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Ford’s Fields Makes Mark with New Appointments

CEO replaces Farley as head of Lincoln.

by on Jul.22, 2014

Kumar Galhotra is succeeding Jim Farley as President of Lincoln. Farley remains in charge of Ford's global marketing efforts.

Less than a month after taking over as Ford Motor Co.’s CEO, Mark Fields is making his first tweak to the company’s leadership team by replacing Jim Farley as the head of Lincoln with Kumar Galhotra, who had been vice president of engineering. The pair will report to Fields and the change is effective Sept. 1.

Farley, who came to Ford from Toyota with a reputation as a brilliant marketer and will remain in charge of global marketing, was charged with creating a new approach to customers for the company’s struggling luxury unit.

We're a Luxury You Can Afford!

However, as Lincoln rebuilds and expands it’s only natural that the brand has a dedicated leader, Ford officials said. (more…)

US Motorists Expected to Use Less Fuel in Coming Years

Transportation energy needs declining overall, but automobiles show sharpest fall-off.

by on Jul.21, 2014

Americans are now expected to trim their energy consumption notably over the next quarter century.

A combination of changing demographics, greater fuel efficiency and wider use of alternative energy sources is expected to reduce the amount of energy Americans consume for transportation over the next quarter century.

A new survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates the long-term fuel needs for cars, trucks, airplanes, boats, and rail will steadily decline through 2040.

Be Empowered!

Transportation energy, including energy demand from light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, marine vessels, rail and other sources, reached 13.8 million barrels per day in 2012 or 28% of all energy consumption in the United States. But that was down from a peak of 14.6 million barrels per day in 2007.

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Dodge Challenger Hellcat Opens up New Muscle Car Era

Muscle car brand fills in gaps as it expands Challenger line-up.

by on Jul.18, 2014

The Dodge brand is putting more emphasis on performance with the new Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Dodge is revamping its lineup of muscle cars for 2015; using the stunning 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat as a calling card to show that it is possible to blend modern technology with traditional design cues to create an entirely new line of vehicles with power, distinctive heritage and celebrated silhouettes.

Though sales have slipped a bit in recent months – nothing unusual for a model about to get a major redesign – the muscle coupe has given competitors such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro a run for their money since Challenger was re-launched in 2009.

High-Performance!

A big part of its appeal has been a distinctive design that “won’t get lost in a mall parking lot,” said Tim Kiniskis, head of the Dodge brand, during the first media drive of the 2015 model.

But performance also matters to these buyers, and as the most powerful factory-built muscle car ever, the $60,000 Hellcat is expected to serve as a halo car for not only the SRT line of performance cars, but the entire Dodge brand.

(more…)

GM Remains in Tight Race for Global Sales Leadership

VW holds tiny lead, but Toyota has yet to weigh in.

by on Jul.17, 2014

GM is hoping new product - such as the Chevy Colorado, shown here with product chief Mark Reuss - will help it regain global sales leadership.

Despite recalling millions of vehicles and watching billions of dollars in new legal claims pile up during the first half of the year, General Motors is still in a relatively close race for global sales leadership with rivals Volkswagen and Toyota.

GM has reported selling 2.5 million vehicles around the world during the second quarter of 2014, with year-over-year sales in the United States and China, the company’s two largest markets, growing by  7% and 8%, respectively. Globally, GM’s total sales were up 0.5% for the second quarter. In the first half, GM sold 4,921,928 vehicles, up 1.4%.

Stay in the Race!

Volkswagen AG, thanks to strong sales in China and a solid performance in Europe as well as gains by Audi and Porsche, held a whisker-thin lead with sales of 4.97 million vehicles worldwide during the first half of the year. VW is actively targeting global sales leadership – but the race likely won’t be determined until later this month when Toyota Motor Co. weighs in with its own figures.

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Bounty on Hacking Tesla Model S Underscores Cyber Auto Security Threat

Experts warn of growing opportunity for cyber assaults.

by on Jul.16, 2014

The recent challenge to computer hackers of $10,000 to the first who can break into Tesla's Model S controls has reignited concerns about cyber attacks on in-car computer systems.

With its digitally controlled battery-electric powertrain and a laptop computer-sized LCD screen operating everything from its climate control to its infotainment system, the Tesla Model S has more computing power than many homes or offices onboard – something that is making the sedan a tempting target for hackers.

In fact, those attending a high-tech conference in Beijing this week were offered a chance to nab a $10,000 bounty promised to the first to hack into a Model S. Whether they’ll succeed in remotely accessing the car’s 17-inch touchscreen display remains to be seen, but the growing reliance on technology in today’s cars is generating growing concerns about what that might mean if these systems are compromised.

Plugged In for News!

That was the central theme at a news conference this week in the Detroit suburb of Troy, Michigan, that brought together some leaders in cyber auto security. (more…)

“Retired” Ford CEO Mulally Resurfaces at Google

Exec could serve as a bridge between Motown and Silicon Valley.

by on Jul.16, 2014

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been "retired" less than a month, but already has a new "gig" as a member of Google's board of directors.

He’s been “retired” for less than a month, but former Ford CEO Alan Mulally has already resurfaced, shifting gears once again as he enters the high-tech world with a new board position at Silicon Valley’s Google Inc.

The new position actually takes advantage of Mulally’s eight years at Ford, Google itself pressing into the automotive space with new in-car infotainment technology, while also taking a lead in the development of autonomous vehicles.

We Pay Off!

“Alan brings a wealth of proven business and technology leadership experience,” CEO Larry Page commented. “I am so pleased that Alan is now joining Google’s board.” (more…)

Despite Skeptics, Fuel-Cell Vehicles Hit the Market

“Fool cells” or “fuel of the future”?

by on Jul.15, 2014

Toyota Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato reveals the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

Hyundai’s first fuel-cell vehicle, a zero-emissions version of its Tucson sport-ute, has just gone on sale in Southern California, and hydrogen-powered Honda and Toyota models will follow in the months ahead.  Mercedes-Benz is fleet testing its own F-Cell model, and other makers, such as General Motors, may soon enter the fuel-cell market, as well.

To proponents, hydrogen is the ultimate form of clean energy, and one that overcomes many of the drawbacks of battery power such as limited range and long charging cycles. Yet reaction to the technology remains sharply divided.

Fuel for Thought!

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of TeslaMotors, the California-based battery-carmaker, has repeatedly asserted that hydrogen vehicles will never pay off commercially, deriding them as “fool cells.”

But after years on the back burner as money and resources were shifted to battery technology, hydrogen has been regaining momentum in the U.S. and abroad.

(more…)

VW Pushes to Top 10 Mil Global Sales – Despite U.S. Struggles

New U.S. plans could prove critical to catching Toyota.

by on Jul.14, 2014

Despite strong sales in China, VW isn't on pace to make its global sales target of more than 10 million vehicles this year, in part because U.S. sales are down.

Volkswagen AG fell a bit short of its ambitious push for global dominance during the first half of 2014, despite its strong and growing presence in China – and its weakness in the U.S. market is largely to blame.

VW reported its deliveries worldwide increased by 5.9%, to 4.97 million vehicles, though if it hadn’t suffered another decline in the American market it almost certainly would have broken the 5 million barrier, putting it well on its way to move 10 million cars, trucks and crossovers for all of 2014.

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But VW is taking steps to rectify its problem in the U.S., the maker on Monday announcing it will spend about $900 million to double the size of its current assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to handle production of the long-awaited midsize crossover based on its well-received CrossBlue Concept. (more…)

Sales in a Slump, Cadillac Loses Another Key Executive

Global chief Ferguson returns to Washington as top lobbyist.

by on Jul.11, 2014

Cadillac's global chief Bob Ferguson with the 2015 Escalade during its NYC debut.

General Motors is looking for an executive to head up the Cadillac division, following the announcement that the luxury brand’s current leader Robert Ferguson has been named Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy.

It’s the latest in a string of top management departures for Cadillac, and comes at a critical time for the brand which is struggling to regain momentum as it rolls out key new products in a bid to reverse a sharp and unexpected sales dip.

Insight!

A veteran Washington hand who spent 10 years in the nation’s capital as AT&T’s top lobbyist, Ferguson had spent only two years as Cadillac’s global chief. But his departure isn’t entirely unexpected, as he has been splitting his time between the luxury brand and a key role as part of the management team responding to the recall crisis that has engulfed GM since February.

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UAW Implements New Strategy for VW’s Chattanooga Plant

Local union structure may offset decades of defeat in southeast.

by on Jul.10, 2014

The UAW is creating a new local union to represent pro-union employees at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant.

The United Auto Workers union is down, but not out. After its recent efforts to organize Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the union said it would not abandon the plant and it’s readying to make good on that promise by creating a new local union to represent pro-union workers at the plant.

The new local will not be the official representative of the workers at the plant until a majority of the workers inside the plant can vote again. The UAW suffered a demoralizing defeat when it lost a representation election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board by a 712 to 626 margin.

Your Automotive Source!

However, Dennis Williams, the UAW’s new president, said organizing the transplants remains one of the UAW top priorities. In addition, Berthold Huber, president of Germany’s IG Metal union, said in an interview during a recent visit to Detroit, the influential German Metalworkers was prepared to support the UAW’s drive in Chattanooga regardless of how long it takes. (more…)