• Lexus teaser hints at next-gen LS for Tokyo debut

    October 22, 2015
    Lexus has released a teaser image for a new concept that will make its formal debut next week in Tokyo.

    The darkened shot shows a stylish LED headlight with three thin lenses blended in a straight line. A boomerang element sits below the headlight, potentially serving as an NX-inspired daytime running light or simply a contrasting metallic design element.

    The company has not yet officially identified the mystery vehicle, instead vaguely noting that it will capture its “vision of progressive luxury.”

    Recent rumors suggest the headlight may belong to a concept previewing the next-generation LS sedan. The company is said to be focused on making a statement with the next LS, celebrating 25 years since Toyota entered the luxury market via the original Lexus LS400.

    Details remain scarce, though the redesigned LS could take advantage of a hybrid powertrain or Toyota’s fuel-cell technology. The V8-powered range topper is expected to receive under-the-hood upgrades, potentially delivering up to 465 horsepower, while a rumored twin-turbocharged ‘F’ variant could approach 600 ponies.

    Additional details could surface ahead of the concept’s official debut next week.

  • GM profit up 37 percent, despite $1.5B for settlements and fines

    October 22, 2015
    General Motors has posted third-quarter profits of $1.4 billion on $38.8 billion in revenue.

    Net income has remained flat from the same quarter last year, however adjusted earnings before income and taxes (EBIT) have increased by 37 percent.

    “These results reflect our work to capitalize on our strengths in the US and China, while taking decisive, proactive steps to mitigate challenges elsewhere,” said CEO Mary Barra. “GM is a vastly different company today than just five years ago. We’re building a strong foundation, driving earnings growth in our core business and executing a plan to lead the future of personal mobility, all with the aim of creating shareholder value for years to come.”

    The company managed to increase North America EBIT-adjusted margins from 9.8 percent to 11.8 percent, while cutting Europe-market losses in half. South America did not perform quite as well, resulting in a $200 million loss compared to break-even results in Q3 2014.

    Despite Barra’s renewed focus on profitability and quality, the company is still paying for mistakes from years past. The latest quarterly results reflect a $900 million settlement reached with federal regulators to resolve a criminal inquiry related to the ignition-switch defect, along with $600 million spent settling related civil claims.

    CFO Chuck Stevens suggests GM is on track to continue growth through the next several years, with double-digit gains in terms of earnings per share.

  • Ferrari shares climb following IPO listing

    October 22, 2015
    Ferrari shares have already begun climb after the company’s initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

    Individual shares were initially sold for $52, at the top of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ expected valuation range. Sold under the ticker symbol RACE, shares peaked around $60 before leveling out above $56 for an eight-percent gain.

    Placing just a 10-percent stake on the open market, the IPO was oversubscribed and met with strong demand. If the price premium does not evaporate, market cap will remain above $10.5 billion — above analyst estimates but currently short of FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne’s personal estimate of more than $11 billion.

    Another 10-percent stake is being held by the Ferrari family, while 80 percent will be distributed to FCA shareholders.

    Analysts will be watching to see if Ferrari can complete its spinoff and raise its production cap from 7,000 to 9,000 units without diluting the exclusive brand and eroding competitiveness in the booming high-end segment.

    Image by Ronan Glon.

  • BMW recalls i3, MINI Cooper to fix faulty airbags

    October 22, 2015
    BMW of North America has issued a recall for the i3 and certain MINI models to fix faulty airbags.

    The company received a warning earlier this year from supplier Takata, indicating improper deployment of the front passenger airbag. The problem was traced back to a timing problem with the second airbag stage, used to control inflation force based on the severity of the crash and the occupant’s body size.

    “In a low speed crash (out-of-position/low risk deployment) in which the passenger-side front air bag deploys with the first stage only, inappropriate air bag restraint may be provided to the passenger, increasing the risk of injury,” the company notes in its recall filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    The problem does not appear to be related to the propellant issues that have caused other Takata airbag inflators to ignite with too much force and send shrapnel flying through the cabin.

    The campaign lists the 2014-2016 two-door MINI Cooper and Cooper S, the 2015-2016 two-door John Cooper Works variant, the 2015-2016 four-door Cooper and Cooper S, and the 2014-2015 i3 hybrid.

    Service technicians will install new airbag modules in the 6,073 defective vehicles.

  • Aston Martin reveals all-electric RapidE concept

    October 22, 2015

    Aston Martin has unveiled its all-electric RapidE concept, showcasing the EV at London’s Lancaster House in time for a meeting between British royals and China President Xi Jinping.

    Developed through a partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, the battery-powered RapidE is nearly indistinguishable from the Rapide S. The difference becomes clear when looking under the hood, exposing a high-voltage electronics box in place of Aston’s 5.9-liter hand-built V12 engine.

    Technical details remain unclear, though the RapidE would presumably be priced above the Tesla Model S — a positioning that would pressure the company to match or beat its US rival in terms of performance.

    The British luxury automaker has established an agreement with Chinese investment group ChinaEquity to explore a potential production version of the RapidE concept. Williams Advanced Engineering supplies battery systems for Formula E electric racers, suggesting similar technology could be used for the RapidE.

    If the plan moves forward, the car would be built at Aston’s production headquarters in Gaydon. The company suggests it could be brought to market in approximately two years, pointing to a 2017 launch window.

    “We see luxury electric vehicles as an intrinsic part of our future product portfolio and welcome ChinaEquity into the next phase of study for the project development,” said Aston Martin chief executive Andy Palmer.