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VW Builds Up Edge over Rival in China

Success in Asia helping maker to be largest in world.

by on Sep.23, 2014

Volkswagen AG’s various operations in China have combined to build up a significant lead over rival General Motors even as both companies chalked up double-digit sales increases during the first eight months of 2014.

Volkswagen's plants in China are still churning out new vehicles as the maker enjoyed a double-digit sales increase through August.

The VW Group’s Chinese sales have grown by 16.5% so far this year and now total 2.4 million units, giving VW a lead of roughly 140,000 units over its chief competitor. The strong sales in China also have helped the VW Group increases sales so far this despite what Christian Klinger, the executive in charge of VW sales worldwide, described as a “tense economic environment.”

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So far this year, sales the VW Group, which includes VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini and Rolls Royce, are up 5.6%. (more…)

NACTOY Jurors Make First Cut for Car, Truck of the Year

U.S., Japanese makers land equal numbers on “short list.”

by on Sep.23, 2014

Ford hopes to smoke the competition with the 2015, 50th anniversary remake of the Mustang.

With most of the new 2015 models now in showrooms, and the stragglers soon set to follow, the nearly 60 journalists on the North American Car and Truck jury are beginning to weigh all the options in the hunt for the top products of the year.

Members of the group – which includes this author – were asked to weigh in on dozens of new offerings, from the little Honda Fit to the full-size Ford F-150 in the first of a three-part voting process that will wrap up in time for the annual Detroit Auto Show next January.

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The jurors have culled the original list down to a much more manageable 10 cars and a dozen trucks and utility vehicles. That includes two U.S, three European, three Japanese and two Korean passenger car models. Domestics dominate the truck list, however, with five separate entries, including the Ford F-150 and GM’s new midsize pickups, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. The Japanese have four, with European makers landing three models on the truck/utility list.


Infiniti Lifts the Covers on Q80 Inspiration Flagship

A “no-compromise ambassador” for Japanese luxury brand.

by on Sep.23, 2014

A production version of the Q80 Inspiration would mark a return to the Premium Luxury segment for Infiniti.

Three weeks after giving us a first tempting tease of the flagship model it will reveal in Paris next month, Infiniti is lifting the covers to provide a full look at the new Q80 Inspiration concept vehicle.

The maker is billing the Q80 show car as a “vision of category-breaking, supreme luxurious driving.” It is not your typical premium sedan with a big V-8 or -12, but a high-tech, four-seat fastback that features a hybrid-powered and new, autonomous driving technology.

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“In Q80 Inspiration, we wanted to capture that unforgettable feeling when you experience something important, something beautiful, something magnetic for the first time,” explained Infiniti Executive Design Director, Alfonso Albaisa.


GM Suffers Legal Setback in Civil Cases

Manhattan judge allowing discovery to proceed.

by on Sep.23, 2014

Mary Barra recently said that the worst of the recall problem was behind the company. However, a recent court ruling may change that outlook.

General Motors has suffered a legal setback as plaintiffs have gained wider access to the company’s internal documents involving the defective switch that has been now been blamed for 21 deaths and the recall of more than 2.6 million GM vehicles.

In a ruling that will increase GM’s legal bills, if nothing else, a federal judge in Manhattan is allowing plaintiffs to begin the process of “discovery” in cases filed in the switch-related civil suits against GM. Discovery can proceed in cases involving accidents that occurred after GM emerged from bankruptcy in the summer of 2009.

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U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York said plaintiffs could begin requesting documents from the company related to accidents, injuries and lost vehicle value linked to the switch that allegedly occurred after GM emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. (more…)

Cadillac Moving to NYC as Part of Global Restructuring

Product blitz in the works, but luxury brand could take short-term hit.

by on Sep.23, 2014

The Cadillac Elmiraj concept is expected to have a strong influence on the new flagship, though it will go with a sedan body style.

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Cadillac will go through a major strategic realignment that will see it spun off as a separate business unit and move its headquarters to New York City, the General Motors brand will confirm today.

While key operations, including sales, marketing and product planning, will move to the Big Apple, Caddy’s design and engineering efforts will remain in the Motor City. And they will be extremely busy in the years to come, according to Johan de Nysschen, the new Cadillac global brand chief who spoke to in an exclusive interview.

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The one-time “standard of the world” is getting ready to unleash a product blitz intended to challenge its ambitious German rivals, covering everything from a new entry-level model to the upper reaches of the luxury market. There will likely be new coupes, convertibles, crossovers and performance cars, according to de Nysschen – though the South African-born executive cautioned that the cost could be significant, at least initially. (more…)

Cadillac Readying Unprecedented Product Blitz

Maker aiming to match its German rivals.

by on Sep.23, 2014

The next Cadillac CTS-V Coupe will be one of the first new models to come as Caddy broadens its product portfolio substantially.

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There was a time when luxury brands sought exclusivity above all else, even if that meant shutting the door on some potential buyers. No longer, as Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated with a rapidly expanding line-up that will soon reach from the under-$30,000 CLA to the top-line S600 Pullman limousine that, in some configurations, could top $1 million.

While Mercedes has confirmed plans to add 30 new or updated models by 2020 – rivals BMW and Audi making similar moves — Cadillac has been subsisting on a handful of products. But that’s about to change.

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As part of a global restructuring that includes the move of its headquarters to New York City, the General Motors luxury division will unleash an unprecedented product assault aimed at catching up to its German rivals.

As with Mercedes, Cadillac could cover a far broader range of market segments, running from entry-lux to super-premium, by decade’s end, new global chief Johan de Nysschen told in an exclusive interview.


Lotus Likely to End US Sales of Evora in December

Maker suffers second setback due to airbag issue

by on Sep.23, 2014

Lotus is likely to end U.S. sales of its street-legal Evora coupe after 2014.

The struggles of legendary sports car manufacturer Lotus don’t appear to be ending any time soon as it appears the company will end sales of its only street-legal car in the U.S., the Evora, at the end of the year.

The news follows last week’s announcement the automaker is considering terminating 25% of its workforce around the world. The company, which makes the Elise, Evora and Exige sports cars, is launching a 45-day “consultation process.”

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However, the company’s financial difficulties may have trickled down to impact the company’s ability to sell vehicles in the U.S., well, at least ones that you can drive to the corner store for a gallon of milk. (more…)

Hyundai One-(HP)-Ups the Dodge Hellcat

708-hp Sonata concept coming to SEMA Show.

by on Sep.22, 2014

Hyundai's SEMA concept will just nudge past the 707-hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat in the HP race.

Better check the rearview mirror, Dodge, there’s a Hyundai trying to pass your new Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Once again partnering with aftermarket tuner house Bisimoto Engineering, the Korean carmaker plans to bring a customized version of the 2015 Sonata sedan to the upcoming SEMA Show in Las Vegas. And the concept vehicle reportedly will make a hefty 708-horsepower, a small but significant one more than the Dodge muscle car.

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And where the Detroit maker relies on a supercharged version of its 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 to create what it is billing as the most powerful factory-built muscle car ever, Hyundai and Bisimoto turned to a downsized four as their starting point.


Feinberg Ups GM Ignition Death Toll to 21

Administrator approves two more claims for death benefits.

by on Sep.22, 2014

Kenneth Feinberg approved two more claims for death benefits from the GM victims compensation fund.

For the second time in less than a month, the number of deaths connected to faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ small cars has been revised upward. It now stands at 21.

Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of the victims compensation fund established by the automaker, approved two more claims for death benefits moving the number from 19. Less than two weeks ago, he approved six claims to change the number from 13 to 19.

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Additionally, he substantiated four claims for serious injuries, which under the definitions established includes amputations, burns, spinal cord or brain damage. Twelve of 467 claims for hospitalization with 48 hours of an accident were also deemed eligible for compensation. (more…)

Fuel Prices Plunge in US

Americans enjoying prices not seen since 2010

by on Sep.22, 2014

Despite unrest in the Middle East, gas prices are dropping to their lowest levels in four years.

Retail U.S. gas prices have taken another big tumble this month, and could drop sharply before year-end, according to various fuel industry analysts.

American motorists could wind up saving as much as $2.5 billion if the trend holds, according to tracking service, money that it expects will help fuel the country’s ongoing economic recovery.

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A survey by analyst Trilby Lundberg found that a gallon of regular gasoline has dipped by 9 cents during the last two weeks, while the numbers are down 34 cents since the beginning of summer. GasBuddy, meanwhile, is predicting the downward trend will continue. (more…)