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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.
 |  Mar 13 2012, 2:01 PM

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Dodge is introducing the 2012 Avenger SE V6 today as a class leader in power output, providing both performance and affordability for driving enthusiasts.

The heart of the 2012 Dodge Avenger SE V6 is the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 mated to an automatic six-speed transmission. The Ward’s “10 Best Engines” honoree delivers 283-hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque while also achieving a 4-cylinder-like 29 mpg highway fuel economy rating. Likewise, the Avenger SE V6 starts at a 4-cylinder-like price tag– only $21,495.

According to Dodge President and CEO Reid Bigland, “The Dodge Avenger is one of the fastest growing mid-size cars in America, with sales up 112 percent this year. We’re building off this momentum with the introduction of the new SE V6 package, delivering a true no compromise solution of the mid-size car buyer — 283 best-in-class horsepower, 29 mpg highway, 18-inch wheels and a rear spoiler- all for just $21,495 MSRP. You get the power, the efficiency, the look, and tremendous value that is unmatched in the segment.”

Other standard equipment offered in the Avenger SE V6 include electronic stability control with traction control and electronic roll mitigation, multi-stage driver and front passenger air-bags, side-curtain and front seat-mounted side airbags, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with integrated audio and cruise controls, outside temperature display, LED taillamps, and premium interior with soft-touch surfaces. All this comes with a five-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

GALLERY: 2012 Dodge Avenger

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 |  Mar 13 2012, 11:15 AM

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A direct reflection of the current market, GM has been struggling to keep up with demand for the 4-cylinder Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers for the past two months.

Facing a shortage in supply, GM has restricted dealer orders to better ration its bestsellers. Unfortunately, this has caused many dealers to fill their inventory with the 3.0-liter V6 models, which are less desirable to consumers in the face of rising costs at the pump. Currently, four-cylinder models account for 80 percent of Equinox and Terrain sales.

GM spokesman Jim Cain explained that “temporary order limits” had to be placed on the Equinox and Terrain. “It’s a function of a strong industry, a hot vehicle, and a very robust demand for the four-cylinder model.We’re working with our suppliers to increase deliveries of key components.”

According to GM, the supply constraints will only be temporary until the supplier adjustment has been resolved. From the dealer’s perspectives, it has been difficult to shift the V6 models as the national average has risen to $3.79/gallon of gas. For Herb Chambers Chevrolet-Cadillac of Danvers,MA, general sales manager Eduart Lela said, “I cringe when I have to order a six.”

In an effort to work with the dealers, GM offers a $1,000 discount for each V6 Equinox or Terrain moved in order to lift sales.

GALLERY: Chevrolet Equinox

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[Source: GM Inside News]

 |  Mar 12 2012, 3:32 PM

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated a preliminary investigation regarding approximately 360,000 units of Ford Taurus produced from 2005 through 2006.

According to 14 Taurus owners, the Ford Taurus has experienced incidents of stuck throttle due to cruise control cable detachment.

NHTSA revealed that most complaints described that the Taurus would experience, “engine speeds as high as approximately 4,000rpm after shifting into Park or Neutral”. Drivers noted that a shift into neutral or an engine shut off was necessary to effectively slow the vehicle down.

Although there are no reported accidents or injuries, one incident involved a Ford Taurus driver who allegedly went through a red light, partially crossing the intersection before he could stop the vehicle. “This is an extremely dangerous situation,” the driver wrote. “There needs to be something done about this before it becomes fatal.”

According to NHTSA, “A Preliminary Evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect.” Interestingly, Ford Taurus mechanical twin Mercury Sable is not a part of the investigation.

More information and details from Ford and the NHTSA will be available as the investigation continues.

GALLERY: 2005 Ford Taurus

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 |  Mar 10 2012, 11:01 AM

 

Jeep blazes trails in mountains rocks and mud, but this time the company is taking steps to tread new ground in education.

In February, Jeep launched a partnership with Detroit’s Jalen Rose Leadership Academy public charter high school, an open enrollment public charter high school. The academy was created to provide a leadership-focused education based on real-world, project-based experiences. Jalen Rose Academy accepted its first students in September, 2011 for 120 freshmen. Under this new collaboration, Jeep hopes to create a multi-phased development program to expose students to programs and events for enrichment and to bridge their educational path.

This program will involve a mentoring program between Jeep employees and students. Jeep employees will team with select students to enroll in a seven-month long mentorship program. Each mentorship session will focus on personal improvement skills including career planning and goal setting. Participating students will also take part in group field trips to visit several Chrysler Group facilities, including the Jefferson North Assembly Plant and the Jeep Design Studio to meet with the designers. In January, students attended the North American Auto Show to create photo logs of their experience. Students were assigned to develop a journal that outlined their favorite Jeep brand vehicles.

What’s more, Jeep will also be developing a marketing project and will be a sponsor for the academy’s boy’s and girl’s basketball team as well. Finally, Jeep will also award $100,000 in college scholarships to the first graduating class of the academy.

“The Jeep brand is honored to partner with the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy and build a relationship within our community. This program is an authentic, hands-on approach that will fuel leadership, provide educational empowerment, and develop life skills for the students. With this program, we hope to help students reach their fullest potential,” Jeep president and CEO Mike Manley said.

Jalen Rose, the founder of the Academy, agreed saying: “A philanthropic project of this nature requires support from the entire community and it is a privilege to have the Jeep brand join our team. We will work together to have a positive influence on our future leaders.”

 

 |  Mar 09 2012, 5:01 PM

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Hype around Cadillac has been directed to its ATS and CTS sports sedan offerings so often lately that sometimes we forget the company made a name for itself from its grand luxobarges. 

GM just released a new 2013 Cadillac XTS promo video to remind us what owning a Caddy was all about. According to the company, development involved a lot of time spent, “in homes making observations and taking notes.” Finally, designers and engineers involved in the XTS project determined that a recurring theme for the XTS concept was, “the desire for more space to accommodate active lifestyle gear, like golf bags.”

The chief engineer of the XTS, Sheri Hickok, said, “We used computer simulations to model golf bags, as well as other common types of good our customers are likely to transport. That also includes cases of bottled water, luggage, groceries, and more. Just as we did with he rest of the XTS, we spent a lot of time maximizing every inch of storage space.”

The result is a class leading cubic-inch figure, offering nearly 40 inches of legroom as well as 18 cubic feet of trunk space, exceeding the space offered in an Audi A8L, BMW 7-series, or Mercedes-Benz S-class.

“Our owners want to comfortably take four adults out for a round of gold and dinner afterwards. The challenge was to give customers what they expect in terms of interior spaciousness, comfort and luxury, but to do so without compromising exterior looks and handling dynamics.”

The 2013 Cadillac XTS will receive a direct-injection 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 good for 300-hp. Look for more details on the next generation flagship in the months ahead.

Click here to watch the video.

GALLERY: 2013 Cadillac XTS

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 |  Mar 08 2012, 1:01 PM

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Earlier, we reported that Ford CEO Alan Mulally had been awarded $58.3 Million worth of company stock for meeting company performance targets. Fiat/Chrysler‘s Sergio Marchionne, on the other hand, has declined a salary and bonus for the work he’s done for Chrysler Group in 2011.

Although Marchionne is compensated for his work at Fiat S.p.A, this is the second straight year that he declined salary from Chrysler, only accepting reimbursements for cleaning, utilities, security expenses, as well as insurance and association fees at his condominium near the Chrysler headquarters in Detroit. According to filings with the US. Securities and Exchange Commission, costs were on par with or less than the charges had Marchionne stayed in hotels.

Performance figures have shown that Chrysler has outperformed the U.S. auto market for 2011, an increase of 24.3 percent compared to the 10.3 percent industry average. What’s more, Chrysler refinanced the $7.6 billion in loans from the United States and Canadian governments.

[Source: Autonews]

 |  Mar 08 2012, 11:31 AM

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been awarded shares of stock worth $58.3 million in value for his key role in the automaker’s turnaround in 2009.

According to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, this top executive award is part of an incentive plan that’s tied to Ford’s 2009 performance. Mulally hit nearly all of his performance targets that year.

Ford Spokesman Todd Nissen explains, “Our compensation philosophy is to align the interests of our leadership with those of our shareholders. Ford’s stock was $1.96 a share at the time of the 2009 awards, and is over $12 a share today. That is a more than 500 percent increase, which benefits all stakeholders in the Ford turnaround.”

During UAW negotiations last year, Mulally’s compensation package had gone under scrutiny when Bob King, the union president, judged Mulally’s $26.5 million pay package as “morally wrong” when some Ford workers received a more modest wage of $15 an hour. However, the talks settled when Ford workers received contracts with signing bonuses higher than what GM or Chrysler offered.

From 2006 through 2008, Ford suffered $30.1 billion in losses. Yet despite Ford shares trading as low as $1.01 in November 2008, Ford opted not to go down the path of a federal bailout. Under Mulally’s leadership, Ford rebounded to earn $29.5 billion in the past three years.

In 2010, Mulally’s compensation increased by 48 percent to $26.5 million and last year, Ford awarded Alan Mulally with $56.6 million in stock. A proxy report will reveal Mulally’s compensation for 2011, including salary and benefits. No doubt, he’s making money like a boss!

[Source: Autonews]

 |  Mar 08 2012, 10:15 AM

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Honda is currently the only automaker offering CNG vehicles in the United States. Although it is nice to own an exclusive niche in the vast automotive market, it does have its limitations.

Compressed natural gas stations are uncommon in North America and Honda hopes to change this by installing pumps at its dealers as it pushes plans to double the sales volume of its CNG vehicles to between 4,000 and 5,000 units. Honda is involved in negotiations with California, the biggest CNG market within the U.S., as it hopes to place CNG pumps at two or more Honda dealerships later this year.

According to U.S. vice president for Environmental Business Development Steve Center, “If the [Honda] dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer. It’s not our place to create infrastructure, but it’s a chicken-and-egg situation and we’re going to have to nurse that egg along.”

Of course, the strategy for these stations are still in a beta phase. Through this project, Honda expects a better understanding of CNG station costs, the volume of vehicles a CNG station can serve, and how many facilities may be established. Honda will work with the dealers to gain the necessary permits, provide financing, and will apply for public incentives as well. Steve Center said, “Something like this helps fill in holes. We want to select a couple of test cases and walk through it.”

Earning the title as the 2012 Green Car of the Year at November’s LA Auto Show, the Honda Civic Natural Gas sedan is priced at $26,155, a $2,100 premium over the Civic hybrid. The Civic Natural Gas is capable of attaining an equivalent 31 mpg and can hold 8 gallons of compressed gas. What’s more, based on findings by the Energy Department, the average cost of CNG per gallon is approximately 65% that of a gallon of regular gasoline. Finally, one of the major perks of owning a CNG Civic is the privilege to use HOV lanes without passengers.

While Honda pushes its CNG initiative across the country, US automakers GM and Chrysler both announced the release of its own CNG pick-up trucks.

GALLERY: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas

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[Source: Bloomberg]

 |  Mar 06 2012, 3:01 PM

More details have been released regarding the full-size 2013 Ford Transit van, which will partially replace the discontinued E-series. In Ford F-150 fashion, the new Transit van will also provide the option of a robust twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine, good for 365-hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque.

The new full-size Ford van will be built upon an especially versatile platform that is designed to manage either a front-, rear-, or all-wheel-drive layout. Ford says that the 3.5-liter V6 will be available in rear-wheel-drive, while a naturally aspirated engine will be used for the all-wheel-drive variant. It is likely that Ford will forgo the front-wheel-drive option in the North American Market.

When compared to its future competitor, Nissan NV, the EcoBoost Ford Transit enjoys a hefty bump in horsepower over its rival’s 317-hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque from a 5.6-liter V8. Despite the smaller displacement and two less cylinders, the EcoBoost Transit is expected to achieve comparable EPA figures to the Nissan NV.

The upcoming Ford Transit is expected to hit the market in 2013, stay tuned for more details in the meant time.

GALLERY: Ford Transit

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 |  Mar 05 2012, 12:15 PM

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Last year, we shared images of Tony Stark’s Acura NSX convertible on the set of the Avengers. Initially, Acura Spokesman Gary Robinson claimed an open-top NSX is a “one-off fictional car that was created just for the film.” 

Surprise! According to a Honda and Acura forum, six drawings of an open top NSX were filed with the European Patent Office on Febuary 22. The six illustrations include a wire-frame sketch showing all angles of the vehicle. When compared to the coupe variant, we notice slight styling differences at the side vents.

Check out the images below. We can’t wait to see one in the flesh at an upcoming auto show.

GALLERY: Acura NSX Concept

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[Source: Motor Trend]

 |  Feb 24 2012, 2:01 PM

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Based on the C-Evo platform from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback, the American-twin 2013 Dodge Dart will only be available in a four-door body style.

During an interview with Chrysler Canada president and Dodge brand CEO Reid Bigland, he noted that sedans make up 90 percent of the compact segment, and are 25 percent of the overall Canadian new-car marketplace. “We’re going to go right up the middle of where the demand is. Right now, the evidence is overwhelmingly on a four-door sedan.”

Reading between the lines, Reid Bigland’s “right now” suggests the possibility of new layouts in Dart’s future. What’s more, Bigland also acknowledged that the success of the hatchbacks or coupes available for the Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra and the Mazda3 have helped the cars become top sellers.

When asked about Dodge Dart’s predecessor, the Caliber Hatchback, Bigland defended, “I don’t think the Caliber soured anyone on hatchbacks. There’s a functionality edge with the hatchbacks, no doubt.”

GALLERY: 2013 Dodge Dart

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[Source: Globe And Mail]

Discuss this story at the Dodge Dart Forums

 |  Feb 23 2012, 2:32 PM

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Jeep is celebrating its 2 million Facebook fans milestone as the first domestic automotive brand to reach the figure.

Addressing the achievement, Jeep Brand President and CEO Mike Manley said, “On behalf of the entire Jeep brand team, I would like to extend a personal ‘thank you’ to our consumers– and literally millions of fans– for their continued loyalty and support. We are proud of our 70-year history and all that the Jeep brand has accomplished along the way. Jeep vehicle owners are unlike any others; from those who embrace the ‘Jeep wave’ to those who look forward to helping a fellow off-roader along the trail, there is a sense of community and passion among Jeep owners that make our brand unique.”

While we aren’t sure how Jeep will be celebrating, Porsche revealed a Facebook Cayman S to celebrate its 2 million milestone. Featuring red-tinted profile photos of all its Facebook fans to create a mural inspired by the color scheme of the Le Mans winning Porsche 917K, this special one-off is displayed at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. Could we see a similar project for a special Jeep Wrangler decked out in Facebook camo?

 |  Feb 16 2012, 6:30 PM

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Announcing its 2011 financial results, General Motors has reported record profits of $7.6 billion, an incredible 62 percent increase from last year. Its previous record was $6.7 billion in 1997.

Annual revenue increased by 11 percent to $150.3 billion for the American automaker and its global says jumped 7.6 percent for a total of nine million vehicles sold. In North America alone, unit’s adjusted earnings nearly doubled in 2011 to $1.5 billion.

As for GM’s international operations in the fourth quarter, profit grew by a third to a respectable $400 million.

Despite positive numbers, General Motors has also fallen remarkably short in some areas. Fourth quarter profits lacked as GM’s European business was hit with a $500 million loss, including $200 million in restructuring costs. For the year, Opel suffered a $700 million loss. GM’s initial target was to bring the figure to break-even but eventually allowed the target to drop when demand declined.

In South America, what was a $200 million profit a year market, became a $200 million loss for 2011.

Finally, GM is working hard to minimize its $24.5 billion pension shortfall, which is at least smaller than what some analysts had feared.

Stronger than expected domestic performance is only great when numbers elsewhere follow suit. Edward Jones analyst Matt Collins commented, “The good news is they’ve done a nice job getting North America back on track; the bad news is the rest of the world. In order to get the stock moving again, they really need to address international profitability and the pension.”

GM Chief Financial Officer Dan Amman answers reporters, “We obviously have work to do still and a long way to get to the objectives we ultimately want to get to. We clearly have work to do in Europe. We have work to do in the South America business. Frankly, we have work to do all around the company in terms of cost opportunity.”

However, Dan Amman did not produce select details for the 2012 financial forecast. A cause for concern, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a research note, “A lack of guidance leaves GM shares shrouded in the thick fog of macro uncertainty.”

[Source: Reuters]

 |  Feb 16 2012, 1:00 PM

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One of the great perks of becoming an automotive journalist is the opportunity to get behind the wheel of practically any new car on the market, whether it be the latest Porsche or a Pagani Huayra.

However, Tesla has chosen not to oblige. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk during an announcement last night, no sampling or test drives of the Tesla Model S will be allowed until customers have begun taking deliveries.

While the reason behind Tesla’s decision is unknown, investors are questioning whether the announcement suggests a lack of confidence in the Model S.

However, Musk defends that customers should not be worried. In fact, according to Musk, should any dissatisfied Tesla owner feel the need to sell their vehicle, he or she may could easily sell at a premium due to the high demand from the market.

What’s more, the recent unveiling of the Model X has further driven up Model S reservations. Revealed only last Thursday, the Model X all-electric SUV has been so well received, an astonishing $40 million worth of pre-orders were racked up the first day after it was unveiled.

GALLERY: Tesla Model S

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 |  Feb 15 2012, 11:30 AM

Snake-Progression.jpgThe Viper is one of the rare vehicles to adorn a new logo for each major redesign, sporting “Sneaky Pete” on the original, and “Fangs” on the second gen. For the new 2013 Viper, the first under the SRT badge instead of Dodge, the “Stryker” logo has been designed to celebrate the new direction.

Chrysler designer Vince Galante is the talented artist behind the logo, providing the graphic depth and dimension while retaining the sinister look and “evil grin” of the original snake. A young designer still in his 20s, Galante revealed his Transformers and Thundercats influences,  ”I never looked at images of the Thundercats while I was doing the new Logo, but after the fact, I realize that the new design has some elements of those graphics, but more intentionally has some lines that reflect the new Viper.”

Chosen from nearly 20 variations of the Snake badge, head of SRT Design Mark Trostle said, “Vince actually brought his pencil sketch to both Joe (Dehner) and me to review. We both said, ‘That’s it.’ We knew Vince had created a new icon. The new Stryker badge is the most refined, sinister looking and beautiful badge yet, just like the shape of the car.”

Expect the next generation SRT Viper at the New York International Auto Show in April.

GALLERY: Stryker Logo

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 |  Feb 13 2012, 8:31 PM

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The 2012 Chrysler 300 and its mechanical twin, the Dodge Charger are both recognized as Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) after also earning a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA.

The American full-size sedans each received full marks in front and side crash tests and earned a commendable four-stars in rollover. However, the combined five-star overall rating for the two models exclude the high performance SRT8 versions.

Offering more than crash safety, the mechanically identical 300 and Charger both offer active safety equipment as well, including all-wheel drive, auto high beams, adaptive headlights, adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, blind-spot sensor, and rear cross-path detection.

The IIHS bases their ratings for both vehicles on their performance in front- and side-impact crashes as well as a rollover test.

GALLERY: 2012 Chrysler 300c

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GALLERY: 2012 Dodge Charger Blacktop

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 |  Feb 08 2012, 6:00 PM

When Cadillac aired its 30-second “Go To Green Hell” Super Bowl ad for the upcoming ATS sedan during the last two-minutes of the game’s last quarter, a total of 111.3 million viewers tuned in, effectively making this ad the most watched television commercial in U.S. history. Could the marketing department at GM have somehow foreseen the future and realized the game of the year would come down to the wire?

GM global chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick said, “Cadillac is expanding with new models challenging the world’s best luxury cars. This stunning viewership data proves that Cadillac’s big message reached the largest audience… When it comes to Super Bowl ads, everyone has opinions on their favorite, But its a fact that this Cadillac spot had the biggest audience during the game.”

While Ewanick’s quote suggests that the reception for the advertisement reflects approval for the product, these statistics are more representative of the time it aired. If the same ad had aired at any time other than 9:39:37 PM, the title for “most watched ad” would have likely gone to a commercial with more supermodels, pyrotechnics, and special effects.

Watch the ad after the jump.

Continue Reading…

 |  Feb 06 2012, 8:15 AM

Despite Ford’s efforts to stop GM, the apocalypse-surviving Chevy Silverado commercial aired last night during the Super Bowl.

According to GM, the advertisement was intended as a “good-humored” spoof on the Mayan calendar predictions. Depicting a band of Silverado owners that are navigating across a “completely over-the-top, outrageous version of the devastation and destruction predicted to occur this year by the Mayan calendar,” the ad also features giant attack robots, meteors, and frogs that are falling from the sky. The punch line is when the gang of Silverado owners realized one of their friends did not survive because they drove a Ford rather than “the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road.”

Ford took issue with the ad and we now know what the company said in a formal letter sent to GM requesting for the ad to be pulled. Representing lawyer Lynne M. Matuszak wrote, “Ford demands that Chevrolet immediately cease and desist from making any unsubstantiated and disparaging claims regarding Ford’s pickup trucks.” Matuszak’s letter further demanded that GM, “permanently remove the commercial from its website, its YouTube and Facebook pages and any other internet sites.”

Ford’s letter then warned, “If Chevrolet does not comply with the above terms prior to the start of the Super Bowl, then Ford will take all appropriate steps to enforce and protect its reputation.”

Taking it a step further, Ford called out the Silverado’s safety record, noting that the 2012 Ford F-150 earned an IIHS Top Safety pick while the Silverado received less than impressive side impact, rear crash, and rollover results.

GM’s global chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick and GM are committed to broadcasting the ad and sharing it on YouTube. Joel Ewanick said, ”We stand by our claims in the commercial, that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup on the road. The ad is a fun way of putting this claim in the context of the apocalypse. We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize. In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away.”

Like Coca Cola versus Pepsi, the clash of Ford vs. GM will last for many years to come. We will be expecting a humorous and entertaining rebuttal ad from Ford soon.

[Source: Detroit News]

Why not watch the ad again below:

Continue Reading…

 |  Feb 04 2012, 5:07 PM

Toyota has launched a new social media initiative with a chance for participants to win a brand new 2012 Camry for themselves and one more for a friend. The opportunity will come tomorrow, Sunday, Feb. 5, during a live NBC broadcast – we’re presuming Toyota means the Super Bowl, but the oddly worded press release mentioned no such thing.

To enter, you’ll need the Shazam music identification smartphone app, and use it, when prompted, during the broadcast of Toyota’s “Connections” commercial, which encourages the nearly seven million Camry owners across the country to share stories, moments and memories they’ve had with their camera in the past 30 years. By entering the giveaway using Shazam technology, the winner of the contest could start a new “Camry Effect” by not only winning a Camry for themselves, but also to gift another Camry for a friend.

Vice president of digital marketing at Toyota says, “The Camry Effect is one of the most ambitious social media campaigns we’ve ever implemented. Partnering with Shazam allows us to increase awareness of this effort on the national stage and give one lucky winner the opportunity to positively affect a friend and start writing his or her Camry story.”

Who’s going to tune in tomorrow?

 |  Feb 03 2012, 4:45 PM

Although electric vehicle technology has been touted as the way of the future, some believe that there is still untapped potential lying within the conventional internal combustion engine.

To encourage engineers to push the internal combustion technology forward, Republican Congressman Dan Lungren has introduced a bill that will reward a handsome $1 billion in Federal prize money to the first U.S. automaker that can successfully sell 60,000 mid-size sedans that are capable of achieving 100 mpg on gasoline.

In 2007, the X Prize Foundation held a contest with a similar format called the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. Participating teams were challenged to create a vehicle that was capable of reaching 100 mpg, travel safely in highway speeds, and emit less than 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. The winner of the challenge would receive a $10 million reward that will be used to fund the project to become a mass-market vehicle. Unfortunately, none of the vehicles were deemed commercially viable for mass production.

But now that it has been 5 years since the Automotive X Prize, the technology may be closer to our reach if not already attained. However, unlike the Automotive X Prize, Congressman Lungren would only award the winner after 60,000 units of its landmark 100 mpg mid-size sedan have been successfully sold. Not only does the bill ban vehicles of radical shapes and sizes like the Aptera, but 60,000 units is a daunting number that’ll effectively discourage any startup automaker. Compounded with the restriction to U.S. automakers only, the bill suggests a three-way battle between GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

While the bill does not necessarily suggest that a hybrid system is off limits, the aim is to encourage technological advances in the internal combustion gasoline engine, which rules out diesel technology as well. Given the parameters, perhaps earning the prize is much more difficult than it seems.

 |  Feb 03 2012, 7:02 AM

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In a January 2012 sales conference call, Toyota division group vice president and general manager Bob Carter reported some surprising results.

Recovering from its mid-2011 slump, Toyota sold 124,540 units from its Toyota, Lexus and Scion divisions. Those sales translate to a 7.5 percent increase over last January. Toyota enjoyed a 9 percent increase in sales for January, thanks in tremendous part to a 56 percent jump in sales for the all-new Camry.

Surprisingly, the Camry garnering the highest customer demand is the sport trim Camry SE. Moreover, the Camry SE even helped Toyota bring in an unprecedented number of new and young buyers. Responding to the new trend, Carter said “demand for the SE model continues to top the Camry lineup and we could have sold more in January if we had them. So we’re adjusting our SE production mix in order to better meet customer demand in the months ahead, going from about 8 percent for the previous generation Camry, to more than 40 percent for the current production mix.”

As for Toyota hybrids, the Camry Hybrid’s modest 2,100-unit January sales represent a 146 percent increase from last year. Carter expects sales to increase as availability improves, announcing an annual sales target of 50,000 Camry Hybrids for 2012.

Toyota intends to continue its marketing focus on Camry, especially by dedicating airtime during the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, where the Camry will also serve as the official pace car. Toyota’s notoriously bland midsize family sedan just got interesting.

GALLERY: 2012 Toyota Camry

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 |  Feb 02 2012, 5:45 PM

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Ford knows it will take a lot of work to restore its Lincoln premium brand. Most recently, Ford created an elaborate booth with modern decor for Lincoln at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show only to see the MKZ concept go up in smoke. Furthermore, the Lincoln MKZ concept failed to garner the same level of attention as the parent company’s 2013 Ford Fusion, or its main rival’s new 2013 Cadillac ATS compact sedan.

Ford global sales chief Jim Farley admits, “It will take every ounce of our energy to execute Lincoln in North America.” Apparently, that is exactly what Ford plans to do. Over the next couple of years, Ford will introduce seven important new models for the Lincoln line-up. According to Ford CEO Alan Mulally, he expects the new Lincoln vehicles to be just as great as what Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and BMW have to offer. However, rather than developing a dedicated front-engine, rear-wheel-drive luxury platform, Lincoln will stick to platform sharing with mainstream Ford vehicles.

According to Jim Farley, Lincoln’s success is not only dependent on its products, but is dependent on the improvement of customer service as well. Farley said, “the secret sauce to Lexus was the personal touch.” Ideas and suggestions extended to Lincoln dealers include washing an owner’s Lincoln vehicle after servicing, or putting a rose on the seat when returning a car to its owner after repairs.

Ford admits that customers aren’t very keen on Lincoln and that it will be difficult to target young, financially successful men, which would have been obvious luxury targets. Jim Farley says that Lincoln will go after a different demographic that he calls “the magician.” Magicians are trend-setting early adopters that live along the coasts. These young individuals are more likely to try new, interesting products, regardless of what others think.

When Ford Motors dropped Mercury, the decision proved to be extremely beneficial to the American automaker as it allowed greater focus on Ford products, dialing in quality and image. Time will tell whether Ford can get Lincoln to return to its past glory or whether the once iconic luxury brand will join Mercury in the history books.

[Source: USA Today]

 |  Feb 02 2012, 11:02 AM

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Honda has announced a recall in the United States for 206 Ridgeline trucks built from 2011 through 2012. This recall is to address a possible mismatch between the Ridgeline’s spare tire and the FMVSS mandated tire information placard installed on the vehicles’ driver-side doorjambs.

Honda Ridgeline trucks sold in the United States are fitted with a compact spare tire and, in some cases, placards may incorrectly indicate that the Ridgeline came with a full-sized spare tire instead. To solve this matter, Honda will either provide Ridgeline owners with a spare that will match the information provided on the vehicle’s placard or it will install a new placard that reflects the spare tire installed by the factory. While this issue may not seem like an urgent safety hazard, the recommended cold inflation pressure for the tire may not be correctly indicated.

No crashes or injuries have been reported due to spare tire failures but Honda’s recall encourages owners of all affected Ridgelines to take their vehicles to an authorized dealer when they receive a recall notification in the mail. Recalls notifications will begin to reach Ridgeline owners by mid-February 2012. An owner could also take the initiative by contacting www.recalls.honda.com or by calling (800) 999-1009, option 4.

 |  Jan 31 2012, 5:30 PM

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The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB),  a non-profit organization created by the insurance industry to address insurance-related crime, publishes an annual report called Hot Wheels to identify America’s 10 most stolen vehicles. This year, the NICB introduced a special issue called Hot Wheels Classics, which focuses on a specific model with historical significance.

For its first Classics report, NCIB had chosen to go with the iconic Ford Mustang Pony Car. Although Memphis Raines could never steal the “Eleanor” Shelby Mustang GT500 without engaging in a wild car chase, NCIB’s records reported that thieves have successfully stolen a total of 611,093 Mustangs from 1964 to 2011. While data for each year is available, years prior to 1981 may not be accurate as effective vehicle identification numbers (VIN) protocols were not formalized until 1981, according to NCIB.

Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardized VIN in 1981, the NCIB indicated that a total of 411,155 Mustangs have been reported stolen through 2011. The most thefts occurred in 1981 when 20,708 Mustangs were stolen. In 2011, the number of thefts have fallen to 4,347.

From 2001-2011, the past decade indicated that the model year which suffered the most thefts is the year 2000 Mustang at a total of 7,085, followed by the 1995 model year at 6790 thefts, and then the 1998 Mustang at 5394 thefts. All in all, the top 10 most stolen model years concentrated on Mustangs produced from 1989 to 2004. What’s more, the top 10 most stolen model years alone account for nearly 50 percent of all Mustang thefts that have occurred in the past decade.

To help Mustang owners to protect their prized pony cars, NCIB suggests owners to start with a little common sense by locking the car before leaving it on the street. Theft deterrent technologies such as warning devices and immobilizing devices can further improve upon the vehicle’s security. Finally, if a Mustang manages to get stolen anyway, a tracking device will dramatically increase its chances of recovery.

[Source: NICB]

GALLERY: Ford Mustang GT

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