Posts By: Matt Posky

By on May 22, 2017

uber volvo

Pittsburgh boasts more bridges than any other city its size and Uber seems intent on burning every single one. After the ride-hailing company offered to test its autonomous platform in the city, Pittsburgh welcomed it with open arms. Now it’s starting to seem like it got a raw deal. Uber has become like the city’s drug-addicted teen — permitted to stay, despite very disappointing behavior and repeated broken promises. You get the sense its only one big screw-up away from being thrown out on its ass.

It hasn’t even been a full year and residents and officials are already claiming Uber has already let the city down. You have to place some of the blame on Pittsburgh for enabling Uber’s uncouth behavior, but it didn’t force it to abandon corporate citizenship. In the last nine months, Uber has withdrawn its promised support of Pittsburgh’s bid for a $50 million federal transportation grant and completely failled at creating jobs it promised struggling communities. It has also started charging fares for its driverless taxis, something the city initially assumed would be free in exchange for the company having the privilege of testing there.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

2017 Bolt

If the automotive market were a foot, electric vehicles would be the curled-up toe on the outside edge. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, you’re not entirely sure what it’s there for, and some people think it’s weird. Still, it clearly has a purpose to serve and it’s hard to imagine the foot without it. There’s potential in that digit.

Strong Chevrolet Bolt deliveries in California pushed up the state’s EV sales by 91 percent in the first quarter of this year. It may still account for only 2.7 percent of the Golden State’s new vehicles, but it’s still more than many of us expected to see this soon. Sales of the more-affordable, longer-ranged EV seem to suggest the market might begin to gobble up plug-ins as more affordable models with superior range continue to arrive.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

image: Michael Sheehan AutoNation 2014

At least twenty upper-echelon executives have left AutoNation since the start of 2014, with the vast majority bailing within two years. Short stints with an employer and lackluster job stability may be the norm for bottom-rung millennials but senior managers with years of experience have a tendency to stick around a while.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there is something sinisterly “up” with the largest automotive retailer in the United States, but it does leave you wondering about its future. This concern was heightened after AutoNation’s chief operating officer, Bill Berman, suddenly resigned last week, not even four months after being named president.  (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2017

supermiler-laval

Students from the Université Laval of Quebec won the the 11th annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in Detroit for the second time in a row last month. The energy-efficient gasoline powered prototype managed an impressive 2713.1 miles per gallon on an internal combustion motor. However, the unit was only a two horsepower engine and spent the majority of its journey coasting at low speeds.

Encouraging automotive innovation should always be praised but, considering Shell’s guidelines for these events, one would hope for more. The competition has university students designing a prototype car using any combustible fuel, mainly gasoline or hydrogen, in an attempt to out-economy their rivals on a Michigan test course — which is great. The problem is the majority of these vehicles could be outperformed by a reasonably fit individual on a bicycle.  (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2017

chevrolet-suburban-2005

There wasn’t anything particularly bizarre happening within the automotive realm last week, so our Freaky Friday posting was absent from its usual rotation. However, while our writing staff was finishing its day, two car thieves threw a Hail Mary of weirdness down the field for a touchdown.

A beige Chevrolet Suburban owned by a contractor working for Daniel & Sons Funeral Home was transporting a corpse when witnesses claim 28-year-old Tanya Albrecht stole it from a convenience store parking lot in Bryan, Texas. The SUV had been left unattended with the keys in the ignition, presumably because the owner assumed nobody would want to steal a car with a dead body in the back.  (Read More…)

By on May 19, 2017

tom brady aston

The notion of American football being included in a non-pickup automotive advertisement is already ridiculous. I have nothing against the NFL personally. It has an exceptionally broad appeal, but it evokes a sort of blue-collar stars and stripes forever type of pride that makes it a superb platform to promote army recruitment and Ford’s F-150.

So, when I found out that Aston Martin — one of the most sophisticated brands in history — was making Tom Brady the face of its next advertising campaign, I was understandably upset. Not quite catching your girlfriend in the backseat of a Kia with your best friend upset, more like your dad telling you he’s starting an emo band upset. There’s an overwhelming sense of confusion and a pressing urge to do everything in your power to stop it from happening, because you know it’s all an egregious mistake and feel that — deep down — they must realize it, too.  (Read More…)

By on May 19, 2017

tdiengine

The Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board will soon announce an approved fix for roughly 84,000 recalled Volkswagen diesels. As part of VW’s buyback program of cars equipped with emissions-cheating defeat devices, the soon-to-be-certified modification allows 2012-2014 Passat TDIs to operate within acceptable pollution guidelines.

Volkswagen has already designed fixes for the Generation 3 diesel 2.0-liter engines, providing vehicle owners the choice to keep and repair their car, or to have it bought back. Similar fixes in Europe have yielded complaints of reduced fuel economy, starting difficulties, trimmed power, weak acceleration, and even abnormal sounds. As usual, if you want to hold onto your TDI, you may be doing so at your own risk(Read More…)

By on May 19, 2017

LIVONIA TRANSMISSION PLANT

Despite news that Ford Motor Company has started making plans to scale back its workforce in North America and Asia, there are 800 Michigan-based employees who needn’t fear for their jobs — all thanks to commitments made in the company’s 2015 deal with the United Auto Workers. Ford confirmed on Friday that it will be investing $350 million into its Livonia Transmission plant.

Keeping its end of the bargain means the site will be safe from layoffs and may even bring aboard new employees, although the number of new hires is unclear. It’s assumed the majority of the 800 hourly positions will be filled by Ford dipping into its own staffing pool.  (Read More…)

By on May 19, 2017

olds omega 1977

Around the time of the Bicentennial, 300 horsepower was reserved for from-the-factory supercars and custom builds aimed at the drag strip. Today, you can find family sedans eclipsing that benchmark without a lot of trouble. Compare the first decade of Toyota Corollas to hit North American shores to their modern day equivalents and you’ll note that 0 to 60 time have been almost halved.

It’s the same with most models. A few years ago, I had the privilege of driving a well-maintained 1977 Oldsmobile Omega and wondered how enthusiasm ever survived malaise era automobiles. It must have been the gorgeous styling keeping us going.

Modern cars aren’t just more powerful, they’re also far more efficient and significantly less dirty. Additional safety regulations and standard equipment should have left us with bogged-down fuel hogs, yet automakers have managed to roll with the punches — not just maintaining the status quo but routinely moving it forward. However, to really appreciate just how far we’ve come you need to see those decades of progress plotted.  (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

us-capitol

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross want to begin formal talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in a little over three months, adhering to the campaign pledges made by President Donald Trump last year. Ross explained to reporters that “sometime in the next couple of weeks” he will issue a notice to Congress stating the Trump administration intends to start formal NAFTA negotiations in just 90 days.

However, since he expressed his intentions in front of a gaggle of reporters, Congress is probably already aware. But it won’t be “official” until they get a piece of paper signed by the appropriate parties on the applicable letterhead — hopefully, embossed with a fierce-looking eagle surrounded by dollar signs.  (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

17FordEscape-Titanium_04_HR

Ford is admittedly behind its main rivals in terms of offering practical and purpose-built EVs but, when it finally comes to market in 2020, its first long-range electric should deliver what buyers want. When Ford announced its plans to launch an electrified crossover at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, the Chevrolet Bolt had already begun to lose its geek chic luster. However, we have to defer our judgement as Ford’s entry could eventually have an EV spec sheet that’ll make GM blush.

We’re beginning to get a better picture of the upcoming Ford — which I’m going to begin calling the E-CUV (electric crossover utility vehicle) since it doesn’t have an official name — now that the company’s chief technology officer Raj Nair has started loosening his lips. The upside is that it will be an affordable unit targeting everything the average consumer wants. The downside is that it’ll have competition early in its lifespan.  (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE, Image: FCA

The U.S. Justice Department is preparing itself for a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over, you guessed it, diesel-burning engines. Cetane-rated fuel has been a broad target for governments lately, but the forthcoming FCA suit is less concerned with what you’re burning than with how you’re burning it.

Officials are concerned the automaker may have used a defeat device after the Environmental Protection Agency accused it of using software that allowed about 104,000 diesel vehicles to emit excess emissions. The models in question are 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2017

traffic (Michael Gil/Flickr)

Earlier today, we mentioned Volvo was preparing to dump its diesel-burning engines because the EU is aggressively pursuing anti-diesel legislation. While it’s easy to accuse Europe of being fraught with fringe environmentalists, the truth is that the continent spent decades avoiding restrictions on diesel-burning passenger vehicles, sold loads of them, and has suddenly found itself with its green pants around its ankles.

In addition to hazy skies, air pollution isn’t exactly great for your health. A recent study published in Nature found diesel engines produced 5 million more tons of nitrogen oxide than previously estimated for 2015. The research focused on vehicles in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and the United States and uncovered that we’ve grossly overestimated the amount of good being done by our global regulatory efforts. Companies are practically guaranteed to be falsifying testing results while others are openly incapable of reaching government-enforced guidelines.

Who cares? It’s not like anyone is dying, right? Well, not exactly. (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2017

Matthias Müller, Image: Volkswagen AG/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

German prosecutors verified the launch of a formal investigation involving Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller and chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch due to suspected market manipulation.

While we reported on the probe last week, Müller’s inclusion was highly unexpected. It was unclear what, if anything, officials had on the CEO and why they waited until now to add him to the growing number of upper-level executives under examination.

The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office stated on Wednesday the investigation was prompted by a request from market regulator BaFin in the summer of 2016. After spending some time gathering evidence, investigators began to believe executives deliberately postponed releasing information to investors about the scale of the scandal and didn’t adequately disclose its financial consequences.

VW Group maintains the leadership had complied with disclosure rules and executives were unaware of the scope of the emissions cheating scandal when it kicked-off.  (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2017

Volvo D4

Volvo Cars is prepared to lower the curtain on diesel engines. Rising standards for nitrogen oxide emissions — and the cost associated with reducing them — has guided the automaker away from oil burners and into the loving arms of gasoline. “From today’s perspective, we will not develop any more new generation diesel engines,” CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

That is not to suggest Volvo won’t get some serious mileage out of its last batch of diesels, though. The automaker has no plans to abandon the motors outright, suggesting it could march onward with its current lineup for at least a few more years. Diesels would also help Volvo meet corporate fuel economy targets while it gets new super-economical electric powerplants ready for market.  (Read More…)

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