• VW promises big changes for updated 2016 Passat

    April 23, 2014

    Volkswagen of America president and CEO Michael Horn has revealed that an upcoming facelift will represent a “big step” forward for the Passat midsize sedan.

    Slated to arrive for the 2016 model year, the update will go far beyond the mild nip-and-tuck seen in the 2015 Jetta, Horn stated in an interview with Motor Trend.

    “The Jetta [refresh] now is a decent step…it’s nice, makes it more sporty, makes it more dynamic,” Horn said. “But it’s on the lower end of what we can do. But the Passat [refresh] is very strong. We go much further.”

    In the past, Horn has suggested that the changes for 2016 will include new driver assistance technologies, additional features and, perhaps most importantly, a more dynamic look. Precise details are unavailable, but given how the segment’s styling bar has been raised by rivals like the Ford Fusion and Mazda6, the facelifted Passat might be noticeably less conservative than the current model.

    Horn disclosed a few other nuggets of info during the course of the MT interview, saying that a new-generation Jetta will arrive in 2017 and utilize the same MQB modular architecture as the latest Golf. Asked whether the next Scirocco could make its way to U.S. shores, he didn’t completely shut the door on the possibility, replying “We could see it if there’s a Scirocco successor.”

  • NHTSA investigates 2014 Impala over braking problem

    April 23, 2014
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into potential braking problems with the 2014 Chevrolet Impala.

    The inquiry has been sparked by a single complaint that involved an accident but no fatalities. The driver suggests “inappropriate activation” of the emergency braking system caused the Impala to stop with full braking force from a speed of approximately 40 mph, resulting in the vehicle being struck from behind.

    The drive claims to have experienced the same glitch with the Forward Collision Avoidance system on several other occasions at different locations. When the accident occurred, the road was said to be free of traffic ahead of the car. Three to four beeps from the collision avoidance system served as a momentary warning before braking force was allegedly applied.

    It is unclear if the same problem has been experienced by other Impala drivers, though the NHTSA is not waiting until it receives additional reports before initiating a formal evaluation.

    If the problem leads to a recall, it will likely be limited to 2014-model-year Impala sedans equipped with the collision avoidance system.

  • Tesla delivers first Model S sedans in China, apologizes for shipping delays

    April 23, 2014
    Tesla Motors has brought its first Model S sedans to customers in China, delivering a handful of electric cars at a ceremony in Beijing.

    In attendance at the event, CEO Elon Musk thanked the early adopters and reiterated the country’s importance for the startup’s expansion plans.

    The Model S isn’t cheap in China, fetching $121,000 for the base model. The price disparity is mostly blamed on import duties, though shipping costs also play a role. To address both costs, Tesla expects to establish a factory in China to build its vehicles locally.

    The first cars were delivered at the company’s headquarters, which also serves as the first Supercharger station. Aside from lower prices, the company also views charging infrastructure as necessary to expand in China. It is preparing to spend several hundred million dollars to achieve such goals.

    My instructions to the team are to spend money as fast as they can spend it without wasting it,” Musk said, as quoted by the Detroit Free Press.

    Despite the celebration and first deliveries to a few customers, some early are frustrated over alleged delivery delays. The company does not expect to begin shipping sedans outside of Beijing and Shanghai until June, due to a lack of service centers.

    We’ve delayed some of the customer deliveries just for a few months in order to ensure that when they got their car they would have a great experience and some of them were a bit upset about that,” Musk said, according to a Financial Times report. “I met with them earlier today and apologized. I think we resolved the issue.”

  • Test drive a Cadillac, get $100

    April 23, 2014
    General Motors’ Cadillac brand is hoping to lure more buyers to showrooms by offering a $100 gift card to qualified shoppers that take a test drive.

    Launched last month, Cadillac is hopeful the $100 test drive offer will help reverse slipping sales at the luxury division. Following a healthy 21 percent sales growth in 2013, Cadillac’s U.S. sales have dipped 6.3 percent during the early part of 2014.

    “This is our way of way of trying to reach out and get people,” Bill Peffer, U.S. vice president for Cadillac sales and service, told The Detroit News. “The way to conquest in that super competitive market is to get people’s seats in seats.”

    The Visa prepaid gift card offer is open to anyone 21 years of age or older that currently owns a 2004 or newer non-GM vehicle. The person must also have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. If shoppers sign the dotted line for a new Cadillac, the automaker will throw in a $1,500 incentive.

    Although the promotion might seem a little gimmicky, analysts say test drive offers can be an effective way to drive sales.

    “It’s actually a pretty inexpensive marketing campaign,” said Larry Dominique, president of ALG.

    Peffer notes that Cadillac’s lineup has changed dramatically since some shoppers may have last stopped by a showroom. In the last few years Cadillac has launched the all-new ATS and CTS sports sedans, and is currently in the midst of rolling out the new 2015 Escalade SUV and ATS coupe.

    Photo by Nat Shirley.

  • VW to invest $25B on new EVs and hybrids for China

    April 23, 2014
    Volkswagen Group has announced an 18 billion euro (~$25 billion USD) investment initiative that will focus on developing new electric vehicles and hybrids for the Chinese market.

    The company already offers the Porsche Panamera S E-hybrid in China, ahead of the electric up! and e-Golf later this year. The Audi A3 e-tron and VW Golf GTE are scheduled to arrive at local showrooms sometime in 2015.

    Looking forward to 2016, the German automaker is developing two plug-in hybrids that will be specific to the Chinese market: an Audi A6 and an unnamed “mid-size limousine” that will carry a VW badge.

    Both China-exclusive models are being developed together through joint venture partners FAW Volkswagen and Shanghai Volkswagen. They will be produced locally, with the help of new factories and approximately 20,000 new skilled jobs in the country.

    China is the Volkswagen Group’s largest single market and plays a key role in our Strategy 2018″ said VW Group CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn. “For 2014, we have once again set our sights on double-digit growth in China and are aiming to deliver over 3.5 million vehicles to customers for the first time in a calendar year.”