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Archive for January, 2013

DOT Chief LaHood Exiting Obama Administration

Stepped up auto enforcement after years of lax regulation.

by on Jan.29, 2013

U.S. Sec. of Transportation Ray LaHood.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has tendered his resignation, indicating he will not stay on through the second term of the Obama Administration.

A one-time Republican Congressman from Illinois, the 67-year-old cabinet member has led efforts to ramp up enforcement of automotive safety issues after the relatively lax, pro-industry years under th previous Bush Administration. LaHood has been especially aggressive in targeting the issue of driver distraction, something he has termed an epidemic and blamed for thousands of U.S. highway deaths annually.

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“As I look back on the past four years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together in so many important areas,” LaHood wrote in an e-mail to DoT employees outlining his decision to leave as soon as a successor can be named.

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Chevy Cruze Eco-D Diesel Ready for Chicago Debut

Could usher in wave of new light-duty U.S. diesels.

by on Jan.29, 2013

Chevrolet is expected to introduce the long-awaited diesel version of its Cruze Eco which may yield as much as 50 mpg highway.

The long-awaited Chevrolet Cruze diesel reportedly is set to make its debut at the upcoming Chicago Auto Show.

Set to be the first General Motors passenger car to feature a diesel in the U.S. market for more than two decades, the Cruze is likely to generate significant interest both among consumers and industry insiders. GM officials have made it clear they’ll be closely watching the public’s response to the new model and, if it gains traction, the Cruze diesel could be followed by other GM offerings.

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“There is, fundamentally, a place for diesel here,” GM President Mark Reuss, said during a recent interview with TheDetroitBureau.com.

The maker is expected to add a diesel option for its redesigned 2014 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. But Reuss indicated he is “personally” in favor of adding more of the so-called “oil-burners” to GM’s North American line-up.

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Daimler Turns to Hungary for New CLA

Will be smallest Mercedes ever sold in US market.

by on Jan.29, 2013

Daimler CEO Deiter Zetsche introduced the Mercedes CLA-Class at a private press preview at the Detroit Auto Show.

Daimler AG has launched production of its newest model from a brand new plant in Hungary. Based on its compact A-Class platform, the new Mercedes-Benz CLA will become the smallest vehicle the German luxury maker has ever sold in the U.S. when it reaches American showrooms later this year.

The decision to produce the CLA at the new plant in Kecskemét, Hungary appears to be a critical step in holding down production costs on a vehicle that would be difficult to market in the U.S. and other parts of the world were it to come from Germany, analysts suggest.

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The CLA is the first model exclusively built in Kecskemét, but the plant’s second product along with the slightly larger Mercedes B-Class, which went into production last year for delivery to markets across Europe.

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GM Investing $600 Mil, Maintaining 4,000 Jobs, at Kansas Plant

Centerpiece of maker’s North American upgrade program.

by on Jan.29, 2013

Following the announcement a worker at GM's Fairfax plant shines a new Chevy Malibu.

In what is being described as one of the company’s biggest investments since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, General Motors has announced plans to spend $600-million to upgrade its assembly and stamping plant in Fairfax, Kansas – a move it says will save 4,000 jobs.

The investment will include the construction of a new 450,000 square-foot paint shop, the installation of a new stamping press and other upgrades, GM said.

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GM official claim the investment is one of GM’s largest plant investments ever, and builds on nearly $2 billion invested in Fairfax in the last decade. Earlier this month, GM announced it would spend $1.5 billion in North American facilities in 2013. This Fairfax investment comprises a large part of that commitment.

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Ford Q4 Pre-Tax Profit Best in Over a Decade

But Europe's woes drag down Ford's full-year earnings.

by on Jan.29, 2013

Demand for Ford's newest models buoyed North American earnings - but quality issues with models like Escape could also pose a drag.

Ford Motor says it made the highest fourth-quarter pre-tax profit in more than a decade. It earned $1.7 billion last quarter, due largely to increases sales of trucks and SUVs and higher prices for all models.

That was 31 cents a share, beating Wall Street forecasts which had ranged from 25 to 28 cents.

For all of 2012, the automaker’s net income was $5.7 billion, down $307 million than a year ago. It excludes some special charges.

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“The Ford team delivered strong results once again, underscoring that our One Ford plan is working,” proclaimed Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO. “We are well positioned for another strong year in 2013, as we continue our plan to serve customers in all markets around the world with a full family of vehicles — small, medium and large; cars, utilities and trucks — with the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value.”

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PSA Peugeot Citroen Planning to Market Compressed Air Hybrid

Automakers looking for alternatives to batteries.

by on Jan.28, 2013

A cutaway showing the internal layout of the Peugeot Hybrid-Air system on one of its subcompacts.

If you’ve been to an auto show lately you’re undoubtedly aware of all the new products using batteries, whether conventional hybrids, more advanced plug-ins or state-of-the-art battery-electric vehicles. That said, with all the problems that even the most advanced lithium-ion batteries suffer from it’s no wonder manufacturers are looking for alternatives.

The new fuel cell alliances announced by Toyota and BMW, and by Daimler, Nissan and Ford, show one potentially promising technology. Now, PSA Peugeot Citroen is exploring another. The French automaker is studying a compressed air hybrid system that it might soon offer in one of its subcompact hatchback models.

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Peugeot isn’t the only manufacturer looking at hybrid-air technology. Ford explored the concept for use on some of its bigger truck models. But as a statement from Paris indicates, the European maker is seriously moving ahead on a technology that would skip costly batteries and, it contends, might be able to deliver fuel economy nudging into the 80 mile per gallon range.

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20 for 2013 – Cheapest, Most Expensive Vehicles to Insure

Ford Edge CUV is least expensive, Mercedes CL600 most costly to insure, reports new study.

by on Jan.28, 2013

A new study finds the Ford Edge has the lowest insurance costs of any 2013 model.

Sure, you just got a great deal on that new car, but it may not seem like nearly the bargain when you go to line up insurance.

The cost of insurance a 2013 model can vary widely, from as little as $1,128 to $3,357 a year, according to a new study – and that’s assuming you’ve got a good driving record and live in a place where insurance companies don’t sock you with added costs due to high local loss rates.

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It’s probably no surprise that you’re likely to pay the most to cover a sporty luxury car, but there have been some unexpected shifts uncovered by Insure.com in its annual study of the least and most expensive vehicles to buy coverage for.

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Ford, Daimler and Nissan form Fuel Cell Alliance

Move comes days after BMW and Toyota team up on the technology.

by on Jan.28, 2013

Mercedes-Benz has begun marketing its hydrogen-powered F-Cell in Southern California.

Ford, Daimler and Nissan will now team up in a push to bring hydrogen fuel cell technology to market as early as 2017, the makers have announced.

They collectively hope to produce as many as 100,000 fuel-cell vehicles, or FCVs, they revealed during a news conference in Nabern, Germany. Super-clean fuel cells could serve as an alternative to the battery-electric technology all four of the makers have been trying to sell to a so-far skeptical market.

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“This technology has the biggest potential for emission- free driving,” said Dr. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s technology chief. “This cooperation gives us the opportunity to bind together the know-how of three experienced partners” to enable commercial production of cars running on the powering system.

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Toyota Officially Reclaims Global Sales Crown

GM slides to second, VW in third.

by on Jan.28, 2013

The success of the latest Toyota Camry helped the maker regain its global sales crown.

Toyota has officially reclaimed its global sales crown, the maker confirming it produced 9.75 million vehicles in 2012.

That was slightly ahead of a preliminary tally Toyota forecast as the year came to a close and locks it in first place ahead of General Motors, which sold 9.29 million vehicles.  Volkswagen, at 9.1 million, came in third for 2012.

Toyota’s sales were slightly lower than the company had projected earlier in the year, the shortfall reflecting the ongoing dispute between Japan and China over a chain of small, uninhabited islands both nations claim.

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In customary fashion, Toyota officials downplayed the sales results. “Rather than going after numbers, we hope to make fine products, one by one, to keep out customers satisfied. The numbers are just a result of our policy. And our policy will continue unchanged,” Toyota spokeswoman Shino Yamada told the Associated Press.

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2013 Car Sales Off to Good Start

January likely to see strongest demand in five years.

by on Jan.28, 2013

If anything, automakers are facing challenges keeping up with demand for products like the new Ford Escape on an assembly line in Louisville.

New car sales are off to a strong start in January as the industry’s retail sales rate moves to its best level in five years, according a monthly sales forecast from J.D. Power and Associates’ Power Information Network and LMC Automotive.

January new-vehicle retail sales are expected to come in at 812,600 vehicles, which would represent a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, or SAAR, of 12.9 million units, and well ahead of the expected 12.4-million-unit annual level for 2013. Retail transactions are the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.

Adding in fleets demand, the estimated SAAR for January could hit 15 million units, considerably higher than the 13.9 million sales pace in January, 2012 though slightly off the 15.2 million rate last month, December giving an unexpected boost as the industry launched into the New Year.

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“The year is off to a fast start, which bodes well for the remainder of 2013,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “Building on the momentum the industry has been gaining over the past two years, sales remain on a trajectory to return to pre-recession levels within the next few years.”

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