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Archive for November, 2009

First Look: 2011 Ford Mustang

A 305 horsepower pony car getting 30 mpg?

by on Nov.30, 2009

Fast, fun ... and fuel-efficient? The 2011 Ford Mustang V6 is rated at 305 hp and 30 mpg on the Highway.

Fast, fun ... and fuel-efficient? The Mustang V6 delivers 305 horsepower and 30 mpg.

Performance and fuel economy aren’t words you normally use in the same sentence.  Not until now, anyway, but with the upcoming debut of the 2011 Ford Mustang, the two words suddenly have a lot more in common than they used to.

Ford will officially pull the wraps off the ’11 Mustang V6 at this week’s Los Angeles Motor Show and it will feature a new 3.7-liter Duratec powertrain that is clearly going to turn heads on road and track.

Your Auto Show News Source!

Your Auto Show News Source!

Using twin-independent variable cam timing, piston cooling jets and polished valvetrain tappets the 3.7 liter V6 powertrain in the 2011 Ford Mustang turns out an impressive 305 horsepower, a whopping 95 horsepower increase from the old 4.0-liter version.  Torque jumps to 280, an increase of 40 lb-ft.

But for many, the real news is on the fuel economy front.  Despite the massive increase in output, the updated Mustang V6 will be rated at a solid 30 mpg on the highway, for 2011, an increase of more than 15%.  In the EPA’s City cycle, mileage jumps from 18 to 19. (more…)

November Most Hazardous Month for Deer Strikes

Insurance claims for crashes involving animals are nearly three times as high as they are in other months of the year.

by on Nov.30, 2009

Mating time means hazards for drivers.

Mating time means more roadside hazards for drivers.

November is the cruelest month for animal strikes, and damage claim costs from these unfortunate accidents are climbing, according to the latest Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analysis.

West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have higher insurance claim frequencies than other states for animal strikes during the month of November.

West Virginia’s frequency of 51 per 1,000 insured vehicle years is 3.6 times the national average of 14.1 for the month — a year is a vehicle insured for 1 year, 2 vehicles for 6 months each, and so on.

Bucking Boring News!

Bucking Boring News!

Insurance claims usually do not specify the animals involved in crashes, but Institute research shows deer are the main ones, especially in serious crashes.

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We Built Excitement: Pontiac Pulls the Plug

After 83 years, the last G6 reaches the end of the line.

by on Nov.30, 2009

"We Build Excitement"? Not anymore. The last Pontiac has rolled down the assembly line.

"We Build Excitement"? Not anymore. The last Pontiac has rolled down the assembly line.

It’s a cliché we seldom think twice about, but when workers at the General Motors’ Orion Township assembly line finished up a white G6 sedan, just before the long holiday break, last Wednesday, it really was the “end of the line.”

More than a century after the first time the name of the powerful Michigan Indian chief was used on a car – and 83 years after GM formally adopted the brandname – the last Pontiac automobile was getting ready to be shipped to a dealer.

There were no banners commemorating the event, nor the black crepe bunting that might have more appropriately served to mark the sad occasion.  It was little more than business as usual.  Or, if you prefer, business as it’s become for post-bankruptcy General Motors.

We Deliver News

We Deliver News

For more than a decade, the automaker’s top management, notably former CEO Rick Wagoner, forcefully resisted calls to kill Pontiac and several other troubled GM brands in a bid to curb expenses and focus on the core marques most likely to survive.  They had given in just once, and the long and costly process of killing off the once-successful Oldsmobile had proved so hard, Wagoner confided in a close friend, “I never want to go through that again.” (more…)

Tata Motors Ekes Out Q2 Profit

Jaguar Land Rover Surprises Analysts with Black Ink.

by on Nov.30, 2009

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Tata said the JLR business is witnessing “some stability” in key markets.

Tata Motors has reported a consolidated operating profit for the quarter ending September 30, 2009 of 218 million rupees ($4.7 million).

India’s largest auto company saw a revival in its home market and improvements at its Jaguar Land Rover subsidiary.

The turnaround, from a loss of 9.42 billion rupees in the same July-to-September period last year, was good news for the world’s fourth largest truck manufacturer, and the world’s second largest bus manufacturer.

Tata earnings had been hit hard after its takeover of JLR from Ford Motor Company in June of last year just before the ongoing global Great Recession took hold. Analysts had feared that the buy would hurt the company for years to come, a prospect that remains.

Tata said the highlight of the quarter was that the JLR business posted an operating profit of £41.29 million (Rs. 325.27 crores), supported by a 23% growth of wholesale volumes compared to the previous quarter, as well as aggressive cost reduction efforts.

Mumbai Musings!

Mumbai Musings!

Tata said the JLR business is witnessing “some stability” in the external environment with certain key markets showing signs of recovery. The new products launched by the business in the current year, the upgraded Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery 4, continue to receive “strong market reception.”

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Why Kia Bet on Georgia

Incentives only part of the reasons for first U.S. assembly plant.

by on Nov.30, 2009

Eventually, Kia hopes to employ 2,500 workers at its new assembly plant in West Point, Georgia.

Eventually, Kia hopes to employ 2,500 workers at its new assembly plant in West Point, Georgia.

Just over three years ago, I attended the ground breaking ceremony for the new Kia factory in West Point, Georgia. The weather was soggy and damp and there wasn’t much to see beyond a hilly, 2,100- acre site that the Korean automakers promised to turn into one of North America’s assembly plant – a heck of a stretch for a company long known for building econocars using cheap labor.

But just a few weeks ago, as I turned off the specially constructed exit ramp and turned onto Kia Avenue, I had another chance to visit the site where my first glimpse revealed  an ultra modern, pristine automotive manufacturing campus gleaming in the warm sun. Three years had brought changes. Major changes.

Your Auto Show News Source!

Your Auto News Source!

The factory was finished, the production line running, stamping presses installed, welding operations opened, paint shop ready and training of first employees had been completed.  The new, $1 billion factory was warming-up the production line to produce the new, 2010 Kia Sorento crossover vehicle.  Since my latest trip to Georgia, the facility has gone from prototypes to market-ready versions of the Sorento

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BMW Sells Formula One Team Back to Sauber

One-third of workers are immediately sacked. Agreement is contingent on having a starting place for 2010 racing season.

by on Nov.30, 2009

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Whether a place on the grid is offered to Sauber remains to be seen, as the costly and scandal wracked business continues to be roiled by defections of major automakers.

BMW AG agreed to sell its 80% ownership in the BMW Sauber F1 Team to founder and former owner Peter Sauber at the end of last week.

The contract is subject to the team having a starting place for the 2010 Formula One season, which up to this point is unknown  because the sanctioning body, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, mistrusted the proposed mid-east financing of a restructured team. This previous announced deal from a murky mid-east based company called Qadbak Investment Ltd is now off.

Whether a place on the grid is offered to Sauber remains to be seen, as the costly and scandal wracked business continues to be roiled by defections of major automakers, among them Honda, Toyota, BMW and tire supplier Bridgestone. Renault is also said to be examining its costly participation.

Racing Views!

Racing Views!

Moreover, Ferrari, the unquestioned superstar marque of the series among fans, is apoplectic about one proposal to cut the obscene costs that are driving other makers away. It would see a spec engine replace the highly specialized, breathtakingly expensive, custom engines now in use. Ferrari’s entire marketing plan is based on its often-successful participation in Formula One, of course.

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What if the Pumps Run Dry?

Warnings about "peak" oil are growing again.

by on Nov.30, 2009

Even some of the petroleum industry's top leaders now are warning we may be reaching a peak for global oil production.

Some of the petroleum industry's leaders now are warning, not without self interest, we may be reaching peak global oil production.

Peak oil is a controversial theory that suggests oil production is peaking and will invariably decline over the coming years, leaving the industrial world facing short supplies.

In its own way, the theory is more controversial than climate change and rests on interpretation of arcane numbers.

Indeed, there are those who point to recent finds of giant oil reserves off places like Brazil and argue that there’s far more oil left in the ground than we can imagine.  However, the peak oil advocates are now picking up support and their warnings ought to be of at least passing interest to auto industry planners, some of which have already embraced it, notably General Motors.

Your Auto News Source!

Oil News!

In the past, anyone speaking out about oil supply challenges was usually stereotyped as a fringe element with little knowledge about the oil industry, notes a Denver-based organization called the Association for Study of Peak Oil & Gas.

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Russians Put 50 Billion Rubles into Failing Lada

Renault keeps 25% stake. Offers more technology transfers.

by on Nov.30, 2009

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Lada’s Togliatti plant will expand by about 200,000 vehicles to 900,000 annually.

Renault, government-owned Russian Technologies and Troika Dialog, an investment bank, have signed a memorandum of understanding to reorganize heavily indebted AvtoVAZ, a maker of more than a dozen models, and best known in the west for its Lada brand.

The pending deal, due to close by March 1, will expand Lada’s Togliatti plant by about 200,000 vehicles to 900,000 annually by 2015. It allows AvtoVAZ, in theory, to sustain its Russia auto market share at about 25%, while developing what are thought to be ambitious export operations.

It was only a short while ago that the Russian car market experienced rapid growth to 2.7 million vehicles in 2007. That was when Renault invested $1 billion TK € for its 25% stake in AvtoVAZ.

However, this was pre-financial crash and the ongoing global Great Recession caused by it, which is in the process of drastically altering the auto business, among other industries. In Russia, sales plunged in 2008 to 1.45 million units. Sales are running at about 1.6 million units annually this year — making Renault’s previous planning assumptions of 3.2 million units in 2008, and 4 million vehicles annually by 2014 seem, well, absurd. If it ever happens that would make Russia the largest car market in Europe.

It was the Russian government’s desire to make its auto industry a global player that caused the Opel sale to collapse.

Пожалуйста!

Пожалуйста!

Ultimately, the GM Board of Directors rejected the planned sale of Opel to Magna and Russian Sberbank in early November because it bolstered Russian vehicle sales by using its technology while restricting access of GM’s Chevrolet brand in the huge market and with, apparently, shaky or disingenuous safeguards on intellectual property rights.

AvtovVaz – City of Togliatti, Russia

Soon to be an automotive export hub?

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Honda Production Declines for 12th Straight Month

Asia and China remain bright spots by setting records.

by on Nov.30, 2009

Honda was first Japanese automaker to assemble motor vehicles in the United States. Starting with a small motorcycle sales office in Los Angeles in 1959, Honda has grown into a multi-line operation throughout the country to include automobiles, power equipment, powersports, engines and jet aircraft.

Honda, the first Japanese maker to make cars in the U.S., is now so integrated that the declining Yen is less of a problem for it than other makers. Still, production in the U.S. is off 32%.

Honda Motor Company reports for the month of October that production in Japan declined for the 12th straight month. In other regions Honda operates in it was the 13th monthly decline, although production in Asia and China set records.

This means the number two Japanese automaker has thus far been unable to shake off the negative effects of the ongoing global Great Recession that began more than a year ago with the collapse of the financial markets.

In relative terms Honda is in much better financial shape than the two ailing Japanese companies flanking it, number one Toyota and number three Nissan, both of which have been posting far higher financial  losses and are vulnerable to the declining value of the Yen.

Total Honda exports from Japan in October 2009 experienced a year-on-year decrease for the 13th consecutive month.

In the all-important U.S. market, the company’s most profitable, Honda saw production decline 15%, a slight improvement from trend. Year to date, though, Honda is off 32% compared to the same period in 2008. In U.S. sales Honda year-to-date is off about 300,000 vehicles, the equivalent output of almost two final assembly plants.

Japan’s second largest automaker predicts net income of ¥155 billion (about $1.7 billion) in the year ending next March, compared with its earlier forecast of ¥55 billion.

Charts follow.

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The Great Safety Belt Interlock Fiasco

The public, the critics, and a spineless Congress muffed it.

by on Nov.30, 2009

How to enrage the public in six easy steps.

How to enrage the public in six easy steps.

While car enthusiasts, engineers, critics and regulators all rejoice today at the impressively higher safety belt wearing rates that have contributed importantly to lower rates of fatalities in crashes, the road here has been rough. Thirty-five years ago, and say 175,000 unnecessary deaths since, we as a nation had a proven preventative—but the public, the critics and above all Congress muffed it.

This seat-belt interlock somewhat crudely, prevented the car from being started unless all front-seat occupants buckled their safety belts first. With only a six-month lead-time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated the device for all 1974 model cars in the U.S.

The seatbelt interlock was, in my opinion, a good idea whose time simply had not come.

There’s a persistence mythology even today about automotive safety that says you’re better off if you’re “thrown out” of a car in a crash. This was disproved in the early 1950s by an Indiana State Policeman named Elmer Paul.

Sergeant Paul noticed that, in many fatal highway crashes, the vehicle really wasn’t badly damaged, yet the people were dead. Why?

He discovered that such fatalities inevitably resulted when occupants were ejected and crushed either by the vehicle rolling over them or by crashing themselves into a tree, pole, curb or whatever.

The laws of physics are irrevocable, stating that a body — human in this case — in motion continues in motion until stopped. You don’t get “thrown out,” you keep moving after the car stops impacting something else; you “stop” when you also impact something else, whether the instrument panel or, say, a tree.

Safety Perspective!

Safety Perspective!

Paul collected good statistics on Indiana “fatals” showing that ejection was the leading cause of fatal injuries. He got the attention of the National Safety Council, the Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory that had specialized in aircraft safety during World War II but had little to keep busy in the post-war period.

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