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.
NHTSA is ramping up its investigation into the Saturn Aura after numerous complaints of the vehicle moving while in park or accelerating in the opposite direction to which the driver intended.
A total of 33 complaints have been received by NHTSA and GM combined, covering both 2007 and 2008 model Auras. So far, an engineering analysis is underway, but this is considered a step on the way to a full recall of the vehicles. One incident saw an Aura driver place the car in park and exit the vehicle, only to be struck by the car as it rolled backwards. The recall could affect as many as 65,000 cars.
General Motors much loved LNF engine, the same 2.0L Ecotec that powered the Pontiac Solstice GXP, Saturn Sky Redline and Chevrolet Cobalt SS is continuing on in the Buick Regal Turbo and Buick Regal GS, but a new generation of turbocharged 4-cylinder motor is set to replace the LNF next year, packing even more power.
While the LNF makes as much as 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft in the Regal GS, the new engine, dubbed the LHU, will be used as a replacement for V6 engines in mid-size cars, and is expected to make at least 280 horsepower in standard trim. Given that GM’s current “high feature” V6 makes 306 horsepower, we should expect a figure somewhere in that area.
The LHU will get its first use in the Cadillac ATS sports sedan and the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. Expect it to migrate to other products in the near future as well.
[Source: GM Inside News]
Rumors of a Chevrolet Cruze 3-door hatchback appear to be just that, after an interview with General Motors North American President Mark Reuss surfaced, stating that the Cruze is too late in its North American product cycle for a hatchback.
On the other hand, reports are emerging that Buick may get a hatchback version of the Opel Astra GTC, which could end up being a variant of the Verano (shown above). The new car is expected to bow in 2014, and hopefully the Verano Turbo’s 2.0L 4-cylinder making 250 horsepower is offered. Buick will have to plan carefully for this product, as GM’s Saturn division has already tried importing a version of the Astra, and was met with an utterly dismal response from consumers.
[Source: GM Inside News]
In his book, “Car guys versus Bean Counters,” the indomitable Bob Lutz talks about many things relating to General Motors. He talks about how the company is now on track, giving credit to former CEO Ed Whitacre and his replacement Dan Akerson.
He talks about how the company went from being obsessed with numbers and statistics, to building quality cars and trucks as its number one priority.
And he also talks about the passing of GM’s late, lamented brands, Hummer, Saturn and Pontiac. While Hummer is described as being the target of left-wing activists and politically viewed as the automotive anti-Christ, even though to quote Lutz himself “an H2 doesn’t burn any more fuel than a V12 Mercedes,” he says it was too bad that Saturn didn’t make it, because GM had given the division it’s best ever lineup, with offerings like the Aura sedan and Astra hatchback.
As for Pontiac, it’s this one that he laments the most. Not only did GM’s sporty division already boast a great lineup with cars like the G8 and the Solstice, but before the decision was taken to shutter the brand, Pontiac was also working on another sporty, rear drive offering, likely based off the Alpha platform.
Unfortunately, now we’ll never know what could have emerged from the Arrowhead division and that’s just too bad. As Lutz says, “Pontiac was virtually destroyed by the fact that we had a new head of Pontiac division about every eight months, and every head had a brand-new idea for its product direction.”
Perhaps a sign of what could have been, we’re reminded of an incredible looking Pontiac coupe design model (above) that we recently stumbled upon at GM’s North Hollywood Design Studio. How cool would that have been?
[Source: Ward's Auto World]
Outspoken curmudgeon and former GM badass-in-charge Bob Lutz has been popping up from retirement, serving as a consultant to General Motors and Lotus. And his former company’s bankruptcy restructuring left the company “in good hands,” he said.
Speaking at a conference, Lutz said that the outsiders who served as CEO and CFO during the two-year restructuring had “no history of running the auto industry in the U.S. the wrong way.” And, he continued, it included the elimination of the four brands from the mothership: Hummer, Pontiac, Saturn, and Saab.
“It was the environmental anti-Christ,” Lutz admitted about Hummer. Saab was a drain on resources and only appealed to university professors, while Saturn was a sales disappointment. But—as he spoke like a true car guy—Pontiac was the one ”I personally regret went away,” said Lutz.
There’s only one solution, Lutz: screaming chickens on all future Loti.
The Saturn Vue is back, but you won’t be able to buy one. That’s because the Chevrolet Captiva Sport, essentially a rebadged Vue, will only be available to fleet customers.
With either a 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder or a 3.0L direct injection V6, the Captiva will offer an adequate powertrain for all types of customers, but we would think that fleet buyers would choose the 4-cylinder in light of the way gas prices are going up with no end in sight.
Having already been homologated for U.S. sales, the Captiva Sport should offer Chevrolet a good way to keep up in the all-important fleet market without compromising resale values of products like the Equinox crossover or the larger Traverse.
The trim can prevent the seats from folding flat after they were moved upright, and the seat belt buckle release can also inadvertently be pressed, resulting in the belts coming undone.
Starting August 31st, GM will either fix the trim piece, replace the seat belt buckle or make whatever modifications are necessary to ensure that the vehicle is safe. Owners can call Chevrolet at 800-630-2438, Buick at 866-608-8080, GMC at 866-996-9463, Saturn at 800-972-8876 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s hot line at 888-327-4236.
[Source: Kicking Tires]
Just like the title says, the venerable magazine Consumers Reports has released its list of cars suitable for teen drivers, and absolutely none of them will make the budding enthusiast glow with delight.
Of course, Consumers Reports is primarly concerned with safety when it comes to cars for first time drivers, so their choices are swayed by features like Electronic Stability Control, curtain airbags and the like. The choices are split between pedestrian fare like the Toyota Camry and Saturn Aura, and older luxury cars like the Acura RL or the BMW 3 and 5 Series. As the magazine astutely points out, older luxury cars will be a little nicer and come with a wide array of safety gear, but repairs will certainly be costly.
Hit the jump to see the full list of Consumers Reports’ Top 10 Cars For Teen Drivers
[Source: Consumers Reports]
General Motors has announced a massive recall of 1.5 million vehicles over concern that their heated windshield washer fluid system could catch fire. No solution for the problem is available and so GM will give owners a $100 rebate (yup, $150 million in total) for the loss of the feature on their vehicle.
GM had previously recalled vehicles with this system back in August of 2008 for the same issue, and even refused to pay the supplier (Micro-Heat) for the new HotShot system to cover the costs. Micro-Heat was then forced to file for bankruptcy.
Affected vehicles include: the 2006-2009 Buick Lucerne, Cadillac DTS, Hummer H2; the 2008-2009 Buick Enclave and Cadillac CTS; the 2007-2009 Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV, Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon, Yukon XL, Saturn Outlook and the 2009 model year Chevrolet Traverse.
Of the total 1.5 million vehicles recalled 1,365,070 are in the U.S., 98,794 in Canada, 26,228 and in Mexico.
Frederick “Fritz” Henderson has resigned as General Motors chief executive officer.
Henderson (left, in the photo above) was appointed CEO on March 29, replacing Rick Waggoner who shown the door by the Obama administration. Over the last eight months, Henderson worked at reorganizing the company. GM announced that Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr. (right, in the photo) will take over as interim CEO until a permanent replacement is found.
“Fritz has done a remarkable job in leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change,” said Whitacre. “While momentum has been building over the past several months, all involved agree that changes needed to be made. To this end, I have taken over the role of Chairman and CEO while an international search for a new president and CEO begins immediately. With these new duties, I will begin working in the Renaissance Center headquarters on a daily basis. The leadership team – many who are with me today – are united and committed to the task at hand.”
During Henderson’s tenure, GM filed for Chapter 11 protection and, 40 days later, emerged from protection with help from the government. On Nov. 16, Henderson announced GM would begin paying back the government’s $6.7 billion loan.
As part of the company’s recovery efforts, GM scaled back to four key brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. Pontiac is shutting down and GM found a Chinese buyer for Hummer. GM also came close to finding new owners for Saturn and Saab. A deal with Roger Penske for Saturn fell apart, while a deal for Saab with Koenigsegg also fell through. GM also announced today it has “has received expressions of interest in Saab” and will evaluate potential bids before the end of December.
[Source: MSNBC and Associated Press]
GM announces plans to dismantle Saturn network in the near future.
Penske’s deal to buy the Saturn arm of General Motors has reportedly fallen through. Back in June the Penske Automotive Group (PAG) had announced it would buy the brand from GM, along with its dealer network.
“This is very disappointing news and comes after months of hard work by hundreds of dedicated employees and Saturn retailers who tried to make the new Saturn a reality,” said CEO Fritz Henderson in a statement, commenting that the issue was that Penske Automotive Group could not solidify a deal with another automaker to supply vehicles after the contract with GM was scheduled to run out.
Many sources had pointed to Penske rebadging vehicles from French automaker Renault to sell in the U.S., but that appears to have not come to fruition.
GM has announced that it will close the remaining Saturn dealerships and that owners will be able to purchase (hahaha!) or have vehicles serviced at retailers until that point. Afterwards, owners will continue to be able to have their vehicles serviced at a GM facility.
[Source: Globe & Mail]
Future owner of brand would eliminate Canadian operations once sale with GM goes through
According to a recent report on CBC Radio’s French website Radio Canada, the Penske Automotive Group plans to close all the Saturn dealers in Canada once its deal to buy the brand from General Motors is complete.
At one time there were 60 Saturn dealers in Canada, but half of those dropped out of the business during this turbulent year as General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection. The business case for keeping just 30 dealers in such a vast country as Canada apparently makes for a poor business decision.
We can also speculate on additional concerns, including the fact that if Penske does plan to rebadge Renault vehicles, as has widely been speculated, then there would be twice as much red tape involved by having to go through not just U.S., but also Canadian bureaucratic regulation procedures.
The closure of Saturn in Canada is expected to effect 2,000 people.
[Source: Autoblog via Radio Canada]
If all goes as planned the Penske-owned Saturn brand could be selling rebadged vehicles from French automaker Renault in the U.S. Thought to be a wild rumor at first, Renault has now confirmed that Penske has in fact approached the automaker to supply both parts and cars.
Currently Penske Automotive Group has a tentative deal with General Motors to buy its Saturn brand. Penske is expected to take full control of the company by September. The deal would see GM continue to supply vehicles for two years and does not include any manufacturing abilities, meaning that Penske must forge an alliance with another automaker to obtain vehicles.
Renault spokeswoman Frederique LeGreves would not comment further on the proposed deal but did say that it would not involve any part of Renault’s Nissan division.
Penske Automotive spokesman Tony Pordon wouldn’t comment specifically either but did say that his company is in talks with several different manufacturers.
In Europe Renault sells a full line of vehicles including the popular compact Clio as well as high performance models like the Megane RS (pictured above).
[Source: Automotive News]
Earlier this week General Motors officially turned off the lights and locked the doors at its Boxwood Road assembly plant for the last time, marking the end of the line for the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
The two vehicles (along with the Opel GT) were manufactured at the plant in Wilmington, Delaware, which is being closed as a part of GM’s restructuring process.
General Motors has decided to eliminate the Pontiac brand and sell Saturn to the Penske Automotive Group. The announcement to close the plant came on July 1st when GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time GM gave short notice to plant workers saying the facility would be shuttered by the end of July.
GM spokesman John Raut said the final vehicle to roll off the assembly line was a silver Pontiac Solstice.
New, ideally-located and available Saturn dealerships the perfect fit as Kia looks to expand in the U.S.
While GM has reached a deal with Penske to sell off its Saturn brand, the future for dealers is anything but certain and Korean automaker Kia is hoping to capitalize on that.
Kia dealerships are often in either rural areas or less popular urban areas because land in high-traffic and densely populated urban areas is just too expensive. With both GM and Chrysler eliminating dealerships in urban areas, Kia intends to take advantage of this opportunity and make a big push. And with many well-appointed and nicely designed Saturn dealers conveniently located in those higher traffic areas, Kia hopes to convince Saturn retailers into switching to the Kia line.
In an interview with Automotive News, Kia executives said that the fact the Saturn dealerships are new and ideally-located is important, but the main factor is their availability.
Kia is targeting Saturn dealers in three main ways. First, it is looking to buy Saturn dealerships that are closing or closed and convert them to Kia dealerships. Second, it is seeing if any operational Saturn dealerships are interested in switching to Kia. And third, Kia is seeing if Saturn dealers who aren’t interested in the first two are interested in opening up a separate Kia franchise.
[Source: Automotive News via Autoblog]
The next General Motors product to get a plug-in hybrid powertrain, like the one that will be introduced in the Chevy Volt, may be a Buick.
This new PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) was supposed to be a version of the Saturn Vue, but as GM has now sold off the Saturn brand to the Penske Automotive Group those plans have most likely been scrapped. After all, we can’t see GM parting with its fancy new PHEV system so easily after all the time, effort and resources it has poured into creating it.
Speculation as to which model would get the powertrain immediately turned towards similar GM crossovers, but according to the folks at GM-Volt.com, the doner chassis will be an all-new small crossover which, according to GM’s design boss Ed Welburn is due out in 2011.
If GM does decide to go this route, we will most-likely see Toyota develop a similar PHEV platform shortly afterwards. Or perhaps just a PHEV-version of the Lexus RX.
The 2010 model lineup for the soon-to-be-terminated Pontiac brand will consist of just one model – the Vibe.
Recently GM interim CEO Fritz Henderson reiterated the company’s position that the G8 would not carry on as either a Buick, Chevy or Cadillac. The G3 and G5 will also cease production this year, while the G6 will only be made available to government, corporate and rental car fleets.
There has been no word lately on the Solstice model. GM had made it known that it would consider offers for the Solstice (as well as the Saturn Sky and Opel GT) as a separate entity, but with the sale of Saturn to Penske, that now seems unlikely.
In an effort to spice up sales of the final run of the Vibe, Pontiac will offer the car with air conditioning standard, and make it available in a new color – Ignition Orange.
GM’s official line is that it wants to work with Toyota on a new vehicle to build at the joint GM-Toyota NUMI plant in California where sister cars the Vibe and Martix are produced, but our sources have indicated that GM wants out.
While the Vibe is a great car, we hope the sad irony of a vehicle built for utilitarian purposes being the last one offered by the company’s performance brand is not lost on the folks at GM.
Official Announcement Expected Later Today
General Motors has reached an agreement with the Penske Automotive Group on the sale of its Saturn brand. An official announcement is expected to be made by both parties later today.
The Penske Automotive Group was thought to be one of the front-runners in the bidding war, which also reportedly included Nissan/Renault, Mitsubishi and investment firm Telesto Ventures.
The news comes just days after GM sold off its Hummer brand to Chinese industrial equipment manufacturer Tengzhong.
The Penske Automotive Group is comprised of several key automotive related companies and boasts the second largest dealer network in the U.S., accounting for sales of 171,872 vehicles in 2008.
Penske also distributes the SMART car throughout the United States under a deal with Mercedes parent company Daimler.
As a former race car driver, Roger Penske continues to be involved in motorsports, and currently runs teams in three major racing series: the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Indy Racing League (IRL).
The sale of Saturn would leave GM with just the Swedish brand Saab to dispose of. It has been reported that buyers for Saab have been narrowed down to just two: Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg and the U.S.-based Renco Group.
The news was reported this morning in the New York Times, which also said that after an initial contract with GM runs out, the Penske operated Saturn brand is expected to sell Renault vehicles in the United States. Does this mean North America will finally get cars like the Clio and Megane…. or even the Megane R.S.? (pictured above)
[Source: New York Times]
With news of a tentative deal to sell off Hummer coming yesterday, GM still hasn’t made any decisions about its Saturn or Saab brands – but apparently it has plenty of offers to entertain.
GM CFO Ray Young said that Saturn has as many as 16 suitors, while the Swedish Saab brand has three.
The list of Saturn buyers is reported to include Penske Automotive Group, Malcolm Bricklin, Mitsubishi, Nissan/Renault and investment firm Telesto Ventures.
Young did say that it is interested in working with the Saturn buyer when it comes to vehicle assembly.
As for Saab, Swedish business paper Dagens Industri is reporting that the three buyers are U.S. financier Ira Rennert and his Renco Group, Fiat and Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg.
Successful Saturn Bid Could See Opel-Based Saturns Built in Canada
By solidifying a deal to take control of GM’s European operations, Canada’s Magna International Inc. is eager to start producing Opel cars in Canada.
“We want to build Opel cars in Canada,” said company founder and CEO Frank Stronach. “Canada should have its own Canadian company … a truly Canadian automobile industry.”
The third largest auto parts supplier in the world, Magna certainly has the resources and the know-how – it just doesn’t have the facilities to build cars in Canada. That, however, might all change as Chrysler may close operations and General Motors Canada recently shut down its truck plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
The lower value of the Canadian currently would likely help matters and should be enough to easily offset the cost of shipping vehicles to Europe – although it’s not clear that Canadian-built cars would be for the European market, as moving production outside of Germany would certainly be a devastating public relations move.
What Stronach may have in mind is for Opel-based cars to be built in Canada for distribution in Canada and the U.S. As Magna is also currently bidding to take control of Saturn from GM, it’s entirely possible that production of those models, all but one of which are based on Opel vehicles, could happen in Magna’s backyard.
There is also a strong possibility that Magna will expand into the Russian car market.
Magna’s partners in the Opel deal include Sberbank of Russia and both Stronach and Magna have strong ties to Russia. Stronach actually did work as an auto industry adviser for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian Magna investor Oleg Deripaska (the owner of Russian truck maker GAZ) has had long standing aspirations to sell consumer cars.
Building Opel models in Russia is a strong possibility, however, it is unlikely those models would be exported to Europe.
General Motors is expected to announce final candidates for the sale of Saturn in the next few weeks.
[Source: The Globe and Mail]
Japanese automaker could use Saturn dealerships to almost double its retail network
Oddly, it seems as though Saturn is far more interesting and far more loved as the up-for auction arm of a doomed for bankruptcy company than it ever was as regular old car brand. To date the Penske Automotive Group, automaker Nissan/Renault and investment firm Telesto Ventures have all been cited as potential buyers. Now we can add Mitsubishi to that list.
According to a report in the Detroit News the Japanese automaker is in talks with GM to supply its vehicles to the existing Saturn dealership network. The move would see Mitsu expand its number of dealerships in the U.S. by 380 – up from the current 430 dealerships.
The move seems unlikely as Mitsubishi is suffering in the current economic downturn. In April the company sold just 3,919 vehicle in the U.S., down 55.9 percent from the same month in 2008.
Mitsubishi is, however, eager to gain a larger percentage of the U.S. market and until recently was even engaged in talks with Chrysler to bring a small electric car called the Peapod Mobility to the U.S.
The company does appear to be beefing up it’s product line and rebranding its existing products. Company representatives have made it clear that the i MiEV electric micro-car (pictured above) will come to North America and a coupe version of the car has been explored in concept form. Additionally, Mitsu recently launched the Sportback version of the Lancer. As far as rebranding, the company is finally picking up on the success of the Lancer and Evo models and is giving that look to the rest of its line. We’ve already seen it with the 2009 Eclipse and the next generation Outlander promises to have an Evo-style nose.
[Source: Detroit News]
The possibility that Penske Automotive Group may in fact purchase the Saturn brand from General Motors has just increased significantly. Penske has acquired the services of former Chrysler President Tom LaSorda as an adviser on the bid.
Penske is the second largest dealership group in the U.S. and also distributes the SMART brand of cars in the U.S. for Mercedes parent company Daimler.
The Detroit News is reporting that the Penske bid may involve other partners, including Serra Automotive Inc. and the Suburban Collection. Serra Automotive is the 15th largest dealership group in the U.S. with 21 stores in six states. The Suburban Collection is the 13th largest group and boasts 7 Saturn dealerships.
While many of GM’s brands have received little attention from prospective buyers the list of parties interested in Saturn seems to grow daily. Bloomberg is reporting that Canada’s Magna International is interested in Saturn, while other recent reports indicate Renault/Nissan is interested.
Saturn has said it has engaged in talks with the investment firm Telesto Ventures about a possible sale.
Currently GM is eager to part with Saturn as it faces a June 1st restructuring deadline.
[Source: Automotive News]
It’s not exactly the sort of news worthy of a celebration, but some cautious optimism is certainly appropriate as word comes that the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky might not suffer the same fate as almost every other fun vehicle under the General Motors umbrella.
Fritz Henderson, GM’s new CEO said that the company would be willing to part with the plant where the two sports cars are assembled. The Wilmington, Del. plant is also the location where GM manufactures the Opel GT – a European version of the car.
“If someone were to approach with a proposal that made good sense for our people, we’d be open to it,” Henderson said.
Both the Solstice and Sky were introduced in 2006 as front-engine, rear-wheel drive roadsters. The models come standard with a 173hp four-cylinder, with a turbocharged 260-hp four-cylinder optional.
General Motors is still intent on selling off the Saturn brand and scuttling the Pontiac nameplate, however, it won’t rule out selling the Wilmington facility as there is likely to be some interest in the niche-market vehicles.
Last year GM moved close to 20,000 units of the two American models, with the Solstice selling 10,739 units and the Sky 9,162 units.
The move is similar to the one made by Chrysler in regards to the Dodge Viper. Chrysler has yet to find a buyer for that iconic nameplate.