Archive for March, 2013

Booming Sales Put Volkswagen of America Back in the Black

First profit in over a decade.

by on Mar.29, 2013

Workers at the new VW plant in Tennessee have had trouble meeting the growing demand for the American-made Passat.

For the first time since the original Beetle dominated the American import market, Volkswagen of America is moving solidly back into the black.

The German maker’s U.S. sales and marketing arm had steadily lost sales, share – and lots of money – ever since Asian rivals like Toyota and Honda became dominant forces in the market back in the late 1970s. In fact, VW’s decline was so severe that the maker came close to abandoning the U.S. in the early 1990s.

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But, over the last several years, it has picked up significant momentum with a mix of new products, aggressive marketing – and the addition of its first U.S. factory in decades, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Might Millennials Diss Boomer Parents and Revive Station Wagons?

Estates, shooting brakes and sportbacks.

by on Mar.29, 2013

Station wagons like Volvo's V60 may lead a revival of the segment.

Like a lot of folks in New York trade unions, Terry Keegan got his in through his family, but’s not always “like-father-like-son.” Baby Boomer Terry Sr. grew up in the back of a station wagon, often relegated to watching the world go by out the back window, his older siblings getting to ride up front. But when it was time to start his own family, Keegan opted first for a minivan and then a “cooler” SUV.

Now it’s junior’s time to express his individuality, the Millennial pausing for a moment as he dashed through the Jacob Javits convention center to check out the new Volvo V60 R-Design wagon.

“That’s not like the wagons my dad used to hate,” he laughs. “I don’t see the wood panels. This thing is really hot. I could see myself driving it.”

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Maybe it’s simply a classic case of generational revolt, but industry planners are watching closely to see whether the long-dismissed station wagon is finally – after several false starts – ready for a revival.

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Cadillac Expects Sales Increase in 2013

Strength of compact luxury segment makes ATS a leader.

by on Mar.29, 2013

2014 Cadillac CTS

Cadillac expects to chalk up big sales gains this year thanks to the growing popularity of the new Cadillac ATS and the arrival of the new Cadillac CTS this fall, which was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show.

Bob Ferguson, the head of General Motors’ luxury car unit, noted after the unveiling of the 2014 CTS that Cadillac sales are up 30 percent through the first two months of 2013. “I see that continuing,” said Ferguson. In addition, 70 percent of the sales of new ATS, which was named North American Car of The Year in January, are to buyers new to the Cadillac brand, he said.

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In addition, the third generation of the CTS is due this fall and serves to underscore Cadillac’s determination to challenge the trio of German brands, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, that have come to define the luxury segment, he said.

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New Mitsubishi’s Mileage No Mirage

With new 3-cylinder engine, maker targeting 44 mpg.

by on Mar.29, 2013

Mitsubishi looks to make inroads into the U.S. market with the 2014 Mirage.

Struggling Mitsubishi has had a hard time getting onto consumer radar screens in recent years, but it’s betting that potential buyers will pay attention to the news that its new small car is rated at 44 miles per gallon.

And that’s no mirage. Or, wait a second, yes it is, the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. Targeting subcompact competitors like the Ford Fiesta, the new Japanese offering is making its debut at the New York International Auto Show this week.

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The Mitsubishi Mirage will offer a new 74-horsepower 1.2-liter inline-three engine paired with a five-speed manual engine. There’s also an optional CVT. And, yes, that’s three cylinders – a layout we haven’t seen much of in the U.S. market in recent years.

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White House To Clean Up Gas, Auto Emissions

But cutting sulfur content could slightly boost pump price.

by on Mar.29, 2013

The Obama administration is calling for new rules to lower sulfur emissions in gasoline.

The Obama Administration is proposing new rules to reduce the level of noxious sulfur in the nation’s gasoline supply, a move that should reduce emissions – but also add a very small increase in pump prices.

The so-called Tier 3 standards set to go into effect by 2017 would more than offset that increase by improving the nation’s health and saving billions in medical bills, the White House contends. It would yield add-on benefits as lower sulfur levels would permit automakers to adopt even more advanced pollution control systems, several industry executives told .

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The Administration previously took steps to reduce sulfur content in the U.S. diesel fuel supply. That has made it possible for the auto industry to meet stringent smog and particulate rules and, in turn, greatly expand the range of high-mileage diesel passenger vehicles available in the United States.

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Ford Lawsuit Claims “Design Defect” Can Cause Unintended Acceleration

Detroit maker says federal investigators already cleared it.

by on Mar.29, 2013

A new federal lawsuit claims scores of Ford products, like the Taurus, suffer from a "defect' that makes the vehicle suddenly accelerate.

A new lawsuit claims that nearly a decade’s worth of vehicles produced by the Ford Motor Co. suffer from a “design defect” that can make them susceptible to suddenly and unexpectedly begin racing out of control.

The lawsuit, filed in West Virginia federal court on behalf of 20 different owners in 14 states, is seeking class-action status that could, if approved, come to involve the owners of millions of Ford vehicles produced between 2002 and 2010.

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“For too long, Ford has put its own financial interests ahead of its consumers’ safety,” said lead attorney Adam Levitt. “We hope this lawsuit sheds light on this important situation and requires Ford to correct its ways, compensate its customers and put them first.”

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Subaru Plans More Hybrids, Battery Cars – Eventually

Despite first HEV, don’t expect more electric power anytime soon.

by on Mar.29, 2013

Subaru debuted its XV Crosstrek Hybrid at the New York Auto Show.

After a series of false starts, Subaru finally has its first gas-electric model, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid, making its formal debut at this week’s New York International Auto Show. Expect to see more hybrids, as well as an all-electric model, possibly even a plug-in hybrid model, the Japanese maker’s top U.S. executive told – but not anytime soon.

Between consumer demand and regulatory requirements, Subaru is being pressed to expand its “electrification” effort, said Tom Doll, recently promoted to president of Subaru of America. But as with the effort that finally brought the Crosstrek to market, Subaru isn’t in a rush.

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“You probably won’t see more from us until around 2016 or 2017,” Doll explained, following the official roll out of the XV Crosstrek Hybrid.

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Chevy Rolls Out Updated Camaro

Detroit maker hopes to maintain its pony car lead.

by on Mar.28, 2013

The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro gets updates to keep it ahead of the competition.

It was supposed to be the shining moment for the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro, but the mainstream version of the Detroit pony car was upstaged by this week’s unexpected revival of the track-ready Z28.

While the Z28 will certainly place a spotlight on the broader Camaro range, it’s almost a bit disappointing that the “regular” version had to slip from the spotlight because the tweaks it is getting for 2014 are aimed at helping Camaro maintain the upper hand in the fierce and ongoing battle with its long-time competitor, the Ford Mustang.

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The 2014 re-skin is modest enough that those not familiar with the current Chevrolet Camaro might not even realize what’s changed. But for aficionados, the update is significant.

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Designing Wagons: Volvo V60 R-Design Debuts in NY

Volvo struggles to make wagons sexy.

by on Mar.28, 2013

Volvo is bringing sexy back when it comes to wagons with the new V60 R-Design.

Volvo has had a habit of doing things its own way, which includes selling wagons when those so-called two-box designs didn’t work for just about anyone else.

Even Volvo has had to accept market trends in recent years, and shift to more contemporary crossovers. But with the launch of the sporty new V60 R-Design, Swedish brand is hoping to make wagons, well, almost sexy.

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Making its debut at the New York Auto Show, the V60-R isn’t the sort of wood-covered wagon one might have expected from decades past. The show car has a fire red paint job covering its almost coupe-like roofline and long, aggressive nose. But what could provide particular appeal is what’s under the hood, a 329-horsepower version of Volvo’s 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine.

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VW Golf Named World Car of the Year

Porsche, Jaguar and Tesla also capture honors.

by on Mar.28, 2013

Volkswagen Group’s Global Design Director Walter da Silva celebrates the Golf's World Car of the Year Award in New York.

Capping a rapidly expanding string of honors, the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf was named the World Car of the Year during a well-attended ceremony at the New York International Auto Show this morning.

The award comes just weeks after the compact hatchback was declared European Car of the Year at the annual Geneva Motor Show. But both honors landed a year before the latest update of Volkswagen’s best-selling model finally goes on sale in the U.S.

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The 66 members of the World Car jury also paid homage to three other manufacturers – Jaguar, Porsche and upstart battery-car maker Tesla Motors – during the ceremony.

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