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Automakers Ramping Up Production Cuts as Sales Slide

Shift cut at Chevy Malibu plant the latest sign of industry weakness.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Despite strong reviews, the new Chevrolet Malibu has rapidly lost sales momentum in favor of SUVs.

Despite other signs of a relatively healthy economy things are starting to get worrisome in the auto industry where manufacturers have scheduled production cuts faster than at any time since the Great Recession.

General Motors, which had already dropped shifts at five plants since last autumn, now says it will eliminate a shift at the Fairfax, Kansas plant building its once-popular Chevrolet Malibu. The automaker’s Canadian operations, meanwhile, will extend the originally scheduled summer shutdown at two plants due to bulging inventories on both sides of the border.

The Big Picture!

GM isn’t alone. Ford Motor Co. laid off thousands of workers due to temporary shutdowns in May, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has two entire factories idled while they are converted from car to light truck production.

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Americans Expected to Set New Driving Records for July 4 Holiday

Low gas prices driving Americans to get on the road.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Americans will celebrate the July 4 holiday by piling into their cars in record numbers.

Every holiday period recently Americans are predicted to set a new record for how many miles they’ll travel over the long weekend, and this Independence Day weekend won’t be any different, according to AAA.

The auto club expects 44.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home, a 2.9% increase over last year’s record for the holiday. Most of that traveling will be done in some sort of car, minivan or sport-ute/crossover as it’s a four-day holiday for most Americans.

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“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. Read the rest of this entry »

General Motors Expands Maven Gig to San Francisco

GM's car-sharing service aimed at freelancers growing.

by on Jun.22, 2017

GM is expanding its Maven Gig, which is aimed at freelancers, offerings in San Francisco.

General Motors’ newest mobility service, Maven Gig, is spreading its wings on the West Coast by opening operations to San Francisco.

Created specifically to provide vehicles for independent, freelance driving jobs or “gigs,” such as GrubHub, Instacart, Roadie and ridesharing services, GM launched Maven Gig in San Diego last month as part of growing portfolio of car sharing and mobility services.

Beyond the Headlines!

“Freelancers in the sharing economy want flexibility and Maven Gig is a seamless way to maximize opportunities,” said Rachel Bhattacharya, director of Commercial Mobility Strategy for Maven. “If the driver has a lull on one service they can easily flip to another and keep hustling,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Tesla Autonomous Vehicle Chief Drives Off; Latest in a Series of High-Level Departures

But new AI researcher was waiting in the wings.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Chris Lattner, Tesla's director of artificial intelligence, just parted ways with the company.

Tesla has lost another senior manager, this time the head of its self-driving car program who joined the battery-electric automaker only six months ago.

But the departure of Chris Lattner, who had previously been working at Apple, isn’t expected to have more than a short-term impact, Tesla quickly announcing that it would assign some of Lattner’s duties to a new hire, prominent artificial intelligence, or AI researcher Andrej Karpathy.

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“Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all,” Lattner said in a tweet, prompting Tesla to fire back in a statement that, “Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla and we’ve decided to make a change.” Read the rest of this entry »

Virus Forces Honda To Halt Production at Japan Plant

WannaCry ransomware found in computer network.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Honda's Sayama, Japan, plant that produces the Odyssey minivan was shut down due to a ransomware attack earlier this week.

This story includes update information.

Honda was temporarily forced to shut down one of its key Japanese assembly plants this week after discovering the WannaCry ransomware virus in the plant’s computer network.

The shutdown was expected to delay production of some of the automaker’s key product lines, including the Accord sedan and Odyssey minivan. The Sayama plant, which is located about an hour northwest of Honda’s Tokyo headquarters, typically produces about 1,000 vehicles daily.

News You Can Trust!

The WannaCry virus was discovered about a month ago after rapidly infecting computer networks around the world. It briefly shut down operations at a number of British hospitals, among other things and caused production delays at both French automaker Renault and its Japanese alliance partner Nissan. Read the rest of this entry »

Volvo Relaunching Polestar as “Electrified High Performance” Company

Polestar joins growing list of dedicated electric spin-offs.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Going forward, the Polestar logo will stand alone, without a Volvo badge.

Volvo has become the latest automaker to set up a separate operation focused specifically on electric vehicles, in this case, putting the emphasis on “high performance” models.

The move appears to position its Polestar division to challenge the new Mercedes-EQ sub-brand, which is set to launch at least seven electric vehicles by 2022, and BMW i, as well as upstart battery-carmakers like Tesla, Faraday Future and Lucid. The announcement does not appear to preclude Volvo’s ability to produce less performance-oriented electric vehicles under its own badge.

Electrifying News!

Purchased by Volvo in 2015, Polestar will now operate as a standalone company with a new management team. That includes Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gooding, who had been Volvo’s communications chief, and new Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath, who had been Volvo’s global design director.

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Tesla Closing in on Deal to Build Cars in China

EV maker inking deal with city of Shanghai.

by on Jun.21, 2017

Tesla is apparently closing in on a deal to build new cars in Shanghai.

Not long after suggesting a new plant in India was coming, it appears Tesla’s Elon Musk is making headway on plants around Asia, especially China.

The EV maker is reportedly close to an agreement with the city of Shanghai to build a new plant in the city’s Lingang development zone. The deal could be done in just a few days, Bloomberg reported.

Technology and Business News!

China’s central government has been pushing hard for an increase in electric vehicle sales in the last two years, providing incentives and easing regulations to help manufacturers get moving on the needed escalation of EVs. Read the rest of this entry »

Kia and Koreans Top J.D. Power Quality Study as Japanese Slide

Quality up overall, but Power warns of some “early warning bells.”

by on Jun.21, 2017

The 2017 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study rankings by brand.

For the second year in a row, Kia nabbed the top spot in the closely watched J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, with all three of the South Korean carmakers sold in the U.S. market landing in the Top 10.

Detroit automakers also fared well in the study, with four brands in the Top 10. But the Japanese, long credited with driving up the quality of vehicles sold in the U.S., didn’t fare nearly as well, with only Nissan landing in the upper reaches.

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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2017 Initial Quality Study was the poor showing by Japanese giant Toyota. Along with its Lexus brand it ranked number one more often than any other manufacturer – for 14 of the 31 years the IQS has been released to the public. But this year, Toyota was 14th, and only barely above industry average. The Lexus brand fell below average for the first time since it was launched. Read the rest of this entry »

Kalanick Forced Out as CEO of Uber

Embattled founder resigns as turmoil wracks ride-sharing giant.

by on Jun.21, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been forced to resign in the wake of lawsuits, sexual harassment charges and other complaints about the company.

With his company facing an array of problems, including lawsuits, complaints about sexual harassment, and the exodus of key senior executives, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been forced to resign.

The news was announced early Wednesday, barely a week after the embattled Kalanick said he would take an indefinite leave of absence motivated, at least in part, by the death of his mother in a boating accident. The ride-sharing giant said Kalanick will remain on its board of directors.

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For his part, the 40-year-old Kalanick appeared to recognize he had become not a leader but a polarizing distraction for Uber Technologies, Inc., in a statement noting that “rather than be distracted with another fight,” his departure will let Uber focus on building its business. Read the rest of this entry »

First Drive: 2018 Toyota Camry

Toyota aims for a younger buyer with the 2018 Camry, but what will the faithful think?

by on Jun.21, 2017

Coming at you: Toyota has more gas and hybrid variants to choose from with the 2018 Camry.

Here’s a question for you: how many redesigned sedans have been launched over the last two or three years, and what are they? It’s something Jack Hollis, Toyota Division general manager, asked last week as journalists gathered for the first drive of the completely redesigned Toyota Camry.

“Nothing really stands out,” he said during the event in Oregon. “If you’re a sedan buyer, what are you getting excited about? The new truck, the new crossover the new SUV.”

Reviews You Can Trust!

It’s a concern for Hollis and his employer as Toyota gets ready to launch the fully redesigned midsized sedan later this year. The Camry has been the number one-selling passenger car in the U.S for 19 of the past 20 years, while more than 18 million have been sold worldwide since its launch in 1982. Yet Toyota hasn’t been exempt from the sudden shift in buyer preference, as 63 percent of U.S. car buyers opt for trucks, SUVs, and crossovers rather than passenger cars.

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