Automotive News - May 2014

Chrysler's New Powertrains

At last week's Fiat Chrysler Automobiles press conference, one of the many announcements in Sergio Marchionne's five year plan for the company included it's new line-up of powertrains. This new series of engines is designed to help the automaker meet tightening global fuel economy and emissions standards. This new family of engines will replace Chrysler's range of four-cylinder engines. There are currently 40 types of these within the company, many of which share no common parts or technology with one another. Some were acquired through business ventures. The new ones will share common parts, such as pistons, combustion chamber designs and fuel injectors, and will have the ability to be customized for individual markets inexpensively. Also coming up are a series of gasoline-electric hybrids, including a plug-in version of their Chrysler Town & Country minivan, which will be the first of several new hybrid models. The company's industry-changing eight- and nine-speed transmissions will be available to more vehicles and FCA will bring more diesel engines to North America.

Car Rental Companies Offering Luxury Models

Eager to differentiate themselves from one another, car rental companies are raising the bar, and offering luxury models to their wealthier customers. Probably not aimed at business travellers, rental companies are now stocking exotics for travellers who want a once in a lifetime thrill behind the wheel of something special. Some of the bigger car rental companies have been adding the finest cars that money can buy to their inventory. Parked beside the Toyotas and Chryslers are Aston Martins, Bentleys, Teslas and Ferraris, all available for rent, but don't expect your per diem to make a dent in the payment. "We try to sell a lifestyle, not just an exotic vehicle," said the manager of a car rental company located in Las Vegas. His company will deliver a luxury car directly to the customer, whether it be a $2,200 per day Rolls Royce or a $900 per day Ferrari California. The licence plates do not reveal that the car is a rental, allowing customers to pretend that the car is their own. The company even offers discrete key fobs, with no car rental agency tags attached.

Toyota's TRD Goes Off-Road

Best known for supplying it's racing parts and accessories to street-legal cars, Toyota's Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is expanding it's line-up to supply factory-installed off-road kits to Toyota's line-up of trucks. Starting with the 2015 model year of four-wheel-drive versions of Toyota's Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner light trucks, TRD Pro editions will be the most advanced off-road package that Toyota has ever offered. Ready for extreme off-roading, TRD Pro editions will be backed by Toyota's same 3-year/36,000 mile warranty as stock models.

Tesla Ends It's Partnership With Electric RAV4

You've probably never encountered one, but since 2012, Toyota has been building an electric version of it's RAV4 utility vehicle. Mainly sold in California, 1,594 of the electrical variation of the popular SUV have been sold since 2012. It's no surprise that the RAV4's battery and the engine come from Tesla. Toyota owns 2.4 percent of the Palo Alto, California company's stock. However, last week Tesla announced that Toyota will be ending it's $100 million contract earlier than planned. In May 2012, Toyota committed to buying the components for 2,600 electric RAV4s from Tesla over three years.

Radical Change For The 2015 Kia Sedona

After a break in 2013, the 2014 Kia Sedona returned virtually unchanged. It was then time to launch the new and completely redesigned 2015 Sedona. Now, with room for eight passengers, Kia will try to establish an important place in this segment where there was once a lot of strong competition. The image we have of the traditional van may change with Kia's new design, a design that adds a little life to the segment. For a minivan, it's remarkably sporty, looking a little CUV-ish. Just one look at the Sedona and it immediately seems like it would be fun to drive. The equipment groups have not been laid out yet, but Kia says that it plans to run elbow to elbow with the category's leaders- Chrysler, Toyota and Honda. Kia and big brother Hyundai are well known for equipping their vehicles at a higher level than their segment rivals. The 2015 Kia Sedona will offer innovative features and a style that defies every other vehicle in the segment, according to Kia.

Batmobiles Then And Now

There aren't many cars more iconic than the Batmobile. Driven by big stars ranging from Adam West to Ben Affleck, the Batmobile has undergone many transformations over the last 70 years. Recently, the most complete image of the Batmobile from the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie, set to be released in 2016, was leaked by film directory Zack Snyder. This tease set off a flurry of chatter all over social media. In comic books, Batman first appeared in 1948, and several Batman movies, including his co-star the Batmobile have been made since the first in 1966. The year 1966 brought us Batman: The Movie, starring Adam West. The Batmobile in that movie was based on the 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. While to today's fans that car seems a little reserved, it was considered futuristic looking for it's time. The cars continued to get more interesting and outlandish in subsequent versions of the movie. Fast forward nearly a quarter century later, and the Batmobile made a comeback in 1989's Batman, directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton. Obviously, the car had Burton-esque styling and featured an enormous turbine engine in the front, giant exhaust intakes and bat wings protruding from the car's rear fenders.

Porsche Tells Dealers To Stop Using Live Tigers

Porsche's new mid-sized crossover, the Macan hits North American dealerships this month and dealers are getting creative in their marketing efforts. So creative, that Porsche has had to tell them to knock it off. Macan, is the Malay word for tiger and some dealers have been jumping all over that association to promote the new vehicles. A few have even rented live tigers to display at their dealerships, which has provoked angry objections from animal rights activists and PETA- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Reeves Import Motorcars in Tampa, Florida rented and displayed three-week old tiger cubs from Dade City’s Wild Things for a promotion this month. The company is not an animal sanctuary or involved in tiger rescue, but provides animal-based entertainment instead.

2015 SUVs With 5-Star Crash Test Ratings

It seems that everyone has an SUV these days, They're sporty, handy and reasonably priced. You can get them in midsize, oversize or small versions, stripped to the studs or super luxurious. Some have great amounts of horsepower, and some are all about fuel efficiency. Here are a few 2015 models that have been voted the safest, delivering better than average standard and optional safety features and receiving the highly coveted 5-stars on the NHTSA's frontal crash, side crash and rollover crash tests. The 2015 Mazda CX-5 in both FWD and AWD versions was named a 2014 Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) when it comes equipped with Mazda's Smart City Brake Support. This was awarded in addition to the 5-star rating from the NHTSA. It racked up perfect scores in the frontal and side crash tests and four out of five in the rollover test. It's inexpensive too, starting at $21,545 in the U.S as well as exceptionally fuel efficient thanks to Mazda's Skyactiv-G engine.

Tires Are Important, Even In Summer

You'll often find the media giving advice about the purchase and installation of winter tires, but rarely do you find them offering advice about summer tires. In fact, the media often warns you about changing your tires too early in the spring. With the spring we just experienced, some of us may never remove our winter tires! Michelin Canada is recommending their new Premier A/S tire, which provides better braking under wet conditions, hydroplaning resistance and traction, even after thousands of miles of driving. Carl Nadeau is a professional racing driver and expert Michelin driver. He encourages Canadians to be careful on the roads during the approaching summer season, particularly in the presence of showers. "Drivers are twice as likely to have an accident on wet roads than on dry pavement. It is especially important to adjust our driving when the roads get wet."

Texting And Driving

Police everywhere are getting more serious about nabbing people for using their handheld devices while driving. They're being extra vigilant, and raising fines to prohibitively high amounts too. Here are a few of the ways that the police are working to catch you texting while driving. Don't be one of them! At the Lifesavers Conference on Highway Safety that was held earlier this year in Nashville, Tennessee, police officers shared some of the methods that they employ to catch us texting and driving. Unmarked Cruisers- In the state of Massachusetts, during a distracted law enforcement period, 74 percent of the tickets handed out were from unmarked cruisers. Lesson learned: just because you can't see a cop, doesn't mean that one isn't nearby.

A Second Electric Vehicle For Nissan

While many manufacturers have not even attempted their first, Nissan has already started production of it's second electric vehicle. The e-NV200, the electrified brother of Nissan's van, will be produced in Barcelona, Spain, as a light commercial van, passenger vehicle or electric taxi. The production launch was celebrated in the presence of Spain's Minister of Industry, José Manuel Soria, Catalan president Artur Mas and the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias. They were welcomed by Nissan's Chief Planner, Andy Palmer. The assembly plant in Barcelona will be the sole global production site of the zero-emission vehicle, which will also be available as a cab chassis. The Nissan e-NV200 will be exported right from the start to over twenty countries, including Japan. This vehicle required a € 431 million investment in Nissan's Spanish operations, of which 100 million was earmarked for the Barcelona assembly plant.

Americans Like It Big

It was believed that they would eventually understand that this is not the case, however the term "Bigger is Better" is still rallied by many motorists in the United States. We recently learned on the website edition of Forbes magazine that several big names in the automotive industry accounted for large sales increases for their manufacturers during the month of April. The GMC Yukon, Toyota Land Cruiser and the Ford Expedition are among the vehicles that helped their respective manufacturers to perform well. According to Forbes, there are at least four factors responsible for the return of the dinosaurs. First of all, Americans are regaining their confidence in the economy, which could explain why they are choosing more expensive vehicles. Secondly, the price that our southern neighbours pay for gasoline seems to have stabilized between $3.50 and $3.90 a gallon, prompting many consumers to set aside their fuel economy concerns.

Mercedes Planning On-Road Line Of SUVs

SUVs are all the rage these days, but owners rarely, if ever, utilize their true capabilities and take them off-road. Even less likely to leave asphalt are luxury SUVs. Mercedes is considering separating their SUV range into two categories. One category for SUVs with mostly car-like characteristics, which are unlikely to ever experience conditions more taxing than an occasional gravel road. The other line would be aimed at customers who want to enjoy their SUV's off-road capabilities. This would certainly seem to be a smart move on the part of Mercedes as the German automaker sets it's sights on the Chinese market. SUVs are all the rage these days, especially within China's fast-growing luxury market.

2014 Buick Regal GS

While fully redesigned in 2011, the 2014 Buick Regal GS has been updated with some fresh cosmetics and some more significant changes- mechanical in inside the cabin. The Buick Regal typically suffers from an image problem. It's an old-person's car. No automaker wants to be saddled with that reputation. Buick is hoping to dispel that notion with some changes to their 2014 model. What you don't normally find on an old-person's car is Brembo brakes. Yep, you read that right, Brembo brakes. The front wheel of the 2014 Buick Regal GS are fitted with the same high-performance brakes found on sports cars. It seems that Buick is trying to boost the performance of the Regal, or at least the illusion of high-performance. The new version has dagger-like air intakes, and fancy new wheels too. Making it appear a little more distinctive, it's got new LED tail lights and chrome accents.

Scion Racing Contingency Program Continues

Scion Racing, Toyota's young brand division, says that they will renew this year's financial support program for those who want to race their car. In it's first year of operation, this program has been very successful. This year, Scion is bring about some positive changes for all participants. In addition to providing scholarships for those with good results, Scion is adding additional rewards for those with consistent participation. "The Scion Racing Contingency Program has only been in existence for two years, but we have already made a major contribution to grassroots motorsports in Canada," said Cyril Dimitris, Director of Scion Canada. "We look forward to continuing the momentum in 2014 for this exceptional program. As part of its evolution, we’re pleased to announce changes to the payout ratio to better reward racers who demonstrate a higher level of participation."

2015 Hyundai Genesis

It seems that there is no 2014 edition of the Genesis premium sedan, since the 2015 model will arrive at Canadian dealerships this spring. You'll remember that Hyundai launched the second generation of it's luxury sedan at the Detroit auto show in January. Although the car's overall dimensions have remained essentially the same, all of the bodyparts have been redesigned. The wheelbase is stretched a little less than three inches, and Hyundai now uses high-strength steel to stiffen the unibody structure of the car. According to Hyundai, the car is 16 percent more torsionally stiff and 40 percent stronger when flexed. The suspension components have also been strengthened. Thus, for 2015, the front and rear suspensions of the Genesis are composed of multi-link systems.

MINI Paceman Adventure Truck Concept

Mini's newest creation, in concept form, has been officially unveiled, though the company isn't saying much about what's inside. Surely though, it's unusual look is enough to stir up some conversation. The MINI Paceman Adventure Truck Concept takes the mini in a new direction, this concept's body style inspired by a truck. While there are no plans to turn the Adventure into a production model, it's definitely a fun way to bring attention to the brand. The Mini Paceman Adventure pick-up was a creative collaboration between instructors and apprentices at two of BMW's European plants, aimed at demonstrating the talent among the BMW Group's apprentices. They started by using a MINI Cooper S Paceman as their base model and transformed the car into a two-seater with a pick-up style cargo area. Taking it to a level where the vehicle looks as if it could handle just about anything, they included all-wheel drive, a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and modified the suspension.

Jeep Planning Major China Invasion

Most of the world's biggest automakers want a piece of the action in China, which has become the world's largest automotive market.. The ranks of the wealthy are growing quickly, and they have a thirst for Western vehicles, and often those from the higher end of the range. Along with premium autos, this market also seems to crave SUVs. Sales of SUVs in China are expected to outpace overall industry sales. Last week, Chrysler partnered with China's Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (GAC); agreeing to build three Jeep SUVs there. This agreement followed two years of discussions. Jeep is now Chrysler's main international brand, and the SUV is the perfect fit for growing global markets such as China. The country is Jeep's largest market outside of the United States. This new plan includes the capacity to build 6 million cars a year.

New Ford Mustang Is Everywhere

Ford has opened the taps wide open on their promotion of the new 2015 Mustang, much like they did fifty years ago when they embarked on a marketing campaign that reached heights never heard of at the time. The 2015 Ford Mustang won't even be available to us mere mortals until fall, but they are pouncing on marketing initiatives that will expand their reach to markets both traditional and not so traditional. The company's iconic muscle car is simply everywhere. Last week the new Ford Mustang made a splash at the New York International Auto Show, where the world's eyes were focused on the 50th anniversary edition, rendering rivals nearly invisible. Ford recreated it's 1965 stunt, where they somehow managed to display the Mustang from great heights- the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.

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