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Just Following Orders? Who Was Really Responsible for VW’s Emissions Cheating?

VW’s US CEO blames a “couple of software engineers.”

by on Oct.08, 2015

"This was not a corporate decision," VWoA CEO Michael Horn told lawmakers.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn told lawmakers that the German automaker’s emissions cheating scandal was the work of a handful of rogue employees and not a high-level corporate conspiracy.

His comments drew a skeptical response from members of the House Oversight and Investigations panel looking into the discovery that Volkswagen rigged the software controlling its four-cylinder diesel engines so that they would sharply reduce emissions while being tested. In real world use, however, they were allowed to produce as much as 40 times the U.S. mandate for smog-causing oxides of nitrogen.

Getting the Truth Out!

The Oversight panel has joined a growing list, including the U.S. Justice Department, the EPA and German federal prosecutors, trying to find out just how high up the command chain at Volkswagen the emissions rigging project was approved or, at least, known about. But some experts suggest the real question is whether VW management simply set the tone that made such subterfuge possible, even necessary.


VW Planning to Cut US Diesel Line-Up

Embattled German maker could face problems with planned recall.

by on Oct.08, 2015

VWoA CEO Michael Horn, shown with the CrossCoupe Concept, will testify before Congress.

It is, by far, the largest seller of diesel passenger cars on the American market, but in the wake of its embarrassing and costly emissions scandal, Volkswagen is planning to cut back the number of diesel products it will offer in the U.S. – at least for the coming year.

The decision to withdraw a request for regulators to certify some of its new models comes at the same time VW is working with the EPA to develop a fix for 482,000 diesels already sold in the States that were equipped with software designed to cheat on emissions tests. In real-world use, they may produce as much as 40 times the legal limit of pollutants such as smog-causing oxides of nitrogen.

Stay in the Know!

VW’s new CEO Matthias Mueller said this week the automaker plans to begin repairing the 11 million small diesels it sold worldwide with so-called “defeat device” software starting in January. But the U.S. recall could take longer to start. And there is concern that many current owners simply may refuse to get their vehicles repaired.


Toyota Debuting 3 Concept Cars – And a Painfully Cute Robot – at Tokyo Motor Show

Toyota will cover the gamut with its Tokyo display.

by on Oct.08, 2015

The Toyota S-FR is expected to anchor a three sports car line-up Toyota is developing.

It’s long been known for plain vanilla design and lackluster performance, an image Toyota is intent on transforming. And with the addition of a trio of new sports cars, it just might.

Just three weeks ahead of the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota is giving us a hint of what it will be putting on display, and the list includes three “very different” concept cars, as well as a downsized version of the talking robot it sent into space.

What a Concept!

While the Kirobo Mini might push the cute factor to new limits, the Toyota S-FR will lead the Japanese giant into more sporty territory as one of three performance models it is soon expected to have in its line-up.


Last-Minute Deal Averts Strike at Fiat Chrysler

Two sides hope workers will give nod to second contract proposal.

by on Oct.08, 2015

FCA CEO Marchionne and UAW Pres. Williams were all smiles as they began contract talks.

With workers ready to take to the street, Fiat Chrysler managed to hammer out a second tentative contract settlement with the United Auto Workers Union just minutes before the midnight deadline on Wednesday.

Negotiators from both sides faced pressure to come up with a better deal than the one originally delivered last month but then rejected by a nearly two-to-one margin in a vote by FCA’s 40,000 U.S. hourly workers. Neither side was willing to discuss details of the new agreement ahead of a Friday morning meeting of UAW leaders.

Breaking News!

“FCA US confirms that it has reached a new tentative agreement with the UAW,” read a statement issued by the automaker minutes after the 11:59 pm deadline. “Because the agreement is subject to UAW member ratification, the Company cannot discuss the specifics of the agreement pending a vote by UAW members.”


Key Reasons Why UAW Workers May Walk the Picket Line

And why Fiat Chrysler may be willing to take a strike.

by on Oct.07, 2015

Workers at FCA's Toledo, Ohio, plant could be the first to walk out if a deal doesn't come soon.

The clock is rapidly ticking away towards an 11:59 PM deadline that could see Fiat Chrysler face its first strike in years. The United Autoworkers Union set the walkout threat after its members voted down their original contract offer and talks aimed at sweetening the deal appeared to stall.

The vote was an embarrassment for UAW leaders, especially new President Dennis Williams, who is leading contract talks with Detroit’s Big Three for the first time. He had originally set a cooperative tone, insisting a strike would be a “failure,” but he also stressed that he would not shy away from a confrontation, if that’s what it would take.

In the Know!

Here are some of the key reasons why the UAW may be ready to strike – and why FCA might be willing to risk a confrontation that industry analysts warn could cost it as much as $1 billion a week in lost revenue. (more…)

First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Volt

More reasons to plug in as Chevy does a ground-up on its extended-range electric vehicle.

by on Oct.07, 2015

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt gets a new look, a new powertrain, and more range and power.

Few recent product launches have sparked more interest than the debut of the original Chevrolet Volt, the world’s first mass-market plug-in hybrid. But after an initial flurry of sales, demand has sharply slackened off. The question is whether Chevy can charge things back up as it launches an all-new version of what it prefers to call an “extended-range electric vehicle.”

Coming barely a half-decade after the debut of the original model, one might have expected this to be a modest, mid-cycle update. But the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is a ground-up makeover, something that’s apparent from the first quick glance. It becomes even more obvious when you slip inside and hit the Start button. About the only thing carried over is the goofy sound effect sequence that tells you it’s ready to roll.

Plug In!

By the numbers, there’s more to like: the 2016 Volt not only squeezes in another passenger but also squeezes out 40% more range on battery power alone – now an EPA-estimated 53 miles. By Chevy’s accounting, most owners are now likely to clock as much as 1,000 miles before they have to fill up the gas tank feeding the range-extending I-4 engine – which is also new on the ’16 model.


Toyota Developing Autonomous “Highway Teammate”

Japanese maker still skeptical about self-driving technology.

by on Oct.07, 2015

"Look ma, no hands," as Toyota demonstrates its new Highway Teammate technology.

Toyota plans to roll out new technology that will allow its vehicles to autonomously navigate limited-access roadways. Dubbed “Highway Teammate,” and set to go into production by 2020, the system will be able to change lanes, merge with traffic and overtake slower vehicles.

Toyota is the latest automaker to lay out plans for the fast-emerging world of self-driving vehicles. But while its announcement is meant to underscore the maker’s technical prowess, it also reveals Toyota’s “cautious” nature, the Japanese giant still skeptical about the pace at which high-tech automobiles will be able to take over driving duties from humans.

Technology News!

Toyota’s system is less an auto-pilot than co-pilot, designed to handle relatively mundane chores as an assistant to a human driver who will remain in control, especially on more crowded urban roads. Some competitors, notably including Nissan, hope to have fully autonomous products that can navigate all roads on sale by as early as 2020.


VW To Begin Diesel Recall in January – if it Gets EPA Nod

by on Oct.07, 2015

New VW CEO Matthias Mueller says the maker faces an "evolution," not a "revolution."

Volkswagen’s new CEO Matthias Mueller hopes to see a recall affecting as many as 11 million of the German maker’s diesel vehicles begin in January – but for the 482,000 of those cars sold in the U.S., VW must still win regulatory approval for the planned retrofit.

Even as Volkswagen moves ahead with plans to fix vehicles equipped with software designed to cheat on emissions tests, its problems are mounting. Among other things, the Senate Finance Committee has opened a probe investigating whether the carmaker falsely claimed more than $50 million in tax credits for meeting emissions standards.

Breaking News!

“If all goes according to plan, we can start the recall in January. All the cars should be fixed by the end of 2016,” Mueller says in an interview published today by the German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, or FAZ. But that timetable might be difficult to meet, especially in the U.S., where the scandal was originally touched off last month.


UAW Ready to Strike at Fiat-Chrysler

Both sides face tremendous risks.

by on Oct.06, 2015

Things could get rough for FCA this week.

Less than a week after workers rejected a tentative four-year contract, with talks aimed at sweetening the deal going nowhere, the United Auto Workers Union has issued a strike notification to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Unless the two sides can break the impasse by 11:59 PM on Wednesday, the trans-Atlantic automaker could be hit by the first major walkout in the auto industry since well before the start of the devastating recession that sent the former Chrysler Corp. into bankruptcy.

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The impact could be substantial for FCA, but the UAW and its members also could be seriously harmed by a confrontation, something union President Dennis Williams admitted would be a “failure” when contract talks got underway over the summer.


First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel

A diesel worth a closer look.

by on Oct.06, 2015

A Z71 version of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel.

It’s probably a good time to clear the air…about diesels, that is. Sadly, the scandal touched off last month by the revelation Volkswagen had cheated on diesel emissions testing could choke off the emerging U.S. market for this technology. But spend a little time behind the wheel of the new 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel and you’ll quickly understand why that would be a big mistake.

Diesels have long been favored by heavy-duty truckers because of their fuel-efficiency, hauling power and durability. Now, add the fact that the 2.8-liter inline-four in the Colorado is smooth, quiet and, yes, as clean as anything in its class and you get a package that is clearly worth considering if you’re in the market for a midsize truck.

Reviews You Can Trust!

But timing is everything, or so it’s often been said, so it remains to be seen if the VW scandal will cause potential Chevrolet Colorado diesel buyers to hesitate.