Category: News Blog

By on March 17, 2017

vauxhall corsa

Today’s the day we celebrate an Irish guy who probably isn’t responsible for banishing snakes from the Emerald Isle, usually by guzzling beer tinted with bowel-loosening amounts of green food coloring.

Across a tiny sea from that land, a much more vibrant color caused the inhabitants of one historic British town to rebel against the tyranny wrought by a compact hatchback. We’re happy to inform you that order has now been restored. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

piech

One of the preeminent figures within the European automotive industry is looking to get out of the family business. The former paterfamilias of Volkswagen AG, Ferdinand Piech, is looking to dump his stake of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and sever his remaining ties to VW. Piech’s shares would remain within the Porsche-Piech family — allowing them to keep control of Volkswagen Group — but Ferdinand would be out of the game as a majority stakeholder.

Piech has been at odds with his relatives after suggesting that Wolfgang Porsche and several other VW supervisory board members had been aware of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating much earlier than they claimed. Sources close to the family, whose members are apparently outraged, have stated that the Porsche-Piech gang sought to replace him at the table of Porsche Holdings ever since.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

autonomous hardware

President Donald Trump received a tour of the American Center for Mobility this week. He did not, however, discuss the federal funding of the Michigan-based autonomous testing and development facility. Instead, the site was used as a location for the president to discuss regulatory policies and meet with automotive executives. Little was said on the subject of self-driving cars.

Still, automakers routinely remind us that autonomous vehicles are right around the corner. Ford says it can have autonomous cars rolling out by 2021, Audi and Nissan have said 2020, and Volkswagen has claimed it’ll be ready for self-driving models in 2019. Tesla — which has been pioneering the technology longer than most — has stated it has the hardware necessary in its current production vehicles and would have a bulletproof system installed in 2018, anticipating regulatory approval in 2021. However, suppliers are predicting much less optimistic timelines for self-driving cars — and the dates given vary wildly.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

VW logo

At some point, a scandal grows so big that investigations begin to overlap. When the scope widens even more, investigators suddenly begin investigating each other.

That’s the current situation in the Fatherland, where American law firm Jones Day recently had its offices raided at the request of German authorities in hot pursuit of executive skulduggery. Jones Day, of course, is the internal investigator hired by VW to probe the shady dealings that led to the diesel emissions scandal.

What started with unusual emissions readings at a West Virginia university now feels a lot like The Departed. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

macchina_1_d8c_9332_16x9_133dpi

Tuners and researchers have searched for ways to pull data from cars and modify it ever since the introduction of the first on-board computer in the late 1960s. The advent of fuel injection and computer-controlled engines in the 1990s brought computerized tuning front and center. And while the OBD2 standard — made mandatory in 1996 —standardized the interface and made it easier to read diagnostics and log some parameters, modification and advanced logging was still complicated and expensive.

Professional tools and open source hardware popped up in the past decade to allow deeper access into a car’s electronics, but most ready-made products were still expensive. Open source variants also required knowledge of soldering and programming. Now, Macchina has taken the best of both worlds and packaged it into an inexpensive product that should prove useful for researchers as well as tuners. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Faraday Future FF 91 rear

Faraday Future is more of an automotive marketing company than it is an automaker. The company has been making unsubstantiated promises and ignoring its fiscal woes without giving much assurance that it will ever bring a production car — or assembly plant — into the real world. Problems have continued to mount and, like any deeply rooted zit, the situation is gradually coming to a head.

This month, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz demanded that the Governor’s Office of Economic Development conduct an audit of Faraday — throwing in Tesla for good measure. Schwartz has been critical of FF ever since it received government money to help build its factory, only to see work on the facility stalled due to nonpayment last fall. Faraday has since scaled back its construction plans, claiming that it was necessary to ensure production begins on schedule.

Now, FF’s primary backer, LeEco, is selling a 49-acre Silicon Valley property less than a year after purchasing it from Yahoo Inc. This comes after the company’s founder and CEO, Jia Yueting, explained to employees in November that LeEco was facing devastating financial issues stemming from its uncontrolled expansion. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Fisker Karms (Image: David Villarreal/Flickr)

Automakers would have to fund a larger share of future green technology projects if the Trump White House’s budget blueprint passes as written.

The administration proposes to do away with a little-used — and sometimes controversial — U.S. Energy Department loan program, as well as a grant program dedicated to spurring advanced fuel-saving technologies. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid - Image: Acura

At American Honda’s upmarket division, the Acura MDX is the lifeblood; the premium crossover that keeps Acura’s trains running on time.

In 8 of the last 10 years — including each of the last 7 — the Acura MDX has been Acura’s best-selling model. Fully one-third of Acura’s U.S. volume over the last decade has been generated by the MDX.

Honda knows best of all just how important the MDX has been to Acura’s fortunes, having watched as the brand’s passenger car volume was essentially chopped in half over the last decade. Honda is removing the interference caused by the Pilot, Odyssey, and Ridgeline at the MDX’s Alabama plant by moving production of the big Acura to Ohio.

And more importantly for consumers, the first hybridized MDX — the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid — is launching now with a pricing scheme that evidently makes the hybrid the best MDX of all. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

20170316_131301

There’s something ironic about it, and I don’t mean in the way Alanis Morissette uses the term: The media days at the major auto shows offer unmatched access to the vast majority of vehicles on sale in the United States today. The stuff that gets locked up and put behind barriers once the shows open to the public is usually open and available for your inspection.

Want to try out the back seat in a Mulsanne, or rub your dirty fingers all over the steering wheel of your favorite supercar? It’s all possible — and usually without the lines, disruption, and drama that you’d expect once the average Joes get in the door. Not even the $500-a-head charity previews will get you the unfettered touch time with your favorite high-end automobile that comes as standard equipment with a zero-buck press pass.

Yet if you are “working” a show, that means spending nine hours a day literally running between press conferences, frantically uploading photos or writing summaries, and staying in motion until you’re dead on your feet. Then it’s time to go to a series of all-you-can-drink parties where you’ll be surrounded all night by the kind of people who whine about Republicans then wave nonchalantly for a Rolls-Royce to take them to a $699 per night hotel. Wake up the next morning, rinse and repeat.

In other words, even though the media days at the major shows are a car enthusiast’s dream, the circumstances of auto-journo employment tend to interfere with that dream. Yesterday, I tried taking an antidote to that poisonous mindset, in the form of a no-expenses-paid trip to the Columbus, Ohio auto show.

Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

2018 Volvo XC60, Image: Volvo Cars

Volvo denies that it wants to return to publicly listed status, but a new round of fundraising has many believing the Swedish automaker is about to end its 20-year absence from the stock market.

According to the Financial Times, the Geely-owned company hopes to raise about $500 million from a new batch of preference shares. Unlike the last time it held out its hat, this time Volvo wants Chinese buy-in. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Buick Grille Logo Emblem, Image: General Motors

J.D. Power and Associates continued its courtship of Buick and Lexus in its latest scorecard for consumer satisfaction with dealer service departments. While J.D. passes out awards around like a teacher giving PARTICIPANT ribbons at an elementary school science fair, its consumer index is a decent way to track automotive trends. In this instance, that trend is continued improvement of American manufacturers. Well, most of them.

Fiat Chrysler should sincerely consider making a large contribution to J.D. Power so it can get out of last place in literally every single category.

Meanwhile, General Motors is on its best behavior with a score of 807 out of 1,000, an improvement over last year by a full 10 points thanks to Buick taking top honors (860 points) and its other brands scoring substantially above the industry average. Buick was followed by Mini, GMC, Chevrolet and Nissan in the mass-market brand rankings. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

2011 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai is issuing a recall for 977,778 Sonatas because some seat belts could detach from the anchor pretensioner.

The recall includes 2011-2014 model year Sonatas and 2011-2015 Sonata Hybrids.

According to NHTSA’s recall report, the pretensioner is attached to the sill before the seat belt linkage is connected to it. “If, during vehicle assembly, the connector does not fully latch when the linkage is pressed onto the connector, the seat belt can detach from the anchor pretensioner.”

Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Opel Insignia Grand Sport

Newly published emissions certification documents on the California Air Resources Board website now confirm the existence of the Buick Regal TourX wagon — and much, much more.

The CARB documents show GM’s 250+ horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powering both front- and all-wheel-drive Regal hatchbacks, plus the anticipated all-wheel-drive-only TourX wagon.

But how AWD Regals get their power to the wheels diverges from the script.

Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

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

To say that there was some speculation surrounding Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller’s response to a potential partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automotive would be a severe understatement.

Müller said there had been no contact between he and FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne, but he’d not ruled anything out. He seemed to have an indifference about the subject, which left plenty of room to let minds wander.

According to Automotive News’ Larry P. Vellequette, that’s not the whole story.

Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

Suspecting that a Volkswagen executive might fly the coop if released on bond while awaiting trial, a U.S. District Court judge slammed the cell door shut until early next year.

Oliver Schmidt, who was arrested early this year during a stopover in Miami, is currently cooling his heels in a Detroit jail after being slapped with conspiracy and fraud charges relating to the diesel emissions scandal. With a potential jail sentence of 169 years looming over his head, even $1.6 million ponied up by family and friends wasn’t enough to secure his release. Read More >

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