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Archive for September, 2014

Mercedes Hopes GLA Will Tap into Booming Compact Crossover Market

German maker with find plenty of competition in segment.

by on Sep.29, 2014

Mercedes expects the new GLA to duplicate the success of its CLA sedan, which is a hot seller.

Barely a year after launching its new CLA coupe-like sedan, Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 30,000 to U.S. buyers and, the maker claims, probably would be doing twice that volume if it could get more from its new factory in Hungary.

No wonder the maker’s senior executives are positively jumping for joy as the even newer Mercedes-Benz GLA heads for U.S. showrooms. “The segment is potentially three times as large,” suggested communications chief Rob Moran, during a media drive of the new crossover-utility vehicle in Vermont.

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Crossovers are already beginning to outsell conventional sedans in the U.S. market, and most analysts anticipate the same thing is about to happen in the compact luxury segment. That’s spurring a flood of new offerings, the GLA just one of the latest to join such alternatives as the BMW X1. (more…)

First Drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA

Compact crossover among best in crowded segment.

by on Sep.29, 2014

The new GLA is the fifth - and smallest - crossover/ute in the Mercedes family.

What a difference one little letter can make. In many ways, the new Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA models are a lot alike, starting out with the German maker’s basic small car platform. But there are also a surprising number of ways the two models diverge.

The CLA is the compact, coupe-like sedan that Mercedes launched last year, quickly becoming one of the maker’s most successful products ever, demand so far well exceeding supply. The new Mercedes-Benz GLA adopts a more hatchback-style crossover body style that targets an even larger segment of the luxury market.

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But the differences are even more substantial, as we learned during several days of driving the new GLA through northern Vermont just as the leaves began to turn their autumn colors. The year-long delay in bringing the crossover to market appears to have given Mercedes engineers the time they needed to address earlier complaints about the coupe-like CLA’s ride and handling. (more…)

Ford Recalling 850,000 Vehicles

Electric issue may cause airbags, seatbelts to fail.

by on Sep.26, 2014

Ford recalled 850,000-plus vehicles, including the 2013 Escape for the 12th time, due to an electrical problem that could cause the airbags to fail.

Ford announced a recall of 850,000 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles because an electrical problem could, in extreme cases, cause the vehicles airbags and seatbelt to fail.

The action affects the Ford Fusion, Ford Escape, Ford C-Max and Lincoln MKZ. Of the 850,000-plus vehicles in the recall, 746,842 were sold in the U.S. The rest were in Canada and Mexico.

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The problem is with the restraints control module. It can develop a short that causes the airbag warning light to illuminate or the stability control stop working. However, depending upon where in the system the short develops, it could cause the airbags and the seatbelt pretensioners to falter during a collision. (more…)

VW Phaeton Returning to U.S. Market – with a Plug-in Hybrid Option

Next-gen luxury sedan could reach showrooms by 2018 or 2019.

by on Sep.26, 2014

A rendering of a possible new Volkswagen Phaeton. Image courtesy of

If at first you don’t succeed…Volkswagen is set to try again when it brings the next version of its big Phaeton luxury sedan back to U.S. showrooms late in the decade.

And the next version is expected to feature a new plug-in drivetrain option, along with more conventional gasoline and diesel packages, according to various sources.

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Introduced in the U.S. a decade ago, the Phaeton was a flop the first time around, but VW is hoping it will better connect with American buyers as part of a significant expansion of the German maker’s product portfolio. (more…)

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid Expands Plug-in Mix

Third model joins Panamera, 918 Spyder plug-ins.

by on Sep.26, 2014

Porsche is rapidly expanding its line-up of plug-ins with the launch of the Cayenne S E-Hybrid.

It may best be known for its high-performance sports cars and SUVs, but Porsche is building up an impressive fleet of new battery-based vehicles, including the new Cayenne S E-Hybrid it will debut at the Paris Motor Show next week – its third plug-in hybrid model.

With the launch of the extended-range Cayenne, Porsche will become the only automaker in the world currently offering three different plug-in models, and the only manufacturer marketing one in the luxury SUV segment.

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The 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid will share the stage in Paris with the Panamera S E-Hybrid and Porsche’s 918 Spyder, the first plug-in “ultracar.” The maker also produces more traditional gas-electric hybrid models.


September Car Sales Hold Strong as Summer Fades Away

Sales likely the best since 2007.

by on Sep.26, 2014

If anything, Mercedes-Benz USA says it could double sales of the new CLA if it could get more.

Summer may be fading into fall, but the U.S. auto market continues to sizzle, industry analysts anticipating sales will be the best, when the final numbers are tallied, since before the recession began.

On a seasonally adjust annual rate, or SAAR, the industry is expected to report a 16.4 million pace, well above the initial forecast for all of 2014 — and a hint that the car market could show even more momentum in the months to come as fuel prices fall and the economy gains more momentum.

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“We expect another strong month for the industry with the best September since 2007,” said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar.

Equally significant, the late-summer surge seems to have come without the hefty incentive push seen in the past to build market momentum.


GM Regains Investment Grade Rating from S&P

Maker gets a much-needed endorsement.

by on Sep.26, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra on the cover of the latest issue of Mary Barra.

Despite the recall of more nearly 30 million vehicles in the U.S. this year, concerns about subprime lending and a lackluster showing in the stock market, Standard & Poors has given GM a much-needed endorsement, raising the company’s credit rating to investment grade.

The announcement comes at a welcome moment for GM, which has watched its share price slide 20% since the beginning of the year, even while the S&P 500 has gained 20%. It also coincides with a generally positive cover story in Time magazine featuring CEO Mary Barra.

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Despite taking some serious hits in recent months, the ratings agency focused on the positive side, among other things, citing the progress of GM’s European turnaround plan, which could put the company back on a breakeven level after losing money for the past 15 years. S&P also noted the automaker’s healthy cash flow and the limited reputational and market share damage from what has become a record number of recalls.


Chrysler Recalls 349,000 Vehicles for Ignition Switch Defect

One crash linked to defect.

by on Sep.25, 2014

The 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee, one of the vehicles covered by Chrysler's ignition switch recall.

General Motors isn’t the only automaker facing problems with ignition switches. Chrysler is recalling 349,442 older sedans, wagons and SUVs because of a problem that could inadvertently lead vehicles to shut off while being driven.

The announcement is one of the latest involving faulty ignition switches, though the most notorious case involves 2.6 million small cars produced by GM that were recalled last February and which have since been blamed for at least 21 deaths.

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In the case of Chrysler, the ignition switches may inadvertently slip out of the Run position without a driver’s intervention. In some cases, that will simply shut off accessories such as the windshield wipers. But if the key turns all the way to the Off position, the vehicle’s engine may then shut off, leading to a potential loss of control and possible crash.


Audi Readying New TT and TTS Models for Paris Debut

German maker gives roadster a needed facelift.

by on Sep.25, 2014

At the Paris Motor Show, Audi showed off its updated Audi TT Roadster and TTS.

Audi’s original TT was a groundbreaker when it came to design but the latest version of the roadster is in need of a little updating.

The good news for fans is that a new version will be making its debut at the Paris Motor Show in barely a week. The bad news is that a U.S. version is expected to lag behind, perhaps by as much as a full model-year.

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The basic shape of the 2015 Audi TT Roadster and the sportier TTS model won’t take anyone by surprise, picking up on the car’s traditional, curvaceous shapes – though Audi claims that aerodynamic improvements now mean the TT will be the mot wind-slick model in its segment. (more…)

First Look: 2015 Saleen Mustang

New S302 pushes the pony car up to 640 horsepower.

by on Sep.25, 2014

Steve Saleen's team will build three versions of its S302 take on the new 2015 Ford Mustang.

With 435 horsepower under the hood, the new 2015 Ford Mustang is no stone pony. But in an era when Dodge is trying to redefine the muscle car breed with its 707-horsepower Challenger SRT Hellcat, Mustang fans are clearly going to be seeking more.

During our recent drive of the 50th anniversary Mustang, Ford officials assured us that they’ll be rolling out all manner of variants over the course of the car’s long lifecycle. So, expect to see Boss and Cobra models to come. But Steve Saleen, a man who has long been associated with the Mustang nameplate, isn’t waiting for the factory,

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And he’s giving us a first look at the custom-tuned version of Ford’s pony car that he soon plans to bring to market, the 2015 Saleen Ford Mustang S302. In various configurations, expect to be able to order one that can make anywhere from 450 to a full 640-horsepower.