By on May 24, 2017

Lotus

China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Company has decided to purchase a 49.9 percent stake in Proton from Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom and a majority share of the United Kingdom’s Lotus Cars.

Geely seems to have an affinity for other manufacturers and eclectic tastes — not just because it has received criticism for modeling its own cars after everything from Roll-Royce to Toyota, but because it also purchased Volvo Cars and the London Taxi Company. This could be extremely good news for Lotus, which always seems to be in a bit of a bind. Whether or not you like the idea of a Chinese company owning distinctively European brands, Geely helped Volvo come back from the brink and has committed to doing the same for Lotus.

“Reflecting our experience accumulated through Volvo Car’s revitalization, we also aim to unleash the full potential of Lotus Cars and bring it into a new phase of development by expanding and accelerating the rolling out of new products and technologies,” stated the company in its official announcement.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2017

ff_91_exterior_6

China’s Netflix equivalent, LeEco, confirmed it would be eliminating the better part of its North American workforce today. LeEco has recently gotten involved in a myriad of expensive tech-focused endeavors that have wound up screwing its finances six ways from Sunday. One of those projects was serving as the primary financial backer of America’s Faraday Future, the electric car company we’ve been scrunching our faces at for over a year now.

Faraday seems to have encountered or created every problem an automotive startup could imagine and, with its primary source of income shrinking its U.S. employee base by 70 percent, things have never looked worse.  (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2017

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

Volkswagen has attempted to portray itself as a kinder and more responsible automaker in the wake of its emissions cheating scandal. However, CEO Matthias Müller says convincing middle management to change has proven exceptionally difficult. VW has been pushing to become — or at least seem like — a more transparent company that has decentralized its rigid management hierarchy.

“There are definitely people who are longing for the old centralistic leadership,” Müller stated during a meeting with business representatives on Monday. “I don’t know whether you can imagine how difficult it is to change their mindset.”

It’s been 20 months since the diesel emissions scandal entered the news cycle and Müller took over as chief executive. Throughout that time, VW’s top executives have tossed mid-level employees under the bus on numerous occasions. While there is little reason to doubt some might have trouble adjusting to a new corporate climate, it would be nice to hear top brass taking any semblance of responsibility once in a while — even on something minor like this.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

2017 Bolt

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

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

By on May 22, 2017

image: Michael Sheehan AutoNation 2014

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

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

By on May 19, 2017

LIVONIA TRANSMISSION PLANT

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

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

By on May 19, 2017

olds omega 1977

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

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

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

By on May 18, 2017

17FordEscape-Titanium_04_HR

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

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

By on May 16, 2017

Tires

General Motors has announced it will choose “sustainable natural rubber” for the 49 million tires it buys each year. The automaker claims it is establishing a set of buying principals to ensure sustainably harvested materials and is encouraging other automakers to follow suit in a bid to reduce deforestation.

It won’t suddenly make driving your Chevrolet good for the environment, but it should give drivers bragging rights — allowing them to claim their tires killed fewer critters before even getting the opportunity to run any over.

However, environmental smugness is occasionally warranted. With tire manufactures representing 75 percent of the natural rubber market (according to the World Wildlife Fund), an overall shift toward sustainability would provide a measurable impact on deforestation. But what is General Motors getting out of this move and what will the price of environmental awareness be? (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2017

Ford badge emblem logo

The Ford Motor Company is allegedly preparing for a sweeping reduction of its global workforce. Harder days for the auto industry have been a long time coming, but reports claim the impending layoffs are specifically related to shoring up finances and turning around the company’s lagging stock valuation — meaning Ford could be the canary in the coal mine or a lone company desperate to bolster its own profitability and get angry shareholders off its back.

While the automaker has not yet confirmed the cuts, there is every indication an announcement will be made soon. When confronted with the matter, representatives have been careful to make noncommittal statements and doubly cautious not to deny anything.

“We remain focused on the three strategic priorities that will create value and drive profitable growth, which include fortifying the profit pillars in our core business, transforming traditionally underperforming areas of our core business and investing aggressively, but prudently, in emerging opportunities,” Ford said in an official statement. “Reducing costs and becoming as lean and efficient as possible also remain part of that work. We have not announced any new people efficiency actions, nor do we comment on speculation.”  (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2017

robert_lighthizer 2017

I hope you’re fond of domestic automobiles.

The Trump administration is setting the table to make importing cars more difficult with the U.S. Senate confirming Robert Lighthizer in an 82-14 vote as the U.S. trade representative, prepping the country for an assertive trust from the White House’s America First trade strategy. (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2017

self-driving uber advanced tech center autonomous car

Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber Technologies’ alleged theft and usage of autonomous trade secrets is going to trial.

Judge William Alsup ruled Uber could not force the case into private arbitration and is referring the matter to the United States Attorney for a very public investigation.

This is everything the ride-hailing company didn’t want.

(Read More…)

By on May 9, 2017

Subaru Legacy 2018 Logo Emblem Grille

After several years of record growth, a combination of increasing costs and exchange losses forced Subaru’s operating profit to fall by 27 percent in its recently ended fiscal year. No longer Fuji Heavy Industries, and now focusing primarily on automotive product, Subaru Corporation announced its operating income had dipped to $3.69 billion in April. Net income also took a hit, falling by 35 percent to $2.54 billion.

Considering the company finally surpassed the one million annual sales mark for the first time in its history, it is surprising to see the brand faced with anything other than glowing praise. However, improved sales and continued revenue growth doesn’t tell the entire story. Subaru’s European sales declined by 2.6 percent — matching the trend in China and Japan. North America, which accounts for the majority of the brand’s sales, maintained its interest but the overall market has slowed.

“U.S. demand has peaked out,” Subaru CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga explained. “The market environment has increasingly become tougher. We will carefully the situation and will take the necessary steps to maintain our sales, including incentives.”  (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas yellow front quarter on road

Volkswagen Group’s core brand has targeted an end to profit losses in the North America by the end of the decade, setting its break-even point for 2020. Central themes of the plan are dependent on cost cutting measures and higher-margin SUV models it believes will bring it back from emissions scandal purgatory. In its most recent announcement, VW continued to tout electric vehicles as an inevitable key focus by 2025, but hasn’t lifted the veil on all that entails.

In the short term, however, Volkswagen is promising the “biggest product offensive in its history,” with ten new models coming this year alone. In actuality the number is half that, as five of those vehicles are updated versions of existing models. The real number could be even smaller if VW is counting the Atlas/Teramont as separate vehicles; the same goes for the two wheelbases of the Tiguan. And, based on the information it provided us, that does appear to be the case.  (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2017

Tesla Factory California

Tesla Motors has said it is making efforts to resolve outstanding issues with Grohmann Engineering’s legacy clients, including Daimler, BMW, Bosch, Intel, and Volkswagen Group. After the Tesla takeover last November, CEO Elon Musk indicated to Grohmann’s management team that the brunt of its efforts should be diverted away from former customers in order to focus primarily on production facilities related to the Model 3.

The move placed Musk at odds with company founder Klaus Grohmann, eventually resulting in his abrupt departure, and was a major source of tension among the German workforce — which, backed by IG Metall, has threatened to strike. Negotiations have already yielded improved worker pay and hiring promises, but Tesla now appears to be tackling the issue of how to handle the numerous clients who have been hung out to dry. (Read More…)

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