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Automotive News - January 2014

Electric Circuit: Slowly But Surely

We learned last December that hybrid vehicles are not really as popular in Quebec as we had thought. La Presse said that the state of Vermont had 7,966 hybrid vehicles in 2012 for a population of 626,000 inhabitants. Quebec, with it's population of 8 million people had only 4,969 hybrid vehicles registered as of June, 2014. Now imagine the fully electric car situation! The Quebec government has a cause, and is promoting the electrification of transportation. Moreover, the Minister of Natural Resources for Quebec, Martine Ouellet, told those in attendance at the Montreal auto show that the financial assistance offered by the Ministry for the purchase of electric cars will be extended, as it was scheduled to end January 1, 2014. In the coming years, the province's network of charging stations is expected to climb to more than 10,000; split between individuals and companies. Parking pots for rechargeable electric and hybrid vehicles in the city has increased from 1,000 to 2,300 in 2013.

Ford Confident In Aluminum Trucks

Ford's monumental task of convincing tough truck buyers to accept aluminum isn't as big of a challenge as some predicted. Dealers are receiving feedback from customers that the all new aluminum F-150 is eagerly anticipated. Aluminum often brings to mind images of crushed beer cans, not exactly meshing well with the "Built Ford Tough" motto. There is definitely an image problem to overcome, but Ford dealers are pleasantly surprised by the feedback. They say that many customers are waiting for the new F-150 because the idea of aluminum appeals to them. The new aluminum F-150 will weigh as much as 700 pounds less than it's predecessor, improving fuel economy, performance and capabilities. Aluminum also doesn't rust. Ford had a lot of floor space at the Detroit auto show dedicated to demonstrating how tough this truck will continue to be, and improve people's perceptions of aluminum.

The Luxurious Acura

The Acura RLX is the flagship of Honda's luxury brand. Replacing the RL, Acura seems to be paying more attention to the RLX than it did it's predecessor. This sedan steeped in luxury and performance made it's Canadian debut as a hybrid model at the International Auto Show in Montreal. The Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD luxury performance sedan is equipped with a three motored hybrid powertrain, a world's first. The base engine is a direct injection V6 that is paired to a new seven-speed dual clutch gearbox that Acra designed, and it is itself equipped with an electric motor. In addition, the RLX Hybrid is equipped with an electronically powered variant of the torque vectoring all wheel drive Super Handling (SH-AWD).

Toyota Remains World's Biggest Automaker In 2013

The competition was fierce, and there was a lot of talk, it seemed that every automaker was going to be the one to dethrone them in 2013. Despite everything though, Toyota held firm, and remained the world's biggest automaker in 2013. Toyota had hoped to be the first automaker in the world to sell more than 10 million vehicles in a single year, but stopped short of that figure with sales of 9.98 million cars. The Japanese automaker has already said that they will beat that number in 2014, forecasting a 4 percent increase, bringing sales to 10.32 million units. That number, and Toyota's continued success is especially impressive, considering the major setbacks that company continues to suffer from after the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster that happened in Japan. It has held the crown in every year since 2008, the exception being 2011 when the disaster wiped out production for the year. Prior to 2008, GM had held the top spot for nearly 80 years!

2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Gets Traction

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz is getting winterized, something that will make fans north of the 49th parallel a little happier. The tall work van will now be offered with a 4x4 variant, making it perfect for all weather deliveries. It was announced a while ago that the 2014 model would be updated with styling tweaks and a new four-cylinder, Bluetec diesel engine is being offered. Now, with the announcement of the 4x4 model, we learn that buyers can choose either a 129 hp or a 163 hp version of the four-cylinder mentioned, or upgrade to a powerful 190 hp Bluetec V6 3.0-litre. While AWD cars in the Mercedes line-up have the feature engaged at all times, this is not the case in the Sprinter. Drivers push a button to engage the AWD system. At this point, the electronic traction system takes charge. Drivers can activate AWD when the truck is stationary, or driving less than 10 km/h. There is also a low range reduction gear for off-road, low-speed conditions and Downhill Speed Regulation that keeps the truck at a consistent speed when driving downhill. The 2014 Sprinter has also had a lift, the front has been raised 4.3 inches and the rear 3.1 inches.

2015 Lamborghini Huracan

The launch of a new Lamborghini is always a special event, because it does not happen often, and the degree of sophistication and performance offered by Lamborghini is still uncommon. This time, the super exotic car being launched is called Huracan, the name given to a strong fighting bull after a courageous battle in 1879. Adding to the tradition of bestowing the names of fighting bulls upon Lamborghini models, the automaker has also continued the tradition of mounting the coupe's powerful engine in the middle of the Huracan's low body. In the case of the 2015 Lamborghini Huracan, the engine is brand new. It is a 5.2-litre V10 that generates 601 hp at an impressive 8250 revolutions/ minute, while the torque reaches 413 lb-ft at 6500 revs/ minute. This is an increase of nearly 50 horses and 15 lb-ft of torque compared to the Gallardo LP570-4. In addition, the V10 now works with a seven gear dual clutch transmission, which replaces the Gallardo's slow shifting single clutch transmission. Combined with an electronic AWD system, Lamborghini says that the Huracan can reach 100 km/h in only 3.2 seconds and 200 km/h in 9.9 seconds!

Infiniti Wins Two Best New Technology Awards

Last week at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada's press conference, Infiniti was awarded two prizes for it's work in leading edge technologies. Firstly, note that this is the first year for AJAC to award two technological innovation awards. In the past, the jury struggled to choose between innovations that could improve comfort, performance or fuel economy, and innovations that could ultimately save lives. This is no longer a dilemma, since the AJAC will now present one trophy in each category. The AJAC jury is composed of a dozen journalists who are recognized as having specific technical qualifications. Infiniti was the recipient of the Best New Innovation Technology award, for it's Direct Adaptive Steering system. With it, a vehicle's driver can select the exact level of precision and sensitivity of their steering. This system is managed electronically. A rapid response receiver fine tunes everything, and vibrations that annoy some drivers may be eliminated. The steering response is also faster and more accurate.

5 Most Important Debuts At Detroit Auto Show

While auto shows may seem to be consumer oriented, they are extremely important to automakers. When debuting a new vehicle, it has to not only be well received, but hit the right tone in order to appeal to it's intended target market. A vehicle's reception at an important show can make or break it. The Detroit auto show is a very important test for new vehicles. For the following five vehicles, success or failure could rest on their performance at this show. Since the companies behind them have invested so much in these vehicles, their own success or failure may rely on this show too. The Ford F-150 is Ford's crown jewel. Not only has it been the best selling truck in North America for 37 years in a row, it's simply been the best selling vehicle period for the last 32 years. Some say that Ford would be foolish to tinker with it, but that's exactly what they are doing. Debuting at the Detroit auto show is the aluminum bodied 2015 Ford F-150. Ford really has a big job ahead, convincing tough truck fans that an aluminum truck won't crumple like an aluminum beer can. Ford is convince they are up to the job, and say that this is merely the next step in leading the truck market. The company will put the F-150 through 16 million km of durability and strength tests before they hit the ground later this year.

2015 Honda Fit

The newest models and concepts are often the headliners for car shows. Other cars often simply fall off the radar. This is the case of the Honda Fit, a small car that will undergo several major changes for the 2015 model year. First, while the silhouette has been redesigned, the car retains it's familiar look. It lost 26 kg during the redesign, even though the platform was stretched 1.2 inches. Honda has managed to reduce the length of the Fit, while providing 4.8 inches of extra legroom for rear passengers. This is almost 11 percent more space for passengers, despite reducing the car's body dimensions by 0.5 percent. With the seats folded, the cargo space has been slightly decreased from 57.3 to 52.7 cubic feet. It's still on par with certain crossovers, namely the Jeep Patriot, which is nearly 23 percent bigger.

Nissan Micra 2015 back in Canada

The tiny Nissan Micra was distributed in Canada from 1984 to 1991. It's been over 23 years since it's tires have touched the roads of Quebec. For those of you who are nostalgic, the first of them to arrive in this country were also badged as Datsuns. Last Thursday, Nissan Canada announced that it's bringing back the Micra, this time with a fresh, new design aimed at the European and Japanese markets. It's presence in Canada will be solo, as U.S dealers will not be carrying it. The U.S. market, not typically fans of tiny cars, are already well served by Nissan's Versa Note and Sentra models. Nissan Canada will absorb all costs related to importing and promoting this model over here, just as it was in the case of the X-Trail, another Canadian exclusive. In Canada, Nissan expects that 60 percent of the Micras sold will end up in the Quebec market, thanks to that area's love of small cars, European feel and attractive price. Since the Versa Note is already available at a starting price of $13,500, we figure that the Micra will be sold for even less. The Micra's target market is the first time car buyer and the customer who is tempted to purchase a second hand car, presumably to save money.

Cars Highlighted At CES

The Internet is invading the interior of motor vehicles, as it has done in homes and more recently, our phones. 2014 will probably be a pivotal year in this area, the year when everything becomes possible. The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is where all the best in electronics and technology meet. This year, the focus is on the automobile, the lucky recipient of so much new technology this year. Google knows that their self-driving car will not be on the market for at least ten years. In the meantime, it is then left to the task of invading the infotainment systems of other cars. The Silicon Valley giant will be appearing in Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Kia vehicles through it's mobile platform Android. This common platform that manufacturers can adapt is part of it's Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), and other manufacturers are invited to join. The OAA is Google's answer to Apple's iOS in the car, which has recruited twelve manufacturers including, strangely, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet and Opel. We still only know little about these systems, or how they can co-exist in the same vehicle. However, they are both in the development stage.

GM Sweeps 2014 North American Car And Truck Of The Year

It's that time of year again. Along with the major auto shows in Detroit, Toronto and Montreal, come the awards. One of the highlights of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is the crowning of the king and queen of the industry by a panel of automotive journalists. This year, Chevrolet took both crowns with their Corvette Stingray and Silverado, being named the 2014 North American Car and Truck of the Year (respectively) this week. It's unusual for any one badge to sweep the awards. Ford did in 2010 and Honda in 2006. GM took all in 2007, but across two brands, Saturn and Chevy. This year was GM's sixth Car of the Year trophy, and fourth Truck of the Year since the awards were created in 1994. GM holds the most wins (10), with Ford hot on their heels with 9.

Chevrolet, 14 Time Race Champion In 2013

At Chevrolet, the year 2013 focused on performance. The division of General Motors won no less than fourteen championships last year. Chevy won championships in the NASCAR and IndyCar series, ALMS, Grand-Am and the Pirelli World Challenge. This is the eleventh consecutive year that Chevrolet won the Manufacturers NASCAR championship trophy, with 37 wins. The drivers' championship was taken by Jimmie Johnson at the Homestead-Miami race, despite his ninth place finish in the Sprint Cup event. This is the sixth time in eight years that Johnson, with his car number 48, grabbed the crown for Chevrolet in the twenty-ninth race, a driver's record. His Chevrolet SS, from the Hendrick Motorsports stable is easily recognizable with it's Lowe logo. In addition, Austin Dillon has secured first place in the Drivers' Championship Nationwide Series.

2015 Chrysler 200

Most car manufacturers go to great lengths to hide their working prototypes for as long as possible, until they are ready for formal presentation to industry professional and future customers. Generally, the majority of research and design is safe from prying eyes, hidden in specialized units which are usually in facilities belonging to the manufacturer. Later on, once the prototype is better developed, testing phases can begin outdoors, though preferably away from the curious and their camera lenses. Sometimes, journalists are well informed and are able to sneak in a few exclusive photos of a prototype that is under development. However, in their efforts to counter this problem, manufacturers usually disguise their vehicles so that little of their work can be distinguished. For example, some prototypes are hidden under a dark covering that conceals the lines and shape of the vehicle being finalized.

New Generation Of Toyota RAV4

The SUV segment has been around for some time, and the Toyota RAV4 remains one of the originals; the latest version of which is expected to attract a lot of customers looking for this type of vehicle. The RAV4 enjoys a popularity that continues to grow, and Toyota expects a surge in sales with the new 2014 model, sales volume that is expected to exceed 200,000 units. The Toyota RAV4 has some competitors, mainly the Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Kia Sportage and the Nissan Rogue. To make the 2014 vintage even more attractive, Toyota is offering free regular maintenance on the SUV for a period of 2 years or 40,000 km, whichever comes first. This offer applies to the LE, XLE and Limited versions, of which prices range from $23,000 to $27,010. The fourth generation of the Toyota RAV4 offers many new changes, both inside and out of the small SUV. The first thing that you notice is the disappearance of the spare wheel attached to the rear of the vehicle, which has now been replaced by an integrated spoiler. Another noticeable change, this time under the hood of the 2014 RAV4 is the disappearance of the previous generation's V6 engine, which has been replaced by a more fuel efficient but less powerful 2.5 litre four-cylinder, offering 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. For a vehicle weighing more than 2,000 kg (4,500 lbs) it's a bit of a lightweight- the 2014 RAV4 cannot tow more than 680 kg (1,500 pounds). It's competition does much better in this area, especially the new Ford Escape and it's 2-litre, 240 horsepower EcoBoost engine that has comparable fuel consumption numbers but offers more in terms of power and flexibility.

Chinese Cars Heading To U.S. In 2015

BYD, a Chinese automaker that is backed by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett, is planning to bring four models to North America late next year. The company tried to enter the North American market in 2010, but decided it was not ready at the time. This time around, they say that they are better prepared. BYD says that they plan to compete on quality and innovation, rather than simply price. This situation has the potential to shake up the North American car market, much the way things happened when Japan and South Korea did a few decades ago. "Entering the U.S. market carries more symbolic meaning to brand building than actually boosting its bottom line," said an analyst with CSC International Holdings Ltd. in Shanghai. "They really need to make sure cars they deliver there have sound quality in order to avoid adverse impact."

Chrysler Now Owned By Fiat

Fiat SpA (Fiat) announced yesterday that they had come to an agreement with Chrysler's second largest shareholder, VEBA, where it's U.S. subsidiary, Fiat North America LLC (FNA) will acquire VEBA's 41.5 percent stake in Chrysler. This transaction is expected to close by January 20, 2014. VEBA will receive $3.65 billion for it's stake in Chrysler. Fiat will pay $1.75 billion of that in cash. The remainder will be provided in the form of special dividends to Chrysler shareholders. Fiat will donate it's own share to VEBA. Chrysler Group will make further contributions to VEBA, up to $70 million in four annual instalments, the first of which will be paid when the agreement is formalized. Further instalments will be paid annually for three years. The UAW (United Auto Workers) union is committed to supporting the activities of the new entity.

Volvo Putting Self Driving Cars On The Road

Volvo has announced that they intend to have 100 self driving cars on Swedish roads by 2017. Named The Drive Me Project, the self driving Volvos will be on the roads of Swedish city Gothenburg within 4 years. Swedish automaker Volvo is considered one of the world's leader in autonomous cars. The company has already developed systems that allow vehicles to park themselves, avoid forming parking jams and to travel together safely in "road trains." Next, Volvo plans to have 100 of it's self-driving cars on the streets of Gothenburg. The Drive Me pilot project involves self-driving cars for sustainable mobility. It is a collaboration between the City of Gothenburg, Volvo Car Group, Lindholmen Science Park, the Swedish Transport Agency and the Swedish Transport Administration. The project hopes "to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility."

2015 BMW Active Tourer 2 Series- A German Van

BMW has shown us similar concepts before. The Active Tourer concept and the Active Tourer Outdoor concept came close to hitting the production line, judging by their completed silhouettes and the interest they have generated. Today we know that the production version of the 2 Series Active Tourer will be launched in Europe and North America. One of the surprises is that it is a 2 series, since BMW's numbering system generally assigns even numbers to coupes or convertibles. This crossover is a front wheel drive compact, a practical family car with luxurious fittings and dynamic qualities that surpass all other vehicles in it's category. There is not much competition for this behemoth here, but it could come up against the Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The man behind it's styling is Domagoj Dukec, formerly of Citroen.

Nissan LEAF Buyer Celebrates 100,000 Miles On His EV

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Transportation Minister Lynn Peterson and Nissan representatives joined Steve Marsh of Kent, Washington, to celebrate the 100,000 miles he has travelled with his Nissan LEAF. In early 2011, Mr Marsh purchased a brand new Nissan LEAF for his daily commute, a hike of 130 miles per day. Since then, he has accrued more than 100,000 miles on the car, all without using gasoline and creating the emissions associated with it; and, saving an estimated thousands of dollars in the process.

Ford Rolling Out Aluminum F-150

The Ford F-150, the best selling vehicle in Canada and the best selling vehicle in the U.S. for almost 32 years, is about to experience a major change. Ford is introducing an aluminum F series at next month's auto show in Detroit. Ford's marketing has a big task ahead, as it strives to convince consumers that aluminum is strong and safe, having more in common with Humvees than beer cans. Aluminum, which is lighter than steel, is used in combat vehicles. Ford has asked Alcoa Inc, which makes aluminum blast shields for battlefield-bound vehicles to supply some of it's military grade metal materials for the auto show. Alcoa supplies super-strong grades of aluminum to the military, and other grades of the metal to the automotive industry.

2015 Ford Mustang Already Available

Yes, believe it or not the 2015 Ford Mustang is already available... if you play the video game Need For Speed Rivals. Ford worked closely with Electronic Arts (EA) to provide all of the technical details of the new car. All this took place several months before the Mustang was unveiled to fans around the world, under tight secrecy.

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