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Archive for February, 2017

Takata Victims Pursuing Legal Action Against Five Automakers

Honda, Nissan, Toyota, BMW and Ford all named in lawsuits.

by on Feb.28, 2017

Takata victims file claiming five automakers knew about airbag defect, but used them anyway.

As Takata pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $1 billion in restitution, compensation and fines, one issue remains in doubt: What role did the automakers play?

If you listen to the car companies, they are victims as well. In fact, the settlement agreement shows them receiving $825 million due to Takata’s carelessness.

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The airbag inflators can explode with too much force in certain conditions, hurling shrapnel into the vehicle cabin. The result is 16 deaths and nearly 200 injuries worldwide. It forced the largest recall in U.S. history: 42 million vehicles. (more…)

Things Go From Bad to Worse for Uber

New engineering chief out over his own sexual harassment charges.

by on Feb.28, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is facing an mounting list of problems that are beginning to concern investors.

Already under fire over allegations of sexual harassment facing its female employees, things continue to get worse for American car-sharing giant Uber.

The company’s recently hired engineering chief has been forced out by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. According to reports, Amit Singhal was asked to leave after Uber learned he had faced a “credible” charge of harassment during his previous post as an executive at Google.

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“Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior,” Singhal said in a statement. “In my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own.” (more…)

Forget the Freeway, Tesla’s Musk Now Aims for the Moon

His SpaceX set to send two “tourists” into lunar orbit.

by on Feb.28, 2017

If all goes according to plan, two paid "tourists" will get to see this view for the first time since the Apollo mission ended in 1972.

Elon Musk has long been shooting for the moon, and now he wants to do it quite literally. The founder of both Tesla, the electric vehicle maker, as well as rocket launch company SpaceX, says he intends to send two “tourists” on a week-long trip to orbit the moon a little more than a year from now.

They’d ride in a modified version of the Dragon spacecraft that SpaceX is planning to use to begin ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station as early as 2018, allowing NASA to stop relying on the Russians to get there. According to Musk, there are already two paying customers who have plunked down a “significant deposit” for the lunar mission.

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“Next year is going to be the big year for carrying people,” Musk said during a news conference. “This should be a really exciting mission that hopefully gets the world really excited about sending people into deep space again.”

(more…)

Automakers Finding Lower Profits in R&D Efforts, Report Says

Increased technology, regulation lowering ROI.

by on Feb.28, 2017

Automakers and suppliers have plowed more money than ever into research and development, but didn't get a great rate of return.

While the auto industry’s investment in research and development has soared in recent years, it generates less profit than it did 10 years ago, according to a new study by Alix Partners.

“The productivity and investment-efficiency improvements that automakers expected from their massive vehicle-platform and modules-based product development don’t seem to have materialized,” the summary of the report noted.

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“Instead, they appear to have been offset by the increased complexity of all the new high technology brought into cars and trucks in recent years,” the report noted. (more…)

Trump Administration Reviewing Autonomous Car Rules

Secretary Chao pushes makers to educate drivers about benefits.

by on Feb.28, 2017

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao believes automakers need to do more to educate the public about autonomous vehicles.

The Trump administration wants to take another look at the rules the Obama administration recommended for the conduct of on-road experiments and research on self-driving cars, which call for manufacturers to share some of the data.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said over the weekend that she would be re-evaluating the Obama administration’s rules for self-driving cars. The automotive and technology industries need to do a better job educating the public about the safety features of automated driving, she said during a speech to the National Governors Association.

Autonomous Vehicle News!

Chao said she wanted to “issue a challenge to Silicon Valley, Detroit and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technologies,” according to the website Politico. (more…)

More Worries as Tesla Strains Finances Rushing to Launch Model 3

Stock analysts as analysts issue new warnings.

by on Feb.27, 2017

Investors are growing increasingly worried about Tesla's finances, sending its stock tumbling again.

Tesla shares took another sharp dip on Monday, continuing a decline triggered by the maker’s weak fourth-quarter earnings, and the admission by CEO Elon Musk that the battery-carmaker’s finances were “getting very close to the edge.”

Shares were off 4.2% at the end of Monday trading, to $246.23, as Goldman Sachs became the latest to turn on Tesla, analyst David Tamberrino downgrading the maker’s stock from “neutral” to “sell.” The market turned bearish when, last week, Tesla reported that it lost $121.3 million, or 78 cents a share, during the final quarter of 2016.

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That might have been taken in a more positive light, considering that was less than half the $320.4 million deficit posted during the fourth quarter of 2015. But Musk struck a cautious note when advising analysts and media during a conference call that the company has been burning through cash at a frantic rate as it prepares to introduce its new Model 3 sedan over the summer. (more…)

Mexico Warns Trump to Cut Tariff Talk or NAFTA Redo is Done

Mexico's economy minister says he'll walk if a tariff is mentioned.

by on Feb.27, 2017

Mexican Pres. Enrique Pena Nieto and members of his government are readying for talks to re-open NAFTA.

President Donald Trump may be hurtling toward “put up or shut up” time as Mexican trade officials say they will end talks to renegotiate NAFTA if Trump follows through on his plan to apply a punitive tariff to vehicles coming from Mexico.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo has said the move would be a deal break and in an interview with Bloomberg, her reiterated his intention to end negotiations over the matter.

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“The moment that they say, ‘We’re going to put a 20% tariff on cars,’ I get up from the table,” he told Bloomberg. “Bye-bye.” (more…)

EV Makers Compete for “World’s Fastest” Title

Latest EV supercars top 200 mph.

by on Feb.27, 2017

The NextEV NIO EP9 delivers some impressive numbers both with and without a driver.

Battery-carmakers are intent on proving their products aren’t just short-range bricks. A number of new models are offering not only extended range but performance. Serious performance. And they’re laying conflicting claims for being the world’s fastest electric vehicles.

Among those in the hunt for that crown are Maryland-based Genovation Cars and Chinese-owned NextEV, as well as struggling start-up Faraday Future and, of course, Tesla. There’s even a new Croatian battery-carmaker hoping to gain high-speed bragging rights, Rimac Automobili.

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It’s a challenge to sort through all the claims, even when limiting one’s focus to “production” EVs, suggests Andrew Saul, CEO of Genovation Cars. “There is talk and there are results,” he said in a press release pumping the East Coast maker’s new GXE model.

(more…)

First Drive: 2017 Jeep Compass

All-new crossover lives up to Jeep's off-road reputation.

by on Feb.27, 2017

The 2017 Jeep Compass replaces the previous generation model as well as the Patriot.

Any vehicle carrying the Jeep nameplate is expected to maintain the brand’s reputation for off-road capability even when chances are it is going to spend most of life on city or suburban streets, local highways and maybe on an occasional gravel road.

The all-new 2017 Jeep Compass certainly maintains the brand’s character. The 4×4 Trailhawk version of the Compass will certainly wade over rocks with the best of them and even 4×2 version of the can ford a shallow river with ease and style.

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The new Jeep compact crossover utility vehicle is now replacing the older version of the Compass and the Patriot, which were more or less grafted onto the Jeep model line several years ago thanks to some clever work by engineers and designers. As crossover vehicles became steadily more popular, the Compass and Patriot accounted for a substantial chunk of the sales the compact CUV segment even though purists insisted they really didn’t have an authentic Jeep pedigree. (more…)

Takata to Plead Guilty, Set up Victims’ Fund

Three executives face criminal trial but remain out of reach.

by on Feb.27, 2017

At least 16 people are known to have been killed due to faulty Takata airbags.

Embattled Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp. is expected to formally enter a guilty plea in Detroit federal court on Monday, fulfilling the requirements of a deal with the U.S. Justice Department stemming from the cover-up of a deadly airbag defect.

The settlement will see Takata pay $1 billion to settle the case, including a $25 million fine, while also setting up a $125 million compensation fund for victims and family members. So far, at least 16 people are known to have been killed by the company’s malfunctioning airbags, with over 100 injured.

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The government also indicted three Takata executives for allegedly falsifying test reports in an effort to cover up the airbag problem. Dozens of different automotive brands have been impacted by the defect which has led to the recall of more than 42 million vehicles in the U.S. alone.

(more…)