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Archive for June, 2014

June Car Sales Looking Robust – But GM Could Take Hit

Industry is in “the position since well before the Great Recession.”

by on Jun.27, 2014

Demand for the new Jeep Cherokee is leading the way for Chrysler's strong sales performance.

Neither the threat of rising gasoline prices nor the distraction created by the World Cup tournament has short-circuited the U.S. new vehicle market this month, according to industry analysts and executives – though the recent, torrid pace has slowed a bit.

Preliminary estimates call for a modest gain for June of perhaps 1% or so, overall, with the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of sales, or SAAR, expected to reach around 16.4 million, not far under the industry’s peak of a decade ago.

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“Sales have been very good,” said David Zuchowski, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motors America.

That’s a position echoed by other industry insiders.

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Google Unveils Android Auto Infotainment System

New entry aimed at combatting Apple’s CarPlay.

by on Jun.27, 2014

Google demonstrated its new Android Auto system during its annual I/O conference yesterday.

The battle between Apple and Google has moved to a new arena: the car. Google introduced Android Auto yesterday with features aimed at bringing the functionality of an Android-based phone to 25 automakers by the end of the year.

“We looked at what people do with their phones in the car today, and these things stood out to us: navigation, communication, music and other forms of streaming music,” said Patrick Brady, director of Engineering, Android, during the Google I/O conference yesterday.

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“Android Auto puts these front and center so you don’t have to go hunting through a grid of icons to find the apps that are most important to you when you’re in the car.” (more…)

Takata Airbags Force Yet Another GM Recall

Maker also has safety issue in China; GM to announce victims’ fund.

by on Jun.27, 2014

Some 2013 and 2014 Chevy Cruze sedans are targeted by GM's latest recall.

Barely a day after ordering the stop-sale of its popular Chevrolet Cruze model, General Motors has announced it will recall nearly 30,000 of the compact sedans because of the risk posed by improperly manufactured airbags.

It’s the latest in a string of nearly 40 recalls GM has announced in the U.S. since the beginning of the year impacting almost 18 million vehicles in its home market, and more than 20 million worldwide. In fact, the automaker’s safety woes extend well beyond North America, GM announcing it will recall nearly 200,000 Buick Excelle models sold in China due to faulty headlights.

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The airbag issue at home is a serious blow to a company that has continued to insist it is struggling to put its safety issues behind it. But it also raises new concerns about the capabilities of one of the world’s largest suppliers of the supplemental inflatable restraints, Takata Corp., which has been responsible for a number of other recent recalls – even as it deals with issues related to bid-rigging and price-fixing.

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Lauer Creates Furor Over “Mom” Question for GM’s Barra

Today Show host defends interview.

by on Jun.27, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra during a controversial interview with Today Show host Matt Lauer.

A well-orchestrated Thursday morning talk show appearance by General Motors CEO Mary Barra has created an unexpected furor – but not for the executive, nor for the embattled automaker, but for Today Show host Matt Lauer.

In-between questions about GM’s recall woes, Lauer questions whether Barra – the first women chief executive at a major automaker – was there simply to put a softer face on the maker’s problems. He then asked whether she could handle the job while still being a good mother to her two children.

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That has set social media services like Twitter and Facebook ablaze, much of it coming in the form of what many have called “sexist” comments by Matt Lauer. Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh, for example, blasted Lauer for asking a question he likely wouldn’t pose to male executives such as Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally.

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Daimler and Nissan to Partner on New Mexican Luxury Car Plant

New factory will produce both Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti models.

by on Jun.27, 2014

Nissan opened up its Aguascalientes plant last year. But it left plenty of room to expand once it locked down its joint venture with Daimler's Mercedes-Benz.

Nissan Motor Co. and Daimler AG will announce a significant expansion of their four-year-old alliance this morning, the two partners planning to set up a new plant in Aguascaliente, Mexico that will produce small luxury cars for the Japanese maker’s Infiniti brand and the German manufacturer’s Mercedes-Benz.

The project, first reported last year by TheDetroitBureau.com, takes the three-way partnership between Daimler, Nissan and French automaker Renault to a significant new level. The maker’s initially agreed to jointly produce engines and, among other things, develop a small car platform to be used for both Daimler’s Smart brand and as a replacement for the little Renault Twingo. Just this week, a new Nissan plant in Decherd, Tennessee launched production of engines for both the Infiniti and Mercedes brands.

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The new luxury car plant will be set up alongside an existing assembly line Nissan opened in the central Mexican city of Aguascalientes next year. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche has previously both confirmed they were discussing the possibility of a new joint production facility but insiders say it took longer than expected to work out the details.

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Corvette Museum Keeps Sinkhole for Display

Attendance increase of 59% since hole opened drives decision.

by on Jun.26, 2014

A sinkhole 40-feet wide and 60-feet deep opened up under the National Corvette Museum's Sky Dome in February swallowing eight Corvettes.

The old cliché states, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

Well, apparently the National Corvette Museum’s board of directors likes old clichés as much as it likes old ‘Vettes as it approved a plan today to leave the 60-foot deep sinkhole in the museum’s Sky Dome as a permanent fixture.

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In February, a 40-feet wide by 60-feet deep sinkhole opened up in the swallowing eight Corvettes being displayed at the museum, located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. (more…)

Ford Using ‘Big Data’ to Make Design Decisions

Using social media feedback helps with process.

by on Jun.26, 2014

Ford's Don Butler noted that Ford’s designers and product planners are turning to social media and survey data as they wrestle with product design issues.

“Big Data” is already helping designers shape new vehicles and its influence will only grow in the years to come, according to a panel of experts assembled by Ford Motor Co. for its annual trends conference. Big data is the deployment of reams of data to meet a specific goal.

Don Butler, the former General Motors executive who is now Ford’s director of connected vehicles and service, noted that Ford’s designers and product planners turned to social media and survey data as they wrestled with whether the lift gate on the new 2013 Ford Escape should be one piece or two, which would allow drivers to open the rear window without raising the entire lift gate.

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“There were no clear indicators,” he said. (more…)

No More Firings in Ignition Switch Scandal, Says GM CEO Barra

“We’re doing the right thing.”

by on Jun.26, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra told Today Show host Matt Lauer if she could go back in time to change how GM handled the faulty ignition switch, she would.

General Motors has no plans to fire any additional employees in connection with its defective ignition switch scandal, CEO Mary Barra said during an appearance on the NBC Today Show, though she also said she does not know if criminal charges will follow as part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation.

“That’s up to the courts,” Barra, told Today host Matt Lauer in her first television interview since GM announced it would recall 2.6 million vehicles due to a defect now linked to at least 13 deaths – and for which Barra has promised to set up a new victims’ compensation fund.

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The TV appearance is apparently part of an offensive by the giant automaker to regain some sense of control over what has become its worst crisis since emerging from bankruptcy nearly five years ago. Along with the ignition switch problem, GM has recalled a total of 20 million vehicles worldwide – about 17.7 million of them in the U.S. – for a wide assortment of issues ranging from faulty taillights to fire hazards. (more…)

Ford Mobii App Could Let Owners View Interior of Their Vehicles Remotely

Cameras also could permit gesture controls, help lock out thieves.

by on Jun.26, 2014

Ford Project Mobii explores the idea of placing several cameras inside the passenger compartment.

During a session sponsored by Ford this week examining new trends in the auto industry, a fundamental question was raised about all the new technology flooding the marketplace: have we reached a saturation point where consumers no longer can figure out how – or why – to use all those new features?

That’s a question that quickly returned to mind when Ford later unveiled Project Mobii, an experimental new app-based service, that would allow an owner to remotely monitor what’s happening inside their vehicle. But Ford and tech partner Intel are just as fast at ticking off potential applications for the new technology that uses five separate cameras mounted inside the passenger compartment.

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Among other things, it might allow parents to keep an eye on a teenage driver. And the system could be programmed to block a thief from hotwiring the ignition and driving away – perhaps even quietly sending an alert to the police. There’s also the possibility that Ford could use the Mobii technology to better understand how motorists use its vehicles.

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Chrysler Enters Commercial Van Market with 2015 Ram ProMaster City

Set to challenge Ford’s new Transit Connect line.

by on Jun.26, 2014

The new Ram ProMaster City is based on a modified Fiat Doblo compact van platform.

They may not have the visual appeal of a Dodge Challenger or Chrysler 300, nor the macho draw of the big Ram 1500 pickup, but there’s a sizable and growing market for small work vans that Fiat Chrysler hopes to tap into as it readies the launch of its new Ram ProMaster City.

Based on the European Fiat Diablo, but heavily updated for the North American market, the new ProMaster will take direct aim at Ford’s recently updated small world van, the Transit Connect.

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Like the Transit Connect, the new Ram van uses a front-drive powertrain layout to help maximize cargo space, and the ProMaster City will be offered in two different lengths when it goes on sale in the U.S. early next year.

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