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Mitsubishi scores record global operating profits

Posted Apr 24th 2014 7:01PM

JAPAN-AUTO-MITSUBISHI-EARNINGS

In the minds of many auto enthusiasts, Mitsubishi has become an afterthought. It has transformed from a company known for its turbocharged, all-wheel-drive rally machines into an automaker with a very boring lineup. Maybe we are being unfair, though. While the company doesn't have much of a performance presence anymore, the Japanese brand is doing quite well financially.

According to Reuters, Mitsubishi Motors had an operating profit of 123.4 billion yen ($1.2 billion) worldwide for the fiscal year that ended in March. That's twice as much as last year and a new all-time record for the Japanese automaker. It's even paying dividends to investors for the first time in 16 years, and its expected profit of 135 billion yen ($1.3 billion) in the new fiscal year matches a goal it had set for itself to achieve two years from now.

The automaker currently focuses much of its efforts on Southeast Asia, which accounts for about a quarter of its sales. It will put even greater attention there in the coming years with more local production, according to Reuters.

However, the company is seeing success in North America too. For the 2013 calendar year, Mitsubishi Motors NA saw sales increase by 7.7 percent, and that growth has continued this year. Our By the Numbers figures have shown that it posted gains in two of the first three months of 2014, and while Mitsu's totals are relatively small, that's still a fact that larger companies like Honda and Volkswagen can't brag about.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP / Getty Images

FTC officials question 'bad policy' that stops Tesla's direct sales

Posted Apr 24th 2014 6:28PM

Amsterdam: Model S @ Tesla Store

It looks like Elon Musk has a new group of allies over at the Federal Trade Commission. Writing on the FTC blog, three high-level FTC officials came out against the "protectionist" network of laws in the US that govern automotive dealers and prevent, in some cases, Tesla Motors from selling its cars directly to customers. They called the rules, "bad policy for a number of reasons."

They write:

[The legal] protections expanded until in many states they included outright bans on the sale of new cars by anyone other than a dealer-specifically, an auto manufacturer. Instead of "protecting," these state laws became "protectionist," perpetuating one way of selling cars-the independent car dealer.

The post is not a call to arms, but more of a position statement co-authored by Andy Gavil (director of the Office of Policy Planning), Debbie Feinstein (director of the Bureau of Competition), and Marty Gaynor (director of the Bureau of Economics).

"The collective [cost] impact of [the state-by-state battles] is one of the major concerns here. [Tesla is] just trying to sell their cars" – Andy Gavin

Gavil told AutoblogGreen that the main goal was to bring attention to the issue, which the post has certainly done. There are so many of state fights going on, he said, that this was a way to reach a lot of people at once. "We've been watching this for months," he said. "It's very clearly a state-by-state battle. We are concerned about Tesla litigating state-by-state. The collective [cost] impact of that is one of the major concerns here. They're just trying to sell their cars. The way the industry is reacting shows that it's about more than that."

Gavil wouldn't go so far as to say that there should be new national rules – it's up to Congress to do that, he said - but he has also been looking at the taxi industry and the upstarts like Lyft and Uber. The competition angle sometimes doesn't get the attention it deserves, he said. "If there's a more open debate about it, that can only be a good thing."

News Source: Federal Trade Commission

Image Credit: harry_nl / Flickr

Johammer EV motorcycle promises wild style [w/video]

Posted Apr 24th 2014 5:44PM

A woman rides the Johammer electric motorcycle.

This is the Johammer electric motorcycle, which for at least six years prior to now has been known as the "biiista" - you can still make out that word stamped into the fluted aluminum fairing behind the front footpeg in the image above. We're not sure what's behind the rebranding, but the electro-moto is produced by Austrian company Hammerschmid Maschinenbau with pen work done by Yellow Works design studio.

There are two versions, called J1.150 and J1.200, the former with an 8.3 kilowatt/hour battery and a 150-kilometer (90-mile) range, the latter with a 12.7-kW/h battery and a 200-km (120-mile) range, and with the J1.200 Johammer says it makes the first electric motorcycle that can go that far on a single charge. While the wind-whipped rider looks to be on an easy cruise, it probably took her a while to get to that point: Johammer doesn't give 0-60 mph times, it only gives 30-50 km/h and 30-62 mph times. The 350-pound J1.150 and the 390-pound J1.200 both take four seconds to go from 30-50 mph and eight seconds to go from 30-62 mph.

On the other hand, Johammer is bullish on its technology. On top of that range, the company guarantees that the batteries powering the 11-kilowatt (14.75 horsepower) hub-mounted motor will be maintenance free for the 124,000-mile life of the bike and won't lose more than 15 percent of their capacity in four years.

There are no foot controls, the rider - who sits 25 inches above the ground on a 57-inch wheelbase - handles everything via grips mounted on the mirror stalks. There's no dashboard, either - the displays are integrated into the mirrors. You can get it in five different colors for either 23,000 euro ($31,795 US) or 25,000 euro ($34,556 US), though not in the US as far has we've heard, to date. There's a video below with a few seconds of rolling footage if you need some help imagining your low-riding, future-forward lifestyle.

News Source: Johammer via Ride Apart

Danica Patrick, Brooke Burke pitch Can-Am Spyder as ultimate paparazzi escape tool

Posted Apr 24th 2014 4:57PM

Can-Am Spyder Team

Can-Am has added another pair of stars to its advertising push for the three-wheeled Spyder motorcycle. After showing former NHL star Mark Messier guaranteeing a number of things (playing on his guarantee of winning a crucial game in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1994), the company has hired IndyCar and NASCAR star Danica Patrick, and model/television personality Brooke Burke to talk about the Can-Am Spyder's talents as a paparazzi escape vehicle.

It's a clever little ad, showing a sort of silly, celebrity oriented version of Uber. That said, we'd argue that based on the rather dark history of paparazzi harassment and the tendency for stars or paparazzos to be injured or arrested when trying to escape from the cameras, the spot walks a fine line in terms of taste. Take a look below for the spot and decide for yourself.

Why Mopar won't release a factory lift kit for the new Jeep Cherokee

Posted Apr 24th 2014 4:28PM

Jeep Cherokee Dakar concept, front three-quarter view.

The Jeep Cherokee Dakar concept showed off at the 2014 Easter Jeep Safari made a lot of online friends, even the Cherokee naysayers assenting that there's a monster Jeep underneath the Cherokee's skin if you're willing to go in and get it. But after reading Road & Track's write-up of what went into creating the Dakar, particularly its lift, you'll understand why you'll probably never see the components for it in the Jeep Performance Parts catalog.

The concept's press release mentions a "prototype Jeep Performance Parts lift kit, and additional suspension modifications." The short-story explanation is that the front struts on the standard Cherokee weren't engineered to accept any amount of lift, so the long story begins with the phrase, "an entirely new suspension." Head over to RT to read the details, and don't be afraid to ogle the Cherokee Dakar gallery and another awesome Jeep fancy that won't likely crawl over the hurdles imposed by production reality.

News Source: Road & Track

Image Credit: Jeep

Hyundai missing Q1 earnings targets blamed on slow US sales

Posted Apr 24th 2014 3:45PM

2015 Hyundai Sonata

Slow US growth is hampering profits at Hyundai. In its first quarter financial statement, the Korean automaker reported a profit of 1.93 trillion won ($1.86 billion). According to Reuters, this is less than analysts' expectations and nearly the same as last year.

According to the report, US sales fell by 3 percent in Q1 2014. To make matters worse, the high value of the South Korean currency caused lower profits on models exported from there. On the bright side, Hyundai's Chinese sales rose by 9 percent, according to Reuters. It's also working on building a fourth factory there.

The company has had a rough time in the US throughout the quarter. John Krafcik, the CEO of Hyundai of America, stepped down on January 1, and the company was already predicting slow growth in sales for 2014. Falling quality scores for the Sonata and Elantra aren't helping matters either. However, there may be hope on the way. The second-generation Genesis Sedan was introduced to the US in Detroit, and the redesigned Sonata was recently shown in New York. Successful launches of these important models could prove crucial.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Zak / AOL

Watch the BMW i8 get wrung out on the Ring

Posted Apr 24th 2014 2:58PM

BMW i8

Been wondering where the heck the reviews of the all-new, plug-in-hybrid BMW i8 have been? After all, the car isn't exactly new, having debuted in concept form way back in September of 2009. In August of last year, we even tested a prototype of the new supercar. Despite that, though, we still haven't gotten a crack at the actual vehicle that will be sold to the public.

Well, we're happy to tell you that we're currently testing the i8 and will have a proper review for you soon. If, however, you're just aching for some coverage of the low-slung plug-in, we have a short video of it in action around Germany's famed Nürburgring.

Despite it's three-cylinder, turbocharged gas engine, the i8 sounds pretty angry as it laps the Ring. That is, until it has a little bit of a breakdown. According to the guys that caught the car on video, it appeared the i8 had a minor brake issue, and was parked on the side of the track for a good 15 minutes, with the driver pumping the brakes. We should probably just take this as proof, then, that manufacturers are actually using the Ring for testing, and not just messing about.

Take a look below for the video, and stay tuned for our full review of the 2015 BMW i8.

News Source: TouriClips via YouTube

2015 Chevy Camaro Z/28 already sold out?

Posted Apr 24th 2014 2:29PM

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Chevrolet may have struck gold with the Camaro Z/28. Not only is it a great car to drive, it's also proving to be a hot seller. A rumor has emerged that the brand has already fulfilled all the orders for the planned 500-car production run.

Don't worry, though. If you want a Z/28 in your garage, Chevy plans to start building a second production order of 2,500 or more cars for the 2015 model year, according to Autoguide. However, it'll be a few months before those will start arriving at dealers. In the meantime, you still might be able to get your hands on the $75,000 track-biased Camaro. While all 500 cars were spoken for, some were ordered by dealers to just show off the sports coupe on their showroom floors, according to Road and Track. You might be able to wheel and deal to get one of them.

We've contacted Chevy for confirmation of the rumor and will update this story with more information when we hear back.

News Source: Autoguide, Road and Track

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Woz pranks the Internet with 'his' Tesla Model X

Posted Apr 24th 2014 1:57PM


People pay attention to Steve Wozniak. People pay attention to Tesla Motors. Put the two together, with the bonus of a not-yet-available Model X, and you've got the makings of Twitter gold. This was proven yesterday, when Woz Tweeted a picture of himself with what he said was "our new Tesla!" Excited admirers offered their congratulations and wanted to see the cool Falcon doors in action.

But it was all a dream too sweet. The Model X, after all, isn't due until the end of the year and even an Apple co-founder can't bend time that much. Tech editor at The Street Chris Ciaccia popped the bubble with this Tweeted explanation: "Despite @stevewoz tweeting a pic of him w/the Model X, not his new car. Just a photo op with the display model at that charging station." So, really, "Woz's" Model X could belong to anyone who wants to go to wherever the display model is located and snap a picture.

We would not be surprised, though, if Woz is one of the 12,000 (guesstimated) pre-orders for the Model X. The all-wheel drive, all-electric CUV can hit 60 miles per hour in under five seconds thanks to a powertrain similar to the one in the Model S. Like the popular S, the X will come with either a 60- or 85-kWh battery. You can see the Falcon doors move up and down, digitally, here.

News Source: Twitter

GM spent $1.3B on recall expenses in Q1, net income falls

Posted Apr 24th 2014 1:30PM

US-DETROIT-AUTO-SHOW

General Motors' recall woes in the first quarter of 2014 has had a major effect on the company's bottom line. In its Q1 financial report, the business announced that it spent $1.3 billion on "recall-related repairs" in the first three months of the year.

Total revenue at GM actually ticked up for the quarter by about 1 percent to $37.41 billion. However, the huge outlay on recalls and another roughly $400 million loss due to special items were partially responsible for net income dropping to $125 million, an 86-percent decrease from Q1 2013, according to Automotive News Europe. GM's North American operations also saw pre-tax earnings fall to $600 million, compared to $1.4 billion in this period last year.

"Our focus remains on creating the world's best vehicles with the highest levels of safety, quality and customer service, while aggressively addressing our business opportunities and challenges globally," said GM CEO Mary Barra in the report.

GM has been wracked by faulty vehicles in the past three months. The well-publicized ignition switch recall was rolled out in three waves as the company found more and more potentially affected cars, and it eventually covered roughly 2.6 million cars. While this grabbed many headlines, GM also had to repair about 1.3 million autos for faulty power steering systems and around 2.19 million for bad ignition cylinders that could let the key come out. There were also several smaller fixes affecting even more of its products. Automotive News Europe predicts that the business had seven million cars that needed replacement parts in this quarter. In response, the company created a new position for a safety watchdog.

GM didn't make any forecasts for the next quarter in the report. However, it will be interesting to see how company fares in Q2. Scroll down to read the release.

News Source: General Motors, Automotive News Europe - sub. req.

Image Credit: Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

Kawei K1 pickup blatantly copies Ford F-150

Posted Apr 24th 2014 1:02PM

Kawei K1

The Chinese auto industry used to be looked at as a joke full of products blatantly copied from foreign vehicles. However, companies like Qoros and others show that the country's automakers have taken big steps in terms of original design. It doesn't look like every automaker there is ready to put down the tracing paper yet, though. Case in point: The Kawei K1 pickup pictured above, which is an obvious rip-off of the Ford F-150. In fact, the company isn't even hiding it.

Kawei deserves a little credit for its openness. In describing the new model, it says: "No matter the black net grille and the outline of the headlamp, even if the styles of fog lamp and engine cover, it looks the same as Ford Raptor." It also admits that spelling out the model name on the hood is inspired by Land Rover. It's available with either a 2.4-liter, gasoline-fueled four-cylinder producing 141 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque (elsewhere it also lists it as having 162 lb-ft) or a 3.2-liter six-cylinder diesel with 106 hp and 181 lb-ft. Regardless of engine, power is sent to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. The trucks cost around 100,000 Yuan ($16,033). So at least the K1 is a reasonably priced knockoff.

According to Car News China, the K1 is actually selling in small numbers. The company made 10,000 of them last year and even exported some to Africa and the Middle East. Kawei's factory is doubling in capacity this year to build even more. You can read more about the truck on the company's website in some very mangled English.
Related GalleryKawei K1 Pickup
Kawei K1 PickupKawei K1 PickupKawei K1 PickupKawei K1 PickupKawei K1 PickupKawei K1 PickupKawei K1 PickupKawei K1 Pickup

News Source: Kawei via Car News China

Image Credit: Kawei

'Pothole Killer' faster than a four-man road crew

Posted Apr 24th 2014 12:32PM

Pothole Killer

Residents of Florida, the American Southwest and everywhere else where snowfall is greeted with the sort of panic normally reserved for extraterrestrial invasions or the discontinuation of Twinkies, look away. This doesn't concern you.

If you live in a land that's been gripped by the Polar Vortex, has experienced immense, record-breaking amounts of snowfall and has the roads to prove it, though, look on this wonderful machine with joy. It's called the Pothole Killer, and it's here to put the traditional patching crew out of business.

It can repair a pothole in two minutes. That's 120 seconds. It gets better, though, because only one person is needed for the job. Compare that with the amount of time it takes a four-man crew to make a typically dodgy repair job, and the Pothole Killer is a big improvement. It's not perfect, though, as shown in a report from Detroit's ABC affiliate.

The mixture used to patch the holes is 35 percent water, which limits the machine's use in cold weather. And as shown in the news report, even though it's plenty quick to make repairs, a few brutal winters are all that are needed to destroy roads all over again. That said, the speed of repairs and the reduction in man power do have their advantages.

What about the cost, though? Well, the machine itself is $335,800, according to Gizmodo. Municipalities can rent it for three months for $130,000, or about $43,300 per month, which, believe it or not, is more affordable than running a four-man crew, which includes labor costs, fuel for the trucks and asphalt (not to mention the slower, less reliable repairs). Monroe County, MI, where this video was shot, has already spent over $100,000 this spring, when repair season generally runs well into the summer. It's not the best solution to the pothole problem, but it seems better than what's been done in the past.

Take a look below to see it in action.

News Source: WXYZ-TV 7 via Gizmodo

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

Grand Stature Yes, Ultimate Driving Machine No

Posted Apr 24th 2014 11:57AM

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

"The Ultimate Driving Machine" has been BMW's tagline for nearly 40 years. Launched in the 1970s, the marketing campaign was a stroke of genius by ad firm Ammirati & Puris, as the phrase helped differentiate the imported Bavarian cars from their fellow European rivals by subtly pointing out that Mercedes-Benz and Audi were offering luxury models, while BMW was selling sporty and youthful driving dynamics. The campaign worked – some would argue that stands among the most effective ad campaigns ever – and countless Baby Boomers embraced the brand's fun-to-drive image by taking delivery of the company's new models.

BMW still boasts that its vehicles are "The Ultimate Driving Machine" four decades later, but the brand is very different today. It offered just a few model lines in the mid-1970s, and only a handful of vehicles within. In 2014, the automaker offers an exhaustive range comprised of nearly a dozen lines with almost 50 different models. To survive and thrive, BMW has decided it must massively broaden its appeal.

One of the latest arrivals to BMW's ever-growing stable is the 2014 3 Series Gran Turismo. The five-door hatchback is best thought of as a smaller version of the company's 5 Series Gran Turismo built on stretched 3 Series platform that, in the case of this test car, shares the running gear of the 328i xDrive sedan. On paper, the five-passenger vehicle checks all the proper boxes with regards to performance, utility and economy. But does this family-focused 3 Series still deliver driving dynamics that qualify it for the title of Ultimate Driving Machine?

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
240 HP / 255 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Base Price:
$41,450
As-Tested Price:
$54,570

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

Top Gear producer expresses regret over 'light-hearted' racist joke

Posted Apr 24th 2014 11:32AM

The Military Awards London

Generally, when you're globally known like the team at Top Gear and are getting sued for $1.66 million over claims of racism, it's in your best interest to apologize early, often and profusely. You should not, however, apologize a month after the fact, when the furor had already died down. Someone, apparently, didn't teach this lesson to TG Executive Producer Andy Wilman, who has ruffled feathers with an oddly worded apology for the incident, nearly a month after it happened.

"We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word 'slope' is considered by some to be offensive," Wilman said. Claiming ignorance strikes us as a reasonable defense – most of the Autoblog team and many of the readers that commented on our original story had never heard that particular slur. He then eviscerates his defense by saying this:

"When we used the word 'slope' in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it."


Claiming ignorance that a term is racist and then admitting that you were using said term to refer to someone of a different race kind of indicates that you knew what you were up to.

Wilman then bewilderingly goes on to claim that the phrase isn't well known in the United Kingdom, and that the furor seems to be coming from the United States and Australia. This ignores the fact that a Indian-born British actress and a British law firm are the ones suing Top Gear.

All told, this seems like a pretty bad play on the part of Wilman and the TG team.

News Source: Radio Times

Image Credit: Joel Ryan / Invision / AP

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