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Mercedes Turning to Tesla for B-Class Battery Car

Set for 2014 U.S. launch.

by on Jul.05, 2012

Mercedes launched the B-Class line in late 2011. A battery version should reach the U.S. by 2014.

The folks at little Tesla Motors are rapidly becoming the go-to guys when a big automaker needs help bringing battery car technology to market, it seems.  With Toyota soon to launch the Tesla-powered RAV4-EV reports have surfaced that Mercedes will also tap the California start-ups expertise to bring out a battery-electric version of the next-generation B-Class model.

Though Tesla is counting on its own products – notably including its new Model S sedan – to transform it into a significant automotive player, the company also has been pushing to expand its ties to other automotive manufacturers including Toyota, which has invested $50 million into the smaller firm.

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Mercedes and parent Daimler AG have also found it expedient to turn to Tesla, which already has provided battery powertrain know-how to the company’s little Smart car brand, which recently introduced a new electric version of its Smart fortwo.  But the B-Class project promises to ramp things up substantially.


Audi Bringing A3 e-tron Battery Car to U.S.

Pilot program to focus on four markets.

by on Feb.27, 2012

Only 17 Audi A3 e-tron battery cars will be used for the initial U.S. pilot program.

Audi is set to introduce its first battery car in the U.S. market – albeit in the form of a test program that could lead to more widespread use of the technology in the next few years.

During an appearance at the annual TED conference, in Long Beach, California, Audi of America CEO Johan DeNysschen revealed plans to put 17 A3 e-trons on the road next month, dividing them between four U.S. markets.  The pilot programs a similar test of the A1 e-tron in Germany.

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The two tests are designed to provide rapid feedback to help Audi move its battery technology into the mainstream as soon as possible, company officials noted.

“Audi is committed to refining Audi e-tron technology and we expect our plug-in vehicles to become a significant choice for our buyers within a growing line of advanced, efficient Audi powertrains over the coming years,” said DeNysschen at the TED2012 event.


First Look: Ford EcoSport

Will Ford eventually bring mini-crossover to U.S.?

by on Jan.04, 2012

The Ford EcoSport crossover shares platforms with the subcompact Fiesta model.

Ford is offering a first glimpse of a new mini-crossover that will share platforms with the maker’s global subcompact, the Fiesta.

Dubbed the Ford EcoSport, the new model made its formal debut this week at Auto Expo 2012, the big Indian motor show in New Delhi.  Underscoring the significance of the new model was the fact that Ford CEO Alan Mulally was personally on hand to lift the covers.

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“The all-new Ford EcoSport reflects our commitment to serve our customers with the cars and trucks they truly want and value,” said the 66-year-old executive.

The latest example of the so-called One Ford strategy – which calls for using common platforms and body “top hats” for markets around the world – the EcoSport is primarily aimed at what Ford describes as “major worldwide growth markets,” notably including India, China and Brazil.


Toyota Facing Yet Another Recall

110,000 Tundra pickups cited for excess rust that could cause brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off.

by on Nov.25, 2009

Excessive corrosion could cause brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off on Toyota Tundra pickups sold between 2000 and 2003.

Excessive corrosion could cause brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off on Toyota Tundra pickups sold between 2000 and 2003.

Only weeks after notifying 3.8 million customers that deadly floor mats could cause accelerators to jam wide open, Toyota is set to launch yet another recall.

By comparison, the numbers are more modest, with just 110,000 vehicles involved, but government regulators stepped in when they realized excess rust on Tundra pickups sold during the 2000 through 2003 model-years could lead brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off.

The recall is focused on 20 states, as well as the District of Columbia, where road salts and chemical de-icers are used, during winter months, to clear roadways.  They can cause “excessive corrosion,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Recall Central

Recall Central

That, in turn, can lead to brake system failures or rust away the mounts holding spare tires underneath the vehicle.  If tires break loose, the government said, that could create a road hazard for other vehicles.  The NHTSA is recommending that until repairs can be made, motorists remove spare tires and store them in the vehicle bed.


Arab Investors to Dominate Daimler

Abu Dhabi government investment fund to become maker’s largest shareholder

by on Mar.23, 2009

Zetsche: It was either pry open an ATM or sell a stake to Abu Dhabi.

Zetsche: It was either pry open an ATM or sell a stake to Abu Dhabi.

An investment fund controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi is now the biggest shareholder in Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, Daimler AG.

Aabar Investment PJSC is spending $2.72 billion for a 9.1 percent stake in the German company.  Unlike many Mideast sovereign wealth funds, some shares in Aabar are publicly traded.  But in a series of recent steps, the government has been steadily increasing its stake in the investment firm.

“We are delighted to welcome Aabar as a new major shareholder that is supportive of our corporate strategy,” Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche said in the statement. “We look forward to working together to pursue joint strategic initiatives.”

“Daimler is an iconic brand and a financially strong company with a reputation for excellence worldwide,” said Aabar Chairman Khadem al-Qubaisi, in a statement. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to make this investment and are excited by the commercial potential of our partnership.”

The Daimler investment appears to be Aabar’s biggest foreign move to date.  Last December, it bought the Swiss-based wealth management unit of the struggling American International Group, or AIG, for $273 million – a deal in which it also agreed to assume about $90 million in debt.