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Acura Hopes Revised ILX Can Gain Momentum in Booming Compact Luxury Market

Update delivers more power, technology and improved appearance.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Acura's Mike Accavitti introduces the 2016 version of the Acura ILX this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

In the high-tech world, companies like Apple often go for what’s known as “first-mover advantage.” By that logic, Acura should be dominating the booming compact luxury sedan segment with its once-groundbreaking ILX model. But things haven’t worked out as the maker hoped.

The ILX has been struggling to simply hold its momentum as newer entries like the Audi A3 and segment-leading Mercedes-Benz CLA race to market. Sales of the Acura offering tumbled 19.3% last month and are off 16.2% for the full calendar-year.

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So, the luxury arm of Honda Motor Co. has a lot riding on the 2016 version of the Acura ILX that was unveiled this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The updated model comes as an unusually early mid-cycle refresh, and aims to address the shortfalls of the original by tweaking its appearance, boosting its power and adding plenty of new technology. (more…)

Three Minivans Flunk Latest Offset Crash Tests

Toyota Sienna only family hauler to get passing grade.

by on Nov.21, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Sienna was the only one of four current model minivans sold in the U.S. that passed the IIHS front offset crash test.

Each day thousands of parents hit the button on their key fob that opens the power sliding door on their family minivan and watch their kids to amble into their seats, knowing that vehicle is among the safest on the road. They are wrong, according to recent crash test results.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently completed small overlap front crashes on four minivans sold in the U.S. – Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town & Country and its twin, Dodge Grand Caravan – and three of the four earned “poor” ratings.

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“Minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety conscious, but we’ve only seen two so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crashes,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. (more…)

Ford F-150 Is Highest-Mileage Gas-Powered Full-Size Truck

Legs Ram EcoDiesel mpg – but high cost of diesel offsets advantage, Ford claims.

by on Nov.21, 2014

Ford's 2015 F-150 4x2 with Ford’s 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine has EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway and 22 mpg Combined.

With newly released EPA test numbers in hand, Ford Motor Co. has declared its 2015 F-150 the nation’s most fuel-efficient gas-powered full-size pickup truck.

Based on EPA numbers and what Ford billed as apples-to-apples comparisons, the new aluminum-bodies F-150 will get anywhere from 5% to 29% better mileage – in some cases as much as 7 mpg – over the prior model.

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That’s “a significant achievement,” declared Ford’s global product development director Raj Nair, especially when taking into account the fact that the average new 2015 F-150 will also see an increase in both towing and cargo capacity. (more…)

U-M Predicts US Auto Sales Topping 17 Million in 2016

Forecast shows “meaningful” growth for economy next year.

by on Nov.21, 2014

University of Michigan economists predict U.S. new vehicle sales will hit 17 million units in 2016. As the economy recovers, sales of trucks are going to grow.

The expansion U.S. economy next will boost sales of new vehicles and set the stage for industry-wide sales, reaching 17 million units in 2016, according to a new forecast the economists at the University of Michigan.

The economy will grow by more than 3% next year — its highest rate in 10 years, they added. The university auto sales numbers of 16.6 million in 2015 and 17 million the following year add to the chorus of predictions for a sustained stretch of prosperity for the industry.

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By and large, automakers appear comfortable with the predictions of strong, steady sales over the next couple of years. (more…)

Mitsubishi Pushes into Battery-Power with XR-PHEV

Plug-in hybrid concept hints at “changes that will affect our future.”

by on Nov.21, 2014

Mitsubishi continued its push into the EV segment at the Los Angeles Auto Show with its new XR-PHEV plug-in hybrid crossover.

It’s likely best known for SUVs and sports cars like the Outlander and the EVO pocket rocket, but Mitsubishi has been shifting emphasis with battery models like the little i-MiEV and the battery-powered race car that set a new record at this year’s Pike’s Peak Hill Climb.

So there’s reason to take seriously the new XR-PHEV, the angular plug-in hybrid crossover vehicle the maker is showing at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

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“We’re looking at changes that will affect our future,” suggested Mitsubishi Executive Vice President Don Swearingen. (more…)

Fisker Rockets Back with 725-HP Mustang

Limited sales set to begin in early 2015.

by on Nov.21, 2014

A project "born out of passion," says Fisker.

Henrik Fisker, perhaps best known for his abortive effort to launch the plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma sports car, is back in the limelight, but turning his talents towards a very different direction. The Fisker Rocket revealed at the Los Angeles Motor Show is all about performance, the Danish-born designer dubbing the modified Mustang “the ultimate American muscle car.”

The Rocket is a 725-hp rework of the all-new pony car Ford Motor Co. Fisker and partner Galpin Auto Sports have not only upgraded the performance of the 2015 Mustang but made a number of exterior modifications that give it both a more sinister and exotic appearance.

High Performance News!

“My jaw dropped. I got chills” when first shown the sketches former Aston Martin chief designer Fisker had in mind, said Beau Boeckmann, president of both Galpin Auto Sports and Galpin Motors, the world’s largest Ford dealer. For his part, Fisker explained that the Rocket is “really a program born out of passion.”

(more…)

Takata Claims No Need for National Recall Despite Rising Death Toll

Supplier ducks responsibility during Congressional hearing.

by on Nov.20, 2014

Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata's senior vice president of quality assurance, said the company doesn't think a national recall of its airbag inflators is needed despite evidence to the contrary.

Takata Corp. executives during a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing today said there is no need to expand its recall of 7.8 million vehicles with faulty airbag inflators from a regional action to a national effort, despite a rising number of deaths and injuries due to the airbags.

Prior to the hearing, two senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), offered evidence that the airbag explosions can happen outside the regional recall area, suggesting that a woman was killed by the airbag in 2004 in Arizona while driving one of the affected vehicles. Arizona is not one of the states in the regional recall.

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After being roundly criticized by politicians and safety groups for its past handling of recalls as well as mounting evidence – including an investigative piece by TheDetroitBureau.com – that regional recalls are ineffective due to the transient nature of vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acquiesced and recommended Takata and the 10 automakers involved expand the recall to national status. (more…)

Audi Pairs Hydrogen and Plug-in Power to Create A7 h-tron

Dual power offers performance and other pluses.

by on Nov.20, 2014

Audi's A7 h-tron Sportback Quattro may be the best of both possible green worlds: a plug-in hybrid that uses a hydrogen fuel cell.

There’s a war of words underway between proponents of battery power and those who think the fuel-cell is the future of green technology. Audi is suggesting both might find common ground in their effort to replace the conventional internal combustion engine.

The luxury arm of Volkswagen AG used the Los Angeles Auto Show to reveal its unusual A7 h-tron Sportback Quattro. The coupe-like sedan pairs a fuel-cell stack with a plug-in hybrid system to create a vehicle that produces zero emissions yet also can deliver sporty performance.

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The show car is “a bold statement for the future of sustainable mobility,” proclaimed Ulrich Hackenberg, the Audi board member overseeing technical development. (more…)

BMW i3 Named Green Car of the Year

“Validation” of a breakthrough concept.

by on Nov.20, 2014

BMW's Tom Plucinsky,left, accepts the Green Car of the Year award from Green Car Journal's Ron Cogan.

Squaring off with four tough – but environmentally friendly – competitors, the BMW i3 claimed victory as the Green Car of the Year, an award the maker says “validates” the costly development program behind the breakthrough battery-electric vehicle.

The i3 is the smaller and more affordable of two new battery-based vehicles being offered by the German maker’s new brand-within-a-brand, BMW i. It is offered as either a pure battery-electric vehicle, or with an optional range-extending internal combustion engine that automatically fires up when the batteries run down.

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The i3 “breaks the mold” not only with its battery drive system but by bringing the use of lightweight carbon fiber down to the mainstream, said Ron Cogan, the publisher of Green Car Journal, which sponsors the award program. (more…)

Security Experts Warn Today’s Autos Easily Hacked

Automakers need to shore up weak points in connected vehicles.

by on Nov.20, 2014

The ever-expanding connectivity of cars makes them convenient targets for hackers, according to cyber security experts.

With cars loading up on computing power, wi-fi and other pieces of 21st century connected technology, automakers have been reluctant to speak about the hack attacks similar to those that have cribbed credit card information of millions of Americans that happened to go through the check-out lines at Target and Home Depot.

But a panel on cyber security organized by the Connected Car Expo, which was held this week prior to the press days of the Los Angeles Auto Show, emphasized the threat is genuine.

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In the era of the connected car, hacking a vehicle can take place any number of ways from penetrating the “Cloud” where data is stored, to the connection between the car and the cloud and through the vehicle itself, panelists noted. (more…)