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Bigger, Faster, Mini Reveals John Cooper Works Countryman

Shanghai for Mini's new performance crossover.

by on Jan.17, 2017

The JCW version of the new Countryman.

The latest-generation Mini Countryman is the biggest model that the British automaker has ever brought to market. And now, Mini is about to launch the most powerful version of the all-wheel-drive crossover it’s ever produced.

Sharing the turbocharged engine found in other JCW models, the 2018 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman All4 will churn out a hefty 228 horsepower, enough to sprint from 0 to 60 in just 6.2 seconds, or nearly a full second faster than the current Cooper S Countryman All4.

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But Mini has some other tricks up its sleeve, outfitting the new JCW Countryman with a sport-tuned suspension, Brembo brakes, 18-inch light alloy wheels and new sports seats and a sportier steering wheel.

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Big Changes Coming for 2018 Ford Mustang

More power, more tech, revised appearance.

by on Jan.17, 2017

Ford is giving the Mustang a midcycle refresh for the 2018 model, including engine upgrades and performance improvements.

Less than three years after the all-new, 50thanniversary Ford Mustang rolled into showrooms, the pony car is set to get some major updates.

That includes new front and rear-end design changes meant to improve aerodynamics and give the Mustang a “more athletic look,” Ford says. There will be engine upgrades delivering more power, with a 10-speed gearbox also boosting mileage, a new MagneRide suspension, and a number of new safety and infotainment technologies.

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The 2018 Ford Mustang “refresh” is more extensive than the typical midcycle makeover, reflecting both increased competition and the growing market shift from passenger cars to SUVs. The goal is to keep Mustang the world’s best-selling sports coupe, Ford officials said. (more…)

GM Investing $1b in US Plants, Adding or Saving 7,000 Jobs

Plan in the works before election, maker emphasizes.

by on Jan.17, 2017

GM has already invested $21 bil in its U.S. plants since 2010, adding 6,000 manufacturing jobs.

General Motors has confirmed widespread reports on Tuesday that it would invest another $1 billion in its U.S. manufacturing operations, but significantly increased the number of American jobs it plans to add.

The factory project will result in the creation or retention of 1,500 jobs, while another 450 jobs will be returned to the U.S. as GM transfers back production of axles from a plant in Mexico. In addition, the automaker will add 5,000 more jobs in finance and advanced technology “over the next few years,” it said in a Tuesday morning announcement.

Breaking News!

“As the U.S. manufacturing base increases its competitiveness, we are able to further increase our investment, resulting in more jobs for America and better results for our owners,”  said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “The U.S. is our home market and we are committed to growth that is good for our employees, dealers, and suppliers and supports our continued effort to drive shareholder value.”

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GM Investing $1b in U.S. Plants – Stresses Move Not Driven by Trump

New move to add or retain 1,000 jobs.

by on Jan.17, 2017

CEO Mary Barra said last week that GM will not alter investments to please the new president.

General Motors is expected to announce a $1 billion investment in its U.S. factories on Tuesday, a move that will allow the nation’s largest automaker to create or retain about 1,000 American jobs, according to several sources. Specific details about where the investment will be targeted have not been disclosed yet.

The announcement will come exactly two weeks after President-elect Donald Trump threatened to impose a “big border tax” on GM for importing the hatchback version of its compact Chevrolet Cruze model from Mexico. And it follows other investment U.S. announcements made this month by cross-town rivals Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Setting the Record Straight!

But GM sources stressed that the new investment by the automaker was not driven by the incoming president’s threats – a position echoed by GM General Counsel Craig Glidden in a story by the Wall Street Journal.

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AMG, Maybach, Buoying Mercedes as it Takes Global Luxury Lead

Is an all-electric AMG in the cards?

by on Jan.16, 2017

The Mercedes-AMG GT R takes on winter's worst in the latest expansion of the Forza racing game.

Once rare, Daimler’s AMG division seems intent on turning out high-performance versions of just about every possible Mercedes-Benz model – sometimes two or more, as it demonstrated at the Detroit Auto Show with the launch of several new Mercedes-AMG GT variants.

The latest AMG models are not just faster than ever, they’re flying out of showrooms at a record pace, with little indication of any slowdown in sight as the brand that began in a German garage marks its 50th anniversary.

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AMG isn’t the only brand-within-a-brand success story for Daimler. If anything, however, Maybach may be an even bigger surprise, having come back from the dead just two years ago as the marque for Mercedes’ most exclusive models. The reincarnated brand is now selling more cars in China each month than it did worldwide in its previous life.

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New Achates Engine Design Could Double Mileage

Opposed-piston engine could get there without breaking the bank.

by on Jan.16, 2017

A 2.7-liter version of the Achates opposed-piston engine making 270 hp and 479 lb-ft.

With the Environmental Protection Agency upholding the tough, 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, automakers are going to face a tough challenge. Barring a reversal by the incoming Trump Administration, they’ll have to deliver an average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The general consensus is that this will mean widespread use of electrifications – from conventional hybrids to pure battery-electric vehicles. But a small research and engineering firm, based in San Diego, thinks it has a viable – and far more cost-effective — solution that could deliver nearly twice the mileage of conventional gas engines – as much as 37 mpg for even full-size pickup trucks.

Tech News!

The Achates opposed-piston engine “will be 50% more efficient than the leading gas turbocharged direct-injection engine on the market today,” said Dave Johnson, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer who now serves as CEO of Achates Power.

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EPA Finalizes 54.5 MPG Standard

Move hands issue off to Trump Administration.

by on Jan.13, 2017

President Barack Obama pushed to keep tougher fuel economy standards expected to phase in 2022 over automaker objections.

After an extensive midterm review, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has locked in place the strict, 54.5 mile per gallon Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard set to phase in between 2022 and 2025.

The decision, which regulators had signaled was likely in late November, could set up second-guessing and a reversal by the regulation-averse Trump Administration coming into office later this month. The tough new standard had been strongly opposed by the auto industry and its supporters that claimed it could price vehicles out of reach of many American motorists.

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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy dismissed such concerns, in a statement noting, “My decision today rests on the technical record created by over eight years of research, hundreds of published reports including an independent review by the National Academy of Sciences, hundreds of stakeholder meetings, and multiple opportunities for the public and the industry to provide input.” (more…)

Takata Pleads Guilty in Airbag Scandal

Justice Department plans to go after executives too.

by on Jan.13, 2017

The Justice Department reached a $1 billion settlement with Takata due to its faulty airbags that resulted in the largest recall in U.S. history.

Takata Corp., the Japanese supplier whose airbags have been linked to at least 11 U.S. deaths, has agreed to plead guilty and pay fines and restitution totaling about $1 billion, the Department of Justice announced Friday afternoon.

Reflecting what U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch this week called an effort to hold “flesh-and-blood individuals,” rather than just “faceless corporations” responsible for criminal activity, three Takata executives have been indicted in the scandal. Takata acknowledged it not only produced defective airbags but took steps to conceal that information from both its automaker customers and from the public.

News Now!

“Takata was supposed to be selling products that saved lives,” said Sandra Moser, principal deputy chief of the DOJ’s Fraud Section. Instead, for more than a decade … it put profits ahead of people’s safety.” (more…)

Senior VW Managers Reportedly Warned to Stay Away from the U.S.

Five under indictment in diesel scandal remain in Germany.

by on Jan.13, 2017

Volkswagen is warning some of its executives to avoid traveling to the U.S. due to their involvement its the diesel scandal.

With six of its current or former managers facing indictment in the U.S. for their role in the company’s diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen is reportedly advising senior officials not to travel to the United States.

During a news conference this week announcing a $4.3 billion settlement of its VW investigation, U.S. Department of Justice officials said they were not only going after a “faceless” corporation, but also seeking to hold responsible “flesh-and-blood individuals.”

Global Auto News!

One Volkswagen manager was indicted last year, pleading guilty and agreeing to assist the probe. This week, six other senior managers were indicted by the DOJ. One was arrested in Florida ahead of the settlement announcement. Five others are now in Germany and, at least for the moment, out of the government’s reach. (more…)

Fiat Chrysler Latest to be Charged With Rigging Diesel Emissions

Automaker’s stock price tumbles in wake of EPA allegations.

by on Jan.12, 2017

The Ram 1500 turbodiesel has won a number of awards since its 2015 introduction.

Barely 24 hours after the U.S. Justice Department announced a $4.3 billion settlement with Volkswagen AG in connection with the German maker’s diesel emissions scandal, the Environmental Protection Agency accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of rigging its own diesel engines to illegally pass emissions test.

The agency said the so-called defeat device technology “appeared to cause the vehicles to perform differently when being tested” than when in use in real-world conditions. That was the same thing the EPA, in September 2014, charged that Volkswagen had done. Since then, VW has paid out close to $25 billion in fines and penalties related to the scandal. And FCA stockholders, apparently fearing a similar financial hit, sent the maker’s stock tumbling in the wake of the latest revelation.

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Enviro News!

“This is a clear and serious violation of the Clean Air Act,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides from the vehicles, threatening public health by polluting the air that we breathe.”

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