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American Motorists Cutting Back on Daily Trips

Online shopping, social networking likely a key factor.

by on Sep.03, 2015

More time online appears to translate into less time behind the wheel, finds new study.

While the number of cars on U.S. highways continues to grow, with congestion worsening in most metropolitan areas, Americans seem to be cutting back or combining daily errands, reducing the time they spend behind the wheel.

On average, American motorists spent about 10% less time in their cars to handle daily activities than they did a decade ago, according to a new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI.

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UMTRI researcher Michael Sivak, in one of a series of reports that examines recent motorization trends in the U.S., said that the average time spent traveling per day for all activities dropped from 1.23 hours in 2004 to 1.11 hours in 2014.

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Auto Sales Slip a Bit, but Beat Expectations

Prices continue to push upwards.

by on Sep.01, 2015

Keep on trucking. Vehicles like the new Renegade helped Jeep score some of the industry's biggest gains in August.

Despite Wall Street’s shake-up, China’s sliding economy – and a fluke of the calendar – the U.S. auto industry did a bit better than anticipated in August, with far less of a downturn than some had predicted and a number of manufacturers managing to eke out strong gains.

While some brands, such as Toyota, saw sharp declines, others pushed into record sales numbers. And carnakers continued to see average transaction prices rise again last month, prices running at or near record levels for most of them, according to industry analysts.

Industry News!

“In spite of a tough 2014 comparison and extreme stock market volatility, our dealer’s competitive spirit kicked in and propelled us to our 65th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Our Jeep brand turned in a double-digit increase while eight individual models, including four Jeep brand vehicles, set sales records.”

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Toyota Restarts Chinese Plant After Fatal Blast

Explosion destroyed 1,000s of vehicles.

by on Sep.01, 2015

Thousands of burnt out vehicles sit charred after an explosion in the port city of Tianjin, China.

With global leadership in the auto industry hanging in the balance, Toyota is set to resume production at a big assembly complex in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, which was rocked earlier this month by a huge explosion that killed more than 140 and created a crisis for the government of the Republic of China even as it scrambles to contain the country’s mounting economic woes.

The slowdown in economic growth across China, highlighted by the plunge in Chinse stock indices, has cut into new car sales across the country. But major global carmakers, such as Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors still count on the Chinese market for a significant portion of the worldwide sales.

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The unexpected shutdown came at a critical time for Toyota. The Japanese maker saw its global sales slip behind Volkswagen for the first half of 2015, and the loss of production in Tianjin could give its German rival a stronger run for leadership during the rest of the year.

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California Initiative Searches for Elusive Battery Breakthrough

Public-private effort aimed at “turbocharging the innovation process.”

by on Jul.30, 2015

The biggest problem with battery cars? The batteries -- shown here being assembled at a Nissan plant.

The biggest problem with today’s battery cars? The batteries, of course, which simply can’t deliver enough power in a compact, reasonably lightweight package.

A California-based initiative is aimed at “turbocharging the innovation process,” explained a senior official, looking for ways to boost power, drop costs and extend battery life. The project, dubbed CalCharge, has added six new partners, including major players like the Japanese auto giant Toyota and German mega-supplier Bosch.  In all, 18 automakers, parts suppliers and energy companies have joined the initiative – which has also teamed up with a number of national research labs.

Stay Charged Up!

“Connecting private companies with the talent at the labs means that innovators at both public and private organizations have a new opportunity to learn and share with one another,” said Horst Simon, deputy director at Berkeley Lab, one of the founding organizations of CalCharge.

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GM Puts Its Products on a Diet

Efficiency is part of performance, says product czar Reuss.

by on May.19, 2015

The 2016 Chevy Camaro lost 200 pounds.

Pressure to improve fuel economy in the face of tough new federal rules is forcing General Motors to put its future products on a diet – something that will also require a major change in its internal culture, said the maker’s global product development chief.

The new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is an example of this shift in direction, said Executive Vice President Mark Reuss. In years past, each new product was heavier than the model it replaced. But the sixth-generation muscle car is 200 pounds lighter. Cutting mass, Reuss said, not only translates into a more fuel-efficient vehicle but one that is quicker and more nimble.

A Real Heavyweight!

“It still needs to be a wicked fast track car,” he said. But Reuss added that, “I include efficiency in performance.”

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Automakers Regain Momentum in April – Market Looking at Best in Decade

Power forecast sees industry making up ground after cold winter.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Trucks, like this Ford F-150 shown with CEO Mark Fields, continue to gain momentum in the US market.

Consumer demand for new vehicles during April is the best it’s been in 10 years, according to a new analysis by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

With the warmer, spring weather finally settling in across the U.S., total light-vehicle sales are projected to reach 1,463,700, a 5% increase compared with April 2014 and the highest level for the month since April 2005.  The total seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, or SAAR, is expected to hit 16.6 million units.

The Last Word!

“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “The average new-vehicle transaction price so far in April is $30,680, on pace to achieve a new record for the month.” The current record was set in April 2014 when transaction prices averaged $29,948,” he said.

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American Dreaming: Exhibit Looks Back at the Golden Age of the U.S. Auto Industry

Rare finds often were smuggled out of Detroit’s design studios.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Bill Blogh's 1953 Ford concept sketch captured the sci-fi mood of the era.

In the optimistic post-War era, few things better defined the American lifestyle than the cars we drove. The ’57 Chevy and the finned Cadillac Eldorado were far more than mere transportation.

Drawings and sketches by designers who created the cars of the 1950s and 1960s are being honored with a unique display at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan through May 2.

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The exhibit, “American Dreaming: Detroit ’s Golden Age of Automotive Design,” is the first comprehensive exhibition to offer a look at the art work produced inside the design studios of Detroit ’s automakers between 1946 to 1973.

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First Drive: 2015 Ford Edge

Smoothing out the rough edges.

by on Mar.11, 2015

The 2015 Ford Edge.

Ford has been a leader in the utility vehicle segment for the better part of a quarter of a century, going all the way back to the introduction of the first Explorer in 1990, a much more modern alternative to the bucky old Bronco.

The Explorer was a much more roadworthy vehicle, lightyears removed from the rough off-roaders of the past. Still, it took another 16 years before the Blue Oval took the next big step, introducing its first crossover model in the form of the original Edge.

Family Car Reviews!

Like similar soft-roaders, it was intended more as a minivan alternative than something you’d take to the back woods. More refined looking, inside and out, with comfortable highway manners and plenty of family-friendly features. So, we were clearly curious to see how much the new 2015 Ford Edge would evolve considering the increasingly crowded and competitive nature of the midsize CUV segment.

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Google Has No Plans to Go into Carmaking Business

Tech giant hopes to find partner for autonomous vehicle technology.

by on Jan.15, 2015

Google would like to find a partner to help it put the technology in this prototype into production.

Google is on a mission to change the world with its autonomous vehicle technology. But it doesn’t plan to launch its own carmaking division, instead hoping to find partners to work with, the tech giant’s automotive guru said.

There’ve been a lot of questions raised about Google’s plans since it revealed last year it was building 100 autonomous vehicle prototypes with the help of Roush, an automotive engineering and racing company based in suburban Detroit. The first of those are just beginning fleet tests around Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

Automotive Insight!

But program director Chris Urmson stressed that, “We’re definitely not in the business of making cars,” during an appearance at the Automotive News World Congress, an industry confab in Detroit. Instead, he added, Google will be, be “looking for a partner to build entire vehicles….at some point.” (more…)

Tesla Won’t Deliver a Profit Until 2020, CEO Musk Warns

But founder also promises to push volume to 500,000 by 2020, and “a couple million” by 2025.

by on Jan.14, 2015

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has no plans to leave Tesla anytime soon.

Don’t expect to see a profit from Tesla Motors – at least not using generally accepted accounting rules – until at least 2020, CEO Elon Musk cautioned during an appearance in Detroit on Tuesday. That’s despite a big jump in sales the company founder is predicting.

By the end of the decade, Musk is promising to sell at least 500,000 vehicles annually – a nearly 3,000% increase over 2014’s total of 17,300 Model S sedans — as Tesla adds new products and works out the admitted kinks in its production system.

Electrifying!

In the meantime, Musk says he’ll be sticking around to oversee Tesla, at least until it gets its first mass market battery-car, the Model III, into production.  Musk suggested that he intends to stay at Tesla “until I die,” but opened the door to turning over the role of chief executive to someone else once he reaches his most immediate goal of bring an electric vehicle to the masses.

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