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Automotive News – March 23, 2011

The March 11 Japan earthquake is having a seismic impact on the world’s auto industry. Some upcoming 2012 non-hybrids are expected to break the 40 mpg barrier. GM calls back laid-off workers. These and other major auto industry stories in this week’s Automotive News.

Sendai Earthquake Sends Shockwaves through World Auto Industry

Japanese AutosWith Japan being one of the auto industry’s leading players, it’s no surprise that the tragic March 11 Sendai earthquake and tsunami is having a major impact on auto production and sales worldwide. Factory shutdowns have temporarily closed plants of 17 of Japan’s top 20 automakers. It may be several months before Japan’s auto industry is back to full production. American consumers can expect prices of Japanese vehicles to increase significantly this spring and summer as demand outstrips supply. Only competition from other Asian manufacturers – and U.S. and European companies – is expected to moderate these anticipated price hikes.

Toyota Delays Prius Wagon Launch

Prius WagonAnother casualty of the recent Sendai earthquake is Toyota’s new Prius wagon, which was supposed to start selling in late April. The earthquake and its aftermath have created a parts shortage that has forced Toyota to delay the new hybrid’s premiere indefinitely. Industry watchers predict we won’t see the new vehicle until at least early summer.

You Don’t Need to be a Hybrid to Get 40 MPG

40 MPGMore traditional gasoline-powered automobiles are making the “40 MPG” club thanks to a combination of smaller frames, reduced weight and more efficient internal combustion engines. Coming 2012 models reported to get 40 mpg or better include the Ford Focus SE with SFE package, the Honda Civic HF and the Volkswagen Passat diesel.

GM to Call Back Laid-Off Workers

GM Auto PlantMore good news out of Detroit as General Motors (GM) has announced it will return 2,000 laid-off workers to the assembly line by September. This latest round of call-backs will be full employment to UAW-represented workers at GM. This has been a good year for GM, which saw a 49 percent sales gain in February.

GM Sponsoring “March Madness”

March Madness 2011General Motors is once again sponsoring the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as “March Madness.” GM has sponsored the games in the past with its now-defunct Pontiac brand getting major airtime. Now, GM’s commercials will focus primarily on Buick and Cadillac. GM has a three-year deal with the NCAA to sponsor numerous sporting events, including football, lacrosse, women’s soccer, baseball’s College World Series and hockey’s Frozen Four. Buick is expected to dominate all of GM’s advertising in these events.

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