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US Car Market Showing No Signs of Cooling Down

SUVs, crossovers and luxury vehicles drive demand.

by on Jul.28, 2014

Strong demand for products like Altima mean Nissan will deliver a double-digit July sales gain.

It may be an unexpectedly cool summer in much of the country but you wouldn’t know by looking at July’s sales numbers – which have many industry observers expecting the rest of the year to remain hot.

Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co. chief executive officer, noted the general economy appears steady, which should lead to strong sales during the second half of the years. Chuck Stevens, General Motors chief financial officer, also said the second half of the year looks very promising.

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Preliminary data suggest that July new-car sales will be up about 12% over year-earlier numbers, putting the industry on track for its best July since 2006, well before the U.S. economy began to collapse. Overall sales should reach about 1.46 million for the month, according to new forecasts from TrueCar and Kelly Blue Book, and that translates into a seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, of 16.6 million to 16.7 million, roughly a million ahead of total sales in 2013.

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GM Earnings Crushed by Recall Costs

"Nevertheless, we remained profitable," said CEO Barra.

by on Jul.24, 2014

Earnings on new full-size models, such as this 2015 Chevy Tahoe, should boost GM's earnings going forward, analysts forecast.

The fallout from the ignition switch recall and other safety-related problems cut deeply into General Motors’ profitability for the second quarter, the maker reported.

Net income for the March to June period tumbled to just $200 million, or 11 cents per share, compared to a $1.2 billion net for the second quarter of 2013. The GM balance sheet was hammered during the latest period by one-time costs, most of them related to ongoing recalls, as well as for setting up a new victims’ compensation fund. Earnings before the recall-related charges would have been 58 cents a share.

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Beyond the Numbers!

“The ignition switch put tremendous pressure on our earnings,” GM chief executive officer Mary Barray told analysts and reporters. “But nevertheless we remained profitable.”

Barra also said the sweeping recalls, which so far this year cover 29 million units, have not deterred GM from pushing ahead with its effort to improve its competitive position around the world.

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First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger

Redefining the muscle car.

by on Jul.22, 2014

At 707-hp, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat claims to be the most powerful muscle car ever to roll out of a Big 3 plant.

If you thought the golden age of muscle cars was gone and forgotten, Dodge has a big surprise coming for you next year — actually, a whole bunch of them.

After bringing back its retro-styled Challenger coupe in 2009, the Chrysler performance brand has made steady gains on the stalwarts of the modern muscle car era, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. And for 2015, Challenger is getting not only a major design update, but a host of new variants including the new SRT Hellcat which, at a smoking 707 horsepower, is being billed as the most powerful factory- assembled muscle car ever.

We Give You the Muscle!

While modern muscle cars aren’t for everyone, models like the Challenger are gaining traction not only with the Baby Boomers who grew up listening to the squeal of rubber, but also younger buyers looking for something out of the ordinary.

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US Motorists Expected to Use Less Fuel in Coming Years

Transportation energy needs declining overall, but automobiles show sharpest fall-off.

by on Jul.21, 2014

Americans are now expected to trim their energy consumption notably over the next quarter century.

A combination of changing demographics, greater fuel efficiency and wider use of alternative energy sources is expected to reduce the amount of energy Americans consume for transportation over the next quarter century.

A new survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates the long-term fuel needs for cars, trucks, airplanes, boats, and rail will steadily decline through 2040.

Be Empowered!

Transportation energy, including energy demand from light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, marine vessels, rail and other sources, reached 13.8 million barrels per day in 2012 or 28% of all energy consumption in the United States. But that was down from a peak of 14.6 million barrels per day in 2007.

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Dodge Challenger Hellcat Opens up New Muscle Car Era

Muscle car brand fills in gaps as it expands Challenger line-up.

by on Jul.18, 2014

The Dodge brand is putting more emphasis on performance with the new Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Dodge is revamping its lineup of muscle cars for 2015; using the stunning 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat as a calling card to show that it is possible to blend modern technology with traditional design cues to create an entirely new line of vehicles with power, distinctive heritage and celebrated silhouettes.

Though sales have slipped a bit in recent months – nothing unusual for a model about to get a major redesign – the muscle coupe has given competitors such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro a run for their money since Challenger was re-launched in 2009.

High-Performance!

A big part of its appeal has been a distinctive design that “won’t get lost in a mall parking lot,” said Tim Kiniskis, head of the Dodge brand, during the first media drive of the 2015 model.

But performance also matters to these buyers, and as the most powerful factory-built muscle car ever, the $60,000 Hellcat is expected to serve as a halo car for not only the SRT line of performance cars, but the entire Dodge brand.

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GM Remains in Tight Race for Global Sales Leadership

VW holds tiny lead, but Toyota has yet to weigh in.

by on Jul.17, 2014

GM is hoping new product - such as the Chevy Colorado, shown here with product chief Mark Reuss - will help it regain global sales leadership.

Despite recalling millions of vehicles and watching billions of dollars in new legal claims pile up during the first half of the year, General Motors is still in a relatively close race for global sales leadership with rivals Volkswagen and Toyota.

GM has reported selling 2.5 million vehicles around the world during the second quarter of 2014, with year-over-year sales in the United States and China, the company’s two largest markets, growing by  7% and 8%, respectively. Globally, GM’s total sales were up 0.5% for the second quarter. In the first half, GM sold 4,921,928 vehicles, up 1.4%.

Stay in the Race!

Volkswagen AG, thanks to strong sales in China and a solid performance in Europe as well as gains by Audi and Porsche, held a whisker-thin lead with sales of 4.97 million vehicles worldwide during the first half of the year. VW is actively targeting global sales leadership – but the race likely won’t be determined until later this month when Toyota Motor Co. weighs in with its own figures.

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Despite Skeptics, Fuel-Cell Vehicles Hit the Market

“Fool cells” or “fuel of the future”?

by on Jul.15, 2014

Toyota Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato reveals the company's new FCV fuel cell vehicle in Japan.

Hyundai’s first fuel-cell vehicle, a zero-emissions version of its Tucson sport-ute, has just gone on sale in Southern California, and hydrogen-powered Honda and Toyota models will follow in the months ahead.  Mercedes-Benz is fleet testing its own F-Cell model, and other makers, such as General Motors, may soon enter the fuel-cell market, as well.

To proponents, hydrogen is the ultimate form of clean energy, and one that overcomes many of the drawbacks of battery power such as limited range and long charging cycles. Yet reaction to the technology remains sharply divided.

Fuel for Thought!

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of TeslaMotors, the California-based battery-carmaker, has repeatedly asserted that hydrogen vehicles will never pay off commercially, deriding them as “fool cells.”

But after years on the back burner as money and resources were shifted to battery technology, hydrogen has been regaining momentum in the U.S. and abroad.

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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

“An athlete in a tailored suit.”

by on Jul.10, 2014

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata's styling may be toned down, but it remains a striking entry in a segment that has typically emphasized bland design.

First introduced in 1985, the Hyundai Sonata was a largely overlooked entry into the crowded midsize market, but that all changed with the launch of the 2011 sedan which quickly put to rest all those bad jokes and nasty reviews the Korean maker earned – often deservedly – during its early year in the U.S. market.

The sixth-generation Sonata broke the rather restrictive mold carmakers used when designing the midsized sedans. Instead of a drab, boxy silhouette, the recession-era Sonata was sleek, curvy and nicely proportioned. And it marked Hyundai’s coming of age as a serious global player – suddenly a serious challenger to top-rated Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan.

Reviews You Can Trust!

Now Hyundai is rolling out the Gen-7 Sonata for the 2015 model year, and while it has actually toned down the over-the-top styling that made the outgoing model a visual standout, the Korean carmaker intends to build on the value story that turned Sonata into a major hit for the company.

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Fiat Chrysler Stock to List on NYSE in August

Critical completion to merger.

by on Jul.05, 2014

Fiat and Chrysler expect to formally complete their marriage with an Aug. 1 shareholder vote.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has disclosed in a filing with Securities and Exchange Commission that it is prepared to list 750.5 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange once its shareholders finalize the takeover of the Chrysler Group.

Despite completing the acquisition of Chrysler stock earlier this year, FCA will not exist legally until shareholders vote to approve the merger August 1 during a special meeting. The prospectus filed by FCA said it intends to begin trading its stock on the first day following the merger.

The Last Word!

The FCA common shares will be listed on the NYSE and also are expected to be listed on the principal Italian stock exchange in Milan, the Mercato Telematico Azionario, or MTA, pending the approval of authorities in Italy and the Netherlands where the new company will be chartered. FCA has already set up its headquarters in London and will use Chrysler’s home in Auburn Hills and Fiat’s base in Turin as its operational headquarters.

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California DA Targets GM with New Lawsuit

Maker accused of hiding defects, engaged in false, unfair advertising.

by on Jul.02, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra is likely to have a number of legal battles on her hands over recalls.

The legal morass surrounding General Motors continues to get deeper despite this week’s announcement that it has established a special fund to compensate victims of crashes linked to a defective ignition switch.

In Orange County, in the heart of the intensely competitive Southern California new car market, the District Attorney’s office has brought a lawsuit against GM. The suit not only cites the defective ignition switch but also states GM has withheld information about nearly three dozen other defects. It also charges GM had engaged in unfair competition and false advertising in violation of California law when it failed to disclose those safety problems.

The Journal of Record!

The lawsuit was filed just weeks after a separate class action was initiated by a Seattle law firm claiming to represent owners of GM products who feel those vehicles have lost value because of GM’s recall blitz.

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