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It’s Friday once again, which means it’s time for another round of my Five For Friday: Five Thoughts about the Auto Industry for June 15, 2012. Apple's in-car Siri push, Mahindra's legal woes, Lotus loses its CEO, the Nissan Juke NISMO, and trading Calibers for Darts - let’s look at my take on the most noteworthy and interesting automotive stories from the past week.
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01. Apple's Siri Voice Technology Gains Traction Amongst Automakers
The battle for standardization of in-car voice recognition and infotainment systems is heating up after reports this past week that Apple is in talks with several major car companies about licensing the Siri voice-recognition technology offered with the iPhone for use in an automotive application. A press release from Apple detailed that it had begun discussions with as many as nine different car companies about installing a 'Siri' button on the steering wheel that would make it that much simpler for drivers to interact with the iPhones and potentially on-board, Apple-powered navigation and entertainment software.
According to Business Insider, almost every one of the brands mentioned by Apple was unwilling to confirm that any negotiations were taking place - a move that could perhaps be designed to protect established vendor relationships, or an indication that Apple might be get a bit ahead of itself in terms of creating more hype for Siri. Regardless of its veracity, news of the potential move had a definite negative impact on the stock prices of navigation and sound system manufacturers such as Garmin, TeleNav, and Harman International Industries.
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02. Mahindra Sued For Fraud
Mahindra, the Indian automaker that has for years fought a losing battle to bring its small trucks and SUVs to the American market, is now facing another hurdle in the form of a lawsuit launched by five U.S.-based dealers. The businesses claim that Mahindra milked them out of nearly $10 million in fees and caused them to build and advertise dealerships despite the fact that the company was not capable of actually putting together the sales network it had proposed. According to the Automotive News, Mahindra has also been accused of purposely stalling on getting its trucks U.S.-certified, a necessary step for them to go on sale, in order to snatch up the funding provided by would-be dealership owners.
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03. Lotus CEO Fired
In perhaps its most understandable move of the past year Lotus has let go of its CEO, Dany Bahar. The under-performing sports car company had been unable to achieve profitability under Bahar's guidance, putting forth a confused lineup of proposed new models that were designed to steer Lotus away from lightweight, track-ready models and into the exotic luxury car game. Bahar's dismissal came after a complaint and investigation into his personal conduct, the details of which were unavailable to EGM Car Tech at the time the story went to press. That being said, Bahar had been suspended just prior to his firing due to consistent missed appointments, culminating in a very public absence at the Monaco Grand Prix.
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04. Nissan To Build Juke NISMO Performance Crossover
What's next for Nissan's compact crossover after the warm reception given to the monstrously-powerful Juke R, a special model outfitted with the twin-turbo drivetrain originally found in the GT-R sports car? It would appear that the Nissan Juke will be given its own NISMO edition, tuned by the automaker's in-house hot rod specialists. The Juke NISMO, which has appeared at concept form in the past, will finally show its production-ready face at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.
What have the engineers behind NISMO done to massage the Juke into a truly sporty ride? Extensive suspension and steering changes, torque-vectoring capability, wider wheels, and an aggressive aero package highlight the changes made to the stock Juke in order to give it the NISMO performance flair that the company hopes will have young buyers salivating when the crossover hits the U.S. market in 2013.
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05. Want A Dart? Sell A Caliber, Dodge Dealers Told
The upcoming Dodge Dart compact sedan is intended to replace the non-competitive Dodge Caliber in the domestic brand's lineup. The Caliber has been a sales disaster for Dodge, and the small crossover's limited appeal has made it difficult for dealers to move inventory - an issue that has become a problem for franchises looking to fill up on new Darts as soon as possible.
According to an article published by the Automotive News, dealers are claiming that a very clear message has been sent down from the head office that Dart allocations will be based on how many Calibers a particular location was able to sell, prior to it disappearing from showrooms. This move could see an intense level of rebates and incentives being applied to the Dodge crossover in order to shift as much metal as possible before the Dart begins to arrive at the end of the summer.
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