AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
While Ford has stopped short of confirming it, a recent article on Automotive News suggests that a Fiesta subcompact fitted with the company’s newest 1.0L Ecoboost 3-Cylinder engine is all but a done deal for North America.
Ford confirmed that the engine would make it to America in some capacity, and the motor is only capable of fitting in the Ka, Fiesta and Figo. Of those three, only the Fiesta is sold here, with the Ka meant for Europe and the Figo sold only in developing markets. No word on when the engine will come to market, or how much power it will make, but the engine is said be to producing around 120-horsepower, roughly the same as the Fiesta’s 1.0L 3-cylinder motor.
[Source: Automotive News]
After a few years of Suzuki offering a portable nav unit in its SX4 hatchback, the comapny announced it would offer an integrated, in-dash system, however the U.S won’t get the system.
Suzuki has decided to keep the portable unit in all U.S spec models but the rest of the world will receive an in-dash system. Suzuki has said that differing market strategies, along with the Garmin’s portability and functionality, are the reasons the U.S won’t be getting the built in unit anytime soon.
Suzuki strategically made this move because the technology package including the Garmin unit with traffic information and a year of nüLink! services costs $500. Other automakers in-dash systems can easily cost three times as much. That would work out to be nearly 10 percent of what the SX4 costs.
[Source: Car and Driver]
The Ford Fiesta has been selling exceptionally well in the Small car segment, beating key competitors like the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa. Last May, 7,120 Fiestas were sold, outselling the Versa’s 4,793 units in the same month.
The success of the Fiesta has been attributed to skyrocketing fuel prices as well as the shortage of Japanese vehicles as a result of the March 11 earthquake.
Within the small car segment, the Fiesta commanded 4.6% of sales in June 2010 when first launched in the U.S. Last April, the Fiesta held 29.1% of sales, according to Ward’s data.
“Fiesta customers are up to three times more likely to buy for style and innovation in this segment,” explained Ken Czubay, vice president- U.S marketing, sales, and service. He also said that eighteen percent of Fiesta buyers are purchasing for the first time, and the average age of the customer is younger than two other well-known nameplates in the small car segment.
George Pipas, Ford’s top U.S sales analyst, said Ford has received increased consideration from small-car buyers over the past year.
[Source: Ward's Auto]
The Aston Martin Cygnet might seem like anathema to everything the company stands for, but Aston Martin is hoping that the Cygnet will become the number two seller for the brand.
With a projection of 1,500 units sold per year, the Cygnet would trail the Vantage as Aston’s stop selling model. Aston sold a total of 4,250 cars in 2010.
The Cygnet is based on the Toyota iQ city car, and Aston Martin is marketing the car not based on performance, but on luxury. ”Prior to Cygnet your choice was, you open the door and it smells of plastic; now you open the door, and you’ll be hit by this wonderful smell of leather,” Chief designer Marek Reichman told Automotive News.
[Source: Automotive News]
Mazda and Chinese joint venture partner Chang’an are reportedly developing a new sub-brand for the Chinese market, with their first offering based on the outdated but still excellent 1st generation Mazda3.
Mazda still sells the older Mazda3 in China, while importing the current Mazda3 hatchback. The current car will be joined by a Chinese made version of the contemporary Mazda3 sedan, ostensibly with the new SKYACTIV engine capable of 40 mpg, while the older model will get a re-styling and move to the sub-brand’s lineup sometime this year.
[Source: China Car Times]
The next generation Mercedes-Benz B-Class will make its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show in September, with the car moving towards a hatchback body style rather than the current pseudo-minivan design.
A full range of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines will be available, along with a start-stop system for improved fuel economy. Mercedes’ main goal for the new car was to preserve the interior space of the current car while retaining the usual Mercedes characteristics. The new B-Class will be on sale at the end of 2011, although the vehicle hasn’t been confirmed for North America.
[Source: Carguide Blog]
The MINI Countryman was originally offered with a 2+2 configuration that made it somewhat impractical for a significant portion of potential buyers, who need the fifth seat for whatever reason.
MINI eventually decided to offer a fifth seat option in Europe, but has now decided that North Americans can have the option of a middle seat as well, a move that will no doubt open up the Countryman to a new demographic, and allow MINI to charge more money. Look for the fifth seat option to become available starting in September.
Honda will delay the launch of their next generation CR-V crossover due to continued production delays, and supplies of their 2012 Civic will also be delayed as Honda’s North American production continues to run at well below capacity amid the after effects of Japan’s natural disasters.
In a letter to Honda’s dealers, U.S. executive vice-president John Mendel said “Recovery from this crisis is difficult and constantly evolving, most notably the challenge of obtaining a few key components required to maintain production at appropriate levels. Overall production volume will be at significantly reduced levels as we continue production adjustments through the summer months.”
Honda expects full production to resume much later in the year, with the CR-V being produced at Honda’s Canadian plant in addition to its East Liberty, Ohio facility. Acura‘s MDX and RDX will also be shifted to other plants in Alabama and Ohio, but the company says that the shifts are unrelated to problems related to their parts supply.
According to a tweet from Ward’s Auto, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionee has confirmed the existence of two new models in the pipeline, the Dodge Charger Super Bee and a Gucci-branded edition of the Fiat 500.
The last generation Super Bee was mechanically identical to the Charger SRT-8, although it came in unique pastel colors and was outfitted with spoilers and other extra bodywork, in a supposed nod to the Super Bee special editions of the 1970s.
Meanwhile, Italian fashion house Gucci will be lending its name to the ultra-chic Fiat 500, with Gucci motifs featured inside and out. Europe has already received their own Gucci edition, which features the brand’s signature red and green stripes, while the interior is appointed with the interlocking letter G synonymous with the brand’s clothing and handbags.
The Chevrolet Sonic actually looks like a good vehicle, and not just in relative terms to the outgoing Aveo that it replaces. In a classic case of misplaced good intentions, Chevrolet decided to take things up a level with their Sonic Z-Spec package, that combines questionable visual patterns with the color palette of a Creamsicle.
In addition to the goofy graphics, the Z-Spec package includes exhaust tip, roof spoiler, mirror caps, grille surrounds and a choice of 16″ or 17″ wheels, while the interior gets a an aluminum door sill kit and aluminum pedals. While the Sonic Z-Spec is supposed to capture the hearts and minds of young buyers, we think that the 1.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and 40 mpg rating are much better ways to sell your product, as opposed to slathering your new car in orange-and-white polka dots.
Gallery: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Z-Spec
Mazda confirmed that their previously unveiled Minagi concept will go into production as the Mazda CX-5, a small crossover intended to slot beneath their mid-size CX-7 and full-size CX-9.
The CX-5 will be the first Mazda vehicle to come with a full suite of SKYACTIV fuel-saving technologies, among them an all-new engine designed for maximum efficiency, new gearboxes, lightened engine ancillaries and other little tricks to eke out optimum fuel economy. Mazda has chosen a route similar to Hyundai, where weight reduction and refinement of the internal combustion engine is utilized to save fuel and cut emissions, rather than hybrid or electric technology. However, Mazda says that the SKYACTIV architecture will eventually allow it to employ start-stop systems, regenerative braking and other hybrid-esque technology.
A refreshed 2012 Mazda3 with a new SKYACTIV 4-cylinder engine will debut this fall, and is expected to get 40 mpg on the highway. With 33 % of Mazda’s global sales being made up of Mazda3 vehicles, the refreshed version is a crucial product for the company, but the current car’s multitude of strengths combined with increased efficiency should have nothing but positive effects. Mazda also announced a diesel engine in time for 2013, but gave no further details regarding product packaging.
The previous Accent was the kind of car that you bought out of necessity rather than desire, but the newest subcompact Hyundai looks like it will find homes among many, thanks to handsome styling and 40 mpg capability without any special order option packages. Motivation comes from a direct-injection 138-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder that makes 123 ft-lbs of torque while returning 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmission will be offered, and automatic transmission models will feature a driver selectable Eco mode that is said to improve “real-world” fuel economy by as much as 7 percent.
Despite its diminutive exterior, Hyundai claims that interior space is so large that the car is classified as a compact. Items like stability control, ABS, and power steering are standard, while Bluetooth connectivity, an iPod connector and 16″ allow wheels are optional. The Accent will start at around $12,000 for a base model, bringing an end to the days where an Accent could be had brand new for under $10,000.
Gallery: 2012 Hyundai Accent
Honda will offer their Civic compact car with a new small diesel engine by 2013, but for now it looks like Europe and other markets will get it, with North America seemingly shut out.
With a new Civic set to debut in world markets in 2012, Honda is mulling various options, with world markets set to get the 150 horsepower i-DTEC engine. Europe will likely get a new generation of diesels, since offering one is a key to sales success on the continent. For now, it looks like Honda will stick with conventional gasoline powered variants, but never say never.
[Source: Indian Autos Blog]
Fiat has just released photos of their 500 Cabrio, the open-top version of their much-lauded 500 hatchback, a week ahead of its official debut at the New York Auto Show.
Rather than a traditional convertible body style like the MINI Cooper, the 500 uses a retractable canvas roof panel that still retains the overall shape of the 500, similar to the original Fiat 500′s own soft-top variant. While Fiat hasn’t given an explanation for the mechanical benefits of such a design, it’s not hard to believe that this setup has structural benefits that can only come from leaving the roof rails and side pillars intact. The design of the top also allows it to be lowered at speeds of up to 60 mph, while traditional convertibles often require much lower speeds.
The 500 Cabrio will be available in Pop, Sport and Lounge trim levels with cruise control, power windows and locks and air conditioning standard across the range. Sport models come with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a recalibrated suspension. Lounge models get chrome accents, leather seats, 15-inch wheels and a new 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode.
Stay tuned to AutoGuide’s live coverage of the 2011 New York Auto Show for more coverage.
GALLERY: Fiat 500 Cabrio
While we reported on the recall regarding the Chevrolet Cruze and its defective steering wheel issue, we didn’t realize just how severe the problem was until we saw video of the defect, and the very real consequences it could pose.
A Youtube user uploaded a video of one of the vehicles, which shows the steering wheel hanging on by a couple wires and nothing more. The car in question only had 1600 miles on it, and a mother, grandmother and 19 month infant were travelling in the vehicle when the steering wheel detached at 65 mph while travelling on a highway.
While General Motors is taking steps to fix the issue, seeing it in person raises a whole host of questions regarding the matter – namely, how the hell could this happen on a modern production car that’s otherwise well built?
Get more Chevy Cruze news and info at CruzeTalk.com
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The Nissan Leaf has been afflicted with problems starting, an issue which has apparently been identified as originating with the car’s air conditioning system.
Nissan remains unsure whether this is a software glitch or a larger issue related to the physical part. The company won’t issue a recall, since the safety of the vehicle is not affected, but says it will investigate the issue, which has occured in both the United States and Japan.
Production of the Leaf resumed today at full capacity for the first time since the March 11th earthquake in Japan.
[Source: Automotive News]
Honda plants in North America could be operating at well below capacity as a shortage of parts from Japan threatens to cripple the automaker’s output for as long as 90 days.
Speaking with Automotive News, Honda’s executive Vice-President John Mendel estimated a 60 to 90 day slowdown, with 30 days being an optimistic forecast. Honda has already cut production in half at 5 of its 6 North American plants due to a parts shortage, and 90 percent of Hondas sold in North America are assembled here. While 600 of its 710 suppliers are based in North America, a single missing part can result in a production stoppage.
Mendel highlighted the dire situation in Japan, stating ”In some places, they are still recovering bodies. And even if you have a warehouse full of finished microchips, the roads are ruined, and you are in the radiation zone. What are you going to do?” Honda is estimated to have a 47 day supply of vehicles, and the company is also monitoring parts order by dealers to make sure that hoarding and other shady practices do not occur.
Honda currently imports the Fit and CR-Z from Japan.
[Source: Automotive News]
The New York Auto Show will be a big one for Mazda, as the company prepares 3 big unveiling that will pave the way for the company’s future on the engineering front.
Mazda will show off the Minagi concept for the first time in North America and debut the refreshed 2012 Mazda3 in America (after its unveiling at the Toronto Auto Show in February) complete with Mazda’s all-new SkyActiv engine technology. The SkyActiv 2.0L 4-cylinder hasn’t had power figures announced yet, but reports say that prototypes are putting out around 163 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque, while still maintaining 40 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg around town. A 6-speed automatic will also do its part to hit those numbers. With 33% the Mazda3 making up 33% of Mazda’s global sales, the refreshed car is a huge deal for the company, even if it flies under the radar of most North American consumers.
GALLERY: 2012 Mazda3
GALLERY: Mazda Minagi Concept
View video of the 2012 Mazda3 from its debut after the jump:
The initial slow start to the Chevrolet Volt rollout sped up in March with sales of more than twice the number than were sold in January and February combined.
Sales of 608 Volts plus 321 in January and 281 in February now make 1,210 total. This is not a lot compared to 18,018 Cruzes sold in March alone, but GM is not calling defeat by any stretch of the imagination at this early juncture.
Its initial sales were through dealers in regions whose demographics supported hybrids and alternative technology. By the end of the year, GM plans for nationwide distribution.
Last month Chevrolet also reported big gains for its combined new model line. A 54-percent increase in the new car category led the bowtie brand’s sales.
“March sales demonstrated our newest models continue to win over customers,” said Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations. “Vehicles like the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox put us in great position to benefit from consumer’s increasing desire for fuel-efficient vehicles.”
Overall, Chevrolet posted 148,197 sales in March, an 11-percent increase over the same month a year ago. This number includes an 18 percent gain in retail sales of cars, trucks and crossovers.
To date this year, Chevrolet has sold 416,505 vehicles, representing a 37-percent spike in retail sales, and 23 percent increase in total sales.
Expected transmissions are a 6-speed manual and an automatic, rumored to be a 4-speed. The sedan will complement the hatchback previously revealed at the Geneva Auto Show. Also possible is a 138-hp direct-injection 1.6-liter 4-cylinder, similar to the one offered in the 2012 Hyundai Accent.
AutoGuide will have complete coverage of the New York Autoshow starting April 20th, so stay tuned to our site for more photos and videos.
Determined to make sure the launch of their new 2012 Focus is flawless, Ford is road testing the first examples of the new Focus for 30 miles, an unprecedented length for a mainstream car.
Ford will take a Focus from its Wayne assembly plant to a Dearborn test track for evaluation, and then a further inspection once back at the factory. While some industry analysts have raised questions about whether the elaborate procedures are a cover for significant problems with the Focus, Ford is claiming that the launch is crucial for the company, especially in light of the Focus’ 40-mpg capability and rising gas prices.
Ford spokesman Said Deep said that Focus models being built right now would not get the same 30 mile test drive, but will get a thorough inspection nonetheless.
[Source: Automotive News]
Volvo recently revealed that it is looking for 400 early adopters to test a prototype of its 24 kWh all-battery powered C30 Electric car. Better get in line early, because the limited range, practically hand-made vehicle will be leased for just $2,100 per month.
Why bother with an every day C30 four-passenger, two-door hatchback, when the exotic version can be had for 7.5 times more? OK. Snarky leading sentences behind, here’s a bit of background: Some are taking this as a sort of honesty index – with Volvo showing just how expensive developing a viable EV can be.
Its been alleged that presently Nissan has not pleased too many automakers for practically giving away its LEAF at $32,780 before $7,500 federal tax credit.
The first Smart ForTwo test EVs looked like a rip-off by comparison at $599 per month, but are those more realistically priced considering what it cost to develop such vehicles?
Like Smart’s initiative, the plan with its “DriveE-powered C30 is to get significant numbers on the roads as a test vehicle. Production versions that may be available by 2013 or so would come with a less-than-exorbitant electric powertrain, or so the plan goes.
For now, Volvo is calling on a pool of heavily subsidized, environmental-advocating organizations, government fleet users, and such. Its plan is they should ante up, so Volvo does not have to take the price hit in preparing to launch its EV.
About 300 C30 Electrics could be leased in Europe, and 100 in the U.S. – with 50 on the West Coast, and 50 on the East.
Sounds like a win-win between Volvo, “green” corporations, and other advocating entities spending other people’s money to help usher in the age of the EV.
[Source: Edmunds Green Car Advisor]
Video after the jump
Volkswagen is recalling 71,403 2011 Jetta models due to a problem with the vehicle’s wiring. The issue affects the vehicle’s horn and anti-theft system, and Volkswagen said no injuries have been reported.
Owners can check their vehicles build date to see if it falls within the specified range (March 2010 to March 2011) by checking the sticker on the driver’s side doorjamb. Jetta owners can call VW at 800-822-8987 or NHTSA at 888-327-4236. No timeframe has been announced for the recall.
Taking shots at your competitors is nothing new in the advertising world, but North Americans generally see the kind of gentle ribbing that comes from restrictive libel laws and the preference for subtlety over braggadocio.
Not so in Brazil, where Nissan ran a campaign for their Tiida small car (aka the Versa on our shores) that featured actors imitating rappers and dancing with bikini-clad video girls in front of a Ford Focus. The message of the ad was that Ford was overcharging customers (due to the $1,800 delta in price between the Focus and Tiida) and their lavish lifestyles were funded by the extra cash.
Ford took issue with the gratuitous nature of the commercial and has decided to sue. We don’t know whether their argument will hold up in a Brazilian court of law, but we sure appreciate the video!
Hit the jump to see the video