1st Gear: Toyota and Nissan, Japan's two biggest automakers, led a 27.6% drop in domestic vehicle sales, the 11th straight monthly decline, after the nation's March 11 earthquake disrupted production. Sales of cars, trucks and buses, excluding minicars, fell to 241,472 vehicles in July, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement today. Sales at Toyota, Japan's largest automaker, declined 37% from a year earlier to 101,790, excluding Lexus-brand cars. Toyota, Nissan and Honda are working to restore full operations after the magnitude-9 temblor and tsunami damaged factories and caused parts and power shortages. The disaster has further depressed vehicle demand after a government subsidy program for fuel-efficient cars ended in September 2010. Deliveries at Nissan fell 17.6% to 41,810 in July, and sales at Honda, Japan's third-largest automaker, dropped 33% to 33,711.
2nd Gear: Bloomberg reports this morning that Ford said it's reducing the price of its in-car communication system to boost sales of the option that lets drivers make hands-free calls as more states ban the use of cell phones while operating a vehicle. The Sync system's price will drop to $295 on 2012 Ford models, $100 less than the option's cost on current model year vehicles, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said today in a statement. The 2012 Edge crossover and 2012 Explorer will be first to offer Sync at the lower price, Ford said. Ford has said the Sync system, available on almost all models, is an important consideration in 50% of purchases. The company has sold more than 3 million vehicles with the system, which, at $295, is $196 more than the cheapest iPhone.
3rd Gear: AutoWeek reported this weekend that Detroit charities have emerged as the victor in a dispute between Audi AG and Eight Mile Style LLC, the company that licenses Detroit rapper Eminem's songs, after Audi released a commercial in May that appeared to rip off of Eminem's "Imported from Detroit" Chrysler spot. "Audi has tremendous respect for Eminem and his works, and likewise for the 'Imported From Detroit' campaign which was created by Chrysler, and certainly Audi would never wish to insult or harm those parties or their fans and customers," the German automaker said Friday in a statement. Terms of the settlement weren't released, but as part of the agreement—which both parties said was reached "amicably" — Audi said it would "support the revitalization of Detroit by contributing to selected social projects."
4th Gear: Porsche's sports car division said Monday its first-half operating profit surged on rising demand for luxury vehicles in major markets across the globe, and confirmed that it's targeting a new sales record of more than 100,000 cars this year. So how did they sell 100,000 cars? By selling 28,000 Cayennes, 12,000 Panameras, 10,000 of the 911, 4000 Boxsters and 2000 of the Cayman. Porsche Chief Financial Officer Lutz Meschke said in a statement that the Stuttgart-based firm wants to continue to finance all new vehicle projects from its cashflow, demonstrating Porsche's strong earnings momentum.
5th Gear: The auto industry could lead an economic recovery in the United States, according to a recent survey by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG. Auto executives plan to do more hiring and more capital spending than executives in any other sector in the next year, according to the survey. 62% of auto executives said they expect to hire people in the coming year, compared with an average of only 52% of executives across all sectors. Similarly, 71% of autos executives said they expect to increase their capital spending in the coming year compared with an average of 59% of all executives.
6th Gear: Infiniti could develop its own version of Nissan's ballistic GT-R sports car, chief executive Carlos Ghosn revealed to the UK's CAR magazine. They asked him if Infiniti could tap into the existing products at Nissan and nab the brilliant GT-R sports car platform for a high-performance Infiniti. 'Are we going to do that, I would say "no", I don't think so,' said Ghosn. 'If your question is "could we do that", I would say "yes". The idea of using existing technologies on the body of an Infiniti, yes. All the technologies developed for Nissan are available to Infiniti.' Somehow we still don't see it happening any time soon.
⏎ Nissan recalls 20,000 Altima sedans. [NHTSA]
⏎ Vermont Town Hopes to Host a Cadillac Parade for the Record Books. [New York Times]
⏎ Scott Burgess: Let's force government, not cars, to be more efficient. [Detroit News]
⏎ Wood-Burning Beaver XR7 [Translogic]
⏎ Will drivers cede safety to computers? Feds finding out. [Automotive News]
⏎ Suzuki sexes up SX4. [GoAuto]
⏎ Subaru of America names Dean Evans chief marketer. [Automotive News]
⏎ New sports Jag to rival Boxster. [Autocar]
⏎ Fiat launches national TV campaign. [Automotive News]
⏎ Elegant Concours draws thousands to Plymouth. [Detroit News]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 2007, Citibank opens China's first drive-through automated teller machine (ATM) at the Upper East Side Central Plaza in Beijing. [History]
Photo Credit: Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News
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