Auto News for May 31 – Gas prices higher and going higher

 The summer driving season is here and, of course, gas prices are going up. AAA said the average price for a gallon of unleaded is now $2.37. That is a penny more than one week ago, two cents more than a month ago and five cents over a year ago. In essence, demand is going up and supplies are headed the other way.

 A pair of Mercedes 300SL models will be auctioned off at this year’s Pebble Beach auto auction. The Detroit News said the gull wing coupe will command up to $1.3 million and the roadster up to $1 million even. But each has some one off trim items and could go for even more, the paper said. Mercedes produced the 300SL from 1954 to 1963 and the gullwing was the most spectacular of them. It is   still sought out today by collectors – rich collectors.


 “Toyota Research Institute Explores Blockchain Technology for Development of New Mobility Ecosystem.”

 (It must be time for my second cup of coffee.)

 Hint: it has something to do with the “development of autonomous driving technology.”




Auto News for May 30 – A Car Like No Other

Auto News for May 30

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Rolls-Royce is exploring the idea of creating distinctive one-off automobiles to meet the demand and tastes of its very best customers.

“We are looking into the resources which will allow us to offer this unique service to these discerning patrons of luxury,” said the company.

The first one has arrived! It has been created for a customer who wanted a vehicle that recalled certain two seat RR models from the 1920’s.

Here is the “Sweptail.”

“It exudes the romance of travel for its own sake, and immediately places ‘Sweptail’ in the pantheon of the world’s great intercontinental tourers”, said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, RR Chief Executive Officer.

The largest of any modern era Rolls-Royce, the grille is milled from solid aluminum before being painstakingly polished by hand to a mirror finish. The periphery of the front face of ‘Sweptail’ is framed in brushed aluminum.

The highlight feature of ‘Sweptail,’ specifically asked for by the client, is an uninterrupted glass roof, one of the largest and most complex ever seen on a motor car of any marque.

Two occupants enter a minimalistic handcrafted interior “as one watches the world slip by through the vast windows and roof, detached from the outside world in a cocoon of luxury whilst feeling one is part of that passing landscape,” RR said. Switch gear has been reduced to the absolute minimum and the interior features “generous quantities of polished Macasser Ebony set off by contrasting light Moccasin and Dark spice leathers.”

In place of the rear seats is a vast expanse of wood creating a mid-shelf with an illuminated glass lip, and a hat shelf which flows to the outer limits of the interior.

The hands of the clock are machined from titanium.

Concealed in the outboard walls on either side of the interior are storage for an attache case and personal laptop device.

But here is what RR calls the “coup de gras” of the interior.

The entire center console houses a one-off hand-built mechanism that, at the touch of a button, will deploy a bottle of the client’s favorite vintage champagne – the year of his birth – and two crystal champagne flutes. As the lid of the chiller opens, the mechanical action articulates the bottle to the perfect position for the owner to pick up.

“A most personal, coach built Rolls-Royce for a specific customer, every aspect of the material treatment of ‘Sweptail’ exudes handcrafted quality and exacting attention to detail. In short, it is a Rolls-Royce – but like no other” and who can argue with that!

Elsewhere in brief:

A Bank of America Merrill Lynch study concludes that GM and Toyota have the best chance to gain market share over the next four years, thanks to the largest number of redesigned or new vehicles. Among upcoming Toyota’s will be a new Camry and RAV4 while GM will produce new full-size pickups and SUV’s.

Toyota tops the latest list of the largest global automakers. It is followed by Renault-Nissan and then VW that was briefly the leader

Auto News for May 26 – Gas Buyers Beware!

 Some tips for holiday weekend travelers from the AAA of Northern New Jersey when they stop to fill-up.

 Make sure that the price-per-gallon displayed on top of the gas pump matches the price-per-gallon label within the pump dispenser.

 Make sure that the sale amount on the pump reads “zero” before fuel is dispensed into your vehicle. (I have seen pumps that start at the 4 cent level.)

 Check the sale price to ensure that the correct amount of fuel has been pumped into your vehicle before paying for fuel.

 In the case of a fill-up, pay the total sale price on the pump, not what the attendant tells you what you owe and if paying by credit card, check that the number of gallons, the price per gallon, and the total amount being charged to your receipt matches the numbers on the pump.

 And AAA called on regulators to crack down on any “unscrupulous fuel merchants.”

 Gas prices this weekend are expected to average eight cents more than a year ago at $2.36 a gallon, the club said.

 Incentive spending by automakers to drive up slowing sales continues to rise according to J.D. Power & LMC Automotive. Through the first 11 days of May it was $3,583 per unit, the highest level ever for the month of May and up $241 from May 2016.

 “While consumers will see substantial discounts this Memorial Day weekend, they are not expected to overcome the slowing demand in auto sales,” said Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power.

 “The holiday weekend is one of the heaviest trafficked car-buying periods and, in 2016, the Friday-Monday selling period accounted for more than 20% of May retail sales,” she added.

 Despite maintaining record incentive levels, the average days to sell a vehicle is above 70 for the first time since 2009. Trucks account for 61.7% of new-vehicle retail sales so far in May—the highest level ever for the month.  

 A class action suit filed in Detroit alleges that some GM pickups emit two to five times the levels of nitrogen-oxide allowed by law. Plaintiffs allege that software allowed the trucks to pass pollution tests but then turn off emissions controls on the road. GM called the claims “baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves. The Duramax Diesel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra comply with all U.S. EPA and CARB emissions regulations.”

 The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will take place next year on Sunday, August 26, 2018. The one-time move from the third to the fourth Sunday of August makes room for the United States Amateur Championship to be held at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course from August 13 through 19.

 The Auto News column will resume on Tuesday May 30th.


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.