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VW Hints at Design of Upcoming EV Ahead of Paris Debut

Long-range EV could pose challenge to Tesla, GM.

by on Sep.23, 2016

Volkswagen plans to take the covers of several electric vehicles at the Paris Motor Show next month, but released sketches hinting at what's to come.

Volkswagen will come charging into the City of Lights next week, lifting the covers on its newest battery-electric vehicles.

Expected to deliver perhaps 300 miles or more of range, the maker is offering a vague hint of what will be revealed at the biennial Paris Motor Show with a set of sketches. They suggest the unnamed EV will be about the size of a Volkswagen Golf and could be targeted at a variety of electric competitors, anything from the BMW i3 to the upcoming Tesla Model 3, as well as the Chevrolet Bolt set to go sale before the end of this year.

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The German maker has traditionally relied on diesels, but in the wake of its emissions scandal it has been rapidly shifting into electric propulsion, as much as a quarter of its sales expected to come from battery-based models a decade from now. The new concept, says the maker, will be “as revolutionary as the Beetle was seven decades ago.” (more…)

Smart Plugs In with Next-Gen Fortwo Electric Drive

Fifth-generation battery microcar to debut in Paris next week.

by on Sep.23, 2016

Smart's next-generation Fortwo Electric Drive, or ED for short, is coming to the Paris Motor Show.

The Smart brand has long struggled to find a niche for its pint-sized Fortwo city car. It may make a better case with the arrival of the next-generation Electric Drive.

All but identical to the latest, gas-powered Smart Fortwo that made its debut last year, the Electric Drive, or ED, will be available in both coupe and cabriolet configurations when it reaches the U.S. market next year.

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“The smart is the ideal city car, and with electric drive it becomes a little bit more perfect,” said Annette Winkler, the global Smart brand boss. (more…)

Motor City Gains an Edge on Silicon Valley

Detroit evolving from Rust Belt relic to high-tech hub.

by on Sep.22, 2016

As the Detroit automakers rebound, so too is the city, region and other business. Many, like FCA, are re-establishing a presence in the city.

Like the city that helped give it life, Detroit’s auto industry is often seen as a Rust Belt relic, a perception underscored by moves by manufacturers like Ford, which is rapidly expanding its new tech center in Silicon Valley.

But just as the Motor City itself begins to revive after decades of disinvestment and so-called “white flight,” so is the local auto industry gaining new momentum. But it’s not just the traditional Detroit Big Three bouncing back after the Great Recession. The Southeast Michigan region is seeing a flood of new investment from traditional foreign rivals such as Toyota and Nissan, as well as from new, high-tech players including Uber and Google.

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“What we’re realizing is there is a huge critical mass of talent in the Detroit area,” said Sherif Marakby, a long-time Ford veteran who joined Uber as its head of vehicle development earlier this year. At a news conference in the suburb of Novi, he announced this week plans to build a new autonomous vehicle development facility in the region. (more…)

Will Fuel Economy Rules Cost 1.1 mil Jobs – or Save Consumers Billions?

Debate continues as EPA moves forward with mid-term CAFE Review.

by on Sep.22, 2016

Sean McAlinden, lead author of a new study from the Center for Automotive Research, believes the current 2025 CAFE target will harm the auto industry.

If you think the presidential debate has kicked off some angry debate, that’s nothing compared to the furor generated by the mid-term review of the tough Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards set to phase in between now and 2025.

In fact, some players will get their chance today to express their frustrations – or support – about the looming new standards during the House Energy and Commerce committees midterm review hearing. According to one study, hitting the 54.5 mile per gallon target would cost the country 1.1 million automotive jobs and saddle consumers with significantly higher costs for new vehicles. CAFE proponents, however, dismiss such claims as alarmist and conclude that, if anything, more jobs will be generated while consumers could save billions of dollars on fuel costs.

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Who is right? Federal regulators have so far been leaning towards maintaining the targets announced during the first term of the Obama Administration. But it is a definite possibility that the next president could wind up having the final say. (more…)

Bentley Debuts First Diesel with 2017 Bentayga

Better mileage – and it becomes the world’s fastest diesel SUV.

by on Sep.21, 2016

Though available for just a short time, Bentley is adding a new wrinkle to its Bentayga SUV: a diesel.

The Bentley Bentayga has barely had a chance to find its niche in the super-premium market, but the British automaker is already announcing a major update.

Bentley is about to roll out its first diesel engine and stuff it under the hood of the big SUV. It will not only boost Bentayga’s fuel economy but transform it into the world’s fastest diesel SUV, capable of launching from 0 to 100 kmh, or 62 miles an hour, in just 4.8 seconds.

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The launch of the triple-turbocharged Bentley Bentayga Diesel could be seen as especially significant considering that parent Volkswagen AG has been backing away from oil-burner technology in the wake of the ongoing legal problems over its rigging of diesel emissions tests. The Bentley diesel is an entirely new package, however, and the brand is not expected to be tainted by the scandal. (more…)

VW Facing $9 Bil in Investor Claims Over Diesel Scandal

Shareholders lost billions once scam was revealed.

by on Sep.21, 2016

VW's costs continue to grow as a result of its diesel emissions scandal.

After already agreeing to claims and penalties worth nearly $20 billion, Volkswagen now faces more than 1,400 investor lawsuits that could cost it another $9 billion.

A flood of lawsuits have landed on the doorstep of the regional court in Braunschweig, Germany as a one-year deadline for filing claims approaches. It was on September 18, 2015 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused the automaker of rigging 475,000 vehicles equipped with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel to pass American emissions tests.

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The automaker quickly acknowledged the subterfuge – which involved a total of 11 million vehicles sold worldwide – and also admitted using a so-called “defeat device” on a higher-end 3.0-liter diesel sold by the Audi and Porsche brands, as well as through VW.


Tesla Updates Software After Chinese Hackers Take Control of Model S

Researchers take complete control of vehicle from up to 12 miles away.

by on Sep.21, 2016

Chinese researchers take control of a Model S, even remotely popping open its rear hatch.

Tesla has issued an urgent update to the software controlling virtually aspect of its high-tech battery-electric vehicles, a move triggered by reports that a Chinese security team had managed to hack into the Model S sedan’s control system.

Researchers from Keen Security Lab were able to take remote control of the vehicle from distances of up to 12 miles. They were able to take control of functions such as the vehicle’s brakes and windshield wipers.

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The news only adds to growing concerns about automotive cybersecurity at a time when the industry is in the midst of what some are calling a “transportation revolution.” Just this week, federal regulators issued the first national guidelines for the development of autonomous and even more advanced driverless vehicles. Some observers fear hackers could make such vehicles a target for criminal efforts and even for terrorist activities.


Mini Muscles Up with 2017 JCW Clubman

Five-door model gets a performance upgrade.

by on Sep.20, 2016

The 2017 John Cooper Works edition Mini Clubman puts out 228 horsepower and 258 ft-lb torque.

The brand that showed “small is beautiful” has been playing a different tune lately, the newest additions to its line-up suggesting “bigger is better.”

And that goes for power and performance, as well as interior space when it comes to the new John Cooper Works edition of the 2017 Mini Clubman. The JCW model gets what the maker is describing as a “motorsport-inspired turbocharged four-cylinder engine” that pumps out an impressive 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the highest-performance engine Mini has yet offered.

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“Performance and versatility are part of our DNA and our heritage,” said Thomas Felbermair, vice president of operations in the Americas region for the British maker. “So, naturally, there has always been a plan to bring the John Cooper Works variant to the Mini Clubman model.” (more…)

With Autonomous Guidelines, Feds Take Crucial Step Towards “Third Transportation Revolution”

by on Sep.20, 2016

U.S. Transportation Anthony Foxx wants to see regulations keep up with technological change.

Government regulators are often accused of holding up progress. But with the release of the first-ever federal guidelines for autonomous and self-driving vehicles, they could help spur what is being described as a transportation revolution.

At the federal level, the new rules will cover the development, testing and eventual sales of self-driving vehicles, while also providing guidelines for state regulators. The first semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the road and models capable of driving entirely hands-free are expected in showrooms by the beginning of the next decade. Several automakers even hope to have fully driverless cars in production within five years.

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“This is just the first step,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who said the initial model “will be updated annually to ensure it remains relevant and timely.”


U.S. Drivers Waste $2.1 Bil a Year on Premium Gas

No need to “baby” your car, says AAA.

by on Sep.20, 2016

Always pick your blend according to what the owner's manual recommends.

If you’re occasionally babying your car by filling the tank up with premium-grade gas, you might want to think twice about throwing away good money.

A new study by AAA confirms that if your car runs on regular, that’s all you need. Filling up with a higher octane fuel doesn’t improve performance, mileage or emissions. It just wastes about $2.1 billion annually.

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“Many drivers think they are giving their car a treat by occasionally filling up with premium-grade gasoline, even though their vehicle calls for regular unleaded,” said Gary Bubar, an official with AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The consensus has been that higher octane does not mean higher quality.”