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First Drive: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

A performance SUV we won't Pass on.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The Stelvio is the first SUV ever from Alfa Romeo - though more are in the works.

The rain is falling in heavy sheets, the windshield wipers beating time in an effort to keep up. Some other drivers have begun pulling off to the side waiting for things to clear up, but we only tip deeper into the throttle as we slice our ways through the corners on our drive through the heavily wooded hills of Tennessee.

We’ve got miles to put on, and the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio seems to be relishing the drive. Sometimes, it’s maneuvering through the worst conditions that reveals the most about a new vehicle, and by the end of our journey we’ll be learning a lot about the Stelvio, the Italian automaker’s first-ever SUV.

Reviews You Can Trust!

Just starting to roll into showrooms across the U.S., the Stelvio is Alfa’s third new product line, sharing space with the little 4C sports car and the only recently introduced Giulia on dealer lots. Though longer and taller than the sports sedan, the SUV shares the same mechanical underpinnings and, as we quickly learn, pleasantly similar driving dynamics. The Giulia was a revelation to drive and now, with the arrival of the Stelvio, Alfa is more than justifying its existence with the sort of performance model the SUV-crazed American market has been waiting for.

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Automakers Ramping Up Production Cuts as Sales Slide

Shift cut at Chevy Malibu plant the latest sign of industry weakness.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Despite strong reviews, the new Chevrolet Malibu has rapidly lost sales momentum in favor of SUVs.

Despite other signs of a relatively healthy economy things are starting to get worrisome in the auto industry where manufacturers have scheduled production cuts faster than at any time since the Great Recession.

General Motors, which had already dropped shifts at five plants since last autumn, now says it will eliminate a shift at the Fairfax, Kansas plant building its once-popular Chevrolet Malibu. The automaker’s Canadian operations, meanwhile, will extend the originally scheduled summer shutdown at two plants due to bulging inventories on both sides of the border.

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The Big Picture!

GM isn’t alone. Ford Motor Co. laid off thousands of workers due to temporary shutdowns in May, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has two entire factories idled while they are converted from car to light truck production.

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Tesla Autonomous Vehicle Chief Drives Off; Latest in a Series of High-Level Departures

But new AI researcher was waiting in the wings.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Chris Lattner, Tesla's director of artificial intelligence, just parted ways with the company.

Tesla has lost another senior manager, this time the head of its self-driving car program who joined the battery-electric automaker only six months ago.

But the departure of Chris Lattner, who had previously been working at Apple, isn’t expected to have more than a short-term impact, Tesla quickly announcing that it would assign some of Lattner’s duties to a new hire, prominent artificial intelligence, or AI researcher Andrej Karpathy.

News Now!

“Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all,” Lattner said in a tweet, prompting Tesla to fire back in a statement that, “Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla and we’ve decided to make a change.” (more…)

Virus Forces Honda To Halt Production at Japan Plant

WannaCry ransomware found in computer network.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Honda's Sayama, Japan, plant that produces the Odyssey minivan was shut down due to a ransomware attack earlier this week.

This story includes update information.

Honda was temporarily forced to shut down one of its key Japanese assembly plants this week after discovering the WannaCry ransomware virus in the plant’s computer network.

The shutdown was expected to delay production of some of the automaker’s key product lines, including the Accord sedan and Odyssey minivan. The Sayama plant, which is located about an hour northwest of Honda’s Tokyo headquarters, typically produces about 1,000 vehicles daily.

News You Can Trust!

The WannaCry virus was discovered about a month ago after rapidly infecting computer networks around the world. It briefly shut down operations at a number of British hospitals, among other things and caused production delays at both French automaker Renault and its Japanese alliance partner Nissan. (more…)

Volvo Relaunching Polestar as “Electrified High Performance” Company

Polestar joins growing list of dedicated electric spin-offs.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Going forward, the Polestar logo will stand alone, without a Volvo badge.

Volvo has become the latest automaker to set up a separate operation focused specifically on electric vehicles, in this case, putting the emphasis on “high performance” models.

The move appears to position its Polestar division to challenge the new Mercedes-EQ sub-brand, which is set to launch at least seven electric vehicles by 2022, and BMW i, as well as upstart battery-carmakers like Tesla, Faraday Future and Lucid. The announcement does not appear to preclude Volvo’s ability to produce less performance-oriented electric vehicles under its own badge.

Electrifying News!

Purchased by Volvo in 2015, Polestar will now operate as a standalone company with a new management team. That includes Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Gooding, who had been Volvo’s communications chief, and new Chief Executive Officer Thomas Ingenlath, who had been Volvo’s global design director.

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Kia and Koreans Top J.D. Power Quality Study as Japanese Slide

Quality up overall, but Power warns of some “early warning bells.”

by on Jun.21, 2017

The 2017 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study rankings by brand.

For the second year in a row, Kia nabbed the top spot in the closely watched J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, with all three of the South Korean carmakers sold in the U.S. market landing in the Top 10.

Detroit automakers also fared well in the study, with four brands in the Top 10. But the Japanese, long credited with driving up the quality of vehicles sold in the U.S., didn’t fare nearly as well, with only Nissan landing in the upper reaches.

Stay in the Know!

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2017 Initial Quality Study was the poor showing by Japanese giant Toyota. Along with its Lexus brand it ranked number one more often than any other manufacturer – for 14 of the 31 years the IQS has been released to the public. But this year, Toyota was 14th, and only barely above industry average. The Lexus brand fell below average for the first time since it was launched. (more…)

Kalanick Forced Out as CEO of Uber

Embattled founder resigns as turmoil wracks ride-sharing giant.

by on Jun.21, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been forced to resign in the wake of lawsuits, sexual harassment charges and other complaints about the company.

With his company facing an array of problems, including lawsuits, complaints about sexual harassment, and the exodus of key senior executives, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been forced to resign.

The news was announced early Wednesday, barely a week after the embattled Kalanick said he would take an indefinite leave of absence motivated, at least in part, by the death of his mother in a boating accident. The ride-sharing giant said Kalanick will remain on its board of directors.

News Now!

For his part, the 40-year-old Kalanick appeared to recognize he had become not a leader but a polarizing distraction for Uber Technologies, Inc., in a statement noting that “rather than be distracted with another fight,” his departure will let Uber focus on building its business. (more…)

Jaguar Set to Reveal 2nd SUV

New Jaguar E-Pace to make world premiere on July 13 in London.

by on Jun.21, 2017

The new Jaguar E-Pace will compete with compact SUVs like the Audi Q3.

Jaguar is adding a second utility vehicle to its line-up, the compact E-Pace set to make its debut in London next month, with sales set to start in early 2018.

The compact performance utility vehicle will complement the bigger F-Pace which has already become the British marque’s best-seller since going on sale last year. Meanwhile, Jaguar is working up a third ute, the battery-powered I-Pace that is still more than a year from coming to market.

2018 Product News!

While Jaguar is saving a number of details for the London debut on July 13 it has already confirmed that the E-Pace will carry a base price of $38,600 – plus delivery fees – or about $3,000 less than the starting price for the 2017 F-Pace.

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Audi A8 Set to Swing Into View With Debut of New Spider-Man Flick

Complete makeover to introduce new design language, new safety and infotainment tech.

by on Jun.20, 2017

Spider-Man's alter ego - played by actor Tom Holland - goes for a drive in Audi's new A8

Automakers are breaking with tradition these days. Where you might have once expected to see Audi unveil its next-generation flagship at a major auto show, the luxury brand is planning to reveal the all-new, 2018 A8 on the silver screen.

The automaker has already begun teasing the new sedan in a series of digital shorts, including one titled “Driver’s test,” but those who want a closer look at the A8 will have to pick up tickets for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the latest take on the classic Marvel comic, which web-swings into U.S. theaters on July 7th.

We're Swinging!

The 2018 Audi A8 will be a critical entry for Volkswagen AG’s luxury brand. It is the first product to feature the full new design language developed under Marc Lichte, the styling chief who joined the marque in 2014. The big sedan also introduces an assortment of new technologies, including the new Audi AI traffic jam pilot.

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Ford Moving Focus to China

Scrapping plans for Mexican production entirely saves another $500M.

by on Jun.20, 2017

Ford had planned to shift production of the Focus to Hermosillo, Mexico, but instead will produce it in China.

In a surprise move, Ford Motor Co. says it won’t move production of its Focus model to Mexico., but rather Ford plans to move it to China.

That would make the Ford Focus the first mainstream model to be imported from China, a move that could also raise the ire of President Donald Trump, who has been pressing the auto industry to bring more production – and jobs – back to the U.S.

News Now!

But with sales of the compact vehicle line sliding sharply, Joe Hinrichs, Ford President of Global Operations, said the move will save the carmaker about $500 million. Ford had already said it would save at least $500 million by scrubbing plans to build an entirely new Mexican plant for the Focus and other small car lines. (more…)