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Bicycle Deaths on the Rise

Problem shifts to adults on urban roads.

by on Oct.30, 2014

A CitiBike bicycle sharing station in New York City. Urban ridership is up - but so are fatalities.

Whether traveling on rural roads or inner-city streets, you’re likely to see a lot more bicyclists pedaling their way alongside four-wheeled traffic. Bikes have become hip again, it seems, especially with Generations X and Y. And a growing list of cities – including Chicago, San Francisco and New York – even make it possible to bike share, an encouraged alternative for commuters and tourists alike.

Unfortunately, new research reveals that with the increase in bicycle usage, there’s a concurrent increase in crashes, the annual cycle death rate rising from 621 to 722 between 2010 to 2012, reports the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA. That’s an alarming 16% jump even as overall highway deaths – including automobiles, motorcycles, pedestrians and bicycles – has been declining.

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Notes a statement from the GHSA, “Bicycle fatalities are increasingly an urban phenomenon, accounting for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975. These changes correlate with an increase in bicycling commuters — a 62 percent jump since 2000, according to 2013 Census Bureau data.”

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First Look: 2015 BMW X5 M and X6 M

Debut set for LA Auto Show next month.

by on Oct.29, 2014

BMW offers a first look at the two big performance crossovers, the X5 M and X6 M, coming to LA.

The world got its first look at the new BMW X5 eDrive hybrid during the Paris Motor Show a few weeks back, and now the Bavarian maker is steering in a very different direction as it offers up details on its all-new  high-performance crossovers, the 2015 BMW X5 M and X6 M. Both models will officially debut at the L.A. Auto Show next month.

As with the latest versions of the more mainstream X5 and X6 Sport-Activity Vehicles, the revised M models opt for evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, design changes. That means new front and rear fascia and body lines.

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But what matters most is what lies barely hidden beneath the sheet metal, and the new M crossovers will be adopting the same 4.4-liter, TwinPower Turbo V-8 already offered in the M5 and M6 lines – BMW boasting that it’s the most powerful engine it has ever developed for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

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October Sales Expected to Defy Economic Uncertainty

Incentives rise, and pose risks, analyst warns.

by on Oct.29, 2014

The Jeep Cherokee is selling well and is responsible of much of Chrysler Group's stellar year.

Recent big swings in the stock market and dire headlines about an economic downturn haven’t put any kind of dent in U.S. auto sales, industry analysts are predicting demand for October will be up between 5.4 and 6.0% when sales numbers are totaled up next week.

Total demand, including retail and fleet sales, is expected to reach 1.27 million vehicles, according to various forecasts. On an annualized basis, known in industry terms as the SAAR, that would work out to 16.3 million vehicles, nearly a million about the rate for all of 2013.

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“The industry continues to demonstrate strong sales growth and robust transaction prices, resulting in another record-breaking month for industry consumer spending,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power and Associates. (more…)

FCA Set to Spin Off Ferrari

Investors applaud, but questions and challenges loom.

by on Oct.29, 2014

The 458 Speciale A made its debut at the Paris Motor Show earlier this month.

Only months after Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne ruled out the possibility of spinning off the maker’s high-profile Ferrari brand, that’s precisely what the maker now says it will do – a move that has fired up investors while raising questions about the long-term strategy for the supercar maker.

In an announcement accompany Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s third-quarter earnings report, the maker said it will sell 10% of Ferrari’s shares while the remaining 90% will go the only recently merged FCA’s own shareholders.

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The move comes at a significant moment for Ferrari which just last month revealed that long-time chief executive Luca di Montezemolo would step down, apparently as a result of a dispute with Marchionne over the sports carmaker’s direction. It didn’t help that Ferrari also had one of its worst years on the trying Formula One race circuit in decades.

What happens now is something that both loyal “Ferraristas” and investors alike will be watching closely.

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Fiat Chrysler Earnings Hold Steady as Maker Prepares to Spin Off Ferrari

Investors quickly warm to news.

by on Oct.29, 2014

Sergio Marchionne may have reason to smile as investors finally begin bidding up FCA stock.

Now officially merged, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its third-quarter earnings were roughly in line with last year’s numbers.

Though that was essentially what analysts had anticipated, the automaker delivered a surprise by announcing it will spin off its iconic Ferrari brand – just months after CEO Sergio Marchionne appeared to indicate such a move wasn’t in the works.

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The decision “will preserve the cherished Italian heritage” of Ferrari, said a statement from FCA Chairman John Elkann. Ferrari has been facing a fair bit of turmoil lately after the ouster of its long-time chief executive and its unexpectedly poor performance in the popular Formula One racing series.

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Rearview Cameras Saving Lives, Says AAA

But some systems are better than others.

by on Oct.29, 2014

Backup cameras are already common - even before the new government mandate takes effect.

Advancing autumn darkness increases concerns about pedestrian safety and one innovation that does help reduce accidents is the back-up camera, according to studies by AAA.

On average, these rear-view systems improved visibility an average of 46%, the travel and safety organization found. That’s a significant improvement, and something that can save 100s of lives a year, which is why federal regulators will beginning mandating the technology a year from now.

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“Rear-view cameras are a great supplement for drivers,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering.

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No Room for Complacency, Says GM CEO Barra

Maker aiming to “annihilate the opposition,” she tells Detroit leaders.

by on Oct.28, 2014

GM intends to win, proclaims CEO Barra, during a speech to Detroit business leaders.

General Motors is no longer going to act a polite competitor, GM chief executive officer Mary Barra said during an appearance before the Detroit Economic Club.

“I want to win,” Barra said. Not get by. Not hold on. Not be competitive. But win.

“I want GM to excel. To build relationships with customers for life. To be the most valued automotive company in the world,” Barra added. “If we aren’t here to win, to lead, to excel, why are we here?”

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In her speech to the leaders of the Detroit business community, Barra made it clear she wasn’t chosen to be CEO just to put a friendly face on the once-bankrupt automaker. Already having walked through fire as she has had to steer GM through an embarrassing and costly recall crisis, Barra has shaken up the maker and is clearly planning more major changes.

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Honda Earnings Up, but Maker Lowers Full-Year Forecast

Takata and other problems loom for Japan’s third-largest maker.

by on Oct.28, 2014

Honda recently confirmed plans to add the HR-V - shown in concept form - to its line-up.

Honda profits surged during the July-to-September quarter, but the third-largest Japanese automaker nonetheless lowered its full-year forecast reflecting a variety of potential problems ahead.

Helped by a weak yen, Honda Motor Co. reported net earnings of 141.8 billion yen, or $1.3 billion, for the second quarter of the Japanese fiscal year. Sales, meanwhile, increased by 4%, to 3.015 trillion yen, or $27.9 billion.

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Honda is among the Japanese makers to benefit from a weak yen which it credited for boosting revenues by 123 billion yen, or $1.1 billion during the latest quarter. But that exchange rate enhancement isn’t expected to continue, industry analysts warn, while Honda warned it faces a “difficult business environment” that includes sluggish demand in Asia.

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Michigan to Become GM’s Global Electric Vehicle Center

CEO Barra to offer up some details of next Chevy Volt project.

by on Oct.28, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra will meet with Detroit's business leaders and outline plans for Michigan.

(This story has been updated with additional comments by GM CEO Mary Barra.)

While GM isn’t expected to reveal its next-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid until next January, the automaker’s CEO Mary Barra said today.

Among other things, the maker plans to invest $300 million in its home state of Michigan by year-end, a chunk of that cash going to set up the Warren Transmission Plant to produce the next-gen Volt’s plug-in drivetrain. Virtually all key powertrain components, from Volt’s batteries to its gasoline “range-extender” engine, will be built in Michigan going forward.

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“Our investments in the Chevy Volt and Michigan signify our commitment to lead the industry in technology and innovation,” CEO Barra told the Detroit Economic Club.

The remake of the Chevrolet Volt is scheduled to debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, marking the first major update to the so-called extended-range electric vehicle since it went on sale late in 2009.

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Infotainment Systems are the Plague of the Auto Industry, Says Consumer Reports

Japanese makers retain lead in quality, reliability.

by on Oct.27, 2014

CR gives thumbs up to the Toyota Camry, the magazine predicting good reliability for the 2015 update.

The quality of the cars sold on the U.S. market has hit a plateau, and motorists can put the blame on new technologies – especially the infotainment systems that have become increasingly common on today’s models, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.

The influential non-profit publication likened the issue to a “reliability plague,” chief auto tester Jake Fisher noting that, if anything, the latest annual Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability study might be downplaying the problem because it reports only actual defects.

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The situation would be even worse if the study included complaints about just how difficult many infotainment systems are to operate.

“The big problem is infotainment. Take that out and (the quality of) cars would be improving,” said Fisher, during an appearance before the Detroit Automotive Press Association.

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