• Chevy Volt sales push ahead of Nissan Leaf

    April 5, 2016

    The Chevrolet Volt‘s collective sales have again inched ahead of the Nissan Leaf in the US market.

    General Motors’ dedicated plug-in hybrid has achieved 3,987 sales in the first three months of the year, representing a 113-percent jump over the same period in 2015. The surge can be attributed to the second-generation’s initial arrival late last year and its more recent expansion to showrooms across the country.

    The Nissan Leaf, meanwhile, has tallied just 2,931 deliveries through the end of March. Sales have fallen by more than 28 percent since last year, despite the arrival of an optional 30-kWh battery for the 2016 model.

    Tracking sales back to initial market arrival of both models in 2010, the Chevy Volt has reached 92,737 units and the Leaf has counted 92,522 deliveries, as Autoblog points out.

    Although the Volt only leads by a few hundred units, the second-generation model appears to be carrying more momentum to widen the gap. The Leaf could regain its lead once a next-generation model arrives with a much larger battery, however launch timing for a significant redesign remains unclear.

  • Nissan teases GT-R Nismo ‘world record’ [Video]

    April 5, 2016

    Nissan has released a short teaser video for a new world record attempt by the GT-R Nismo.

    “Coming at you in full force! No pause button here, just a #GTR #NISMO on a mission!” the vague description reads.

    The video was published by Nissan’s Middle East division and shows a GT-R Nismo on an airport runway, clad in “World Record Challenge” graphics.

    The car appears to be the current GT-R Nismo, rather than a Nismo variant of the
    2017 GT-R facelift. The current Nismo is no slouch, delivering 600 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque — enough power to launch the coupe around the Nurburgring circuit in just 7:08.69.

    More details of the latest record attempt are “coming soon.”

  • FCA recalls Ram 1500 to address power steering failures

    April 5, 2016

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has launched a recall program for the 2015-2016 Ram 1500, affecting 442 units sold in the US market.

    The pickups may have been manufactured with contamination on the electric power steering (EPS) circuit boards. In some cases, the system will experience intermittent or complete loss of power-steering assist while underway.

    “If the vehicle experiences a loss of power steering assist, extra steering effort will be required, especially at lower speeds, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash,” the recall documents note.

    All suspect EPS boards were built during one production run on a single production day at the supplier, explaining the relatively small batch of recalled vehicles.

    The first sign of trouble dates back more than six months, when the supplier first opened an investigation into complaints of power-steering failures. A total of 22 failed parts had been returned with contamination on the top side of the circuit board, though FCA claims to be unaware of any incidents or injuries.

  • Lincoln seeing strong interest in new Continental flagship

    April 5, 2016

    Lincoln says about 40,000 people have expressed interest in purchasing the company’s all-new Continental flagship sedan. The 2017 Lincoln Continental was unveiled earlier this year at the Detroit auto show and is scheduled to arrive in dealer showrooms this fall.

    Lincoln says it is working closely with dealers to turn those “hand raisers” into actual buyers. The company plans to announce a more formal blueprint on that front in the coming weeks.

    “We’ll have extensive prelaunch activities,” Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln, told Automotive News.

    Neglected for years, dealers say there is a palpable buzz surrounding the Lincoln brand thanks to the pending launch of the Continental. “People are asking a lot of questions about the car,” said Dan Marks, chairman of the Lincoln National Dealer Council. “This is the most buzz I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

    It remains to be seen how many of the hand raiser will turn into customers, but the Continental should provide Lincoln with a shot in the arm. After selling more than 100,000 vehicles in 2015 — a first for the brand since 2008 — Lincoln sales have surged 16 percent to 24,905 units during the first quarter of 2016.

    Images by Brian Williams.

  • Ford trains ‘engine listeners’ for Focus RS quality control

    April 5, 2016

    Ford has trained a team of ‘listeners’ to help validate production engines for the Focus RS.

    Based at Ford’s manufacturing plant in Valencia, Spain, the employees receive months of specialized training to identify audible hints of rattling or whistling sounds associated with blocked oil channels, broken gear teeth or other issues.

    “Think of it like a doctor who has the most advanced diagnostic technology but still uses a stethoscope to gather vital clues to a patient’s health,” said Ford of Europe quality VP Gunnar Herrmann.

    If listeners hear anything concerning during a series of 18 one-minute intensive tests, the engine is removed and presumably disassembled to identify any potential problems. The tests are performed in special sound-proof cells at the end of the production line, serving as one of the final steps before each engine is placed in the car.

    The high-output engine is based on the same 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost mill that powers the new Mustang. Engineers retuned the engine and added a new twin-scroll turbocharger to deliver 350 horsepower and as many lb-ft of torque, enabling the hatchback to launch from zero to 62 mph in just 4.7 seconds.

    The team of listeners perform tests for 2,000 vehicles per day at the Valencia plant, scrutinizing engines that will be used for the Focus RS, Focus ST, S-Max and Mondeo.

    Live images by Ronan Glon.