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Automakers Regain Momentum in April – Market Looking at Best in Decade

Power forecast sees industry making up ground after cold winter.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Trucks, like this Ford F-150 shown with CEO Mark Fields, continue to gain momentum in the US market.

Consumer demand for new vehicles during April is the best it’s been in 10 years, according to a new analysis by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

With the warmer, spring weather finally settling in across the U.S., total light-vehicle sales are projected to reach 1,463,700, a 5% increase compared with April 2014 and the highest level for the month since April 2005.  The total seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, or SAAR, is expected to hit 16.6 million units.

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“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “The average new-vehicle transaction price so far in April is $30,680, on pace to achieve a new record for the month.” The current record was set in April 2014 when transaction prices averaged $29,948,” he said.

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American Dreaming: Exhibit Looks Back at the Golden Age of the U.S. Auto Industry

Rare finds often were smuggled out of Detroit’s design studios.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Bill Blogh's 1953 Ford concept sketch captured the sci-fi mood of the era.

In the optimistic post-War era, few things better defined the American lifestyle than the cars we drove. The ’57 Chevy and the finned Cadillac Eldorado were far more than mere transportation.

Drawings and sketches by designers who created the cars of the 1950s and 1960s are being honored with a unique display at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan through May 2.

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The exhibit, “American Dreaming: Detroit ’s Golden Age of Automotive Design,” is the first comprehensive exhibition to offer a look at the art work produced inside the design studios of Detroit ’s automakers between 1946 to 1973.

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Chinese Turn Car Clones into High Art

Copycat makers often outsell the originals.

by on Apr.24, 2015

No, that's not a $475,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

That may look, at first glance, like a vanity license plate on a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but take another glance and you might be in for a surprise. You’re actually looking at a Geely GE, a Chinese knock-off that has closely copied the classic Rolls grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament – but which goes for a fraction of the original’s $475,000 price.

Automakers from around the world put their latest wares on display at this month’s Shanghai Motor Show. But a walk down the hall revealed that local Chinese automakers already had fresh copies of a number of the hottest products from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Korea.

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While some picked up subtle styling cues and features, others blended attributes from several different models to create weird Franken-cars, like the Suzhou Eagle EV that was one part Porsche Cayman, with a face lifted from a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and a battery-electric drivetrain to make things even weirder.

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Ford Cuts Shift, 700 Jobs, at Key Michigan Plant

Cutbacks spread as American motorists shift from small cars to SUVs.

by on Apr.24, 2015

The Ford Focus has been losing momentum despite receiving some updates for 2015.

Weak passenger car sales have prompted Ford Motor Co. to eliminate a shift at a Michigan assembly line that builds compact and battery vehicles, including the Focus and Focus EV.

With gasoline prices dropping to their lowest level in years, demand for SUVs has been rising while prompting a sharp slide in sales of smaller and alternative-fuel vehicles, like this built at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The announcement, which will impact 700 Ford workers, comes on top of General Motors’ decision to temporarily idle production of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid at a plant nearby.

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“Ford will be working to redeploy affected hourly employees (affected by the cuts) and they will be considered first for southeast Michigan opportunities as they become available,” the automaker said in a statement.

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April Showers Brings … National Car Care Month!

Time to perform preventative maintenance check on vehicles.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Checking lubricants and fluids are part of the preventative maintenance routine recommended in the spring, according to experts.

Most of the nation has shaken off the yoke of winter and spring is upon us, which means its time to live the famous refrain, April showers bring … potholes and rain mostly.

April not only marks the beginning of spring, but also National Car Care month. It’s the time of the year that motorists need to focus on replacing windshield wiper blades, check the air pressure in tires and to ensure brakes are safe and working properly, according to the Car Care Council.

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The council says that cars inspected between April and October 2014 revealed that 84% of vehicles need service or parts, up 5% from the previous year. Read the rest of this entry »

SAE Panel Lays Out Framework for Arrival of Autonomous Vehicles

Executives cite connectivity, more players as key to growth.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Tesla's Model S will be one of the first examples of vehicles using autonomous vehicle technology on the road this summer.

Pandora’s Box is now officially open.

The emergence of self-driving vehicles as a major force in the automotive industry was underscored this week during the Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit, where the topic of self-driving easily eclipsed fuel-efficiency as the major topic of discussion.

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Seval Oz, chief executive officer of Intelligent Transportation Systems at Continental AG, said two of the factors that are driving the autonomous car revolution are exponential growth of wireless connectivity in cars and the demand by other companies for the attention of drivers and passengers, who spend upwards of two hours in a vehicle during the daily commute. Read the rest of this entry »

Flush With Cash, Aston Martin May Add 3 New Models – and Build SUV in the US

New Lagonda, new battery-powered Rapide may also be on the way.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Aston Martin surprised everyone with the introduction of its DBX crossover at the Geneva Motor Show.

After a few tough years, things are starting to look up for Aston Martin – and for Aston fans.

With a new CEO and funds to let Andy Palmer’s team fire up the product development process, Aston says it is ready to not only replace all of its current product lines but add “up to three new models” to its line-up. It has confirmed one of those, a production version of the striking, if controversial, DBX crossover first shown at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

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But now comes word that Aston might not use its factory in Gaydon, several hours outside London, to produce the DBX. Sources suggest that it is looking at several alternative that could include producing the new model in the United States.

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GM CEO Barra Dismisses Notion of Merger with Fiat Chrysler

FCA spurned by GM and Ford, but continues looking.

by on Apr.23, 2015

GM CEO Mary Barra said during a conference call today that the automaker will not be merging with FCA.

Fiat Chrysler Chief Sergio Marchionne is making it clear he’s willing to form partnerships with his competitors; however, he’s not getting many takers. General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra ended any speculation about the automaker’s interest before it could begin during the company’s first-quarter earnings call today.

Barra told analysts that the company is not looking to merge with or acquire any other automakers as the focus is on the company’s profitability plans … as currently configured.

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Marchionne and other FCA officials have been directly and indirectly suggesting they’d be willing to enter into a partnership with another automaker for several months even though the ink is barely dry on the deal that completed FCA. Read the rest of this entry »

Tesla Pays CEO Musk Less Than Line Workers – But Stock Run-Up Worth Billions

Maker expected to target stationary battery market.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Why is this man smiling? Over $6 billion in stock might help when added to Elon Musk's meager base pay.

While most automotive CEOs can expect to take home seven- and even eight-figure paychecks, Tesla Motors founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk earned barely as much as one of his company’s assembly line workers last year, just $35,360.

But lest you worry he can’t support his large family, Musk has also benefited handsomely from the surge in Tesla stock over the last two years – while also taking home a paycheck from Space Exploration Technologies, the private rocket launching service he also founded.

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Though well off from its 52-week high, Tesla stock has been on a roll in recent weeks, investors betting on a strong first-quarter earnings report – and on the new line of business Tesla is expected to announce next week, the company reportedly planning to enter the stationary battery power market.

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Acura Offers Closer Look Under the Skin of New NSX

Reveals more engine, chassis and aerodynamic secrets.

by on Apr.23, 2015

The 2016 Acura NSX lifts its kimono.

While Acura pulled the covers off the reborn NSX at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, the maker held back on some key details. Now, it’s pulling back the skin of the supercar for the annual Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

Among other things, the Japanese maker has confirmed that its complex new hybrid drivetrain will use a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V -6 to allow it to balance performance and fuel economy. The 2016 NSX also will use what Acura is describing as a “multi-material spaceframe” to maximize body rigidity while minimizing weight.

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“Our goal is to create something altogether new and exciting, something that advances the concept of a next generation supercar in the spirit of the original NSX,” said chief engineer and global development leader Ted Klaus. “In order to provide NSX-level value, we needed to push ourselves to experiment with, refine and then realize many new technologies.”

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