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Despite Low Gas Prices, Interest in EVs Still Significant

Californians, Northeasterners express curiosity about battery electrics.

by on May.26, 2016

A creep upward in gas prices may be stimulating interest in EVs. A new survey shows some parts of the country are curious.

With the holiday weekend upon us, the inevitable creep of rising gas prices is beginning to force some motorists to wonder: when will be back to $4 a gallon gasoline? This kind of burbling concern can only make EV automakers giddy with anticipation.

In fact, on America’s coasts, the demand for electric vehicles is still surprisingly high, even in an era of $2.28 a gallon gasoline.

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A recent survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed more than half of Californians are likely to consider an electric vehicle as their next vehicle and in the Northeast, 35% of owners are likely to have an EV in their ranks of possible purchases next, in spite of the limitations that cold weather places on electric vehicles. (more…)

BMW Gets Scoop of Ride-Sharing App

Automakers continue scrambling to get piece of ride-sharing pie.

by on May.26, 2016

BMW now has skin in the ride-sharing game with its investment in California-based Scoop. The terms of the deal were not announced.

BMW has joined the list of automakers investing in car sharing and ride sharing apps.

BMW i Ventures, the German luxury carmaker’s New York-based venture capital fund, has announced a strategic investment of an undisclosed size in San Francisco Scoop Technologies, Inc., creators of the carpooling mobile application “Scoop.”

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Since launching in August 2015, Scoop commuters have taken more than 40,000 trips, offsetting nearly 500,000 in commute mileage for riders. Originally launched in Pleasanton, California, Scoop now also operates commute trips into San Francisco, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and North San Jose, California. (more…)

May Car Sales Moving Along at Brisk Pace

Analysts expecting year-over-year drop this month.

by on May.26, 2016

Analysts expect that Fiat Chrysler, led by Jeep sales, will be one of the few makers posting positive results for May.

Guessing when car sales will begin to slip after what has been described as the longest expansion in Auto Sales in the U.S, going all the way back to World War II is proving hard to pin down.

Edmunds.com expects new car sales in May will increase 2.3% from April 2016, but drop 5.8% compared to May 2015. The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate or SAAR will hold steady at 17.5 million.

Sales News!

While sales appear to be slowing, 2016 is still on track to break last year’s record of 17.47 million new car sales, Edmunds noted in its latest forecast, which projects that 1,537,436 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in May. (more…)

Increasingly Desperate Takata Seeking Financial Bailout

Japanese airbag supplier planning to restructure, find new investors.

by on May.26, 2016

NHTSA recently added 40 million airbags to the recall.

Blamed for the largest safety recall in automotive history and facing potentially billions of dollars in legal and repair costs, embattled Japanese supplier Takata is reportedly exploring ways to restructure and bring in new investors.

Industry sources say that without new funding, Takata may no longer be viable. That could leave customers ranging such as General Motors, Daimler and Toyota stuck with the entire bill for replacing tens of millions of faulty airbags. It could also force nearly 20 manufacturers who have used Takata’s suspect airbag inflators to go searching for new sources of replacement parts.

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“The committee strongly believes that it is in the best interests of all Takata stakeholders for Takata and its automotive customers to reach a consensual resolution that addresses the costs of the inflator issues while enabling Takata to remain a viable and valued global supplier to the automotive industry,” Hideaki Sudo, a lawyer in Tokyo heading Takata’s new steering committee, said in a statement.

(more…)

GM Bringing Truck Production Back from Mexico

Flint union workers getting overtime.

by on May.26, 2016

GM's recent $877 million investment in its facilities in Flint, Michigan, are paying off as the company expands truck production there.

There’s been plenty of coverage, during this highly politicized presidential election year, of automotive production moving down to Mexico. But General Motors is bringing at least some production back to the U.S.

Sources at GM and the United Auto Workers Union have confirmed that a newly enlarged assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, will start producing some of the full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups currently rolling off a GM line in Silao, Mexico.

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The union sent a letter to members at the Flint plant advising them that there will likely be additional hiring of both full-time and temporary line workers, explaining, “The increase in light-duty pickup volume for Flint Assembly is (for vehicles) currently being built in Silao.” (more…)

Google Setting Up Suburban Detroit Autonomous Vehicle R&D Hub

New site moves tech giant closer to possible customers.

by on May.26, 2016

Google is opening a development center in Novi, Michigan. This building will start work with 100 Chrysler Pacific minivans.

As it steadily moves closer to production, Google is planning to open a new autonomous vehicle development center in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

The move will offer several advantages. Among other things, it will allow the tech firm to work more closely with the partners that would put Google’s self-driving technology into production. The announcement comes barely a month after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google announced plans to use the technology on 100 new Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

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“For the past few years, members of our team have been working from the Greater Detroit area. Now it’s time to lay down roots: we’re establishing a self-driving technology development center in Novi,” said John Krafcik, the CEO of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project in a post on the Google+ service. (more…)

New College Grads Looking for New Sets of Wheels – Used Wheels

Newly minted alumni expect to spend less than $15K.

by on May.25, 2016

The 2010 Toyota Prius was rated as one of the top choices for new college grads looking for a used car for less than $15,000.

As the calendar hits late May, many new college graduates will be looking forward to kicking off their careers by getting out of their old set of wheels and into another, better vehicle.

A recent survey shows that most college graduates plan to spend $15,000 or less for a vehicle and more likely than not, it’ll be used. In fact, of the 67% of those expecting to get a car, 57% plan to pay for the vehicle without any assistance from their parents.

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“We are pleasantly surprised to learn that today’s college students have relatively rational and moderate expectations toward the cars they’ll buy after graduating and how much they plan to spend,” said CarGurus Editor Steve Halloran. (more…)

Tesla, Smart, Jaguar, Land Rover Among Brands Bedeviled by Software Glitches

Auto industry, in general, struggling to deal with high-tech problems.

by on May.25, 2016

A number of owners have reported problems with the Model S, including doors that won't open, bad chargers and faulty motors.

(This story has been updated to reflect new comments and questions by Volvo, one of the makers cited by J.D. Power.)

The good news is that automakers are loading up today’s vehicles with more and more high-tech safety, performance and infotainment technology. The bad news is that these systems are generating more and more complaints from consumers frustrated by balky and poorly written software.

Smart, Tesla, Jaguar and Land Rover are three of the brands that are generating some of the highest number of complaints, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates. According to the research firm, the number of complaints about vehicle software filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been growing rapidly in recent years, jumping 22% in 2015 alone.

Tech Talk!

“Consumer complaints are the canaries in the coal mine for automobile manufacturers when it comes to anticipating future recalls and longer-term customer satisfaction,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power, in a statement. “Software-related problems have become much more prevalent and, if not addressed, could begin to erode consumer trust in new automotive technology.” (more…)

Hyundai Aiming for #2 in Green Vehicle Market

Korean maker and partner Kia will launch 26 “eco” models by 2020.

by on May.25, 2016

The Hyundai Ioniq will be offered with hybrid, plug-in and EV versions.

Hyundai has big plans for the “eco” market, with the maker planning to introduce 26 new hybrid, plug-in, battery-electric and fuel-cell  vehicles between now and 2020, a blitz that begins with this year’s launch of the new Ioniq model.

The challenge, said the head of the Korean carmaker’s green car program, will be winning over motorists who’ve so far shown a reluctance to buy battery and hydrogen cars in large numbers. But, facing increasingly stringent emissions and mileage mandates, Hyundai – and its rivals – have no choice but to bring cleaner, more energy-efficient products to market, said executive Byung Ki Ahn.

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“We’re making a serious effort to be the number two producer of EVs and fuel-cell vehicles,” said Ahn, the director of the Eco-Vehicle Performance Development Group for Hyundai and partner Kia. “I don’t think we can beat Toyota right away.”

(more…)

Shortages Cause Latest Jump in Gas Prices

Canadian forest fires cutting crude oil exports to U.S.

by on May.25, 2016

Canadian forest fires have cut exports of crude oil to the U.S., causing gas prices to rise to their highest average this year.

Gas prices are at their highest point for the year with the biggest jump in prices coming in the upper Midwest where the forest fires in the Canadian Tar Sand Region have crippled exports of crude oil to Midwestern refineries.

AAA noted in its weekly report on fuel prices that with the approach the Memorial Day holiday, the national average has increased for 12 days in a row an average of $2.28 per gallon is up six cents per gallon on the week and 15 cents per gallon on the month.

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The nation’s top five most expensive markets are: California at $2.80 per gallon, Hawaii at $2.66 per gallon, Washington at $2.59 per gallon, Alaska at $2.58 and Nevada at $2.49. In addition, for the first time since August 2015, drivers in every state and Washington, D.C. are paying averages above $2 per gallon, according to AAA. (more…)