Archive for April, 2013

Spy Shots: 2015 Ford Mustang

Ford wants to make a splash for 50th anniversary.

by on Apr.30, 2013

Our spies captured an early look at the 2015 Ford Mustang. Photo credit: Jim Dunne CAR SPY

It’s no secret that Ford is planning to provide plenty of hoopla to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang when it rolls off the line next year. However, what the 2015 Mustang has been kept under wraps: until now.

Look for Ford to uncover this all-new Mustang design as a 2015 model sometime in 2014. Though covered from front to rear – no bumpers on this early prototype – there are a few details of changes that can be detected. Up front are headlight openings that indicate the lamps are set high on the front fenders, not down low in the grille. So too, at the rear, the taillights are set higher in the trunk.

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Overall the profile of the Mustang is unmistakable, even in this heavily wrapped mid-program prototype. But, those wheels with the five split-spoke appearance seem to be new.


4Runner Gets Makeover

Toyota gives SUV a more aggressive look.

by on Apr.30, 2013

Toyota gave the fifth-generation 4Runner a facelift featuring a more aggressive look.

For nearly three decades, the Toyota 4Runner has been a key part of the Japanese automakers’ product portfolio.

Now one of a small number of true body-on frame sport utility vehicles left in the market, the 4Runner is getting a facelift and new interior appointments for the 2014 model year, Toyota announced.

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Currently in its fifth-generation, 4Runner carries on as a fully capable mid-size SUV. The redesigned 2014 4Runner receives a new exterior design, and interior refinements that add comfort and convenience. They are combined with a comprehensive suspension technology that provides off-road capability with a smooth ride and comfort more often associated with crossovers, Toyota officials noted during an event offering media a look at the updated 4Runner.


Ford Promoting Mustang History

Maker begins campaign marking 50th anniversary.

by on Apr.30, 2013

Ford created a custom logo aimed at honoring Mustang's 50th anniversary in 2014.

Images of the next-generation Mustang are being kept under tight wraps in Dearborn; however, Ford is rolling out elements of the marketing campaign celebrating 50 years of the first “pony car” that will proceed the debut of the 2015 Mustang next spring.

The breadth of the new campaign was underscored with the announcement that Ford is teaming up with Shinola, a Detroit-based start-up manufacturer of luxury goods, to celebrate 50 years of the Ford Mustang with the release of 46-millimeter wristwatch with Swiss movements.

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“Like the Mustang itself, we want our licensed products to convey an attitude of strength, passion and quality,” said John Nens, Ford lead for global brand licensing.


Fiat Discussing Plans To Buy Chrysler

Marchionne says company has cash to make purchase.

by on Apr.29, 2013

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the company has the cash to purchase the UAW VEBA's 41.5% stake.

The timing of Fiat’s purchase of the remaining 41.5% stake in Chrysler – currently held by United Auto Workers VEBA trust – is moving towards resolution, but the timing remains a topic of conversation.

“It’s under discussion,” Chrysler/Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said during the Chrysler earnings conference call. When pressed by analysts and reporters, Marchionne declined to offer any details. However, he suggested Fiat was in position to use its own resources to acquire the remaining stake from the VEBA.

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“When I last checked the bank account, there was enough money,” he said.


VW First Quarter Profit Drops

Despite drop, maker’s market share improves.

by on Apr.29, 2013

Volkswagen reported a drop in income, but an increase in Q1 market share.

Volkswagen AG saw its earnings and revenue decline on a year-over-year basis during the first quarter as the European debt crisis continued to stifle sales across Europe and left the company’s Seat brand in the red.

VW’s after tax earnings fell to 1.9 billion euro, or $2.5 billion, from 3.1 billion. Overall, VW’s sales revenue in the first three months dropped 1.4% to 46.6 billion euros from 47.3 billion euros in the first quarter of 2012.

Despite the challenging conditions and intense competition VW bolstered its overall global market share, which climbed to 12.6% from 12.2%. Including China, deliveries increased by 4.8% to 2.3 million vehicles worldwide.

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“We made a healthy start to the year, but the coming months will be anything but easy. The current environment is definitely a tough challenge for the entire industry,” said VW Chairman Martin Winterkorn, adding he remained optimistic about the company’s outlook.


Chrysler Posts $166 Million Profit

Q1 results negatively impacted by product launches.

by on Apr.29, 2013

Chrysler Group's Q1 earnings dropped in part, to the launch of the new Dodge Ram.

A sharp downturn in the company’s production of new vehicles tied to new product launches undercut Chrysler Group’s cut Chrysler’s profits by two-thirds during the first quarter of 2013.

Chrysler Group reported Q1 net income net income dropped 65% to $166 million, compared with $473 million for the same quarter last year. It was the seventh consecutive quarter of positive net income.

The results, which were expected, were a result of lower vehicle shipments as well as industrial costs related to several key product launches, and lower vehicle shipments to Europe and Latin America, even as retail sales in North America remain strong, the company said.

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Nonetheless Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne insisted the company remains on a path to longer-term prosperity as it ramps up production of the new Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee as well as the Dodge Ram.


Tesla Announces No-Fault Battery Warranty; “Valet” Loaner Program

CEO Musk hints battery upgrade program “a good likelihood.”

by on Apr.26, 2013

Tesla CEO Elon Musk with a prototype Model S.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has announced a series of steps designed to give Model S electric vehicle owners “complete peace of mind” about the durability of their batteries and the cost and convenience of getting the Model S sedan serviced.

Meanwhile, Musk told that there is a “good likelihood” that the California-based automaker will eventually offer owners the ability to upgrade their current lithium-ion battery packs as more advanced battery technology becomes available.

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“We’re focused on creating the world’s best factory service experience to match what many have called the world’s best car,” Musk said during a media conference call on Friday.

The Tesla founder outlined a variety steps that will be taken, including a new valet service program in which customers can have their Model S picked up by the dealer, rather than having to take it to the shop.  The valet will leave the owner with a Tesla Model S 85, the most expensive and longest-range version of the battery-electric vehicle, as a loaner.


Motorcycle Deaths Rising Rapidly

No-helmet laws catch blame, but so does weather.

by on Apr.26, 2013

US motorcycle fatalities rose nearly 250% since 1997.

Motorcycle deaths rose 9% last year, according to new data from the Governors Highway Safety Administration – marking the 14th time out of the last 15 years that there has been a rise in fatalities.

All told, about 5,000 Americans were killed in motorcycle crashes in last year, a nearly 240% increase from 1997, even though overall traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly a quarter during the same time period.

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“This is a bad situation that is getting worse,” said Jonathan Adkins, GHSA’s deputy executive director.

Adkins is one of many pointing the finger at the ongoing, state-by-state repeal of helmet laws.  In Michigan, a state police report found that motorcycle deaths surged 18% during 2012 – the year lawmakers repealed the state’s helmet requirement. By comparison, overall traffic deaths increased a more modest 5.3%.


Hyundai Yanks Controversial Suicide Ad

Suicide isn’t painless, nor source of humor, Hyundai admits.

by on Apr.26, 2013

Hyundai takes heat for suicide-theme ad.

“Suicide is painless,” or so went the lyrics of the theme from “MASH,” but while the film and later the popular TV show were able to find a bit of dark humor in that theme, Hyundai has largely triggered nothing but shock and a serious backlash as a result of an ad that poked fun at someone’s attempt to commit suicide in a car.

The online spot has been pulled from Youtube and other outlets and an embarassed Hyundai is apologizing for the misguided effort.

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The spot, which had targeted the European market – but which received widespread attention in the U.S., as well, thanks to the borderless Internet – featured a man apparently suffering from deep depression and ready to end it all. He runs a hose from the tailpipe to the cabin and starts the car. The result? Nothing. The ad is meant to promote the fact that this is Hyundai’s new zero-emission vehicle.


It Anchored the Arsenal of Democracy but old GM Plant Soon to Come Down

Former B-24 plant, ironically, to fall for new aviation museum.

by on Apr.26, 2013

B24s under production at the old Willow Run plant.

Editor’s Note: Most of Detroit’s historic assembly plants have vanished over the years, and the one-time General Motors plant in Willow Run, Michigan, is apparently next to meet the wrecking ball. If the factory simply turned out cars for a few decades it likely wouldn’t have been missed. But as columnist and historian Mike Davis points out, the old factory was one of America’s most important during World War II.

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It was a firing pin in the “Arsenal of Democracy,” at its World War II peak in April 1944 rolling out a new four-engine B-24 heavy bomber roughly once an hour. In contrast to the aviation industry, which then bench-built airplanes one at a time, Willow Run employed automotive-type mass-production assembly lines.

To help fulfill President Roosevelt’s vow that America would build 50,000 airplanes a year to counter the Nazi threat, Ford Motor Company had agreed early in 1941 to use its mass-production mastery for plant construction and then assembly of Consolidated Aircraft’s giant bomber.


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