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30 Jul 2014

China probing German automakers over spare parts

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General Views Of Shanghai's Economy

The Chinese market has proven to be a boon to German luxury automakers. However, the way that the companies have allegedly been controlling their supply of spare parts has begun to draw the ire of the nation’s government. According to insiders speaking to Bloomberg, officials from the country’s economic planning organization have opened a probe into Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and some Japanese carmakers over claimed price inflation and limiting supply.

Specifically, the investigation centers around two aspects of how the companies do business, according to Bloomberg. Investigators want to know whether the original equipment component makers are able to sell spare parts only to automaker-authorized dealers or if they are also available to independent shops. There is also the issue of whether the price markup on replacement pieces is too high. The tight controls could be partially explained by China’s reputation for producing counterfeit parts.

Evidently, the investigators haven’t checked parts prices at car dealers elsewhere in the world. At least in the US, paying more at the dealer for factory components just goes along with owning a vehicle. If evidence of price fixing is found, the companies could face fines the equivalent of millions of dollars, according to Bloomberg.

China probing German automakers over spare parts originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 26 Jul 2014 07:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

These are the top luxury cars bought by people entering the segment for the first time

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Volvo C70

Let’s say you just got a big promotion at work or the kids are moving out of the house, and you finally have some extra money. You decide to blow it all at once and treat yourself by upgrading your ride. Naturally, you look to a luxury automaker. What do you choose?

Models like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be tailor-made to introduce buyers to the premium segment, but a new study finds that they don’t garner the highest rates of non-luxury customer conquests. It turns out that a Volvo leads among folks moving up to a premium brand, and it isn’t even one that’s made anymore, at that.

A recent study by Polk and IHS Automotive looked at what models had the highest rates of buyers upgrading from a non-luxury segment. The information comes from its new vehicle registration data through April 2014. All ten top models boasted conquest rates of over 50 percent, but the Volvo C70 led the field with 68.01 percent of its customers coming from non-premium brands.

It’s an odd winner because the C70 isn’t even available as a new model anymore, having been discontinued after the 2013 model year. It isn’t the only car no longer offered that’s on the list, either. The BMW 128i is in seventh place with 53.93 percent of conquest buyers despite leaving us in MY 2014. It seems likely that some of these vehicles are still on dealer lots, and buyers are getting good incentives to pick them up at lower prices.

According to Polk, the 10 models with the highest conquest rates from non-luxury segments are:

If you’re curious about the other side of the table, the Mercedes S-Class is the least likely vehicle for new luxury buyers to choose at 10.35 percent. Although, that’s not exactly a shock – with a starting price of nearly $100,000, it would be quite a leap up from a Camry or Accord.

These are the top luxury cars bought by people entering the segment for the first time originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA priced from $31,300*

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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic, front three-quarter view.

Mercedes-Benz has kindly let loose the price of the US-spec 2015 GLA-Class, telling Autoblog that the base 208-horsepower GLA250 in two-wheel drive form will go for $31,300 *not including a destination charge of $925. That makes for $32,225 in total to get one off the lot, a price predicted as early as last year and in our recent First Drive. The other two available models can push power to all four wheels, and after the destination fee is applied the GLA240 4Matic (pictured) will be $34,225 while the 355-horsepower GLA45 AMG will change lives and wallets to the tune of $49,225.

On the base scale, that puts the GLA250 just a few hundred dollar bills above the more powerful, rear-wheel-drive BMW X1 and a stack of hundreds below the less powerful, front-wheel-drive Audi Q3. If you’re keeping in-house score, the GLA250 comes in at $1,400 above its sedan platform-mate with the same engine, the CLA250. At the high end, however, the competition doesn’t have anything that can touch the AMG trim. Not that it should matter all that much – Mercedes needed something to keep these buyers in the family, and now it has it. If any of them should need even more power and more money spent, then there’s always that 394-hp Brabus flavor. We’ll have more info and details on each trim when Mercedes unleashes the shebang in the not-too-distant future.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA priced from $31,300* originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 28 Jul 2014 23:38:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jul 2014

2015 Mercedes C-Class starts at $38,400*

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2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Mercedes-Benz just keeps dropping pricing bombshells on us. After unveiling the cost of the models of the upcoming GLA-Class compact crossover, now the 2015 C-Class, the German brand’s bread-and-butter luxury sedan, is ready to unleash its secrets, as well.

The least expensive of the new models is the rear-wheel-drive C300 with a starting price of $38,400, plus a $925 delivery & destination charge, to bring the actual base price to $39,325. However, the two-wheel drive version doesn’t hit the road until the first quarter of 2015. The first variants that people can actually buy arrive in September 2014, and they are the all-wheel drive C300 4Matic and C400 4Matic for $41,325 and $49,515, respectively, after the destination fee.

In addition to styling inspired by the S-Class, the 2015 C-Class models also have new engines. Both variants of the C300 use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine pumping out 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The more powerful C400 uses a bi-turbo 3.0-liter V6 making 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. All models get Mercedes’ 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic gearbox. Merc is holding back on fuel economy numbers and 0-60-miles-per-hour specs until a bit closer to launch.

As befitting a Mercedes, all versions come packed with luxury features. The C300 comes quite well equipped as standard, with dual-zone climate control, power seats, a seven-inch infotainment display and more. Moving up to the C400 adds standard heated front seats, LED headlights and an upgraded stereo. Of course, there’s also long list of options including improved interior upholstery, a sport package, upgraded infotainment and a whole lot more.

Comparing pricing of the 2015 C-Class to the 2014 model is rather tricky. The rear-wheel drive C300 is over $2,000 more expensive than the current C250, but if you look at the 2015 C300 4Matic versus the more comparable 2014 C300 4Matic, the latest one is only about $1,000 more. The C300 is also more expensive than the base BMW 320i, A4 or Lexus IS250, but the Mercedes is bringing more to the table in terms of engine power.

Continue reading 2015 Mercedes C-Class starts at $38,400*

2015 Mercedes C-Class starts at $38,400* originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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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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