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Maserati Plans to Cap Global Sales at 75,000

Italian marque hopes to keep demand strong by limiting availability.

by on Jul.18, 2014

The twin turbochargers feeding the 410 horsepower 3.0 liter V6 ensures the Maserati Ghibli is more than just pretty curves and strong sales show it.

Following in the footsteps of its Fiat stablemate, Ferrari, Maserati plans to limit global sales to 75,000 vehicles. However, in this case, the cart may be before the horse, as Maserati isn’t expected to reach that mark until 2018.

Ferrari famously capped sales at 7,000 units last year. Maserati sold about 15,400 cars last year and expects to see that number double this year on the strength of the new Ghibli and redesigned Quattroporte. And it had one of the hands-down favorites at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show with its Alfieri Coupe Concept, which is now slated to be in production in 2016.

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It will join the brand’s first-ever SUV, the Levante, which shares the basic underpinnings of the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee – but which will draw power from a Ferrari-derived powertrain. Read the rest of this entry »

GM Tracking to Meet Recalled Ignition Repair Target

Delphi to have 2 million kits ready by end of August.

by on Jul.18, 2014

GM has replaced nearly 500,000 faulty ignitions switches and Delphi has produced 1 million kits to do the repair.

Delphi Corp. CEO Rodney O’Neal told a senate subcommittee that the supplier has produced 1 million replacement ignition switch repair kits for the 2.6 million vehicles recalled by General Motors.

He testified that Delphi has three production lines currently manufacturing the kits and added the company will produce 2 million by the end of August.

The Word is "Free"!

GM’s senior leaders have maintained for months now that the company expects to meet the October deadline for repairing the more than 2.5 million vehicles it recalled due to a faulty ignition switch. Read the rest of this entry »

All-new Mazda2 Breaks Cover

Picks up Japanese maker’s latest design language.

by on Jul.18, 2014

The new 2016 Mazda2 debuted in Japan today.

We got our first hint of what’s to come during the Geneva Motor Show last March when Mazda rolled out the Hazumi concept vehicle. But now, the Japanese company is making it official with the formal roll-out of the new Mazda2 subcompact.

It marks a completely new look for the new model and suggests that Mazda is serious about gaining traction in the small car segment – which has been growing just about everywhere, including the U.S. For American buyers, the redesign might seem to be coming quickly, considering the Mazda2 has only been offered here since 2011. But what’s known as the Demio in Japan was last updated seven years ago and is now entering its fourth generation.

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Mazda isn’t ready to talk about the American version of the Mazda2/Demio, but in overseas trim it’s going to be sold with three different engine options, both 1.3-liter and a 1.5-liter gasoline packages and a 1.5-liter clean diesel. Both use the maker’s new SkyActiv technologies, including high compression and direct injection, to yield significantly better mileage than potential buyers might otherwise expect. Read the rest of this entry »

On Track and Under the Hood of the 2015 Ford Mustang

Ford offers hot laps – and some secrets about the ’15 pony car.

by on Jul.18, 2014

The 2015 Ford Mustang celebrates 50 years of the legendary pony car with improvements in almost every aspect of the car.

“We’re still tweaking,” concedes Tom Barnes, the head of the vehicle dynamics team bringing the new 2015 Ford Mustang to life.

But with the all-new pony car set to roll into showrooms in just a matter of months, most of the work is completed, giving Ford the chance to show off the new Mustang by taking a handful of journalists under the hood – and for some hot laps around its Dearborn, Michigan, proving grounds.

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While far from a hands-on driving experience, the event revealed that the 50th anniversary Mustang is likely to live up to the promise laid out by Ford’s global product development chief Raj Nair, who boasted to the media group that “This is the greatest, best-performing Mustang we have ever had.”

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Say Goodbye to the Steering Wheel

Experts anticipate autonomous vehicles will soon take over.

by on Jul.18, 2014

An endangered species?

Google will soon begin rolling out the first of 100 self-driving microcars, most of which will have some familiar features missing, namely such traditional necessities as a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal. And while the Google vehicles will just be prototypes designed to test the tech firm’s autonomous driving technology, a survey of industry experts anticipates that the basic design could soon become the norm, rather than the exception.

The majority of the 200 respondents surveyed for this month’s Intelligent Vehicles Symposium, or IVS, anticipate vehicles being mass produced by 2035 won’t have steering wheel, gas or brake pedals, even rearview mirrors or horns.

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That’s in line with a separate study by Navigant Research that predicted about 95 million autonomous vehicles a year will be sold by 2035.

That figure is “reasonable to me,” said Alberto Broggi, a professor at the University of Parma, in Italy, a leading researcher on autonomous vehicles, and a key participant in the IVS conference — which was sponsored by the IEEE. But he questions whether all of those vehicles will be fully autonomous or still allow motorists to take control if they want – or need – to.

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Dodge Challenger Hellcat Opens up New Muscle Car Era

Muscle car brand fills in gaps as it expands Challenger line-up.

by on Jul.18, 2014

The Dodge brand is putting more emphasis on performance with the new Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Dodge is revamping its lineup of muscle cars for 2015; using the stunning 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat as a calling card to show that it is possible to blend modern technology with traditional design cues to create an entirely new line of vehicles with power, distinctive heritage and celebrated silhouettes.

Though sales have slipped a bit in recent months – nothing unusual for a model about to get a major redesign – the muscle coupe has given competitors such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro a run for their money since Challenger was re-launched in 2009.

High-Performance!

A big part of its appeal has been a distinctive design that “won’t get lost in a mall parking lot,” said Tim Kiniskis, head of the Dodge brand, during the first media drive of the 2015 model.

But performance also matters to these buyers, and as the most powerful factory-built muscle car ever, the $60,000 Hellcat is expected to serve as a halo car for not only the SRT line of performance cars, but the entire Dodge brand.

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Fiat, VW Deny Merger Talks

But VW has hinted it’s still hungry for acquisitions.

by on Jul.17, 2014

VW's Winterkorn and Fiat's Marchionne shown emerging from a meeting in Geneva last year.

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech has a voracious appetite – for acquisitions, that is, the recent additions of Porsche and truckmaker Scania AB to the VWAG family bringing to thirteen its global brand count. And he has openly expressed interest in adding more, his second-in-command, VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn even naming Alfa Romeo as a possibility.

So, why not go one step further and buy Alfa’s parent, the newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? Or so goes a story in Germany’s Manager Magazin that set the rumor mill ablaze today. It claimed that Volkswagen, the largest maker in Europe and the world’s second-largest, based on 2013 sales, had approached Fiat about selling it some or all of the Euro-American company.

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However, both companies are firmly denying the report, Fiat declaring in a statement that has, “not held discussions with Volkswagen regarding a potential merger.” For its part, a VW statement flatly said that, “There are currently no M&A projects on the agenda,” adding that, “We are now focusing on boosting efficiency within the Group.”

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Sen. McCaskill Blasts GM’s Top Attorney; Calls Millikin Incompetent

Blumenthal believes Justice Department will find a “cover up.”

by on Jul.17, 2014

General Motors CEO Mary Barra testifies before a Senate Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety & Insurance.

After praising GM CEO Mary Barra in her opening remarks, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) later took her to task for not firing the automaker’s top lawyer, Michael Millikin, during a senate hearing today.

McCaskill, who chairs the senate subcommittee holding the hearing, blasted Millikin calling him incompetent, then asked Barra why she didn’t fire him.

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She also questioned why Millikin didn’t inform the automaker’s board or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about possible punitive damages related to GM’s settling of previous cases. Read the rest of this entry »

Toyota Pulls Wraps Off New Sienna

Automaker opts for online unveiling.

by on Jul.17, 2014

Working with three social media-savvy parents, Toyota launched its 2015 Sienna minivan on the internet.

It isn’t a good time for minivan fans. Two decades ago, they were the hippest things on wheels, just about every maker racing into the segment with new products loaded up with the hottest new features, whether juicebox holders, stowaway seats or rear entertainment systems. But with demand sliding, a growing number of makers are pulling out or trimming their minivan lines, Chrysler soon set to abandon the Dodge Grand Caravan model.

But don’t count Toyota out of the market. Quite the contrary, the maker revealing an updated version of the popular Sienna mom-mobile that introduces an intercom system so parents won’t have to scream at the kids battling in the back seats.

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In what might be a telling move, rather than reveal the 2015 Toyota Sienna at an auto show or some other traditional event, the Japanese maker pulled the wraps off digitally, with an online unveiling that showed off its potential, the maker explained, “through the eyes of three creative, social media-savvy parents. In a series of custom videos, these parents bring to life the everyday and sometimes unexpected adventures possible in and around the Sienna.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nissan Won’t Wait for 2020 to Begin Rolling Out Autonomous Technologies, Says Ghosn

New study forecasts annual sales of 95 mil self-driving cars by 2035.

by on Jul.17, 2014

A prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle negotiates traffic at a simulated urban intersection.

Betting on huge demand from motorists in the world’s increasingly crowded mega-cities, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has laid out an aggressive timetable for bringing the maker’s autonomous vehicles to market.

Even before the first of those self-driving cars goes on sale in 2020, said Ghosn, Nissan will launch new technologies, such as automated lane controls and highway traffic management systems that will begin to supplement the driver behind the wheel.

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We're Not on Autopilot!

Nissan is aiming to take the lead in the development of autonomous technologies but is likely to face a battle as other automakers enter the field – as well as tech giant Google which will begin launching field tests this year of a new prototype self-driving vehicle it has developed. The race could find a willing public, according to a new study by Navigant Research forecasting annual sales of autonomous vehicles could reach 95 million by 2035.

“By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous drive strategy,” said Mr. Ghosn.

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