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Update: New Chinese Policy May Force Automakers to Share Technology; Dingell Outraged!

On: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 9:44AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Update: New Chinese Policy May Force Automakers to Share Technology; Dingell Outraged!  test 1-1

The latest automotive news related to the Chinese government’s intention to gain information from other automakers for its advantage in the renewable energy market is not a topic for discussion in the U.S. House of Representatives.

United States Representative John Dingell, D-Mich., has made a statement that he felt “outraged” about the government in China for attempting to put pressure on automakers around the world to reveal technology blueprints for electric vehicles in exchange for the privilege of selling cars to China’s booming automotive market.

Dingell stated that China’s imposed arrangement would “violate the sanctity of the intellectual property laws we hold so dear in the United States.” Dingell said in a recent e-mail statement that “the step would violate Chinese obligations as a World Trade Organization member.”

Rolls Royce Ghost Coupe and Convertibles on the Horizon?

On: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 9:38AM | By: Chris Weiss

Rolls Royce Ghost Coupe and Convertibles on the Horizon?  test 1-1

About a year ago, Rolls Royce unveiled its attractive, two-toned Ghost sedan at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. A report today indicates that it's considering spinning the Ghost into a full line with both coupe and convertible models.


Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes told Bloomberg in an interview: “I'm quite confident that we're going to see a Ghost derivative to come. There's still a lot of potential in the market." 
The Ghost, a $250,000 model that slates in under the Phantom, went on sale last year and has helped Rolls Royce recover from a down year in 2009. Mueller-Oetvoesent didn't go into specific details about what Ghost derivatives might be planned, instead deflecting that decision onto customer demand. Possibilities include usual suspects like a coupe that could offer even more performance than the sedan version and a drop-top.
Rolls Royce is in the process of recovering sales after the recessed economy cut demand for $300,000 ultra-premiums. As of August of this year, Rolls sold 1,467 units, already breaking its single-year record under BMW ownership of 1,212 cars in 2008. It aims to break the 2,000-car mark by year-end.

Chevy To Reincarnate Used Volt Batteries For The Power Grid

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 4:57PM | By: Chris Weiss

Chevy To Reincarnate Used Volt Batteries For The Power Grid test 1-1

The Chevy Volt is scheduled to go on sale in November of this year, and with an estimated 10 years of battery life it will be a while before used lithium-ions start showing up at battery recycling centers around the country. Chevy is already beginning to prepare for this inevitable event, however, looking to identify possible future uses for the Volt batteries. Toward this end, the automaker announced a partnership with Swiss power grid company ABB Group.

The two companies will work on a pilot program designed to research different purposes that used 16 kW batteries from Volts can serve in the greater energy landscape. According to GM's press release, even after the batteries require replacement within the Volt, they can continue to be used for storage.

"The Volt’s battery will have significant capacity to store electrical energy, even after its automotive life," said Micky Bly, GM Executive Director of Electrical Systems, Hybrids, Electric Vehicles and Batteries. "That’s why we’re joining forces with ABB to find ways to enable the Volt batteries to provide environmental benefits that stretch far beyond the highway."

Transportation Secretary LaHood's Message to Automakers: 'No More [Technological] Distractions'

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 4:22PM | By: Chris Weiss

Transportation Secretary LaHood's Message to Automakers: 'No More [Technological] Distractions' test 1-1

At a distracted driving summit this week, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent out a new edict to automakers: enough of the gadgets, gizmos, and technological wonders that are going to distract drivers. He detailed plans to work with automakers toward creating new regulatory standards for in-vehicle technology. As systems like MyFord and in-vehicle Wi-Fi gain more popularity, it should be interesting to see how the government responds.

Over the past several years, vehicles have been incorporating new types of technology that include integrated hard drives for MP3s, Internet capabilities, and even social networking. Automakers make their way to the Consumer Electronics Show, in addition to the myriad auto shows around the world, to launch and demonstrate their latest electronic marvels.

While these changes reflect a society that is more connected to and dependent upon technology than generations past, they also present big, new implications for road safety. Texting and driving, talking on a cell phone, and other distractions have long been considered a major bane on highways, so what happens when technologies like Internet, Facebook, and Twitter start showing up right on your dashboard?


Ford Goes Crazy With F-150 Engine Options

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 3:09PM | By: John Welch

Ford Goes Crazy With F-150 Engine Options test 1-1

Ford had increased the quality, reliablilty, and safety of its automotive fleet over the past two years, and now it is increasing engine choices. The Ford F-150, long known as the best selling truck in America, is recieving a much-needed dose of "engine-choice" for 2011, and we have the details on all four powerplants. A word of advice to Chevy and Dodge: pushrods might not be the way to go anymore . . .

Along with two V8 options, the new F-150 will also bring back the V6, in a big way! There is the typical base option, Ford's corporate 3.7 liter making 302 bhp and 278 pound feet of torque. Think about the typical six-cylinder option leveled on trucks of yore: heavy, slow, and not much more economical than their octo-cylinder counterparts. No longer the case! Along with the base engine, Ford is also offering the 3.5 liter Eco-Boost six, pumping out 355 horses and a certified 420 pound feet of stump-pulling torque. Combined with a looong torque curve, this engine should prove popular once the added complication of twin-turbos is no longer scaring off customers.

And thus, a good question is raised. Will truck buyers overlook the stereotypes associated with these modern engines? The added cost and complexity? The possiblity that these techno-marvels will require more than a set of wrenchs and a couple of biceps to repair? Will the V8s out sell the sixes solely based on familiarity?

Toyota A-BAT Concept Pickup; Will Other Automakers Follow Suit?

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 2:13PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota A-BAT Concept Pickup; Will Other Automakers Follow Suit?  test 1-1

Now that Ford Motor Company has announced the official plans to discontinue the production of the Ford Ranger, what is next in a small-sized pickup truck for Ford; will a new prototype be popping up soon to replace the Ranger?

Ford plans to get rid of the Ranger sometime next year and may be planning to replace it with a new vehicle built on the next generation Ford Focus platform.

It certainly seems that there continues to be a market for a small Ranger-type pickup as evidenced by the popularity of the Toyota A-BAT pickup concept at this year’s Detroit auto show. The vehicle is as small as a Toyota Corolla, with four seats and small (4-foot) cargo box.       

The A-BAT has some unique features, such as the midgate which is positioned between the back seats and the tailgate. The midgate can be lowered to create a cargo floor that can be expanded to reach from the cargo box all the way through the back seats up to the front seats of the cab. Extending the space of the cargo box would allow for hauling of a cargo up to 4x8 feet.

Ford Could See Earnings Decline Into 2011

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 12:51PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford Could See Earnings Decline Into 2011 test 1-1

Credit Suisse has projected that Ford Motor Co. may continue to realize decreasing profits into 2011. Financial analysts project that Ford Motor Co. may possibly see a decline in profits from 2010 to 2011 as a result of increased cost for materials and structural costs, as well as the rise in future pension expense.

It seems that the cards may be stacked against automakers today in more ways than one. It’s not enough that a slow economy has negatively impacted automotive sales with the lowest level profits since the 80s; Ford now faces the possibility of a $900 million addition to the company’s pension expense.  According to a recent Automotive News article: “an earnings-per-share headwind of about 15 cents to 20 cents; if discount rates remain unchanged and asset returns do not improve, analysts, including Christopher Ceraso, said.”

"To the extent that Ford has been a great earnings momentum story, it will be difficult, in our view, for the shares to push higher in the face of declining earnings," analysts wrote to clients.

Analysts believe that Ford could possibly realize a “step-down” in profits from the financing arm of the company, Ford Credit, which has received benefits this year from gains on higher lease residuals as well as losses from slow repayment of credit accounts, which are at an all-time low.

Bentley Recalls 600 Autos For Rusty Hood Ornament

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 9:36AM | By: Chris Weiss

Bentley Recalls 600 Autos For Rusty Hood Ornament  test 1-1

Ahhhhhh...to be rich. Not only do you get to drive around in a $300,000 car out of a vintage Grey Poupon commercial, but you get a free fix for the most basic vehicle problem ever: rust. Bentley issued a recall of 596 cars this week, not for something weighty like unintended accelaration or steering problems, but for a rusty "flying B" hood emblem. You know, because you can't exactly show up to a party in the Hamptons with a tarnished Bentley emblem on your hood.

The recall affects 2007 to 2009 Arnage R, Arnage T, Arnage RL, Brooklands, and Azure models. Bentley dealers will replace the flying B with a new one, and all will be right in the realm of hedge fund owners and rap stars.

While the problem looks like the type of purely cosmetic issue that only a self-obsessed multi-millionaire would be worried over, the NHTSA indicates that it's actually a safety issue. The rust can interfere with the retracting capabilities of the hood ornament, which could cause greater injury if the driver runs into a pedestrian—like when he had one too many flutes of Dom at said Hamptons party and has to rush back into the city without regard for traffic lights.

The emblem is designed to retract in the event of a crash so it doesn't...you know...impale someone. The supplier for the mechanism has made the retractable action smoother so that water doesn't collect inside and cause rusting.

Audi R4 e-tron Roadster Artwork Leaks

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 9:26AM | By: Chris Weiss

Audi R4 e-tron Roadster Artwork Leaks  test 1-1

About two weeks ago, reports of a convertible version of the Audi e-tron R4 surfaced. The reports indicated that Audi would bring the convertible to the Paris Motor Show at month-end. The car would remain mechanically identical to the coupe version, which debuted at the 2010 North American International Auto Show, but would lose its top. This week, artwork of the alleged Paris-bound convertible has surfaced onto the Web and new reports indicate that the latest e-tron concept will be outfitted with a hybrid powertrain.

The artwork shows a convertible with a swooping three-quarter glass that wraps seamlessly around the cockpit. The frameless, sloping side windows ascend gently downward into the rear end, giving the concept a hot, minimalistic look. Outside of losing the top, a variety of other visual changes can be seen including new, widened front intakes and a restyled hood. Perhaps the most interesting change is the influence from the R8 in the rear fascia. The body is a mixture of carbon fiber and aluminum, according to reports.

Surprisingly the largest (alleged) change is not the loss of a top, it's the change to plug-in hybrid power. The original R4 was an all-electric that used two motors mounted to the rear axle to drive the rear wheels. Auto Bild reports that the  e-tron R4 Spyder will also feature two motors to provide up to 31 miles of range, but will add a mid-mounted 3.0-liter TDI V6 to extend that range. A continual variable transmission will pull shifting duties. In this iteration, the two motors will drive the front rather than the rear wheels, with the V6 hooked to the rear wheels.

Shortage of Rubber Results in Increase in Tire Prices

On: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 9:08AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Shortage of Rubber Results in Increase in Tire Prices test 1-1

As a result of drought conditions and heavy rains, the supply  of rubber has recently declined causing forecasters to predict an increase in the price of rubber over the next 2 years. As demand for rubber exceeds the supply, prices that have already begun to go up by major tire dealers, such as Goodyear and Bridgestone, will continue to climb.

Bloomberg News reported in a recent article that in 2009 there was actually a surplus of over 200,000 tons of rubber, compared to this year’s supply coming in at a shortage of 60,000 tons. In the commodities market, the price of rubber has already risen to a “near-record”  high cost of $4 per kilogram, according to Automotive News. In the stock market many investors will take advantage of the sudden increase in the commodity price. 

The rubber tapping season which normally takes place in Indonesia, Thailand, and Russia has been shortened due to unusual climate which has resulted in the shortage.    

With rubber harvest falling short of expectations, Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Cooper Tire have not only raised this year’s prices, the companies have also announced that the cost of tires will go up again next year in October.

Experts are projecting that the shortage of supply along with the uncertainty of the economy will be factors influencing the continued rise of rubber goods including tires.

Peugeot Unveils Revolutionary Electric Concept: EX1

On: Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 3:07PM | By: Chris Weiss

Peugeot Unveils Revolutionary Electric Concept: EX1 test 1-1

With cars like the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid and Fisker Karma coming to market over the next couple years, hybrids and electrics promise to become more than just practical, utilitarian tools; they'll soon be as fun, good looking and sporty as the greater gasoline market. Maybe more so, if Peugeot has anything to say about it. The French automaker recently pulled cloth off its EX1 concept, a four-wheel-drive electric vehicle that promises to break EV acceleration records right and left.

The dramatic EX1 features a tear-drop-shaped body that is wider in front than in back, helping to limit resistance and improve performance. A quick look, and the EX1 appears to be a motorcycle or go kart tucked away in a car's front end. It's crafted from a carbon honeycomb monocoque chassis and weighs just 2,200 pounds at the curb.

Each axle houses a 170-hp electric motor, giving the car a total output of 340 horses and 177 lb-ft. With its light, slippery profile, the EX1 promises to offer a 0 to 62 mph time that ducks under the 3-second mark. Peugeot hasn't quite reached that goal, but it has sped up to 161 mph in the EV.

Another interesting element of the EX1 is that it uses a motorcycle-like swing-arm to suspend both rear wheels. The front wheels get their spring from double wishbone suspension. The seats are integrated into the doors, which open in reverse.