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VW Chairman Piech Unexpectedly Quits After Clash Over Company’s Future

Militant trade unionist named his acting replacement.

by on Apr.27, 2015

Ferdinand Piech, grandson of VW's founder, resigned as chairman due to a dispute over his successor.

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech unexpectedly tendered his resignation over the weekend, capping a bitter battle over the future of the German automaker.

Piech, who has been credited with crafting the growth and acquisition strategy that transformed VW into the world’s second-largest car company, had clashed with other board members over his eventual successor. The 78-year-old Piech had openly criticized VW’s current CEO, and its likely next chairman, Martin Winterkorn.

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The upheaval at Volkswagen appears to bolster the hand of the German unions in running the company – and could alter the trajectory of the company’s drive to become the world’s largest automaker. VW came a hairsbreadth short of dislodging Japanese rival Toyota last year.

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Automakers Regain Momentum in April – Market Looking at Best in Decade

Power forecast sees industry making up ground after cold winter.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Trucks, like this Ford F-150 shown with CEO Mark Fields, continue to gain momentum in the US market.

Consumer demand for new vehicles during April is the best it’s been in 10 years, according to a new analysis by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

With the warmer, spring weather finally settling in across the U.S., total light-vehicle sales are projected to reach 1,463,700, a 5% increase compared with April 2014 and the highest level for the month since April 2005.  The total seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, or SAAR, is expected to hit 16.6 million units.

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“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “The average new-vehicle transaction price so far in April is $30,680, on pace to achieve a new record for the month.” The current record was set in April 2014 when transaction prices averaged $29,948,” he said.

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American Dreaming: Exhibit Looks Back at the Golden Age of the U.S. Auto Industry

Rare finds often were smuggled out of Detroit’s design studios.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Bill Blogh's 1953 Ford concept sketch captured the sci-fi mood of the era.

In the optimistic post-War era, few things better defined the American lifestyle than the cars we drove. The ’57 Chevy and the finned Cadillac Eldorado were far more than mere transportation.

Drawings and sketches by designers who created the cars of the 1950s and 1960s are being honored with a unique display at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan through May 2.

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The exhibit, “American Dreaming: Detroit ’s Golden Age of Automotive Design,” is the first comprehensive exhibition to offer a look at the art work produced inside the design studios of Detroit ’s automakers between 1946 to 1973.

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Ford Cuts Shift, 700 Jobs, at Key Michigan Plant

Cutbacks spread as American motorists shift from small cars to SUVs.

by on Apr.24, 2015

The Ford Focus has been losing momentum despite receiving some updates for 2015.

Weak passenger car sales have prompted Ford Motor Co. to eliminate a shift at a Michigan assembly line that builds compact and battery vehicles, including the Focus and Focus EV.

With gasoline prices dropping to their lowest level in years, demand for SUVs has been rising while prompting a sharp slide in sales of smaller and alternative-fuel vehicles, like this built at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The announcement, which will impact 700 Ford workers, comes on top of General Motors’ decision to temporarily idle production of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid at a plant nearby.

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“Ford will be working to redeploy affected hourly employees (affected by the cuts) and they will be considered first for southeast Michigan opportunities as they become available,” the automaker said in a statement.

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SAE Panel Lays Out Framework for Arrival of Autonomous Vehicles

Executives cite connectivity, more players as key to growth.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Tesla's Model S will be one of the first examples of vehicles using autonomous vehicle technology on the road this summer.

Pandora’s Box is now officially open.

The emergence of self-driving vehicles as a major force in the automotive industry was underscored this week during the Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit, where the topic of self-driving easily eclipsed fuel-efficiency as the major topic of discussion.

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Seval Oz, chief executive officer of Intelligent Transportation Systems at Continental AG, said two of the factors that are driving the autonomous car revolution are exponential growth of wireless connectivity in cars and the demand by other companies for the attention of drivers and passengers, who spend upwards of two hours in a vehicle during the daily commute. (more…)

Regulators, Lawmakers Key to Autonomous Vehicle Success

Rules for self-driving cars lag development.

by on Apr.22, 2015

Delphi is demonstrated the capability of its automated driving system by driving an Audi Q5 from San Francisco to New York City.

Autonomous driving and autonomous vehicles face some serious challenges in the litigious and risk-adverse American society of the 21st century, according to discussions at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers Conference in Detroit.

The expectations and challenges of automated driving technology are critical to the future of the automobile business, Toshio Yokoyama, a executive from Honda Research & Development, who is one of the Japanese automaker’s leading experts on electronics during a panel discussion on automated driving.

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‎Steffen Linkenbach, head of Systems and Technology, North America for Continental AG, said the idea that autonomous driving could reduce traffic fatalities and injuries is helping propel the autonomous driving concept and animated projects such as Volvo’s City Safety car, which is aimed at preventing accidents on congested urban areas. (more…)

Google Exec Says Autonomous Cars Are Coming

Futurist Kurzweil isn’t sure exactly when they’ll arrive though.

by on Apr.22, 2015

Ray Kurzweil, Google's director of engineering, believes that autonomous vehicles will be here sooner rather than later due to rapidly developing technology.

The steady growth of computing power is certain to disrupt the auto industry in the years to come, a top executive from Google said as the Society of Automotive Engineers opened its annual conference and exposition in Detroit.

Ray Kurzweil, a pioneer in the deployment of artificial intelligence who joined Google as the director of engineering in 2012, kicked off the SAE annual conference by noting that the rapidly declining cost of computing power and the advances in artificial intelligence will make autonomous driving sooner rather than later.

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“Coming from Google, Google advised me to share with you they don’t know the answer,” he said by way of telling the attendees he was unsure to say when autonomous or self-driving cars will become a common sight on the world’s highways. But he was enthusiastic about the prospects for the future. (more…)

Gas Prices Jump as Crude Oil Rises

Drivers paying more at the pump in last week.

by on Apr.21, 2015

Gas prices are beginning to rise after dropping during the Easter holiday a few weeks ago.

The national average price of gas has increased about seven cents per gallon over the past week due to sharply rising crude oil costs as AAA’s weekly survey of gasoline prices reflected a reversal of the downward trend in the face of concerns about oil supplies and stockpiles.

Domestic crude oil prices last week reached the highest levels of 2015 as supplies built more slowly than anticipated. Despite the increase, consumers continue to benefit from substantially lower gas prices compared to recent years, with the national average of $2.46 per gallon this week representing the least expensive average for this date since 2009.

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The market also weighed potential geopolitical concerns in the Middle East. Domestic oil prices are more than $10 per barrel higher than a month ago, which has contributed to higher gas prices, AAA said. (more…)

New Driver Aid Prevents Accidents

Testing shows errors can be eliminated before they happen.

by on Apr.20, 2015

Researchers have developed technology that monitors a driver's movements and warns them when they are about to make a mistake.

No one has come up with a foolproof system for autonomous driving but driver assistance programs that help motorists control their vehicles are becoming more sophisticated all the time.

Cornell and Stanford University researchers have developed a system that anticipates what a driver is going to do a few seconds before it happens using cameras and a new computer algorithm.

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Some cars are already equipped with safety systems that monitor a car’s movement and warn if there is an unsafe turn or lane change, the researchers noted. But the warning comes too late, after the driver has acted. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Fiat 500X

Small crossover makes big impression.

by on Apr.17, 2015

Fiat's new 500X small crossover may be the right mix of room and style to attract U.S. buyers.

Automakers are forever looking for a formula among that will win over the affections of increasingly fussy consumers.

For Fiat, which hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since it came returned to the U.S. four years ago, the challenge is perhaps more daunting if it doesn’t want to remain stuck among the also-rans in the contest for customers.

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But the Italian-brand is making progress and with the new Fiat 500X, the small crossover made in Italy, it is making a serious effort to win over the urban consumers, who are increasingly influential part of the car buying public. (more…)