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Automotive News - July 2014

2015 Hyundai Sonata

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is seeming a little more athletic than the model it replaces. There aren't any major mechanical changes this year, instead, Hyundai is putting more focus on the car's driving dynamics. The previous version of the Sonata grabbed attention with a surprising swooping design. This time around, for the car's seventh generation, engineers at Hyundai were more interested in making the car more of a sports sedan, by making it a better drive. The outgoing model suffered from a rough, jittery suspension and vague suspension. So that drivers can enjoy a more composed ride, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata has gained a revamped suspension and a stiffer body, along with a new steering system that offers greater feedback. It sits on a modified version of the same platform as the 2014, though the new car is about an inch wider and the wheelbase has been stretched a bit for more legroom. The Sonata's front suspension has been revised, and the multilink suspension in the rear was redesigned to offer better stability.

Volkswagen XL1 Concept

Automotive manufacturers worldwide are working hard to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. Some are motivated by government regulations, others by consumer backlash over high fuel prices, or simply to help the environment. Most of the bigger brands have at least one hybrid model in their line-up. A few have electric vehicles. Others are working to improve the weight of their vehicles and the efficiency of their engines. Surprisingly, the vehicle that is said to be the most fuel efficient production car in the world is relatively unknown around these parts. The Volkswagen XL1 gets 313 miles to the gallon, that's 133 km/l. To put that number into perspective, the Toyota Prius typically gets 44 mpg, and the Ford Fiesta 31 mpg. Volkswagen says that the car's emissions of only 24g/kg of carbon dioxide sets a new benchmark for vehicle efficiency.

From Africa to England On One Tank

"Is it possible to drive a Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan from North Africa to the United Kingdom on a single tank of gas?" British journalist Andrew Frankel found the answer to this question by launching a challenge. He and his co-pilot went to Tangier, Morocco, in a Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTEC Hybrid, crossed Spain and France and reached Goodwood, England after driving for 27 hours. Upon arrival, the odometer showed that a distance of 1968 km had been covered and the fuel gauge indicated that the tank still contained enough gas to continue for another 160 km. Full autonomy of this hybrid vehicle, offered with an optional 80-litre diesel tank, can now be calculated at 2129 km.

2015 Lexus NX Compact Crossover

While crossovers are huge right now, compact crossovers are even bigger. Lexus has thrown it's hat into the ring with the NX, a compact cross that fits snugly between the BMW X1 and X3 models. Lexus was the first luxury brand to offer a crossover, introducing the RX 300 sixteen years ago. It was an instant success, quickly becoming the brand's volume leader. Heavily imitated, the company is hoping to repeat history with the luxury compact crossover NX 200t and NX 300h models. The NX is built on the Toyota RAV4 platform, but all similarities end there, 90 percent of parts are different. Those that remain, have been retooled to give the NX a more luxurious feel than found in the RAV4. The NX also utilizes more high-strength steel, adhesives and screw welding to improve structural integrity. Toyota's new turbo 2.0-litre four cylinder, which is being built in-house, will make it's debut in the 2015 Lexus NX. It boasts strong and smooth acceleration, delivering 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, running the 0 to 60 mph race in seven seconds. A hybrid version will also be available, using the same 2.5-liter inline-four engine found in the ES 300h. Both models will be available in FWD and AWD versions. The AWD utilizes active torque control with electromagnetic coupling, allowing the system to shift power from 100 percent front to a 50-50 split with the rear.

Renault-Nissan And Daimler's Relationship Gets Tighter

We reported last week about the start of Nissan's production of the new Mercedes-Benz engine. What we didn't tell you was that this is just one piece of a much broader relationship and ongoing co-operation between the two companies. This relationship took shape in April 2010, when the two automotive giants united on two projects related to the European markets. There are now twelve projects involved in this new collaboration, including major global initiatives. Now, it is Mexico that will benefit from these investments. Daimler and Renault-Nissan have created a joint venture, the shares owned equally by each manufacturer, to operate a new plant in Aguascalientes, located in north-central Mexico. This assembly plant is to be built immediately on land already owned by Nissan, and will be capable of producing up to 300,000 vehicles annually. The facility will begin producing Infiniti models in 2017, while Mercedes-Benz models will begin production in 2018.

A Classic Used Car Dealer

For the most part, used car dealers are often indistinguishable at first glance. Some differentiate themselves by offering great service, others with no-haggle pricing, but inventories are often similar. However, one used car dealer in California has definitely set itself apart from the competition. Back In The Day Classics is a classic used car dealer located in Carson, California. It's front lot is filled with some of the best automotive Americana, including 1960s and '70s muscle cars. You're not going to find a Ford Focus on this car lot, but you will find more than one century-old Ford Model T. This used car dealer sells nothing but classics. The hot pink Volkswagen camper bus outfitted with leopard-print seats might tip you off that is not your typical used car lot. If that doesn't do the trick, check out the vintage Packard.

Nissan Plant Building Mercedes-Benz Engines

There is a new engine plant located in Decherd, Tennessee. Covering an area of 310,000 square feet, the $319 million factory has been under construction since May, 2012. With leading edge environmentally friendly design, the building boasts a heat reflecting white roof and natural lighting courtesy of skylights. Last week, production finally began on four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engines, a result of a collaboration between Renault-Nissan and Daimler AG. These engines are destined for the European versions of the Q50 sports sedan, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, a car that is built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The opening ceremony was attended by the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, President of Infiniti Motor Company, Johan de Nysschen, Vice President Infiniti for America, Michael Bartsch, Vice President Operations of the plant, Gary Edwards, and production manager of Mercedes-Benz engines, Erhard Schletterer.

Upgraded Transformers Bumblebee Camaro

For the fourth film in the Transformers movie franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction; director Michael Bay demanded a series of extensive modifications to the Bumblebee Camaro, the movie's biggest star. Okay, maybe Megan Fox is the better known star of the series, but she's not in this one. The Bumblebee Camaro remains a steady constant, getting more awesome with every sequel. In this one, the car gets edgier, and more aggressive, modified with features not seen on the road today. Changes were deliberated by director Michael Bay, GM's Vice President of Global Design Ed Welburn and the GM North Hollywood Advanced Design Centre. Revisions took a month to redesign, and an additional three months to build. Chevy Sonics, which appear in the film too, also received revisions including 300 hp engines, widened stances, and full roll cages. The Bumblebee Camaro has been transformed for the newest Transformers movie. It's sporting a bunch of design changes, to help it fight alongside Optimus Prime and the other Autobots. The Bumblebee is still based on a 2014 Camaro SS. It's stance is two inches wider on each side, making it appear more aggressive. Other changes affected the lamps, front fascia, rocker panels, spoiler, exhaust and rear lower diffuser. Special attention was paid to the car's hood.

2015 Hyundai Genesis

We never really believed it when we first heard it, but Hyundai really is going after the Germans. The South Korean automaker has never found a segment they didn't like, but their quest for a foothold in the premium luxury segment is surprising. After all, Kia and Hyundai spent a very long time being associated with disposable cars. Quality was, and is still not the first thing that comes to mind when the brand's name is mentioned. Hyundai has decided that it's time to be taken seriously as a quality automaker. Hyundai has come a long way from the Excel in 1986. No longer do they need to offer 10 year warranties to reassure buyers. As well, part of their incentive is so that they don't have all their eggs in the cheap-car basket once China's automobiles arrive. Nobody wants to have to compete with China on price. In 2009, Hyundai launched the Genesis. This initial foray into the premium segment was under whelming. They imitated the styling of the big dogs, over delivered on features and undercut them on price, but they still weren't even close to being in the same ballpark. It suffered from poor handling, and even worse styling.

Automotive Takes Top Four Spots In Interbrand Ranking

Interbrand, who ranks the top 50 "Best Global Green Brands For 2014" seems to have a special place in it's heart for automotive. In fact, 10 of their 50 greenest brands in the world come from the automotive sector, including the top four positions. This year, Ford took the lead spot, after four years of domination by Toyota. Toyota claimed second place this year, ahead of Honda and Nissan. As demand for electric vehicles grows, manufacturers have been forced to integrate this segment and diversify supply. With new 100 percent electric models and hybrids offered each year, consumers have never had so many opportunities to save on fuel, and do their part for the environment.

Ram ProMaster City To Rival Ford Transit Connect

The Ford Transit Connect is poised to be the goto commercial van for trades people and delivery companies everywhere. Available in three roof heights and unlimited upfitting available, it's definitely going to be a useful option to the pricey Sprinter. Ford doesn't have the entire market however, Chrysler has their own small commercial van about to rollout and give the Ford a run for their money. Early next year, the 2015 Ram ProMaster City will arrive on the lots of Chrysler Group dealers. It will be available with two seating plans, a five-seater passenger van called the Wagon and a two-seat cargo version named Tradesman. A total of eight configurations are available: Tradesman Cargo with security panels, Tradesman Cargo with rear windows, Tradesman Cargo with rear and side windows, Tradesman SLT Cargo with security panels, Tradesman SLT Cargo with rear windows, Tradesman SLT Cargo with rear and side windows, Wagon with rear and side windows, and Wagon SLT with rear and side windows.

Redesigned 2015 Ford Edge

Originally launched in 2006, the Ford Edge was one of the first crossovers, and was limited to the North American and some Latin American markets. Fast forward a few years, and the crossover segment is booming, and the newly redesigned 2015 Ford Edge is destined for the world. It will be marketed worldwide, in more than 100 markets. Along with the global push, the Edge is going bigger and better. It's now more upscale, and will be offered in Ford's top Titanium trim level. It is roomier, longer, more powerful and more aerodynamic than the version it's replacing. Ford is using the 2015 Edge as a showcase for it's newest technologies. Slotted between the cheaper Ford Escape and the family hauling Explorer, the redesigned 2015 Ford Edge is aimed at a more upscale customer.

Advertise With The General Lee

Do you remember the American television series "The Dukes of Hazzard" which aired form 1979 to 1985? I remember it well, because it featured the General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger, the only real Charger. It also starred John Schneider and Tom Wopat in the roles of Bo and Luke Duke. All in all, it was a program featuring an hour of car stunts every week. The story was fairly light, but it was centred only around the two brothers, and policemen, including the clueless Sheriff Rosco P.Coltrane, who was taking orders from his boss, Boss Hogg. An American online car search site has created an advertisement, featuring the show. Now, thirty years later, Bo and Luke, are still trying to escape the police, but this time around they are taking on the very modern and powerful new Dodge Charger. The old General Lee has trouble keeping up, and if the two brothers do not change their car, it will be too late.

Hyundai - Kia Wins Top Quality Award

For many people, the word "quality" is not the first thing that comes to mind when Korean cars are mentioned. Slowly, but surely though, that perception is evolving. No longer thought of as disposable cars, Huyndai and Kia have just won a significant quality award. For the first time ever, the company has won first place in the 2014 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. Feedback was collected from more than 86,000 buyers and lessees of 2014 models, after 90 days of vehicle ownership. The number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles is what determines quality scores. The lower the score, the higher the quality of the vehicle. The industry average is 116. Hyundai earned a score of 94, an improvement by 12 from last year. Kia's score was 106, matching last year's score. In individual segments, the Hyundai Genesis, Accent, Elantra and the Kia Sportage and Cadenza models all won, following GM who came out on top in six segments.

Mercedes Using New LED Headlamps On Next Generation CLS-Class

In the next generation CLS-Class, Mercedes will introduce a new type of light composed of several groups of light emitting diodes (LEDs) called MULTIBEAM LED headlamps. The high resolution modules with 24 individually controlled high performance LEDs automatically light up the road with great precision and much clearer light. Furthermore, they do not blind oncoming drivers the way that bi-xenon headlamps do. This new addition to the CLS-Class is able to optimally adjust the light distribution automatically. Able to face all kinds of weather, whether it be a snowstorm or thick fog, these headlamps will always provide the perfect lighting. Thus, they improve the safety of this car.

Tesla Model X Coming Next Year

Tesla has confirmed that the next vehicle in their line-up will be arriving early next year. Following up the wildly successful Model S, will be a crossover named the Model X. Production of the crossover's prototype is set for this fall, and vehicle production will begin in early 2015. Only those who have reserved the Model X will get their hands on it right away. Reservations are being accepted on the company's website, along with a minimum deposit of $5,000 for the base model, and a $40,000 deposit for the signature model. When the Model X was unveiled in February, 2012, the company received $40 million in pre-order reservations in a single day.

Best Value For Car Buyers

Everybody likes to get good value for their money, especially when it comes to a major purchase like a vehicle. Large insurance company USAA created a list of what it sees as the top ten vehicles offering the best value for car buyers. The insurer, who has compiled the annual list for four years, considers safety, affordability and reliability. This year, the safety portion included the strict safety standard ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "IIHS's move to increase their standards mirrors the growing feedback we're receiving from our members," says Steve Thompson, a vice president of USAA, in a statement. "We know safety is one of the most important factors for our members when car shopping."

Is This The Successor To The Nissan Frontier?

After a lot of teasing, last week, Nissan unveiled the twelfth generation of it's Navara NP300, known since 1998 in North America as the Nissan Frontier mid-size pickup truck. We're thinking that this could be a preview of the forth generation of the Frontier, though Nissan isn't exactly saying yet. Our observations are based on the NP300, and not on any concrete specs about the North American version. The new version is more of a subtle evolution than a revolution in terms of styling. The grille incorporates Nissan's signature V grid. Front visuals don't differ much from the current generation and the door panels are more pronounced, as well as slightly wider. The hood is shorter and the front fascia is taller. Front fenders and rear end seem less prominent, skewing a traditional sense of symmetry. Boomerang-shaped headlights have integrated LED lights, like the Rogue. According to Nissan, the Navara NP300 would have a higher ground clearance, lower pavilion and a wider loading tray.

Cars On The Road Longer

It used to be that most people kept their vehicles for an average of seven years. At that point, well after most warranty coverage had expired, people started feeling less confident in the reliability of their vehicle and sought out something newer. Well, it seems that things are changing, and that while we might not keep our vehicles any longer than before, they are staying on the road much longer. An automotive study conducted by Polk-IHS Automotive at the end of 2013 which calculated the average age of cars, discovered that the average age of a consumer vehicle in the United States is now 11.4 years. This figure is an all-time high. This statistic has been tracked by IHS for several years. During the period of 2004 to 2009, the average vehicle age rose by 5 percent. During the next five years, it rose 11 percent. Part of that can be explained by the recession, when people held onto their cars longer.

Ford And Lincoln Fuel Economy Numbers Wrong

Last week Ford announced that it was correcting the consumption ratings of several 2013 and 2014 hybrids and plug-in hybrid models, as well of most of the 2014 Fiesta models. Upon discovering their miscalculation through internal testing, Ford immediately contacted the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). A new series of tests were performed to determine the vehicle's exact figures. The explanation is a bit technical, but in short, the error was caused by a factor called the "total road load power". This is a factor that is used during aerodynamic testing. It was during this testing of a Fusion Hybrid in a wind tunnel that the company discovered that the total road load power did not match the values used in aerodynamic testing. Changes in the validation process should eliminate the risk of this error happening again. Ford has notified it's dealers that they can continue to sell the vehicles affected by this error, even though the new EnerGuide consumption labels will not be available for about ten days.

Study Says 75% Of Pickups Will Be Aluminum

According to a study commissioned by the Aluminum Association, 75 percent of all U.S. pickup trucks will have aluminum bodies by 2025. The study, predicts that aluminum production will grow steadily over a 50 year period, with Detroit automakers leading the way as the biggest users of aluminum sheet. All eyes are on Ford as it prepares it's aluminum F-150, set to arrive later this year. General Motors and Chrysler are expected to follow soon after. While GM and Chrysler have not gone on record stating that they plan to use aluminum, if Ford is successful, and by all appearances they will be, the others will quickly follow suit. Ford expects to sell 650,000 aluminum F-150s per year in the highly competitive pickup truck segment. By 2025, automakers must double their fleet's average fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg. Despite it's higher cost, the use of aluminum lightens a vehicle's weight, which in turn increases fuel economy significantly. By switching to aluminum, Ford was able to shave 700 lbs off the weight of the F-150, and an improvement of fuel economy in the 10 to 12 percent range. It is expected to get about 26 mpg on the highway, and the EcoBoost model should reach 28 mpg.

Four Canadian Alfa Franchises Announced

As promised in Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne's 5-year plan a few weeks ago, Alfa Romeo is returning to North America. Things are moving fast, and the company has announced the locations of 86 North American Alfa franchises, including 4 in Canada. We've known for some time that Alfa is on it's way, but we were never clear as to whether it would rate it's own dealership network, or be sold through Maserati showrooms. There was also the possibility that it would show up in Fiat dealerships, alongside the 500. It turns out, all of the above. Most of the initially authorized dealers are existing Fiat studios, who will be branching upmarket. Some are Maserati dealers expanding downmarket. No Ferrari showrooms will carry it. Lucky Canadian franchisees are FIAT of Vancouver, Maranello FIAT in Vaughan, ON, LaSalle FIAT, and JD Fiat, located in Boischatel, QC. Most of the U.S. locations are centred around California, Texas and Florida.

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