2014 has been a great year. Panasonic thanks all who were a part of it as we look forward to an even better New Year 2015!
Media Source: MSN Money
Six years after the recession forced millions of Americans to postpone buying a new car or truck, a forecast released Wednesday predicted retail auto sales in the U.S. will climb to a record high in 2015.
Despite a weak showing from the auto sector in September—when dealership sales fell 0.8 percent—J.D. Power and Associates said that sales of new cars and trucks at U.S. auto dealerships will climb to 13.83 million in 2015. That would put them slightly above the previous record of 13.8 million in 2004.
The improving economy and growing consumer demand for newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles that include the latest safety features and in-car connectivity are driving the trend.
Read More: Most can’t afford used cars: Study
“Right now the auto industry is in the midst of a cycle where sales and pricing are very strong,” said J.D. Power’s Deirdre Borrego. “I’m cautiously optimistic that will continue at least through next year.”
But it’s not just retail auto sales—vehicles that are sold directly to consumers—that are expected to see a boost. The firm’s forecast comes as Wall Street analysts are predicting total U.S. industry sales—which also account for the sale of fleet vehicles to rental car companies, corporations and government agencies—could top 17 million next year.
Read More: America is roaring toward record auto sales
The increase, while welcome news for the auto industry, has led some to question whether the strong market is sustainable.
“As long as the economy remains strong and interest rates stay relatively low I think sales will hold up well,” Borrego said.
As retail sales climb to a record high, automakers and dealers are selling vehicles for record prices.
J.D. Power said the average transaction price paid by consumers at dealerships this year is $30,026, which will likely lead to an all-time high of $407 billion for retail sales in the U.S.
“Consumers are able to pay more for the cars and trucks they’re buying because auto loan interest rates have been so low,” Borrego said. “At the same time lenders are writing loans for longer terms, so monthly payments have stayed relatively flat for car buyers.”
The average monthly payment for new vehicle buyers is $457, according to J.D. Power. In addition, the firm calculates almost one-third of all auto loans for new vehicles are for a term length of six years.
Still, while the percentage of borrowers falling behind on their loans remains below average, some consumers are having trouble making their monthly payments. A recent report from Experian found that the percentage of auto loans that were delinquent or ended in repossession surged in the second quarter.
Media Source: Automotive News
How can automakers help motorists who struggle with voice recognition, the technology that generates more customer dissatisfaction than any other in-vehicle gadgetry?
Tom Gebhardt, president of Panasonic Automotive Systems Co. of America, believes he has a solution: an infotainment system that learns users’ preferences, then asks them what they want.
He says Panasonic, a leading infotainment supplier, will introduce its “smart” voice technology in January at the International CES in Las Vegas.
Gebhardt, 54, spelled out his vision for infotainment during a Sept. 9 interview with Staff Correspondent David Sedgwick.
Q: Does Panasonic Automotive expect revenue to rise about 10 percent this year, as it did in 2013?
A: Globally, it will be a little bit less than that. For North America, it would be a little bit more.
What generates the most growth for Panasonic in the United States?
Our infotainment business is our best business. That’s the thing that has powered us over the last five years, and that continues to be the real core.
What infotainment product has generated growth?
Panasonic has been an “imaging” company for some time, with cameras and camcorders. We’ve got a good understanding of images and displays. So when automakers put more cameras in the vehicle, that’s a real positive for us. And the displays in a vehicle are a positive, too.
Is the head unit, the control box in a vehicle’s instrument panel, still your primary infotainment revenue generator?
Yeah, that’s a solid core product, and we build around it.
The Cadillac Cue infotainment display is a Panasonic unit. Are capacitive touch screens, those controlled by the touch of a finger, the wave of the future?
Some touch functions are highly effective. In fact, you get so accustomed to a tablet’s touch functions that you almost need to have some of that functionality in the car.
Will automakers finally give up knob controls?
People still like to have the combination of a touch screen with control knobs. They can’t give up the knobs. And it does get distracting if you try to adjust audio volume and some other functions on a touch screen. So the answer is some kind of hybrid display.
Does voice recognition work well enough to satisfy most motorists?
Our data shows that 50 percent of the people love it, and 50 percent hate it.
It’s very bipolar. Either you use it three times and hate it and you won’t try it again, or you get used to it and you really like it.
Will that love-it-or-hate-it split continue?
As the technology continues to improve, we believe more people will start to gravitate to it. But you’ve got a big learning curve with some people who had early generations [of voice technology] and became dissatisfied. They’ve got to get over that hump, and that will take some time.
How would Panasonic make voice recognition acceptable for motorists that don’t like it?
We think we have to ease them into it because they aren’t going to jump back into it. We have to take it to another level where it’s not so complicated, so that the motorist is in his comfort zone and doesn’t have to ferret through a menu of 30,000 selections. We need to make it easier, with a smaller number of selections.
How would Panasonic pare down the list of commands so the motorist has a higher chance of success?
Imagine if you had your own preferences already set up — Dave’s morning, Dave’s afternoon, Dave’s weekend.
So if it’s Saturday, the computer knows that I always listen to “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” on NPR?
Right. That’s the way we believe it will ultimately work. The computer says: “It’s Saturday morning, Dave. Do you want to listen to this?” You could make a simple response — yes or no — and you’d be more likely to connect.
Can Panasonic create a simple yes-or-no sequence of commands?
Right. Imagine that your infotainment system understands your habits. When you pull out of the driveway and go in a certain direction, it could say, “Dave, are you going to work?” And you could say, “yes.”
So now the computer knows it’s Monday, and I usually listen to NPR. And it asks me if I want to listen to the news?
And it could ask me if I want local news or national news?
Yes, that simplifies it. You have a conversation that the computer understands. The whole point is to simplify the things that motorists don’t like, so that they will use them. That’s the answer to voice technology. Simplify it.
To make that work, you need an infotainment system that can learn your habits.
We’ll demonstrate that capability at the next CES show [in January].
Pandora’s streaming radio app has the ability to learn users’ likes and dislikes. Did Panasonic study Pandora?
I don’t know that it was Pandora specifically. Facebook has learning algorithms. Google is the master of learning behavior. There are all sorts of tech companies that use this incredibly well.
Does Panasonic have the software and hardware that can make this work?
When you use the cloud, the possibilities are pretty infinite.
Future of mobility is the subject of June 4 Telematics Detroit headline panel including executives from Panasonic, GM, Ford and Kia.
NEWARK, N.J., May 30, 2014
NEWARK, N.J., May 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America President Tom Gebhardt will speak with other auto industry leaders on panel addressing how connected car strategies will dictate the driving experience and future of mobility.
Mr. Gebhardt joins Phil Abram, Chief Infotainment Officer at General Motors, Henry Bzeih, CTO at Kia Motors and Don Butler, Executive Director, Connected Vehicle and Services, at Ford Motor Company on the panel moderated by Thilo Koslowski of Gartner, Inc. The super-panel takes place June 4 and headlines this year’s Telematics Detroit (4-5 June at the Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi, MI).
“Innovation, convenience, connectivity and safety are critical to car buyers. We’re all looking at how to bring them together in a way that protects, entertains and delights drivers,” said Mr. Gebhardt.
Telematics Detroit 2014 offers a venue for the automotive, consumer electronics, web and mobile industries to converge to understand changing technology and business paradigms and strategize with cross-industry partners as connectivity begins the process of changing the face of mobility.
View the complete conference agenda: telematicsupdate.com/detroit/conference-agenda
Media Source: Fox Sports
This should put those retirement rumors on hold for a while. Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet SS has a new primary sponsor.
Panasonic and Hendrick Motorsports announced a multi-year agreement (through 2016) that gives the electronics giant primary sponsorship in two Sprint Cup races annually, as well as an associate-level partnership in all other events.
Gordon will debut his Panasonic paint scheme this weekend at Sonoma Raceway and it will run again in August at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Panasonic’s Toughbook brand will be featured on the car’s quarter panels at Sonoma. Check it out.
Said Gordon, “This is the next step in what’s already been a successful partnership, and it’s going to be fun to take it to another level. We hope to kick it off with a win this weekend for Panasonic and Toughbook.”
Media Source: The Auto Channel
Washington DC September 3, 2014; CNBC.com has reported that Tesla has decided that it will build its battery “gigafactory” in Nevada.
“That’s a go, but they are still negotiating the specifics of the contract,” a source within the Nevada’s governor’s office told CNBC Wednesday afternoon. The source noted that it could be a week before the deal is official.
CNBC.com said that Nevada is planning a press conference Thursday in Carson City, according to a Dow Jones report.
In July, the automaker announced that it had partnered with Japanese electronics firm Panasonic to build the $5 billion battery factory. It also said it would announce additional partnerships in the coming months.
Tesla had also considered California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas as possible locations for the factory.
Initial Announcement – PANASONIC AND TESLA REACH AGREEMENT TO EXPAND SUPPLY OF AUTOMOTIVE-GRADE BATTERY CELLS
OSAKA, Japan / PALO ALTO, Calif. October 30, 2013;- Panasonic Corporation and Tesla Motors today announced that the two companies have reached an agreement in which Panasonic will expand its supply of automotive-grade lithium-ion battery cells to Tesla. With this agreement, the two companies update and expand their 2011 arrangement to now supply nearly 2 billion cells over the course of four years. The lithium-ion battery cells purchased from Panasonic will be used to power the award winning Model S as well as Model X, a performance utility vehicle that is scheduled to go into production by the end of 2014.
This agreement builds upon a multi-year collaboration between Panasonic and Tesla to develop next-generation automotive-grade battery cells and accelerate the market expansion of electric vehicles. Panasonic’s cells combined with Tesla’s proven EV battery expertise have already enabled more than 130 million customer miles driven in Tesla Roadsters and Model S.
“This expanded agreement with Panasonic is important to Tesla as we continue to increase the pace of production,” said Tesla Co-Founder and CEO Elon Musk. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with Panasonic, and I’m confident that this partnership will continue to be an integral part of Tesla’s success for years to come.”
Together, Panasonic and Tesla have developed a next-generation battery cell technology that provides the highest energy density and best performance cells in the market. Panasonic’s cylindrical cell is a customized technology designed specifically for optimizing electric vehicle quality and life. These cells are integrated by Tesla into the battery pack in a way that enables an industry-leading range of approximately 265 miles for the Model S.
“We are extremely proud to be a strategic partner of Tesla,” said Yoshihiko Yamada, president of the Automotive & Industrial Systems Company, an internal company of Panasonic. “Panasonic will increase its production capacity of lithium-ion battery cells to supply Tesla’s growing needs as it expands its production of EVs.”