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Chrysler SEMA Concepts Hint at Niche Products to Come

Mopar generating double-digit growth for maker.

by on Oct.24, 2014

The Dodge Challenger T/A concept is a 485-horsepower beast that the maker is displaying at the SEMA show.

It’s a beautiful autumn morning as Mark Trostle leads a group of journalists out to the design department courtyard behind the Chrysler Technology Center.  “It’s like Candyland out here,” says the chief designer for Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Mopar division, as he surveys an assortment of concept vehicles that will soon head to Las Vegas for the annual SEMA Show.

That’s the yearly gathering of the automotive parts and accessories world, a fast-growing industry that generates more than $30 billion in business annually. Not surprisingly, makers like Fiat Chrysler have been increasing their presence at SEMA each year hoping not only to put a halo around their brands, but also to help sell more of their own parts and accessories.

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Mopar, in fact, has been generating double-digit growth in recent years, in part by coming up with striking concept vehicles that illustrate ways to use products from its own parts catalogue. But it’s also going to be showing several special concepts that could soon be put, in whole, into production by various Fiat Chrysler brands. (more…)

After Gloomy Forecast, Ford Earnings Narrowly Beat Expectations

But numbers still down sharply for Q3.

by on Oct.24, 2014

Ford CEO Mark Fields with the 2015 Edge, one of the models critical to turning around its earnings slump.

Ford’s third-quarter earnings report is a classic test of whether you want to view the glass as half-empty or half-full.

The maker recently warned that it would deliver a substantially lower profits due to problems in Europe and other markets, as well as having to cover the cost of a big recall. And, indeed, earnings for the July to September period plunged sharply, from $1.3 billion a year ago to just $835 million.

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The pre-tax profit, at $1.2 billion, was off from a year-earlier $2.6 billion. But at 24 cents a share, that nonetheless managed to beat the 19-cent consensus estimate, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. (more…)

Audi Adds 850,000 Vehicles to Growing Airbag Recall List

But problem is not linked to Takata problems.

by on Oct.24, 2014

The Audi Allroad is one of the models listed in the new recall, along with the A4 and S4.

Audi is the latest automaker to warn consumers about potentially defective airbags, though the maker says the defect it has discovered on some of its smaller A4 models is not linked to the problem that this week led to an unprecedented recall warning by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The German luxury brand is recalling a total of 850,000 vehicles worldwide, including 101,900 sold in the U.S. and another 15,100 purchased in Canada during the 2013 to 2015 model-years. The service action involves the A4, sportier S4 and wagon-based Allroad models.

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The Audi airbags were not produced by Takata Corp., the Japanese mega-supplier now linked to the recall of 16 million vehicles worldwide – including 7.8 million covered by a NHTSA advisory sent out this week.

(more…)

New Ford Crash System “May” Spare Pedestrians

Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise in recent years.

by on Oct.23, 2014

Ford workers prepare a mannequin for testing the maker's new pedestrian alert system.

Ford Motor Co. will launch a new collision warning system that it says “may” prevent the pedestrian crashes that have become a growing problem on U.S. roads.

While overall highway fatalities have been on a sharp decline in recent years, the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes actually has been on the increase over the last half decade, reaching more than 4,700 annual fatalities, according to federal data — and about one death every two minutes worldwide.

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Ford’s new pedestrian alert technology is part of an upgrade to the collision avoidance system it first introduced in 2009, and will be renamed “pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection.” It will first debut on the 2015 Ford Mondeo about to go on sale in Europe, but Ford plans to expand its use to other models, including those sold in the States – where a version of the Mondeo is sold as the midsize Fusion sedan.

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GM Earnings Beat Expectations

Recall crisis shows little impact.

by on Oct.23, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra is offering a positive assessment of the maker's third-quarter earnings.

Battered by recalls and facing challenges in markets as diverse as China, Russia and South America, General Motors nonetheless managed to beat expectations with its third-quarter earnings report, though revenues fell short.

The maker delivered net income of $1.4 billion, or 81 cents a share after factoring in one-time special items that had a $300 million, or 16-cent per share, impact on the bottom line. Factoring in those one-time costs, GM would have earned 97 cents a share, up slightly from 96 cents a year earlier – and two cents above the consensus estimate of industry analysts, according to Thomson Reuters.

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“Strong global sales and growing margins in North America and China helped GM deliver very solid third quarter results,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a prepared statement accompanying the July to September earnings results. “Despite industry challenges in Russia and South America, our earnings were on plan as we continue to execute our customer-focused strategy.”

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Mini Latest to Admit Mislabeling MPG

EPA to revise testing procedures, make numbers more accurate.

by on Oct.23, 2014

The Mini Cooper's mileage numbers have gotten a downgrade from the EPA.

Mini has become the latest in a line of automakers who have had to admit they were overstating their fuel economy numbers.

The British marque’s 2014 Mini Cooper actually gets anywhere from one to four miles per gallon less than originally claimed. The BMW subsidiary’s error follows in the tire tracks of Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Hyundai and Kia, all of which also have had to roll back their mileage claims.

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Meanwhile, many consumers groups continue to complain that they’re routinely seeing real world numbers that lag what manufacturers post on their Munroney window stickers and use in their advertising. That’s leading to stricter enforcement and likely changes to testing procedures by the Environmental Protection Agency which oversees fuel economy regulations.

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Scion Teases New Concept for LA Auto Show

Youth-oriented brand looks to recapture lost audience.

by on Oct.22, 2014

Scion is bringing a new concept to the L.A. Auto Show next month and this is just a small peek at it.

Looking to rebuild its once formidable image among younger buyers, Scion is planning to roll out an assortment of new models over the next few years, and we’ll be getting a sense of what’s to come at next month’s Los Angeles Motor Show.

What exactly it has in store, Scion isn’t saying, but it’s giving a bit of a hint with two closely cropped teaser images of what apparently will be called the new iM Concept car.

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“The iM Concept car reflects the evolution of Scion as the needs and desires of its youthful customers also evolve,” says a terse statement from Scion. (more…)

Jaguar Land Rover Opens First Overseas Plant – in China, of Course

China already JLR's biggest market.

by on Oct.22, 2014

A Range Rover Evoq moves down the assembly land at JLR's new assembly plant near Shanghai.

That “veddy” British automaker, Jaguar Land Rover, is looking a little less Anglo-Saxon every day. First, it was acquired by American maker Ford, then sold to Indian upstart Tata Motors. And now, JLR has opened up its first foreign manufacturing plant. In China, of course.

The Asian nation is already the world’s largest automotive market and, by most accounts, is expected to top the global luxury sales charts, as well, by the end of the decade. It is, in fact, already Jaguar Land Rover’s single-largest market.

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And the maker is expecting to see that grow significantly, in part, because localizing production will eliminate the hefty Chinese tariff on automotive imports. (more…)

Double Setback for Tesla

Daimler sells off stake, while Michigan bans direct sales.

by on Oct.22, 2014

Daimler is planning to unplug from Tesla - at least in terms of its 4% equity stake.

Already hammered by a slump in its stock price, Tesla Motors has been hit by two more setbacks.

The maker’s long-time German partner, Daimler AG, has decided to sell off its stake in the California start-up while Michigan has become the latest in a growing list of states to bar Tesla’s plan to sell directly to consumers through company-owned, rather than franchised, showrooms.

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Daimler, the parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands, had held a 4% stake in the battery-car company, and had been rumored to be considering a full acquisition of Tesla at one point.

(more…)

Green Car Finalists Announced

Battery power vies with diesel, CNG and advanced gas options.

by on Oct.21, 2014

The BMW i3 is one of five cars up for the 2015 Green Car of the Year award at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

There’s been plenty of attention paid to electric vehicles over the last several years, but not all green machines have a battery under the hood.

To underscore that point, just check out the five finalists for the 2015 Green Car of the Year. The nominees for the annual award, which will be presented at the Los Angeles Motor Show next month, present a mix of alternatives that include not only the requisite EVs, but also a diesel, a bi-fuel package and a conventional gasoline-powered model. The list is dominated by three European models with one each from Japan and the U.S.

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“These five exceptional vehicles reflect an expanding ‘green’ car field that embraces diverse fuels and technologies as answers to a more efficient and low carbon future,” said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and CarsOfChange.com. “Each offers a distinctly different approach to driving ‘green’ that appeals to buyers with varying needs and perspectives on how best to lessen environmental impact, while maintaining the joy of driving.” (more…)