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Debugging Volkswagen: SUVs Supplant Sedans, Hatches

But no more tongue-twisting model names.

by on Jan.17, 2018

One of the first jobs for VW Group of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken was revealing the new Atlas.

Things didn’t look very good when Hinrich Woebcken landed in the U.S. two years ago as the new CEO and President of the Volkswagen Group of America. The automaker had just acknowledged cheating on diesel emissions tests and was not only facing the prospect of paying billions of dollars in fines and settlements but a collapse in its U.S. sales as it was forced to pull off the market all of its popular diesel models.

“The only reason dealers didn’t kill me was that I was the new guy,” the German-born executive said, only half joking, during a presentation at the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday afternoon.

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These days, dealers are a lot more sanguine about Woebcken, and VW in general, though the VWoA chief cautioned that the automaker has a long way to go before he can claim success rebuilding its U.S. operations. (more…)

Hackett Tells Analysts Ford Cutting Car Production

Automaker upping truck and ute production 10% while cars getting 10% cut.

by on Jan.17, 2018

Ford CEO Jim Hackett told analysts the automaker is increasing truck and ute production and cutting cars to better meet customer preferences.

With the overwhelming number of truck and sport-utility debuts and news coming out of the North American International Auto Show this year, it’s not surprising that Ford CEO Jim Hackett appears ready to make an even bigger commitment to that segment.

Hackett told analysts last night the company acknowledged the shift in preferences by U.S. consumers, however, he wasn’t ready to put a final nail in the coffin of passenger cars at Ford.

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That said, he may be grabbing a hammer as he announced the company will be increasing the number of trucks and SUVs in the Ford line-up by 10% while cutting the passenger car portfolio by the same amount. (more…)

Jeep Cherokee Gets a More Conventional Look for 2019

Less “polarizing” headlights, but still some “weirdness” in the design.

by on Jan.16, 2018

The Trackhawk and Limited versions of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee finally break cover.

SUVs and crossover-utility vehicles are the hottest things on the market right now, accounting for half of U.S. new vehicle sales last year, and few brands have done a better job riding that wave than Jeep.

The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand is looking to hit record global sales of 2 million this year. That’d be double what Jeep  delivered as recently as 2014 and more than triple its volume when Chrysler was taken over by Italy’s Fiat at the beginning of the decade.

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Give credit to several factors, including not only the surge in overall demand for utility vehicles but the rapid expansion of the Jeep line-up and the race to keep existing models fresh. That includes the 2019 Jeep Cherokee that’s making its debut at this year’s North American International Auto Show.

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No Sale: FCA Not Negotiating with Chinese Nor Willing to Sell Off Jeep, Says Marchionne

Exec plans to release his final 5-year plan this quarter and then name his successor.

by on Jan.15, 2018

Marchionne plans to reveal his successor a few months from now but confides no women are in the running.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles isn’t open to selling off its Jeep brand nor has it fielded any offers for a complete takeover by a Chinese company, FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said during a media roundtable at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

Marchionne said he wanted to clear up reports that have, in recent months, suggested Fiat Chrysler was up for sale – or that it was willing to let go of some key assets, such as the Jeep or Ram brands. But the executive did not rule out a closer relations with GAC, the Guangzhou-based automaker that serves as its partner in the Chinese market.

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“Without them we could not have gone as far as we have in China,” said Marchionne, who stressed “We are not going to break up (the company and) we are having no discussions with anyone in China interested in acquiring us.”

(more…)

New Acura RDX is a “Prototype” in Name Only

Major redesign will usher in new “Precision Crafted Performance” design language.

by on Jan.15, 2018

The Acura RDX Prototype was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, giving folks a look at what next iteration of the RDX will look like.

Like its parent Honda, Japanese luxury brand Acura likes to tease us with thinly disguised “concepts” and “prototypes” that are going to be landing in dealerships in the not-too-distant future. The Acura RDX Prototype making its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is no exception.

But Acura can be forgiven for wanting to test the waters before diving in with the biggest update this compact crossover has undergone since its original introduction for the 2007 model-year. Indeed, the new look, which borrows heavily from the Precision Concept first shown in Detroit two years ago, is a dramatic shift in direction that could breathe some much-needed life into a brand that many luxury buyers routinely overlook.

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“The all-new RDX delivers a powerful statement about who we are and where we are headed as a brand,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura’s vice president and general manager – and previously the marque’s design chief. “For our customers, the new RDX is a quantum leap forward in design, style and performance, with luxury features and technology that will elevate their ownership experience.” (more…)

Infiniti Inspired: But What to Make of the New Q Inspiration Concept

Is this the long-awaited successor to the Q45?

by on Jan.15, 2018

The Q45 Inspiration Concept may not show up in the Infiniti line-up but will influence future product design, officials said.

Infiniti has a long history of teasing us with exotic concepts that eventually translate into slightly more sedate production vehicles. So, what to make of the inspiring new fastback prototype making its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit?

Have we finally gotten a glimpse of the long-awaited successor to the brand’s original halo car, the 1990 Q45? Or is the new Inspiration just there to tease us with hints of the direction Infiniti will take after a recent shake-up in corporate design management?

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“Our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti,” is all we’re getting from Alfonso Albaisa, the long-time Infiniti stylist who recently was named global design director for parent Nissan Motor Co. The Q Inspiration, he added, it meant to demonstrate Infiniti’s approach to “artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains.”

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Can 2019 Chevrolet Silverado Topple Ford’s King-of-the-Hill F-Series?

Chevy’s complete makeover brings eight distinct models, new powertrains, including high-mileage diesel.

by on Jan.14, 2018

Design Director Mike Simcoe reveals how the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado went from design sketch to design masterpiece.

While SUVs have garnered most of the spotlight, pickups have been building momentum at a frantic pace over the last several years and, barring a complete economic meltdown or a surge past $4 a gallon for gas, few expect to see demand for those tough trucks taper off anytime soon.

So, General Motors’ timing could be particularly fortuitous as it prepares to roll out complete makeovers of its full-size pickup line-up. The process begins with the unveiling of the all-new, 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 at this week’s North American International Auto Show – and will continue when the Silverado HD and GMC Sierra pickups make their debut later this year.

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“These are arguably the most important products in the Chevrolet portfolio,” said Global Chevrolet chief Alan Batey, as the new Silverado rolled onto the stage in front of a packed crowd at Detroit’s Eastern Market Saturday night. (more…)

Ranger Reborn: Ford Back in the Midsize Pickup Game

Ford aims to share in the segment’s unexpected revival.

by on Jan.14, 2018

After a six-year hiatus, Ford brought back the Ranger, this time as a midsize pickup.

Its been six years since Ford shuttered its ancient Twin Cities plant in Minnesota, walking away from what seemed to be, back then, a dying market segment.

But the Detroit automaker failed to reckon on what might happen when new product would be injected into the midsize category, General Motors scoring a hit with the likes of its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, and Honda hitting the ball out of the park by bringing back its own Ridgeline model.

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Ironically, Ford actually launched a new Ranger – but it was intended for just about every market except for North America, the company’s planners convinced they could get potential midsize buyers to make the walk up-market to the bigger F-150. But as it watched its competition rapidly rebuild the old midsize pickup segment – sales growing a hefty 83% since 2014 – Ford realized it needed to get back in the game. (more…)

China Posts Meager Auto Sales Gain in 2017

Sport-ute led the way to small 1.4% increase last year.

by on Jan.12, 2018

Auto sales in China increased marginally for 2017, but they were led by sport-utilites.

China’s auto sales stalled in December and ended 2017 up a meager 1.4% compared with a year ago results as the popularity of SUVs helped to offset falling demand for sedans, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said.

With global car makers such as General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen AG, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Nissan all reporting solid, but not spectacular, gains during 2017, smaller local brands common to almost every province and international brands such Ford and Hyundai, appeared to suffer the most for the slowdown, which was due in part to the end of special tax credits.

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The growth rate was barely one-tenth the previous year’s 15% rate, which was boosted by a temporary tax cut. (more…)

Volkswagen Offering Performance Passat GT

New Red Line-style sedan puts out 280 horsepower.

by on Jan.12, 2018

Volkswagen introduced the Passat GT performance sedan in Detroit.

Volkswagen’s improving results in the U.S. have been bolstered by its expanded sport-utility line-up, but the maker is also providing its loyal Passat owners something new for 2018: the Passat GT.

The new performance model, which was designed at the company’s North American design and engineering center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, bows at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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“The Passat GT illustrates how the North American Region can shape Volkswagen vehicles specifically for the U.S. market,” said Dr. Matthias Erb, chief engineering officer, North American Region, Volkswagen. “Combining a local perspective with our global engineering expertise allows us to create vehicles that meet the needs and desires of customers here.” (more…)