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By on June 15, 2019

2018 Volkswagen Atlas - Image: Volkswagen

The results of a Friday vote are in, and Volkswagen can breathe a sigh of relief. Five years after the United Auto Workers first attempted to place the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant under its umbrella, a second vote has yielded the same results.

Weeks and months of acrimony, ads, accusations, and other seemingly unavoidable aspects of union organizing led to a narrow win for the no-union side. As before, Southern auto plants remain just beyond the grasp of the UAW. Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

Like the sketchy garage near your old apartment, Porsche is now selling vinyl car wraps. Considering full-body aftermarket wraps have become increasingly popular in recent years, the German brand is seeing dollar signs and wants to take a stab at a pseudo factory version of the trend.

On Wednesday, Porsche announced a new online platform for vehicle livery design it calls “Second Skin.” While the name sounds like something associated with contraception, it’s actually an extension of Porsche’s car configurator. However, it doesn’t appear to apply to vehicles hot off the assembly line or exist as a direct extension of the standard ordering process. According to the website, which had to be translated from German, customer vehicles will be picked up from homs or driven by the owner to a “certified expert” before being returned.

It also doesn’t apply exclusively to Porsches. Second Skin says it can wrap any Porsche and will begin accepting pre-registrations for vehicles from other manufactures immediately.  Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

Every automotive journalist has a mental list of new models they’d like to see migrate to their home country. For many residing in North America, the Alpine A110 is at the top of the page. We didn’t get the resurrected A110, which is a faithful throwback to the original model that ended production in 1977, and this has left a subset of our staff feeling a little raw.

Alpine has since unveiled a spicier build of the car, throwing some additional salt on our collective butthurt — though we’ll happily acknowledge that probably wasn’t the automaker’s intent. It seems content building a two-seat sports car France can be proud of.  Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

fca

Fiat Chrysler is no stranger to paying the piper when it comes to its less-than-stellar fleetwide emissions, with steep fines and pricey regularly credit deals keeping the automaker’s accountants busy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some sort of relief is on the way in the form of a $10 billion electrification plan, the results of which will see 17 electrified (electric, plug-in hybrid) models enter the fray by 2022. That’s the intent, anyway. To give the looming crop of green Fiats and Jeeps a better chance of success, FCA has partnered with a pair of European utilities — providing customers with a way of fueling their vehicles. Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

Real-estate conglomerate Vingroup JSC’s auto unit, VinFast, rolled out its first model today, which also means Vietnam officially has a automaker. Starting with the Fadil hatchback, VinFast eventually plans to produce a sedan, sport utility vehicle, and some electric motorbikes.

VinFast’s primary goals include flexing Vietnam’s burgeoning industrial abilities while supporting the country with affordable vehicles citizens might be interested in. Easier said than done when the nation’s average annual income is around $2,600. Yet Vietnam is growing by leaps and bounds, supplying more individuals with the means to purchase their own car.  Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over 120. If you doubled your quota, you qualified for a 300 percent payout. The regular commission was $27 an activation, which meant that I earned $81 per activation on 120 or so sales. I literally didn’t know what to do with all of the money — my dad was still paying my rent, and I didn’t have a dime of debt. A lot of it ended up going to a lovely young professional dancer named “Skyy,” if I remember correctly.

The rest of it, I took to Hatfield Hyundai for a down payment on a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX. Hyundai Finance was kind to young buyers back then, and they allowed me to pay something like 5 percent APR over 60 months for the new-for-2001 SUV. My black and gray version had every box checked — leather, V6, and all-wheel-drive. My Santa Fe was the only one I had ever seen with chrome door handles, and I door-handle checked every other model I saw on the road just to confirm. I think the princely sum I paid was somewhere around $23k.

Yes, it’s true that Hyundai overstated the horsepower numbers, and the car had some minor issues along the way, but when I traded it in on my RX-8 in 2005, I had gotten about 100,000 worry free miles from Hyundai’s first SUV effort. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the ownership experience — bland, perhaps, but reliable and competent.

Well, fast forward about eighteen years or so, and Hyundai has another small SUV on the market, and it’s roughly the same price that my Santa Fe was in 2001 (yes, I’m aware of inflation). But unlike that Santa Fe, this one is awful. It’s called the Kona, and what I’m about to tell you about it flies directly in the face of every other review you’ve read. Why? Read on.

Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

Image: FCA

Large U.S. companies hoping to side-step the 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods by appealing to the government aren’t having much luck. Since July, the U.S. has imposed the tariff on billions of dollars worth of goods from the People’s Republic, leading to financial fallout for automakers heavily invested in the region.

And it seems no one complained more than General Motors. Tesla, Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, and Uber also sent in official gripes in the hopes of receiving an exemption, only to have the door hit them on the way out. Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

Lincoln Motor Company

That didn’t take long. After six years spent crafting the design language of Lincoln’s growing stable of vehicles, design director David Woodhouse abruptly resigned earlier this week. The 50-year-old’s connection with parent Ford Motor Company was a long one — 20 years, since his days at Ford’s Premier Automotive Group.

The mystery as to where Woodhouse would land next is over. On Friday, Nissan announced the former Lincoln designer will go to town on the next generation of the brand’s vehicles. Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid - Image: Toyota Canada

Fans of excessive idling will want to consider a 2019 Toyota model rather than a 2020. The automaker has announced two new safety features destined for most of its lineup for the 2020 model year, one of them being a system that shuts off the engine if left running for too long. How long? That’s for Toyota to decide.

The second feature is one employed by automakers with unconventional transmission shifters that really want to keep litigation at bay. Read More >

By on June 14, 2019

SUV Headlight, Public DomainRandy writes:

A few weeks ago I installed a pair of 9003 Philips Vision Plus 30 bulbs in an attempt to improve my wife’s Tucson headlight output. The light down the road is pathetic yet the headlight lenses are clear and the reflectors are still mirror like, at least to the extent I can see from the bulb mounting opening. And the light patterns are well defined, both low & high beam, which also suggests the reflectors are okay. But no joy whatsoever from the new bulbs.

I then did some voltage tracing down the headlight schematic. There is ~14.4 V coming from the alternator & battery into the SJB (smart junction box) that the Tucson uses to switch power to the bulbs. But only 12.5 V on the pins out to the bulbs. And then another couple of 1/10th V loss down the 0.5 mm2 (~20 AWG) wire to the headlamp connector netting 12.2 or 12.3 V at the bulb. The lead electrical tech at a local Hyundai service department says this is 2V headlight wiring voltage drop normal, even as much as 2.6V.

BUT, by my calculations, this means that although DOT specs for 9003 bulbs indicate 910 lumens (+/- 10%) at 12.8V, my wife’s car will be generating a little less than 800 lumens at the voltage actually supplied to the bulb. No wonder night driving is such a frightening experience.

I’ve toyed with the idea of trying some off road 90/100 9003 bulbs under the notion that at this lower voltage the output would be only 30 percent or so above the DOT standard and not likely to be blinding to oncoming traffic. And one hopes not so hot as to melt anything in the headlight assy. But I’d still wind up putting ~7 amps down a pretty thin wire which at 14 A/mm2 is double the recommended maximum current density I’ve seen for automotive wiring. I don’t wish to trade better light for burnt wiring or perhaps a fried SJB @ several hundred $.

My best idea at the moment is to wire the headlights via some fused relays using the car’s high/low circuits to switch the relays. I’d happily trade shorter bulb life for safe night vision.

Can anyone suggest an alternative solution? And yes, I’m aware of HID and LED “conversions” but am not willing to go that route, trading more lumens for rogue beam patterns.

BTW, is it common nowadays for headlight bulb voltage to be so low? Or is this unique to Hyundai? I realize that this improves bulb life … but at such a cost to safe night vision.

Read More >

By on June 13, 2019

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed CS/HB 311: Autonomous Vehicles into law on Thursday, claiming the state has effectively removed “unnecessary obstacles that hinder the development of autonomous vehicle technology,” including human safety operators.

Provided that a vehicle meets all insurance requirements, Florida will no longer require AVs to operate with a flesh-and-blood person behind the wheel. However, those that do remain in the driver’s seat, will also be exempt from the state’s distracted driving laws. Read More >

By on June 13, 2019

2017 Jeep Wrangler Sport

A Jeep Wrangler owner has accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of ignoring an alleged safety issue with the vehicle’s steering system; one that leads to the notorious “death wobble.”

The term is one Jeep fans are already familiar with and basically entails sudden, violent vibrations from front-end steering components, usually taking place on the highway. On Wednesday, a lawsuit filed on behalf of New Jersey resident Clair Reynolds claimed FCA delivered a “defectively designed and/or manufactured front axle and damping system” allowing for the dreaded wobble to occur after “encountering road variations” at speed.

While the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has never issued a recall related to the issue, it’s familiar with the phenomenon and has been pressured by safety advocates to investigate since before 2012. But previous studies into the wobble found it relatively difficult to replicate, and no serious injuries have stemmed from it. Reynolds’ legal council says that doesn’t cut it.  Read More >

By on June 13, 2019

You’ve probably just read about the Performance Appearance Package foisted on the doomed Chrysler 300. Now that your heart rate has returned to a resting level, here’s another Fiat Chrysler options bundle for your consideration: the Ram 1500 Classic’s Sub Zero Package.

The first new Ram grab bag offered to customers in what seems like eight minutes, ticking the box for Sub Zero prepares customers for a season literally no one wants to think about in mid-June. Read More >

By on June 13, 2019

It was downright amazing how fast the proposed merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance collapsed. Considering the auto group’s messy state, there may have been no alternative. While Nissan’s unwillingness to support the merger is often cited as a chief reason in FCA’s backing out, it seems the Italian-American company was similarly spooked by internal strife within the alliance.

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard addressed the matter on Wednesday during the automaker’s annual meeting in Paris. He told shareholders that the French government’s inability to act was what ultimately led to Fiat Chrysler backing out of the deal, while openly lamenting the missed opportunity.

“This project remains, in my head, absolutely remarkable and exceptional,” Senard said. “Frankly, I am saddened.” Read More >

By on June 13, 2019

2017 Chrysler 300C - Image: FCA

Brace yourselves and hide the kids. The Chrysler 300, an aging full-size sedan whose best sales days are long behind it, wants to add a little flair to its top-flight 300C model.

No, there won’t be a monster of an engine borrowed from a Satanic-sounding Dodge. There won’t be head-turning paint options. Instead, Fiat Chrysler will endow its glitziest model with something found on the lesser-ranked 300S. Read More >

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