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Bill Ford Leads Exodus from Saudi Economic Event in Response to Alleged Murder of Journalist

Global business, political and media leaders demand answers in disappearance.

by on Oct.15, 2018

Ford Chairman Bill Ford is shown during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the carmaker's River Rouge manufacturing complex.

Bill Ford, the chairman of Ford Motor Co., is leading an exodus of high-profile business leaders who have decided to pull out for an upcoming investor conference sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

The move comes amidst growing concerns about the fate of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who reportedly entered the Saudi consultate in Istanbul, Turkey last week but failed to leave it, raising concerns he may have been murdered by hit men dispatched by Saudi leaders.

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Khashoggi was a regular contributor to a number of publications, including the Washington Post, and had been granted U.S residency. Reports have surfaced over the last several days indicating American intelligence officials may have had advance warning that Khashoggi faced threats from the Saudis. Turkish officials, meanwhile, claim to have evidence the journalist was murdered in the embassy, his remains subsequently being smuggled out.

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China Car Market Tumbles, Complicating Problems for U.S. Automakers

BMW plans to be first foreign maker to take control of Chinese joint venture.

by on Oct.12, 2018

President Donald Trump is engaged in a trade war with China, and automakers are beginning to pay the price.

After nearly two decades of double-digit growth, the Chinese car market is entering a tailspin, and that could be particularly problematic for American automakers caught up in the U.S.-China trade war.

But other foreign automakers could better weather the downturn, in part due to changing rules that have lowered import tariffs – except on American products – and will now allow foreign manufacturers to take control of joint ventures. BMW is set to become the first to take advantage of the relaxed rules, agreeing to spend $4.2 billion to up its stake in an ongoing alliance with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings.

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“The automotive industry has been a driver of China’s economic growth for years. Now it is pulling back,” Xu Haidong, the assistant secretary general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, said during a Friday news briefing, responding to questions about the market’s third straight monthly decline. (more…)

Tesla Sales Surge Past Mercedes; But Loss of Fed Tax Credits Could Hit Future Demand

Orders placed before 10/15 will be delivered in time to collect $7,500 giveback, Tesla says.

by on Oct.12, 2018

Tesla is quickly approaching the 200,000 vehicle limit that ends the $7,500 federal government tax incentive for EV buyers.

With its manufacturing problems largely overcome, Tesla sales have been booming in recent months, the California battery-carmaker delivering more cars in the U.S. than luxury mainstay Mercedes-Benz in the most recent quarter.

But whether Tesla can maintain that momentum is uncertain, especially with federal tax incentives of as much as $7,500 about to go away, even as a flood of new, long-range electric alternatives come to market, complete with those tax credits.

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Tesla is advising potential buyers that they will have only until the end of Monday, Oct. 15, to place a an order for one of its new vehicles and be sure of getting the $7,500 federal incentive. Starting in January, the credits will be halved. They will be cut again mid-year, and then vanish entirely under the revised U.S. tax law passed by Congress last December. (more…)

Germans Top Total Quality Awards – Again

Mercedes-Benz SL named #1 model in 2018 owner survey.

by on Oct.11, 2018

The Mercedes-Benz SL took the top honors in this year's Total Quality Awards, which were dominated by German automakers.

The Mercedes-Benz SL was the top-ranked vehicle in the annual Total Quality Awards, narrowly beating out last year’s winner, the Porsche Macan.

The awards are designed to measure not only conventional quality data, but also how owners click with their vehicles on an emotional level, according to Strategic Vision, the California-based research firm that pulls the study together. And the SL easily overwhelmed the competition with a mixture of real and perceived quality.

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“Mercedes-Benz is in a Renaissance period for the brand,” said Strategic Vision President Alexander Edwards. “With current innovative features and performance styling, Mercedes has clearly focused on answering the challenge of being a brand for our current generation of luxury buyers. Based on the voice of the consumers, Mercedes has unquestionably answered.” (more…)

Update: Musk Calls “Incorrect” Reports Murdoch Will Replace Him as Tesla CEO

Hunt continues with clock ticking under SEC settlement.

by on Oct.11, 2018

Elon Musk appears to have ruled out reports suggesting James Murdoch will replace him as Tesla Chairman.

Fox CEO and Tesla board member James Murdoch is apparently out as a prospect to replace Elon Musk as the battery-carmaker’s chairman.

Musk, who must relinquish the post as part of a settlement with the SEC, issued a Wednesday afternoon tweet declaring “incorrect” a report in the Financial Times that cited two supposed inside sources naming Murdoch as the frontrunner in the search. The FT story came days after several other media outlets also pointed to Murdoch as the likely successor.

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The 45-year-old Murdoch is a friend of the Tesla founder and boss and has been on the company’s board since last year. He was seen as a particularly suitable replacement for Musk as he will soon relinquish his role as CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox, the media conglomerate founded by his father Rupert Murdoch, after it sells off most of its assets to Disney.

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New Chevy Silverado Turbo-Four Nabs Top Mileage Rating

For many truck buyers, mileage matters as much as payload, towing.

by on Oct.10, 2018

The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado will get up to 20 mpg in the city with the new turbo-four engine.

Who says pickup buyers only focus on power, payload and towing capacity? Operating costs are, for many customers – and especially those operating truck fleets – one of the most important factors they consider when choosing what model to buy.

That includes service and repairs, of course, but fuel costs are one of the biggest concerns, which is a key reason why automakers have been offering buyers a growing range of alternatives to the classic, big displacement V-8s that long dominated the full-size pickup segment.

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Chevrolet is hoping it will score a hit with potential buyers with the new, 2.7-liter turbocharged engine it is adding to its powertrain option list for the all-new 2019 Silverado. While not quite up to the numbers delivered by some of the diesel engines now available in the full-size segment, Chevy’s turbo-four nabs a tie as the most fuel-efficient gas engine available for U.S. buyers.

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New Reports: Tesla to Name James Murdoch Chairman to Replace Musk

Will he be able to rein in company founder’s itchy twitter finger?

by on Oct.10, 2018

James Murdoch appears to be the top choice to take over the chairman's role from Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk.

James Murdoch, the outgoing CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox and an outside director on the Tesla board of directors, appears to be the favored candidate to replace the carmaker’s founder and CEO Elon Musk, who must relinquish the chairman’s role as part of a settlement with the SEC.

Murdoch’s name has surfaced several times since Musk agreed to step down from the chairman side of his dual role to settle charges of fraud leveled against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission for claiming Tesla had “funding secured” for a bid to go private. Musk later confirmed there was no firm plan or funding and subsequently canceled the move to privatize Tesla.

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According to a report by the Financial Times, several sources close to the discussions inside Tesla said Murdoch was a primary choice for chairman. He has been serving as a non-executive director since 2017. But while the son of Australian mogul Rupert Murdoch has extensive media experience, his time with Tesla marks his only involvement in the auto industry. (more…)

Volvo Scrambles as Trump Tariffs Shatter Export Plans for New U.S. Plant

China market closed, “I need to find a substitute," says US CEO.

by on Oct.10, 2018

Volvo's new plant near Charleston, S.C., is churning out new S60s. It will add the XC90 in 2021.

Volvo’s plans for its first-ever American assembly plant have been thrown into turmoil as a result of Pres. Donald Trump’s trade war with China, something that will result in fewer auto exports from the South Carolina factory, potentially impacting hiring plans, the automaker’s U.S. CEO told TheDetroitBureau.com.

Volvo initially planned to use the Charleston facility as its global source for the all-new S60 sedan, while also producing some of its popular XC90 crossovers. Fully half of the assembly plant’s production was earmarked for China and other overseas markets, noted Anders Gustafson. But the administration’s escalating trade war has resulted in China boosting tariffs on American-made vehicles and parts from 25% to 40%, even as it reduces duties on auto imports from other trade partners to 15%.

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“Now, we cannot export to China” because the S60 would be priced out of the market, Gustafson, the president and CEO of Volvo Car USA, said during an interview near Los Angeles, where the company was offering journalists a first drive of the S60. “In this segment, you can’t raise prices because of competitiveness.” (more…)

Power Study Finds “Total Lack of Trust” in Autonomous Vehicle Technology

More than four in ten say they “would never ride” in self-driving vehicle.

by on Oct.09, 2018

Looks like its going to take Waymo rides, er, way more rides in Waymo's autonomous minivan to change opinions.

Even as automakers rush to bring autonomous and completely self-driving vehicles to market, perhaps as soon as the end of the decade, there’s a deep distrust of the technology, with more than four out of 10 Americans saying they “would never ride in a fully automated vehicle.

The lack of trust runs deep, according to Robert Lajdziak a researcher with J.D. Power and Associates, which conducted the new study in partnership with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, or NAMIC. Significantly, just as federal regulators have announced plans to ease restrictions on testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, those surveyed by Power and NAMIC questioned whether the government – as well as automakers and tech companies – can properly ensure the safety of the public.

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The new study likely reflects the fact that “people’s opinions have been swayed” by recent incidents involving semi- and fully autonomous vehicles, including a fatal Uber crash earlier this year in Tempe, Arizona, said Lajdziak, in an exclusive interview with TheDetroitBureau.com ahead of the release of the new study. (more…)

Jeep to Launch Renegade Plug-In Hybrid in 2020

Automaker set to have 12 electrified models in productions by 2022.

by on Oct.09, 2018

In 2020, Fiat Chrysler will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the Jeep Renegade to kick off its electrification program.

After a slow start, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is plugging into battery power in a big way, the Euro-American automaker confirming plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the Jeep Renegade in early 2020.

That follows the launch of a so-called “mild” hybrid system on the all-new Jeep Wrangler launched last year. The system, known as eTorque, is also being used on the completely overhauled 2019 Ram 1500 pickup just now rolling into U.S. showrooms.

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The Jeep Renegade PHEV will mark a major push into battery power for FCA, the company recently announcing that its various brands will introduce a dozen more advanced electrified models by 2022, ranging from conventional “full” hybrids to plug-ins to all-electric offerings. They will cover a wide spectrum of models and price segments, including the all-new plug-in supercar being developed by the Alfa Romeo brand. (more…)