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Scion Open to “Any Product Suitable” as it Searches for Turnaround Formula

New brand boss says all-wheel-drive, SUV even pickup could fit.

by on Jul.31, 2015

Scion Vice President Doug Murtha said recently he's open to any number of new models for the youth-oriented brand.

Scion will bring two all-new models to market for 2016 – half of its total line-up. That includes both the new iM hatchback and the iA, the youthful brand’s first sedan. But don’t be surprised to see Scion push into even newer territory in the next few years.

Struggling to regain momentum after a decade of declining sales, Scion’s new management team is making major changes, including a shift away from the dark, wildly creative advertising that marked its early years. But it’s ultimately all about product, stressed General Manager Doug Murtha, who told TheDetroitBureau.com Scion just might get its own pickup, utility vehicle, or at least something else with all-wheel-drive.

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“I’m a hand-raiser for any product suitable for the brand,” Murtha said during an interview in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he’d come for a media drive of the new Scion iA and iM models. (more…)

Spyker Emerges from Bankruptcy – Again

Company partnering with electric aircraft maker.

by on Jul.31, 2015

Spyker's B6 Venator concept still hadn't made the jump to production when it went bankrupt. Officials didn't mention it when Spyker announced its emergence.

Once again, the Dutch sports car manufacturer Spyker has emerged from bankruptcy, beating back a legal challenge from a key creditor.

Exactly what will happen next, however, is uncertain, as a statement by the boutique car company made no mention of the B6 Venator model it was working on when things appeared to come to a crashing halt late last year. Moving forward, however, Spyker says it is set to merge with a Portland, Oregon-based electric aircraft manufacturer, Volta Volare.

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“Spyker is back with a vengeance and we look forward to a bright future,” said Victor Muller, the company’s founder and CEO, who admitted going through “a very rough patch” since Spyker was forced to declare bankruptcy last December. (more…)

Despite Safety Woes, Honda Earnings Climb 20%

Weak yen offsets cost of airbag recall.

by on Jul.31, 2015

Honda's automotive unit helped the company to strong first-quarter profits despite setbacks from Takata's faulty airbags.

Despite being slammed by the ongoing recall of Takata airbags, Honda Motor Co. was able to deliver a 20% jump in earnings for the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year.

The cheap yen – which has dropped almost 20% against the dollar over the past year – helped drive Honda’s April-June net income to 186 billion yen, or $1.5 billion. A year ago, the maker reported 155.6 billion yen in net income, or about $1.3 billion.

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On a per share basis, Honda handily outperformed the 65 cent average forecast of the Zacks Consensus Estimate with an 84-cent, or 103.22-yen, per share number. (more…)

Rental Car Act Named for Two Sisters Killed in Crash Passes Senate

House delays vote until after recess.

by on Jul.31, 2015

The Houck sisters were killed instantly when their vehicle spun out of control and hit a truck head-on.

With Washington lawmakers set to go home for their summer recess, family and friends of two sisters killed in a 2004 rental car crash received at least one bit of good news.

The Senate passed a 6-year highway bill on Thursday that includes the terms of the long-delayed Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act. The House won’t deal with the measure until lawmakers return to the capital in September. But if they also approve the measure it would ensure that rental car companies can no longer keep cars in operation that are subject to recall until the necessary fixes are made.

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The two California sisters were killed in a crash of a Chrysler PT Cruiser they’d gotten from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Initially, the company attempted to blame 24-year-old Raechel, who was driving, going so far as to say she might have been “suicidal or on drugs.” But a jury later disagreed,

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Tesla Announces First Incentive Program – With a Social Spin

Some buyers also turning to used Tesla as affordable entry.

by on Jul.30, 2015

Tesla wants to find new ways to boost demand before the launch of the Model X SUV.

Incentives have become a way of life in the auto industry, buyers often expecting givebacks and discounts on even the most popular products.

That’s a lesson little Tesla Motors has apparently picked up on. But the California battery-carmaker is adding a unique social spin to its first-ever incentive package, with a program designed to reward both owners and buyers. Separately, a new study suggests that some potential customers are getting around the high cost of a Model S sedan by turning to use versions.

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In comparison to some incentive programs, Tesla might be accused of being downright stingy. It will offer $1,000 credit to a new buyer – but with a twist, you have to be referred by an existing owner who will also get a $1,000 spiff, apparently for a future purchase.

(more…)

Fiat Chrysler Latest to Beat Expectations With Q2 Earnings

Net income up despite hefty consent agreement charge.

by on Jul.30, 2015

FCA is in "execution mode," says Marchionne.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may have begun the third quarter on a sour note, slammed with a record fine for safety lapses, but it ended the second-quarter in fine tune, handily exceeding Wall Street earnings forecasts.

The company, officially registered in the Netherlands, earned a profit of 333 million Euros, or $364 million, even after a chargeback of $88.5 million as a result of the consent order formally announced last weekend. A year ago, FCA earned 197 million Euros, or $215 million, for the period. On a per-share basis, the maker reported earnings of $0.21 between April-June 2015, analysts surveyed by MarketWatch predicting the figure would come in around 19 cents.

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As has been the case for several years, the recovering Chrysler side of the business helped prop up the balance sheet, primarily due to strong demand – and rising prices – in North America. But FCA also saw improvements in a European market just rebounding after a long and deep recession.

(more…)

Is Your Car Up for a Buyback?

Sorting through Fiat Chrysler’s massive safety settlement.

by on Jul.30, 2015

The buyback covers a wide range of Ram pickups, including this heavy-duty 4500 model.

As part of a settlement with NHTSA over mishandled recalls, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has agreed to not only pay a record fine but also to buy back a select group of recent truck models with suspension problems while offering discounts to owners who might want to trade in older Jeeps facing recall.

The complex consent order has created plenty of confusion, dealers and factory phone lines – not to mention news outlets – inundated with calls and e-mails from owners wondering if they qualify for one of the deals.

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Here’s some help in figuring out if you qualify for one of these programs, and what to do even if you don’t.

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Today’s Cars Staying on the Road Longer Than Ever

Quality up, but older cars may face unique problems.

by on Jul.29, 2015

The average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. is 11.5 years, or more simply, this 2003 Honda Odyssey.

While new car sales may be stronger than they have been in nearly a decade, most American motorists are riding around in vehicles that are older than ever.

The typical vehicle on U.S. roads is now 11.5 years old, according to a study by IHS Automotive, an all-time high. And that means that millions of those vehicles have now been in operation for more than two decades.

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“As long as we have tracked average age, it has gradually risen over time due to the increasing quality of automobiles,” said Mark Seng, global aftermarket practice leader at IHS Automotive. (more…)

Hammered By Biggest Fine Ever, Fiat Chrysler Aims to Fix Broken Safety Program

Company examining changes made by General Motors.

by on Jul.29, 2015

One of the changes made to improve safety is that FCA's safety chief Scott Kunselman, right, now reports directly to CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Hit with the largest package of fines and penalties ever levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is under the microscope as federal regulators press it to change what has been described as a malfunctioning safety program.

Among other things, the maker will have to buy back perhaps several hundred thousand vehicles, and its safety program will be monitored by an independent outsider. But “that’s not something we fear,” insists the executive who has been appointed within FCA to get its safety efforts back on track.

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“We’re focused now on getting fixes into the customer’s hands as quickly as possible,” and making sure that there are no delays when future safety problems are uncovered, said Scott Kunselman, the senior vice president of vehicle safety and regulatory compliance at the trans-Atlantic automaker. (more…)

Scion Seeking to Reconnect With Young Buyers With New iA, iM Models

Paring down aspirations.

by on Jul.29, 2015

Scion is looking to reinvigorate its brand with two new models, the iA sedan and iM hatch.

Once one of the hottest, hippest brands on the U.S. automotive market, Scion is hoping to reinvent itself with the launch of two new models this coming year, the iM and iA. And, in an unusual turnabout, it has sought help from little Mazda.

First launched 12 years ago, Scion was designed to reach the sort of youthful trendsetters who were largely steering clear of parent Toyota’s showrooms. And, with quirky models like the xB backed by creative – if sometimes dark – marketing campaigns, the brand became an almost instant success, hitting a 2006 peak with sales of 173,000 vehicles.

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But Like a parent who tries to pick up on the latest teenage slang, Scion soon seemed to disconnect with hip audience it sought. The second-generation xB, specifically designed for the U.S. market, was a spectacular flop and, by 2014, sales plunged to a mere 58,000. The slide has continued this year. Despite the ongoing revival of the U.S. new car market, Scion sales dipped another 18.6% during the first half. (more…)