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Foreign Automakers Feel Under the Gun in China

"Anti-monopoly" crackdown seen as boost for local competitors.

by on Sep.02, 2014

Daimler, which recently announced a joint venture with Chinese maker BYD, is under investigation by anti-monopoly regulators.

It’s the world’s largest automotive market, and manufacturers as diverse as Daimler AG and General Motors already sell more vehicles in China than they do in the U.S. But they and other foreign companies are beginning to wonder “at what price?”

Both GM and Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz — along with Audi, Chrysler and other carmakers — have come under investigation by China’s regulators, who have already levied more than $200 million in fines against a dozen Japanese auto parts suppliers for alleged price fixing.

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And while the country’s President Xi Jinping has promised to open up the Chinese economy to increased foreign competition, a new study reveals there’s growing concern that precisely the opposite is happening.

A full 60% of those who responded to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they feel “less welcome” in China. By comparison, only 41% responded that way a year ago.

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Top Nissan Exec Takes CEO Spot at Aston Martin

Andy Palmer was key force behind Nissan EV, autonomous programs.

by on Sep.02, 2014

Former Nissan EVP Andy Palmer introducing a prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle.

In an unexpected move, top Nissan executive Andy Palmer has left the Japanese maker for a new position as CEO of Aston Martin. The British luxury maker has been without a CEO since 70-year-old Ulrich Bez retired last November.

The move comes at a significant time for Aston which had been hit hard by the global economic recession. The maker recently lined up additional funding intended to help it launch the most aggressive product program in its history.

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But the departure of 51-year-old Palmer comes at something of an awkward time for Nissan which has seen several other high-profile departures recently, including the loss of Infiniti global chief John de Nysschen who last month became the new head of Cadillac.

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India Fines 14 Carmakers for Overpricing Spare Parts

Follows move by Chinese regulators; US also looking at price fixing.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Indian automaker Tata, which makes the ultra-low-priced Nano, faced the biggest fine.

Regulators in India have levied more than $400 million in fines against 14 local and international automakers accusing them of intentionally overcharging for spare parts.

The move follows similar anti-monopoly actions in China that saw makers such as Mercedes-Benz accused of overpricing as a way to boost profits at the expense of vehicle owners.

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As many as 20 million Indian consumers were impacted by the practice of boosting prices for spare parts and aftermarket accessories, according to the country’s Competition Commission. The practice was made worse by the “denial of market access” to independent repair shares seeking both factory-authorized parts and diagnostic tools.

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Voice Recognition is the #1 Problem for New Car Buyers

“Sorry, I couldn’t understand.”

by on Aug.29, 2014

Programming systems like the Cadillac CUE can be a nightmare due to faulty voice recognition.

Call it a communications breakdown. If you’ve ever tried to use your car’s voice recognition system to dial a phone number only to have it change the radio station to a disco channel, you’re not alone. A new J.D. Power study reports that voice recognition has become the single largest source of complaints about new vehicles.

And problems pairing smartphones to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system is the second most common problem, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study.

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“Voice recognition and device connectivity are often inherent to the technology design and cannot be fixed at the dealership, creating a high level of angst among new-vehicle owners,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power.

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Overseas Markets Clamoring for New Mustang, Ford Officials Claim

Strong demand could see addition of third shift at Flat Rock plant.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs poses with the first of the 2015 Mustangs off the line.

The first of the new 2015 Ford Mustangs rolled off the assembly line this week, and though the new pony car won’t go on sale in Europe or Asia until next year, overseas dealers have already snapped up their allocation of the sixth-generation Mustangs, according to Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of The Americas.

The Mustang has traditionally been a car for North America, but it has nonetheless developed a loyal following in markets around the world, with a number of dealers trading in so-called “gray market” exports. That strong following convinced Ford it could start marketing the newly redesigned coupe and convertible pony cars globally.

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“We’re not yet (officially) taking orders in other parts of the world yet because we’re going to start here in North America filling up the pipeline. But we’re seeing very strong demand” in Asia and Europe, Hinrichs told reporters after the ceremony marking the official launch of production of the sixth-generation Mustang, which is being prepared for sales in 120 countries.

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Kia Announces $1 billion Mexican Assembly Plant

Factory set to open in 2016; add much-needed production capacity.

by on Aug.28, 2014

The new plant is expected to produce several small models, including a version of the Kia Forte Koup.

Desperate to add more much-needed production capacity, Kia Motors will become the latest automaker to open a new assembly plant in Mexico.

Intended to serve markets up and down the Americas, the $1 billion plant will begin operations in just two years, and will be tooled to eventually build as many as 300,000 vehicles annually. The facility is expected to produce a number of different compact models, according to the Korean carmaker, though it did not identify specific plans yet.

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The factory will become one of a growing list of automotive assembly plants operating in the Spanish-speaking country, Mexico already on target to become the sixth-largest auto-producing nation in the world as makers such as Nissan, Audi and now Kia set up shop or expand existing production facilities.

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Volvo Set for Downsized Powertrain Revolution

Swedish maker switches to 4-cylinders; will add 3-cylinder and a pair of Plug-ins.

by on Aug.27, 2014

Volvo has high hopes for the 400-horsepower T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain it will offer on the XC90.

The all-new XC90 SUV that made its debut this week marks the beginning of a major shift in powertrain strategy by Volvo Cars, the Swedish automaker abandoning V-6 and V-8 power in favor of more advanced 4-cylinder gas, diesel and hybrid technology.

But Volvo is set to reach even further, company officials reveal, in its bid to balance performance and fuel economy. It also is developing a new line of 3-cylinder engines, and will soon add not just one but two different plug-in hybrid powertrains to its line-up.

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“A few years ago, I would have said this was a risky strategy,” admitted Lex Kerssemakers, the maker’s global product strategy chief, but he added he is “confident” about the approach as buyers around the world migrate to smaller, more fuel-efficient engines even in big SUVs and crossovers like the 2016 Volvo XC90.

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Ram Diesel, Toyota Highlander Hybrid Win Consumer Reports Nods

Both deliver unexpected mileage, magazine says.

by on Aug.27, 2014

The Ram EcoDiesel delivers sedan-like mileage, according to Consumer Reports testers.

Consumer Reports has placed Fiat Chrysler’s Ram 1500 EcoDiesel at the top of its full-size pickup truck ratings due to its performance in fuel-economy tests, while the influential magazine also lauded the Toyota Highlander SUV.

The choice of the Ram Diesel underscores the growing intensity of the competition in the full-size pickup segment, which is undergoing a technical revolution as truck makers roll out new, more fuel-efficient powertrains and make other significant improvements meant to boost fuel-economy.

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Ford Motor Co. will launch a new, aluminum-bodied F-150 this fall that sheds up to 700 pounds and is expected to gain significant mileage, but the all-new truck wasn’t included in this round of tests by Consumer Reports.

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Volvo Unveils New XC90; Bets its Future on Redesign

Volvo to offer plug-in hybrid, new safety and connectivity features.

by on Aug.26, 2014

The new Volvo XC90 shown with the Swedish maker's President & CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

With today’s unveiling of an all-new XC90, Volvo Cars is giving the world a good look at the many changes that will likely determine the future success of the Swedish automaker.

While echoing the basic shape of the old Volvo XC90, the new ute adopts new, and more luxurious proportions, as well as a more sophisticated interior. But many of the most significant changes aren’t as readily apparent. They include an all-new platform, or architecture, that will serve as the foundation of many future Volvo products.

How Swede It Is!

The new ute, due to market next April, also gets a sophisticated, tablet-style touchscreen display to control everything from its infotainment system to its climate control. The 2016 Volvo XC90 also will see the maker introduce a wide arrange of new Drive-E powertrains, including Volvo’s new plug-in hybrid system designed to deliver both performance and fuel economy, depending on what mode it’s operating in.

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Over 100 File Death Claims With GM Compensation Fund

Number could still rise.

by on Aug.26, 2014

One of the replacement GM ignition switches.

General Motors continues to say it knows of 13 deaths connected to the faulty ignition switches it used in a wide range of vehicles recalled earlier this year, but the special victims’ compensation fund it has set up has already received claims linked to the death of at least 100 people.

While it remains to be seen if the fund will approve payment to all those who’ve filed, it is also expected the number will continue to increase in the weeks and months ahead.

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GM has said it anticipates paying out from $400 million to $600 million in connection with the fund, which was set up under intense pressure from safety regulators, federal lawmakers and consumer groups after the maker acknowledged it knew about the ignition switch problem for as much as a decade before ordering the February recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

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