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Automotive News - April 2014

2015 Toyota Camry

oyota makes the best-selling car in North America, the Camry. This might make it tough to overhaul the car without offending some of it's many fans. However, this is exactly what Toyota has done this year. The new 2015 edition was unveiled at the New York auto show last week. Hitting dealerships this fall, Toyota has added a XSE trim level to the Camry range. This dynamic version is derived from the SE model and is not simply a cosmetic refresh. Eighteen inch wheels will be added, in addition to unique shock absorbers, firmer bushings, stiffer springs and a special EPS steering calibration. The Camry SE hybrid will also be enhanced with an exclusive sport-tuned suspension to offer a more dynamic driving experience for the driver, a style of driving that Toyota describes as "Ecodynamic".

2015 Honda HR-V

With the arrival of the 2015 Fit, scheduled for this summer, Honda will add a new compact SUV, the HR-V. This new Honda utility will be built in a brand new ultra-modern facility in Mexico, and should arrive in Quebec just in time for snow next winter. Sharing the same platform as the Fit, it represents Honda's first foray into the segment, one that should experience strong growth in the years to come. The International Auto Show in New York City was the perfect excuse to publish the first photos of the new small truck. While very little information has been provided, there are indications that the "Magic Seat" system is present, allowing for several seating configurations and the ability to enlarge the cargo area by folding the seats completely flat. We're hoping that this seat is as well designed as it is in the CRV, offering maximum efficiency.

Image Makeovers For Camry and Sonata Sedans

Two of most popular selling sedans on the market- the best selling Toyota Camry and the attention-seeking Hyundai Sonata are undergoing image makeovers, in hopes of enticing a new crop of buyers. They've more than made their mark when it comes to their existing fan bases- the Camry has been a huge seller for a long time, and now they're seeking a broader audience to scoop up more of that very lucrative mid-size sedan market with revised 2015 models. While the Camry is popular, it's a good, reliable car, it's also seen as frumpy as a consequence. It's huge, loyal following seems to be okay with that- each generation of the Camry until now seems to scream safe and modest. There are over 6.6 million Camrys on the road. It has been the best selling car in the U.S. for the past 12 years. The Toyota Camry had a full makeover only three years ago. It's design was typically... boring. In fact, after the redesign, the best selling Camry model was the one with the sporty SE package. This did not escape Toyota's attention.

The Equinox And Terrain Are The Safest

The 2014 Chevrolet Equinox and it's twin, the GMC Terrain have been declared the safest by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), earning the "Top Safety Pick" designation. They are the only midsize SUVs out of nine tested to be awarded a "good" rating in the small overlap crash test. These two popular vehicles are built in Oshawa, Ontario. The test, introduced a year and a half ago, continues to frustrate automakers. We already know that the 2014 Malibu received a similar honour a few weeks ago. In order to earn the rating, all vehicles need to be equipped with a optional collision avoidance warning system. In 2014, an additional test was added to the battery of tests already performed by the IIHS. For vehicles hoping to receive the best possible rating, they must obtain a "good" score on each of the four initial tests, as well as at least an "acceptable" score on the fifth test. The Equinox and Terrain were each classified as "good" in all five of the crash tests.

China Embracing Foreign Cars

China's population is growing wealthy, and quickly. As this massive population starts craving new vehicles, it seems to be foreign brands that are in high demand. This is leading to many changes- automakers building new plants in the country, international automakers partnering with domestic ones, a lot of new dealerships popping up, and regulators considering new rules for the international automakers. Chinese automakers are politically influential, and they are calling for the country to enact regulations to protect them from the onslaught of foreign cars that are beginning to crowd Chinese roads. One after another, global brands have pushed their way into the country, and stealing market share from Chinese brands in their home market.

2015 BMW M4 Cabriolet Is On It's Way

The coupe has not even arrived at dealerships yet, but the convertible is about to unfold at the New York International Auto Show. The new 2015 BMW M4 convertible will be arriving just in time for the end of summer. Note that since 2014, the sedan is now part of the 3 Series, while the coupe and convertible are badged as 4 Series. The six-cylinder inline twin turbo M4 convertible produces the same power as the M3 sedan and the M4 coupe, though we've discovered that this model is heavier. It tips the scales at 1,840 pounds, or forty pounds less than it's predecessor. However, it is nearly 240 pounds heavier than the M4 coupe, which should be noticeable in it's level of performance.

Cars That Tried To Replicate The Mustang's Success

The Mustang's wild success and popularity fifty years ago was almost unbelievable. Certainly, it was enough to create a great deal of envy among Ford's rivals. This of course spurred them to try and match the Mustang's success, each of course failing to do so. Other companies tried to develop their own version of the pony car, and within three years there were several competitors to the Mustang, but no other even came close to matching the Mustang's sales in the 1960s. The Mustang had a formula, one that was pretty straightforward. It came in three body styles- a coupe, a convertible and a fastback. It had a variety of engine choices and a low starting price. It also came with a wide list of options that allowed buyers to personalize their Mustang. Fifty years later one would think that it shouldn't have been too hard to replicate the formula, but it seems that manufacturers back then just couldn't make it work. Chrysler actually hit the market two weeks earlier than Ford with it's compact Barracuda. As the Mustang was derived from the Falcon, the Barracuda shared DNA with the Plymouth Valiant economy car.

Chevy's 2015 Trax Small Crossover

Crossovers are huge right now, doubling in sales since 2009. Hoping to grab a piece of that market, Chevy is bringing their Trax small crossover to the U.S.. The Trax is already sold around the world, in 60 markets actually including Canada. It's built on the same platform as the Chevy Sonic and the Buick Encore, and runs on the same four-cylinder 1.4-litre turbo engine as the Encore. Launched in early 2013, the Encore has been highly successful for GM. The compact crossover market is still in it's infancy, at least when it comes to mainstream brands. Honda is planning one based on the Fit, and Jeep will launch the Renegade early next year. The Trax's closest existing competitor is the Nissan Juke, which is of similar size. Luxury brands, however, are jumping into the market with both feet, with small crossovers being offered by Mercedes, BMW, Audi and Lincoln.

The Final Version Of The Ford Transit

The 2015 Ford Transit will begin it's career in Canada later this year. Meanwhile, last week, Ford introduced the ultimate version of this big vehicle, the Ford Transit Skyliner Concept. This vehicle can be configured according to the needs of the individual. The Ford Transit, which will replace the venerable Econoline, should have a mostly utilitarian career. That is to say it will be used to carry a lot of equipment within it's huge cargo space. However, Ford has shown that it could be a very luxurious vehicle for transporting passengers. The Transit Skyliner can be converted into a vehicle that pampers it's occupants. The Transit could easily become a vehicle of choice for a limousine service or passenger services such as airport shuttles. The concept is the work of Melvin Betancourt, a chief Ford designer and Chief Executive Officer of Galpin Auto Sports, Beau Boekman. Galpin Ford is the largest Ford dealer in the world, and is known for it's sports cars and vehicle conversions. The company was at the height of the wave of van conversions in the late 60s and 70s.

2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 Convertible

Spring is finally here, and nothing says spring like a convertible. Instead of making us wait for next week's New York Auto Show, Chevy has gone ahead and released details about the upcoming convertible version of their 2015 Corvette Z06. This is the first time since 1963 that the Z06 has been offered with a drop top. “Until recently it was not possible to create a lightweight, open-roof structure strong enough to cope with the braking, cornering and acceleration of Corvette's top performance models,” Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter said. “The frame for the Z06 convertible leverages advancements in computer-aided engineering, metallurgy and manufacturing techniques -- many of which were not available just five years ago.” The 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 Convertible is being called the Stingray, for owners who want it all. Along with a power folding roof that can open at speeds of up to 30 mph, the car comes with racing suspension & brakes and of course, the Z06 engine. Both the coupe and the convertible models of the Z06 will be offered in three variations. The standard package comes with the front splitter, a unique carbon fibre hood, rear spoilers and spats around the front wheel openings.

NHTSA Tackles Distracted Driving

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is launching a new campaign against texting while driving. Under the theme "U Drive, U Text, U Pay", their ads have been invading television, radio and electronic media since last Monday and will continue through to next Tuesday. At the same time, they hope to spread their message through a massive national campaign of ticket distribution. Coinciding with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the advertising and the national crackdown on distracted driving will ensure that large numbers of people will get the message. At last week's press conference, David Friedman of the NHTSA said that 3.228 people were killed and about 421,000 were injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers during 2012 alone. Over $8.5 million has been invested in this national awareness campaign, a first in the history of the United States. Nearly all U.S. states have passed laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving in recent years, but drivers do not seem to fully understand. Just as in Canada, they know it is dangerous, but they keep texting!

Bugatti Launches Black Bess

Bugatti has launched the fifth of their series of six special edition models based on the Grand Sport Vitesse called "Les Légendes de Bugatti" series. This most recent model, is said to pay tribute to the Type 18 "Black Bess". According to French luxury automaker Bugatti, it was " one of the first ever street legal super sports cars." That car was driven by company founder Ettore Bugatti in several races, winning the 1912 Mont Ventoux hill climb. It reached a top speed of 100 MPH and was powered by an inline-four 5.0-litre engine, which was something incredible for that time. "Over the course of its history, Bugatti has not only been responsible for crafting enormously successful race cars, but has also created some outstanding road vehicles," said Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, President of Bugatti. "As the fastest road vehicle of its time, the Type 18 was in a class of its own. It truly is the legitimate forerunner for the Veyron, and is therefore a Bugatti Legend."

Overview: 2015 Subaru Outback

On April 17, Subaru plans to unveil the newest version of the Outback at the New York International Auto Show. To give us a taste in the meantime, and to raise the suspense, Subaru has just released a preview of the car's front end. Not surprisingly, the hit of the Subaru line-up bears a strong resemblance to the Legacy concept, which was presented among others at the Montreal Auto Show in January. We know very little about the 2015 model, since apart from the photo, Subaru is not revealing anything yet. However, it can be assumed that most of the changes will be related to the vehicle's aesthetics. Even though the tail lights are not visible in the photo, they should stretch wide and look away from the vehicle's height. The vehicle's profile is high, as it is today, to perpetuate the image of a robust and adventurous vehicle.

Just when you think you've heard everything

Just when you think you've heard everything... Mazda Motor Corp. has issued a voluntary recall for the second time in three years for it's Mazda6 sedans. The reason? A spider that seems to be attracted to the smell of gasoline. The spider gets into the engine compartment and builds a web that ends up blocking evaporative canister vent lines. This can lead to a restriction of fuel flow, which might reduce fuel tank pressure when vapours from the evaporative canister are purged by the emission control system. All of this can stress the fuel tank, potentially causing it to crack and leak fuel which might increase the risk of a fire. Mazda says that no fires, accidents or injuries caused by this issue have been reported. 42,000 Mazda6 sedans from 2010 to 2012 with 2.5-litre engines are being recalled in the United States. About 65,000 models from 2009 and 2010 were recalled three years ago for the same reason.

General Motors: A Wave of Disturbing Recalls

Last month, General Motors issued recall notices for nearly 5 million vehicles. The most important recall centred around an ignition switch, that was found to be capable of returning to the OFF position, and preventing airbags from deploying. This defect is responsible for 13 deaths. Mary Barra certainly does not have a fun job ahead of her. Having only taken over the presidency of General Motors in January, she now must manage the most important crisis that the manufacturer has faced since it was put back on track by the U.S. government during the financial crisis. Now, she must appear before Congress to explain. She must explain why the particular design of the ignition switch had been changed, and why the company did not issue a recall on older vehicles. Investigators are still going over the chain of events. Who approved the design? Who was responsible for recalls and why were the vehicles not recalled? Who was aware of the problem? We do know that GM had been aware of the problem since 2001. Why is it that over a decade later, GM has decided to take responsibility?

The BMW X7 - Beemer Gets Bigger

Is your Beemer getting too cramped? The X5 too small for you? BMW just announced the largest ever SUV to be added to their range. Beemer is getting bigger! Last week, BMW announced plans to build an X7 model SUV in the near future, a 4x4 that will be the largest SUV the company has made to date. It will be built at the company's South Carolina plant, where the other members of the X model range are built. BMW is investing one billion dollars in the plant by 2016. Their plans to boost production from 300,000 vehicles to 450,000 vehicles annually will make it BMW's largest production facility in the world.

Renault-Nissan Alliance: It's Been 15 Years

My, how things change. On March 27, 1999, Renault invested $5.4 billion U.S. dollars to acquire a 36.8 percent stake in Nissan, which at that time was close to bankruptcy. In 2013, Renault-Nissan sold 8.3 million vehicles, nearly double the number from 1999. Today, Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, while Nissan owns a 15 percent stake in Renault. One in ten cars sold around the world comes from the Renault-Nissan Alliance. In addition to the two main brands, the alliance includes Renault Samsung, Infiniti, Venucia, Dacia, Lada and Datsun brands. In 1999, sales of vehicles in the group of countries called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) accounted for 1 percent of the alliance's total sales. Today, more than 30 percent of production is sold in these countries. Renault-Nissan has also launched a vehicle architecture specifically dedicated to emerging countries.

Convertible Season Just Around The Corner

While it may not seem like it in parts of this country, believe it or not, convertible season is just around the corner. The miserable weather is slowly subsiding and we're starting to enjoy a taste of sunshine here and there. What SUVs and crossovers are to winter, convertibles are to summer. Ready to blow your savings and probably your retirement fund on an amazing drop top? Here are a few options for you to consider. The 2015 Ferrari California T will definitely blow your hair back. It goes from 0 to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds thanks to it's 552 hp turbo V8. Inspired by the 250 Testa Rossa, it will set you back over $200,000.

Chrysler Is Committed to 9-Speed Transmission

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler Automobile chief has gone on record saying that the company is committing to their industry-changing 9-speed transmission, despite setbacks last year caused by it. The automotive giant was forced to delay it's 2014 Jeep Cherokee by two months late last year while their engineers worked to rectify a software flaw in it's 9-speed automatic transmission. The company had a lot riding on the success of the SUV and needed to ensure that it's shiny new 9-speed, an industry first, did not disappoint. Marchionne said that the new transmission will continue to be used through Chrysler's line-up of FWD models. This transmission is also installed in the company's Chrysler 200 sedan. While the Jeep Cherokee does not use it's fuel efficient ninth gear all the time, the 200 does use it during normal operations. The operating software for it in the 200 is being refined, and the car is on track to arrive on time in showrooms, during the second quarter of this year.

Chrysler's New Hellcat V8

There are rumours swirling about that Chrysler is building a new 6.2-litre supercharged V8, one that rivals the 8.4-litre V10 that's in their SRT Viper. The new V8, known as the Hellcat, is destined for the next version of the Dodge Challenger SRT, effectively nudging it into supercar territory. The Challenger is due for a refresh, it hasn't experienced any major changes during it's 7 or so years in Chrysler's line-up. Chrysler seems to love giving cool names to their engines, which instantly leads to hype, and the perception of almost magical powers. A few years ago they released a fuel efficient four-cylinder called the Hurricane, but the Hellcat is way at the other end of the spectrum.

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