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Automotive News – June 16, 2011

Nissan short-circuits its Altima hybrid. Auto execs remain bullish on electric cars, despite a negative industry report. Used car prices go through the roof. These and other auto industry stories of interest in this week’s Automotive News.

Nissan Pulls Plug on Altima Hybrid

Nissan Altima HybridNissan Motor Co. reports it will stop selling its Altima Hybrid at the end of the 2011 model year. Nissan’s only gas-electric vehicle, the Altima hybrid went on sale in 2007 and has so far sold only 35,000 units. The model is sold in California and the six other states that have adopted its strict vehicle emissions guidelines. There’s some speculation that Nissan is pulling the Altima off the market so it can retool and re-introduce it later this decade.

Study Casts Doubt on the Future of All-Electric Cars

Electric CarA recent report by the Center for Automotive Research predicted a dim outlook for all-electric cars in North America. The report said that the high cost of all-electric technology would continue to make it economically non-competitive with traditional petroleum-burning cars and even gas-electric hybrids for at least the next 10 years. Even so, many auto execs remain optimistic, a Nissan spokesman predicting pure electric cars would account for 10 percent of all U.S. sales by 2020.

Used Car Prices Soaring

Used CarsUsed car prices have jumped an average 30 percent in the last year, according to industry reports. In fact, the used car market is stronger now than it’s been in 34 years, experts say. Reasons for the sudden demand in used vehicles include the weak economy, high fuel prices, and the unavailability of many popular new car models due to this spring’s Japanese earthquake. While this is bad news for used car buyers, it’s great for anyone looking to sell or trade in their old clunker.

Mazda Moves Midsize Manufacturing from U.S. Back to Japan

Mazda 6Mazda has announced it will stop producing its midsize Mazda 6 sedan at the Flat Rock, Mich., plant it runs jointly with Ford Motor Co. and will move all production of this vehicle back to its plant in Hofu, Japan. A Mazda spokesman said the company’s decision was based on declining U.S. sales for the midsize sedan. Ford said that the Flat Rock plant is critical to its U.S. factory system and that it’s working with both Mazda and the United Auto Workers union to find ways to keep the plant in operation with other projects.

Ford Hopes to be No. 1 Within 5 Years

Ford logoFord was once the No. 1 carmaker in the world. But that was 75 years ago, back when the Model T was king. Although his company’s dominance was long-ago eclipsed by such global behemoths as GM and Toyota, Ford CEO Alan Mulally has outlined plans to increase worldwide sales volumes by more than 50 percent by mid-decade, which could put it on par with its long-time rivals, if not back in the No. 1 slot. But Ford needs to watch out. Volkswagen is also gunning to be top dog, especially with Toyota badly weakened by the Sendai earthquake earlier this year.

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