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Waymo Buying “Thousands” of Chrysler Minivans for New Driverless Ride-Hailing Service

Project will target “multiple U.S. cities.”

by on Jan.30, 2018

Waymo has been testing its ride-sharing program in Phoenix but plans to launch in other markets as it goes fully driverless.

Waymo plans to buy “thousands” of Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to be used as Google’s autonomous vehicle spin-off sets up a driverless ride-hailing service in “multiple U.S. cities,” Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced Tuesday.

The announcement marks a significant step forward for both companies. While considered a leader in the field, it had not been clear how Waymo was planning to commercialize its development of self-driving vehicle technology. For its part, FCA has been reluctant to invest in autonomous vehicle research but could now make a big leap by expanding its nascent alliance with Waymo.

Tech News!

“In order to move quickly and efficiently in autonomy, it is essential to partner with like-minded technology leaders,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “Our partnership with Waymo continues to grow and strengthen; this represents the latest sign of our commitment to this technology.”

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Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Take Global Sales Lead

VW slips to second, Toyota to third.

by on Jan.30, 2018

Carlos Ghosn, shown at the debut of the latest Maxima, has turned the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance into a global juggernaut.

The global auto industry has a new king-of-the-hill, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which got a helping hand with the inclusion of the long-troubled Japanese automaker Mitsubishi.

Combined together, the three members of the Franco-Japanese alliance sold 10.61 million vehicles during 2017, narrowly topping Germany’s Volkswagen AG. Toyota, which had led the sales charts for much of the past decade before itself being toppled by VW last year, slipped into third.

Global Auto News!

“This evolution reflects the breadth and depth of our model range, our global market presence and the customer appeal of our vehicle technologies,” said Carlos Ghosn, the chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance and CEO of both Renault and Mitsubishi.

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Cadillac, Kia and Karma Take Green Car Honors

Expanding the options for environmentally friendly buyers.

by on Jan.26, 2018

Kia will have three versions of the Niro in production with the addition of an all-electric model.

It’s not always easy being green, as Kermit the Frog was fond of saying. Sales of environmentally friendly vehicles have lagged in an SUV-focused market. But at least three automakers are hoping they can gain a little momentum thanks to the green car trophies they’re taking home this week.

Kia nabbed honors as the Green SUV of the Year during a ceremony at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show with its new Niro crossover vehicle. Two other awards were presented by Green Car Journal, the sponsor of the awards, including Green Luxury Car of the Year, which went to the Karma Revero, and Connected Green Car of the Year, which was presented to the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in Hybrid.

Green News!

Despite slow sales for battery-based and other environmentally friendly vehicles, “Efficiency and improved environmental performance are being integrated in new models from virtually every vehicle class, with this gaining real momentum in the luxury, connected, and crossover/SUV arenas,” said Ron Cogan, the publisher of Green Car Journal.

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2 Fed Safety Teams Head to California Tesla Crash Probe

Was drive using Autopilot when Model S crashed into fire truck?

by on Jan.25, 2018

An LA TV station caught the aftermath of a crash involving a Tesla Model S and a firetruck.

Two separate teams of federal safety investigators have been dispatched to California to examine what happened when a Tesla Model S crashed into a firetruck on a suburban Los Angeles freeway on Monday, the agencies aiming to find out if the incident happened while the battery sedan was operating in semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

This marks the second time both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have examined a Tesla crash to see if the maker’s self-driving technology may have malfunctioned.

News Now!

In the first case, 40-year-old Joshua Brown was killed in a Florida crash in May 2009 when his Model S failed to stop when a semi-truck turned in front of it. The former Navy SEAL was ruled at least partially at fault for failing to take evasive action, but the NTSB also determined that flaws in the design of the Tesla Autopilot system contributed to the crash.

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High-Tech Safety Gear Preventing Crashes – But Raising Insurance Rates

Replacement parts drive up repair costs when there is a crash.

by on Jan.23, 2018

While advanced safety gear may prevent accidents it can run up repair costs when a crash occurs.

New advanced driver assistance systems like blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning have been shown to reduce accidents and prevent injuries and fatalities. So, why are motorists getting hammered by rate hikes, rather than getting discounts when they buy cars equipped with the new technologies?

The problem, according to industry experts, is that once a vehicle actually is involved in a crash replacing something as seemingly basic as a mirror can be far more costly than motorists might expect because of the sensors all those new safety systems require.

Consumer News!

And forget trying to make repairs yourself. Where do-it-yourselfers might once have replaced a broken sideview mirror or even a bumper on their own, the sensors now integrated into those parts need to be carefully calibrated to ensure they work properly.

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Aston Martin Recalls Entire Run of New DB11 Sports Coupes

Faulty wiring could cause unexpected airbag deployment.

by on Jan.22, 2018

The convertible, or Volante, version of the DB11 was added to the mix last year.

Aston Martin is recalling the entire run of its newest sports coupe, the DB11, due to a defect that could cause the vehicle’s driver’s side airbag to inadvertently deploy.

The problem is not related to defective Takata airbags but rather is caused by a wiring issue in steering columns provided by Daimler AG, an ally of the British sports car company. Daimler itself has recalled over 1 million vehicles due to the defect.

Safety News!

Airbag problems have become a major headache for automotive manufacturers in recent years, though the majority of problems have involved faulty Takata airbags that have so far been linked to at least 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

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PSA Lays Out 3-Stage, 10-Year Roadmap for U.S. Return

CEO calls for “100% electrified” line-up by 2025.

by on Jan.19, 2018

PSA CEO Carlos Tavares has been credited with turning around the near-bankrupt French company.

After a 26-year absence from the North American market, French automaker PSA Group is formalizing plans to reenter the market, though in a series of interviews and appearances in Detroit this week, CEO Carlos Tavares made it clear he’s not in a rush.

With the once nearly bankrupt automaker now flying high in most of its other markets, Tavares outlined a three-stage process that will take as much as a decade to complete. In the meantime, he is focusing on several other critical endeavors, including the revival of the Opel/Vauxhall operations PSA purchased from General Motors last year, as well as a plan that call for the company to have 100% of its products electrified by 2025.

Industry News!

“When we go into a country we try to be really cautious,” Tavares said during a Thursday roundtable with a small group of journalists, one of several meetings he held in connection with the annual North American International Auto Show. The plan for North America is “more frugal, more humble” and will require only “a small investment,” he explained.

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Debugging Volkswagen: SUVs Supplant Sedans, Hatches

But no more tongue-twisting model names.

by on Jan.17, 2018

One of the first jobs for VW Group of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken was revealing the new Atlas.

Things didn’t look very good when Hinrich Woebcken landed in the U.S. two years ago as the new CEO and President of the Volkswagen Group of America. The automaker had just acknowledged cheating on diesel emissions tests and was not only facing the prospect of paying billions of dollars in fines and settlements but a collapse in its U.S. sales as it was forced to pull off the market all of its popular diesel models.

“The only reason dealers didn’t kill me was that I was the new guy,” the German-born executive said, only half joking, during a presentation at the Automotive News World Congress on Tuesday afternoon.

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These days, dealers are a lot more sanguine about Woebcken, and VW in general, though the VWoA chief cautioned that the automaker has a long way to go before he can claim success rebuilding its U.S. operations. (more…)

Jeep Cherokee Gets a More Conventional Look for 2019

Less “polarizing” headlights, but still some “weirdness” in the design.

by on Jan.16, 2018

The Trackhawk and Limited versions of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee finally break cover.

SUVs and crossover-utility vehicles are the hottest things on the market right now, accounting for half of U.S. new vehicle sales last year, and few brands have done a better job riding that wave than Jeep.

The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand is looking to hit record global sales of 2 million this year. That’d be double what Jeep  delivered as recently as 2014 and more than triple its volume when Chrysler was taken over by Italy’s Fiat at the beginning of the decade.

Auto Show News!

Give credit to several factors, including not only the surge in overall demand for utility vehicles but the rapid expansion of the Jeep line-up and the race to keep existing models fresh. That includes the 2019 Jeep Cherokee that’s making its debut at this year’s North American International Auto Show.

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Infiniti Inspired: But What to Make of the New Q Inspiration Concept

Is this the long-awaited successor to the Q45?

by on Jan.15, 2018

The Q45 Inspiration Concept may not show up in the Infiniti line-up but will influence future product design, officials said.

Infiniti has a long history of teasing us with exotic concepts that eventually translate into slightly more sedate production vehicles. So, what to make of the inspiring new fastback prototype making its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit?

Have we finally gotten a glimpse of the long-awaited successor to the brand’s original halo car, the 1990 Q45? Or is the new Inspiration just there to tease us with hints of the direction Infiniti will take after a recent shake-up in corporate design management?

What a Concept!

“Our Detroit concept car heralds a new generation of Infiniti,” is all we’re getting from Alfonso Albaisa, the long-time Infiniti stylist who recently was named global design director for parent Nissan Motor Co. The Q Inspiration, he added, it meant to demonstrate Infiniti’s approach to “artistry in the new age of autonomy and breakthrough drivetrains.”

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