Auto News for April 30

General Motors will invest $5.4 billion in its domestic plants over the next three years with $783.5 million going to plants in Michigan. This will include improvements at the Pontiac Metal Center, Lansing Delta Township assembly plant and upgrades at Pre-Production Operations in Warren. “The common thread among our investments is the focus on product improvements that benefit customers,” said GM VP Cathy Clegg. Details of the rest of the investments will be announced at a later date. Some of that money may go a plant in Arlington Texas that cranks out GM’s larger and very much in demand SUV’s. The City Council there has approved incentives for GM to expand the facility.

HOnda HR-V

Honda’s new mini crossover vehicle, the HR-V, will go on sales May 15th. Based on the Fit subcompact, the new addition will carry a base MSRP of $19,115 with 17-inch alloy wheels, push button parking brake, rear view camera, Pandora radio and Bluetooth Hands Free Link. Under the hood with be a 1.8-liter four with 141 horsepower tied to either a six speed manual or a CVT. The base model with the CVT is rated at 31 overall MPG by the EPA.

1963_Ford_Galaxie_sedanFord Galaxy

 

Just this morning saw a beautifully restored Ford Galaxie on the road, just like the one in the picture. That set me to wondering how long the big Ford has been off the market, and perhaps you did to given how many are still in police and taxi duty. The Galaxie hit the market in 1959 and lasted to 1974. During that time, it was in direct competition with the similarly sized Chevy Impala in the full size car sales wars. The name kind of lives on in Great Britain where it is a people mover for seven and is now available with All-Wheel drive and a diesel engine. See picture.

 

 

 

 

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Auto News for April 29

GT 350 mustang

Ford announced it will produce only 100 of the high performance GT350 Mustangs and only 37 of the higher performance GT350Rs for model year 2015. They will hit the market in the fall. Why 37? Because that was the amount Carroll Shelby produced of the first GT350’s 50 years ago. Once they are sold out, Ford will produce the 2016 model.

Fiat Chrysler has posted a $99-million profit in its first quarter, a big improvement over a loss that it reported one year earlier. Strong sales here in the U.S. and improving conditions in Europe produced the turnaround. The company has benefited by hot demand for Jeeps and Ram trucks here in the states.

Cost cutting and rising sales in Europe produced a 19 percent higher first quarter profit at Volkswagen. The company is the world’s number two automaker, trailing only Toyota.

 

 

Auto News for April 28

raptor

Ford released first quarter earnings that fell short of Wall Street expectations for both revenue and earnings per share. It blamed a slow roll out of the F-150 pickup and slow sales in some overseas markets. The automaker maintained its forecast for full year pretax profit.

The costs of the big airbag recall and some slow sales hit the old bottom line at Honda. The company reported a 32 percent decline in operating profit in its fiscal fourth quarter and net income was also lower. In addition, there were ramp up costs for introduction of the new Fit based sport utility, the HR-V. Honda has recalled 9.8 million vehicles in the U.S. alone to repair airbag inflators from the Takata Corp.

On the flip side of all this was Daimler, the parent of Mercedes Benz. Thanks to hot sellers in the luxury car lineup the company said net profit almost doubled in the first quarter. All major markets worldwide posted sales increases especially the U.S. and China.

The average annual cost to own and operate a vehicle fell two percent from last year to $8,698 according to Triple A. It cited declines in gas prices and finance charges.

Kelley Blue Book predicts auto sales will show a 5.2 percent gain when the March figures come out later this week. It believes there will be strong improvements for Fiat Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota.

Ford said the 5.0-liter Mustang will sprint from 0-62 mph, or 100 km, in just 4.8 seconds making it “the fastest accelerating Ford couple ever offered in Europe.” The car goes on sale in the UK in late autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News for April 27

140_v4

Mazda claims its new MX-5 Miata will deliver an EPA estimated 27 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway, for a combined 30 mpg when equipped with the six speed manual transmission. It said that is a 25 percent improvement over the 2015 model thanks in part to a 150 pound weight reduction

It will be a busy week in the auto world with Ford reporting on first quarter earnings Tuesday, and on Friday automakers will be out with March sales figures.

BMW has announced the i Remote app that customers will be able to use on the new Apple Watch, whenever they can get one. The app can already be used to remotely check and control functions of BMW i models. It will indicate the battery’s status, set the temperature in the car, and help owners find the car in garages and lots. It, thus far, will not order them a cheeseburger. (At least, I don’t think it does.)

Auto insurance rate increases have more people shopping for a new insurer but few are actually switching, according to J.D Power. It said rates on average rose 2.4 percent last year – yet only 29 percent switched companies.

Owners in Michigan have the nation’s most expensive car insurance while North Carolina drivers pay 41% less than the national average, according to InsuranceQuotes.com. It said Michigan is the only state where insurance includes unlimited lifetime personal injury protection, and that is the reason it is the most expensive. Rhode Island is the second most expensive state with New York, Delaware and Louisiana rounding out the top five.

 

 

A Special Saturday Report

Alcantara – What is it?

By Ron Amadon

WASHINGTON, DC – Auto buffs know that it is part of the interior styling of very upscale automobiles from Ferrari, Audi, BMW, Porsche Tesla and Maserati.

But if you are really going to promote it at a special event at the Italian Embassy you have to bring along an example or two. So why not go all out and take along a Lamborghini Aventador and Huracan!!!

012008

Even sitting still in the yard the designs were enough to set off any nearby radar gun. The Aventador, in white, sports a 6.5-liter V12 good for around 700 horsepower, 0-62 in 2.9 seconds and a top track speed of 217 mph. The newer Huracan has a V10 rated at 602 horsepower, 0-60 in 2.5 seconds and a top track speed of 202 mph.

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Both were generously covered inside in Alcantara and just sitting in them was enough to realize the heaping helping of Italian testosterone that goes into each model emphasized by the Lambo emblem – a raging bull.

Not to be outdone, the coming Acura NSX supercar will feature grey Alcantara with contrasting stitching for the door panels, control panel, headliner and the central section of the seats.

Cars, Alcantara notes, especially very expensive ones, “have become miniature dream homes today,” so that people sitting in them expect to feel at home and “find all they love most.”

But I digress. (Easy enough to do in these cars!)

Did you know that there is only one company in the whole world that makes trademarked Alcantara? Located in Milan, Italy, it was founded in 1972, and brought on board our host Andrea Boragno as its CEO in 2004. A veteran of the fashion and design business, he convinced the company that it “could do much more in the market.” That led to the world of fashion, consumer electronics, (imagine your head phones covered in the stuff,) and interior design.

It worked. Sales grew 12 percent from 2013 to 2014 with earnings advancing 20 percent. The auto industry still accounts for 70 percent of Alcantara’s annual sales with the fashion industry contributing 13 percent, interior design seven percent and consumer electronics six percent.

The press meeting with Boragno took place at the elegant Italian Embassy located in a quiet neighborhood filled with embassies in Northwest D.C. On the couches outside the meeting room were pillows made from Alcantara that were the softest you could ever imagine.

In the fashion world, it has relationships with Japanese courtier Yohji Yamamoto and designer Max Mara and on the other end of the scale, Woolrich. Alcantara hosted a VIP fashion show during the Los Angeles Auto Show with furniture from Ligne Roset, which is sort of on the opposite end of the scale from Ikea.

Alcantara was also the first Italian company to achieve Carbon Neutrality in 2009, and played a large role in Earth Day observances on the National Mall in D.C.

They are not resting on their environmental laurels, vowing to further reduce production process energy consumption by an additional 25 percent by 2017.

“Our world matters,” is the company tagline.

Yet to Boragno there is more to all this.

“Top quality is not enough. You have to have emotion to remain at the top,” rather than just banging out a product day to day, he said. Emotion – like those two cars parked out front.*

He believes in the concept of “everyday beauty” – something that can be enjoyed every moment of life in harmony with technology and respect for the environment and contemporary social values.

Okay, so Alcantara is a registered trademark, found on    the interior roof, seats, dash panel and door panels of a car, on a sofa, a high fashion outfit, audio headphones, or tablet cover. But what is it reporters wanted to know.

Boragno bristled slightly when reporter tried to equate it to something like a microfiber.

“It is a material,” he summed up plain and simple.

That did kind of say it all.

 

*I asked several people if I could take the Aventador or the Huracan home. No one said no, yet no one said yes either. So took the subway. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

Auto News for April 24

Slow sales of the Focus and C-Max have Ford eliminating a third shift at a plant in Wayne Michigan and laying off 700 workers, according to the Detroit News. The plant produces the Focus models that run on both gas and electricity and the C-Max hybrid. Edmunds.com reports sales of electrics and hybrids are at their lowest level in four years. United Auto Workers official Jimmy Settles said nearly all of the displaced workers may be offered work at other Ford facilities “as soon as this summer.”

What do you know about Alcantara? What is it other than a key trim ingredient in fast cars and those more slanted toward luxury. Check back tomorrow for a complete report on the one and only company that makes it and its friendly record regarding the environment.

ford-hotwheels-01

 

It is being called the biggest Hot Wheels track loop at 12 and one half feet, breaking the old record of 9 feet 9 inches. It was all put together by a Ford technician, Matt West, and his six year old son. The track was displayed at Ford’s Research and Innovation center in Dearborn, Michigan in an attempt to interest more young people in engineering. “In a world where kids are inundated with TV’s and tablets, I thought reaching my son with actual moving vehicle models would be so much more rewarding, and then it took on a life of its own,” West said. Of course, the track cars were Hot Wheels Mustangs.

Mitsubishi is turning into a kind of sleeper brand in the U.S. market with growing sales that are starting to beef up the old bottom line. The company reported double digit profit increases in its fiscal fourth quarter and its first profit in North America in seven years. U.S. sales rose 19 percent in the quarter.

Foreign exchange losses, increased promotional programs, and the addition of two new plants resulted in lower quarterly profits at Mazda. That offset rising sales, up 4.2 percent globally along with a 12 percent increase in global revenue. Sales in North America were up nearly 3 percent.

subaru WRX

Subaru announced pricing for its 2016 WRX and WRX STI models. They will add Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus a new touch screen infotainment system. The WRX will carry an MSRP of $26,595 and the high performance WRX STI will come in at $34,695. The WRX is pictured.

Jaguar’s Ian Callum has been named Designer of the Year on a list celebrating the 100 most influential individuals in British design. He was honored for his work on the Jaguar F-TYPE, XE and the new XF.

 

Auto News for April 23

Sony audio system

The 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum edition will feature an audio system from Sony “tuned to authentically reproduce the sound quality and signature ambience of concert halls in Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna”, the maker said. It will mark the first time that high-end Sony home audio technology, “Live Acoustics” and “Clear Phase,” have been used in a vehicle. There are a dozen speakers in the 500 watt system with subwoofer, door woofers and chrome tweeters with translucent grilles. All this took Sony engineers more than 100 hours to perfect. The “1812 Overture” should really be something on this system!!! The Platinum, as you may have guessed, is the top-of-the-line Explorer, not a bad move with increasing demand for luxury SUV’s.

On the one hand, GM earned 86 cents a share in the first quarter, and that is below market estimates of 95 cents a share, taking out one-time items. On the other hand, net income was way above a year ago at $945 million compared to $125 million. GM was aided by strong demand for its trucks and SUV’s here in the states, but hurt by weak demand in some overseas locations. “Our results in the first quarter provide a solid foundation to achieve our financial commitments for the year,” said GM CEO Mary Barra.

Toyota remains the top selling brand in the world according to figures released this morning, despite a 2.5 percent drop in sales. Volkswagen was second in world sales and GM was third. Toyota was helped by strong demand here in the U.S. for the RAV4 and increasing demand for its Lexus NX.

2016 Nissan Maxima

Production of the 2016 Nissan Maxima is underway at the plant in Tennessee where the first Maxima rolled off the line back in 2003. The new model will be available this summer with a 300 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 and light, yet more rigid chassis. Prices will start at $32,410.

The very successful Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton went car shopping and ended up with a McLaren P1. He was spotted driving one in Monaco and is said to be on the hunt for a Ferrari LaFerrari.