Author Archive

Detroit Automakers Could Come Out Losers Even if Trump Scuttles Import Tariffs

One alternative could open U.S. up to flood of foreign-made pickups.

by on Jul.16, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, proposed eliminating all tariffs between trading partners.

The auto industry has been actively trying to get President Donald Trump to back off his threat to impose a 25% tariff on imported automobiles, even Detroit-based carmakers warning that such a move could wind up raising prices, slowing sales, reducing U.S. exports and hurting American jobs.

Ironically, one of the likely alternatives to new tariffs could be great news for American consumers – but a potential disaster for Detroit’s Big Three, opening them up to a new wave of competition in the most profitable segment of the U.S. automotive market.

News You Can Trust!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, has raised the prospect of effectively eliminating automotive tariffs entirely, while others are saying they should be a uniform figure shared among all major trading partners. That approach could force the U.S. to eliminate the so-called “chicken tax,” the relic of an old, Euro-American trade dispute that has effectively closed off the American pickup truck market for the past half-century. (more…)

Aston Martin Wants to Take to the Air

Automaker brings flying Volante Vision Concept to British air show.

by on Jul.16, 2018

A rendering shows the Aston Martin Volante Concept flying over London, possibly heading to Paris.

We’ve heard some of Aston Martin’s products describes as “rockets” before. But now, it seems, the automaker truly does want to take to the air.

Aston today pulled the wraps off the Volante Vision Concept at the annual Farmborough International Air Show outside London. There are a number of projects currently underway to develop flying automobiles. Some are aimed at ride-sharing services like Uber, others for individual owners. The Volante Vision Concept, Aston explains, “aims to bring luxury personal transportation to the sky.”

News You Can Trust!

The project teams the British automaker up with aerospace giant Rolls-Royce, Cranfield University and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions. The design they’ve come up with would have vertical take-off and landing, or VTOL, capabilities, potentially allowing it to take off from a parking lot or field, rather than having to go to a conventional airstrip. (more…)

Tesla Tops 200,000 US Sales; Set to Lose Fed Tax Credits

Being 1st could put EV maker at a disadvantage going forward.

by on Jul.13, 2018

Even when it wins, it loses. Tesla just passed the 200,000 vehicle mark, the most ever by an EV maker, but that brings to an end the tax credit.

Tesla is not just the country’s best-selling EV maker, but the first to sell more than 200,000 electric vehicles in the U.S. market. But that might not necessarily give the carmaker reason to celebrate.

Under guidelines set up by the Obama Administration and retained by Congress as part of last year’s tax overhaul, federal tax credits of up to $7,500 per vehicle apply only on the first 200,000 battery vehicles sold by an individual manufacturer. After that they begin to phase out, meaning that Tesla could be at a financial disadvantage once the company loses the incentives entirely by the end of next year.

The Last Word!

Other companies, including General Motors, Nissan and Ford, are approaching the threshold but their buyers will likely continue to receive some incentives well into 2020, barring any move by Congress – something considered unlikely – to extend the tax credits. (more…)

First (Short) Drive: 2019 Maserati Levante GTS

Racing between the raindrops.

by on Jul.13, 2018

The new GTS is the second most powerful model in Maserati's GTS line-up.

What has been an otherwise hot and dry summer turned into a storm of almost biblical proportions as I headed up to the M1 Concourse near Pontiac, Michigan for a chance to check out the latest products from Maserati and sibling Italian brand Alfa Romeo. But almost as if on cue, the rain clouds briefly parted when I was handed the keys to the new Maserati Levante GTS for some lap time on the tight and twisty circuit.

There were plenty of skeptics when Maserati announced plans to get into the SUV game – as there were when Porsche revealed similar plans a decade earlier. But the Levante won over most of those naysayers when it made its debut two years ago, initially offering two versions powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6. The GTS turns things up a notch.

Product News and Reviews!

The latest version of Maserati’s first-ever sport-utility vehicle is, certainly on paper, an impressive piece of machinery, thrumming out 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque from its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 – just a slight bit less than the Levante Trofeo first unveiled at the New York Auto Show last spring. That’s enough to launch the GTS from 0 to 60 in just 4 seconds – and to take a broadside at the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, destined to be its most direct competitor.

(more…)

McLaren Planning 18 “New Models and Derivatives” by 2025

$1.6 billion “Track25” project to include successor to McLaren P1 hypercar, with all models using hybrid drivelines.

by on Jul.12, 2018

McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt talks through the details of "Track25," the company's product plans until 2025.

McLaren is doing more than just smoking up the track at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week. The British supercar company is also lifting the covers on what would become the most aggressive product program in its history.

Dubbed “Track25,” it will see McLaren invest £1.2 billion, or about $1.6 billion, to bring 18 all-new models and derivatives to market by 2025. That list will include a next-generation “successor: to the company’s P1 hypercar.

Global Auto News!

But perhaps the most significant element of the announcement was the decision by McLaren to equip all of its future sports car and supercars with hybrid drivetrains. The P1, of which 375 was produced between 2013 and 2015, was the first electrified McLaren, relying on a hybrid system borrowed from the company’s Formula One racing technology. (more…)

Whistleblower Alleges Tesla Has Misled Investors

SEC received tip from former employee Tesla accused of “sabotage.”

by on Jul.12, 2018

Former Tesla employee Martin Tripp recently told the SEC that Tesla officials are lying about production numbers.

Former Tesla employee Martin Tripp has submitted a tip to the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing Tesla of both misleading investors and allowing potential dangerous vehicles to be sold to consumers.

Until about a month ago, Tripp worked at the Tesla Gigafactory battery plant in Reno, Nevada, but he was fired and subsequently accused by the automaker of committing sabotage in a lawsuit Tesla filed in federal court.

News Now!

The lawsuit and subsequent tip to the SEC stand to create some havoc for Tesla at a time when the automaker has been hoping to calm the concerns of analysts and investors who have been worried about the slow ramp-up of the critical Model 3 battery-sedan. (more…)

The Ford Fusion is Dead – For Now, Anyway

Sedan to be replaced by a ute-like alternative.

by on Jul.12, 2018

The Ford Fusion sedan will disappear in a few years, but will be replaced by some sort of crossover or wagon bearing the same name.

Ford is taking the first big step towards a future without passenger cars, confirming it will kill off the current sedan version of the midsize Fusion line. But the nameplate will live on, insiders hinting it will be replaced by some sort of crossover or sport wagon.

In April, Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced the automaker would drop the U.S. versions of such familiar nameplates as the Taurus, Fiesta and Focus, as well as Fusion, a controversial move reflecting the sharp decline in conventional passenger car sales as millions of American motorists switch to pickups, SUVs and other light trucks.

Stay in the Loop!

Fusion is the one model that will remain in the U.S. market, but when it is replaced, around the beginning of the next decade, it will be in a very different form. While company officials have not yet disclosed what that will be, indications are that we will see something closer to a tall wagon or hatchback, some sources suggesting the redesigned Fusion will be along the lines of the Subaru Outback, rather than a more SUV-like crossover-utility vehicle. (more…)

Despite Sales Slump, Genesis on Target, Says U.S. Chief

Upturn linked to new products, standalone dealers, says Raphael.

by on Jul.11, 2018

Genesis steps things up by taking a shot at the vaunted BMW 3-Series with the new G70.

It’s not often that a senior brand executive is pleased to see his sales slide by more than 50 percent, but Erwin Raphael says the sharp year-over-year decline Genesis reported last month is pretty much right on target.

Two years after it was spun off by Hyundai as a standalone luxury brand, Genesis is in the midst of some major changes that will determine its long-term success. That starts with the upcoming launch of the 2019 G70, which targets the likes of the vaunted BMW 3-Series, as well as the first Genesis SUV expected to join the line-up next year.

Insight!

The Korean marque is also getting ready to launch its own standalone dealer network in the coming months, one that will see the number of Genesis outlets in the U.S. drop by more than 85 percent. But, as with sales, bigger numbers aren’t always better when you’re launching one of the first new luxury brands in decade, insists Raphael, the executive director of Genesis Motor America.

(more…)

Mercedes, Bosch Team to Launch Self-Driving Car Service

Set to debut in late 2019 in Silicon Valley.

by on Jul.11, 2018

Initially, Daimler will use the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan for the pilot ride-sharing project.

Mercedes-Benz is teaming up with German mega-supplier Bosch to launch a new ride-sharing service in Silicon Valley next year that will rely on self-driving vehicles.

The project marks the latest entry into the fast-expanding field that, by some estimates, could eventually account for as much as a quarter or more of the miles Americans travel by automobile. Other planning to launch ride-sharing services using self-driving vehicles include General Motors, Google spin-off Waymo and Uber, the country’s largest ride-sharing service.

Making Sense of the Brave New World!

While Mercedes’ parent Daimler AG is referring to the vehicles it will use as “automated shuttle(s),” customers will be able to ride in style. When the project initially gets underway during the second half of 2019, it will rely on modified versions of the luxurious S-Class Sedan. Eventually, the goal is to switch to a production version of the edgy Mercedes concept vehicle, the F 015.

(more…)

Italian Design House Pinfarina Reveals 1st Teaser of New Electric Luxury Car

“World’s newest car brand” also appoints first Board of Directors.

by on Jul.10, 2018

Automobili Pininfarina revealed PF0 concept design images ahead of private client viewings of the all-electric ultra-luxury hypercar.

Italian design house Pininfarina has gone through plenty of changes in recent years, starting with a financial meltdown and its acquisition by India’s Mahindra & Mahindra. In April, the renamed Automobile Pininfarina announced plans to become a luxury auto brand focused on electric vehicles, and it’s now offering up a teaser image of what it will officially debut less than two months from now.

The rendering you see here of what will be called the PF0 was accompanied by an announcement that Pininfarina has appointed its first Board of Directors. That includes long-time automotive insider Michael Perschke, who will serve as the start-up carmaker’s chief executive officer. Former Volvo exec Per Svantesson has been named Automobili Pininfarina’s chief operating officer.

Plug In!

“Automobili Pininfarina is a pioneering new business created to service the most discerning clients in the world,” said Perschke, in a prepared statement “Our product portfolio will launch with an innovative, zero-emissions hypercar that represents the progression we aim to make at the pinnacle of the luxury and sports car market.” (more…)