Posts By: Matt Posky

By on February 20, 2020

Aston Martin is canceling is mid-engined Valkyrie racer and stalling EV development until 2025 as it reassess both the racing and industry landscapes. The Valkyrie was originally scheduled to commence its racing career in Silverstone this fall, before moving on to the main event — the 24 Hours of Le Mans — in 2021. Now, the company says it will halt development on the racer while it reorganizes under new investor Lawrence Stroll (Red Bull is out) and the Racing Point F1 team.

This appears to leave Toyota as the only big-boy factory team participating in the LM Hypercar division for its introductory season. Despite assurances that factory LMP1 teams had an interest in the class, they haven’t been clamoring to get involved. Peugeot and Glickenhaus are technically still in the running, though neither appear to have expended the same kind of cash as Toyota or Aston and are likewise presumed to pull out before the season starts.

This must be confusing for the FIA, as Hypercar was seen by the World Endurance Championship as an affordable alternative to P1 while also allowing manufacturers to adhere more closely to signature body styles that the prototypes would allow. It was assumed automakers would love this, as it allowed for more direct marketing ins and some overlap with the prototype cars.

(Read More…)

By on February 20, 2020

It could be argued that a large portion of the Chinese economy has been propped up by government programs, with electric vehicles making one of the best examples. With a vested interest in battery technology, China did everything it could to encourage industry players to focus on EVs while subsidizing their purchase by consumers. The end result was a country with the highest number of alternative-energy vehicles in the world — and more automotive automotive startups than it knew what to do with.

While the plan was always to force accelerated competition by getting new manufacturing firms to duke it out for supremacy, EV sales were also supposed to remain sky high. Yet they didn’t. China’s auto market began running out of steam far earlier than everyone assumed. When the country nixed electric-vehicle subsidies over the summer, the segment went into a tailspin, with every successive month returning negative growth.

China would like to see things turn around, so it’s mulling the prospect of reintroducing incentives to get EVs into more driveways.  (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2020

Michael Grimes, former executive assistant and board member of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, was sentenced to 28 months in prison Wednesday after being convicted of money laundering and wire fraud.

While the sentence could have been longer, prosecutors reportedly asked for leniency due to Grimes’ cooperation with the broader investigation. Initially pushing for about four years of jail time, they eventually toned the recommendation down to just two. U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman acknowledged the defendant’s usefulness in helping federal authorities sniff out more union and industry corruption, then decided to stick him with an extra couple of months to send a message. (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2020

Toyota has expressed interest in delivering a compact crossover sized smaller than the existing C-HR before, going so far as to offer a few teasers to whet the collective appetite. Another bait image was posted this week, accompanying promises that the automaker will debut the model at the 2020 Geneva Auto Show next month.

While the model could go head-to-head with a handful of rides here in North America, it’s a product aimed primarily at the European market. Based on the TNGA-B platform, the mystery Toyota is supposed to undercut the C-HR in scale and price. Here, that would make it a likely rival for the Nissan Kicks or Ford EcoSport. Both models have seen modest sales growth through their first full year on sale, but there’s not a lot of heat in the segment as a whole.

Toyota will only ship the new crossover as far West as it thinks is profitable. (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2020

Destination Zero is a catchall for Jaguar Land Rover’s future projects. It envisions a tomorrow where pollution, traffic congestion and accidents have all been eliminated — hence the “zero” suffix. While the company probably has bigger fish to fry, what with the coronavirus-related parts shortage and financial troubles in several key markets, it has made investments into self-driving tech and electrification like every other automaker. Sometimes you have to show your hand to prove you’re still at the table.

On Tuesday, the company announced Project Vector — an adaptable city vehicle that’s claimed to be “autonomy-ready.” (Read More…)

By on February 18, 2020

Image: Porsche AG

While car fires may not be commonplace, they still happen. Your author saw a Buick Century burning itself into nothing along the West Side Highway not more than three months ago. Local media referenced it as the probable cause for midday delays, but it would have earned its own story had it been a rarer model.

Exotics and electrics garner headlines when they do their best impression of kindling; regular cars only get attention when they’re catching fire en masse. In addition to the warm feeling one gets when learning a car they can’t afford has destroyed itself, there are loads of people who are curious about the dependability of burgeoning technologies. Hypercars are often on the bleeding edge of available tech and are assembled in low volumes. As a result, eyebrows are raised anytime one goes up in smoke for no apparent reason.

Electrics vehicles are in a similar situation. Reportedly poised to take over the world someday, they’ve yet to saturate the market and still stand out wherever they’re parked. Battery fires, which offer the departments tasked with fighting them new challenges, have also become a point of interest after a batch of EVs in Asia turned up the heat(Read More…)

By on February 18, 2020

Last week, Renault reported its first significant loss in a decade (€141 million) and a 3.3-percent decline in annual sales for 2019. It now expects a flat 2020 and claims it needs to commit itself to a €2 billion restructuring program over the next three years. Alliance partner Nissan also anticipates a weak year, and is doubling down on its own restructuring efforts by showcasing an eagerness to do whatever it takes to restore profitability.

However, the French government wants Renault to slow down and think about things before it starts shuttering local factories. Owner of a 15-percent stake in the automaker, it doesn’t wish to see its investment doing anything embarrassing. As such, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the company to be exceedingly careful with how it handles business in France, urging it to avoid any measures that might negatively impact domestic employment rates.  (Read More…)

By on February 18, 2020

True to form, Fiat Chrysler has attempted to keep the Chrysler 300 relevant by offering rolling paint and package options. With sales bottoming out at 29,213 U.S. deliveries in 2019, the model is likely not long for this world. However, that’s hardly a good reason for the manufacturer to abate the time-honored tradition of trying to seduce a few more customers through new upholstery and some distinctive badging — both of which will be available for purchase in 2020, in addition to the obligatory paint updates.

Chrysler’s sizable sedan also sees price increases nearly across the board. While you’ll hardly notice the difference on most rear-drive trims, all-wheel drive models tack on an additional $250-370 against last year’s pricing. Think of it as an opportunity to further sharpen your negotiating skills, something we imagine your local dealership will be expecting you to do anyway.

If you want the big discounts, try to find holdovers from the 2019 model year. If you want the latest appearances packages that’ll guarantee you have the freshest 300 from the factory, read on.  (Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

BMW had a decent 2019, besting historic rival Mercedes-Benz with 324,826 U.S. deliveries — a 4.4-percent improvement over the previous year. The brand expects more good news in 2020 as new product begins to hit its stride and more models start arriving. While the company currently enjoys an almost even sales breakdown between cars and crossovers, BMW National Dealer Forum Chairman Patrick Womack said its Westernmost offerings could be further refined.

U.S. dealers want a sumptuous German wagon to compete with European marques already providing one. (Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China, the Beijing auto show has reportedly been postponed. While the event was supposed to take place at the end of April, making its yearly trade with the similarly biannual Shanghai trade show, organizers have decided it’s not worth the risk.

Over 70,000 people have reportedly contracted the virus thus far, with the death toll estimated to be somewhere around 1,700. The White House recently said it did not have “high confidence in the information coming out of China,” estimating higher figures. Travel and shipping bans further complicate the matter. Germany’s Automobilwoche said exhibitors wouldn’t be able to ship displays into the country anyway, referencing health notices sent to global logistics organization CIETC.  (Read More…)

By on February 15, 2020

Audi engaged in a publicity stunt this week to prove electric vehicles can be legitimate workhorses, capable of towing sizable items long distances without issue. While most EVs aren’t actually rated to tow anything, Audi’s e-Tron is supposedly able to haul a few thousand pounds worth of whatever behind it.

Audi Tulsa and Audi ONE, Audi of America’s Herndon-based electrification strategy team, supported the all-volunteer Oklahoma Chapter of the Electric Auto Association in testing that theory by taking one from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the Fully Charged Live electric-car event at Circuit of the Americas in Texas.

Under idyllic circumstances, the 500-mile journey should have depleted the crossover’s 95-kWh battery pack twice. However, Audi’s press release seems to indicate using an EV to tow a trailer is anything but ideal, and the resulting figures prove it.  (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2020

Drivers in North America have urged Toyota to export the 268-horsepower GR Yaris pretty much since the day it was announced. There’s even a Change.org petition to get the European variant shipped to Canada. Still, it always seemed like an impossible dream. An ultra-powerful subcompact doesn’t have mass appeal here and the model isn’t actually the same car as the one sold in Japan.

However, Toyota may not leave North American consumers empty handed. The automaker has heard the Western wailing and is working on a plan to appease the market. While the GR Yaris may be a bridge too far, something akin to the hot hatch is reportedly in development to cover for its absence.  (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2020

Volkswagen has had to spend mountains of money since being caught using illegal software to hide excessive diesel pollution during regulatory testing five years ago. As if millions of vehicle buybacks and repairs weren’t costly enough, VW also had to contend with billions of dollars in regulatory fines and countless consumer lawsuits — and the hits keep on coming.

While the United States enacted swift justice upon VW, Europe has been slower to take action. That, in addition to EU laws making it much more difficult for class-action suits to get off the ground, meant Europeans received nothing as VW’s American customers saw checks cut to the tune of $20,000 apiece. Germany has only allowed class-action lawsuits since 2018, providing an opportunity for Volkswagen to continue playing legal hardball. But it’s been backpedaling all across Europe.

Citing a breakdown in negotiations with German consumer association VZBV, which was attempting to reach a settlement deal for German customers attached to its class-action suit, the automaker said Friday it is willing to offer €830 million (about $899 million).  (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2020

You’re going to feel like an idiot if you previously went out and purchased the new Toyota Supra, as the manufacturer decided to make some major improvements on the 3.0-liter inline-six for the 2021 model year — bumping up output, tweaking the suspension and adding some new options. It also decided to offer the 2.0-liter variant that was formerly prohibited from gracing our shores. And Toyota is upgrading the model’s standard equipment too, regardless of trim level, by swapping the 6.5-inch center display for an 8.8-inch screen.

But we want to make you feel as bad as possible, so let’s open with how much more horsepower the 2021 model makes when compared to the 3.0-liter GR Supra you bought last year (when dealer markups were impossible to avoid). Toyota has outfitted the twin-turbo BMW B58 with a redesigned exhaust manifold and new pistons that lower the engine’s compression. In itself, that’s not a recipe for a lot more power, but it sets the stage for Supra to endure higher turbo boost pressures and some meaningful factory tuning, resulting in 382 peak horsepower. That’s 47 more ponies than the complete garbage you took out a loan on last year, dingus.  (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2020

Not that there’s ever a good time for a global pandemic threat, but the coronavirus currently sweeping through Asia really could have scheduled itself more conveniently. China was already in the midst of an economic downturn when the virus reared its ugly head, with the country’s automotive sector having just moved backward for the second year in a row. The outbreak, centered in the Hubei province’s capital of Wuhan, is guaranteed to worsen the issue.

Responsible for about a tenth of China’s automotive manufacturing power, the region has basically gone dark since the outbreak picked up steam late last month. Over 50 million people are now presumed to be under house arrest due to the Chinese quarantine. Forbidden from going outside, they’re hardly likely to risk infection and government ire just to put for a few hours at their local factory. They also aren’t going to run out to their nearest dealership to support the ailing economy — but that’d be the first place to go after the sequestration ends.

If I were in their shoes, I certainly wouldn’t be taking the bus for a while. (Read More…)

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