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Fiat Ups Chrysler Stake Another 5%

Maker rewarded for plans to build high-mileage Dart.

by on Jan.05, 2012

A preliminary "teaser" image of the new Dodge Dart, which will debut in Detroit on January 9.

With the launch of the new Dodge Dart, making its debut at next week’s North American International Auto Show, Chrysler expects to grab a larger share of the growing compact car segment.

But the maker’s Italian partner Fiat will grab an immediate larger stake in the U.S. maker – boosting its holdings by 5% for adding a new model to the Chrysler line-up that can deliver at least 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

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That was one of the stipulations set by the White House as part of the 2009 bailout of Chrysler.  Fiat initially was granted a 20% stake and effectively put in charge of the U.S. maker’s turnaround.  Since then, Fiat has steadily increased its holdings by meeting a series of additional requirements – most recently by paying off Chrysler’s remaining federal loans and then buying out the shares in the carmaker owned by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

With this move, Fiat now holds a 58.5% stake in Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne serving as CEO of both makers.


First look: Honda Civic Si Sedan and Coupe

Critical ninth-generation compact replaces spaceship design with swoopy, windswept look.

by on Jan.10, 2011

The 2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe is very likely to look very much like the concept unveiled Monday at the Detroit auto show.

Don’t think for a moment that Honda is ready to give up any ground in a compact market that it has dominated with the Civic, one of its two bread-and-butter products.

On Monday at the Detroit auto show, John Mendel, Honda’s executive vice president for sales, unveiled the exterior of the Civic Si  sedan and coupe concepts. While he did show an interior sketch – showing a slightly more conservative dashboard than the current generation – he said the automaker will officially unveil the interior later.

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The automaker is calling the cars concepts, but they are essentially the cars that will go on sale later this year.

Honda had originally planned to launch the ninth-generation Civic for the 2011 model year, but pushed it back for undisclosed reasons, meaning the car hasn’t been updated since it was launched for the 2006 model year.


First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Beauty is more than skin deep.

by on Dec.23, 2010

Body changes are modest with the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but there are some big changes under the hood.

Beauty should be more than skin deep.  So, while most makers will be pointing to the all-new sheet metal they’ve got on display at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, expect Mercedes-Benz to be pointing out what’s underneath when it comes time to preview the new 2012 C-Class.  And, curiously, the German maker will have the car on display only during a brief backgrounder for journalists, but not on the show floor at Cobo Center.

In fact, the cosmetic changes to the popular luxury sedan will be relatively modest, especially on the exterior, with a new aluminum hood and updated headlights and running lamps.

Sitting behind the wheel you’ll notice a bit more significant update, with a new leather-wrapped wheel lifted from the CLS and a completely redesigned dashboard, now aimed to spotlight the new high-resolution, multi-color instrument cluster.


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But you may need to read the manual – or actually listen to the salesman’s spiel to discover all the additional features, notably including safety updates like Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Attention Assist – which will flag you when you appear drowsy – and Parktronic.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class gets a significant interior update, including an all-new IP.

Another place Mercedes offers some assistance is at the gas pump.  The maker claims to have improved fuel economy by up to 15% with the introduction of two new direct-injection engines and an updated 7-speed automatic gearbox.

The top-of-the-line powerplant for the C-Class will now be the C350’s 302-horepower V6.  That’s up 34 hp, while torque jumps from 258 to 273 lb-ft.  Using the BlueDirect process, the maker says, it has been able to bump up performance and mileage simultaneously, the C350’s 3.5-liter powertrain driving 0-60 times in the low 6 second range while fuel economy improves 5%.

The big mileage gains come from the new turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four that will power the C250. Combined mileage is 24 mpg – 15% better than the old C300 — with 0-60 times rated by the maker at 7.1 seconds.

New 6-Series Convertible One Of Three BMW World Premieres In Motown

Maker also rolling out updated 1-Series, 1-er M Coupe – and more.

by on Dec.23, 2010

BMW is set to unveil the new 6-Series Convertible at next month's Detroit Auto Show.

BMW officials better brush up on their speed-reading because the teleprompter will be moving fast during their 25-minute news conference at the Detroit Auto Show, next month.

The Bavarian maker will launch the new year with some significant news – starting with the premiere of the next-generation 6-Series Convertible, as well as the updated 1-Series line-up and the all-new 1-Series M-Coupe, the latest offering from BMW’s celebrated sports division M GmbH. (Click Here for more on the 1-Series M…or Here for the full story on the new BMW 1-Series Coupe and Convertible.)


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As if that won’t be getting things going at a rapid pace, the maker will preview the new X3 with the M Sports package, as well as the 5 Series new xDrive versions.  And, if you haven’t run out of breath, there’ll be the new BMW Individual colours and wheels.

The world premiere of the 6-Series Convertible will be one of the highlights of the 2011 North American International Auto Show. The topless variant precedes the new Coupe that is expected to roll out over the summer – even though you might think it would be the other way around: a Coupe for snowy Detroit and a Convertible for New York in spring.

BMW also will reveal the updated 1-Series.

The Convertible will make its North American debut in the form of the 2012 BMW650i, which features the direct-injected V8 TwinPower Turbo engine that delivers 407 hp with a choice of a six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic sports transmission.

The pictures of the 1-Series M Coupe, that were released earlier this month, already show the new design for the face lifted 1-Series Coupe and Convertible.

The latest M variant is the first in the compact class and is aimed at young buyers who are interested in the M models, but who thought though could not (yet) afford one. With a base price in Germany of 50,500 euros the 1-Series M Coupe offers 340 hp.

The new X3 gets the M Sport Package.

Visitors to Detroit’s Cobo Hall will be able to also see the new X3 with M Sport package, a variant of the new X3 model with standard xDrive all-wheel-drive that now adds sports suspension calibration, M aerodynamics and M components, such as Performance Control and 18-inch alloy wheels.

It will be a very busy year for BMW.  Consider that:

  • In 2011, the 2 Series gets new versions and new options.
  • The maker launches the 535i XDrive Sedan with 8-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic and auto Start/stop function.
  • BMW Individual, the Bavarians’ customization line, debuts new colors and Merino leather trim and 19-inch V-spoke alloy wheels with absolutely massive new tires.
  • Another first for the 5 Series is the introduction of the optional full-colour HUD (head-up display).

Partially disguised, we get our first drive of the 2012 BMW 1-Series Coupe...which will be shown, without camouflage, in Detroit.

While products like the new X3 are likely to be big draws, the maker is also lifting the covers on some significant technical innovations, one of them the new BMW Connected Drive Services. This network system links the driver to the outside world, offering various possibilities for increased safety and comfort with some significant new infotainment features available at a touch of a button or a twist of the iDrive knob.

The 1 Series Coupe and Convertible models will begin the roll-out of the new technology, with the ability to actually access iPhone apps through the Connected Drive system, making  it possible to show Facebook and Twitter on the display and access it with the iDrive controller.

While many of the features will only be accessible when the car is stopped, drivers will be able to tune into web radio as another alternative source of mobile entertainment.

First Look: GMC All Terrain Sierra HD Concept

Taking on the big guys?

by on Dec.16, 2010

The GMC Sierra All Terrain HD concept will make its world debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Could GMC add a halo off-road truck to its full-size pickup lineup? The diesel-powered GMC Sierra All Terrain Heavy Duty Concept — which will debut next month at the 2011 Detroit auto show — points to how the “professional grade” brand thinks it might deliver a credible competitor to the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor and the Ram 2500 Power Wagon in the current or next-generation Sierra HD.

The light-duty Raptor and heavy-duty Power Wagon are two of the most capable off-road pickup trucks ever to jump or climb off the showroom floor. We love both because these purpose-built rigs can go places and do things off pavement that would kill lesser trucks within yards of the trailhead. The Raptor flies across the desert at high speed, like a Baja trophy truck, while the Power Wagon can rock crawl over the toughest terrain you’ll find in Moab.


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But these traits make an apples-to-apples comparison of the trucks difficult because their off-road strengths lie at opposite ends of the wheeling spectrum. This is where GMC smells opportunity.

The short-box crew-cab Sierra All Terrain HD threads the needle between the half-ton Raptor and three-quarter-ton Ram 2500 Power Wagon by carving a new niche that blends the off-road prowess and features of the Ford and Ram trucks with a few new innovations.