Auto News for Oct. 31

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner got to take home a new Chevy Colorado. Chevy traditionally awards a new vehicle to the top player in the fall classic and this year, who else would you give it to? GM might want to send a more accomplished presenter to next year’s ceremony. Yet, #TechnologyAnd Stuff has taken off in social media.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered Takata to produce a large volume of documents and answer questions under oath regarding its airbags. Roughly 11 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S. due to the faulty airbags. The company was given until Dec. 1 to comply.

Thanks to strong demand for its Audi and Porsche models in China and Europe, VW posted an operating profit for the third quarter that was higher than expected. Earnings rose 16 percent.

Hyundai has now sold more than 10-million Elantras around the globe. Hyundai’s first model is now one of only 10 cars in history to reach the 10 million sales mark.

“Dealers are welcoming a consistent flow of shoppers into their showrooms” and the pace is likely to remain steady through the end of the year, according to Edmunds.com. It believes October sales will be up 3.1 percent from September and 6.4 percent from a year earlier.

Chrysler may have come in 22nd out of 28 in the Consumer Reports reliability report, but Edmunds predicts it will post a 22 percent sales increase this month, the largest gain among the Detroit three.

Auto News for Oct. 30

Fiat Chrysler heads the list this morning on a number of fronts.

Ferrari

To help finance its ambitious new model plans, the company will spin off its Ferrari brand next year. Ten percent of the stock will be offered on the New York Stock Exchange with the rest distributed to existing investors. The much envied, high performance luxury car maker has largely been financially independent of Fiat, and this move would seem to cement that.

FCA said third quarter earnings rose 7.4 percent year over year thanks to the strong showing by Ram trucks and Jeeps here in North America. While earnings missed analyst expectations, the stock rose on the Ferrari spin off news.

And it recalled 382,000 heavy duty Ram trucks from model years 2010-14 to repair a fuel heater assembly that could lead to a leak and possible fire in the diesel powered trucks. Separately, about 184,000 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokees were recalled from model 2014 to repair a stability control system.

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Audi will debut the R8 competition at the L.A. auto show next month, saying it is the most powerful production car it has produced with a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 199 miles per hour. There will be a limited production run of just 60 cars here in the U.S. It will sport a 570 horsepower, 5.2 liter V10 mated to a seven speed S-tronic transmission and “black high-gloss tailpipes.” Deliveries are expected early next year.

Ford said a refreshed Explorer will be on display at the show. Motor Trend said it will pick up styling clues from the Edge crossover.

 

Auto News for Oct. 29

Fiat Chrysler HQ sign

The day after Dodge, Ram, Jeep, and Fiat filled the bottom four places in Consumer Reports reliability study, Chrysler announced that its head of quality in North America has left the company. It said Doug Betts left to pursue other interests. The automaker named a VP, Matthew Liddane, as its new quality chief.

October could turn out to be a banner month for car dealers. Three separate forecasts predict sales will be the best we have seen since October of 2004. Kelley Blue Book, TrueCar, and LMC Automotive said lower gas prices nationwide will spark higher demand for SUV’s. We will get the official word next week.

Triple A is calling for “a thorough review of NHTSA’s ability to manage and respond to vehicle recalls. It said a review of the National Highway Transportation Administration is “overdue given the repeated breakdowns in the recall process that have been on display this year.” The auto club cited the agency’s broken website, incorrect lists of impacted vehicles and its slow reaction to recalls. And it said the president “must demand immediate action to fix a system that clearly remains broken.”

Saw a press release this morning from a firm with an interesting name: “Quick Quack Car Wash” located, of course, in California.

 

Auto News for Oct. 28

2015_Lexus_RC_350_015

Consumer Reports is out with its annual reliability survey and the top ten finishers look familiar.

Lexus

Toyota

Mazda

Honda

Audi

Buick

Subaru

Scion

Porsche

Kia

Buick, as you can see, was the top finisher among the Detroit three. Lincoln came in 15th, Cadillac 18th, GMC 19th, Chevrolet 21st, Chrysler 22nd, Ford 23rd, with the bottom four rungs going to Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat.

CR said multi-function, cross-linked infotainment systems and associated in-car electronics are a growing reliability plague for many brands. The big problems are unresponsive touch screens, reluctance to pair phones and multi-use controllers that don’t function properly.

The worst offender, the magazine said, was the Intouch system in the new Infiniti Q50 sedan where more than one in five owners reported a problem. That, combined with the poor reliability performance of the QX60 SUV dropped Infiniti’s reliability rank 14 points to 20th overall, the biggest decline of any brand in this year’s survey.

It said Ford and Honda are among the brands finding ways to alleviate infotainment problems.

Buick was a big winner moving from 16th place last year to 6th this year with all six models scoring average or better reliability.

Detroit’s small and compact cars did not do well with the Chevy Sonic and Cruze, Ford Fiesta and Focus and the turbo version of the Dodge Dart all well below average reliability.

CR said the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks show “a lot of teething pains” with the GMC falling ten places in the survey. The Ram pickup also faltered contributing to the nameplate’s seven place slide to 26th.

Mercedes was the only European brand to decline significantly dragged down 11 places by the new introduced CLA sedan and the redesigned S-Class. Yet the E-Class V6 sedan and the GLK SUV both scored above average.

Those seeking still further information should refer to CR’s annual auto issue that will be on newsstands on Thursday.

Honda has lowered its earnings forecast for the year, but also reported a nearly 18 percent gain in quarterly earnings. It cited slower sales in Japan and China as the reason for the reduced forecast. Honda sold fewer motorcycles here in the U.S. during the quarter.

GM will announce today that production of the electric drive for the second generation Chevy Volt will be moved from Mexico to the company’s Warren Transmission plant in Michigan. It will invest $240-million in the plant to make the change.

Mazda says its new compact CX-3 crossover will make its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month. Mazda is saying little about the new model that is expected to be based on the subcompact Mazda2.

 

 

 

Auto News for Oct. 27

The world’s best-selling auto brand over the first nine months of the year remains Toyota. Its sales rose almost three percent to maintain its lead over VW and GM in global sales. The gap between VW and GM was close – roughly 3,000 vehicles.

006_BMW_X4

I recently had a short drive in the BMW X4, the fastback version of the X3. Performance and handling were what one would expect from the brand, but visibility was poor to the rear due to a very small rear window and things were not much better to right and left rear sides of the ute. Styling of the fastback X4 was … well … what your eye makes of it. Think of a scaled back and less expensive X6. Power came from a 3.0-liter, 300 horsepower turbo six, with a 2.0-liter, 240 horsepower turbo four also available.

And talk about sticker shock. A very well optioned Mini that I drove came to a rather staggering $33K plus! But it was fun on the twisty back roads of upper Montgomery County, Maryland.

Detroit Electric

Detroit Electric has revealed the exterior styling of the all- electric sports car that it promises to bring to market in the New Year. Let’s hope they come up with a better name than the current SP:01. Backers are claiming a top speed of 155 mph and a 0-60 time of just 3.7 seconds. Detroit Electric was revived in 2008 by Albert Lam, the former Group CEO at Lotus Engineering Group.

 

Saturday Road Test – Just 1.0 liter!!!!

Ford's 1.0 liter 3

Ford Fiesta

A 1.0 liter 3 (!) is all you need

By Ron Amadon

BARNESVILLE, MD. – On the face of it, putting a 1.0 liter engine with just three cylinders in any car would have you worrying about performance, noise and vibration – enough so that you would want to go back to the horses that once called on this historic and nicely refurbished town hall.

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At least them horsies had four – legs that is.

But thanks to some smart engineers in Great Britain and Germany, this little three, that Ford maintains is small enough to fit into carry-on luggage, is a winner. In fact, European journalists named it Engine of the Year in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Matched only to a five speed manual transmission, the turbocharged engine had an abundance of low end torque that made merging onto an interstate, or starting up from a red light, a breeze. I will confidently wager that your passengers will think there is a bigger engine under the hood. As you will see, fourth and fifth gears are mainly for cruising.

You are looking at 123 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm with peak torque at just 1,400 rpm. An overboost function allows it to make more than 145 lb-ft of torque for up to 15 seconds.

A bit noisy on its way up through the gears things settle down quickly on the highway. Cruise at 70 and the tach will show you just 2,500 rpm. Crank it up to 80 and the Mighty Mouse engine it is still in loafing mode at 3,000 rpm.

A three cylinder normally has unpleasant vibrations that come from having an odd number of cylinders. Instead of using a balance shaft that is heavy, expensive and reduces fuel economy, Ford uses a pulley and flywheel that are placed precisely to counteract the shaking forces of the engine along with engine mounts that absorb those forces as well. Various other steps were taken to reduce noise and vibration.

The EPA rates the combination at 32 city, 45 highway, for a combined 37 mpg. I came away with a total of 35 mpg generously working the old rpms.

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Yet the gearbox could be improved with vague motions and long throws. Other drawbacks were minimal rear seat leg room and seats that didn’t fold completely flat in the tested hatchback. There is a total of 26 cubic feet max cargo capacity compared to 52.7 cubic feet in the rival Honda Fit. Yet I was able to wedge in two vacuum cleaners from the repair shop.

Also the design of the driver’s side door pull is on the large size, and tends to keep the left knee in rather uncomfortable company.

The seats were cozy and easy to adjust, fit and finish were good and a small window between the tach and speedo relayed lots of information to the driver.

A reasonable $290 “Comfort Package” brought soon to be very welcome touches such as heated first row seats, heated side mirror, and automatic temperature control.

That brought the MRSP to a reasonable $18,585 on the test car including transportation.

The Ecoboost three package will cost you an extra $995 over the base 1.6 liter, 120 hp four, but it is the best multiple George Washington’s you have ever spent if the Fiesta talks to you, and you are not ready to step up to the more sporty ST.

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Auto News for Oct. 24

2015 Ford Mustang GT

To those on the outside, Wall Street numbers can seem rather strange. Ford’s earnings per share fell by 10 cents in its latest quarter and revenue was off 2.5 percent. But take out one-time expenses and Ford earned 24 cents a share and that was better than the experts were expecting. Earnings came to $34.9 billion and that was also better than analysts were guessing. The slowdown in truck sales due to the transition to the aluminum F-150 pickup cut into the old bottom line but growth in China eased the overall pain. Ford had warned the market that it would not achieve its 2014 profit forecasts due to the cost of bringing out new models, larger losses outside the U.S., and recall costs. “During the third quarter, we continued to introduce an unprecedented number of new vehicles and invest heavily in the new products and technologies that will deliver strong profitable growth beginning next year,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields.

Audi is recalling 101,900 A4 sedans and wagons from model years 2014 through 2015. It said some software may keep the airbags from deploying in certain circumstances. The company says it does not know of any accidents or injuries caused by the software problem.

Jeep fans take heart. The Wrangler will retain its body on frame construction and that may mean production will remain in Toledo, Ohio. Automotive News has the story citing sources. Fiat Chrysler Chief Sergio Marchionne had indicated the next generation Wrangler might have an aluminum unibody. That raised fears that assembly of the popular Jeep might be move out of Toledo.

VW said its electric e-Golf has been certified by the EPA at the equivalent of 126 mpg city, 105 mpg highway and 116 combined. VW claims that makes the upcoming offering “the most efficient car in its class for the 2015 model year.”