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Archive for July, 2013

BMW Launches i3 City Car in New York

Maker compares impact of i3 on society to cell phone.

by on Jul.29, 2013

BMW rolled out the new i3 electric vehicle in New York today.

BMW launched what it described as a new era in “sustainable” transportation by unveiling its new mega-city vehicle, the i3.

“Innovation drives change and revolution innovation can change society. We are in the starting blocks for sustainability mobility,” said Norbert Reithofer, BMW’s chief executive officer, who compared the new vehicle to the mobile phone, which changed the way we communicate with the world and opened up new business opportunities.

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“We are entering a new era,” Reithofer added, during a press conference today in New York, adding that BMW’s research indicates that electric cars and sustainable and connected transportation are the wave of the future particularly in large cities around the globe. (more…)

Nissan Slashes Prices on 2014 Z-Car By up to $3,100

Japanese maker’s recent price cuts have generated new sales momentum.

by on Jul.29, 2013

Nissan is cutting the price of the 2014 370Z by as much as $3,000.

If it were a few months later Nissan might have wanted to hand out Santa suits to its sales folks, but even being the middle of a scorching hot summer, the maker is gearing up to deliver some bit presents to fans of its Z-car, price cuts that run to more than $3,000 depending upon the specific model.

It’s the latest in a series of price reductions by Japan’s second-largest automaker covering a wide range of its U.S. product lineup, from the Leaf battery-electric vehicle to some of the newest offerings in the Infiniti brand. And industry analysts suggest the strategy is working, Nissan sales getting a big boost in recent months.

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The latest pricing announcement covers the 2014 Nissan Z-car line-up, which includes the 2014 versions of the 370Z, the 370Z Nismo and the 370Z Roadster. Prices will dip by as much as $3,130 on the standard coupe version – the base six-speed manual set at $29,990 – while the price of the top-line Touring edition drops $2,550, to $35,270. (more…)

GM Global Engine Development Chief Forced Out

Winegarden “retires;” GM fires workers over faked emissions tests.

by on Jul.29, 2013

GM could face wider problems due to a scandal in which employees cheated on emissions testing with the Chevrolet Tavera.

General Motors confirmed it has fired several employees while the maker’s global engine development chief, Sam Winegarden is “retiring” in the wake of faulty emissions tests that violated company policy.

It’s the latest in a series of departures linked to violations of company policy including last year’s unceremonious ouster of global marketing chief Joel Ewanick and, just this month, the firing of Cadillac’s top sales and service executive Chase Hawkins.

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The latest scandal was triggered by an internal investigation into the recall of a sport-utility in India which uncovered violations of company policy, the automaker said. The cheating scandal could cause extensive problems for GM in India and other parts of the world for quite some time.

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Tough Battle Ahead as Nearly 50 Models Vie for North American Car, Truck of the Year

Japanese models dominate both lists.

by on Jul.29, 2013

The new Toyota Corolla is one of 24 Japanese and Korean models up for the two NACTOY awards - half the total list.

Nearly 50 new cars, trucks and crossovers will compete for one of the most closely watched awards of the year. Make that two awards as a panel of U.S. and Canadian journalists begin the long process of winnowing out the winners for the North American Car and Truck of the Year.

The two trophies will be handed next January during the opening of the 2014 Detroit Auto Show’s media preview. It will mark the 21st year for the competition which inevitably triggers a slew of press releases and advertisements as manufacturers race to promote the winners.

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A total of 48 vehicles have landed on the NACTOY long list – though the final number could yet be tweaked. Japanese and Korean carmakers dominate the first-round contenders with a total of 24 models. In an unusual turnabout, the Asians have 10 of the truck and crossover nominees compared to just six Detroit models and two Europeans. The Asians also have 12 passenger car models in the running, tying the Europeans and doubling the number of domestic candidates.

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Automakers Divided Over Bio-Diesel

Mercedes-Benz stops selling diesel models in Illinois.

by on Jul.26, 2013

At 46 mpg highway, the new Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel gives even hybrids a run for their (gas) money.

It’s the stuff of dreams for some environmentalists: a fuel you can make from renewable sources as diverse as algae and used cooking oil. But for some automakers, bio-diesel is a nightmare so worrisome one major maker has pulled out of the Illinois market after lawmakers there approved incentives meant to boost demand for bio-diesel.

Mercedes-Benz isn’t the only maker worried that bio-diesel could have a downside far different from the green image proponents present. The German maker warns that if poorly blended, the fuel could gunk up its engines and worsen air quality. That led the maker to recently stop selling diesel models like the new E250 BlueTec diesel in the land of Lincoln.

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Illinois lawmakers recently approved a plan to drop the state’s 6.25% sales tax on fuel with a bio-diesel content of at least 10%. Mercedes, which has been one of the strongest proponents of diesel fuel in the U.S. market, has set a limit of 5% biodiesel content, or B5. (more…)

Toyota Retains Narrow Lead in Global Sales Race

But GM rapidly closing the gap.

by on Jul.26, 2013

Toyota outsold GM globally by a narrow margin during the first half of 2013 led by Camry sales.

Toyota maintained a narrow lead in the global automotive sales race for the first half of 2013, just ahead of its American archrival General Motors.

The Japanese giant said it sold 4.91 million cars, trucks and crossovers between January and June, a 1.2% decline from year-earlier levels despite the expectation of big gains forecast by Toyota chief Akio Toyoda going into 2013. The maker’s biggest challenge has been in China where it not only lags leaders like GM and Volkswagen, but also where an ongoing political dispute has hurt sales of all Japanese brands.

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Toyota nabbed the best-selling title from General Motors in 2008, the humbled U.S. maker slipping after seven decades at the top just before plunging into bankruptcy and being rescued by a $50 billion federal bailout. GM briefly regained the lead in 2011 after Toyota suffered serious production problems due to the devastating earthquake that struck Northern Japan and, subsequently, the flooding of key electronics suppliers in Thailand. (more…)

Acura Set to Reveal Running NSX Prototype

Supercar to take a lap at Mid-Ohio next month.

by on Jul.26, 2013

An Acura NSX prototype in testing.

The return of the Acura NSX steadily approaches — and after giving the public a preview with a pair of prototypes on the auto show circuit the last two years, the luxury arm of Honda Motor Co. will reveal a running version of the supercar early next month.

While still more than 18 months away from production, an NSX runner will make its debut during a lap of the Mid-Ohio racetrack prior to the Izod IndyCar Series running on August 4th. Considering the event is titled the Honda Indy 200 and takes place close to the heart of the maker’s North American operations makes the venue seem only logical.

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Based on photos showing the new Acura NSX in testing, it appears that the running prototype retains the basic proportions and design details of the updated supercar concept revealed during the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. That model was slightly longer and wider than the earlier version, with revised exterior details, such as air scoops and dams that were said to be closer to production intent – something the new, running prototype appears to confirm.

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Mini Vision Concept Offers Hint of Next Hatchback

Big changes in a little car.

by on Jul.26, 2013

The Mini Vision concept adopts a "futur-focused aesthetic," suggests the brand's chief designer.

Wondering what the next-generation Mini might look like? The British maker is offering a glimpse of what’s to come with the new Mini Vision concept.

The retro-futuristic prototype was unveiled by Anders Warming, head of Mini Design, at the Mini Design@Home event  in Munich. And it brings together a mix of forward-looking styling cues as well as details we’ve seen from such recent models as the Countryman’s canted roof and oversized taillamps, as well as new, more sculpted door panels.

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Some of the details, such as the familiar Mini hexagonal grille and inset bumpers have been captured in recent months by spy photographs of what is expected to be the replacement for the next-generation Mini hatchback due to reach market in 2014.

During his presentation, Warming described the Vision concept as a “future-focused aesthethic,” pointing to such updates of familiar details as the elliptical front headlights which, on the Vision concept migrate to LED lamps and adopt outer rings that remain constantly lit to serve as daytime running lamps.

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Mercedes Aims to Redefine Luxury

Maker combines technology, comfort at unprecedented level.

by on Jul.25, 2013

Mercedes faced a significant challenge with the redesign of the S-Class: the maker's flagship sedan.

How do you enhance an icon? That’s the challenge Mercedes-Benz faced when the German maker set out to redesign its flagship S-Class sedan – a vehicle likely to spur big changes across the premium-luxury market.

While there are faster cars, more expensive cars and more exclusive cars, the S-Class has long been the benchmark in the premium luxury segment. And that’s a position Mercedes intends to maintain with a new 2014 model that not only introduces a raft of safety technologies that come a step short of autonomous driving, but also by adding such over-the-top features as an automated perfume dispenser and a hot stone-style massaging seat.

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“The definition of luxury is changing, but we intend to be at the forefront of that,” said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, during a break from driving the new S550 model through the lake country north of Toronto. (more…)

First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Adding a little magic to a German benchmark.

by on Jul.25, 2013

Mercedes introduced its 2014 S-Class dripping in comfort features and technology options.

Anyone who has had to navigate the sort of rutted roads we get in Detroit – indeed, in much of the country these days as cash-short road departments cut back on the patching crews – knows that sort of moment instinctively. You’re soaring along when you spot the sort of pothole or bump likely to jar your fillings loose. Likely as not, it’s too late to do anything but suffer the consequences and check to make sure your teeth are still intact.

Of course, it might help to have an extra set of eyes doing nothing but scanning the road ahead to give you fair warning of what’s coming. Unless you have a single-minded friend willing to ride shotgun, Mercedes-Benz has an alternative – one that might be a bit better, in fact – that it’s debuting on the all-new 2014 S-Class.

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Dubbed Magic Body Control, it uses a stereoscopic camera system mounted just behind the rearview mirror to scan the upcoming pavement. What it sees is fed into the microprocessor that controls the new sedan’s suspension system. The results can be pleasantly delightful, Magic Body Control making all but the worst potholes, ruts and speed bumps vanish as if they never existed. It’s not perfect; the technology only works during the day – and only in Comfort Mode – and requires a clean windshield to see through. Nonetheless, it highlights the sort of thinking that went into Mercedes’ new flagship sedan. (more…)