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Privately Owned Cars Could Vanish Under Ambitious Helsinki Plan

Proposal emphasizes carsharing, bikes, mass transit.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Helsinki is considering a plan that would severely limit private ownership of cars, but allow greater flexibility in its public transportation in the city limits.

With traffic congestion getting worse by the year, amidst growing concerns about the automobile and the environment, a number of cities around the world are taking steps to reduce, or at least limit the growth in, the number of privately owned vehicles on the road.

Helsinki, Finland, is considering what is being described as a “truly transformative” plan that could all but do away with private car ownership entirely, in favor of carsharing, bikes and public transport. Perhaps the most significant piece of the plan would let residents pay a flat fee that would cover any and all of their urban transportation needs.

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“The major innovation that makes this work will be an integrated payment system,” according to a new study by Navigant Research. “This part of the scheme may prove the most complicated to implement, but it is the final piece of the puzzle that makes this scheme truly transformative.” (more…)

Women Taking to Haggling Over New Car Price

Survey shows women enjoy process more than men.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Women, according to a new survey, enjoy haggling over the price of a new car more than men.

The stereotype of a woman being unwilling to haggle with a dealership salesperson thus relying on her husband or some other man to handle the negotiations is going by the wayside.

The comfort level of women when it comes to rolling up their sleeves and getting the best deal on a new car is rising, according to a recent survey by Swapalease.com. In fact, women are more likely than men to duke it out: 33.3% of women said “it makes it a fun process” compared with just 25.1% of men.

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Morn Creemins, who recently picked up a 2014 Ram Laramie Longhorn pickup with the RamBox Cargo Management System, said much of her negotiating was done before walking in the door to the dealership via email. That said, once on site, the price came down some more. (more…)

India Fines 14 Carmakers for Overpricing Spare Parts

Follows move by Chinese regulators; US also looking at price fixing.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Indian automaker Tata, which makes the ultra-low-priced Nano, faced the biggest fine.

Regulators in India have levied more than $400 million in fines against 14 local and international automakers accusing them of intentionally overcharging for spare parts.

The move follows similar anti-monopoly actions in China that saw makers such as Mercedes-Benz accused of overpricing as a way to boost profits at the expense of vehicle owners.

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As many as 20 million Indian consumers were impacted by the practice of boosting prices for spare parts and aftermarket accessories, according to the country’s Competition Commission. The practice was made worse by the “denial of market access” to independent repair shares seeking both factory-authorized parts and diagnostic tools.

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Voice Recognition is the #1 Problem for New Car Buyers

“Sorry, I couldn’t understand.”

by on Aug.29, 2014

Programming systems like the Cadillac CUE can be a nightmare due to faulty voice recognition.

Call it a communications breakdown. If you’ve ever tried to use your car’s voice recognition system to dial a phone number only to have it change the radio station to a disco channel, you’re not alone. A new J.D. Power study reports that voice recognition has become the single largest source of complaints about new vehicles.

And problems pairing smartphones to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system is the second most common problem, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study.

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“Voice recognition and device connectivity are often inherent to the technology design and cannot be fixed at the dealership, creating a high level of angst among new-vehicle owners,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power.

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Overseas Markets Clamoring for New Mustang, Ford Officials Claim

Strong demand could see addition of third shift at Flat Rock plant.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs poses with the first of the 2015 Mustangs off the line.

The first of the new 2015 Ford Mustangs rolled off the assembly line this week, and though the new pony car won’t go on sale in Europe or Asia until next year, overseas dealers have already snapped up their allocation of the sixth-generation Mustangs, according to Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of The Americas.

The Mustang has traditionally been a car for North America, but it has nonetheless developed a loyal following in markets around the world, with a number of dealers trading in so-called “gray market” exports. That strong following convinced Ford it could start marketing the newly redesigned coupe and convertible pony cars globally.

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“We’re not yet (officially) taking orders in other parts of the world yet because we’re going to start here in North America filling up the pipeline. But we’re seeing very strong demand” in Asia and Europe, Hinrichs told reporters after the ceremony marking the official launch of production of the sixth-generation Mustang, which is being prepared for sales in 120 countries.

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Kia Announces $1 billion Mexican Assembly Plant

Factory set to open in 2016; add much-needed production capacity.

by on Aug.28, 2014

The new plant is expected to produce several small models, including a version of the Kia Forte Koup.

Desperate to add more much-needed production capacity, Kia Motors will become the latest automaker to open a new assembly plant in Mexico.

Intended to serve markets up and down the Americas, the $1 billion plant will begin operations in just two years, and will be tooled to eventually build as many as 300,000 vehicles annually. The facility is expected to produce a number of different compact models, according to the Korean carmaker, though it did not identify specific plans yet.

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The factory will become one of a growing list of automotive assembly plants operating in the Spanish-speaking country, Mexico already on target to become the sixth-largest auto-producing nation in the world as makers such as Nissan, Audi and now Kia set up shop or expand existing production facilities.

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Toyota Expands Tech Center as Part of North American Reorganization

Maker getting as much as $8.6 million in incentives in Michigan.

by on Aug.27, 2014

Toyota is getting as much as $8.6 million in incentives to offset the cost of a $32.5 million expansion of its tech center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

As Toyota moves ahead with plans to reshape its North American operations, the automaker may get as much as $8.6 million in incentives to offset a $32.5 million expansion of its technical center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Toyota is moving 250 purchasing jobs from Kentucky to Michigan necessitating the larger facility. In addition to the expansion in Michigan, the maker is moving its headquarters from southern California to a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

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The State of Michigan is providing a $4 million grant while York Township, near Ann Arbor, is also considering a 12-year property tax abatement valued at $4.6 million. (more…)

Volvo Set for Downsized Powertrain Revolution

Swedish maker switches to 4-cylinders; will add 3-cylinder and a pair of Plug-ins.

by on Aug.27, 2014

Volvo has high hopes for the 400-horsepower T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain it will offer on the XC90.

The all-new XC90 SUV that made its debut this week marks the beginning of a major shift in powertrain strategy by Volvo Cars, the Swedish automaker abandoning V-6 and V-8 power in favor of more advanced 4-cylinder gas, diesel and hybrid technology.

But Volvo is set to reach even further, company officials reveal, in its bid to balance performance and fuel economy. It also is developing a new line of 3-cylinder engines, and will soon add not just one but two different plug-in hybrid powertrains to its line-up.

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“A few years ago, I would have said this was a risky strategy,” admitted Lex Kerssemakers, the maker’s global product strategy chief, but he added he is “confident” about the approach as buyers around the world migrate to smaller, more fuel-efficient engines even in big SUVs and crossovers like the 2016 Volvo XC90.

(more…)

Ram Diesel, Toyota Highlander Hybrid Win Consumer Reports Nods

Both deliver unexpected mileage, magazine says.

by on Aug.27, 2014

The Ram EcoDiesel delivers sedan-like mileage, according to Consumer Reports testers.

Consumer Reports has placed Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 EcoDiesel at the top of its full-size pickup truck ratings due to its performance in fuel-economy tests, while the influential magazine also lauded the Toyota Highlander SUV.

The choice of the Ram Diesel underscores the growing intensity of the competition in the full-size pickup segment, which is undergoing a technical revolution as truck makers roll out new, more fuel-efficient powertrains and make other significant improvements meant to boost fuel-economy.

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Ford Motor Co. will launch a new, aluminum-bodied F-150 this fall that sheds up to 700 pounds and is expected to gain significant mileage, but the all-new truck wasn’t included in this round of tests by Consumer Reports.

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New Car Buyers Less Happy with Vehicles in 2014

New Car Buyers Less Happy with Vehicles in 2014

by on Aug.26, 2014

If you bought a Mercedes this year, odds are you're happier about that than other new car buyers.

For the second year in a row, Americans are less satisfied with their new cars and trucks. Customer Satisfaction with new vehicles dropped 1.2% last year as 16 of 21 nameplates saw declines.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the makers averaged 82 points out of 100 with Mercedes-Benz getting the highest rating of 86 points. The drop is somewhat ironic given the harried pace of sales for much of the last two years.

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“There is a lot going on in the area of big incentives,” said Forrest Morgeson, director of research, told the Wall Street Journal. “Many of the car companies are getting rid of those deals to improve profitability. That is weighing on the customer satisfaction.” (more…)