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Mercedes-Benz Pulls Controversial, Self-Driving E-Class Ad

“You have to evaluate the environment,” especially after Tesla crash, says spox.

by on Jul.29, 2016

In "The Future," a new Mercedes-Benz E-Class (r) catches up with an autonomous F 015 concept.

Mercedes-Benz is pulling out of rotation a controversial ad for the new 2017 E-Class sedan that, critics contend, implies that the vehicle can be driven autonomously.

The issue has become particularly sensitive in the wake of a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S sedan in Florida on May 9th. The vehicle was being operated in Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot mode and, some evidence suggests, 40-year-old Joshua Brown may have been watching a video rather than remaining positioned to take control of the battery sedan in the event of a malfunction.

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“The intent was never to suggest this was (an autonomous vehicle), but that this is the latest of the building blocks” that will eventually lead to self-driving technology, said Mercedes spokesperson Donna Boland, when asked about the video ad dubbed “The Future.”

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Another Surprise: VW Lands in Global Sales Lead Despite Diesel Drop

Toyota slips to second after production problems.

by on Jul.29, 2016

VW hopes to keep momentum building - despite its diesel woes - with new products like the Alltrack.

A day after reporting a sharp drop in second-quarter earnings, embattled German automaker Volkswagen AG got some good news. Despite its ongoing diesel emissions problems, VW is once again the world’s best-selling automaker – albeit because of a series of unexpected production problems that have been hobbling Japanese giant Toyota in recent months.

Hit by both natural and man-made disasters, Toyota has repeatedly been forced to trim home market production, and the result was a global slide of 0.6% in sales for the first half of 2016, to 4.992 million vehicles. A year earlier, the automaker sold 5.021 million Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu-branded vehicles from January through June.

By the Numbers!

Though sales have been down in some markets, notably including the U.S., where it can’t sell its once-popular diesel models, VW managed to deliver 5.116 million cars, trucks and crossovers for the first half of this year, a 1.5% increase.

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Mercedes Breaks Ground for First US Van Assembly Plant

Other plans, including an electric Sprinter, may be in the works.

by on Jul.28, 2016

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has traditionally been big with contractors, but is gaining demand from e-commerce.

While Daimler AG may best be known for luxurious passenger vehicles like the all-new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the SL roadster, there’s another side to the maker’s ledger sheet. It also lays claims to being the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, about 850,000 of them last year alone.

And it’s bound and determined to grow that business, starting with the U.S. market. It will clearly help when, in a few years, it will be able to start producing the big Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van from a plant going up on the north side of Charleston, South Carolina. That will end the costly dependence on bringing partially assembled bodies in from Germany and then finish them in Charleston.

Keep on Truckin'!

The lower costs could help make Mercedes more competitive in what has turned out to be a fast-growing U.S. market for European-style vans. But the maker is also looking at other ways to boost sales. The factory will be flexible enough to assemble the smaller Mercedes Metris van. And the maker is looking at other options, including possible battery-electric versions of those vans.

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FCA Earnings Increase Overwhelmed by Sales Reporting Scandal

Maker says profit rose 25% for second quarter.

by on Jul.27, 2016

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has reason to celebrate Q2 - albeit cautiously.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 25% year-over-year increase in profits for the second quarter, despite hefty recall costs, thanks to strong demand in North America and Europe. That has led the maker to up its guidance for all of 2016.

But recalls aren’t the only problems the maker is dealing with. The trans-Atlantic automaker yesterday acknowledged misreporting its sales numbers in recent years, a problem that has reportedly led to a grand jury investigation. The problem could lead to closer scrutiny by industry analysts and investors.

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“Overall we had a good quarter,” Fiat Chrysler Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer said during a conference call with analysts and reporters.

FCA earned 321 million euros, or $352 million, for the second quarter, a 25% jump from last year’s 257 million euros, or $282 million.

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Grand Jury Looking into FCA Sales Reporting Scandal

Maker acknowledges fudging numbers.

by on Jul.27, 2016

The FCA scandal could prove a new headache for CEO Marchionne' search for a merger partner.

A federal grand jury is issuing subpoenas as government investigators expand their investigation into potentially illegal Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales reporting practices, according to published reports.

The news comes a day after the automaker acknowledged that it has misstated its sales figures for a number of years and that rather than having six straight years of sales records, its upward climb actually came to an end in September 2013.

Auto Insider!

But several sources who have spoken to TheDetroitBureau.com caution that any probe of sales policies could eventually spread beyond Fiat Chrysler and look at broader industry practices that can misrepresent the numbers. Such practices, said a senior executive at one of the nation’s largest automotive retailers, can negatively impact investors, dealers and consumers alike.

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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.

Breaking News!

“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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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.

News Now!

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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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.

News You Can Trust!

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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