• Updated: Honda confirms Takata airbag injury

    April 15, 2015

    (Updated with statements/information from Honda. New text below in bold.)

    Honda engineers have confirmed that the neck injury suffered by a Florida driver in March was caused by a faulty Takata airbag inflator.

    The driver of a 2003 Honda Civic had shrapnel removed from his neck in an emergency procedure following an accident in which the airbags deployed. The hospital’s report indicated that the two were linked. Honda engineers inspected the damaged vehicle Monday and verified the hospital’s finding.

    Update: In a statement released to media, Honda has confirmed that the vehicle involved in the Florida incident is included in the ongoing Takata recall campaign. While it was reported Monday that the owner received a recall notification after the accident occurred, Honda indicates that this was the third such notice sent to the owner’s address.

    According to the statement, Honda has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of its findings from Monday’s investigation.

    Honda is one of several manufacturers subject to liability lawsuits over the bad inflators. The suits have been consolidated in Florida.

    Honda recently investigated a fatal incident in January that the company believed to be linked to a faulty Takata inflator. 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.

    “The goals of this campaign are to save lives and prevent injuries,” said Honda’s US executive VP, John Mendel, when the ad campaign was announced. “Honda hopes that this new consumer information campaign will bolster our existing and continuing efforts to reach our customers and maximize the vehicle repair completion rates associated with recalls to replace Takata airbag inflators.”

  • Mercedes-Benz: Pickup won’t be ‘fat cowboy truck’ for North America

    April 15, 2015
    Mercedes-Benz has doused cold water on hopes that its upcoming pickup, rumored to be called the GLT, will be available with longhorn-cattle embroidery, saddle leather or integrated boot brushes.
    “We are not going to develop a fat cowboy truck for North America,” Mercedes-Benz Vans head Volker Mornhinweg said in a blunt interview with Car.

    The executive points out that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler together own 90 percent of the pickup market, representing more than two million units annually. Mercedes-Benz will consequently avoid the “uphill battle” of competing against the big three in the world’s largest pickup market.

    “That’s why our focus is on a smaller and lighter pick-up truck which is already perceived as premium product in South America, Africa and the Middle East,” he added.

    The German automaker has teamed with the Renault-Nissan alliance to co-develop the four-door double-cab pickup, targeted against the midsize Toyota Hilux (Tacoma) rather than full-size American models.

    It is unclear if the comments represent an outright rejection of a US launch, or merely a promise that Mercedes-Benz does not intend to disrupt the full-size pickup market. Rumors suggest a US launch is under consideration, and the pickup could attempt to gain a niche foothold in the midsize segment.

    Unofficial speculation points to a price tag around $30,000 in some markets, marking a significant premium over the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier.

  • BMW i5 hybrid to have 640 hp, 78-mile electric range?

    April 15, 2015
    Fresh unofficial details surrounding BMW’s next i-Series car have surfaced, corroborating rumors of a powerful hybrid system.
    The car is expected to be called the i5 and built upon the modular HPLC architecture, which will eventually underpin the company’s full lineup of rear-wheel-drive models. It is said to be similar in size to the current 5-Series, potentially slightly longer but not as big as the 7-Series.

    The i5 will integrate a gasoline engine and two electric motors, one for the front axles and another to drive the rear wheels, with a combined output of 640 horsepower, unnamed sources have told Autobild. All-electric range is said to reach up to 78 miles, but the internal-combustion engine will kick in at speeds above 37 mph during normal operation.

    The latest information suggests BMW has already previewed the i5′s hybrid system in the Power eDrive prototype, which utilized a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a single electric motor and a smaller integrated battery. A similar configuration is already used for the i8, with a combined output of 362 ponies and 420 lb-ft of torque.

    BMW has allegedly blended design elements from the 7-Series sedan with the proportions of the 6-Series Gran Coupe, with a sporty styling that will be aimed squarely at the Tesla Model S.

    The new hybrid is expected to arrive as early as 2018, with a price tag around 100,000 euros (~$106,500 USD).

  • Ford to spend $2.5B on two new plants in Mexico, report claims

    April 15, 2015
    Ford is reportedly preparing to spend $2.5 billion to expand its manufacturing footprint in Mexico.
    The investment is said to be nearly evenly split between a new engine plant in Chihuahua state and a new transmission factory in Guanajuato state, unnamed sources told Reuters.

    The company has not yet announced the plan or confirmed any further details, but an unnamed Mexican official has reportedly claimed the engine plant will create approximately 4,000 jobs.

    Several Ford plants already build engines and vehicles in Mexico, including the Fiesta, Fusion, F-Series pickups and the Lincoln MKZ, though production of medium-duty F-650 and F-750 trucks will be shifting back to the US.

    Mexico automotive manufacturing continues to grow at a fast pace as automakers take advantage of the relatively cheap labor and proximity to the US market, with production and exports up by nearly 10 percent in 2014. Other recent expansion announcements have come from Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen, among others.

    Ford is expected to officially announce its Mexico expansion plans by the end of the week.

  • GM cuts Chevy Spark EV price

    April 15, 2015
    General Motors has slashed its entry price for the Chevrolet Spark EV.
    The battery-powered Spark is now available for $25,995 (including freight), representing a $1,675 discount from the previous base price. The company notes that federal and state tax credits, combined with manufacturer incentives, can bring the cost down to just below $15,000.

    An even bigger discount is available for lease customers, with a new $139/month option for 39 months. Importantly, the program requires no initial down payment aside from the usual tax, title, license and dealer fees.

    “Spark EV owners recognize the car as an opportunity to drive an all-electric vehicle that fits their budget and lifestyle,” said Chevrolet car and crossover marketing director Steve Majoros.

    Chevy Spark sales were down by 36 percent in March and nearly five percent for the first three months of the year. It is unclear if the electric variant is following the same trend, as GM does not break down sales of the EV and the standard gasoline-powered model.

    The Spark EV provides an estimated 82 miles of electric range, with 130 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque on tap.