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Lincoln Sticks with Old Name for (Almost) New Truck

Major update in the works – but not for now.

by on Sep.22, 2014

The most visually obvious change to the 2015 Navigator is the use of the new Lincoln grille.

Already confirming plans for four new vehicles by 2016, Ford Motor Co. has a number of additional new products in the pipeline for the years that follow, including a sporty coupe that will share the same platform as its new-for-2015 Ford Mustang.

There’s also a new version of its long-in-the-tooth Lincoln Navigator in the works – though, for now, buyers who want the full-size luxury SUV will have to settle for a largely warmed-over version of the big truck.

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At least they won’t have to try to figure out a new nomenclature. While everything else in the Lincoln line-up has adopted a name starting with MK, the Navigator will remain the Navigator going forward.

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Fiat and Mitsubishi Teaming Up on New Midsize Pickup

Is a new alliance between Mitsubishi and Chrysler in the cards?

by on Sep.19, 2014

Fiat and Mitsubishi entered into an agreement for the Japanese maker to provide Fiat with midsize trucks in Europe and Latin America.

The Fiat side of newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has signed a tentative agreement to purchase a midsize pickup truck plant from Mitsubishi for re-sale by its commercial vehicle unit in Europe and Latin America.

The project raises new questions about whether the U.S. side of the company might get back into the midsize segment it abandoned several years ago. If so, it could signal a rebirth of the long-running relationship between Chrysler and Mitsubishi

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As part of the Memoradum of Understanding, or MOU, Fiat and Mitsubishi will study “the possibility to develop and manufacture a midsize pick-up truck,” the two companies said in a joint statement, based on the Japanese maker’s L200 model. (more…)

Nissan Charged Up about Battery Rumors

Maker denies any changes to powerplant program.

by on Sep.19, 2014

Nissan denied reports that it is considering cutting back on its EV-related production that has been a key component of CEO Carlos Ghosn's tenure.

Nissan officials dismissed speculation that it was preparing to scale back production at its battery plan in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Nissan spokesman Travis Parman said in an e-mail the company have no plans to make any changes in its ambitious electric vehicle program. The program has been a signature initiative of Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive at both Renault and Nissan.

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“The Renault-Nissan Alliance remains 100% committed to its industry-leading EV program. This global commitment continues for the foreseeable future, and we have not taken any decision whatsoever to modify battery sourcing allocation,” Parman wrote. (more…)

China’s Lack of Brand Loyalty Helping German Automakers

Study shows buyers looking to upgrade plan to buy German cars.

by on Sep.18, 2014

Buyers in China looking for a luxury brand lean toward German makers, such as BMW.

Chinese consumers are proving as fickle as their counterparts in the United States, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group, and that may be good news for German car brands there.

Roughly 40% of the owners of cars from Chinese makers planning to trade their vehicle for a global or “foreign” brand said they intend to buy a Volkswagen model. Nearly 90% of foreign volume-brand owners who are trading up said they are likely to buy an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, according to the group, known as BCG.

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China remains the world’s largest automobile market with sales expected to top 21 million units this year, dwarfing sales in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan, the industry’s traditional key markets. (more…)

Auto Industry Players Supporting U-M Research Center

Companies give $1 million to aid connected car programs.

by on Sep.17, 2014

Testing and developing connected and automated vehicles like these will be the focus of the Mobility Transformation Center at the University of Michigan.

More than a dozen companies are throwing their support – and dollars – behind the University of Michigan’s Mobility Transformation Center and its plans to research and develop connected and automated vehicles.

A mix of automakers, suppliers, communications and technology companies – called the Leadership Circle – have pledged more than $1 million during the next three years to help the center, also known as the MTC, expand research program. Additional companies, known as affiliates, are also participating.

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“We are on the threshold of a transformation in mobility that the world hasn’t seen since the introduction of the automobile a century ago,” said Dr. Peter Sweatman, director of the MTC. (more…)

Audi Secures First Driverless Car Permit in California

The Golden State rolls out new regs for autonomous vehicles.

by on Sep.16, 2014

Audi is the first company to receive an autonomous driving permit issued by California

California’s fabled automotive culture passed another milestone today as the state’s new law governing autonomous driving went into effect, leaving the road open to pilotless cars though they aren’t expected to turn up on the 405, the Pacific Coast Highway or the Golden Gate Bridge anytime soon.

Audi, the ever-eager German carmaker, is the first company to receive an autonomous driving permit issued by California. The maker has conducted research over tens of thousands of miles in Europe and various U.S. states, where such testing is permitted.

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The research is aimed at preparing a highly automated piloted driving system for freeway traffic conditions. Audi envisions this technology could be ready for consumer introduction within five years. (more…)

Germany’s ZF Coughs up $13.5 Bil to Buy TRW

Acquisition likely to intensify race for autonomous driving systems.

by on Sep.16, 2014

ZF's acquisition of TRW may have just heated up the competition among suppliers to develop autonomous vehicle technologies.

In a $13.5 billion deal likely to intensify the race to bring autonomous driving technology to market, Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen AG will acquire U.S. auto partsmaker TRW Automotive Holdings Corp.

The transaction will create the world’s second-largest automotive supplier, with combined sales of approximately $41 billion and 138,000 employees, the two companies said in a joint statement. The agreement was unanimously approved by TRW’s Board of Directors and ZF’s Supervisory Board and Management Board.

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The ZF and TRW deal is expected to close early next year and the combined company “will be well positioned to capitalize on favorable megatrends” in the automotive industry by bringing together complementary product offerings and leading technology positions that serve high-growth areas such as fuel efficiency, increased safety requirements and autonomous driving, executives from the two companies said. (more…)

Barra Leads GM Trip Exploring Growth in India

Maker searching for ways to avoid pitfalls.

by on Sep.12, 2014

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and GM India Managing Director Arvind Saxena roll out the first Chevrolet Beat for export from the GM Talegaon manufacturing facility in India.

For the world’s automakers, India is a land of unlimited potential. It has a large, well-educated and growing middle-class with an entrepreneurial tradition and a dynamic culture that has spread its influence around the world.

General Motors certainly is no exception when it comes to its interest in India. In fact, Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, and several board members traveled to the country to gain more insight into how the automaker can avoid the pitfalls other automakers have experienced.

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The auto industry in India has been hobbled by seeming intractable infrastructure problems that have limited the attraction of automobiles despite the rising incomes from India’s proficient tech culture. (more…)

Toyota Eyeing Plant for Mexico

Maker reportedly eyeing several possible locations.

by on Sep.11, 2014

Toyota may be the next to head South of the Border.

Toyota may soon become the next major automaker to open an assembly plant in Mexico, following other global manufacturers including BMW, Kia and Mercedes-Benz, all of whom announced plans to set up operations “South of the border” in recent months.

Toyota, which already operates an extensive manufacturing network in the U.S. and Canada, would not be a stranger to Mexico. It already operates a so-called “kit car” plant in Baja, California an hour south of Tijuana, that assembles about 50,000 small pickup trucks annually.  But unlike other global manufacturers, Toyota has not built a full-scale assembly plant in Mexico, which has seen automotive-oriented investments boom in recent years.

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Mexico is already the world’s sixth-largest auto producing nation, with manufacturers including Detroit’s Big Three, Volkswagen and Nissan, firmly entrenched. Audi is in the midst of readying a plant near Puebla that will become the first to build luxury cars. Honda joined the procession in February, and, just since June, Kia Motor Corp. BMW AG and Daimler AG have announced plans for Mexican operations.

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VW Looking to Americanize Vehicles Sold in US

Maker planning product development center in Tennessee.

by on Sep.10, 2014

VW is hoping its CrossBlue Concept will spur U.S. sales, which are down 13.4% in 2014.

Volkswagen wants more American input into its vehicles sold in the U.S. so it’s creating a product development center in Tennessee. Despite this need, the maker’s “Cross Blue” concept, which is supposed to revive U.S. sales, will be developed solely in Germany.

The new product development center will be next to its assembly plant in Chattanooga and help shorten the company’s product cycle, according to Mark Trahan, Volkswagen of America executive vice president.

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During the company’s recent product line preview, Trahan noted that cutting development cycles was a key objective in the company’s plans and should strengthen the maker’s position in the U.S. The center, which should be up and running in the next couple of years, is eventually expected to have as many as 200 employees. (more…)