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Two Suppliers Paying $14.5 Mil in Price-Fixing Suit

Money being paid to new vehicle buyers, lessees.

by on Aug.28, 2015

Two more auto suppliers are paying millions of dollars in fines related to civil suits over price-fixing allegations in multiple countries.

The damages paid by auto suppliers involved in an international price-fixing scheme continue to rise as two more Japanese companies, Fujikura Ltd. and T.Rad Co. Ltd., have agreed to pay a total of more than $14.5 million to the plaintiffs in multi-district litigation against auto parts makers.

So far lawyers for the plaintiffs in the civil suits have now recovered nearly $200 million from the suppliers, most of whom are based in Japan.

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The civil litigation is independent of the criminal charges leveled against the suppliers by the U.S. Department of Justice and authorities in Japan and the European Union. Criminal fines and penalties leveled over the cartel-like behavior of the suppliers now total more than $2.5 billion. (more…)

New Car Sales Expected to Remain Steady in August

Fiat Chrysler's sales streak may come to an end.

by on Aug.27, 2015

Some observers are predicting FCA's five-year streak of month-over-month sales increases may come to an end in August.

August auto sales may be mirroring the many of the world’s economies these days: uncertain. Predictions about the final tally run from sales being down to sales being up. Much like investors wondering what to do in the tumultuous stock markets these days, the answer depends upon who you ask.

Kelly Blue Book expects sales to decline 4% year-over-year due to the exclusion of Labor Day weekend in this month’s sales results. If true, the slide could put Fiat Chrysler’s long string of monthly sales increases, which has extended for more than five years, at risk, according to KBB.

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On the other hand, TrueCar, the car buying service, suggests sales could wind up rising by 4% and FCA U.S.’s impressive streak of increases is safe. (more…)

Volkswagen’s Battle for Global Sales Crown Hurt by China

German maker's sales down 1% through July.

by on Aug.26, 2015

As Chinese auto sales slow, Volkswagen is struggling to stay atop the global sales rankings.

Slow auto sales in China are hurting Volkswagen in the heat of its battle royal with Toyota for global sales supremacy.

From January to July this year, the VW Group, despite gains by Audi and Porsche, reported delivering a total of 5.83 million vehicles, which was down 1% from the number of vehicles the group sold worldwide during the same period in 2014.

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The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand saw its sales drop by 4.3% in the first seven months of 2015, but Audi increased sales by 3.5% while Porsche delivered a total of 134,700 vehicles in the period to July, increasing sales by 28.5% compared with the previous year. (more…)

Gas Prices Fall as Markets Stumble

Prices fall in Midwest despite refinery issues.

by on Aug.25, 2015

The average price for gas has dropped recently in the U.S., despite refinery issues in the Midwest.

With the stock markets across the world in turmoil, oil prices are continuing to spiral downward and gasoline prices are also tumbling as the end of the summer driving season.

The average U.S. gas prices are at the lowest levels for this time of year since 2004 — the year before Hurricane Katrina shut down refineries along the Gulf Coast — due to the continuing decline in the cost of crude oil, according to the AAA’s weekly survey.

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Gas prices have dropped despite ongoing refinery problems, particularly in the Midwest, and prices are expected to fall this autumn due to declining demand and the switchover to winter-blend gasoline. (more…)

China’s Economic Crisis Working to Volvo’s Advantage

Swedish maker gets more control from Chinese parent.

by on Aug.24, 2015

A Volvo S60L sedan rolling down the assembly line at the maker's plant in Chengdu, China.

The financial turmoil in China is actually working to the advantage of Volvo Cars. The Swedish automaker, now owned by China’s Geely, is getting more control of key assets, such as its factory in Chengdu, as part of a deal valued at $356 million.

Volvo Cars executives said the decision to take control of its three joint venture operations in China will accurately reflect its growing presence in the Chinese  market . It also fixes the values of the assets in case of a merger or if they are put up as collateral for a major loan in the future, observers said.

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The downside is that Volvo is being hammered, like the rest of the auto industry, by the worst slowdown in the Chinese automotive market in two decades. The downturn could push Volvo to expand plans to export cars from China to the U.S. and other established markets.

(more…)

Americans Driving More than Ever

U.S. drivers getting behind the wheel more and more.

by on Aug.24, 2015

Americans set a new record for most miles driven for the the first six months of the year.

In recent years, there has been plenty of speculation that Americans may be turning off the ignition switch. As telecommuting has become more popular and population of urban centers as diverse as Chicago and Portland have boomed, there’s been plenty of anecdotal evidence to lend credence to those assertions

But an updated report from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) scuttles those thought. U.S. residents have driven a record number of miles in the first half of 2015. American drivers have traveled 1.54 trillion miles between January and June, topping a previous record of 1.5 trillion miles that was set in 2007, according to the feds.

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The figure is more than double the number of miles driven by U.S. residents in 1981, according to the agency. (more…)

Take Me to The No-Prototype Honda Pilot

Honda’s new SUV employs new manufacturing process in Alabama.

by on Aug.21, 2015

Honda implemented its No Prototype Development system when it designed and built the 2016 Pilot.

Honda is demonstrating its willingness to be a manufacturing leader with its newest SUV. The Japanese maker added the new 2016 Pilot to its portfolio of trucks and utility vehicle without building a single prototype.

Carmakers have used hand-built prototypes for decades and were long considered a key step in engineering a new vehicle. After they are fabricated, the prototype, or prototypes, are then used to set up the assembly line for building the production vehicle. But Honda R&D and Honda Manufacturing of Alabama skipped the prototype process and set up the assembly line for the new Pilot in Lincoln, Alabama, without building a single prototype – saving time and money.

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Jeff Tomko, president of Honda Manufacturing Alabama, said during a presentation in Detroit that the new Honda Pilot was the Honda vehicle designed and engineered in the U.S., using only “virtual” systems and tools to set up the assembly line.  The “No Prototype Development,” or NDP, eliminated the need for creating the prototypes, Tomko said. (more…)

GM Extends Life of Canadian Plant – Again

Company invests millions into Oshawa plant.

by on Aug.20, 2015

GM has spared its plant in Oshawa, Ontario, from closure for a third time.

With the value of the Canadian dollar dropping, General Motors now plans to keep an Oshawa, Ontario, assembly line operating until 2017, the company’s Canadian unit said.

The announcement extends the life of a line that has been repeatedly scheduled for closure during the last decade.

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GM said it would invest $12 million Canadian to increase Chevrolet Equinox production and make related changes at the separate CAMI Assembly, extending production on its consolidated line to 2017. (more…)

Ford Faces SEC Probe over Possible Russian Bribes

Agency joining forces with German authorities.

by on Aug.19, 2015

Ford is being investigated by German and U.S. regulators over charges the automaker bribed Russian customs officials.

German authorities and U.S. regulators are investigating allegations that representatives of the Ford Motor Co. participated in an illicit bribery scheme in Russia, according to the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is helping German prosecutors to investigate the alleged payment of bribes by Ford to speed the passage of containers through Russian customs, a source at the U.S. carmaker told the newspaper. Bribes of foreign officials by U.S. companies are explicitly outlawed and can lead to severe penalties.

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Ford and Schenker, the freight business of state-owned German rail company Deutsche Bahn, have been under investigation by German authorities since 2013 over suspected bribery and other offenses related to the busy Russian port of St. Petersburg. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota points Tacoma off road.

by on Aug.18, 2015

Toyota's new 2016 Tacoma is designed to be a very capable off-road machine with an improved suspension and more powerful engine.

Once upon a time, Toyota touted the Tacoma as an answer to the larger pickup trucks built by Ford Motor Co., General Motors and the old Chrysler Group.

The strategy fell apart, but the Tacoma found its niche anyway. Thanks to the strength of the company’s dealer network in the western U.S., it has earned the loyalty of a substantial group of buyers looking for a durable truck that’s a bit smaller than a Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado and capable of going off road.

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The introduction of the 2016 Tacoma underscores the growing competition in the midsize truck segment where the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have made a big splash and a new Nissan Frontier will appear soon. (more…)