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Automotive News - June 2014

Hyundai Tucson FCV- Not For Profit

Last week, the first hydrogen-powered 2015 Hyundai Tucson FCV (fuel cell vehicle) arrived in California. The only reason for their presence in California is to satisfy the laws of CARB (California Air Resources Board). This state's laws aimed at improving air quality are the toughest in North America. Hyundai says that they make no profit off selling these SUVs. However, according to CARB's scale of credits, each Hyundai Tucson FCV that is leased up until the 2017 model year will earn 26 credits, the equivalent of $130,000. Why a dollar equivalent? It is so that these credits can be sold to other companies. In January 2011, electric car manufacturer Tesla claimed that it has sold $13.8 million in credits to Honda since 2008. At the moment, Hyundai is not interested in selling these credits. Rather, the company is accumulating them to offset their sales of less fuel efficient vehicles.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen

In Canada it's called the Golf Wagon, in the United States, it's known as the Jetta Sportwagen, and in Europe, it's the Golf Estate. All different names for the same car: the Volkswagen Golf Wagon. The new edition is already being sold in Europe, and we will get our hands on it in early 2015. This car is very interesting because it offers plenty of space, comes with a diesel version and now, offers a smaller silhouette with sporty accents. It's new front end was inspired by the regular Golf, sporting a much more dynamic appearance. Two powertrains are on the schedule. First, a turbocharged four-cylinder 1.8 litre gasoline engine that can be paired to either a manual five-speed or a six-speed automatic, and delivers 170 horsepower. A diesel, the single one in this vehicle's category, gets 150 horses and is also equipped with a turbocharger. It's choice of transmissions is more advanced; a manual six-speed or a dual-clutch six-speed automatic. AWD could be offered as an option.

Despite Falling Sales, Automakers Love Minivans

They're not the sexiest of vehicles, but minivans sure are convenient to the parents of small children, or large families. However, with the explosion of SUV sales in recent years, minivans have taken a hit. Not enough of a hit to discontinue production, though, because automakers love minivans and definitely find them worthwhile. Like pickup trucks, minivans offer automakers generous profit margins. Base models are generally pretty, well, base. Buyers like to load them up with optional features like rear-seat entertainment systems, rear-view cameras and heated mirrors, features that busy parents appreciate. Honda's minivan even offers a built-in vacuum. All of these convenient add-ons provide an exceptional level of padding to the automaker's profits, taking a frumpy base mommy-mobile into the price territory of a luxury vehicle. A Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna can easily surpass $50,000.

The New 2015 Dodge Charger

Since it's launch in 2006, the Dodge Charger has been controversial. For fans, it had two too many doors and little resemblance to the 1970 model, the reference used by purists. This was pretty obvious, since up until a few weeks before the beginning of production, Chrysler still did not have a name for the car. Marketers then chose the name "Charger." Keep in mind that these were the same people who dared to put the name on the tailgate of a Dodge Omni 024 back in the 80's. Unfortunately for Dodge, the eighth generation Charger still attracts the same criticism as it did with the sixth. It still has the door problem, and it still has no retro look. This time, it's design draws the ire of fans because of it's close similarity to the Dart. We have to admit, they're not wrong, especially from the rear view, which is nearly identical to the rear of the small compact. Some have even suggested the name "Dart XL." That hasn't happened, so far, because Chrysler is at least making the effort to change.

BMW i3 Is Expensive, But A Lot Of Fun

The word "fun" is not usually used in the same sentence as "electric car." For the most part, they seem to be mutually exclusive. There are exceptions, namely the Tesla Model S, but they are few and far between. Actually, the variety of electric cars is slim to begin with, there aren't many options to choose from, especially if you don't have pockets deep enough to handle that Tesla. If you're not planning to go very far and have little cargo or few passengers, there's always the Nissan Leaf. There isn't much between the Leaf and the Tesla though, at least until now. BMW's i3 is a little less upmarket than the Tesla, and a little more than the Leaf. The i3 is not your typical BMW, it's a completely different car in every way. From a looks perspective, the only thing it retains from it's heritage is a kidney-shaped grille and great headlamps. It's a little goofy looking, not at all like it's kin with odd proportions and a strange looking back window curve. The i3's boxy shape makes it easy to fit passengers of various sizes. It looks like a concept car, complete with suicide doors. Inside, there is a lot of carbon-reinforced plastic, which is both strong and lightweight. Most materials are recycled, allowing the car to reach carbon-neutral status. The interior has a unique textured feel, and the dash is quite low, allowing for great visibility.

Two Surprises From MINI

After the MINI brand was reinvented by BMW, several versions of the same car have been released: the Cooper, Paceman, Countryman and so on. While not identical, each of these versions carries the same MINI styling, with it's big round headlights, small chrome grill and chunky stance. It looks like that mold will change. Indeed, MINI has recently introduced two concepts, one of which appears to be on it's way to potential success. First, the MINI Vision Superleggera is a small, two-seater roadster with a silhouette that defies traditional MINI styling. MINI says that the concept "elegantly perpetuates what the Classic Mini started 55 years ago: reduction to the essentials. Its energetic, minimalistic design embodies the dynamic essence of an automobile. At the same time it creates unique emotional beauty in combining the past and future of the automotive industry, i.e. traditional coachwork craftsmanship and modern design styling."

Ford's Secret Torture Testing Of The Aluminum F-150

Convincing people that the new aluminum version of the Ford F-150 is just as tough as a steel-bodied truck is probably Ford's biggest hurdle in the launch of it's new truck. For many of us, images of crushed beer cans come to mind when we think of aluminum. Ford is tinkering with the formula behind it's best selling truck, (and America's best selling vehicle), and they need to be absolutely certain it's tough enough. That means testing. Lots and lots of it. The new aluminum F-150 has been going through a series of secret torture tests, in some of the world's most demanding jobs over the last three years. Ford's tests were actually conducted in secret. Those putting the trucks through rigorous tasks had no idea what they had. Six prototypes were used, each disguised as previous year's models. These pre-production real-world tests involved Ford discretely monitoring the truck's performance and abilities, and how they compared to their steel counterparts.

Parking Lots Of Unsold Cars - Myth Or Reality?

Last week, several websites published images of huge parking lots filled with thousands of unsold cars, mainly due to the financial crisis in 2009. All abandoned vehicles, designed to rust and deteriorate, and eventually, to be recycled. If this is indeed the case, we're a little surprised. Rather than lose cars and generate financial losses, manufacturers could have simply offered a bigger discount, undercutting competitors and stemming any financial bleeding. If cars are not selling, why would production continue? At the very least, a third shift would be cancelled. We did a little research. There is nothing scientific in the explanation, but it definitely gives us hope. Almost all of the sites visited published identical photos. Many are in England, others from Baltimore, MD in the United States, some in Spain and Russia. Many of the photos originated from Google Earth and were taken by satellite. They are almost all pictures of ports. This is why we are skeptical and asked questions.

BMW, Mercedes And Hyundai Win Best Auto Brakes

Luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai won top honours for automatic braking in crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Models from these companies that were equipped with the optional automatic braking and collision warning systems earned a "superior" rating, the best score, during the second round of crash testing by the IIHS. Vehicles were rated as basic, advanced or superior for front crash prevention during crash tests at 12 mph and 25 mph. Winning vehicles were the BMW 5 series, the BMW X5 SUV, the Hyundai Genesis and Mercedes-Benz E-class models. Each winning vehicle had been equipped with automatic braking and collision warning systems.

The Ten Best Interiors of 2014

Each year, WardsAuto World magazine analyzes the interiors of all new vehicle models. This year, 41 new or redesigned vehicles had their interiors scrutinized by the magazine's experts. Winning manufacturers were honoured at a ceremony held last week at The Henry, in Dearborn, Michigan. Several new and amazing features were found at the heart of these studies: massaging seats, new ambient lighting, a key that cannot be forgotten in the trunk and a canopy that mimics a starry sky! To be eligible, vehicles must provide a significantly updated interior space. Everything is analyzed, from the man-machine interface to the quality of materials and of course, the design. There is no price limit.

2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Two years after the arrival of the Cadillac ATS, a two-door version of the luxury compact sedan is on it's way. Unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe will arrive at the end of this summer to take on the BMW 4 Series. The coupe version of the ATS is assembled on the same chassis as the sedan. However, nearly all of the body parts have changed, from the front to the trunk lid to the roof, doors and rear fenders. The coupe model also has a wider track and rides on it's own set of 18-inch wheels. As for powertrains, customers can choose between a turbocharged 2.0-litre or a 3.6-litre V6. The first delivers 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while running the 0 to 96 km/h race in 5.6 seconds. Meanwhile, the V6 offers 321 horses and 275 lb-ft of torque for an even more stunning level of performance.

Chevy Targets LGBT Customers

While the LGBT community has become more visible, embraced and even celebrated in this country, some companies have been hesitant to market to this group, wary of offending their more conservative customers. During the Olympics, held in LGTB-phobic Russia, Chevy took the bold step of broadcasting a commercial that focused on families, several of them headed by gay and lesbian couples. The ad, titled "The New Us" was seen as a breakthrough by marketing experts, prompting some to predict that it will open the door for other automakers to follow suit. The spot, featuring the Traverse crossover, was produced by an ad agency that focuses on connecting brands with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market. Of the 12 couples in the ad, three were headed by gay couples. Chevy's ad is seen as a valuable test case. Number crunchers found that Chevy gained net positive sentiment among general viewership, and significantly more among the LGBT population. The company did take a hit from some who disliked the company showing what was seen as the brand's support for gay marriage as a political cause.

2015 Chrysler 200 Already Popular

As you can probably guess, before you get the chance to admire cars on the lot of your neighbourhood dealer, the dealer needs to assess their needs and anticipate the number of vehicles to order from the manufacturer. On Thursday, May 8, Chrysler invited it's dealers to place their initial orders of the new 2015 Chrysler 200. Surprising everyone, 10,000 of the Chrysler 200 were ordered on the first day, and over 17,000 by the second day. The first 20,000 orders will allow the Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant to run at full capacity until mid-July. "The Chrysler brand is thrilled to see the level of enthusiasm customers and dealers have shown to order the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200," said Al Gardner, President and CEO — Chrysler Brand, Chrysler Group LLC.

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