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Why is Tesla’s Musk Sleeping on the Factory Floor?

Battery-carmaker “hell-bent” on solving quality problems, says CEO.

by on May.05, 2016

CEO Elon Musk trying to get out of the trouble Model 3 through its falcon doors.

He may be worth billions, but Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk apparently likes to rough it. He’s been spending a lot of nights curled up in a sleeping bag at the company’s Fremont, California assembly plant, he revealed during a Wednesday evening teleconference.

It has nothing to do with the fact that Musk is getting divorced again. The South African-born executive is trying to stay as close as possible to the plant as it struggles to resolve embarrassing quality problems while getting set up for next year’s launch of the Model 3 battery-electric vehicle.

Electrifying!

The well-reported quality snags have already cost the bigger Tesla Model S its coveted “Recommended Buy” endorsement from influential Consumer Reports magazine. And industry analysts warn that if the problem carries over to the Model 3, it could short-circuit initially strong demand for the more affordable electric sedan.

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Ford Boosting the (Horsepower and Gear) Numbers for 2017 F-150

New 10-speed gearbox developed in joint venture with GM.

by on May.05, 2016

The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor.

Ford is playing it by the numbers as it gets ready to roll out the updated, 2017 F-150 pickup.

The full-size truck, the most popular version of the comprehensive Ford F-Series line-up, has undergone a number of big changes over the last two years, starting with its switch to a lighter, “aluminum-intensive” body. It’s also gotten an assortment of downsized engines, including a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that was already one of the F-150’s toughest haulers. But the twin-turbo package will get a 30 pound-feet bump for 2017, even as it delivers better fuel economy.

Keep on Truckin'!

A key to the mileage increase is the launch of an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission. That new gearbox was developed as part of an unusual partnership between Ford and erstwhile rival General Motors. Expect to see it roll out on a variety of Ford and GM products over the next several years.

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Tesla Still in Red, But Loss Narrows

CEO Musk calls solving quality problems "the key thing we have to achieve."

by on May.04, 2016

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in front of an image of the Model X SUV - which has been plagued by quality problems since its launch last year.

Struggling to solve quality problems with its first two models while getting ready to launch the all-new Model 3, Tesla Motors rolled up another deficit for the first quarter of 2016, but the losses narrowed, taking industry analysts by surprise.

The battery-electric automaker said it went $282 million into the red for the first three months of the year, or $2.13 a share. Excluding one-time items and using so-called non-GAAP accounting, the lose shrank to $75 million, or 57 cents a share, which was better than Wall Street had forecast, according to a survey of analysts by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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Finances were all but the secondary topic during a teleconference featuring Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk and other senior executives. Much of the session focused on the upcoming Model 3 launch as well as efforts needed to resolve Tesla’s ongoing quality and reliability issues.

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Takata Ordered to Recall Up to 40 Mil More Airbags

Largest safety recall in history already impacting 24 mil vehicles.

by on May.04, 2016

High school senior Huma Hanif was the 11th person killed as a result of the Takata defect.

The largest safety recall in automotive history is about to get even bigger, federal regulators ordering embattled Japanese supplier Takata to recall as many as 40 million additional airbags linked to a defect already blamed for at least 11 deaths.

The previous recall involved about 24 million vehicles sold in the U.S. over roughly the last decade, with 14 manufacturers impacted. Virtually every other major carmaker will now be pulled into the latest recall.

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“This is the largest recall in American history, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters on Wednesday.

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First Drive: 2017 Maserati Levante

Italian maker delivers its first SUV. Compatible combination or an automotive oxymoron?

by on May.03, 2016

The 2017 Maserati Levante starts out with the same underlying platform as the Ghibli sedan.

Say the name, Maserati, and you’re likely to picture a sleek sports car like the Ghibli, perhaps, screaming down the Autostrada. But bouncing along a rutted and rock strewn path that was old by the time the Romans packed it in?

That’s where we’ve found ourselves on a drizzly weekday morning, a couple hours outside of Milan, wandering our way through a course set up to train Italian mercenaries and special forces. Not the sort of place you’d traditionally expect to find a Maserati. Then again, the Levante isn’t your typical Maserati. The 2017 model is the maker’s first sport-utility vehicle. And we had come to Italy to find out if that was a compatible combination or an automotive oxymoron.

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Maserati has been toying around with the idea of adding an SUV to its line-up since 2003, when it showed off the original Kubang concept. The notion went nowhere until 2011, when a new prototype made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show. After taking a few unexpected detours, the rechristened Maserati Levante is about to start rolling into showrooms around the world.

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FCA, Google Could Announce Autonomous Deal Today

First step: self-driving Pacifica minivan.

by on May.03, 2016

Chrysler wants to reposition the Pacifica as more than a minivan; autonomous tech could help.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google could announce a joint venture as early as today, according to reports out of Milan.

The non-exclusive project would see FCA use the tech firm’s autonomous vehicle technology in several dozen prototypes based off the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan, according to a report by the Bloomberg news service. But several observers caution that a deal might take longer than expected, and note how a reported Ford-Google alliance failed to materialize, as many had expected, last January.

News Now!

It would mark the first official alliance for Google, which has said it prefers to find partners to use its autonomous vehicle technology, rather than going into the car business itself. Meanwhile, FCA would suddenly move to the head of the class, rather than lagging at the back of the self-driving pack.

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Has Tesla Been Bending the Numbers for Model 3?

Carmaker claims it has purged speculators from the order banks.

by on May.03, 2016

Only two per household. Tesla insists it has purged multiple reservations for the Model 3.

Tesla’s Model 3 is still about 18 months from production, but the Silicon Valley automaker has already lined up an enviable order book, the ever-ebullient CEO Elon Musk declaring it, “the biggest one-week launch of any product ever.”

But there have been some questions raised about Tesla’s claims. For one thing, potential buyers have been plunking down $1,000 refundable reservations, not orders. They’ve still got plenty of time to decide if they actually will purchase one of the compact battery-electric vehicles once they finally begin rolling off Tesla’s Fremont, California assembly line.

Keeping Things Honest!

And are consumers really the ones making these reservations? Or are speculators and others who really have no intention of ever taking delivery of a Model 3 inflating the list?

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Marchionne Adds Ferrari CEO to His Resume

26-year veteran Amedeo Felisa retires.

by on May.02, 2016

Sergio Marchionne (l); Amedeo Felisa (cl), and FCA Chairman John Elkann (r) mark Ferrari's IPO.

As if he doesn’t have enough to keep himself busy, Sergio Marchionne is adding another title to his CV. With the unexpected retirement of Amedeo Felisa, Marchionne will now become chief executive officer at Ferrari.

The Canadian-raised executive also serves as chairman of the sports car company – as well as CEP of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which spun Ferrari off this past year. Marchionne also runs the North American region for FCA and serves as chairman of CNH Industrial, the heavy duty unit that was created by the merger of Fiat Industry and Case New Holland.

Step on the Gas!

The latest role comes just after Ferrari posted its best earnings ever. But the supercar maker is also has to deal with a variety of challenges, from its aggressive growth target to its ongoing struggles on the Formula One circuit it long dominated.

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Nissan Recalling 3.5 Million Vehicles to Fix Faulty Airbag Sensors

Most models sold in the US.

by on May.02, 2016

The Nissan Leaf is among the vehicles affected by the new airbag recall.

Nissan plans to recall 3.5 million vehicles sold around the world to fix sensors that could cause a car’s airbags to fail to deploy in the event of a crash.

The recall covers a number of Nissan and Infiniti cars, trucks and crossover vehicles, including the Altima sedan, Leaf battery car and NV200 commercial van.

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The recall is the fourth to attempt to address the problem with so-called “smart” airbag sensors. It is separate from recalls triggered by faulty Takata airbag inflators, an issue that has so far plagued 14 different automotive manufacturers.

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BMW Updates i3, Adds More Range

But is 114 miles per charge enough?

by on May.02, 2016

BMW has bumped the range of the 2017 i3 up to as much as 114 miles thanks to a larger battery pack.

BMW is the latest automaker hoping to charge up the sluggish battery-car market by boosting the range of its little electric city car, the i3.

While the 2017 model won’t match the range of the new Chevrolet Bolt or upcoming Tesla Model 3, BMW claims it will still deliver up to 114 miles per charge, or 58% more driving distance thanks to a larger lithium-ion battery. That jumps to more than 200 miles if you order a 2017 BMW i3 equipped with the optional, range-extending two-cylinder gas engine – the update model also getting a larger fuel tank.

Stay Plugged In!

Though performance numbers won’t change for the upcoming model-year, the BMW i3 will remain one of the market’s quicker battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, launching from 0 to 60 in just 7.2 seconds.

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