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VW, BMW Team Up to Create “Express Charging Corridors”

Project should improve mobility along East, West Coasts.

by on Jan.23, 2015

VW and BMW are teaming with ChargePoint to install 100 fast-charging stations on the East and West coasts.

Barring some explosion in demand – unlikely at a time when gasoline prices are plunging – sales of plug-based vehicles are expected to fall far short of the 1 million target set by President Barack Obama by the end of this year.

Industry analysts blame a variety of factors for the shortfall, including both the limited range of current battery-based vehicles and a shortage of quick charging systems. In an unusual alliance between erstwhile rivals, Volkswagen and BMW have teamed up with ChargePoint to install 100 fast-charging stations along both the East and West Coasts this year.

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“A robust network of conveniently located DC Fast charging stations will go a long way toward increasing electric vehicle adoption and making electric vehicle ownership even more enjoyable,” said Robert Healey, Head of EV Infrastructure at BMW of North America. (more…)

Volvo Names Kerssemakers to Top Spot in Americas

Long-time company veteran charged with invigorating U.S. sales.

by on Jan.23, 2015

Volvo appointed Lex Kerssemakers to head up North American operations.

Just a week after it debuted its first China-built vehicle to be sold in the U.S., the S60, Volvo put Lex Kerssemakers in charge of the automaker’s North and South American operations with a specific task: get U.S. sales back up.

Kerssemakers is now as Senior Vice President Americas and his appointment is, according to the automaker, a symbol of “the company’s commitment to the core American market.” The newly appointed chief was previously Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Vehicle Line Management. He’s been with the automaker for 16 years.

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In his new role, Kerssemakers reports to Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Cars’ president and chief executive. He will also assume the role of President and chief executive of Volvo Cars of North America. (more…)

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Renegade

Little SUV delivers big performance on road and off.

by on Jan.23, 2015

The 2015 Jeep Renegade builds on Jeep’s heritage. It has the Wrangler-inspired round headlights and a seven-slot grille.

The Jeep Renegade is one of the most important vehicles the Jeep brand has launched, well since last year when it introduced the Cherokee. But it’s vital to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is eager to emerge as a truly global company.

The launch of the Renegade also means FCA has to show it can take the secret sauce that has made the Jeep brand popular over the years in the U.S. and transform it into a truly global brand. It also certainly means that the Renegade also has to show that it can live up to the brand’s reputation for agility and capability when the pavement ends.

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My distinct impression, after driving the Renegade, both on road and off is that the Renegade measures up to the other vehicles in the Jeep portfolio. The only difference is that the Renegade is smaller. (more…)

Cadillac Promoting “Boutique” Dealership Program

De Nysschen wants to upgrade image at multi-point dealerships.

by on Jan.22, 2015

Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen discusses Cadillac's strategy to upgrade its U.S. dealer network.

New Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen continues to implement plans to remake the luxury brand’s image as he wants better compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and others by creating “boutique” stores focused solely on Cadillac.

As dealers begin to get visions of previous remodeling mandates rolling through their heads – and the accompanying migraine headache – the “boutique” concept isn’t a brand-wide makeover. The new plan comes on the heels of his announcement that Cadillac headquarters would be moving from Detroit to Manhattan to affect a change in the perception of the brand: both internally and externally.

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“A strong, financially healthy dealer organization is an essential element of Cadillac’s expansion plans,” de Nysschen said. “The stronger our dealers are, the better our service quality will be. Cadillac is on a journey back to the pinnacle of premium brands, and dealers will contribute every step of the way.” (more…)

Grand Cherokee, i8, F-150 Nab Green Car Awards

Vehicles vanquish tough competition to take top honors.

by on Jan.22, 2015

BMW's i8 captured the Luxury Green Car of the Year for 2015 from the Green Car Journal.

The automotive award season continued today with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, BMW i8 and F-150 all taking home Green Car awards during at the Washington D.C. Auto Show.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel was named Green SUV of the Year and the i8, a plug-in hybrid sports car, was named Luxury Green Car. The F-150 captured the Green Car Technology award for its new design, including the use of aluminum that cut 700 pounds off the truck.

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“These are truly commendable vehicles representing the ‘best-of-the-best’ in so many ways,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal, in a statement. “The auto industry’s very early focus on small cars and efficiency-for-environment tradeoffs has evolved to now include a more dynamic field of ‘greener’ models in all vehicle classes.” (more…)

Toyota Breaks Ground on Texas Headquarters

Maker expects flood of employees to visit as part of moving decision.

by on Jan.22, 2015

Toyota Motor North America Chief Executive Officer Jim Lentz speaks at the groundbreaking of the company's new headquarters in Plano, Texas.

Toyota broke ground on its new North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, as it moves ahead with it plans to relocate its key corporate offices from Southern California to the Dallas Metroplex.

As part of the move, Toyota expects 10,000 employees and their families to visit Dallas during the next few months as they decide whether to move or stay in Southern California. Personnel experts expect roughly 40% of the Toyota employees in California, where the company had sunk deep roots, will elect to remain in California for personal reasons.

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The Toyota project is also offering a major boost to the Texas economy, which is reeling as oil prices collapse due to an over-supply of oil around the world. Oil prices have fallen 55% since last summer after Toyota announced plans to shift its North American headquarters to Dallas. (more…)

Ford Teases New Focus RS Before February Debut

Flagship performance compact will be offered in the U.S. for first time.

by on Jan.22, 2015

Ford officials said a performance edition of the Focus, the RS, would be coming soon. Now we get a glimpse.

At an end-of-the-year briefing at company headquarters in Michigan, Ford officials confirmed that the maker would be launching an all-new version of the high-performance Focus RS. They just didn’t bother to say when or where.

With the release of the first teaser video of the new RS, Ford has at least confirmed that the new model will make its world debut on Feb. 3. And while it still isn’t revealing what’s under the hood, it appears the new RS will live up to expectations for some serious muscle – some estimates running as high as 400 horsepower bursting from a 2.3-liter turbocharged four.

High Performance News!

The video shows an undisguised Mk3 Focus RS blasting around Ford’s Lommel Proving Grounds in Belgium, performing some aggressive drifts that have raised questions about whether the compact model will maintain its front-drive layout or, for the first time, switch to an all-wheel-drive configuration. (more…)

BMW Will Add AWD to M

Needed to handle increasing power, says M brand chief.

by on Jan.22, 2015

The BMW M5 is going to get all-wheel drive and a form of torque vectoring to handle all that power.

BMW will be taking the lead from its two German rivals, adding all-wheel-drive to some of its high-performance M models.

Audi has long relied on all-wheel-drive to put power to the pavement with its S and RS lines, and Mercedes-Benz recently announced that it will go AWD on all but a handful of its AMG performance products. BMW was the holdout – with the exception of its performance Sports-Activity Vehicles.

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Going forward, however, that will change – slightly – said Frank van Meel, the head of BMW M. Speaking to Britain’s AutoCar, he said the “philosophy will remain rear-wheel drive, (but) as we increase the power and torque, then the M5 and M6 will have large outputs, so we’ll look at those (AWD) solutions.” (more…)

Japan Investing Big in Hydrogen Power

Setting up network of refueling stations before 2020 Olympics.

by on Jan.22, 2015

Toyota Mirai, the maker's hydrogen fuel cell car, represents its future rather than electric vehicles.

As part of its broader shift away from nuclear power, Japan is turning towards hydrogen, a lightweight gas some proponents like to call the fuel of the future.

The government has approved an investment of 45.2 billion yen, or $385 million, to set up a network of hydrogen refueling stations that will be in place in time for the 2020 Olympics in the capital city of Tokyo. The money also will provide subsidies for the development of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

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“It’s time to introduce a hydrogen era,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after test driving the new Toyota Mirai. (more…)

Toyota Takes Top Sales Spot in 2014

VW, GM look to make up ground and grab lead in 2015.

by on Jan.21, 2015

Toyota is the world's biggest selling automaker in 2014 with 10.23 million vehicles sold around the world.

The contest to see which automaker is king of the global sales mountain ended today with Toyota declared the winner with 10.23 million vehicles sold in 2014.

Volkswagen, which is attempting to capture the crown by 2018, came in second with 10.14 million units sold: a 4% increase over 2013. General Motors, which had held the title for decades, is third place with 9.92 million, which is a 2% jump.

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However, Toyota’s time atop the mountain is likely to end in 2015. The automaker predicted its global sales will drop in 2015 to 10.15 million units. While that may seem like an opportunity for VW to slide into the top spot this year, its U.S. sales have been sluggish. (more…)