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30 Jul 2014

2015 Audi Q3 pricing leaked, starts at $32,500*

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Audi Q3

Audi Q3 Pricing leakAudi only debuted the 2015 Q3 compact crossover for the US market at the 2014 Detroit Motor Show in January, yet that feels like a lifetime ago. However, the little luxury CUV is finally getting close to reaching these shores, and alleged pricing for it is leaking out.

According to leaked documents from Audi Q3 Forum (right), the premium compact crossover has a starting price of $32,500 (*plus an additional destination charge of $925), for an actual cost of $33,425. That covers the front-wheel drive model with a 200-horsepower 2.0 TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. Upgrading to a version with Quattro that spins all four wheels brings the bill to $34,600 – $35,525 after destination charges. In case you wanted further proof, Audi’s new Q3 teaser site confirms the starting price of $32,500.

The documents list two trim levels – Premium Plus and Prestige. Premium Plus includes standard features like a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, Xenon headlights with LED running lights and dual-zone climate control and more. Paying $3,900 more for Prestige adds MMI Navigation Plus, Bose surround sound, a power tailgate and other goodies.

German luxury cars often offer a mile-long list of options, but the Q3 appears to be surprisingly sparse, according to this leak. Premium Plus is available with MMI Navigation Plus for $1,900, a driver assistance package for $1,400 and power tailgate for $400. Both trims are offered with a sport package for $550, 19-inch wheels for $800, wood inlays for $350 and a black headliner is listed as a no-cost option.

It’s the perfect time for the Q3’s price leak too because the competing 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class with 208 horsepower is now confirmed with a price of $32,225 after its destination fee, while the all-wheel drive model goes for $34,225. Comparatively, the 240-hp BMW X1 sDrive28i asks $31,850 in rear-wheel drive spec or $33,650 to drive all four wheels, after their $950 destination charge. That makes the Q3 the most expensive of the German luxury CUVs by a surprising amount, though it looks like its standard equipment list will also be rather generous by comparison. Check out the gallery for all of the details.

2015 Audi Q3 pricing leaked, starts at $32,500* originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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13 May 2014

Chinese Tesla Model S buyers to get free license plate… a $15k value

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Tesla Model S

Tesla buyers in in Shanghai, China, are getting even more of an incentive to choose its electric sedans. Each purchase of a Model S in the city will come with a free license plate.

That might not sound very important, but Shanghai operates under a government-organized auction system to distribute plates. Last year, they were selling for as much as $15,000, according to Car News China. The measure is a way to control the number of cars on the road, which contribute to the city’s bad traffic and poor air quality.

Electric cars are exempt from the auctions and get a free license plate. However, that rule only covers Chinese-made electric cars. Obviously, Tesla doesn’t build cars there (at least for now). But the Shanghai government will exempt 3,000 foreign electric cars per automaker to receive free plates, according to CNC. After they are gone, the company would have to go back and ask for more.

Tesla confirmed the plan to Autoblog and pointed out there was a small blurb about it in the automaker’s Q1 2014 financial release: “Model S drivers in the city will be entitled to free license plates, thereby avoiding the usual public auction price of $10,000 to $15,000 per plate.” It certainly seems like a great enticement to grab early buyers for the Model S there.

Chinese Tesla Model S buyers to get free license plate… a $15k value originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 12 May 2014 18:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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13 May 2014

Nissan Canada kills Cube, is US next?

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2009 Nissan Cube

Canadians, say goodbye to the quirky Nissan Cube. In fact, it’s too late; it’s already gone. The question now becomes whether the boxy model gets the axe in the US as well.

Nissan didn’t exactly publicize the Cube’s Canadian retirement. An reader noticed that the vehicle was no longer listed on the automaker’s official site in the Great White North. He tweeted the company about it and was told, “Yes, the Nissan Cube has been discontinued in Canada.”

The news certainly makes you wonder what the future for the model is in the US. The Cube isn’t exactly a hot seller here, either. According to Nissan’s last sales results, it sold just 356 units in April, down 23.9 percent from a year ago, and 1,604 vehicles from January to April, down 33.7 percent. Annual sales were as high as 23,000 units in 2010, but they started dipping as early as 2011.

Nissan North America Director of Communications, Dan Bedore, tells Autoblog: “Nissan is committed to providing Canadians with exactly the right car to fit their lifestyle. At this time, customers are finding their needs are met with the other great small cars in our lineup like Micra, Versa Note, Sentra and Juke and we are putting our focus behind these vehicle nameplates.”

And what of US sales? Says Bedore, “In the US, the 2014 model is in showrooms, now. We have no comment on Cube sales in the US beyond the current model year.” Suffice it to say that despite the official “No Comment” from Nissan, we don’t expect to see any Cube models in US showrooms for 2015 – this, despite the fact that the model is expected to get a facelift soon for other markets.

Nissan Canada kills Cube, is US next? originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 12 May 2014 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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13 May 2014

Morocco offering 'cash for clunkers' program for Mercedes W123 taxis

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Taxi in Morocco.

As the models continue to grow older, the Ford Crown Victoria is slowly but surely disappearing from US cities as the prevailing taxicab. The same thing is happening in Morocco with its huge fleet of Mercedes-Benz W123-chassis taxis thanks to a little help from the government. The authorities cite safety and environmental reasons for the decades-old sedans to be removed from the road in a cash-for-clunkers-style program slated to start by the end of the year.

According to Ran When Parked, there are about 55,000 W123 taxis operating in Morocco. The body style was built throughout the ’70s and ’80s with a variety of gasoline and diesel engines, and they earned a reputation for doing high miles with great reliability. The cab drivers like them because they can cram several people in and still fit on the crowded streets. To stop the stream of old Mercedes cabs, the country’s government made it quite expensive to import vehicles more than five years old.

In addition to improving air quality, the cash-for-clunkers program might stimulate local business. Renault and Dacia operate a factory in Tangier, Morocco, that builds some vans, including the Dacia Dokker. Ran When Parked claims the authorities would give drivers about 50,000 Dirhams ($6,100) to trade in their cars, and Renault would provide an additional 10,000 Dirhams ($1,200) to switch to one of its vehicles. Maybe it’s finally time for the W123 to pass the torch…

Morocco offering ‘cash for clunkers’ program for Mercedes W123 taxis originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 12 May 2014 08:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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09 May 2014

GM offers employee pricing to owners of recalled vehicles

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Massive Ignition Switch Recall Weighs Heavy On GM's Profits

Owners affected by the General Motors ignition switch recall are getting even an better incentive to return to its brands for their next new car. The automaker says that these drivers can now get employee pricing on its models. Previously, GM was only offering them a $500 discount if they bought a new 2013 to 2015 vehicle.

According to GM spokesperson Jim Cain speaking to Autoblog, the company has been offering the incentive to affected owners for about a month. But it purposefully isn’t advertising it or disclosing volumes. “We want to give dealers as many tools as they need to satisfy customers,” he said. Buyers get employee pricing on 2013 to 2015 models, which is a certain percentage below dealer invoice, and it replaces the previous $500 offer. It will be available throughout the duration of the recall.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the original $500 enticement wasn’t enough to bring buyers back to showrooms. Many of the roughly 2.6 million affected vehicles are on their second or third owners, and they might not be able to afford a new car.

GM’s recall campaign for the ignition switches began in April. Cain said the effort is going as planned. Delphi is running multiple shifts for replacement parts and may add a second or third production line. The company expects to have a majority of vehicles repaired by October. In the meantime, affected drivers can take advantage of free loaners while their car is serviced.

GM offers employee pricing to owners of recalled vehicles originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 09 May 2014 10:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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04 May 2014

How Mercedes' sterling reputation hurts Sprinter sales

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2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

If you’ve ever visited Germany, you know that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t exactly carry the high-end cache in its homeland that it does in the US. While the Three-Pointed Star is still certainly known for its luxury sedans and sports cars, the brand also represents most of the taxis on the road, and its Sprinter vans make many of the deliveries. The upscale image in North America might be beneficial when trying to lure new buyers to a CLA-Class, but Merc is seeing pushback from some commercial buyers who think its vans are too ostentatious for them.

Mercedes USA has created a dedicated van unit, and one of the group’s first tasks is to fight this belief. It has already begun targeted, web-based ads advertising the truck’s monthly payments to show potential customers they can afford it. “We want to align perceptions with realities,” said Christian Bokich, Mercedes USA Product and Technology Manager. A standard Sprinter in the US starts at $35,920 with a 144-inch wheelbase and standard roof, and the largest models provide the most cargo space among competitors.

The company also has another way to sell the Sprinter – Freightliner ; these models are identical other than the grille. According to Automotive News, that brand sees most of the van’s large fleet orders.

Despite some customers being turned off by a commercial Mercedes, Sprinter sales are growing. According to AN, the van’s sales were up 25 percent in March to 1,915 units, and February was up 18 percent. For 2014, the US model receives a new standard powertrain that pairs a 2.1-liter four-cylinder BlueTEC diesel, making 161 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, with a seven-speed automatic, and an all-wheel drive version is on the way. Mercedes is out to prove to the US that it is as good at vans as it is with plush sedans.

How Mercedes’ sterling reputation hurts Sprinter sales originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 12 Apr 2014 13:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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04 May 2014

Cadillac's Euro reboot may have implications for US models, sales

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Cadillac CTS V Coupe at the end of the road Magdeburg Germany

Firmly on the comeback trail in the US, Cadillac is still trying to get out of the starting blocks in Europe. At the Geneva Motor Show in March, Cadillac’ senior execs revealed plans to grow the brand’s presence in a luxury market dominated by the big three German marques, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

GM President Dan Ammann says he sees “enormous” potential for Cadillac globally.

Over the past 20 years, the General Motors premium nameplate has tried and failed multiple times to break into the European market. This time around, Cadillac recognizes that progress will be modest at best, and depends on specific changes to models, some of which may impact the brand’s US lineup. Planned new sales tactics in Europe may also impact the way Cadillac does business on this side of the pond.

GM President Dan Ammann says he sees “enormous” potential for Cadillac globally. “Our goal is to take a much more consistent long term approach than what the company used to historically,” he tells Autoblog.

For Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac chief marketing officer, this means a slow and steady strategy for the European market. Ellinghaus, a former BMW executive, sees annual sales volumes reaching around 2,000 units for the next few years. That, of course, is a drop in the bucket compared to the German luxury brands’ sales totals. But being the underdog is not necessarily a bad prospect, says Ellinghaus. Cadillac lacks a properly developed dealer network in Europe, but this gives the brand an opportunity to experiment with a new approach. “I think the future of retail in the automotive industry is without bricks and mortar, at least in comparison to what we do now, which is investing multi-millions in dealerships all over the country,” he notes.

“Because of our limited volume, it will be easier to take care of customers on an individual basis. So we see a competitive advantage there and can pioneer a new retail format, with pop-up stores, virtual stores and a flagship store, maybe. If this approach works we then roll it out in rest of the world.”

Continue reading Cadillac’s Euro reboot may have implications for US models, sales

Cadillac’s Euro reboot may have implications for US models, sales originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 11 Apr 2014 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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04 May 2014

Honda Accord Hybrid sales capacity constrained

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Honda might be selling more hybrids if it could just get them to dealers. While the second-generation Insight never lived up to sales expectations and production is ending, the Japanese automaker is seeing strong demand for the Accord Hybrid here and abroad. However, there is so much global consumer desire that it can’t keep them in US showrooms.

The problem limiting the sales of the Accord Hybrid is its battery pack and its popularity in Japan. “There’s a waiting list for the product,” said Jeff Conrad, Honda general manager, to Ward’s Auto about the sedan’s US popularity. While the American Accord is built in Marysville, OH, the batteries are imported from Japan, where the model is quite popular. According to Ward’s data, the automaker sold 2,414 examples of the hybrid version from October 2013 to February 2014 in the US, but it shifted 6,000 units in Japan in its first three months on sale. Conrad also admitted that the constrained supply is limiting the amount of marketing the automaker can do for the hybrid.

Honda spokesperson Chris Martin told Autoblog the company is working on a solution to increase production for the near future. “We are going to resolve the battery issue,” he said.

Honda has had a rocky road in launching its hybrids. Conrad admits that the Insight never got much of a marketing push after its launch. The CR-Z faces an uncertain future as well. Sales of it are ending in Europe for the 2015 model year, and Ward’s data indicates that Honda only sold 4,550 of them in the US last year.

Honda Accord Hybrid sales capacity constrained originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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04 May 2014

Honda, Mercedes top KBB brand image awards [w/video]

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Kelley Blue Book has announced the winners of its 2014 Brand Image Awards, which look at brands with “attributes that capture the attention and enthusiasm” of customers in the market for a new car.

The award is divided up into luxury brands and everyone else non-luxury brands, with a number of sub-awards in each group. There’s also a single award for truck brands. Taking the crown for the best everyman brand (for the second year in a row) is Honda, while Mercedes-Benz was the king of the luxury brackets. Ford, meanwhile, had the best image among pickup buyers.

Honda was also named the most trusted brand among shoppers, while Kia, GMC, Mini and Chevrolet also snagged awards for value, refinement, performance and styling, respectively. Secondary winners in the luxury ranks include Lexus, Buick, Porsche and Jaguar. Mercedes was also named the most refined luxury brand.

“The classic saying ‘perception is reality’ falls true with the Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards, as more than 12,000 in-market new-car shoppers have voiced their opinions about today’s automakers,” said Hwei-Lin Oetken, vice president of market intelligence for KBB. “With strong marketing communications coming from auto manufacturers and dealers, and the increased importance of peer reviews and ratings, consumers today are more influenced than ever to take interest in a brand, ultimately affecting their vehicle purchase decisions.”

Take a look below for KBB’s video recap of this year’s awards, as well as a press release detailing the winning attributes of each brand.

Continue reading Honda, Mercedes top KBB brand image awards [w/video]

Honda, Mercedes top KBB brand image awards [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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04 May 2014

BMW i3 configurator is so advanced it's replaced trim levels

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BMW i3

BMW’s electric i3 is slowly marching its way to dealers. It might not be happening quite fast enough for customers, though. For you anxious individuals, head over to the BMW consumer website and build your ideal i3 in the new configurator.

Before we talk about all the stuff this build tool can do, we need to address the naming of BMW’s trim levels for the EV hatchback. The 328i, for example, is available in Sport Line, M Sport Line and Luxury Line. That’s good; it makes sense. The i3, though, has Giga World, Tera World and Mega World. Seriously. We’ve no idea what BMW was thinking when it came up with this (this is the same company that regularly uses the phrase “Sport Activity Vehicle,” so…).

Silly names aside, let’s try and translate where each trim fits in. The Mega World is the base trim. The Giga, at $1,700, adds stylish leather-and-wool seats in a clean two-tone color scheme, along with 19-inch wheels and a leather-covered IP. The Tera World demands $2,700, but makes up for it with its own 19-inch wheels and a full leather interior. Both lines (worlds?) add satellite radio and eucalyptus wood trim.

Color choices are limited to six, with four metallic items and two non-metallics. Interior colors, meanwhile, are locked into the three trim levels. Each trim has a pair of packages, with the $1,000 Parking Assistant Package adding automatic parking, park distance control and a rear-view camera. For $2,500, i3 buyers can add navigation, adaptive cruise with stop-and-go tech and BMW apps.

Prices for a base, all-electric i3 start at $41,350. The priciest we could build our i3 (with range extender) was to $56,025. which included a optional 20-inch wheels on our Tera World trim ($1,300), a $700 DC fast charging station ($700), heated front seats ($350) and a Harman/Kardon stereo ($800). The i3 is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax incentive, which drops the max total to $48,525. Hop over to BMW’s consumer page and have a look at the i3 and its configurator.

BMW i3 configurator is so advanced it’s replaced trim levels originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 25 Apr 2014 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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