Automotive News - January 2013

Volks Golf Hatchback To Be Built In Mexico

Boosting it's commitment to the North American Market, German automaker Volkswagen has announced it's plans to build it's Golf hatchback at it's manufacturing plant in Puebla, Mexico, starting first quarter 2014. The company will invest $700 million to adapt production lines at their existing plant in the city. Last year VW manufactured 604,000 vehicles at the plant, most destined for export. With nearly 19,000 workers it is the biggest car manufacturing plant in North America. A typical plant in the US will employ about 3,000 workers and only builds about 200,000 passenger vehicles per year. Tasked with more than building cars, employees at the Puebla plant also stamp body parts and machine axel and engine parts.

Chicago Opens It's Doors To Automotive Fans

On February 9, the Chicago Auto Show opens it's doors for the 105th time since 1901, the longest running auto show in history. With a whopping 2.7 million square feet of cars, test tracks and vendors, the Chicago venue is also the largest in North America. Nearly 1000 passenger vehicles, sport utility vehicles, concept and experimental cars both foreign and domestic will be on display, plus special collections of collector and vintage vehicles. Chicago, the capital of the Midwest attracts a mass market audience and is more critical in determining public interest than other, more highbrow shows. After the world premieres of most new vehicles already at the previous shows, Toyota saved it's most recent offering, and will unveil the newly redesigned 2014 Tundra pickup truck for the first time in Chicago.

The World's First Super-Premium SUV

No longer resigned to duty as an upscale mommy-mobile or work-truck with creature comforts, the SUV/CUV market is about to get an upgrade. Bentley CEO Wolfgang Schreiber has confirmed that the world's first super premium luxury crossover is on track to become a reality in 2014, after prototype and design tests are completed. Bentley, a badge under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group has greenlit the production of what is expected to be the world's most luxurious SUV. Originally named the Bentley EXP 9 F and unveiled as Bentley's first ever concept vehicle at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the SUV was greeted with a lukewarm response.

2013's Super Bowl Automotive Commercials

Like millions of others, I get excited about the Super Bowl, not for football, but for the commercials aired during the broadcast. Since the event is the most expensive ad slot on television all year, that's when advertisers bring out their absolute best, entertaining both football enthusiasts and fans of great commercials around the world. This year's Super Bowl XLVII, playing February 3 promises a great line-up of car commercials; each one setting a new standard in terms of automotive advertising. While the auto industry outspends the beer industry during the broadcast by a margin of 3:1, GM is notably absent this year. GM announced last year that they are withdrawing from the Super Bowl, and are moving this portion of their advertising dollars elsewhere, by sponsoring England's Manchester United soccer club instead.

Suzuki's SX4 Good Value

Looking to pick up an inexpensive all wheel drive that will handle well in Canadian winters? Normally the name Suzuki brings motorcycles to mind, but their SX4 AWD compact car might be worth a second look. Produced since 2006, this mini SUV crossover, usually found in Suzuki's European markets is a great value and is probably the cheapest all-wheel-drive available. In 2012 it was voted one of the top cars for Canadian winters. As Suzuki winds down sales in the US to focus on it's motorcycle, marine equipment and ATV business, Canadians have the North American exclusive on the car.

Recent Ford Focus Improvements Show Dedication To The Customer

Recent efforts show that Ford is working hard to increase the already-substantial popularity of the Ford Focus. Their various efforts have included improvements to the engine, body and interior. Over the model years of 2010 through to 2012, Ford made some minor incremental improvements to the fuel economy, bringing it up from 9.8/6.7 to 9/6.5 litres per 100 kilometres for city/highway driving (or 24/35 to 26/36 miles per gallon for city/highway driving). This translates to an additional 40 kilometres for a 50-litre tank of gas (the 2011 model has a 51.1 litre tank, and the 2012/13 has a 46.9 litre tank). Although this improvement is minor, it shows steps toward the mandated fleet fuel economy rating of 54.5 mpg (4.3 l/100km) by 2025 set by the US government.

2013 Beetle Droptop Hitting Canada Soon

Since it's release in 1998, the modern rendition of the Volkswagen Beetle has filled many with a sense of nostalgia for the iconic bug. The cute little retro car immediately tugged at heartstrings everywhere. Riding on the newer third generation body style released in 2010, German automaker Volkswagen has taken up the fun quotient by releasing a convertible version. Slightly bigger than the previous model, the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle remains sleek and modern in it's execution while maintaining it's distinct profile and funky styling. Offering the best fuel efficiency in a convertible, more interior space, lower pricing and better standard equipment, the Beetle trumps it's biggest rival, the Mini Cooper Convertible.

Original Batmobile Sells For 4,62 Million dollars

One of the very first vehicles that I (and an awful lot of you) can remember is the Batmobile, from comic book series Batman. Last week Scottsdale auction house Barrett-Jackson helped raise $4.62 million at an auction packed with comic book fans and car collectors. The vehicle appeared in the TV series starring Adam West as the caped crusader which ran from 1966 to 1968. It was built in 1966 by George Barris, who in the past had vowed to never sell the car. Several replicas were created, made of fibreglass for promotion; one recently selling for $233,000. Barris said in an interview that he felt it was time to move the car to a place where it can be enjoyed, and out of his private California showroom.

Honda Reaches Out To Gen-Y

Hot on the heels of the big North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the show that immediately follows in Montreal sometimes gets overlooked. Not this year though. Honda decided that the Montreal International Auto Show was the place to hold the world premiere of it's newest offering, the Honda Gear concept. Despite the subcompact Gear not being a model in production, it's a rare treat for any car to make it's debut in Canada unless it's a specific model with no plans for it to be offered in the United States. Originally the diesel Smart, and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class made their North American debut in Canada.

Return of the Stingray

Boasting one of the most popular attractions at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, Chevrolet delighted enthusiasts with it's newest rendition of the Corvette, the C7 Stingray. The Corvette, a North American favourite, is celebrating it's 60th anniversary this year, and chose the biggest show on the continent to unveil the seventh generation model for the first time. At any show, the Chevrolet Corvette is the star of American muscle cars and traditionally attracts more fans and attention than many other vehicles. At the Detroit show, the C7 won the Best of Show award. Not only was it the clear favourite, but no other was even nominated. The 2014 Corvette also scooped up awards as 'sexiest car' and 'best curves'.

New 2014 Honda Accord PHV

Sources have confirmed interesting news coming out of Honda. According to outsourcing sources, the Japanese car giant is planning on investing over 23 million dollars into it's Marysville, Ohio Plant to accommodate the production of it's new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid. This new plant brings lots of employment opportunities to locals, something that Ohio is excited about. The Honda Accord has always received good reviews and this new Accord Hybrid should put Honda back on the map in the Gas-Electric Hybrid race. Honda hasn't released any official numbers yet, but word on the street is this hybrid could see an MPG in the upper 40 range.

Ford produces its 350-millionth vehicle

Ford has achieved a major milestone in its history, having just produced its 350-millionth vehicle. And it was a 2013 Focus that allowed the American giant to pass this impressive mark. Founded in 1903 by Henry Ford, this US car maker has just assembled its 350-millionth vehicle, 109 years after the company was formed. As John Fleming, vice president of global manufacturing says, it’s an impressive achievement: " Consider, for a moment, the enormity of 350 million vehicles. It’s equivalent to producing one vehicle every 10 seconds for 109 years; and, if placed end to end, would stretch to the moon and back—twice! ".

General Motors to invest a billion dollars in Russia

We continue our automotive news with a report on the Russian market, as the Moscow International Automobile Salon is now on. After Renault-Nissan, which is hoping to boost its presence in the Russian market, it's now GM's turn to unfurl its ambitions. The Russian market is set to grow strongly in the coming years, and car makers are making arrangements to increase their presence in this part of the world. After the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which is hoping to grow its market share, and Volkswagen, which has indicated that it wants to boost sales by 30%, it's now the turn of the American giant General Motors. GM used the Moscow International Automobile Salon to announce that it aims to invest a billion dollars in its plants in Russia by 2018. Its invested capital currently stands at $500 million.

45th Montreal International Auto Show

It's that time of year again, auto show season where the greatest, newest and shiniest vehicles on the planet are all on one place, sometimes for the first time. Whether the show is a giant world class production or a smaller regional event, any auto show is a fun way for car and truck enthusiasts to spend an afternoon. This week auto show fever hits Montreal, with the 2013 Montreal International Auto Show, the first Canadian event of the year at the Palais des Congrès.

First Corvette Stingray Up For Auction

Following suit behind the first new SRT Viper off the assembly line, the first production model of the new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 (VIN 001) will also hit the auction block. The question now is whether or not the Stingray will soar higher than the $300,000 fetched by the SRT Viper (or more than 600,000 greenbacks commanded for charity by the first Corvette 427 Convertible). Organized by the Barrett-Jackson auction house, the auction will be held Saturday night in Scottsdale, Arizona. Funds raised at the auction will go to benefit the College For Creative Studies in Detroit, which is well known for it's automotive design program.

Lada Xray Concept

With the Moscow International Automobile Salon now underway, Russian car makers are on the podium—and mainly AvtoVAZ, better known as Lada. The company has launched a new concept car, and the result is astonishing. This Russian manufacturer that sells its vehicles under the Lada brand is known mainly for its Niva, a rugged 4x4 that has been on the roads now for 35 years. But in terms of design and concept, it has never had grandiose ambitions and most of its prototypes have never seen light of day. Part of the Renault-Nissan club since 2008, the Russian car maker, however, will now be leading from the front. Since October 2011, it also has a new head designer of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo fame on board. This is Steve Mattin, to whom we owe the Volvo S60 and XC60 and the Mercedes-Benz ML, SLR and A Class, among others.

A Nissan Almera for the Russian Market

The Moscow International Automobile Salon opened on August 31 and will run until September 9. Japanese car maker Nissan has taken this opportunity to unveil its 2013 Nissan Almera, specially designed for the Russian market. Nissan has just unwrapped a new family sedan specially adapted for Russia, explaining that it " meets the unique demands of the Russian market ". What that means is that the car is built to withstand the type of roads and weather conditions it can encounter over there. It has increased ground clearance, with added anti-corrosion for various features and extra chassis and engine protection. Nissan has also expanded its trunk space to 500 litres, making it best in class for cargo.

Trioomph Foundation Invites Students To Auto Show

Working to fulfil it's mission to motivate at-risk students to realize their personal and academic goals via it's "Driving Your Success" program, the Trioomph Foundation is inviting high school students to a tour of the 2013 Montreal International Auto Show on January 21. In partnership with the show and thanks to the generous sponsorship provided by Porsche Prestige, local students considered to be at risk of dropping out will tour the event. Students from local schools Daniel-Johnson (Pointe-aux-Trembles) and Gérard Filion (Longueuil) will be in attendance.

Ram 1500 Wins 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year

This week the winner of the 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year award was announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI. Taking top honours this year was The Ram 1500, which beat out finalists Ford C-Max and Mazda's CX-5 crossovers. This year was Chrysler's third truck win and the second for the Ram 1500, which last won the title in 1994, when it was called the Dodge Ram 1500. It's the 13th time that North American manufacturers have won. The 2012 North American Truck of the Year award winner was the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Also on the shortlist for this year's honour were the Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe, Audi Allroad, Ford Escape, Acura RDX, BMW X1, Ford C-Max and the Infiniti JX 35.

The AJAC names the year's best cars

Every year towards the end of October the members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) gather for four days, testing all the next year's new models. This time around, the AJAC has tested 180 new models to identify the best in each of 11 categories for 2013. All feedback will be reported in the written and spoken press. AJAC journalists conducted nearly 2,000 road tests during the TestFest, making sure all drives stayed within category, sequentially. Just imagine how getting into a Focus right after a spin in a Porsche might cloud your judgment. As it happens, Ford won four of the eleven categories. The Ford Focus EV Electric was named best new city car, while the 2013 Fusion Hybrid walked away with best new family car over $30,000.

A V12-powered Aston Martin Cygnet?

It wasn't long ago that Aston Martin dipped its toe into the urban microcar segment with the Cygnet. A small car based on the Toyota iQ, the vehicle is now the subject of a crazy rumour: what if it came with a V12 engine? The Aston Martin Cygnet is a hand-built urban microcar but is actually a Toyota iQ redesigned to British standards. Also, some of the bodywork has been refurbished and updated, as has been its interior. It comes with good functionality as standard including GPS, 6-speaker MP3 radio, automatic air conditioning and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Highly customizable, only 4,000 are produced each year. For its power plant, it uses Toyota's 1.3-litre 4-cylinder block delivering 98 horses and comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox or continuously variable transmission.

BMW is setting up in Brazil

German car maker BMW has just announced its intention to invest €200 million (about C$260 million) in a factory in Brazil, and the prestigious car maker reports that negotiations are nearly completed. Audi's ambition to build 150,000 cars a year at its San Jose Chiapa plant in Mexico has piqued BMW's interest as the Bavarian hopes to overtake one of its main rivals by getting into the Brazilian market. BMW hopes that emerging markets will be its main buyers to boost sales by 20% by 2016. It intends to start building its new plant in April 2013 to be able to start production in 2014.

Cadillac ATS Voted 2013 North American Car of the Year

The Cadillac ATS was announced as the 2013 North American Car of the Year during a news conference at this week's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Accepting the award was Cadillac's chief engineer for performance and luxury vehicles. He expressed confidence in the US auto industry, claiming that North American manufacturers are "back" in the game, after losing out on the award last year. In 2012 the Hyundai Elantra was chosen to take the highest honour in North American automotive. Taking the top spot, the luxury compact Cadillac ATS beat out the Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. The three finalists were announced on December 12th, culled from an initial short list of 11 vehicles that also included BMW's 3 Series, Dodge Dart, Toyota Avalon, Scion FR-S, Lincoln MKZ, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and the Subaru BRZ.

The rebirth of Datsun

Younger readers may have heard of Datsun, and over-40s may have driven them. But in the 1970s Nissan didn't exist, and the company was called Datsun. The 210, 310, 510 and the famous 240Z were all Datsun cars sold in Canada and were part of the "Japanese invasion". Since 1981, the car maker has been using its own name instead of calling itself Datsun. But the moniker is now preparing for a comeback in 2014. You won't see Datsuns in Canada because, as a brand, Datsun is to Nissan what Dacia is to Renault: the entry model, which means cars with a price tag of $3,000 to $5,000. They are distributed mainly in emerging markets, particularly Indonesia, India and Russia. Nissan's chief executive Carlos Ghosn has an ambitious plan: to release six Datsun models in 2014 at such low prices that even China and India cannot undercut them.

Chevrolet Sonic Dusk

Have you come across the Chevrolet Sonic Dusk yet? If you have, you'll be interested to know that General Motors has just announced that it will be in showrooms in 2014. If you haven't, sit back now and read all about it. The Las Vegas SEMA Show has become the place to see the most amazing concepts and outrageous custom cars imaginable. But amidst all the extravagance, you can still find production-intent cars if you know where to look. Take for example the Chevrolet Sonic Dusk. Unveiled at last year's SEMA Show as a concept car, we are now learning it is slated for production.

Lincoln opens a design studio

Ford is really hoping to breathe new life into its prestigious Lincoln brand. To do so, the American car maker has unveiled a brand new style centre dedicated to developing new models and no doubt a new more attractive look for the brand. Last Thursday Lincoln took the wraps off its new design centre, the first studio dedicated exclusively to this luxury brand since 1970. Company spokesmen say this new facility will let designers focus just on the Lincoln brand, instead of splitting their time between Ford and Lincoln models. "We're trying to bring the best talent in the company together in order to move this brand forward," says J Mays, head of Ford's global design.

Lexus LF-LC at the Australian International Motor Show

You may recall seeing a beautiful red sports car unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show early this year. It is now Australia's turn to see the car, the Lexus LF-LC, just as spectacular as the original but this time in blue. This new blue was inspired by the brilliant blue of some opals found in the Australian outback. Apart from its unique colour, this Lexus also prefigures what could be the sports car of the future. Its bodywork is made of light carbon fibre and hides a hybrid power plant under the hood. Yes, you read right, this magnificent car is a hybrid!

China's Booming Luxury Car Market

Despite the recent much-publicized clamping down by Beijing's central government on the conspicuous consumption by officials, high luxury taxes and problems in the country's e-commerce markets; sales of luxury items to newly wealthy Chinese are skyrocketing, with demand appearing nearly unlimited. Designer luxury fashion brands are seeing steep increases in sales, both within China, and to Chinese tourists abroad. Not surprisingly, the Chinese are making their presence felt in luxury items beyond fashion, art and wine, they are fast becoming a strong force in automotive markets.

2013 Porsche Panamera Platinum Edition

Porsche has never shied away from diversifying its range by offering multiple special editions. The German car maker is now expanding its 4-door sedan stable with its Panamera Platinum Edition. Porsche has not stopped adding Panamera versions since the model first came out, witness the V6, GTS and the hybrid. Having recently unveiled the Sport Turismo Concept, which prefigured a station-wagon version of the Panamera, the German car maker is now releasing an exclusive, sumptuous, more elegant version: the Porsche Panamera Platinum Edition. Porsche states that this version "is all about the very cool platinum metallic silver paint that accentuates its individual personality", not to mention its expanded standard features and exclusive details This special edition will be available only on V6-engine models, which come in a 3.6-litre 300 hp gasoline and a 3.0-litre 250 hp turbo diesel version.

Toyota Tundra makes the history books

Every car manufacturer hopes that their models will go down in history. Record sales, film or TV placements, technological innovations, all a pretext for a media slot. But what Toyota managed to do last week won’t be copied soon! An unmodified half-ton Toyota Tundra pick-up successfully towed the 150,000-lb Space Shuttle Endeavour last Friday. The Endeavour, which had transported Marc Garneau in 1996 and 2000, as well as Julie Payette in 2009, is taking a well-earned retirement in a museum in Los Angeles. After orbiting at over 27,000 km/h, this time it managed only 3.2 km/h. The 19-kilometer route to the California Science Center, where it will be permanently exhibited, included crossing Interstate 405 via the Manchester Boulevard Bridge.

BMW On Top, Plans To Stay There

Right after setting records and being crowned the 'world's top selling premium automaker' for the second consecutive year in 2012, Munich-based BMW has set it's sites on hitting record sales in 2013. Ian Robertson, BMW's head of sales and marketing said that BMW is enjoying the positive momentum and that they are aiming to achieve another record sales year in 2013. BMW North America's CEO Ludwig Willisch was more jubilant, proclaiming that BMW is No. 1 in the world and they like being No. 1.

A Baby G in preparation at Mercedes-Benz

Although some say that the Mercedes-Benz G Class is beginning to get "too old", the German car maker is betting on a "baby G" to rival the new generation of super-small variants of the Land Rover Defender. This award-winning German car maker hopes to expand its range by offering a new variant of its all-terrain G Class. It will have a shorter wheelbase, based on its A Class, but with many physical traits similar to the G. It would have a more urban appeal while retaining the all-terrain characteristics that its G Class is known for. Dubbed the "Mini-G" internally, it could end up being called the Mercedes-Benz GLG.

The Bugatti Galibier isn't leaving the factory gate yet

Although the Bugatti Galibier Concept has been a familiar face in the automotive industry for three years now, that doesn't mean its production version will see light of day soon. In fact, according to the brand's President and CEO, its planning has been delayed yet again. The Bugatti Galibier was unveiled by VW Group's prestige brand as a concept car in 2009, and you really need to wonder whether it will ever be commercialized. To begin with, its production version was slated to be released in 2013. The date was then changed to 2014, and now the talk is of 2016. This ultra-luxurious sedan will feature more than 1,000 horses under the hood and a top speed of 380 km/h.

Detroit Auto Show 2013

It's that time again! The biggest North American car show hits Detroit this weekend. While there are other, smaller shows coming up, the North American International Auto Show is considered the biggest and best on the continent and one of the top in the world; with over 500 different vehicles on location for attendees to experience. Showcased are not only the latest models and concepts offered by the world's auto manufacturers, but an opportunity to eyeball the next generation of design and features. An annual event for over a century, the Detroit car show gets bigger every year. Last year 42 new vehicles were introduced to the world at the event, and 50 are anticipated to be revealed this year including the long awaited totally redesigned 2014 Corvette.

Final lap for Acura ZDX

Acura announced last week that 2013 would be the swan song for its ZDX, a car that has never met its sales targets. Its last incarnation will feature numerous style and tech improvements, but Acura will now be refocusing on new models and core products, notably on a redesigned RDX and a totally new RDX sedan to come soon. Getting back to the ZDX, it will feature a redesigned grille, front and rear parking sensors, power-folding side mirrors and other technology such as forward collision and lane departure warning systems. Also worth noting is new wood trim on the centre console and a high-contrast interior.

2013 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

Although Porsche has recently added a diesel model to its Cayenne S range, the German car maker continues to expand its stable of high-performance SUVs, this time giving us a Turbo S version. Just last week, Porsche officially announced a new version of its popular Cayenne. The Turbo S model now becomes its most powerful SUV. Compared to the Turbo version, it delivers 50 more horses and 37 lb-ft more torque. With its revamped intake manifold and electronics, the 4.8-litre V8 engine develops 550 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. This increased power and torque shaves 0.2 seconds off its sprint time (now 4.5 seconds 0-100 km/h) and ups its top speed by 5 km/h to 283 km/h. Fuel consumption and CO2 remain unchanged at 11.5 litres per 10 km and 270 g/km, respectively.

Canada To Invest $254 Million In Auto Industry

Speaking from an event at the Ford Motor Co assembly plant in Oakville ON on Friday, The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, announced that the government will invest another C$250 million ($253.69 million) into the country's automotive industry, as it works to encourage private sector investment and increase the number of manufacturing jobs. Prime Minister Harper also announced a 5 year extension to the Automotive Investment Fund, which was set up in 2008 to provide official support for automotive related research and development projects from the Canadian government.

Toyota Debuts Furia Concept Car

Toyota has announce that they will unveil it's new concept car, the Furia, at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. While most of the details are still very much a secret, Toyota released a fiery teaser video full of special effects to grab our interest. In it, the carbon fibre-clad sedan concept car is literally on fire, injecting some excitement into the traditionally staid but competent Toyota line up. While Toyota did not explain the name, Furia means 'fire' in Spanish. In the video we see a carbon fibre diffuser with trapezoidal exhaust on the sedan, along with a carbon fibre trunk lid spoiler, upping it's sporty quotient. It appears to have a chrome strip eyebrow, it's sunken headlights are pushed out by a wide illuminated honeycomb detailed grille and it features angular LED tail-lights.

Why does my gas pump say "may contain 10% ethanol"?

While you're freezing cold outside filling up your tank, you may notice a little sticker on the side of your gas pump that reads "May Contain 10% Ethanol". Just what exactly does this mean? Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is a liquid alcohol typically made from fermented starches or sugars that come from corn or sometimes wheat. It can also come from grassy or woody crops (cellulose), or even garbage. The ethanol as we know it in our gas pumps today is typically derived from corn. It is then blended with fuel, generally in a ratio of 10% ethanol to 90% gasoline. Since the 1980's, ethanol (often known as E10) blends have been fuelling our vehicles. In some places blends containing up to 85% ethanol are available; these can be used in FFV's (flex fuel vehicles).

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