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1:51 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Toyota pays record fine for delaying recall, failure to report defects

Floor mat pedal entrapment in the Lexus RX35 led to a recall and Toyota's most recent fine.
IFCAR wikipedia

Toyota Motor Corp. will pay a record $17.35 million fine for its failure to report a safety defect to federal officials and for delaying the subsequent recall.

The fine, levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is the highest civil penalty relating to recall violations ever paid out to the organization, the Detroit Free Press reports.

More from the Freep:

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1:14 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Chrysler shutters car museum

A 1984 Plymouth Voyager at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.
harry_nl flickr

Chrysler announced last week that it would be closing The Walter P. Chrysler Museum located at its Auburn Hills headquarters.

The museum, which opened in 1999, will merge with the Chrysler Foundation by the end of the year.

Chrysler Group LLC will purchase the 67 historic vehicles housed in the museum, the oldest being a 1902 Rambler Runabout Roadster.

The collection of classic cars will be be closed off to the public except for special events and exhibitions.

From the press release:

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12:44 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Ford unveils new 'Lincoln Motor Company,' Super Bowl ad to follow

Ford execs unveiling the 2013 Lincoln MKZ earlier this year.
Ford

Ford's luxury brand is being renamed Lincoln Motor Company today. Ford execs introduced the new "The Lincoln Motor Company" during an event at New York City’s Lincoln Center Plaza this morning.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported that's the name the company had when Ford acquired it in 1922:

Ford's Lincoln brand is troubled.  Sales are poor and the quality of the brand has eroded in recent years.  

Ford promises it will revitalize the Lincoln Motor Company brand, just as it revitalized the Ford brand, and Lincolns will become desirable cars once again, starting with the new 2013 MKZ.   

The hybrid version of the M-K-Z get 45 miles per gallon combined and Ford will sell it for the same price as the non-hybrid.  Other unusual features include a retractable glass roof and a push-button gear shifter.

Three other new Lincolns are in the works.

The company says as proof that it plans to invest in the brand, the company plans to air a spot during the next Super Bowl in February. The ad will be developed "in an unprecedented way," they say.

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10:27 am
Mon December 3, 2012

A November to remember for U.S. automakers

GM and Chrysler suffered through bankruptcy in large part because it relied so heavily on SUV sales.
user ep_jhu Creative Commons

GM, Ford, and Chrysler all say November sales were the best they've seen in a long time.

More from the Detroit News:

General Motors Co. said Monday it had its best November sales month since 2007, as its 186,505 sales rose 3.4 percent over the same month in 2011...

Ford Motor Co. posted November sales of 177,673, an increase 6 percent, with retail sales jumping 12 percent...

Chrysler Group LLC earlier reported its best November sales since 2007, as it sold 122,565 vehicles in the month, up 14.4 percent from the same month in 2011.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will have more for us on these numbers later today.

Auto
9:35 pm
Sun December 2, 2012

Ford brings back Lincoln Motor Company name

Ford Motor Company is reaching back into its past, renaming Lincoln, its luxury brand, the "Lincoln Motor Company."

That's the name the company had before Ford acquired it in 1922.

The new name goes with a new design studio and a new car, the MKZ, the first of four Lincolns planned in the next three years.

The Lincoln brand plummeted in popularity and quality in recent years, as Ford focused its attention and resources first on avoiding GM and Chrysler's fate.  Both companies had to file for bankruptcy during the recession.

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5:36 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

Michigan facilities score millions to open two advanced battery research facilities

A group of West Michigan leaders took a trip to visit the Argonne National Labratory in Chicago in July 2011.
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.

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Auto
4:43 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Autoblopnik's funny take on Honda Civic: L.A. Auto Show

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.

Auto
4:15 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Car sales satisfaction up: J.D. Power

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.

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12:52 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Ford Fusion wins Green Car of Year at LA Show

2013 Ford Fusion unveiled at the January 2012 NAIAS, Detroit
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.

Auto
2:57 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

Lincoln name change to become official Monday?

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.

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Auto
10:48 am
Wed November 28, 2012

If you can't make motorcyclists wear helmets, what CAN you do?

Sandbach transport parade
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.

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Auto
11:03 am
Mon November 26, 2012

Domestics just don't fit into L.A. lifestyle, LA Auto Show kicks off

Angelinos would rather be seen in one of these than a Ford Focus.

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.

Auto
4:55 pm
Thu November 22, 2012

GM rebuilds its finance arm with Ally purchase

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.

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5:42 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Lukewarm reviews from Consumer Reports for three Detroit-made cars

Dodge Dart
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.

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Auto
10:44 pm
Sun November 18, 2012

Old technology meets new in race to CAFE

Lead acid car batteries have a place in the cars of the future.
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).

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Auto
5:08 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

An engine so small it can go in your carry-on bag?

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.  

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Auto
8:16 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Chrysler boosts investment in southeast Michigan operations

Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne
Credit 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.

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Auto
2:13 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Tesla Model S named '2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year'

The Tesla Model S goes for about $50,000 base price.
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."

 

Auto
11:05 am
Tue November 13, 2012

A Transit for the rest of us

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. 

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5:43 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Road fatalities starting to creep back up

The Michigan legislature will debate about changes to the state's no-fault insurance laws. Commentators shared their thoughts about the potential changes.
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.

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