Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chrysler's Mopar readies more kits and models

  For its 75th anniversary, Mopar is eager to show off how good it is at helping motorists, enthusiasts wne weekend racers customize their car as well its ability to develop special features and components  for various Chrysler Divisions. Consequently, Chrysler executives could wait to show how four distinctive models, which will be part of Chrysler's sprawling display at the annual Chicago Auto Show. Four different vehicles made over by  Mopar will be part of the display vehicles, including the Mopar '12 300, Fiat 500 "Stinger," Mopar Jeep Compass "True North" and Dodge Dart "GTS 210 Tribute." The Mopar '12 will be available this summer straight from the factory, while components of the Fiat 500, Jeep Compass and Dodge Dart custom configurations will be available in the fall as stage kits or a la carte from the Mopar catalog, Chrysler officials said.
  The limited, very limited Mopar '12 300 builds on the success of Mopar versions of the 2010 Dodge Challenger and 2011 Dodge Charger. The Mopar package designed specifically for the  Mopar '12 300 transforms the Chrysler 300 flagship sedan into a performance tribute to celebrate Mopar's 75th anniversary with unique appointments, select high-performance parts and appearance items straight from the Mopar parts catalog, according to Jim Sassorossi, head of Mopar sales and product development.
 During the run up to the  2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mopar kicked off its year-long 75th anniversary celebration with the introduction of the Chrysler 200 Super S by Mopar and the Dodge Charger Redline.  The Mopar name , a simple contraction of the words MOtor and PARts, was trademarked by Chrysler back in 1937. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, January 27, 2012

BorgWarner components used in winnning engnes

 BorgWarner of Auburn Hills reported its Engine Group supplied systems and components for five engines named in Ward’s “10 Best Engines 2012.”  The list includes the BMW 3-liter N55 Turbocharged DOHC I-6, Chrysler Group 3.6-liter Pentastar DOHC V-6 used in the Chrylser 300 and Jeep WranglerFord 2.0-liter EcoBoost DOHC I-4 in the Ford Edge and Ford 5-liter DOHC V-8 for Ford Mustang Boss 302  and General Motors 2-liter Turbocharged DOHC I-4 in Buick Regal GS.
“Powerful, more efficient engines are not only better for the environment; they are fun to drive. At BorgWarner, we develop advanced technologies to enhance performance, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions,” said Timothy M. Manganello, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BorgWarner. “We are proud to contribute to the success of these distinguished engines. Congratulations to our winning customers - BMW, Chrysler Group, Ford and General Motors,” he said.
 The company notedtTurbochargers, engine timing systems, and variable cam timing (VCT) systems with Cam Torque Actuated (CTA) technology are some of the technologies and systems BorgWarner produces for these notable engines. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Akerson lays out defense of Volt

 It's not exactly news the Chevrolet Volt has become a political punching bag. But General Motors Chairman and chief executive Dan Akerson vigorously defended the Volt during a Congressional hearing this week. There was no effort by GM or the U.S. government to conceal any kind safety problem on the Volt, Akerson said. "We engineered Volt to show the world what great vehicles we make at General Motors. Unfortunately, there is one thing we did not engineer.  Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features -- we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag, And that, sadly, is what it’s become," the GM CEO said. "For all of the loose talk about fires, we are here today because tests by regulators resulted in battery fires under lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world. In fact, Volt customers have driven over 25 million miles without a single, similar incident.
  "In one test, the fire occurred seven days after a simulated crash.  In another, it took three weeks after the test.  Not three minutes.  Not three hours.  Not three days.  Three weeks," he added.
 "Based on those test results, did we think there was an imminent safety risk?  No. Or, as one of our customers put it:  if they couldn’t cut him out of the vehicle in two or three weeks, he had a bigger problem to worry about.
However, given those test results, GM had a choice on how we would react.  It was an easy call.We put our customers first.  We moved fast and with great transparency to engineer a solution.
  "We contacted every Volt owner and offered them a loaner car until the issue was settled.  And if that wasn’t enough, we offered to buy the car back. We’ll begin adding the enhancement on the line and in customers’ cars in a few weeks. And in doing so, we took a 5-star rated vehicle and made it even safer.
 "The Volt is safe.  It's a marvelous machine. It represents so much of what is right about General Motors and, frankly, about American ingenuity and manufacturing," Akerson, adding the controversy swirling around the Volt, much of its politically inspired, have cast "an undeserved, damaging light on a promising new American technology that we are exporting around the world, right from Detroit."
 Akerson also pointed out the development of the Volt was well underway before Barack Obama became President.  Some pundits, cable news airheads, blogs and websites have pushed the story the Volt was developed to please Obama. Akerson's testimony set the record straight.
GM unveiled the Volt concept at the January 2007 Detroit Auto Show, which means GM had been working on the car for several months before it appeared.  In June of 2008,  while George W. Bush was still President, the “old GM’s” Board of Directors approved the Volt project for production well before the bankruptcy and infusion of government funds, Akerson said.
The battery story goes back much farther to the early 1990s with GM’s extensive work on the EV1,he added. "We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice— to use energy produced in the United States rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interests first."  By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spare tires beginning to vanish

  The spare tire, even the so-called donut" appears headed for extinction, according to a new report from AAA. "To meet new government fuel efficiency standards some vehicle manufactures are omitting heavy spare tires and equipping new vehicles with an emergency sealant and inflator kit or tires that if damaged can run reasonable distances without air," AAA noted in a new report, which said new fuel economy standards due for implementation between 2012 and 2016 are driving the change. n 2010, the Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency established new corporate average. "Achieving these standards will require many changes to the vehicles we drive.  One area of focus is to reduce the weight of vehicles without compromising occupant safety.  A spare tire, related tools and a jack can weigh more than 40 pounds. That may seem like a small amount but every little bit helps and unlike other weight saving changes, it doesn't add cost to the vehicle," the report noted.
"Unfortunately many vehicle owners may be unaware that their vehicle has no spare tire until they experience a flat tire," says John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Buying, and Consumer Information. "Consumers should review their owner's manual and emergency maintenance supplies they have in the vehicle and be informed about alternatives to a spare to prevent panic or a delay when encountering a flat tire." By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trade battle looms as Japanese sales soften

The always contentious issue of auto trade is threatening to deraiil negotiations on a new Trans-Pacific Trade pact. Last November, the leaders from  nine Trans-Pacific Partnership countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States – announced they had agreed the broad outlines of an ambitious, 21st-century Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP greement that would enhance trade and investment among among the signatories.
Citing Japan’s history of excluding foreign competition from its markets and ongoing policy of currency manipulation, Sen. Casey (D-PA) announced he had written to President Obama and asked that Japan not be included in the TPP unless they agree to open their market to U.S. autos.  Meaningful access to Japan’s closed auto market for Chrysler, Ford and GM’s product offerings, must be first met before inviting Japan to join in a free trade agreement with the United States, Casey said in statement.  
 Meanwhile, Japanese automakers have cut their estimates for sales in Japan.
Demand for cars, trucks and buses in the country may grow only 1 percent  to 5 million vehicles from 4.2 million last year, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. The estimate is short of the projected increase predicted by JAMA chairman Toshiyuki Shiga last month when he said sales would rise by about 900,000 vehicles. By Joseph Szczesny

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kia expands roster of NBA sponsorships

  Kia Motors America, one of the fastest growing car companies in the US, has added a new team to its National Basketball Association team partnerships by becoming the "Official Vehicle of the Golden State Warriors." Kia also is the Official Automotive Partner of the NBA .
  Beginning with the 2011-2012 basketball season, KMA also has renewed relationships with the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Miami HEAT, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs, while the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic and Portland Trail Blazers remain on Kia Motors' roster in 2011-2012 as part of multi-year agreements.
 Michael Sprague, Kia vice president of marketing and public relations.   ^Between November of 2008 and November of 2011, Kia sales grew 78 percent as it rolled out the Kia Soul, Kia Optima and Kia Sorento.
  The association with the NBA has definitely helped build Kia’s credibility with consumers.  “People will say , ‘Well if the NBA endorse it, it must be a pretty good product,’” Sprague said.
 After setting a blistering pace over the past three year, Kia expects sales to climb well past a half milion units in 2012 even though it will not be launching any new products this year for the first time in recent years.
 Kia sales increased 36 percent last year to  485,000 units in the US as its rebuilt product line and its clever and aggressive advertising  featuring dancing hamsters and stars from the National Basketball Association helped bring new customers into show rooms in the US.  Overall, sales of new light-duty vehicles increased 8 percent  so Kia gained market  share.
 “Your have to remember we were capacity constrained last year,” he said.
 Kia is finishing up spending $100,000 million to expand the company^s new assembly plant in West Point, Ga.  While the production from West Point is shared with Hyundai, the plant can now build more than 360,000 vehicles annually providing Kia with more mid-sized Kia Optima to sell in the US, said Sprague, who declined to give a specific forecast. ^However, at 485,000 units last year, I think we can go well past 500,000 units,” he said.
 “We also ran out of the Rio about mid-year," he said. With new version of the subcompact Rio now rolling off assembly line in South Korea, the availability in the US of the new model will grow starting in March.  By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, January 19, 2012

GM Stephens set to retire

 Final the last members of the top-management team linked to the Smith-Wagoner era at General Motors has decided to call it quits. Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Tom Stephens has elected to retire April, GM has announced.
 Stephens, whose career with GM spanned 43 years, has been one of GM's top executives since 2001 when he became group vice president of global powertrain. In 2009, as the company plunged into bankruptcy, Stephens was put in charge of GM's product development and managed to keep critical programs on track as the company re-organized. He stepped aside as product chief in 201, turning the job over to Mary Barra, who was tapped by GM chairman and chief executive offer Dan Akerson for the sensitive post.
In his most recent role as CTO, Stephens led the company’s product technology arm, working to identify and develop advanced technologies for integration in future GM vehicles. He also focused on building closer relationships with external and internal technology partners. A successor to Stephens will be named later, GM officials said.
 Stephens also embodied the professional expertise and broad technical knowledge embedded in the old GM.  With his detailed knowledge of what makers vehicles go, Stephens also could address complicated technical issues in clear, lucid terms, making them understandable for GM's top management and other constituencies.
 “Tom Stephens is an engineering icon within our company and within our industry,” Akerson said.  “We have all benefited greatly from his passion, wisdom, and commitment to product excellence.  His talent and contributions to GM are deeply appreciated and his expertise will be missed.”
Key highlights of Stephens’ career include leading the development of the first Cadillac Northstar engine, GM’s premier dual overhead cam performance engine, which won numerous industry and engine awards. He also spearheaded the creation of GM’s advanced propulsion technology strategy, which guided the company’s development of a wide range of advanced engine technologies, hybrid vehicles, and the Chevrolet Volt.
Stephens led the globalization of powertrain engineering, leveraging global centers of expertise to speed engine development. He also championed the use of computational tools and common parts in GM engineering and product development processes to increase quality and efficiency.
 Stephens' GM career began in 1969 as an hourly employee at the Chevrolet Engineering Center in Warren, Mich., under the University of Michigan Student Co-op Program.  Stephens held several engineering positions at Cadillac Motor Car Division and a series of engineering leadership posts with the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Division before being chosen to lead the newly created GM Powertrain Division.
 Stephens said he plans to continue to serve on the board of directors of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Foundation and the board of trustees for the Detroit Science Center.  He is a member of the Engineering Advisory Council for the University of Michigan School of Engineering and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2007 for his contributions to powertrain engineering. By Joseph Szczesny

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jeep sales soar in Europe

 Despite a persistent economic crisis on the Continent,  sales of Jeep vehicles rose 61.8 percent in Europe during 2011 compared to an industry decline of 1.4 percent - as the Chrysler Group pushed ahead with effort to expand the brand’s presence internationally. Chrysler/Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne said during an appearance at Automotive News World Congress that Jeep was one of the world’s genuine interational automotive brands and clearly in a position to expands its sales globally. In Italy, Jeep sales increased 117.6 percent last year versus 2010, with registrations also increasing 71.7 percent in France, 124 percent in Germany, and 21.2 percent in Spain where the economy has stalled.
 In December, Jeep sales rose 47.8 percent in Europe versus December 2010, while the industry declined 5.8 percent. "The increase in Jeep sales in Europe is evidence that Chrysler Group's integration with the Fiat Group is clearly working," said Mike Manley, President and CEO - Jeep Brand. "Much of the Jeep brand's success in Europe can be attributed to a strengthened dealer network, as well as a rollout of new Jeep models for the European market - including the incorporation of Fiat's fuel- and emissions-saving MultiJet II technology on the new 3.0-liter CRD engine that powers the Grand Cherokee."
In addition to increases in Europe, Jeep brand sales rose 44 percent in the U.S. in 2011, and 41 percent globally. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mitsubishi begin delivery of EVs on West Coast

 Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. has begun delivering the company’s all-new, 100 percent electric-powered 2012 Mitsubishi i featuring Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle or MiEV technology to the first retail customers in the continental United States.  The vehicle were delivered to early adopters in California  and Oregon and Washington State are the fortunate early adopters who wanted to be among the first the all-electric production vehicle from Mitsubishi. Not only is the 2012 Mitsubishi i the most affordably-priced mass-market EV available in the United States but it was recently named the #1 vehicle on the EPA’s list of “Fuel Economy Leaders: 2012 Model Year” in the governmental agency’s annual Fuel Economy Guide, Mitsubishi officials noted.
 The very first Hawaii retail delivery of the 2012 Mitsubishi i occurred last month in a formal ceremony at the Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu
   Currently available on the West Coast and Hawaii, the 2012 Mitsubishi i will be available across much of the United Sates by this summer. With a starting net value of $21,625 for the well-equipped entry-level ES model, the 2012 Mitsubishi i is the first of several new advanced, alternative-fuel production vehicles that the Japanese auto manufacturer plans on bringing to the North American market in the next few years. By Joseph Szczesny

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sales of Ford Sync steadily on the rise

 Ford reports it has sold the 4 millionth vehicle equipped with Sync, the in-car connectivity system powered by Microsoft. Launching globally this year, Ford Sync is forecasted to reach 9 million new customers around the world in the next three years. “SYNC has been a transformational technology not only for Ford, but for the industry,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president for Global Product Development. “SYNC has been integral to keeping pace with the consumer, delivering value through a constant flow of new features that keep them connected to their digital lives in a safer, simpler and smarter way while driving.”
  Since first introduced in late 2007, Sync has  grown to provide customers even more value, with no additional cost such as 911 Assist, which connects drivers directly with 911 operators after an accident.  Ford’s SYNC Services launched in 2009, providing voice-activated access to a cloud-based network of information including traffic, news, sports, weather, horoscopes, stock quotes and movie listings along with business searches and turn-by-turn directions.
 Ford’s open platform approach to mobile device connectivity has helped SYNC stand out in the industry, allowing for continuous improvement of the user experience and the addition of new features. “Listening to customers and monitoring consumer trends has helped make SYNC a ‘must-have’ technology,” said Kuzak. “We will continuously improve SYNC based on customer feedback with the availability of software updates and upgrades.”
  Ford internal research has found that customers who bought 2011 models of Ford vehicles view Sync  as a must-have technology and purchase the system 82 percent of the time. Also, more than 80 percent of Sync users said they are likely to recommend the system to others.
 “Sync has allowed us to create the upgradeable car,” said Kuzak. “With the Sync platform inside the car, offering our owners updates will be very similar to what they experience with their smart phones and laptops,” he said. By Joseph Szczesny

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ford takes more honors

 The 2013 Ford Fusion is already bringing home awards. The editorial staff of Autoweek has chosen Fusion for its Best in Show award at the North American International Auto Show  The selection is based on one compelling measurement - the car people will remember most five years from now, the magazine's editors said.  "It's very rare for a midsize sedan to win Best in Show," said Autoweek Editor Wes Raynal. "I think it's the first of a lot of awards the Fusion is going to win this year." The Fusion also was named the "The Best Production Car" by a panel of design professionals assembled by "Eyes on Design.  Five Ford models have been chosen as being the best buy for the money – the most of any automaker – by U.S. News & World Report. The 2012 Ford Edge, Fusion, Fusion Hybrid, Taurus and Fiesta were selected for their quality and value. Ford won several  awards in the annual Polk Loyalty Award. Ford was honored  Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer; Overall Loyalty to Make; African-American Market Loyalty to Make; Compact SUV for the Escape; and Mid/Full Size Pickup for the F-Series truck lineup. The awards For Southfield-based Polk recognize manufacturers for superior owner loyalty performance, with loyalty determined when a household that owns a new vehicle returns to purchase or lease another new vehicle of the same model or make.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marchionne says fuel economy must improve

The automobile industry has a social responsibility to improve fuel economy, according to Chrysler/Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne.
  "The fuel efficiency challenge is one of the biggest issues facing the industry, and not just because of daunting government regulations.  As an industry, we need to look beyond the narrow interests of our industry and embrac ecological responsibility because we owe it to future generations," he said.
  "I believe in our industry’s ability to find solutions. Even with traditional combustion engines, we have only skimmed the surface of the ability to squeeze out higher fuel efficiency levels, allowing us to extract much more power out of smaller displacements," he said.
 "I believe that if we unleash our engineering talent, we can find solutions that are both in line with sustainable mobility while also meeting the desires of our customers for vehicles that are a pleasure to drive. As an industry, we can choose to reject the notion that we can’t do it," he said.
  Marchionne confirmed Chrysler will begin building the diesel-powered  version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee at the Jefferson North assembly plant in Detroit early in 2013. But Fiat/Chrysler chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne said he doesn't expect diesel engines to move from large trucks and SUS  into smaller passenger cars in the US . The necessary emission controls make the engines too expensive, Marchionne said during an appearance  at  the Automotive News World Congress.  Marchionne also said Chrysler won't begin preparing the Jefferson North plant to build a new Maserati SUV with a Ferrari engine until 2013 and dismissed speculation Fiat could be lining up to make a bid for the German carmaker Opel.
  Marchionne also emphasized Chrysler has no intention of resting on its laurels after a successful 2011 in which it succeed in selling more than 2 million vehicles and gaining market share. "This is a story of revitalization in a company that was regarded as irrelevant, set in a city that has been disparaged as a failure.
 "It is just one example of how impossible feats of recovery can be achieved if we work together in good faith, realizing that we have a stake in each other’s success," he said.
 "Fiat and Chrysler come from two different pasts, but they have something very strong in common.
Both have been to hell and back," he said.
 "The current situation doesn't favor a business like ours – an industry that is extremely capital intensive, requires thorough medium- and long-term planning, and is highly sensitive to economic downturns.
Today there are two significant threats fuelling fears on either side of the Atlantic: the specter of a faltering recovery in North America and the sovereign debt situation in Europe.
  Marchionne added the the current uncertainty is a by-product of the improper, or at best incomplete, execution of two large experiments.   
 "The first, clearly driven by the United States, had as a clear objective the liberalization and deregulation of financial markets," he said.
  "The second, concocted in Europe, proposed the Single Market and Single Currency as the solution to the political instability that had characterized Europe for hundreds of years," he added. "The first experiment brought us close to Armageddon.  The second has the potential to finish the job," he said. By Joseph Szczesny

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Awards spice up Detroit show

The Ford Fusion and Lexus LF-LC walked off with the awards in the 2012 EyesOn Design judging at the North American International Auto Show. The Fusion was named "Best Designed Production Vehicle in show. Of the Fusion, judges said,"it's real pure, one clean well executed statement, demonstrating effortless, design," The judgement of the panel of judges also reflected the general opinion of analysts, consultant and journalists attending the NAIAS press previews. The judges, all of who were automotive design professionals, selected the Lexus LF-LC as the "Best Designed Concept Vehicle. "It's a great exploration of design themes - super cool, very innovative interior," according to the judges. Lexus officials said the Lexus LF-LC will serve as a template for design of future Lexus vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Hyunai Elantra walked off with the award for "North American Car of the Year" as the NAIAS got underway on Monday. John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America, told the Automotive News World Congress, the award "won't help Hyundai sell one more care since we're capacity constrained. Hyundai, however, will use the award to help build the reputation of the Hyundai brand. "On the brand level we can use it as an indication we can compete" with anyone. It works at a very high level building the Hyundai brand," Krafcik said. By Joseph Szczesny

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nissan out to double EV sales

Nissan expects to double the number of  electric-powered  Leafs that its sell in the US this year, Renault;Nissan Chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn said Monday.
  Ghosn, never one to shy away from bold predictions, also predicted that Nissan will pick up market share in the US again this year, noting Nissan plans to replace several models during the coming year. ^@011 wasn~t  a bad year for us,^he said during a press conference at the North American International Auto Show.
^The company is moving in the right direction,^he said. We did  not lose market share in one market in which we compete.  In 2012, this is  going to grow again,^he said. ^All the automotive markets, except in Europe, are growing,^added Ghosn, who noted Nissan has expanded its presence in emerging markets such as China, Russia, India and Brazil.
 ^There is a new Altima, a new Pathfinder and a new Sentra coming,^ Ghosn added
 In addion he expects sales of the Nissan Leaf, which he described as the only genuine electric vehicle sold in the US to double in 2012. Nissan sold 9,700 Leafs in the US last year. ^The only reason we didn~t sell more is because we could not get the batteries,^he added.
 In addition, the Leaf was available in  in but the vehicle was only available in seven  states at the start of 2011 By the end of 2012, Nissan dealers in all 50 states before the end of 2012. ^We~expect  to double sales in 2012,^adding the people who have purchased the Leaf are very happy  with them and 80 percent are consquest customers for Nissan, he added. By Joseph Szczesny

Sunday, January 8, 2012

GM eager to retain customers

 In the battle for market share this, General Motors doesn't  have an specific target, Mark Reuss, president of GM North America but it planning to make a new effort to retain customers going forward.
  "We didn't have a market share target in 2011 and we don't one for this year," he told reporters after the unveiling of the new Cadillac ATS.
   However, Reuss said GM is prepared for a very competitive battle, adding s the key to success for GM going forward is keeping  the customers.  "We had a great year last year. If we can keep the customers we have, we'll do very well. We been working on that and I think we can surprise some people," said Reuss.
  The effort goes beyond introducing new vehicles such as the ATS. "It also includes taking care of the customer. It's a long term approach," said Reuss. "Our dealers are ready for this," he  added. Retaining customers also extremely  lucrative. it saves GM as $100 million every  time one-tenth of 1 percent of the company's customers are satisfied enough to return to GM fold, Reuss said.
 Meanwhile, Don Butler, vice president of marketing,  said the ATS, a compact, "entry level" luxury vehicle is expected to appeal to two different groups of buyers. The first are moving up to a luxury car for the first time and are looking for the right brand and the right vehicle to make a statement, said Butler. The  second group of customers who have already owned a luxury vehicle but are looking for something different. "They can buy an vehicle they want but the choose the ATS because the like its (compact) size.
  Butler declined to comment on the pricing for the new ATS since the company's internal pricing discussion are incomplete. However, the price is expected to be between $35,000 and $40,000.By Joseph Szczesny