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Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Fiat Chrysler Latest to Beat Expectations With Q2 Earnings

Net income up despite hefty consent agreement charge.

by on Jul.30, 2015

FCA is in "execution mode," says Marchionne.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may have begun the third quarter on a sour note, slammed with a record fine for safety lapses, but it ended the second-quarter in fine tune, handily exceeding Wall Street earnings forecasts.

The company, officially registered in the Netherlands, earned a profit of 333 million Euros, or $364 million, even after a chargeback of $88.5 million as a result of the consent order formally announced last weekend. A year ago, FCA earned 197 million Euros, or $215 million, for the period. On a per-share basis, the maker reported earnings of $0.21 between April-June 2015, analysts surveyed by MarketWatch predicting the figure would come in around 19 cents.

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As has been the case for several years, the recovering Chrysler side of the business helped prop up the balance sheet, primarily due to strong demand – and rising prices – in North America. But FCA also saw improvements in a European market just rebounding after a long and deep recession.

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Is Your Car Up for a Buyback?

Sorting through Fiat Chrysler’s massive safety settlement.

by on Jul.30, 2015

The buyback covers a wide range of Ram pickups, including this heavy-duty 4500 model.

As part of a settlement with NHTSA over mishandled recalls, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has agreed to not only pay a record fine but also to buy back a select group of recent truck models with suspension problems while offering discounts to owners who might want to trade in older Jeeps facing recall.

The complex consent order has created plenty of confusion, dealers and factory phone lines – not to mention news outlets – inundated with calls and e-mails from owners wondering if they qualify for one of the deals.

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Here’s some help in figuring out if you qualify for one of these programs, and what to do even if you don’t.

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California Initiative Searches for Elusive Battery Breakthrough

Public-private effort aimed at “turbocharging the innovation process.”

by on Jul.30, 2015

The biggest problem with battery cars? The batteries -- shown here being assembled at a Nissan plant.

The biggest problem with today’s battery cars? The batteries, of course, which simply can’t deliver enough power in a compact, reasonably lightweight package.

A California-based initiative is aimed at “turbocharging the innovation process,” explained a senior official, looking for ways to boost power, drop costs and extend battery life. The project, dubbed CalCharge, has added six new partners, including major players like the Japanese auto giant Toyota and German mega-supplier Bosch.  In all, 18 automakers, parts suppliers and energy companies have joined the initiative – which has also teamed up with a number of national research labs.

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“Connecting private companies with the talent at the labs means that innovators at both public and private organizations have a new opportunity to learn and share with one another,” said Horst Simon, deputy director at Berkeley Lab, one of the founding organizations of CalCharge.

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Ford F-150 Stubs Toe on Crash Test Repairs

New truck captures "Top Safety Pick" award.

by on Jul.30, 2015

The all-new Ford F-150 has endured criticism for being more costly to repair after a crash: a claim Ford denies.

Just a few weeks removed from swatting away criticism from its competition that the new aluminum F-150 takes longer to repair and costs more while doing it, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is contradicting the automaker.

The safety group crash tested the new F-150 and found that the claims that repairs to the new truck were more costly and took more time to be true; however, the maker’s F-150 Super Crew, which makes up 83% of annual sales, also received the group’s “Top Safety Pick” rating: the only full-size pickup to earn the distinction.

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While the Dearborn, Michigan-based company was pleased to get earn the safety award, it disagreed with IIHS finding that repair costs were 26% higher for the new model compared with the previous generation pickup. (more…)

Today’s Cars Staying on the Road Longer Than Ever

Quality up, but older cars may face unique problems.

by on Jul.29, 2015

The average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. is 11.5 years, or more simply, this 2003 Honda Odyssey.

While new car sales may be stronger than they have been in nearly a decade, most American motorists are riding around in vehicles that are older than ever.

The typical vehicle on U.S. roads is now 11.5 years old, according to a study by IHS Automotive, an all-time high. And that means that millions of those vehicles have now been in operation for more than two decades.

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“As long as we have tracked average age, it has gradually risen over time due to the increasing quality of automobiles,” said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at IHS Automotive. (more…)

Volkswagen Sees Income Fall in Second Quarter

German maker hit by restructuring costs, slow China sales.

by on Jul.29, 2015

VW's Martin Winterkorn confirmed that being the biggest seller doesn't make you most profitable as the maker's Q2 earnings fell 15.9%.

Being the biggest seller doesn’t bring a guarantee of big profits evidently as Volkswagen AG reported its earnings fell 15.9% during the second quarter of the year.

The fall to 2.73 billion euros from 3.25 billion euros from the same period is the result of 180 million euros in restructuring costs related to its MAN heavy truck unit and a drop in automotive sales in China, where the company is largest automaker.

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“Our results for the first half of the year show that Volkswagen remains very well positioned in an increasingly difficult market environment and has a compelling product range”, said Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, in Wolfsburg. “We are keeping a very close watch on global macroeconomic trends, especially where there are uncertainties such as in the Chinese, Brazilian and Russian markets.” (more…)

Nissan Quarterly Income Rises by 36.3 Percent

Improved North American, European sales drives result.

by on Jul.29, 2015

Joji Tagawa, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. corporate vice president, said the Japanese automaker saw sales rise in North America and Europe during the last quarter.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. rode sales gains in North American and Europe to a 17.6% increase in revenue and a 36.3% increase in net income during the first three months of its new fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The Japanese automaker reported net revenue of $23.9 billion (2.90 trillion yen) versus 2.47 trillion yen a year ago. Operating profit was $1.6 billion (193.7 billion yen), up from 122.6 billion yen, a 58% increase. Net income was $1.3 billion (152.8 billion yen) versus 112.1 billion yen in the prior year.

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“Nissan delivered solid financial results in the first three months of the fiscal year due primarily to strong demand for our core products in North America and Europe,” said Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer. “Given our on-going product offensive, the benefits of our Alliance strategy and continued cost-discipline, Nissan is on track to deliver its full-year financial guidance.” (more…)

Autonomous Vehicles May Upend Insurance Companies

Changes in how cars are bought, used may cause problems.

by on Jul.29, 2015

Google and its self-driving car could turn the insurance industry upside down.

It is something of a cliche nowadays to talk about technology as a disruptive force. But as automakers wrestle with the prospect of driverless cars and motorists who don’t own their vehicles, insurance companies could be facing something akin to a catastrophe, according to a new study by Driverless Transportation.

Autonomous vehicles are bound to disrupt the insurance industry, according to the latest warnings from consultants who have studied the insurance business recently.

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Several of the consultants released reports recently suggesting auto insurers face will face daunting challenges in the future. (more…)

Hammered By Biggest Fine Ever, Fiat Chrysler Aims to Fix Broken Safety Program

Company examining changes made by General Motors.

by on Jul.29, 2015

One of the changes made to improve safety is that FCA's safety chief Scott Kunselman, right, now reports directly to CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Hit with the largest package of fines and penalties ever levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is under the microscope as federal regulators press it to change what has been described as a malfunctioning safety program.

Among other things, the maker will have to buy back perhaps several hundred thousand vehicles, and its safety program will be monitored by an independent outsider. But “that’s not something we fear,” insists the executive who has been appointed within FCA to get its safety efforts back on track.

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“We’re focused now on getting fixes into the customer’s hands as quickly as possible,” and making sure that there are no delays when future safety problems are uncovered, said Scott Kunselman, the senior vice president of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance at the trans-Atlantic automaker. (more…)

Scion Seeking to Reconnect With Young Buyers With New iA, iM Models

Paring down aspirations.

by on Jul.29, 2015

Scion is looking to reinvigorate its brand with two new models, the iA sedan and iM hatch.

Once one of the hottest, hippest brands on the U.S. automotive market, Scion is hoping to reinvent itself with the launch of two new models this coming year, the iM and iA. And, in an unusual turnabout, it has sought help from little Mazda.

First launched 12 years ago, Scion was designed to reach the sort of youthful trendsetters who were largely steering clear of parent Toyota’s showrooms. And, with quirky models like the xB backed by creative – if sometimes dark – marketing campaigns, the brand became an almost instant success, hitting a 2006 peak with sales of 173,000 vehicles.

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But Like a parent who tries to pick up on the latest teenage slang, Scion soon seemed to disconnect with hip audience it sought. The second-generation xB, specifically designed for the U.S. market, was a spectacular flop and, by 2014, sales plunged to a mere 58,000. The slide has continued this year. Despite the ongoing revival of the U.S. new car market, Scion sales dipped another 18.6% during the first half. (more…)