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Hyundai Set to Expand Line-up of Eco-Friendly Vehicles

Hyundai, Kia to introduce 31 new vehicles by 2020.

by on Aug.17, 2017

The Hyundai Tucson fuel cell model is about to get a sibling in the near term, according to Hyundai officials.

Hyundai Motor Co. is moving ahead with the launch of a group eco-friendly vehicles that include fuel-cell-powered models and a long-range electric vehicle with the capability of traveling more than 310 miles on a single charge.

Executives from the South Korean auto giant said the new fuel-cell model, now slated to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, will spearhead Hyundai Motor’s plans to accelerate development of low-emission vehicles.

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The move is in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s renewed goal of introducing 31 eco-friendly models between its sibling automakers, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, by 2020.  (more…)

Trump Disbands Economic Councils – Could Impact Auto Industry at Critical Time

GM CEO Barra faced growing pressure to resign in wake of president’s Charlottesville comments.

by on Aug.16, 2017

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier with Pres. Trump before he resigned from the council and found himself rebuked in a presidential tweet.

(This story has been updated to include comments from GM CEO Mary Barra on the closing of the economic councils and the controversy over Charlottesville.)

Turning again to Twitter, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he is disbanding two economic advisory groups formed as he entered the White House last January and originally consisting of some of the nation’s top business leaders.

The move came shortly after the well-publicized resignation of an eighth council member, 3M CEO Inge Thulin. While some of the business leaders had resigned earlier in the year, the exodus had ramped up in recent days following a series of controversial remarks the president made regarding the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia as neo-Nazis, KKK members and other White Supremacists marched through the city.

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Other members of the council faced increasing pressure to resign, as well, including Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. But several industry insiders said Barra, in particular, faced a perplexing situation. The Trump Administration is considering several measures – including a possible rollback of mileage standards, and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement – that could have substantial impact on GM. As part of the two councils, Barra had unusually good access to the president.

(Automakers wary of president’s plans for new NAFTA treaty. Click Here to learn why.)

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Trump tweeted shortly after 1:15 Wednesday afternoon.

GM CEO Barra enjoyed a laugh with Trump during an automotive summit earlier this year.

The president’s tweet followed the announcements Wednesday that the leaders of Minnesota-based 3M and Campbell Soup had quit his manufacturing council, while a second strategic and advisory group was on the verge of collapse, Politico reported.

Several members resigned earlier in the year. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was pressured to pull out after Trump announced his Muslim immigration ban. Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned to protest the pull-out of the U.S. from the Paris Accords on global warming. But things intensified this week.

(Musk quits Trump as Trump quits Paris. Click Here for the story.)

Eight CEOs have resigned since Trump failed to denounce right-wing extremists in the aftermath of violent weekend in Charlottesville, Va. and instead issue a series of controversial comments on race and white supremacy that appeared to equate neo-Nazis and Klan members with counter-demonstrators.

Trump also came under criticism when he decided to lash out at Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s decision to resign on Monday. “he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Trump tweeted. Frazier said he had to “take a stand against intolerance.”’

The president’s attack on Frazier reportedly made some other members of the two councils even more uncomfortable. But the doors flew open when, on Tuesday afternoon, Trump had his third opportunity to discuss publicly the violence that hit Charlottesville and again blamed “all sides,” while backing away from comments specifically calling out white supremacist groups he made the day before.

Former CEO Mark Fields also sat on one of the councils before his ouster from Ford in May.

With even senior leaders of the GOP calling the president out, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt reversed an earlier decision to stay on the council, as did J&J Chief Executive Alex Gorsky who said, in a statement, “The President’s most recent statements equating those who are motivated by race-based hate with those who stand up against hatred is unacceptable and has changed our decision to participate in the White House Manufacturing Advisory Council.”

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” said Denise Morrison, the head of Campbell Soup, as she also tendered her resignation.

Still other members of the two councils were reportedly coming under strong pressure, including GM CEO Barra, though the company declined to comment as late as Wednesday morning on her plans. But the topic caught fire on social media, many users calling on her to resign. Staying aboard would mean GM “is on the wrong footing,” suggested one Facebook user.

Barra was one of two Detroit auto executives to join the councils when they were formed seven months ago. Mark Fields left when he was ousted as Ford CEO in May.

(Manufacturers group blasts Trump on trade policies. For the story, Click Here.)

There is little doubt Barra hoped to use her closeness to the president to try to steer White House policies on a number of key issues. For one thing, the EPA has reopened the mid-term review of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandates passed during the Obama Administration and could sharply scale them back. And negotiators are getting ready to open NAFTA back up. That could seriously impact the network of factories GM and other manufacturers operate in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, many analysts warning that vehicle prices could rise, impacting sales and U.S. jobs.

The councils seemed to fit both the style and the promises of the new president. “Trump reveled in photo ops with the nation’s top executives, and has promised major advances in the country’s economic output, manufacturing and infrastructure,” noted the Hill, a moderate to conservative political website.

“Trump’s decision to disband the councils is a surprising retreat for the combative president, who has touted his business acumen, negotiating skills and economic policy as central strengths,” the Hill observed.

For his part, 3M chief executive Thulin appeared to sum up what many members were saying, whether publicly or privately, about being directly linked to a White House embroiled in such controversy. He said he joined the group “to advocate for policies that align with our values and encourage even stronger investment and job growth” — but “I believe the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle” to achieve those goals.

For her part, GM CEO Barra offered a comment shortly after the White House announcement, but it left open the question of whether she would have stayed had the councils not been disbanded.

“The President and members of the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum have disbanded the forum. General Motors is about unity and inclusion and so am I,” Barra said. “Recent events, particularly those in Charlottesville, Virginia, and its aftermath, require that we come together as a country and reinforce values and ideals that unite us – tolerance, inclusion and diversity – and speak against those which divide us – racism, bigotry and any politics based on ethnicity,” she said, adding she was  very proud of GM’s work in support of American manufacturing

(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)

Jaguar Hopes Startup Incubator Accelerates Tech Development

Automaker follows lead of other companies looking for new technologies.

by on Aug.16, 2017

Tyfone is one of two companies to join the Jaguar Land Rover technology incubator in Portland, Oregon.

With the auto industry in the midst of technological revolution, Jaguar Land Rover North America LLC has found a way to get a look at new developments by nurturing tech startups at the company’s small outpost on the West Coast.

The new additions to JLR’s “technology accelerator” program, Tyfone and Simplenight, focus on increasing data security and personalizing consumer experiences two key areas of interest and concern to consumers.

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Located in Portland, Oregon, the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator was launched in January 2016 and offers the company an opportunity to get a firsthand look at new technology as it develops. (more…)

Fiat Chrysler Moves Excite Speculation

Automaker attracting interest from Chinese companies.

by on Aug.15, 2017

Sergio Marchionne's continuing search for a partner for Fiat Chrysler has attracted interest from potential buyers and investors.

Even when he fails to consummate a transaction, as he did two years ago, Fiat Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne still enjoys a reputation as an astute deal maker.

So it’s not exactly a surprise that shares of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. climbed to a record high following reports that FCA was dickering with Chinese companies about a possible deal. Fiat Chrysler’s U.S.-listed shares surged 8.5% to $12.60, the highest close since trading began in October 2014. The stock has risen 38% this year.

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In an e-mail, FCA declined to comment on the rampant speculation of a potential alliance or sale of the company. (more…)

Teamsters Sets Up Road Blocks to Autonomous Semi-Trucks

Union works with politicians to limit self-driving trucks testing.

by on Aug.15, 2017

A pair of autonomous Otto trucks carrying prototype autonomous Volvos being tested by Uber. The Teamsters are watching autonomous laws carefully.

Tesla, Daimler, Uber and other companies are pushing ahead with the development of self-driving semi-trucks, but the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are determined to put up road blocks in an effort that could eventually eliminate the jobs of thousands of truck drivers and union members.

The Teamsters, which has 1.3 million members, has lobbied lawmakers to exclude commercial trucks from a bill that would allow more autonomous vehicles on the roads and limit the ability of individual states to regulate automated vehicles.

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The union also praised Congress for recognizing that a starting point for any discussion on this subject was that no legislation should impact commercial motor vehicles or traditional commercial drivers. (more…)

Roadkill Nights Comes on Strong

Fan crowd Woodward Avenue to catch event.

by on Aug.14, 2017

Thousands of Dodge and muscle car fans flocked to Pontiac, Michigan, for Roadkill Nights.

Despite some rain showers that left a quarter mile of Woodward Avenue’s asphalt too wet for the final heats, “Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge” again drew a large crowd of car buffs, young and old to Pontiac, a suburb north of Detroit.

“I’m a gear head,” said Cameron Milavec, 18, of New Baltimore, Michigan, who drove in with a group of friends as evening settled over Pontiac’s M1-Concourse, the 87-acre “playground for automobiles,” which has become the venue of choice for the event with its noise and smoking tires and fast cars.

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“We’re into diesels,” said Milavec, who explained both he and his pal, River Lamb, 18, also of New Baltimore, own diesel-powered heavy-duty pickups as they watched the last-ditch effort to dry off the track under bright floodlights for what would have been the final heats of the day. (more…)

First Drive: 2017 Nissan Titan

Truck offers plenty of power, creature comforts.

by on Aug.11, 2017

The 2017 Nissan Titan features a strong grille that is often the hallmark of popular full-size pickups.

Trucks are in right now and their strong appeal has helped keep showrooms humming and factories busy.

One of the reasons that trucks are so popular is that they are solid and appealing vehicles. Case in point is Nissan Titan, which faces off against enormously popular Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500.

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The Titan may not command the loyalty of the American brands but it is made in the United States in Canton, Mississippi, and it has the rugged style, driving characteristics, dynamics and features that Nissan’s competitors have used to define and re-define the segment in recent years. (more…)

Ride- and Car-Sharing Cuts into Vehicle Sales, Study Claims

Sudden lack of options forced change in habits.

by on Aug.11, 2017

Through the first half of 2017, Lyft has already exceeded its total ridership for all of 2016.

A new study by researchers from three universities reveals that the consumers are likely to buy or lease fewer vehicles in areas served by ride-sharing companies, such as Uber or Lyft, or car-sharing oufits.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Columbia University surveyed more than 1,200 people in Austin, Texas, to examine how their habits changed after Uber and Lyft pulled drivers out of the city due to change in a local law.

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“On-demand, ride-sourcing services have grown tremendously in the last decade and they promise a host of potential public benefits—reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, easing of road congestion, as well as affordability, and accessibility,” said Robert Hampshire, a professor at UMTRI and lead author of the new study.  (more…)

Daimler AG Gobbles Up Another Mobile App Company

Latest acquisition folded into existing subsidiary.

by on Aug.10, 2017

Daimler AG acquired Familonet Gmbh as part of its expanding mobility efforts.

Daimler AG continues to expand its portfolio of mobility companies with the acquisition of Familonet Gmbh, a startup company from Hamburg, Germany, which has created an app with more than 2 million registered users.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but the moovel Group, a subsidiary of Daimler AG, acquired 100% of Familonet. In addition, personnel from Familonet will become part of the moovel Group’s development team in Hamburg. Daimler noted it was interested not only in the firm’s registered in users, but also the talent behind firm’s app.

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“The expertise and skills of Familonet are an ideal addition to the moovel development team at the Hamburg site. Both the geo-fencing technology and the team of developers with location expertise are a major win for moovel,” said Oliver Wahlen, chief technology officer of moovel Group. (more…)

FCA Analyst Pleads Guilty in UAW Scandal

UAW's Williams thinks scandal affected Nissan vote.

by on Aug.10, 2017

UAW President Dennis Williams believes the FCA-UAW scandal impacted the organizing vote at Nissan's plant in Mississippi.

One of two Fiat Chrysler officials charged with participating in conspiracy to defraud a joint FCA-UAW training fund of more than $2 million pleaded guilty in federal court and could face up to 37 months in prison when he is sentenced in December.

Jerome Durden, 61, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, a felony, and one misdemeanor charge of failing to file a tax return for the approximately $4,000 he received in 2013 from the conspiracy. Durden allegedly used the money to pay a credit-card bill.

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Durden, who was a financial analyst at FCA, is expected to cooperate with prosecutors as they build their case against other conspirators, including Al Iacobelli, FCA’s former head of labor relations, and Monica Morgan, the wife of the late General Holiefield, former head of the UAW’s Fiat Chrysler department. (more…)