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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Reports

Coulomb Technologies Opens First of 4,600 Car Charging Stations

On: Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 9:10AM | By: Chris Weiss

Coulomb Technologies Opens First of 4,600 Car Charging Stations test 1-1

Everyone loves to talk green vehicles nowadays. However, not everyone loves to drive green vehicles. And no one really loves the idea of getting stranded out on US-50 in eastern Nevada due to a drained pack of lithium-ion.

Range anxiety is a formidable opponent of the electric vehicle industry, and until the country begins to address this issue with action, EVs aren't likely to fly out of dealerships. At least not at the rate they could be flying out of dealerships with the right charging infrastructure.

Well, if you happen to live in Michigan, that process is under way. The proverbial ribbon-cutting ceremony on the nation's first free electric charging station under the ChargePoint America program took place last Thursday. The new charging station stands in front of the NextEnergy in downtown Detroit. The electric juice stand is one of 4,600 that will be installed across the United States under the ChargePoint America program.

Michigan, which is set to be one of the first launch markets for the Chevy Volt, will get several hundred of the free charging stations in areas like Flint, Dearborn and Detroit. Charging stations will go to  businesses, communities and homes. The equipment will come free of charge under the federally funded program, but owners will have to pay the installation fees.

Coulomb Technologies of Campbell, California is spearheading the $37 million nationwide installation program, which includes about $15 million of federal stimulus funding. On their own, each station would otherwise cost between $1,700 and $5,000, so the new program should help defray some of the costs for starting up a charging infrastructure. Installation can cost anywhere from $250 to $4,000.

Coulomb CEO Richard Lowenthal summed up the importance of getting an infrastructure in place: "With cars like this, you’ll never go to the gas station. But you need a place to charge them. If you can’t fuel your vehicle, you won’t buy one."

Taxpayers Likely to Lose Money on GM's IPO

On: Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 9:16AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Taxpayers Likely to Lose Money on GM's IPO test 1-1

Financial analysts are predicting that the U.S. government has a very high chance of losing money on its investment in General Motors Co. in the very first offering of the automaker’s stock.  According to sources familiar with the preparation for General Motor’s IPO. Sources are saying that subsequent offerings may be more successful depending on how the stock is traded by investors.

The government may not see a break-even return on its $50 billion investment for years (possibly into the next presidential term), as the Treasury continues to sell its remaining stake in General Motors after the IPO.

A decision to price the initial GM shares below cost would be in line with the usual Wall Street practice of giving the first investors in a new stock a discount, but it could also help offset investor concern regarding the slow recovery of the U.S. economy and declining auto sales for 2010.

The projected market value of GM, according to analysts, is from $50 to $90 billion, based on estimates regarding GM’s future cash flow, and looking at the value of its closest competitor, Ford Motor Co., in addition to evaluating trading and bonds from the old General Motors.

New Features of The 2011 Ford Raptor Pickup

On: Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 9:14AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New Features of The 2011 Ford Raptor Pickup  test 1-1

Ford is adding some new features to the F-150 SVT Raptor SuperCrew that will make the already popular truck even more desirable, including the biggest change, which is the 4 full doors on the SuperCrew model.

The 6.2 liter V-8 engine will be standard in the 2011 model (while this year the V-8 is an option), with an output of 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque.     
The V-8 will also be featured in the Harley-Davidson F-150 and the F-Series Super Duty.  Ford has not made an announcement as of yet regarding the base price of the Raptor featuring the bigger V-8 engine, but in the 2010 model, the optional V-8 goes for an extra $3,000.

According to Kerry Baldori, chief engineer of the Raptor: “We spent a lot of time developing our desert durability test so that it’s very close to replicating the Baja 1000.” Baldori also stated: ‘’Desert testing proved to be a very quick way to learn about the reliability of the truck, and it put another level of extreme loads on the engine that our normal durability testing doesn’t need to cover.”

The current Raptor is available only in the SuperCab model with the rear half doors, the new SuperCrew body style that is being offered for 2011 models will provide much more space and comfort to passengers in the rear seats.

Mini Working on a Two-Door Countryman Off-Roader

On: Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 4:09PM | By: Chris Weiss

Autocar Rendering  test 2

Thanks to the success of the BMW X6, BMW-owned Mini may offer an off-road-capable coupe for those that crave something a little smaller. The company is currently beginning design work on a coupe version of its recently released Countryman five-door crossover. The new model would be a coupe aimed squarely at Range Rover's new Evoque, which will make its world debut at the Paris Motor Show in late September/October. If approved, the new Mini could hit the market as soon as 2013.

According to an Autocar report, Mini is currently considering several possible designs for the new concept. A four-door variant with no B-pillars and rear suicide doors is one direction under consideration, and a more traditional two-door model is the other. The car will feature a sloping, coupe-like roofline similar to that seen on the Evoque.

If Mini goes through with the Countryman coupe, it's expected to offer a car that undercuts the pricing of the Evoque while boasting better overall fuel economy and improved city driving. Speculation indicates a price of as low as £20,000.

The Range Rover Evoque, which was unveiled in July, will make its world auto show debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. It will be offered in both two-door and four-door varieties and will be the first Land Rover to offer a front-wheel-drive configuration. It will be Land Rover's smallest, lightest model, but will cost more than the Land Rover LR2 due to its sportier, more luxurious build.

The Countryman coupe is just one of several models that Mini is considering. The company is also developing a city car concept in the vein of the Smart ForTwo. That model is expected to feature a two seat or 2 + 1 layout and debut next year. Autoweek reported last month that that concept might debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.


Ferrari Solves 458 Fires, Plans Recall

On: Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 10:03AM | By: Chris Weiss

Ferrari Solves 458 Fires, Plans Recall test 1-1

Just a week after announcing that it was looking into fire issues on its 458 Italia, Ferrari has identified the problem at the heart of some of the fires and intends to issue a recall to repair it. The news comes as media sources have reported at least 10 fires and accidents involving the 458 in the past three months, leading some to go so far as to speculate that the model is jinxed.

The problem that Ferrari identified as the cause of the fires is an adhesive that binds the engine heat shield to the wheel arch assemblies can overheat, smoke and catch fire. Ferrari says that the problem happens in hot ambient temperatures and when the car is driven aggressively (read: driven like a 458 Italia).

A Ferrari spokesperson explained the issue to Autocar: "When the car is driven to high exhaust temperatures, in hot ambient temperatures, the adhesive used in the wheelarch assemblies can overheat and allow the rear wheel housing heat shields to move around. In extreme cases, the glue can begin to smoke and even catch fire."

The Aftermath: Toyota's Sales To Drop After Incentives Dry Up

On: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 4:04PM | By: Chris Weiss

The Aftermath: Toyota's Sales To Drop After Incentives Dry Up  test 1-1

If the average person had to guess how Toyota's sales have been over the past year, I'd imagine he'd guess that they've been rock bottom. Toyota's public persona has been one of an embattled automaker struggling desperately with dire safety problems and government investigations.

In reality, however, things haven't been that bad for Toyota. In fact, according to the company's numbers, U.S. sales for the first half of this year actually increased by about 10 percent year-over-year from 2009. And after its fiscal year ended in March, Toyota reported a $2.25 billion profit. Not only does that figure make the $16.4 million fine imposed by the NHTSA over recall delays look paltry, it represents a significant leap forward from the previous year when Toyota actually lost money.

Sales incentives, both from programs like Cash for Clunkers and from Toyota itself, played a major role in keeping U.S. sales strong despite ongoing image problems. Now the automaker faces a new set of hurdles in Japan, where the impending end of government incentives is expected to cause a major sales decrease in auto sales. Toyota and the greater Japanese auto industry are bracing for the hard times to come.

Dodge Durango Launches In Anger

On: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: John Welch

Dodge Durango Launches In Anger test 1-1

Chrysler has always had trouble unloading SUVs that don't carry "Jeep" badges. Remember the Ram Charger? Chevy sold five C/K Blazers for every Ram Charger. Ford sold seven Broncos for each Ram Charger. Yikes, not good! The numbers get worse for the Durango. The Ford Explorer absolutely trounced the Durango in every calculable sales statistic during the nineties and early 2000s.

Dodge is rebooting and revamping its mid-size contender for 2011, and just like its Jeep cousin, the Grand Cherokee, the Durango is completely new. In many ways, this Dodge represents the first in a string of new products designed to shed the Ram brand's poor reputation for out-dated styling and technology. You can't glean too much from pictures and descriptions, but on paper this well balanced ute might be a winner. It looks pretty good as well.

Slab sided, proportional body panels converge on muscular headlights and a complicated chrome grille. This grille, I'm sure, can be ordered in flat-black. It marks the first time I have been taken aback by a Chrysler design that wasn't packing ten cylinders. The Durango is attractive in the way Gina Gershon is attractive; rough around the edges but still a solid knock-out. Some of that appeal may come from Gina's ability to knock you out, and that trait may also extend to the Durango. This is an impressive machine, on the outside. Like any good Corvette, the worst part about Chrysler products is their cheapo, Little Tykes interiors . . . how does the Durango look from the driver’s seat?

GM Plans to Resolve Bankruptcy

On: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 2:38PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

GM Plans to Resolve Bankruptcy test 1-1

In automotive news today, Motors Liquidation Co., the former General Motors, has announced that it plans to come out of bankruptcy. The plan was submitted and but not yet confirmed in U.S. court. Over a year ago, General Motors was in bankruptcy court struggling to exist. Now, the automaker is laying the groundwork to sell stock to the public once again with the eventual goal of ridding itself of government ownership as it creates an exit strategy to come out of bankruptcy. It’s been quite a haul for the Detroit Big 3 automaker.

General Motors Co. filed the initial paperwork required to hold an IPO last month. The 700-page document submitted to SEC regulators laid risks for potential investors considering buying GM stock. GM didn't disclose exactly how many shares would be offered or the precise date, although experts say the IPO could come as early as October. The company also failed to mention how many shares the government (GM’s majority owner) plans to get rid of.

Such a sale would eventually lead to the government reducing its stake in the automaker. Ed Whitacre, the company’s former CEO, said government ownership has damaged GM's public image and adversely affected sales. However, GM warned in its filing that the U.S. Treasury would continue to own a "substantial interest" in the automaker following the IPO. In the plan to release itself from bankruptcy, the company will transfer all of its assets and liabilities into 4 different trusts and distribute its stock and warrants to unsecured creditors through its upcoming IPO.  

According to Automotive News.com: “Motors Liquidation is the shell of General Motors that retained all of GM's old unwanted assets and liabilities after the "new GM"—renamed General Motors Co—emerged from bankruptcy protection last year by completing a sale of its best assets, such as Chevrolet and Cadillac, to a new company funded by the U.S. Treasury.”

Motors Liquidation Co. is a 10% owner in GM stock and it “warrants exercisable for a further 15 percent of General Motors common stock on a fully diluted basis,” according to Reuters.

The 1st quarter of 2011 is the target date for Motors Liquidation Co. to receive confirmation of the plan by the court system; by then the company anticipates that much of the unsecured claims will be resolved. 

Auto Loan Credit Terms Improve

On: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 11:56AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Auto Loan Credit Terms Improve  test 1-1

Experian Automotive (the institution in charge of collecting and reporting consumer’s auto credit data) has reported for the 2nd consecutive quarter that auto loan delinquencies are declining.  So what does that mean to new car buyers? As lending institutions begin to collect more payments on time, auto loan terms (including rates) improve for all borrowers and credit becomes available to more consumers. This will have a direct impact on the automotive industry as a whole, resulting in increased sales which will subsequently help the economy.

The 30-day delinquency rate for auto loans declined from 3.07 in 2009, to 2.89 in the second quarter of 2010, and the number of 60-day delinquent payments also fell from 0.8 to 0.71.

President of Experian, Scott Waldron, stated: “A drop in delinquencies year over year is a positive sign for both the lending and automotive industries.” Waldren also commented: “The fact that we've seen a drop for the second consecutive quarter is an indication that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel for the economy.”

As loan delinquencies drop, the number of subprime loans that are approved goes up because lenders begin to “loosen credit terms,” according to Experian. In fact, compared to the second quarter of 2009, the number of reported subprime loans that were approved this year was 16.73% as compared to only 16% last year.  Subprime lending is said to have increased in the mortgage industry in the most recent period as well.

EPA Introduces Two New Fuel Efficiency Labels For Public Comment

On: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 9:53AM | By: Chris Weiss

EPA Introduces Two New Fuel Efficiency Labels For Public Comment test 1-1

The Environmental Protection Agency together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have proposed two new designs for fuel economy labels. The labels are required to appear on the windows of all new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. and provide comprehensive information about a given vehicle's fuel economy and emissions and how they compare with the greater market. The designs have been introduced for public comment.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the EPA and NHTSA are charged with redesigning the fuel efficiency label that is required for new cars and light trucks. The current label includes information about miles per gallon, average annual fuel cost and comparative market fuel economy. 

The more radical of the two redesigns takes the emphasis off of numerical comparisons and uses a more distinguishable letter grade system. It shows a large letter grade at the top of the sticker, outlined in yellow. According to the Detroit News, the system ranges from A+ to D with the industry median at B-.

Electric vehicles would be in the A+ category; plug-in hybrids in the A category and other hybrids in the A- category. On the other end of the spectrum, most SUVs and all vans would be at a C+ or lower. An A+ would constitute 59 mpg or more and a D would constitute under 14 mpg. That label design also includes a figure on average fuel cost savings over five years versus an average vehicle.

Nissan May Drop Xterra From Its Line-Up

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 12:20PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan May Drop Xterra From Its Line-Up  test 1-1

What a difference a decade can make. At the turn of the millenium, auto manufacturers couldn't pump SUVs off the lines fast enough. But in 2010, they can't seem to give them a way. Blame the economy, rising gas prices, a reborn effort to save the environment and a certain self-awareness that just didn't exist a decade ago, but manufacturers are watering down old SUVs with unitized frames and swank interiors and/or killing off the SUVs of old altogether. We saw it with the new Ford Explorer; the new Dodge Durango is set to take the same direction and now another body-on-frame SUV is on the chopping block. Nissan may eliminate the Xterra from its line, leaving mid-size SUV traditionalists less options than ever.

Like any company, Nissan's decision will be guided by its bottom line. Sales of the Xterra have been floundering, with only 12,186 sold as of July this year, compared to 88,578 sold in 2000. According to Wards' numbers, automakers in general sold a total of 211,042 mid-size SUVs in 2009. Compare that to the 1.65 million they were selling back in the 2000 year, and it's painfully obvious that SUVs are simply no where near the cash cows they once were.

Combine the dismal sales of the greater mid-size market with tightening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, and you have the recipe for extinction. With CAFE standards set to rise to 34.1 mpg by 2016, a number that is fleet-wide and includes both passenger cars and light trucks like the Xterra, the Xterra's fuel economy numbers of 17 mpg combined certainly won't help Nissan's cause.