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.
Michigan, it’s more than just Great Lakes, the Big Three and the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. To the surprise of many, GM, Ford and Chrysler aren’t the only games in town. Practically every major OEM and supplier company has offices, technical centers or test facilities in the mitten state, and Toyota is making a major investment its facilities.
New vehicle production in North America continues to increase and according to two major forecasters production will surpass last year’s 15.5 million units.
Since the program’s inception, $4 million in scholarships and grants have been awarded to middle and high school students for their distinguished projects.
“Through this program, more than 25,000 participants have demonstrated that they want to make the world a better place. by coming up with real-world solutions to environmental challenges, students are learning how they can make a difference in the world around them,” Lexus group vice president and general manager Mark Templin said.
This year, more than 400 teams registered to represent nearly 3,000 students nationwide. In total, $500,000 in grants and scholarships were awarded to honored student teams. Finally, two Grand Prize winners were selected and awarded $30,000 each, while eight First Prize winners were awarded $15,000.
A two phase challenge, the first required teams to address concerns on land, water, air or climate and to create ways to make a difference for the environment in their local communities. The final phase would challenge teams to bring the projects beyond their local community and to inspire environmental action around the world.
The first Grand Prize winner was team “the Green Musketeers” of Jericho High School in Jericho, New York. After successfully creating their own filtration system, the students intend to patent the project, to sell it and to direct the profits towards developing systems in third-world countries.
The second Grand Prize winner was team “One-Towel Wonders” from SCAPA Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky. The students demonstrated how the simple idea of using one towel per person, per week could benefit the environment.
Pleased with the honor, “One-Towel Wonders” teacher advisor Ashlie Beals praises the Lexus program.
“For the past five years, all of my 8th grade students have worked in teams to create and implement innovative campaigns to encourage others to make one small change that can have a large positive impact on our environment,” she said. “My younger students eagerly look forward to their chance to participate in the challenge when they are in 8th grade.”
GALLERY: Lexus Eco Challenge
It turns out that owning a Rolls-Royce isn’t rare enough on it’s own for the majority of people buying these ultra-luxury cars.
No, the people willing and able to shell out for the best of the best seem to be afraid the valet will confuse their Ghost with the others outside the country club. According to the company, 56 percent of Rolls-Royce Ghosts and Ghost Extended Wheel Base Models featured a bespoke design in 2011.
The Ghost is actually a late-comer to the bespoke game as far as the Rolls-Royce family is concerned. The company sells a healthy chunk of their cars to the Middle East, where 99 percent of Phantoms sold featured bespoke designs.
“It is always our goal to exceed our clients’ highest expectations and fulfill their innermost desires,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce CEO. “With highly bespoke Phantom and Ghost models, we are able to achieve this. The passion with which our bespoke craftspeople create these beautiful cars is reflected in some truly outstanding examples delivered across the globe last year.”
The company is on an upwardly bespoke trend: demand increased an average of almost 35 percent over the last six years worldwide. North America actually represents the most rapidly increasing demand, increasing 54 percent over that time period, though the Middle East is the highest overall with 99 percent demand for bespoke vehicles.
So what’s all this fuss about? Well, Rolls-Royce makes it their business to bend over backwards to ensure client satisfaction. Your new Rolls can come with paint of your choice, tread plates, champagne sets or even a picnic set for those balmy Sunday afternoons in the park.
GALLERY: 2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost
Cutting costs these days seems to be all about building factories in the country meant to buy your products. Audi is following that mantra by announcing designs to build a plant in North America.
Doing so would help the brand avoid the pitfalls of the European economy and make the actual act of bringing vehicles to market much simpler.
“It’s not a matter of if we will do a plant in North America, but when,” Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen told WardsAuto. “The decision to do a plant, technically we’ve reached that conclusion. It’s a matter now of waiting to pull the trigger.” So that means we, and most everyone concerned with the auto industry, are asking just that— when? Though there isn’t a date settled, Audi might be motivated to move quickly in an effort to meet their 150,000 U.S. unit sales goal by 2015.
“One advantage of Mexico is that you could support the growing markets down in South America, Brazil,” said De Nysschen. “More so, you have the benefit of exporting cars into Europe duty-free.” Despite that, Mexico isn’t a definite destination. He also said there are definite advantages to building the plant in the U.S., though using Volkswagen‘s Chattanooga, TN plant isn’t an option because it is expected to be running at maximum capacity.
“Getting a plant allows us to have a higher degree of U.S. content. It allows us to have a natural hedge against that,” he said.
Even with such discussions, the fact remains heavily on Audi’s radar that their sales don’t currently justify building such a plant.
“We’ve got to build our business to get to the point where, with a combination of production for the U.S. and some exports to other markets, we can get the economies of scale to make that factory work.” In other words, the company is looking for much greater sales before staking out territory for their North American plant.
[Source: Wards Auto]
Things have been changing for a few years already, and the future is not looking good for Canada. Thanks to their lower labor rates and production costs, more and more car companies are looking to move their operations down to Mexico.
Currently, Canada accounts for 16-percent of production for North America, but since 2008 Mexico, has accounted for 20-percent, and that number will likely grow.
If the trend continues, Canadians might lose their jobs well south of their border. However, not all is doom and gloom for our northern neighbors as vehicle production increased in 2011 by 2-percent to bring a total of 2.1-million units produced.
General Motors is supporting the Canadian economy by announcing that the new Cadillac XTS sedan will be built in Oshawa, Ontario (where vehicles like the Camaro are already built), and Toyota Motor Corporation has announced that it will invest C$545-million to upgrade Toyota production facilities in Ontario.
[Source: Automotive News]
Behold, the new bar for fuel economy: 126 highway miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). Which car is championing these figures? The Mitsubishi i electric vehicle.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Fuel Economy Guide ranked the Mitsubishi i electric vehicle at the top for fuel consumption. The competing Nissan Leaf stacks up 13 MPGe lower at a still impressive 99 MPGe. The Mitsubishi i beats the Leaf in city and highway fuel economy, making it the most efficient car on the road.
Yoichi Yokozawa, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) said the company was pleased to be rated at the top of the EPA’s Fuel Economy guide.
“With 17,000 i-MiEV-based units produced for various international markets, we look forward to providing North American consumers with an exceptionally well-engineered electric vehicle that has proven itself to be reliable, safe, efficient and very affordable in overall price and cost of operation,” he said.
The Annual Fuel Guide, published in cooperation by the EPA and Department of Energy, offers consumers information far beyond what appears on a car’s window sticker. They also offer advice on how to improve fuel efficiency.
The Mitsubishi i isn’t available at the moment, but MMNA expects to start releasing them in North America late this month.
Audi drivers across the pond are getting the short end of the stick, or to be more precise: no stick at all.
What’s all this stick business, you may ask? The new version of the Audi S4 and S5 will only be available with an automatic transmission in Europe, cue the snickers and sneers from North American driving enthusiasts. It’s an unusual move, considering we’re usually the ones getting shafted with an auto-only option in cars where Europeans get a choice, but sure enough according to an article on Fourtitude, and Audi news blog, the decision is made.
This still may be a signal of things to come, but at least for the upcoming generation it seems the S4 and S5 will be available witha six-speed manual.
Barry Hoch, product planning manager for Audi of America confirmed that Europeans will lose the manual while North Americans will keep it. 100 percent confirmed, although I don’t know what other markets also get to keep it,” he said in an email to Fourtitude.
The move to S-tronic transmissions does make sense from a performance standpoint. Shorter shifts, better straight line performance and friendlier fuel economy sweeten the package in theory, but try telling that to someone as they slash through a manual gearbox on a winding road. You’re better off trying to debate Socrates.
Debates aside it’s hard not to see the future creeping in. Lamborghini and Ferrari have already adopted “automatic” dual clutch transmissions as their current standard. If the decision seems to be trickling down from the supercar market into Europe, we may expect to see similar changes in the future.
That, however, is conjecture. Focus on the positive for now, manual S4s and S5s are still available to those in North America who want them.
Produced at Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant, the Sienna has long been a top seller in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Now, scheduled early this November, South Korea will mark the Sienna’s first distribution outside of North America.
Toyota has been exporting U.S. built vehicles since 1988 and the addition of South Korea bumps the number of countries that will receive U.S. built Toyota vehicles to 19. Models that are currently exported included the Toyota Avalon sedan of Georgetown, Kentucky, the Sequoia SUV of Princeton, Indiana and the Tacoma/Tundra pickup of San Antonio, Texas.
Yoshimi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America, Inc. is optimistic of Sienna’s success in South Korea, “Toyota’s North American operations are constantly working to identify and expand new export opportunities for the vehicles we produce here, building on our extensive investments in auto production, research and development in the U.S. and helping to maintain a strong, stable base of jobs… With this development and other possible achievements in the future, we hope to continue boosting exports from our North American operations.”
Toyota North America has exported about 100,000 units for calendar year 2010. Initial sales of the Sienna in the South Korean market is a modest 600 units annually.
GALLERY: 2012 Sienna
There’s a new kid in Los Angeles, BYD. The Chinese battery and electric car manufacturer opened its California office today.
BYD says it will bring 150 green-collar engineering and management jobs to the city. The event highlight, however, is a deal between BYD and Hertz to provide airport shuttles to the rental agency. This could prove to be a key time for the company to move into the California electric car market.
Their opening is hot on the heels of the California government deciding to limit HOV lane benefits to electric cars in an effort to encourage greener transportation. BYD has a chance to get a jump on the electric car market considering the only EV’s available to consumers are the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster.
Things may not all be bright though, BYD saw their profits drop by just over a third between 2009 and 2010 and lackluster sales in the first half of this year aren’t boding well either.
Their financial woes are largely due to poor car sales in China, where they failed to meet even half of their projected numbers.
Their push into the North American market could prove to be a good source of revenue, but BYD Vice-President Michael Austin admitted earlier this year to the Glendale News-Press that “the paradigm of driving a Chinese car in the U.S. is going to be hard to break.”
[Source: Auto Observer]
When the sedan was unveiled, Toyota found that the word “Camry” had been acquired on social media service Twitter by rival Nissan North America. Anyone searching the Camry on Twitter during the launch, would receive a tweet regarding product news from Nissan.
Nissan took advantage of the fact that it knew Toyota would launch the Camry with special attention to Twitter. Nissan discovered that the key word Camry had not been locked up so it purchased what Twitter terms a “Promoted Tweet” allowing the automaker to acquire a selection of search terms for 24 hours that included “Camry”, “Toyota Camry” and “mid-sized car”.”Toyota blew it,” crowed one Nissan manager. “They simply didn’t protect their intellectual property.”
Nissan has become increasingly competitive especially against Toyota. U.S sales of the Altima are up more than 18 percent through July, compared to Toyota’s 8 percent Camry fall. The decline was primarily a result of inventory issues stemming from the March 11 earthquake. The Camry has been America’s top selling passenger car for 13 of the past 14 years. The Camry vastly outsells the Altima, but Nissan has been making up ground in recent years.
Check out our full review of the Camry here!
GALLERY: Toyota Camry
[Source: Automotive News]
The next-gen Suzuki Swift Sport will debut at the 64th Frankfurt Auto Show on September 13.
Compared to the standard Swift, the Sport model has a more aggressive exterior and promises a “high-quality” interior with, “features that heighten excitement about the driving experience.”
Powering the Swift is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 134-hp, with better fuel consumption than previous models. The engine will be mated to a specifically developed six-speed manual transmission.
The Swift Sport also offers better handling thanks to larger wheels and low profile tires, as well as a new suspension setup with custom spring and shock settings.
Safety features include seven airbags and a stability control system.
It has been rumored that the Swift may come to North America, and if it does, hopefully the Swift Sport will also be offered. More information will be known at the Frankfurt auto show so stay tuned!
Today, Nissan North America announced U.S pricing for the 2012 Versa Hatchback, a model that is carried over from the previous year, despite the fact that the 2012 sedan is all-new. Continuing on the popular first-generation design, it is available in 1.8 S and 1.8 SL models.
The 1.8-liter S hatchback model has been priced at $14,380 with the 6-speed manual and $1000 extra for the 4-speed automatic transmission($15,380). The 1.8-liter SL version with the CVT transmission will be priced at $18,390. The 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine produces 122-hp, with fuel consumption rated at 28 mpg City /34 mpg Highway and 30 mpg combined for the SL with the Continuously Variable Transmission. The 6-speed manual and 4-speed automatic models offer 26/31/28 mpg and 24/32/27 mpg respectively for City/Highway/ Combined ratings. The Nissan Versa is already on sale in either the hatchback or sedan platform offering amazing bang for your buck.
Check out pricing for the all-new, and significantly cheaper 2012 Versa sedan here!
Today, Group Lotus Motorsport announced the formation of Lotus Sport USA led by Team Principals Ian Dawson and John Pritzlaff. The factory endorsed team will focus on the GT2 and LMP2 classes sanctioned by the International Motor Sport Association. The new team will race with the Lotus Evora GTE for the North American and International schedule in 2012.
The team will announce innovative and exciting new partners to the program and the program will begin testing in quarter four of 2011. Claudio Berro,Director of Motorsport said, “We are very happy to confirm the formal plans for Lotus Sport USA. This part of the world represents a very important market to Group Lotus now and for the future. With Ian Dawson and John Pritzlaff on board, I’m sure Lotus Sport USA will go from strength to strength.”
Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has confirmed that the company will build a vehicle assembly plant in North America. In an interview with Automotive News, Stadler explained specific details about models, location and capacity will be made within three years. Audi may also be building a plant to specialize in the construction of engine and transmissions. ”It is totally clear that we need new production capacity in the U.S.,” Stadler told the trade publication. “The question only is when.”
Audi is reportedly considering new U.S production of a large coupe like crossover called the Q6. This vehicle will aim to take on the BMW X6. The Q6 will be based on the same platform as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. The Q6 may be assembled on a new line at VW’s Chattanooga plant. North American built Audi’s will likely begin rolling off the line by 2014.
[Source: Automotive News]
Nissan has launched a global proving test program for their compact electric commercial vehicle NV200.
The Japanese automaker began the test with Japan Post Service. The postal service will be provided with the NV200 to carry out postal collection for two months in Yokohama. The vehicle will be tested in real world conditions to help fine tune small aspects of the NV200. Testing will begin soon in Europe with the vehicle as well.
The testing on this vehicle is vital as it will serve as the next generation New York taxi. The vehicle has been present in Japan and European markets since 2009 and the van has won numerous awards.
“The role that can be played by zero emissions vehicles in promoting a balance between economic growth and environmental protection in the realm of logistics is large” said Nissan Corporate Vice President Hideto Murakami, who is responsible for the Global LCV Business Unit. “We will certainly reflect the customer feedback gained from these proving tests in our future product development, and I expect that our commercial electric vehicles based on the NV200 will contribute to our customers’ business and to the development of a sustainable society”.
Sales for the Fiat 500 are picking up after a slow start in the US market. The Mexican built US version was off to a slow start after only selling 3,141 units through the end of May, but the cute Italian car is gaining momentum. Chrysler has just 70 Fiat dealerships nationwide however there are plans to open another 60 by the end of the year, which should help move more units.
The original Fiat 500 was introduced in July 1957 and was then called the ”cinquecento”. Now in North America, Fiat is planning on launching a national marketing campaign for the new model on the Fourth of July, which will hopefully improve the the cars sales figures even more.
Three different trim levels are available including the Pop, Sport and Lounge models. The Pop base model retails for $15,500 which comes with power windows/ locks, power heated mirrors, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control and 7 airbags. The Sport model retails for $17,500 and comes with stiffer springs and shocks, 16-inch aluminium wheels, a more performance oriented exhaust, a Bose sounds system, leather wrapped steering wheel and hands free voice controls. The Lounge model retails for $19,500 and features a 6-speed automatic transmission and higher grade interior trim.
The 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 100-hp and 98 lb-ft of torque. The 500 is rated at 30-mpg in the city and 38-mpg on the highway for a 33-mpg combined number.
[Source: USA Today]
Ford is planning to blitz the auto-market for the first quarter of 2012. According to a source inside Ford, no less than eight all-new or refreshed models will start production for Q1.
Ford’s largest project is the all-new midsize Fusion/Mondeo, which is currently scheduled to start production in January. Ford hopes for a 50-percent sales improvement for the Fusion in North America, which may help it exceed the 30,000 units per-month sales mark. With a new Fusion comes a new Fusion Hybrid and Ford is targeting an impressive 47 to 48-mpg rating in the city.
Also coming is a new Escape, which is being replaced by the Ford Vertrek Concept, with production out of the Louisville, Kentucky plant. The C-Max Hybrid will also begin production later this year.
The 2013 Taurus, which debuted back at the New York Auto Show in April with a face lift and new base 4-cylinder engine, will also launch during the first quarter of 2012. The Ford Flex, Lincoln MKS and MKT will also gain face-lifts during the Q1 for a more modern look.
Ford will re-ignite the hot hatch segment in Q1 with a new Focus ST that will feature a 247-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine.
Both the Ford Taurus Police Interceptor and and Explorer “PI” will replace the Crown Victoria and the Lincoln MKT Town Car will replace the Lincoln Town Car.
Europe will gain the all-new B-Max and South America will gain the EcoSport. The B-Max will come equipped with the highly anticipated turbocharged 1.0-liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine.
By the end of 2012, the oldest vehicles in the Ford lineup will be the Ford Edge and the Lincoln MKX, which recently underwent major overhauls themselves
[Source: Ford Inside News]
Concerns have be raised about relaunching Fiat in the United States, however early sales figures of the 500 have exceeded expectations. A cabriolet version of the hatchback is now appearing in showrooms, with the Abarth and EV versions to follow soon after.
Fiat does not want to interfere with Chrysler’s traditional markets in the U.S, so Fiat won’t sell any vehicle larger than a Focus.
US brand boss, Laura Soaves said “Fiat will be the small car brand,”. “It will never have anything larger than a C [segment].”
Alfa Romeo’s planned ‘halo car’ will offer a modest amount of vehicles when first released. However Alfa Romeo hopes to sell 150 8C cars before the 4C is deemed effective for launch in North America.
Discuss this story at Fiat500Owners.com
Toyota is taking product development authority away from Japanese bosses and putting it in the hands of North American executives as part of a larger change aimed at fixing quality control issues that hurt the automaker’s reputation last year.
Until now, vehicles produced and designed and developed in North America had to be approved by chief engineers in Japan. Vehicles unique to the North American market such as the Venza, Sienna, Avalon, Tacoma and Tundra will no longer require painstaking and frustrating sign-offs from Japan at each step of the development processes.
“We are going to implement the process from design to preparation for production to development, cost planning, and identifying and selecting suppliers,” said Inaba, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. “All these processes are going to be 100 percent done here, without going back to Japan for approval.”
The changes come too late to affect the development of the redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry due this fall, however upcoming models based in North America, such as the next Tundra pickup, will see the result of the new structure.
[Source: Automotive News]
Mazda announced today they have reached a production milestone of three million Mazda3 units as of April 26, 2011. The car is built in three factories (Japan, China, Thailand) and sold in roughly 90 countries and regions. In North America alone, over 1.1 million Mazda3s have been sold, becoming the fastest-selling model in Mazda’s current lineup of passenger vehicles.
Mazda has explained the success of this car through three factors: its distinctive design, its functionality, and its responsive handling. The wide range of models has also been a successful factor. Pricing has also been very competitive in the U.S starting at just over $16,000. The high performance Mazdaspeed3, has also been favorable to auto enthusiasts around the world.
It is quite an achievement for Mazda, considering it took nearly 22 years to hit 900,000 MX-5 Miatas. The Mazda3 three tripled that number in less than eight years.
Mazda’s senior managing executive officer, Hirotaka Kanazawa said, “Its sustained global success has seen it grow into Mazda’s mainstay model, and it now comprises a third of all Mazda vehicle sales.”
Hit the jump to see a list of the top 10 Best Selling Cars of All Time
North American Honda production will return to normal in August, earlier than expected, the company announced in a statement today.
The Japanese automaker has accelerated their recovery following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Every Honda model will resume regualar production in August, except the 2012 Civic. The company expects full production of the Civic to resume in the fall.
When the supply of parts from Japan improves, production will ramp up on a step-by-step, plant-by-plant, and model-by-model basis. Models including the 4-cylinder Accord, CR-V and Acura RDX, as well as all V-6 models including the Accord, Accord Crosstour, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline, and the Acura TL, MDX and ZDX will return to 100 percent production.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is glowing brighter for us, represented by this significant improvement in our production situation,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “Throughout this crisis, Honda has been fighting to achieve a speedy recovery, while maintaining a focus on our longer-term plans for continued growth in sales and production in order to meet the growing needs of our customers.”
Honda, which employs 13,400 in Ohio, said in a statement that it has managed to avoid any layoffs in any of its 14 plants in North America during the parts shortage.