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Lincoln Looks East – But Can China Save American Icon?

Luxury maker betting China could become its largest market.

by on Apr.23, 2014

The new Lincoln MKX Concept made its official debut at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show.

It once vied with rival Cadillac for dominance in the huge U.S. luxury car market, but the last two decades have been tough for Lincoln. Sales have steadily slid to the point that some anticipate parent Ford Motor Co. might eventually abandon the once-grand marque.

Lincoln has rolled out several new products over the last two years, and it plans to add at least two more by 2016, but that’s a fraction of what rival Mercedes-Benz has in store – at least one all-new or completely updated product every three months through the end of the decade.

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While Lincoln officials acknowledge they can’t keep up with that product blitz, they’re far from ready to admit defeat. But while they continue to struggle to find ways to lure more American buyers back to the brand, they’re looking East, towards China, to gain some much needed momentum.

“It’s strategically important for us to go to China,” said Matt Vandyke, Lincoln’s global director, a few days before the Ford luxury brand made its official debut at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show.

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Feds Launch Probe of 2014 Chevy Impala Brakes

Move comes as GM notifies 1.4 million motorists replacement ignition switches are ready.

by on Apr.23, 2014

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala was named Best in Class by Consumer Reports.

Federal investigators have launched a preliminary probe of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala following a report that the big sedan’s emergency braking system might activate without warning or driver input.

The probe comes as General Motors shakes up its internal product development system in a bid to catch potential safety problems as early as possible. GM is facing a number of separate investigations stemming from the handling of a recall now involving 2.6 million vehicles equipped with defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.

On Top of the News!

On Wednesday, GM said it had notified 1.4 million U.S. motorists they could schedule repairs for vehicles covered by the ignition switch recall.

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GM Shakes Up Engineering in Wake of Recall Scandal

Maker hopes to catch potential safety problems earlier.

by on Apr.23, 2014

GM Product Chief Mark Reuss unveiling the Corvette Z06 during the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

General Motors continues to shake up its senior management ranks in the wake of the ongoing ignition switch recall scandal, this time ousting its global engineering chief and splitting the job into two new posts with a goal of catching potential safety problems earlier on.

The “retirement” of 55-year-old John Calabrese comes shortly after GM’s directors of Human Resources and Public Relations announced their departures amidst a crisis that could see the automaker face criminal charges levied by the Justice Department for the decade-long delay in ordering a recall of defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths. GM has also been accused of delaying another recall while federal regulators have launched an investigation into braking problems involving the company’s new Chevrolet Impala sedan.

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“We feel that just an organizational change is not going to solve everything,” said Mark Reuss, the GM veteran who took over as global product development director late last year. “We have to have the right people with the organization, with the right leadership and with the right processes in place. … We know we can do it and we are going to do it.”

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Tesla May Build Cars in China

Battery carmaker launches sales, outlines plans for supercharger network.

by on Apr.22, 2014

Tesla delivered its first eight cars in China today. Building the vehicles in China is a possibility in the future, according to CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla Motors has launched what could become its biggest gamble yet, delivering its first cars in China and hinting at plans to produce cars in the booming Asian nation.

The Silicon Valley start-up is already the second best-selling producer of battery-electric vehicles in the U.S. and has already launched sales of its Model S in Europe, but it is betting its timing is right to tap into burgeoning demand in China where the government is desperately pushing for a shift to battery power as a way to reduce the country’s endemic smog problems.

On Top of the News!

Tesla today delivered its first eight Model S sedans to Chinese customers, CEO Elon Musk telling reporting he hoped the maker could sell 5,000 of the vehicles in China this year, though he quickly cautioned the number is “just a guess.” Read the rest of this entry »

GM Asks Bankruptcy Court to Dismiss Non-Injury Lawsuits

Maker wants to end litigation solely for monetary damages.

by on Apr.22, 2014

GM asked Judge Robert Gerber to dismiss several lawsuits against the automaker related to the faulty ignition switch recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

General Motors asked a New York bankruptcy judge to dismiss the growing number of lawsuits asking for monetary compensation for simply owning any of the vehicles involved in the faulty ignition switch recall.

The automaker noted in its motion that it’s not asking the court to address litigation involving “an accident or incident causing personal injury, loss of life or property damage.” It simply wants the Judge Robert Gerber to dismiss lawsuits filed asking for money for driving the vehicles. According to GM, there are more than 50 lawsuits against the company.

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“As your honor may be aware, numerous lawsuits have been filed across the country against New GM,” according to documents. “New GM believes that the ignition switch actions assert claims against new GM that are ‘retained liabilities’ of Old GM and therefore violate your honor’s July 5, 2009 order.” Read the rest of this entry »

VW May Have Big Plans for Little NMC Concept

Show car a Jetta-based version of VW CC model.

by on Apr.22, 2014

Volkswagen calls the NMC a "midsize" concept, but it's based on the same platform as the compact Golf and Jetta models.

As that old baseball adage goes, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. Well, we’re betting you’d be able to pick out Volkswagen’s New Midsize Coupe Concept in the line-up.

This striking new design might just as readily be called the Baby CC, as it’s a somewhat downsized version of the German maker’s current, coupe-like sedan, and could very well join the VW line-up in the near future. But it’d likely be more of a compact than midsize, the show car sharing the same MQB modular platform as the current Volkswagen Golf and next-gen Jetta models.

What a Concept!

Making its debut at this week’s Beijing Auto Show, the NMC is clearly a size class down from the Volkswagen Passat sedan, at a total length of barely 15 feet.  So, how does it qualify as a midsize?

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Bugatti Taps History Books for Latest Veyron

Maker revives “Black Bess” moniker for new supercar.

by on Apr.22, 2014

Bugatti unveiled the latest iteration of its Veyron supercar, the Black Bess, at the Beijing Auto Show.

China is the most lucrative car market in the world and it seems that more and more of the country’s wealthy are willing to plunk down huge amounts of money on an expensive vehicle.

So it’s not exactly a big surprise that Bugatti, which rumor has it preparing a whole new supercar for sale later in the decade, has elected to bring a new version of the Veyron to the Beijing Auto Show to entice a few customers to take a look at the car.

On Top of the News!

The new version of the Veyron – dubbed Black Bess – is part of Bugatti’s Legends Series, and will be limited to three examples and is based on a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse. Read the rest of this entry »

EV Buyers Tend to Be Younger, More Affluent Than Hybrid Owners

One in five battery-car owners has income topping $175,000.

by on Apr.22, 2014

The high cost of the Tesla Model S has raised the average income for all EV buyers.

Motorists who purchase battery-electric vehicles tend to be younger and more affluent than drivers who buy more conventional hybrid vehicles, according to a new study.

That’s in line with other studies that have found the Tesla Model S has become one of the most popular products among motorists in the nation’s wealthiest zip codes.

Data Check!

“At first glance, one would imagine that consumers purchasing either a hybrid or electric vehicle would be nearly identical; both are environmentally conscious, are of similar ages and have higher income levels,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director for Experian Automotive. But the data tracking firm found surprising differences.

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UAW Withdraws Appeal of VW Chattanooga Plant Vote

Major setback for union’s Southern organizing drive.

by on Apr.22, 2014

UAW President Bob King.

The United Auto Workers Union has withdrawn its objections to the results of the in February’s representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The union had narrowly lost a vote it fully expected to win and blamed the defeat on political interference by Republicans in Tennessee.  Over the years, the UAW has lost a series of representation elections in the Southern United States, where  aversion to unions is strong, so the defeat in Chattanooga came as a major setback to its so far unsuccessful bid to organize foreign-owned, so-called transplant, assembly lines.

Beyond the Headlines!

The union decision to withdraw  its protest to the National Labor Relations Board opens the door  for the UAW to call for another election at the Chattanooga plant early next year. The union made it plain in its statement that it will continue its campaign to bring VW workers in Chattanooga into the UAW.

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Mulally to Retire, Fields Named New Ford CEO

New Chief Executive to face numerous challenges.

by on Apr.21, 2014

Mark Fields, who reportedly will become Ford CEO at the end of the year, shown delivering the keynote address at the NY Auto Show last week.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally will step down at the end of the year, according to a variety of news reports and company sources, with the maker’s current Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields to step in as his successor.

The move – which Ford declined to comment upon – is no surprise to those familiar with the automaker’s plans which were largely laid out in late 2012 when the 52-year-old Fields was appointed to the COO position, a senior company insider at the time saying the top spot was “Mark’s to lose.”

The Last Word!

“This is no surprise whatsoever,” said George Peterson, a former Ford analyst and now head of the consulting firm, AutoPacific, Inc. “Ford has been pretty straightforward about doing what they said they would do.”

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