The Truth About Cars » Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:42:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 » Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/mercedes-benz/ The Streets Of R-Ado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936762 I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the […]

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2006 R500 Courtesy cimg.carsforsale.com

I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the Mercedes-Benz USA focus group invite filter did not recognize my net worth nor the fact that I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. And I was not about to tell anyone that…

The Laredo facility included an assortment of handling, hill-climb and torture tracks, all on the infield of an imposing high-banked 5-mile circle track. The first impression of the scene was intoxicating to a car nut: Hey, there’s a Dodge Magnum, looks just like the spy photos! There goes the next generation S-Class! We were shown the upcoming GL-Class and the next-generation M-Class SUVs. Those vehicles, as well as the future S-class circling the track, were lightly masked but easily recognizable while the “sport touring wagon” was heavily, almost comically, disguised.  It looked like a giant black shoe box with a sloping hood.

My group of five folks and an engineer jumped into the future R-Class. The interior was well-crafted and amazingly roomy: I could stretch my legs out in the third row. Our moderator led us through the various obstacle courses around the grounds, switching drivers along the way. Finally we headed for the 5-mile circle. It was “Clockwise Day” which seemed strange to someone used to driving counterclockwise on oval tracks.  Our leader cranked it up to an indicated 150 mph and took one hand off the wheel to demonstrate the wagon’s stability. We were duly impressed.

We then each proceeded to take two laps each behind the wheel and several of us hit the magic 150 mph barrier. We were quietly cruising with six people aboard and blasting past Plymouth Neons on the inside lane doing endurance testing.  The original R500 with the 302 hp V-8 had a governed top speed of 135 mph. The Benz engineers would not answer questions about this drivetrain. In retrospect, I think it must have been the 503 hp V-8 from the planned R63 AMG under the hood.

We always said the R-Class would make a great hearse...

We always said that the R-Class would make a great hearse…

Years later I think: Were we really doing 150 mph with six passengers in a prototype with a drag coefficient of Melissa McCarthy?  Was the speedometer clocked? Or is driving on a banked, circular track as safe and easy as driving in a straight line? Regardless, I highly doubt there are many car companies who would allow a bunch of yahoos to drive their mock-up models at high speeds on their secret proving grounds. That day in Laredo was one of the highlights of my time in the car business.

Two years later when I first saw a production R-Class, I was shocked: it looked awful, a combo of awkward lines. I thought about Laredo. Were they hiding the R’s styling from us because previous groups had given it a thumbs down? Or was Germany so proud of the edgy styling that they did not want it leaked?  By disguising its looks, letting us behind the scenes to drive flat-out at their proving grounds, and not talking price or specs, were they guaranteeing that we each would  vote an enthusiastic “yes” when asked if we would consider buying one, which we did?

I was pleased to see one suggestion from our focus group about the poor location of the third-row shoulder belt hanger had been addressed.

 

It appears the Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track within the 5-mile highbank circle.

Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track inside the 5-mile circle track

The R-Class was released in the summer of 2005 to the sounds of crickets on the showroom floors. Press reactions were mixed, (“It’s big and it’s ugly, but inside it you can live like a king,” said the Sunday Times.) Within 30 days of the launch, Benz had to add dealer incentives to counter consumer resistance to the base MSRP of $48,000 for the R350 and $55,500 for the R500. A constellation of factors led to the R-class being a rare failure for Daimler: high pricing, murky marketing and product positioning, mediocre gas mileage, the recession and most of all due to its undeniable ugliness.

Sales of the R-Class in the US peaked at 18,168 units in 2006, far short of the corporate objective of 50,000 sales per year. Less than 3,000 were sold each year between 2009 and 2011 before the car was discontinued in North America in 2012. The R-Class continues to be assembled in Mercedes’ Alabama factory for sale in overseas markets. (US dealers toured the plant recently and upon seeing the R line, several joked, “Oh noooo, it’s back!”)

I had an R-Class company car in 2009 and it rode as well as I remembered, every bit an S-Class on the highway. Even better was the fact it was the CDI diesel variant with its gobs of torque and great gas mileage, a truly underappreciated engine.

I still think the R stands for Repulsive but if I could find one of those eighty 2007 R63 AMGs brought into this country…

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Consumer Reports: Infotainment System Woes Mark 2014 Reliability Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936826 Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems. According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a […]

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Infiniti InTouch - Infiniti Q50

Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems.

According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a crowbar to the whole thing. The brand itself took a beating, dropping 14 points to 20th out of 28 as a result of the Q50’s issues, as well as the overall reliability issues in the QX60. Other infotainment systems ironing out the bugs included Ford’s MyTouch, Honda’s HondaLink and Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s UConnect.

Concerning overall reliability, Lexus once again took the top of the podium, while Toyota and Mazda respectively brought home silver and bronze, and Honda finished in fourth. Buick, meanwhile, was the only brand among the Detroit Three to place in the top 10, jumping from 16th to sixth on the strength of its entire portfolio.

As for why the other Detroit brands failed to reach the top 10, Consumer Reports says domestic small and compact cars, along with full-size trucks, are holding everyone back. Tesla also didn’t make the list, but that was due to criteria than low quality: the publication only rates brands with a minimum of two models, a situation that will be remedied when the Model X rolls out next year.

Finally, Audi took fifth behind the Japanese makes, while Porsche took ninth ahead of Kia. BMW and Volvo remained within the top 20. Only Mercedes-Benz took a hit among the Europeans this year, falling 11 spots to 24th thanks to the new CLA and S classes.

The Consumer Reports 2014 reliability survey obtained its information from 1.1 million vehicles, the largest survey of its kind in the publication’s history.

consumer-reports-reliability-list-1

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Nissan, Tesla Sold Most California ZEV Credits In 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-tesla-sold-california-zev-credits-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-tesla-sold-california-zev-credits-2013/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935346 In one corner of the California ZEV credit octagon, the Tesla and its air of luxury. On the other side, the Nissan and its down-to-earth vibe. Who won this year? Nissan. AutoblogGreen reports the Japanese automaker sold more ZEV credits than the Californians, though not by much: 663.6 to 650.195. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulled up […]

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2013-nissan-leaf-7-1

In one corner of the California ZEV credit octagon, the Tesla and its air of luxury. On the other side, the Nissan and its down-to-earth vibe.

Who won this year? Nissan.

AutoblogGreen reports the Japanese automaker sold more ZEV credits than the Californians, though not by much: 663.6 to 650.195. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pulled up at a distant third with 235.2 sold, thanks to the existence of the Fiat 500e.

As for who bought them — purchase price per credit is permanently shrouded in secrecy — Mercedes likely took Nissan’s credits for the former’s less green offerings, Honda following behind with 542.5 purchased. FCA, again, placed third with 237.8, cancelling out what the 500e gained.

Finally, California residents brought home 3.5 million vehicles during the period ending last month, with 38,000 EVs, 30,000 PHEVs and 570,000 hybrids roaming the streets and highways.

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Daimler Financially Divests From Tesla, BMW Could Step In http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/daimler-financially-divests-tesla-bmw-step/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/daimler-financially-divests-tesla-bmw-step/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935314 Over five years ago, Daimler AG acquired a 9.1 percent interest in Tesla, gaining 1,000 battery packs for its Smart EV in exchange for helping to put the Model S on the road to production. Wednesday, Daimler sold its remaining 4 percent in the company, netting $780 million for the trouble. Despite the divestiture, both […]

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Mercedes-Benz B-Klasse Electric Drive – Laden / Mercedes-Benz

Over five years ago, Daimler AG acquired a 9.1 percent interest in Tesla, gaining 1,000 battery packs for its Smart EV in exchange for helping to put the Model S on the road to production.

Wednesday, Daimler sold its remaining 4 percent in the company, netting $780 million for the trouble.

Despite the divestiture, both automakers will continue cooperating on ongoing projects, such as the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive recently launched in the United States. Daimler financial management board member Bodo Uebber said the sale would allow Tesla to “broaden its investor base,” adding that stock ownership wasn’t necessary to the overall relationship between the two companies.

As for who Tesla could now court, Forbes believes BMW could be drawn further into its own relationship with the company. International Strategy & Investment analyst Arndt Ellinghorst believes Tesla would benefit more from BMW’s carbon-fiber technology — put to great use in the i Series — than from providing batteries to Mercedes. Both companies met in June to discuss standardization for a potential EV charging network.

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Mercedes Turns Former Naval Base Into Autonomous Testing Ground http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mercedes-turns-former-naval-base-autonomous-testing-ground/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933802 With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research. Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif. Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous […]

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Mercedes-Benz-S-500-Intelligent-Drive-000

With the highway mostly conquered, autonomous vehicles now must navigate the cities through which they would otherwise pass by, a challenge unto itself with few proving grounds available for research.

Mercedes-Benz, however, happened upon a solution not too far from its R&D base in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Automotive News reports the automaker is testing its autonomous vehicles at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a military base decommissioned in 2005 that may be redeveloped in the future.

Until then, Concord will be used as a “starter city” for autonomous city driving and navigation research and development. The strategy allows Mercedes “to run simulation tests with self-driving vehicles in a secure way, including specific hazardous situations,” per the brand’s head of autonomous driving, Axel Gern.

As for why Concord and similar spaces, such as the NASA facility Google uses to test its commuter pod, are in play over actual cities, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski says “existing proving grounds are not challenging enough,” while real-life testing is “too challenging at this point.” Further, both spaces are owned by the federal government, bestowing researchers the opportunity to test their theories without the California legislature dictating otherwise.

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Los Angeles 2014: Mercedes Maybach Set To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/los-angeles-2014-mercedes-maybach-set-debut/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933770 Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model. Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting […]

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Maybach-badge

Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model.

Car & Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting between the S550 and the deceased Maybach 57, according to head of global design, Gordon Wagener.

Other features include a turbocharged V12, rear-wheel drive, Mercedes’ Magic Body Control suspension, luxurious materials, and a badge here and there to let the proletariat know a god and/or goddess is being chauffeured, not some Silicon Valley dirtbag.

The Mercedes Maybach will be going up against Bentley and Rolls-Royce in the Grey Poupon delivery game, with the Maybach name becoming a sub-brand like AMG. That move could, in turn, allow for more models down the road, such as an SUV based on the GL-Class, as well as a coupe and/or convertible derived from the S-Class.

As for price of admission, all that has been said is that it will be lower than the Maybach models from just a few years ago.

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My Last Free Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/last-free-mercedes-benz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/last-free-mercedes-benz/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:10:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=922041 Everyone please welcome Steve Lynch, author of “Arrogance and Accords“, as our newest contributor! Yesterday I was working for the greatest automobile company in the world. Today I am working for the greatest automotive blog in the world. Yesterday I was working for the Germans. Today I am working for a 25-year-old Canadian kid who […]

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2015 ML350

Everyone please welcome Steve Lynch, author of “Arrogance and Accords“, as our newest contributor!

Yesterday I was working for the greatest automobile company in the world.

Today I am working for the greatest automotive blog in the world.

Yesterday I was working for the Germans.

Today I am working for a 25-year-old Canadian kid who loves rap music.

I am one lucky sumbitch.

I elected to take early retirement after 17 years at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. The hardest part about leaving the OEM auto business is giving up the free company car. The 2015 ML350 you see above was my last ride and is currently for sale at Mercedes-Benz of Tucson (Low Miles! Illuminated Grill Star! Celebrity Owned!). God, it hurts…

An old retail automobile business adage says that the only things car salesmen need are the “3 Ds” – a desk, a drink and a demo. For me, that first demonstrator was a used 1981 Rosewood Brown Buick Regal that I drove while working at Spires-Douglas Buick in San Antonio.  I clearly remember driving  it off the lot after my first day on the job and thinking, “I like this business!” The days of salespeople getting free rides are long gone at most dealerships, no doubt a factor in attempting to draw new talent into the retail industry now.

The scores of Honda (all stick shifts by the way) and Mercedes-Benz vehicles parked in my garage over the years were nice but my favorite ride was a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited High Output V8 I drove during the year I was sentenced to work on the Chrysler Financial side of our company. I was our auction rep in Arizona, selling repossessed Neons and off-lease Jeeps, and the GC could flat-out fly over the whoops on the rugged Apache Trail outside of Phoenix.

Jeep_Grand_Cherokee_WJ_34h courtesy wikipedia.org

Stories of wrecked demos are commonplace as there can be a certain “it’s not my car” mentality to driving one, as illustrated in this funny company car features page. In my own case, I tell people my last accident was in 1977 because I don’t count the night in Dallas in 1988 while coming home from Adair’s Saloon that I discovered that the counter rotation of the wheels on a 4-Wheel Steering Prelude negated my ability to execute a perfect bootlegger’s turn. I slid sideways hard into a curb and destroyed the suspension but somehow limped her home, dragging one tire all the way. Thank God it was during the corrupt days at American Honda: I traded a load of Accords to a dealer in return for him replacing the Prelude and making the wrecked one disappear.  I think that night was the end of my drinking and driving days and I have never put more than a scratch on a demo after that. Besides, get in an accident or get pinched for DUI in a OEM car and you could lose your job or, if you are lucky, keep your job but have to buy your own car.

I can take solace in the fact that I will driving the occasional press car for test drive purposes. You may wonder if I will be biased in favor of Honda and Mercedes-Benz. Of course I will. But I told Derek those are the last two brands I want to write about. I will pen a few stories about my days working for those corporations but I owe it to you to explore and write about all brands and all automotive companies. Besides, I already know how most of you feel about Mercedes-Benz vehicles…

I am thrilled to be reporting to you from the Tucson TTAC Tower and can promise you only one thing: the truth.

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Daimler Works Council Boss To Meet With UAW In Coming Weeks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/daimler-works-council-boss-meet-uaw-coming-weeks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/daimler-works-council-boss-meet-uaw-coming-weeks/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921217 Though Daimler senior management has said repeatedly that the decision to organize the MBUSI plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala. was up to the workers on the floor, Daimler works council boss Michael Brecht is heading there in a few weeks to explore the possibility with the United Auto Workers. Reuters reports both the UAW and German […]

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Michael Brecht

Though Daimler senior management has said repeatedly that the decision to organize the MBUSI plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala. was up to the workers on the floor, Daimler works council boss Michael Brecht is heading there in a few weeks to explore the possibility with the United Auto Workers.

Reuters reports both the UAW and German union IG Metall are pushing for the plant to be organized, while Brecht himself “is convinced that the employees in the company need to have their interests represented by having their voice heard,” according to a spokeswoman on the matter.

As early as June of this year, the UAW has proclaimed work on a plan for MBUSI as part of an overall strategy to organize the transplants in the Southeastern United States and boost their rolls. The union recently established a local at another plant — the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. — having gained enough members to “force” Volkswagen AG into recognizing the local as the exclusive bargaining agent for that facility.

Finally, though UAW president Gary Casteel wouldn’t say what he and Brecht would discuss regarding MBUSI, he said that he and Brecht had “a strong, close relationship,” and that the union considered him “a close ally.”

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EU Orders Germany To Cease Use Of R134a Within Two Months http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/eu-orders-germany-cease-use-r134a-within-two-months/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/eu-orders-germany-cease-use-r134a-within-two-months/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920050 After months of investigation regarding the German government’s support of Daimler’s continued use of R134a — in violation of a law mandating use of refrigerants “with a global warming potential no more than 150 times that of carbon dioxide” — the European Commission has given Germany two months to comply with the law, or be […]

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Mercedes SL With R134a

After months of investigation regarding the German government’s support of Daimler’s continued use of R134a — in violation of a law mandating use of refrigerants “with a global warming potential no more than 150 times that of carbon dioxide” — the European Commission has given Germany two months to comply with the law, or be fined and taken to court.

Reuters reports the Commission sent its formal request to the Bundesregierung this week, stating that if the government fails to comply, “the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.”

Meanwhile, Germany still believes it is not in violation of European Union law, and that the government would reply within two months to the Commission.

As for Daimler, a representative says the company’s position on the use of R134a has not changed, and is still at work on a CO2 replacement expected to arrive in 2017. Daimler’s stance is based on its concerns over the EU-compliant R1234yf refrigerant made by Honeywell, claiming the alternative creates a toxic gas when burned.

The edict comes a few months after Daimler successfully won the right to continue to sell R134a-equipped vehicles in France, when a ban issued by the nation’s economy minister, Ségolène Royal, was found unjustified.

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Mercedes Increases Production To Meet US CLA Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/mercedes-increases-production-to-meet-us-cla-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/mercedes-increases-production-to-meet-us-cla-demand/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913194 [AUTHOR'S NOTE: I erroneously reported production would be increased at MBUSI in Vance, Ala. alongside the Hungary facility. That's what I get for reading the dateline and interpreting things as such. My apologies. -- CA] With demand still strong and supply still tight months later, Mercedes-Benz is pumping up production capacity to bring more CLAs […]

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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I erroneously reported production would be increased at MBUSI in Vance, Ala. alongside the Hungary facility. That's what I get for reading the dateline and interpreting things as such. My apologies. -- CA]

With demand still strong and supply still tight months later, Mercedes-Benz is pumping up production capacity to bring more CLAs to showrooms in the United States.

Automotive News reports 14,113 copies of the $30,825 entry-level premium sedan were sold in the United States during the last four months of 2013, with the most sold overall in October at 4,895 units. Additionally, 15,676 CLAs left the showroom floor from January through August of this year.

Thus, the facility in Kecskement, Hungary that produces the CLA added a third shift in May to help meet demand the world over, having made a total of 109,266 in 2013 alone. The plant will also host production of a CLA shooting brake, a vehicle Mercedes has “no current plans” to bring over to the U.S., according to a representative.

As for how many CLAs will be leaving Vance, Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche didn’t specify, though he did expect “a positive reaction” to the boost in production.

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UAW Quietly Building Southern Strategy For Organizing Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-quietly-building-southern-strategy-organizing-mbusi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/uaw-quietly-building-southern-strategy-organizing-mbusi/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912746 Inside a small strip mall in Coaling, Ala., the UAW is quietly at work in its fight to organize the Mercedes-Benz facility in nearby Vance, using similar tactics as those employed in the ongoing battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Detroit Free Press reports the union has been in its latest push for […]

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Inside a small strip mall in Coaling, Ala., the UAW is quietly at work in its fight to organize the Mercedes-Benz facility in nearby Vance, using similar tactics as those employed in the ongoing battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Detroit Free Press reports the union has been in its latest push for Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama factory for the last two years, building enough support to establish a local, with the end game of organization in mind. The tactic is already in play in Chattanooga, where a local was put in place after the UAW lost a close election in February of this year, whose results were briefly contested before the National Labor Relations Board before the union withdrew the complaint.

However, while Volkswagen outright desires to have a works council in its sole U.S. facility, Mercedes and parent company Daimler AG aren’t too interested in buying what the UAW is selling. As recent as July 2014, the NLRB ruled against the automaker on accusations that it was prohibiting distribution of union materials in team center areas and the plant’s atrium during off-work hours. On the other hand, the ruling also verified that as far as organization is concerned, the two entities remain neutral.

Meanwhile, stronger resistance is building within the state, as interest groups prepare to fight back against the UAW’s Southern Strategy, which also includes the Nissan plants in Canton, Miss. and Smyrna, Tenn.

Further up the chain, Governor Robert Bentley proclaimed earlier this month that he doesn’t see a reason for workers in any company to sign on with the union, “as long as a company does what they should do with their workers” by treating them well.

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Daimler: Unionization Is For The Employees To Decide http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/daimler-unionization-employees-decide/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/daimler-unionization-employees-decide/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=908697 Despite allegations to the contrary, Daimler AG chair Dieter “Dr. Z” Zetsche says his company remains neutral on the subject of unionization in regards to the Mercedes factory in Vance, Ala. According to The Detroit News, Zetsche says the decision to join the United Auto Workers would be left up to the employees at the […]

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MBUSI Mercedes-Benz Alabama

Despite allegations to the contrary, Daimler AG chair Dieter “Dr. Z” Zetsche says his company remains neutral on the subject of unionization in regards to the Mercedes factory in Vance, Ala.

According to The Detroit News, Zetsche says the decision to join the United Auto Workers would be left up to the employees at the plant, adding that, “As long as a company does what they should do with their workers: treat them respectfully and treat them correctly, they are never going to unionize.” He also noted the plant’s employees have opted not to unionize over the past two decades.

At the state level, Alabama governor Robert Bentley claimed that if the UAW did win the Mercedes facility, he would have trouble recruiting more foreign companies to his state, especially those who call Japan and South Korea home.

Meanwhile, the UAW is still pursing its Southern strategy, having already established a new local near the Volkswagen AG factory in Chattanooga, Tenn. in August with the aim of attracting its workers to voluntarily unionize. Union president Dennis Williams said the UAW would “respond to concerns raised by pro-union workers” at the Mercedes plant, as well.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-mercedes-benz-cla250-4matic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-mercedes-benz-cla250-4matic/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901154 If it looks like a Benz and goes like a Benz, it’s probably a Benz. And if it’s missing some of the trademark Benz-like qualities you noticed in your friend’s well-off uncle’s W124 300E in the late 80s, it’s still a Benz. So much a Benz, in fact, that numerous neighbours refused to believe that […]

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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MaticIf it looks like a Benz and goes like a Benz, it’s probably a Benz.

And if it’s missing some of the trademark Benz-like qualities you noticed in your friend’s well-off uncle’s W124 300E in the late 80s, it’s still a Benz.

So much a Benz, in fact, that numerous neighbours refused to believe that the bright red CLA250 4Matic that visited us in mid-August was Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level car. None of those neighbours visited the inside of the car.

When told that it’s a lesser car than the CLS or E or S or even C, those neighbours warm to a notion created over time, both by marketing and in their own aspirational minds, which says they could have all that inherent Mercedes-Benz goodness with an affordable price tag.

It sounds so easy: big brand, little car, the loss of some frivolous luxuries, the removal of a few horsepower, and a deep discount.

It’s not so easy.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic red frontMany a luxury item has been removed, and I’m alright with that, but then again, many such features have been added back into this particular Mercedes-Benz Canada car, which would cost slightly more than $40,000 in the U.S. if it could be equipped identically.

But with the loss of luxury features like massaging seats and air suspension from high-end models, and even with the re-insertion of premium features like navigation and Bi-Xenons and a big glass roof, the attractive CLA250 interior is let down by a large amount of cheap plastic through the centre console and a screen that’s unconvincingly tacked on.

The best aspect of the CLA’s interior is the look of it, from the vents to the seatbacks to the simple but elegant layout of the controls. As much as the centre-mounted screen isn’t attractively placed, it is functional, requiring very little removal of the driver’s eyes from the road. I’ll always prefer a control knob mounted between the front seats, as in the CLA, compared with a long reach forward to touch a screen.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MaticThere’s even room in the rear of the CLA. It’s not abundant, but we crammed three adult males back there for a short back road jaunt. Something about the shape of the seats also makes the installation of a rear-facing car seat surprisingly easy, too, so long as you remember to watch your head (and the baby’s) when loading through the narrow rear door aperture.

With five adult males aboard and with the heavier all-wheel-drive configuration, the CLA250’s 258 lb-ft of torque still comes on strong. Soon enough. Whether you blame the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission or the turbo’s lag or Mercedes-Benz’s traditional lack of immediate throttle response, there’s a distinct pause at first. It’s easy enough to become accustomed to the engine, as it seems to punch above its weight once up to speed.

The DCT, however, is easily confused in Sport mode and overly interested in fuel economy when left in Eco, racing through the gears like it’s, well, a race. “What’s wrong with the car?”, my brother asked from the back seat when we accelerated away from an intersection in Sport and the CLA groaned under the weight of first gear as though I was unwilling to perform an upshift in Manual mode. He also chuckled when the CLA shot up to seventh under light acceleration in ECO, almost in an immature panic, although the rate with which the DCT can snap off shifts is oddly impressive.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic interiorOdd is also how you’d describe the CLA’s mixed bag of suspension movements. The CLA has the ability to eliminate road imperfections, but it struggles to maintain composure when the surface is full of small elevation changes. At the same time, there’s a sense of initial agility, but it’s followed by a surprisingly early onset of understeer when you’re encouraging the CLA to impress your teenage nephews, and the CLA then becomes too uncommunicative.

It’s difficult to say when they’re not driven back-to-back – my time with the CLA250 4Matic came nine months after a week I spent with the front-wheel-drive CLA – but the AWD CLA250 seems to ride better, handle worse, and draw more attention to the DCT’s deficiencies. We also saw no fuel economy penalties with the all-wheel-drive, a 29.4 mpg car in our mostly urban driving, compared with the 28.7 mpg we saw on similar drive routes when the temperature was admittedly cooler last November.

The CLA250 is therefore a relatively quick and efficient car with a premium badge and decent interior space. Although I’m personally not convinced that the stylistic themes work on a product with the CLA’s dimensional limitations, it’s an obviously design-oriented car. Thus, for those who love the car’s appearance and the fact that it screams, “I’m expensive!”, the appeal of a CLA is not difficult to comprehend.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4Matic screenCLA pricing begins at $30,825 including destination; 4Matic adds $2000. Is Audi’s A3 the CLA’s key rival? Or is the un-optioned $41,325 C300 4Matic, a dramatically improved car for the 2015 model year, a competitor for properly-equipped entry-level Benzes, CLAs with 18-inch wheels, heated seats, a rear view camera, and dual zone automatic climate control?

Regardless, Mercedes-Benz has carved out a space for the CLA in America. U.S. sales have slowed noticeably since the car’s arrival late last year, but that’s due in large part to the CLA’s global successes. Yet with 2378 July sales (its best month since January), the CLA accounted for 13% of Mercedes-Benz’s passenger car sales last month. It’s not a rare car. On the other hand, it’s no C-Class, which even in this transition year has averaged 5500 monthly sales.

Yes, more consumers prefer the more costly C-Class, even the old, outgoing C-Class. And though the CLA is appealing in theory, it’s not hard to see why the C-Class is more appealing in practice.

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Aston-Daimler Partnership Deepens With Component Agreement, Increased Holdings http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/aston-daimler-partnership-deepens-component-agreement-increased-holdings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/aston-daimler-partnership-deepens-component-agreement-increased-holdings/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=883521 Daimler’s partnership with Aston Martin is growing, as the former will supply electric and electronic components to the latter for a 1 percent increase in holdings. Bloomberg reports Daimler’s total holdings will come to 5 percent as part of the supply deal, which in turn is part of a larger agreement where Mercedes AMG will […]

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Mercedes SLS AMG + Aston Martin DBS

Daimler’s partnership with Aston Martin is growing, as the former will supply electric and electronic components to the latter for a 1 percent increase in holdings.

Bloomberg reports Daimler’s total holdings will come to 5 percent as part of the supply deal, which in turn is part of a larger agreement where Mercedes AMG will supply V8s for future Aston models. Aston Martin is also planning on using Mercedes tech to develop an SUV for sale by 2017 at the earliest.

Other shareholders of the largely independent premium automaker include London-based investment firm Investindustrial, and Kuwaiti-based Investment Dar Co. and Adeem Investment Co.

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Versatile 2015 Mercedes Vito Van Puts Power To Front, Rear Or All http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/versatile-2015-mercedes-vito-van-puts-power-to-front-rear-or-all/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/versatile-2015-mercedes-vito-van-puts-power-to-front-rear-or-all/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876185 If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you. Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports the 2015 Vito — part of Mercedes’ […]

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Der neue Vito / The New Vito

If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you.

Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports the 2015 Vito — part of Mercedes’ V-Class — can be had with RWD and AWD — like the V-Class — as well as optional FWD. The previous Vito had FWD for only the EV variant, while the new one puts diesel power to the front of the line alongside the rest of the family.

Autoblog adds said power comes turbocharged through four-pots ranging from 1.6 liters to 2.1 liters, with anywhere from 136 to 190 horsepower pushed to wherever it’s meant to go through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.

Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito

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NLRB: Mercedes Violated Labor Act In Alabama Facility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nlrb-mercedes-violated-labor-act-in-alabama-facility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nlrb-mercedes-violated-labor-act-in-alabama-facility/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876081 The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz violated the right to organize among its employees at the automaker’s Vance, Ala. plant by prohibiting the distribution of union literature in common areas outside working hours. Automotive News reports Judge Keltner Locke found for the plaintiffs on one complaint out […]

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MBUSI Mercedes-Benz Alabama

The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz violated the right to organize among its employees at the automaker’s Vance, Ala. plant by prohibiting the distribution of union literature in common areas outside working hours.

Automotive News reports Judge Keltner Locke found for the plaintiffs on one complaint out of a number of complaints made against MBUSI regarding its violation of the National Labor Relations Act. In his decision, Judge Locke determined the areas where the subsidiary considered off-limits to dissemination were mixed-use areas — and thus, areas where material could be distributed freely — and that by “maintaining a solicitation and distribution rule which employees reasonably could understand to prohibit all solicitation in work areas,” MBUSI was in violation of the act.

Though no penalties were levied in the decision, the ruling ordered MBUSI to amend its rule so that off-the-clock employees may solicit other such employees. Mercedes stated that while they were pleased with most of Judge Locke’s ruling, citing his affirmation of its neutrality with regard to its employees, they disagreed with some aspects and were “evaluating next steps.”

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Mercedes Debuts B-Class Electric Drive To US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-debuts-b-class-electric-drive-to-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-debuts-b-class-electric-drive-to-us-market/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871330 If the upcoming Smart ForTwo isn’t quite to your liking, yet you do want something about as small with a tri-pointed star on its nose, Mercedes has brought over its B-Class Electric Drive. Autoblog Green reports the EV compact made its world showroom debut in the United States last week, appearing in 10 coastal states […]

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2014-b-class-electric-drive-2

If the upcoming Smart ForTwo isn’t quite to your liking, yet you do want something about as small with a tri-pointed star on its nose, Mercedes has brought over its B-Class Electric Drive.

Autoblog Green reports the EV compact made its world showroom debut in the United States last week, appearing in 10 coastal states at first before heading inward toward the heartland down the road. Price of admission begins at $41,150, which will net the driver an 87-mile single-charge range and 84 MPGe, about the same as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.

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Daimler, BMW Collaborate On Wireless Charging http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/daimler-bmw-collaborate-on-wireless-charging/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/daimler-bmw-collaborate-on-wireless-charging/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866826 Daimler and BMW just announced a collaboration to help speed up development for wireless charging of both EVs and PHEVs, with the former’s Mercedes S500 PHEV as the test subject. Autoblog Green reports the system in question will use coils in both the vehicle and charging platform, the latter installed in a garage floor or […]

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Mercedes S 500 PHEV

Daimler and BMW just announced a collaboration to help speed up development for wireless charging of both EVs and PHEVs, with the former’s Mercedes S500 PHEV as the test subject.

Autoblog Green reports the system in question will use coils in both the vehicle and charging platform, the latter installed in a garage floor or other stationary point. The system will charge an EV or PHEV at a rate of 3.6 kW, with an efficiency rating of 90 percent.

As for the guinea pig, the S500 PHEV will come with 436 horsepower and around 480 lb-ft of torque between its twin-turbo V6 and hybrid powertrain. In turn, the sedan can travel up to 20 miles on electric-only power, and net the chauffeur 84 mpg on the way to and from his employer’s private resort. The S500 PHEV is due in showrooms this September.

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Mercedes: Maybach Trim To Potentially Grace GL-Class http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-maybach-trim-to-potentially-grace-gl-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-maybach-trim-to-potentially-grace-gl-class/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861473 Not content with only the S-Class receiving the Maybach treatment for a potential shout-out in Lorde’s next jam, Mercedes-Benz wants to take the Maybach trim line to the next level: The GL-Class. Motoring.com.au reports the automaker wants to give a super-luxury makeover to the seven-passenger premium SUV as it seeks to make Maybach to luxury […]

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2013-Mercedes-Benz-GL450-4MATIC-main_rdax_646x396

Not content with only the S-Class receiving the Maybach treatment for a potential shout-out in Lorde’s next jam, Mercedes-Benz wants to take the Maybach trim line to the next level: The GL-Class.

Motoring.com.au reports the automaker wants to give a super-luxury makeover to the seven-passenger premium SUV as it seeks to make Maybach to luxury what AMG is to performance. Should this indeed follow the upcoming S-Class by Maybach — based upon the two-row W222 sedan over the three-row pullman at the top of the class — the GL will retain its architecture while receiving styling tweaks and S-Class technology, such as semi-active suspension with body-roll control.

Mercedes board member in charge of research and development, Dr. Thomas Weber, sees potential in the growing super-luxury SUV segment — led by the likes of Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini — for his employer to mount its own offensive, opining that it’s only a matter of “how fast and how parallel” Mercedes can bring the GL-Class by Maybach into production.

As for where the new SUV would turn up, the Middle East, Russia and the United States are among the key markets up for consideration.

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BMW Mexico Plant To Build 150,000 Annually http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/bmw-mexico-plant-to-build-150000-annually/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/bmw-mexico-plant-to-build-150000-annually/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857249 Though BMW may announce Thursday where in Mexico it will build its second North American plant, sources close to the matter said the plant will pump 150,000 units annually into auto trains bound for the United States. Automotive News Europe also reports a Mexican government official claimed the new plant would come with a €1 […]

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2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-8

Though BMW may announce Thursday where in Mexico it will build its second North American plant, sources close to the matter said the plant will pump 150,000 units annually into auto trains bound for the United States.

Automotive News Europe also reports a Mexican government official claimed the new plant would come with a €1 billion ($1.36 billion USD) investment, and may either be located in the state of Hidalgo just north of Mexico City, or in San Luis Potosi in central Mexico.

The plant — following on the heels of a new Daimler-Nissan small-car factory to be built in Aguacalientes, as well as an Audi factory in San Jose Chiapa — will likely be used to build MINIs and the FWD 1 Series, with localized 3 Series assembly also speculated based on the automaker’s potential need to better compete against the U.S.-assembled Mercedes C-Class on price.

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BMW To Announce Second North American Factory Before Summer Break http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-to-announce-second-north-american-factory-before-summer-break/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-to-announce-second-north-american-factory-before-summer-break/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852977 Still mulling over where to build a second North American factory, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer stated his company would have an answer before the automaker goes on summer break. Automotive News Europe reports the automaker is considering countries who have signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, including Canada, United States and Mexico, for a […]

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Still mulling over where to build a second North American factory, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer stated his company would have an answer before the automaker goes on summer break.

Automotive News Europe reports the automaker is considering countries who have signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, including Canada, United States and Mexico, for a factory where it may build the 3 and 1 series, as well as MINIs.

BMW is doing this in order to properly battle Teutonic competitors Audi and Mercedes, both of whom have or will have factories in place to meet demand, as well as better handle currency challenges by producing popular vehicles in the same market they are bought. All three are also battling it out on record deliveries for 2014, with China and the U.S. as the battleground.

Meanwhile, BMW is spending $1 billion to expand its Spartanburg, S.C. plant to 50 percent increased production capacity by 2016, when the full-size X7 will be among the 450,000 X Series SUVs to leave the line annually. The outgoing record holder in Dingolfing, Germany produced 342,000 3, 5, 6 and 7 series models in 2013.

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Daimler-Nissan JV To Build Next-Gen CLA, Unnamed A-Class At Mexican Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/daimler-nissan-jv-to-build-next-gen-cla-unnamed-a-class-at-mexican-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/daimler-nissan-jv-to-build-next-gen-cla-unnamed-a-class-at-mexican-plant/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850794 Aside from Infiniti sharing engines with Mercedes, the Daimler-Nissan joint venture will also lead to production of the next-gen CLA and an A-Class sedan at Nissan’s plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Automotive News Europe reports Daimler’s board will approve the decision within the next two weeks. Although the GLA crossover was supposed to go over to […]

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2014 Mercedes CLA

Aside from Infiniti sharing engines with Mercedes, the Daimler-Nissan joint venture will also lead to production of the next-gen CLA and an A-Class sedan at Nissan’s plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Automotive News Europe reports Daimler’s board will approve the decision within the next two weeks. Although the GLA crossover was supposed to go over to Mexico originally, insiders claim that the CLA and the unnamed A-Class will take its place.

Production is set to begin in time for exportation to the United States in 2017, with an Infiniti compact — built upon Mercedes’ FWD bones — to join the CLA and A-Class. Annual output is expected to be around 100,000 to 150,000 units.

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US Nissan Plant To Supply Engine For Euro-Special Infiniti Q50 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/us-nissan-plant-to-supply-engine-for-euro-special-infiniti-q50/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/us-nissan-plant-to-supply-engine-for-euro-special-infiniti-q50/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=842922 In its fight against the big premium brands in Europe, Infiniti is calling upon some German-designed American firepower for its Japanese-made, Euro-market special Q50 sedan. Automotive News reports the Q50 will receive a 2-liter turbo-four from an $319 million Infinti-only line inside Nissan’s engine plant in Decherd, Tenn.; total overall production is expected to reach […]

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2014 Infiniti Q50

In its fight against the big premium brands in Europe, Infiniti is calling upon some German-designed American firepower for its Japanese-made, Euro-market special Q50 sedan.

Automotive News reports the Q50 will receive a 2-liter turbo-four from an $319 million Infinti-only line inside Nissan’s engine plant in Decherd, Tenn.; total overall production is expected to reach 250,000 annually while employing 400. The same engine will be used by Mercedes in its next-generation C-Class launching this year from the German automaker’s factory in Vance, Ala.

The plan, set to begin in late June, is part of a product-sharing agreement between parent companies Renault-Nissan and Daimler, as well as a checkbox for Infiniti’s to-do global portfolio expansion list.

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UAW Will Spend Less On Transplant Organization Campaigns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-will-spend-less-on-transplant-organization-campaigns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-will-spend-less-on-transplant-organization-campaigns/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840466 Though the United Auto Worker’s fight for organization of the transplants in the Southeastern United States rages on, the union will not be taking as much from its war chest to fund the fight than in previous years. The Detroit News reports UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel informed reporters at the end of the 36th UAW […]

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UAW + UniteHere Protest June 2014

Though the United Auto Worker’s fight for organization of the transplants in the Southeastern United States rages on, the union will not be taking as much from its war chest to fund the fight than in previous years.

The Detroit News reports UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel informed reporters at the end of the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention that there would be news this week of the union’s plan to organize the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. despite the lack of support for the UAW. He also says he will remain in Tennessee to help with the renewed fight for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where the union lost in a contentious election back in February amid allegations of anti-union interference.

As for what those plans entail, or how much less the union was willing to spend on them, Casteel did not offer specifics; the UAW spent $15 million under the term of former union president Bob King, whose term ended with the election of new president and former secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams. He also said his union would not be affected by Canadian labor union Unifor’s efforts to organize Toyota’s plants in Ontario, nor did he believe if Chattanooga had been won, all of the remaining transplants would soon follow:

I don’t really believe in the domino effect. If Volkswagen had been successful, I didn’t see this domino effect with the other transnationals and vice-versa.

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European-Backed UN Amendment Brings Autonomous Vehicle Future Closer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/european-backed-un-amendment-brings-autonomous-vehicle-future-closer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/european-backed-un-amendment-brings-autonomous-vehicle-future-closer/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 11:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826642 While autonomous vehicles are still in the early stages of testing, a few of the European members of the United Nations have laid the groundwork for the self-driven future to come sooner than later. Reuters reports the U.N. Working Party on Traffic Safety received last month an amendment to Article 8 of the 1968 Vienna […]

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Mercedes-Benz S500 Autonomous Limo

While autonomous vehicles are still in the early stages of testing, a few of the European members of the United Nations have laid the groundwork for the self-driven future to come sooner than later.

Reuters reports the U.N. Working Party on Traffic Safety received last month an amendment to Article 8 of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic backed by Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Austria that would allow drivers of autonomous vehicles to take their hands off the wheel so long as as the vehicle’s system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver” at any time.

Should the amendment pass through the myriad of red tape within the organizing body, 72 countries — the United States, China and Japan withstanding — would have to work the new legislation into their law books.

The European-backed amendment now means automakers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW can move beyond testing their autonomous and semi-autonomous offerings toward delivery to showrooms throughout the continent, all without waiting for Google and other U.S. interests to bring the technology to market. Mercedes in particular delivered an S-Class limo in response to the search engine giant’s own efforts last August which drove the Bertha Benz route between Mannheim and Pforzheim, Germany without driver input.

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