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First Drive: 2016 Kia Sorento

Maker’s new SUV aims to compete with Grand Cherokee, MDX.

by on Dec.18, 2014

Kia is debuting a revised and refined version of the Sorento, which will reach showrooms in January as a 2016 model.

In recent years, Kia has proven adept at reading consumer trends.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008-2009 recessions, the Korean automaker introduced the Kia Soul, a versatile, small vehicle designed to fit into tight urban spaces and appeal to the nascent “back-to-the-city” vibe among the rising millennial generation.

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As the demand for fuel efficiency has ebbed, Kia has deftly introduced its own version of practical luxury, the K900 earlier this year to catch the move towards expensive vehicle. Now with gas prices sinking and Americans clamoring for sport-utility vehicles, Kia is ready to bring on the revised and refined version of the Sorento, which will reach showrooms in January as a 2016 model. (more…)

GM Ignition Switch Related Deaths Rises to 42

Feinberg approves four more fatalities for settlements.

by on Dec.17, 2014

Kenneth Feinberg has approved 42 claims for death benefits from the GM victims compensation fund.

While General Motors’ executives continue to speak confidently of having put the ignition switch recall in the rear-view mirror, casualty claims related to the defective vehicles continue to climb.

Four more deaths have been linked to the ignition defect, raising the total to 42 fatalities, according to a report Monday from the attorney running the compensation fund for victims of crashes attributed to the faulty ignition.

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GM has received a total of 2,326 claims — 251 for deaths, 156 for catastrophic injuries and 1,919 for less-serious injuries that required hospitalization — according to the latest report from Kenneth Feinberg, the New York super lawyer, who was selected by GM to administer the claims settlements. (more…)

Ford Stock Taking Hit over Uncertainty Surrounding F-150

Will customers pay for pricey truck innovations with low gas prices?

by on Dec.16, 2014

The all-new Ford F-150 has some Wall Street analysts worried. Ford's stock is down 7.5% this year.

The launch of the new Ford F-150 pickup truck has been giving the Wall Street a case of the jitters ever since it was unveiled at the 2014 North American International Auto Show.

Ford Motor Co. stock tumbled again after an analyst’s note suggested the recent drop in price of oil, which has cut the price of gasoline to the lowest point in five years, might undercut Ford’s the strategy behind the new truck, which is made of aluminum to reduce weight and improve fuel economy.

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In trading Monday, the value of Ford shares dropped 4.7%, to close at $14.28, the lowest since Nov. 10. By way of comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined than 1% (.58%) on Monday, while the Standard & Poors also declined less than 1% (.63%). Ford’s shares are off 7.5% so far this year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 7.6%. (more…)

UAW Plans to Demand Hourly Wage Increase in Next Deal

Union boss says he’s looking to end two-tier wage system.

by on Dec.15, 2014

UAW President Dennis Williams wants a pay increase for hourly workers in the next union contract.

Hourly workers Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group have earned a pay increase and it will be one of the key demands the United Auto Workers puts on the table when contract talks open next summer.

“A general wage increase is important to our members and to our nation,” said UAW President Dennis Williams, who took over the UAW presidency in June from Bob King, during a year-end meeting with reporters at UAW headquarters in Detroit.

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Williams also noted the expectations for a pay increase are rising among the union’s membership, Williams said. “The companies are profitable again and there is expectation there. In 2008 and 2009 we had a disaster. We made sacrifices,” he said. (more…)

OPEC Claims No Price Target Set for Oil

U.S. production expected to increase next year, keeping prices low.

by on Dec.15, 2014

Abdalla Salem el-Badri, OPEC's top leader, said the organization has not set a target price for oil.

Despite speculation that OPEC is manipulating oil prices, the organization has no set price target for oil and will let the market determine what it should cost, said Abdalla Salem el-Badri, head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The price of gasoline has plunged, again, on the heels of fresh turmoil in the global energy markets, which has continued to unnerve trade and equity markets around the world.

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The AAA Gas Gauge estimated Sunday that gasoline price across the United States have dropped another 12 cents in the past week and could drop another 17 cents by Christmas according to AAA. Gasoline prices fell, following another drop in the price of crude oil, which has dropped by 41% since the end of 2013. At the end of last week, crude oil was trading for $57.49 a barrel. (more…)

Automakers Spending Big Money to Maximize Exposure with Super Bowl Ads

Even at $4.5 million for 30-second spot, most makers deem time worth the money.

by on Dec.12, 2014

Despite the strong response to its Little Darth Vader ads, VW plans to sit out Super Bowl XLIX.

The National Football League season is rushing towards its climax and soon the airwaves will be filled with NFL playoff games packed with advertising for new car and truck advertising culminating with the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, which is very likely to attract record amount of automotive advertising.

Flush with cash from strong sales during 2014 and a promising outlook for 2015, carmakers appear ready to spend heavily on the new advertising for the big game. And spend heavily they will, a 30-second spot is $4.5 million, which is up from $4 million during last year’s game.

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There will be some notable absences, however. Volkswagen, which scored a big success with its Little Darth Vader spot several years ago, is sitting on the sidelines this year. And Jaguar and Lincoln apparently won’t be there, either. But they will be exceptions, rather than the rule.

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Porsche Sales Push German Makers to Record Highs

German luxury makers enjoying impressive sales results in 2014.

by on Dec.11, 2014

The new GT3 is the most powerful naturally-aspirated 911 Porsche has ever produced.

Porsche AG confirmed that 2014 has been a banner year for the makers of high-priced German automobiles: sales for Porsche as well as luxury German makers are at or near all-time highs.

With 2014 nearly complete, Porsche is moving along in high gear as it cruises to record worldwide sales again this year. During November alone, Porsche delivered 17,700 vehicles – an increase of 25% over the same month last year, according to the German automaker.

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“This strong November is evidence that our strategy is working extremely well,” said Bernhard Maier, Member of the Executive Board – Sales and Marketing, Porsche AG. “It also confirms our commitment to taking advantage of every opportunity presented in the global markets,” he said. (more…)

Drivers Want More High-Tech Safety Features in Vehicles

Despite limitations, buyers desire new driver-assistance technologies.

by on Dec.11, 2014

Collision avoidance systems improve safety for individual vehicles and buyers are looking to add that level of safety.

Driver assistance technology, which is found on more and more new vehicles, can help prevent accidents, but drivers should be aware that the new safety features have limitations, according to a new study by AAA.

The testing revealed that blind-spot monitoring systems had difficulty detecting fast-moving vehicles – such as when merging onto a busy highway. Alerts were often provided too late for evasive action, AAA said.

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Motorcycles, which are becoming a more popular form of transportation in some parts of the country such as Southern California, were detected by blind-spot monitoring systems 26% later than passenger vehicles, making them significantly less effective in spotting two-wheeled vehicles in heavy traffic. (more…)

UAW Foresees Labor Contract with Volkswagen Plant

Maker’s recognition at Chattanooga facility first step in process.

by on Dec.10, 2014

Gary Casteel, the UAW's Secretary Treasurer, said VW's recognition opens the door for discussions on any number of topics. (Photo credit: UAW)

The United Auto Workers expects Volkswagen’s recognition of the union at the company’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will lead ultimately to a labor contract with the German automaker.

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s Secretary Treasurer and leader of the union’s organizing effort in Chattanooga, said Volkswagen’s recognition opens the door for discussions on any number of topics.

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While a contract isn’t at the top of the list now since that would require formal legal recognition of the union by VW, but it certainly is a possibility in the not so distant future, Casteel said. (more…)

UAW Defeats Foes in Battle of Chattanooga

Volkswagen acknowledges union’s role as employee representative.

by on Dec.09, 2014

An employee at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant signs on the dotted line allowing the UAW to act as her representative. (Photo credit: UAW)

The United Auto Workers appears to have finally cracked the solidly non-union South.

The UAW said it now has enough employee signatures at the Volkswagen of America plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to serve as their representative in discussions with VW management on both the local and international level.

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“We appreciate Volkswagen’s timely response in verifying UAW Local 42’s substantial membership level, which exceeds a majority of workers at the plant,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, who heads the International Union’s Transnational Department. (more…)