Archive for April, 2014

Ford Aims to Build Interest in Work Vans with New Transit

Automakers adding a little style – and lots of functionality.

by on Apr.30, 2014

The new Ford Transit van with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs.

It’s probably no surprise that Ford has put a lot more effort into heralding the launch of the new 2015 Mustang than into its new Transit and Transit Connect models. Vans are the automotive equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield. They get no respect, at least not from consumers.

But it’s a different story when it comes to business owners, and that means auto manufacturers like Ford love these vehicles because they generate consistent sales – and solid profits.

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The full-size van “is an extremely important product for us,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, as he watched the official roll-out of the first of the new full-size Transit models on Wednesday at the maker’s Kansas City Assembly Plant.

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Taxpayers Taking Bigger Hit on GM Bailout

Total rises to $11.2 billion after accounting error.

by on Apr.30, 2014

The government bailout of General Motors is going to cost taxpayers $11.2 billion: $826 million more than originally expected.

U.S. taxpayers are taking a bigger loss on the General Motors bailout package than $10.3 billion originally reported. Due to an accounting error, the loss is actually $11.2 billion, according to a report released today.

The Treasury Department reported an $826-million administrative claim had been written off on March 20. However, the claim, which has not been revealed, cannot be written off.

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The figure surfaced in a report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was charged with overseeing the federal government’s economic stimulus program. (more…)

U-M Escalating Connected Car Research

Mobility Transportation Center leading the efforts.

by on Apr.30, 2014

The University of Michigan is about to begin a new wave to testing connected cars to improve their future viability.

The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents is ready to approve a new project that will help make the university one of the centers for the study of connected car technology in North America.

Jim Sayer of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said the rapid development of connected-vehicle technology and the potential it has to improve transportation safety, driver accessibility, optimize mobility and reduce vehicle crashes is compelling technology.

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Going forward, automotive engineers will need to be familiar with connected vehicle technology, he said. Located on the university’s campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, new Mobility Transportation Center will be supported by the university, the State of Michigan and several corporate backers with an interest in the technology. (more…)

Failure to Recall May Cost Makers $300 Million

Feds propose raising top-end find nearly tenfold.

by on Apr.30, 2014

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants to raise the maximum fine against automakers failing to meet recall rules to $300 million.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants automakers to know his department means business with his latest proposal that would raise the maximum fine for not recalling a vehicle in a timely manner nearly tenfold.

As part of the administration’s transportation reauthorization proposal, Foxx proposed making the top fine $300 million, up from the current cap of $35 million. The department doubled the previous high in 2012 raising it from $17.5 million to current figure of $35 million.

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Foxx believes the current top fine isn’t enough of a deterrent for automakers to not obey the rule requiring companies to issue a recall within five days of determining the vehicles pose a safety risk to drivers. (more…)

New Products Drive Sharp Surge in Daimler Earnings

CLA, other line-up additions draw in new buyers for Mercedes brand.

by on Apr.30, 2014

Mad Men star Jon Hamm helped unveil the new S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe at the NY Auto Show.

With new models like the Mercedes-Benz CLA drawing in a new generation of buyers, the brand’s German parent Daimler AG reported its net profit nearly doubled during the first quarter.

The German maker had struggled to overcome a series of problems in recent years, notably including a slide in demand in China, but Mercedes’ rebound in that booming market further lifted the maker’s earnings to 1.086 billion Euros for the January to March quarter, or $1.498 billion, up from 564 million Euros a year earlier.

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“Our strategy is paying off,” said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, “our investments are bearing fruit.”

In a statement accompanying its earnings, the maker predicted both revenues and earnings would “significantly increase” for all of 2014 as it gained ground in China while also boosting sales in more established markets like the U.S. and Europe.

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Terrafugia Wants to Build Flying Plug-in Hybrid

Computer controlled, concept would require as little as 5 hours training to fly.

by on Apr.29, 2014

The Terrafugia TF-X would travel 500 miles on a plug-in hybrid power train. However, it's not likely to be ready for another decade.

Flying cars have long been the stuff of science fiction, though plenty of entrepreneurs and visionaries have struggled to make the concept a reality – including no less than the original Henry Ford.

Several projects are now underway and one, started by a group of MIT alumni, is rapidly working its way towards reality. But the former college cronies apparently are dreaming about taking their original Transition flying car a giant leap further into the wild blue yonder with an even more advanced design they’ve dubbed the TF-X.

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To start with, the four-seater would be capable of vertical take-offs and landings. And since it would largely be controlled by a central computer network, the TF-X would, claims a Terrafugia promotional video, require a pilot/driver to have as little as five hours of training, a slight fraction of what it now takes to get the most basic private pilot’s license. (more…)

Over Half of New Vehicles Now Deliver at Least 23 MPG

One in nine now top 30 MPG, according to new study.

by on Apr.29, 2014

The Nissan Altima is one of a growing list of vehicles delivering better than 23 mpg - often more than 30 miles per gallon.

Despite the resurgence of full-size pickups, SUVs and muscle cars, American car buyers are getting better fuel economy than ever before, over half of the vehicles sold this year delivering over 23 mpg, according to a new study, with one in nine topping 30 mpg.

Even some traditional gas guzzlers are now yielding mileage once considered a stretch for small cars, industry and government data reveals, though automakers still face a stretch achieving the 54.5 mpg target facing them in 2025, observers warn.

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“This has been remarkable,” said Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America, which has been tracking fuel economy trends for over a decade.  After years of relatively stagnant mileage, the increased federal fuel economy rules passed in 2005 have been paying off, he said, calling it a “great example” of how industry can respond to mandates backed by public support.

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BMW, Mercedes Recall More than 400K Cars

German makers deal with stalling, tail light problems.

by on Apr.29, 2014

The 2012 BMW 3-Series is one of the many models targeted by the latest recall.

The list of recalls continues to lengthen as two German automakers – BMW and Mercedes-Benz – issued recalls for separate problems on more than 400,000 vehicles.

BMW is recalling 156,000 cars due to issues with aluminum bolts that secure the housing for the variable camshaft timing adjustment unit can loosen over time and may break and could cause stalling.

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The action covers the 2010-12 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series Gran Turismo and X3, X5, X6 and Z4 along with the 2011-2012 5 Series and 2012 6 Series vehicles. Additionally, BMW is extending the warranties for another 170,000 inline six-cylinder 2010-12 vehicles, which are not covered in the recall, to address similar problems if they arise. The vehicles were built between September 2009 and February 2012. (more…)

Volkswagen Reports Jump in Q1 Profitability

Group rides Audi, Porsche, heavy trucks to increase.

by on Apr.29, 2014

VW CEO Martin Winterkorn announced the automaker saw operating profit rise 21.8 percent during the first quarter.

Volkswagen AG enjoyed a strong first quarter reporting a 26.8% increase in net income as well as a 21.8% rise in operating profit on just a 2.7% jump in revenue. Most of the company’s brands saw an increase in operating profit, except its namesake brand, Volkswagen.

VW’s operating profit was about $610 million for the quarter compared with about $815.2 million a year ago. The company said, “it was negatively impacted by lower sales volumes, negative exchange rate trends especially in South America and Russia and higher upfront investments in new technologies, while lower material costs and improvements in the mix had a positive effect.”

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Porsche recorded an operating profit of $957.6 million in the first three months compared with $791.7 million for the same period last year. (more…)

Trident Lays Claims to World’s Fastest Diesel Sports Car

Iceni Magna and Venturer models can hit 190 – and deliver 57 mpg.

by on Apr.29, 2014

The 2-seat Trident Iceni Magna.

If your idea of a diesel hasn’t evolved from the 1980s, when “oil burners” were notoriously noisy, smelly, shaky – and slow – the little British sports car manufacturer Trident is set to challenge your assumptions.

It’s launching two new models that are laying claim to being the world’s fastest diesel-powered sports cars, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 190 mph. At the same time, Trident boasts that new “torque multiplication technology” will permit its Iceni Magna and Iceni Venturer models to deliver as much as 2,000 miles of driving on a single tank of fuel.

Performance!

“We have worked extremely hard to reach this point and the whole Trident team is thrilled to be bringing the world’s most fuel-efficient diesel sports cars to market,” says David Monaghan, co-founder of Trident Sports Cars, Ltd., which has been working on the Iceni project since it was formed in 2005.

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