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First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-In

Hyundai plugs in with updated HEV and all-new PHEV sedan.

by on May.26, 2015

Hyundai's second-generation Sonata Hybrid.

Initially slow to embrace alternative powertrain technology, Hyundai is determined to catch up with green rivals like Toyota and Honda. It was the first to market with a retail hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and it is about to update its original Sonata Hybrid for 2016 – while also adding its first plug-in hybrid model.

The timing likely isn’t the best. With gasoline prices running about a dollar lower than a year ago, and likely to say depressed for a while, demand for battery-based vehicles has taken a dive. But based on a day’s drive of the two new Korean models, green-minded buyers looking for alternatives would be well advised to check out the 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid.

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The plug-based model, in particular, offers the longest range of any midsize PHEV on the U.S. market and its gas-electric driveline provides one of the smoothest, most transparent rides of any plug-in we’ve so far tested.

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Jeep Chasing Renegade Software Glitch

Marchionne implies problem is related to nine-speed transmission.

by on May.22, 2015

FCA may be battling a software issue with the Jeep Renegade and its nine-speed transmission.

Fiat Chrysler may be battling a new software bug with its Jeep Renegade …and it may have CEO Sergio Marchionne experiencing a case of deja vu.

Marchionne told multiple media outlets earlier this week implied there is a problem and implied it is related to the automaker’s problematic nine-speed transmission it sources from ZF.

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The same transmission that caused the automaker to delay the introduction of the Jeep Cherokee as the automaker attempted to recalibrate it to improve the ride quality. (more…)

Fiat Reveals New 4-Door Aegea Project

A Dart for the rest of the world?

by on May.22, 2015

Fiat unveiled the Fiat Aegea Project concept at the Istanbul Motor Show today. The car uses the Dodge Dart platform.

For those familiar with the pint-sized Fiat 500, the new Aegea concept is likely to seem positively huge.

The new concept vehicle, dubbed the Fiat Aegea Project, was unveiled today at the Istanbul Motor Show – an appropriate reference to the coast of Turkey where Fiat Chrysler Automobiles operates a major assembly plant.

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The dimensions shouldn’t be all that surprising once you realize this is a second take on the Dodge Dart platform – itself an update of an older Fiat chassis, originally used for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Initial reaction suggests FCA may actually have come up with the best design of all with the Aegea. (more…)

Toyota Vows to Solve Takata Airbag Problem

Automaker says public doubt must be removed.

by on May.22, 2015

Toyota's Akio Toyoda said resolving the Takata airbag problem and keeping the public's trust is critical to the auto industry's long-term health.

At least one automaker is pledging to get to the bottom of the problem with Takata-produced airbags that has resulted in the largest-single product recall in U.S. history: Toyota.

Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s president, said resolving the problem with airbags is critical to maintaining the public’s trust and is an industry-wide concern. The airbags can explode sending shrapnel into the cabin of the vehicle.

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The result has been six deaths, more than 100 injuries and the recall of 33.8 million vehicles in the U.S. and nearly double that globally. While the problem initially showed up regions with high humidity, the problem isn’t limited to those areas and the root cause of the problem is still unknown, Toyoda said. It’s an assertion supported by Takata officials and others. (more…)

Insurers Overcharging Low-Mileage Drivers, Consumer Group Claims

Link between mileage and claims largely ignored.

by on May.22, 2015

Despite being at a lower risk of crashing, study finds low-mileage drivers are over-charged.

Even though they tend to file significantly fewer claims, a new study says auto insurers typically fail to give discounts to motorists who clock low mileage.

Only State Farm, among all the major auto insurance companies, routinely provided a discount for those who put on about 5,000 miles a year – roughly a third of the national norm – according to the study by the Consumer Federation of America.

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“The failure of most large insurers to adequately reward low mileage especially harms lower income and older drivers because they drive the least,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s executive director.

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New Vehicle Sales Booming in May, Tracking for 17 Mil

Sluggish April being offset by this month’s results.

by on May.22, 2015

Sales in May are outperforming expectations, led in some measure by strong SUV and truck sales.

The economic “showers” that slowed new car sales in April are resulting blooming results in May as new vehicle sales are exceeding expectations thus far this month despite the slow tempo of economic growth in the U.S.

“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

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Total light-vehicle sales in May 2015 are projected to reach 1,591,100, a 3% increase on a selling-day-adjusted basis compared with May 2014. Fleet volume is expected to hit 290,500 units, accounting for 18.3% of total sales, up from 17.6% a year ago. (more…)

GM and Disney Take a Trip to Tomorrowland

Film showcases five classic concept vehicles – and a few modern ones.

by on May.22, 2015

The winged Firebird III concept car was one of several GM developed to showcase turbine power.

Is it back to the future…or forward into the past?

The new Disney movie, Tomorrowland, sets actor George Clooney out on a search for a secret location caught between time and space. And among the discoveries they make when they get there are a collection of classic General Motors concept vehicles, including the jet-powered Firebird III and the Space Age Astro II.

Always Looking Ahead!

“Tomorrowland is a place where nothing is impossible, which is something that Chevrolet believes can exist in the here and now,” Tim Mahoney, vice president, Global Chevrolet, said when announcing GM’s participation in the Disney flick – which also showcases several modern vehicles including the next-generation Chevy Volt.

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NHTSA Applies Legal Pressure to Speed Up Takata Airbag Recall

Feds using legal remedy to force quicker response.

by on May.21, 2015

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx may compel Takata and the automakers with the supplier's faulty airbags in its recalled vehicles to speed up the replacement process.

Federal safety officials sent a strong signal today to Takata and the 11 automakers involved in the recall of the Japanese supplier’s faulty airbags that they want to problem taken care more quickly.

On Tuesday, NHTSA announced it was forcing Takata to declare the airbag inflators in 33.8 million vehicles in the U.S. defective and ordering a recall of the affected vehicles. Prior to that, there were 17 million vehicles with the faulty inflators subject to recalls by various automakers.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) followed that up today by filing a four-page document with the Federal Registrar that the outlines a legal process asking automakers to respond and provide input into how to prioritize the cars and trucks that will be recalled. (more…)

GM Plows $439 Million into Corvette Paint Shop

List of plants in $5.4 billion investment plan continues to grow.

by on May.21, 2015

General Motors is investing $439 million for a new paint shop at the maker's Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant that produces the Corvette.

Being a plant manager at a General Motors facility these days must be like being part of Oprah’s studio audience: you’re just waiting to see what surprise gift you’ll be getting.

The latest “winner” is the automaker’s Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant that will get a new $439 million paint shop. The project is part of a $5.4 billion plan to upgrade many the company’s plants across the country.

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The plant is the automaker’s sole manufacturing point for its halo sports car, which has received $135 million in improvements during the last four years to produce the new Stingray and to create the Performance Build Center. (more…)

Twist of a Knob to Make Towing a Trailer Easier with 2016 Ford F-150

New technology modeled on parking assist system.

by on May.21, 2015

Ford is introducing its ProTrailer Assist technology that makes it easier for drivers to back up with a trailer hitched to the truck.

With Memorial Day ushering in the official start of the summer season, expect to see more and more people towing boats and trailers – and to hear more motorists cussing as they struggle to hitch up and move those trailers.

The process can be a frustrating chore, especially for novices, but Ford Motor Co. promises to make it a bit easier with the addition of its new “Pro Trailer Backup Assist” system which will make its debut on the 2016 version of the full-size F-150 pickup. And all it will take is the twist of a knob.

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“Pro Trailer Backup Assist is a smart solution to save time and increase productivity for our customers,” said Doug Scott, marketing manager, Ford Truck Group. “Instead of struggling to back up their trailer, they can spend more time on the job or enjoying the lake.” (more…)