiras pátrias. BMW já movimenta terra para galpões industriais em Santa Catarina, e Mercedes definiu — como a Coluna antecipou mundialmente — aqui fazer o recém-lançado sedã CLA e o utilitário esporte GLA. Não escolheu local. O condicionamento externo, a busca por mercados, e a regras cerceadoras aos importados, como o elevado imposto de 35%, mais IPI e o Super IPI de 30 pontos sobre o primeiro, provocam decisões sobre o futuro. As alemãs bancam a vinda agora para garantir vendas num mercado crescente.

Audi A3 sedã, brasileiro em 2015

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