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Goes Both Ways: Free-trade pact sees South Korean brands losing share at home

Sat, 29 Dec 2012 11:00:00 EST

France has been vocal, but not alone, in noting the rise of the South Korean automakers in Europe. The signing of a free-trade pact in 2011 between South Korea and the EU, along with the especially value-conscious buyers in a crisis-stricken Europe, has seen market share increases measuring in the double digits for Hyundai and Kia - analysts expect 14-percent growth for the two in 2012.
A report in Bloomberg has found that there's pain at the other end, too: The pact more than halved import tariffs on European cars headed to South Korea to 3.2 percent, and prices are now close enough to domestic offerings for more South Koreans to pay the premium for foreign luxury nameplates and the cachet they confer. Products sold by the five domestic automakers hogged 92 percent of the market last year, and sales have dropped 5.2 percent this year whereas import sales have risen by 24 percent. This will mark the first year that imports claimed ten percent of the market; compare that to 2002, when domestic market share in the world's 11th largest auto market was 99 percent.
The Germans are at the head of the arrow, counting for 65 percent of imported car sales, but every foreign maker has seen double-digit gains. Analysts think foreign makes could ultimately grab 15 percent of the market.

Kia design chief Peter Schreyer named Hyundai-Kia President

Fri, 28 Dec 2012 09:33:00 EST

Automotive News reports Peter Schreyer has been appointed the first non-Korean president of Hyundai-Kia Motor Group. Schreyer is expected to retain his role as the chief designer for Kia, while also taking on new, high-level executive duties. He is now one of three presidents at the automaker.
The designer made a name for himself at Volkswagen, where he penned the 1998 New Beetle and lent his eye to the Audi TT. In 2006, Schreyer moved to Kia, where he quickly revised the brand's styling from bland, forgettable lines to bold, "tiger nose" creations. Analysts attribute much of the brand's recent sales success to Schreyer's influence.
Kia is expected to move 2.75 million units worldwide next year, while sister company Hyundai will likely beat its 2012 sales forecast of 4.29 million units, according to CFO Lee Won Hee.

Insider trading ahead of Hyundai-Kia MPG debacle suspected

Fri, 21 Dec 2012 17:44:00 EST

Reuters is reporting that large-scale insider trading may be at the heart of some particularly fishy stock-selling behavior, just prior to the original announcement about the Hyundai-Kia fuel economy ratings debacle.
On November 1st, Hyundai-Kia shares traded roughly 2.2 million times (the single highest-volume day of the year), and the stock price fell by about four percent. For reference, a standard daily trading volume for the stock in 2012 saw about 600k shares trading hands. On November 2nd, the company made public the bad news about the dropping fuel economy ratings for many of its models. In other words: No one outside of the company (and only a smallish group inside the company, we'd imagine) should have known anything about the impending bad news as of the first day of November. After the announcement, the stock price tanked, as you'd expect, and trading volume was way down as well.
Experts seem fully aware that the whole thing reeks of leaked information and subsequent insider trading. If chicanery on this sort of scale seems wacky to you, you'd be inline with the experts who report to Reuters that the level of trading is absolutely suspicious.

Did a US automaker blow the whistle on Hyundai, Kia fuel economy issue?

Mon, 17 Dec 2012 15:30:00 EST

In all of the most hotly contested mainstream segments of the motoring universe, the difference of one mile per gallon averaged on a widow sticker can mean the difference between a sale and a walk-off - to say nothing of two or three mpg. So, when Hyundai and Kia were forced to reveal that many of their 40-mpg ratings were actually 38s and 37s, well, it made for big news.
It also, conceivably, made for a competitive disadvantage immediately, when the Korean automakers' products were being shopped versus the guys down the block. And it's that disadvantage that makes a recent story from Automotive News so juicy.
AN is reporting that Margo Oge, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, got a tip in 2010 that Hyundai/Kia were "cheating" to get its impressive fuel economy numbers. The tip, said Oge (who retired from the EPA this past September), came from a senior vice president from a domestic automaker. The source was credible enough for Oge to launch an audit of the Hyundai figures, which ultimately lead to the debacle that we reported on a few months ago, and that the Korean company has been trying to bounce back from ever since.

Volkswagen Group, BMW Z4 top Total Value Awards by Strategic Vision

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 09:30:00 EST

It was just nine months ago that Strategic Vision announced its 2011 Total Value Awards, but you don't have to wait until next year for the 2012 awards. The Volkswagen Group keeps its lead as the number one brand, with seven products taking top category spots: Golf, Jetta Wagon, CC, Eos and Audi A3 Wagon, Q5 and Q7. Strategic Vision says "true innovation" - "rich and impactful, intuitive, motivational, in-depth and is able to trigger description by the user in great specificity" - is the open secret of the brands with the strongest showings. Results are culled from 77,153 owners covering more than 350 new cars bought between September of 2011 and 2012 ranked in the Total Value Index (TVI).
Other notable winners are Hyundai-Kia following VW in the brand category and having the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Sorento among category winners, the BMW Z4 taking the premium roadster category and the highest overall score of any vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt continuing to gather silverware in the Special Category, nabbing the second-highest score of all and representative of "nearly perfect innovation," and Chrysler and Dodge being most improved.
Check out the press release below for your day's dose of jargon and all the winners.

Kia launching Uvo 2.0 in 2014 Sorento

Sat, 01 Dec 2012 15:01:00 EST

Along with all the new model introductions hitting the stages of the LA Auto Show, automakers made plenty of announcements in regards to technology heading into the show. Chevrolet's MyLink will be adding Siri and Ford is reportedly preparing some more updates for its MyFord Touch and My Lincoln Touch, but now Kia has announced that it will be releasing the next version of its Uvo infotainment system in the 2014 Kia Sorento and later in other Kia models including the redesigned 2014 Forte.
Uvo is Kia's hands-free infotainment system, and now it will be adding a telematics "eServices" system including vehicle diagnostics, a parking location reminder for drivers and 911 Connect. Officially called Uvo eServices Infotainment System with Voice Command Navigation, this is essentially the "version 2.0" for Uvo, which came with voice recognition and hands-free control of mobile phones when it was introduced in 2010.
When the 2014 Sorento goes on sale, the new Uvo will only be compatible with iPhones, but Android phones are expected to work by the second quarter. Scroll down for Kia's press release on the updated Uvo system.

Senator calling for answers from Hyundai and Kia over MPG debacle

Fri, 30 Nov 2012 14:16:00 EST

Hyundai and Kia have already gone public with plans to make good on the inflated fuel economy claims scandal that has rocked both companies in recent weeks. But one US senator, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), is skeptical that the general public will see much good from the proposal, and he's looking for answers.
To recap: Hyundai/Kia have agreed to compensate owners of 900,000 affected vehicles for real versus previously claimed fuel mileage (as well as adding in a one- fifteen-percent premium), by way of pre-loaded debit cards. It has been speculated that this payout could crest $100 million by the time the Korean automakers are done writing checks.
Said Rockefeller to The Detroit News, "While I believe this is a positive step, I am concerned that many affected customers may not learn about the program or may find it burdensome to participate in the program." Rockefeller would reportedly like to see a monitoring system for the paybacks more clearly defined, with the goal being as many wronged car buyers as possible getting the recompense that they're due.

Hurricane Sandy cost automakers 15,000 vehicles, may have ruined up to 200k

Wed, 07 Nov 2012 16:29:00 EST

Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic storm in US history, and its total economic impact is just now coming into view. According to Automotive News, Toyota, Chrysler, Nissan and Honda are set to scrap around 15,000 new vehicles ruined by the storm. Nissan alone accounts for about 40 percent of those, with 6,000 Nissan and Infiniti models deeded "un-saleable" due to damage. The company saw 56 dealerships shuttered due to the storm, but 51 of those have since reopened.
Toyota, meanwhile, had some 4,000 vehicles at its Newark port facility, and of those, 3,000 may be scrapped. An additional 825 were dealer inventory when they were ruined. Honda and Acura dealers are reportedly sending 3,440 vehicles to the salvage yard. By comparison, Chrysler weathered the storm fairly well with 825 units destroyed, while Hyundai suffered only 400 lost units and Kia scrapped around 200.
As you may recall, Fisker also suffered some losses, and Automotive News reports the manufacturer saw 320 Karma models damaged beyond repair. Ford and General Motors have yet to come up with estimates, and no automaker has commented on the full cost of replacing the vehicles.

These cars are headed to the Great Crusher In The Sky

Fri, 24 Aug 2012 14:58:00 EST

It happens every year. We bid adieu to some cars and trucks that will be missed, and say good riddance to others wondering how they stayed around so long. Whether they're being killed off for slow sales or due to a new product coming along to replace them, the list of vehicles being discontinued after 2012 is surprisingly long and diverse.
CNN Money has compiled a list of departing vehicles, to which we've added a few more of our own. In the slow sales column, cars like the Lexus HS 250h, Mercedes-Benz R-Class and the full Maybach lineup appear, while the Ford Escape Hybrid, Mazda CX-7 and Hyundai Veracruz are all having their gaps filled with more modern and more fuel-efficient alternatives. Obvious exceptions to the rule include models that still sell in decent numbers like the Jeep Liberty and the Chrysler Town & Country (which will eventually be replaced by a crossover-like vehicle).
Check out our gallery of discontinued cars above, then scroll down for more information.