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Daimler Earnings Nearly Double on Strong Sales of New Mercedes Models

by on Apr.28, 2015

Driving hard: the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Even as two key U.S. rivals reported weak earnings for the first quarter, Daimler AG delivered an unexpectedly strong performance, its net profit nearly doubling as luxury buyers raced to showrooms to snap up some of its newest Mercedes-Benz models.

The Mercedes brand has been rolling out new products at an unprecedented rate, planning, on average, about one every quarter, something that Max Warburton, an auto analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein dubbed a “powerful product cycle.”

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Virtually every number showed improvement during the quarter. Net earnings rose to 2.050 billion Euros, of $2.232 billion, from 1.09 billion Euros a year ago. Revenue, meanwhile, surged 16% for the quarter, to 34.2 billion Euros.

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Ford Sales, Earnings Fall Short for First Quarter

Detroit maker hurt by problems in Europe, slow U.S. rollout of F-150.

by on Apr.28, 2015

Ford CEO Mark Fields remains optimistic about the maker's expectations for all of 2015.

(This story has been updated with additional details on Ford’s Q1 earnings and full-year forecast.)

Hurt by weak sales in Europe, the slow ramp-up of its new F-150 pickup at home, as well as the strong dollars, Ford Motor Co. delivered a weaker-than-expected showing for the first quarter of 2015, earnings off 6.5%, to $924 million.

That worked out to just 23 cents a share, the Detroit maker reported, down from 25 cents a year ago. The consensus estimate on Wall Street was 26 cents per share, according to both Fact Set and Thomson Reuters. Revenues also fell short, at $31.8 billion, down from $33.9 billion a year ago.

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Nonetheless, CEO Mark Fields declared that 2015 will be a “breakthrough year,” adding in a statement that the first quarter, a good start to a year in which our results will grow progressively stronger as the new products we have been launching start to pay off.”

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Apple Watch Delay Means Auto Apps Idling

BMW, Porsche owners can start cars with flick of wrist.

by on Apr.27, 2015

Porsche's Apple Watch app will let users open and close doors and windows, start the car and even help you find your way back to the car.

The delay in the delivery of the Apple Watch may have disappointed more than just devotees of the Cupertino, California-based tech giant: BMW and Porsche owners could be impacted as well.

BMW and Porsche both developed Internet apps for the Apple Watch and, well, no watch, no app. The apps allow owners of the premium German brands to do everything from check the battery life on their i8 to flash the lights and honk the horn to help Cayenne owners find their SUVs in a crowded parking lot.

Stay on Top!

BMW’s i Remote app is only available for use with the i3 and i8 electric vehicles. In addition to letting you know how much juice is left in your battery, the app displays the plug-in’s charge status, navigates you back to where you parked, and remotely operates the door locks and climate control system. (more…)

Toyota Mirai Paces NASCAR Race

Alternative fuel pace cars making mark on track.

by on Apr.27, 2015

The Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is the first hydrogen-powered pace car in NASCAR history.

Part of the thrill of attending a NASCAR race is the roar of the cars as they pass by led by the pace car at the start of the race. However, the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday night had a little different feel as the cars were led by Toyota’s Mirai hydrogen fuel cell pace car.

While it didn’t exactly sound like the car from the Jetsons as it cruised the through the banked oval turns in Richmond, Virginia, it was definitely a different sound. Despite the lack of thunder from the Mirai, the fuel-cell-powered EV did make some noise as the first car of its kind to pace a NASCAR race.

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“Having a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle pace the Toyota Owners 400 is an historic moment for both Toyota and NASCAR and we’re proud it’s the Toyota Mirai,” said Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “Bringing the Mirai to Richmond to pace this important race is another way for Toyota to showcase our innovation and environmental leadership.” (more…)

Stop “Crying Wolf,” Over 54.5 mpg Standard, Says “Queen of Cleaner Cars”

by on Apr.27, 2015

Margo Oge retired in 2012 after 32 years with the EPA.

With fuel prices down by as much as 30% from their 2014 peak, millions of Americans have been migrating to pickups and SUVs and abandoning compact passenger cars and alternative fuel vehicles. That’s leading some industry executives to questions whether the federal government should re-think the 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard set to take effect in 2025.

Such a move would be a critical mistake, warns Margo Ogo, a former official with the EPA who helped put together the compromise fuel economy rules and who has been dubbed by some “the Queen of Cleaner Cars.” If anything, she says, the tough mandate targeted for a decade from now doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Balanced Debate!

“2025 is the first down-payment to the planet for the need to get away from fossil fuels,” Oge told TheDetroitBureau.com during a lengthy interview marking the release of her new book, Driving the Future: Combating Climate Change with Cleaner, Smarter Cars. “We, as a society, need to move to zero-emission vehicles by 2050…if we are to meet goals of reducing carbon emissions.”

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Ford Recalls 390K Vehicles for Door Latch Problem

Latest action puts number at 1.4 million with latch issues.

by on Apr.27, 2015

Ford is recalling 2012-2104 Fiestas for door latch problems. The maker has recalled 1.4 million vehicles due to latch issues.

Ford continues to battle problems with door latches recalling 390,000 late model Fiestas, Fusions and MKZs.

Door latch problems have been a running dilemma for the automaker and the latest action raises the total number of vehicles recalled for them to 1.4 million.

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Ford’s latest recall covers 389,585 2012-14 Ford Fiesta and 2013-14 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ cars with 337,000 of those vehicles in the U.S., 30,000 in Canada and the remainder in Mexico. (more…)

VW Chairman Piech Unexpectedly Quits After Clash Over Company’s Future

Militant trade unionist named his acting replacement.

by on Apr.27, 2015

Ferdinand Piech, grandson of VW's founder, resigned as chairman due to a dispute over his successor.

Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech unexpectedly tendered his resignation over the weekend, capping a bitter battle over the future of the German automaker.

Piech, who has been credited with crafting the growth and acquisition strategy that transformed VW into the world’s second-largest car company, had clashed with other board members over his eventual successor. The 78-year-old Piech had openly criticized VW’s current CEO, and its likely next chairman, Martin Winterkorn.

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The upheaval at Volkswagen appears to bolster the hand of the German unions in running the company – and could alter the trajectory of the company’s drive to become the world’s largest automaker. VW came a hairsbreadth short of dislodging Japanese rival Toyota last year.

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Automakers Regain Momentum in April – Market Looking at Best in Decade

Power forecast sees industry making up ground after cold winter.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Trucks, like this Ford F-150 shown with CEO Mark Fields, continue to gain momentum in the US market.

Consumer demand for new vehicles during April is the best it’s been in 10 years, according to a new analysis by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

With the warmer, spring weather finally settling in across the U.S., total light-vehicle sales are projected to reach 1,463,700, a 5% increase compared with April 2014 and the highest level for the month since April 2005.  The total seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, or SAAR, is expected to hit 16.6 million units.

The Last Word!

“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “The average new-vehicle transaction price so far in April is $30,680, on pace to achieve a new record for the month.” The current record was set in April 2014 when transaction prices averaged $29,948,” he said.

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American Dreaming: Exhibit Looks Back at the Golden Age of the U.S. Auto Industry

Rare finds often were smuggled out of Detroit’s design studios.

by on Apr.24, 2015

Bill Blogh's 1953 Ford concept sketch captured the sci-fi mood of the era.

In the optimistic post-War era, few things better defined the American lifestyle than the cars we drove. The ’57 Chevy and the finned Cadillac Eldorado were far more than mere transportation.

Drawings and sketches by designers who created the cars of the 1950s and 1960s are being honored with a unique display at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan through May 2.

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The exhibit, “American Dreaming: Detroit ’s Golden Age of Automotive Design,” is the first comprehensive exhibition to offer a look at the art work produced inside the design studios of Detroit ’s automakers between 1946 to 1973.

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Chinese Turn Car Clones into High Art

Copycat makers often outsell the originals.

by on Apr.24, 2015

No, that's not a $475,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

That may look, at first glance, like a vanity license plate on a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but take another glance and you might be in for a surprise. You’re actually looking at a Geely GE, a Chinese knock-off that has closely copied the classic Rolls grille and Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament – but which goes for a fraction of the original’s $475,000 price.

Automakers from around the world put their latest wares on display at this month’s Shanghai Motor Show. But a walk down the hall revealed that local Chinese automakers already had fresh copies of a number of the hottest products from the U.S., Europe, Japan and Korea.

We're No Clone!

While some picked up subtle styling cues and features, others blended attributes from several different models to create weird Franken-cars, like the Suzhou Eagle EV that was one part Porsche Cayman, with a face lifted from a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and a battery-electric drivetrain to make things even weirder.

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