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Mercedes Joins Growing List of Subscription Car Programs

Flexperience to debut in Germany before coming to U.S. market.

by on Mar.23, 2018

The new Mercedes Flexperience program will let customers swap between a wide range of models up to 12 times annually.

It’s hard to find a single carmaker that doesn’t offer a Certified Pre-Owned program and it may soon become the norm, rather than the exception, for manufacturers to add subscription services to their list of retail alternatives.

Mercedes-Benz is set to become the latest manufacturer to jump onboard, following Audi, Cadillac, Porsche and Volvo, while Lexus this week indicated it is also exploring its subscription options.

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The automaker has been running a pilot program in Germany that is about to formally roll out across its home market, and “We plan to have something ready within this year” for the U.S., Mercedes’ global sales chief Britta Seeger announced this week.


Uber Fatality Investigation Produces More Questions Than Answers

NTSB, NHTSA assisting in accident query.

by on Mar.22, 2018

The Tempe (Arizona) Police Department released the video footage of Uber's collision with a pedestrian.

The video chronicling the fatal accident between an Uber vehicle in autonomous test mode and a woman crossing a street with her bike has opened up a Pandora’s Box of questions for the ride-sharing giant and other companies looking to develop self-driving vehicles.

The first is, of course, how did the system not recognize her and take action to avoid the problem? The vehicle’s system had plenty of time to take action, but did nothing, eventually running over Elaine Herzberg, as she walked her bike across four lanes of traffic at night in Tempe, Arizona.

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“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,” Uber said in a statement. “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.” (more…)

Study Finds Strong Support for Keeping Mileage Rules Among Key Auto Suppliers

EPA expected to announce CAFE revisions by April 1.

by on Mar.22, 2018

The auto industry is waiting anxiously to see if and how the Trump Administration rewrites the current Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce revisions to federal mileage rules by April 1, but while a number of automakers are hoping to see a sharp cutback in the standards a new study finds key automotive suppliers hoping the Trump Administration will let the rules stand as they are, ramping up to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

After completing a mandated mid-term review just before leaving office, the Obama Administration decided to maintain that target. But soon after President Donald Trump entered the White House, his EPA chief Scott Pruitt said he would revisit the Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandate, appearing to side with auto industry critics who complained CAFE was set to price many buyers out of the new car market.


The debate has led to an unusual split between automakers like Ford and General Motors, who want to roll back the rules, and a number of auto suppliers who support the 54.5 mpg target, according to several reports, including a new study by CALSTART, a California-based consortium aimed at developing clean transportation technologies.


GM Boosting Bolt EV Production as Demand Surges

CEO Barra asking Congress to expand electric-car tax credits.

by on Mar.08, 2018

There's significant room to expand Chevy Bolt EV production at GM's Orion Assembly Plant.

General Motors plans to expand production of its first long-range battery-car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, CEO Mary Barra said during an energy conference in Houston.

The Bolt has experienced stronger than expected demand in recent months, some analysts suggesting that is the result of the slow ramp-up of production for Tesla’s own mainstream EV, the Model 3.

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Demand has also been buoyed by $7,500 federal tax credits that bring the base price of the Bolt down below $30,000. But under the current rules, GM is expected to soon see the credits phase out, something that could cut into demand, leading Barra to say that, “We feel tax credits should be expanded so our customers continue to receive the benefits going forward.”


Polestar’s First EV Looks Like Modern Take on Classic Volvo P1800

Order bank opens next week in 18 global markets.

by on Mar.07, 2018

The Volvo P1800 reborn? Not quite. This is the all-new Polestar 1 performance PHEV.

It started out as a motorsports contender then went on to become Volvo’s in-house performance tuner. But with the debut of the Polestar 1 at this week’s Geneva Motor Show, Polestar formally transitions into Volvo’s high-performance sub-brand.

And it will focus exclusively on vehicles with electrified drivetrains. The Polestar 1 features a twin-motor plug-in hybrid coupe churning out an impressive 600 horsepower. Pure battery-electric offerings will follow, company officials said, while adding that they plan to take a novel approach to selling their low-volume, high-performance offerings.


“We will focus on electric mobility and make it a reality by having something that is not just a dogmatic electric vehicle but something that is desirable to drive,” said Thomas Ingenlath, the former head of Volvo design who, late last year, was reassigned to run Polestar.


First Drive: 2018 Volvo XC40

Small, less formal-looking package still offers plenty of comfort, sophistication.

by on Feb.28, 2018

The new Volvo XC40 gives the brand an entry in the growing compact crossover segment.

Utility vehicles such as the XC90 and XC60 have led Volvo’s revival around the world.

Now Volvo is adding a new smallish – if you can call a vehicle that weighs two tons small – utility vehicle to its engaging product portfolio.

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The XC40 is what the carmakers have started calling an “an urban crossover” and it offers a comfortable, luxurious experience in a modest way, with ample if not overwhelming power, the latest safety and connected technology as well as well-modulated ride and handling in a nicely designed package. (more…)

Polestar 1 Making its European Debut in Geneva

First electric performance hybrid will be on the stand.

by on Feb.26, 2018

Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar CEO, said the Polestar 1 will make its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show.

Polestar, the electric performance brand from Volvo, will make its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show when it shows off the company’s first car, the Polestar 1.

“We are looking forward to exhibiting at the Geneva Motor Show and are eager to hear feedback and see the reactions from the public on our first car and our new brand,” said Thomas Ingenlath, chief executive officer at Polestar.

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“Our stand in Geneva will be a powerful incarnation of what our brand embodies: uncompromised, pure and progressive design,” he added. (more…)

Geely Buys 9.7% of Daimler AG for $9.2 Billion

Chinese company now Daimler's largest shareholder.

by on Feb.23, 2018

Geely Chairman Li Khufu purchased 9.7% of Daimler AG for $9.2 billion.

Li Shufu, Geely’s chairman and majority owner, continues to sample different flavors from the automotive industry buffet, spending $9.2 billion for a 9.7% stake in Daimler AG.

The purchase, which was revealed in a regulatory filing, makes Shufu Daimler’s largest single shareholder ahead of the Kuwait Investment Authority, which holds 6.8%. Nearly 71% of Daimler shares are held by institutional holders, like Shufu.

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“We are delighted, with Li Shufu, to have won over another long-term investor who is convinced of Daimler’s innovative prowess, strategy and future potential,” a Daimler spokesperson told Reuters. “Daimler knows and respects Li Shufu as a Chinese entrepreneur of particular competence and forward thinking.” (more…)

First Look: 2019 Volvo V60

New wagon bears striking resemblance to bigger V90.

by on Feb.22, 2018

The new Volvo V60 bears a strong resemblance to the maker's V90 wagon.

Volvo Cars unveiled the new V60 five-door, a midsize wagon with a sporty flair that will fit comfortably into the Swedish car makers portfolio, which emphasizes styling and practicality.

“The family estate driver is an important customer for our business and has been for generations,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars. “The new V60 honors that tradition, but also takes it much further.”

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The V60 combines a luxurious interior, ample space, advanced connectivity and Volvo Cars’ latest driver assistance features and other safety technology.  While the V90 will continue to offer a premium, luxury experience, the V60 is sportier alternative to older models. The car is expected to appear in the U.S. in 2019. (more…)

Automakers Exploring Alternatives to Conventional Car-Buying Process

Ford paints one option with Canvas subscription service.

by on Feb.09, 2018

Ford's Canvas subscription service delivers a Mustang to a customer in California.

More than 17 million Americans drove off dealer lots with new vehicles last year, and the vast majority of them purchased their new cars, trucks and crossovers the same way motorists have for the past century.

There are alternatives, like leasing, but automakers are exploring even more radical options, some borrowed from the emerging world of online retailing. Ford, for one, said this week it is looking for ways to grow the subscription service, Canvas, that it launched a year ago. That subscription-based service might best be described as a hybrid blend of car buying and car rental, letting a motorist get a vehicle for as long as they want but then return it with just seven days’ notice.

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“As car ownership evolves, we see Canvas as part of our suite of products that address changing customer needs in mobility,” said Ford Credit Executive Vice President of Marketing David McClelland. “Canvas is building subscription products that are relevant to consumers today, and it’s building technology for the future, including billing and fleet management, with a nimble approach to product development.”