Auto News for May 25

An MIT survey of 3,000 people reveals that 48 percent would never purchase a self-driving car and only 13 percent would feel comfortable riding in one. Most said they do not like the loss of control and others said simply they do not trust the technology.

 In the “well daa” category comes another study. It concluded that if a small car collides with a larger car or an SUV, the occupants of the small car are at a higher risk of being killed. The study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If would appear that simple rules of science are at work here.

 Edmunds predicts May auto sales will be fractionally higher compared to those of a year earlier and 7.5 percent higher than April’s results. It said much depends on sales over the upcoming holiday weekend.  “As long as high inventories continue to drive attractive deals and the economy remains strong, consumers will be in a great position to take advantage of a buyer’s market this summer,” said Executive Director of Industry Analysis Jessica Caldwell.

 Kelley Blue Book also believes sales will be higher this month when compared to April’s results. Generous incentives are expected to have more parties signing on the dotted line.

 More than 300 collector vehicles will be sold at auction in South Dakota as a man reduces the size of his collection. Kerry Droog decided that he could not fix up all of the classic vehicles in his 40 year inventory. So up for bid will go models that range from 1920’s through the 1990’s with names such as Camaro, Belair, Thunderbird, Power Wagon and Galaxy. Bids are being accepted on

 The Skip Barber Racing School has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to restructure its finances.  Once its restructuring is complete, the company will be put up for sale. “There are several parties interested in the Company and conducting the sale in Chapter 11 should help increase the likelihood of a sale. The Company’s strategy is to use Chapter 11 as a tool to get Skip Barber Racing School to a much stronger place,” Barber said on its web site. In the meantime, the school will remain operational.

 Enterprise has announced plans to enter the Vietnam market with its flagship brand as well as National and Alamo rentals.

GM will cut about 50 jobs at its international headquarters in Singapore.




Auto News for May 24 – Feds Sue FCA


 Fiat Chrysler has been sued by the Department of Justice on behalf of the EPA for allegedly installing devices on vehicles with the 3.0 liter diesel engine that allowed them to pass emissions tests, and then emit more pollution on the road.

 Involved are nearly 104,000 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles from models years 2014-16 equipped with devices that were not disclosed to regulators, the government said.

 “The complaint alleges that each of these vehicles differs materially from the specifications provided to EPA in the certification applications, and thus the cars are uncertified, in violation of the Clean Air Act,” the EPA said.

 The complaint seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties.

 Fiat Chrysler said it has been working with the EPA and the California Air Resources board for many months and is “disappointed” that the lawsuit has been filed.

 “The Company intends to defend itself vigorously, particularly against any claims that the Company engaged in any deliberate scheme to install defeat devices to cheat U.S. emissions tests,” FCA said.

 It has developed updated software calibrations that it believes will “address the concerns” of regulators and will make those changes in the affected vehicles if the government approves.

 “FCA US believes this will address the agencies’ concerns regarding the emissions software calibrations in those vehicles,” the company said.

 China’s Geely automotive will acquire a 49.9 percent stake in Proton, the Malaysian automaker and owner of Lotus. Geely is the current owner of Volvo. The deal will give Geely access to the Southeast Asian market where Volvo is trying to increase its market share, according to Automotive News.

 The Mazda3 tops Kelley Blue Book’s list of the 10 coolest cars for under $18,000. KBB said it is “widely regarded as the best-looking and most fun to drive vehicle in the segment and we call it one of the coolest cars of all time.”

 The Honda Civic was second in the annual survey with the Jeep Renegade, Kia Soul and Hyundai Veloster rounding out the top five. In sixth place was the VW Jetta, followed by the Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza, Honda Fit and the Chevrolet Sonic.

 Thinking about going car shopping over the upcoming holiday weekend? The time is ripe according to Edmunds.

 Shoppers will find one of the strongest buyer’s markets in recent memory thanks to a growing glut of off-lease vehicles. That means shoppers who are looking for a car between 3 and 4 years old will have a huge selection to choose from, and this surplus also means dealers will likely be ready to negotiate to help close the deal, KBB said.  



Auto News for May 23 – 800 hp will not be cheap

 Wall Street approved Ford’s move to name Jim Hackett, the former Steelcase leader, as its new CEO. Ford shares closed yesterday’s session up 2 percent. Analysts say Hackett and his new team have has a tough job ahead. The company must make the right investments in the future regarding mobility, electric cars, etc. while trying to cope with slowing sales on the domestic market.

 Dodge said its more than 800 horsepower Challenger SRT Demon will carry an MSRP of $84,995 including a $1,700 gas guzzler tax but excluding $1,095 for transportation. In case you missed it, Dodge claims a 0-60 of 2.3 seconds making it the world’s fastest in that category. For $1 owners can get the Demon Crate Package that features:

Two narrow, front-runner drag wheels

Performance powertrain control module with high-octane engine calibration

Replacement instrument panel switch module with high-octane button

Personalized ID badge

Conical performance air filter

Two valve stems

Passenger mirror block-off plate

 A front passenger seat can also be had for $1 and the same for a rear seat. The driver’s seat is standard.

 For buyers who must have a sunroof – Power sunroof ($4,995)

 Only 3,000 Demon’s will be offered here in the U.S. with production commencing this summer.

 A new poll of drivers in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. shows 1.4-times as many Americans trust tech companies to secure their connected car data than automakers. The trend was reversed in the four other countries with 1.5 times as many trusting automakers. In the U.S., Baby Boomers tend to believe connected cars and autonomous vehicles will be less safe than cars on the road today, while Gen Xs and Millennials expect them to be safer.

 The majority of UK drivers (61%) expect autonomous vehicles to be as safe or safer than current cars, yet fewer than one in five (17%) would actually buy one. The study was conducted by INRIX Research.

 Honda has completed renovations to its test facility in the Mojave Desert, near Cantil, California. It features a 7.5-mile high-speed banked oval track capable of testing vehicles at speeds over 200 miles per hour, and a 4.5-mile winding road course that incorporates 28 curves and six different hills into the design. Automobiles, motorcycles, side-by-sides and ATVs will all be rung out here.


Auto News for May 22 – Big Changes @ Ford

 Ford is hoping the man who turned Steelcase into the Number One office furniture company can turn the same magic in the auto industry. Under pressure from some shareholders, the company this morning named Jim Hackett as president and CEO replacing Mark Fields “who is retiring.” Hackett has been serving as Ford’s executive chairman of Smart Mobility since March of 2016.

“We’re moving from a position of strength to transform Ford for the future,” Bill Ford said. “Jim Hackett is the right CEO to lead Ford during this transformative period for the auto industry and the broader mobility space. He’s a true visionary who brings a unique, human-centered leadership approach to our culture, products and services that will unlock the potential of our people and our business.”

 Ford shares fell 37 percent during Field’s three years as chief executive. Some board members and shareholders were not happy with that turn of events, and also when Tesla moved ahead of Ford in market capitalization.

 In other changes this morning, European chief Jim Farley will also oversee operations in the Americas and Asian Pacific. Joe Hinrichs, who was the America’s boss, was named president of global operations. Ford Smart Mobility will be turned over to Marcy Klevorn who was chief information officer.

 With the official confirmation, Ford shares rose 15 cents or 1.4 percent in early Wall Street trading. Hackett is pictured.

 Tom Brady, we will assume you know who he is, has entered into a “long term partnership” to promote Aston Martin’s. He will appear in a series of ads later this year called “Category of One.”

 “As a long-time fan and driver I am honored to join the Aston Martin team at this special moment in the company’s history,” Brady said. He drives a 2017 Aston Martin DB11 by the way.

 Demand is strong for the few VW diesels that have been modified to meet emissions requirements, the Detroit Free Press reported. The modifications will reduce fuel economy, but added incentives have phones ringing off the hook at some dealers. VW has announced it will not sell any more diesels in this country once this supply has been exhausted.




Saturday Road Test – Kia Niro Hybrid Sips Gas


                                 Kia Niro

                             A Stealth Hybrid

   By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Some hybrid gas sipping vehicles do not look like other vehicles on the road.

 But when Kia designers in California and South Korea went to work on that they call an “Urban Crossover Hybrid Vehicle” the goal was for it to blend in while still displaying a very fashionable, contemporary style.

 And they succeeded. Unless one sees the sign on the body, no one would know this is a hybrid. Unless you are the one paying the petrol bill.

 The base model you see is rated at a significant 50 mpg combined. Due to more equipment and heftier tires, the Touring model carries an EPA of 46/40/43. In a week’s worth of driving in a variety of traffic conditions, I came in at 40 on the button. To bring down weight and improve MPG, the hood, tailgate and several suspension elements are made of aluminum.

 All models are powered by a 1.6-liter four with 104 horsepower. The “tractive” electric motor kicks in to bring total power to 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. There is no CVT thank heavens, Kia selecting a six speed dual clutch automatic with Sport Mode instead.

 The hybrid’s 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery is not located in the luggage space, but under the rear seat and that allows for a flat load floor.

 Look for a 0-60 of about 9.5 seconds and that is on the slow side. But one should remember the name of the game here is fuel economy. And I would note that crude oil prices have increased recently and again on Friday.

 Kia offers five trim models with the tested Touring at the top of the list and it was feature laden.

 Among other things 18” tires with alloy wheels, with a temporary spare as an option. Also leather seat trim, 10- way adjustable and heated/cooled driver’s seat with height adjuster and 2-way power lumber support with memory. A Sunroof along with a heated steering wheel, and 8-inch LCD display screen. Great sounds came from a Harmon Kardon audio system and Niro plays nicely with Apple CarPlay and Android auto.

 Those 18-inch tires contributed to better than expected handling yet the ride was smooth with the suspension agreeably handling roads needing a patch job.  

 Inside there was excellent visibility all around with ingress and egress aided by an elevated seating position.

 Most controls could be operated without checking the owner’s manual, and that is a huge step forward by my reckoning. Fit, finish and material quality were superior at this price range. Overall cargo volume is a bit below some of the competition but there was ample room for those sitting in front and for adults to feel wanted in the second row.

 Here is a neat feature: Smart Air Intake, which reduces drag by carefully managing the intake of outside air for the HVAC system, and also an accompanying Auto Defog system that prevents condensation from building on the glass by monitoring cabin air conditions to manage the cycling of the A/C compressor.

 Okay, how much does all this cost? $30,545 without a single option for the Touring model with an impressive list of comfort and safety features plus the 10 year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty. I would rate this as a top flight bargain in today’s market.

 A base model FE model starts at $22,890, with the mid-range EX coming in at $25,700.

 I like nimble small crossovers that include all the desirable features and sip gas. Thus, the Niro gets a five star rating.








Auto News for May 19 – A Porsche Superyacht?????


 If Honda can build an airplane, why can’t Porsche put its name on a boat? Not just any boat of course, but what is called in the trade a superyacht in cooperation with Dynamiq, a builder of floating stuff for the super rich. There are options galore such as $40,000 for a set of throw pillows and ten grand more for six sets of Egyptian cotton bedding with matching towels.

 It will welcome six aboard the all-aluminum 115 foot long yacht with a top speed of 21 knots. Only seven of the GT 115 model will be constructed and “motor 1” reports that one has already been spoken for. Base price is only $13 million. Well after all, the inside features Saddle Brown and Luxor beige leather with carbon fiber details, and expansive surfaces of Sahara Noir marble. The furniture and decoration were developed in association with the Italian designer brand Minotti. Backers say the boat takes “the spirit of high performance sports car styling to the high seas.”   

The new #Nissan #LEAF. Coming soon.

 Nissan has offered a picture of the headlight styling in its next generation LEAF that will make its debut later this year. The picture is said to be the first in a series of photos and information briefs scheduled this summer.

 BMW, Mazda, Subaru and Toyota have agreed to reimburse owners for losses incurred in the Takata airbag recall. The automakers have jointly agreed to provide a total of approximately $553 million. This would include reimbursement for rental cars, child care while their vehicle is being repaired and any lost wages. A court must approve the settlement. It also requires the automakers to step up their efforts to get more owners to bring their vehicles in for repairs. A recent study said only one third, or even less, have done so.

 Audi is presenting a fully integrated Android operating system in the Audi Q8 sport concept at this year’s Google I/O, adding services such as Spotify, Google Play Music and Google Assistant. The Android platform opens up development potential for future in-car app, connectivity and entertainment advancements. The Google I/O gathering is being held in Mountain View, California.

 Bloomberg is reporting that Aston Martin is considering an initial public offering of shares in London as soon as next year.

 Volkswagen’s CEO says his successor is likely to come from within the company. Matthias Mueller’s contract is not up until the middle of 2020.


Auto News for May 18 – GM Retools International Markets

 Having announced the sale of its European operations to Peugeot/Citroen, GM will “transition” its operations in South Africa to Isuzu, end domestic sales of its product in India and phase out sales of Chevy’s in both markets by the end of the year. Products manufactured in India will be for export only. These decisions were made following an extensive review of operations of GM International markets and the company said reflect a series of actions taken to improve global business performance that began in late 2013.

 “These actions will further allow us to focus our resources on winning in the markets where we have strong franchises and see greater opportunity,” said GM President Dan Ammann.

 Acura announced pricing for its refreshed TLX when it hits the market in June. The TLX 2.4L starts with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $33,000 while the V6 equipped models start at $36,200. The TLX V6 A-Spec is offered for the first time starting at $42,800.

 BMW said its upcoming M5 model will debut with a new  xDrive system with a “central intelligence unit” that combines the “agility” of rear wheel drive with the poise and traction of an all-wheel drive system. Operators can choose 4WD, 4WD Sport, or 2WD. Powertrain? A 4.4-liter V8 with an eight-speed automatic. BMW released a teaser pic.

 Check out if you want to see spy pictures of the future Jeep Wrangler pickup.