• Hyundai recalls 2015 Sonata to repair broken seatbelts

    July 9, 2015

    Hyundai has issued a recall for the 2015 Sonata to fix a seatbelt defect.
    A problem with the front seat buckles can prevent the belt from being properly secured. The buckle can jam if the tongue on the belt is inserted into the buckle at an angle.

    Driving with unbelted occupants raises the risk of injury or death in an accident, though drivers will be warned of an unbuckled belt via a warning light on the dashboard.

    The company is said to be unaware of any accidents or injuries among the 140,000 defective vehicles sold in the US and Canada.

    Service technicians will repair or replace buckles in affected vehicles to resolve the issue. The repair process is expected to take less than an hour.

  • Ford to shift C-Max, Focus production to Mexico

    July 9, 2015
    Ford has reportedly decided to move production of the C-Max and Focus from Michigan to Mexico.
    “We will move production of the next-generation Ford Focus and C-MAX, which currently are built at Michigan Assembly Plant, beginning in 2018,” the company said in a statement published by the Detroit Free Press.

    Both models have experienced sales declines this year, with June delivers down by 15.6 percent for the C-Max and 16 percent for the Focus. It is unclear if lackluster demand has factored into Ford’s decision.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, the company allegedly sent its written notification to the United Auto Workers less than a week before the company begins formal contract negotiations with union leaders.

    The company promises to not close the facility, which employs approximately 4,000 workers, however the Focus and C-Max are currently the only vehicles that roll off its assembly lines.

    “We actively are pursuing future vehicle alternatives to produce at Michigan Assembly and will discuss this issue with UAW leadership as part of the upcoming negotiations,” the company added.

    The automotive industry in Mexico has continued to grow at a fast pace in recent years. A long list of automakers already have a manufacturing presence in the country, where production of light cars and trucks increased by nearly 14 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to Mexico’s auto manufacturers association.

    Four years have passed since the Detroit’s big three automakers inked a new contract with the UAW. Automakers at that time argued against going back to the “old ways” that led to the industry crisis of 2008-2009, however sales — and company profits — have since recovered. Union leaders are expected to push for reversal of several previous concessions, including pay caps and two-tier wages, however automakers will likely use Mexico as a bargaining chip.

    The current contracts are scheduled to expire later this summer.

  • ‘Barracuda’ rumors rekindled with FCA trademark filing

    July 9, 2015
    Reports of a new-age Barracuda have resurfaced thanks to a recent trademark filing by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
    Past rumors of a Barracuda revival were rekindled this week when fan site Allpar discovered that FCA re-trademarked the legendary muscle car name for “Motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, their structural parts, trim and badges.” The trademark was filed by FCA on June 23, 2015.

    Although the door is certainly open for a modern interpretation of the classic ‘Cuda, enthusiasts should temper their expectations. It’s fairly routine for automakers to re-up there trademarks in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of competitors. Moreover, we’ve seen Chrysler trademark the Barracuda name before without any actual results.

    However, if FCA ultimately does decided to use the Barracuda name again, there are two leading possibilities. The first would see the Barracuda replace the Dodge Challenger after it’s scheduled to go out of production in 2018. The second would place the Barracuda as a smaller alternative to the Challenger, possibly along the lines of the Scion FR-S.

    A sticking point for either option would be branding as the Barracuda was originally sold through Chrysler’s defunct Plymouth division. However, Chrysler has shifted nameplates between brands before — as with the Plymouth and then Chrysler Prowler — so such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented.

    Both scenarios are little more than mere speculation at this point, however, so we’ll probably have to wait a few more years to see just what FCA has up its sleeve.

  • FCA invests $166M for new tooling at Sterling Stamping Plant

    July 9, 2015
    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced plans to invest $166 million at its Sterling Stamping Plant outside Detroit.
    The funds will help the company add three new press lines to accommodate increasing demand, ramping up parts distribution to seven different assembly factories located in the US, Mexico and Canada.

    Celebrating 50 years of continuous operation, the plant currently builds body panels and assemblies for a range of vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram trucks.

    “As the Company’s second stamping plant investment in a year, this funding will allow the Sterling Stamping Plant to maintain the quality and speed necessary to continue supporting our manufacturing operations,” said FCA manufacturing VP Brian Harlow.

    The company is purchasing two extra-large high-speed servo tandem press lines, which are claimed to improve reliability while reducing energy usage and increasing output rates. A new servo progressive press line will also be added to the factory floor.

    Construction of the new press lines has already begun, targeting a production start in the fourth quarter of this year and full volume by the first half of 2016.

  • FCA wants to revisit GM merger talks in 2017

    July 9, 2015
    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s quest to merge with General Motors has reportedly spanned three years already, and the company is not giving up yet.
    After successfully leading the Fiat-Chrysler merger, the outspoken executive wants to spearhead another big industry consolidation. GM has been the top choice, however none of the automakers on his list have so far shown interest in the idea.

    “GM hasn’t been put to rest. There is no pressure on time,” FCA chairman John Elkann told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. “In 2012 we had a conversation [with GM]. In 2015 we had a conversation. We might have a conversation in 2017 or 2018.”

    Elkann, a descendant of Fiat’s founder, has agreed with Marchionne’s assessment that GM is “by far the best” option for a merger.

    FCA appears to be embracing patience and persistent in its courting attempts, however analysts have pointed to comparatively high debt, market risk in Europe and slim profit margins as factors that could be off-putting for a potential suitor.

    The company last year outlined an ambitious five-year plan promising a slew of new models by 2018. The bold plan highlighted FCA’s optimistic vision for significant growth across all of its brands, however some of the development projects have already been delayed.