Ford to launch new Mercury small car in 2011

FordMotor Co (NYSE:F – News) will launch a new small car for its Mercury brand in early 2011, based on the automaker’s new global compact car platform, Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields said on Sunday.

The new Mercury is one of the 10 vehicles Ford is planning for its global small car architecture, that also underpins the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus, and would expand the lineup of the mid-level premium brand long devoid of new products.

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The launch also underscores the No. 2 U.S. automaker’s support for the brand despite uncertainty in some analysts’ views over whether Ford will keep the brand in the long term.

Fields unveiled the plan during a meeting with U.S. dealers at the annual National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Florida.

“The trend toward more fuel-efficient vehicles is very important, the trend toward (small) cars in general is coming back. [Read the full article]

TOKYO — In Washington, D.C., last week it wasn’t sluggish accelerator pedals or dodgy brakes that kept Toyota cars off the road, but ice and snowdrifts. To Toyota’s embattled boss, Akio Toyoda, this was a blizzard of deliverance. Apart from distracting angry consumers with snowball fights, the white-out kept government offices closed and senators and congressmen, who otherwise could have been stomping up and down on the Japanese carmaker, at home. A delay in hearings on the automaker’s recalls means Toyoda now has time to accept an invitation from Sen. Darrell Issa, the leading Republican on the House Oversight and Government Committee, to appear at the Capitol for a drumming, rather than sending one of his underlings. To turn him down would be a mistake, because it’s a chance for Toyoda to convince America that he really is sorry for design faults that may have contributed to at least 19 road deaths. [Read the full article]

When U.S. auto dealers gathered in New Orleans a year ago, they wondered whether General Motors Co (GM.UL) and Chrysler would survive.

When thousands of dealers gathered for the annual National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Florida, this weekend, it was “Toyota. Toyota. Toyota.”

The specter of Toyota Motor Corp (Tokyo:7203.T – News), and how it stumbles or recovers from the biggest safety recall in its stellar history, was everywhere, including at press conferences hosted by its rival automakers.

Mike Jackson, CEO of the biggest U.S. dealership group, AutoNation Inc (NYSE:AN – News), said Toyota should offer incentives for loyal customers and to lure new ones.

“I support a gesture (from Toyota),” said Jackson. [Read the full article]

THE PROBLEM: Chrysler Group LLC dealers face a tough five months with no new cars and trucks coming from the company until at least June.

THE WORRY: Although dealers say they are optimistic about a partnership with Italy’s Fiat Group SpA, many worry about their finances because current models aren’t selling well.

THE SOLUTION: Dealers say they’ll cut expenses, sell more used cars and boost repair business to stay afloat. Chrysler promises 16 new or updated models by the end of the year. [Read the full article]

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