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First Drive: 2017 Kia Niro

Hybrid performance with bigger car comfort and technology.

by on Feb.03, 2017

The 2017 Kia Niro boasts a slick 0.29 coefficient of drag, helping deliver an estimated 50 mpg,

A handful of carmakers have made half-hearted stabs at challenging Toyota’s leadership in the hybrid segment, but that appears to be changing with the arrival of the 2017 Kia Niro.

Kia, the ambitious South Korean carmaker, is intent on mounting a challenge to the iconic Toyota Prius on its home turf with a new a compact utility vehicle that offers a smooth-running hybrid system as well as appealing exterior styling and an interior calibrated to offer a generous amount of space for the driver, passengers and any of their assorted stuff.

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Under the tutelage of Peter Schreyer, the prolific head of advanced design for both Kia and Hyundai, its South Korean partner/rival, Kia has succeeded in bringing a succession of vehicles with distinctive styling and the new Niro fits in with the company’s growing reputation for well-designed vehicles. (more…)

Toyota Changing Up Small-Car Strategy

Maker also plans to offer hybrid tech to competitors — for a price.

by on Dec.19, 2016

Toyota's acquisition of Daihatsu is allowing the maker to change up its small-car strategy as well as its hybrid powertrain technology.

As a part of a shift of its corporate strategy, Toyota Motor Corp. and its Daihatsu Motor Co. are preparing a new plan for selling small cars in various emerging markets around the world.

The Emerging Market Compact Car Co. will begin operations on Jan. 1, with the objective of developing “competitive ever-better cars” based on Daihatsu’s approach to manufacturing affordable, high-quality products.

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As part of the re-organization, Toyota Motor Asia Pacific Engineering and Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in Thailand is being renamed Toyota Daihatsu Engineering and Manufacturing Co., Ltd. and becomes an entity under the new internal company. (more…)

Porsche Plugs in With Stretched Panamera Hybrid

German maker also reveals ultimate, track 911.

by on Nov.17, 2016

The new Panamera Executive Hybrid is just one of two new larger Panamera hybrids for the Chinese market.

Porsche’s popular Panamera has two more reasons to draw buyers into the brand, the automaker rolling into the Los Angeles Auto Show with both the new Panamera Executive model, and a plug-in model, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Executive.

Both start out as stretched versions of the second-generation Porsche Panamera launched earlier this year. The plug-in E-Hybrid is likely to find some momentum in the green-minded California market, where it will be positioned to take on the likes of the Tesla Model S.

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The two versions likely will give Panamera more traction in China where there is pressure for more battery-based models – and where buyers love large rear seats. Think of the Executive as the first Porsche specifically designed to be driven in. (more…)

Toyota Readying to Build Hybrid Transmissions in Poland

Toyota second maker in a week to announce new operations in the country.

by on Oct.21, 2016

Toyota's new plant in Poland will build transmissions for the hybrid version of the Auris.

Toyota Motor Europe has announced plans to build a new plant in Europe that will produce transmissions used in hybrid cars.

European motorists, with their heavy orientation towards diesel engines, have traditionally been skeptical of hybrids. But the market is changing and a new generation of “plug-in” hybrids that can run on electricity or gasoline are slowly catching the attention of European buyers.

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Going forward, Toyota Motor Europe expects its hybrid sales in Europe to increase from its current level of 31% of total sales to a target of 50% by 2020. For Poland, the Toyota investment is the second major investment by a global automaker this month. Mercedes-Benz also committed to building a new engine plant in Poland. (more…)

It’s Getting Harder to Justify a Hybrid

Cheap gas, improved mileage offset one-time cost advantage over conventional vehicles.

by on Aug.26, 2016

The Toyota Prius hatchback no longer has a cost advantage over a similar gas model.

If you’re picking a new car, truck or crossover based on the bottom line, you may be in for a surprise, according to a new study. While hybrids tend to deliver better mileage than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles, you may actually wind up spending more in the long run.

Less than one out of four of the 29 hybrids covered by consulting firm Vincentric’s U.S. Hybrid Ownership study actually had lower costs than comparable gas-powered models. Lower pump prices are certainly a factor, but other issues play into the equation – notably including the fact that the fuel efficiency of non-hybrid vehicles has been fast on the rise.

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Add the higher cost of hybrid models, said Vincentric President David Wurster, and “Hybrids … may be losing their competitive edge.” (more…)

Old Fisker Plug-In Returns as Karma Revero

Original owners get first crack at updated PHEV.

by on Aug.12, 2016

The Karma Revero carries over the design of the original Fisker Karma with but a few tweaks.

The name is new, but the look is likely to trigger a sense of déjà vu. More than four years after its original debut – and three years after Fisker Automotive went belly-up – the Karma plug-in hybrid is making its return.

This time, however, it will go by a new name, the Karma Revero, reflecting the fact that there’s also a new owner, the Chinese start-up that purchased what was left of Fisker out of bankruptcy. Eventually, a version of the Revero is expected to be produced in China but, for now, it will be rolling out of a new plant near Newport Beach, California.

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The new owners have polished up a few exterior details, but, “The vehicle, externally, is largely the same” as the original Fisker Karma, noted Jim Taylor, the long-time General Motors executive who last year joined Karma as its chief revenue officer. “The feedback we got on the original design is that Fisker nailed it.”

(more…)

Used Car Buyers Charged Up about EVs and Hybrids

Top three fastest selling used cars in U.S. are electrics.

by on Jul.22, 2016

The Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid is the fastest-selling used car in America through May.

Looking for a good used car? Well, if you find a hybrid or an EV you like, don’t dawdle on buying it because it’ll be off the lot before you know it.

According to iSeeCars.com, five of the top 10 fastest selling used cars in the U.S. in the first half of this year were hybrids or full electrics, including the top three movers. Perhaps even more astonishing, only one of the top 10 is an American car.

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Overall, iSeeCars.com found that one- to three-year-old used cars took an average of 42.4 days to sell. The top 10 fastest selling cars, however, were much faster—ranging from just 19.7 days on the market to 29.4 days. (more…)

Plug-Based Car Sales Set for Rapid Growth, Says New Study

Expansion coming despite low gas prices.

by on Jun.30, 2016

The 2016 Chevy Volt improved its battery-only range from 38 miles to 53 miles. Plug-based car sales are expected to jump this year.

It’s been tough times for makers of battery-based vehicles. With cheap gas, demand for hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles took a sharp tumble in 2015, the first significant decline since the beginning of the decade.

But with new, longer-range and more affordable products set to come to market, demand is looking to rebound, even if gas prices don’t climb, according to a new study by Navigant Research. Sales of plug-based models should grow 62% year-over-year, to about 200,000 sales in 2016, said the Navigant study.

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A key to that is the arrival of products like the Chevrolet Bolt, said Scott Shepard, a senior research analyst. “The long-range BEV (or battery-electric vehicle) is a marked achievement in the industry.” (more…)

EV, Hybrid Owners Swapping Green Rides for SUVs

Improved fuel efficiency of SUVs helping to draw green model owners.

by on Apr.22, 2016

If you're driving one of these now, the odds are better than ever your previous vehicle was a hybrid or an EV.

All of those new SUVs trundling down America’s roadways may have more in common than what meets the eye. With increasing frequency, those new sport-ute owners are former EV or hybrid devotees.

A new study from Edmunds.com shows that just 27.5% of all hybrids and electric vehicles traded in this year were swapped for another like model. It’s a substantive drop from the 38.5% from 2015.

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And the vehicle they’re most likely to replace their gas sipper for? Yup, an SUV. Edmunds found that a hybrid or electric trade-in is more likely to go toward the purchase of a ute 33.8% more often than another hybrid or EV. (more…)

Kia Offers Two New Battery Options for 2017 Optima Sedan

Updated hybrid and Kia’s first plug-in make Chicago debut.

by on Feb.11, 2016

Kia is adding a plug-in hybrid version of the Optima fo4 2016, getting up to 27 miles a charge.

Little Korean carmaker Kia has never been shy about bucking trends. And it’s ready to prove that again at the Chicago Auto Show.

Kia is heading into the Windy City with not just one, not just two, but three new battery-based products set to reach U.S. showrooms for the 2017 model-year. That includes both the updated Kia Optima Hybrid, but also the new Kia Optima PHEV, the Korean carmaker’s first plug-in hybrid.

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Along with the new Kia Niro, a compact crossover hybrid, the two Optima models are part of the carmaker’s grand plan to triple the number of battery-based models in its fleet by 2020. But whether they’ll gain traction in a market more focused on trucks is far from certain. (more…)