• Christopher Walken stars in Kia’s Super Bowl ad [Video]

    February 3, 2016

    Kia has hired acclaimed actor Christopher Walken to help promote the new Kia Optima during Super Bowl 50.

    Walken cautions against the “beige sock mentality” and introduces a driver to the new Optima.

    “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who are content to blend in … then there are those who expect more,” he explains in the extended cut published on YouTube. “They’re exciting. They have pizzazz.”

    The campaign marks Kia’s seventh straight appearance in the Super Bowl, each year focusing on ‘upbeat’ and ‘fun’ advertising. Many companies are focused on delivering the funniest commercials of the game.

    “No one is cooler or as instantly recognizable as Christopher Walken, and on advertising’s biggest stage Kia is out to show the world the all-new Optima delivers a level of refinement and sophistication unlike anything else in the midsize segment,” said KMA COO Michael Sprague.

  • NanoFlowcell Quantino appears in ‘production ready’ form

    February 3, 2016

    NanoFlowcell has revealed a revised Quantino concept, claimed to represent the first production-ready low-voltage electric vehicle.

    The accompanying image of a yellow Quantino does not look much different from the blue concept that was revealed early last year, aside from a few tweaks to the front fascia. The company promises the new Geneva-bound build will be presented in a “near standard” configuration.

    NanoFlowcell’s unique powertrain employs oppositely-charged electrolyte solutions and fuel-cell stacks rather than traditional batteries. The system is claimed to provide the Quantino with 621 miles between charges. Despite running at low voltage, the tech is said to provide enough power to reach 124 mph.

    “Rated at just 48 volts and with an output of [107 horsepower] split between four electric motors, the all-wheel drive Quantino represents a significant improvement on the one-fill, one-charge range achievable with electric vehicles,” the company notes.

    Following an official debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the Quantino is said to be ‘essentially’ ready for a small-batch production run. The car will not begin rolling off the assembly line until the company completes a feasibility study later this year, however.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.

  • January sales: FCA, Volvo, JLR up despite tough conditions

    February 3, 2016

    January proved to be a difficult month for many automakers, stalling growth that had been sustained in 2015.

    Winter is a notoriously difficult season for auto sales as many potential buyers stay home rather than battling nasty weather in many states. January was no exception as the so-called Winter Storm Jonas affected nearly a third of the US population in the fourth week of the month.

    Several automakers managed to post gains despite the poor weather. Jeep sales were up by 15 percent and Dodge surged by 19 percent, putting FCA ahead by 7 percent for the month. Buick skyrocketed by an impressive 46 percent, though the gains were washed away by a drop in Cadillac and Chevrolet sales. Both Jaguar and Land Rover rose by around seven percent, while Volvo posted a 12-percent increase.

    Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen brand sales were down by 15 percent as the company continues to deal with the TDI emissions scandal. The fiasco drove group sales down by seven percent, despite strong performance from Audi and Porsche.

    January year-over-year, 2016

    - Acura down 15%, 10,250
    - Alfa down 31%, 67
    - Audi up 3%, 11,850
    - Bentley down 16%, 81
    - BMW down 5%, 18,082
    - Buick up 46%, 18,269
    - Cadillac down 8%, 10,740
    - Chevrolet down 4%, 137,803
    - Chrysler down 22%, 18,214
    - Dodge up 19%, 42,109
    - Fiat down 20%, 2,594
    - Ford down 3%, 165,301
    - GMC up 4%, 36,933
    - Honda flat, 90,247
    - Hyundai up 1%, 45,011
    - Infiniti down 12%, 8,514
    - Jaguar up 7%, 1,352
    - Jeep up 15%, 59,032
    - Kia flat, 38,305
    - *Lamborghini up 3%, 65
    - Land Rover up 7%, 5,655
    - Lexus down 10%, 20,933
    - Lincoln up 8%, 7,177
    - Maserati up 16%, 525
    - Mazda down 3%, 19,703
    - **Mercedes-Benz up 2%, 26,563
    - MINI flat, 3,238
    - Mitsubishi down 4%, 6,264
    - Nissan up 3%, 97,220
    - Porsche up 11% to 4,354
    - Ram up 5%, 33,021
    - Scion up 38%, 5,009
    - smart down 19%, 399
    - Subaru up 1%, 41,101
    - *Tesla up 9%, 2,075
    - Toyota down 5%, 135,251
    - Volkswagen down 15%, 20,079
    - Volvo up 12%, 4,244

    *Based on estimates from Automotive News.
    ** NOT including Sprinter

  • Takata panel cites need for quality-focused culture

    February 3, 2016

    Takata’s review panel has finally released a report detailing a long list of recommend reforms as the company continues to struggle with recalls for defective airbag inflators.

    Headed by former US transportation secretary Samuel Skinner, the inquiry concluded that Takata must work to establish a quality- and safety-focused corporate culture to minimize problems, identify potential issues and quickly resolve defects.

    “It is unlikely that even the most Herculean isolated efforts to improve quality at Takata will succeed unless there’s an accompanying shift in Takata’s culture,” the report said, according to excerpts posted by Bloomberg. “Quality needs to be something you breathe every day.”

    The panel calls for a new approach to data collection for performance tests, allowing Takata to perform research and analysis without first receiving incident reports from automakers. The experts also argue that quality-control managers should be granted the power to halt production.

    “We understand that the quality of our operations needs to be beyond question,” chief executive Shigehisa Takada said in response to the report. “We are committed to earning back the trust of automakers and the driving public.”

    The inflator problems have been blamed for at least 11 deaths. In all cases, the propellant appears to have exploded with too much force and sent shrapnel flying through the vehicle cabin.

  • Cadillac confirms ELR retirement

    February 3, 2016

    Cadillac chief executive Johan de Nysschen has confirmed the ELR‘s imminent retirement.

    The move does not come as a surprise, as the luxury plug-in hybrid has been a complete failure in terms of sales. The company sold just 1,024 units last year, down nearly 22 percent from the already-dismal 1,310 units pushed in 2014.

    “I plan to continue admiring it as one of the most beautiful cars on four wheels,” de Nysschen said at a media event for the CT6, as quoted by Automotive News. “But we don’t plan further investment.”

    Notably, de Nysschen once derided the Chevrolet Volt as a “car for idiots” when he served as Audi president in 2009. He later clarified that the ELR’s $75,000 price tag would likely lead to its downfall. The MSRP is approximately double that of the Volt, which shares the same platform.

    Cadillac marketing head Uwe Ellinghouse last year claimed the company “wanted to make [the ELR] a statement … of how progressive we are,” but he admitted that its price tag was indeed “a mouthful.”

    The company will now look to the CT6 plug-in hybrid to fill the gap. The electrified flagship sedan will be among several General Motors vehicles imported from China.