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Archive for November, 2012

Mazda Confirms Diesel Coming for 2014 Mazda6

New sedan launching with SkyActiv gas package.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Mazda will offer both a small gas engine and a new diesel for the 2014 Mazda6 sedan.

Mazda will launch a diesel version of its new midsize Mazda6 sedan during the second half of 2013, the maker confirmed during an LA Auto Show news conference – and while the maker won’t release official figures until closer to launch, a well-placed source said the maker is looking to match hybrid-level fuel economy numbers with the package.

Mazda is the latest manufacturer to announce plans to enter the diesel market, a niche largely populated by European makers, such as Audi which earlier announced plans to add four new diesels to its U.S. line-up next year.

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The new Mazda6 itself was earlier previewed during an introduction in, of all places, Moscow over the summer. The sedan is an example of the Japanese maker’s aggressive new Kodo design language which features a low-slung nose and aggressive wheel bulges intended to deliver a sense of power and agility.

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Ford Fusion Nabs Green Car of the Year Award

Judges swayed by mix of powertrain options.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Ford plans to play up its Green Car award in spots coming soon to a TV near you.

Despite the popular media’s fixation on battery power, automotive insiders are quick to caution that there is no “silver bullet” solution, no single technology that will likely meet all the needs for tomorrow’s clean and efficient automobiles.

That message was hammered home by the choice of the 2013 Ford Fusion as the Green Car of the Year, an award designed to focus the spotlight on the latest clean-tech automobiles.

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A key to the decision was the fact that the new midsize sedan offers a broad range of powertrain alternatives, from conventional gasoline power up to an all-new plug-in hybrid.

“That’s an example of automotive democracy,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of Green Car Journal, the organizer of the annual award.

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New Toyota RAV4 Grows Up

Big changes in a little package.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Toyota's new RAV4 adopts a more expressive design - and a number of other changes.

Toyota helped define the “cute-ute” segment with its original RAV4. And it is hoping that the all-new crossover making its debut at this year’s LA Auto Show will help redefine the increasingly popular compact CUV segment.

But there’s no question that competition is getting tougher – no surprise – as sales soar to record levels.  Americans have purchased 1.7 million compact crossovers since the 1994 RAV4 debut, and a flood of new models has been entering the market, including an all-new version of the Ford Escape that has been transformed from classic, truck-based design to a car-based crossover for 2013.

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The basic design is likely to catch eyes and reflects a new emphasis on styling at Toyota, which has long been faulted for its plain vanilla approach.

The new Toyota is roomier, sportier and offers more luxury than its predecessor. According to Bill Faye, Group vice president and general manager Toyota Motor Sales, the RAV4 also is at the forefront with respect to handling, equipment, ergonomics and cost of ownership.

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Hyundai Offers Peek at Veloster C3 Roll-Top

Concept could be headed for production, officials hint.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Hyundai is giving serious consideration to producing the roll-top Veloster C3 concept.

Hyundai offered an imaginative open-air reinterpretation of the popular Veloster coupe during a preview at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

The C3 convertible 3-door concept vehicle unveiled at the LA show features a dual-function convertible soft top that rolls backwards and forwards – somewhat like the system used on the Fiat 500C – and a tailgate to replace the standard Veloster’s hatchback.

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“We were inspired by the proverb ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss,’” explained Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design North America. “The Veloster C3 Roll Top concept offers the ‘no strings attached’ freedom of a roll top convertible and customizable utility that fits an everyday to a play day dual lifestyle.”

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Audi Throws Down Gauntlet on Diesel

Maker introduces four new models in LA – but wants government backing for high-mileage technology.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Audi of America CEO Scott Keogh with two new diesel models - and a sign suggesting the fuel the technology has helped owners save.

Audi will introduce four new diesel models in 2013, technology the maker says has already allowed its buyers to reduce their fuel consumption by nearly 5 million gallons in recent years.

But during a news conference at the 2012 LA Auto Show, U.S. Audi chief Scott Keogh took shots at state and federal regulators whom he accused of unfairly favoring battery-based technologies, rather than diesel, as a way to curb American dependence upon imported oil. He called on officials to take steps that would help boost demand for diesel powertrains in the U.S. – as is already the case in Europe.

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“These are cars that demand no sacrifice,” proclaimed Keogh as he introduced the upcoming diesel versions of the Audi A6, A7, A8 and Q5 models. That’s a big part of the diesel pitch, as the latest versions of that technology can deliver significant performance and plenty of towing power, along with higher mileage. By comparison, hybrids and other battery-based technologies require trade-offs such as reduced performance or shorter range.

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First Look: 2014 Porsche Cayman

More muscle, better mileage.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Lighter, longer and wider - as well as more powerful and fuel-efficient - the 2013 Porsche Cayman.

Porsche intends to extend its winning strike as it launches an all-new update of its smallest sports coupe, the Cayman, which made its first public appearance during a well-attended debut at the LA Auto Show.

Like the similarly sized Boxster roadster, the 2013 Porsche Cayman is lighter and sleeker, with a longer wheelbase and wider track designed to enhance both its visual appearance and its road manners.  Porsche engineers also have pulled off the seemingly impossible, as they did with several other recent models, not only boosting performance but squeezing out significantly better mileage.

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“The new version is lighter, more powerful and more fuel-efficient than ever,” said Matthias Mueller, CEO of the Stuttgart-based maker – which effectively became part of the growing Volkswagen AG empire this year.

The 2013 Porsche Cayman S can launch from 0 to 100 kmh (62 mph) in barely 4.7 seconds.

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Nissan Turning Nismo into Mainstream Performance Brand

by on Nov.29, 2012

The Nissan Juke Nismo concept reveals the red mirror caps likely to become a signature of the performance sub-brand.

Nissan plans to transform its Nismo subsidiary into a new, mainstream performance brand-within-a-brand, loosely modeled on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz sub-brand AMG, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned.

Unlike some previous Japanese efforts to create sporty sub-brands, every model to wear the Nismo badge will get a measurable bump in performance, more sporty suspension tuning and distinctive exterior and interior design modifications, according to a senior Nissan executive.

The new operations will launch next year with the introduction of the new Nissan Juke Nismo. Other models will quickly follow. Meanwhile, Nissan will increase Nismo’s presence in various motorsports programs to enhance its visibility.

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“We saw an opportunity,” Nissan global marketing chief Simon Sproule explained during  an exclusive interview.  “No Japanese company has exploited its performance heritage successfully,” he added, including Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti.

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Fuel Economy Fiasco Isn’t Hurting Hyundai, CEO Insists

Korean carmaker’s sales stay on track, says Krafcik.

by on Nov.29, 2012

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik contends the maker has maintained momentum despite the mileage flap.

The controversy over Hyundai’s misstated fuel economy ratings has not hurt the Korean automaker’s sales, Hyundai of America chief executive officer John Krafcik told TheDetroitBureau.com.

The maker earlier this month admitted it had overstated the mileage of 900,000 vehicles sold in the U.S. – as did its sibling brand Kia. In some cases, the two brands were forced to reduce the ratings of models like the Kia Soul by as much as 6 mpg.

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Hyundai faces some hefty fines, the threat of lawsuits and the millions of dollars it has offered to reimburse affected owners.  A number of analysts, meanwhile, have warned the flap could have a strongly negative impact on Kia’s record-pace sales.  But Krafcik insisted that isn’t happening.

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US Auto Market in Full Recovery Mode

Demand expected to surge – though Washington gridlock still poses a risk.

by on Nov.28, 2012

Toyota's Jim Lentz sees good times ahead for the U.S. auto industry.

It’s been the little engine that could, driving along an economy long struggling to avert a double-dip recession. And now, amidst growing signs that the U.S. economy is clearly on the mend, industry leaders are increasingly confident the auto industry is heading in fast-forward towards some extremely good – though probably not record – years.

As manufacturers get set to report extremely strong numbers for October, Toyota’s top American executive, Jim Lentz said he expects to see 2012 end with sales of 14.3 million – about 1 million more than a year before and a roughly 40% increase from the depths of the recession.

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“And the forecast ahead looks even better,” Lentz said as he opened his keynote remarks at the opening of the annual LA Auto Show. “Analysts expect we will reach 16 million in just a few short years.”

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First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Convertible

The new “people’s car” goes topless.

by on Nov.28, 2012

VW engineers worked hard to maintain the Beetle coupe's shape - while also enhancing the top-down fun of the Beetle Convertible.

VW is ready to blow its top – and, in the process, reinforce its reputation for engineering, innovation and sportiness with the introduction of the new 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, which is debuting this week at the 2012 LA Auto Show.

The new model, which follows into showrooms a year after the debut of the third-generation Volkswagen Beetle Coupe, shares the same basic dimensions – in fact, one of the more notable accomplishments for VW engineers was the way they were able to maintain the distinctive shape of the new Beetle with the ragtop version.

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Another accomplishment was maintaining the fun-to-drive character of the classic “people’s car,” with the top up, but especially down – as TheDetroitBureau.com learned during a drive of the new VW Beetle Convertible in the days before its official LA Auto Show reveal.

It’s one of those situations where VW engineers had to make some significant tweaks to keep everything pretty much the same.  That meant subtle modifications to the chassis to maintain stiffness and drivability of the new Beetle Convertible. Even though it carries some additional weight, even the base version of the new ragtop delivers a firm ride, responsive steering, and reliable and predictable cornering. Oh, and toss in a good set of brakes.

Even with the base 2.5-liter engine, the new Beetle Convertible delivers 170 horsepower, which is plenty of power for enjoying open air motoring. The two more expensive versions, with VW’s TDI diesel, and the maker’s 2-liter gasoline turbo with its 200 horsepower, offer more punch and have an edge in traffic by providing the extra boost needed for passing and other maneuvers.

The Beetle Convertible also is surprisingly quiet.  The ragtop’s fold-back roof contains three separate layers which helps minimize the road noise when the roof is up.

In addition, the top is powered by two electric motors and latches and unlatches automatically at the touch of a button, which is located on the upper rail of the windshield surround. The top takes just 9.5 seconds to stow and 11.0 seconds to be raised, the extra time needed to latch the roof’s header to the windshield.

Incidentally, the top can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 31 mph. An integrated wind blocking system is available on the Beetle Convertible as a Volkswagen Genuine Accessory.

Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer, Volkswagen Brand, noted the Beetle Convertible was not just a copy of the original, insisting the design of the third-generation Beetle Convertible can stand on its own.

However, the Beetle Convertible retains the bold, purposeful stance of the Coupe, thanks to a wider tracks and a longer wheelbase than the previous New Beetle Convertible. Compared with the 2006 version of the “New” Beetle, the latest Convertible is 3.3 inches wider at 71.2 inches; 1.1 inches lower at 58.0 inches tall; and 6.0 inches longer at 168.4 inches overall.

“Retro is not our thing: we are always looking forward. Volkswagen has reinterpreted the Beetle Convertible’s timeless design with a sportier and more dynamic silhouette, just as it did with the Beetle Coupe. The car is substantially wider, has a longer hood, and has a more upright windshield that sits further back than before. The standard rear spoiler reinforces the car’s sporty look,” he said.

Nonetheless, at launch, there will be three special editions of the Beetle Convertible with design themes echoing the 1950,’60s and 70s when the Bug was in its heyday.

The extra attention from Volkswagen engineers and designers comes at a price. The base model for the new convertible starts at $24,995, the TDI version jumping to $30,295. And the 2-liter turbo package carries a stiff price tag of $33,000 – all these figures adding the $795 destination charge to the sticker.

VW has been building convertibles since 1949 and the Beetle has been one of the most popular open-top cars ever built. More than 330,000 examples of the first Beetle Convertible were manufactured over a 32-year span, while another 234,619 New Beetle Convertibles were produced in an eight-year period.

The new Beetle Convertible is definitely a worthy successor to the earlier versions and a whole lot of fun to drive.  For Volkswagen, it could be one more motivator to get more Americans back into what was once the most popular ragtop in America.