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Archive for September, 2015

Return of the RX? Mazda Set to Show New Sports Car Concept in Tokyo

Could it also mark the return of the Wankel rotary?

by on Sep.30, 2015

Does this Tokyo sports car concept signal the return of the Mazda RX - and the rotary engine?

Is Mazda finally ready to relaunch its RX sports car? It’s certainly starting to look like the answer is “yes.”

With barely a month to go before the biennial Tokyo Motor Show opens, the Japanese maker is offering a few hints of what it will have on display. And among the 14 models that will be on the stand, we can expect a sports car concept that, says Mazda, “maintains a sense of lineage and authenticity.”

Pushing the Limits!

Of course, if Mazda is truly set to reach back in its historical back of tricks, that raises another critical question: will the new sports car pack an updated version of Mazda’s signature rotary under the hood? Company officials have offered broad hints that they’re working on a Wankel engine that can meet modern fuel economy and emissions requirements.

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Ferrari Ready to Launch IPO

Going public could force big changes on low-volume brand.

by on Sep.30, 2015

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and former Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo both celebrated the launch of the $1 million Ferrari Enzo ultra-car.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could launch the eagerly awaited initial public offering of its Ferrari brand as early as Friday, according to various industry reports.

The move could generate as much as $1 billion in much-needed revenue for FCA, but it also raises some serious questions about the future of the ultra-exclusive Ferrari. A debate over how much to grow the brand last year resulted in the ouster of long-time CEO Luca di Montezemolo, who favored a go-slow approach.

Take Stock!

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has wanted to take more advantage of Ferrari’s image in the global luxury market, however, and is expected not only to push for faster growth of the brand’s luxury cars, but also to license its prancing pony logo for a broader range of upscale goods.

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Better Late Than Never: Tesla Finally Reveals Model X

7-seat SUV includes new “bio-weapon defense mode.”

by on Sep.30, 2015

The new Tesla Model X spreads its wings -- or, more precisely, its unique falcon doors.

After struggling to pull a “challenging” project together, Tesla Motors finally pulled the wraps off its new Model X sport-utility vehicle at a standing-room-only event in Silicon Valley.

It becomes just the third product line Tesla has ever offered, and the second in its current portfolio, a much-needed counterpoint to the Model S sedan in a market that has widely embraced utility vehicles. If all goes according to plan, the new Model X should help Tesla nearly double its sales next year and set the stage for the even more mainstream Model III due out in 2018.

Product News!

As the California carmaker has attempted to do with the Model S, the new SUV delivers far more range than what other battery-cars can muster. And it’s loaded up with an assortment of surprise-and-delight features – from high-performance “Ludicrous Mode” to an advanced air filtration system CEO Elon Musk jokingly dubbed its “bio weapon defense mode.”

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Honda Previews New Hydrogen Car, Civic Type-R, Other Debuts Coming to Tokyo

Assortment of intros ranges from practical to decidedly wacky.

by on Sep.30, 2015

The new, turbo-powered Honda Type R coming to Tokyo will be the most powerful Civic ever.

Few automotive events cover more ground than the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, which has a history of introducing products ranging from the practical to the downright wacky. And if the Honda exhibit is any indication, the November gathering will live up to expectations.

Offering a few hints of what it has in store for Tokyo Motor Show-goers next month, Honda plans to pull the wraps off the next-generation Odyssey minivan, as well as a new version of its only recently launched hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. The exhibit will include sports and track models like the new Acura NSX and quirky 2&4 Concept, and will look at alternative mobility solutions with the Wander Stand and Wander Walker Concepts.

Auto Show News!

The Tokyo show has, over the years, seen some pretty odd and exotic concepts designed to excite visitors – appropriately, in Japanese, translated into “waku waku.” That’s included past Honda models such as one that looked almost like a telephone booth on wheels.

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Mandating New Safety Technology Could Save $900 Bil

Active safety innovations could save 33,000 lives annually, report claims.

by on Sep.30, 2015

A full conversion to autonomous driving technology could eliminate 90% of traffic fatalities, according to a new report.

New active safety technologies could reduce road accidents in the United States by more than one third, saving thousands of lives and billions in societal costs for medical care, vehicle repairs and lost productivity, according to a new study released this week by the Boston Consulting Group.

The study said available systems like automatic braking and lane control assistance technology could reduce the number of accidents by 28%. In addition, wider use of the new technologies could pave the way for fully autonomous vehicles and lead to a 90% reduction in fatal accidents over time.

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“Because the vast majority of crashes in the United States are caused by driver error, the lack of adoption of these technologies within the vehicle fleet in the United States is a significant missed opportunity,” said BCG’s Xavier Mosquet, who co-authored the report funded by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association. (more…)

Ford Faces Strike Deadline at Key Plant

Kansas City truck plant ready to walk.

by on Sep.30, 2015

Talks between the UAW and Ford just got a little tenser as the union informed the automaker it plans to strike if key issues don't get resolved next week.

The United Auto Workers has targeted the one of Ford Motor Co.’s key assembly plants in Kansas City, Missouri, for a strike if bargaining doesn’t resolve key issues by early next week.

The Kansas City plant builds a number of variations of Ford’s F-150 pickup trucks, which is one of the most profitable vehicles built by the company in the United States. After a slow start, production of the new, aluminum F-150 is running at top speed now and a strike would quickly reduce inventories of new vehicles.

Union News!

Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president in charge of negotiations with Ford, said the company had left the union with little choice but to intensify the dispute in a bid for a fair and acceptable agreement. The strike warning should not have any impact on the other negotiations at Ford, including the ongoing discussion for a new master agreement covering wages and benefits. (more…)

VW Americas Chief Dodges Bullet

But CEO Horn gets a new boss, and management shake-up expected to continue.

by on Sep.29, 2015

Michael Horn, head of VW of America, was all smiles accepting the North American Car of the Year Trophy for the new VW Golf.

(This story corrects and expands upon an earlier story that had incorrectly reported VWoA CEO Michael Horn would lose his job in the U.S.)

Michael Horn, the head of Volkswagen’s U.S. operations, has dodged the bullet. But while he won’t find himself among the growing list of senior VW executives ousted in the wake of a diesel emissions testing scam, the VW veteran will find himself reporting to a new boss as part of a broader corporate shake-up.

Winfried Wahland, who has been overseeing Volkswagen AG’s Czech-based Skoda brand, has been named director of the new North American Region office, and he will take a seat on VWAG’s all-powerful Supervisory Board.

The Journal of Record!

Horn had been expected to lose his job in the wake of the scandal touched off by the discovery that Volkswagen had secretly rigged its small diesel engines to pass emissions tests. On the road, however, the so-called “defeat device” was programmed to permit the engines to produce as much as 40 times the permissible level of smog-causing oxides of nitrogen. (more…)

VW Fix for Diesel Cheat May Take Longer to Reach U.S.

CEO promises plan “in the next few days” – but not for US owners.

by on Sep.29, 2015

About 11 million vehicles sold worldwide used the software cheat. Fixing those sold in the U.S. is likely to be the most difficult part.

(This story updates an early report on TheDetroitBureau.com)

Volkswagen’s promise to deliver a fix for its rigged diesel engine “in the next few days” refers to vehicles sold in Europe and other foreign markets, not the U.S., according to a company source.

The “retrofit” that VW expects will bring the vehicles into compliance with government pollution standards was announced Tuesday in Berlin by the company’s new CEO, Matthias Mueller, who said customers would be contacted “in the next few days” with details.

The Full Story!

But a company source, who spoke on condition of anonymity with TheDetroitBureau.com later in the day, said the promise only refers to VW diesels sold in Europe and some other foreign markets, not the U.S., where the fix will be more complicated.

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Forget the Sound Barrier, Bloodhound SSC is Aiming at 1,000 MPH

Jet/rocket package will produce the power of 180 Formula One racers.

by on Sep.29, 2015

A rendering shows the Bloodhound SSC as it races from 0 to 1,000 mph in just 42 seconds.

When RAF fighter pilot Andy Green hits the “start” button on the new Bloodhound SSC, he’ll fire up a 550-horsepower V-8 borrowed from the Jaguar F-Type sports car. But it will take a lot more than that to get the Bloodhound moving.

The big V-8 is simply there to pump fuel into the 42-foot-long, pencil-shaped Bloodhound’s EJ200 jet engine. When Green opens the throttle up, he will quickly be thrust deep into his cushioned seat as the jet, developed for the Eurofighter, quickly hits about 300 mph. But at that point, it’s only warming up.

A Real Blast!

At that point, a cluster of hybrid solid/liquid rockets will ignite, and if all goes according to plan, Andy Green will soon be moving at 1,000 miles per hour, or nearly a third faster than the land speed record he set in 1997, when he piloted the Thrust SSC to 763 mph, becoming the first man to ever drive through the sound barrier.

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VW to Retrofit Suspect Diesel Cars to Meet Emission Standards

But fix won’t prevent consumer lawsuits, and costs could be “disastrous.”

by on Sep.29, 2015

New Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller, shown during the debut of the Porsche Cayman.

Volkswagen will attempt to resolve a scandal involving cheating on diesel emissions tests by retrofitting 11 million vehicles with hardware it expects will bring them into compliance with government pollution standards in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Customers will be contacted “in the next few days” with details of the fix, said Matthias Mueller, who was named CEO last week after predecessor Martin Winterkorn took responsibility for the scam. VW was found by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have used a “defeat device,” software that could recognize when one of the vehicles was undergoing emissions test. Otherwise, the diesels would be allowed to produce up to 40 times the legal limit of smog-causing oxides of nitrogen.

The Full Story!

The retrofit comes as VW faces potential EPA fines of more than $18 billion in the U.S., as well as a criminal investigation. Similar problems face it abroad, German authorities demanding a fix by October 7th. But beyond the actual cost of the repairs – estimated by some analysts at $6.5 billion – the retrofit actually could exacerbate the legal dilemma the maker faces in the U.S. where a number of class action lawsuits by consumers have already been filed.

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