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Feinberg Ups GM Ignition Death Toll to 21

Administrator approves two more claims for death benefits.

by on Sep.22, 2014

Kenneth Feinberg approved two more claims for death benefits from the GM victims compensation fund.

For the second time in less than a month, the number of deaths connected to faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ small cars has been revised upward. It now stands at 21.

Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of the victims compensation fund established by the automaker, approved two more claims for death benefits moving the number from 19. Less than two weeks ago, he approved six claims to change the number from 13 to 19.

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Additionally, he substantiated four claims for serious injuries, which under the definitions established includes amputations, burns, spinal cord or brain damage. Twelve of 467 claims for hospitalization with 48 hours of an accident were also deemed eligible for compensation. (more…)

Fuel Prices Plunge in US

Americans enjoying prices not seen since 2010

by on Sep.22, 2014

Despite unrest in the Middle East, gas prices are dropping to their lowest levels in four years.

Retail U.S. gas prices have taken another big tumble this month, and could drop sharply before year-end, according to various fuel industry analysts.

American motorists could wind up saving as much as $2.5 billion if the trend holds, according to tracking service GasBuddy.com, money that it expects will help fuel the country’s ongoing economic recovery.

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A survey by analyst Trilby Lundberg found that a gallon of regular gasoline has dipped by 9 cents during the last two weeks, while the numbers are down 34 cents since the beginning of summer. GasBuddy, meanwhile, is predicting the downward trend will continue. (more…)

Recall Parade Marches On with GM, Chrysler

Makers announce actions on more than 425K vehicles.

by on Sep.22, 2014

The Cadillac XTS is part of a larger recall including Chevrolet Impalas for a parking brake problem.

General Motors and Chrysler recalled more than 425,000 vehicles for brake and fuel pump issues. The latest round pushes the number of recalled vehicles in the U.S. well past the 40-million mark.

GM called back 221,558 Chevy Impalas and Cadillac XTS cars from the 2013-2015 model years for a defect in the parking brake that could cause a fire. The vast majority – 205,309 – were recalled in the U.S. with the remainder in Canada and other countries.

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The brake’s indicator light sometimes fails to illuminate while the brake is not fully retracted. (more…)

Fiat and Mitsubishi Teaming Up on New Midsize Pickup

Is a new alliance between Mitsubishi and Chrysler in the cards?

by on Sep.19, 2014

Fiat and Mitsubishi entered into an agreement for the Japanese maker to provide Fiat with midsize trucks in Europe and Latin America.

The Fiat side of newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has signed a tentative agreement to purchase a midsize pickup truck plant from Mitsubishi for re-sale by its commercial vehicle unit in Europe and Latin America.

The project raises new questions about whether the U.S. side of the company might get back into the midsize segment it abandoned several years ago. If so, it could signal a rebirth of the long-running relationship between Chrysler and Mitsubishi

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As part of the Memoradum of Understanding, or MOU, Fiat and Mitsubishi will study “the possibility to develop and manufacture a midsize pick-up truck,” the two companies said in a joint statement, based on the Japanese maker’s L200 model. (more…)

House Democrats Introduce New Auto Safety Bill

Law increases NHTSA powers, requires maker transparency.

by on Sep.19, 2014

Rep. Henry Waxman and other Democrats introduced a new vehicle safety bill.

Just days after U.S. Senators laid into auto safety regulators during a committee hearing, a group of House Democrats introduced an auto safety reform bill mandating automakers make information about potential safety problems more easily accessible.

Introduced yesterday, the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act requires makers to make public technical service bulletins, ban recalls that apply to only certain parts of the country, and require car companies to keep records about possible defects for 20 years.

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Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., submitted the bill that would also eliminate the $35 million cap on maximum fines, which is likely to rise to the $300 million recommended by the Obama administration. (more…)

FCA, Hyundai Movin’ on Up with New HQs

Automakers pick pricey digs to call home.

by on Sep.19, 2014

Fiat Chrysler's headquarters in London has an impressive neighbor: the Queen of England. Photo Credit: Buckingham.palace.london.arp

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Hyundai Motor suddenly have one thing in common: a willingness to spend big money for their new headquarters buildings in Great Britain and South Korea.

The two companies recently plunked down cash on for locations that raised eyebrows. Fiat Chrysler (FCA) is putting its international home in the most expensive office district in the world in London’s West End.

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FCA agreed to lease three floors in The Economist Plaza, a building on St James’s Street that also houses The Economist magazine and is a 10-minute walk from Buckingham Palace, according to Bloomberg. The area is home to some of London’s priciest shopping. (more…)

Nissan Charged Up about Battery Rumors

Maker denies any changes to powerplant program.

by on Sep.19, 2014

Nissan denied reports that it is considering cutting back on its EV-related production that has been a key component of CEO Carlos Ghosn's tenure.

Nissan officials dismissed speculation that it was preparing to scale back production at its battery plan in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Nissan spokesman Travis Parman said in an e-mail the company have no plans to make any changes in its ambitious electric vehicle program. The program has been a signature initiative of Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive at both Renault and Nissan.

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“The Renault-Nissan Alliance remains 100% committed to its industry-leading EV program. This global commitment continues for the foreseeable future, and we have not taken any decision whatsoever to modify battery sourcing allocation,” Parman wrote. (more…)

Lotus Mulls Cutting a Quarter of its Workforce

Maker enters 45-day consultation period to develop a plan.

by on Sep.18, 2014

The Lotus Evora 4414 plug-in got the nod of approval from the auto engineering world, but that wasn't enough to keep it from financial issues.

Just four years ago, the future for Lotus appeared bright with plans for a burgeoning product portfolio bolstered by enthusiastic management; however, those efforts appear to have failed as the company plans to cut as much as a quarter of its workforce.

The company announced plans today to reorganize the company and terminate as many as 325 of its 1,215 employees worldwide. Part of the restructuring will see the company trying to do more with less as a result of the job losses.

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“We understand the concerns that this proposal will create,” said Jean-Marc Gales, chief executive officer of Group Lotus, in a statement. “We deeply regret the potential impact any reshaping of the business may have on our employees and their families. (more…)

Dodge Challenger Hellcat Gets 22 MPG Highway Rating

New muscle cars delivering once unheard-of fuel economy.

by on Sep.18, 2014

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and its 707 horsepower posted a stunning highway mileage figure of 22 mpg.

In the “golden age” of muscle cars, models like the Dodge Challenger were lucky to come close to delivering double-digit fuel economy. So, the EPA’s official mileage numbers for the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat could come as a shock.

Equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, the 707-horsepower coupe – the most powerful muscle car ever to emerge from a Detroit factory – will delivers 21 mpg on the highway, the EPA giving it a less surprising 13 mpg city rating, with the combined figure at 16 miles per gallon. Surprisingly, the automatic gets 22 mpg on the highway, which is due to the highly efficient eight-speed transmission.

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The numbers underscore the pressure automakers are under as U.S. and overseas fuel economy numbers are ratcheted ever higher, but also show how new technologies, such as direct injection and supercharging can yield significant benefits in both performance and mileage. (more…)

China’s Lack of Brand Loyalty Helping German Automakers

Study shows buyers looking to upgrade plan to buy German cars.

by on Sep.18, 2014

Buyers in China looking for a luxury brand lean toward German makers, such as BMW.

Chinese consumers are proving as fickle as their counterparts in the United States, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group, and that may be good news for German car brands there.

Roughly 40% of the owners of cars from Chinese makers planning to trade their vehicle for a global or “foreign” brand said they intend to buy a Volkswagen model. Nearly 90% of foreign volume-brand owners who are trading up said they are likely to buy an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, according to the group, known as BCG.

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China remains the world’s largest automobile market with sales expected to top 21 million units this year, dwarfing sales in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan, the industry’s traditional key markets. (more…)