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Double Setback for Tesla

Daimler sells off stake, while Michigan bans direct sales.

by on Oct.22, 2014

Daimler is planning to unplug from Tesla - at least in terms of its 4% equity stake.

Already hammered by a slump in its stock price, Tesla Motors has been hit by two more setbacks.

The maker’s long-time German partner, Daimler AG, has decided to sell off its stake in the California start-up while Michigan has become the latest in a growing list of states to bar Tesla’s plan to sell directly to consumers through company-owned, rather than franchised, showrooms.

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Daimler, the parent of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands, had held a 4% stake in the battery-car company, and had been rumored to be considering a full acquisition of Tesla at one point.


Ford Latest to Cut EV Pricing as Battery-Car Market Struggles

Maker trims $6,000 from price tag of Focus Electric.

by on Oct.21, 2014

Ford has so far sold only 1,500 Focus Electric vehicles this year - less than 1% of total Focus sales.

With battery-car sales lagging expectations, automakers have been slashing prices in a bid to spur demand. The latest to announce a big discount is Ford Motor Co., which will trim the MSRP on its Focus Electric model by $6,000.

That’s on top of the $4,000 discount the Detroit maker took on the compact battery-electric vehicle a year ago. Originally introduced in January 2011 at $39,995, buyers now can plug in a Ford Focus Electric for just $29,995 – plus delivery charges and the usual fees and taxes.

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Ford is by no means alone. With rare exception, automakers have been cutting prices of both plug-in and pure battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, models in a bid to boost sluggish sales. And with gas prices now near or below $3 a gallon in much of the U.S., industry analysts suggest it will be even more difficult to convince buyers to opt for vehicles that plug in rather than tank up.


Acura Prepping “Substantially New” ILX for 2016

Remake to debut at LA Auto Show next month.

by on Oct.20, 2014

Acura tosses out a teaser of the 2016 ILX.

Hoping to salvage its sluggish-selling entry-level model, the ILX, Acura is promising to reveal a “substantially new” version of the compact sedan at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month.

Launched for the 2013 model-year, the ILX got off to a slow start amidst mixed reviews, though it has been bringing in some of the Gen-X and Gen-Y buyers that Acura has been desperate to win over. But playing in one of the market’s hottest – and most competitive – market segments, “good enough” clearly isn’t enough to put Acura back on the map.

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“The new 2016 ILX stands to solidify and broaden its appeal with a comprehensive update that includes a potent new powertrain, more forceful, sporty exterior styling, and substantially upgraded interior design,” declared a statement from the Honda luxury brand.


Nissan Readying Replacement for Titan Pickup

High-mileage diesel expected to enhance truck’s appeal.

by on Oct.20, 2014

Nissan's Titan replacement will reach market about four years later than originally planned.

Better late than never? Nissan is certainly hoping so – as are those who’ve long been hoping for an update to the maker’s slow-selling full-size pickup.

It’s been a long 11 years since the original Titan made its debut – and four years since the Japanese maker originally planned to offer a replacement. But plans for the update fell apart, forcing Nissan to return to the drawing board.

A Real Winner!

What it’s come up with will make a debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January, and several inside sources have confirmed to that the plans call for that preview to put the spotlight on a new diesel developed specifically for the 2016 Nissan Titan.


Embattled GM Chief Counsel Millikin Retires Early

Whether a man of “impeccable integrity” or “gross incompetence” is a matter of debate.

by on Oct.17, 2014

Millikin became GM General Counsel in 2009.

Embattled General Motors General Counsel Michael Millikin will retire early, the automaker has announced, a move that comes shortly after the maker was hit with a $10 billion class action lawsuit alleging it long concealed a series of safety problems.

While GM CEO Mary Barra issued a statement praising the 66-year-old attorney for his “tremendous career,” it is likely that Millikin’s departure comes as something of a relief considering the way he has been portrayed as a pivotal figure in the mishandling of a long-delayed ignition switch recall now linked to 27 deaths.

The Last Word!

Just three months ago, Millikin came under direct fire during a series of Capitol Hill hearings looking into the GM recall brouhaha. At one point, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Maryland Democrat, directly accused Millikin of “incompetence,” asking CEO Barra why he hadn’t been fired.


Audi Set to Track Test New Autonomous Race Car

Piloted RS7 Concept set to take on the Hockenheim circuit on Sunday.

by on Oct.17, 2014

Audi hopes to lap the Hockenheim circuit in just 2:10 with the autonomous RS7 race car.

“Gentlemen, start your engines!”

Might that classic announcement no longer be necessary? Then again, would NASCAR or Formula One fans be willing to pay for tickets to see a line of unmanned vehicles lapping tracks like the Indianapolis Brickyard or even the streets of Monte Carlo?

We may get a better sense this weekend, when Audi unleashes its Piloted RS7 Concept on the Hockenheimring race circuit prior to the finale of the DTM race series. Despite what the name might seem to suggest, the prototype will run laps without anyone onboard.

Fueling Up the News!

Autonomous vehicle technology has been gaining plenty of attention in recent months. Nissan has promised to put its first self-driving vehicle into production by 2020. Cadillac’s SuperDrive will allow autonomous highway driving when it reaches showrooms in 2017. And Google is already rolling out the first of its new autonomous vehicle prototypes.


GM Hit with 2nd $10 Bil Lawsuit

Suit claims losses on 27 million vehicles.

by on Oct.17, 2014

The lawsuit claims a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro has lost $2,000 in value due to the recall crisis.

General Motors has been hit with another lawsuit that could seek as much as $10 billion in compensation for owners who have allegedly seen the value of their vehicles fall due to the maker’s ongoing recall crisis.

Filed in Manhattan federal court, the lawsuit was prepared by the same, Seattle-based firm that brought another $10 billion claim against GM earlier this year, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.

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“The value of all GM-branded vehicles has diminished as a result of the widespread publication of those defects and New GM’s corporate culture of ignoring and concealing safety defects,” the lawsuit states, referring to the post-bankruptcy carmaker as “New GM.”


Investors Unplugging from Tesla

Delay in Model X could complicate problems as CEO warns shares are "kinda high."

by on Oct.17, 2014

The high-flying Tesla could be hurt by another delay of the "falcon-winged" Model X SUV.

After running up the stock in a frenzy more familiar to high-tech companies like Apple and Google than those in the automotive world, investors have suddenly grown wary about battery-carmaker Tesla Motors. But whether this is a short-term or long-term problem is unclear.

Traded as TSLA, Tesla’s stock is down sharply from an October high of $260 – and a 52-week peak of $291.42. It closed Thursday at $226.35 and analysts will be watching to see whether it can regain momentum during the week’s final day of trading.

Award-Winning News!

Tesla is by no means alone. Tech and automotive stocks have all been hammered by what appears to be a significant correction on Wall Street. But there are a number of problems unique to the battery-car company, including concerns that its second product line, the Model X SUV, could yet again be delayed. Even the maker’s CEO and founder has quested whether Tesla shares were “kinda high” before the stock tumbled.


Tesla May Seek Franchised Dealers After All

Battery-carmaker considers a hybrid retail approach.

by on Oct.16, 2014

Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a recent TV appearance.

It’s been win-some-lose-some for Tesla as it pushes to reshape the automotive landscape with a marketing strategy based on factory-owned showrooms. But it now appears that the California-based battery-carmaker might be considering a revised strategy that would include at least some franchised dealers in its distribution mix.

That could permit Tesla to crack into states, such as Michigan and Texas, which have firmly ruled against Tesla’s current approach. It might also permit the maker to expand its coverage even in states, such as New Jersey and Nevada, which have okayed the factory-owned approach.

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“We may need a hybrid system, with a combination of our own stores and some dealer franchises,” Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk acknowledged during an interview with John McElroy on Autoline Daily.


GM Slides to 3rd as VW Nabs 2nd Spot in Global Sales

Toyota firmly in the lead.

by on Oct.16, 2014

Vehicles like the new Golf "family" have helped Volkswagen grow sales worldwide.

For three-quarters of a century the world’s best-selling carmaker, General Motors has slipped another notch down the automotive ladder, Volkswagen AG pushing past to become number two in the industry pecking order.

With the first nine months of the year behind it, the German maker sold 7.4 million passenger vehicles compared to 7.37 million for GM. Though it hasn’t reported its numbers for the first three quarters yet, Japanese giant Toyota Motor Co. is expected to maintain its hold on the industry’s number one spot.

Stay in the Lead!

Industry analysts say the real race, going forward, is likely to be between Toyota and VW, the German automaker laying out an aggressive expansion program it hopes will let it become king-of-the-automotive-hill before the end of the decade.