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Archive for November, 2012

Electronic Stability Control Systems Saving Thousands of Lives

“We know the technology will save even more lives,” says US safety chief.

by on Nov.30, 2012

The 2013 Honda Civic update adds rollover airbags to the car's electronic stability control technology.

Breakthrough technology designed to prevent vehicle rollovers and other serious accidents has saved an estimated 2,200 lives over the last three years, according to the nation’s top vehicle safety regulator.

A federal rule mandating the use of electronic stability control was enacted in April 2007 and following a four-year phase-in, every vehicle sold since September 1, 2011 has had to use the technology which is often known as ESC, ESP or electronic stability program.

The technology is intended to help vehicles avoid skids and other accidents and has proven particularly effective at preventing rollovers, the government indicates.

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“NHTSA research has consistently shown ESC systems are especially effective in helping a driver maintain vehicle control and avoid some of the most dangerous types of crashes on the highway, including deadly vehicle rollover situations or in keeping drivers from completely running off the roadway,” said Administrator David Strickland of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

As many as 10,000 Americans die in rollover crashes annually, even though rollovers occur in just 3% of highway accidents.

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Mitsubishi Lands New Outlander

Maker insists it’s committed to U.S. market.

by on Nov.30, 2012

Mitsubishi delivers a completely redesigned 3-row Outlander CUV.

You know a manufacturer is having trouble when it begins a news conference not with the unveiling of a new product but with a promise that it isn’t about to leave the market. But few were surprised by the approach taken when Mitsubishi’s U.S. chief executive opened things up at the LA Auto Show this week.

The Japanese maker has had some serious problems in recent years.  A flawed strategy aimed at bringing in young, first-time buyers backfired, running up $100s of millions in losses. And a number of recent products flopped, notably including the now-abandoned Eclipse sports coupe. In fact, Mitsubishi is all but starting over, walking away from a number of once-popular nameplates.

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Its problems were serious enough that only a major bailout kept the Japanese parent alive, in fact. Now, with Suzuki announcing plans to abandon the U.S. after years of crumbling sales, the spotlight is on Mitsubishi, many analysts predicting it could be next to give up on the market.

Not so fast, proclaimed CEO Yoichi Yokazawa, telling a crowd of journalists, “Mitsubishi is as committed to North America as ever,” before unveiling several products intended to help it regain some positive momentum.

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Hyundai Expands Santa Fe Family

It’s a family affair.

by on Nov.30, 2012

The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is a 3-row spinoff of the Santa Fe Sport that went on sale earlier this year.

In the car business, naming vehicles is an art all to itself. But now Hyundai is following a practice pioneered by Ford with its wide range of “F-Series” pickups, and more recently, Toyota with its Prius “family.  Now, the Korean carmaker will go the same route, utilizing the Santa Fe name for two distinctly different vehicles.

Hyundai showed off the production version of the latest model to wear the Santa Fe badge, a new three-row six (or seven) seat crossover, at the 2012 LA Auto Show. A two-row, five-seater dubbed the Santa Fe Sport, has been on sale since August.

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John Krafcik, the Hyundai of America of chief executive officer once oversaw Ford F-Series engineering. Ford has traditionally treated all the various full-size pickups – from single-row, light-duty models to heavy-duty crew-cab trucks with extended beds – as a single nameplate. The all-encompassing F-Series has been America’s best-selling vehicle for more than 30 years.

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Acura Aims to Redefine Itself with RLX Flagship

Luxury maker counting on new design and advanced technology to lure in new buyers.

by on Nov.30, 2012

Acura loses the peak but gains a new LED lighting system with the 2014 RLX flagship.

It was the brand that proved Japanese automakers could compete in the luxury segment but in recent years Acura has been little more than an after-thought, lost behind mainstream high-line marques like Lexus and German giants Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

But Acura is hoping to redefine itself with the launch of its all-new flagship model, the RLX.  Larger and more lavish than the existing Acura line-up, the maker gave a hint of what it had in mind with a concept version at last April’s New York Auto Show. The production version of the Acura RLX is now on display at the LA Auto Show.

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A casual viewer might first notice what executive Jeff Conrad demurely described as a “redesigned Acura grille.” That addresses what may have been the single most controversial aspect of recent Acura design, the massive chromed “beak,” as critics derisively called it.

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Nissan Hi-Cross Concept is Thinly-Disguised, Next-Generation Rogue

Concept also reveals Nissan’s all-new hybrid drivetrain system.

by on Nov.30, 2012

Are you the next Nissan Rogue? Apparently.

Show cars have a habit of vanishing into the ether once their run on the auto show circuit has come to a conclusion. But don’t be surprised to see the Nissan Hi-Cross, making its public debut at the LA Auto Show this month, land back in the public eye in the months ahead.

Actually, to be more precise, expect to see the Hi-Cross Concept’s design resurface when Nissan updates its compact crossover, the Rogue, next year. Senior officials confirm that the Hi-Cross styling will be “very close” to the look of the next-generation Rogue.

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And, like the 7-seat Hi-Cross Concept, the next-generation Nissan crossover will get an optional hybrid powertrain featuring the maker’s latest gas-electric drive technology, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned. The system will go into production next year in several Nissan models.

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First Drive: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport

Big crossover conquers the only jungle that really matters.

by on Nov.30, 2012

The Ford Explorer Sport is the perfect vehicle for conquering the concrete jungle.

The Ford Explorer Sport is the perfect vehicle for conquering the concrete jungle.

It’s a jungle out there and you need a vehicle that can handle it. Pitted trails, obstacles to avoid, narrow spots to fit through.

Yep, the parking lot can be a real test for any vehicle … Oh, you thought this was about the REAL jungle? As in vines, mud holes and “roads” that are more like deer trails? Ha, while SUVs may purport to go there, virtually everyone knows that the only time the large majority of these beasts ever leave the road is to enter the parking lot at the mall.

So it is with that in mind that we put Ford’s new Explorer Sport to the test. In fact, we subjected Ford’s biggest crossover – sorry, Ford may want you to view this as a sport utility vehicle, but it’s based on the same platform as a Ford Taurus – to the most grueling test possible: Black Friday shopping.

Back from the Jungle!

The test actually began with what became a reconnaissance mission on Thanksgiving Eve Wednesday night – go ahead, call us geeks – to Carson’s where we were able to scout locations for bounty which would become critical Thursday night/Friday morning.

As is typical these days, Black Friday actually begins Thursday night as families are wrapping up their Thanksgiving Day celebrations. So having a sure-footed CUV with a commanding driving position becomes important in the battle to avoid other motorists in their tryptophan-induced stupors.

There were presents to buy, deals to be had and mobs of people to be crushed by. Our Black Friday escapade was on.

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Troubled Fisker Automotive Seeking Partner

Plug-in maker aims to cut costs, bring more cars to market.

by on Nov.30, 2012

Henrik Fisker with one of the first Karma plug-in hybrids.

Hoping to overcome a string of setbacks and get its product program back on track, battery-car start-up Fisker Automotive is quietly looking to line up a better financed partner.

There are no plans to sell the company, stressed founder and Chairman Henrik Fisker, but it appears the firm has recognized it will be difficult to go it completely alone, especially after having the Department of Energy freeze a low-interest loan that was supposed to help bring the maker’s second product, the Fisker Atlantic plug-in hybrid to market.

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Fisker has run into a series of setbacks this year, there were two recalls — including one involving a fire caused by a battery cooling fan — product delays, management shake-ups and the loss of its DoE loan. While its first product, the Fisker Karma, has won kudos from some reviewers, it has been harshly criticized by others, notably including the influential Consumer Reports magazine.

Acknowledging it’s been a tough year, Henrik Fisker told TheDetroitBureau.com in an exclusive interview that, “We’re actively engaged in conversations with potential strategic partners.”

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First Look: 2014 Kia Forte

German design for a Korean compact.

by on Nov.30, 2012

Former Audi design chief's latest work for Kia is the new 2014 Forte sedan.

With the introduction of the 2014 Forte, Kia reveals the continuing shift from generic styling to a distinctly European look that has helped it draw in a wave of new buyers in recent years.

Longer, wider and lower than the previous Forte, the new sedan bears the distinctive touch of Peter Schreyer, the former Audi design chief who joined the Korean carmaker in 2006. His work on such models as the latest Kia Optima have won kudos for both the maker and its styling chief – and helped make the Forte one of the most eagerly anticipated debuts during a crowded 2012 LA Auto Show.

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“The all-new Forte significantly raises the bar, offering upscale amenities and eye-catching appeal,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing & communications, KMA. “When you combine exclusive available features like a ventilated driver’s seat and UVO eServices in a car with such an attractive design, it’s very clear the all-new Forte sets a new standard for the compact segment.”

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Honda Unveils Updated 2013 Civic

Maker also details plans for new plug-in hybrid Accord.

by on Nov.30, 2012

Honda hopes to set off some fireworks with the 2013 refresh of the Civic line.

After absorbing some stinging criticism of the 2012 remake of the Honda Civic, the Japanese maker has turned around with unprecedented speed to roll out an “emergency refresh” of the long-popular compact it hopes will win over critics.

In particular, Honda hopes the new 2013 Civic line will get the subcompact line back on the “Recommended Buy” list at Consumer Reports – which leveled unusually stinging criticism at the 2012 model, going so far as to withdraw its long-standing endorsement.

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Honda’s news conference at the 2012 LA Auto Show seemed, in many ways, aimed at addressing recent criticism of the company and showing that it is aggressively moving forward on a number of fronts.  Among other things, the media preview included some news about the maker’s new hybrid strategy – which will get a kick-off with the upcoming launch of an all-new Accord Plug-in model due to U.S. showrooms next year.

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Subaru Betting Big on New Forester

Updated CUV critical to maintaining maker’s string of yearly sales record.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Subaru is betting the latest Forester remake will help it continue its ongoing string of sales records in 2013.

With 2012 already another notch in its string of five consecutive annual sales records, Subaru is preparing for a big 2013 as it launches the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester.

The latest model made its appearance durin the press previews for the Los Angeles Auto Show on its way to a spring arrival in U.S. showrooms.

While perhaps not quite the blockbuster of the original Outback line, the Forester has been a solid and reliable member of the Subaru line-up, sales increasing by 60% even during the deep automotive recession of recent years.  Now, with the U.S. auto industry in a spirited recovery, Subaru is hoping to gain even more momentum.

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Tom Doll, Subaru’s chief operating officer, said the next generation Forester builds on the qualities that have made it so popular with owners over the years, combining both the all-wheel-drive capability of classic Subaru models with the aggressive spirit of the maker’s WRX.

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