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Bicycle Deaths on the Rise

Problem shifts to adults on urban roads.

by on Oct.30, 2014

A CitiBike bicycle sharing station in New York City. Urban ridership is up - but so are fatalities.

Whether traveling on rural roads or inner-city streets, you’re likely to see a lot more bicyclists pedaling their way alongside four-wheeled traffic. Bikes have become hip again, it seems, especially with Generations X and Y. And a growing list of cities – including Chicago, San Francisco and New York – even make it possible to bike share, an encouraged alternative for commuters and tourists alike.

Unfortunately, new research reveals that with the increase in bicycle usage, there’s a concurrent increase in crashes, the annual cycle death rate rising from 621 to 722 between 2010 to 2012, reports the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA. That’s an alarming 16% jump even as overall highway deaths – including automobiles, motorcycles, pedestrians and bicycles – has been declining.

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Notes a statement from the GHSA, “Bicycle fatalities are increasingly an urban phenomenon, accounting for 69 percent of all bicycle fatalities in 2012, compared with 50 percent in 1975. These changes correlate with an increase in bicycling commuters — a 62 percent jump since 2000, according to 2013 Census Bureau data.”

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First Look: 2015 BMW X5 M and X6 M

Debut set for LA Auto Show next month.

by on Oct.29, 2014

BMW offers a first look at the two big performance crossovers, the X5 M and X6 M, coming to LA.

The world got its first look at the new BMW X5 eDrive hybrid during the Paris Motor Show a few weeks back, and now the Bavarian maker is steering in a very different direction as it offers up details on its all-new  high-performance crossovers, the 2015 BMW X5 M and X6 M. Both models will officially debut at the L.A. Auto Show next month.

As with the latest versions of the more mainstream X5 and X6 Sport-Activity Vehicles, the revised M models opt for evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, design changes. That means new front and rear fascia and body lines.

Power Up!

But what matters most is what lies barely hidden beneath the sheet metal, and the new M crossovers will be adopting the same 4.4-liter, TwinPower Turbo V-8 already offered in the M5 and M6 lines – BMW boasting that it’s the most powerful engine it has ever developed for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

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FCA Set to Spin Off Ferrari

Investors applaud, but questions and challenges loom.

by on Oct.29, 2014

The 458 Speciale A made its debut at the Paris Motor Show earlier this month.

Only months after Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne ruled out the possibility of spinning off the maker’s high-profile Ferrari brand, that’s precisely what the maker now says it will do – a move that has fired up investors while raising questions about the long-term strategy for the supercar maker.

In an announcement accompany Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s third-quarter earnings report, the maker said it will sell 10% of Ferrari’s shares while the remaining 90% will go the only recently merged FCA’s own shareholders.

Stay in the Loop!

The move comes at a significant moment for Ferrari which just last month revealed that long-time chief executive Luca di Montezemolo would step down, apparently as a result of a dispute with Marchionne over the sports carmaker’s direction. It didn’t help that Ferrari also had one of its worst years on the trying Formula One race circuit in decades.

What happens now is something that both loyal “Ferraristas” and investors alike will be watching closely.

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Fiat Chrysler Earnings Hold Steady as Maker Prepares to Spin Off Ferrari

Investors quickly warm to news.

by on Oct.29, 2014

Sergio Marchionne may have reason to smile as investors finally begin bidding up FCA stock.

Now officially merged, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its third-quarter earnings were roughly in line with last year’s numbers.

Though that was essentially what analysts had anticipated, the automaker delivered a surprise by announcing it will spin off its iconic Ferrari brand – just months after CEO Sergio Marchionne appeared to indicate such a move wasn’t in the works.

You've Earned It!

The decision “will preserve the cherished Italian heritage” of Ferrari, said a statement from FCA Chairman John Elkann. Ferrari has been facing a fair bit of turmoil lately after the ouster of its long-time chief executive and its unexpectedly poor performance in the popular Formula One racing series.

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Honda Earnings Up, but Maker Lowers Full-Year Forecast

Takata and other problems loom for Japan’s third-largest maker.

by on Oct.28, 2014

Honda recently confirmed plans to add the HR-V - shown in concept form - to its line-up.

Honda profits surged during the July-to-September quarter, but the third-largest Japanese automaker nonetheless lowered its full-year forecast reflecting a variety of potential problems ahead.

Helped by a weak yen, Honda Motor Co. reported net earnings of 141.8 billion yen, or $1.3 billion, for the second quarter of the Japanese fiscal year. Sales, meanwhile, increased by 4%, to 3.015 trillion yen, or $27.9 billion.

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Honda is among the Japanese makers to benefit from a weak yen which it credited for boosting revenues by 123 billion yen, or $1.1 billion during the latest quarter. But that exchange rate enhancement isn’t expected to continue, industry analysts warn, while Honda warned it faces a “difficult business environment” that includes sluggish demand in Asia.

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Michigan to Become GM’s Global Electric Vehicle Center

CEO Barra to offer up some details of next Chevy Volt project.

by on Oct.28, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra will meet with Detroit's business leaders and outline plans for Michigan.

(This story has been updated with additional comments by GM CEO Mary Barra.)

While GM isn’t expected to reveal its next-generation Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid until next January, the automaker’s CEO Mary Barra said today.

Among other things, the maker plans to invest $300 million in its home state of Michigan by year-end, a chunk of that cash going to set up the Warren Transmission Plant to produce the next-gen Volt’s plug-in drivetrain. Virtually all key powertrain components, from Volt’s batteries to its gasoline “range-extender” engine, will be built in Michigan going forward.

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“Our investments in the Chevy Volt and Michigan signify our commitment to lead the industry in technology and innovation,” CEO Barra told the Detroit Economic Club.

The remake of the Chevrolet Volt is scheduled to debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, marking the first major update to the so-called extended-range electric vehicle since it went on sale late in 2009.

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Limited “Geographic Recalls” Could Put Millions of Motorists at Risk

Practice “suspends logic and common sense,” declares one lawmaker.

by on Oct.27, 2014

Sen. Richard Bluenthal (D-Conn.) is one of the critics of NHTSA's regional approach to the Takata recall.

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When Hien Tran died earlier this month in an Orlando, Florida, hospital after a crash in her Honda Accord, she became at least the fourth victim of faulty airbags produced by Japanese supplier Takata.

Within weeks, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an unprecedented alert advising owners of 7.8 million vehicles sold in the U.S. to seek immediate repairs because their airbags could unexpectedly explode in a crash. In the case of Tran’s accident, metal shards entered her neck, initially leading police investigators to think she had been stabbed.

Safety News!

The NHTSA warning actually compiles and expands upon a series of recalls by a long list of manufacturers, including Honda, Toyota, General Motors and BMW, who used Takata airbags. Notably, NHTSA and some of those makers have chosen to target vehicles specifically sold in Florida, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and other regions that experience what the federal agency describes as high “absolute humidity.” (more…)

Detroit Electric Releases “Final” Design of SP:01 Electric Sports Car

Over a year late, the maker promises to launch production before year-end.

by on Oct.27, 2014

An obvious digital rendering shows the revised rear of the Detroit Electric SP:01 sports car's "final design."

Better late than never? That’s apparently the philosophy at Detroit Electric, the ambitious, if struggling, battery-carmaker that has been promising to put the world’s fastest electric sports car into production.

First teased at a splashy Motown event in the spring of 2013 – with a concept vehicle unveiled at last year’s Shanghai Motor Show, Detroit Electric has missed all of its original targets. But despite the legions of skeptics, it has today released an image of what it is billing “the final exterior design” of its pure battery electric sports-car, the SP:01.

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Apparently, quite a bit has changed since Detroit Electric first announced plans to revive a brand name that has been gone since the Great Depression.

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Chrysler SEMA Concepts Hint at Niche Products to Come

Mopar generating double-digit growth for maker.

by on Oct.24, 2014

The Dodge Challenger T/A concept is a 485-horsepower beast that the maker is displaying at the SEMA show.

It’s a beautiful autumn morning as Mark Trostle leads a group of journalists out to the design department courtyard behind the Chrysler Technology Center.  “It’s like Candyland out here,” says the chief designer for Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Mopar division, as he surveys an assortment of concept vehicles that will soon head to Las Vegas for the annual SEMA Show.

That’s the yearly gathering of the automotive parts and accessories world, a fast-growing industry that generates more than $30 billion in business annually. Not surprisingly, makers like Fiat Chrysler have been increasing their presence at SEMA each year hoping not only to put a halo around their brands, but also to help sell more of their own parts and accessories.

The Last Word!

Mopar, in fact, has been generating double-digit growth in recent years, in part by coming up with striking concept vehicles that illustrate ways to use products from its own parts catalogue. But it’s also going to be showing several special concepts that could soon be put, in whole, into production by various Fiat Chrysler brands. (more…)

After Gloomy Forecast, Ford Earnings Narrowly Beat Expectations

But numbers still down sharply for Q3.

by on Oct.24, 2014

Ford CEO Mark Fields with the 2015 Edge, one of the models critical to turning around its earnings slump.

Ford’s third-quarter earnings report is a classic test of whether you want to view the glass as half-empty or half-full.

The maker recently warned that it would deliver a substantially lower profits due to problems in Europe and other markets, as well as having to cover the cost of a big recall. And, indeed, earnings for the July to September period plunged sharply, from $1.3 billion a year ago to just $835 million.

Earnings News!

The pre-tax profit, at $1.2 billion, was off from a year-earlier $2.6 billion. But at 24 cents a share, that nonetheless managed to beat the 19-cent consensus estimate, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. (more…)