The Truth About Cars » Global http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Global http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/global-news-blog/ Subaru: No WRX Hatch For U.S. Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-no-wrx-hatch-for-u-s-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/subaru-no-wrx-hatch-for-u-s-market/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=808482 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Hatchback

For those who want a Subaru WRX or WRX STi, but prefer the utility of the previous hatchback over the current sedan offerings, they should start breathing again, as Subaru will not be bringing such a beast to the United States after all.

Motor Trend reports that last month, WRX project manager Masuo Takatsu informed Motoring.com.au that Subaru “received strong interest from the US” for a hatchback variant, citing the 50 percent uptake by the U.S. market for the previous hatch. The statement came as a surprise to Subaru of America, who weren’t expecting anything more than the sedans:

We do not know about, nor do we have, any plans for a WRX hatch. Takatsu San is the product general manager of the WRX, but this is not something he has discussed with us.

One exchange between Subaru of America and Subaru of Japan later gave the final word: No WRX hatch will be forthcoming to the U.S. market, citing cost issues against producing both sedan and hatchback models.

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Musk: Tesla Will Build Cars In China Within Next Few Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/musk-tesla-will-build-cars-in-china-within-next-few-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/musk-tesla-will-build-cars-in-china-within-next-few-years/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=807330 Model S - Tesla Motors China

Though Tesla is now just delivering new vehicles to China, CEO Elon Musk predicts his company will build luxury electric vehicles in the burgeoning market within the next three to four years.

Bloomberg reports the move to localized production would allow the automaker to sell their wares while also avoiding China’s 25 percent import tariff. Right now, a new Model S retails for $118,000 in Beijing due to VAT, shipping and import duties, compared to $71,000 in Los Angeles. Musk hopes to qualify the Model S for local subsidies to help offset costs in much the same way the luxury EV sedan receives federal tax credits back in the United States.

In addition, Tesla is expanding its Supercharger network to China, with Beijing and Shanghai among the first cities to join. No word yet as to how much the automaker is investing in the expansion.

A number of challenges lay ahead for Tesla’s move into the market, including slow adoption of electric vehicles among Chinese consumers and lack of a robust infrastructure, as well the loss of China general manager of operations Kingston Chang prior to the automaker’s entry. That said, Tesla plans to increase overall global sales 56 percent this year, moving 35,000 EVs out of the showroom in so doing.

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GM Sales Unaffected By Recall, Reveals China Expansion Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-sales-unaffected-by-recall-reveals-china-expansion-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-sales-unaffected-by-recall-reveals-china-expansion-plans/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806330 File photo of General Motors logo outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit

Reuters reports a lawsuit related to the 2014 General Motors recall crisis filed in federal court in California has placed airbag supplier Continental Automotive Systems U.S. at-fault for its role in the recall. Attorney Adam Levitt of Grant & Eisenhoffer proclaimed the supplier knew about the out-of-spec ignition switch at the heart of the recall as early as 2005, yet “did nothing to redesign its airbags” to deploy even when electrical power was cut, “nor did it warn NHTSA or the public.” Continental joins Delphi Automotive as the second supplier to face a lawsuit linked to the ongoing recall crisis.

Between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and GM, Automotive News says the former found itself pushing the latter on a number of occasions to do more than issue service bulletins, regional recalls, warranty extensions and customer-satisfaction campaigns regarding problems ranging from corroded fuel filler pipes in full-size vans and risks of fire from door modules in fullsize SUVs, to malfunctioning airbags in Camaros and Malibus and the aforementioned ignition switch affected over 2.26 million 2003 – 2011 vehicles to date. In a 2013 email released to the public by the ongoing Congressional investigation into the recall, NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation director Frank Borris expressed his frustration with the automaker to GM executive Carmen Benavides over GM’s slow approach to communication and action, as well as needing more provoking to do more than the least amount of effort to resolve an issue.

In more NHTSA/GM news, The Detroit News reports the agency has closed the book on its four-year investigation of 334,000 2004 – 2007 Saturn Ions regarding steering problems after the automaker announced they would recall the cars. Four service bulletins linked to power-steering repairs will be issued by GM, affecting the Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt, as well as the Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu. A total of 10 crashes linked to power-steering failure — with two resulting in injury — 4,787 complaints and 30,560 warranty claims were discovered by the NHTSA during the investigation.

As for bringing the affected vehicles in for service, Automotive News reports GM-affiliated and non-GM dealerships are having a rough time with the recalls, citing a lack of parts, growing backlog of recall-related repairs, and lost sales and dealer-related financing. However, GM President Dan Ammann says the main recall hasn’t had a “measurable impact” on overall sales, citing a 4 percent truck-led U.S. sales gain in March and a “decent start” to April’s sales. That said, Ammann has not ruled out a future impact from the recall news.

In the meantime, GM will invest $12 billion into China by 2017, with plans to boost production capacity 65 percent by 2020 based on expectations of the local market to reach 33 million to 35 million new vehicles made per year by the start of the new decade, which Ammann claims will be double that of total projected U.S. demand at the same time. The expansion would total capacity to 8 million units per year, fueled by 60 all-new or refreshed products introduced to China between now and 2018, including 11 new utility vehicles — such as the Chevrolet Trax — and a new Cadillac model every year through 2016.

Finally, The Detroit News reporter Henry Payne took to heart GM CEO Mary Barra’s statement before Congress about allowing her son to drive an affected Cobalt so long as the key was by itself in the ignition switch, turning up at a local dealership to drive an affected 2006 Cobalt to see for himself what would happen. In short: Nothing involuntary, as Payne had to put the switch into the “accessory” position himself to recreate what may have happened in the reported accidents and fatalities linked to the switch.

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Toyota Looking To Conquer Africa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-looking-to-conquer-africa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-looking-to-conquer-africa/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:58:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798514 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Bakkie

Though Toyota already has a presence in South Africa, the automaker is eyeing the last untapped market in the world: The African continent.

Automotive News reports Toyota patriarch Shochiro Toyoda gave his son, current president Akio Toyoda, a mission last year to explore markets outside of the “Asia-Europe-America” sphere, especially those where the younger Toyoda had not visited. His travels took him to a knockdown factory in Kenya, where there are 40 cars per 1,000 people according to IHS Automotive, laying the early groundwork for an all-out campaign to get as much of the final frontier as possible.

Success in the market may have to come in the long term, however; IHS predicts GDP per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa won’t reach the threshold of $3,000, as well as the ownership rate of 70 units per 1,000 people, until 2030 at the earliest. Toyota Africa CEO Johan van Zyl, who is scouting for new factory locations outside of South Africa, knows this reality well:

It’s a growing market, a market with a future. We have quite an ambitious [annual sales] target. But we must also understand, this is not going to happen overnight. We have to put the right things in place. And that is what we are busy doing, to ensure that we have the right foundation for the business in the future in Africa.

In the meantime, the automaker will launch the Quest compact in South Africa next month. The Quest — based upon the previous-gen Corolla — will help boost production towards full capacity at Toyota’s Durban plant; while max capacity is 220,000 annually, current production is 160,000 units per year. Unlike many auto makers, Toyota is not pursuing a new brand or platform for their new, low-cost car.

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US Energy Department Unveils Four-Year Strategy For Alternative Energy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/us-energy-department-unveils-four-year-strategy-plan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/us-energy-department-unveils-four-year-strategy-plan/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798026 South_Point_Wind_Farm

The U.S. Department of Energy unveiled last week a four-year plan that would advance the goal of energy security by building upon as many alternative sources as possible, further reducing dependence on imported petroleum.

Autoblog Green reports the 27-page plan illustrates the proposed aims of the DOE to double the amount of energy produced by renewables, improve battery technology, usher in advances in biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells, and push further electrification of vehicles.

In addition, the DOE also has strategies ready for testing the nation’s nuclear deterrent for safety, security and overall effectiveness, as well as boosting the tools needed to bring improvements on the nation’s security infrastructure.

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GM Internal Investigation Hindered By Corporate Culture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-internal-investigation-hindered-by-corporate-culture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-internal-investigation-hindered-by-corporate-culture/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:58:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798970 GM Next

Bloomberg reports now-former General Motors engineer Brian Stouffer conducted a two-year internal investigation into the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the automaker’s current recall crisis, only to find confusion and resistance along the way to finding answers as to why vehicles up through 2008 were stalling out. In addition, Stouffer reported to three different executives assigned to the investigation in one year as it moved along, as well as the lack of sufficient cases that met the criteria required. Only in late 2013, when Delphi responded to Stouffer’s inquiry by providing the document showing the changes made to the switch back in 2006, did the investigation come to a head.

Automotive News posits that the link between the out-of-spec switch and the 13 fatalities under the spotlight may have been muddied under other circumstances focused upon the drivers involved, ranging from being unbelted and driving under the influence, to speeding and lack of experience behind the wheel. Further, both police and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn’t immediately make the link between the switch and undeployed airbags, the former citing numerous instances and the various reasons behind each failure.

Though it would appear as though GM were the new kings of recalls as of late, Boston-based used-car shopping site iSeeCars compiled data of the top 15 automakers who sold vehicles in the United States between 2005 and 2014, and found the automaker among the middle of the recall list with 96 recalls for every 100 vehicles sold. Toyota took the No. 1 spot with 167 recalls per 100 sold, while Mercedes-Benz took last place with 38 per 100.

Within GM, public relations head Selim Bingol and human resources chief Melissa Howell have both left the automaker “to pursue other interests.” The departures are not related to the recall crisis, according to spokesman Greg Martin, explaining the exits as “a part of any transition where the CEO makes changes and puts together her leadership team.” That team will now consist of John Quattrone, who will head the human resources department CEO Mary Barra ran until 2011, while head of investor relations Randy Arickx will serve as interim PR chief until a permanent replacement is found.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal reports Opel may finally break even ahead of a 2016 target date after years of seeing red. The charge toward equilibrium is being cautiously led by CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann, whose changes to the company — including the closure of a plant in Germany, a $6 billion investment in Europe, and the introduction of 23 models by 2016 — have helped Opel see a rise of 3 percent in European Union sales during the first two months of 2014. The news follows similar signs of hope for GM overall, as Automotive News adds Cadillac’s and Buick’s first-ever wins in J.D. Power & Associates’ 2014 Customer Service Index, as well as the Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain twins being the only two midsize SUVs to receive a “good” rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the small-overlap test as small victories for the automaker.

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New PSA Boss Tavares Prepares To Rebuild Company http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-psa-boss-tavares-prepares-to-rebuild-company/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-psa-boss-tavares-prepares-to-rebuild-company/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:15:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797482 Carlos Tavares

Though PSA Peugeot Citroen secured funding in a three-way deal between itself, the French government and Dongfeng, new boss and former Renault COO Carlos Tavares has a hard road ahead of him as he rebuilds the ailing automaker.

Reuters reports Tavares will focus using the joint venture it shares with Dongfeng to go after 1.5 million sales by 2020, bring exports to Southeast Asia and establish a research center. He will also tighten up both working capital and the number of models sold in each market, as well as squeeze savings from PSA’s suppliers.

However, development woes, pricing issues on some models, and the use of heavy discounts and incentives are all roadblocks on Tavares’ “Back in the Race” plan expected to be issued in full Monday, as well as currency challenges in Latin America and Russia and lower-cost products from around Asia.

As part of the plan, Tavares is expected to halve the number of models it currently offers. On the bright side, the 308 and 2008 both delivered a combined 5.2 percent sales increase in the first two months of 2014, as well as an 8.5 percent Q1 2014 gain over PSA’s home market.

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Honda Pursues 70k Annual US Fit Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:30:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797498 2014-honda-jazz-2015-honda-fit-photo-gallery-medium_17

In 2008, Honda sold nearly 80,000 Fit subcompacts to the United States, and is preparing to move 70,000 annually from the lot to the driveways of America thanks to its new Celaya, Mexico plant.

Ward’s Auto reports the automaker had a difficult time hitting the milestone set in 2008 due to production constraints at home and fervent demand abroad. With the new plant, however, Honda will be able to make 200,000 Fits annually, as well as the Fit-based crossover set to begin production later this year.

As for who Honda expects will buy the 70,000+ Fits aimed for the U.S. market — aside from lifestyle bloggers — product planner Hiroaki Hamaya says the subcompact is already “capturing the highest household income and percentage of college grads.” Data from J.D. Power bears this out: Fit buyers hold an average income of $75,000 while 64 percent of them have graduated college. However, median age and percentage of buyers under 35 currently lag behind competitors such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.

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Toyota Unveils New Duo Of Fuel-Efficient Engines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-unveils-new-duo-of-fuel-efficient-engines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-unveils-new-duo-of-fuel-efficient-engines/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793594 1.3L_gasoline_engine

Toyota has unveiled this week two new fuel-efficient gasoline engines that will serve as the basis for as many as 14 global powerplants by 2015, and boost economy by 10 percent.

Automotive News reports the two engines — 1.3-liter four-pot and 1-liter three-pot — are Atkinson cycle powerplants co-developed with partner Daihatsu, and feature fuel-efficiency goodies such as EGR, VVT and stop-start technology.

On the power front — especially since Atkinson cycle engines are more known for their efficiency than for destroying ‘Ring times — the Toyota engines will deliver high compression ratios of 13.5 for the larger engine, 11.5 for the smaller. In turn, thermal efficiency in the duo will hit a maximum of 38 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

As for where the duo and their children will reside, expect the home market to have the first crack via the automaker’s line of non-hybrid compacts before taking the global stage the following year in both non-hybrid and hybrid vehicles, as well as larger premium offerings.

1.3L_gasoline_engine 1.0L_gasoline_engine exhaust_pipe Tumble ]]>
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Future Ford Explorers, Expeditions Could Wear All-Aluminium Bodies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/future-ford-explorers-expeditions-could-wear-all-aluminium-bodies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/future-ford-explorers-expeditions-could-wear-all-aluminium-bodies/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 12:36:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793281 Explorer Sport rear quarter, picture courtesy Michael Karesh

As previously reported by TTAC earlier this year, future Ford Explorers and Expeditions could one day wear aluminium bodies.

Edmunds reports the SUVs could easily go aluminium should Ford decided to do so based on the higher base prices of both vehicles being able to sustain the higher cost of the metal. The Explorer and Expedition could see improved fuel economy from the several hundreds of pounds lost as a result.

Alongside aluminium, Ford also aims to improve the engines, transmissions and aerodynamics in their lineup as the automaker seeks to reduce CO2 emissions annually by 4 percent to meet ever-stringent global standards.

The earliest an all-aluminium Explorer or Expedition could come is 2018, as the U.S. metals industry is stepping up aluminium production in anticipation of more Ford products extensively using the lightweight metal.

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BMW May Build Second NA Plant To Fend Off German Rivals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/bmw-may-build-second-na-plant-to-fend-off-german-rivals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/bmw-may-build-second-na-plant-to-fend-off-german-rivals/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:04:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791289 BMW Spartanburg

In its battle against Mercedes-Benz and Audi for record sales, BMW is mulling over the possibility of a second plant in North America.

Bloomberg reports the automaker would place its second factory in Mexico, with two sites under consideration. The decision to expand will take a few months according to BMW production chief Harald Krueger, Should the move be given a green light, the Mexican plant is likely to build the 3 Series.

The second factory would add to the long-term growth strategy BMW is using to fend off its German premium market competitors in a heated battle for records global sales, fueled by growing demand in the United States and China. Mercedes will add the C-Class to its Alabama facility in June with a new plant in North America due near the end of this decade, while Audi is in the middle of setting up shop in Mexico with a $1.3 billion plant set to produce crossovers beginning in 2016.

Previously, BMW announced it would invest $1 billion to expand its South Carolina plant by 50 percent in 2016, as well as add the X7 large SUV to the X Series lineup currently produced in the plant.

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NHTSA Asked To Investigate Impala Airbags, GM May Compensate Recall Victims http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/nhtsa-asked-to-investigate-impala-airbags-gm-may-compensate-recall-victims/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/nhtsa-asked-to-investigate-impala-airbags-gm-may-compensate-recall-victims/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:59:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790113 '06-'09_Chevrolet_Impala_Taxicab

Bloomberg reports the Center for Auto Safety, citing a government petition from former General Motors researcher Donald Friedman, is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a defect investigation into 2003 – 2010 Chevrolet Impalas over a glitch in the car’s software that could “misread a passenger’s weight,” preventing frontal airbags from deploying. The agency has 143 records of fatalities linked to failed airbags in the Impala, 98 of which noted the occupants were wearing seat belts at time of death.

The request reflects growing concern over the algorithms used in advanced airbags, designed to meet strengthened U.S. regulations in 2003 after previous airbags were found in 300 cases to prove fatal to small adults and children due to excessive force upon deployment, and where improvements could be made.

Going in-depth regarding the April 2006 sign-off of the improved version of the out-of-spec ignition switch linked to the ongoing 2014 GM recall crisis, Automotive News found that while midlevel engineer Ray DeGiorgio put his signature upon what turned out to be the validation sign-off presented before the Senate hearing last week, former engineers have noted that said document was merely placing “a bow” on a package built upon by several engineers before presentation to GM. The resulting paper trail could shed more light on how the decision came to be made, as the anonymous engineers told the publication said decision to change the part would need to go through several checks and balances before signing-off on the upgraded part.

As for out-of-spec parts in general, Automotive Industry Action Group senior program manager for quality Scott Gray says that while a part may be “out of tolerance,” it may not be “the root cause of a failure” unless said part “affects a component’s fit, form or function.”

At that point, the part would go through two industry-standard protocols: Failure Mode Effects Analysis, and Production Part Approval Process. The first is a constantly updated document that gives engineers the tools needed to evaluate the out-of-spec part and related components in determining where problems could arise prior to approving a design. The second, used by suppliers, determines whether or not the part can be built, with automakers paying for tooling only upon successful completion. Further, if even a single tiny change occurs with the part, the entire part must undergo the protocol again.

CNN Money reports GM is debating on whether or not to compensate affected customers whose relatives were either injured or killed in recall-related accidents prior to the automaker’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Should GM do so, the liability shield established in the bankruptcy would fall, opening itself to 2,500 lawsuits left behind with “Old GM” in so doing.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports Chevrolet will make an announcement today regarding the next-gen Volt involving a boost of 1,400 jobs and $450 million spent in preparing both the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Township battery plant for the updated EV. Speculation of what will be announced include a new platform for the 2016 Volt to an all-new unnamed EV, as well as Opel receiving a vehicle priced lower than the Ampera.

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BAIC Seeks To Acquire US, European Brand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/baic-seeks-to-acquire-us-european-brand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/baic-seeks-to-acquire-us-european-brand/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 11:05:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=787601 Senova BAIC C10

Looking to expand its global presence beyond its native China, Beijing Automotive Group announced they would like to acquire a “mid to high-level brand” in either Europe or the United States, and already has a list of potential brands in mind.

Reuters reports BAIC originally looked towards Europe for their potential acquisition, but has now expanded their search to the U.S. President Dong Haiyang told reporters that his company’s brand is little-known outside of China, and sees a European or American brand as a shortcut into the global marketplace.

At home, BAIC purchased two smaller rivals in 2013, and signed a joint investment agreement with Daimler AG last month, delivering $5.51 billion into their joint venture in order to double production by 2015.

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Ford Cuts 950 Jobs In Russia Due To Weakening Ruble, Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ford-cuts-950-jobs-in-russia-due-to-weakening-ruble-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ford-cuts-950-jobs-in-russia-due-to-weakening-ruble-demand/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:21:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786689 Ford-Sollers-Vsevolozhsk-plant

Two plants in Ford’s joint venture with Russian manufacturer OAO Sollers will experience job cuts as a result of a weakening ruble and decreasing demand by customers in the local market.

Bloomberg says 700 positions in St. Petersburg and 250 temporary positions in the Tartarstan region will be let go by June, while production in the former will lose one shift. The cuts were caused by “the rapid and significant depreciation of the ruble, falling industry sales and a consumer shift away” from small cars toward large SUVs according to Ford, who also reassured that the joint venture would continue to remain committed to the Russian market.

As for the current state of things, sales fell 4 percent in the first two months of 2014, following a 5.5 percent decline in 2013 to 2.78 million vehicles, while the ruble lost 13 percent of its value against the dollar within the last 12 months.

The St. Petersberg plant will also shut down for over four weeks before single-shift production and painting begin June 9. The plant currently builds the Mondeo and Focus.

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Leaked Documents Link Anti-Union VW Incentive Offer To TN Governor’s Office http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/leaked-documents-link-anti-union-vw-incentive-offer-to-tn-governors-office/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/leaked-documents-link-anti-union-vw-incentive-offer-to-tn-governors-office/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:15:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786417 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

Leaked documents linked to the United Auto Workers battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. point to a connection between Governor Bill Haslam and the German automaker regarding a $300 million incentive in exchange for over 1,300 jobs at a proposed SUV plant within the state.

WTVF-TV reports the incentives were contingent “to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” By the time Volkswagen entered into election talks with the UAW in January, however, the Haslam administration formally notified the automaker that it was withdrawing the offer, citing that it had kept the offer on the table past the 90-day window normally reserved for incentives when the incentive in question had no such expiration date.

Though Haslam has denied any such connection to the incentive — dubbed “Project Trinity” — U.S. Senator Bob Corker claimed as early as February of this year that the offering would be made should the workers at the Chattanooga plant vote against representation by the union.

As for the UAW, organizer Gary Casteel stated the following in response to whether the now-public documents were a game-changer in the union’s appeal to the National Labor Relations Board over the election results:

To me, it puts pressure on the state to do what they should have done in the first place — and that’s give the incentives with no strings attached, just like they would any other company, union or non-union.

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Marchionne’s FCA Looks To Sell 6 Million Units http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/marchionnes-fca-looks-to-sell-6-million-units/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/marchionnes-fca-looks-to-sell-6-million-units/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786433 marchionne

Should Sergio Marchionne’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles be able to deliver on his expectations, the merged automaker will be able to move 6 million units annually, enabling FCA to become a player on the global stage.

The Detroit News reports Marchionne met before Fiat’s shareholders in the final meeting at the automaker’s Turin, Italy headquarters before FCA relocates to the Netherlands, stating what he expects out of FCA in the post-merger years to come:

By 2018, Fiat will be able to make more than 6 million cars. I don’t want to give any details of the plan, but we are going in that direction.

For 2014, Marchionne stated FCA aims to sell between 4.5 million and 4.6 million units on the strength of United States and Asia markets, collecting some $128 billion in revenues, and between $828.6 million and $1.1 billion in net profit. The goal of selling 6 million units has been an oft-mentioned one by Marchionne, who believes that the volumes necessary to achieve scale will only increase in the future.

Until then, his current goal is to have Chrysler and Fiat completely merged by the end of 2014, with a multi-year business plan to be presented in Detroit by May. Marchionne believes the new plan can be run “by purely financing on debt.”

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Tesla Stays In NY, Loses Key China Exec http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-stays-in-ny-loses-key-china-exec/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-stays-in-ny-loses-key-china-exec/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 12:59:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785169 Tesla Model S

Automotive News reports Tesla and Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association reached a compromise agreement over the weekend that would allow the EV automaker to keep their five stores while prevent Tesla or any other auto manufacturer from establishing more direct-sale stores in the state. In the words of Governor Andrew Cuomo:

Today’s agreement reaffirms New York’s long-standing commitment to the dealer franchise system, while making sure New York remains a leader in spurring innovative businesses and encouraging zero emissions vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, Tesla spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean tells Bloomberg the Gigafactory will source supplies of graphite, cobalt et al from within North America, citing cost and environmental issues behind the decision. Currently, the majority of graphite found in the automaker’s battery packs come from synthetic sources in Europe and Japan, with future natural sources expected to come from Canada.

Over in China, where graphite mines and processing plants are being closed over air-quality issues, Tesla’s general manager Kingston Chang resigned his position for personal reasons. His departure, which the automaker declined to expand upon to Bloomberg, comes just as CEO Elon Musk prepares to expand further into the country’s auto market, who predicts sales to be on par with those in the United States as early as next year.

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BlackBerry Fights Google, Apple To Maintain Connected-Car Lead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/blackberry-fights-google-apple-to-maintain-connected-car-lead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/blackberry-fights-google-apple-to-maintain-connected-car-lead/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 12:44:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782913 Blackberry-QNX-Car-Entertainment-and-Telematics

Though BlackBerry owns a sliver of the smartphone market they once dominated, its QNX-based connected-car systems may be the best weapon they have in maintaining its lead over the companies that drove the Canadian company nearly out of the smartphone business.

Bloomberg reports QNX — the choice for connected-car systems by Ford, Porsche and BMW among others — is now facing competition from both Apple and Google for market and mind share of an industry expected to be worth $53 billion in 2018.

According to IHS Automotive analyst Mark Boyadjis, the bigger challenge will come from Google, whose Android operating system helped finish the job Apple’s iPhone began in 2007 in pushing out BlackBerry from the global smartphone market. Google — who also collaborates with the QNX division on occasion — has already put its mark on the Kia Soul and Mercedes-AMG SLS, and established the Open Automotive Alliance with Audi, General Motors, Honda and Hyundai.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry and Apple are on more equal footing with the latter’s CarPlay platform, bringing the connect-car/iPhone experience to Ferrari at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show this month.

As for QNX itself, the BlackBerry-owned division continues to expand further into the connected-car market, with Ford dropping Microsoft for the micro-kernel OS in its maligned Sync/MyFord Touch system last month. The Blue Oval’s action would place the automaker in good company, as QNX also powers systems used by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Hyundai, and Jaguar.

The biggest advantage QNX has over Google and Apple is its proven track record in running safety systems, where a software issue could mean the difference between life and death, which Boyadjis believes will carry BlackBerry and QNX into the future against the two technology titans from California.

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Tesla Reader’s Digest Vol. 1: The Politics Of Dancing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-readers-digest-vol-1-the-politics-of-dancing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/tesla-readers-digest-vol-1-the-politics-of-dancing/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:19:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=779249 Tesla Roadster and Model S

In the first edition of the Tesla Reader’s Digest, Washington state makes nice with Tesla’s business model as Arizona ponders doing the same — while fighting three other states for the right to host Tesla’s Gigafactory, no less. Meanwhile, General Motors pens a letter to Ohio asking the state to force the EV automaker to play by the same rules as they already do, pricing of the Model S falls in Europe, and Edward Niedemeyer offers his view on how Tesla can topple the auto dealer monopoly.

The Detroit News ran our former EIC (originally published at Bloomberg View) a few inches to explain the situation Tesla faces with its revolutionary-for-the-United States model of doing business from the rent-seeking opposition found in the entrenched dealer franchise system. Though the automaker has already been locked out of Texas and New Jersey due to such opposition thus far, Niedermeyer offers that CEO Elon Musk has a few potential allies — including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, eBay, Costco and TrueCar — who could help him and the U.S auto industry as a whole bring about a future where all automakers can sell directly to customers.

Reuters and CNN Money report the states of Washington and Arizona are or soon will be signing legislation allowing Tesla to market directly to consumers; previously, the automaker’s sole Washington direct-sales efforts were in Seattle, whereas Arizona only allowed showrooms, pushing sales across the border to California.

The Washington legislation came as a result of campaigning from that state’s Tesla-owning constituents with help from a lobbyist, which will allow the automaker to expand into more cities while forcing every other automaker — upcoming or long-established — to sell through franchise dealerships, a situation advocates claim will need to be remedied when legislatures return to Olympia next January.

Arizona, however, is coming around to help improve the state’s chances in becoming the home of Musk’s grand energy project, the Tesla Gigafactory. Autoblog Green also reports Tucson has not only a suitable site for the 1,000-acre, 10 million-square-foot battery factory, but the tax incentives to lure 6,500 jobs away from Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.

As for the other three states, New Mexico is working on an economic package, while Nevada remains silent on their moves, and Texas has incentives galore in spite of banning direct-sales, the latter of which could hurt the state’s chances.

Speaking of direct-sale bans, Automotive News reports General Motors penned a letter to Ohio governor John Kasich over concerns his state could open the door to Tesla. GM’s senior vice president of global communications and public policy Selim Bingol explains his employer’s viewpoint:

We understand discussions are ongoing over legislation which could provide a broad exemption for a single manufacturer, Tesla Motors Inc., to circumvent long-established legal precedent on how new motor vehicles are marketed, sold and serviced in your state.

GM is not alone, as lobbyists representing the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association warned the state legislature last week that by allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers, it would allow all automakers to do the same, casting the franchise model to the wind.

Finally, Tesla may be fighting a different battle in Europe. Inside EVs reports pricing of the Model S has dropped in Germany and Netherlands 6,700 euro and 4,000 euro respectively to 65,300 euro and 66,200 euro. Though Tesla cites currency appreciation against the dollar, low demand and lack of a sufficient Supercharger network may be to blame.

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Diesels, Refinement Key To Kiefer’s Vision Of Future GM Engine Development http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/diesels-refinement-key-to-kiefers-vision-of-future-gm-engine-development/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/diesels-refinement-key-to-kiefers-vision-of-future-gm-engine-development/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:30:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776809 Steve Kiefer

General Motors head of global powertrain and former Delphi senior vice president of powertrain systems Steve Kiefer aims to steer engine development toward a brighter future, one influenced by his love for diesels, quietness and refinement.

Automotive News reports Kiefer’s vision may have begun to come to fruition this week with the debut of the new Ecotec family of engines slated to power 25 percent of GM’s global lineup by 2017. The eleven engines are based on older-though-proven technology found in the cam chains, blocks and other components, resulting in a family with lower NVH than previous engines. The new Ecotec family is a reflection of Kiefer’s method of improving existing technology to accomplish what competing engines already do — such as Ford’s EcoBoost — for little cost in development and assembly.

Speaking of Ford, both the Blue Oval and the General are collaborating on a new generation of nine- and 10-speed transmissions for their respective pickups, with the latter expected to arrive in two years. Though no word has been said on whether GM will either use diesel power or smaller gasoline engines in their fullsize trucks, Kiefer’s experience on the supply side of the industry — especially in regards to knowing what the competition is doing to be green and efficient — could prove valuable in the long run.

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Toyoda: Recalls Changed Thinking On Safety, Customer Focus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/toyoda-recalls-changed-thinking-on-safety-customer-focus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/toyoda-recalls-changed-thinking-on-safety-customer-focus/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:15:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776833 Akio Toyoda

One day after Toyota agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department resolving a criminal probe into the automaker’s handling of a recall involving unintentional acceleration in its vehicles, president Akio Toyoda proclaimed the recalls changed Toyota for the better.

Automotive News reports Toyoda, speaking before the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association this week, said the recalls “marked a shift in how Toyota and the industry think about safety”:

The criteria for recalls used to be compliance with laws or whether there are technical problems. Now, I think it has become whether the products can assure customers peace of mind.

Regarding recalls overall, Toyoda stated they were good for the “long-term perspective of the automotive industry’s sustainable development,” noting the tool allows for product improvement and finding countermeasures from problems that arise down the line.

Though he remained silent on the settlement, Toyoda said the experience prompted Toyota to alter its approach to quality:

I think it provided a turning point for us to go back to our basic philosophy of “customers come first.” It is getting more and more important to handle recalls by seeing things from our customers’ point of view.

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BMW Looking To Increase US Production For Sales Record http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-looking-to-increase-us-production-for-sales-record/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-looking-to-increase-us-production-for-sales-record/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:54:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776457 BMW X4 01

Chasing after a sales record and a 10 percent rise in pretax profit for 2014, BMW looks to increase output at the automaker’s Spartanburg, S.C. plant.

Reuters reports the plant is undergoing the necessary work needed to increase annual production of the automaker’s X Series from 300,000 to 350,000, with BMW chief executive Norbert Reithofer explaining that the U.S. market was one of great potential; thus, the plan to increase capacity. This would be in addition to the 400,000 units BMW aims to assemble in China after necessary investments raised capacity from 300,000 a year ago.

Though Reithofer remained mum on exact figures for how many of the SUVs will exit Spartanburg, as well as whether or not the automaker will introduce the X7 large SUV, he reiterated BMW’s goal of selling over 2 million units this year, having come close with 1.96 million in 2013. He also expects “group profit before tax to rise significantly” this year in spite of “ongoing volatile business conditions.” BMW COO Friedrich Eichiner later clarified Reithofer’s statement, claiming the figure to be “somewhere in the range of a high single-digit and a double-digit amount.”

Augmenting the expanding production, 12 new models are set to debut in the second half of 2014, including the 2 Series, 2 Series Active Tourer, and the i8.

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GM Unveils New, Clean-Sheet Ecotec Family http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-unveils-new-clean-sheet-ecotec-family/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-unveils-new-clean-sheet-ecotec-family/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 04:10:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776425 GM Ecotec New Trinity

General Motors has unveiled a new generation of their Ecotec engine family, whose 11 three- and four-pot powerplants will find a home under the bonnets of 27 models by 2017.

Automotive News reports the new clean-sheet engines range from a turbocharged 1-liter I3, to a 1.5-liter turbo-four, feature modular design for efficient assembly, consist of aluminium heads and blocks, and include VVT, dual overhead cams with four valves per cylinder, and water-cooled exhaust manifolds among other offerings. Power in the family ranges from 75 horses/70 lb-ft of torque, to 165 horsepower and 184 lb-ft.

The first of the new engines, the aforementioned I3, is already under production, and will debut under the hood of the Opel Adam later this spring, while the 2015 Cruze will come with a turbocharged 1.4-liter and a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter for the Chinese market. No word on when the Ecotec engines will debut in North America, however, let alone which vehicles will receive them.

GM expects annual volume to reach 2.5 million units by 2017 once all five factories responsible for their production are in full swing. The factories are located in Michigan, Mexico, China, Hungary and South Korea.

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GM Hires New Safety Czar As Barra, Service Bulletins Go Under The Microscope http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-hires-new-safety-czar-as-barra-service-bulletins-go-under-the-microscope/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-hires-new-safety-czar-as-barra-service-bulletins-go-under-the-microscope/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:15:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=775713 File photo of General Motors logo outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit

General Motors CEO Mary Barra has appointed executive Jeff Boyer to the newly created position of Vice President, Global Vehicle Safety. Meanwhile, Barra and her company’s use of service bulletins in lieu of recalls will both go under the microscope, with the new CEO likely to testify before Congress next month.

Automotive News and Just-Auto report Boyer will provide vehicle safety updates on a frequent and regular schedule to GM’s senior management, board of directors and Barra:

This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability. If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs any additional resources, he will get them.

Boyer, Barra and a number of GM execs are likely to testify before Congress sometime next month over the decade-delayed recall of 1.76 million vehicles affected globally by a flawed ignition switch that could deactivate engine power and airbags if the key is weighed down by unessential items, with her statements to highlight GM’s focus on the consumer in light of the recall going forward.

Meanwhile, the automaker’s use of service bulletins in lieu of potentially costly recalls — such as the aforementioned ignition recall — may cost GM more than the $35 million in fines the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could levy on the automaker in terms of reputation, though they may not be alone in sharing the blame.

In 2005 and 2006, two bulletins related to the switch were sent to dealerships with instructions for dealers to ask drivers to remove unessential items from their key rings. Bulletins in general are issued for non-safety issues affecting a vehicle, and are made know only to service shops and the NTHSA, though a 2012 law entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century — requiring the NTHSA to create a searchable public database by 2013 — would have solved the problem had the agency fulfilled the mandate.

According to Center for Auto Safety executive director Clarence Ditlow, bulletins such as the two issued by GM over the switch result in only 10 percent or fewer affected vehicles undergoing necessary repairs, while recalls as administered by the NTHSA through the Motor Vehicle Safety Act pull in 70 percent.

Ditlow also says automakers — looking out for financial incentives — generally seek out other fixes short of an official recall, placing the NTHSA in the position of negotiator when a recall is needed, leading to the situation where the agency itself is under the microscope as Congress probes into why the NTHSA didn’t push hard enough for a recall as early as 2007, when two deaths in Wisconsin related to the switch were brought up before GM executives.

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Marchionne Closes Chapter On Canadian Minivan Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/marchionne-closes-chapter-on-canadian-minivan-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/marchionne-closes-chapter-on-canadian-minivan-plant/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:01:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773825 Chrysler Windsor Assembly

While celebrating the successful turnaround for Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Sterling Heights, Mich. plant, CEO Sergio Marchionne proclaimed the issue of upgrades made to the Windsor, Ont. plant with help from Canadian federal and provincial governments one no longer worth discussing.

Automotive News reports FCA pulled out of discussions with Canada over a $2 billion upgrade incentive package that would secure the long-term future of the plant after politicians referred to the request as “ransom” and “corporate welfare,” according to Marchionne:

Chrysler is not in the business of accepting handouts. And if provincial and federal authorities in Canada think that’s the way to attract foreign investment, I think they are in for a big shock.

It doesn’t matter. It’s gone. That chapter is closed. Fiat-Chrysler has moved on. The agenda, from my standpoint, is complete.

Regarding Sterling Heights, where the Chrysler 200 will go into production this week, the plant’s upgrade as “an apt symbol of how far Chrysler has come because of the courage and resilience of [its] people,” Marchionne explained. The plant was due to close in 2010, only to return to life through a $1 billion investment made in light of the success behind the restyled and renamed compact, and the capacity needed to fulfill demand.

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