• FTC investigates VW’s ‘clean diesel’ advertising

    October 15, 2015
    The Federal Trade Commission has joined the Volkswagen criminal investigations, adding another potential source of fines and penalties if the agency finds evidence of wrongdoing.

    The Environmental Protection Agency kicked off the inquiries, last month accusing the German automaker of installing a ‘defeat’ program in certain diesel-powered vehicles to cheat US emissions tests.

    The Department of Justice later joined in to help determine if any emissions laws were broken and push the proceedings forward if charges are warranted. The FTC is now coordinating with its fellow regulators, presumably focusing on VW’s “clean diesel” marketing.

    “Diesel cars are really smelly, smoky and sluggish? That’s in the past,” reads an Instagram caption for a Golf TDI Clean Diesel advertisement, still posted in VW’s social news feed, though most of the diesel marketing pages appear to have been removed from the official website.

    “I am outraged that VW would cheat its customers by deceiving them into buying a car that wasn’t what was advertised,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wrote in a letter to the FTC last month, as noted by Bloomberg.

    Nelson has called for the agency to force VW to compensate consumers for the deception and launch a marketing campaign explaining the scandal and providing instructions for existing owners. It is unclear if the FTC will follow the enforcement recommendations, however.

  • Toyota expects hybrids, FCVs to dominate market by 2050

    October 15, 2015
    Toyota has reaffirmed its vision for a hybrid and hydrogen-powered future, predicting gasoline vehicles to be significantly marginalized in the next few decades.

    The Japanese automaker intends to lead the trend, aiming for its 2050 fleet to be dominated by super-efficient or alternative powertrains to reduce emissions by 90 percent compared to 2010 figures.

    “You may think 35 years is a long time,” Toyota senior managing officer Kiyotaka Ise recently said at a media event, as quoted by the AP. “But for an automaker to envision all combustion engines as gone is pretty extraordinary.”

    The forecast for internal-combustion engines is shared with others in the industry, however Toyota breaks from the mainstream in its focus on hydrogen rather than battery-powered EVs. FCVs are still expensive compared to gasoline and hybrid models, as are current long-range electric cars, and both technologies are in a race to reach mass-market viability in terms of price, range and practicality.

    Tesla Motors has placed its bet at the other end of the spectrum, expecting battery prices to continue falling — driven down by the broader electronics industry and the company’s own Gigafactory plant. Meanwhile, charging infrastructure continues to expand around the country.

    Honda first launched its hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity in the US market approximately seven years ago, leasing just a few dozen units. In the intervening years leading to the Toyota Mirai‘s forthcoming arrival, only 12 hydrogen refueling stations are currently online in the US. Recent reports suggest some stations are unreliable, remaining completely offline for days at a time or restricting customers to partial tank fills.

    Toyota expects its Mirai to surpass 30,000 global sales by the end of the decade, potentially two years behind the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt. Tesla’s Model S production already reached 35,000 units last year, while Nissan’s Leaf just edged past the 30,000 mark in the US market alone.

    Despite the uncertainties surrounding hydrogen, Toyota still has a significant lead in the hybrid market. The company sold over 207,000 Prius hybrids last year in the US, along with tens of thousands of Camry Hybrids. With four million hybrids collectively sold so far globally, the Japanese automaker hopes to hit 15 million by the end of the decade.

  • Spied: 2017 Volvo S90 interior

    October 15, 2015
    Our spies in Michigan stumbled upon a Volvo S90 testing with a fully uncovered interior, giving us a glimpse at what to expect from the S80 replacement’s cabin.

    We’ve seen the S90 testing with camo before, and model images leaked from China have shown us what the final exterior should look like, but all we knew for sure about the interior is that it would likely follow that of its CUV cousin’s very closely. These spy shots confirm those suspicions.

    Like the XC90, the S90′s interior will feature a center-mounted, tablet-like touchsreen infotainment and control center flanked by vertical vents and a sleek, minimalist dashboard. On the passenger side, we see what appears to be brushed aluminum trim covering the lower half of the dash. A tight, multifunction cluster sits behind a leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel.

    Elsewhere, we note a center-console-mounted ignition switch, generous stitched leather appointments, and the generally clean, Swedish lines we’ve come to expect from Volvo over the decades.

    Under the skin, the S90 will be all but identical to the XC90. Built on Volvo’s new Scalable Platform Architecture, Volvo’s next sedan will launched with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that uses both a turbocharger and a supercharger to generate 316 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 295 lb-ft. of torque from 2,200 to 4,500 rpm. An eight-speed automatic transmission will send power to all four wheels.

    Later in the production run, the S90 will get a fuel-sipping gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain made up of the aforementioned 2.0-liter four-banger, a 60-horsepower electric motor located over the rear axle a smaller motor wedged between the engine and the eight-speed automatic. Called Twin Engine in Volvo-speak, the drivetrain will generate about 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft. of torque while allowing the S90 to drive on electricity alone for up to 20 miles.

    Rumors indicate the Volvo S90 will be presented to the public for the first time at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this coming January. If that’s the case, it could be previewed by a close-to-production concept next fall in Frankfurt, while its family-friendly V90 counterpart will likely bow next March in Geneva.

    The S90 will land in Volvo showrooms across the nation next spring as a 2017 model.

    Interior spy photos by Brian Williams.

  • Ferrari demonstrates F12tdf’s rear-wheel steering [Video]

    October 15, 2015

    Ferrari has released a demonstration video showcasing the F12tdf‘s rear-wheel steering and handling improvements.

    Engineers faced several challenges when attempting to improve cornering ability while maintaining balanced vehicle dynamics. Adding wider front tires — jumping from 255 to 275 millimeters — was the first step toward improved lateral acceleration.

    “This modification guarantees higher lateral acceleration generated by the front axle but, alone, this would have caused oversteer on the limit, making the car more challenging for less expert drivers,” Ferrari said.

    To resolve the understeer issue for “gentlemen drivers,” the company implemented a rear-wheel steering system known as Virtual Short Wheelbase. The technology is not exactly new, with several similar systems currently available in cars ranging from the Acura RLX to the Porsche 918 Spyder. The Prancing Horse boasts a performance-focused integration of the rear-wheel controls into the car’s other dynamic control systems.

    Aside from mitigating dreaded understeer, the active rear axles are also said to improve steering-wheel response, turn in and high-speed stability. Longitudinal acceleration has increased from 0.59 g to 0.70 g, while maximum lateral forces jumped from 1.25 g to 1.43 g.

    Despite the extra gear, the F12tdf actually sheds a few hundred pounds from the standard Berlinetta model. The V12 has been retuned to take full advantage of the lighter build, bringing output up to 769 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque.

    Ferrari will only build 799 examples of the special-edition F12, each presumably fetching well above the Berlinetta’s $320,000 price tag.

  • Volvo details CMA platform, promises 2017 launch

    October 15, 2015
    Volvo has highlighted its upcoming Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, one of just two flexible platforms that will eventually underpin the company’s entire lineup.

    CMA serves as a smaller sibling to the Scalable Production Architecture (SPA), which underpins the XC90 and will soon extend to the new S90 sedan. Both architectures are compatible with many of the same powertrains, including traditional and plug-in hybrid configurations, and share many other components.

    Co-developed with China-based parent company Geely, the CMA and SPA platforms aim to modernize both the vehicles and the production process. Extensive use of common modular components will allow the company to streamline assembly and benefit from economies of scale.

    “We are in a terrific position with CMA. We have developed this new architecture as a plug and play component,” said Volvo R&D head Peter Mertens. “This means that on Volvo’s next generation of compact cars you will benefit from the advanced technologies available on our XC90 today.”

    In a separate announcement, the company outlined plans to build its first pure electric vehicle. The EV is expected to arrive in the form of a crossover, likely positioned as a rival to Tesla’s Model Y, with a range of around 325 miles.

    Further embracing the electrification trend, the Swedish marque has also promised to offer plug-in hybrid powertrains across its entire lineup.

    The company expects the electrified powertrains to eventually account for approximately 10 percent of its 800,000-unit global sales target by the end of the decade. The XC90 has already been met with stronger-than-expected demand, while the S90 is expected to be unveiled before the end of the year. The XC40 and mystery EV are said to follow in 2018 or 2019.