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Honda Punches Up Ridgeline Fuel Economy by 5 MPG

Automakers finding way to get car-like mileage out of trucks.

by on Apr.29, 2016

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline made its debut at this year's Detroit Auto Show.

Honda expects to get as much as five miles per gallon better mileage out of its reborn Ridgeline pickup when it goes on sale over the summer.

That’s in keeping with a general trend that’s seen a big boost of the fuel economy of next-generation trucks and SUVs. And, industry leaders are betting, it will mean that American motorists will be far less likely to flee back to conventional sedans and coupes if – or, more likely, when – fuel prices start rising again.

The Last Word!

According to figures filed with the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees mileage testing, the front-wheel-drive version of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline will deliver 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway. The all-wheel-drive model will trim a single mpg off those numbers, to 18 and 25.

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Ford Planning Long-Range EV to Challenge Tesla, GM

Goal is to be “in a leadership position,” says CEO Fields

by on Apr.29, 2016

Ford is upping the range of the current Focus Electric to more than 100 miles for 2017.

Ford Motor Co. plans to join the ranks of automakers offering a battery-car capable of at least 200 miles per charge, said CEO Mark Fields, helping eliminate the so-called “range anxiety” that has many potential customers shying away from electric vehicles.

That’s a shift in strategy for Ford which decided to hold the range of the updated 2017 Focus Electric to just 100 miles. But a growing list of manufacturers are pushing to 200 miles or more, including Tesla, General Motors, Volkswagen and Audi.

Plug In Now!

“We want to make sure that we’re either among the leaders or in a leadership position,” Fields said during a conference call with automotive analysts and reporters. “When you look at some of the competitors and what they’ve announced, clearly, that’s something we’re developing for.”

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Fiat-Chrysler Reportedly Talking Autonomous Car Deal with Google

But prior rumors of Google-Ford deal failed to materialize.

by on Apr.29, 2016

Google is already testing its bubble-shaped prototype in California, Texas and Nevada.

Two partners in search of mates? Both Google and Fiat Chrysler have been open in their need to form alliances, and the two companies just might be ready to team up.

According to several online reports, they’re in advanced talks that could lead to Fiat Chrysler putting Google’s self-driving vehicle technology into production. The Silicon Valley firm is already testing its autonomous car software with a fleet of prototypes, but Google officials have repeatedly said they want to find a partner within the auto industry, rather than setting up their own manufacturing operation.

Tech Talk!

The talks have reportedly been underway for several months, according to the Wall Street Journal, while a separate online report on autoextremist claims negotiations are in late stages and could see Google’s autonomous technology used on a variety of different Fiat-Chrysler products.

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Volkswagen to Spend $8.8 Bil on U.S. Diesel Buy Back and Fix

Maker will shift focus to electric cars, says CEO Mueller.

by on Apr.28, 2016

Volkswagen's Matthias Mueller outlined the automaker's plan to spend $8.8 billion to buy back cars with faulty diesel engines.

Volkswagen expects to spend about 7.8 billion euros, or $8.8 billion, to buy back or fix the diesel cars it had rigged as part of an emissions testing scam.

The maker already has accounted for that charge, however, including it in the $18.2 billion deducted from 2015 earnings, CEO Matthias Mueller said Thursday. While the maker has yet to get formal approval for a U.S. fix, the executive said that dealing with the rigged diesels “will remain our most important task until the very last vehicle has been put in order.”

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Mueller also said that Volkswagen plans to increasingly shift focus away from the high-mileage diesels that have been a major plank in its product portfolio. It will now make battery-based vehicles – including hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric models – “one of Volkswagen’s new hallmarks.” (more…)

Ford Posts Profit, Operating Margin Records

“Essentially everything has improved,” says CFO Shanks.

by on Apr.28, 2016

Ford CEO Mark Fields has been trying to shift Ford to focus on broader "mobility" opportunities.

Ford handily outperformed expectations as it delivered record net profits and operating income for the first quarter of the year on Thursday.

Net income jumped 113% to $2.45 billion for the January-to-March quarter, or 61 cents a diluted share. A year ago, Ford’s net totaled $1.3 billion, or 29 cents a share. Excluding one-time items, Ford earned 68 cents a share compared to a Wall Street forecast averaging 48 cents.

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“Essentially everything has improved,” said Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks, who also said Ford expects 2016 overall to meet or exceed the company’s strong performance last year.

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Mitsubishi Claims US Mileage Numbers Accurate

Maker's stock rebounds slightly, but still down nearly half since mileage scandal erupted.

by on Apr.28, 2016

Mitsubishi recently launched a new version of the Mirage in the U.S., emphasizing price and mileage.

Even as an internal investigation into fuel economy ratings fraud gets underway, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. claims the mileage numbers used for vehicles sold in the United States have been accurate.

That word comes just a day after the embattled Japanese automaker acknowledged it had inflated the figures for vehicles sold in its home market since at least 1991. Sales of Mitsubishi vehicles have plunged since the scandal broke earlier this month, while the maker’s stock price has fallen by nearly half.

Global News!

Mitsubishi is a relatively minor player in the American market, but coming in the wake of a series of industry ethics lapses – including the Volkswagen diesel emissions fraud and General Motors’ cover-up of a deadly ignition switch defect – the Japanese maker could face major fines and legal costs if it were found to be cheating in the U.S., as well.

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Ford Wants to Go Green in China

US maker says 25% of Chinese vehicles will be battery-based by 2020.

by on Apr.27, 2016

Ford plans to launch the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid in China sometime in 2017.

One in four of the vehicles Ford Motor Co. hope to sell in China by the end of the decade will use some form of battery-based powertrain, company officials said during the Beijing Motor Show.

Ford has already announced plans to invest $4.5 billion in its electrification program, CEO Mark Fields saying the goal is to have 13 hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles in the Blue Oval and Lincoln line-ups by 2020.

Your Auto Insider!

But China could become the maker’s largest market for these green vehicles, a shift that reflects government pressure at least as much as consumer demand in the world’s largest automotive market. Hoping to deal with endemic smog problems, Beijing regulators are using both carrot and stick – incentives and new mandates – to get the auto industry to ramp up production of battery-based vehicles.

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Despite Diesel Dilemma, VW Snatches Global Sales Lead from Toyota

Toyota loses momentum due to production snags.

by on Apr.27, 2016

Despite some serious problems, VW could retain the sales lead during the second quarter.

It’s had to suspend sales of its popular diesels in the U.S. market, and it’s already taken an $18 billion hit in the wake of its ongoing diesel emissions scandal, but not all is doom-and-gloom for Volkswagen AG.

The embattled automaker can celebrate the fact that it surged into the global sales lead for the first quarter of 2016, narrowly squeaking by Japanese giant Toyota which has had its own problems in recent months. General Motors continued to hold down the third spot in the global sales sweepstakes.

In the Know!

Whether VW can hold the lead for the rest of the year is far from certain. It was, in fact, the top-seller for the first half of 2016, only to slip behind Toyota once again as the diesel disaster began to take its toll. But wildcard factors have a way of upsetting the industry’s apple cart, and Toyota is currently dealing with problems that will likely scuttle its chances of regaining the sales crown for at least another quarter.

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Karma Set to Build Renamed Battery Car in the U.S.

Plug-in hybrid now dubbed the Karma Revero.

by on Apr.26, 2016

The original Fisker Karma relied on a 2.0-liter I-4 range extender gas engine from GM.

The recently reborn Fisker Automotive will formally unveil its revived battery vehicle this coming summer, but both car and carmaker will be carrying a new name.

Now owned by Chinese auto parts company Wanxiang Group, Fisker has now been christened Karma Automotive, picking its name up from the plug-in hybrid vehicle it was building before its 2012 bankruptcy. That battery car will now be known as the Revero.

Stay Charged Up!

The original Fisker Karma cost around $110,000, around the same price as a well-equipped version of the current Tesla Model S P85d battery-electric vehicle. The company’s new, California-based management team isn’t saying when the new model will go on sale, nor what it will cost, Chief Marketing Officer Jim Taylor cautioning that, “We are being careful about making promises.” But the goal is to start taking orders over the summer.

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Debt Rises, But Fiat Chrysler Earnings Exceed Expectations

After temporary layoffs, CEO Marchionne sees rise in US employment.

by on Apr.26, 2016

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne reported the automaker made $539 million last quarter, but that the maker's debt level has risen.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted better than expected earnings on Tuesday, largely as a result of strong pickup and SUV sales in North America. But rising debt has nervous investors quickly driving down the maker’s share price.

For his part, CEO Sergio Marchionne tried to buoy confidence in the trans-Atlantic automaker by forecasting an increase in production once temporary cutbacks at two U.S. plants are completed. Shifting capacity more towards the booming truck side of the market, Marchionne said he expects to see an increase in North American factory employment.

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“I confirm now that the realigning of the footprint of NAFTA is going to yield an increase of manpower, subject to temporary layoffs,” Marchionne said during a conference call with analysts and reporters. (more…)