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Archive for September, 2015

UAW-FCA Tentative Pact Faces Critical Vote

Toledo plant result makes or breaks the deal.

by on Sep.29, 2015

Workers at FCA's Toledo, Ohio, plant are key to the tentative deal between Fiat Chrysler and the UAW getting approved.

The fate of the United Auto Workers contract with the FCA U.S. may hinge on voting at the assembly complex in Toledo, Ohio, where workers are uneasy about the pending changes in the product plan outlined by the company’s CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The FCA employees have been concerned that the company could shift production to another plant within the manufacturing system built by the old Chrysler Group. However, Toledo now stands to lose its other key product, the Jeep Cherokee, according to Marchionne, who let the information out during an interview with the trade publication.

Union News!

UAW president Dennis Williams has tried to re-assure workers that no product placement decisions have been made yet but workers at the big assembly complex, the largest in FCA U.S., remain deeply skeptical of both the pact and of Marchionne, who, in the past, has promised to do what he could to keep jobs in Toledo in return for the loyal and dedicated service of the employees that build Jeep products. (more…)

The Moment for Truth for Tesla as Model X Finally Debuts

Two years late, electric SUV the real test for CEO Elon Musk’s venture.

by on Sep.29, 2015

The new Tesla Model X could be outselling the Model S sedan by this time next year.

Has Tesla really sparked a revolution, or is it about to come unplugged? The world may get a better sense of the battery-electric automaker’s future later today when it finally pulls the covers off the new Model X.

The electric SUV will join the Model S as the second car in Tesla’s line-up, and once it reaches market, more than two years behind schedule, it could nearly double the California carmaker’s annual sales volume, at least if founder and CEO Elon Musk’s projections prove accurate.

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While Tesla’s transition into a truly mainstream manufacturer will have to wait a couple more years, with the planned addition of the more moderately priced Model III, the Model X – with its distinctive “falcon doors” — will give both consumers and investors a good sense of whether Tesla is more than just a one-shot wonder.

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Takata Faulty Airbag Recall May Expand

NHTSA questions makers about use of dangerous airbags.

by on Sep.29, 2015

The latest Takata incident involved the side-image airbag in a 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan

Federal safety officials plan to shine a spotlight on more automakers that installed Takata airbags in their vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contacted seven more automakers about their use of Takata airbags and their plans for dealing with them.

On Sept. 22, NHTSA sent letters to Volkswagen AG, Tesla Motors Inc., Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit, Jaguar Land Rover, Suzuki Motor Corp., Volvo Trucks and Spartan Motors, asking questions about the Takata inflators they use.

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The letters, which the agency released last Friday, ask each of the makers how many vehicles have Takata airbag inflators, and whether they are considering recalls. The airbags, which explode with too much force sending metal shrapnel into the cabin of the vehicle, have caused at least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries. (more…)

Already Dethroned as CEO, VW’s Winterkorn Now Faces Prosecutors

German prosecutors take the first shot at former VW boss.

by on Sep.28, 2015

Martin Winterkorn in happier days when VW was racing to become the world's best-selling automaker.

Less than a week after tendering his resignation as Volkswagen AG CEO and taking responsibility – more or less – for the maker’s diesel emission test cheating scandal, Martin Winterkorn has found himself in the gunsights of German prosecutors.

After admitting it loaded special software into 11 million vehicles potentially letting them fool government emissions tests, VW has found itself at the center of a worldwide scandal. The maker has had to halt sales of those vehicles in the U.S., and has set aside $7.3 billion to cover the cost of the mess. But that could fall well short of its potential legal exposure, according to observers.

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And some corporate officials, including Winterkorn, could find themselves facing potential prosecution in the U.S., Germany and elsewhere. The once-powerful CEO is under investigation, the German prosecutor’s office noted, for “allegations of fraud in the sale of cars with manipulated emissions data.”

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GM Tops List of Semi-Finalists for North American Car, Truck of the Year

Maker lands four passenger cars on list – but not a single truck model.

by on Sep.28, 2015

The new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is one of four GM passenger cars on the NACTOY Short List.

In what is either the sign of the apocalypse or a corporate transformation, General Motors has landed for of its new models on the “Short List” for North American Car of the Year. But the irony is that for a maker long known for its ho-hum cars and more competitive truck models, there’s nary a single GM CUV, SUV or pickup on the Truck of the Year list.

There are a variety of surprises among the choices for this year’s North American Car and Truck of the Year, with Korean carmakers Kia and Hyundai landing three of their offerings making the first cut – the winners set to be announced next January during the opening session of the 2016 North American International Auto Show.

Top of the List!

Known more commonly as NACTOY, the two awards, one for best car, the other for best truck or utility vehicle, are determined by votes from 57 North American automotive journalists representing a wide array of outlets, from enthusiast and insider publications to social media.

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VW Scandal Amps Up Anti-Diesel Movement

Paris, for one, may ban “oil-burners” in bid to clear the air.

by on Sep.28, 2015

Paris traffic along the Seine River. Officials there want to phase out the use of diesels.

The City of Lights might more accurately be called the city of smog these days. Paris has become one of the world’s most polluted cities, and automobiles catch much of the blame. Over the last few years that has forced Parisian officials to implement occasional limits on the number of vehicles that can drive in the city.

Increasingly, however, their focus has shifted to diesel-powered vehicles which critics claim produce a disproportionate share of smog-causing oxides of nitrogen. And, in the wake of the scandal involving cheating on emissions tests by Volkswagen AG, there’s a renewed push to limit, even ban diesels from Paris roadways.

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But the French capital is not alone. While proponents of the high-mileage technology contend VW’s cheating was a unique and rare event, critics counter that diesels simply can’t be made clean enough to meet modern needs. And that threatens their viability in not only U.S. but even Europe, where they currently account for about half of the vehicles sold each year.

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Pope’s Fiat 500L Creating Buzz During U.S. Visit

Small, low-priced car metaphor for Pontiff’s message of humbleness and humility.

by on Sep.28, 2015

Pope Francis has been traveling to venues in the U.S. in a black Fiat 500L.

Thousands, perhaps millions, of people followed the movements of Pope Francis during his six-day visit to the U.S. hanging on every word he uttered and, not surprisingly, the black Fiat 500L that often ferried him from event to event.

The compact car is a marked departure from vehicles used by past leaders of the Roman Catholic church, who have used a variety of high-priced luxury vehicles from Mercedes and other makers to go from place to place.

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However, the 500L, which costs less than $30,000 fully loaded, appears to mirror the pontiff’s image of a man who still attempts to honor his pledge to live a life of poverty he took as a priest in Argentina more than 30 years ago. (more…)

Mercedes May Finally Bring Little A-Class to U.S.

New mini-lux model would roll out of new Mercedes plant in Mexico.

by on Sep.28, 2015

The Mercedes A-Class is one of five different models based on the small luxury platform.

The boardroom at Mercedes-Benz was wracked with turmoil when the German maker first considered adding a compact luxury car to its line-up. But the original Mercedes 190 was an instant success, and what is today known as the C-Class is one of the anchors of its line-up.

That meant far less debate when the company eventually decided to roll out a procession of even smaller models. If anything, the new CLA sedan and GLA crossover have become even bigger hits in the critical North American market.

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Until now, however, Mercedes hasn’t been willing to also let its pint-sized A-Class model make the trans-Atlantic jump. But it appears that this reluctance is starting to vanish and American motorists may soon find another downsized offering in Mercedes showrooms.

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VW Promises for Fix Diesel Emissions Problem “As Soon As Possible”

But fixing reputation could be more elusive as damning new evidence surfaces.

by on Sep.28, 2015

A screenshot of the new VWDieselInfo.com site.

Facing what has become the worst crisis in its history, Volkswagen is vowing to come up with a fix for its diesel pollution problem “as soon as possible,” its U.S. subsidiary launched a special website, vwdieselinfo.com, where owners can go for information about the problem.

The maker’s image has been sorely tarnished since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced earlier this month that 482,000 VW diesels sold in the U.S. were equipped with a so-called “defeat device” meant to fool emissions tests while allowing the vehicles to produce up to 40 times the maximum allowable pollution in real-world use.

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The revelation has touched off a flurry of investigations in the U.S. as well as overseas, where millions more diesel models were equipped with the suspect software. The number of lawsuits facing VW has rapidly grown, and even after ousting a number of top execs, criminal charges could follow. The situation, if anything, may grow worse with new revelations indicating senior management may have known for years about the cheating.

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Analysts Revising Auto Sales Predictions Upward

Consumer confidence helps keeps sales pace strong.

by on Sep.28, 2015

Analysts have revised their new vehicle sales estimates for 2015 upward as consumer confidence remains high.

Despite uncertainty in the global economy, the U.S. auto industry continues to motor along at a steady clip.

As a result of the vigorous selling pace during the spring and summer months — the selling rate from May through August averaged 17.5 million units — LMC Automotive is raising its 2015 total light-vehicle sales forecast to 17.2 million units from 17.1 million units and its retail light-vehicle forecast to 14.1 million units from 14 million units.

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In addition, analysts at Moody’s now predict sales of new cars and trucks will increase by 2.4% in 2016 after growing by 2.8% in 2015. (more…)