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Automotive News - June 2013

2014 BMW X5

When it comes to the X5, BMW has always been innovative. Remember, BMW created the SAV segment back in 1999. Improving it's athleticism in 2007, the company even went so far as to launch an M version with three powerful engine choices. 1.3 million units later, the BMW X5 will once again set the standard for driving dynamics, luxury and versatility. Unveiled at the end of May, the third generation of the X5 Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) is expected to hit dealerships in November of this year. Refining things, the 2014 X5 has lost weight. Losing 200 pounds, it's more aerodynamic. Under the hood, three engine options are available- a six cylinder 3.0 litre single turbo with 300 horses and 300 pounds of torque, and a 4.4 litre twin turbo V8 that gets 455 horsepower and 480 pounds of torque.

2014 Buick LaCrosse

We were introduced to the 2014 Buick LaCrosse at the New York International Auto Show back in March, 2013. We're now better acquainted with it, and as it's now half way through it's cycle, the car is ready for some updates. Buick advanced the car's design with a new grille, sculpted hood and LED headlights. The tail lights have also been redesigned, and are now equipped with LEDs and a spoiler built into the trunk. The car's aerodynamics have been improved with the addition of active grille shutters that close when the car is driven on the highway, reducing aerodynamic drag. GM is already using the technology in other models, including the Cadillac ATS. The 2014 LaCrosse's interior was redesigned with new seats and more space. An all new Ultra Luxury package offers the brand's highest level of comfort and luxury, featuring Tamo Ash wood throughout the cabin, and semi-aniline full leather seating.

Smart Counting On Battery Rentals To Soothe Jitters

Batteries are a pain. As they age, their ability to hold a charge deteriorates, they often die long before the product they power wears out, and they're expensive to replace, often as much as the product itself. This doesn't just apply to cell phones and other high tech gadgets, it's definitely applicable to the batteries found in electric vehicles. Many people are holding off on making the move to electric since we still don't know much about how long EV batteries will last, and they're ridiculously expensive. Nobody wants to lock into a new car and find out the hard way that they need to refinance their house to replace the battery in it. Smart thinks they may have found a solution, one that might reduce the anxiety felt by prospective EV buyers. The manufacturer launched it's ForTwo Electric Drive coupe this week, but with a twist. Lowering purchase prices and monthly lease rates, Smart is allowing their customers to rent the car's battery. The company is hoping to assuage concerns about battery life, maintenance costs, repair expenses and range anxiety.

2014 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is one of the best selling cars of all time. Since it's introduction in the 1960s, nearly 40 million copies have been sold. In Canada, more than 1.3 million Corollas have been sold. Suddenly facing competition, Toyota knew that they could no longer rely on people's perception of the Corolla's reliability and resale value to sell cars. For the first time since 2002, it's not the best selling compact car in Canada, dropping to third behind the Hyundai Elantra and the Honda Civic. The last time the Corolla had a makeover was in 2009. The long awaited eleventh generation will be available in dealerships this fall. It's dynamic styling seems to be inspired by Toyota's Furia concept that we saw in Detroit, as well as the Camry and the Avalon. It's bigger than it's predecessor too. The platform is four inches longer than that of the current version, making for a roomier interior and improved handling. The 2014 Toyota Corolla saves weight by using lighter, high strength steel, and improved the ride by stiffening the body with reinforcements.

2014 Chevrolet Malibu

Last week Chevrolet unveiled the latest version of it's full size Malibu sedan. The 2014 takes on the popular Ford Taurus and the Toyota Avalon, both of which were redesigned for 2014. This great Chevrolet is now more spacious and refined with more efficient execution. It's arrival at dealerships is expected for this fall. The 2013 Malibu had been revised from it's predecessor, but Chevrolet has taken things even further for 2014. It's grill, taking a cue from the new Impala is more prominent and better integrated with the rest of the Chevy line. The rear seat is now more spacious, and the front seatbacks were dug out about an inch so as to clear the knees of the rear passengers. The centre console now has a longer arm for comfort and Chevrolet has added a new storage compartment to hold up to two cell phones.

1949 - 1951 Nash Airflyte

Founded in 1917, the Nash Motors Company definitely left their mark in automotive history books. Design wise, their cars were tinged with controversy, their almost cartoonish styling could be polarizing. The 1949-1951 models were nicknamed "bathtub cars" because they resembled an upside down bathtub. Otherwise, they were praised for their space, comfort and quiet. After World War Two, when automotive production was restarted, Nash didn't want to follow the lead of other manufacturers who were simply reintroducing their pre-war cars with minimal updating. Instead, Nash threw itself into what was at that time daring and bold levels of automotive innovation. The strategy paid off, and in 1949, Nash was able to differentiate itself from those cars offered by the Big Three.

The Marathon c-300

Electric vehicles are not a recent innovation. They date back to the middle of the 1800s, and were in vogue around the early 1900s. Ownership peaked in 1912, when most homes were wired with electricity and they could be easily charged. Unfortunately, as highways were built, the cars didn't have the range to make it to other cities, and EVs fell out of favour. Canada has had it's rightful place in the development of electric vehicles, most notably the ZENN car which recently ceased production at it's facility near Montreal. Quebec has another electric vehicle story, though little known. Built between 1977 and 1980 in Montreal, by the Marathon Electric Car Company, the c-300 is a tiny footnote in Canadian automotive history.

2014 Acura MDX - The Third Generation

Showcased a few weeks ago at the Edmonton Motorshow in April, the third generation Acura MDX goes on sale this summer at all of the brand's Canadian dealerships. Acura's engineers chose an all-new platform, but the 2014 MDX still offers room for seven passengers in it's comfortable, versatile and luxurious interior. Apart from some technical aspects, this vintage should provide an enhanced dynamic performance as well as reduced fuel consumption, despite a still powerful engine. Also not that the 2014 Acure MDX comes with some new and original features exclusive to the Canadian market. Despite it's generous dimensions, the new MDX saw it's total weight reduced by about 125 kg, compared to the previous generation. To get there, Acura has developed a body, 55 percent of which consists of light materials such as high strength steel, aluminum and magnesium. The SUV is stiffer and lighter overall. The new body's aerodynamic design offers a 17 percent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency.

Canada's Top Ten

Numbers have come in for Canada's best selling cars and light trucks for the first third of 2013. Clinching the number one spot is the Hyundai Elantra, who's sales are up 3.9% from the same period a year ago, overtaking the Honda Civic. The Civic's sales when compared to a year ago have dropped significantly, they're down 17.6%, despite being built in Ontario. One factor may be that Canadians like hatchbacks. The Elantra offers a hatchback model but the Civic is only available in sedan and coupe versions. If Honda decides to bring back the Civic hatch, Canadians might be more interested.

Chrysler Refuses Jeep Recall

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the American agency that handles vehicle safety for our neighbours to the South, sent a request to the Chrysler Group, that they recall 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty models, approximately 2.7 million vehicles. According to the NHTSA, the fuel tanks in these models pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety when involved in rear-impact collisions. They said that tank failures and vehicle fires after rear impact are more prevalent in these models than in non-Jeep vehicles.

2014 Bentley Flying Spur- Redefining Luxury

Bentley has an image to maintain, and boy does it ever with their newly redesigned 2014 Flying Spur. Geared to the growing super rich class in China, generally found in Beijing and Shanghai, Bentley completely redefines super luxury with this $200,000+ palace on wheels. China now lays claim to over 1 million millionaires (in U.S. Dollars), more than 60,000 individuals worth over $16 million and an incredible 100 billionaires. The country is quickly becoming the world's biggest luxury car market, and Bentley wants it's share. Featuring 616 horsepower, and 590 pound-feet or torque, the Flying Spur is the fastest four door ever produced by the British brand, reaching top speeds off 200 miles per hour (320 km/h). With that kind of torque, it gets moving faster than you could ever imagine considering it weighs well over 5,400 pounds. All that power comes from a 6 litre twin turbo V-12 with an 8 speed automatic.

Canada's Biggest Outdoor Car Show

ast weekend Auto Expert attended "Canada's Biggest Outdoor Car Show" also known as the 2013 Fleetwood Country Cruize-In near London, ON. 2013 is the eighth year of the event, beginning with 60 classic cars and a couple of cases of Coca Cola, growing exponentially. This year over 3,000 vehicles were on display, covering most segments. While featuring mostly classics and original muscle cars, the show also had large numbers of novel and unique vehicles as well as representation by local new car dealerships. Never boring, there was always something interesting to enjoy. From amphicars, to vintage travel trailers, to one of the few replicas of the original Batmobile still in existence, there was definitely something there for everyone.

Tesla Repays Department of Energy Loan 9 Years Ahead of Schedule

Last week Tesla became the first automotive manufacturer to fully repay it's loan received under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program. In a boost for electric vehicles, the company's $465 million payment with interest was nine years ahead of schedule, proving that U.S. electric car companies can indeed succeed. In 2010, Tesla received the clean energy loan. Tesla's Model S, which was voted Motor Trend's Car of the Year at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit has sent the company's shares soaring with prices up 150%. The company's stock prices have risen steadily over the last two months, and it's become one of the hottest stocks in the market today.

Honda Slashes Lease Rates To Boost EV Sales

Automotive companies in the US have been told that they need to sell more electric vehicles, so companies like Honda are offering exceptional deals on their leases in order to push their EV sales numbers higher. Honda has slashed the lease rate of it's Fit EV by one third to $259 per month in the U.S. down from $389 per month. They're even applying the new rate to existing leases. The three year lease terms include bonuses like no money down, unlimited mileage, free routine maintenance, collision insurance and a free 240 volt home charging station. Hoping to boost sluggish electric car sales, automotive companies are slashing lease prices on their EVs and throwing in extra goodies. Citing factors such as range anxiety, few public charging stations and rising U.S. oil production resulting in stable pump prices, consumers have been reluctant to switch to electric vehicles.

Lotus Exige S Roadster

After weeks of speculation, it's official, this summer British auto manufacturer Lotus will officially launch it's latest offering, the Lotus Exige S Roadster. The convertible version of the Lotus Exige S, this little roadster doesn't stray too far from it's roots. Under the hood, most of the specs are the same. Both cars share a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine that delivers a total of 345 horsepower and 295 pounds per square foot of torque. Performance numbers are identical, each car can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, pushing 345 horses and reaching speeds of 233 km/h. Despite the fact that the max speed had to be lowered to ensure safety in the roadster, it's the fastest convertible ever made by Lotus. That engine is mated to a six speed manual, though Lotus's paddle shifted automated manual system, the Serial Precision Shift is available as an option.

Fiat Industrial Moves To The UK, Fiat SpA Next

In a striking blow to the Italian government, Fiat Industrial is moving it's tax residency from Italy to Britain. Fiat Industrial is one of the world's largest bus manufacturers, who also makes tractors and heavy duty engines. The company was formed when the Fiat group split it's equipment division (Industrial) from it's car division (SpA). Fiat is one of Italy's largest companies and it's biggest private employer. Unemployment in Italy is already at a 20 year high as the country is in the midst of the second year of a recession. The information came to light in an SEC regulatory filing in the US as it prepares for the total acquisition of CNH (Case New Holland), which it already owns 81% of. In it, the company said that it "intends to operate in a manner to be treated as resident of the United Kingdom for tax purposes."

Ford Pulls Out of Australia

Early last year, Ford made promises to the Australian government, and their employees that it intended to continue production in Australia until 2016, but made no assurances beyond that timeframe. The company has now confirmed that as of 2016, Ford will stop producing cars in Australia, closing two plants and cutting 1,200 jobs. The company produces the Falcon sedan and the Territory SUV at these plants. Ending 90 years of Australian car production, beginning with production of the Model T in 1925, Ford cited wages in particular, and unsustainably high costs of doing business in that country. The company claims that their Australian costs are double that of Europe, and nearly four times those in Asia.

BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé

Two of the most tradition soaked names in the automotive industry came together this weekend, unveiling the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé at the 2013 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in Italy. Their collaboration, an elaborate one-off luxury BMW Coupe as seen through the eyes of Pininfarina. Both legendary companies are known for style, aesthetics, dynamics and being on the forefront of cutting edge technology. The two teams collaborated closely for the first time to create a blend of German technology and Italian elegance. The Italian Pininfarnina design house, founded in the 1930s, is best known for leaving it's indelible mark on Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia and Alfa Romeo. The company is one of the most time honoured names in automotive design, and now extends it's expertise to industrial and architectural design projects.

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