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Archive for December, 2013

Nissan Sport Sedan Concept Hints at Next Maxima

IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO also coming to Detroit.

by on Dec.31, 2013

The Nissan Sport Sedan Concept.

Nissan will lift the covers on the new Sport Sedan Concept next month – but don’t be surprised if the name, “Maxima,” immediately comes to mind.  While the Japanese maker isn’t offering many details, the striking show car is expected to give a good idea of what’s to come when the next production Maxima reaches market in the coming year.

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That would be a welcome move considering Nissan’s corporate design language has evolved significantly since the current Maxima was introduced in 2008. Traditionally the sportiest of Nissan’s sedans, it has undergone little change in the following years.

“The Sport Sedan Concept previews a new energetic design direction that amplifies Nissan’s legendary approach of applying sports car principles to a sedan,” suggests a statement from Nissan accompanying this teaser image.

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Automakers Buoying German Economy

Despite European recession, companies adding jobs in Germany.

by on Dec.31, 2013

Volkswagen and other German automakers are making a major impact on the country's economy despite a European recession.

With Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler AG all making major contributions, the success of the German auto industry continues to bolster that country’s economy, which is widely regarded as the strongest in Europe and one of the strongest in the world.

Despite the pressure for profits and the recession in Europe, the Volkswagen Group alone managed to add 11,000 new jobs in Germany during 2013.

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Through November, the Volkswagen Group employed about 260,000 people in Germany, compared to 249,000 at the end of 2012. (more…)

Sound Off? McLaren, Mercedes Take Wipers High Tech

Lifting military tech that uses sound waves to repel water – even bugs.

by on Dec.31, 2013

A future version of the McLaren P1 just might not need conventional windshield wipers.

They were one of the world’s first automotive options and remain one of the most critical among the safety gear on even the most modern automobiles.  But until recently, little had changed in over a century for the humble windshield wiper.

Oh, perhaps that’s not entirely true.  Over the decades, they’ve gotten bigger.  Manufacturers migrated from mechanical, hand-operated wipers to electric drive, more recently making multi-speed and intermittent wipers all but ubiquitous.

High Tech!

But several manufacturers are looking for truly high-tech alternatives that could make tomorrow’s wipers some of the most sophisticated devices on your car.

Mercedes-Benz took a big step forward when it introduced its new Magic Vision Control system on the latest version of the SL sports car.  That system eliminates the normally messy windshield wiper sprayer, fluid instead flowing out of the wipers directly onto the windshield.

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BMW, Toyota Pledge to Make Two Sports Cars

Pair also teaming to develop fuel cell and lightweight technologies.

by on Dec.31, 2013

Could the partnership between Toyota and BMW mean the rumored return of the Supra might be a reality?

Could it be another merger of equals? Well, not on the scale seen previously, but BMW is confirming that it plans to work with Toyota to produce a pair of sports cars and share in the development of fuel cells and lightweight technologies.

“We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important is that there will be two different vehicles that are authentic to the two brands,” BMW’s development chief Herbert Diess told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

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The two companies inked a deal in 2012 to work together in four areas: joint development of a fuel-cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies. (more…)

Congress Lets Battery Vehicle Tax Credits Expire

Lack of action could impact future battery vehicle sales.

by on Dec.31, 2013

The failure to pass tax breaks, including one for electric vehicle chargers, could cause the battery car business to come unplugged, warn advocates.

The action – or more accurately, the lack of action – by Congress has been blamed for many things this past, gridlocked year.  To the list add the potential for the electric vehicle market to come unplugged.

Lawmakers have headed home for the New Year’s break allowing a package of 55 generally popular tax breaks expire, an issue that creates potential headaches and added costs for those who drink imported rum, those who use mass transit – as well as the railroads trying to maintain their rights of way – film producers, companies investing in R&D, and even teachers who buy supplies for their classrooms. Also affected are those interested in purchasing electric vehicles.

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While the tax credits for buying a battery car remain in effect, two other government incentives will expire at midnight: one providing a 30% tax credit for the purchase of a high-speed electric vehicle charger, up to $1,000.  The other covers 10% of the cost, up to $2,500, for the purchase of an electric motorcycle.

“It’s shameful” for Congress to head home without acting on the tax breaks, lamented Georgia’s Congressman John Lewis, a senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax laws.

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Mercedes Beats Sales Record for Third Year Running

German maker investing in plants to beat mark again in 2014.

by on Dec.30, 2013

Mercedes-Benz rode strong 2014 S-Class sales to a third consecutive record year.

Mercedes-Benz expects to set new production and sales records for 2013. The world’s oldest carmaker produced 1.49 million vehicles, which would be the third year in a row setting a new mark.

The Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy is already showing tangible results as sales around the world topped 1.4 million units.

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“In 2013, we have taken a decisive step forward in our strategy for growth. Our model initiative is well under way. At the same time, we are also optimizing our internal sales structures,” said Ola Källenius, member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars responsible for Marketing and Sales, who added Mercedes was also was well positioned for another record year in 2014. (more…)

McBlog: Keeping Your Cool in the Snow

Our intrepid columnist offers some winter driving tips.

by on Dec.30, 2013

It's been a tough winter. Our expert offers tips for driving safely on snowy roads.

Thirteen Vermont winters and a class win in the Monte Carlo rally might lend me cred as a driver in snow. However, probably even more useful, and certainly more concentrated, are a number of sessions I had over the years at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs CO. (winterdrive.com.)

Learning to drive in conditions of limited traction is the most valuable experience for acquiring car control on any surface. Go take a day’s basic lesson on snow. Or if you’re already hot on the cold stuff stretch your skills with the session suitable for winter rally wannabes. Then treat yourself to a day on the welcoming slopes of Steamboat and make it a winter holiday for the books. Or Facebook.

Driving Tips!

But what I’m writing at the moment are random notes on driving in snow, my experiences of it and my suggestions for those struggling with it this winter. Judging from what’s on my TV unfamiliarity is breeding undue contempt.  (Why is a video of someone’s van waltzing inexorably down an incline into a waiting tangle of ovine cars so mesmerizing?)

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Qoros Doubles Down in China

Chinese-Israeli maker adding hatchback to model line-up.

by on Dec.30, 2013

Qoros unveiled a teaser of its newest model for China in 2014: a hatchback.

New car buyers in China will have one more option in 2014. Qoros released a teaser photo of its second model that will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The new vehicle, which will join the Qoros 3 in the company’s line-up, will go on sale in China after its debut in Europe.

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The yet-to-be-named model is a five-door hatchback that is likely to borrow much of its styling from the aforementioned Qoros 3. In fact, the photo shows the grille of the new model and it looks almost the same as the company’s other model. (more…)

Stop/Start Technology to Become Industry Norm by 2022

Fuel-saving system to be offered on 55 million vehicles annually, says new study.

by on Dec.30, 2013

Stop/Start is now offered on a growing range of products, from mainstream models like the Ford Fusion to high-end models like the Porsche Panamera.

You come to a stoplight and as you put your foot on the brake pedal you might notice the car just got a little bit quieter.  What you likely won’t notice until it’s time to fill up again is that it’s also a bit more fuel-efficient.

Credit a new technology called Stop/Start which automatically shuts off a vehicle’s engine rather than wasting gas idling at a light or, say, on a fast food line. Originally developed for use in hybrid vehicles, the concept is rapidly being rolled out on everything from minicars to high-performance luxury vehicles and, according to a new survey, will likely become the norm, rather than the exception, over the next decade.

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“The challenge for automakers is to get the biggest efficiency benefits from the smallest cost increment,” explains David Alexander, senior analyst with Navigant Research.

The consultancy is forecasting that the number of vehicles equipped with Stop/Start technology will grow from 8.8 million to 55.4 million worldwide by 2022.  Based on industry estimates, that would account for more than half of all vehicles produced that year.

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Ford Claims Early Victory in Sales Sweepstakes

Maker declares itself America’s best-selling brand – but may get an argument from Honda.

by on Dec.30, 2013

Ford's Fusion set a sales record this past year.

They’re still testing the ball before the big celebration in Times Square tomorrow night, and the industry won’t officially announce final 2013 sales numbers until later in the week – but no matter, Ford Motor Co. is already declaring victory, pronouncing its flagship Ford marque North America’s best-selling brand for the fourth year in a row.

The maker notes it has a significant lead over second-place Toyota as it regains strength in parts of the country long dominated by imports. But at least one of the Detroit maker’s Japanese competitors has been downplaying the sales numbers, claiming victory of its own.

Tracking the Numbers!

“The great news is that we are not overly reliant on any one segment – we’re seeing double-digit sales growth in cars, trucks and utilities,” said John Felice, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a year-end statement. “The Ford brand has had more retail share growth than any other brand in the country, with our most significant gains coming from import-dominated coastal markets. With 16 launches next year, we’re looking to keep our sales momentum going.”

There’s no question Ford had a good 2013 – albeit with a few headaches that could cause it problems next year.

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