• Toyota backtracks on Mexico manufacturing expansion

    October 22, 2014
    Toyota has downplayed reports that it is moving forward with plans to expand its manufacturing capacity in Mexico.
    Initial reports suggested the Japanese automaker was in talks with Mexican officials to select a potential site for a new factory, however later reports suggested company president Akio Toyoda asked the planning committee to re-review the proposal.

    “There is a team studying it, but I’ll be honest with you, it’s still far from being an approved project,” Toyota’s head of Latin American operations, Steve St. Angelo, told reporters, as quoted by Bloomberg.

    Toyoda had reportedly argued that the company should not build a new factory in Mexico merely to follow competitors. The executive was quoted as dismissing the idea as the “old way” that caused trouble in years past.

    St. Angelo suggests Toyoda is focused on sustainable growth, wary of having excess production capacity if there is another recession. Facing ongoing trouble in Europe, many automakers are believed to be cautious of another downturn.

    Toyota is already making some moves to help accommodate the current growth in North American demand, adding a third shift at its existing Mexico facility, located near Tijuana, and attempting to stretch capacity at its Sao Paulo, Brazil, plant.

  • Hyundai Santa Fe gets suspension, steering tweaks for 2015

    October 22, 2014
    Hyundai has announced several minor revisions to its Santa Fe lineup for the 2015 model year.
    The company claims to have refined the steering and suspension systems on both the Santa Fe and the smaller Santa Fe Sport. The electric power steering is now managed by a 32-bit processor that promises to deliver a refined feel, while the ‘Sport’ setting is slightly firmer.

    The suspension system has been updated with increased stiffness in the wheel bearings and lower control arm bushings, resulting in improved lateral rigidity for the front. The rear also features tweaked geometry and stiffer bushings.

    Both models now feature daytime running lights, a blind-spot mirror and an auto up/down front passenger window as part of their respective standard packages. Other changes include new paint colors — Sparking Silver and Platinum Graphite — and an available hands-free lift-gate with auto-open.

    The Santa Fe Sport price has been increased by $200 to $25,825 (including $875 freight). It is unclear if the larger Santa Fe’s sticker has been adjusted accordingly, though the 2014 model retails for $30,675.

  • BMW to lower fuel economy ratings on Mini models

    October 22, 2014
    Following an EPA audit, BMW’s Mini division will be lowering fuel economy ratings for its 2014 Mini Cooper and Cooper S three-door models.
    The 2014 Mini Cooper (manual transmission) was originally rated at 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway and 34 mpg combined. Those figures are being revised down to 29 city, 40 highway and 33 combined. STEPTRONIC automatic models will be revised down from 29/40/33 to 28/39/32.

    Cooper S models are hit harder. With the manual transmission, ratings will be revised from 25/38/29 to 24/34/28. Automatics fare slightly better, going from 27/38/31 to 26/35/30.

    Fuel economy testing is initially conducted by manufacturers. The results of those tests are later subject to auditing by the EPA, who has the authority to re-test vehicles to verify manufacturers’ estimates. Just recently, Mercedes-Benz was required to re-rate a handful of C-Class models following a similar audit.

    While Mercedes-Benz’s figures were found to be incorrect due to improper road-load calculations, no specific reason was given for the discrepancies in BMW/Mini’s numbers.

    In a statement released by the EPA, Director Christopher Grundler of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality said, “Fuel economy values matter to consumers and automakers. To provide consumers with the most accurate, reliable and repeatable fuel economy values, we are continuing to strengthen our oversight to ensure fair competition among automakers.”

  • Scion teases iM Concept ahead of LA debut

    October 22, 2014
    Scion has released several teaser images for its mysterious iM Concept, which will be formally unveiled next month in Los Angeles.
    “The iM Concept car reflects the evolution of Scion as the needs and desires of its youthful customers also evolve,” the company said in a statement, without elaborating.

    The teasers simply show a few zoomed-in shots of the “distinctively sporty” front end, including the headlights and LED fog-lights. The model has a low ride height, while two-piece brake rotors can be seen behind black wheels with low-profile tires.

    The angular grille and proximity of the front door to the wheel well are somewhat similar to Toyota’s Corolla-based Auris hatchback, which competes against the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf in Europe.

    The model likely represents the first new entry as the struggling brand begins a significant restructuring of its entire lineup. Aside from the Scion-badged Auris, the range is also expected to add a four-door sedan version of the 2016 Mazda2 and potentially a small crossover.

    Questions surrounding the iM Concept will be answered on November 19.

  • Ford previews Mustang ‘stampede’ headed for SEMA

    October 22, 2014
    Ford has previewed two of the Mustang tuner builds that will be heading to the 2014 SEMA show.
    The company has reserved 20,000 square feet of floor space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, providing plenty of room to show off cars modified by top tuners such as Galpin Auto Sports, Petty’s Garage and MRT, among others.

    “Expect to see plenty of 5.0-liter V8s roaring around SEMA, but the spotlight will be on the all-new 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which provides a whole new platform for experienced turbocharging specialists,” the company said in a statement.

    One teaser pic shows a Roush supercharged V8 model crafted by Petty’s Garage. It wears a blue-on-black color scheme and a discrete No. 43, paying homage to Richard Petty’s NASCAR legacy. It will be auctioned by Barrett-Jackson with proceeds going to Victory Junction, a charity that allows chronically ill children attend summer camp.

    Another teaser reveals Galpin Auto Sports’ ‘golden’ anniversary car, celebrating 50 years of the Mustang. The tuner has restyled the front and rear fascia with a gold motif, while gold wheels and gold-flecked black paint help finish the look. Even the Whipple supercharger — good for 725 horsepower — has been powder-coated in gold.

    SEMA attendees will have a chance to check out the full Mustang ‘stampede’ from November 4-7.