• Mazda6 coupe coming next year?

    October 31, 2014
    A new report finds Mazda will introduce a coupe version of the Mazda6 in time for the 2016 model year.
    The coupe will look similar to the Mazda6 sedan from the tip of the front bumper to the B-pillar, though it is expected to wear a noticeably sportier design. Beyond that, it will feature a pair of frameless doors, a sloping roofline and a revised rear end that could borrow styling cues from the Shinari concept (pictured) that was introduced at the 2010 Paris Motor Show.

    Inside, expect the first-ever 6 coupe to feature a better-finished interior than its four-door sibling. It will offer space for up to four passengers in a spacious, sport-inspired atmosphere.

    The Mazda6 coupe will initially launch with the same engine that currently powers the sedan, meaning it will use a 2.5-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder rated at 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque. Power will be sent to the front wheels via either a six-speed automatic transmission or an enthusiast-friendly six-speed manual unit.

    The coupe will not be available with the sedan’s 2.2-liter turbodiesel in the United States, but a high-performance MazdaSpeed-tuned model is likely to join the lineup later in the production run.

    If the rumor proves true, look for additional details about the 2016 Mazda Mazda6 Coupe to emerge over the coming months.

  • NHTSA demands more documents, answers from Takata

    October 31, 2014
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has demanded additional documents from Takata, stepping up an ongoing investigation into the massive airbag recall.
    The Japanese supplier is required to provide the agency with records of communication with its customers or other parties, potentially revealing when the company and its automaker partners became aware of the safety issues.

    The defective components have been blamed for several deaths and serious injuries due to shrapnel from exploding airbag inflators, which are believed to have been chemically altered by humidity.

    The NHTSA has been criticized for repeatedly delaying or declining to take action after years of apparent problems with the airbag components. At least one investigation dates back to 2009 but was allegedly dropped after Honda hired former NHTSA officials to help deal with the situation.

    Now — several months after the latest round of recalls began ramping up — the agency has finally issued a special order demanding documents and answers to lingering questions. Takata has until December 1 to respond or pay daily fines if it drags its feet.

  • Nissan breaks annual record for EV sales in US

    October 31, 2014
    Nissan has announced that its Leaf has already broken the record for US-market EV sales in a single calendar year, with two more months to continue raising the bar even higher.
    The Leaf holds the previous record of 22,610 units, set in 2013. Sales this year have surged by more than 36 percent in the US, while cumulative global sales have surpassed 142,000 units.

    “With nearly 20 electric cars or plug-in electric models on the road today, Nissan LEAF remains at the head of the class, outselling the nearest competitor by 50 percent through September,” said Nissan’s director of EV sales and infrastructure, Brendan Jones.

    The Leaf carries an EPA-estimated range of up to 84 miles on a full battery, which can be filled up to 80 percent capacity in just 30 minutes at fast-charging stations. Its electric motor is good for 107 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque.

    Nissan faces increasing competition in the EV market, where it will have to compete against the Fiat 500e, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV and Volkswagen e-Golf. The Leaf has so far maintained dominant market share against the Focus Electric, however Ford recently confirmed plans to slash the price by $6,000 to match its Japanese rival.

  • Ford shows Expedition, Transit projects for SEMA

    October 31, 2014
    Ford has previewed a handful of Expedition SUVs and Transit vans that have been customized for the SEMA show.
    Unsurprisingly, several tuners embraced dropped suspension and gigantic wheels for their Expedition builds.

    The Tjin Edition sports 24-inch orange rims shrouded by custom metal fender flares and Air Lift struts, while the 365-horsepower EcoBoost V6 has been retuned for an additional 40 ponies.

    Dub Magazine opted for even larger 26-inch concave wheels, painted to match the grey body color. The interior has been revamped with an upgraded sound system, motorized stash boxes and remote-controlled LED lighting.

    Vaccar took a different route, outfitting the Expedition XLT with 20-inch rims and off-road tires. It also features a brush-guard bull bar, swivel hooks, spring steps and a Yakima cargo basket.

    The trailblazing theme is also presented in a Transit van customized by Vegas Off-Road Experience. The build aims to combine off-road capabilities with luxury comfort for passengers.

    Detroit Custom Coach, Galpin Auto Sports, Waldoch Crafts and 3dCarbon and Air Design have all focused on improving the Transit’s interior with upgraded entertainment equipment, high-end materials, massaging seats and other features.

    The Expedition and Transit builds will be showcased next week in Ford’s 20,000-square-foot booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

  • Toyota builds fuel-cell vehicle for Japanese Rally Championship

    October 31, 2014
    Toyota has revealed a fuel-cell vehicle (FCV) that has been adapted for use in the upcoming Japanese Rally Championship.
    The zero-emissions sedan has been “specially tuned and outfitted for rally racing,” though it will actually be used as a safety car that drives the roads ahead of the competing rally cars.

    The rally-spec FCV design is nearly identical to the production model, which boasts a 300-mile range and a zero-to-60 mph time of around 10 seconds. Bolder graphics, mud flaps and dark-grey wheels are the only obvious changes to the external design.

    The company has not fully detailed its list of modifications, such as potential suspension or powertrain tweaks.

    The 177-mile Shinshiro Rally will be held in the Aichi Prefecture on November 1-2, while the first batch of production FCVs are slated for arrival in Japan by April 2015 before spreading to the US and Europe by the summer.

  • LA preview: 2015 BMW X5 M

    October 30, 2014
    BMW has revealed its second-generation X5 M ahead of the SUV’s official unveiling at the Los Angeles auto show.

    Tweaked by BMW’s high-performance M division, the 2015 X5 M arrives with the distinction of being the brand’s most powerful all-wheel drive vehicle to date. That title comes courtesy of a revised 4.4L twin-turbocharged V8 that makes 567 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.

    That power is put to the ground via a new eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic. BMW says the X5 M can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph – not too shabby for a vehicle that weighs just over 5,000 pounds.

    But despite those performance chops, BMW says the all-new X5 M is 20 percent more efficient than its predecessor. Final EPA ratings, however, are unavailable at this time.

    Equipped with BMW’s Dynamic Damper Control, the X5 M can be set in one of three driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport+. The same three modes can be selected in the X5 M’s steering settings.

    Braking duties in the X5 M are handled by six-piston calipers at the front and single-pot clamps at the back. The M division increased the size of the X5 M’s pads by 50 percent, which should translate into even better stopping power. The new brakes are also lighter than the outgoing model’s, improving the X5 M’s overall handling characteristics.

    The X5 M stands out compared to its standard counterpart thanks to a few M-specific styling cues, including larger front air intakes, side gills with M badging, sports exterior mirrors, quad-exhaust outlets and unique 21-inch wheels.

    Inside the X5 M features an M instrument cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters, multi-function M seats and a Head-Up Display.

    X5 M buyers can also choose from a few M exclusive packages, including a Merino full-leather trim. M buyers also have access to two unique paint hues – Long Beach Blue Metallic and Donington Grey Metallic.

    Following its Los Angeles debut, the 2015 BMW X5 M will go on sale with a starting price of $99,650, including a $950 destination fee.

  • LA preview: 2015 BMW X6 M

    October 30, 2014
    BMW has lifted the veil on its new 2015 X6 M ahead of the Sports Activity Coupe’s public debut at next month’s Los Angeles auto show.

    Blurring the line between SUV and high-performance luxury coupe, the X6 M arrives with a stat sheet that would make most sports cars blush. Power from the X6 M’s 4.4L TwinPower V8 is up a modest 3 percent to 567 horsepower, but torque has been given a healthy 10 percent boost to 553 lb-ft. Sending power to all four-wheels via an eight-speed M Steptronic transmission, the X6 M can scorch its way to 0-60 in just 4.0 seconds. The X6 M’s top speed is limited to 155mph.

    EPA figures for the 2015 X6 M have not been released, but BMW says the high-performance hatchback has improved its economy by 20 percent on the European cycle.

    Following the M design philosophy, the 2015 X6 M wears a revised front end with more air inlets, side gills with M badging, an exhaust system with four tailpipes, a rear spoiler and a functional rear diffuser.

    The interior of the X6 M has been spruced up with a bespoke M gauge cluster, M sport front seats, M steering wheel with paddle shifters and a Head-Up Display.

    Born and raised on Germany’s Nurburgring, the X6 M boasts an engine oil system that can operate normally at up to 1.2g of lateral acceleration. The X6 M’s all-wheel drive system was also bred for performance, with the system capable of sending 100 percent of the engine’s power to either the front or rear wheels, depending on traction conditions.

    The X6 M rides on a suspension that has been lowered by 10mm, but comfort shouldn’t be an issue thanks to an adaptive damping system. The X6 M has three selectable suspension modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport+. There are similar setting for the vehicle’s steering system, ensuring the X6 M is just as at home on the road as it is on the track.

    M-specific 21-inch wheels – shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber – cover 6-piston brakes at the front and single-piston calipers at the rear.

    Pricing for the 2015 BMW X6 M will start at $103,050, including a mandatory $950 destination charge.

  • Safety watchdogs: NHTSA is corrupt; execs need prison time

    October 30, 2014
    Safety watchdogs Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader have launched a scathing attack on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accusing the agency of corruption and coddling the industry rather than enforcing recall regulations.
    In a lengthy op-ed for The New York Times, the duo claims the NHTSA backed down from its 2009 investigation into Honda airbag problems after the company hired a former NHTSA official to serve as a liaison.

    “Beginning in the ’80s, however, numerous officials — including Diane K. Steed, Jerry Ralph Curry, Sue Bailey and David L. Strickland, who all served as head of the agency, and Erika Z. Jones, Jacqueline S. Glassman and Paul Jackson Rice, who all served as chief counsel to the agency — have gone on to become consultants, lawyers or expert witnesses for auto companies,” the pair writes.

    The safety advocates argue that legislators need to put an end to the revolving-door conflicts of interest, implement new regulations to hold executives criminally accountable, and enforce the new rules via prison time in egregious cases.

    Following the General Motors ignition-switch recalls, some legislators have warmed to the idea of implementing punishments for executives who are found guilty of failing to quickly report safety issues. Automakers have traditionally remained victorious in their opposition to such proposals in years past, however.

    Recent reports suggest the Obama administration is looking for a new leader at the NHTSA. The current acting administrator, David Friedman, is not believed to be on the list of potential candidates to take the position.

  • Chrysler introduces Ram 700 compact pickup for Mexico

    October 30, 2014
    Chrysler has introduced a new compact pickup, the Ram 700, that has been developed for Mexico.
    The diminutive model is said to be based on the Fiat Strada, with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that traces its roots back to the Neon, according to Allpar. The powerplant is good for 115 horsepower, sent to the front wheels, with a payload capacity of more than 1,500 pounds.

    Images show a regular-cab two-door edition and an extended-cab configuration, with seating for four and a suicide door for the rear passengers. It will be aimed at other small pickups in the local market, such as the Volkswagen Saveiro.

    Several major automakers are rumored to be considering compact pickups for the US market, however Chrysler has not publicly confirmed any intention to offer the Ram 700 north of the Rio Grande.

    Buyers in Mexico and the Caribbean will be able to pick up the Brazil-built 700 for the equivalent of approximately $14,000 USD. Pricing for the extended-cab model jumps to $18,000 USD.

  • GM begins $63M expansion at Michigan assembly plant

    October 30, 2014
    General Motors is set to begin construction on a $63 million expansion at its Lansing Delta Township facility in Michigan.
    The plant will add an additional 263,000 square feet of floor space, providing extra room on the general assembly line and significantly growing the body and paint shops. The bodywork zone will benefit from the latest tooling, including newer robots, while the paint shop will accommodate additional coating processes to help increase corrosion resistance.

    The location has been open since 2006 and currently handles production for the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. Operations currently require nearly 3,300 workers, though the latest announcement does not mention any additional jobs to accompany the buildout.

    The expansion is part of a broader $300 million investment plan, which aims to improve GM’s Michigan manufacturing capabilities.