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.






Auto News for May 17 – Ford Job Cuts Announced

 Ford announced it will cut 10 percent of its salaried workforce in North America and Asia Pacific or about 1,400 jobs. The reduction will be carried out by offers of early retirement or “special separation packages.” Ford has come under pressure from shareholders and some board members to buff up its stock price. Last September, Ford said it would be looking for ways to save about $3 billion a year for the next three years as costs increase and sales move lower after a long period of record demand. “Full details about the voluntary packages and how the program will work will be communicated with employees in early June,” the automaker said. In the early going on Wall Street, Ford shares were down nearly one and one half percent.

 Auto sales are also on the decline in Europe, down 6.8 percent in April, and off a whopping 20 percent in the U.K. due to changes in the excise tax. For Europe, the setback was the largest since a 10 percent decline in March of 2013.

  AAA projects that 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend. That is one million more travelers than last year taking to the roads, skies, rails and water, creating the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005. “The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day.” The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29.

 A new survey from CarGurus shows that key aspects of the ‘first car’ buying experience have changed for the younger generation. Not only were Baby Boomers more involved in selecting their first car compared to Millennials, they also were far more likely to have contributed to the purchase cost. 65 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed said they paid for some or all of their first car, while only 37 percent of Millennials said they contributed to the cost of their first car. The survey also found that while Millennials were more likely to be given the car by a family member, it was not as a gift per se, but rather as a necessity to allow them to fulfill responsibilities. Since this generation was more likely to be given their first car, they were just as likely to not have a choice in their first car.


Auto News for May 16 – Cutbacks Coming at Ford?


 Ford will announce this week plans to trim 10 percent of its worldwide work force, mostly likely white collar jobs, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The automaker has been pressured by its board and shareholders of late to answer lower first quarter profits as sales cool at the Blue Oval and for other automakers. Ford said reducing costs and becoming as lean and efficient as possible remain a part of its work, but added it does not “comment on speculation.”

 It is time to change the way government’s measures pollution from diesel powered vehicles because they are emitting more than 50 percent higher levels of pollution than indicated in tests. A new study was published in the journal Nature on Monday. Researchers estimated that that globally soot and smog caused 38,000 deaths in 2015 after measuring tailpipes in 10 countries and the European Union. They did not accuse any auto makers of cheating, but said government tests do not reflect real world conditions.

 An analyst at Morgan Stanley has cut the buy rating on Tesla shares predicting the company will burn through more cash than expected due to increased competition in the areas of ride sharing and technology. He cited, among other things, Apple’s plan to begin testing autonomous cars in California. In pre-market trading this morning, Tesla shares were down $8.93 or 2.75 percent.

Automotive News reports Volvo will team with Google to develop an Android-based infotainment system. Volvo predicts you will see it in their cars within two years.




Auto News for May 15 – Lambo SUV & 600+


 If you are Lamborghini and you are going to build an SUV, it simply has to have a ton of horsepower. So the upcoming Urus will arrive with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that cranks out 650 horsepower. Of course it will be expensive (!) when the first models appear and Automotive News reports the Urus will go on sale here in the states in the third quarter of next year.

 Globally, BMW sales rose 7.4 percent in April while demand for the first four months of 2017 set a record.  Customer demand is high for the X1, the 5 Series and the 7 Series. And officials said they are confident they will meet their goal of selling 100,000 “electrified cars” this year.

 BMW’s new 5 Series has earned a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It cited good across-the-board crashworthiness, an optional crash prevention system and headlights that were given a “good” rating. It also performed well in the small overlap front crash test.


Saturday Road Test – Mazda CX-9


                                Mazda CX-9

                              Space, Pace, & Fun

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – “Driving Matters” says Mazda in its advertising and their products, thankfully, live up to that mantra.

 Even here in their largest family hauler, fun to drive ranks well above the competition. It is not confined just to the MX-5 Miata.

 What we have here is a mid-size three row crossover that seats 7, Mazda said, but the third row is best reserved for those of shorter stature.

 Four trim levels are offered, Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. I would rate the tested Grand Touring trim as the best bang for the buck thanks to its long list of standard features.

 It came with just two minor options. And not much more was needed with such welcome equipment as a sunroof, navi, a Bose audio system with a dozen speakers, leather trimmed and heated front seats, head-up display, and excellent fit and finish.

 Under the hood was a delightful 2.5-liter turbo four with 310 pounds feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. How many horses are produced depends on what you put in the tank. Mazda said it’s good for 250 hp at 5,000 rpm if you buy 93 octane and 227 hp on 87 octane. Look for a 0-60 in the mid 7 second range helped by a responsive 6-speed automatic. All-Wheel drive was standard on the test vehicle, but few CX-9 owners are likely to go off-roading. But when winter returns…  Naa, let’s not think about that.

 EPA put the gas economy at 20 mpg around the city, 26 highway for a combined 23. I came in at 22.

 What I liked most about this package was the ease with which the power was delivered, excellent handling, a low interior noise level, and the great sounds from that Bose unit. Sooo, a long day behind the wheel is something to look forward to with the added benefit that your morning companions will know they are riding in an upscale vehicle.

 While acknowledging that they do serve a need for some younger folks, I am not a fan of the second row folding sun screens that block an attentive driver’s glimpse of what, if anything, lurks in the right side blind spot.

 Mazda’s center console mounted knob that controls the 8” screen was easy to master and well ahead of some competitors.  

 Safety features included Smart City Brake Support that uses infrared radar and works between 2 and 19 mph to cut power, prime the brakes or apply brakes when it senses an impending collision, as well as warn the driver. Also Smart Brake Support that operates at speeds above 9 mph to automatically brake in the case of an impending collision.

  And oh, that strange looking thing on the roof is the “Shark Fin Antenna.”

 With Mazda’s “fun to drive” reputation intact here, along with the responsive engine, upscale and comfortable interior, the CX-9 will appeal to those looking for a mid-size people and cargo hauler, that doesn’t look at all like the competition. And while the handling is above average, as one would expect from this brand, the ride is comfortable for all.

 For the test vehicle, the bottom line came to $43,610 including $940 for delivery. A base Sport model starts at $31.520.


Auto News for May 12 – Ford’s Annual Meeting


 In essence, Ford’s leaders defended the company’s investments in electric vehicles, self-driving cars and mobility, while shareholders said they were not happy with current stock prices. Ford’s investments are geared, officials said, to future pay offs while many Wall Streeter’s focus more on quicker results to beef up the bottom line. At the automaker’s annual meeting held in audio only format, Chairman Bill Ford Jr., said the company is making investments “both for today and for tomorrow.” In pre-market action this morning, Ford shares were down but only by three cents.

 Peugeot’s shareholders have approved the procedures to be used to acquire GM’s Opel and Vauxhall brands. The $2.3 billion deal was announced in March and the two automakers hope to close the deal by the end of the year.

 Valvoline has dedicated its $35 million, 162,400 square foot world headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky with a “vision” of creating the “world’s leading engine and automotive maintenance business.”

The best deals in new vehicles these days are for the Hyundai Sonata, and Nissan Rogue. Kelly Blue Book said the Sonata was the best Cash Back, Financing Deal while the Rogue carries the best Lease Deal.

 Sold on the first day offered. That’s what happened when a Fiat 124 Spider Prime Edizione Lusso with Vin NO. 1 was offered on Gilt.Com. The purchase price was $31,500. The first 124 units of the 124 Spider are available only on a limited production basis.



Auto News for May 11 BMW 8 Coming Back & One million 911’s


 It’s official! BMW will bring back the 8-series next year. The company announced at its annual meeting that it will present a “design study” of the car on May 26.  “The BMW 8-Series Coupe will build on our tradition of luxurious sports coupes and add a genuine dream car to our line-up – a slice of pure automotive fascination,” said Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board. “The 8 Series Coupe will underpin our claim to leadership in the luxury segment. I can tell you today that this will be a true luxury sports coupe.”

 A convertible model is also expected and the price is likely to be well into six figures. That is about all we know at this point, other than the teaser drawing. BMW built the last 8-Series back in 1999.

 They are celebrating in Zuffenhausen! The one-millionth 911 Porsche rolled off the assembly line there – a Carrera S in a special color called “Irish Green.” Over 70 percent of all Porsche cars ever built are still ready to drive today. In addition, the Porsche 911 can consistently be found at the top of quality rankings such as the “Initial Quality Study” from J.D. Power. The one-millionth 911 will not be sold. Before it moves on to the Porsche Museum, it will embark on a world tour and will take road trips in the Scottish Highlands, around the Nürburgring, and in the USA, China, and beyond.

 A poll conducted by Cornell University shows people would be willing to pay $3,550 extra to obtain a semi-autonomous car and $4,900 for a fully autonomous one. It said some would be willing to pay more than $10,000 more to obtain a vehicle with full self-driving capability. A total of 1,260 people took part in the survey and “many” said they would not spend an extra dime for the technology. “Our models suggest that the demand for automation is split approximately evenly between high, modest and no demand, highlighting the importance of considering flexible preferences for emerging vehicle technologies,” the study concluded.





Auto News for May 10

 A study by auto supplier Continental AG said electric cars will not have a cost advantage over gas powered autos until 2025. High battery prices, ramp up expenses, and concerns over charging times were the main reasons why, according to the Detroit News.

 What maybe one of the first Mustang hardtops ever made will be auctioned off in Indianapolis this month. It is said to be among the pre-production orders dating back to early 1964. The seller claims the VIN number shows it was one of those very early cars. Remember that place and time when I tell you the car rolled on 13-inch tires and had a three speed transmission.  


 Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio SUV will carrying an MSRP of $41,995, sans $995 transportation for the base of three models. Two of three offered models will go on sale here this summer Alfa said, with the pricing and timing of the top of the line Quadrifoglio to be announced “later this year.”

 Here is something you probably did not expect – An Official Synthetic Motor Oil for a movie. But that is what Valvoline announced. It is the official oil for the upcoming “Transformers: The Last Knight” in theaters June 21.

 Toyota reported lower profits in the fourth quarter even though global sales rose better than six percent. Unfavorable currency exchange rates was one of the main reasons cited for the decline. Looking ahead, Toyota said expected slower sales here in the U.S. may be offset by higher demand in some emerging countries. Yet, it also said a stronger yen and increased marketing expenses will lead to lower profits this year.

 Ford’s annual meeting tomorrow could be interesting. It comes amid reports that some board members are not happy with the company’s stagnant stock price as CEO Mark Fields moves the company to invest in electric vehicles, autonomous cars and mobility. The rub among investors is that any profits from those investments are likely to only appear years down the line – the age old battle of how much do you invest in today and potentially drive up stock prices, and how much a company invests in tomorrow. As the sales bubble continues to burst, there are also questions from Wall Street regarding how much auto firms will spend on incentives to spur sales.

 And this just in and I quote this press release verbatim:

 GAC начинает строительство нового промышленного парка для стимулирования развития подразделения электромобилей

 This apparently has to do with the construction of a new industrial park in China by one of that nation’s auto makers.


Auto News for May 9 – Beetle’s Future Up In The Air

Volkswagen has promised big changes in its lineup, and now Motor Trend and Autocar say the Beetle may get the ax, or just the hardtop may be discontinued. Others say the car may disappear for a spell and come back as an electric.

The nationwide average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $2.35 per gallon, which is four cents less than one week and one month ago, and 14 cents more than the same date last year, said AAA. Last week, 46 states saw prices drop – some by at least 9 cents – with prices remaining steady in other parts of the country. The trending decline is due to an unseasonable glut of gasoline in the U.S. market, record high refinery production rates, moderate demand and a recent drop in crude oil prices.

GMC announced that its new Terrain will carry an MSRP of $25,970 when it goes on sale this summer. Initially it will be offered with a 2.0-liter turbo followed later with a 1.5 liter turbo and a 1.6 turbo diesel. The top of the line Terrain Denali AWD will start at $40,245.

Ford will conduct its annual meeting of shareholders on Thursday. For the first time, the meeting will be conducted through an audio broadcast accessible from a computer, tablet or smart phone device. While some argue this gives management more power over how the meeting is conducted, the audio only meeting is gaining in popularity. The NY Times said it was used by 154 companies last year.