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Courtesy photo / The Lakeshore Advantage

This story was updated to correct that the $120 million goes to a a number of partners including two in Michigan.

Honda revealed its refreshed Civic at the L.A. Auto Show this week.

The automaker made some very significant changes to the car, just a year after the new version was launched.

Consumer Reports and many auto reviewers slammed the car's styling and interior.   

Despite that, customers turned a blind eye to the criticism, making the Civic the best-selling compact car in the U.S. this year.

The always irreverant website Autoblopnik has a nice, Onion-style entry about the car and the controversy.

Automakers and car dealerships are trying harder to please the customer in the showroom - and it's paying off, according to J.D. Power.

Chris Sutton of J.D. Power says sales satisfaction jumped 11 points from last year.

He says dealers are trying to make the negotiating process easier and faster.  They're also working on the delivery experience.

Andrew Duthie / Wikimedia

The Ford Fusion has won the Green Car of the Year award.

The award is given by the magazine Green Car Journal.

Ford also had another vehicle up for the award, the C-Max, a hybrid vehicle. 

From the press release:

The groundbreaking 2013 Ford Fusion not only significantly reduces petroleum use, CO2 emissions and overall environmental impact, but is priced to encourage the kind of sales volume that can truly influence environmental improvement

The 2013 Fusion offers five engine choices, including two with "Ecoboost" technology, a 47 mpg hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid that's expected to top 100 mpg equivalent.

Other finalists included the Dodge Dart Aero, Mazda CX-5 SKYACTIV and the Toyota Prius c.

A jury comprised of the nation's top environmental leaders including Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, Ocean Futures Society president Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Global Green USA president Matt Petersen, plus Tonight Show host and auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal staff select the 2013 Green Car of the Year through a majority vote.

This summer, Automotive News got ahold of a document that Ford Motor Company sent to a number of outside agencies, in which the company outlined its plans for the Lincoln brand - including a name change to "Lincoln Motor Co."

That's the original name of the company which was acquired by Ford in 1922.

I called a Lincoln spokesman to try to confirm the name change, but was told firmly, "there is no name change right now."  I got the distinct impression he wasn't very happy about my question.

www.geograph.org

Experts agree that the best way to reduce traffic fatalities involving motorcyclists is mandatory helmet laws.

But only nineteen states have such laws, and the number is smaller than it used to be, as several states in recent years repealed their mandatory helmet laws, including Michigan.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says barring that most effective strategy, Congress should consider letting states use their federal motorcycle safety grants for more things.

The L.A. Auto Show begins this Wednesday. The big car show on the West Coast is increasingly important to carmakers based in Detroit.

GM, Ford and Chrysler have long struggled to sell their cars on the West Coast.   You'll find a lot of Toyotas, a lot of German luxury cars, and a lot of Lexuses; not so many Chevys, Fords and Jeeps.  

Analyst Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com says domestic car companies are making progress.

At the very least, fewer people on the West Coast give "poor quality" as the reason they don't drive a domestic brand.   Instead, it's image.

"You know, if you live in a wealthy area in L.A., you just simply won't consider a domestic car because you won't fit in," said Toprak.

Toprak says the LA Auto Show is an important venue for Detroit car companies to reach a lot of people and try to change their minds about buying an American brand.

General Motors was a deeply troubled company in 2008.

Eh.  Make that deeply, deeply, deeply troubled.

So was its finance arm, GMAC, which had plunged head-first into subprime mortgage lending, in addition to automotive lending.  That left the company awash in billions of dollars worth of bad mortgages.

The federal government had to figure out a way to bail out both companies - because GM wouldn't survive if it didn't have a place to send customers for car loans, and if its dealers didn't have a place to get financing to buy the inventory.

Chrysler

Consumer Reports says it won't put three Detroit cars on its influential "recommended" list - the Dodge Dart, a compact car from Chrysler, the Lincoln MKS, Ford's refreshed luxury sedan , and the Cadillac XTS.

Consumer Reports:  Dart "stalls out on its powertrains."

This is especially bad news for Chrysler, according to Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press.

Sean McEntee / Flickr

Automakers and their suppliers are racing to develop technologies to meet strict new CAFE standards.

The rules will require companies to reach a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon, roughly, by 2017, and an eye-popping 54.5 (roughly) miles per gallon, by 2025.

But despite all the stories you've heard about electric cars powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries, chances are, you won't be owning one by 2017 - and probably not by 2025, either.

Electric cars will be just too impractical and expensive for most people in the near future.

Not your grandfather's ICE

Instead, if you buy a new car in the next five years, it's more likely to be powered by that old standby - the internal combustion engine (ICE).

This summer, I reported on Ford Motor Company's new three-cylinder eco-boost engine.

Ford has already put this engine into the Focus in Europe, and I was the first  reporter to drive that car on American highways, rather than a small test track.  

Wikipedia

Chrysler will put more than $240 million into three of its southeast Michigan plants.

The automaker is ramping up its engine-making capacity, and making more trucks.

The biggest chunk of the investment will be at Chrysler’s Mack Avenue engine complex in Detroit, which will re-tool to make the V-6 Pentastar engine.

The Warren Truck plant will add a third shift to make the 2013 Dodge Ram 1500. And the Trenton North Engine Plant will also upgrade its production line.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne outlined the plans at the Mack Avenue plant Thursday.

Tesla Motors

For the first time since 1949, Motor Trend Magazine has given its "Car of the Year" award to a car that DOES NOT have an internal combustion engine.

From Motor Trend:

The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is one of the quickest American four-doors ever built. It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it's also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius. Oh, and it'll sashay up to the valet at a luxury hotel like a supermodel working a Paris catwalk. By any measure, the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable automobile, perhaps the most accomplished all -new luxury car since the original Lexus LS 400. That's why it's our 2013 Car of the Year.

In this video, Motor Trend professes its love for the Tesla Model S: 

"But it's not some eco-mobile, with tiny wheels, and dorky proportions. It's wide, long, low, and looks great - especially from the rear."

 

Ford Motor Company is getting back into the minivan segment.

Except, Ford is adamantly refusing to call its Transit Connect Wagon a "minivan."

Instead, the company says the seven passenger van is a "people-mover." 

The company believes the wagon will appeal to young families, most likely people who grew up in the back of a minivan themselves and are looking for something different.

Ford says the wagon boasts better fuel economy than the Toyota Sienna minivan.

Ford has been questioned, frequently, for its decision to leave the minivan market years ago. 

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

Road fatalities plunged an unprecedented 26% between 2005 and 2011.

Now, to be sure, driving was still the most dangerous thing that most of us did during that time.  

In 2011, 32,310 people lost their lives in a traffic accident.

But put in context, that number is astonishingly low. 

The last time fewer people died on U.S. roadways was in 1949 - and that was with 83% fewer vehicles on the road.

But there are signs of trouble ahead.

Ford Motor Company

Vehicles made by Ford Motor Company dropped to next to last in Consumer Reports' latest reliability survey - in large part, due to problems with the company's MyFordTouch communication system.

But the company has no plans to drop the system.

Consumer Reports is a harsh critic of the company's decision to almost completely abandon traditional dials, buttons and knobs to control many basic functions like heat, air conditioning, and radio. 

staff / media.chrysler.com

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is telling owners of more than 46,000 midsize cars to take them to dealers to fix a problem that can make the engines stall.

Owners of Chrysler 200s and Dodge Avengers from the 2011 model year are getting notices from the company. The cars have 3.6-Liter V-6 engines.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating in June after getting complaints from drivers.

The safety agency and Chrysler got 161 complaints about stalling, mostly at low speeds.

Investigators traced the cause to a computer that runs the pollution controls. Chrysler will reprogram the computer.

The company's actions are similar to a recall but are called a customer satisfaction campaign. The safety agency says the condition is a low risk to safety and is properly addressed by Chrysler's campaign.

media.chrysler.com / staff

DETROIT (AP) - Chrysler is recalling more than 919,000 older-model Jeep SUVs worldwide because the air bags can inflate while people are driving them. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the recall affects Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2002 through 2004 model years.

Also covered are Jeep Libertys from model years 2002 and 2003.

A part can fail in the air bag control computer, and the front and side air bags can inflate while the SUVs are being driven.

An investigation by the safety agency found that the air bags went off 215 times causing 81 minor injuries. No crashes were reported.

Chrysler, which makes Jeeps, will install an electrical harness to fix the problem. The company will begin notifying owners of the recall in January.

Ford Motor Company

At least for now, Ford Motor Company has put to rest months - no, make that years - of intense media speculation about when its CEO Alan Mulally will leave the company.

Ford says the 67-year old executive, widely credited with saving the company, will NOT be leaving his position until at least the end of 2014.

Mulally, a 37-year veteran of Boeing, took the helm of Ford in 2006, as the struggling Detroit automaker faced the prospect of bankruptcy, like its rivals Chrysler and General Motors.

Guessing when Ford CEO Alan Mulally will retire has become a favorite game for some auto beat reporters. But now Ford and Mulally have taken all the fun out of it.

GM share price up on better-than-expected earnings report

Oct 31, 2012
Andrea_44 / Flickr

GM shares were up Wednesday on the back of a stronger-than-expected third-quarter earnings report.

The automaker reported a net income of $1.48 billion, down just 14.5 percent from last year despite major losses in Europe.

As a result, GM stock had increased by 9.66 percent to $25.53 a share by 2:20 p.m.

Melissa Burden with the Detroit News has more:

Ford Motor Company's third quarter profit in North America was its biggest since at least 2000.

But the company's financial performance was dragged down by Europe, where a protracted recession has cripped car sales.

Ford lost $468 million in that region.

The company has a turnaround plan for Europe, and it's very similar to what Ford did to recover in North America:  decisive downsizing, including closing plants, while at the same time investing heavily in future products.

Chrysler's third-quarter profits up 80 percent

Oct 29, 2012

A third-quarter earnings report from Chrysler shows that profits are up 80 percent from last year.

The automaker earned $381 million over the past quarter, up from $212 million for the same period last year.

Brent Snavely from the Detroit Free Press has more:

Chrysler adds third shift, 1,100 jobs at Detroit plant

Oct 26, 2012
Chrysler-Group / flickr

A third shift beginning next week at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit will add about 1,100 new jobs.

The new shift is being added to keep up with increased demand for the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Brent Snavely from the Detroit Free Press has the story:

Adding the third crew now was driven by the mounting cost of overtime Jefferson North's workers have logged in recent months. Newly hired workers start at a lower wage to which the UAW agreed in its 2011 contract.

Ford restructures in Europe, cuts 5,700 jobs

Oct 25, 2012
Ford

Ford is cutting 5,700 jobs in the U.K. and Belgium as it tries to return to profitability in Europe.

The company is expecting annual losses of over $1.5 billion in Europe.

Alisa Priddle of the Detroit Free Press has more:

The actions will cut capacity by 18% or 355,000 vehicles a year which should result in annual savings of $450 million to $500 million, the company said today.

Both Ford and General Motors announced steps this week to reduce their losses in Europe.

The region is experiencing a disabling recession that's expected to last at least through 2015.

Car sales are abysmal in Europe, down more than 30-percent from normal demand.

Ford says it may lose a total of one billion dollars in the region for the entire year.

General Motors' losses might be more than that.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company won't confirm an Automotive News report that its Lincoln brand will be re-badged as "Lincoln Motor Company."

Auto News reported this summer that it had obtained a document sent by Ford to a number of marketing firms, in which Ford said it intended to rename the venerable brand -- with a venerable name.

Ford Motor Company acquired the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922.

The recent bankruptcy of battery company A123 has some questioning the profitability of electric cars like the Nissan Leaf.
user cliff1066 / flickr

Tuesday’s bankruptcy announcement by A123 Systems Inc. has many taking another look at the prospects of the electric car.

Conservative commentators have taken the opportunity to bash the Obama administration for its green energy investments.

In 2009, A123 received a $249 million grant from the Department of Energy.

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors says production is set to begin late next year on a luxury version of its Chevrolet Volt hybrid.

The automaker said Tuesday the Cadillac ELR will be assembled at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. That plant makes the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Holden Volt.

The Cadillac will run on electricity and carry a four-cylinder gasoline engine to generate power when the batteries run out of juice. It's based on the Cadillac Converj, a concept car unveiled in 2009 at the Detroit auto show.

GM North America President Mark Reuss said in a statement that the car is "further proof of our commitment to electric vehicles and advanced technology."

The company will invest $35 million at the plant, which hasn't produced a two-door car since the 1999 Cadillac Eldorado.
  

.a123systems.com/media-room-photos.htm

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. operations of electric car battery maker A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy protection and its automotive assets are being acquired by Johnson Controls for $125 million.

The announcement Tuesday comes one day after A123 warned in a regulatory filing that it likely would miss some debt payments and could be headed for bankruptcy court.

A123, based in Waltham, Mass., got a $249 million U.S. government grant to help it build a battery factory in Michigan.

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