Ford Introduces Two Taxis with Hybrid and Diesel Powertrains

AutoInformed.com on Ford Taxis

While Ford purports to be exiting the car business, vehicles in late stages of development are being introduced. When they become orphans it’s likely the trade-in value will decrease.

Ford Motor today introduced two Taxi versions of existing platforms, a new 2019 Transit Connect Taxi and what’s claimed to Ford’s most fuel-efficient, purpose-built taxi ever – the 2019 Fusion Hybrid Taxi.

The Transit Connect Taxi with an optional 1.5-liter EcoBlue – in marketing babble – diesel engine is projected to return an EPA-estimated Highway rating of at least 30 mpg. How the estimate correlates with actual on road economy is unknown. It likely will be less. Final EPA-estimated ratings will be available early 2019. Besides for a taxi it’s the city rating that matters. Continue reading

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U.S. Newspapers Continue to Decline in Readership, Employment, Revenue

Shocking is the time – average 2.5 minutes – purported readers spend on newspaper websites. Why bother? Click to Enlarge.

An American tradition – one that we partially fought a Revolution over its stamp-taxation by the Crown – continues its long, slow decline. The newspaper industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have been in decline for at lease a decade, if not more. A new Pew Research Center analysis* of Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) data finds that in 2017 the estimated U.S. daily newspaper circulation declined (print and digital combined) to 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday, down -11% and -10%, respectively, from the previous year.

Total estimated advertising revenue for the newspaper industry in 2017 was $16.5 billion, a 10% decrease from 2016 based on the Center’s analysis of financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies. Total estimated circulation revenue was $11 billion, which is changed only slightly from 2016, up by 3%. Meanwhile, digital advertising accounted for 31% of newspaper advertising revenue in 2017. The portion stood at 29% in 2016.
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GM CFO Stevens to Retire. Dhivya Suryadevara New CFO

AutoInformed.com on GM CFO

The sound of a glass ceiling cracking at the Ren Cen.

General Motors Co. today announced Chuck Stevens, GM executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer, plans to retire after more than 40 years with the company, effective March 1, 2019. GM also announced today the appointment of Dhivya Suryadevara as Chief Financial Officer, effective Sept. 1, 2018. Suryadevara, will report to Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

In an unusually long exit, Stevens will remain with the company as an advisor until his retirement. At GM’s annual meeting yesterday, several anti-management shareholder proposals received significant votes, but not enough to disrupt business as usual at GM. GM stock has been trading in the $44 range, about $6 ahead of its post-bankruptcy return to public trading. Continue reading

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Ford Expands Power Loss Recall on Edge, Fusion, Lincoln MKZ. Issues Two More Safety Recalls in North America

AutoInformed.com on Ford and Lincoln Recalls

Ford and Lincoln safety recalls continue for basic manufacturing defects.

Ford announced today it is issuing two safety recalls and expanding one safety defect recall in North America. On 2018 Ford F-150, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator vehicles equipped with a 3.5-liter GTDI V6 engine have high-pressure fuel pumps with misaligned welds. As a result, the fuel pump welds in these vehicles may fail – causing the fuel pump to move. This results in eventual loss sealing on the cam cover or the fuel lines, an oil or fuel leak, increasing the risk of fire. Ford claimed it is not aware of any fires, accidents or injuries related to this dangerous safety issue so far. Continue reading

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Avalon Amplifies Its Sound with JBL, Dynamometers

AutoInformed.com on Toyota and JBL

Avalon is a backdrop for Michigan investment by the Japanese-based automaker as the Trump Administration beats the trade-war drums louder than its JBL stereo system.

With a concert at Third Man Records, a tour of the Toyota’s new research and development site on a former mental hospital outside Ann Arbor, the automaker unveiled its new 2019 Avalon with the highest-level JBL audio system of any Toyota in the history of the company it’s claimed. (Toyota Prius Prime Sees Electric Range Increase to 120, GM Celebrates Old Tech Center as Volkswagen Builds New One)

Premium automotive stereo systems are not new, of course, going back decades when the Chevrolet Corvette debuted a Bose sound system designed exclusively for what arguably remains the best sports car value on the market. (Corvette ZR1 Sets Lap Record at VIR) Continue reading

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Honda, GM Expand Cooperation for Next Gen Battery

AutoInformed.com on GM, Honda deal on next gen batteries.

GM and Honda already have a deal over electrification with the industry’s first manufacturing joint venture to produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system.

General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Honda (NYSE: HMC) announced an agreement today for new advanced chemistry battery components, including the cell and module, to “accelerate both companies’ plans for all-electric vehicles.” The next-generation battery – it’s claimed – will deliver higher energy density, smaller packaging and faster charging capabilities for both companies’ future products, mainly for the North American market where EV sales remain minuscule.

Under the agreement, the companies will collaborate based on GM’s next generation battery system with the intent for Honda to source the battery modules from GM. The collaboration will support each company’s respective vehicles. The combined scale and global manufacturing efficiencies will ultimately provide greater value to customers. IT’s another example of how automakers are scrambling to cover the cost of future products as they try to morph to mobility companies. Continue reading

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NASA Satellite Data Show Pollution Controls Work in SoCal

AutoInformed.com on CARB - NASA Pollution Mapping SatelliteA scientific study using satellite technology provides clear evidence that California’s tough clean air programs are working to reduce emissions of fine particle pollution throughout the state, according to the California Air Resources Board. Scientists from Emory University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Air Resources Board worked together to analyze satellite data to determine the 15-year trend of fine particle pollution. The study comes at a time when the Trump appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt is removing regulations thta keep people healthier. Pruitt is alas  under attack for lavish spending of taxpayer money, close ties to anti-environmental interests, alleged personal corruption – and a seemingly unending list of toxic behavior. Some say this makes him unfit for office. Continue reading

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U.S. Space Exploration Essential for Climate Monitoring

AutoInformed.com on Climate Change and Space Exploration

The Obama Administration tried to position space exploration as a move to encourage private sector innovation, in-sourcing work to American companies around the development of spaceflight capabilities along with job creation claims no matter how tenuous.

Most Americans think the U.S. should remain a leader in space, according to the latest Pew research. Many consider monitoring Earth’s climate or asteroids to be top priorities for NASA. Fewer think that sending astronauts to the moon or Mars is a priority for the 60-year old agency.

More than half of Americans say they would not be interested in going into space, citing cost, fear, and age or health concerns. * Therefore, an expanded definition of the automakers quest to transform into mobility companies does not include to go where no man has gone before at this time. Continue reading

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SoftBank Vision Fund to Invest $2.25 B in GM Cruise

AutoInformed.com on SoftBank Investment Advisers

General Motors President Dan Ammann (left) and GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra (right) give SoftBank Investment Advisers Managing Partner Michael Ronen a closer look at the Cruise AV.

General Motors (NYSE: GM) said last week that the SoftBank Vision Fund will invest $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings (GM Cruise), “further strengthening the company’s plans to commercialize Autonomous Vehicle technology at large scale.” GM will also invest $1.1 billion in GM Cruise upon closing of the transaction, subject to government regulatory approval of course.

It’s part of a larger auto industry trend that see automakers scrambling for funding and technical expertise to transform themselves into mobility companies – an expensive and risky strategy. The reason for the deal became clearer yesterday when GM  announced that all Cadillac models will come with a sophisticated autonomous cruise control that requires no driver input on limited access highways. (See AutoInformed.com on Autonomous Vehicle Nod – Super Cruise on All Cadillacs) Continue reading

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Autonomous Vehicle Nod – Super Cruise on All Cadillacs

AutoInformed.com on Autonomous Vehicles

“Super Cruise is a giant leap along the path to true Autonomous Vehicles, said Mark Reuss.

Cadillac says it will expand the rollout of Super Cruise on all Cadillac models, with the rollout beginning in 2020. After 2020, Super Cruise will make its introduction in other General Motors brands. The automated cruise control system is claimed to be the world’s first true hands-free driver assistance feature for the freeway.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra’s promised in her keynote address at the 2014 ITS World Congress, that Cadillac would begin offering advanced intelligent and connected technology in its vehicles. This year that promise comes closer to roadside reality. Continue reading

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Volkswagen Piloting Augmented Reality for Technicians

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is testing RealWear’s  augmented reality device hoping that it will speed service repairs and save money. Using the wearable gear, VW technicians can clip the head-mounted device onto a safety helmet or bump cap and connect directly with the Technical Support Centro at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ Technical Support Center at the head office in Milton Keynes, UK.

The tool – it’s said -can operate in loud workshop environments and dark and tight areas that need light. It also allows for hands-free use in rough environments. This virtual assistance could significantly reduce service time, as technicians will be supported throughout the diagnosis and repair of the vehicle.

“Our ultimate aim is to ensure we can keep the customers’ vehicles on the road for longer and that means reducing the time it takes to repair a vehicle when it’s in one of our centers,” said Paul Anderson, Service Operations Manager at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. Continue reading

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Cadillac, Acura Win in Detroit on Belle Isle Streets

AutoInformed.com on 2018 Detroit Grand Prix Sports Car Racing

A two-tires-only pit stop pays off for the struggling Acura team.

The four Acura entries in last weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix completed the 100-minute race, with a 1-2 win for the Acura NSX GT3 and Meyer Shank Racing in the GTD class, and a 2-3 finish for Acura Team Penske and the ARX-05 prototype, which lost to Felipe Nasr driving a Cadillac, who also set the fastest lap time.

In the  GTD class, Katherine Legge and Meyer Shank Racing successfully repeated their class win here from one year ago, but with Mario Farnbacher joining the lineup in the #86 Acura NSX GT3. Starting second, Legge unsuccessfully challenged the leading Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers throughout the first 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Justin Marks ran a close third in the #93 MSR Acura. Continue reading

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FCA Sells Minivans to Google’s Waymo for Driverless Use

AutoInformed.com on Waymo

FCA and Waymo first announced their partnership in May 2016.

Google’s self-driving wing Waymo – and threat to established automakers – will  expand its fleet with an agreement to add up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. The latest four-wheel expansion follows a prior deal, announced in January, to deliver thousands of vehicles to Waymo’s driverless transportation service. Vehicle delivery is expected to begin in late 2018.

FCA US and Waymo they are beginning “discussions about the use of Waymo self-driving technology, including potentially through licensing, in FCA-manufactured vehicles available to retail customers.”

Given Chrysler’s dubious safety record, it’s a risky proposition in AutoInformed’s view. ( NHTSA Blasts FCA Recalls – Big Fines, Maybe Criminal Charges Coming for Italian Automaker? Litigation Ongoing Fiat Chrysler Recalls 4.8 Million Vehicles for Runaway Acceleration Caused by Cruise Control Software )

  Currently, Waymo – much to the embarrassment of the Detroit Three and other automakers – is the only company with a fleet of fully self-driving cars, with no one in the driver seat, in use on public roads. Later this year, Waymo will launch the world’s first self-driving transportation service, allowing the public to use Waymo’s app to request a vehicle.
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Profanity-Filled Road Rage Continues for a Third of Drivers

Autoinformed.com

What road rage in city traffic? AutoInformed is shocked that “commuting by cursing”  is going on.

A survey of auto commuters with the average commuting time totaling 21-23 minutes nationwide – much longer in the five cities analyzed –  commuters aim to make the most of their time in the car with 79% designating their commute for me-time and relaxation.

However, more than a third (38% percent) of commuters admit to being likely to swear at other drivers when experiencing road rage. Close to half of Washington D.C.’s commuters (49%) admitted to “commuting by cussing,” 46% in Chicago and 45% in Los Angeles. Continue reading

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Vehicle Average Loan, Monthly Payment at Record Highs

Predicting the trend of U.S. light vehicle sales is based on many factors and unknowns. What is known, however, is that the rise in loan amounts, monthly payments and interest rates for new vehicles are at record highs.  According to Experian’s State of the Automotive Finance Market Report released today, the average new vehicle loan was $31,455 in Q1 2018, an increase of $921 from the previous year. The monthly payment for a new vehicle climbed to $523, a $15 increase over the same period. The average interest rate for a new vehicle was 5.17% during the quarter.

Forecasts for U.S.  vehicle sales predict flat May numbers year-over-year when they are released tomorrow. New light-vehicle sales are projected to reach 1.56 million units, with a seasonally adjusted annual rate – SAAR – of 16.6 million, down a tad from last year. If accurate the SAAR will be its lowest level since August 2017 and down from the 17.1 million trend the market has been averaging in 2018.  (Read AutoInformed.com on U.S. Vehicle Sales Forecast Flat for May 2018) Continue reading

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