Auto News for April 30

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive

Mercedes has announced pricing for its first electric offering in the U.S. The all electric B-Class will start at $41,450 and that includes delivery. Of course, with all electrics there may be some tax credits. The car will launch this summer with an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery and, the maker claims, a 0-60 run of just 7.9 seconds. It has an estimated range of 85 miles.

The mayor of Torrance, California fears his state will turn into a retirement community. The folks in Texas say the shift of Toyota’s headquarters out of California to Plano in the Lone Star State is a huge win for their area. Said the Dallas Morning News, “A move of 4,000 people is nothing to scoff about. That’s huge.”

Still want a Pontiac, some four years after production ceased? A dealer in Cedarville, Illinois, claims to have “an abundance” of the G6 model used. Pontiac buffs can find the dealer at:

barkeu.com

At the famed Goodwood Motor Circuit there will be almost a half million horsepower on display on May 4th for the circuits announced Supercar Sunday. About all the high performance brands that your mind can conjure up will be at the facility in Great Britain along with powerful motorcycles. You can see more at:

http://www.facebook.com/goodwoodmotorcircuit

 

 

 

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Auto News for April 28

Nissan GT-R

Nissan’s GT-R is one heck of a car and now it will take on one of the world’s most challenging race tracks and one of its most challenging races – the 2014 Nurburgring 24 hour to be exact. A GT-R recently lapped the course in 7 minutes 8.679 seconds and that was a record time for a volume production car.

And Nissan is expected to post the biggest gain when it comes to April sales. Kelley Blue Book says Nissan sales should be up 19.5 percent year over year thanks to strong demand for the Rogue and Sentra. Chrysler is also predicted to have a good month thanks to the Jeep and RAM brands.

The last Oldsmobile rolled off the assembly line 10 years ago today, according to the Detroit Free Press. It was an Alero sedan that brought an end to the brand known over the years for the 98, 88, and 442.

Kia reported that worldwide sales rose 5.2 percent in the first quarter. Sales here in the U.S. were up 4.8 percent with strong demand for its crossovers.

 

Saturday Road Test 2014 MB CLA250

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

 

 

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

The Entry Level Benz

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – The idea is to bring in younger buyers to the Mercedes brand, get them hooked, and then move up the model lineup as fame and fortune builds over a lifetime. Mercedes is hardly the first car builder to do that.

Rival BMW prices range from $32,100 up to $74,000 base prices for the 2-Series to the 7-Series. Lexus sedans roughly cover the same price range.

In a lot of ways, the least expensive Mercedes has its enticing features. A sexy exterior body design turned heads from ritzy Maryland suburbs to more rural areas. People stopped and gazed approvingly at the test car.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Inside, the Sierra Beige trim with stitching and comfortable multi adjustable and heated “MD Tex” upholstered seats were comfortable and required little adjustment on long trips. The interior design was appealing and very familiar to those who have been in MB’s models before. The 7” high resolution LCD screen did look like a late addition, but its size and placement did make it easy for quick checks by the operator. The Harman Kardon audio system was mid pack in its sound quality but easy enough to program and command.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

Under the hood was a responsive 2.0-liter turbo 4 that was rated at 208 horsepower at 5,500 rpm. It produces 258 lb-ft of torque, Mercedes claims, from idle to 4,000 rpm and it felt more than adequate for the needs and desires of the expected buyer. MB claims a 0-60 run of 6.9 seconds and I have no argument with that.

The test car also came equipped with paddle shifts that put in a fine performance and should appeal to do it yourselfers. The 7-speed dual-clutch automatic was quick to react when the driver’s right foot pushed for all the CLA had to offer. While the test model was front wheel drive, all-wheel drive is available in an upscale model

The test car was EPA rated at 26-39 mpg and in mostly country and interstate driving for the week I came away with an overall 28 mpg. The CLA lives on the premium blend.

Downsides? There were two that stood out. Mercedes decided that all CLA250’s sent to these shores would carry the “Sport” suspension. It is a very rigid set up that sent noise and vibration into the dash panel when I encountered the many potholes and other road blemishes left over from the record winter we experienced here in Mary-land.

On the rare smooth road the ride was fine and the handling excellent. But even on the interstates, bridge expansion strips and other bumps that aren’t going away had me looking for an adjustment for the “Comfort” suspension setting that didn’t exist.

The second setback was caused by the swept back styling that made entry to the rear seats a test of one’s agility. Once inside there was not much headroom for those 6’ tall or more. A reminder: put the boss in the front seat!

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

You may have seen ads that the car is priced at less than $30K. Well that is without the $925 Destination and Delivery fee so you are really looking at $30,825.

Add in 18-inch wheels, Blind Spot Detector, Black Ash Wood trim that was very attractive, a $2,300 Premium Package and a $2,700 Multimedia Package and that bumped the test car’s bottom line to $36,870.

Here’s my take. Eliminate the “Sport” suspension and I can live with the tight confines of the rear seat. The exterior style, comfort up front, charming interior, good power and handling, and with most of the desirable options this rig still comes in under $40K. All of which makes this an attractive choice for those who are seeking entry into the three pointed star.

Just match the ride with other models in the lineup.

 

Auto News for April 25

The All-New Ford Mustang GT

A victim of the harsh winter weather across much of the country, Ford sales fell 3 percent in the first quarter and the company missed Wall Street earnings expectations. Forecasters were looking for 31 cents a share and the Blue Oval came in at 25 cents. Yet revenues topped expectations as global sales increased 6 percent with sales gains in China and Europe. Ford plans to launch 23 vehicles around the globe this year including the much talked about aluminum bodied F-150 pickup.

Honda, meanwhile, reported strong quarterly earnings in its fourth quarter thanks to robust sales and a weak yen. Its $1.6 billion profit is more than double the figure rung up a year earlier.

J.D. Power thinks auto sales will increase 8.5 percent this month as winter slowly ebbs and customers turn out at dealers to shop for new wheels. We will get the official figures early next month.

The car wash industry won’t like this, but Nissan said it is testing a paint it says will repel dirt. It is being looked at in Europe on its Note small car. So far, there is no indication it will be offered on its production models.

On this day in 1901, New York became the first state to require license plates on motor vehicles. They may not have been hot sellers, since the Census Bureau reports there was only about 15,000 autos in the entire country at the time.

 

 

 

Auto News for April 24

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

On the one hand, GM said earnings fell 85 percent in the first quarter when compared to the same period in 2013. One the other hand, earnings per share topped Wall Street analyst estimates and the company earned $125 million in the period for the 17th consecutive profitable quarter. All this despite a charge of $1.3 billion for the recalls you might have heard about. Like so many car makers, the General posted another loss from its European operations.

Don’t be surprised to see GM CEO Mary Barra on the cover of Time Magazine. She made the magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The magazine hits newsstands, if there are any left, on Friday.

The Detroit News reports that IBM has won the task of integrating the computer systems of Chrysler with those of owner Fiat.

The under $30,000 CLA 250 Mercedes – You probably have seen the ads, but what is it like to live with? Some answers coming up right here in the Saturday Road Test.

 

Auto News for April 23

AUdi TT concept

There are some very interesting concept vehicles at the Beijing Auto show such as a light duty off road hybrid Audi TT. It is a plug-in with two electric motors for performance purposes and a range of 31 miles just on the juice. Audi said it will accelerate from 0-62 in 5.2 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph. Backing up the electric drive is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four with a six speed transmission.

There’s also a couple of interesting safety features that I had not heard of before. The Junction Assist uses radar sensors and a wide angle video camera to scan zones to the front and sides of the vehicle at intersections. If it detects a vehicle approaching from the side and thinks the situation is critical, graduated warnings are displayed in the cockpit. Another system will tell the driver what speed to drive in order to reach the next traffic light while it is still green. It will also count down the time remaining when waiting for the light to turn green. Nifty stuff, all in all.

Bentley Hybrid

Making its world debut was the Bentley Hybrid Concept based on the top of the line Mulsanne. It has an all-electric driving range of 50 miles and the company said it will introduce a plug-in hybrid SUV in 2017 and by the end of the decade at least 90 percent of Bentley cars will be available as a plug-in hybrid.

Toyota says it sold more vehicles worldwide than anyone else in the first quarter – A total of 2.5 million topping GM and VW. For the quarter Toyota said sales rose 6 percent.

Cars.com says car shoppers in California continue to be the most eco-conscious based on searches for hybrid and electric cars. The San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose area topped the list followed by Charlottesville, Virginia and Los Angeles.

Auto News for April 22

Mulally headshot 2013MFields_headshot

 

This time it appears for real that Alan Mulally will step down as CEO at Ford. Various reports say he will be succeeded by COO Mark Fields later this year. Fields has widely been expected to be the new man at the top. While no date has been announced for the change, it could come on May 8 when Ford holds its annual meeting in Delaware. For now, all Ford spokespeople are saying is they will not comment on “speculation.” Mulally and Fields are pictured.

The Detroit News noted that Field’s first car, long before he caught on at Ford, was a 1983 Datsun 280ZX and he now owns a bunch of Mustangs. Mulally, of course, is well known for guiding Ford through some rough times, rejecting any government bailout, and restructuring the company helped by $23.6 billion in bank loans. Bill Ford will remain as executive chairman when the changes are announced.

It is also interesting to note that when Mulally took over at Ford many were wondering if an official from Boeing could possibly run a car company. I think the answer is now obvious.

With sales up 3 percent in the U.S. and 10.9 percent worldwide, Harley Davidson reported a good first quarter.

While not strictly an auto story, you might like to know that in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, the airlines rated just ahead of the IRS.

Mercedes concept

Mercedes calls it a “Concept Coupe SUV.” It is a four door, all-wheel drive vehicle with a 333 horsepower V6 and a nine speed automatic transmission. MB hints that it might be up for some off road work.