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All But One of a Dozen Small Cars Fall Short in Crash Test

Mini Countryman nabs a “good” rating from IIHS.

by on Jul.30, 2014

The 2014 Mini Countryman was the only vehicle to earn a "good" rating in the latest IIHS small car crash tests.

For those worried about the safety of today’s small cars, the latest round of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety didn’t provide much good news.

Out of an even dozen vehicles included in the test, only the Mini Countryman earned a “good” rating. And among the plug-based vehicles included in the tests for the first time, only the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid managed to eke out an “acceptable” rating – while also earning a Top Safety Pick+ award.

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“The Mini Cooper Countryman gave a solid performance,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s senior vice president for vehicle research. “The Countryman’s safety cage held up reasonably well. The safety belts and airbags worked together to control the test dummy’s movement, and injury measures indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a real-world crash this severe.”

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American Motorists Want Self-Driving Cars, Says New Study

Desire to give up control drops when kids involved.

by on Jul.29, 2014

CEO Carlos Ghosn outlines Nissan autonomous vehicle plans during a Tokyo news conference.

Americans haven’t necessarily fallen out of love with the automobile. They just don’t enjoy the art of driving as much anymore, and a growing number of Americans seem ready to hand over command to autonomous vehicles.

A new study finds that fully three-quarters of licensed U.S. motorists would be very likely to consider, if not buy, self-driving vehicles. And if offered lower insurance rates, the figure jumps to a whopping 86%, found website Insurance.com.

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“People are aware that they already drive cars controlled partly by computers,” said Insurance.com Managing Editor Des Toups. “Now they see features like collision avoidance on new models and hear about Google cars hitting the roads in a couple of years. An autonomous car is not science fiction anymore.” (more…)

Shake-Up at Scion

Toyota’s youth brand making major changes to product line-up.

by on Jul.29, 2014

Soon to be gone? The Scion xB.

Scion has always tried to think out of the box, and now it likely will abandon its boxy xB model as part of a product line shake-up designed to reinvigorate Toyota Motor Co.’s youth-oriented brand.

The xB is one of several models that reportedly will go away, according to various reports, while the Japanese brand will get several new models, including a version of the Auris hatchback sold in Europe and other parts of the world under the Toyota badge.

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Gone is the strategy of limiting Scion to just a handful of products designed to bring first-time buyers into showrooms, the brand’s top executive recently confirmed to TheDetroitBureau.com.

Scion could use the shake-up. Only a few years back considered among the hottest brands in the market, Scion has lost significant momentum in recent years and was one of only a handful of brands to see sales slide during the first half of 2014.

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Jaguar XE to Go With “Aluminum-Intensive” Design

Focus on using recycled metal.

by on Jul.29, 2014

Jaguar will give the world its first full look at the new XE compact sport sedan in September.

Jaguar is offering a bit more insight into its plans for its new compact model, confirming the upcoming XE sedan will opt for a lightweight “aluminum-intensive” unibody design that will make heavy use of recycled metal.

The lightweight metal will account for 75% of its structure, and the new Jaguar XE will be assembled at a special facility at the Solihull plant in Britain’s West Midlands designed specifically to handle the production of the luxury sedan.

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Jaguar was one of the first makers to begin migrating from traditional steel to aluminum, along with its UK sibling Land Rover. Among others is Ford Motor Co., its former parent company, which says it learned enough about aluminum manufacturing from Jaguar to help it design the new, lightweight F-150 pickup coming to market later this year.

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Nissan Earnings Surge 37% on Weak Yen, Strong Sales

Net profit significantly beats analysts’ forecasts.

by on Jul.28, 2014

The Nissan Sentra has helped drive strong demand for the maker, especially in the U.S. market.

Nissan saw a big surge in earnings for the latest quarter, with analysts crediting both strong sales in China and the U.S., as well as a boost from favorable exchange rates.

The second-largest Japanese maker reported a net profit of 112 billion yen, or $1.1 billion, a 37% year-over-year increase from 82 billion. The figures far and away exceeded analysts’ consensus forecast of 85 billion yen, or $835 million, according to data gathered by FactSet.

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“Nissan continued to make progress in the first three months of the fiscal year as encouraging demand for new products, benefits from recent plant investments, and improving market conditions in North America, China and Europe combined to lift both revenues and profits,” said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

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US Car Market Showing No Signs of Cooling Down

SUVs, crossovers and luxury vehicles drive demand.

by on Jul.28, 2014

Strong demand for products like Altima mean Nissan will deliver a double-digit July sales gain.

It may be an unexpectedly cool summer in much of the country but you wouldn’t know by looking at July’s sales numbers – which have many industry observers expecting the rest of the year to remain hot.

Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co. chief executive officer, noted the general economy appears steady, which should lead to strong sales during the second half of the years. Chuck Stevens, General Motors chief financial officer, also said the second half of the year looks very promising.

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Preliminary data suggest that July new-car sales will be up about 12% over year-earlier numbers, putting the industry on track for its best July since 2006, well before the U.S. economy began to collapse. Overall sales should reach about 1.46 million for the month, according to new forecasts from TrueCar and Kelly Blue Book, and that translates into a seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, of 16.6 million to 16.7 million, roughly a million ahead of total sales in 2013.

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Mercedes-Benz Downsizes with New AMG Engine

Set to debut in maker’s upcoming AMG GT sports car.

by on Jul.25, 2014

The new, 510-hp Mercedes-Benz engine will debut under the hood of the upcoming AMG GT.

With the unveiling of its all-new 4.0-liter V-8, Mercedes-Benz joins a growing trend in the automotive performance market. Smaller, it seems, is better as performance and mileage requirements collide.

Due to make its debut under the hood of the planned Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, the new twin-turbo V-8 will deliver the sort of numbers that would traditionally require a far bigger engine – along with the fuel economy traditionally not possible in a high-performance sports car.

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A growing number of makers are opting for features like turbocharging, and even hybridization, to generate more power out of smaller engines. And as ever-tougher fuel economy and emissions standards go into place around the world, the trend is only likely to accelerate, according to industry planners and engineers.

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New Stop-Start Engines Boosting Mileage up to 7%, Reports AAA

Technology becoming more widely available, often as standard feature.

by on Jul.24, 2014

A full 97% of Chevy Malibu buyers are opting for the version with Stop-Start standard.

With increasingly stringent mileage standards coming down the pike over the next decade, automakers are frantically racing to find ways to boost the fuel economy of their vehicles. Some new features would yield benefits that are barely measurable, others could add significantly to a vehicle’s price tag. But new Stop-Start engines are delivering significant mileage benefits, often without additional cost to consumers.

A new study suggests that Stop-Start technology – which shuts an engine off, rather than idling – can reduce fuel consumption by anywhere from 5% to 7%. And it achieves a similar reduction in the production of global-warming CO2 emissions, according to research by the AAA.

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“Up to seven percent improved fuel economy can mean a $179 annual fuel savings* for consumers,” says Greg Brannon, Director of AAA’s Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations team. “The technology requires only minor adjustment for motorists – automatic stop-start technology is simply applied to standard combustion engines.”

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GM Earnings Crushed by Recall Costs

"Nevertheless, we remained profitable," said CEO Barra.

by on Jul.24, 2014

Earnings on new full-size models, such as this 2015 Chevy Tahoe, should boost GM's earnings going forward, analysts forecast.

The fallout from the ignition switch recall and other safety-related problems cut deeply into General Motors’ profitability for the second quarter, the maker reported.

Net income for the March to June period tumbled to just $200 million, or 11 cents per share, compared to a $1.2 billion net for the second quarter of 2013. The GM balance sheet was hammered during the latest period by one-time costs, most of them related to ongoing recalls, as well as for setting up a new victims’ compensation fund. Earnings before the recall-related charges would have been 58 cents a share.

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Beyond the Numbers!

“The ignition switch put tremendous pressure on our earnings,” GM chief executive officer Mary Barray told analysts and reporters. “But nevertheless we remained profitable.”

Barra also said the sweeping recalls, which so far this year cover 29 million units, have not deterred GM from pushing ahead with its effort to improve its competitive position around the world.

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Small Car Shoot-Out Heats Up with Updated Toyota Yaris

Subcompact hatchback gets a “new attitude.”

by on Jul.24, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Yaris goes for a more aggressive design to compete in a crowded segment.

There’s a big battle underway in the small car market, and Toyota has rearmed with a new version of the Yaris subcompact.

Coming to market in both three- and five-door hatchback versions, the 2015 Toyota Yaris is the Japanese giant’s newest model to opt for a more aggressive design than Toyota has traditionally been known for, the maker declaring the hatchbacks now have “a new attitude.”

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They’ll need it considering the increasing competition in the small car market from the likes of the recently restyled Nissan Versa and Honda Fit, never mind the domestic small cars that have begun gaining traction in a market long controlled by the Japanese, such as the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta.

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