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Midsize Sedan Likely Next U.S. Model for Alfa Romeo

Project 952 designed to replace old Alfa 159.

by on Nov.26, 2014

The old Alfa Romeo 159 was sold only in Europe. It's successor will go global, including the U.S.

After months of waiting, American Alfa Romeo fans can finally head to dealers for the maker’s little 4C sports car, the first model the Italian maker has sold in the U.S. in more than two decades. But it will soon have to share showroom space, according to several reports out of Europe.

During a day-long briefing on the company’s plans last May, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne indicated Alfa Romeo will be getting as many as eight new products, and during an appearance at the LA Auto Show this month, Alfa would bring the second of those to the U.S. next June.

Insider News!

While Wester declined to say what that new product would be, it appears the maker will next turn to a midsize sedan replacing the old Alfa 159, according to Luca Ciferri, of Automotive News Europe. The maker apparently will go for a “tweener” strategy, much as Cadillac did with earlier versions of the CTS.

(more…)

First Look: Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake

Revisiting the wagon.

by on Nov.26, 2014

The new Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake may be what's needed to change the opinions of U.S. drivers about wagons.

Manufacturers have tried going the semantic root: dubbing them shooting brakes, estates, crossovers and cross country. But Americans have shown an uncanny ability to sniff out a station wagon and turn up their noses – which is all the more ironic considering wagons make up one of the hottest segments in Europe.

Could the new Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake bridge that gap? The more immediate question is whether the German maker will try. It isn’t yet saying whether it will import the “two-box” take on its popular new compact luxury model. But these initial images suggest it might be worth a try.

Gain Traction!

“Like its big brother, the CLS Shooting Brake, the CLA Shooting Brake is targeted at active customers who are looking outside of the mainstream for a car that impresses with a high utility value,” says Ola Källenius, who oversees Mercedes marketing and sales operations. (more…)

Hyundai – Kia Sales to Hit Record 8 Million

But profits under pressure.

by on Nov.25, 2014

A fuel-cell version of the popular Hyundai Tucson went on sale in the U.S. market last summer.

Hyundai Motor Co. and its sibling Kia Motors Corp. are collectively heading for an all-time sales record of 8 million this year.

On the downside, Hyundai is facing serious pressure on earnings as the Korean won gains strength. That creates a disadvantage when compared to Japanese rivals who have watched earnings soar on the weak yen.

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“The market still does not look rosy,” Chung Mong Koo, who serves as chairman of both Hyundai and Kia, said in the statement. “Let’s overcome the unfavorable market situation and show our automobile industry’s competence.”

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Fiat Chrysler Struggling to Speed Up Jeep Recall

Accused of "woeful" delay, maker insists it is making progress.

by on Nov.24, 2014

Chrysler's Jeep Liberty was recalled to fix a problem with the fuel tank.

Under fire for the allegedly slow pace of a recall affecting 1.6 million potentially fire-prone Jeeps, Fiat Chrysler officials insist they’ve already been stepping up the pace of the safety campaign, despite taking sharp criticism from the nation’s top automotive safety official last week.

Chrysler last year agreed to recall 1.56 million Jeeps that were linked to fiery rear-end collisions. The automaker initially balked, insisting the data did not justify targeting the Jeep models, but reversed course after it came under heavy pressure both from regulators and the media. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also agreed to reduce the number of vehicles that would be impacted by nearly half.

Keeping the Conversation Going!

But more than a year after agreeing to the service action, the acting NHTSA Administrator, David Friedman, declared that the pace of the recall has been “woeful.” The agency – itself under fire for its handling of various safety issues this year – has been pressing Chrysler to pick up the pace. (more…)

Lawmakers May Bar Registration of Vehicles Not Repaired After Recalls

Vehicle owners reticent to get fixes completed.

by on Nov.24, 2014

Despite dominating the headlines, owners of vehicles with Takata airbags are likely to ignore recall notices that could save lives.

Recalls have hit an all-time high this year, so far totaling nearly 54 million vehicles. But even as daily headlines outline the risks of deadly defects like the General Motors ignition switch problem and Takata’s faulty airbags, millions of those vehicles will never get repaired, according to industry analysts.

With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stymied – even after pressing automakers to increase contact with owners of vehicles impacted by recalls – federal lawmakers may soon step in. One approach under study would bar motorists from registering vehicles that have not undergone repairs.

Your Automotive Source!

Automakers, who have found it difficult to recall compliance rates much beyond 75% to 80% appear to be warming to the idea. (more…)

Tesla May Collaborate with BMW

Makers could share batteries, carbon-fiber components.

by on Nov.24, 2014

Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a recent TV appearance.

(This story has been revised to reflect comments by BMW.)

Battery-carmaker Tesla Motors has begun discussing a possible collaboration with Germany’s BMW AG, according to the U.S. company’s CEO Elon Musk.

The two makers are discussing the use of sharing batteries and the lightweight components that can help improve vehicle range. The news comes a month after Germany’s Daimler AG sold off its 4% stake in Tesla.

Plug In!

“We are talking about whether we can collaborate in battery technology or charging stations,” Musk said in an interview with the German news weekly Der Spiegel.

(more…)

Acura Hopes Revised ILX Can Gain Momentum in Booming Compact Luxury Market

Update delivers more power, technology and improved appearance.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Acura's Mike Accavitti introduces the 2016 version of the Acura ILX this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

In the high-tech world, companies like Apple often go for what’s known as “first-mover advantage.” By that logic, Acura should be dominating the booming compact luxury sedan segment with its once-groundbreaking ILX model. But things haven’t worked out as the maker hoped.

The ILX has been struggling to simply hold its momentum as newer entries like the Audi A3 and segment-leading Mercedes-Benz CLA race to market. Sales of the Acura offering tumbled 19.3% last month and are off 16.2% for the full calendar-year.

Auto Show News!

So, the luxury arm of Honda Motor Co. has a lot riding on the 2016 version of the Acura ILX that was unveiled this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The updated model comes as an unusually early mid-cycle refresh, and aims to address the shortfalls of the original by tweaking its appearance, boosting its power and adding plenty of new technology. (more…)

Ford F-150 Is Highest-Mileage Gas-Powered Full-Size Truck

Legs Ram EcoDiesel mpg – but high cost of diesel offsets advantage, Ford claims.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Ford's 2015 F-150 4x2 with Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine has EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway and 22 mpg Combined.

With newly released EPA test numbers in hand, Ford Motor Co. has declared its 2015 F-150 the nation’s most fuel-efficient gas-powered full-size pickup truck.

Based on EPA numbers and what Ford billed as apples-to-apples comparisons, the new aluminum-bodies F-150 will get anywhere from 5% to 29% better mileage – in some cases as much as 7 mpg – over the prior model.

Fueling Up the News!

That’s “a significant achievement,” declared Ford’s global product development director Raj Nair, especially when taking into account the fact that the average new 2015 F-150 will also see an increase in both towing and cargo capacity. (more…)

Volvo V60 Cross Country Aiming for Its Own Unique Niche

New Cross Country model strikes a balance between wagon and CUV.

by on Nov.21, 2014

The Volvo V60 Cross Country is officially a wagon, but with its taller, almost coupe-like proportions, it could have been re-designated a crossover.

Few manufacturers have had their image more closely tied to the station wagon, even though Volvo went awhile without offering one in the U.S. market – and probably for good reason considering the limited demand for that seemingly out-of-date body style.

Significantly, when the Swedish maker’s turn in the spotlight came at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, it put the focus on the new XC90 sport-utility vehicle it will launch next year. But there was another model sharing the stage, and it harkens more closely to Volvo’s roots.

Your Source for Auto Show News!

The Volvo V60 Cross Country is officially being called a wagon, but with its taller, almost coupe-like proportions, it could just as easily have been re-designated a crossover. It certainly has a silhouette similar to other European CUVs, such as the BMW X1. (more…)

Mitsubishi Pushes into Battery-Power with XR-PHEV

Plug-in hybrid concept hints at “changes that will affect our future.”

by on Nov.21, 2014

Mitsubishi continued its push into the EV segment at the Los Angeles Auto Show with its new XR-PHEV plug-in hybrid crossover.

It’s likely best known for SUVs and sports cars like the Outlander and the EVO pocket rocket, but Mitsubishi has been shifting emphasis with battery models like the little i-MiEV and the battery-powered race car that set a new record at this year’s Pike’s Peak Hill Climb.

So there’s reason to take seriously the new XR-PHEV, the angular plug-in hybrid crossover vehicle the maker is showing at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

Keeping the Conversation Going!

“We’re looking at changes that will affect our future,” suggested Mitsubishi Executive Vice President Don Swearingen. (more…)