• Volvo promises tuning kits for Drive-E engines

    April 29, 2015
    Volvo has reaffirmed its promise to offer tuning kits for the new Drive-E engine family.
    The Polestar Performance Optimization add-ons will be available for the majority of the three- and four-cylinder powerplants in the automaker’s downsized engine lineup.

    Developed through collaboration between Volvo’s in-house research-and-development team and transmission maker Aisin Warner, the kits are said to borrow technology from the performance-focused S60 Polestar and V60 Polestar packages. Both cars have been selling faster than the company expected, prompting a second production batch and inspiring the tuning kits for basic models.

    The kits are designed to improve engine performance, while also tweaking throttle response, shift speed, shift precision and off-throttle response. The company has not yet detailed how much additional performance buyers can expect.

    “The more exact response to driver input and predictability from the powertrain, the higher level of control for the driver,” said Thed Bjork. “This is something we have achieved with the new generation where we have focused on mid-range drivability for the engines and combined that with a further developed gearbox and throttle package. This is the next level of driving experience for Volvo cars.”

    The kits will be released near the end of June, with initial availability limited to the T6, T5, D5 and D4 engines. The company promises over 140 additional variations and optimizations to be added in the coming months.

  • Jaguar announces XE specs, trims

    April 29, 2015
    Jaguar has announced full details for its U.S.-bound XE sports sedan. The XE will arrive in U.S. showrooms during the spring of 2016.
    The U.S.-spec Jaguar XE will be offered in two basic flavors — the sport-oriented 35t and the fuel-sipping 20d.

    The XE 35t will make use of Jaguar’s supercharged 3.0L V6. Developing 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, the XE 35t will be capable of ripping off 0-60 runs in just 4.9 seconds. The 35t will be electronically limited to a top speed of 155mph.

    The XE 20d, meanwhile, will use an efficient 2.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel rated at 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque. Jaguar hasn’t announced fuel economy figures for either model, but the company promises the XE 20d will be the most efficient vehicle in its lineup.

    Both engine will come paired to an updated version of the eight-speed auto found throughout Jaguar’s vehicle lineup.

    In addition to the XE’s two powertrains, buyers will also have the choice of three trim levels — Premium, Prestige and R-Sport. All XE models will ship standard with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive can be specified for an additional charge.

    On the technology front, the XE will be equipped with Jaguar’s latest InControl infotainment system. The system boasts an eight-inch touchscreen and smartphone connectivity. A navigation system will be an optional extra.

    Pricing for the Jaguar XE will be announced closer to the car’s 2016 on-sale date.

    Photos by Drew Johnson.

  • Porsche posts improved Q1 sales, profits

    April 29, 2015
    Porsche looks to be poised for another banner year after posting improved sales and revenue during the first quarter of 2015.
    Porsche announced on Wednesday that it delivered 51,102 new vehicles worldwide during the first three months of the year, marking a 32 percent improvement over the same period a year prior. Thanks to that increase in sales, the sports car maker’s revenue jumped 29 percent to 5.08 billion euros ($5.647 billion). Operating profit surged 10 percent to 765 million euros ($805 million).

    Porsche attributed its first quarter success to the popularity of its latest Macan small utility vehicle. Porsche also expects its latest GT models — the 911 GT3 RS and Cayman GT4 — as well as the upcoming Boxster Spyder to boost the company’s sales in the coming months.

    “Our successful vehicle derivatives strategy lets us satisfy the wishes of many customers who want to own a comprehensively personalized vehicle,” said CEO Matthias Muller.

    In order to keep up with growing demand, Porsche expanded its workforce by 12 percent to 22,945 people during Q1.

  • GM lobbies against Tesla direct sales

    April 29, 2015
    General Motors has reportedly stepped up its lobbying campaign against Tesla Motors’ direct-sales ambitions.
    After supporting legislation that succeeded in blocking direct sales in its home state of Michigan, General Motors is said to have deployed its lobbyists to wage a last-minute fight against a Maryland bill that gave the California-based startup a thumbs up to open a handful of sales outlets in the state.

    The Maryland bill’s supporters reportedly worked with the local dealers association to draft a compromise, limiting the number of stores Tesla could open. The dealer group is said to have been collaborative, not wanting to be “seen as an obstacle,” however GM lobbyists allegedly tried to derail the talks, Montgomery County Delegate Kirill Reznik said in in a video for Tesla Road Trip, as quoted by Green Car Congress.

    “GM showed up, and as I like to put it, pulled the pin on the grenade and threw it in,” he claims.

    Despite the resistance, the legislation passed earlier this month — with six minutes to spare before the end of the legislative session — and is expected to be signed into law next month by Governor Larry Hogan.

    GM believes that “all industry participants should operate under the same rules,” an argument echoed by dealer associations in other battleground states, a spokeswoman said in a statement to AutoblogGreen. “GM plans to compete in the all-electric vehicle market. By enacting HB 235, multiple manufacturers may compete with similarly capable vehicles and similar price points, yet they would operate under a distinctly different set of rules, which is why we opposed HB 235.”

    The company has generally received public support in its state-by-state war over direct sales, and Federal Trade Commission officials have even criticized restrictive franchise laws as “bad policy” that is potentially bad for consumers.

  • Ford recalls 50,000 vehicles for fuel pump issue

    April 29, 2015
    Ford announced Wednesday that it is recalling 50,157 vehicles in the U.S., Canada and Mexico for potentially defective fuel pumps.
    The defect applies to components installed in the 2014 Ford Focus, Edge, Escape and Transit Connect and 2014-15 Ford Fiesta with Bosch fuel pumps. The nickel plating in the pumps can fail, resulting in contamination, increased friction and eventual failure.

    Bosch pumps plated with the same process as those found in the recalled Ford models have been at the center of campaigns launched by Volkswagen Group, BMW and Nissan.

    Failed fuel pumps can result in affected cars being unable to start, or engine stalls if the failure occurs while they are in use. If the vehicle is rendered inoperable while in use, it could result in a crash.

    One incident has been reported to Ford that may be linked to this issue, but Ford did not report that anybody involved was injured.

  • McLaren confident in expansion without merger

    April 28, 2015
    McLaren has rejected the possibility of merging with one of the large automotive groups as it continues to expand.
    Other sports and luxury brands have long since joined Volkswagen Group or Fiat Chrysler. The two large companies control the lion’s share of high-end brands including Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Porsche and Rolls-Royce, each taking advantage of shared development costs and other benefits of being a subsidiary.

    The British automaker does not appear to be facing the same troubles as some of its independent peers, namely Aston Martin, and McLaren’s executive director of sales and marketing, Jolyon Nash, believes the company can continue achieving its ambitious goals without joining one of German or American giants.

    “We’re very quick to move. Our product development life cycles are very efficient,” Nash told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “In an industry like this, those are great advantages.”

    McLaren’s latest introductions, the 570S and 540C, are the first offerings in the newly formed Sport Series line — entry-level models that represent a clear move toward much higher sales volumes. The latter model is tailored for buyers in China, the world’s largest automotive market.

    The company appears to be confident that it can meet its mid-term goal of 4,000 units sold in 2017, more than doubling sales from the 1,600 units pushed last year.

    Image by Brian Williams.

  • NHTSA action expected in response to Takata, Jeep recalls

    April 28, 2015
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to take further action in the ongoing Takata and Jeep recall campaigns shortly.
    NHTSA is concerned because the repair rate for both campaigns is far lower than the agency deems acceptable.

    Honda, one of several manufacturers recalling vehicles for faulty Takata airbag inflators, recently investigated a fatal incident that occurred in January that the company believed to be linked to a faulty airbag. The company launched a voluntary ad campaign in March to reach Honda and Acura owners who may be driving vehicles that have been recalled and not yet fixed.

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles lost a lawsuit over the death of a four-year-old passenger in a Jeep Grand Cherokee that ignited after its fuel-tank ruptured in a collision. Chief executive Segio Marchionne made a bold deposition in the case, arguing that the Jeeps with fuel tanks mounted in the rear crush zone are safe even without a recall. The jury apparently did not agree, resulting in a $150 million judgement against the company.

    The company agreed to install trailer hitches on more than 1.5 million vehicles, including the 2002-2007 Liberty and 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee, all of which were built with the fuel tank unprotected behind the rear axle. The campaign was initiated due to government pressure, but FCA has consistently argued that the vehicles were not defective.

    Measures to speed up both campaigns are expected to be announced within two weeks, citing concerns over owners whom the agency deems to be at risk due to continued operation of vehicles that are subject to ongoing safety recalls.

    NHTSA previously threatened to reopen the investigation that lead to the Jeep recall, citing concerns from safety advocates that the recall does not cover all models potentially susceptible to what is seen as a design flaw. FCA responded by citing data submitted to the safety regulator when it concluded its report and issued the recall. “Real-world data show the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a lower incident rate than 57 other vehicles from its era. NHTSA concluded from its investigation that the vehicles do not pose an unreasonable risk to safety,” FCA said in a statement. “No events that have occurred since NHTSA closed its investigation should affect this conclusion.”

    NHTSA appears to be more concerned with the low response rate to the campaign for existing vehicles than expanding the scope of the Jeep recall. Administrator Mark Rosekind told Reuters at a conference today, “[T]he numbers came out, they’re horribly low. Those translate into lives at risk, and more lives have been lost and people hurt. That’s unacceptable.”

    “We’re going to look at every option, and we’ll be as aggressive as possible,” Rosekind said.

  • Lotus confirms crossover production plan

    April 28, 2015
    Lotus has confirmed plans to build a sports crossover, which it hopes will quickly become the hottest seller in the lineup.
    Speaking to Autocar, Lotus chief executive Jean-Marc Gales suggests the as-yet-unnamed model will be the “world’s first lightweight SUV,” and will consequently maintain the essence of a “real Lotus” despite its higher ride height. The executive previously promised that a Lotus-badged utility vehicle would be very fast on the track, with “outstanding handling” that will help it reinvent the segment.

    A four-door sports car was also under consideration, but the company appears to have dropped immediate plans for another car in favor of a foray into the fast-growing crossover market.

    Previous reports suggested the soft-roader would be a two-door model based on the mid-engined Evora coupe, though the latest details point to a five-door configuration. All-wheel-drive is expected to be offered as an upgrade option, and the build will likely be a bit lower and wider than the Macan and the Audi Q5.

    The model is expected to be presented as a rival to the Porsche Macan, designed with Chinese tastes in mind. It will be designed at the company’s UK design headquarters, but built in China via a joint venture involving China’s Goldstar Heavy Industrial.

    The company is said to be sticking with the a name that starts with ‘E’ for the production model, which could arrive on the market in 2019. Gales has been hesitant to confirm a US launch, citing the expense of necessary safety modifications, but the proposal has not been completely ruled out.

    Image by Ronan Glon.

  • Audi highlights Matrix Laser headlight tech

    April 28, 2015
    Audi has highlighted several advancements in adaptive headlight technology, referred to as Matrix Laser.
    The automaker has partnered with suppliers Bosch and Osram, along with the lighting-technology department of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology and the German government, to develop an “intelligent laser light for compact and high-resolution adaptive headlights” (iLaS).

    The tech relies on a rapidly moving micro-mirror that redirects the beam from an Osram laser, which starts as a 450-nanometer blue beam that is converted to white light via a fluorescent filter.

    The company already offers Matrix LED headlights on several models, along with LaserSpot high-beams. Combining the two technologies has been a work in progress, with a prototype previewed early last year at the Consumer Electronics Show.

    The current collaboration is said to have improved the technology by implementing faster activation and deactivation of the laser diode in relation to the mirror position, quickly broadening or narrowing the beam pattern to avoid dazzling other drivers. The three-millimeter-wide mirrors also enable much finer dynamic resolution, further improving the beam projection and maximizing safety.

    “The mirror used for this, which comes from the Bosch company, is a micro-optical system that features electro-mechanical control and is based on silicon technology,” the company notes. “It is very sturdy and exhibits very long life. Such components are also used for accelerometers and control units for electronic stability control.”

    The wording suggests the technology is being developed with production in mind, though Audi has not yet announced which model might get the Matrix Laser headlights. The system has been shown on a Quattro coupe concept, which is rumored to be moving toward an auto-show debut later this year.

  • VW Golf, GTI, Audi A3 face recall over failed fuel pumps

    April 28, 2015
    Volkswagen Group is the latest company to issue a recall related to faulty fuel pumps supplied by Bosch.
    Like the problematic parts cited in recent campaigns announced by BMW and Nissan, the 2015 Audi A3 and VW Golf and GTI use a fuel pump that was produced with improperly-plated components. The nickel plating is prone to flaking, potentially causing pump failure.

    “If the fuel pump fails, the vehicle will not start, or if the engine is running, it will stop and the vehicle will stall, increasing the risk of a crash,” the company said in a statement.

    Approximately 6,200 units are affected by the latest campaign. Each will receive a new fuel-pump module to prevent any future problems.

    The related recalls from other automakers have listed over 100,000 vehicles. It is unclear if the same parts were used in additional models that have not yet been named in the existing campaigns.