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Automakers Poised to Enjoy Big Year in 2015

Sluggish start being offset by confident consumers.

by on Mar.31, 2015

The Ford F-150 assembly should continue humming along in 2015, according to analysts.

With the big New York Auto Show set to open this week, carmakers have every reason to be optimistic about their prospects for the month ahead based on preliminary data.

The economy remains on track to grow 3% this year, up from 2.4% in 2014, according to a new analysis by IHS Global Insight. At the same time, Consumer Sentiments as measured by the University of Michigan monthly survey of consumers.

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Motor vehicle sales are expected to have picked back up to a 17-million annualized pace in March as the weather improved, IHS noted. (more…)

Mercedes-Benz Jumping into Pickup Truck Market

Maker looks to capitalize on premium truck segment.

by on Mar.30, 2015

Mercedes-Benz plans to get into the luxury pickup truck segment in the next two years.

After watching the prices for new pickup trucks in the U.S. climb into the luxury stratosphere of more than $50,000 in recent years, Mercedes-Benz is looking to get into the pickup truck market.

Before the end of the decade, Mercedes-Benz will expand its product range into the promising segment by launching the first pickup from a premium manufacturer, the German auto giant announced.

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The announcement by Daimler AG underscores the rising interest in the pickup truck market by Asian and European carmakers. (more…)

Marchionne Defends Jeep Safety in Court

CEO deposed in wrongful death trail about 4-year-old.

by on Mar.27, 2015

FCA Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne defended the safety of Jeep vehicles in a deposition in Atlanta.

Sergio Marchionne is defending the safety of Jeep products in a high-profile Georgia lawsuit, involving the death by fire of a 4-year-old boy.

The top executive at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles denied trying to stop top federal regulators from finding a safety defect in older Jeeps with rear-positioned fuel tanks. Instead, he argued that the vehicles are safe, in a recorded deposition that was played for Georgia jurors in a wrongful death trial about a fuel tank fire that killed the boy.

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Marchionne and the plaintiff’s attorney clashed over a 2013 meeting with then-U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood in Chicago in June. (more…)

US Gasoline Usage Lowest Since 1984

Better fuel economy, less driving helps cut gas prices.

by on Mar.26, 2015

More fuel efficient vehicles, like Ford's C-Max line-up, have helped reduce the amount of gasoline used by Americans in the last three decades.

A new study from the University of Michigan examines one of the important factors that have undermined the price of oil and gasoline: Americans are using less gas.

The price of gasoline and crude oil has plunged since last summer and the role of new discoveries in North American shale formations has been highlighted.

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Over the past two years, oil production in the U.S. has reached levels last seen in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Average fuel consumption by American drivers is at its lowest level in at least 30 years, according to a University of Michigan researcher. (more…)

BBC Stigs it to Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson

Company won’t renew contract after fight with producer.

by on Mar.25, 2015

The BBC fired Top Gear Host Jeremy Clarkson, left, after he punched a producer. The future of hosts James May and Richard Hammond, right, will return.

The world’s most famous, or infamous may be more appropriate now, automotive journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, the host of the BBC’s influential Top Gear has been given the boot.

Tony Hall, the BBC Director-General, said in a statement,  “It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly. I have done so only after a very careful consideration of the facts.

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“I know how popular the program is and I also know that this decision will divide opinion,” he added. “The main facts are not disputed by those involved. (more…)

EV Battery Costs Dropping Faster than Predicted

China bus maker inks $1 billion deal with Michigan battery maker.

by on Mar.25, 2015

The HK Group is taking advantage of falling EV battery prices for its city buses.

Don’t look now but the price of batteries packs are coming down.

Battery cell costs will fall about 8% a year, according to a Stockholm Environment Institute study that found battery costs have been overestimated. Cells for electric vehicles fell about 14% a year from 2007 to 2014, according to the study.

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Battery electric vehicles (EVs) are one of the key alternatives to gas- and diesel-driven vehicles. The costs of battery cells has always been one of biggest obstacles to the development of EVs, forcing manufacturers to trade off between a model’s price and the range it can travel on a single charge, the institute reported. (more…)

UAW Readying Contract Demands in Detroit

Two-tier wages, raise likely to top discussion list.

by on Mar.24, 2015

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

The United Auto Workers union is meeting this week in Detroit with its local leaders to set its agenda for future bargaining with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

Among the many issues they are expected to broach during talks with automakers this year include the elimination of the two-tier wage system as well as a raise for employees. The two-tier wage system has been an effective tool to help some makers reduce their labor costs.

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However, its caused resentment among many workers and even top executives at the car companies have expressed reservations about retaining the set up. (more…)

Gas Prices Remain Flat Despite Drop in Oil Costs

Global decline in crude doesn’t translate to drop at pumps.

by on Mar.24, 2015

Gas prices have remained flat recently despite another drop in crude prices.

Even as the demand for gasoline rises as the weather improves and the economy gets stronger, gasoline prices have remained flat for the past week even as the price of crude oil began to decline on markets all over the world.

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil reached a six-year low this past week, AAA noted, maintaining the downward pressure on the national price of gasoline, which has settled at $2.42.4 per gallon.

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This downward pressure has, at least temporarily, offset potential price gains from the robust demand, regional refinery maintenance and the seasonal transition to more expensive summer-blend gasoline. Consumers are paying fractions of a penny less than one week ago, 14 cents more than one month ago and continue to save more than $1.10 in comparison to this same date last year. The national average has now fallen for 13 of the past 16 days. (more…)

March Auto Sales Expected to Best in A Decade

Slower February sales help bolster results.

by on Mar.23, 2015

March sales are expected to be at their highest level in a decade due to poor weather in February.

Sales of new vehicles have picked up in March and are now expected to reach their best level in a decade, according to a new forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

“Inclement weather in February caused many consumers to delay their new-vehicle purchase until March,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

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Based on information collected by the Power Information Network, the combination of strong sales and high transaction prices positions March to set a new record for the month for consumer spending on new vehicles at approximately $37.7 billion, Humphrey said. (more…)

Collapse of Oil Prices Rocks Auto Industry

Volatility causes some markets to shrink.

by on Mar.20, 2015

Audi's new plant in Mexico may be the last of its kind for some time, according to IHS Analyst Henner Lehne.

Unforeseen events such as the sudden collapse of oil prices and the conflict in the Ukraine have combined to re-shape the outlook for the automobile industry, according to Henner Lehne, senior director of global light vehicle forecasting, IHS.

The oil price collapse, which has garnered renewed attention this week as the price of crude oil dropped again, has begun to create clear winners and losers. The list of winners includes the United States, China, Japan and other oil importing nations, while the losers have been net exporters, such as Russia, Venezuela, Norway and sub-Saharan Africa.

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Within the European Union, the falling price of oil has been more or less neutral because the decline in oil prices has been offset by the decline in the value of the euro and higher taxes used to replenish losses by governments in euro-zone. The recent shifts also mean that that the carmakers now have to depend on mature markets in North American and Western Europe. (more…)