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New Vehicle Fuel Economy Slides in June

by on Jul.07, 2015

New vehicle buyers are favoring trucks and utility vehicles, which is cutting the average fuel economy rating for new vehicles.

Courtesy of low gas prices, U.S. consumers continue to plunk down cash for trucks and utility vehicles in increasing numbers over more fuel efficient small cars, and in the process, drive down the average fuel economy of vehicles in this country.

The gas mileage rating of new vehicles purchased by American consumers slipped last month, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). The average fuel economy printed on the window stickers of cars, light trucks, vans and SUVs purchased in June was 25.4 mpg, down from 25.5 mpg in May, the U-M researchers said.

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“The decline likely reflects the increased sales of light trucks and SUVs in June,” according to Michael Sivak, a research professor at UMTRI. Read the rest of this entry »

GM Takes on Ford F-150 in New Web Campaign

YouTube spots use bear, fake superhero…and Howie Long.

by on Jul.06, 2015

Howie Long compares Chevy Silverado and Ford F-150 repair costs in one new web ad.

General Motors is amping up its attack on Ford’s highly touted, aluminum-intensive F-150 in a bid to gain dominance in the hugely profitable full-size pickup segment.

The YouTube web spots – which may soon turn into a network TV campaign – rely on a 700-pound bear, a fake superhero and NFL broadcaster Howie Long in a bid to portray Ford’s new truck as too costly for the average owner to maintain.

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The stakes are huge. Full-size pickups are some of the most profitable vehicles in the industry. Ford has long dominated the segment with its F-Series line-up, but some analysts say it may be vulnerable in the wake of the switch from steel to aluminum for the 2015 model-year.

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Turning Shoppers into Customers: Mercedes Tops the Chart in New Study

Tesla turns its showrooms into museums.

by on Jul.06, 2015

Offering a test drive can be a real deal-maker, according to Pied Piper research.

When Linda Brightman started out to buy a new car she had her heart set on a new BMW 3-Series. The suburban Los Angeles mother of two made one concession to her husband, agreeing to at least visit a few other showrooms to see what the competitors had to offer. He was nonetheless surprised when she drove home in a new Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

She liked a lot of the safety features, Brightman explained. But what had clinched the deal was the way the dealers treated her. The salesman at the BMW showroom seemed more bothered than interested in working with her. The Mercedes rep, on the other hand, had all the time in the world to work with her, not just answering questions but anticipating what Brightman might ask next.

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That’s no surprise to Fran O’Hagan, a California researcher who has been monitoring dealer behavior for his annual Pied Piper Satisfaction Index. In recent years, Mercedes showrooms have set the benchmark, he explains, having “changed from a museum curator approach to being as helpful as they can, turning car shoppers into Mercedes owners.”

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New Honda CEO Lays Out Turnaround Plan

Takahiro Hachigo wants to tap “power of Honda people.”

by on Jul.06, 2015

Former CEO Takanobu Ito and Honda's new Chief Exec Takahiro Hachigo.

Hammered by the recall of more than 20 million vehicles due to faulty airbags, as well as a nearly 9% decline in profits, Takahiro Hachigo has a tough job ahead as the new CEO of Honda Motor Co.

The lifelong employee of Japan’s third-largest automaker laid out his vision of a turnaround during his first official news conference since being promoted to CEO last month. While Hachigo was short on specifics, he offered a broad outline that will bring more products and could see Honda enter new alliances and joint ventures with erstwhile rivals.

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“I plan to create a new Honda,” he told reporters at Honda’s Tokyo headquarters, adding that his goal is to tap into “the power of Honda people.”

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Men Opting for Bright, Bold Paint Color, Women Prefer Safe Neutrals

Red and black losing traction.

by on Jul.06, 2015

Long popular red - shown here on a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 - has lost some of its luster.

One only has to follow fashion to know that men and women typically have very different tastes when it comes to colors. But while guys might tend towards more subdued shades when it comes to the clothes they wear, they’re much more open than women to bright, bold and flashy colors for the vehicles they buy.

A new study finds that orange, brown and yellow are the colors men have developed a strong preference for over the last year. Women, on the other hand, remain wedded to traditional gold, silver and beige.

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“These study results could suggest that women are more practical in their choices. For the most part, they may just want to buy a reasonably priced car that safely drives them around,” said Phong Ly, co-founder of the used vehicle website iSeeCars. “On the other hand, for men, perhaps they may be a bit more idealistic about cars, preferring something that has speed and is fun to drive.”

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JLR Turns to Outside Manufacturer for New Crossover

Magna Steyr to produce new vehicle, possibly J-Space 3-row CUV.

by on Jul.06, 2015

Jaguar may build a second crossover at Magna Steyr that would be larger than the F-Pace shown here.

Its own manufacturing capacity stretched to the limits, Jaguar Land Rover will turn to a contract manufacturer Magna Steyr to build a new crossover vehicle for the Jaguar brand.

Based in Graz, Austria, Magna Steyr has produced vehicles for a wide variety of manufacturers and brands over the years, a list currently including Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Mini. For Jaguar, the new partnership will create additional capacity needed to support future growth plans, according to Ralf Speth, JLR’s chief executive officer.

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“The UK remains at the center of our design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities,” Speth stressed, adding that, “Partnerships such as this will complement our UK operations and engineering.”

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Bad News Abroad Could Be Good News for US Motorists

Problems in Greece, China drive down crude oil.

by on Jul.06, 2015

American motorists could come out the winners in the stand-off between Greece and the EU.

While the future of the European Union may be up in the air, American drivers might be forgiven for finding a silver lining in word that Greek voters rejected terms of a bailout over the weekend.

The results of the referendum, along with the shake-up of the Chinese stock market, have sent global oil prices tumbling. And that, in turn, could soon send gas prices falling in the U.S., experts suggest.

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“Uncertainty over Greece is bearish for oil. It adds an extra negative factor on top of the turmoil in Chinese financial markets, the recent rise in U.S. drilling rigs, and a potential increase in Iranian oil supply,” Olivier Jakob, senior energy analyst at Petromatrix in Zug, Switzerland, told the Reuters news service.

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Feds Plan to Punish Fiat Chrysler for Safety Lapses

Maker could face $100s of millions in fines.

by on Jul.03, 2015

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has been critical of Fiat Chrysler's handling of a series of recalls.

Already under fire for its slow response to various safety problems, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles now faces hefty fines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which accused the maker of misleading federal safety regulators.

FCA officials came in for sharp criticism during a hearing in Washington on Thursday, NHTSA officials accusing the maker of repeatedly keeping it “in the dark” about safety problems.  The unprecedented session was called to examine Fiat Chrysler’s handling of 23 separate recalls covering 11 million vehicles.

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“What you heard here is there’s a pattern that’s been going on for some time, frankly,” said Mark Rosekind, the new Administrator for NHTSA. The agency has taken heat for some of its own lapses in recent weeks, and Rosekind has promised to both fix those problems and crack down on the industry.

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Ford Recalling 432,000 Cars that Might Not Shut Off

Ford Focus, Escape and C-Max models targeted.

by on Jul.02, 2015

Ford is recalling Escape - again.

Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 432,000 cars, crossovers and “people-movers” because of a software glitch that might make it difficult to shut the vehicles off.

Ford says the problem is a flaw in the body control module used on three of its key product lines, the compact Focus sedan, the Escape utility vehicle, and the C-Max microvan. It can impact both vehicles with keyed ignitions as well as those with start/stop buttons.

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If the system fails, the vehicles may keep running even if the ignition button is pressed or the key is turned to the “off” position and removed, Ford said.

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With New Plant in India, Jeep Set to Build SUVs on Four Continents

All-new model planned for $280 million plant in Ranjangaon.

by on Jul.02, 2015

The new Renegade marked a turning point for Jeep which is producing it in Italy, rather than the US.

Little more than a domestic American brand just a few years ago, Jeep is going global, expanding both its distribution network to markets as far flung as Berlin, Beijing and Mumbai. It will soon have production facilities, meanwhile, on four continents.

The subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles confirmed this week that it will invest $280 million as part of a joint manufacturing venture with India’s Tata Motors. The factory will produce several vehicles, including both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and an all-new model, company officials indicated.

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That project is an “important step as we continue to expand the availability of Jeep products around the world,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said.

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