• Lexus tops Consumer Reports brand list, Fiat Chrysler hits bottom

    February 26, 2015
    Lexus has again topped Consumer Reports‘ overall brand rankings, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ marques continued to sit at the bottom of the list.
    The ranking is based on the average predicted reliability and road-test scores across each manufacturer’s entire lineup, providing a broad look at experiences with various brands.

    The magazine credits very good road-test performance and solid across-the-board reliability scores for keeping Lexus on top. Mazda was second on the list, while Toyota, Audi and Subaru rounded out the top five.

    “Buick’s improved reliability helped it take top honors among all domestic brands for the second year running,” CR noted in a blog post. “In addition, it moved up several spots in our overall rankings, even passing Honda.”

    The magazine blamed “teething problems” for killing Mercedes-Benz’ scores in the latest comparison, with reliability drops for several models and the “low-scoring and unreliable” new CLA.

    “Acura and Infiniti also fell from grace. Acura’s once-stellar reliability has declined in recent years, and the unimpressive RLX redesign fell short in our tests,” the authors added. “Infiniti is an example of how one low-scoring and unreliable model–here, the new Q50–can hurt a carmaker with a small lineup.”

    The Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat brands all scored near the bottom, thanks to poor reliability and low road-test scores. Fiat Chrysler replaced its quality chief in October, after both Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criticized the company, however the existing lineup has continued to receive low scores.

  • Toyota launches i-Road sharing program in Tokyo

    February 26, 2015
    Toyota has announced plans to use its i-Road for a public car-sharing service in Tokyo.
    The ultra-compact three-wheelers will available via Park24, a local company that already provides car-sharing services with traditional vehicles. Customers will be able to use the i-Road any time, day or night.

    The company will require interested drives to make online reservations and complete a compulsory i-Road training course before driving the unique vehicle, with usage rates set at 412 yen (~$3.50 USD) per 15-minute increment.

    The i-Road aims to combine the benefits of driving a motorcycle with the advantages of riding in a car. It measures less than three feet wide, with a completely enclosed cabin for two occupants. A pair of 2kW motors provide the power, getting up to 37 mph with a range of approximately 30 miles.

    Toyota already confirmed plans to begin limited production and begin trials on public roads, but the company has been slow to move toward commercial availability. The car-sharing program will put the vehicle into the hands of average drivers, allowing the company to continue gathering feedback and gauging receptiveness to the unconventional transportation method.

  • Lamborghini teases ‘most reactive car’ for Geneva [Video]

    February 26, 2015
    Lamborghini has released a cryptic teaser video for new car that will be unveiled in Geneva.
    The video does not provide any definitive details, aside from a mysterious promise of “the most reactive car ever.”

    Recent rumors suggest the mystery model is the Aventador SV, featuring lighter weight and more power than the standard model. A unique aero kit will likely help differentiate the design and improve downforce.

    The Super Veloce package is expected to produce at least 750 horsepower, a jump of nearly 60 ponies. Its zero-to-62 mph time will likely drop below 2.9 seconds, while top speed should rise beyond 217 mph.

    Dealers were reportedly accepting deposits as far back as July, suggesting a debut is imminent. The company has previously indicated that such a model could arrive in the second half of the year.

  • Lotus CEO claims 2-Eleven successor will set Nurburgring record

    February 26, 2015
    Lotus’ incoming CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, has made several bold claims about the company’s upcoming lineup, including one model that aims to break the Nurburgring record for production street cars.
    The executive promises that new versions of the Elise, Evora and Exige, due in the next two years, will all be lighter and faster than their predecessors, according to an interview with Top Gear.

    “The cars will be very advanced, but having nothing superfluous,” he said.

    Engineers are said to be willing to sacrifice a bit of ride quality to achieve handling improvements, but Gales suggests the new Evora will not be any harsher than the Porsche 911.

    Designers are also working on an Evora Roadster and a range of the expected track-focused variants. A successor to the 2-Eleven track-day car is in the works, with 400 horsepower and a curb weight under a ton.

    “It will be the fastest road car around the Nurburgring,” he claims.

    Gales will be attempting to lead the struggling company back to profitability, promising to expand the dealer network and avoid other “basic errors” such as launch delays.

    The company last week previewed one of the upcoming models, the Evora 400, that will make its global debut next month in Geneva.

  • GM to slow production at Michigan, Ontario plants

    February 26, 2015
    General Motors has reportedly planned further production cuts to help clear excess dealer inventory.
    The company plans to halt production for a week at its Orion Assembly plant in Detroit, along with one of its Canadian manufacturing facilities in Oshawa, Ontario, unnamed sources have told Automotive News.

    The Orion plant is said to have been idled this week and scheduled for another slowdown in early April. The production adjustment has been tied to lower-than-expected demand for the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano.

    The Oshawa plant production adjustments are said to be aimed at reducing output of the Cadillac XTS, the Chevy Camaro and Impala, and the Buick Regal.

    Cadillac XTS and Chevy Camaro sales were up for the first month of the year in the US market, with respective gains of 14 percent and 5.5 percent. The other models were down during the same period, with Sonic sales dropping by nearly 47 percent and Regal deliveries falling by 45 percent.