Headlines for Monday, March 19, 2012

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'Skin in the game' philosophy guides Kuni

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
After acquiring the five-dealership Pioneer Centres group in December, Kuni Automotive foresees its biggest year ever in 2012. Revenues should jump from around $600 million in 2011 to more than $800 million, CEO Greg Goodwin said.

VIDEO: Dealer Chad Martin fights for credibility at 26

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The death of his father in 2006 changed the path of Chad Martin's life. Instead of pursuing a career in law, he now runs his family's Kentucky-based dealership group.


When fuel prices rise, the party in power often runs out of gas

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Given the recent rise in fuel prices, does President Barack Obama have cause for concern in the coming election? Well, 71 percent of Americans says gasoline prices are an "extremely" or "very important" issue to them, up from 65 percent from only two months ago, according to GfK Roper.

VW, GM and Ford eye growing Iraqi car market

March 19, 2012 06:01 CET
Backed by large oil reserves and a population bigger than Saudi Arabia's, Iraq is attracting global automakers such as General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen. VW forecasts industrywide sales in the country to rise by a third this year.


Finally, a Chinese company forges a real partnership with a foreign brand

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
When foreign automakers refer to their Chinese "partners," they are not using the word in its real sense. But when and Geely announced a technology partnership, we had good reason to believe they truly meant it. Why? Let's start off by considering rival partnerships.

Chevy aims tiny Spark at city dwellers

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The Korea-built Spark that debuts in the United States in July will be the smallest Chevrolet ever sold here. It's so small that Chevy executives say they are having a hard time forecasting sales volume for the car.

VIDEO: AutoNews Now: GM wooing its 'orphans'

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
GM on quest to keep Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer owners in the family, top 125 U.S. dealer groups, and Nissan's pitch to make Manning a Titan.

Top 125 dealerships: Hot brands = big gains

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Look closely at the dealership groups that made significant gains in the latest annual Automotive News ranking of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States, and you'll find two common themes: dealership acquisitions, and brands such as Kia that are strong in small vehicles.

Taurus SHO stars in Ford TV spots

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Ford is trying to move the facelifted 2013 Taurus upmarket. The company is counting on the top-of-the-line SHO version to win customers who normally would buy performance sedans from BMW, Audi or other luxury brands.

Ford names new head of U.S. government affairs

5:46 pm U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Ford promoted longtime company executive Curt Magleby to the post of vice president of U.S. governmental affairs in Washington. Magleby replaces Pete Lawson, who had taken the job at Ford three years ago and is leaving to start his own consulting firm.

VIDEO: First Shift: GM-PSA car timeline

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Automakers aiming to start development by fall, Kia halts Ga. output at least through Wednesday, Honda offers buyouts, a glimpse of three dealers.

GM CEO awarded $2 million in restricted shares

3:53 pm U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
GM awarded CEO Dan Akerson nearly $2 million in restricted shares that will fully vest if he stays at the company for three more years.

Volvo scores global endorsement deal with Jeremy Lin

10:54 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Volvo Cars signed New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin to a global endorsement deal.

U.S. sets duties on steel wheels from China

2:16 pm U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The U.S., in a victory for suppliers Accuride and Hayes Lemmerz, on Monday set large punitive duties on imports of steel wheels from China that the government said were unfairly priced and subsidized. It is the latest sign of trade tension between the world's two biggest economies.

Toyota races to raise Prius C supply in U.S.

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Toyota is churning out a meager 6,000 units a month of its Prius C small hybrid for North America because of supply constraints and soaring demand in Japan. But more cars should be on their way by midyear.

Mitsubishi aims to double U.S. output amid export push

3:01 pm U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Mitsubishi Motors plans to double production at its automobile plant in Illinois to 70,000 vehicles per year, Japanese business daily Nikkei reported. The company's U.S.

TrueCar creates industry-relations post to smooth dealer ties

1:45 pm U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
TrueCar, aiming to repair relations with dealers nationwide, tapped the former head of the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association to fill the newly created post of vice president of industry relations.

Opel workers demand talks with GM management over turnaround

11:30 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Union leaders at GM's unprofitable plants in Europe on Monday accused managers of blocking talks on the future of operations and conducting a policy of "divide and rule."


A veteran auto dealer at 26: He stepped in, stepped up

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
He grew up the son of a prominent car dealer, but Chadwick Martin had dreams of becoming an entertainment lawyer or an agent. But in 2006, the death of his father, Cornelius, in a motorcycle accident changed everything.

Mazda races to restore profits, escape yen's swings

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
When financially strapped Ford sold its controlling stake in Mazda in 2008, Mazda executives trumpeted the company's release from U.S. ownership. But the sweet taste of freedom turned bitter. Today CEO Takashi Yamanouchi's small, export-reliant company faces a fourth straight year of losses.

China's newest automaker takes aim at VW

March 19, 2012 06:01 CET
China's newest automaker, Qoros Auto, will target established brands such as Volkswagen and Toyota when it starts sales in Europe, said the brand's design boss, Gert Hildebrand.

Ghosn: Respect for unique identities is vital to success

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The 13-year-old partnership of Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. is widely seen as the most successful alliance among automakers. That track record gives Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn credibility as an expert on joining companies.

GM wooing its orphan owners

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
One morning last week a dozen or so vehicles streamed into the service drive at Sellers Buick-GMC in suburban Detroit. They were all Saturns.

Mahindra franchisees in the dark after British ruling against U.S. distributor

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
A ruling by a British arbitration panel appears to negate more than 300 Mahindra franchises across the United States by pronouncing the contract between Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. and Global Vehicles U.S.A. terminated.

Dealers hit snag in legal battle to recoup Mahindra franchise costs

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The legal battle by U.S. dealers franchised to sell Mahindra pickups hit another obstacle when a federal judge in St. Louis tossed out their breach-of-contract suit against the Indian manufacturer. The suit against Mahindra & Mahindra Inc. will be refiled in Georgia, said Melissa Zensen of St.

Porsche plans plug-in hybrid Panamera in '14

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Porsche AG will build a plug-in hybrid version of the Panamera sedan starting in 2014, sources familiar with the situation said last week. The plug-in hybrid likely will come to the United States, but the timing is unclear, a source said.


GM-PSA product tie-up: How will it work?

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
It's easy to see how General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen can save money on shared purchasing of parts, but it is less clear how and when their new-model strategies will come together.

Deadline's near: Tell us why your store's a great place

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Is your dealership a great place to work? Automotive News wants to hear from you. Automotive News is working with Best Companies Group to identify dealerships in the United States and Canada that have excelled in creating quality workplaces for employees.

Soaring costs likely to spark more alliances

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Carlos Ghosn says the need to invest in new technology and operate on a global scale will keep pushing companies into alliances like the one announced recently by General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Dealers win challenge in Chrysler suit

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Two rejected Chrysler dealerships that won their arbitration cases in 2010 are closer to a trial date in their lawsuit against the automaker. In a March 9 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler denied a Chrysler motion seeking dismissal of the dealerships' complaint.


For Web-savvy buyers, it's all about the videos

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Dealer Shaun Del Grande is tapping the power of YouTube to reach Web-savvy auto shoppers in Silicon Valley. More than 1,000 videos shot and edited in-house are posted on his Del Grande Dealer Group's YouTube pages, with hundreds more on the way.


Track Apps measures Mustang performance

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The 2013 Ford Mustang lets enthusiasts measure their driving fun with a new "Track Apps" electronics package geared to those who take their Mustangs to the track on weekends.


Jeep Liberty replacement gets small Pentastar V-6

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
The replacement for the Jeep Liberty will be powered by a smaller-displacement version of Chrysler Group's 3.6-liter V-6, two sources say. The Liberty replacement will have a 3.2-liter version of the Pentastar V-6.


Carbon fiber, software fix create lighter, faster Fiat

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Chrysler Group's Mopar parts brand and Italian supplier Magneti Marelli have teamed up on a design exercise based on the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth that shaved weight and added horsepower.


Santa Fe gets Hyundai 'storm edge' styling

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Hyundai has released pictures of the redesigned Santa Fe crossover that offer the first clear view of the brand's new design direction. The new Santa Fe debuts next month at the New York auto show.


Select few will see Enzo replacement first

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Ferrari will show its replacement for the Enzo supercar to a select group of current and potential customers at the end of 2012, said Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

2013 GMC Terrain Denali packs a larger V-6

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
A larger, more powerful V-6 engine will be the centerpiece of an upscale Denali version of the 2013 GMC Terrain crossover, General Motors said last week. The 2013 Terrain goes on sale this fall. Pricing has not been announced.

NADA: $5 fuel would torpedo used-SUV prices

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Rising gasoline prices are expected to peak at about $4 a gallon in May and produce a "mild" effect on most used-vehicle prices, analysts at NADA Used Car Guides say.

Buick offers 2-year lease, with goodies

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
General Motors said last week that Buick's new 24-month leases are an effort to boost the brand's lease penetration to the levels of luxury-brand rivals. Until last week, the shortest Buick lease term was 36 months.


Quick: What's the make of that SUV?

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
No one has ever accused me of being nearsighted, but I am more and more surprised that the auto companies continue to try and mask their identity. I noticed it again during the Geneva motor show Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.


Come together on transport bill

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
In a rare but welcome example of bipartisanship, the Senate last week passed a $109 billion, two-year bill to fund federal highway and transit projects.


GM should follow strategy of One Ford

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
General Motors' main weakness in Europe is its money-losing Opel/Vauxhall unit, which needs a quick and radical restructuring.

Top 125 dealership groups outpace industry growth

12:01 am U.S. ET | March 19, 2012
Automotive News' top 125 U.S. dealership groups grew at a faster pace than the industry last year and they did it in a variety of ways.