• Tesla details Model X features, delivers first units

    September 30, 2015
    Tesla Motors has revealed a few last details for the production Model X as the first units are delivered to customers.

    Speaking at a launch event celebrating the occasion, chief executive Elon Musk began by focusing on safety features. The EV is said to be the only SUV to earn five stars in each government crash-test scenario, thanks to its lack of gasoline engine in the front crumple zone and an extremely low center of gravity.

    The CEO also showed off an extremely large HEPA air filter, claimed to effectively remove allergens, soot/smog, bacteria and even viruses down to just 0.01 microns. Drivers can even activate a “bioweapon defense mode” in the climate-control settings, complete with a biohazard symbol beside the typical recirculation button.

    The event also served to reiterate a few of the already-announced highlight features that distinguish the Model X from other crossovers. Musk demonstrated the falcon-wing doors, automatic front doors, bicycle carrier and towing capabilities, among other selling points.

    The company so far has only detailed the 90-kWh variants that will be available this year, ahead of cheaper packages slated for 2016. The standard 90D boasts 257 miles of range and a zero-to-60 mph sprint in 4.8 seconds. The performance-tuned P90D drops to 250 miles but slashes the acceleration benchmark down to just 3.2 seconds.

    Only a handful of units were delivered at the media event. All were purchased in range-topping Signature Series trim, which starts at $132,000 before adding options such as the Ludicrous Speed enhancement.

  • Tesla Model X 90D gets 257-mile EPA range

    September 30, 2015
    Due to be unveiled later tonight, the Tesla Model X has received an official range rating from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The 90D variant, equipped with a 90-kWh battery pack, offers the best range of 257 miles and a combined city/highway rating of 92MPGe, consuming 37 kWh per 100 miles.

    The performance-focused Model X P90D brings higher performance but with a slight range penalty, bringing the EPA-certified driving distance down to 250 miles on a full charge.

    The numbers are fairly close to the Model S 85D and P85D, which offer respective ranges of 270 miles and 253 miles despite less energy capacity. Interestingly, the range discrepancy between the standard dual-motor and performance models is 17 miles for the Model S and just seven miles for the Model X.

    The EPA website does not list information for the additional Model X variants, which are not expected to arrive until next year. First deliveries will be limited to the $132,000 Signature Series range topper, to be followed by less luxurious trims and smaller battery packs.

    Tesla has already outlined many of the Model X’s features, however there could be a few surprises at the launch event.

  • USPS to buy 9,113 Ram ProMatsers

    September 30, 2015

    Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Ram Commercial division has inked a new contract with the U.S. Postal Service for 9,113 units of its ProMaster 2500 commercial van.

    All 9,113 units of the 2016 ProMaster heading to the USPS will be equipped with Ram’s 280-horsepower 3.6L V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. The Ram ProMaster 2500 uses a front-wheel drive layout, which is unique to the segment.

    “The Ram ProMaster is suited to meet the challenging demands of a USPS delivery vehicle,” said Bob Hegbloom, President and CEO, Ram Truck Brand – FCA US. “Reliability, durability, ease of use, lower acquisition and operating costs are hallmarks of the Ram ProMaster.”

    The fleet of ProMasters will join the USPS’ fleet of about 190,000 delivery vehicles.

    “While each and every one of our fleet customers is important to us, none command our attention like USPS,” said Tim Kuniskis, Vice President – Fleet Operations, FCA – North America. “I can’t think of another more mission-critical service than literally delivering the goods of our nation on a daily basis, and we are honored that USPS chose the Ram ProMaster to help them meet their challenging duty.”

    Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but the 2016 Ram ProMaster carries a base price of $27,040.

  • FCA admits ‘significant’ deficiencies in death, injury reporting

    September 30, 2015
    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is currently facing even more trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after an internal investigation confirmed problems with accident reporting.

    As outlined in government’s early warning reporting (EWR) program, automakers are required to notify the agency when their vehicles are involved in deaths or injuries, warranty claims, property damage, consumer complaints and other issues. The database helps regulators identify potential safety problems.

    “As a result of FCA US LLC’s heightened scrutiny of its regulatory reporting obligations growing out of its recent Consent Order with NHTSA, FCA US identified deficiencies in its TREAD reporting,” the company said in a statement, without elaborating. “FCA US promptly notified NHTSA of these issues, and committed to a thorough investigation, to be followed by complete remediation.”

    Notably, the NHTSA claims to have notified FCA in late July of an “apparent discrepancy” in the company’s early warning data. The agency’s statement suggests the warning prompted FCA’s internal investigation.

    “FCA has informed NHTSA that in investigating that discrepancy, it has found significant under-reported notices and claims of deaths, injuries and other information required as part of the Early Warning Reporting system,” said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. “This represents a significant failure to meet a manufacturer’s safety responsibilities.”

    The company did not elaborate with specific details, such as the number of deaths and injuries that may have been excluded from its required reports.

    Rosekind claims the agency will take “appropriate action” after gathering additional information on the scope and causes of the failure, suggesting FCA may be facing even more fines.

  • Barra still working to reform GM’s ‘dog ate my homework’ culture

    September 30, 2015
    General Motors chief executive Mary Barra is still working to reform the company’s corporate culture as it emerges from the ignition-switch fiasco.

    The recall saga exploded just weeks after Barra took the reins, forcing the company to refocus on safety while simultaneously pushing forward with a new strategy focused on profits rather than raw sales numbers, according to a Bloomberg interview with several top executives.

    The rookie CEO has been credited with achieving success in both the business restructuring and in navigating the recall crisis, however the push for a new culture is still a work in progress.

    “We used to be a company of best efforts and there was a ‘dog ate my homework excuse’ for not showing results,” she said. “I’m working hard to drive a can-do entrepreneurial spirit.”

    The report suggests there is still internal disagreements about a range of issues, and some outside hires are said to be treated as interlopers. Exemplifying the conflicts, sources claim GM’s recruitment of former Samsung designer Dave Townsend ended in failure after just seven months due to internal resistance from GM veterans. At Cadillac, meanwhile, brand chief Johan de Nysschen and GM development boss Mark Reuss reportedly have very different opinions about the luxury marque’s design language.

    The company appears to face an even tougher challenge spreading the new culture throughout the company’s hundreds of thousands of lower employees spread across the globe. Most analysts agree with Barra’s assessment that any evolution will likely take years, and some critics doubt it is even possible to achieve the promised changes on such a broad scale.

    “The middle in any culture is the hardest to change,” she said.

  • Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3: Preise und technische Daten

    September 30, 2015

    Der neue Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 ist jetzt erhältlich

    Der stark überarbeitete Wagen kostet 485.500 Euro

    Unter anderem wurde das Aerodynamikpaket optimiert

    Daventry (England), 29. September 2015
    Einst als kostengünstiger Rennsport-Einstieg für Gentlemen-Fahrer geschaffen, erlebt die GT3-Klasse seit einigen Jahren einen regelrechten Boom. Jeder Hersteller, der etwas auf sich hält, hat mittlerweile ein GT3-Auto im Angebot. Die nächste Neuerscheinung kommt von Nissan, hört auf den Namen GT-R Nismo GT3 und ist ab sofort bestellbar.

    Zwei Jahre Entwicklung und ein großer Titel
    Ein Jahr Entwicklung in Japan und ein weiteres voller Testeinsätze in Europa hat der GT-R mittlerweile hinter sich und ist jetzt bereit für die Auslieferung an die Kunden. Als Beweis für die Konkurrenzfähigkeit steht der Gewinn des Pro-Cups in der Blancpain Endurance Series 2015 im Erfolgsheft der Japaner. Besonders Augenmerk wurde auf die Verbesserung der Fahrbarkeit gelegt, um sowohl Profi- als auch Amateurfahrern ein perfektes Renngerät zur Verfügung zu stellen.

    Verstärkte Bremse
    Ein wichtiges Bauteil, das dazu beiträgt, Vertrauen in ein Auto aufzubauen, ist die Bremse. Diese wurde besonders im Hinblick auf Haltbarkeit und Kühlung verbessert, so Nissan. Größere Kolben und neue Hauptbremszylinder sollen für ein besseres Pedalgefühl sorgen. Die größeren und dickeren Bremsscheiben der Marke Endless sollen jetzt genug Material bieten, um sowohl Sprint- als auch Langstreckenrennen ohne Probleme zu überstehen.

    Diät für den Sumo-Ringer
    Neben der verbesserten Bremse wurde besonders Wert auf das Gewicht des Sumo-Renners gelegt. Die Lufthebeanlage, die beim Boxenstop quasi den Wagenheber ersetzt, wurde weiter unten montiert, um kürzere Stempel verwenden zu können, die wiederum Gewicht sparen. Darüber hinaus wurden Lenksäule, Chassis und Kabelbaum modifiziert, um dem GT-R weitere Kilos abzutrainieren. Carbon-Lufteinlässe und Luftfiltergehäuse sparen im Motorraum weitere Pfunde ein. Zur besseren Gewichtsverteilung wurde außerdem die Lichtmaschine vom Motorraum an die Hinterachse versetzt.

    Mehr Übersicht und Support für 485.500 Euro
    Im Cockpit des GT-R sorgt eine geänderte Sitzposition für ein erleichtertes Ein- und Aussteigen sowie für eine optimierte Balance des Autos. Das niedrigere Armaturenbrett in Kombination mit dem unten abgeflachten Lenkrad verbessert die Übersichtlichkeit, zusätzliche Rohre im Seitenaufprallschutz die Sicherheit. Wer sich bei Nissan einen GT-R Nismo GT3 zulegt, erhält neben dem Fahrzeug auch besondere Kundenunterstützung. Unter anderem werden Lehrgänge für Ingenieure und Mechaniker sowie eine Ersatzteilversorgung an der Rennstrecke angeboten. Der Preis für den Nissan liegt bei 485.500 Euro.

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  • Tesla Model S owners claim P85D hp rating is exaggerated

    September 29, 2015

    A few Tesla Model S owners have cried foul over alleged horsepower exaggeration for dual-motor variants such as the P85D.

    “The P85D was marketed as making 691 horsepower. It doesn’t,” the letter claims, according to excerpts posted on HybridCars. “We believe, based on various testing methods and tools including dynamometer testing and testing with professional performance data loggers that the maximum energy output is 415 [kilowatts], which results in a maximum horsepower of 557 … Even without factoring in drive train loss, this is almost 20 percent less than the advertised horsepower.”

    Following the complaints, Tesla published a blog post clarifying its methodology for estimating “equivalent” horsepower ratings for its dual-motor vehicles. The company “took the straightforward and consistent approach” of specifying the combined capability of both electric motors front + back.

    “With the shaft horsepower coming out of the motors the situation is not always as simple as front + rear,” wrote Tesla CTO JB Straubel. “As we have pushed the combined motor horsepower higher and higher, the amount of times where the battery chemical horsepower is lower than the combined motor horsepower has increased.”

    The executive suggests the discrepancy is rarely experienced in the 85D and 70D, as the combined motor shaft power almost always stays within a range that can be supported by the battery. The shaft power of the P85D’s motors, however, “often exceeds the battery electrical horsepower available.”

    The company quietly changed its website to specify horsepower ratings for the individual motors — 259 hp front and 503 hp rear in the case of the P85D. The combined total is no longer listed and, interestingly, the basic “front + rear” methodology described by Straubel results in an even higher total of 762 ponies.

    “The missing horsepower is quite noticeable at highway passing speeds,” the disgruntled owners added. “For example, from 70-90 mph … the P85D is easily outperformed by an Audi RS7.”

  • NHTSA mulls order to expand Takata airbag recall

    September 29, 2015
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reportedly considering an order that would further expand the Takata airbag recalls.

    The agency has sent letters to Mercedes-Benz, , Jaguar Land Rover, Suzuki, Tesla, Volvo Trucks, Volkswagen and Spartan Motors, asking for more information on vehicles outfitted with Takata inflators, according to an Associated Press report.

    “It is expected that the scope of the current Takata recalls may expand as time goes on and will likely grow to include vehicles that are outside the scope of the current recalls,” the letter said.

    Government investigators are said to be asking for details of every vehicle that uses an inflator powered by ammonium nitrate, a controversial chemical that may be prone to degradation via moisture exposure over time. Additional details remain unclear, though the scope of the requests suggests the NHTSA could push for a blanket recall on airbag inflators that use ammonium nitrate.

    The ongoing Takata recall campaigns have so far affected more than 19 million US vehicles.

  • Group claims VW, others cheated on gas emissions

    September 29, 2015
    The firestorm currently enveloping Volkswagen over its emissions-spewing diesel engines could soon spread to its gasoline-powered cars after a new study found that some of the automaker’s vehicles consumer far more fuel than advertised.

    Belgian-based watch group Transport & Environment released its latest Mind the Gap report on Monday, which analyses the difference between a vehicle’s stated economy and its recorded real-world mileage. The study focused on cars sold in the European market.

    The study found that gas-powered versions of the VW Golf were spewing about 40 percent more pollutants in real-world driving than they were during lab simulations. T & D didn’t find any evidence of a “cheat” device like the one used in VW’s diesel cars, but the organization believes VW is somehow gaming the system.

    “Like the air pollution test, the European system of testing cars to measure fuel economy and CO2 emissions is utterly discredited,” Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said. “The Volkswagen scandal was just the tip of the iceberg and what lies beneath is widespread abuse by carmakers of testing rules enabling cars to swallow more than 50 percent more fuel than is claimed.”

    Wider than VW
    As Archer alluded, the T & D study found that several other vehicles from a number of automakers were returning significantly worse economy in real-word driving than they were in lab testing. T & D specifically called out Mercedes-Benz’s A-, C- and E-Class vehicles, which the organization claims have more than a 50 percent variance between stated and real-world CO2 emissions.

    The study found that on average about two-thirds of the fuel economy gains over the last seven years have been the result of cheating the system rather than actual improvements.

    “This widening gap casts more doubt on how carmakers trick their customers in Europe to produce much better fuel efficiency in tests than can be achieved on the road,” Archer said. “The only solution is a comprehensive investigation into both air pollution and fuel economy tests and all car manufacturers to identify whether unfair and illegal practices, like defeat devices, may be in use. There must also be a comprehensive overhaul of the testing system.”

    The United States hasn’t opened a formal investigation onto VW’s gas-powered cars, but the EPA has intervened over false economy claims in the past. Most recently the EPA forced Hyundai and Ford to revises some of thier overly optimistic mileage claims.

    Photo by Mark Elias.

  • Next-gen Toyota Prius to offer electric AWD?

    September 29, 2015

    Toyota’s next-generation Prius will reportedly introduce an all-wheel-drive system for the first time.

    Higher trim levels will be available with the feature, likely powered by a second electric motor added to the rear axle, according to an alleged staff manual published by Japanese site Minkara and translated by IndianAutosBlog.

    All-wheel-drive could be an attractive option for buyers in snowy locations. The technology is also expected to improve driving dynamics, which will also benefit from a lower center of gravity, a wider stance, suspension refinements and improved torsional rigidity.

    The all-wheel-drive system reportedly carries a fuel-efficiency penalty, reducing mpg by approximately 10 percent. In contrast, Tesla Motors achieves longer range in its dual-motor Model S variants, despite extra weight, by managing the front-rear power split to run each motor in a more efficient state.

    Toyota has achieved an estimated 10-percent increase in mpg for the front-wheel-drive Prius, pairing a 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle engine with a single electric motor. Power figures and official EPA mpg estimates have not yet been announced. An ‘Eco’ variant with even better fuel efficiency will eventually be added to the lineup.

    More details will likely be announced in the near future.