Hudson Nissan chosen for pilot program; local Hyundai outlets support battle against childhood cancer

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is expected in showrooms next month, but customers at 16 dealerships nationwide including Hudson Nissan in North Charleston can log on a computer and take a “virtual” tour of the new SUV (photo provided).

• Local customers get to computer-’drive’ new Pathfinder •

Consider taking a new-car virtual tour in the showroom before the model is even on the lot.

According to Nissan, that’s what customers are doing at a North Charleston outlet as part of a national pilot program.

The carmaker said it has equipped Hudson Nissan on Rivers Avenue with Microsoft’s Kinect for Windows Natural User Interface. The software permits shoppers to “hop into a virtual 2013 Pathfinder.” The redesigned SUV doesn’t arrive on dealer lots until November.

The company rolled out the virtual access technology as a pilot program this fall in 16 Nissan dealerships across 13 states. Shoppers use “natural human gestures” on the computer to pilot the Pathfinder.

Nissan contends it is one of the first automakers to use the Kinect for Windows technology for vehicle previews. The pilot program runs through the end of November, according to the car company.

Nissan North America contends the Microsoft Kinect’s Natural User Interface “will allow shoppers to examine the exterior, customize colors, inspect the wheels, view the front and back and then step inside to experience the upholstery, legroom, entertainment system and other details.”

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• Hendrick outlets aid effort to fight cancer in youngsters •

Two local Hyundai dealerships presented a gift to the state’s chief medical learning center, geared to help in the battle against childhood cancer.

Hendrick Hyundai and Hendrick Hyundai North dealers joined the national Hyundai Hope on Wheels to award the Medical University of South Carolina a $250,000 Hope Grant last month.

The money will support research aimed at the treatment of neuroblastoma.

MUSC was one of 41 ventures to receive the Hope On Wheels’ 2012 Hyundai Hope Grants.

Nationwide, Hyundai doled out $10.25 million in September in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The awards were $100,000 but Hope on Wheels upped the grants to $250,000 this year “to improve the odds in the fight for a cure,” backers said.

The organization has disseminated $57 million since 1998 to fight childhood cancer.

“We are honored that Dr. Mehrdad Rahmaniyan is a recipient of Hope Grant,” said Dr. Jacqueline Kraveka, director of the Pediatric Oncology Research Lab at MUSC. “I commend Hyundai Motor America for its commitment to pediatric cancer research,” she said.

The lab focuses on neuroblastoma, which Kraveka called “one of the deadliest childhood cancers.” The grant money will support research on targeting a novel “lipid biomarker” to improve survival rates for high risk neuroblastoma patients, she said.

“At Hyundai, our goal is for a child to never again have to hear the words ‘you have cancer’,” said John Krafcik, president and chief executive of Hyundai Motor America.

Hyundai Hope On Wheels is a combined effort of Hyundai Motor America and its more than 800 dealers across the United States to raise awareness for childhood cancer and celebrate the lives of children battling the disease.

“Through the support of our dealers, hospital partners, and online community, this goal is attainable as we join together for a cure,” Krafcik said.

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• South Carolina carmaker savors position as export king •

No car plant ships more vehicles by dollar amount out of the U.S. than the BMW plant in Spartanburg, according to the German carmaker.

That’s likely one reason why the National Association of Foreign Trade Zones in September named the company Exporter of the Year. The group also recognized BMW with its Export Achievement Award for showing the most improvement in value, according to BMW Manufacturing Co. The South Carolina car plant “has steadily increased its export activity,” it said.

The company’s Spartanburg operation “is the largest automotive exporter from the U.S.,” BMW Manufacturing reported, basing the findings on federal Department of Commerce figures and the 2011 value of BMW exports from South Carolina.

The plant produces more than 1,000 vehicles a day. It exports the X3 and X5 Sports Activity Vehicles and the X6 Sports Activity Coupe through the Port of Charleston.

This year, the car facility is slated to roll out more than 300,000 vehicles. About 70 percent of the SUV-like autos will be headed to more than 130 markets across the globe.

“We are very proud of our accomplishments,” said Sky Foster, manager for corporate communications at BMW Manufacturing, who accepted the award on behalf of BMW. She also thanked the plant employees, top suppliers and the South Carolina Ports Authority for “our shared success.”

The Spartanburg plant started vehicle production in 1994. In the past 18 years, BMW Manufacturing has produced more than 2 million vehicles. The company announced a $900 million expansion earlier this year to boost capacity to 350,000 units by 2014 and to bring a new model to its BMW group in America.

“The FTZ program has proven to be especially successful to ensure the U.S. remains a strong global competitor,” said Lewis Leibowitz, chairman of the trade zone group’s board. “BMW’s plant in South Carolina continues to be a leader in the passenger vehicle segment, and we applaud their results.”