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Archive for October, 2010

Nissan Recalling More Than 2 Million Vehicles Worldwide

Third-largest recall ever targets ignition problem.

by on Oct.28, 2010

About a third of the recalled vehicles were sold in the U.S., including this 2006 Nissan Titan.

Japan’s second-largest automaker, Nissan, is recalling 2.14 million vehicles worldwide due to an ignition switch problem that could lead to engine stalling.

The third-largest recall ever for the Yokohama-based maker, the service action involves a broad swath of the company’s line-up, from the March minicar up to the massive Infiniti QX56 luxury SUV.  The breadth of the problem underscores the downside manufacturers face as they communize parts across their product range in an effort to cut costs.

Nissan says it has no reports of any accidents caused by the defect.  In some situations, however, the defect can lead to stalling and the inability to restart the vehicle.

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The recall involves vehicles produced in a variety of Nissan plants worldwide, including those in Japan, the U.S., Canada, Spain and Great Britain.  About a third of the vehicles involved, 762,000 in all, were sold in North America, but Japan accounts for the largest number, 835,000.

The recall covers vehicles produced between August 2003 and July 2006.


Bond, James Bond, DB5 Goes For $4.6 Million

Street legal coupe carries some useful tools for those with serious road rage.

by on Oct.28, 2010

The original James Bond Aston Martin DB5 commands $4.6 million at auction. It originally sold for $12,000.

We’re not sure if Harry Yeaggy has a serious case of road rage or just a fixation with films.  He definitely does have plenty of money to spare…as he proved by snapping up the original 007 DB5, the Aston Martin coupe used by Bond, James Bond, in the long-running movie series’ first two films, Goldfinger and Thunderball.

Yeaggy, an Ohio car collector reportedly got a bargain, winning the bidding at an RM Auctions event, in London, for 2.9 million pounds, or $4.6 million, including fees.  Some estimates predicted the tricked-out Aston would go for anywhere from 3.5 million to as much as 10 million pounds sterling.

Then again, it was all profit for the previous owner, Philadelphia radio broadcaster Jerry Lee, who snapped the modified Aston Martin DB5 for just $12,000, in 1969, after MGM, the Bond series studio, finished using the car for a promotional tour.

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There have been a number of different automotive brands associated with James Bond, both in book and film form, over the years, notably including BMW, which briefly bought the franchise’s tie-in rights, in part to help launch the then-new Z3 roadster, with the film, GoldenEye.  Even American Motors got a moment in the spotlight, when Agent 007 stole a Hornet from a dealership in Bangkok and made a getaway crashing through the showroom window.


L.A. Auto Show Design Challenge Focuses Light Weight

by on Oct.28, 2010

Cadillac Aera

Vehicle weights have been going up for years as consumers demand more features, the government pushes stricter safety regulations and designers seek stiffer vehicle structures.

So for this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge, organizers asked design studios to envision a 1,000-pound, four-passenger car. It had to be comfortable, be capable of meeting government safety regulations and have satisfactory driving performance and styling to meet consumers’ demand.

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It’s a daunting challenge. The government wants ever-improving safety and buyers want everything from more features to better handling, meaning stiffer and heavier chassis.

Previously, the award was focused on the Southern California design community. But this year, Mercedes-Benz studios in Germany and Japan contributed to give the competition to add an international perspective.


Is BYD Ready To Go Bust?

Ambitious Chinese maker’s fortunes take a serious turn for the worse.

by on Oct.27, 2010

Late for an American debut, the BYD E6.

Its name is short for “Build Your Dreams,” but could the “B” in BYD soon stand for “bust”?

It’s starting to look like that for the Chinese firm that started out as a cellphone battery supplier but has morphed into one of that country’s more ambitious, home-grown automakers.

The Shenzhen-based firm, which is backed by American mega-investor Warren Buffett, has suffered a series of setbacks in recent months, ranging from recalls to confrontations with Chinese authorities.  But the latest problem could be one that BYD has trouble rectifying.

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The maker reported a 99% drop in third-quarter earnings, this week, triggering an equally sharp downturn in its stock price, which is nearing its 52-week low.  Whether the company’s charismatic founder and chairman, Wang Changfu, can turn things around remains to be seen, but there are few signs of any immediate turnaround.

It wasn’t supposed to go that way.  BYD’s little F3 has been the best-selling car in China this year, but is feeling the pinch of regulatory changes.


Marchionne: Fiat Would Do Better Without Italy

“Not a single Euro” of profit from Italian plants, sighs CEO.

by on Oct.27, 2010

Fiat might be better off without Italy, suggested CEO Sergio Marchionne.

It may be based there, but Fiat would be better off without Italy, suggests the automaker’s outspoken CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Often critical of the country’s less-than-efficient bureaucracy and its demanding unions, Marchionne warned, on one of Italy’s leading TV shows, that Fiat “cannot continue…forever” to operate in a country where a lack of productivity is considered an acceptable norm.

“Not a single Euro of Fiat’s planned 2-billion Euro profit margin comes from Italy,” Marchionne said during an appearance on the show “Che tempo che fa.”

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Marchionne made his appearance on the show shortly after announcing the company pulled a 236 million Euro profit for the third quarter and outlining the even bigger target for all of 2010, exceeding analysts’ earlier forecast.


Honda Bringing New Battery Car, Plug-In To LA Auto Show

Maker switching direction from focus on light hybrids.

by on Oct.27, 2010

Honda is moving into electric power but will continue to push its hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, the maker says.

Confirming a corporate switch in direction, Honda Motor Co. President and CEO Takanobu Ito will pull the wraps off a pair of new battery cars at the upcoming Los Angeles Motor Show.

While the maker is saving specific details for the November 17th unveiling, it has confirmed that the preview will highlight both a battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, as well as a plug-in hybrid model.

The unveiling underscores Ito’s recent pronouncement that Honda will expand its range of options within the burgeoning electric car market.

Until recently, the maker steadfastly refused to move beyond the mild hybrid approach taken with such models such as the Honda Insight, CR-Z  and Civic Hybrid.  The Honda Integrated Motor Assist, or IMA, system was designed to recapture energy normally lost during braking and coasting, then reuse it to provide an added boost during vehicle launch and acceleration.  But unlike some competitors, like Toyota, with the Prius, Honda’s hybrids could not be run on electric power alone, even for short distances.

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Honda appears to have been reluctant about plug-ins and pure battery-electric models for similar reasons that delayed Toyota’s planned entry into such segments: the capabilities and the cost of lithium-ion batteries.


Cadillac To Build New Small Luxury Sedan

Maker gives long-awaited go to 3-Series fighter, the Caddy ATS.

by on Oct.27, 2010

Cadillac has yet to show a public version of the small ATS, but has hinted at where it's going on the big-car front with the XTS Platinum Concept.

More than a year after teasing  a select group of media with a look at a proposed small car, tentatively dubbed the ATS, Cadillac will this week announce plans to put the new model into production at a plant near Lansing, Michigan.

The sedan, smaller than the current Caddy CTS, will be aimed at the likes of the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and could be used as a replacement for the only marginally successful BLS Cadillac had hoped would give it an entry into the lucrative European luxury car market.

“We usually don’t comment on future products but we have said we will offer a new product positioned below the CTS,” said Cadillac spokesman Nick Twork.

And while it has not officially confirmed the reason for his visit to the Lansing plant, General Motors has announced that new CEO Dan Akerson will tour the facility, along with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, on Thursday.

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Based on the same platform – and produced on the same assembly line as the current Cadillac CTS and STS models — the ATS will serve as a cornerstone of General Motors’ efforts to rebuild the once dominant Cadillac brand.  The demand for small luxury and entry-luxury models has been rapidly growing, leading makers like BMW and Mercedes to push into downsized segments long ignored by luxury brands.

Such models as the BMW 1-Series and Audi A2 are proving especially popular in Europe, though there is growing demand even in the United States, where luxury has traditionally been measured by the foot and inch.


Is Demand For Battery Car Technology Over-Hyped?

New J.D. Power study suggests marginal market for electric propulsion.

by on Oct.27, 2010

Will consumers plug into battery vehicles, like the 2011 Nissan Leaf? A new study suggests demand will lag the hype.

Even when combining conventional hybrids with more advanced plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, Power’s new Drive Green study projects that demand for all forms of battery-based vehicles will account for only 7.3% of the total worldwide automotive market by 2020.

But Power researchers acknowledge that their forecast contains a number of variables and several key unknowns could dramatically change what happens over the coming decade.

“The most likely scenario” leading to significantly greater interest in battery power, said senior Power analyst Dave Sargent, “would be a dramatic and sustained increase in gasoline prices.”

According to Drive Green, hybrids, or HEVs, and BEVs will account for 5.2 million of the 70.9 million cars, trucks and crossovers Power expects to be sold worldwide by 2020.  That compares with 954,000 battery vehicles expected to be sold through the end of this year, 2.2% of the total worldwide market of 44.7 million vehicles.

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While battery propulsion may be making great headlines and generating a lot of buzz – and investment – within the auto industry, Sargent says, “The people who are least interested are consumers,” especially after they hear the downside of battery technology.


Ford, GM Making Major Gains, But Honda Still Tops Consumer Reports’ Reliability Charts

by on Oct.26, 2010

Ford Fusion easily beats the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, according to the new Consumer Reports study.

Detroit’s top two makers have scored significant gains in reliability and customer satisfaction, according to the latest annual automotive reliability survey by the influential Consumer Reports magazine.

But while Ford and General Motors are starting to reach world-class levels, the annual study found that Honda is still the benchmark to beat in the American market.  And while it has suffered some hits from the last year’s quality and safety problems, Toyota still ranks near the top, stressed CR’s director of auto testing, David Champion.

“The big news out of the survey, this year, is how well GM has done,” said Champion, during a presentation to the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

In recent years, he noted, the number of GM vehicles scoring Average or better on Consumer Reports’ widely-quoted study has surged from 43% to 69%, and among the models sold by the maker’s big Chevrolet division, the figure has grown from 50% to 83%.

Champion noted that some of GM’s weaker products were eliminated when the company emerged from bankruptcy, in July 2010, and dropped four of its eight North American brands.  Meanwhile, its newer models, such as the Buick LaCross sedan and Chevrolet Equinox crossover, have come in with unexpectedly solid scores on Consumer Reports’ various tests, as well as in the survey of 1.3 million American car buyers.

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What’s particularly curious, Champion acknowledged, is the fact that while Equinox was one of the highest-ranked models in the 2010 auto reliability study, the nearly-identical GMC Terrain scored near the bottom of the charts. The CR director said he could not explain the discrepancy but said it is backed by the survey data.

“We’ve got clear focus, and we spend less time debating…and make decisions faster,” responded GM Vice President of Global Quality Dan Nicholson.  But despite the good report card, he admitted, “we’re nowhere near done.  Our goal is to be the leader in quality in every segment where we compete.”


BMW Recalling 150,000 Cars Sold In U.S.

Fuel pump problem plagues turbo models.

by on Oct.26, 2010

The BMW Z4 sDrive35 is one of several turbo models impacted by the recall.

BMW is recalling 150,000 recent models sold in the United States due to the potential failure of their fuel pumps, which could lead to trouble starting an impacted vehicle or reduced performance.

The recall growing reports of problems with some of the maker’s turbocharged products, which an industry analyst describes as “an enormous problem.”

A total of 130,000 BMWs sold from the 2007 through 2010 model-years and equipped with twin-turbo six-cylinder engines are impacted by the recall.  The maker will advise motorists to bring those models to their dealers for inspection.

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BMW expects to ultimately replace the high-pressure fuel pumps in about 40,000 of those vehicles.  Those and some of the other vehicles may also require a software update.

The affected models are the 2007 to 2010 BMW 335i, 2008 to 2010 135i, 535i and X6 xDrive35i models, as well as 2009 and ’10 Z4 sDrive35i roadsters, the maker said in announcing the recall.