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Safety Groups Want Tesla Autopilot Name Banned

Groups argue it is “deceptive and misleading.”

by on May.23, 2018

Despite Tesla's claims to the contrary, safety advocates believe the company's use of the name Autopilot is misleading.

It’s called Autopilot but, at least for now, Tesla’s semi-autonomous technology is a not completely reliable co-pilot, it can require rapid human intervention to avert a crash. And that, two consumer groups argue, makes the use of the Autopilot name “deceptive and misleading.”

The Center for Auto Safety, or CAS, and Consumer Watchdog aren’t the first to raise concerns about the Tesla technology. German regulators briefly considered banning the name, Autopilot. But the American non-profit safety groups have taken their concerns to the Federal Trade Commission, asking it to initiate an investigation of how Tesla not only has named, but also how it promotes its semi-autonomous system.

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In a letter to the federal agency, they claim Tesla has taken steps to “mislead and deceive customers into believing that Autopilot is safer and more capable than it is known to be.” (more…)

Three Quarters of Americans “Too Afraid to Ride” in Self-Driving Vehicles

As more problems reported, acceptance declines, finds new AAA study.

by on May.23, 2018

A fatal March crash involving a Tesla Model S in Mountain View, California. Pic courtesy KTVU.

They’re expected to flood our roads by the millions over the next decade, and Congress is currently working on legislation that would expand testing on public roads – but a new AAA study reveals that the American public is, if anything, growing more concerned about the safety of autonomous and fully driverless vehicles.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. drivers would be “afraid” to ride in one today, up from 63% when the AAA last polled American motorists in late 2017. The decline in confidence appears to follow an array of incidents involving prototype autonomous vehicles, including the first-known fatal crash near Phoenix when a hands-free SUV being tested by Uber slammed into a pedestrian.

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“Despite their potential to make our roads safer in the long run, consumers have high expectations for safety,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Our results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles.”

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First Drive: 2019 Subaru Ascent…Proving Bigger is Better

The Japanese automaker learns its lesson with all-new three-row SUV.

by on May.23, 2018

The Subaru Ascent's X Mode is able to handle a wide variety of conditions, including wet sand.

An hour-some outside of Portland, as you head for the rugged Oregon coast, you’ll pass through the quaint old town of McMinnville. It’s known, it seems, for three things: walnuts, the annual Alien Festival – which celebrates a local farmer’s alleged encounter with a UFO – and the Evergreen Air and Space Museum. Dwarfing an indoor football stadium, the star of the collection is the legendary Spruce Goose, among the biggest aircraft ever built.

With eight radial engines mounted across its 321-foot wingspan, the 220 foot-long “Flying Lumberyard” was designed as a troop transport able to squeeze in nearly 800 soldiers on a trans-Atlantic flight. There are times when having plenty of passenger space, it seems comes in handy – something we had in mind before heading to McMinnville for a couple days to drive the all-new Subaru Ascent.

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While dwarfed by what was officially known as the H-4 flying boat, the 2019 Ascent is the Japanese automaker’s biggest offering yet, capable of seating up to eight passengers in a good bit more comfort than soldiers would have experienced had the Spruce Goose ever gone into service. Equally important, it has the styling and features that were sorely lacking when Subaru launched its first three-row model, the ungainly B4 Tribeca back in 2005.

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China Cutting Tariffs on Imported Vehicles

But revised rate is still six times higher than what U.S. levies.

by on May.22, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to cut tariffs on cars to 15% and components to 6%.

Under mounting trade pressure from the U.S., China said Tuesday that it will reduce duties on imported passenger vehicles from 25% to 15%, while also cutting the tariff on imported automotive parts and components to 6%.

Chinese President Ji Xinping had promised to cut tariffs in comments made last month, though it is unclear if the move will go far enough to satisfy critics as diverse as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and U.S. President Donald Trump. With the exception of pickup trucks, the American tariff on imported vehicles is just 2.5%.

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In a series of tweets last month, Trump referred to the automotive imbalance asked, “Does that sound like free or fair trade? No, it sounds like STUPID TRADE – going on for years!” (more…)

Funky Town Meets Funky Car: First Drive of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster

Slightly more practical, Korean entry is still an oddball.

by on May.21, 2018

The second-generation Hyundai Veloster gets a larger grille, bolder fenders and wheel arches and a number of powertrain updates.

In their nearly three-decade history here in the U.S., the Koreans have seldom shied away from introducing oddball offerings. And while it’s not quite as quirky as the Kia Soul, the Hyundai Veloster doesn’t readily fit into any neat category. Consider the fact that it has three doors – not including its hatch – one on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side.

While clearly not mainstream, the Veloster has a loyal following, enough to convince Hyundai to ignore current trends that have led most automakers to trim back on their passenger car line-ups – and Ford to all but drop out entirely.

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Fittingly, when it came time to launch an all-new, second-generation version of the Veloster, Korea’s largest automaker invited us down to Austin, Texas, a town locked in a battle with Portland, Oregon, for bragging rights as the country’s weirdest city. We won’t take sides on that debate, but after some time behind the wheel of several turbo versions of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster we can weigh in on its merits.

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Performance Version of Tesla Model 3 Will Be “Quicker than a BMW” – But Cost $78,000

Will “beat anything in its class on a track,” tweets Tesla’s Musk.

by on May.21, 2018

Tesla CEO Musk claims the performance Model 3 will not only be faster, but handle better than the BMW M3.

Despite a painfully slow ramp-up of production, Tesla is planning to add a new high-performance version of its Model 3 sedan that CEO Elon Musk claims will be “quicker than a BMW,” and be able to “beat anything in its class on a track.”

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Musk fleshed out details about the all-wheel-drive electric vehicle, noting that it will launch from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds, top out at an Autobahn-burning 155 mph, and still yield 310 miles per charge – at least when driven a bit less aggressively. But the yet-unnamed performance version of the Model 3 will also cost $78,000, or about twice as much as a base version of the electric sedan.

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That steep jump actually isn’t entirely out of line, at least when comparing to the likes of a BMW 3-Series sedan. The German sports sedan starts at $34,900, around the same figure as a Model 3 before factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit. The BMW M3 starts at $66,500, though appears to have less standard equipment than the Model 3 performance version. The Tesla includes AWD, for example, an otherwise $5,000 option.

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Fired Ford Exec Reappears as Head of Supplier Building Ford GT Supercar

Veteran exec was ousted for “inappropriate behavior” in February.

by on May.21, 2018

Ford's Raj Nair helped introduce the 2019 Mustang.

Unceremoniously ousted in February from one of Ford Motor Co.’s top posts, 53-year-old Raj Nair has resurfaced, hiring on with Canadian supplier Multimatic as its new president and chief operating officer. In that post, Nair will oversee the production of the $450,000 Ford GT supercar.

Until February, Nair was one of the Detroit automaker’s most senior executives, in mid-2017 promoted to the critical post of president of Ford North America as part of a broad management shake-up that saw the ouster of the carmaker’s CEO Mark Fields. In his previous post, Nair oversaw global product development and was a key player in the development of the exotic Ford GT.

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But his career seemed to come to a screeching halt when, early this year, Nair suddenly took a leave, many colleagues and staff members worrying he might be facing a health problem. Instead, insiders told TheDetroitBureau.com, he was named in a complaint filed through an anonymous tip line set up by Ford and subsequently fired for what the company would only describe as “inappropriate behavior.”

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In Final Move as FCA CEO, Marchionne Expected to Order Massive Shift in Product, Manufacturing Plans

Small Fiat models likely to be dropped, brand may leave U.S.

by on May.18, 2018

Could FCA pull the Fiat brand out of the U.S.?

As Fiat Chrysler Automobiles prepares for life beyond its founding chief executive, CEO Sergio Marchionne is expected to announce major shifts in the automaker’s product and manufacturing strategy, according to several reports.

During a June 1 meeting meant to reveal FCA’s next five-year plan, the 65-year-old executive reportedly will announce that the Fiat brand will abandon two of its base models, the Punto and Mito, while shifting emphasis to more up-market models. The automaker also will put more emphasis on its Jeep brand which, Marchionne said during the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, could help Fiat Chrysler double its earnings during the next five years.

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One of the key questions hanging over the Euro-American automaker may not be resolved during a meeting bringing together analysts and journalists from around the world: who will replace Marchionne as CEO? He has dropped hints that his successor will come from FCA’s current top management ranks, which means no women or outsiders are in the running.

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Mercedes Tooling Up French Plant to Take on Tesla Model 3

Compact EQA model will be one of 10 all-electric models coming by 2022.

by on May.18, 2018

The Mercedes-Benz Concept EQA made its debut at last autumn's Frankfurt Motor Show.

Daimler will invest 500 million euros, or $588 million, to tool up a plant in France that will produce an all-electric vehicle targeting the Tesla Model 3.

The German automaker has announced major plans for entering the battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, market. That includes products like the compact concept vehicle Mercedes-Benz revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show last September.

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The French battery-car will be based on that EQA prototype. By 2022, the new Mercedes-EQ sub-brand will be selling 10 BEVs. That’s on top of the electrified models to be offered by Daimler’s Smart brand. (more…)

VW Brand Bailing Out on Paris Motor Show

Latest in a growing series of auto show cutbacks by global carmakers.

by on May.17, 2018

Volkswagen introduced its I.D. concept in Paris in 2016, now it's skipping the 2018 show.

The auto industry exodus from major car shows is rapidly accelerating, with Volkswagen the latest to announce plans that will see its flagship VW brand drop out of the upcoming Paris Auto Show, normally Europe’s biggest industry event of the year.

An assortment of major brands, including Volkswagen’s Audi marque, have said they will be no-shows next year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the biggest industry gathering in the U.S. And BMW plans to slash its presence at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, and possibly other auto shows.

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“The Volkswagen brand is continually reviewing its participation in international motor shows,” the VW division said on Thursday. It may not completely skip out on Paris, however. While it won’t have a display at the city’s convention center, it may stage concurrent “communications activities,” it added. (more…)

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