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Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Taking things to the next level.

by on Feb.27, 2015

The 2015 Golf R adds another strong entry to the expanding Golf hatchback family.

What do you do when you’ve nabbed some of the industry’s top honors? How do you one-up yourself after being named both North American Car of the Year, as well as Motor Trend Car of the Year.  If you’re Volkswagen, you take things to the next level with the launch of the new Golf R.

With its turbocharged, 292-horsepower inline-four, a pavement grabbing all-wheel-drive system and an electronic differential lock designed to keep you always pointed in the right direction, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R is more than just the sportiest member of the fast-growing Golf “family.” It’s also the sort of product the German maker needs to kick-start a brand that has been unable to take advantage of the overall recovery of the U.S. car market.

The Last Word!

If you think this is just a slightly upgraded version of the GTI, well, you need to spend a little time behind the wheel of the new Golf R. Preferably on some fast roads with plenty of aggressive corners. We were lucky enough to be handed a set of keys and a route map that took us into the winding mountain passes east of San Diego – with, of course, a stop for some pie in Julian, a pleasant little mountain town that time has virtually passed by.

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Volkswagen Reports 20 Percent Profit Jump

Audi, Porsche results lead to strong results.

by on Feb.27, 2015

VW CEO Martin Winterkorn is expressing caution about 2015 after a strong 2014.

Volkswagen reported a 20% increase in net profits in 2014 and despite predicting it would meet it’s lofty ambition of selling 10 million units this year – three years early – it is cautious about 2015.

“Given the subdued growth prospects in regions outside China, there is no guarantee that 2015 will be a successful year – either for the industry or for the Volkswagen Group”, said Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Pötsch.

Automotive Insight!

The automaker was led by strong sales years by its luxury unit, Audi, and sports car maker, Porsche. Actually, if you include heavy-duty trucks, VW exceeded that number by delivering a total 10.14 million, which is an increase of 4.2%. However, the number was meant for passenger cars and it expects to hit the number. (more…)

Aston Martin Takes to the Track with New Vulcan

Fire-breathing racer expected to make 800 hp.

by on Feb.27, 2015

Aston Martin's new Vulcan supercar puts out 800 horsepower and will cost about $2.3 million.

In Roman mythology, Vulcan was the god of armor and fire, his forge sending flames out from Mount Aetna. In the hands of British automaker Aston Martin, Vulcan is still shooting flames – but in this case, out of its side-exit exhaust pipes.

The Aston Martin Vulcan is the name the maker has given to its new limited-edition, track-only supercar. Making a promised 800 horsepower, it’s the sort of four-wheeled rocket superspy James Bond might relish. But even he might have a hard time getting one, as Aston plans to build just 24 of them.

Power!

This is about as extreme a machine as Aston has ever developed, perhaps other than the One-77 ultracar of a few years back, “a sports car for true sports car lovers,” says CEO Andy Palmer, who promises Vulcan “sets a whole new standard in the ultra-high luxury supercar class.” (more…)

New Vehicles Getting Less than 20 MPG on Decline

One in four new vehicles average less than 20 mpg in 2014.

by on Feb.27, 2015

Small cars, like the Chevy Sonic, have helped to push the average fuel economy of vehicles to new heights.

As automakers and the federal government head toward a potential clash over the 54.5 mpg corporate average fuel economy mandate for 2025, a recent study shows that automakers are making substantive gains in fuel economy: about one in four new vehicles get less than 20 mpg.

That’s a significant uptick in just six years, according to the University of Michigan, which show that in 2008, half of new-car buyers in the U.S. bought vehicles that were rated at less than 20 mpg.

Stay Informed!

The shift is a reflection of several factors that helped push the industry into building and American consumers into buying more fuel-efficient vehicles. The rising price of gasoline, which jumped in wake of a series of hurricanes in fall of 2005, beginning with Hurricane Katrina that swept through the Gulf of Mexico and disrupted the production of gasoline and diesel fuel, set helped renew interest in fuel economy. (more…)

Congressman Pushes Nationwide Traffic Camera Ban

U.S. lawmaker joins growing opposition; questions grow about both fairness and effectiveness.

by on Feb.27, 2015

Opposition to traffic cameras keeps growing.

A U.S. Congressman has joined the growing chorus of opponents who want to see the end of automated cameras used to enforce traffic laws across the country.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat, has proposed a nationwide ban on the technology – which he contends is used primarily for generating revenue for cash-strapped communities. Congressman Perlmutter isn’t alone. Lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle have joined forces to call for a traffic camera ban in Tennessee, while a judge in Ft. Lauderdale this week ruled the technology violates Florida law.

Auto Insight!

But the bill proposed by the Colorado representative, the “Prohibit Automated Enforcement Act of 2015,” is the first attempt to block the use of cameras at a national level.

“Automated traffic technology should be used for improving public-safety purposes rather than local governments relying on these devices to generate revenue,” Perlmutter said in a written statement.

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Mercedes Reveals Track-Ready AMG GT3

"Credible proof of our ambition to lead."

by on Feb.26, 2015

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 will start racing in 2016.

Expect to see some serious track-ready sheet metal make an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show next week, including a track-only offering from Aston Martin, and a dual street and track Cayman GT4 from Porsche.

So, how could Mercedes-Benz be left out of that high-performance pack? It can’t…or won’t, it turns out. Look for the Teutonic maker to bring its own track model to Geneva’s PALExpo convention center in the form of the AMG GT3.

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Performance News!

“We are entering a hard-fought and hotly competitive environment with the new Mercedes-AMG GT3,” declares Tobias Moers, the performance brand’s chairman. “You can only give credible proof of your ambition to lead if you’re beating the very best in the game.

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GM Shuts Down Spin Production in Indonesia

Poor sales, low profits spell end for 500 jobs at plant.

by on Feb.26, 2015

GM will stop building the Chevrolet Spin in Indonesia this summer and close the plant just outside of Jakarta eliminating 500 jobs.

Weeks after announcing a new partnership with its Chinese partner, SAIC Motor Corp., to build small SUVs in Indonesia, General Motors is shuttering its car-making operations in the world’s fourth-most populous country.

The move means the loss of 500 jobs in the country as GM recalibrates its efforts to be successful in Asia. Right now, it means a move toward making more sport-utility vehicles and getting out of building cars on it’s own. The automaker was getting beaten up by Japanese makers.

Stay in the Know!

“GM Indonesia is undergoing a market-driven transformation,” said Stefan Jacoby, GM executive vice president and president, GM International, in a release. “This transformation will strengthen the business and dealer network by focusing on building the Chevrolet brand and delivering a competitive, high-quality portfolio to meet the needs of customers in Indonesia.” (more…)

Toyota Putting its Quirky i-Road into Tokyo Carsharing Program

Users can rent it for 2.5 hours at a time.

by on Feb.26, 2015

Toyota is using its i-Road EV as part of a carsharing project in Japan and France.

It looks like the illegitimate offspring of a motorcycle and a Smart microcar, and was initially laughed off as one of the endless stream of quirky concept vehicles Japanese makers have historically rolled out.

But the Toyota i-Road didn’t disappear like most of those concept cars after making its debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The pint-sized three-wheeler is about to be offered for public use as part of a carsharing program in Tokyo. It’s also part of a public transport plan being developed by the French city of Grenoble.

A Reliable Source!

The i-Road makes the Smart Fortwo looks positively huge. The diminutive vehicle can squeeze in two – just barely – seated tandem style. And it’s not designed to replace a conventional automobile. Toyota says it I meant to be used for “the last mile,” in conjunction with a mass transit system. (more…)

MIT Names V2V Communication Top 10 Breakthrough Technology

Ability to ease congestion, cut traffic deaths cited.

by on Feb.26, 2015

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems that make driving safer were named as a breakthrough technology by MIT.

MIT Technology Review named Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a much-discussed idea in the auto industry, one of the 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2015.

Each year, MIT and Technology identify technologies from the past year that solve difficult problems or create powerful new ways of using technology to make the world better.

We Keep You Plugged In!

The V2V communications technology allows vehicles to communicate with other vehicles and is considered by advocates as a solution to reducing the slow traffic on increasingly crowded roads and freeways and to cutting traffic injuries and fatalities. (more…)

Car Sales Down, Auto Jobs Shift to Trucks

Ford adds jobs at Edge plant, GM trims back on car line.

by on Feb.26, 2015

Low gas prices are helping to drive sales of full-size pickups like the Ford F-150, which is forcing makers to add jobs.

The sharp slump in fuel prices has generally been good news for auto buyers and automakers alike. A growing number of buyers have been shifting from high-mileage cars to bigger pickups and utility vehicles in recent months.

For manufacturers, that has swelled the bottom line since those vehicles tend to deliver some of the industry’s largest profits. But not everyone is celebrating. While companies, like Ford and GM, have been responding by increasing production of their best-sellers, they’re also trimming back at under-utilized car plants.

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And that trend could continue going forward. Industry analysts anticipate that utility vehicles will outsell sedans for the first time ever in 2015, while pickups will report their best year since the economic slump began. (more…)