Archive for April, 2015

Bugatti Looking to Remain King of Speed

Chiron producing unprecedented 0-62 mph time: 2 seconds.

by on Apr.30, 2015

Bugatti is replacing its Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse with a hybrid named the Chiron.

There are plenty of cars that post zero-to-100 km times in the four second range. Real speed comes in the low-three to high-two second span and now Bugatti’s looking to take that a notch lower: two seconds flat.

The Chiron, which is the replacement for the Veyron, is said to be putting out 1,500 horsepower and 1,100 ft-lb of torque. That would be 0.4 seconds faster than the Vitesse version. It also puts some distance between it and the Ferrari LaFerrari (0.5 seconds faster), the McLaren P1 (0.6 faster) and the Porsch 918 Wessach (0.9 seconds faster).

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The new model is nearly completely new from the ground up: 92% of the components are new or updated. The result may be a lighter vehicle with better handling even though it looks very much like its predecessor. (more…)

Tesla Expected to Add New Product Line Tonight

Maker plans big announcement; expected to get into stationary battery business.

by on Apr.30, 2015

Getting into stationary power would provide a major new business opportunity for the Tesla Gigafactory shown in this rendering.

While it isn’t walking away from the electric vehicle market, California’s Tesla Motors is expected to announce a new line of business this evening during a splashy news conference starring its media-savvy CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla reportedly will reveal it is entering the market for stationary batteries that can provide backup power for home, office and industrial applications. The anticipated announcement has been tempting analysts and investors, the maker’s stock price on a sharp rise in recent weeks. The move could help ensure the viability of the $5 billion Gigafactory battery plant Tesla is setting up in Nevada, even if its electric vehicle sales don’t meet growth expectations.

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Less than coincidentally, Musk also serves as chairman of Solar City, another start-up that provides stationary battery units to back up its solar power systems.

The topic of tonight’s news conference hasn’t been a particularly close-kept secret. On March 30, Musk tweeted that the carmaker would have news of a “major new Tesla product line – not a car.”

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First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

Honda delivers some big things in its small CUV package.

by on Apr.30, 2015

The 2016 Honda HR-V shares the basic architecture first introduced on the Fit hatchback.

Small, smaller, smallest. Like a growing number of its competitors, Honda has been both refreshing and fleshing out its utility vehicle line-up. And even as it prepares to launch an updated version of its biggest model, the Pilot, it’s entering an all-new segment with the pint-sized 2016 Honda HR-V.

What was once a modest niche is rapidly becoming one of the market’s hottest segments with new offerings such as the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X joining earlier entries like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul. Honda, however, has big plans for the smallest of its utility vehicles, hoping to dominate the market much as it has with bigger offerings like the Pilot and mid-range CR-V.

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Sharing the same Mexican assembly line as the familiar Honda Fit, the 2016 HR-V also shares the same underlying platform as that latest-generation minicar. That’s good news for those who believe that good things come in small packages, yielding a flexible and roomy interior that will surprise those who expected a cramped interior with little space for either passengers or cargo.

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GM Dropping $5.4 Billion in Plants in Next Three Years

Automaker kicks off plan with $800M in three Michigan facilities.

by on Apr.30, 2015

GM's Alan Batey announced the maker will invest $5.4 billion in plants over the next three years, including $783.5 million for three Michigan facilities.

With its Pontiac Metal Center as the backdrop, General Motors officials announced plans to invest $5.4 billion into its facilities around the world during the next three years.

The maker is starting with $783.5 million at three plants in Michigan, beginning with $124 million for the aforementioned metal center in Pontiac, Michigan, which pre-tests all major body panel dies under regular production conditions. The process allows stamping plants to produce production-ready parts more quickly.

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Additionally, the company is investing $520 million in tooling and equipment for future programs at its Lansing (Michigan) Delta Township plant. The move keeps 1,900 jobs at the site. GM is investing $139.5 million in a new body shop and for stamping facility upgrades at its Warren, Michigan-based Pre-Production Operations center. (more…)

UAW Raises VW Chattanooga Membership to 55 Percent

Union making inroads to gain more influence.

by on Apr.30, 2015

An employee at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant signs on the dotted line allowing the UAW to represent her. (Photo credit: UAW)

The United Auto Workers moved another step closer to its goal of organizing workers at the Volkswagen of America assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The UAW said in a new filing with the U.S. Department of Labor that 816 employees have now voluntarily joined the union. The 816 represent about 55% of the plant’s blue-collar. The filing, coupled with the upheaval on the VW’s board of supervisors, increases the chances the automaker will raise its level of recognition of the UAW contingent at the plant.

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Berthold Huber, the new chairman of VW Supervisory Board, is a lifelong trade union activist who actively supported the UAW during its recognition election last year. The election ended in a narrow defeat for the UAW, which since then has continued its organizing drive with the assistance of Huber and other German union leaders. (more…)

Lofty Price Tag for High-Performance Cadillac CTS-V

2016 model bigger, faster – and $11,000 more expensive.

by on Apr.30, 2015

The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is larger but also a lot more powerful, with a 640-hp V-8.

Cadillac’s new 640-horsepower CTS-V will not only be the brand’s most powerful model ever, but also its most expensive sedan ever, at $84,990 including delivery charges.

The third-generation performance sedan is aimed at some of the luxury segment’s toughest competitors, including the vaunted BMW M5. But while it delivers more muscle than the Bavarian performance sedan it remains far from certain consumers will accept the hefty price tag which is about $11,000 more than the outgoing version of the Caddy CTS-V.

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“V-Series represents the pinnacle of Cadillac, a brand that now makes drivers’ cars at the highest level,” said Johan de Nysschen, Cadillac president, in a statement. “The new CTS-V is essentially two cars in one: a luxury sedan with sophisticated road manners and a track-capable sports car with awe-inspiring performance.”

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Senate Providing Protection for Whistleblowers

Bills could pay informants more than $10 million for information.

by on Apr.29, 2015

President Barack Obama looking to expand funding the investigations arm of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The more than doubling of the previous record for automotive recalls last year – 60 million- vehicles – was the result of someone taking a stand and now legislation aimed at protecting future whistleblowers has passed the U.S. Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, which was first proposed in November, permits incentives for whistleblowers – in the millions of dollars – if they reveal dangerous products or practices by automakers.

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The bill allows the U.S. transportation secretary discretion to award up to 30% of the total monetary penalties resulting from Department of Transportation or Justice Department enforcement actions that total more than $1 million. The bill covers employees or contractors of motor vehicle manufacturers, parts suppliers and dealerships. (more…)

FCA’s Marchionne Screams for Industry Consolidation

CEO says industry wastes half of capital spent.

by on Apr.29, 2015

FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne reiterated his belief in the need for mergers and consolidation in the auto industry today.

The auto industry globally is failing to earn its cost of capital and needs a major reorganization that would allow major companies, such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, execute a sweeping consolidation of platforms, technology, and research and development, FCA Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne insisted during a conference call with reporters and analysts.

Marchionne said his talk about the need for consolidation is quite serious and not flip.

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“We need to be brutally honest,” he said, while presenting a series of charts, showing the auto industry isn’t covering the cost of the capital it consumes in enormous quantity. (more…)

Ford Recalls Nearly 600K Vehicles

Problems include fuel pumps, steering gears and lights.

by on Apr.29, 2015

The Lincoln MKZ is part of a recall of nearly 520,000 Ford-produced vehicles for steering gear problems.

Ford announced recalls for nearly 600,000 vehicles for a variety problems involving steering gears, fuel pumps and parking lamps.

The automaker is recalling 520,000 2013-15 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles and 2015 Ford Edge vehicles in North America for a steering gear motor attachment issue. The problem is centralized in certain regions where corrosion is a problem. The steering gear motor attachment bolts may fracture due to corrosion. If that occurs, the steering system can default to manual steering mode from power steering making steering very difficult.

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Ford is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this condition. In addition to the problem being regional, it only impacts vehicles built at plants and at certain times. Dealers will replace steering gear motor attachment bolts on customer vehicles with new bolts, seal them, and replace damaged steering gears at no cost to the customer. (more…)

FCA Turns Q1 Profit, Grows Revenue

Maker improves margins in North America, Europe.

by on Apr.29, 2015

FCA reported a $101.2 million Q1 profit today. Additionally, the maker improved its margins in North America and Europe.

Despite a currency shift that hurt the company bottom line, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles earned a profit of $101.2 million (92 million euros) during the first quarter as revenue grew by 19% and margins improved in both North America and Europe.

FCA earned a profit for the second straight quarter in Europe where it has struggled for several years and made more money in North America, but said its losses in South America deepened.

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The company’s profit for the first quarter of this year was an improvement over the $190 million loss that the automaker recorded last year after it recorded a $672-million charge to cover the cost of purchasing shares of Chrysler previously held by the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust. (more…)

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