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The Motor City, Motown and Jazz

Annual Detroit Jazz Fest revives links to an early era of musical -- and motoring -- innovation.

by on Aug.29, 2014

McCoy Tyner at the 2013 Detroit Jazz Fest

What has long been known as the Motor City has done more than just put America on wheels. It’s also helped create much of the music Americans have listened to on their car radios.

The Motown sound emerged from a small, run-down studio filled with eager young talents like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, many of whom grew up in tough inner-city neighborhoods where opportunity meant getting a job on the assembly line, getting a gig in a band, or struggling for each meal. But long before Berry Gordy launched his record label, Detroit was already a major force on the national music scene. And the sounds of jazz and blues that filled the city’s clubs and dance halls were fueled by the same force, the auto industry.

The Last Word!

The Labor Day weekend brings with it the annual Detroit Jazz Festival which, after three decades, has become the world’s largest free jazz gathering, and event that brings out some of the biggest names of that genre – more than a few with long ties to the Motor City, including the likes of bassist Ron Carter, violinist Regina Carter, and pianist Barry Harris.

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India Fines 14 Carmakers for Overpricing Spare Parts

Follows move by Chinese regulators; US also looking at price fixing.

by on Aug.29, 2014

Indian automaker Tata, which makes the ultra-low-priced Nano, faced the biggest fine.

Regulators in India have levied more than $400 million in fines against 14 local and international automakers accusing them of intentionally overcharging for spare parts.

The move follows similar anti-monopoly actions in China that saw makers such as Mercedes-Benz accused of overpricing as a way to boost profits at the expense of vehicle owners.

Go With the Heavyweight News Source!

As many as 20 million Indian consumers were impacted by the practice of boosting prices for spare parts and aftermarket accessories, according to the country’s Competition Commission. The practice was made worse by the “denial of market access” to independent repair shares seeking both factory-authorized parts and diagnostic tools.

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Voice Recognition is the #1 Problem for New Car Buyers

“Sorry, I couldn’t understand.”

by on Aug.29, 2014

Programming systems like the Cadillac CUE can be a nightmare due to faulty voice recognition.

Call it a communications breakdown. If you’ve ever tried to use your car’s voice recognition system to dial a phone number only to have it change the radio station to a disco channel, you’re not alone. A new J.D. Power study reports that voice recognition has become the single largest source of complaints about new vehicles.

And problems pairing smartphones to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system is the second most common problem, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study.

Auto Insight!

“Voice recognition and device connectivity are often inherent to the technology design and cannot be fixed at the dealership, creating a high level of angst among new-vehicle owners,” said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power.

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Kia Announces $1 billion Mexican Assembly Plant

Factory set to open in 2016; add much-needed production capacity.

by on Aug.28, 2014

The new plant is expected to produce several small models, including a version of the Kia Forte Koup.

Desperate to add more much-needed production capacity, Kia Motors will become the latest automaker to open a new assembly plant in Mexico.

Intended to serve markets up and down the Americas, the $1 billion plant will begin operations in just two years, and will be tooled to eventually build as many as 300,000 vehicles annually. The facility is expected to produce a number of different compact models, according to the Korean carmaker, though it did not identify specific plans yet.

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The factory will become one of a growing list of automotive assembly plants operating in the Spanish-speaking country, Mexico already on target to become the sixth-largest auto-producing nation in the world as makers such as Nissan, Audi and now Kia set up shop or expand existing production facilities.

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Volvo Set for Downsized Powertrain Revolution

Swedish maker switches to 4-cylinders; will add 3-cylinder and a pair of Plug-ins.

by on Aug.27, 2014

Volvo has high hopes for the 400-horsepower T8 plug-in hybrid powertrain it will offer on the XC90.

The all-new XC90 SUV that made its debut this week marks the beginning of a major shift in powertrain strategy by Volvo Cars, the Swedish automaker abandoning V-6 and V-8 power in favor of more advanced 4-cylinder gas, diesel and hybrid technology.

But Volvo is set to reach even further, company officials reveal, in its bid to balance performance and fuel economy. It also is developing a new line of 3-cylinder engines, and will soon add not just one but two different plug-in hybrid powertrains to its line-up.

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“A few years ago, I would have said this was a risky strategy,” admitted Lex Kerssemakers, the maker’s global product strategy chief, but he added he is “confident” about the approach as buyers around the world migrate to smaller, more fuel-efficient engines even in big SUVs and crossovers like the 2016 Volvo XC90.

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Volvo Unveils New XC90; Bets its Future on Redesign

Volvo to offer plug-in hybrid, new safety and connectivity features.

by on Aug.26, 2014

The new Volvo XC90 shown with the Swedish maker's President & CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

With today’s unveiling of an all-new XC90, Volvo Cars is giving the world a good look at the many changes that will likely determine the future success of the Swedish automaker.

While echoing the basic shape of the old Volvo XC90, the new ute adopts new, and more luxurious proportions, as well as a more sophisticated interior. But many of the most significant changes aren’t as readily apparent. They include an all-new platform, or architecture, that will serve as the foundation of many future Volvo products.

How Swede It Is!

The new ute, due to market next April, also gets a sophisticated, tablet-style touchscreen display to control everything from its infotainment system to its climate control. The 2016 Volvo XC90 also will see the maker introduce a wide arrange of new Drive-E powertrains, including Volvo’s new plug-in hybrid system designed to deliver both performance and fuel economy, depending on what mode it’s operating in.

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Over 100 File Death Claims With GM Compensation Fund

Number could still rise.

by on Aug.26, 2014

One of the replacement GM ignition switches.

General Motors continues to say it knows of 13 deaths connected to the faulty ignition switches it used in a wide range of vehicles recalled earlier this year, but the special victims’ compensation fund it has set up has already received claims linked to the death of at least 100 people.

While it remains to be seen if the fund will approve payment to all those who’ve filed, it is also expected the number will continue to increase in the weeks and months ahead.

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GM has said it anticipates paying out from $400 million to $600 million in connection with the fund, which was set up under intense pressure from safety regulators, federal lawmakers and consumer groups after the maker acknowledged it knew about the ignition switch problem for as much as a decade before ordering the February recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

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Use of Aluminum to Triple, Says Top Supplier

But soaring demand could also drive up costs.

by on Aug.26, 2014

Ford's new F-150 will be up to 700 pounds lighter than the outgoing pickup truck. Photo credit: Len Katz.

When Ford Motor Co.’s new “aluminum-intensive” F-150 pickup launches production in the coming months it will mark a critical next step in a revolution quite literally reshaping the auto industry, as a growing number of automakers switch from traditional steel to lightweight aluminum.

Most analysts now anticipate a massive shift in materials, and the world’s largest producer of aluminum sheets used for vehicle bodies expects to see demand soar in the near-term – depending on how you measure it, anywhere from 300 to 500%. While that could play out well for consumers, since lighter cars typically use less fuel, it also threatens to push the price of aluminum up, which could translate into higher vehicle costs.

Your Global Auto News Source!

By 2020, aluminum is expected to make up 25% of total sales for Novelis, Inc., the Atlanta-based manufacturer that is the world’s largest source of aluminum sheets to the auto industry. The auto industry currently uses only 9% of that supply from Novelis which is owned by Hindalco, the world’s largest aluminum sheet supplier, based in Mumbai, India.

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End of an Era – Ford’s Last Steel-Bodied F-150 Rolls off the Line in Detroit

Ford warning some customers may have to wait for new pickup.

by on Aug.25, 2014

A line worker at the Dearborn Truck Plant polishes paint on the old F-150 pickup.

Ford has crossed the point of no return. But it will be months before it knows if one of the biggest risks in the company’s history will pay off.

Over the weekend, the maker produced the last of its steel-bodied F-150 pickups at its historic Dearborn Truck Plant, crews quickly moving to tear up the line. When they’re done with the costly conversion, the factory will begin producing an all-new aluminum-bodied version of the F-150 that analysts say will either become an industry benchmark or one of the biggest disasters in Ford history.

Keep on Trucking!

The changeover will take about a month, and cost $359 million. Ford is making a similar investment at its truck plant in Kansas City, Missouri, which also will produce the new 2015 F-150. The Kansas City plant will continue producing the old 2014 model through year-end, Ford telling dealers and potential customers it plans to take its time with the changeover to ensure it meets tough quality expectations for the new truck.

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Texas Has Fastest Highways in America – Alaska, D.C. the Slowest

Most states pick up the pace.

by on Aug.25, 2014

Texas opened the country's fastest highway, a stretch of toll road from Austin to San Antonio, in 2012..

While U.S. motorists don’t have an Autobahn, with its lack of speed limits, there’s been a significant increase in the allowable pace in much of the country since the national 55 mph restriction was lifted nearly two decades ago.

Despite the objections of safety advocates, Texas now has both the single fastest highway in the country — a toll road with an 85 mph speed limit – as well as the fastest average allowable speeds when you factor in all its various limited-access roads. Those drivers looking to get somewhere fast might steer clear of the District of Columbia and Alaska, however, the two states having the nation’s lowest top and average speeds, according to a new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, or GHSA.

Fast Track!

Those two states have become the exception, rather than the rule, more and more allowing drivers to put the pedal to the metal. In fact, four states now have top speeds of at least 80 mph, with another dozen pushing their limits up to 75.

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