Archive for September, 2010

GM Buys AmeriCredit, Aims To Rebuild In-House Lender

GM Financial deal valued at $3.5 billion.

by on Sep.29, 2010

GM's purchase of AmeriCredit will permit it to create a new "captive finance" subsidiary.

With the $3.5 billion purchase of lender AmeriCredit, General Motors plans to create a new, in-house financing arm, GM Financial, to replace the “captive” lender long known as General Motors Acceptance Corp.

The Detroit automaker was recently rebuffed in its bid to regain control of GMAC, now known as Ally Financial.  Having a wholly-owned financing unit, GM believes, can help enhance its ability to sell cars, trucks and crossovers while providing an additional profit center of its own.

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“This acquisition allows GM to offer an enhanced range of solutions for our customers and dealers, and establishes an important strategic capability for GM,” said GM Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell.


GM Launching Demo EV Fleet Using Opel Meriva

Maker also announces additional $23.5 mil in EV components production.

by on Sep.29, 2010

A prototype Opel Meriva EV1 charges up as part of the new MeRegioMobile battery car project.

General Motors will launch a battery car test program in Germany using a fleet of its small Opel Meriva hatchbacks.

The latest in a series of “electrification” efforts by the Detroit-based maker, it teams GM up with the German government-backed MeRegioMobile program.  The program is designed to not only test the practicality of battery cars – and their acceptance by consumers – but also to see how the energy infrastructure can be adapted to meet the needs of electric mobility.

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In a separate development, GM is announcing plans to invest $23.5 million to expand the production of battery vehicle components at a factory in Baltimore, Maryland.  GM earlier announced it will use the Baltimore Transmission Plant to produce motors for electric vehicles – the first such operation run by a major automaker in the U.S.


Fancy Food, Hot Fashions, Art, and Cars, too

All of the world's most beloved vices come together at Paris Motor Show.

by on Sep.29, 2010

Amidst all of the fashion, food and art, Range Rover will introduce its new Evoque sport utility coupe.

Is this a car show, or is it really a reason to examine ladies in the latest fashions and munch on exquisite food in the world center for fashion and food?

Certainly, there will be some significant and beautiful cars unveiled at the Paris Motor Show – to name a few, Lamborghini, Lotus and General Motors are all planning major announcements -  but this is the City of Lights and beautiful frocks and delicious food are sure to be part of the fun.

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As part of the festivities, Range Rover is unveiling four street installations created by Parisian artists to celebrate the launch of the Range Rover Evoque.

Also Bentley plans to make several announcements that have nothing to do with cars. The British automaker will show what describes as “best in class” products from its partners including new watches from Breitling, Tibaldi pens, Estede eyewear and zai skis.

First Look: BMW X3 M Sport

Paris preview for performance version of all-new Sport-Activity Vehicle.

by on Sep.29, 2010

An all-new BMW X3 will debut alongside a performance M Sport model at the Paris Motor Show.

Though it won’t make its official debut until the Paris Motor Show’s press preview, later this week, the world has already gotten a pretty good glimpse at the second-generation X3 Sport-Activity Vehicle.

Tauter, more aggressive and more refined, it will appear in several versions at the 2010 Mondial de l’Automobile, including a performance-oriented X3 M Sport, shown here.

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Developed by the Bavarian maker’s vaunted M division, the X3 M Sport gets a number of modifications, BMW says, to its “chassis, aerodynamics, exterior and interior components (which) allow for further optimization of the exceptional dynamics of the new BMW X3 as well as lending them a visually striking look.”


Stung By Bribery Scandal, Daimler To Hire Chief Integrity Officer

Move follows payment of $185 mil fine to U.S. DoJ.

by on Sep.29, 2010

Preventing further ethical lapses has a "high priority," says Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche.

Stung by a $185 million fine for violating U.S. anti-corruption laws as the result of a global bribery scandal, Daimler AG said its moving to create a new position on the company’s board of management to oversee “Integrity and Legal.”

The new position was created by the German automaker’s supervisory board, which said the role of Chief Integrity Officer will be filled by an executive-level employee hired from outside the company.  The job duties will include managing Daimler’s global Legal and Compliance Organization and the related processes, as well as overseeing business ethics inside the company.

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“As a matter of principal, Daimler aims to create a corporate culture that not only fulfills the requirements of applicable law, but also meets the highest ethical demands and is regarded as exemplary throughout the industry. To achieve this goal, Daimler will successively take further initiatives in addition to establishing this new Board of Management position,” the company said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the Stuttgart-based company, parent of Mercedes-Benz and Smart, acknowledged a series of ethical breaches occurred despite having put in place an ethical behavior policy back in 1999.  Breaches – including the use of bribes to secure business in 22 countries — continued through 2008, according to the U.S. government, and eventually netted the company about $90 million.


GM Creates “Customer Advisory Board” For Volt

15 “advocates” and “enthusiasts” to give back after 3-month test drives.

by on Sep.29, 2010

Members of the new Chevy Volt Customer Advisory Board will get 3-month test drives then offer their back on the battery car.

It’s common for automakers to start fielding fleets of new models in the months before launch and ask company employees for back that might uncover problems or improve marketing efforts.  But with the launch of one of its most critical new products in decades, General Motors is turning to a panel of 15 consumers to test-drive the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

The 15 electric vehicle “advocates” and “enthusiasts” on the new “Customer Advisory Board” will each get a Volt to drive, starting next month.  The 3-month tests will continue through December, about when the first of Chevy’s extended-range electric vehicles begin to roll into dealers in a select group of initial launch markets.

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“We are eager to learn as much as we can from potential customers about their experience with the Volt.  We want to know their thoughts, impressions, and perceptions,” said the Volt’s marketing director, Tony DiSalle, in a release.


Visteon Close To Exiting Chapter 11

But parts maker will be smaller, more targeted.

by on Sep.29, 2010

Parts making giant Visteon may soon exit bankruptcy after reaching settlement with Ford.

Ford Motor Co.’s one-time partsmaking operations, now known as Visteon, may soon be able to exit bankruptcy protection, following in the corporate footsteps of Delphi Corp., the former General Motors parts arm that this year finally wound up the longest run under Chapter 11 of any company in American history.

The two units were initially created to help Ford and GM spin off stamping and other component operations that they no longer believed possible to operate profitably, especially under their expensive union labor contracts.  But even on its own, Visteon, created in 2000, was almost immediately struggling to survive.

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The maker filed for Chapter 11 protection in May of last year and many observers believed that without some assistance from former parent Ford, it would not be able to re-emerge.

But the two companies have resolved a number of outstanding issues, Ford agreeing to waive $268 million in pension and retiree benefit claims against Visteon.  The automaker has also agreed to move forward with $600 million in critical new contracts.


GM Reverses Course; Will Offer U.S. Diesel Sedan

Oil burners appear to be regaining momentum.

by on Sep.28, 2010

A GM diesel sedan is reportedly in the works.

They’ve become the engine of choice for European motorists and now, it appears, momentum is finally building to bring diesels into the American mainstream, as well.

Reversing its long-held position that diesels don’t make sense in the U.S. except on heavy-duty trucks, General Motors’ product czar says the maker is planning to develop a diesel-powered sedan for Stateside buyers.

GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens wouldn’t say much else during a speech to the Directions in Engine-Efficiency and Emissions Research, or DEER, conference.  But he did note that there are plenty of diesels to draw from using technology developed by the maker’s European subsidiary, Opel AG.

Burning the Midnight Oil!

Stephens predecessor, now-retired V. Chairman Bob Lutz, had repeatedly vetoed the idea of an American diesel insisting that the technology was already too costly and would grow even more expensive in light of next-generation diesel emissions regulations.


Growing EV Market Will Require $5 Bil IT Investment

New forecast sees critical demand for smart grid/smart charging technology.

by on Sep.28, 2010

Getting power to vehicles like this battery-electric Ford Focus will create a multi-billion dollar business on its own.

There should be as many as 3 million or more electric vehicles plying the world’s roadways by 2015, according to a new study by Pike Research, and that will create a major headache for utilities around the globe creating a likely need for as much as a $5.1 billion investment in a smart grid/smart charging infrastructure.

The challenge is to not just make sure there’s enough electricity to charge all those vehicles, says Pike, but to ensure that tomorrow’s battery cars are recharged in the most efficient manner.  In the U.S., for example, the Department of Energy has estimated that there’s enough power to supply millions of EVs – but only during off-peak hours.

“Electric vehicle IT systems are necessary since utilities will face an immediate impact from EV charging on their localized power distribution equipment,” says John Gartner, a senior analyst with Pike Research, based in Boulder, Colorado.

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He stresses that, “During the early part of the decade, EV charging will not interfere with utilities’ overall ability to keep up with total electricity demand, but certain neighborhood transformers and other distribution assets could be quickly overwhelmed in areas with rapid EV adoption.”


First Look: Opel GTC Paris

Near production-ready concept to become next Opel Astra.

by on Sep.28, 2010

Nearly production ready, the Opel GTC Paris concept.

Let’s make it clear up front: there are no plans to bring the Opel GTC Paris to the U.S.  Let’s quickly add: too bad.  The striking three door concept vehicle making its debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, later this week, is just the sort of design that could help kick-start the moribund American hatchback market.

Luckily for European buyers the show car does have a future in the Opel line-up, where it is set to become the next-generation Astra.

The nearly production—ready Opel GTC Paris will take its place on the German maker’s stand at the Mondial de l’Automobile alongside the updated Astra Sports Tourer.


In concept trim, the 5-seat GTC Paris pushes the design edge with a Liquid Metal Red paint scheme that highlights a sculpted body accented by LED lamps, 21-inch alloy wheels with carbon fiber inserts and twin tailpipes.