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VW Scandal a “Black Eye” for US Diesel Market

Sales likely to collapse; long-term revival uncertain.

by on Sep.24, 2015

The 2015 Golf TDI is one of the diesels VW has temporarily stopped selling in the US.

For motorists looking for sporty but environmentally friendly alternatives to sluggish hybrids, diesels like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI has been a welcome addition to the U.S. market. The ability to deliver real performance along with high mileage is one reason why diesel sales have continued to grow even as demand for gas-electric models has plunged in the face of cheap gas.

But that growth spurt is likely to sputter out, industry insiders warn, in the wake of the Volkswagen cheating scandal. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the recall of 482,000 VW diesel models, revealing that the maker had used software to scam the government’s emissions tests.

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In real world situations, vehicles like the Jetta TDI actually produce up to 40 times the permissible level of noxious emissions.

“This is another black eye for diesels,” said Mike Jackson, CEO of Florida-based AutoNation, the country’s largest automotive retailer. “You now have a passionate constituency that feels betrayed.”


Battery Prices Tumbling Rapidly

EVs, plug-ins set to become more competitive.

by on Sep.18, 2015

The Audi e-tron Quattro SUV Concept will be followed by a production model around 2018.

Automakers normally go to great pains to promote their latest models. But when the new Fiat 500e was launched a couple years ago, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne asked potential buyers to steer clear, admitting, “We will lose $10,000 per vehicle.”

The primary reason? The high cost of the batteries used to power the 500e, lithium-ion technology running as much as $1,000 per kilowatt-hour at the beginning of the decade. For most of the battery-cars now on the market their onboard power packs account for the overwhelming share of the vehicle’s price tag – sometimes even more than what customers have actually been paying.

Power Up!

But battery prices finally appear to be heading down. While industry officials are generally reluctant to discuss such a competitive detail, observers believe many manufacturers are now paying about $400 per kWh, and during a conversation at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, Audi’s R&D chief Ulrich Hackenberg told that the maker expects that to dip to $200, perhaps closer to $100 by decade’s end.


2016 Chevy Volt Will See a Slow, Limited Launch

But the wait may pay off with new features coming on '17 plug-in.

by on Sep.09, 2015

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt will get a 40% boost in its battery-only range.

Chevrolet’s much-anticipated, second-generation Volt plug-in hybrid will make its initial sales debut in only a small number of U.S. states, with the  PHEV unlikely to reach many parts of the country for another year or more, according to internal documents and sources briefed on the roll-out plan.

Parent General Motors initially plans to focus on 11 so-called CARB states that have adopted the tough Zero-Emission Vehicle, or ZEV, mandate enacted by the California Air Resources Board. Those states, which also include New York, New Jersey and Oregon, account for the vast majority of battery-based vehicle sales.

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The delay reflects a number of different factors, GM spokesman Kevin Kelly noting, “We’re just being more focused on where we have had the highest demand historically.” California, he said, currently accounts for 40% of Chevrolet Volt sales, “so that’s our primary focus.”


Mercedes Latest Trying to Tackle Tesla

Planning 311-mile battery vehicle.

by on Sep.08, 2015

Mercedes entered the California battery-car market with the new B-Class Electric Drive.

The list of manufacturers hoping to tackle Tesla with an extended-range battery car has just grown longer, and Mercedes-Benz apparently has more than one model in mind as it tries to outgun the upstart California carmaker.

Along with an assortment of plug-in hybrids, Mercedes’ R&D chief says it is developing a modular platform that, in at least one model, should deliver up to 500 kilometers, or about 312 miles, per charge. Among other makers looking to push into Tesla territory are Audi, BMW, General Motors and Nissan.

Plug In Now!

“We are working on an intelligent concept for a highly attractive electric vehicle with a range of (anywhere from 228 to 312 miles),” Research and Development board director Thomas Weber told the magazine Auto Motor und Sport.


Automakers Adding High-Tech Features Consumers Often Do Not Want

Millennials prove surprisingly tech-resistant.

by on Aug.26, 2015

Even Millennials seem to find little appeal in such high-tech features such as the new Apple CarPlay.

Virtually every Chevy that will roll off the assembly line next year will feature a built-in 4G LTE connectivity that can provide anyone in the car access to a mobile WiFi hotspot. General Motors’ OnStar unit, meanwhile, offers many of its customers access to a mobile concierge service – as do a number of competitors.

But a surprising number of owners don’t bother to use either of those features – which are among the most underutilized among a raft of high technology features and services automakers are building into their latest vehicles, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

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The 2015 Drive Report finds that 20% of recent new car buyers have not yet used half of the high-tech additions to their vehicles during the first three months of ownership.

But what may be the biggest surprise in the Drive Report is that supposedly tech-centric Millennials are proving particularly slow to embrace all the new features supposedly designed to attract them to today’s newest, highest-tech vehicles.


Woodward Dream Cruise Can Celebrate Past and Present

Forget the ‘60s; the best muscle cars ever are being built today.

by on Aug.10, 2015

The latest version of Chevy's Corvette Stingray can get up to 31 mpg while making 455-hp.

The roar is back. All this week, you can expect to see countless classic hot rods, muscle cars and other exotics cruising Detroit’s main drag as the Motor City gets ready for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

This will mark the 20th anniversary of an improbable event that took shape almost by accident when a small car club in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale decided to change things up. Rather than having its members park their cars for their annual gathering, organizers decided it would be more fun to cruise up and down Woodward Avenue. Word got out and almost 250,000 people lined the eight-lane boulevard to watch. In recent years, that has grown to as many as 1.5 million, with an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 classic cars cruising Woodward.

Cruise on In!

“It gets bigger and bigger every year,” noted regular Dream Cruise fan Bob Wissman, who recalled spending plenty of time riding around with friends in their Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs as a teenager back in the 1960s.


Toyota Expecting Only Modest Growth for 1st New Tacoma Pickup in Decade

Capacity limits could see loss of share in growing midsize truck market.

by on Aug.06, 2015

Toyota is hoping the next-gen Tacoma will keep the good times rolling sales-wise in the U.S. in 2015.

When the 2016 Toyota Tacoma rolls into U.S. showrooms next month it will mark the first major update of the midsize pickup in a decade, an eternity by today’s automotive standards.

Considering the long somnambulant segment has suddenly roared back to life in recent months, one might expect to see Toyota prepping for a major surge in sales for the 2016 Tacoma. But it’s not. The Japanese maker is looking for modest growth, at best, for the new pickup next year.

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The reason is simple, according to Toyota division General Manager Bill Fay: “We’re very close to maxxed out on our production capabilities right now,” despite adding more capacity at a plant in Baja, Mexico.


Gen-2 Chevy Volt’s EV Range Jumps to 53 Miles

Updated model also gets performance boost, fifth seat.

by on Aug.04, 2015

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt will get a 40% boost in its battery-only range.

The second-generation Chevrolet Volt will deliver 40% more range in battery mode than the original version of the plug-in hybrid, the maker announced today.

At 53 miles per charge, the compact sedan will permit buyers to commute or run even more errands without using any gas, General Motors officials have suggested. They also hope to increase the appeal of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt by offering better performance and more interior space, the new plug-in now capable of seating five, rather than four like the original model.

Charge Up!

“We listened to our customers,” Volt chief engineer Andrew Farah said ahead of a news conference at the annual Management Briefing Seminars, in Traverse City, Michigan. “They were very clear when they told us that they wanted more range, and a fun driving experience behind the wheel. We are confident that the 2016 Volt delivers both.”


Chevy Rolls Out New 2016 Colorado Diesel

Oil-burner offers significant boost in mileage and towing capacity.

by on Jul.28, 2015

Chevrolet will be the first maker in the midsize pickup segment to offer a diesel option.

A year after launching its new midsize Colorado pickup, Chevrolet is back with a new diesel-powered version of the truck.

The new 2.8-liter Duramax diesel will be offered in the near-twin GMC Canyon, as well, making the pair the only diesels offered in the rebounding midsize pickup market. While no hard figures for the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel were released, it has been widely anticipated that highway mileage will top 30 mpg when the truck goes on sale this fall.

Keep on Truckin'!

“Along with greater capability and efficiency, it expands the Colorado lineup to give customers more choices and the capability of exploring more possibilities on and off the road, said Sandor Piszar, director of Chevrolet Truck Marketing.


GM Recalling Nearly 700k Utility Vehicles Because Liftgates Could Fail

News caps a week of safety-related problems.

by on Jul.10, 2015

The Enclave's curves are different than any other SUV on the market.

The 2012 Buick Enclave is one of the various GM crossovers covered by the liftgate recall.

Capping a week that already has seen some massive recalls, General Motors has announced a new service action covering 686,000 midsize crossover-utility vehicles because their rear liftgates could fail.

The latest recall by GM – which has taken major heat for safety problems over the last 18 months – covers Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia CUVs sold during the 2008 through 2012 model-year, 2009 through 2012 model-year Chevrolet Traverses and 2007 through 2010 model-year Saturn Outlooks.

Keeping You Safe!

According to a report posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, the affected vehicles are equipped with power liftgates whose gas struts may prematurely wear out. If that happens, the hatches could suddenly and unexpectedly fall.