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Archive for October, 2013

Chrysler Net Income Surges 22%

Strong truck sales drive results – but mask other problems.

by on Oct.30, 2013

Strong demand for the Ram pickup -- the 2014 diesel model shown here -- buoyed Chrysler's Q3 earnings.

The resurgent boom in pickup sales was good news for the Chrysler Group which saw net income surge by 22% during the third quarter, in sharp contrast to the declines posted by both of the maker’s cross-town rivals.

Chrysler earned $464 million during the July to September period, up from $381 million the year before, marking the once-bankrupt automaker’s nine consecutive quarterly profit. Revenues, meanwhile, jumped 13.5%, to $17.6 billion, on the sale of 603,000 vehicles. That was an increase of 8% from a year ago.

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But barely one in seven of Chrysler’s products – 82,000 in all — were sold outside North America, in sharp contrast to the results at General Motors and Ford Motor Co., who now depend on overseas markets for the majority of their demand and an increasing share of their revenues. And there are other challenges revealed by Chrysler’s latest earnings report.


Government Motors No More! Almost

Treasury Department sells off most its remaining shares of General Motors.

by on Oct.29, 2013

The government is in the final phase of getting the Government out of Government Motors.

Government Motors is basically no more, and the final price tag for taxpayers to bailout the automaker is about $9.7 billion.

The U.S. Department of Treasury now owns just 7.3% of the General Motors’ common stock after its most recent stock sell off.

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Taxpayers originally held 60.8% of GM in exchange for the bailout loans. Treasury has been selling down that stake, but ramped up its efforts this year. (more…)

Shattering Sunroof Problem Now Nabs Kia, Audi

German maker the latest to recall cars for exploding sunroofs.

by on Oct.29, 2013

The Audi S8 (shown here) and A8 are targeted by a recall due to shattering sunroofs.

Sunroofs are intended to give you a clear view of the heavens above without the hassle – or cost – of buying a convertible. But few owners are likely to anticipate the problems that have so far snared at least three automakers, according to reports on file with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Audi is the latest manufacturer to order a recall because the sunroofs on several models can unexpectedly shatter – creating not only a crisis in a rainstorm but also the risk of an accident, warns NHTSA.

Hyundai has already had to order several recalls due to a problem with shattering sunroofs in its Veloster model, and its sibling Kia brand is now facing an investigation by federal safety regulators looking into reports of a similar issue with the smaller Korean carmaker’s Sorento model. NHTSA is also looking into similar problems reported by owners of other brands’ products.


Mazda Previews SEMA Concepts

But mum’s the word when it comes to details.

by on Oct.29, 2013

Mazda sources have slipped over images of a handful of concepts coming to the SEMA Show.

We’ve been receiving plenty of preview material on the upcoming SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the annual aftermarket extravaganza likely to see 100 or more custom concepts from the major automakers – and even a few new production vehicles with Honda, notably, planning to unveil its updated 2014 Civic line.

But considering Mazda’s propensity for creative design we were excited to receive a packet of four images that, sources said, revealed the four concepts that will land on the Japanese maker’s SEMA stand.

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Unfortunately, our leaker reversed the normal course, providing pics with nary a word of what they reveal beyond differentiating between the Mazda3 and Mazda6 SEMA specials.

What’s to make of what we have in hand?  Well, to start with, one might note that after downplay its “zoom-zoom” tagline for a couple years, Mazda has begun replaying that familiar theme in its latest advertising.  No surprise.  (more…)

2014 Ford 1.0-Liter Fiesta Most Fuel-Efficient Non-Hybrid on US Market

New engine gets EPA 45 mpg highway rating.

by on Oct.29, 2013

The Ford Fiesta with its new 1.0-liter EcoBoost will deliver up to 45 mpg on the highway.

Ford will offer one of the smallest engines on the market for its 2014 Fiesta – but the 1.0-liter EcoBoost model will have a bigger claim to fame as the most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid gasoline vehicle in the U.S.

With the 3-cylinder, turbocharged engine under the hood, the 2014 Ford Fiesta will deliver an EPA-rated 45 miles per gallon on the highway – a full 1 mpg better than the 2014 Honda Insight hybrid’s 44 mpg rating, and 3 mpg better than that of the Volkswagen Golf diesel with a manual transmission.

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“We’re pushing into fuel economy numbers only seen on hybrids and diesels,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas. “Coupled with the new Fiesta ST, Fiesta covers the performance-efficiency continuum in the subcompact segment better than any other nameplate in the market.”


Nissan Sales Set Record; Toyota Still Leads

Maker targets emerging markets as it chases rivals.

by on Oct.29, 2013

Nissan has set a series of U.S. sales record in recent months thanks to products like the Rogue.

Despite a modest increase of %, Nissan’s global sales set a record during the first six months of the company’s fiscal year as the Japanese automaker reported deliveries of 2.45 million units in markets around the world.

The modest sales increase this year leaves the company short of its sales targets for the fiscal year with six months still to come. And it leaves Nissan lagging well behind its Japanese arch-rival Toyota, which remains the world’s top-selling automaker this year.

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“As we look forward to fiscal 2013, we expect the global automotive industry to set yet another volume record, growing to over 81 million units. Based on the continued execution of our power 88 mid-term plan strategies and initiatives and our strong product offerings, we project Nissan unit sales to grow to 5,300,000 units for the year,” the company said in its annual report to shareholders.


Two Crumbling Relics of the Arsenal of Democracy Could Find New Life

Remains of old Packard plant to serve as modular home factory, investors say.

by on Oct.29, 2013

The hulk of the old Packard plant. Photo courtesy: Frank Wulfers,

During World War II they both anchored the mighty military production base that came to be known as the “Arsenal of Democracy,” but today, the old Packard and Willow Run assembly plants are symbols of the decay of the Motor City and its once-formidable manufacturing base.

But both factories could gain a new life in the near future, one as a reminder of the region’s history, the other returning to its original purpose, albeit producing modular homes rather than automobiles. Meanwhile, a third plant that saw the birth of the moving assembly line in the years leading up to the first World War may also be salvaged.

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At their peak, factories in Detroit and its suburbs produced millions of cars annually. That manufacturing prowess was central to the U.S. military effort during both World Wars and during the 1940s earned the Motor City the alternate nickname as America’s Arsenal of Democracy. Many of the factories that rolled out bombers, tanks and other war machinery are already long gone and of the few that remain, most are in fading condition.


Getting a Driver’s License in Sierra Leone is a Roll of the Dice

African country uses board game to improve driver knowledge.

by on Oct.28, 2013

Potential drivers in Sierra Leone use this board game, The Driver's Way, to learn the rules of the road in the West African country.

If anyone thinks getting a license in the U.S. is easy, Sierra Leone, a small country in West Africa, may have taken the mantle away.

The country now requires potential licensees to play a board game before they are legally allowed to drive. Not just any game, but one developed by the country’s transport authority called “The Driver’s Way.”

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Described as a cross between Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, and even Scrabble, players roll traffic light-themed die and move little model cars around the board, encountering “vehicle tests” and road-law questions along the way. (more…)

Second Model S Catches Fire in Mexico

Car smashed into two walls and a tree before catching fire.

by on Oct.28, 2013

The remains of a second Tesla Model S that caught fire. In this case, it hit two walls and a tree beforehand and the driver escaped unharmed.

Just as Tesla managed to get past the furor around the Model S that caught fire in Seattle earlier this month, it appears the company will be dealing with a second fire.

Shaky, fuzzy video footage – as well as several pictures of the aftermath – of what appears to a white Model S engulfed in flames is working its way around the Internet. According to multiple media reports, the incident occurred on Oct. 18 in Merida, which is in the northern Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.

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Reports say that the fire occurred after the Model S crashed into two walls after speeding into a roundabout and then collided with a tree. The driver, who also according to media reports, was driving under the influence of alcohol escaped with no major injuries. It’s unclear if these crashes caused enough damage to pierce into the battery and started the fire, as was the case in the earlier fire in Seattle. (more…)

GM, Audi, Volvo Make Gains, Ford Stumbles in Consumer Reports Reliability Study

Lexus, Acura, Toyota Still Lead – but Toyota Camry loses “Recommended” rating.

by on Oct.28, 2013

Ford's C-Max Energi was the lowest-rated vehicle in the new CR reliability survey.

While Japanese makers continue to dominate the influential Consumer Reports annual vehicle reliability survey, General Motors, Audi and Volvo made significant gains, each cracking into the Top 10 this year.

While Detroit makers, on the whole, have been gaining ground, Ford Motor Co. dipped well below average. The second-largest of the domestic auto manufacturers has been hammered by complaints about its digital infotainment systems – an issue that has been causing grief for many of its competitors, as well, according to the CR survey of 1.1 million vehicle owners.

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The annual survey contained a number of surprises, including some unexpected problems plaguing traditionally Japanese manufacturers. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports announced that some of the most popular Asian products, including Toyota’s Camry, RAV4 and Prius V models, have lost their coveted “Recommended Buy” rating because of their poor performance in new crash tests.