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Chinese Turn Car Clones into High Art

Copycat makers often outsell the originals.

by on Apr.24, 2015

No, that's not a $475,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

That may look, at first glance, like a vanity license plate on a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but take another glance and you might be in for a surprise. You’re actually looking at a Geely GE, a Chinese knock-off that has closely copied the classic Rolls grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament – but which goes for a fraction of the original’s $475,000 price.

Automakers from around the world put their latest wares on display at this month’s Shanghai Motor Show. But a walk down the hall revealed that local Chinese automakers already had fresh copies of a number of the hottest products from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Korea.

We're No Clone!

While some picked up subtle styling cues and features, others blended attributes from several different models to create weird Franken-cars, like the Suzhou Eagle EV that was one part Porsche Cayman, with a face lifted from a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and a battery-electric drivetrain to make things even weirder.


Ford Cuts Shift, 700 Jobs, at Key Michigan Plant

Cutbacks spread as American motorists shift from small cars to SUVs.

by on Apr.24, 2015

The Ford Focus has been losing momentum despite receiving some updates for 2015.

Weak passenger car sales have prompted Ford Motor Co. to eliminate a shift at a Michigan assembly line that builds compact and battery vehicles, including the Focus and Focus EV.

With gasoline prices dropping to their lowest level in years, demand for SUVs has been rising while prompting a sharp slide in sales of smaller and alternative-fuel vehicles, like this built at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The announcement, which will impact 700 Ford workers, comes on top of General Motors’ decision to temporarily idle production of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid at a plant nearby.

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“Ford will be working to redeploy affected hourly employees (affected by the cuts) and they will be considered first for southeast Michigan opportunities as they become available,” the automaker said in a statement.


Flush With Cash, Aston Martin May Add 3 New Models – and Build SUV in the US

New Lagonda, new battery-powered Rapide may also be on the way.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Aston Martin surprised everyone with the introduction of its DBX crossover at the Geneva Motor Show.

After a few tough years, things are starting to look up for Aston Martin – and for Aston fans.

With a new CEO and funds to let Andy Palmer’s team fire up the product development process, Aston says it is ready to not only replace all of its current product lines but add “up to three new models” to its line-up. It has confirmed one of those, a production version of the striking, if controversial, DBX crossover first shown at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

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But now comes word that Aston might not use its factory in Gaydon, several hours outside London, to produce the DBX. Sources suggest that it is looking at several alternative that could include producing the new model in the United States.


Tesla Pays CEO Musk Less Than Line Workers – But Stock Run-Up Worth Billions

Maker expected to target stationary battery market.

by on Apr.23, 2015

Why is this man smiling? Over $6 billion in stock might help when added to Elon Musk's meager base pay.

While most automotive CEOs can expect to take home seven- and even eight-figure paychecks, Tesla Motors founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk earned barely as much as one of his company’s assembly line workers last year, just $35,360.

But lest you worry he can’t support his large family, Musk has also benefited handsomely from the surge in Tesla stock over the last two years – while also taking home a paycheck from Space Exploration Technologies, the private rocket launching service he also founded.

Automotive Insight!

Though well off from its 52-week high, Tesla stock has been on a roll in recent weeks, investors betting on a strong first-quarter earnings report – and on the new line of business Tesla is expected to announce next week, the company reportedly planning to enter the stationary battery power market.


Acura Offers Closer Look Under the Skin of New NSX

Reveals more engine, chassis and aerodynamic secrets.

by on Apr.23, 2015

The 2016 Acura NSX lifts its kimono.

While Acura pulled the covers off the reborn NSX at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, the maker held back on some key details. Now, it’s pulling back the skin of the supercar for the annual Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

Among other things, the Japanese maker has confirmed that its complex new hybrid drivetrain will use a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V -6 to allow it to balance performance and fuel economy. The 2016 NSX also will use what Acura is describing as a “multi-material spaceframe” to maximize body rigidity while minimizing weight.

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“Our goal is to create something altogether new and exciting, something that advances the concept of a next generation supercar in the spirit of the original NSX,” said chief engineer and global development leader Ted Klaus. “In order to provide NSX-level value, we needed to push ourselves to experiment with, refine and then realize many new technologies.”


Safety Features Resonate with American Motorists in New Tech Choice Study

US car shoppers uninterested in fuel-saving features.

by on Apr.22, 2015

Consumers are demanding new collision avoidance technologies, according to new Power study.

Today’s new cars are likely to feature more digital technology than you’ll find in the typical home or office – including infotainment systems that can tap into the apps on an Apple or Google smartphone.

But forget about Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. What consumers want most are safety-related technologies such as blind spot detection and forward-collision mitigation – which account for seven of the Top 10 technologies car buyers say they want most, according to the first J.D. Power U.S. Tech Choice Study. Among the Top Five picks, self-healing paint was the only non-safety-related technology.

Your Tech Choice!

“Collision protection ranked above average,” said study director Kristin Kolodge, with “the vast majority” of the more than 5,000 U.S. motorists who participated in the Tech Choice Study. Significantly, she said this was not limited to any narrow segment of buyer. “There is a tremendous interest in collision protection technologies across all generations.”


Most Americans Happy to Keep Driving Their Own Cars

New study finds little interest in switching to car-sharing, other options.

by on Apr.22, 2015

While car-sharing services like Uber may be gaining popularity, the vast majority of Americans want to keep driving their own cars.

Wall Street is watching closely as car-sharing service Uber prepares for its upcoming IPO. The San Francisco-based firm aims to take advantage of growing interest in transportation alternatives, conventional wisdom suggesting millions of Americans would be happy to walk away from their cars.

Or would they? A new study by auto supplier Continental finds that, contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of Americans have no intention of handing over their keys. And the study of 2,300 U.S. adults found that true no matter what their age or where they live.

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“There is still a lot of excitement when it comes to driving a car,” said Continental Executive Board Member Helmut Matschi, who noted that the results were echoed in a similar study undertaken in Germany.


Elon Musk Nearly Sold Tesla Motors to Google, Claims New Book

Deal called off when EV maker’s stock began to surge.

by on Apr.21, 2015

Tesla CEO Elon Musk would have stayed on even if had to sell the company to Google.

History is filled with events determined by a last-minute choice. A new book outlines one such moment that nearly changed the course taken by California battery-car start-up Tesla Motors as founder Elon Musk hatched a plan to sell the company to tech giant Google.

Back in March 2013, writes Ashlee Vance, a reporter with the Bloomberg news service, Tesla was, “on the verge of bankruptcy,” bleeding cash and watching potential customers walk away. Desperate to keep his vision alive, South African-born Musk approached his friend and Google CEO Larry Page.

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“Musk drove a hard bargain,” Vance writes in her new book, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.” He proposed that Google buy Tesla outright — with a healthy premium, the company would have cost about $6 billion at the time — and pony up another $5 billion in capital for factory expansions.”


Ford Plants to Boost Use of Carbon Fiber

Lightweight material could play major role in tomorrow’s cars.

by on Apr.20, 2015

The new Ford GT makes extensive us of carbon fiber.

When Ford’s new GT supercar makes its way into production next year it will make extensive use of super-light carbon fiber.

Until now, advanced composites have had only limited application in the auto industry because of their cost and the manufacturing challenges they pose. But as part of a new joint venture, Ford says it hopes to find ways to put carbon fiber into more mainstream applications going forward.

We're no Lightweight!

“Automotive manufacturers’ use of carbon fiber composites has been hindered by the absence of both high-volume manufacturing methods and affordable material formats,” said Mehmet Ali Berkman, vice chairman of DowAska, which is itself a partnership of Dow Chemical and the Turkish firm Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii.


Cadillac Confirms Plans for CT6 Plug-In Hybrid

Fuel economy could top 40 mpg.

by on Apr.20, 2015

The Cadillac CT6 PHEV will be the first in an assortment of plug-in models to follow.

Cadillac has pulled the wraps off a second version of its new CT6 sedan, unveiling a plug-in hybrid version of the flagship model at the Shanghai Motor Show.

The announcement confirms a report by earlier this month that also revealed the CT6 PHEV will be the first in a broad range of plug-in hybrids planned by Cadillac covering most of its product line-up by the end of the decade.

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Unlike the current Caddy ELR, however, the Cadillac CT6 PHEV will deliver performance equal to that of the twin-turbo V-6 that will be the top-line gasoline engine for the full-size luxury sedan. But it is also expected to double the fuel economy, which could translate into a combined city/highway rating in excess of 40 miles per gallon.