• FCA tops latest Total Quality Index

    July 18, 2015
    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has received the highest overall scores in Strategic Vision’s latest Total Quality Index.
    Unlike the JD Power Initial Quality Study, which placed FCA brands at or near the bottom of the ranks, the TQI survey places more emphasis on customer-experience issues rather than problems. Strategic Vision claims its methods are superior, as all automakers now experience less than a half a problem per vehicle in “today’s modern and efficient” manufacturing world.

    “Simply counting problems once had a place in history, but today, knowing what creates love and that which enhances the customer’s perception of quality are key to determining what is best,” said Strategic Vision president Alexander Edwards.

    FCA achieved the highest corporate score for the first time in the survey’s 20-year history, with 859 points (higher is better). In close second, Volkswagen Group and General Motors both received a score of 858.

    At the model level, the highest score was achieved by the MINI Cooper Roadster, followed by the Chevrolet Colorado as the first domestic leader in the standard pickup category in more than a decade. The Mazda3 sedan also received a high score, placing it atop the small-car segment.

    FCA’s segment leading vehicles include the Fiat 500 and 500e, the Jeep Wrangler, and the Dodge Challenger, Charger and Durango.

    “FCA has incrementally risen from one segment leader in 2010 to six segment leaders in 2015,” observed Strategic Vision senior VP Christopher Chaney. “Though at Strategic Vision we often preach about looking forward, it’s hard to not be in admiration of the turn-around achieved by FCA (Chrysler) company employees.”

  • Tesla Model S gets 90 kWh battery, ‘Ludicrous’ acceleration mode

    July 18, 2015

    Tesla Motors has introduced several updates to the Model S range, adding a bigger battery, a cheaper entry-level model and an even quicker ‘Ludicrous’ acceleration mode as an optional upgrade.
    The company earlier this year replaced the 60 kWh model with the 70D, an all-wheel-drive variant with a 70 kWh pack and a $75,000 price tag. Now, buyers can opt for a single-motor version with the same battery pack for $70,000, with a range of 230 miles.

    “Various purchase incentives mean the actual net price is around $60k and annual gasoline and servicing savings are around $2k,” the company notes. “These savings are captured immediately if you lease the car.”

    Engineers have also developed an advanced ‘smart’ fuse for the battery. The system has its own independent battery and monitors the current at the millisecond level, firing a pyrotechnic charge to cut the battery if a short is detected.

    The intelligent fuse and use of high-temperature Inconel steel for other battery-pack components allows the Model S to use 1500 Amps, up from 1300 Amps. For drivers, the extra current results in a potential 10-percent increase in performance.

    If an ‘insane’ 3.1-second zero-to-60 mph sprint wasn’t quick enough for some buyers, Tesla now offers a ‘ludicrous’ mode that brings the time down to just 2.8 seconds. Drivers can expect to complete the quarter mile in 10.9 seconds, while time to 155 mph has been reduced by 20 percent.

    “Model S just got quicker and is now the fastest-accelerating sedan on the road,” the company wrote in a Twitter post.

    The extra performance carries a $10,000 upgrade cost for new buyers. Existing P85D sedans can receive the new fuse and pack modifications for $5,000 plus installation labor.

    For buyers more interested in range, Tesla has also added a 90 kWh variant to the lineup. The extra 5 kWh of battery capacity is said to stretch the 85D’s range to almost 300 miles at highway speeds of 65 mph. Official range is set at 270 miles.

    “Existing owners can also purchase the pack upgrade, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so unless your usage is on the edge of current range,” the company said. “On average, we expect to increase pack capacity by roughly 5% per year. Better to wait until you have more time on your existing pack and there is a larger accumulated pack energy difference.”

    Aside from the existing models, the EV maker suggests it is just two months away from delivering the first Model X units and just over two years from shipping the Model 3.

  • BMW to unveil two new concepts in Monterey

    July 18, 2015
    BMW has confirmed plans to unveil two world-premier concepts next month at the 2015 Monterey Car Week in California.
    The company has not announced further details, but at least one of the concepts will presumably be an M model. A teaser rendering accompanying the announcement shows an F1-inspired steering wheel with red and blue stitching, while M division R&D exec Dirk Haecker is listed among the press conference speakers.

    Previous reports suggest the M4 GTS is one of the mystery models. The upgraded production M4 is expected to receive the same water-injection system that was previewed earlier this year in the MotoGP safety car. It is expected to be lighter and more powerful than the standard coupe, potentially with a six-figure price tag.

    BMW enthusiasts are also waiting patiently for the company to finally reveal the new M2. The lightweight performance coupe is rumored to be significantly more powerful than the M235i, with up to 374 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six.

    The company has also promised to introduce a new M model that takes inspiration from the iconic E30 M3. Speculation suggests the throwback variant will likely arrive as a special-edition M2 package, however specific details remain unclear.

    The mystery concepts will be formally introduced on August 13.

  • Ferrari recalls 814 vehicles to fix airbag problem

    July 18, 2015
    Ferrari has issued a recall for several different models to fix an airbag problem.
    The company discovered a manufacturing issue that led to improper assembly of the driver’s side airbag. In some cases, the leather on the airbag cover may not have been properly glued. The Takata-supplied airbags also may have been installed with the cushion rotated out of proper position.

    “In the event of a crash, the deployment of the driver’s air bag in a rotated orientation increases the risk of injury,” the recall documents warn.

    Ferrari’s internal investigation and dummy tests suggest injury risk is only elevated when both conditions are present simultaneously, however the recall was still approved “out of an abundance of caution.”

    The issue affects the 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia, 458 Spider, 458 Speciale, California T, FF, F12 Berlinetta and LaFerrari, including a grand total of 814 units produced from December 2014 through April 2015.

    Service technicians will install a new airbag module to resolve the defect.

  • Volvo to import 265 Polestars for US buyers this year

    July 18, 2015
    After buying Polestar outright, Volvo is already preparing to deliver on its promise of expanded availability.
    The Swedish automaker has announced that 265 Polestar models will be imported to the US for the 2016 model year. The allocation includes 159 performance-tuned S60 sedans, along with 106 examples of the V60 Polestar wagon.

    Just 120 Polestar units were brought into the US for the 2015 model year, including 40 sedans and 80 wagons. All were reserved before the company even announced pricing.

    The latest Polestar models feature over 70 upgrades and modifications, improving both performance and handling. Changes include Brembo brakes, revised suspension and 20-inch wheels.

    The six-cylinder engine has been outfitted with a new twin-scroll turbocharger, bringing output up to 345 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Volvo suggests the additional power is good for a zero-to-60 mph sprint in 4.7 seconds for the sedan or 4.8 seconds for the wagon.

    The 2016 model year introduces two new colors — Ice White and Bright Silver — alongside the existing Black Sapphire and Rebel Blue (pictured) paint schemes.

    The 2016 Polestar models will begin arriving in US showrooms later this summer.