The new Ford Fusion hybrid will get 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, according to Environmental Protection Agency, giving the automaker a "marketing coup" when the midsize sedan rolls out in the spring. It will be the second-most fuel-efficient vehicle on the road, behind the smaller Toyota Prius and ahead of the smaller Honda Civic hybrid, writes Sharon Silke Carty.
"Our overall strategy is to ensure that with every new vehicle we introduce, we're either the best or among the best in fuel economy," says Derrick Kuzak, vp of global product development for Ford. "Clearly, fuel economy ... is at the top of the list of customer wants."
Although gas prices have dropped drastically in recent months, few people believe they will stay that way, points out Stephen Berkov, executive director of client strategy at consumer website Edmunds.com. "Automotive marketing has always been about performance, and now it's about fuel efficiency," he says.
The Fusion hybrid will cost about $27,000 vs. roughly $24,000 for the conventional Fusion model. Read the whole story...
Toyota hasn't said what impact its first-ever operating loss will have on marketing spend next year, Jean Halliday reports. Wes Brown, vp of industry consultant Iceology, expects cuts but says they won't be as drastic as those expected from Detroit automakers. Brown says Toyota will be among the first automakers to increase ad spending when Americans start buying new vehicles again.
Toyota Motor Sales USA cut spending in U.S. measured media by $55 million to $766 million in the first nine months of 2008 against the same period a year ago, according to TNS Media.
Meanwhile, the Japanese automaker is introducing the Venza -- the name is an amalgam of "venture" and "Monza," the Italian racecourse -- to the U.S. market, Brandweek's Todd Wasserman.
It's pitching the crossover as a model that could take the place of two cars. Toyota spokesperson Cindy Knight says the Venza is "70% car and 30% SUV" and fits between the Camry and the Highlander on Toyota's lineup. It starts around $26,000. Read the whole story...
Is it just you, or is it really getting more crowded in airplane cabins these days? Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that you're not alone in feeling the squeeze, Nathan Hurst reports. The load factor -- or number of filled seats -- reached more than 84% this summer, typically the busiest time for airlines.
For the airlines, increasing the number of passengers on board each flight is a simple matter of balance-sheet survival. But the process of packing fliers into what some already think of as "flying sardine cans" also breeds horror stories of personal space infringement, carry-on storage scuffles and battles over who gets the arm rest.
Analysts say the trend of packed planes isn't likely to reverse itself anytime soon. "Airlines are simply meeting the consumer at the point where the low fares they demand can bring a meaningful profit for them," says Bill Swelbar, a research analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Airline Data Project. Read the whole story...
New laws enacted to ensure the safety of children's toys and clothing could put smaller manufacturers out of business because of the costs involved. Ironically, many of the businesses affected by the law were created to make better, safer toys than those available at chain retailers such as Wal-Mart, says Dan Marshall, who owns a toy store in St. Paul, Minn., and founded the Handmade Toy Alliance.
The testing is required under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was passed in response to last year's massive recalls of toys containing lead and other dangerous substances.
Nick Christensen, owner of Little Sapling Toys in Eureka, Calif., who makes everything by hand, says the only things his products contain are wood and beeswax, and he's bitter about being forced to test them for lead. Other manufacturers say they've been quoted testing prices of $24,000 for a telescope, $1,100 for a wooden wagon and $400 for cloth diapers, according to the toy alliance.
The Washington Post reports that Selecta, a German toymake rthat carves whimsical cars and characters from native woods, colors them with vegetable dyes and coats them in silky beeswax, is pulling out of the U.S. market because of the law.
"Manufacturers say the law will have unintended consequences: halting the sale of kids' bicycles, requiring clothing makers to discard millions of dollars in inventory, and banning products that pose little or no safety threat," write Lyndsey Layton and Annys Shin. "There's no unfettered right to sell your products if you can't prove they're safe," responds Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Read the whole story...