Category Archive:

Stuck to the Dealer's Floor – Inventory Numbers Tell the Story

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Which cars and trucks are planted to the dealer’s floor? In other words, which vehicles take the longest to sell? Who cars? Why does it matter, anyway?
Well, while it may not seem that important to you, it’s critically important to the industry s a whole… from the manufacturese, component suppliers, dealers and quite a few financial institutions. First, if you know the time it takes to sell a vehicle, you know how much it is dragging on the dealer’s floorplanning costs. Floorplanning is the term for the amount it costs the dealer to finance the a vehicle in inventory waiting to be sold. If a vehicle has been hanging around for weeks, he’ll be more likely to deal aggressively to get rid of it. Also, vehicles that have high days supply may be less popular. From that perspective, they may be the ones you want to stay away from.


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Nissan Qashqai: A Rogue In European Clothing?

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At the Paris auto show this September, Nissan revealed the newest addition to their European lineup, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were on hand for the introduction. The Qashqai four-door crossover SUV goes into production at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, U.K., in December 2006 and on sale in Europe in early 2007. A version known as Dualis will go on sale in Japan during 2007 as well, and if the illustration Automotive News has published of the Rogue’s rear taillight is any indication (click here), the vehicle joining Nissan’s 2008 U.S. lineup is very much like the Qashqai, if not identical. Nissan USA has announced that a U.S. small crossover, with at least the concept wearing the name Rogue, will be revealed at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in January.

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We had the opportunity to take an up-close look at the Qashqai in Paris. Though taking photos at show stands can frequently be challenging, the Qashqai was among the most mobbed cars at the show, for reasons I’m not sure I get. It was never without lots of people checking it over top to bottom and inside out, with Nissan having several examples on the stand and giving easy access to them. Though clearly lots of folks were interested, I didn’t think styling was impressive in person. The interior is nicely laid out and promises to help reverse Nissan’s reputation for new models with poor interior materials.
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Renault is also planning to offer a version of this vehicle, which has a joint Renault-Nissan platform underneath, and the Renaul Koleos concept seemed to have more presence in the tin than Qashqai. Of course, the Renault was shown in concept form and is likely to be toned down for production.
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2007 Nissan Sentra – Sentra in the City

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AutoPacific and VehicleVoice had the opportunity to evaluate the all new 2007 Nissan Sentra on the roads East of San Francisco Bay. The all new Sentra competes with the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cobalt. For 2007, every major dimension has been expanded to meet American tastes.

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For the Record
Global development effort between Nissan and Renault. Delayed by about a year after bombing in USA product clinics. Went back to the drawing board to get it right.
Built at Nissan’s Aguascalientes Plant in Mexico: Plant underwent a $800 million upgrade to accommodate all new Sentra and all new Versa. 350,000 units per year capacity.
On sale October 12, 2006.
Target Customer: Echo Boomers – Generation Y between the ages of 18 and 29. Sentra needs to serve many purposes – going out with friends, carrying a bike, taking road trips, buying furniture at IKEA.
Strives to be Compact Class Benchmark
No longer a compact car aimed at the lowest common denominator customer, the new Sentra strives to be the benchmark of its class when it goes on sale October 12, 2006. While the Sentra slots into the Nissan car lineup above the all new Versa (which actually is larger in some dimensions) and below the all new Altima, the Sentra has grown over its predecessor in wheelbase (+5.9-inches), overall length (+2.3-inches), overall width (+3.2-inches) and overall height (+4.0-inches). Now the “compact” Sentra nudges the Mainstream Mid-Size Car in basic dimensions.
The Sentra has substantially more passenger volume than Civic, Corolla, Mazda3 and Cobalt. Similarly, it has a large cargo volume only slightly topped by Corolla and Cobalt.
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Nissan Armada – Wins Motorist's Choice Utility (Also a 2006 VSA winner)

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AutoPacific Take on Nissan Armada’s Win – The Nissan Armada wins the inaugural Motorist’s Choice Award® for the Utility Vehicle class. Armada also won AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award® for its class. Owner ratings for exterior styling, seating capacity, driver’s seat comfort and ease of getting in and out were important factors in its win. However, Armada really excels in being Fun to Drive with excellent ratings for power and acceleration from its standard 5.6L V8 engine. Owners’ perceptions of feeling safe while driving and Armada’s reliability and dependability also contributed to its win.
IntelliChoice Analysis – Following on the heels of it’s corporate cousin, the Motorist’s Choice winning Infiniti QX56, the Armada sets the standard for exciting and rewarding full size SUVs. With a 5 year Ownership Cost of just $48,372, $1700 less than it’s competitors, the Armada blends the virtues that have helped so many drivers fall in love with Nissan’s big SUV.


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Nissan Murano – Wins Motorist's Choice Midsize Crossover

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AutoPacific Take on Nissan Murano’s Win – Nissan Murano wins the inaugural Motorist’s Choice Award® for the Mid-Size Crossover Vehicle class. It also won AutoPacific’s 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award® for its class. Murano owners rate its dynamic qualities strongly. Fun to Drive, braking, handling, ride are all important contributors to its win. Quality, reliability and dependability are rated strongly. In many ways Murano is a “package tour de force”; easy to get into and out of, great visibility, good seating front and rear.
IntelliChoice – The Murano is one of those vehicles that was expected to do well in the inaugural Motorist’s Choice award program. Rarely do we find a vehicle that continues to look great on the road and hold its place as a leader in it’s class year after year; especially in the tough Crossover SUV market. With a 5 Year Cost of Ownership just over $37,000, more than $3000 less than it’s competitors, the Murano will reward all of your senses.


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Motorist's Choice Awards – a New Benchmark Rating Automotive Excellence

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INTELLICHOICE.COM AND AUTOPACIFIC TEAM UP TO ANNOUNCE FIRST ANNUAL MOTORIST’S CHOICE AWARDS
– Awards Recognize Vehicles with Highest Driver Satisfaction and Lowest Cost of Ownership –
– Infiniti QX56 Wins Highest Rating Among All Classes/Vehicle Models –
AutoPacific, the industry source for automotive owner satisfaction ratings and IntelliChoice.com, the online source for automotive ownership cost and value analysis, today announced the results of the newly established Motorist’s Choice Awards for the 2006 vehicle model year.
IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific created the Motorist’s Choice Awards to determine the vehicles that delivered both the highest satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership. The collaboration between the two respected firms, who have each been authorities on the U.S. car market for the last 20 years, takes selected owner satisfaction data from AutoPacific’s surveys of new car and light truck buyers and combines it with IntelliChoice.com’s rating methodology to create a new measurement that speaks to both the hearts and minds of car buyers.
“While the economic analysis of car ownership remains very important—it can save or cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle—it is also important to recognize owner satisfaction as another significant influencer in vehicle purchases,” said James Bell, publisher of IntelliChoice.com. “These are the two key benchmarks we think car buyers should be most attuned to.”
“Ratings of owners’ satisfaction with their new car and truck illustrates how well the vehicle is satisfying the emotional and practical needs of the driver. Satisfaction is more than simply how well a product is screwed together and there are many more dimensions to the equation. Combining AutoPacific’s satisfaction results with the value analysis from IntelliChoice provides the car buyer with an outstanding benchmark to use when selecting a new vehicle,” said George Peterson, President of AutoPacific.
WINNERS
For the inaugural awards, IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific identified 29 winning models by segment and class. The top-ranked vehicles in their respective categories are:
o Cars: Lexus LS430
o Trucks: Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 (2WD)
o SUV/Crossover: Infiniti QX56
o Minivans/Wagons: Audi A6 4.2 Quattro
In terms of overall rankings, the Infiniti QX56 SUV scored highest in both driver satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership, followed closely by the Lexus LS430 sedan.


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2006 Pathfinder – Long Since Grown Up

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Remember the first Pathfinder? The two-door model with the refinement of a skateboard? Well the 2006 Pathfinder has long since grown up. The current (redesigned in 2005) model has come a long way from the earlier testosterone versions. Sitting on the “F-Alpha” family platform like the Xterra, Armada, Frontier and Titan, this new Frontier performs with more comfort and sophistication than any of its predecessors.
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Let's Talk Cars: Test Drives – Chevy HHR, Nissan Pathfinder, and 6-speed Volkswagen Passat

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Welcome to Let’s Talk Cars

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, more from our slew of new car reviews, walk arounds and test drives – Chevrolet HHR, Nissan Pathfinder, and a base-model Volkswagen Passat with a peppy 6-speed manual transmission.

First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett climbs inside Chevy’s take on the PT Cruiser. The HHR has a lot of great things going for it, including its fun, retro looks, but a lack of horsepower and some styling issues come up in our review.

Next, host Cameron Barrett brings you this week’s Rev It Up – with 90-seconds on the Nissan Pathfinder. This medium-sized SUV isn’t afraid to get its wheels dirty or its tow ring used.

And finally, we drive a base model Volkswagen Passat, one of the best values out there for your money. But the excellent 6-speed transmission causes some heartache because of its lack of availability in higher end models. The Passat won AutoPacific’s coveted 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Premium Mid-Size Cars.

Show Rundown
00:47 Chevrolet HHR: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
10:05 Rev it Up: Nissan Pathfinder: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host
11:22 Volkswagen Passat: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor


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Let's Talk Cars: Dodge Caliber Test Drive, the Nissan Quest and the Mitsubishi "I"

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Welcome to Let’s Talk Cars

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, it’s all about the test drive. Which is how we’ve been spending our summer vacations. We’ve compiled a slew of new car reviews and walk arounds and test drives, and we’ve got the first three for you this week – the new Dodge Caliber, the controversial Nissan Quest and the not-ready-for-the-American-marketplace Mitsubishi “i”.

First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett takes a bright orange Caliber for a spin, and finds some surprising goodies on the inside.

Next, host Cameron Barrett introduces you to our new review segment, Rev It Up – with 90-seconds on the Nissan Quest, perhaps the most controversial a minivan can get. We review the 2006 Quest just prior to its replacement by the 2007 model with a less controversial interior design.

And finally, the Let’s Talk Cars’ crew got a peek at a car that isn’t even for sale here in the U.S., and will never be. They say big things come in small packages, and if that’s true, the Mitsubishi “i” is defintely the next big thing!

Show Rundown
00:52 The new Dodge Caliber: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
12:01 Nissan Quest: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host
13:57 Mitsubishi “i”: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host


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GM, Renault, Nissan in Possible Tie-up

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The buzz around the global auto industry on Friday June 30 was that a possible tie-up between General Motors, Renault and Nissan was being seriously discussed by GM’s board. A meeting held on June 20 in Nashville (Nissan North America’s new headquarters) between Kirk Kerkorian, Jerry York and Carlos Ghosn explored possible relationships. Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corp. owns 9.9% of General Motors – the 4th largest shareholder – and Jerry York, Kerkorian’s right hand man, is Tracinda’s representative on GM’s Board. Carlos Ghosn is chairman of Renault and chairman of Nissan. Could he also become chairman of General Motors and then rule the auto world with 25% of the global market?
GM’s Board had a urgently called telephone conference on Friday to discuss the issue. No news yet.
General Motors Share Price Skyrockets
GM’s share price rocketed 8.6% on Friday on the news and skeptics opined that Kerkorian had orchestrated the news to win back the losses his investment in GM has taken over the past year. Others saw this as another wake-up call to Rick Wagoner that the restructuring of General Motors is not moving fast enough and that someone like Carlos Ghosn is needed to impersonally and analytically cut through the inertia that faces the General. Admittedly, Rick Wagoner has one of the toughest jobs on the planet and steering GM is like steering the Titanic. It cannot change direction quickly. But Ghosn demonstrated that you can turn around a huge ship – Japan’s second largest carmaker Nissan returned to profitability two years following Ghosn taking the helm.
Personalities, Personalities, Personalities
Think about the personalities. Wagoner the low-key professional chairman trying to improve the General incrementally. Bob Lutz the charismatic product czar of GM whose impact is just beginning to be seen in newly introduced products. Jerry York the impatient financial wizard from Chrysler/IBM/Tracinda who is delving into GM’s operations. Kerkorian the “long term investor” trying to make a risky investment a sure thing. Carlos Ghosn another charismatic exec credited singlehandedly with saving Nissan. Wow! This is fun!
Don’t Forget China
Oh, don’t forget. GM has a solid presence in China and Renault and Nissan much less so. This tie up could really benefit Renault and Nissan in China.
Stay Tuned
Stay tuned. This will play out quickly over the next week or so. Is Kerkorian just playing with his share price? Is he really able to goose GM into accelerating its restructuring? Will any sort of relationship develop between GM/Renault/Nissan? Between Wagoner/Lutz/Kerkorian/York/Ghosn?


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