• 2015 Honda Fit to make NA debut in Detroit

    December 19, 2013

    Honda has announced that it will introduce the North American version of its all-new Fit compact at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Honda unveiled the Fit for other global markets in July.

    Set to go on sale next summer, the 2015 Fit rides on an all-new platform and boasts updated exterior and interior styling. The 2015 Fit retains the same basic shape as the outgoing model, but features Honda’s latest “Exciting H Design” global design language.

    Honda hasn’t released powertrain specifications for the 2015 Fit, but the five-door hatchback is expected to make use of Honda’s 1.5L four-cylinder engine. Overseas models get an automatic start-stop system, but the U.S. version of the Fit is not expected to be fitted with the fuel-saving tech.

    A hybrid version of the Fit will also be off limits to U.S. buyers.

    Set to be built at Honda’s plant in Celaya, Mexico, the Fit will initially be offered as a five-door hatchback, but sedan and SUV variants are also planned for the coming years.

  • Chevy’s U.S. marketing chief Chris Perry resigns

    December 19, 2013

    Chevrolet’s top marketing executive in the United States, Chris Perry, has stepped down, the Detroit automaker confirmed today. A replacement has not been named.

    Industry insiders generally lauded General Motors’ hiring of Perry away from Hyundai in 2010 as a major coup. Brought onto the GM team by then-marketing boss Joel Ewanick, Perry was in charge of Chevrolet marketing globally until last spring. At that time, GM hired Volkswagen’s Tim Mahoney and Perry was reassigned to focus on just the American market for GM’s highest-volume division.

    In the U.S., Perry was responsible for the brand’s “Chevy Runs Deep” ad campaign featuring Tim Allen’s voiceover work.

    Ewanick and Perry had worked together at Hyundai, where they were responsible for the brand’s 2010 Hyundai Assurance program that offered to buy back cars if owners were laid off. Although only a handful of buyers took advantage of the Assurance program, it was generally well-received during the height of the recession.

    However, Perry’s association with Ewanick might have hurt him at GM. Ewanick was let go in 2012 after GM signed a massive $600 million deal to sponsor U.K. soccer team Manchester United.

    It is not clear when GM will announce Perry’s replacement.

  • Acura to preview TL-replacing TLX in Detroit

    December 19, 2013

    Acura has confirmed the mid-size TLX sedan will bow as a close-to-production concept at next month’s Detroit Motor Show. The TLX will replace the current TL.

    Compared to the TL, the TLX will shrink in size in order to clear room between it and Acura’s range-topping RLX sedan. As it stands, the flagship RLX is just 2.1 inches longer than the mid-level TL.

    The TLX is expected to ride on a modified version of the Honda Accord’s platform. The car will be offered with a wide array of engines including two all-new direct-injected units and Aura’s latest 3.5-liter V6, which is good for 280 horsepower under the hood of the RLX. A gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain might join the TLX lineup later in the production run.

    Honda will initially stick to its tried and true six-speed auto for the TLX, but we hear a seven-speed dual-clutch unit could eventually join the mix. Both two- and four-wheel drive models will be offered.

    Stylistically, look for the TLX to shed the TL’s sharp edges in favor of the softer edges first seen on the RLX sedan. The TLX will sport the latest iteration of Acura’s shield grille, as well as the company’s new signature Jewel Eye LED headlights.

    Following its debut in Detroit, the Acura TLX will morph into a production sedan and like greet the public for the first either at the New York Show next April. Look for the sedan to reach Acura showrooms as a 2015 model across the country next summer.

  • Tesla home-charging unit to blame in CA garage fire?

    December 19, 2013

    The Orange County Fire Department (OCFD) believes a garage fire that occurred last month in Irvine, California, might have started when a Tesla-supplied wall-mounted electric vehicle charger overheated.

    “The most probable cause of this fire is a high resistance connection at the wall socket or the Universal Mobile Connector from the Tesla charging system,” explains the OCFD’s report.

    The owner of the house told the OCFD that she parked the Model S in her garage, plugged it into the charger and programmed it to start charging at midnight. She reported the fire at roughly 3 am.

    The fire department has spent the past few weeks determining the exact cause of the blaze. The fire happened on November 15th but the report was only made public a couple of days ago.

    A spokeswoman for Tesla says the company adamantly disagrees with the OCFD’s report.

    “We looked into the incident. We can say it absolutely was not the car, the battery or the charging electronics,” explained the company. “A review of the car’s logs showed that the battery had been charging normally, and there were no fluctuations in temperature or malfunctions within the battery or the charge electronics.”

    The fire caused $25,000 of damage to the garage but the no one was injured and the Model S sustained only minor damage.

    Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a formal safety evaluation of the Model S after three examples caught fire in the United States and in Mexico over the course of five weeks.

    Photo by Ronan Glon.

  • Tesla boosting EV production capacity by 35,000 units

    December 19, 2013

    With the help of tax breaks from its home state of California, electric vehicle builder Tesla is moving to greatly increase its production capacity ahead of several new model launches in the near future.

    Tesla is purchasing $415 million of manufacturing equipment in order to expand annual capacity by 35,000 units at its plant, the former GM/Toyota joint venture NUMMI facility in Fremont, California.

    A grant extended by California to clean technology companies will save Tesla as much as $34.7 million in taxes on the expenditure, which government authorities estimate will add 112 permanent jobs and, through tax revenue generated by the higher employment and vehicle sales, result in a $24.4 million net benefit for the Golden State.

    The new equipment will allow Tesla to raise production levels far past the 21,500 Model S sedans it’s expected to build this year, ensuring that there is sufficient capacity to satisfy demand for the company’s three upcoming models.

    Next year, Tesla is planning to launch the Model X, a Model S-based midsize crossover with distinctive “Falcon Wing” upward-opening rear doors. After that, a roughly $30,000 (after federal tax incentives) compact sedan called the Model E will arrive, and a small crossover is expected to join the lineup as well.