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Foreign Automakers Feel Under the Gun in China

"Anti-monopoly" crackdown seen as boost for local competitors.

by on Sep.02, 2014

Daimler, which recently announced a joint venture with Chinese maker BYD, is under investigation by anti-monopoly regulators.

It’s the world’s largest automotive market, and manufacturers as diverse as Daimler AG and General Motors already sell more vehicles in China than they do in the U.S. But they and other foreign companies are beginning to wonder “at what price?”

Both GM and Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz — along with Audi, Chrysler and other carmakers — have come under investigation by China’s regulators, who have already levied more than $200 million in fines against a dozen Japanese auto parts suppliers for alleged price fixing.

Global Scope!

And while the country’s President Xi Jinping has promised to open up the Chinese economy to increased foreign competition, a new study reveals there’s growing concern that precisely the opposite is happening.

A full 60% of those who responded to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they feel “less welcome” in China. By comparison, only 41% responded that way a year ago.

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Top Nissan Exec Takes CEO Spot at Aston Martin

Andy Palmer was key force behind Nissan EV, autonomous programs.

by on Sep.02, 2014

Former Nissan EVP Andy Palmer introducing a prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle.

In an unexpected move, top Nissan executive Andy Palmer has left the Japanese maker for a new position as CEO of Aston Martin. The British luxury maker has been without a CEO since 70-year-old Ulrich Bez retired last November.

The move comes at a significant time for Aston which had been hit hard by the global economic recession. The maker recently lined up additional funding intended to help it launch the most aggressive product program in its history.

Fast Track!

But the departure of 51-year-old Palmer comes at something of an awkward time for Nissan which has seen several other high-profile departures recently, including the loss of Infiniti global chief John de Nysschen who last month became the new head of Cadillac.

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The Motor City, Motown and Jazz

Annual Detroit Jazz Fest revives links to an early era of musical -- and motoring -- innovation.

by on Aug.29, 2014

McCoy Tyner at the 2013 Detroit Jazz Fest

What has long been known as the Motor City has done more than just put America on wheels. It’s also helped create much of the music Americans have listened to on their car radios.

The Motown sound emerged from a small, run-down studio filled with eager young talents like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, many of whom grew up in tough inner-city neighborhoods where opportunity meant getting a job on the assembly line, getting a gig in a band, or struggling for each meal. But long before Berry Gordy launched his record label, Detroit was already a major force on the national music scene. And the sounds of jazz and blues that filled the city’s clubs and dance halls were fueled by the same force, the auto industry.

The Last Word!

The Labor Day weekend brings with it the annual Detroit Jazz Festival which, after three decades, has become the world’s largest free jazz gathering, and event that brings out some of the biggest names of that genre – more than a few with long ties to the Motor City, including the likes of bassist Ron Carter, violinist Regina Carter, and pianist Barry Harris.

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Privately Owned Cars Could Vanish Under Ambitious Helsinki Plan

Proposal emphasizes carsharing, bikes, mass transit.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Helsinki is considering a plan that would severely limit private ownership of cars, but allow greater flexibility in its public transportation in the city limits.

With traffic congestion getting worse by the year, amidst growing concerns about the automobile and the environment, a number of cities around the world are taking steps to reduce, or at least limit the growth in, the number of privately owned vehicles on the road.

Helsinki, Finland, is considering what is being described as a “truly transformative” plan that could all but do away with private car ownership entirely, in favor of carsharing, bikes and public transport. Perhaps the most significant piece of the plan would let residents pay a flat fee that would cover any and all of their urban transportation needs.

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“The major innovation that makes this work will be an integrated payment system,” according to a new study by Navigant Research. “This part of the scheme may prove the most complicated to implement, but it is the final piece of the puzzle that makes this scheme truly transformative.” (more…)

India Fines 14 Carmakers for Overpricing Spare Parts

Follows move by Chinese regulators; US also looking at price fixing.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Indian automaker Tata, which makes the ultra-low-priced Nano, faced the biggest fine.

Regulators in India have levied more than $400 million in fines against 14 local and international automakers accusing them of intentionally overcharging for spare parts.

The move follows similar anti-monopoly actions in China that saw makers such as Mercedes-Benz accused of overpricing as a way to boost profits at the expense of vehicle owners.

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As many as 20 million Indian consumers were impacted by the practice of boosting prices for spare parts and aftermarket accessories, according to the country’s Competition Commission. The practice was made worse by the “denial of market access” to independent repair shares seeking both factory-authorized parts and diagnostic tools.

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Voice Recognition is the #1 Problem for New Car Buyers

“Sorry, I couldn’t understand.”

by on Aug.29, 2014

Programming systems like the Cadillac CUE can be a nightmare due to faulty voice recognition.

Call it a communications breakdown. If you’ve ever tried to use your car’s voice recognition system to dial a phone number only to have it change the radio station to a disco channel, you’re not alone. A new J.D. Power study reports that voice recognition has become the single largest source of complaints about new vehicles.

And problems pairing smartphones to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system is the second most common problem, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study.

Auto Insight!

“Voice recognition and device connectivity are often inherent to the technology design and cannot be fixed at the dealership, creating a high level of angst among new-vehicle owners,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power.

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Cadillac to Reveal New ATS-V at LA Auto Show

New performance model will be first from Caddy to go with a V-6.

by on Aug.28, 2014

The ATS is going high performance with a V-Series option that will be on display at the LA Auto Show in November and in showrooms in early 2015.

Cadillac will introduce an all-new performance model at the L.A. Auto Show in November, the new ATS-V sedan expected to target the formidable compact luxury segment benchmark the BMW M3.

It will be the first new V-Series model introduced in several years, and precedes the next-generation CTS-V model that Cadillac is also developing. That model is expected to debut early next year as one of several key new offerings the maker is currently working on, including an all-new flagship sedan.

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The new ATS-V will be powered, according to several Cadillac sources who have spoken to TheDetroitBureau.com, by a version of the twin-turbo V-6 that was launched recently for the new CTS V-Sport, and is expected to match or slightly exceed the power of the latest BMW M3, which also uses a twin-turbo V-6 powerplant. (more…)

Kia Announces $1 billion Mexican Assembly Plant

Factory set to open in 2016; add much-needed production capacity.

by on Aug.28, 2014

The new plant is expected to produce several small models, including a version of the Kia Forte Koup.

Desperate to add more much-needed production capacity, Kia Motors will become the latest automaker to open a new assembly plant in Mexico.

Intended to serve markets up and down the Americas, the $1 billion plant will begin operations in just two years, and will be tooled to eventually build as many as 300,000 vehicles annually. The facility is expected to produce a number of different compact models, according to the Korean carmaker, though it did not identify specific plans yet.

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The factory will become one of a growing list of automotive assembly plants operating in the Spanish-speaking country, Mexico already on target to become the sixth-largest auto-producing nation in the world as makers such as Nissan, Audi and now Kia set up shop or expand existing production facilities.

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Volvo Planning at Least 9 New Models

Coupe, convertible offerings on hold - for now.

by on Aug.27, 2014

The new 2016 XC90 is the lead-off for a broad product assault planned by Volvo through 2019.

It’s been 13 years since Volvo last updated its big XC90 SUV, an interminable wait in an industry where customers are demanding faster and faster product updates.

The maker this week finally rolled out a new version of the XC90, which will reach showrooms around the world next April. The big ute is the first all-new model developed under the ownership of Zhejiang Geely Holdings, the Chinese carmaker that purchased Volvo from Ford Motor Co. in 2010 – but it won’t be the last.

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Volvo is planning to introduce at least nine all-new models between now and 2019, company officials announced during interviews that followed this week’s preview of the XC90. The focus will be on the XC family of utility vehicles, more traditional wagons, and sedans, those officials stressed. But they also hinted that more products, targeting specialty niches, could follow. (more…)

Once-Shuttered GM Spring Hill Factory to Become Major Manufacturing Center Again

Maker plans to produce next-gen Cadillac SRX and all-new family of small engines.

by on Aug.27, 2014

Once considered the future of the U.S. auto industry, the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, is getting a $233 million makeover to build the Cadillac SRX and possibly other vehicles.

It was originally hailed as the future of the U.S. auto industry, only to be mothballed in the wake of General Motors’ bankruptcy and the abandonment of the maker’s failed Saturn brand. But GM is about to make a major investment in its Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly plant that will turn the sprawling complex into one of its most flexible and promising factories.

The announced of a $233 million investment comes a quarter century after the Spring Hill plant first opened as the home of the once-promising Saturn brand. While Saturn was one of four brands abandoned as GM emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy, the powertrain portion of the Tennessee complex will produce a critical new line of small gasoline engines, while the adjacent assembly line will be re-tooled to handle upcoming midsize models.

A Real Performer!

While GM isn’t ready to tip its hand on all its plans, it did confirm that Spring Hill will assemble the next-generation version of Cadillac’s popular SRX crossover-utility vehicle. At least one other midsize model is expected to go into the factory which will be flexible enough to handle a wide range of products in the future. (more…)