• NHTSA hints at wider Takata airbag investigations

    October 20, 2015
    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has hinted at an expanded investigation into problems with Takata airbag inflators.

    The agency appears to be focusing on how vehicle design affects inflators over time, taking into account factors such as cabin sealing against humidity or moisture intrusion, according to Reuters.

    “Think about age, high humidity, all the different factors,” NHTSA head Mark Rosekind told reporters ahead of a formal announcement scheduled for Tuesday. “Now you add design of the vehicle.”

    The agency has broadened the scope of its inquiry “beyond the 11″ automakers affected by the initial rounds of recalls. Previous reports suggests the probe could even expand to include any airbag inflator that uses ammonium nitrate, the controversial propellant is believed to explode with too much force, rupturing the inflator capsules, due to years of moisture exposure.

    Rosekind claims that tests show Takata’s newer inflators to be “solid,” though GM just recently issued a recall campaign for 2015 models after Takata’s production-lot testing resulted in a ruptured side-airbag inflator.

    The Takata campaigns so far have affected nearly 20 million vehicles sold in the US market.

  • Jeep begins Cherokee production in China

    October 20, 2015

    Jeep has officially started Chinese production of its Cherokee SUV at a new joint-venture plant located in the country’s Hunan Province. The Cherokee is being produced through a joint-venture between Jeep-parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and China’s GAC Group.

    The start of Cherokee production was celebrated with a ceremony at the Changsha, China, production facility. The event was attended by representatives from FCA and GAC, as well as several government officials.

    “The roll out of the Chinese-produced Jeep Cherokee is a major step in the deepened cooperation between the GAC Group and the FCA Group,” Zeng Qinghong, general manager of GAC, said. “Along with the localization of the Jeep brand and the introduction of Chrysler models in the future, our brand combination and product portfolio will further raise our business, and lead to a balanced and diversified development with Western partners of the GAC Group to expand our industrial distribution, deepening the implementation of our “3+e” strategy.”

    Mike Manley, head of Jeep, added: “The Jeep brand was the first western automaker to produce vehicles in China more than 30 years ago. Today, with the support of our GAC partners, our brand is back to its rightful place in this market.”

    The Jeep Cherokee was first built in China back in 1985. Those first Cherokees were built by AMC through a joint-venture company known as Beijing Jeep. Jeep ceased production in China in 2006.

    The factory will initially produce Cherokees with a 2.4L engine, but a 2.0L engine is also planned. Set to hit the market by the end of the year, the China-spec Jeep Cherokee will carry a base price of RMB 200,000, which converts to about $31,500. Top-spec models will command RMB 300,000, or about $47,000.

  • Report: VW optimized different emissions cheats for Europe, US

    October 20, 2015
    Volkswagen reportedly worked to optimized and adapt its emissions-cheating software for different markets and engines, pointing to a deeper conspiracy than the company has hinted at publicly.

    Engineers are said to have revised the ‘defeat’ software to work with four different variations of VW’s EA189 and EA288 diesel engines, which power a long list of models sold by VW, Audi, Skoda and SEAT, unnamed insiders told Reuters. The software was allegedly further refined to beat the different emissions-testing protocols in use by US and European regulators.

    Despite the persistent leaks related to VW’s ongoing investigation, the company has refused to identify who knew of and approved the cheating practices. Engineers are presumably behind the software itself, however many analysts familiar with VW’s corporate structure have suggested it is extremely unlikely that a few rogue employees implemented such technology without direction or approval from higher managers.

    “We are working intensely to investigate who knew what and when, but it’s far too early to tell,” VW said in a statement to Reuters.

    Costs of emissions hardware refits, government penalties and civil lawsuits could reach into the tens of billions, with separate investigations by multiple agencies in the US and abroad.

  • Another ignition-switch defect prompts GM pickup, SUV recall

    October 20, 2015
    General Motors has launched a recall campaign focused on a newly discovered problem with ignition switches in trucks and SUVs from the 2014-2015 model years.

    Some vehicles may have been manufactured with an ignition lock actuator gear that is too large, exceeding the diameter specifications and consequently making it difficult to turn the ignition key. Thermal expansion appears to play a role, causing the key to get stuck in the ‘start’ position at higher interior ambient temperatures.

    If the key sticks in the ‘start’ position and the vehicle hits a bump or the interior temperature cools, it can flip back past the ‘run’ and into the ‘accessory’ position. Such behavior is similar to the problems GM had with ignition-switches in millions of older vehicles.

    “This would result in a loss of motive power and affect power steering and power brake system function, which could increase the risk of a crash causing injury and/or damage to property,” according to a Transport Canada recall notice spotted by Autoblog. “The timing of the key movement out of the “run” position, relative to the activation of the sensing algorithm in a crash event, may also result in the airbags not deploying in a subsequent collision, increasing the risk of injury.”

    The problem affects a relatively small batch of just a few thousand vehicles including the 2014 light-duty Chevrolet Silverado GMC Sierra, along with the 2015 Silverado HD, Suburban, Tahoe and GMC Sierra HD.

  • Ariel supercharges Nomad off-roader for 290 horsepower

    October 20, 2015
    Ariel has updated its Nomad off-roader with a new engine option, adding a supercharger for even more power.

    With the benefit of forced induction, the Nomad’s Honda-sourced 2.4-liter engine produces 290 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque — up 55 hp and 30 lb-ft of twist — according to Autocar.

    The basic model launches to 60 mph from a standstill in just 3.4 seconds, surging up to 100 mph in 7.4 seconds and topping out at 125 mph. The supercharged model presumably improves acceleration and top speed, though precise figures have not yet been announced.

    Introduced early this year, the Nomad serves as a higher-riding all-terrain counterpart to the track-focused Atom. Both share similar open-top construction, though the off-roader adds a full roll cage.

    The basic Nomad fetches £30,000 (~$46,400 USD), while the supercharged package brings the price up to £36,000 (~$55,700).