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Daimler Charges Up EV Program: Mercedes to Get 10 Electric Models by 2022

Electrification effort accelerates as luxury maker struggles to meet CO2 targets.

by on Mar.29, 2017

A Mercedes-EQ battery-car prototype.

Daimler AG, the parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands, plans to accelerate its battery-electric vehicle program and now plans to have at least 10 BEVs on the market by 2022, about three years ahead of its earlier target.

The move was announced by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche during the automaker’s annual meeting in Berlin on Wednesday, and will require an investment currently estimated at around $11 billion. The decision to speed up the program comes as Daimler’s Mercedes brand struggles to meet strict new European CO2 emissions targets.

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“We attach high priority to responsible mobility across the entire value chain,” said Daimler board member and research chief Ola Kallenius. “We are continuing to systematically promote the issue of sustainability through targeted investments in environmental projects in the development and production of our vehicles.”

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U.S. Market the Big Battleground for Toyota, Volkswagen

Japanese maker regains lead in global sales.

by on Mar.29, 2017

Toyota is counting big sales results from the RAV4 in the United States. The maker has regained the global sales lead it lost to Volkswagen last year.

The battle of the titans has taken a new turn this year. After toppling Toyota as the global king-of-the-hill in 2016, Volkswagen is again finding itself back in second place in the global sales sweepstakes this year.

Toyota saw a real surge in global demand during the first two months of the year. On the other hand, VW lost momentum, especially in the massive Chinese market, where it has long been the leader.

Global Auto News!

But the real, long-term test could come in the U.S. market where Toyota has been a traditional powerhouse, and VW is still struggling to reverse the significant sales losses it experienced in the wake of the September 2015 revelation that it had rigged more than 500,000 diesel vehicles sold in the States. In contrast to global trends, VW is now regaining American momentum while Toyota is the one struggling. (more…)

Is This Concept Toyota’s Answer to the Ford Bronco?

Japanese maker confirms plans to debut FT-4X at New York Auto Show.

by on Mar.29, 2017

Toyota drops a hint of what it has coming at next month's New York International Auto Show.

Rumors have been buzzing since last autumn, when Toyota registered the new trademark, FT-4X. What might that be used for? The initial inklings suggested it would likely show up on a light truck, perhaps the replacement for the old FJ Cruiser, dropped after the 2014 model-year.

The Japanese maker is now confirming a concept using that badge will make its debut at the New York International Auto Show next month, and from the teaser image accompanying that terse announcement, it’s safe to assume the show car will be some form of utility vehicle.

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But what type of ute does Toyota have in mind? A “soft-roader,” ala the RAV4, seems unlikely. The betting would suggest that the new Toyota FJ-4X will be a serious off-roader, perhaps even something opting for a body-on-frame design, that would take aim at the likes of the new Ford Bronco or next-generation Jeep Wrangler.

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Chinese Investment Firm Takes 5% Stake in Tesla

Tesla Autopilot car hits police officer, adding new concerns about autonomous vehicles.

by on Mar.28, 2017

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company needed an infusion of cash, and it got it, from Tencent, which now holds 5% of Tesla stock.

One of China’s largest technology investment firms has taken a 5% stake in the U.S. battery-electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla.

In a public filing, Tencent Holdings said it has purchased nearly 8.2 million shares of Tesla stock. The automaker’s shares have been on a roller-coaster ride in recent months as the company struggled to fund the development of its critical Model 3 battery sedan.

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The automaker’s shares surged on news of the Chinese investment. (more…)

Ford Reveals $1.2B Investment in 3 Michigan Plants

Project in the works for some time, but automaker hails pro-growth environment.

by on Mar.28, 2017

A worker on the line at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant. It will soon be building trucks.

Ford Motor Co. will invest $1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities, the automaker announced Tuesday, a move signaled overnight through a tweet from Pres. Donald Trump.

The three projects the package covers will help save and, in some cases add, thousands of jobs in the suburban Detroit region, in line with one of the president’s priorities. But a senior executive from Ford told TheDetroitBureau.com that all three projects were in the works well before Trump took office – the largest, involving an $850 million assembly plant investment, approved as part of a deal with the United Auto Workers Union in 2015.

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The announcement is “consistent with what we announced previously,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, though he quickly stressed that Ford is “encouraged by the pro-growth approach the administration is trying to follow. We continue to be encouraged by the dialogue.”

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Trump Tweets About $1B Ford Plant Plan

Project actually in the works since 2015.

by on Mar.28, 2017

Ford finally confirmed in January it will bring back the Bronco (a concept version shown here).

Ford Motor Co. is expected to announce today that it will spend over $1 billion to expand and upgrade three plants in Michigan, an expansive program highlighted overnight in a tweet from President Donald Trump and detailed in a story in a local Detroit paper.

According to the Detroit News, however, the largest portion of that project involves an investment at the Michigan Assembly Plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne, Michigan and was in the works well before the businessman-turned politician was elected president last year. The other investments are expected to support work at that plant.

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As a candidate, Trump frequently criticized Ford over its decision to move small car production to Mexico, warning that he would take steps, as president, to penalize the automaker, including an import tax on Mexican-made vehicles. In January, however, Trump hailed Ford’s announcement that it was canceling a second Mexican plant – even though it was still going ahead with plans to move the compact Focus model to Mexico.

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Nissan Hits the Circuit with New GT-R Track Edition

Limited-edition track model debuts in NY; available by order only.

by on Mar.27, 2017

The Nissan GT-R Track Edition will be powered by a 565 hp version of the twin-turbo V-8.

It’s getting more and more difficult to take today’s extreme machines to their limits – which partially explains the surge in members-only tracks, like New York’s Monticello Motor Club and Detroit’s M1 Concours Race Track.

In turn, that may explain the growing availability of circuit-ready vehicles like the new Nissan GT-R Track Edition that will make its debut at the New York International Auto Show in just a couple weeks. The $128,000 limited-edition model won’t be the most powerful version of the Nissan sports car, but it will offer a number of features specifically designed for those who have the right place to put the Track Edition through its paces.

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“The new GT-R Track Edition gives buyers a specialized model, one true to GT-R heritage and available only by special order,” said Michael Bunce, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America Inc. “Building on the major upgrade to every GT-R for 2017, the Track Edition is an amazing package inside, outside and under the skin.”

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Tesla Rooftop Solar Cells Well Be Ready for Your Garage Well Before Model Y

Roof tiles to debut in April; battery crossover still “a few years away.”

by on Mar.27, 2017

CEO Elon Musk with a model house with a Tesla car, battery-backup system and solar tiles.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk now confirms long-standing rumors there will be an SUV companion to the new Model 3 sedan, but don’t expect to place an order anytime soon, he cautioned in a series of tweets.

The battery-ute will come well after Tesla begins taking orders for a new line of solar roof shingles. A product of the recent acquisition of SolarCity, those power-generating tiles will be part of what Musk envisions to be a range of green energy technologies in the Tesla catalog, including solar cells, electric vehicles and home and office battery backup systems.

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“There will be a Model 3 and a Model Y,” Musk told a Twitter follower, adding in a separate tweet that the crossover model will be “a few years away.”

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More Headaches for Uber as Autonomous Vehicle Crashes

Ride-share service suspends program; sexual harassment concerns escalate.

by on Mar.27, 2017

An Uber autonomous prototype rolled on its side following a crash in Tempe, Arizona.

Ride-sharing giant Uber has suspended its autonomous vehicle pilot program in the wake of a crash involving one of its modified Volvo XC90 SUVs.

It comes as the latest setback for Uber, which has begun a search for a new management team to help address a series of embarrassments including numerous claims of sexual harassment, as well as a video showing its founder and CEO Travis Kalanick berating one of the company’s drivers over pay concerns.

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“We are continuing to look into this incident,” an Uber spokesperson said of the Saturday multi-vehicle crash in Tempe, Arizona that resulted in the Uber SUV rolling onto its side. “There were no serious injuries,” according to Uber, though two Uber “safety” operators were in the front seats.

(more…)

Nissan Says “No” to UAW

Union wants talks to discuss organizing drive at Canton plant.

by on Mar.24, 2017

The UAW and Nissan are butting heads again over the maker's Canton, Mississippi, plant.

Nissan has rebuffed new efforts by the United Auto Workers Union to begin organizing the maker’s big assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi.

The factory has landed at the center of the UAW’s attention as it struggles to kick-start long-stalled efforts to represent workers at the many foreign-assembly plants that have sprung up across the South in recent years. Following a March 4 rally outside the plant headlined by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the union demanded to meet with company officials to discuss worker concerns.

The Last Word!

But Nissan executive Scott Becker responded by rejecting the proposed meeting, telling the UAW, “It would be inappropriate to have discussions with your union regarding employees at Nissan’s manufacturing plant in Canton, Miss., without your union first having obtained the support of a majority of employees at that plant.” (more…)