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Buick Confirms TDB Report: Will Halt Verano Production

Brand shifting focus to SUVs.

by on May.27, 2016

Heading off into the sunset, the Buick Verano.

General Motors  will end U.S. production and sales of the compact Buick sedan, confirming a report first posted by TheDetroitBureau.com this spring.

The move reflects the broad market shift from conventional passenger cars to sport- and crossover-utility vehicles. Buick utility-vehicle line-up is expected to account for as much as 70% of its sales over the next several years, according to senior brand planners.

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Sales of the Verano were down nearly 12% for the first four months of the year compared to the same period in 2015. And last year’s total sales of 31,886 of the sedans was a 27% drop from 2014.

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Eight Automakers to Recall 12 Mil Vehicles for Takata Airbags

Largest recall in history continues to grow.

by on May.27, 2016

The latest recall takes in millions of Honda vehicles, including this 2010 Civic.

The biggest safety recall in U.S. automotive history is about to get even bigger, eight automakers revealing they will recall 12 million vehicles to replace faulty Takata airbag inflators.

The move follows last month’s announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it wanted as many as 40 million inflators replaced because they could malfunction during crashes. The exact number of vehicles that would cover wasn’t clear because some vehicles use more than one of the suspect devices.

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The list of manufacturers covered by the latest recall includes Toyota – which announced some other airbag service actions earlier this week – Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Ferrari and Mitsubishi. And Honda will not only recall 2.2 million more automobiles but 2,700 of its Gold Wing motorcycles equipped with optional front airbags.

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Increasingly Desperate Takata Seeking Financial Bailout

Japanese airbag supplier planning to restructure, find new investors.

by on May.26, 2016

NHTSA recently added 40 million airbags to the recall.

Blamed for the largest safety recall in automotive history and facing potentially billions of dollars in legal and repair costs, embattled Japanese supplier Takata is reportedly exploring ways to restructure and bring in new investors.

Industry sources say that without new funding, Takata may no longer be viable. That could leave customers ranging such as General Motors, Daimler and Toyota stuck with the entire bill for replacing tens of millions of faulty airbags. It could also force nearly 20 manufacturers who have used Takata’s suspect airbag inflators to go searching for new sources of replacement parts.

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“The committee strongly believes that it is in the best interests of all Takata stakeholders for Takata and its automotive customers to reach a consensual resolution that addresses the costs of the inflator issues while enabling Takata to remain a viable and valued global supplier to the automotive industry,” Hideaki Sudo, a lawyer in Tokyo heading Takata’s new steering committee, said in a statement.

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Hyundai Aiming for #2 in Green Vehicle Market

Korean maker and partner Kia will launch 26 “eco” models by 2020.

by on May.25, 2016

The Hyundai Ioniq will be offered with hybrid, plug-in and EV versions.

Hyundai has big plans for the “eco” market, with the maker planning to introduce 26 new hybrid, plug-in, battery-electric and fuel-cell  vehicles between now and 2020, a blitz that begins with this year’s launch of the new Ioniq model.

The challenge, said the head of the Korean carmaker’s green car program, will be winning over motorists who’ve so far shown a reluctance to buy battery and hydrogen cars in large numbers. But, facing increasingly stringent emissions and mileage mandates, Hyundai – and its rivals – have no choice but to bring cleaner, more energy-efficient products to market, said executive Byung Ki Ahn.

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“We’re making a serious effort to be the number two producer of EVs and fuel-cell vehicles,” said Ahn, the director of the Eco-Vehicle Performance Development Group for Hyundai and partner Kia. “I don’t think we can beat Toyota right away.”

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Who Wants to Be a Doctor? Israel Breeding Generation of Entrepreneurs

From traffic apps to refillable batteries.

by on May.24, 2016

Waze, a traffic app developed by an Israeli start-up, was purchased by Google for $1 billion.

Working out of a nondescript office building in a suburb of Tel Aviv, a small Israeli start-up has reinvented the wheel. No, the softwheel isn’t square or triangular, but replaces traditional spokes or hubs with three shock absorbers.

“It started as an accident,” says Daniel Barel, the CEO of Softwheel, admitting the original plan was to come up with a better wheelchair capable of going up and down stairs. Threatened with the likelihood of having its funding pulled and the company shut down, Softwheel’s engineers came up with the breakthrough that could also be used for bicycles, motorcycles and possibly even automobiles.

Mazel Tov!

It might have been an accident, but it wasn’t dumb luck, but rather the sort of innovation that has been coming out of Israel with ever-increasing frequency in recent years as the country shifts from a traditional, agricultural economy to one based more and more on high technology. It’s something the consumer electronics industry has come to depend on, and now the global auto industry is turning to Israel’s entrepreneurs and engineers, as well. (more…)

Detroit Muscle Cars Fall Short in New Crash Tests

Ford Mustang outperforms Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.

by on May.24, 2016

They perform well on the street, but the IIHS wanted to see how the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro perform in a crash.

The Ford Mustang outperformed its domestic muscle car rivals in the latest series of crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but none of the three managed to earn top ratings in the closely watched tests.

This marks the first time the insurance industry-funded safety group tested and compared all three of the domestic “pony cars,” a move that reflects the fact that muscle cars collectively suffer some of the highest loss rates of any vehicle category, according to government statistics.

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“Given that sports cars have high crash rates, it’s especially important that they offer the best occupant protection possible in a crash,” said IIHS President Adrian Lund.

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Toyota Teams Up to Develop iBot Motorized Wheelchair

iBot capable of rising up on two wheels and climbing stairs.

by on May.23, 2016

iBot inventor Dean Kamen shows off the wheelchair's ability to ride on just two wheels.

Toyota is lending its support to DEKA Research to complete the development of the iBot motorized wheelchair.

The brainchild of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the two-wheeled Segway PT, the iBot is designed to overcome the traditional limits of the wheelchair. Among other things, it can climb up and down stairs, and even rise from a standard, seating position to about six feet in height.

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“Toyota and DEKA share the same vision of making mobility available to people of every kind of ability,” said DEKA founder Dean Kamen. “We are excited about this new relationship and excited about what it means for making that dream a reality.”

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Most American Motorists Wary of Self-Driving Cars

Concerns grow even as autonomous vehicles come closer to production.

by on May.23, 2016

An autonomous Ford Fusion prototype recently began testing on public roads in California.

Every week brings a flurry of new reports about the coming wave of autonomous vehicles, but a new study finds that only a small minority of American motorists actually want to buy a self-driving vehicle.

Motorists are a bit more open to semi-autonomous technologies that still require a driver to keep their hands on the wheel, but nearly half said they wanted no self-driving technologies at all, according to a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, or UMTRI. And more than a third said they would be “very concerned about riding in a completely self-driving vehicle.”

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The results of the UMTRI could raise some serious concerns among industry planners. Global automakers are spending billions of dollars to develop self-driving vehicles, with the first semi-autonomous products just starting to come to market. Several makers have announced plans to have fully autonomous models on the road by 2020.

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Reinventing the Wheel?

Israeli start-up claims its design is lighter, offers better handling, comfort, energy-efficiency.

by on May.20, 2016

Softwheel CEO Daniel Barel with one of the company's wheels, complete with 3 shock absorbers.

Daniel Barel wants to reinvent the wheel. Actually, he’s quick to tell you he already has.

The young Israeli entrepreneur is CEO of a Tel Aviv-based start-up called Softwheel that has come up with a new concept that could, Barel boasts, improve the comfort, handling and even the fuel economy of virtually any wheeled vehicle. And it happened largely by accident.

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“We didn’t intend to reinvent the wheel,” says Barel, whose company is one of dozens of start-ups participating in an Israeli automotive tech fair called EcoMotion on a warm and blindingly sunny afternoon along the Mediterranean coast. “It started as an accident.”

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Volvo Unveils New XC40 and S40 Concepts

Underlying CMA platform will be shared with Chinese parent Geely.

by on May.19, 2016

This concept will reappear next year as the completely redesigned Volvo XC40.

Volvo is in the midst of a complete brand makeover, and the automaker is giving us a hint of its next move in an aggressive, top-to-bottom product rollout with the unveiling of the new S40 and XC40 concepts.

Both models will mark a significant step forward, but not only for the Swedish automaker. In production, the next-gen Volvo XC40 and Volvo S40 models will ride on the maker’s all-new Compact Modular Architecture which is designed to be shared with Chinese parent Geely. It is, in fact, a key to Geely’s long-term goal to transform itself into a truly global automaker.

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“CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s senior vice president of design.

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