• 2015 Buick Verano loses manual option, adds appearance package [Update]

    June 10, 2014

    Buick has announced a handful of model year updates to its compact premium sedan, the Verano.

    Finding few takers for the Verano Turbo’s six-speed manual option, the tri-shield brand has deep-sixed the stick shift. Both Verano engines, including the standard model’s 180 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder and the Turbo’s 250 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four, will be available exclusively with the six speed automatic.

    Turns out Buick’s initial release on the 2015 Verano was incorrect in one respect – the automaker says that the manual transmission will remain available for the Verano Turbo after all.

    New to the Verano for 2015 is OnStar with 4G LTE and a standard built-in WiFi hotspot. Activated when the car is fired up, the hotspot comes with a three-month data trial.

    Additionally, Veranos equipped with the Convenience and Leather trim groups gain the option of a new appearance package, which includes a rear spoiler and chrome grille.

    All Verano models continue to come standard with a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch wheels and 10 airbags. Upper-level trims add niceties like a heated steering wheel, heated seats and a Bose audio system, along with safety features such as side blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and lane Departure Warning.

    Pricing information for the 2015 Buick Verano has not yet been released.

  • Ram 1500 to get versatile multi-function tailgate?

    June 10, 2014

    As we’ve seen with segment-exclusive options like an air suspension and light-duty diesel, Ram hasn’t been shy about thinking outside the box with its pickups. And a newly discovered patent filing suggests that Chrysler’s trunk brand could have another trick feature up its sleeve.

    Unearthed by fan site Allpar, the patent reveals a unique split tailgate that can be configured in a multitude of different ways. Each independent half is capable of folding up and down like a normal tailgate, and can also be opened from the side in the manner of a van door.

    The design allows longer items like lumber to stick out from one side of the bed, while other cargo can be held in place at the same time by the closed half of the tailgate.

    Adding another level of convenience, Allpar claims that the tailgate halves feature push-button activation via touchpads.

    While we don’t know for certain when the new tailgate design will arrive, it could well show up for the 2015, when the Ram 1500 is expected to receive a refresh. Rather than being standard, it will likely be offered as an option.

  • GM lost-value lawsuits head to New York court

    June 10, 2014
    A panel of judges has ruled that lost-value lawsuits against General Motors will be heard in a New York court overseen by Judge Jesse Furman.

    The decision affects lost-value complaints, outlined in dozens of separate lawsuits, that have been filed by owners who claim to have suffered economic damages due to the ignition-switch recall.

    The court will be tasked with determining if GM’s bankruptcy proceedings will legally shield the “new GM” from claims regarding actions that were taken by the “old GM.”

    Attorneys representing the plaintiffs argue that the current entity is liable for pre-bankruptcy claims involving the ignition-switch recall. The company is accused of omitting the known defect from the bankruptcy proceedings, effectively defrauding the court.

    GM and supplier Delphi — also named as a defendant — both pursued bankruptcy in New York courts. Several judges, including Furman, “have some familiarity with the common defendant and its prior bankruptcy proceedings,” the panel concluded, as quoted by Reuters.

    The company still faces numerous other lawsuits, including wrongful-death claims and shareholder filings.

  • Toyota’s fuel-cell car could arrive in 2014, ahead of schedule

    June 10, 2014
    Development of Toyota’s fuel-cell car is reportedly progressing ahead of schedule, bringing the potential launch window back into late 2014.

    The company is said to be preparing to manufacture dozens of the vehicles each month at its Motomachi plant in Japan, with commercial production beginning in mid December, unnamed sources have told The Japan Times.

    The latest report suggests Toyota may be planning to sell the car for around 8 million yen (~$78,000 USD), which is slightly below previous rumors of a $100,000 price tag. The company is said to be hoping for a price drop into the $29,000 to $49,000 range by 2020.

    Hyundai recently launched its Tucson Fuel Cell in the US market, available initially in California via lease only for $499 per month with $2,999 down. Honda is also in the race to launch a fuel-cell vehicle in 2014, possibly as early as November.

    Based on the FCV concept, Toyota’s fuel-cell car will also likely be targeted at California due to the availability of hydrogen refueling infrastructure.

  • Toyota dismisses hybrid Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ

    June 10, 2014
    Toyota has reportedly dismissed the idea of building a hybrid variant of the Toyota 86 platform (Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ) in the near future.

    Rumors have suggested the company’s Scion division may be developing a four-door variant of the FR-S that would eventually be outfitted with a hybrid all-wheel-drive system.

    Toyota marketing director Fabio Capano argues that a hybrid edition would not “speak to the majority,” according to comments to Autocar. Such a model is also said to bring hefty development costs.

    “We can create a product with this technology, but it needs to make proper business sense,” Capano said.

    Separate reports have highlighted Toyota’s partnership with BMW to build hybrid technology, including a supercapacitor system, that could be used on their co-developed sports car. Both the next-generation BMW Z4 and revived Toyota Supra are rumored to be built upon a hybrid reconfiguration of the GT86 platform.

    Toyota has previewed a similar system with its Yaris Hybrid R, which pairs a 300-horsepower gasoline engine with three electric motors for a total output of 414 ponies.

    The Japanese automaker recently introduced minor updates to the Toyota 86 and its stablemates, however the company is said to be limiting platform development — potentially shelving a turbocharged edition — due to lackluster sales.