19 Jul, 2016

Americans have spoken: Now 54.5 mpg CAFE target is off the table

By |July 19th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Americans have spoken: Now 54.5 mpg CAFE target is off the table

Pickup truck and SUV sales force MPG reassessment in light of consumer demand

Automakers have all the tools at their disposal to meet the 54.5 mpg corporate average fuel economy targets for the 2025 model year, but buyer preferences for SUVs and trucks make it likely that the industry will fall short of that number, U.S. regulators said in a report Monday.

The EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and California Air Resources Board released their draft Technical Assessment Report analyzing costs, technology and other issues involved in the industry’s drive toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The assessment was scheduled as part of the 2011 agreement to lower emissions in cars and improve fuel economy by the 2025 model year.

The auto industry is “adopting fuel economy technologies at unprecedented rates,” the government agencies said in a statement Monday. “Car makers and suppliers have developed far more innovative technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce GHG emissions than anticipated just a few years ago.”

The report also says that automakers have been able to meet the current regulations for about the same cost or even less than the government projected in 2012. And the report says automakers will be able to meet standards with improvements in standard gasoline engines, and won’t need to rely heavily on sales of hybrids or electric cars.

Even with all those positives, government officials said, the 54.5 mpg goal is off the table. Lower gasoline prices have kept demand for SUVs, crossovers and other light trucks higher than originally anticipated, meaning the advances in fuel economy technology won’t be reflected fully in the fleet averages, which are sales-weighted.

 Senior administration officials told reporters on a conference call Monday that the 54.5 mpg goal was never a mandate but more of an estimate of where the industry could be by the 2025 model year. That estimate was based on an assumption that 67 percent of the market would be cars and 33 percent would be SUVs, crossovers, pickups and other light trucks.

But customers haven’t moved from their desire to buy SUVs, crossovers and trucks. Now the government estimates the overall fleet average fuel economy will hit between 50 mpg and 52.6 mpg by the 2025 model year. The new estimates assume a more even split between cars and trucks in the marketplace.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group for 12 carmakers and the Detroit 3, said in a statement that “excessive regulatory costs could impact both consumers and the employees who produce these vehicles.”

Changing the target fuel economy figure reflects consumer demand, the alliance said. “The government is acknowledging the effect of factors like low gas prices on consumer sales, and the impact of consumer sales on those targets,” it said.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said the auto industry has the power to shape consumer preferences through its advertising campaigns and could easily meet the 54.5 mpg target if it stopped aggressively marketing SUVs and trucks.

“There is no excuse not to improve efficiency and strengthen the standards,” Becker said. “We can’t accept backsliding or loopholes that undermine their success just to put more gas-guzzlers on the road.”

The report is open to public comment for 60 days. The EPA will make a final determination on the 2022 to 2025 model year regulations by April 1, 2018.

 Read more: Auto Week
19 Jul, 2016

Jeep is the engine that drives Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

By |July 19th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Jeep is the engine that drives Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Jeep sales are up 17 percent in the United States over 2015 record sales

In its 75-year history, Jeep never has been in better shape than it is right now.

The reason? Current owner Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has accomplished what a succession of previous owners only dreamed of: truly globalizing one of the world’s most storied automotive brands.

Worldwide, Jeep’s deliveries in 2015 topped 1.2 million vehicles, its fourth consecutive record year for global production and sales.

Jeep Renegades are now built in Europe (Italy), South America (Brazil) and Asia (China) for sale in those regional markets. By the end of the year, production of the replacement for the Jeep Compass will begin in Brazil and China, as well as Mexico. Jeep-branded vehicles also will soon begin rolling into India, with local production slated to begin in 2017.

Meanwhile, sales in Jeep’s largest and most profitable market, the United States, are up 17 percent through June over record 2015 sales.

Jeep’s lineup also is expanding. Brand head Mike Manley said last month that luxury full-size SUVs under the storied Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer names will return with the development of a redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2019. On the other end of the size spectrum, a micro-segment Jeep, smaller than the Renegade, is under strong consideration, primarily for markets outside North America.

Photo: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailhawkPHOTO BY JEEP

Meanwhile, FCA is expanding production capacity of its profit-rich Wrangler by at least 50 percent, allowing the brand to fulfill what it sees as unmet domestic and international demand. The added capacity also will allow for the return of a pickup to the Jeep lineup for the first time since 1996.

CEO Sergio Marchionne says Jeep is the engine that keeps his company going, no matter how tough the economic circumstances become.

“One of the things that we’ve always faced in the United States in the production of Jeeps is to make this unfortunate Sophie’s Choice about whether we sell in the U.S. or whether we sell overseas,” Marchionne explained this year. “In the last probably three or four years especially, we’ve been forced to make choices about which markets get allocated product.

“Even if there were to be a contraction of the U.S. market, there is unexplored potential in terms of outside U.S. markets, especially where we have not established local production,” he said.

“Anything which relates to either a Cherokee or a Grand Cherokee and eventually a Wagoneer or Wrangler will have additional means of expression in international markets.”

The article “Jeep is the engine that drives Fiat Chrysler globally” first appeared on Automotive News.

Read more: http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/jeep-engine-drives-fca#ixzz4Et8HpXtX

19 Jul, 2016

VW execs covered up diesel cheating, state lawsuits allege

By |July 19th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on VW execs covered up diesel cheating, state lawsuits allege

WASHINGTON — Senior executives at Volkswagen AG including former CEO Martin Winterkorn covered up evidence that the German automaker had cheated on U.S. diesel emissions tests for years, three U.S. states charged on Tuesday in civil lawsuits against the company.

New York, Massachusetts and Maryland filed separate, nearly identical lawsuits in state courts, accusing the world’s No. 2 automaker of violating their environmental laws. The lawsuits, which could lead to state fines of hundreds of millions of dollars or more, complicate VW’s efforts to move past the diesel scandal that has hurt its business and reputation, and already cost it billions of dollars.

The suits outlined more than a decade of efforts by VW to deceive regulators in the U.S. and Europe, citing internal VW documents.

VW last September admitted using sophisticated secret software in its cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests, with millions of vehicles worldwide affected. The scandal prompted the departure of VW’s CEO and other executives.

The states charged that dozens of VW employees at various levels knew that the company’s “clean diesel” engines could not meet pollution standards in normal driving without compromises to performance or fuel economy. The suits publicly identified for the first time many of these employees and accused them of “unlawful conduct.”

The suits said at least eight employees in VW’s engineering department deleted or removed incriminating data in August 2015 after a senior attorney advised them of an impending order not to destroy documents. The New York suit stated that “some but not all of the data has been recovered.”

The suits were filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in Albany, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in Boston and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in Baltimore. Additional states could file similar actions, Schneiderman’s office said.

Healey said the suit is aimed at sending a message “to all auto manufacturers that violating laws designed to protect our environment and our public health is unacceptable and will be punished with significant penalties.”

Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan criticized the states’ decision to file suit and said the company already has agreed to spend billions of dollars to address all environmental harms from the excess emissions.

The states’ claims “are essentially not new and we have been addressing them in our discussions with U.S. federal and state authorities,” Ginivan said. “… It is regrettable that some states have decided to sue for environmental claims now.”

Winterkorn and VW’s former global head of marketing, Christian Klingler, knew by spring 2014 “of the existence of unlawful ‘defeat devices’ and did nothing to prevent both Audi and Volkswagen from repeatedly deceiving regulators,” the New York lawsuit stated.

Real-world testing 

In March 2014, VW learned that West Virginia University had conducted testing that found real-world testing on two VW diesel cars had emissions five to 35 times legally allowable limits, the suits alleged.

That prompted an email to Winterkorn in May 2014 from Frank Tuch, then head of group quality management for Volkswagen, who wrote that “a thorough explanation for the dramatic increase in NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions cannot be given to the authorities.”

German prosecutors said last month that Winterkorn is under investigation.

The New York suit stated that current CEO Matthias Mueller, then head of project management at Audi, and Winterkorn became aware in July 2006 of the effect of undersized urea tanks on the ability to comply with emissions standards. The suit said VW opted to install defeat software instead of larger tanks to save money.

The suits did not state Mueller was aware of the cheating.

The suits alleged that VW initially used the defeat devices in 2.0-liter vehicles because the soot filter would break within 50,000 miles if used at all times, far sooner than required under U.S. law.

The suits cited internal documents from as early as 2007 about Volkswagen’s determination to promote “clean diesel” technology as a rival to Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrid. The states obtained 1.1 million documents totaling 7.5 million pages in their nine-month VW investigation.

VW has admitted that it installed improper software that deactivated pollution controls on more than 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide, and last month agreed to pay $15.3 billion to settle U.S. federal litigation and charges lodged by 44 U.S. states that the company violated consumer fraud laws.

The U.S. Justice Department and EPA have not yet reached a deal with Volkswagen on fines as part of separate settlement that could lead to an outside monitor overseeing VW’s compliance with U.S. laws. VW also faces a Justice Department criminal investigation.

VW faces potentially billions of dollars more in costs in the U.S. if it is forced to buy back 85,000 3.0-liter Audi, Porsche and VW cars and SUVs sold since 2009. Last week, California rejected its proposed fix plan.

Source: Automotive News

19 Jul, 2016

VW done with diesel push in U.S., exec says

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CHATTANOOGA — Volkswagen will take a step back from the diesel powertrains that defined its U.S. vehicle lineup for the better part of a decade amid a repositioning of the brand in the aftermath of the automaker’s emissions scandal, VW’s top U.S. official says.

Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, told Automotive News this week that VW won’t relaunch “clean diesels” as a core element of its brand identity in the U.S., where VW dominated diesel passenger car sales before being consumed by its emissions cheating scandal.

Diesels are in VW’s plans for 2017 through 2019, assuming regulatory approval, Woebcken said, but the company is re-evaluating the role of the powertrain in its U.S. lineup further in the future.

“We are not stopping diesel. Wherever diesel makes sense as a package to the car, we’ll continue,” Woebcken said. “But in reality, we have to accept that the high percentage of diesels that we had before will not come back again.”

The recognition reflects a significant shift for VW, which prior to the scandal offered a diesel engine in six of the eight nameplates it sold in the U.S., accounting for more than 20 percent of its pre-scandal U.S. sales and the lion’s share of all U.S. diesel car sales.

VW halted sales of 2015 model diesels in September 2015 after the EPA announced the company’s emissions violations. In October, VW withdrew requests for EPA approvals needed to sell 2016 model diesels. It hasn’t yet asked for EPA permission to begin selling new diesels again.

Tougher penalties

VW’s thinking also reflects the challenges that it and other automakers offering diesels will face from that so-called Tier 3 tailpipe emissions regulations that take effect in 2017. The U.S. rules start to get much tougher after 2019, especially for oxides of nitrogen emissions, and are expected to require significant changes to diesel emissions systems.

“The regulations from 2019-2020 are going to be so hard that we would have had to find an alternative to a certain extent anyhow,” Woebcken said. “The diesel crisis is forcing us simply to think about this earlier.”

As Volkswagen works to rebuild from the crisis, a broad effort is under way to reposition its U.S. brand identity, placing a greater emphasis on crossovers and all-wheel-drive offerings in the near term and electrified vehicles in the future.

New products

That will begin this fall with the arrival of the Golf Alltrack. The higher-riding Golf wagon with a more rugged appearance and awd goes on sale this fall as a competitor to vehicles such as the Subaru Outback and XV Crosstrek.

VW’s long-awaited midsize crossover, assembled at VW’s factory here, will hit showrooms in late March or early April, Woebcken said. A new, longer-wheelbase Tiguan compact crossover built at VW’s sprawling plant in Puebla, Mexico, will arrive about three months later.

Unlike the premium pricing of its current Tiguan and Touareg crossovers, Woebcken said, the new crossover duo will be priced competitively in the mainstream compact and midsize crossover segments. Both models will be built in North America with nearly all components sourced locally, though not the powertrain, Woebcken said.

In 2020, he said, VW plans to introduce the first of multiple electric vehicles in the U.S. based on VW’s new MEB modular battery-electric platform announced in late 2015. VW also is looking to deploy electrification and hybrid technologies more broadly in its lineup, Woebcken said.

Source: Automotive News

19 Jul, 2016

Silvercar’s Commercial Features Troy Aikman

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Aikman will be part of a larger marketing campaign for Silvercar, including the company’s first television commercial.

“Troy Aikman represents everything that we would want in a spokesperson for Silvercar,” said Luke Schneider, CEO of Silvercar. “As a businessman who is on the road constantly, he knows the importance of having a premium car rental experience at a great price. We look forward to having a long partnership with Troy.”

The debut commercial features Aikman along with actor Judah Friedlander. The commercial is a funny spoof on the perils of airport car rental with Aikman and Friedlander as two travelers going in completely opposite directions when it comes time to make a crucial decision, according to Silvercar. VICE Media’s creative agencies Virtue and Pulse produced the spot.

“I’ve been a fan of Silvercar since the first time that I used the service,” said Aikman. “I represent companies that I truly believe in, and with the amount of time I travel, I’ve realized that Silvercar is the best car rental service available. It makes my travels simpler and easier to navigate.”

Currently, Silvercar has locations in Austin, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Denver, Newark, and New York (Brooklyn, Manhattan).

To access Silvercar, consumers can download the Silvercar Mobile app available on both Apple and Android mobile platforms. For more information, visit www.silvercar.com.

19 Jul, 2016

Wholesale Prices Fall in June, Up Yearly Due to Trucks

By |July 19th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Wholesale Prices Fall in June, Up Yearly Due to Trucks

Average wholesale values fell again on a month-over-month basis in June, but they remain up on a year-over-year basis largely because of the continued price strength of trucks, according to the latest Kontos Kommentary from ADESA Chief Economist Tom Kontos.

A portion of the month-over-month price decline can be explained by the usual falloff in prices from May to June, typifying the transition from the strong spring/tax season to the less robust summer months, according to Kontos. However, incentive activity, which has been relatively benign, may be on the rise, as manufacturers look to boost waning new vehicle sales.

According to ADESA Analytical Services’ monthly analysis of Wholesale Used Vehicle Prices by Vehicle Model Class, wholesale used vehicle prices in June averaged $10,556 — down 1.5% compared to May but up 3.3% relative to June 2015. Car model classes again took the bigger month-over-month hit and were down on a year-over-year basis while trucks were up.

Average wholesale prices for used vehicles remarketed by manufacturers were up 5.7% month-over-month and up 2% year-over-year, according to ADESA. Prices for fleet/lease consignors were down 1.1% sequentially but up 0.7% annually. Dealer consignors registered a 1.1% decrease versus May but a 3.6% increase relative to June 2015.

Data from NADA showed a 5.3% year-over-year increase in retail used vehicle sales by franchised dealers and a 9.1% increase for independent dealers in June, while both were up significantly month over month.

Wholesale Used Vehicle Price Trends
Average Prices ($/Unit)Latest Month Versus:
Jun-16May-16Jun-15Prior MonthPrior Year
Total All Vehicles$10,556$10,718$10,215-1.5%3.3%
Total Cars$8,566$8,952$8,901-4.3%-3.8%
Compact Car$6,468$6,835$6,765-5.4%-4.4%
Midsize Car$7,659$8,045$7,690-4.8%-0.4%
Fullsize Car$7,354$7,864$7,820-6.5%-6.0%
Luxury Car$13,087$13,740$13,881-4.7%-5.7%
Sporty Car$14,294$14,207$13,8130.6%3.5%
Total Trucks$12,573$12,673$11,675-0.8%7.7%
Mini Van$7,823$7,932$7,353-1.4%6.4%
Fullsize Van$12,483$13,361$13,022-6.6%-4.1%
Compact SUV/CUV$10,868$10,851$10,4140.2%4.4%
Midsize SUV/CUV$11,101$11,484$10,123-3.3%9.7%
Fullsize SUV/CUV$13,639$13,502$11,7701.0%15.9%
Luxury SUV/CUV$18,850$19,175$18,655-1.7%1.0%
Compact Pickup$8,699$9,283$8,162-6.3%6.6%
Fullsize Pickup$15,797$15,857$14,420-0.4%9.6%

This Kontos Kommentary analysis is based on nearly six million annual sales transactions from more than 150 of the largest U.S. wholesale auto auctions, including those of ADESA as well as other auction companies. ADESA Analytical Services segregates these transactions to study trends by vehicle model class.

15 Jul, 2016

FlightCar to Shut Down

By |July 15th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on FlightCar to Shut Down

FlightCar’s technology platform has been acquired by Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America Inc. (MBRDNA), according to the company. The technology will be part of the business innovation division at MBRDNA, the lab for new mobility services. The price for the acquisition is unknown at this time.

Launched in 2012, FlightCar provided its customers with free airport parking as well as the chance to earn extra cash by renting out their unused cars to other approved members. FlightCar paid car owners when their car was rented, based on the mileage the car was driven.

“We believe that people around the world can be more self-reliant by sharing their resources to improve society, and we truly appreciate the community that came together to share and rent each other’s unique cars,” the company stated on its website. “We thank all of our customers for being a part of our journey, and we look forward to a new future.”

14 Jul, 2016

Avis Budget Group to Announce Second Quarter Results

By |July 14th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Avis Budget Group to Announce Second Quarter Results

Avis Budget Group Inc. plans to report its second quarter 2016 results after the market close on Tuesday Aug. 2. Then on Wednesday Aug. 3 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, Avis Budget will host a conference call to discuss such results.

Investors may access the call at ir.avisbudgetgroup.com or by dialing 630-395-0021 with the participant passcode 2995545, according to Avis Budget. Investors are encouraged to dial in approximately 10 minutes prior to the call.

Following the call, a Web replay will be available at ir.avisbudgetgroup.com. And a telephone replay will be available at 203-369-1243 from 11:00 a.m. EST on Aug. 3 until Aug. 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Source: Auto Rental News

13 Jul, 2016

NHTSA seeks answers on fatal Tesla Autopilot crash

By |July 13th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on NHTSA seeks answers on fatal Tesla Autopilot crash

WASHINGTON — U.S. highway safety regulators have demanded that Tesla Motors Inc. hand over detailed information about the design, operation and testing of its Autopilot technology following a May 7 fatal crash in which the system was in use.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, investigating an accident that has increased scrutiny of automated driving technology, also wants to know what Tesla investigators have learned about the crash.

The agency’s nine-page letter dated July 8 was made public Tuesday. It requires the Palo Alto-based automaker to file responses in the coming weeks.

Joshua Brown was killed when his vehicle, operating on Autopilot in Florida, drove under a tractor trailer. It was first known fatality to involve a Model S operating on the Autopilot system that takes control of steering and braking in certain conditions.

The agency is seeking details of all design changes and updates to Autopilot since it went into use last year, and information on whether Tesla plans updates in the next four months.

It also wants records of how many times the system told drivers to put their hands on the wheel and how often that led to the car automatically reducing vehicle power.

Other questions include what Autopilot does when cameras and sensors aren’t working properly, how the system was tested, and how it filters out “false positive events and interventions.”

NHTSA sends such letters as a part of its safety probes. Tesla declined to comment on the letter. Its stock was little changed at $224.65 a share, a decline of less than 0.1 percent.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company has no plans to disable Autopilot in the wake of the crash.

Records and data logs

When Tesla launched Autopilot in October, it said the system would allow the vehicle “to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control.”

But it added a disclaimer in a blog post that “the driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.” Before activating the service, drivers are informed on their screens that they must keep their hands on the wheel.

In its letter, NHTSA said it wants records and data logs of all crashes that could be linked to the software.

It disclosed that Tesla and NHTSA officials met on June 14 — two weeks before the agency opened a formal investigation. Tesla has said it informed NHTSA of the crash on May 16.

NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas reiterated that the agency “has not made any determination about the presence or absence of a defect in the subject vehicles.”

Tesla, in a blog post late last month about the accident, described Autopilot as being in a “public beta phase” and said customers have to opt in before activation.

In a July 10 tweet, Musk wrote that “beta” for Tesla means “any system (with) less than 1B miles of real world driving.”

NHTSA said last week it is reviewing another crash in Pennsylvania in which the driver reportedly said he was using Autopilot. Tesla said then it had no reason to believe Autopilot had “anything to do” with the accident.

The Pennsylvania State Police said on Tuesday that the Tesla driver, Albert Scaglione of Farmington Hills, Michigan, was charged with careless driving.

Tesla also said on Tuesday that its autosteer software was enabled during a third crash involving a Model X in Montana on Sunday. Autosteer is the steering function in Autopilot.

In that crash, the driver said Autopilot was engaged when the car slammed into 13 guardrails, said Montana State Trooper Jade Shope. The driver was issued an $85 ticket for careless driving.

Tesla said the data suggested “the driver’s hands were not on the steering wheel, as no force was detected on the steering wheel for over two minutes after autosteer was engaged.”

Tesla said the driver was using the feature on an undivided mountain road — which the company advises against — and didn’t respond to alerts to put his hands on the wheel.

Source: Automotive News

13 Jul, 2016

BMW’s ReachNow Adds 150 Cars to Seattle Fleet

By |July 13th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on BMW’s ReachNow Adds 150 Cars to Seattle Fleet

BMW’s ReachNow has announced the first expansion of its Home Area, just two and a half months after launching its carsharing service in Seattle. The Home Area will now include Southeast Seattle, West Seattle, and Magnolia.

Additionally, in order to have more vehicles available throughout the expanded Home Area, ReachNow has added 150 MINI Clubman cars to its Seattle fleet. With the addition of the MINI Clubmans, ReachNow’s fleet totals 520 vehicles — comprised of the all-wheel-drive BMW 3 Series, the electric BMW i3, the MINI Hardtop two- and four-door, and the four-door MINI Clubman.

“This rapid increase in the size of our fleet and expansion of our Home Area is a true testament to Seattleites’ willingness to embrace new technologies and services as they travel to and through the city,” said Steve Banfield, CEO of ReachNow. “The community has shown us they’re hungry for mobility options, and, as a result, we’re expanding our services earlier than anticipated to Southeast Seattle, West Seattle, and Magnolia.”

With this first expansion, ReachNow’s Home Area now includes neighborhoods where more than 75% of Seattleites live, according to the company.

“It’s been exciting to see ReachNow so widely endorsed by Seattle’s residents, and even more so that the service is now extending to additional neighborhoods, including Southeast Seattle,” said Bruce Harrell, president of the Seattle City Council. “Solving our city-wide transportation challenges requires creativity, innovation, partnership, and a commitment to ensure equal access for all of our communities. We welcome ReachNow as a transportation ally, alongside partners King County Metro and Sound Transit Link Light Rail, as we work to combat these challenges.”