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First Drive: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

A performance SUV we won't Pass on.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The Stelvio is the first SUV ever from Alfa Romeo - though more are in the works.

The rain is falling in heavy sheets, the windshield wipers beating time in an effort to keep up. Some other drivers have begun pulling off to the side waiting for things to clear up, but we only tip deeper into the throttle as we slice our ways through the corners on our drive through the heavily wooded hills of Tennessee.

We’ve got miles to put on, and the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio seems to be relishing the drive. Sometimes, it’s maneuvering through the worst conditions that reveals the most about a new vehicle, and by the end of our journey we’ll be learning a lot about the Stelvio, the Italian automaker’s first-ever SUV.

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Just starting to roll into showrooms across the U.S., the Stelvio is Alfa’s third new product line, sharing space with the little 4C sports car and the only recently introduced Giulia on dealer lots. Though longer and taller than the sports sedan, the SUV shares the same mechanical underpinnings and, as we quickly learn, pleasantly similar driving dynamics. The Giulia was a revelation to drive and now, with the arrival of the Stelvio, Alfa is more than justifying its existence with the sort of performance model the SUV-crazed American market has been waiting for.

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GM Settles 200-Plus Ignition Switch Lawsuits

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but likely to carry over to state filings.

by on Jun.23, 2017

General Motors settled more than 200 lawsuits related to its faulty ignition switches.

After years of attempting to legally maneuver its way out of lawsuits about its defective ignition switches, General Motors agreed to settle more than 200 federal lawsuits, according to a recent court filing.

The filing revealed that the settlement terms are confidential, but the deal could pave the way to resolved hundreds of similar claims at the state court level, lawyers said in the filing, according to Reuters.

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The defective switches could move from the power to the accessory position, causing the vehicle to stall, cutting power to several systems in the vehicle, including the brakes, steering and airbags. The problem, which GM engineers hid for more than a decade, has been tied to 124 deaths and 275 injuries. Read the rest of this entry »

Takata Expected to File Bankruptcy in Japan

Action expected to come on Monday, according to reports.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The troubled supplier is close to filing bankruptcy, sources claim. The filing is expected to occur on Monday in Japan.

Long-troubled auto supplier Takata Corp. will file bankruptcy on Monday, as it seeks to reorganize billions of dollars in liabilities tied mostly to its defective airbag inflators.

The Japanese company, according to Reuters, will file for protection in Tokyo District Court under the Civil Rehabilitation Act, which is that country’s version of U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reuters tied its report to sources, one of whom has direct knowledge of the matter and one who was briefed on the process.

Global Auto News!

Takata will seek bridge loans from the banking unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., “which will provide tens of billions of yen (hundreds of millions of dollars) in bridge loans,” Reuters reported. Read the rest of this entry »

Toyota Rules Out Using Diesel Hybrids

Maker avoids diesels despite ability to improve mileage.

by on Jun.23, 2017

Toyota isn't to be producing any hybrids using a diesel engine any time the near term, an executive said.

Skepticism of diesel engines runs deep among carmakers and governments in East Asia, where the influential automakers in South Korea, Japan and China have avoided major investments in diesel power because of concerns about costs, pollution and public health.

Even European companies, such as Volkswagen AG and the French company PSA, have elected to limit the use of diesel engines in the Chinese market.

Diesel News!

A Toyota Motor executive this week ruled out the possibility of rolling out hybrid models powered by diesel engines in the near future.  Read the rest of this entry »

Toyota Sees New Styling Identity with 2018 Camry

Next-gen sedan pushing maker into a new design era.

by on Jun.23, 2017

The next-gen Toyota Camry is the first in a line of new vehicles featuring the maker's more exciting exterior styling efforts.

Few cars in recent history have enjoyed the success of the Toyota Camry, which has been the best-selling car in the United States for the past 15 years and counting.

But Toyota hasn’t become the one of the world’s largest automakers by resting on its laurels and for 2018 the Japanese automotive giant has taken the difficult step of remaking the Camry for increasingly demanding world filled with increasingly finicky buyers unsure about whether they want to drive a car or have a car drive for them.

Product News!

The 2018 version builds on the Camry’s strengths, starting with the dependability, which won over the hearts of Baby Boomers for decades. Toyota also has taken steps to make sure the styling, the interior layout and perhaps most importantly the ride and handling of the 2018 Camry are on par with that famous reliability. The result was quite impressive during a series of test runs on the narrow farm roads through the rolling countryside outside Portland, Oregon. Read the rest of this entry »

Automakers Ramping Up Production Cuts as Sales Slide

Shift cut at Chevy Malibu plant the latest sign of industry weakness.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Despite strong reviews, the new Chevrolet Malibu has rapidly lost sales momentum in favor of SUVs.

Despite other signs of a relatively healthy economy things are starting to get worrisome in the auto industry where manufacturers have scheduled production cuts faster than at any time since the Great Recession.

General Motors, which had already dropped shifts at five plants since last autumn, now says it will eliminate a shift at the Fairfax, Kansas plant building its once-popular Chevrolet Malibu. The automaker’s Canadian operations, meanwhile, will extend the originally scheduled summer shutdown at two plants due to bulging inventories on both sides of the border.

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The Big Picture!

GM isn’t alone. Ford Motor Co. laid off thousands of workers due to temporary shutdowns in May, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has two entire factories idled while they are converted from car to light truck production.

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Americans Expected to Set New Driving Records for July 4 Holiday

Low gas prices driving Americans to get on the road.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Americans will celebrate the July 4 holiday by piling into their cars in record numbers.

Every holiday period recently Americans are predicted to set a new record for how many miles they’ll travel over the long weekend, and this Independence Day weekend won’t be any different, according to AAA.

The auto club expects 44.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home, a 2.9% increase over last year’s record for the holiday. Most of that traveling will be done in some sort of car, minivan or sport-ute/crossover as it’s a four-day holiday for most Americans.

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“Combined, strong employment, rising incomes and higher consumer confidence bode well for the travel industry, in particular this Independence Day weekend,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. Read the rest of this entry »

General Motors Expands Maven Gig to San Francisco

GM's car-sharing service aimed at freelancers growing.

by on Jun.22, 2017

GM is expanding its Maven Gig, which is aimed at freelancers, offerings in San Francisco.

General Motors’ newest mobility service, Maven Gig, is spreading its wings on the West Coast by opening operations to San Francisco.

Created specifically to provide vehicles for independent, freelance driving jobs or “gigs,” such as GrubHub, Instacart, Roadie and ridesharing services, GM launched Maven Gig in San Diego last month as part of growing portfolio of car sharing and mobility services.

Beyond the Headlines!

“Freelancers in the sharing economy want flexibility and Maven Gig is a seamless way to maximize opportunities,” said Rachel Bhattacharya, director of Commercial Mobility Strategy for Maven. “If the driver has a lull on one service they can easily flip to another and keep hustling,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Tesla Autonomous Vehicle Chief Drives Off; Latest in a Series of High-Level Departures

But new AI researcher was waiting in the wings.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Chris Lattner, Tesla's director of artificial intelligence, just parted ways with the company.

Tesla has lost another senior manager, this time the head of its self-driving car program who joined the battery-electric automaker only six months ago.

But the departure of Chris Lattner, who had previously been working at Apple, isn’t expected to have more than a short-term impact, Tesla quickly announcing that it would assign some of Lattner’s duties to a new hire, prominent artificial intelligence, or AI researcher Andrej Karpathy.

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“Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all,” Lattner said in a tweet, prompting Tesla to fire back in a statement that, “Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla and we’ve decided to make a change.” Read the rest of this entry »

Virus Forces Honda To Halt Production at Japan Plant

WannaCry ransomware found in computer network.

by on Jun.22, 2017

Honda's Sayama, Japan, plant that produces the Odyssey minivan was shut down due to a ransomware attack earlier this week.

This story includes update information.

Honda was temporarily forced to shut down one of its key Japanese assembly plants this week after discovering the WannaCry ransomware virus in the plant’s computer network.

The shutdown was expected to delay production of some of the automaker’s key product lines, including the Accord sedan and Odyssey minivan. The Sayama plant, which is located about an hour northwest of Honda’s Tokyo headquarters, typically produces about 1,000 vehicles daily.

News You Can Trust!

The WannaCry virus was discovered about a month ago after rapidly infecting computer networks around the world. It briefly shut down operations at a number of British hospitals, among other things and caused production delays at both French automaker Renault and its Japanese alliance partner Nissan. Read the rest of this entry »