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30 Jul 2014

How Toyota’s neighbor delayed 23,000 of its deliveries

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Toyota Motor Co Nagoya Port Center

Don’t you just hate when your neighbors’ mess becomes your problem? Toyota certainly has good reason to be upset, after an dirty mishap at a steel mill delayed thousands of vehicle exports from its nearby port in Nagoya, Japan, (pictured above) by as much as a month.

The messy situation occurred on June 22 when the mill near the port lost power and had to burn off an excess buildup of coke oven gas – which isn’t exactly a situation friendly to living beings or the environment. According to Automotive News, it caused a massive amount of smoke to emit from the plant that fell as soot and tar on about 23,000 vehicles that were waiting to be shipped out. Getting the models properly cleaned off has been quite a task. A team of 5,000 workers were at the port until this week getting them gleaming again.

Potential Toyota buyers in North America have no need to fret about getting a sullied car, though. A Toyota spokesperson told Automotive News that none of the vehicles were bound for this continent. The automaker is reportedly considering asking the mill’s owners for reimbursement for the cost of the weeks of cleanup. Paying for the mistake is, after all, the neighborly thing to do.

How Toyota’s neighbor delayed 23,000 of its deliveries originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

America, you’re now buying more utility vehicles than sedans

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Ford Escape

Now you’ve done it, America. A new study by IHS Automotive has revealed that American motorists are turning to the high-riding style of crossovers and sport utility vehicles more than they are traditional sedans. Through May of 2014, IHS says that SUVs and CUVs account for 36.5 percent of new vehicle registrations. Sedans, meanwhile, cover just 35.4 percent. That represents a flip-flop from the same period five years ago, when the trusty four-door occupied 36.3 percent of registrations to the SUV/CUV category’s 31.4 percent.

It’s not that sedans have become unpopular,” Tom Libby, an analyst at IHS, told Bloomberg. “It’s just that CUVs have really grown. They drive like cars, but they have higher positioning, the option for four-wheel drive and better fuel economy. There’s more space for seating. It’s easy to see why they’ve taken off in popularity.”

We’re guessing when Libby says “better fuel economy,” he’s referring to the current efficiency of new CUVs – models like the Ford Escape shown above – compared to past models, not necessarily sedans. Also, we’d be quite curious to see the breakdown in registration percentages if the CUV and SUV were separated.

Our issue with the SUV/CUV split aside, we’ll admit that these results aren’t all that surprising. Nowadays, you aren’t a competitive automaker if your sedan line isn’t supplemented with a high-riding equivalent, complete with optional all-wheel drive and off-road looks. Still, due to gravity and their often higher curb weights, CUVs tend to be no match for normal sedans when it comes to driving dynamics, and for that reason, we’ll chalk this one up as a disappointing – if predictable -trend.

America, you’re now buying more utility vehicles than sedans originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 17 Jul 2014 14:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

Will Dodge limit 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat to 1,200 units?

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2015 Dodge Challenge SRT Hellcat

With over 700 horsepower on tap and a price tag barely over $60k, Dodge appears on paper to have a winner on its hands with the new Challenger SRT Hellcat. But if you want to get your hands on one, you may have to act quicker than this most powerful of muscle cars covers the quarter-mile.

That’s because, according to our compatriots over at Edmunds, Dodge may limit production – in the first year, at least – to just 1,200 units. That would amount to barely a quarter of the Challengers that Dodge moves each month, and would also mean only one Hellcat for every two Dodge dealers in the US – which could lead to some serious contention over which stores and which customers can get their hands on the ultimate Challenger.

Reached for comment, SRT spokesman Dan Reid told Autoblog that “there is no plan to limit production of the Challenger Hellcat,” echoing the words of Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis who told Edmunds: “We don’t know what the market demand is.” Which doesn’t mean that it won’t restrict production, but doesn’t mean that it will, either. It just hasn’t decided yet – or announced any such decision, at any rate – over what will be the final allocation strategy for what could be a game-changing muscle car. That is, at least, until new versions of the Mustang and Camaro come along in pursuit of Dodge’s bragging rights…

Will Dodge limit 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat to 1,200 units? originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

2015 Chevy SS manual, magnetic shocks confirmed by order guide

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2014 Chevrolet SS

2015 Chevrolet SS Dealer Order GuideThe Chevrolet SS is very much a muscle car for grownups. If you have a career, significant other and maybe some kids to tote around, you can still drive one, secure in the knowledge that there is a 415-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 lurking under the hood for when it’s time to have some fun. For 2015, Chevrolet is confirming earlier rumors with the addition of a standard, magnetic suspension and optional six-speed manual, according to the automaker’s recently released dealer order guide (pictured right).

Already found on some models of the Camaro and Corvette, not to mention several Cadillac models, Magnetic Selective Ride Control system has been praised for its ability to switch from a firm, sporty ride to a cushier demeanor on the fly. It should make the performance sedan into an even better dual-purpose machine for the family and a little bit of hooning around.

The standard transmission is still a six-speed automatic, but there is now an option for a six-speed manual for those who prefer a three-pedal setup. The new gearbox also adds a 3.70 rear-axle ratio to replace the 3.27 gearing from the automatic, but it predictably deletes availability of the remote engine start system. Afaf Farah, a Chevy spokesperson, tells Autoblog that the manual “will have an additional price,” but the company won’t reveal it until later.

Chevy is also doubling the range of colors available on the SS. The five current shades remain for 2015, but the company is also adding some new hues like: Regal Peacock Green, Some Like It Hot Red, Jungle Green Metallic, Perfect Blue and Alchemy Purple. Finally, all models of the SS get an upgraded OnStar system with 4G LTE that allows the car to act as a wifi hotspot.

In our review of the 2014 model, Michael Harley said, “the SS comes across as a polished, and very well-rounded, sport sedan package that is more focused on performance than the others.” The 2015 upgrades put just a little more emphasis on the sedan’s sportiness. Check out the gallery of the order guide to see all of the changes.

2015 Chevy SS manual, magnetic shocks confirmed by order guide originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

How cars are being exported individually and why carmakers are upset about it

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A Mercedes Benz car stands in front of a

Cars are expensive in China, especially if they happen to wear the badge of a prestigious manufacturer. As we’ve pointed out before, the price of a Range Rover over in the People’s Republic sits at the equivalent of about $450,000, despite its US starting price of $84,225. In addition to that princely sum, many customers shell out an additional $80,000 as part of what we imagine is an exceptionally profitable reservation system for new vehicle allocations.

Considering this, the increase in the number of companies exporting vehicles from US dealerships to China has become big business, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Take our $450K Range Rover, for example. Not including shipping, an imported model is selling for a mere $241,480, according to Automotive News. Even assuming a ridiculously exorbitant shipping price, there’s still over $200,000 in savings.

These companies hire individuals to purchase the cars or SUVs from high-end dealerships via cashier’s check. The individuals are then paid a delivery charge for dropping the car at the exporters. It’s big business, with one company, Efans Trading, exporting 2,000 cars at a value of $80 million back in 2012. But exporters aren’t exactly in the good graces of automakers.

Manufacturers have issued severe punishments, ranging from fines to loss of bonuses to nullification of franchise agreements, for dealerships that both knowingly and unknowingly deal with exporters. After all, if the manufacturer is operating in the targeted country, these exporters are essentially taking money out of their pockets. For dealers, though, the appeal is clear: cars are being purchased at cost, with relatively little hassle, making export sales a profitable gamble.

For exporters this practice is coming with increased risks, too. The US Secret Service has cracked down on known exporters, seizing cars slated for export as well as funds. Efans Trading, for example, had millions of dollars and dozens of vehicles seized, USSS Special Agent Morgan Morgan told AN.

Unsurprisingly considering the amount of money at stake, exporters have lawyered up.

“What you have is the federal government protecting foreign manufacturers’ profit margins,” Josh Widlansky, a Florida lawyer representing one of the groups targeted by the USSS, told AN. “You have totally noncriminal conduct that the government is criminalizing because of these private contracts between the manufacturers and the dealerships.”

What do you think? Should dealers face punishments from manufacturers for dealing with exporters? Should exporters be hounded by federal agents? Have your say in Comments.

How cars are being exported individually and why carmakers are upset about it originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

LaFerrari buyer drives dream collection back to Maranello [w/video]

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Ferrari 288 GTO, F40, LaFerrari, Enzo and F50

We’d find it hard to feel bad for someone who “has to” choose between the latest crop of hybrid hypercars. After all, the Porsche 918 Spyder, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari are each awesome in their own right. But for one buyer, the choice was a no-brainer: it was the Prancing Horse all along. Not because he couldn’t get his hands on the Porsche or the McLaren – though we’re sure each is in higher demand than there will be supply – but because he’s already bought each of its predecessors.

That very fortunate buyer is one Jon Hunt. His collection already includes a 288 GTO, an F40, an F50 and an Enzo – each in red, naturally – so when it came time to pick up his new LaFerrari, he drove down from London to Maranello, bringing his sons, a few friends and each of his F-cars (as the tifosi call them) along for the ride.

The result, as you can see for yourself from the photos above and the video below, is one very compelling and drool-inducing family photo. It’s not every day, after all, that you see any of these cars on the road – let alone together in one place.

Continue reading LaFerrari buyer drives dream collection back to Maranello [w/video]

LaFerrari buyer drives dream collection back to Maranello [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

BMW predicts 2 Series Active Tourer will have 75% conquest rate

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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

In the last few years, BMW has definitively proven that it wasn’t a slave to its legacy. In the US, the 3 Series was generally associated with smooth, flat-six engines, but the Bavarian brand dropped a four-cylinder turbo into it. The company was also known for its sports sedans, and it went green with the i3 and i8. Now, rear-wheel drive is off the table as defining its vehicles, as well. With the imminent launch of the 2 Series Active Tourer, the Bavarian’s models are going front drive and opening up themselves to a whole new group of customers, so the thinking goes.

“We are expecting the Active Tourer will have a conquest rate of around 75 percent,” said Frank Niederlaender, a BMW product manger, to Automotive News Europe. If you’re not hip to the lingo, that means three quarters of the hatchback’s buyers would come from other brands – an impressive figure, if accurate.

When it hits the road, the 2 Series Active Tourer will be the first BMW-branded vehicle to use the company’s UKL front-wheel drive platform, already on the current Mini Cooper. The roomy hatchback is aimed at young families looking for a car that is luxurious but can still tote around the tots. It launches in Europe in September to compete against similar models like the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, but the Bimmer isn’t crossing the Atlantic to the US until early 2015, according to ANE.

Of course, the 2 Series Active Tourer is just step one of BMW’s front-wheel drive future. A plug-in hybrid version is already testing, and the next X1 moves to the same platform, too. According to ANE, a three-row Active Tourer is also in the works, which is possibly related to the recently spied new CUV.

BMW predicts 2 Series Active Tourer will have 75% conquest rate originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

Convertible owners more educated, well to do

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2013 Ford Mustang Convertible

A new study from Experian Automotive seeks to quantify the traits that identify the convertible-loving droptop driver. Of course, after reading through the findings, this just kind of confirms a lot of things that have been kind of obvious about convertible owners for kind of a long time.

They’re educated, wealthy and older than the average new car customers, with 50 percent holding a bachelor’s degree, 19 percent reporting a household income in excess of $175,000 (11.7 percent cleared $1 million), and 72 percent were over the age of 45. Considering the traditionally higher cost of a convertible, and the fact that many are probably second or third cars, these factoids aren’t exactly shocking. Even the most popular locations for convertibles aren’t all that surprising. Los Angeles is number one, followed by New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta.

What is surprising, though, are the most popular vehicles during the study. We agree with four of the five entries – the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5, BMW 3 Series and the Chevrolet Corvette captured positions one, three, four and five, respectively. The number two position, though, is inexplicable. It’s held by the Chrysler Sebring (we’re thinking Experian is referring to the 200). So, if this study proves nothing else, it’s evidence that age, education and money can’t totally prevent bad decisions.

Of course, we wouldn’t put too much faith in these findings. Our big issue is the perilously short time period that this data was gleaned from. Experian only looked at new vehicle registrations during the first quarter of 2014. Aside from the limited time to collect findings and watch trends develop, analyzing convertible buying trends during the single coldest winter in recent memory hardly seems prudent.

With that in mind, head below and take a look at Experian’s findings, including analysis between convertible drivers and the average new-car customer.

Continue reading Convertible owners more educated, well to do

Convertible owners more educated, well to do originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

V6 engines will outpace V8s for the 2015 Ford F-150

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2015 Ford F-150

How times have changed. Even five years ago, who would have thought the mighty V8 would be just another engine choice for buyers of the 2015 Ford F-150?

Ford is projecting about 28 percent of the next-generation trucks will have the 5.0-liter V8. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but consider this: Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines – the new 2.7-liter V6 and the existing 3.5-liter V6 – will also each account for about 28 percent of the F-150’s sales (56 percent total). That leaves only 15 percent of the pie for the 3.5-liter (non-EcoBoost) V6. The new F-150 goes on sale late this year.

Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines will each account for about 28 percent of the F-150’s sales.

“In the truck business, it’s historically been about the most horsepower, the most towing power and the most torque,” Ford trucks marketing manager Doug Scott said.

Obviously those still matter, but Ford has significantly diversified the F-150’s engine lineup in a bid to attract new customers and hedge against spikes in fuel prices. The move away from V8s began in earnest in the 2011 F-150, which received the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost with 365 hp and 420-lb-ft of torque to complement the traditional V8 model.

Adding the turbocharged EcoBoost three years ago was fraught with risks, as truck buyers are among the most loyal and resistant to change in the market. But it’s paid off for Ford, and the EcoBoost model now makes up about 45 percent of the current F-150’s sales.

With that in mind, Ford is adding another EcoBoost V6, the 2.7-liter engine, which will push out 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, numbers that sound more akin to a traditional V8. With this engine, the truck can tow up to 8,500 pounds and will have a payload of 2,250 pounds. Ford envisions this model will be attractive to buyers who don’t haul regularly, but still require some of the practical capabilities of a pickup.

“This is an engine that’s really designed for that core customer,” Scott said.

Ford’s expansion of the F-150’s lineup comes amid renewed competition from its traditional Detroit truck rivals. This year, Ram added an EcoDiesel model with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft, while General Motors will round out its 2015 truck portfolio with the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, which are slightly smaller than their fullsize, Silverado and Sierra brethren. The moves come as federal fuel economy rules are set to tighten, and consumers continue to be wary of gas-guzzling vehicles.

Ford’s new engine lineup will be enhanced by the use of aluminum for the F-150’s body, which will reduce weight and improve fuel economy. Depending on the engine and cab size, the F-150 will be anywhere from 625 pounds to more than 732 pounds lighter, compared with 2014 models.

V6 engines will outpace V8s for the 2015 Ford F-150 originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

Hyundai, Porsche top J.D. Power APEAL study

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Hyundai Accent

Porsche 911Just as they did in the Initial Quality Study, Porsche and Hyundai have taken the premium and non-premium crown, respectively, for the 2014 J.D. Power APEAL study. This is the tenth consecutive year for that Porsche has been rated the best premium make in the APEAL study, which attempts to figure out how pleased owners are with their purchases. For 2014, it asked 86,000 owners of MY2014 cars to rate their vehicles in 77 different categories 90 days after their initial purchase. The resulting figures were plugged in deliver the APEAL score, which is rated on a 1,000-point scale.

The industry average sits at 794 points for 2014, although that’s a one-percent decline over last year’s rating. In this year’s study, premium brands averaged 840 out of 1,000, while non-premium makes average 785. For their part, Porsche netted an impressive 882 points, while Hyundai earned an 804. Interestingly, only four non-premium brands (Hyundai, Ram, Volkswagen and Mini) finished above the industry average for 2014.

It’s also interesting to see the clear delineation between premium and non-premium brands, with an eight-point gap between the non-premium champ, Hyundai, and the lowest-rated premium brand, Volvo.

Porsche and Hyundai weren’t the only automakers to take home recognition. Dodge managed to tie Porsche for the most segment awards, with three. The Challenger, Charger and Dart all topped their market. There were a number of two-segment winners, as well, with Audi, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan capturing a pair of segments each.

Scroll down for the full press release from JD Power on this year’s winners.

Continue reading Hyundai, Porsche top J.D. Power APEAL study

Hyundai, Porsche top J.D. Power APEAL study originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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