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New Honda CEO Lays Out Turnaround Plan

Takahiro Hachigo wants to tap “power of Honda people.”

by on Jul.06, 2015

Former CEO Takanobu Ito and Honda's new Chief Exec Takahiro Hachigo.

Hammered by the recall of more than 20 million vehicles due to faulty airbags, as well as a nearly 9% decline in profits, Takahiro Hachigo has a tough job ahead as the new CEO of Honda Motor Co.

The lifelong employee of Japan’s third-largest automaker laid out his vision of a turnaround during his first official news conference since being promoted to CEO last month. While Hachigo was short on specifics, he offered a broad outline that will bring more products and could see Honda enter new alliances and joint ventures with erstwhile rivals.

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“I plan to create a new Honda,” he told reporters at Honda’s Tokyo headquarters, adding that his goal is to tap into “the power of Honda people.”

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Men Opting for Bright, Bold Paint Color, Women Prefer Safe Neutrals

Red and black losing traction.

by on Jul.06, 2015

Long popular red - shown here on a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 - has lost some of its luster.

One only has to follow fashion to know that men and women typically have very different tastes when it comes to colors. But while guys might tend towards more subdued shades when it comes to the clothes they wear, they’re much more open than women to bright, bold and flashy colors for the vehicles they buy.

A new study finds that orange, brown and yellow are the colors men have developed a strong preference for over the last year. Women, on the other hand, remain wedded to traditional gold, silver and beige.

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“These study results could suggest that women are more practical in their choices. For the most part, they may just want to buy a reasonably priced car that safely drives them around,” said Phong Ly, co-founder of the used vehicle website iSeeCars. “On the other hand, for men, perhaps they may be a bit more idealistic about cars, preferring something that has speed and is fun to drive.”

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Bad News Abroad Could Be Good News for US Motorists

Problems in Greece, China drive down crude oil.

by on Jul.06, 2015

American motorists could come out the winners in the stand-off between Greece and the EU.

While the future of the European Union may be up in the air, American drivers might be forgiven for finding a silver lining in word that Greek voters rejected terms of a bailout over the weekend.

The results of the referendum, along with the shake-up of the Chinese stock market, have sent global oil prices tumbling. And that, in turn, have sent oil prices tumbling, something that could soon send gas prices falling in the U.S., experts suggest.

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“Uncertainty over Greece is bearish for oil. It adds an extra negative factor on top of the turmoil in Chinese financial markets, the recent rise in U.S. drilling rigs, and a potential increase in Iranian oil supply,” Olivier Jakob, senior energy analyst at Petromatrix in Zug, Switzerland, told the Reuters news service.

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Feds Plan to Punish Fiat Chrysler for Safety Lapses

Maker could face $100s of millions in fines.

by on Jul.03, 2015

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has been critical of Fiat Chrysler's handling of a series of recalls.

Already under fire for its slow response to various safety problems, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles now faces hefty fines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which accused the maker of misleading federal safety regulators.

FCA officials came in for sharp criticism during a hearing in Washington on Thursday, NHTSA officials accusing the maker of repeatedly keeping it “in the dark” about safety problems.  The unprecedented session was called to examine Fiat Chrysler’s handling of 23 separate recalls covering 11 million vehicles.

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“What you heard here is there’s a pattern that’s been going on for some time, frankly,” said Mark Rosekind, the new Administrator for NHTSA. The agency has taken heat for some of its own lapses in recent weeks, and Rosekind has promised to both fix those problems and crack down on the industry.

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Ford Recalling 432,000 Cars that Might Not Shut Off

Ford Focus, Escape and C-Max models targeted.

by on Jul.02, 2015

Ford is recalling Escape - again.

Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 432,000 cars, crossovers and “people-movers” because of a software glitch that might make it difficult to shut the vehicles off.

Ford says the problem is a flaw in the body control module used on three of its key product lines, the compact Focus sedan, the Escape utility vehicle, and the C-Max microvan. It can impact both vehicles with keyed ignitions as well as those with start/stop buttons.

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If the system fails, the vehicles may keep running even if the ignition button is pressed or the key is turned to the “off” position and removed, Ford said.

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With New Plant in India, Jeep Set to Build SUVs on Four Continents

All-new model planned for $280 million plant in Ranjangaon.

by on Jul.02, 2015

The new Renegade marked a turning point for Jeep which is producing it in Italy, rather than the US.

Little more than a domestic American brand just a few years ago, Jeep is going global, expanding both its distribution network to markets as far flung as Berlin, Beijing and Mumbai. It will soon have production facilities, meanwhile, on four continents.

The subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirmed this week that it will invest $280 million as part of a joint manufacturing venture with India’s Tata Motors. The factory will produce several vehicles, including both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and an all-new model, company officials indicated.

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That project is an “important step as we continue to expand the availability of Jeep products around the world,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said.

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Hybrid, Battery-Car Sales Slumped in First Half of 2015

Demand shifts from small, efficient, to big and powerful.

by on Jul.02, 2015

Honda Civic Hybrid production ended last month.

At the beginning of 2014, when fuel prices seemed headed for new record highs, U.S. shoppers couldn’t drive off fast enough with small cars and alternative-power vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf.

But with fuel costs down by at least $1 a gallon across the country, manufacturers have been struggling to sell those same, high-mileage vehicles. That’s forced them to stack up new incentives on the hood and, in some cases, slash production.

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That poses a challenge for the industry as it faces new fuel economy mandates for 2016 – with even tougher targets phasing in from now until 2025. Even so, automakers show little sign of retreating from the aggressive plans they’ve put in place to introduce new battery-based vehicles and other clean alternatives.

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Muscle Cars Rule Again

Why advertise a car that’s already sold out?

by on Jul.02, 2015

The Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat models take center stage in the new Predators ad campaign.

At 707 horsepower, the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat models are the most powerful muscle cars to ever roll off a Detroit assembly line, and the fastest. Just ask any dealer who has watched the two vehicles squeal out of showrooms faster than the factory can build them.

Even though Dodge is heavily promoting the Hellcat models in a series of new 30- and 90-second ads, the Hellcats are sold out for the rest of the 2015 model-year. But parent Fiat Chrysler isn’t the only one struggling to meet demand. Ford Motor Co. saw a roughly 40% jump in sales of its long-popular Mustang last month, and while sales are off a bit for the Camaro, Chevrolet expects a big surge of demand once it launches the all-new 2016 version in the months ahead.

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Only a few years ago, skeptics were predicting the demise of the muscle car, with the classic V-8 likely to be relegated to the automotive rust heap. Hybrids and battery-cars were expected to take their place. But as recent sales figures have demonstrated, Americans aren’t about to abandon their long-standing passion for performance. These days, manufacturers are being forced to pile on the incentives to get buyers to consider those alternative-power vehicles.

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Toyota, Nissan and Honda Team up to Create “Hydrogen Society”

Makers pool funds to set up hydrogen fueling stations.

by on Jul.01, 2015

One of the first Japanese hydrogen stations.

In an unusual move, Japan’s three largest automakers have agreed to work tougher to help create what they’re calling a “hydrogen society.”

Toyota Motor Corp. has just launched its new Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, with Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. working up similar products. While proponents point out that these vehicles produce no harmful emissions, skeptics note that there are few places for potential buyers to fill their tanks with the lightweight fuel, so the three companies are promising to invest as much as 6 billion yen, or $50 million, to build and support a network of hydrogen filling stations in Japan.

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They have also been supporting plans to create a similar infrastructure in the United States where the only ready supply of hydrogen currently is located in Southern California.

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Potentially Faulty Truck Hitch Could Be Cause of Deadly Crash

Did federal safety investigators miss defect?

by on Jul.01, 2015

One of two pickup trucks struck by a runaway trailer in Batavia, OH, in January 2014.

Already under fire for failing to catch a series of deadly defects – including the flawed General Motors ignition switch blamed for over 100 deaths – federal regulators may have missed yet another fatal flaw.

This one involves a potentially defective hitch used on as many as 6,000 semi-trucks plying U.S. highways. Produced by an Alabama supplier, the part has been linked to a case involving a runaway trailer that killed two people on a snowy highway in Batavia, Ohio early last year.

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Though the manufacturer had issued several service bulletins, and users had filed several complaints – at least one involving a crash – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to open a formal investigation until last month.

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