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Lexus and Buick Lead Industry in Long-Term Dependability

But latest J.D. Power study finds reliability is up overall.

by on Feb.14, 2018

The Lexus ES led in the Premium Compact Car segment, while Lexus was ranked the most dependable brand overall.

While many studies look at the quality of vehicles soon after they roll off the showroom floor, the real question is how they hold up after a few years on the road. And the answer, according to annual J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, is better than ever.

Almost across the board, reliability showed a large jump – the first improvement since 2013 – though some manufacturers did notably better than others. For the seventh consecutive year, the Japanese luxury brand Lexus led the VDS overall while Buick was tops among mass market brands. Chrysler lagged at the back of the pack, with nearly twice as many problems as those two rivals, but it also showed some improvement.

Insight!

“For the most part, automotive manufacturers continue to meet consumers’ vehicle dependability expectations,” said Dave Sargent, the head of automotive practices as J.D. Power and Associates. “A 9% improvement is extremely impressive, and vehicle dependability is, without question, at its best level ever. For people looking for a new or used model, now is a good time to find that special vehicle.”

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First Look: 2019 BMW X4

Longer, lower, wider.

by on Feb.14, 2018

The 2019 BMW X4 grows in all dimensions but one, with its roofline lowered a mere 0.1 inches.

BMW is blowing a kiss to fans of its Sports-Activity Vehicle line-up, giving a first look on Valentine’s Day at the next-generation X4.

The Bavarian automaker has been filling in just every possible niche with its SAVs, most recently debuting the new X2 so, it seems, it’s heading back to refresh the rest of the line-up. If you get a sense of déjà vu, no surprise, considering the 2019 X4 shares most of its underpinnings with the latest BMW X3.

New Product News!

“The second-generation BMW X4 brings together a distinctive, dynamic silhouette with a clear, pared-back use of forms,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design.

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It’s Official: Rolls-Royce SUV Will be Named Cullinan

A diamond in the rough?

by on Feb.13, 2018

Project Cullinan is about to make its debut as the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

Surprise: Rolls-Royce plans to call its first-ever SUV the Cullinan. Oh, wait, you already knew? Well, the reality is that folks inside the British maker have been referring to the ultra-luxurious  ute for some time as “Project Cullinan,” but the company only now is making that the official choice for the production model.

So, with a little less than shock value to the name, Rolls has also released an assortment of pictures of what it prefers to call a “high-bodied vehicle.”  And, if you’re wondering, it’s an appropriate moniker for something targeting the world’s most affluent motorists, making reference to the largest diamond ever discovered.

Product News!

“The name Cullinan has been hiding in plain sight since we revealed it as the project name some years ago,” explained Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce. “It is the most fitting name for our extraordinary new product. Just like the Cullinan Diamond, the largest flawless diamond ever found, it emerges when it is perfect and exists above all others.”

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GM Shutting One Korean Plant, Considering Fate of Others

Government open to aid offer – but demands investment guarantees.

by on Feb.13, 2018

The Gunsan plant has produced several GM models, including the Chevy Orlando shown here.

Facing rising costs and declining sales, General Motors today said it will close one of four factories in South Korea and, as part of an ongoing restructuring program, the automaker is weighing the fate of the remaining three facilities.

South Korean government officials expressed “deep regret” at the news. The country’s trade minister left open the possibility of financial aid but cautioned that any assistance will depend on whether GM plans to invest in its operations in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. But it appears all sides are playing a game of brinksmanship, the U.S. automaker waiting to see what stakeholders, including its unions, might be willing to offer.

Global News!

“As we are at a critical juncture of needing to make product allocation decisions, the ongoing discussions must demonstrate significant progress by the end of February, when GM will make important decisions on next steps,” Barry Engle, GM executive vice president and president of GM International, said in a statement.

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First Look: Mercedes-AMG G63

More muscle for an off-road beast.

by on Feb.13, 2018

The 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 features several distinctive design details, including its grille and side exhaust pipes.

Less than a month after Arnold Schwarzenegger helped pull the wraps off the next-generation Mercedes G-Wagen, the German automaker is back with an even more bulked-up version of the off-road beast.

With a helping hand from the AMG side of the family the new G63 will boast the sort of power that one might more typically expect from a Mercedes sports car, a full 577 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque.

Off-Roading!

“The new AMG G63 brings driving performance to the segment of unadulterated off-road vehicles in unexpected form,” said Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.” The vehicle has evertheless reached a completely new dimension in terms of technology with the handcrafted AMG 4.0-liter V8 biturbo engine as well as in combination with the off-road characteristics, the agility and the vehicle dynamics achieved.”

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Accounting Adjustment Masks Record Full Year Earnings for General Motors

Workers will get $11,750 in profit-sharing.

by on Feb.06, 2018

GM CEO Mary Barra has pushed for major changes in GM's strategy, and the 2017 numbers suggest her approach is paying off.

General Motors officially reported a net loss for 2017, but the real numbers were masked by a series of accounting adjustments and actually climbed into record territory for the year.

The adjusted, $12.8 billion in pretax profits, which worked out to $6.62 a share – an 8.2% year-over-year gain – comes as good news to workers as well as investors at a time when economic uncertainty has shocked Wall Street. About 50,000 U.S. hourly employees will share the maker’s success with profit-sharing checks averaging $11,750 apiece. That bonus actually dipped from $12,000 last year.

Business News!

“The actions we took to further strengthen our core business and advance our vision for personal mobility made 2017 a transformative year,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, in comments during a media and analyst conference call. “We will continue executing our plan and reshaping our company to position it for long-term success.”

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Justice Dept. Offers FCA Settlement – With “Substantial” Fines for Diesel Scam

Prosecutors in Germany expand their own probe of FCA and Bosch.

by on Feb.05, 2018

1 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

The Justice Department wants to settle its probe accusing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of rigging more than 100,000 diesel-powered vehicles to illegally pass emissions tests – but its offer would require “substantial” penalties.

Regulators have accused FCA of using a defeat device, software similar to what was used by Volkswagen, to bring down emissions of exhaust gases like smog-causing oxides of nitrogen while undergoing tests. Under real-world operation, however, the vehicles reportedly would produce substantially more of the emissions than legally permissible.

Enviro-News!

The alleged scheme has gotten FCA into trouble on both sides of the Atlantic. In German, prosecutors are ramping up their own investigation into apparent collusion between Fiat Chrysler and mega-supplier Robert Bosch. The company, which has supplied engine control technology to FCA, as well as VW and other automakers, claims it did not attempt to held the Italian-American automaker sidestep regulatory mandates.

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Ram Panned: MLK Super Bowl Spot Sounds Sour Note

Toyota scores, however, with a tug on the heartstrings.

by on Feb.05, 2018

Getting muddied up: Ram's 60-second commercial was hit for its use of a Rev. King speech.

Trying to select the winners among the ad fest also known as Super Bowl is, at best, an inexact science, but one thing virtually every Monday morning commercial quarterback seems to agree on is the spectacular fail of the spot by Fiat Chrysler’s Ram division.

It’s not that the truck brand didn’t follow FCA’s formula proven out over much of the past decade, a longer-form spot pairing dramatic words and images aimed at building to a higher calling than crass commercialism. Since the Italian-American automaker’s first spot, featuring rapper Eminem twinning the themes of Detroit’s and Chrysler’s comeback, its ads have frequently been the Super Bowl’s most eagerly awaited and subsequently talked-about commercials.

Insight!

The Ram ad on Super Bowl LII is also generating a lot of buzz, but most of it is not what the truck brand’s marketing team aimed for. In both social and mainstream media , the decision to use a 50-year-old speech by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. drew comments like “tasteless” and “cheesy,” one Facebook user suggesting it inadvertently “mock(ed) every FCA manifesto ad that came before it.”

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Toaster-Shaped Nuro R1 Could Soon Pop Up as Driverless Delivery Van

Silicon Valley start-up aims to launch driverless delivery service this year.

by on Jan.31, 2018

The R1 is about as long and tall as a Toyota Highlander, but barely half as wide.

It looks like a four-wheeled toaster, but when the Nuro R1 starts popping up later this year it will be bringing packages from online and local retail shops, according to the company’s founders.

The race to put self-driving vehicles on the road is rapidly heating up, and it’s a question of which will come first: robot taxis or automated delivery vans. If Nuro has its way, it will get a head start on companies like Waymo and General Motors, which hope to launch the first driverless ride-sharing services sometime in 2019.

Tech Power!

Considering the tens of billions of dollars in goods that roll across the nation’s highways each year, experts see a potentially lucrative market for driverless long-haul trucks. Several companies have already demonstrated prototypes, including Uber subsidiary Otto. But Nuro is targeting the final leg of the journey.

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Study Sees California Hitting 1.5 Mil ZEV Target by 2025

EVs could be “as ubiquitous as smartphones” by 2040.

by on Jan.30, 2018

Lower costs, longer range and improved charging should all boost EV demand, says study.

Despite a slow start, California should be able to hit its ambitious goal of putting 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles, or ZEVs, on the road by 2025, according to a new study.

Governor Jerry Brown last week announced plans to step that up a notch, with a goal of having 5 million ZEVs in use in California by 2025. That would likely cement the state’s position as the greenest in the U.S., though the study also noted that the country is losing ground to China which it predicted will be adding as many as 7 million so-called New Energy Vehicles to its national fleet by the middle of the coming decade.

Stay Plugged In!

“2017 marked a turning point for electric vehicles,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of California-based think tank Next 10, pointing to decline costs and increasing range, among other factors. “The growth we’re seeing in California’s ZEV market shows that the state is standing alongside leading countries in the transition to a cleaner transportation future.”

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