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FBI Raids Home of Former Ford Engineer

Agents seize listening devices, email accounts.

by on Jul.25, 2014

Ford is the latest automaker subject to industrial espionage. FBI agents raided the home of a former employee seizing listening equipment and her email accounts.

Until recently, the biggest concerns U.S. automakers had about industrial espionage came from China counterfeiting their vehicles; however, a recent spate of U.S.-based employees caught using a variety of means to secure information has automakers on high alert.

The most recent incident involves a former Ford engineer, who’s home was recently raided by the FBI as part of an ongoing investigation. The agents also seized her personal email account and removed secret listening devices she planted in various places in Ford’s World Headquarters, according to a Detroit News report.

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A search warrant filed Friday in federal court shows the FBI seized Sharon Leach’s Gmail account, including all emails, drafts, photos, phone numbers, contacts and bank accounts tied to the account. Google provided the information Wednesday, the News reported. (more…)

Power to the People

Quality guru J.David Power inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame.

by on Jul.25, 2014

Dave Power, founder of J.D. Power and Associates, was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

He isn’t your typical car guy, fixated on fast cars and powerful engines. But while his game is all about numbers, he isn’t exactly a bean-counter, either. J. David Power III has carved out a unique and, appropriately, powerful position in the automotive industry. And that’s something car buyers around the world should be grateful for.

The 83-year-old former newsboy is the founder of J.D. Power and Associates (JDPA), the California-based arbiter of quality in the automotive industry – and, increasingly, a variety of other industries from airlines to telecomm. With its public studies and private research, JDPA has become a critical link between consumers and manufacturers and, according to many in the car business, can claim a major share of the credit for the dramatic improvement in automotive quality and reliability over the past four decades.

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“He gives people their voice in the marketplace,” said Bud Liebler, a former Chrysler marketing vice president, who was on hand to honor Dave Power during his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame on Thursday night. (more…)

A Dozen Ways to Keep Your Car from Being Stolen

Don’t become a statistic during National Vehicle Theft Protection Month.

by on Jul.25, 2014

A car is stolen every 44 seconds in the U.S., but there steps owners to can take to lower the odds.

Despite a nationwide crackdown, car theft remains a major problem, and according to government statistics, a vehicle is stolen in the U.S. about every 44 seconds. As the title of a recent movie suggested, a thief may need as little as 60 seconds to break in and then drive off with your car.

But you don’t have to become an unhappy part of those statistics. Driver error is responsible for as much as 50% of vehicle theft, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some common sense steps can reduce the odds of having your vehicle stolen – while you can also improve the odds of recovering your car, truck or crossover if it is snatched.

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The simplest step is to always remember to lock your car – and then take the key. Even with today’s remote keyless entry systems, a surprising number of motorists still don’t bother to close their windows and lock their vehicles up. Many people will even leave their keys in a cupholder or even in the ignition. You might as well put a sign on the windshield, “Steal Me.” (more…)

Chinese Newspaper Lauds GM for Social Responsibility

GM China’s efforts to cut pollution, helping people nets honor.

by on Jul.25, 2014

General Motors China was recognized today as the fourth-best Fortune 500 company in the area of corporate social responsibility at the 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Conference in Beijing.

For the second consecutive year, Southern Weekly, an influential Chinese newspaper, honored General Motors China as one of the top companies in the area of corporate social responsibility for its civic spirit and sensitivity to the environment.

The Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Conference, which is sponsored by Southern Weekly, helps increase awareness of CSR among companies while honoring their significant achievements.

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Southern Weekly is described by western journalists as one of China’s most outspoken and independent news organizations; however, it is part of provincial newspaper group supervised by Guangdong Provincial Party Committee of China’s ruling Communist Party in Southern China in a province that has been leader in modernizing and expanding the Chinese economy. (more…)

Mercedes-Benz Downsizes with New AMG Engine

Set to debut in maker’s upcoming AMG GT sports car.

by on Jul.25, 2014

The new, 510-hp Mercedes-Benz engine will debut under the hood of the upcoming AMG GT.

With the unveiling of its all-new 4.0-liter V-8, Mercedes-Benz joins a growing trend in the automotive performance market. Smaller, it seems, is better as performance and mileage requirements collide.

Due to make its debut under the hood of the planned Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, the new twin-turbo V-8 will deliver the sort of numbers that would traditionally require a far bigger engine – along with the fuel economy traditionally not possible in a high-performance sports car.

High-Performance!

A growing number of makers are opting for features like turbocharging, and even hybridization, to generate more power out of smaller engines. And as ever-tougher fuel economy and emissions standards go into place around the world, the trend is only likely to accelerate, according to industry planners and engineers.

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Ford, GM Take Hits Due to Unrest in Russia, South America

Political unrest causing markets to slow, pinching profitability.

by on Jul.25, 2014

Ford isn't moving as many vehicles in Russia due to economic sanctions levied against the country for its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

Political and economic uncertainty in Eastern Europe and South America hit the bottom lines of General Motors and Ford during the second quarter, acknowledged executives the Detroit-area automakers.

The second quarter results from Russia and South America were disappointing but neither company showed any signs of walking away from either market.

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Even Russia, which is embroiled in a conflict in the Ukraine that has led to the European Union and the United States impose economic sanctions that have slowed the Russian economy, neither company is prepared to walk away from their Russian partners or the substantial investments they have made in the Russian market. (more…)

GM Now Under Investigation by Attorneys General in 45 States

Maker says number of ignition switch fatalities could rise.

by on Jul.24, 2014

General Motors is not only facing multiple federal investigations, 45 attorneys general are also conducting queries regarding the company's faulty ignition switch.

Already facing investigations by both houses of Congress, as well as a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department, General Motors revealed Thursday that it is now facing additional investigations by the attorneys general in 45 states linked to its long delay in ordering a recall of 2.6 million vehicles equipped with defective ignition switches.

Though some probes had previously been announced – GM earlier confirming it had gone before a federal grand jury in New York – the latest revelation suggests the maker’s safety woes could get substantially worse, while it could also be facing significant new fines and legal costs.

A Breath of Fresh Air!

The news was revealed on the same day GM announced that it had earned a meager $200 million during the second quarter of 2014 due to expenses of more than $1 billion to cover the cost of various recall repairs and the establishment of a victims’ compensation fund linked to the ignition switch problem. A day earlier, the troubled maker had submitted documentation to federal regulators indicating the number of people killed or injured due to crashed caused by the switch problem could rise. (more…)

Porsche Spices Up Cayenne for 2015

New SUV borrows E-Hybrid platform from Panamera.

by on Jul.24, 2014

The 2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is one of four models available in the maker's portfolio for the SUV.

Sport-utilities have been zipping off dealer lots this year and Porsche looks to take advantage of that by finally unveiling an update to its popular Cayenne SUV that’s already sold half-a-million copies since its introduction in 2002.

While the 2015 model does get some freshening on the outside, it’s the number of choices in the Cayenne portfolio that catches the eye. For the third iteration, the Porsche presents four options in the U.S.: Cayenne Diesel, Cayenne S, Cayenne Turbo, and Cayenne S E-Hybrid, which is the first plug-in hybrid in the premium SUV segment.

Fuel for Thought!

In fact, Porsche brags that it is the only automaker with three plug-in hybrid models in its line-up – the other two being the Panamera S E-Hybrid and the 918 Spyder. Borrowed from the aforementioned Panamera, the new Cayenne E-Hybrid pairs a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 333 horsepower to an electric motor with 95 hp for a combined 416 hp. (more…)

New Stop-Start Engines Boosting Mileage up to 7%, Reports AAA

Technology becoming more widely available, often as standard feature.

by on Jul.24, 2014

A full 97% of Chevy Malibu buyers are opting for the version with Stop-Start standard.

With increasingly stringent mileage standards coming down the pike over the next decade, automakers are frantically racing to find ways to boost the fuel economy of their vehicles. Some new features would yield benefits that are barely measurable, others could add significantly to a vehicle’s price tag. But new Stop-Start engines are delivering significant mileage benefits, often without additional cost to consumers.

A new study suggests that Stop-Start technology – which shuts an engine off, rather than idling – can reduce fuel consumption by anywhere from 5% to 7%. And it achieves a similar reduction in the production of global-warming CO2 emissions, according to research by the AAA.

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“Up to seven percent improved fuel economy can mean a $179 annual fuel savings* for consumers,” says Greg Brannon, Director of AAA’s Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations team. “The technology requires only minor adjustment for motorists – automatic stop-start technology is simply applied to standard combustion engines.”

(more…)

GM Estimates Victims Fund Will Cost at Least $400 Mil

Forecast comes in lower than many estimates – but impact of safety scandal still severe.

by on Jul.24, 2014

GM CEO Barra shown during her most recent testimony before a Senate subcommittee this month.

General Motors anticipates it will spend at least $400 million to recompense victims of a defective ignition switch so far linked to the death of at least 13 people, though it cautioned that the figure could run as high as $600 million, depending upon how many people qualify for the program.

Those numbers, while significant, come in substantially below widespread reports that had placed the potential cost of the program at as much as $1 billion or more. GM announced details earlier this month of the victims’ compensation program that will be handled by compensation specialist Kenneth Feinberg.

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“There’s no cap on this program and at the end of the day Ken Feinberg will determine how much this program costs,” GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters on Thursday morning following the release of the maker’s second-quarter earnings. (more…)