• Ford to announce new CEO next month?

    April 22, 2014
    Ford will soon announce a succession plan that will see Mark Fields take over Alan Mulally’s position as company CEO, inside sources have revealed.

    Rumored for months, two unnamed sources have revealed to Bloomberg that Ford will formally announce a succession plan for its top executive position as early as May 1. Fields, Ford’s current COO, will reportedly take over for Mulally, who has been the company’s chief executive since 2006.

    Ford put Fields in a position to take over as CEO when it promoted the 53-year-old to its second-highest executive position in 2012.

    A 25-year Ford veteran, Fields will have some pretty big shoes to fill when he assumes the position of CEO. Mulally, 68, is credited with saving Ford from bankruptcy and returning the company to profitability. Under Mulally’s leadership, Ford has pocketed more than $42 billion, compared to a $30.1 billion loss between 2006 and 2008.

    Although nothing is official, Mulally will likely stay on at Ford at least in the short-term in some kind of advisory role.

  • Jeep to begin Chinese production in 2015

    April 22, 2014

    Fiat and joint venture partner Guangzhou Automobile Group have officially announced plans to begin Jeep production in China by late 2015.

    Under the terms of their agreement, the two automakers will assemble three Jeep models – likely the Cherokee, Renegade and Wrangler – specifically for the Chinese market at a new factory that will be built in the city of Guangzhou. The facility, which will have an annual capacity of 60,000 units, may also screw together a new, China-specific Jeep model in the future.

    Though it comes after nearly two-and-a-half years of negotiations, the move will be well worth Fiat’s time as it will allow the automaker to finally avoid the hefty import tariffs that currently drive Jeep prices upwards and put a damper on Chinese sales.

    “Today’s announcement represents the next chapter in the proper utilization and expansion on a global scale of the Jeep brand,” said Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. “Equally important is our continued development in the Chinese market with an established and respected partner such as Guangzhou Automobile Group.”

    Jeep was actually the first foreign automaker to build vehicles in China, with local assembly starting in 1984, but the brand ended production in the country in 2006.

  • VW confirms Golf R 400 concept will see production

    April 22, 2014
    It did not take long for Volkswagen to confirm that its Golf R 400 concept will be headed to production.

    The company just last week insisted that the hatch will not be added to its formal lineup. Research and development head Heinz-Jakob Neusser suggests the car has already been approved for production, however, according to his conversation with Car and Driver.

    The executive also shed more light on the R 400′s upgraded powerplant, based on the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder EA888 mill that powers the basic Golf R and many other models. It is said to have only required minor modifications to handle higher turbocharger boost and more than 100 extra horsepower.

    Extra ponies and lighter weight help bring the R 400 up to 62 mph from a standstill in just 3.9 seconds, with a ceiling of 174 mph.

    The modifications could presumably serve to improve performance specs in other VW and Audi vehicles powered by the EA888, however the company has yet to announce any plans to expand use of the retuned engine.

    Availability and pricing details for the Golf R 400 remain unclear, leaving uncertainty surrounding a potential US launch.

  • Daimler to resurrect Maybach name for flagship S-Class

    April 22, 2014
    Daimler’s is set to dust off its Maybach brand once again for a high-end version of its Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan.

    Laid to rest in 2011 due to slipping sales, Daimler will revive the Maybach brand at the end of the year for a super luxury version of its all-new S-Class, an insider has revealed to Reuters. The Maybach will first be shown in the United States at November’s Los Angeles auto show.

    Based on the long-wheelbase version of the S-Class, the Maybach model will feature an additional 20mm between its axles to accommodate an even roomier back seat. The Maybach will also feature soft-touch leathers and bespoke materials throughout its interior to lure buyers from Bentley showrooms.

    In order to hustle around that extra weight, the Maybach will be powered by a twin-turbocharged V12. Buyers will be able to order their Maybach with a full armor package.

    As you might expect, all of that extra luxury won’t come cheap. Insiders say the Maybach could double the price of a S600 L model, which currently retails for 165,000 euros ($228,000) in Europe.

    Despite a price tag that is expected to easily stretch into the $400,000 range, the Maybach won’t be Mercedes’ range-topping S-Class model. That distinction will belong to an upcoming Pullman limousine that will boast an extra three feet of wheelbase and a row of rear-facing seats. No launch date has been pinned down for the Pullman.

  • Infiniti pushes Q50 Eau Rouge toward production, sources claim

    April 22, 2014
    Infiniti may have finalized its decision to develop the Q50 Eau Rouge concept into a production vehicle.

    The company has yet to publicly announce a commitment, however an unnamed insider present at the Beijing Motor Show told Auto Express that “it would take more to stop the car getting made than to start things.”

    Separately, Infiniti design head Alfonso Albaisa has suggested the Eau Rouge concept essentially represents the styling that would be used for a production model.

    Why would we change anything?” he said. “This is not a show car.”

    First unveiled earlier this year in Detroit, the Eau Rouge resembles the Q50 but designed with a more menacing appearance and built for the track. The idea centers around the Nissan GT-R’s twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine, retuned to produce 560 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque.

    The concept takes advantage of carbon-fiber for body panels and interior trim, helping to minimize weight. The entire package is said to be capable of zero-to-60 sprints in under four seconds before topping out around 180 mph.

    Despite the hint at production plans, additional details remain unclear.