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Hyundai Recalling Nearly 1m Cars for Faulty Seatbelts

Latest in a series of recalls involving unsafe safety systems.

by on Mar.16, 2017

The 2014 Sonata is part of a 1 million vehicle recall for seat belt problems related to the midsize sedan.

A seatbelt defect, linked to at least one known injury, is leading to the recall of nearly 1 million Sonata sedans sold in the U.S. by Hyundai Motor Co.

The recall covers versions of the conventional, gas-powered midsize model sold during the 2011 through 2014 model-years. The 2011 to 2015 model-year Sonata hybrid is also covered, according to a new report published on the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety News!

The Hyundai recall is the latest in a series of large recalls reported by automakers domestic and foreign. And it comes just days after federal regulators revealed that safety-related callbacks hit another all-time record in 2016 – for the third year in a row. A total of 53.2 million vehicles were involved. (more…)

Tesla Hopes to Charge Up with $1B Stock Offering

Wall Street growing increasingly jittery ahead of Model 3 launch.

by on Mar.16, 2017

Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to buy the first $25 million worth of shares from the company's new $1B offering.

Running out of juice just as it prepares for the most important product launch in its short history, Tesla is once again going to the well, hoping to raise $1 billion through a new stock offering.

The announcement comes just weeks after founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed a dim fourth-quarter earnings report and warned that the battery-carmaker was “getting very close to the edge” in terms of its cash reserves.

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The latest stock offering, which comes less than a year after Tesla’s previous turn to the market, is meant to “reduce any risks associated with the rapid scaling of (our) business due to the launch of Model 3, as well as for general corporate purposes,” the company said. (more…)

Trump Reopens CAFE Review

Hailed by automakers, scorned by environmentalists, announcement may have little practical impact on auto industry plans.

by on Mar.15, 2017

“My administration will work tirelessly to eliminate the industry-killing regulations,” Trump said in Detroit.

Declaring his goal of making Detroit “the car capital of the world again,” Pres. Donald Trump came to the Motor City on Wednesday bearing what could be a major gift for the domestic carmakers – but one that quickly raised concerns among environmentalists.

The business-cum-politician said he was ordering the EPA to reopen a mid-term review of Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that would require the industry to deliver a fleet average of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025. Many – though not all – manufacturers have warned they cannot meet that target without raising vehicle prices beyond what consumers could afford, something Ford CEO Mark Fields in January told the president could cost 1 million automotive jobs.

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The announcement that the government would review both the mileage target and timing was actually less of a radical development than many had expected, some industry observers questioning whether the new administration might slash the numbers immediately or, perhaps, repeal CAFE entirely as part of Trump’s promise to reduce government regulations. (more…)

German Prosecutors Raid VW, Audi Offices

Probe expands as Audi and VW execs come under closer scrutiny.

by on Mar.15, 2017

German prosecutors raided Volkswagen and Audi offices recently as part of an ongoing investigation into the diesel-rigging scandal.

Even as the criminal and civil cases against Volkswagen over its rigging of diesel engines wind down in the U.S., German prosecutors are ramping up their own probe – which could lead to additional criminal charges against current and former VW officials, including one-time CEO Martin Winterkorn.

The latest twist comes as the embattled automaker confirms that prosecutors had launched raids at VW headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, as well as the offices of its semi-independent Audi subsidiary near Munich.

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“The execution of the search warrants is meant to clarify which persons were involved in the use of the relevant technology and, where applicable, were involved in providing inaccurate information to third parties,” said Munich prosecutor Ken Heidenreich, in a statement announcing the move against Audi’s offices. (more…)

FCA, VW, Patching up Differences, Could See Joint Opportunities

Volkswagen CEO opens door to “conversation.”

by on Mar.15, 2017

VW CEO Matthias Mueller has been struggling to dig the maker out of its diesel scandal.

Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller, apparently picking up on recent comments by his counterpart at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, opened the door to “a conversation” on Tuesday, something some observers suggest could lead to merger talks between the two companies.

Mueller’s comment, which was made during a news conference called to discuss VW earnings, came barely a week after CEO Sergio Marchionne said a merger between FCA and some other manufacturer “will happen” in the coming years.

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Talk of mergers, acquisitions and alliances in the global auto industry has escalated in the wake of General Motors’ decision to sell its long-troubled German-based Opel/Vauxhall unit to France’s PSA, the parent of the Peugeot and Citroen brands.

(more…)

Major Management Changes Coming at Nissan

Nakamura retires, Albaisa gets promoted, BMW’s Habib to take on Infiniti styling.

by on Mar.14, 2017

Nissan's Shiro Nakamura helped build the maker's reputation for strong designs.

More big managements changes are in the works at Nissan Motors Corp., barely three weeks after Carlos Ghosn relinquished his title as CEO of the Japanese automaker.

The latest wave impacts Nissan at a variety of senior levels, both at its headquarters in Japan and in the critical U.S. market. That starts with the announcement that Shiro Nakamura, the well-respected Nissan Chief Creative Officer, will be retiring. He will be replaced be Alfonso Albaisa, who had been overseeing design at the maker’s Infiniti division. In turn, Albaisa will be replaced by former BMW Design director Karim Habib.

Designing News!

Still other major management shifts come as Nissan moves to cement its control over Mitsubishi, the long-troubled Japanese automaker that was rescued by a Nissan bailout late last year. Four more Nissan executives will move over to the smaller maker starting in April.

(more…)

Lexus to Add UX Concept to Line-Up

A large flagship ute may follow, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned.

by on Mar.14, 2017

The styling renaissance continues at Lexus with the debut of the UX Concept, although its likely it won't be a "concept" much longer.

Adapting to a rapidly shifting automotive environment, Lexus is reportedly set to transform the UX concept vehicle into its latest production SUV.

First revealed at the Paris Motor Show last September, the UX would join the best-selling RX, the full-size LX, and the relatively new NX in Lexus showrooms. But it could be just one of several new crossovers coming from the Japanese luxury brand, with Lexus also looking at a possible flagship model that would serve as a complement to the LS sedan.

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“We are doing (the UX), Lexus Executive Vice President Yoshihiro Sawa told Australia’s Motoring magazine. “It’s not so far away.” (more…)

VW Brand Profit Slammed by Diesel Emissions Scandal Costs

U.S. remains "core market," says CEO Mueller.

by on Mar.14, 2017

VW CEO Matthias Mueller holds the wireless fob for the Sedric robotic car at the Geneva Motor Show.

Volkswagen revealed a classic good news/bad news scenario on Tuesday morning. After reporting record group profits last month for 2016, the automaker now says operating earnings at the flagship VW brand took a sharp hit as a result of the maker’s diesel emissions scandal.

The automaker has so far agreed to spend nearly $25 billion on fines and settlements in the U.S. alone as a result of the scandal, and that doesn’t include a hefty increase in marketing costs since the diesel engine rigging was revealed in September 2015.

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Nonetheless, Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller put a positive outlook on the maker’s current situation, insisting it was “back on track” after one of the worst crises in its eight-decade history. Mueller himself took home 7.8 million euros, or $8.5 million, in pay and other forms of compensation for 2016.

(more…)

Automakers Getting Ready as California Gets Set to Approve Fully Driverless Testing

But proposal gets pushback from some consumer groups.

by on Mar.13, 2017

VW's new Cedric prototype robotic car is an autonomous vehicle that is voice-controlled by using a fob the size of a jump drive.

If California’s regulators move ahead with a new proposal, completely driverless vehicles – many not even offering back-up controls for a human to grab in an emergency – could be prowling the state’s roadways before the end of 2017.

California was one of the first states to approve the testing of autonomous vehicles, though it required each car to have a back-up “operator” to be at the ready in an emergency. The rules proposed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles would go the next step.

Breaking News!

Many experts now believe that completely driverless vehicles should be the auto industry’s ultimate goal, officials at Ford Motor Co., among others, warning that humans can’t be relied upon to take over if something goes wrong, especially after hours of sitting behind the wheel with nothing to do.

(more…)

Lincoln Plans to Build All-New SUV in China

New model set to debut by late 2019; would sidestep import tariffs.

by on Mar.13, 2017

Lincoln won't say what product it plans to build in China, but it is expected to be smaller than the Navigator Concept shown in NY last year.

Lincoln plans to develop and launch an all-new SUV model in China by late 2019, the automaker has confirmed, a move that is seen as critical to maintain the rapid growth of Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand in the booming Asian nation.

The automaker isn’t offering specific details about the planned vehicle, but sources tell TheDetroitBureau.com they expect it will be targeted at the midsize segment and offer three rows of seating. It is likely to become the primary seller in Lincoln’s Chinese line-up, in part by eliminating the 25% tariff on imported automobiles.

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“The move to local production is a key next step in Lincoln’s evolution in China and will complement continued imports from North America,” the automaker said in a statement announcing the new SUV project.

(more…)