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Archive for June, 2017

First Drive: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

A performance SUV we won't Pass on.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The Stelvio is the first SUV ever from Alfa Romeo - though more are in the works.

The rain is falling in heavy sheets, the windshield wipers beating time in an effort to keep up. Some other drivers have begun pulling off to the side waiting for things to clear up, but we only tip deeper into the throttle as we slice our ways through the corners on our drive through the heavily wooded hills of Tennessee.

We’ve got miles to put on, and the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio seems to be relishing the drive. Sometimes, it’s maneuvering through the worst conditions that reveals the most about a new vehicle, and by the end of our journey we’ll be learning a lot about the Stelvio, the Italian automaker’s first-ever SUV.

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Just starting to roll into showrooms across the U.S., the Stelvio is Alfa’s third new product line, sharing space with the little 4C sports car and the only recently introduced Giulia on dealer lots. Though longer and taller than the sports sedan, the SUV shares the same mechanical underpinnings and, as we quickly learn, pleasantly similar driving dynamics. The Giulia was a revelation to drive and now, with the arrival of the Stelvio, Alfa is more than justifying its existence with the sort of performance model the SUV-crazed American market has been waiting for.

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Toyota Rules Out Using Diesel Hybrids

Maker avoids diesels despite ability to improve mileage.

by on Jun.23, 2017

Toyota isn't to be producing any hybrids using a diesel engine any time the near term, an executive said.

Skepticism of diesel engines runs deep among carmakers and governments in East Asia, where the influential automakers in South Korea, Japan and China have avoided major investments in diesel power because of concerns about costs, pollution and public health.

Even European companies, such as Volkswagen AG and the French company PSA, have elected to limit the use of diesel engines in the Chinese market.

Diesel News!

A Toyota Motor executive this week ruled out the possibility of rolling out hybrid models powered by diesel engines in the near future.  (more…)

Toyota Sees New Styling Identity with 2018 Camry

Next-gen sedan pushing maker into a new design era.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The next-gen Toyota Camry is the first in a line of new vehicles featuring the maker's more exciting exterior styling efforts.

Few cars in recent history have enjoyed the success of the Toyota Camry, which has been the best-selling car in the United States for the past 15 years and counting.

But Toyota hasn’t become the one of the world’s largest automakers by resting on its laurels and for 2018 the Japanese automotive giant has taken the difficult step of remaking the Camry for increasingly demanding world filled with increasingly finicky buyers unsure about whether they want to drive a car or have a car drive for them.

Product News!

The 2018 version builds on the Camry’s strengths, starting with the dependability, which won over the hearts of Baby Boomers for decades. Toyota also has taken steps to make sure the styling, the interior layout and perhaps most importantly the ride and handling of the 2018 Camry are on par with that famous reliability. The result was quite impressive during a series of test runs on the narrow farm roads through the rolling countryside outside Portland, Oregon. (more…)

Automakers Ramping Up Production Cuts as Sales Slide

Shift cut at Chevy Malibu plant the latest sign of industry weakness.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Despite strong reviews, the new Chevrolet Malibu has rapidly lost sales momentum in favor of SUVs.

Despite other signs of a relatively healthy economy things are starting to get worrisome in the auto industry where manufacturers have scheduled production cuts faster than at any time since the Great Recession.

General Motors, which had already dropped shifts at five plants since last autumn, now says it will eliminate a shift at the Fairfax, Kansas plant building its once-popular Chevrolet Malibu. The automaker’s Canadian operations, meanwhile, will extend the originally scheduled summer shutdown at two plants due to bulging inventories on both sides of the border.

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The Big Picture!

GM isn’t alone. Ford Motor Co. laid off thousands of workers due to temporary shutdowns in May, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has two entire factories idled while they are converted from car to light truck production.

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Americans Expected to Set New Driving Records for July 4 Holiday

Low gas prices driving Americans to get on the road.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Americans will celebrate the July 4 holiday by piling into their cars in record numbers.

Every holiday period recently Americans are predicted to set a new record for how many miles they’ll travel over the long weekend, and this Independence Day weekend won’t be any different, according to AAA.

The auto club expects 44.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home, a 2.9% increase over last year’s record for the holiday. Most of that traveling will be done in some sort of car, minivan or sport-ute/crossover as it’s a four-day holiday for most Americans.

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“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. (more…)

General Motors Expands Maven Gig to San Francisco

GM's car-sharing service aimed at freelancers growing.

by on Jun.22, 2017

GM is expanding its Maven Gig, which is aimed at freelancers, offerings in San Francisco.

General Motors’ newest mobility service, Maven Gig, is spreading its wings on the West Coast by opening operations to San Francisco.

Created specifically to provide vehicles for independent, freelance driving jobs or “gigs,” such as GrubHub, Instacart, Roadie and ridesharing services, GM launched Maven Gig in San Diego last month as part of growing portfolio of car sharing and mobility services.

Beyond the Headlines!

“Freelancers in the sharing economy want flexibility and Maven Gig is a seamless way to maximize opportunities,” said Rachel Bhattacharya, director of Commercial Mobility Strategy for Maven. “If the driver has a lull on one service they can easily flip to another and keep hustling,” she said. (more…)

Tesla Autonomous Vehicle Chief Drives Off; Latest in a Series of High-Level Departures

But new AI researcher was waiting in the wings.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Chris Lattner, Tesla's director of artificial intelligence, just parted ways with the company.

Tesla has lost another senior manager, this time the head of its self-driving car program who joined the battery-electric automaker only six months ago.

But the departure of Chris Lattner, who had previously been working at Apple, isn’t expected to have more than a short-term impact, Tesla quickly announcing that it would assign some of Lattner’s duties to a new hire, prominent artificial intelligence, or AI researcher Andrej Karpathy.

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“Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all,” Lattner said in a tweet, prompting Tesla to fire back in a statement that, “Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla and we’ve decided to make a change.” (more…)

Virus Forces Honda To Halt Production at Japan Plant

WannaCry ransomware found in computer network.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Honda's Sayama, Japan, plant that produces the Odyssey minivan was shut down due to a ransomware attack earlier this week.

This story includes update information.

Honda was temporarily forced to shut down one of its key Japanese assembly plants this week after discovering the WannaCry ransomware virus in the plant’s computer network.

The shutdown was expected to delay production of some of the automaker’s key product lines, including the Accord sedan and Odyssey minivan. The Sayama plant, which is located about an hour northwest of Honda’s Tokyo headquarters, typically produces about 1,000 vehicles daily.

News You Can Trust!

The WannaCry virus was discovered about a month ago after rapidly infecting computer networks around the world. It briefly shut down operations at a number of British hospitals, among other things and caused production delays at both French automaker Renault and its Japanese alliance partner Nissan. (more…)

Volvo Relaunching Polestar as “Electrified High Performance” Company

Polestar joins growing list of dedicated electric spin-offs.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Going forward, the Polestar logo will stand alone, without a Volvo badge.

Volvo has become the latest automaker to set up a separate operation focused specifically on electric vehicles, in this case, putting the emphasis on “high performance” models.

The move appears to position its Polestar division to challenge the new Mercedes-EQ sub-brand, which is set to launch at least seven electric vehicles by 2022, and BMW i, as well as upstart battery-carmakers like Tesla, Faraday Future and Lucid. The announcement does not appear to preclude Volvo’s ability to produce less performance-oriented electric vehicles under its own badge.

Electrifying News!

Purchased by Volvo in 2015, Polestar will now operate as a standalone company with a new management team. That includes Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gooding, who had been Volvo’s communications chief, and new Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath, who had been Volvo’s global design director.

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Tesla Closing in on Deal to Build Cars in China

EV maker inking deal with city of Shanghai.

by on Jun.21, 2017

Tesla is apparently closing in on a deal to build new cars in Shanghai.

Not long after suggesting a new plant in India was coming, it appears Tesla’s Elon Musk is making headway on plants around Asia, especially China.

The EV maker is reportedly close to an agreement with the city of Shanghai to build a new plant in the city’s Lingang development zone. The deal could be done in just a few days, Bloomberg reported.

Technology and Business News!

China’s central government has been pushing hard for an increase in electric vehicle sales in the last two years, providing incentives and easing regulations to help manufacturers get moving on the needed escalation of EVs. (more…)