• 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk leaked

    March 18, 2016

    Leaked images have prematurely revealed the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. The off-roader is scheduled to make its public debut next week during the New York Auto Show.

    Developed for buyers who want to go off the beaten path, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk receives a lift kit that adds a few additional inches of ground clearance, bigger tires, and a pair of red tow hooks up front for when the going gets really tough. Jeep has also added specific alloy wheels, a new front bumper with silver accents, as well as flat black decals on the hood that reduce glare.

    The cabin gets more supportive seats for the front passengers, leather upholstery, and red contrast stitching on the seats, the center console, and the door panels. The Trailhawk comes standard with a large touch screen that runs Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system.

    Technical specifications haven’t been leaked yet, so we don’t know what’s bolted in the Trailhawk’s engine bay. Regardless, four-wheel drive comes standard.

    Stay tuned, Jeep will publish official details about the 2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk in the coming days. It’s expected to arrive in showrooms before the end of the year.

  • Driverless Corvette mows down pedestrian

    March 18, 2016

    A woman was reportedly pinned underneath a driverless Corvette in a bazaar Manhattan accident.

    The vehicle was not an autonomous Corvette, but rather an unoccupied vehicle waiting at the entrance to a Midtown parking garage. The owner approached and hit the remote-start button on his key fob to start the engine, causing the convertible to launch across the street and strike a woman as she exited a restaurant, according to the New York Post.

    A lot attendant interviewed by the newspaper claimed to have retrieved the car and engaged the parking brake.

    “The driver went to pay. He squeezed the button .. and the car started rolling,” the attendant said. “The driver said, ‘oh sh-t’ and ran after the car.”

    The Corvette appears to be from the C5 generation, and the report claims it was outfitted with a manual gearbox. The C5 was never available with remote start as a factory option, suggesting the system was installed as a custom aftermarket accessory.

    If a remote-start installer disables or bypasses the clutch interlock switch, which requires the pedal to be depressed before starting the car, the vehicle can be started when in gear. With enough power on tap at idle, an emergency brake may prove incapable of keeping the wheels from spinning if the vehicle is started in gear.

    The victim in the Manhattan accident was reportedly taken to a local hospital. It is unclear if she sustained serious injuries from the accident.

  • Volvo: One in five XC90s purchased as plug-in hybrid

    March 18, 2016

    Volvo’s plug-in hybrid powertrains are off to a hot start, prompting the company to call for industry-wide standardization of charging infrastructure.

    “Already now, one in five of all Volvo XC90s sold is a T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid,” the company recently said, as spotted by InsideEVs.

    The XC90 has quickly become one of Volvo’s best-selling nameplates, second only to the XC60. The company has already delivered 12,274 units globally this year, with a grand total of 52,895 since the XC90 arrived on the market last year. Extrapolating the figures, the company appears to have sold around 10,500 XC90 PHEVs.

    “We see that a shift towards fully electric cars is already underway, as battery technology improves, costs fall and charging infrastructure is put in place,” said Volvo’s R&D head, Dr. Peter Mertens.

    The executive suggests limited charging infrastructure contributes to ‘range anxiety,’ and a lack of global standards has inhibited infrastructure buildout. The company is backing the Charging Interface Initiative, a consortium of stakeholders promoting a so-called Combined Charging System.

    The technology is designed to accommodate both regular and fast-charging systems. It can handle up to 43kW on AC power or 200 kW on a DC circuit, with future support planned for 350kW. For comparison, Tesla’s Supercharger network delivers up to 120 kW of DC power.

    Volvo promises to offer a plug-in hybrid variant of every new model as it replaces its entire product portfolio in the coming years. A fully-electric vehicle based on the modular SPA architecture is slated to arrive in 2019.

  • Tesla loses PR chief just weeks before Model 3 debut

    March 18, 2016

    Tesla’s vice president of global communications, Ricardo Reyes, has reportedly left the company, according to a Bloomberg report.

    Such mid-level executive shakeups do not typically gain much attention, however Reyes’ departure comes just two weeks before the company formally unveils its important Model 3 sedan.

    It is unclear if Reyes left on his own accord, or may have been ousted from the position. The executive originally joined Tesla from Google in 2009, hired to help lead communications and marketing strategy. He left in 2012 to take a two-year stint at Square before returning to the automaker.

    In his LinkedIn profile, Reyes claims to have lead Tesla’s communications strategy, reporting directly to CEO Elon Musk. Other listed achievements range from a PR turnaround in China to leading the Model X delivery event.

    Tesla relies on a unique strategy to market its vehicles, embracing word-of-mouth and media coverage rather than investing in traditional advertising. The Model 3 has received significant attention ahead of its formal debut. The launch is viewed as critical for the company to achieve its goal of becoming a high-volume automaker that appeals to the masses. Significant sales numbers could be vital for the fledgling automaker to make a profit from a vehicle with a $35,000 price tag.

  • Automakers commit to standard automatic emergency braking

    March 18, 2016

    Confirming an earlier leak, a group of 20 automakers has committed to making automatic emergency braking (AEB) a standard feature on all new cars by 2022.

    The list includes all major automakers and many low-volume brands including Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Jaguar Land Rover, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

    “A commitment of this magnitude is unprecedented, and it will bring more safety to more Americans sooner,” says NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind.

    NHTSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports will work together to monitor progress toward the 2022 goal. The IIHS and CR have already implemented programs to assess and rate performance of AEB systems, and the NHTSA is working on its own assessment framework for the 2018 model year.

    The technology is currently implemented in different ways depending on the particular automaker and vehicle. Some systems only work at slow speeds and only slightly reduce impact speed, while others work at much higher speeds and attempt to avoid collisions altogether.

    The IIHS claims the commitment “requires a level of functionality that is in line with research and crash data demonstrating that such systems are substantially reducing crashes.” In the beginning, vehicles must earn an IIHS ‘advanced’ rating for front-crash prevention.

    The IIHS relies on a point system to compare AEB technologies, with points awarded for performance in 12 mph and 25 mph tests. An ‘advanced’ rating can be earned for a 10 mph reduction from a 12 mph approach, but with no braking in the 25 mph scenario. Alternatively, a vehicle can qualify if it reduces impact speed by five to nine mph in both tests.

    The National Transportation Safety Board had pressured automobile regulators to make the technology a mandatory feature on all new vehicles, however the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims the voluntary initiative will make AEB standard three years faster than could be achieved through formal rule changes.

    “During those three years, according to IIHS estimates, the commitment will prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries,” the joint statement adds.