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GM, Lyft Deploying “Thousands” of Self-Driving Bolts in 2018

The new fleet arrives two years ahead of most other maker's planned ventures.

by on Feb.17, 2017

An autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV shown running at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.

General Motors will catapult to the top of the autonomous vehicle class in 2018 when it deploys “thousands” of self-driving EVs with its ride-sharing partner Lyft Inc., according to Reuters.

If it happens, it will be the largest test fleet of fully autonomous vehicles by a major automaker. Currently, Waymo, working in concert with Fiat Chrysler, is testing about 60 self-driving vehicles in four states.

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Most automakers have been pointing to 2020 as the time when they’ll have vehicles ready for autonomous driving tests on America’s roadways. Plans call for Lyft, which GM purchased a stake in last year, to use the self-driving EVs in California and other states, Reuters reported. (more…)

Unifor Demands GM Restore CAMI Jobs — Or Else

Dias joins chorus calling for NAFTA redo.

by on Feb.17, 2017

Unifor President Jerry Dias harshly criticized GM's plan to move some SUV production from Ontario to Mexico.

As automakers are trying to figure what will happen with the North American Free Trade Agreement, another saber is rattling in the ears of General Motors — Unifor is demanding the company restore 625 jobs its moving to Mexico or else.

Unifor, the Canadian auto workers union, is looking to secure as many jobs as it can as it heads into negotiations for the Ingersoll, Ontario, plant this fall. Currently there are about 2,800 employees at the facility.

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The plant builds the vast majority of GM’s best-selling crossover, the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. However, the company announced earlier this year, Terrain production will be shifting to Mexico along with 625 jobs. (more…)

Hoping to Organize Southern Car Plants, UAW Adopts Pro-Trump Stance

Union backed Clinton in 2016, but now supports president’s “Buy American” campaign.

by on Feb.17, 2017

UAW President Dennis Williams said the union supports President Donald Trump's message of "Buy American."

Politics can make for strange bedfellows. So can union organizing drives.

Traditionally a stalwart force for the Democratic Party, and a major backer of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign last year, the United Auto Workers Union has done something of an about face. At a Thursday news conference in Detroit, UAW boss Dennis Williams offered praise for President Trump – the president’s criticism of Mexican auto production, in particular – and said the union is ready to launch a new “Buy American” ad campaign.

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The union’s position is not entirely surprising. In fact, it reflects the reason why many members reportedly voted for Trump last November. But the shift at UAW headquarters also comes as the union amps up its efforts to organize workers at a number of non-union auto plants, most of them in the South, where organized labor has seldom been welcome – and where candidate Trump far outpolled his Democratic rival for president. (more…)

Ferrari Brand Value Soars 40 Percent

Toyota most valuable auto brand overall, rises 7%.

by on Feb.17, 2017

Since Sergio Marchionne took over for former Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo and raise production levels, Ferrari's brand value has risen 40%.

The value of the Ferrari brand is steadily rising, according to a new study that ranks the world’s automotive brands by Brand Finance, a British valuation and strategy consultancy.

“The fact Ferrari has boosted revenues without compromising brand strength suggests that it has found the perfect formula to sustainably exploit brand equity to maximize shareholder value,” Brand Finance CEO David Haigh said.

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Haigh noted the strength of Ferrari’s brand is all the more impressive given its increasingly commercial approach and improving revenues. (more…)

Delinquent Car Loans Reach All-Time Highs

Record-setting fourth quarter followed record-setting third quarter.

by on Feb.17, 2017

New car sales set a new record this year. Car loan delinquencies also hit a record high in 2016.

The rate and amount of delinquent auto loans has climbed to its highest level since the end of 2008 when the U.S. was teetering on the edge of tbe Great Recession.

Car loans delinquent by 30 days or more grew to $23.27 billion, the most since $23.46 billion in the third quarter of 2008. They were up from $22.98 billion in the prior quarter. Roughly 3.8% of the loans were delinquent at the end of the fourth quarter, which is up from 3.6% at the end of the third quarter, according to data on consumer debt collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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Seriously delinquent auto loans whose payments were 90 days or more past due jumped to $8.24 billion in the fourth quarter, which was just an extension of the third quarter of last year, when the previous high was set, according to the survey. (more…)

Highway Fatalities Rising Because Drivers are Getting Worse

Young and old drivers alike engaging in dangerous driving habits.

by on Feb.16, 2017

It's no longer younger drivers engaging in texting and other distracted behaviors while driving, according to a new study.

After dropping for more than a decade, highway deaths in the U.S. have risen for the last two years. A new study shows why: drivers are getting worse.

According to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than half of drivers in every age group have texted behind the wheel, run a red light or driven faster than the speed limit in the last 30 days.

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While young drivers are the worst offenders – 88% of drivers aged 19 to 24 engaged in at least one of the aforementioned behaviors – older drivers are doing them as well and in larger numbers than expected. (more…)

FCA Laying Off 3,200 Employees in Toledo as Plant Transformation Begins

Marchionne's master plan being put into action.

by on Feb.16, 2017

FCA is moving production of the Jeep Cherokee from Ohio to Illinois as part of its production overhaul.

This story has been updated with new information.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to lay off more than 3,000 hourly workers as moves into the next stage of its manufacturing transformation, shifting car production to plants outside of the U.S., and allowing U.S. plants to build the company’s more profitable trucks and SUVs.

FCA expects to temporarily lay off 3,200 workers starting in April as it begins $700 million retooling of a plant in Toledo, Ohio, to build the next-generation Wrangler.  The workers will be laid off for up to six months, according to documents the company filed with the city and the state, and reported by the (Toledo) Blade.

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The layoffs were not a surprise, Jodi Tinson, an FCA spokesperson, told the Detroit Free Press. The plant currently produces the Jeep Cherokee and needed to end Cherokee production in Toledo in an adjacent plant and prepare for production of a new Wrangler there.  (more…)

Lamborghini’s $4M Veneno Recalled For Fire Risk

Just the latest among ultra-exclusive cars to face recall.

by on Feb.16, 2017

Lamborghini Veneno shown during its debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

When you’re spending $4 million for an automobile you might expect it to do lots of things, including topping out at more than 200 miles an hour. What you probably wouldn’t expect it to do is go up in flames.

But that’s precisely what could happen, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which has published a recall notice covering all 12 of the 12-cylinder supercars that Lamborghini introduced in 2013 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The government warns that “under certain conditions,” the rare collectible two-seater could catch fire.

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The Lamborghini Veneno may be one of the most expensive automobiles ever recalled, but it is far from the only exotic and exclusive car to face a service action as a result of an unexpected safety defect. That list includes such high-line brands as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati and even Rolls-Royce.

(more…)

Ford Funnels $200 Million into New Wind Tunnel

Maker plans to "super-size" facility to accommodate large trucks.

by on Feb.16, 2017

Ford plans to spend $200 million on a new vehicle testing facility that includes and advanced wind tunnel.

The Ford Motor Co. plans to spend $200 million for new wind tunnel at its principal engineering center in Dearborn, Michigan.

“This investment in new world-class test facilities underpins Ford’s ongoing commitment to advance our capabilities to continue to provide our customers with high-quality vehicles,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development and chief technical officer.

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The new wind tunnel complex will sit on 13 acres next to Ford’s Driveability Test Facility in Allen Park, Michigan. The complex will house new technology that delivers state-of-the-art real-world driving simulations to advance improvements in fuel economy. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year. (more…)

GM, PSA Getting Pushback on Potential Opel Deal

German, British unions and governments against the sale.

by on Feb.16, 2017

GM is re-examining its European operations, specifically, the UK, in light of the "Brexit" vote.

General Motors’ plans to sell off its money-losing Opel unit is running into political and union opposition in both Germany and Great Britain.

GM is proposing to sell Opel to the French-based PSA Group, which it is assumed will move to reduce costs, shed some of the excess capacity and move to consolidate product lines. Excess capacity has long been identified as a major problem in the European auto industry but governments and unions throughout Europe have made it extremely difficult to close plants

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Germany’s federal government and influential unions, which are already facing the threat of major job losses at Volkswagen in the wake of the diesel scandal, have moved quickly to criticize the proposed GM-PSA deal. (more…)