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Judge Approves $15 Bil VW Diesel Deal

But more legal problems await.

by on Jul.26, 2016

Judge Charles Breyer gives the deal a tentative go.

The $15 billion settlement last month in the Volkswagen diesel cheating scandal has won the tentative approval of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer — but despite the record price tag, it doesn’t end the automakers legal problems.

The deal includes $10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 VW vehicles equipped with diesel engines that were rigged to illegally pass emissions tests. The rest of the settlement will go to various programs meant to compensate for the excess pollution those vehicles produced.

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“Volkswagen appreciates the constructive engagement of all the parties,” the maker said in a statement that followed Breyer’s ruling, “as the settlement approval process moves forward. The parties believe that the proposed settlement program will provide a fair, reasonable and adequate resolution for affected Volkswagen and Audi customers.”

The ruling brought an equally positive response from those on the other side of the courtroom.

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Nissan Expands Titan, Titan XD Line-Up with New Single Cab Models

Both models deliver added cargo, tow capacity.

by on Jul.26, 2016

Nissan introduced its new single cab versions of the 2017 Titan and Titan XD.

Aiming to do a better job competing with the established Detroit pickups, Nissan is adding an assortment of different versions of its second-generation Titan truck, and the latest to roll out is the Single Cab model.

Make that “models,” as there will be single-row version of both the standard-duty 2017 Nissan Titan and the maker’s medium-duty Titan XD.

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“Once we complete the roll-out of all Titan cab, bed, powertrain and grade level configurations, our all-new TITAN family will cover about 85% of the total light pickup marketplace,” said Rich Miller, Nissan North America’s director of Product Planning for Trucks, SUVs and Commercial Vehicles. (more…)

Aiming at Tesla, Audi Planning Three Battery-Cars by 2020, CEO Says

Porsche boosts hiring plans for Mission E sports car project.

by on Jul.26, 2016

The Audi e-tron Quattro SUV Concept will be followed by a production model around 2018.

As the brand shifts attention away from its diesel line-up to new, greener technologies, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler wants to have three pure battery-electric models in the line-up by 2020, even if that means dropping some conventional models to come up with the necessary R&D dollars.

Audi has already confirmed plans to launch a battery-electric SUV by 2018 and, in a new interview with German newspaper the Heilbronner Stimme, Stadler confirmed the maker wants 25 to 30% of its total sales to come from electrified models by 2025.

Clearing the Air!

In the wake of parent company Volkswagen AG’s diesel emissions scandal, Audi and other VW brands have been shifting emphasis to battery-based models. Porsche, which is developing the Mission E electric sports car, said on Tuesday that it now expects to create 40% more jobs to handle that project than originally planned.

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Judge to Decide on $15 Bil VW Settlement

Deal likely to get okay, but other challenges remain in diesel scandal.

by on Jul.26, 2016

Judge Charles Breyer will address the proposed 2.0-liter settlement during today's hearing.

The $15 billion deal covering Volkswagen’s diesel emissions cheating faces a critical test in federal court today before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.

The jurist is widely expected to approve the settlement between the German maker and various federal and state agencies. It includes $10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 VW vehicles equipped with diesel engines that were rigged to illegally pass emissions tests. The rest of the settlement will go to various programs meant to compensate for the excess pollution those vehicles produced.

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The deal only covers a 2.0-liter diesel engine, however. VW is still trying to negotiate a settlement for charges it rigged a 3.0-liter turbodiesel, as well. Meanwhile, the automaker faces a variety of other legal issues that could add billions to the final cost of the scandal – including lawsuits filed this month by three individual states.

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Study Finds 45 Million Vehicles on US Roads With Unrepaired Recalls

Problem has grown as annual recall rates have surged to record levels.

by on Jul.25, 2016

A recent J.D. Power survey concludes there are 45 million recalled vehicles on U.S. roads in need of repair.

More than 45 million vehicles roam U.S. roads with unrepaired problems subject to safety recalls since just 2013, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates – and the figure doesn’t include millions of vehicles subject to older recalls.

With the number of recalls reaching record levels for the last two years, the problem has been growing more serious, the consumer research company warns. In just 2015, 51 million vehicles were involved in safety campaigns, stretching the limits for manufacturers to supply replacement parts and dealers to free up the necessary service bays.

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“The steady surge in recalls, combined with NHTSA’s stated goal of 100% recall completion rates have made the number of un-remedied recalls still on the road a critical statistic for automakers and dealers,” said Renee Stephens, the head of automotive operations at J.D. Power. (more…)

Pokemon Go, er, Stop

Driving and augmented reality don’t always play well together.

by on Jul.25, 2016

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people across America are hunting for Pokemon as part of Nintendo's new Pokemon Go game.

Nick Johnson was close to living up to his childhood dream of becoming a Pokemon master. He had captured all but a few of the remaining 142 monsters in the augmented reality reboot of the long popular game.

But try as he might, he couldn’t seem to catch up to those remaining Porygons and Dratinis, so he finally gave up on using shoe leather and hired an Uber car to drive him around New York City before finally earning a spot in the gamer’s hall of fame as the first player confirmed to have swept up all the monsters available in North America.

Safety News!

Unfortunately, other Pokemon Go players aren’t quite as conscientious as Johnson, who works for a platform innovation company. There are growing reports of motorists staring at their smartphones as they drive around on their Poke-quests. One, in Baltimore, plowed into a police cruiser, while another slammed into a tree in Auburn, New York. (more…)

GM Reveals More About Supercruise

Semi-Autonomous tech delayed until late 2017.

by on Jul.25, 2016

GM will debut Supercruise on the Cadillac CT6.

Wary of the problems that appear to have caused the fatal crash of a Tesla Model S running in semi-autonomous mode, General Motors wants to take a bit more time before rolling out its own Supercruise system.

And that should allow GM to be much more confident that the technology will work as planned, said Mark Reuss, General Motors’ global product development chief. Among other things, once Supercruise makes its debut on the Cadillac CT6 sedan, it will feature a retinal recognition system designed to make sure that a driver is paying attention to the road, even if their hands aren’t on the wheel.

Tech Talk!

The May 9th Tesla crash appears to have been the result of a system malfunction that failed to recognize when a truck turned in front of the Model S sedan. But there are also some indications the 40-year-old driver was distracted, possibly watching a video on a laptop computer, rather than acting as a human backup to the Autopilot system.

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The Old Arsenal of Democracy Could Be Reborn for the Autonomous Era

Willow Run bomber plant to be reborn as a self-driving test center.

by on Jul.25, 2016

A rendering shows part of the planned layout for the new American Center for Mobility.

It served as a key part of the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II, but the site of the old Willow Run Assembly Plant, just outside Detroit, could come back to life as part of the auto industry’s future.

The newly established American Center for Mobility aims to transform more than 300 acres of the tract into the country’s largest test center dedicated to the development of autonomous vehicles. Until now, most of the research on self-driving cars has taken place in California and other warm-weather states. The ACM would allow automakers and suppliers to test their technology in a broader range of climactic conditions.

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A number of steps have to fall in place before the project can come together – with a goal set to begin testing at the suburban site sometime in 2018. But one key move was approved last week when the Michigan Economic Development Corp. approved the purchase of the property for $1.2 million.

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Mini Takes the States – Again

Cross-country trek gives eccentric brand new life, great feedback.

by on Jul.22, 2016

A thousand people, and several dogs, are taking part in the biennial Mini Takes the States cross-country road trip, which ends in Palm Springs.

“We plan to keep the car until the rims fall off, and then we’ll probably just replace the rims,” laughs Kevin Evans, as he and wife Nancy took a break at Detroit’s Eastern Market.

They’ve already clocked a fair bit of mileage on the 2006 Mini Convertible, and they had more coming during the next few days.

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The Missouri couple were among the thousands of people who were expected to join in and at various stages of the biennial Mini Takes the States drive, a mobile, two-week festival that began in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 9 and will wrap up after a meandering, 4,500-mile trek, in Palm Springs during the weekend. (more…)

General Motors Taking “Step Back” in Push to Autonomous Driving

CEO Barra says no “specific date” for launch of Supecruise system.

by on Jul.22, 2016

GM CEO Mary Barra said the company is rethinking its timeframe for the introduction of semi- and fully autonomous vehicles.

The fatal crash of a Tesla Model S using the maker’s Autopilot system appears to be having some serious repercussions across the auto industry as manufacturers and regulators re-think the rush to put semi- and fully autonomous vehicles on the road.

Among the automakers taking a “step back” is General Motors, where Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said the maker is taking another “look at what technology is in the best interest of consumers.” One consequence may be a delay in the roll-out of GM’s Supercruise, a system believed to be similar in function to the Tesla Autopilot.

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Until recently, GM was indicating it would launch the Supercruise software on its new Cadillac CT6 sedan sometime in 2017. But at this point, Barra told reporters in Detroit, “We aren’t putting a specific date on it,” but officials later added the feature is still expected to debut in 2017. (more…)