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Cadillac Recalls CTS, CTS-V for Bad Knee Bolsters

An unbelted front passenger could sustain leg injuries in a crash.

by on Sep.20, 2010

Independent testing revealed a safety problem.

Cadillac is recalling more than 20,000 CTS all-wheel-drive and CTS-V models from the 2009-2010 model years because of a defective knee bolster on the front passenger side.

In an accident the front passenger’s legs could be injured if he or she is small in stature, not wearing a safety belt, and the seat is adjusted to the full forward position.

A contractor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a frontal barrier test last April in a spot test of maker certified vehicles. The independent firm concluded that the limit of 1,530 pounds on the right femur was exceeded by 1%. GM objected to the test. A retest in August showed a 3% violation of the forces required by FMVSS 208. At that point Cadillac had no choice but to recall the its flagship car that has been a considerable source of momentum in the market.

Dealers will replace the glove compartment assembly and, in some vehicles, modify the instrument panel magnesium beam, which sounds like a complex repair, but repair instructions have not been released to dealers yet. Any recall on a luxury vehicle is bad, but fixes involving interiors are right in front of the world’s most demanding customers, and a source of dissatisfaction if they aren’t performed perfectly.

A GM spokesman said the fix should take one hour or less, depending on when the Cadillac was built. This service will be performed free of charge as required by U.S. law. The safety recall is expected to begin on or before October 20, 2010 when replacement parts become available. In the interim, dealers cannot sell new or used vehicles affected by the recall, which extends to 2010 CTS and CTS-V models produced through May of this year.


Toyota Settles Saylor Suit. Takes on LA Times

The horrific Lexus accident that killed a CHP officer and three family members is closed. Hundreds more lawsuits outstanding.

by on Sep.20, 2010

Toyota's product liability and personal injury woes from mats will continue for a long time.

Toyota Motor Corporation has settled a lawsuit with the Saylor and Lastrella families that resulted in four deaths in August of 2009. The accident called attention to floor mat entrapment, a safety issue that eventually led to recalls of millions of Toyota and Lexus products globally.

It also prompted multiple Congressional investigations and a record fine against Toyota imposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Hundreds of lawsuits alleging unintended acceleration or floor mat entrapment are now part of a huge class action matter in Southern California. Toyota has moved to dismiss all the claims alleging unintended acceleration, saying no evidence has been presented of an electronic problem. It’s a long-term strategy, which could save it millions upon millions in litigation.

On August 28, 2009, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor and three members of his family died in a high speed accident on a highway near San Diego, California, while driving a 2009 Lexus ES350 lent to them by a local dealer. Saylor, 45; his wife, Cleofe, 45; and their 13-year-old daughter Mahala died, along with Cleofe Saylor’s brother, Chris Lastrella, 39, when Saylor was unable to stop the sedan.

In a statement released after a Los Angeles Times story on the settlement, Toyota said:

“Through mutual respect and cooperation, Toyota and the Saylor and Lastrella families reached an amicable agreement in mediation that fully resolves these claims without the need for litigation. We felt that was important for Toyota, the dealer and the families.”


Driverless Audi Results in Four Pikes Peak Injuries

Helicopter filming PR stunt crashes. Pilot in critical condition.

by on Sep.17, 2010

The aerial hazards of making an Audi TT commercial resulted in one serious injury.

A helicopter tracking a driverless Audi TT on a Pikes Peak run crashed this morning, critically injuring the pilot and causing non life-threatening injuries to three other airborne passengers. The Audi escaped unscathed.

The crash happened close to the top of the 14,110 foot peak south of Denver Colorado and indefinitely shut down a tourist rail link to the summit.

Presumably the accident was caused by either equipment failure or pilot error based on my experience after decades of reading aviation accident reports. However, that won’t be known until the National Transportation Safety Board releases a preliminary or final accident report, which given the work practices of U.S. Government agencies will be months or much longer in the making.


It was at earlier Pikes Peak Hill Climbs, of course, that Audi demonstrated its four-wheel-drive prowess a generation ago. Audi rally cars, starting with the S1 quattro (sic), used the all-wheel-drive technology to win the 12.42-mile “Race to the Clouds.” The drivers of those quattro rally cars – Bobby Unser, Walter Roehrl and Michele Mouton – earned places in motorsports history at Pikes Peak.


Saturn Homecoming! Jobs Return to Spring Hill

Investment assumes successful “incentive negotiations” with local and state officials General Motors claims this morning.

by on Sep.17, 2010

Cost per taxpayer subsidized job will be controversial no doubt - the reason they weren't announced?

General Motors Company today promised to spend $483 million of taxpayer money and return 483 jobs of the 2,000 lost to its former Saturn plant complex in Spring Hill Tennessee.

There’s a catch though. This investment assumes successful “incentive negotiations” with local and state officials, according to Mark Reuss, GM North America President.

That these negotiations were not completed ahead of today’s press conference shows how leery elected officials are of a taxpayer revolt that is underway less than two months before the mid-term Congressional elections. Another – perhaps more plausible – theory is that the incentives are likely in place, but the politicians don’t want to admit to them before November.

As TDB previously reported, the jobs come from building current – and ultimately next-generation – Ecotec four-cylinder engines, as GM shifts its emphasis from larger and more fuel thirsty V6 and V8 engines. If the deal comes off,  GM would triple its North American production volume of four-cylinder engines with direct injection technology by 2012 when more stringent fuel economy rules start to take hold.  (See Unloved Ex Saturn Plant to Get New Ecotec Engine)

In a statement GM claimed that the additional work would bring to almost $2.9 billion the amount of new U.S. investment and 7,417 jobs that GM has created or retained in 20 U.S. plants since emerging from a controversial taxpayer financed – more than $50 billion –  bankruptcy in July 2009. (Hundreds of thousands of GM jobs were eliminated during the past two years, if you’re keeping score.) Employees filling these positions will be recalled in accordance with the United Auto Workers-GM National Labor agreement, which favors seniority not performance.


European Car Sales Plummet in July and August

Renault and PSA Groups advance as Ford, Fiat and GM decline.

by on Sep.16, 2010

The real battle for world dominance will be in China where VW is firmly entrenched.

VW remains number one in Europe as PSA and Renault pick up share.

The European car market continued stuck in reverse this summer, according to the latest sales data released this morning by ACEA, the automakers trade association. This continues a worrisome downward trend from the 2nd quarter of 2010 when vast taxpayer-subsidized replacement programs initiated the previous year began expiring.

As in the U.S., European taxpayers appear to be revolting against an endless expansion of government spending, making further subsidies of local industries increasingly difficult.

While the results are important in themselves because they involve the world’s players and their ability to fund future products to ensure survival, it is also indicative of where the U.S. market might be heading with, say, five or more makers competing closely for the top volume rankings.

In  Europe all others fight for table scraps as smaller makers who need to play in global markets use marginal operations there to survive. It could happen here.  Once upon a time a maker could thrive in the U.S. alone – it’s now a business planning fairy tale in my view.

In Europe, new registrations fell by 18.6% in July and 12.9% in August. Eight months into the year, new cars in the EU totaled only 9,021,703 units or 3.5% less than over the same depressed period a year ago, which itself was artificially propped up by government spending on incentive programs.

In July, a double-digit collapse occurred in the main volume markets, ranging from -12.8% in France to -13.2% in the UK, -24.1% in Spain, -25.7% in Italy and a whopping -30.2% in Germany, traditionally Europe’s economic powerhouse and export giant. Overall, 1,032,893 new cars were registered in the EU, or 18.6% less than in July last year.


Hyundai to Build New Headquarters in California

Current Fountain Valley Site will be refurbished. Lucky land?

by on Sep.16, 2010

The fifth largest auto company in the world expands again.

Hyundai Motor America confirmed yesterday that it will invest $150 million in a new North American headquarters on the site of its current complex in Fountain Valley, California.

The announcement came after a meeting between California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hyundai Motor Company Chairman Mong-Koo Chung, who heads the fifth largest auto company in the world.

Orange County – where Fountain Valley is – has been Hyundai’s home since its arrival in the United States in 1985. Hyundai will invest about $150 million, the largest investment ever made by Hyundai in the state.

During the approximately two-year project, it is estimated that as many as 1,530 new construction jobs will be created with a $273 million total economic output, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.

It will also double the space of the current headquarters and provide room to double the growing  auto company’s corporate staff to about 1,400 employees, according to John Krafcik, chief executive of Hyundai Motor America.

“We think this is the best place to plan and design our vehicles. It is still a center of innovation for North America,” Krafcik said.


Unloved Ex Saturn Plant to Get New Ecotec Engine

GM North America President Mark Reuss and Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen make announcement this Friday.

by on Sep.15, 2010

Some jobs returning to the under-used Spring Hill complex are better than none.

General Motors Company said today in a media invitation that it will make a powertrain investment announcement in its Spring Hill complex in Tennessee at 10 a.m. central time Friday.

The sprawling plant is only partially used since now defunct Saturn models were transferred to a now closed plant in Delaware and the Chevrolet Traverse model was moved out of state to Michigan.

Informed opinion from multiple sources has it that Spring Hill will make an upgraded version of the “Ecotec” four-cylinder engine in anticipation of increased need for more fuel efficient engines as more stringent emission and fuel economy regulations take hold starting in 2012.

The plant already makes four-cylinder engines for the popular Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain midsize crossover vehicles, and the Buick LaCrosse full-size sedan. Industry observers have it that GM is about to phase out larger and more fuel thirsty V6 and V8 engines in many of its models.

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Mark Reuss, GM’s North America president; Joe Ashton, United Auto Workers vice president – GM Department and governor Phil Bredesen will be at the press conference. UAW members are privately saying that some 400 laid-off workers will return to work.


More Mercedes-Benz CLS Photos Released

Low, coupe-like sedan could have – should have - been a Jag?

by on Sep.15, 2010

The new coupe-look sedan is trying to straddle the opposing fences of automotive design.

Ahead of its formal media debut at the Paris Motor Show on September 30, Mercedes has released more photos of its most emotionally styled sedan, the CLS. The public days follow on October 2 – 17.

While abandoning some of the flowing and rounded look of the original, the new flagship is trying to straddle the opposing fences of automotive design – curves versus angles.

Auto design has been in this cycle for decades, if not forever. Round it off, then square it off or combine the two – repeat.

The four-door coupe, of course, maintains its signature frame-less side glass and longitudinal accent lines that soar from front to rear, in an unacknowledged tribute to Detroit stylists who perfected the four-coupe coupe look in the 1950s, the Golden Age of American automobiles.

And there is nothing new under the German sun either, starting with the Benz ‘s recently exaggerated or over-sized tri-star on the grille, the long nose that sweeps back into a reclined windshield followed by the a low roof that recedes into a truncated trunk lid.

Ah, the inside straddle. At least one interior will have wood accents and lighter hues.

But the CLS is not about practicality, of course – rear head or trunk room are secondary to the look, one that was so successful that is being pursued by virtually all automakers in their current or future portfolios, from the Buick LaCrosse to various Jaguars, to Hyundai’s  Sonata and the Volkswagen CC, to name but a few. Cadillac stands alone in pursuing purer angles.

The interior of the new CLS has been upgraded, too, in a distinct departure with classic design, it echoes the current and widely copied German clichés by eschewing wood in the signature show car in favor of carbon fiber panels and cold Teutonic tones and chrome cues that could also be used on modern bathroom fixtures or Braun and Bosch appliances. On reflection, they in fact already are.

However, the latest interior shot released today shows lighter tones and wood accents as well in at least one version – a good thing in my view because the higher beltline will produce a cave-like effect inside.


New OnStar Services Launch Monday despite DD

GM's expansion includes social media and voice texting as Distracted Driving remains a major public health problem.

by on Sep.15, 2010

Auto companies remain committed to expanding vehicle electronics and web connectivity.

OnStar is debuting next week new services and technologies for its 6 million subscribers as part of a “realignment” of the company’s long-term strategy.

The GM subsidiary plans to offer what it calls innovations that “significantly increase drivers’ in-car connection,” on the eve of the second annual Distracted Driving summit that is being convened next week in Washington, DC by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

OnStar executives did not respond to queries about its participation in the meetings. There are no specific public data that show to what extent, if any, OnStar users are part of deadly DD.

LaHood has repeatedly criticized the growing use of electronics in automobiles, but is powerless to regulate it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (part of DOT) is prohibited by the U.S. Congress from promulgating national regulations concerning distracted driving; so LaHood has been using his “bully pulpit” to oppose the well-financed auto, electronics and cell phone lobbies whose companies’ devices are enabling almost 6,000 deaths each year and more than 500,000 injuries.

Simultaneous events held in New York, Austin, San Francisco and Miami yesterday gave OnStar subscribers a first look at new technologies possible through the ninth generation hardware, including in-car social media interactions that are being tested.

“With the extremely high awareness and respect for the OnStar brand, we’ve created a long-term vision that includes new in-vehicle hardware, an all-new IT infrastructure and a host of new partnerships and services that provide the basis for growth,” said OnStar President Chris Preuss.


Chrysler Teases 2011 200 Sedan

Mid-size replacement for the unlamented Sebring on way.

by on Sep.14, 2010

The 2009 200C - concept - was billed as an electric vehicle, whose fate is unknown.

Chrysler Group LLC today released photos of the new 2011 Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan that will replace the Sebring when it goes on sale late this year.

The tightly cropped photos of the revised car show that it borrows some cues from the 200C EV Concept that appeared at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.

A companion Dodge model was also shown at that time, but no word on the fate of the Dodge or whether an electric version promised then will ultimately appear. It is a reasonable assumption that the Dodge car line is on its way to extinction.

It's a good assumption that the production 200 when revealed will use the rest of the concept's cues.

Chrysler says that virtually every system in the sedan is new or upgraded for 2011, giving the Chrysler 200 its own identity and space in the highly competitive mid-size sedan segment that Toyota, Honda and Nissan dominate.

Exterior and sheet metal upgrades include: front and rear fascias and fenders, a grille featuring the new Chrysler brand winged badge, hood, rear deckled and exterior mirrors, new projector headlamps and fog lamps, new LED taillamps and a LED center high-mounted stop light.

The Chrysler 200 also has  a revised powertrain lineup with a  2.4-liter I4 engine  mated to either a four- or six-speed automatic transaxle, or the new Pentastar V6 engine which produces 283 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transaxle.