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Archive for November, 2011

GM Moves Quickly To Quell Controversy Surrounding Chevy Volt Fires

Maker will provide free loans to owners concerned about safety of plug-in hybrid model.

by on Nov.29, 2011

GM wants to salvage the image of the Chevy Volt as NHTSA begins a safety investigation.

General Motors is moving quickly to protect the reputation of the Chevrolet Volt in the wake of a new government investigation looking at possible safety problems involving the maker’s high-profile plug-in hybrid.

In the wake of several fires involving Volt battery packs used in crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM says it will provide loaner vehicles to Volt owners concerned about safety while the investigation gets underway.

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The NHTSA announced this week it was opening a formal investigation into why a Volt caught fire following a NHTSA-run crash test last spring, with an additional Volt battery pack igniting earlier this month after further crash tests.

“The Volt is our pride and joy and we will do all we can to make Volt owners just as proud and happy with it as we are,” GM North America President Mark Reuss said Monday during a news conference.


November Car Sales Could Be Best Since Mid-’09

Market keeps gaining momentum.

by on Nov.29, 2011

Increased availability of Japanese products, like this 2012 Toyota Camry, appear to have helped build November sales momentum.

The U.S. economy looks like it got a lift in November from new vehicle sales – which continue gaining momentum despite earlier concerns that the automotive market would cool down after a hot October.

Sales of new cars in November have climbed to a level last seen more than two years ago when the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” was in full swing, according to analysts who follow sales trends. Full results for the month are due December 1.

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“We’ve seen six straight months of year-over-year gains for new vehicle sales, which shows positive momentum for the auto industry,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of Industry Trends and Insights for the automotive website


Details on Toyota Sports Coupe Trickle Out

The name comes from the beloved AE86 Corolla from the '80s.

by on Nov.29, 2011

Toyota will sell its rear-wheel-drive sports coupe as the 86 in Japan and GT 86 in Europe. It will be known as the Scion FR-S in the U.S.

With enthusiasts looking for anything to sate their appetite for the latest details on the Toyobaru (Subayota?), Toyota has devilishly allowed a mere trickle of details to come out about its version of the much-anticipated sport coupe it has developed with Subaru.

The current dish? While the car will be sold in the States as the Scion FR-S, it will be called the GT 86 in Europe and simply 86 in Japan, paying homage the revered AE86 Corolla from the ’80s.

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Even more will be released next week when the car makes its official debut at the Toyota Motor Show. Toyota is calling the car a “production prototype,” but it will likely differ from the production version in details only.


Daimler Will Kill Maybach Brand

Luxury marque has never gained traction.

by on Nov.28, 2011

The original, pre-War Maybach Zeppelin was the first V12-powered German car. The new Maybach Zeppelin gained little traction with the luxury market.

The long-struggling Maybach brand will soon be euthanized – though few will likely notice considering the German luxury maker’s continually weak performance.

Parent Daimler AG has finally given up on the marque which was originally conceived as an all-new alternative to better-known Bentley and Rolls-Royce – future efforts focusing on a new, high-line version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

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“We came to the strong conclusion that the sales chances for the Mercedes brand are much stronger than those for Maybach,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.


Automakers Take Aim at Drowsy Driving

New Lincoln will tell you when it’s time for a coffee break.

by on Nov.28, 2011

With the 2013 MKS update Lincoln takes aim at the problem of drowsy driving.

If you’ve ever felt yourself nodding off when you’ve spent a little too much time behind the wheel you’re not alone.  According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation more than two in five drivers admit they’ve fallen asleep, even for a moment, when driving.

While most motorists now recognize the dangers of drunk driving, AAA officials fear that there’s a more casual attitude when it comes to drowsy driving.  But new technology is designed to not only alert drivers who have begun to drift off while behind the wheel but also help them avoid an accident.

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Calling drowsy driving a “serious concern,” Ford Motor Co.’s global product chief Derrick Kuzak recently revealed that the maker’s updated 2013 Lincoln MKS sedan will be able to tell when a driver is distracted or, worse, beginning to doze.  The luxury model’s Lane Keeping System will initially sound an alert if the vehicle drifts out of its lane.  If necessary, it will then add a bit of torque to the steering wheel to gently nudge the MKS back into its lane.


Infiniti Developing Plug-In Hybrid

Will follow launch of Luxury Brand’s First EV.

by on Nov.28, 2011

Infiniti offers a hint of the plug-in hybrid it is developing.

Having confirmed plans to add its first battery-electric vehicle for 2014, Infiniti has now revealed its goal of launching a new plug-in hybrid, as well.

The luxury brands second battery car, which it describes as a “range-extending electric sports car,” will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show next March.

It will enter a rapidly expanding segment for battery-based luxury vehicles.  General Motors’ Cadillac division is preparing a high-line version of the Chevrolet Volt, to be dubbed the Cadillac ELR, while BMW is readying both the plug-in i8 and battery-electric i3 models for a new sub-brand focusing exclusively on green powertrain technology.

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The two teaser shots released by Infiniti – the luxury arm of Nissan Motor Co. – suggest the plug-in will be inspired by the 2-seat Nissan ESFLOW concept vehicle.  While Infiniti isn’t offering any specifics the ESFLOW was a pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, with a stated range of 150 miles and sports car performance that Nissan estimated would yield 0 to 60 times in less than 5 seconds.


Audi Drops a Battery Car Surprise with A3 eTron

Maker claims no immediate plans for an electric wagon.

by on Nov.28, 2011

The A3 eTron suggests Audi may have big plans for electric propulsion

Automakers typically spend a lot of time and money to promote their latest cars and concept vehicles – but occasionally one sits on the sidelines as sharp-eyed motorists might have discovered at the just-ended L.A. Motor Show.

While the German maker put the emphasis on its next-generation performance models, including the S6 sedan, Audi’s stand at the L.A. Convention Center also featured a battery-electric version of its compact Avant, or wagon, a showcar subtly decaled the A3 eTron.

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Volkswagen’s luxury subsidiary hasn’t tried to hide its interest in electric propulsion, and has confirmed it will launch production versions of the eTron battery cars it has shown, in concept form, on the auto show circuit in recent years – which raised the question of what it might have in mind for the A3 eTron.


Feds Step Up Investigation in Wake of New Chevy Volt Fires

New tests raise additional concerns.

by on Nov.28, 2011

NHTSA has now launched a formal investigation after an additional fire in a Chevy Volt battery pack it was crash-testing.

Already concerned about a battery fire that followed the spring crash test of a Chevrolet Volt, federal safety regulators have opened a new investigation as the result of additional fires involving Volt’s lithium-ion batteries.

Company officials have already blamed the initial incident on a failure to follow proper procedures following the crash test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and they contend the Volt is safe despite the latest fires.  But the new study could create a serious problem for the automaker as it gets ready to push for a six-fold increase in sales of the plug-in hybrid next year.

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In a statement, GM said it has “worked closely” with the NHTSA and wasn’t surprised by the news the agency would launch a formal investigation.  But the maker also declared the volt “is safe and does not present undue risk as part of normal operation or immediately after a severe crash.”


Can Next Autoworks Survive Without DoE Loan?

Washington’s political quagmire taking toll on start-ups.

by on Nov.23, 2011

Next Autoworks has developed a low-cost, spaceframe-based small car.

Next Autoworks is scrambling to see if there’s a way to raise some desperately needed capital after withdrawing its request for a Department of Energy loan, money the automotive start-up was counting on to begin producing a new line of low-cost, high-volume cars.

After getting earlier indications that the loan request under the DoE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program would likely go through, Next was given word, earlier this week that the application would instead be rejected.  Sources close to the project suggest Next – and others seeking DoE loans – have been hamstrung by the political turmoil in Washington.

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“New companies with new ideas are the lifeblood of future job creation in the United States,” said Kathleen  Ligocki, Next Autoworks Company’s CEO and a one-time senior executive at Ford Motor Co. “The most powerful funding combination is one of public-private partnership, especially in capital-intensive manufacturing industries which have the most power for permanent employment for the broadest group of people. Still, in the current reality, there are many demands on public capital and choices must be made.”


GM Launching Volt in China

Meanwhile, GM production set to resume in Spring Hill.

by on Nov.23, 2011

The Chevrolet Volt was first shown in China at Shanghai's Expo 2010.

General Motors Co. has set up distribution of the American-made Chevrolet Volt in China – the plug-in hybrid set to go on sale at 13 Shanghai GM Chevrolet dealerships in eight Chinese cities, including the Chinese capitol, Beijing, as well as Shanghai itself, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuxi, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Foshan.

The Chevy Volt will be one of the rare U.S. exports to the booming Asian nation – now the world’s largest automotive market.  Most cars sold in China are produced in-country, with the market dominated by joint ventures pairing local and foreign makers such as the alliance between GM and Shanghai-based SAIC.

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The Chinese will see a sticker price of $75,533, or 498,000 RMB, for what GM prefers to call an extended-range electric vehicle. The Volt is designed to deliver more than 40 miles per charge of its lithium-ion battery pack.  It then can continue driving by firing up a small gasoline engine.

GM made the announcement of the distribution of the Volt in China as part of the company’s  participation in Auto Guangzhou 2011. Two of GM’s joint ventures, Shanghai GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling, are displaying more than 30 vehicles from the Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac and the new Baojun brands.