Archive for May, 2013

New Face, More Power for 2014 GMC Sierra Denali

New 6.2-liter V-8 on Sierra SLT ups tow capacity to 12,000 lbs.

by on May.29, 2013

The 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali gets a new face, upgraded interior and more power.

GMC aims to cover all the bases with the new Sierra 1500 Denali it is introducing this coming autumn, giving it a new face, an upgraded interior – and a lot more power.

Set to start rolling out in June, the 2014 GMC Sierra will offer an all-new 6.2-liter V-8 — closely related to the engine in the equally new 2014 Corvette –which will deliver a hefty 420 horsepower and tow up to 12,000 pounds.

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“The 2014 Sierra Denali has a combination of performance, capability and luxury that no other pickup can match,” according to Tony DiSalle, GMC vice president of marketing. “It leaves no boxes unchecked for those owners looking for the ultimate expression of ‘Professional Grade.’”


2014 Chevrolet Corvette Over-Delivers with 455 HP

Optional exhaust bumps that to 460.

by on May.29, 2013

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the most powerful "base" 'Vette ever.

When it comes to the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, General Motors has decided to under-promise and over-deliver.

The maker had originally said it expected the new sports car, known to fans as the C7, to make an already impressive 450 horsepower once final numbers were calculated. In fact, the Corvette will come in at 455 hp, and with the optional high-performance exhaust package, that gets bumped up to 460 ponies.

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That will make the Chevrolet Corvette the most powerful base car in the long and colorful story of the ‘Vette which made its debut six decades ago. But power alone doesn’t tell the entire story of the new 2-seater which has been completely remade for 2014 and which GM now hopes will help it compete more directly with the European brands that have dominated the global sports car market.


Volkswagen Forges Deal With Union

Maker raises wages for IG Metall workers in Germany.

by on May.28, 2013

Volkswagen reached agreement on a new contract with its primary union, IG Metall.

Volkswagen AG agreed to a new labor contract with its principal German labor union, IG Metall, to raise wages by 5.7% over 20 months.

VW will increase base pay of its German workers by 3.4% as of Sept. 1, and another 2.2% as of July 1, 2014, the Wolfsburg, Germany-based maker said. In addition, the company will make a one-time payment of €300 to the company pension plan.

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Dr. Horst Neumann, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft Board of Management Member for Human Resources, noted, “Employees are receiving a good pay increase. In addition, Volkswagen is improving company pension arrangements for its workforce, particularly with reference to young employees.


LA Syncs Lights, Shaves Commute Times

New system can reduce travel times up to 12% - when it works.

by on May.28, 2013

LA is known as much for traffic as for it Hollywood stars these days.

Los Angeles has become an unwilling symbol of America’s worsening traffic congestion – its highways and byways often frozen during the steadily expanding period still know as rush hour.

But city planners are betting they can significantly speed things up in the months to come after completing a project that has been in the works for almost three decades.

From the smallest neighborhoods to the biggest downtown intersections, the city has synced all of its stoplights. Covering a vast 469 square miles, LA is the first major city to achieve that milestone and is already showing a reduction in drive times by about 12% in some parts of the city.

“We’re actually seeing traffic flow.  That’s such an unusual thing in Los Angeles,” says Michael Rose, a freelance film and documentary producer based near the Los Angeles/Santa Monica border.” It’s such a relief.”

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Los Angeles is a city on wheels, and despite ongoing efforts to expand its modest mass transit system, few expect that to move many motorists off the road.


Henrik Fisker Hopes to Buy His Battery-Car Company Back

Fisker Automotive founder reportedly teaming up with Hong Kong tycoon.

by on May.28, 2013

Fisker Automotive founder Henrik Fisker with the $103,000 Fisker Karma during better times.

Forced out earlier this year after a disagreement over management policies, Fisker Automotive founder Henrik Fisker is hoping to regain control of the struggling maker of plug-in hybrid vehicles which is expected to file bankruptcy unless it can quickly find a White Knight to cover its mounting debts.

Henrik Fisker, who first made his name as an automotive designer, is reportedly teaming up with Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li – an early investor in Fisker Automotive. While Fisker was not immediately available to comment, reports on the Reuters news service indicate they would like to take over the automaker without forcing it into bankruptcy.

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They would be one of several groups company insiders say are interested in taking over Fisker Automotive which launched sales of its Karma plug-in hybrid vehicle early last year. Among the others, former General Motors “car czar” Bob Lutz has teamed up with a Chinese automotive supplier to place a $20 million bid for Fisker post-bankruptcy.


Project Better Place Latest EV Failure

Collapse of Israeli Battery Swap venture also a setback for Nissan and Renault.

by on May.28, 2013

Better Place founder Shai Agassi resigned last year. His successor couldn't make it a go, either.

Better Place, the Israeli company once considered in the vanguard of the movement for electric vehicles has filed for liquidation after its efforts to establish a commercially viable battery-swap operation in Israel failed.

Founder and electric car advocate Shia Agassi, left Better Place last year and the decision by his successor to file for bankruptcy and liquidate the company is only the latest in a string of setbacks for electric vehicle start-ups. Better Place now joins battery-car makers and suppliers such as Bright Automotive, A123 Battery and Coda that were scrapped after failing to win support from consumers and investors. Fisker Automotive is soon expected to join the list.

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Better Place’s decision to cease operation also is a setback for Nissan and Renault chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn who has been a huge supporter of EVs and pushed Nissan to sell the all-electric Leaf. Ghosn was a strong proponent of Better Place which promoted the idea of fast battery swapping to improve battery-car range.


First Drive: Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

Great mileage, good performance – but is it worth the price?

by on May.24, 2013

At 46 mpg highway, the new Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel gives even hybrids a run for their (gas) money.

It looks like your run-of-the-mill Chevrolet Cruze, albeit with a nicely loaded interior. But it only takes a second, after you slip behind the wheel and turn the key, to recognize something’s different.

There’s that chattering sound from under the hood that tells you this is the new 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel, the first time any of General Motors’ U.S. brands has put an “oil burner” under the hood of a passenger car since 1986. There’s good reason why it’s taken so long considering the disastrous diesels it produced in the mid-‘80s, models so bad they almost single-handedly destroyed the American diesel market.

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But it’s a new world. Technologies such as high-pressure injection and turbocharging have transformed the modern diesel, making them smooth, quiet, quick and clean.  Or, at least, that’s what we’ve experienced from other manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. So went to Hell and back – Hell, Michigan, that is, to see if the new Cruze Turbo Diesel was anywhere near as good as the competition.


After Nearly Killing the Diesel, GM Brings it Back

Chevrolet launches Cruze diesel, considers other options.

by on May.24, 2013

The 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel will have the highest highway mileage rating of any non-hybid passenger car sold in the U.S.

The company that all but killed the diesel engine is now hoping to bring it back.

For the first time since 1986, General Motors began selling a diesel-powered passenger car this week, and company officials say that a successful launch of the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel could convince them to add additional “oil burners” to the line-up.

“We’ll be watching very closely,” said Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for the Chevrolet brand, adding that with the launch of the Cruze Diesel, Chevy hopes to give some “real competition” to the European makers that currently dominate the small but growing U.S. diesel market, especially Volkswagen.

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Diesels were a significant part of the U.S. market in the late 1970s and early 1980s as American motorists struggled to deal with rising fuel prices after two Mideast energy shocks. But the market took a tumble late in the ‘80s, in part due to some major quality problems with GM diesels, especially an Oldsmobile engine that had a tendency to fail catastrophically.


Lutz Looking to Buy Fisker

Former GM “car czar,” Chinese supplier reportedly offer $20 mil for failed plug-in maker.

by on May.24, 2013

Former GM car czar Lutz meeting with reporters at the Detroit Auto Show.

General Motors’ former “car czar” and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz reportedly is part of a group making a bid to purchase the assets of fast-failing plug-in carmaker Fisker Automotive.

The $20 million offer would be part of a pre-packaged bankruptcy deal, according to the Reuters news service. Fisker, which produces the $100,000 Karma plug-in hybrid sports car, laid off three-quarters of its staff in April and senior executives subsequently told a Congressional committee that a Chapter 11 filing was quite likely to follow.

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Credited with the original concept that eventually became the Chevrolet Volt plug-in, Lutz did not return a request for comment. But he recently expressed his interest in Fisker through a bylined column on the Forbes blog.  He described the Karma as “quite possibly the most beautiful four-door sedan ever,” and referred to its underlying technology as “ground-breaking.”


Nissan Begins Re-Launch of Datsun Brand

by on May.24, 2013

Datsun is set to make its return with a launch in India next March.

Nissan will launch five new models as part of an ambitious plans to bring back the Datsun brand – which will make its debut in India, starting in March of 2014.

The re-introduction of the Datsun brand, which Nissan shelved in the early 1980s, is a key part of an effort by Nissan to boost its market share in South Asia, company officials said in Mumbai.  Nissan plans to expand its Indian dealer network from 95 to 145 outlets to coincide with the Datsun launch – and hopes to increase its market share there fivefold.

“Datsun is an important part of the heritage of Nissan,” said Ashwani Gupta, program director of Nissan’s newly-created Datsun Business Unit.

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“We will offer our customers in India modern and spirited cars that they will be happy and proud to own—at an affordable price,” added Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has said the Datsun brand’s launch plans will focus on “optimistic,” up-and-coming customers in high-growth emerging markets.