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2012 Geneva Auto Show Design Trends

From big and homely luxury SUVs to weight-watching German drop-tops, the 2012 Geneva Auto Show served as center stage for the good, the bad and the ugly of current and future automotive design. © Photo courtesy of Bentley Motors

Geneva Debuts
Automotive Spotlight10

It's Snowing Awards in New England

Thursday June 14, 2012

New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA)The sun may be shining and the drop-tops, well, dropping their tops, but the New England Motor Press Association recently took the opportunity to recognize a wide range of automakers with its Winter Vehicle awards, as well as several other Best-In-Class trophies.

The actual judging took place in February, when NEMPA members gathered at the group's unofficial headquarters south of Boston to evaluate and compare a parking lot full of nominated vehicles. However, the awards ceremony took place in May, coinciding with a NEMPA/MIT-sponsored conference detailing a host of issues related to the future of autonomous vehicles.

As it turns out, we can expect to see those driverless rides branching beyond the R&D arena within ten years. But, for now, we'll continue to be tasked with driving ourselves. To learn which models NEMPA recommends for the job, check out the complete list of winners.

© Photo courtesy of NEMPA

Now Might Be the Time to Become a New Car Dealer

Thursday June 14, 2012

New Car DealershipThough many automotive executives, politicians and taxpayers would love to forget about the industry's near collapse just a few short years ago, remembering those dark days puts the current state of affairs into proper perspective. As the Detroit Free Press reports, 2012 is on track to see annual sales of 14.5 million, or 1.7 million more than 2011.

Along with that good news is the suggestion that shoppers who had put off the purchase of a new vehicle are returning to showrooms as buyers, many of whom are paying extra for special features and amenities. The result is something that has been painfully absent from much of the industry over the past few years: Profit. The welcome influx of greenbacks benefits everyone along the chain, from the plant worker on the production line to a company's top executives and shareholders.

This uptick in sales is also sure to put a smile on the faces of dealers, or those contemplating investing in a new-car franchise. That process can involve purchasing an existing dealership, or starting a new business from scratch, which can be a very time-consuming, expensive, and almost-certainly frustrating endeavor. To help readers understand what's involved, we've broken down the basics of becoming a new-car dealer here.

© Photo courtesy of PR Newswire/DCH Auto Group

Honda and Mazda Offering Employee Buyouts

Thursday June 14, 2012

Honda Ohio manufacturing plant

Honda and Mazda have now joined Ford in the industry's most recent bid to trim costs by offering buyout packages to company employees.

This approach, which offers large lump sum payments to incentivize early retirement, is nothing new. Ford, as well as General Motors and Chrysler, used this tool when the market took a nosedive in 2008 and 2009, enticing tens of thousands of workers to cash out.

Fast forward to 2011, and Ford once again opened up its coffers, pitching $50,000-$100,000 checks to 41,000 production and skilled workers; 1,700 people accepted the offer, and will be off the payroll by June 1. Some of those jobs will disappear, but many slots will be refilled by previously laid-off Ford employees or new hires earning a much lower wage.

Mazda, which is suffering from significant financial losses, has also jumped onto the buyout bandwagon. According to Automotive News, the company is offering a one-time payment to employees who voluntarily leave their jobs; those who opt not to accept the buyout may be reassigned or laid off.

And, just this week, Honda announced its Voluntary Retirement Program. Automotive News reports that, unlike the others, this plan is aimed at employees age 59 and older, and who have been with the company for at least 15 years. Those who apply and are accepted by the program will leave with one year's salary, a bonus commensurate with years served, and medical benefits.

Unless you're one who wants to do the 9-5 gig until they put you in the ground, these propositions might be too tempting to pass up.

What do you think? Would you take Mazda's buyout or risk being laid-off later? Will Honda suffer from retiring a number of experienced, likely knowledgeable employees? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

© Photo courtesy of Honda

Chrysler Adding Body Shop To Michigan Plant

Tuesday October 18, 2011

Chrysler will be spending $165 million to add a body shop to its plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

The one-million square foot plant will be used to build the next generation of Chrysler's mid-size sedans, starting in 2013.

The new body shop will replace the current one, which will be used for other purposes. There will be no net gain of jobs.

This news shows that Chrysler is serious in competing from a product stand point. The company will need to be competitive in the mid-size segment, and the current Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, while better than their predecessors, still fall a bit short. While no jobs will be gained by this announcement, the new body shop could mean better quality, and it shows a commitment to improved product overall in the segment.

[Automotive News]

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