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Audi to abandon CVTs?

Posted Jul 24th 2014 6:57PM

Audi CVT

The continuously variable transmission is one of those technologies that seems to make a lot of sense on paper, but in reality, almost always numbs the driving experience. That's one reason why Audi, according to reports, is planning to phase them out.

One of the first automakers to implement use of the CVT, Audi mates CVTs to larger engines than many other manufacturers, which typically install them on scooters, hybrids and small-displacement hatchbacks. But the time of the Audi CVT (which it calls Multimatic) may be near its end as a report from Australia indicates that Ingolstadt is moving toward a two-gearbox lineup that does not include the rubber-band transmission.

Instead, Audi is said to be focusing its attention on the S-tronic dual-clutch transmission and on conventional torque-converter automatics – although the development of beefier DCTs could spell the end of the Audi slushbox, as well. We've reached out to Audi for comment, so watch this space for confirmation.

News Source: The Motor Report

Nissan: We lose money on each Leaf replacement battery

VP Says $6,500 Cost Doesn't Cover It

Posted Jul 24th 2014 6:24PM

nissan leaf

Nissan has been playing its cards pretty close to its chest when it comes to the production costs for Leaf battery packs. The company recently put a price on replacement batteries for customers at $5,500 plus the requirement to return the old battery. If the decommissioned battery is worth $1,000 to Nissan, as they have stated, that means the battery costs about $6,500 to make, right? Maybe even less if Nissan wants to turn a profit, as automakers are wont to do? Wrong.

Green Car Reports spoke to Nissan about these battery costs, and found that the automaker actually loses money on selling the replacement battery for the Leaf at the current price. Jeff Kuhlman, Nissan's vice president of global communications said, "Nissan makes zero margin on the replacement program. In fact, we subvent every exchange." All you English majors will know that "subvent" is a fancy way to say "subsidize." Kuhlman added, though, "We have yet to sell one battery as part of the program."

The fact that Nissan offers its replacement batteries for less than it costs to manufacture them is telling of a company both cares about what its customer needs and is dedicated to the success of its product. In this case, both of those things encourage people to give up fossil fuels and adopt electric mobility, which is heartening. As more people switch to battery-powered driving, though, battery technology should become better and cheaper, and the scale of production should cause manufacturing costs to decrease. Eventually, Nissan could easily see itself breaking even selling the Leaf battery replacements.

Nissan Leaf replacement battery is covered under the same eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty as the battery in a new car.
Related Gallery2013 Nissan Leaf
2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf2013 Nissan Leaf

News Source: Green Car Reports

BMW begins restoring Elvis Presley's 507 [w/video]

Posted Jul 24th 2014 5:42PM

Elvis Presley's 1957 BMW 507

Imagine the King of Rock n' Roll driving a car and you'll likely picture a pink Cadillac or a yellow De Tomaso shot full of holes. But Elvis also owned a 1957 BMW 507 roadster, and now that roadster is returning home to BMW headquarters.

The 507 was a rare bird, of which only 254 examples were ever made. They were sold mostly to celebrities and royalty, but Elvis Presley was a GI when he bought it while stationed in Germany. The example that he bought had been displayed at the Frankfurt Motor Show, used as a press car and raced by Hans Stuck (which is how Elvis came to see it in the first place), so when he took delivery of it second-hand, the dealership had a new engine installed. It was originally white, but legend has it that Elvis got tired of women writing their phone numbers on the side of it in lipstick that he had it repainted in red.

Stories differ on what exactly happened to it next, with some saying that he returned it once the lease was up and other saying that the army shipped it back to him in the States after his tour was over. But what we do know is that the car sat for many years, neglected but sheltered from the elements. Now it's heading to the the BMW Museum in Munich, where it will be on display until August 10, after which the BMW Group Classic department will undertake a comprehensive restoration of the star-studded roadster that's expected to take two years of work.

Read more in the Google-translated press release below and scope out the pre-restoration photos in the gallery above. For more information on the 507 model, feel free to watch the video we embedded with the press release.

News Source: BMW via ranwhenparked.net

Ford unveils its facelifted Falcon finale with new XR8

Posted Jul 24th 2014 4:55PM

Ford Falcon XR8

While its days may be numbered, Ford isn't just going to let its Falcon sedan limp out for the Australian market. No, the Blue Oval is releasing a refreshed Falcon for its final years, and it's lead by this, the new XR8. That's right, this dead-car-driving is going to go out on a high note.

Ford's global design DNA dominates the looks of the new Falcon, with a grille reminiscent of the US market Fusion and the European-market Mondeo. The headlights aren't a straight port, and boast their own unique LED running light pattern (at least on the XR8), but the overall look is strikingly similar. Out back, LED taillights highlight the rear of the Faclon. Despite the substantial new fascia, this is still a mid-cycle refresh. That means most of the rest of the Falcon's body panels are carryovers from the current model.

The XR8 model, shown above, arrives with a supercharged V8, allegedly displacing 5.0 liters. Unfortunately, details on the Falcon's mechanicals are in remarkably short supply. Ford has committed to a range of turbocharged four, as well as turbocharged and naturally aspirated six-cylinders, in addition to the V8, although specifics on those mills aren't available.

It isn't just information that's in short supply ­– official images of the new Falcon are limited to the pic you see above. Of course, we're working on getting more of both, and as soon as that happens, we'll be sure to update this post. Scroll down for the brief, styling-focused press release from Ford.

News Source: Ford of Australia

Ford Fiesta becomes UK all-time best seller

Posted Jul 24th 2014 4:22PM

Ford Fiesta in London

We may regard Ford as an American automaker, but ask a Brit and they may tell you otherwise. The Blue Oval has, after all, been selling cars in the UK since 1903, and started manufacturing there as far back as 1911 when it began local production of the Model T in Manchester. Last year Ford ended 100 years of vehicle manufacturing in the UK when the last Transit van rolled off the assembly line in Southampton, but it's still the biggest-selling automotive marque in Britain.

Ford has led the British market for 34 out of the past 45 years, selling more Fiestas than any other company sells any other car in the UK since 2009... when it overtook the Focus. In fact the Fiesta has now become the best-selling car in British history, topping 4,115,000 units since its introduction in 1976. The previous record was held by – you guessed it – another Ford: the Escort sold 4,105,961 units over the course of its 32 years on the British market.

Although the Fiesta is no longer manufactured in the UK (previous versions having been built at Dagenham until 2002), engines are: the EcoBoost line was developed at the company's R&D center in Essex and are built at the factory in Dunton, while its diesel engines were developed at Dagenham in East London. Even the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine in the Fiesta ST is built in South Wales.
Related GalleryFord Fiesta UK
Ford Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UKFord Fiesta UK

News Source: Ford

VW's Winterkorn tells 20,000 staffers of big cost-cutting plans

Posted Jul 24th 2014 3:42PM

Germany Earns Volkswagen

During a gathering of 20,000 Volkswagen Group employees at company headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany on Wednesday, CEO Martin Winterkorn dropped a bombshell. The boss stated that the automaker isn't operating efficiently enough and admitted the company needs to radically start cutting back to raise its profit margins. To right the ship, Winterkorn has proposed killing off less profitable models and spending less on research and development.

According to Reuters, Winterkorn wants to raise the VW brand's profit margin from about 2.9 percent in 2013 to a target of 6 percent. To make that possible, his plan amounts to increasing cost cutting until Volkswagen reaches about 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) per year to get things back in order. "Over the short-term, we urgently need more efficiency and higher profit," the CEO said during his speech, according to Reuters.

However, Winterkorn can't make these decisions unilaterally. Volkswagen's works council also has a seat on the supervisory board to represent laborers, and it isn't likely to take the proposed cuts sitting down.

Winterkorn's plan is especially interesting because the Volkswagen Group is going gangbusters worldwide, even if it's not meeting expectations here in North America. In the first quarter, it posted the equivalent of over $3 billion in global profits after taxes, and the group is aiming to meet its 10-million vehicle sales goal in 2014, four years early. Contrast that to the problems of the VW brand that saw its Q1 operating profits fall to around 440 million euro ($592 million), compared to about 590 million euro ($794 million) in the same quarter for the previous year. At the time, the automaker attributed the lower figure to falling sales, like in North and South America, poor exchange rates and higher investments in technology.

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Michael Sohn / AP Photo

NY vandal uses graffiti to call out bad parking

Posted Jul 24th 2014 2:57PM

Vandalized parked car in Queens

We've all been there. You walk down the street and can't believe how people have parked like that. Maybe they're taking up two spots. Maybe they're sticking out and blocking part of the street, sidewalk or crosswalk. And maybe you think about leaving a note, but you probably don't. One vandal in New York, however, is taking things a step beyond.

An unknown parking-enforcement vigilante in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens, New York, has been going around tagging cars with spray paint, leaving indelible messages like "Learn to park S bag" and "Hey S*** bag park right" (expletive deleted).

Naturally, their owners are up in arms – as would we all if we found someone had spay-painted our vehicles. In the CBS 2 news video report viewable by scrolling below, victims of the graffiti are interviewed, maintaining that their cars were were parked correctly, further noting that it's already hard enough finding spaces in New York. On some level, both jilted parties probably have a point, but there's little doubt that local law enforcement will see things the vigilante's way. Watch news report and then let us know how you feel about this sort of civil rebellion in Comments.

News Source: CBS New York

ETC

BringATrailer getting into the auction business

Posted Jul 24th 2014 2:30PM

Bring a trailer auctions

If you're into classic cars and don't already know about the website BringATrailer.com, you're seriously missing out. The site highlights vintage cars of all stripes for sale on the internet, whether they are from eBay Motors, Craigslist, its own readers or practically anywhere else. Even if you're not shopping for something to add to your garage, the commenters' discussions are usually incredibly insightful and often amusing, if a little pedantic. With a newly launched redesign, our friends at BaT are branching out a bit and starting their own weekly auto auctions.

With the new feature, appropriately called BaT Auctions, the site is hoping to bring its high quality, low quantity ethos to the world of online car auctions. Unlike eBay Motors, not just any vehicle can get in. Each selection is curated, and in a novel twist, BaT's fervent commenter base get to discuss the car for six days before the 24-hour sale actually begins.

To keep sellers from getting ripped off, bidders have to put down a deposit and register a credit card beforehand. Also, in an interesting move designed to prevent bid sniping, if there is a bid anytime within the last three minutes of the auction, then the timer resets back to three minutes on the clock.

With three cars this week to kick things off, BaT plans to tweak the auction process as needed in the future. "Our goal is to create the absolute best way to buy and sell the best cars of all time, and we know that's something that will take us time to get just right," said Bring a Trailer co-founder Gentry Underwood to Autoblog via email. Scroll down to read more on the company's announcement.

News Source: BringATrailer

Ford books $2.6B pretax quarterly profit

Posted Jul 24th 2014 2:00PM

Earns Ford

While its crosstown competitors at General Motors are smarting over a drastic drop in net income to $200 million in the second quarter, Ford has reason to celebrate. The Blue Oval has announced its own Q2 financial results, including a growing net income of $1.3 billion, a $78 million increase over last year. Pretax profits for the company reached $2.6 billion, up $44 million from 2013, but total revenue dropped slightly to $37.4 billion, down from $37.9 billion. Profits per share before one-time charges totaled 40 cents per share, beating Wall Street analysts' expectations of 36 cents a share.

Regionally, the Blue Oval performed strongly, as well. North America posted a record quarterly pre-tax profit of $2.4 billion, a $119 million increase. Europe also showed signs of turn around with its first profit in three years of $14 million after a loss of $306 million in Q2 2013. Ford is actually predicting profitability in the troubled region in 2015. Asia Pacific operations also performed well with $159 million in profits, up $29 million from last year. The only region where the business posted a loss was South America.

According to Automotive News, Ford also announced more precise plans about the changeover to build the aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150. In August, the Dearborn plant will shutdown for eight weeks to retool and its Kansas City plant will do the same next year.

For the end of the year, Ford predicts it's on track to meet its pretax goal of a profit between $7 and $8 billion. You can read the entire financial announcement in PDF format, here.

News Source: Ford, Automotive News - sub. req., The Wall Street Journal - sub. req.

Image Credit: Gene J. Puskar, File / AP Photo

2015 Toyota Yaris to start at $14,845* and look like this

Posted Jul 24th 2014 1:30PM

2015 Toyota Yaris

Toyota released a new Yaris in Europe and its Vitz clone in Japan a few months ago, so we knew it would only be a matter of time before it would launch the new hatchback here in North America. And that time has come.

The new, more distinctive 2015 Yaris features far more aggressive exterior styling, a look set apart by that large lower air dam and X-motif front end. It rides on a retuned suspension hooked up to an altogether more rigid chassis, and Toyota promises it will ride more quietly and comfortably than the model it replaces. Inside the new model has additional soft-touch materials in a more comfortable cabin equipped with everything from a 6.1-inch touchscreen display to nine airbags.

The 2015 Yaris comes in both three- and five-door bodystyles, and three trim levels that seek to eliminate the need for options packages. In fact the only option to speak of is a dealer-installed nav system. Power comes from a modest 1.5-liter four with variable valve timing, dual overhead cams and sixteen valves, sending 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque through either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.

For all the updates, Toyota has only increased pricing by two or three percent (amounting to a few hundred bucks), with the 2015's MSRP ranging from $14,825 for a three-door, manual-transmission Yaris L to $17,620 for five-door, automatic Yaris SE (*before $825 destination charge). Scope out all the details and pricing in the press release below.
Related Gallery2015 Toyota Yaris
2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris2015 Toyota Yaris

News Source: Toyota

40+ cars that barely avoid the gas guzzler tax

Why It Pays To Be A Good Test Taker

Posted Jul 24th 2014 12:59PM



The Gas Guzzler schedule, with mpg ratings and charges that haven't changed since 1991, lays out which fuel-swillers owe what to Uncle Sam.

I started thinking about the "Gas Guzzler Tax" – considerably less well known as The Energy Tax Act of 1978 – when I was driving Dodge's new Challenger SRT Hellcat last week. Unsurprisingly for a car that can burn 1.5 gallons of gas per minute at max tilt, theoretically able to empty a full tank of premium in about 13 minutes, the Hellcat will be subject to the Gas Guzzler Tax schedule when it goes on sale.

Beyond knowing that it existed, and occasionally seeing a surcharge for it listed on the specification sheet for a press car I'd been loaned, I didn't really understand how the GGT worked or was calculated.

Thankfully, the Environmental Protection Agency makes learning about the GGT (and a lot of other stuff) pretty simple. EPA.gov has a clearly written explanation of the tax and the tax schedule. That schedule, operating with miles-per-gallon ratings and charges that haven't changed since 1991, clearly lays out which fuel-swillers owe what to Uncle Sam. Basically, if a car's combined fuel economy rating is 22.5 mpg or higher it's off the hook ­– trucks, minivans and SUVs are all exempt from the GGT – if the rating is lower, per vehicle taxes range from $1,000 to $7,700 for the very thirstiest.

Simple, right?

News Source: EPA, FuelEconomy.gov

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AOL

MotorWeek proves '90s were awesome with Supra, Stealth, RX-7, Corvette, 968, 300ZX comparo

Posted Jul 24th 2014 12:31PM

Motorweek 1993 Sports Car Test

Oh, the heady days of 1993, back when the Clinton Presidency was just getting underway, and it seemed like every hot new rock band was coming out of Seattle. Sports cars in the US had finally shaken off the shackles that slowed them during the '70s and '80s, and you could buy any number of legitimately quick vehicles again. MotorWeek recently went digging into its archives to find this six-model test from 1993 showing off some of the best semi-affordable performance coupes that money could buy at the time, and it's priceless.

Featuring the 1994 model year Toyota Supra in twin-turbo guise and MY 1993 versions of the Porsche 968, Nissan 300ZX TT, Mazda RX-7, Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo and Chevrolet Corvette LT-1, MotorWeek definitely covered all of the bases. One thing that might surprise younger readers is these cars' performance. The video only provides 0-60 acceleration times, but several of these vehicles would still be considered pretty potent today – over 20 years since going on sale. The Supra is especially impressive, hitting 60 miles per hour in just 5 seconds. Even today, that's nothing to sneeze at.

Given their performance potential and still-attractive looks, it's amazing that some of these coupes are old enough to drink now. The progress of interior design and safety equipment in the intervening years is pretty shocking, though. In most of these models, having two airbags is touted as a big deal. Scroll down to watch a Throwback Thursday blast from the past about some of the '90s best sports cars.

News Source: MotorWeek via YouTube

2014 Audi SQ5

S4 Avant? What S4 Avant?

Posted Jul 24th 2014 11:57AM

2014 Audi SQ5

It may be obvious at this point, but here in the United States, European manufacturers routinely give us the short end of the stick. Now, I'm not talking about models or brands that don't come here, like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or the entire Renault line. No, instead, I'm referring to cars that are sold right here in the Land of the Free in one bodystyle, while Europe enjoys the same vehicle with a wider variety of configurations.

A prime example of this is the Audi S4/S5 line. In America, we can have the supercharged twins in two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and cabriolet body styles. Meanwhile, our Euroland cousins get the same trio of bodystyles, as well as the A5/S5 Sportback, a characterful 'four-door coupe,' and a versatile hauler, the S4 Avant. At first glance, Audi of America lacks a vehicle that can compete with the latter's blend of performance, versatility and subdued looks. So, what's an American with around $60,000 and an obsession with quick, conservative haulers to do? Well, he can buy an SQ5. (Though it bears mentioning, our US-spec SQ5 is vastly different than what's available to our European friends.)

The SQ5 has a huge number of things going for it that make it a viable alternative to a proper hot wagon, and foremost among them are its looks – this is a sleeper. Audi has thankfully decided not to molest the clean looks of the standard Q5 when penning the sportier model.

The SQ5 gains a unique set of wheels: 20-inchers are standard, but our tester was fitted with a set of 21-inch rollers. Visually, neither make a huge departure from the standard Q5 though. Other standard features of Audi's S models are also found on the SQ5, including a set of quad exhausts, silver mirror caps and mildly different front grille and foglight surrounds. If anything, the Q5 TDI diesel I tested late last year looks sportier than today's tester.

Vital Stats

Engine:
SC 3.0L V6
Power:
354 HP / 347 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Base Price:
$52,700
As-Tested Price:
$60,750
Related Gallery2014 Audi SQ5: Review
2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review2014 Audi SQ5: Review

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Brandon Turkus / AOL

GM quarterly earnings tank due to recall costs

Posted Jul 24th 2014 11:46AM

US-DETROIT-AUTO-SHOW

Given General Motors' steady stream of recalls this year (including a single day with around 8.4 million vehicles needing repair), it's not a huge surprise that the cost to deal with all of the problems will be high. However, few analysts expected the tab to be this steep. In the General's just-announced second-quarter financial filing, it revealed that net income for the quarter was just $200 million, compared to 1.2 billion in Q2 2013 – a drop of over 80 percent. To put this in proper perspective, though, that figure is still up from the $100-million income booked from the first quarter of 2014.

The cause of the sharp descent was not only the recalls themselves, but other costs related to them, as well. According to the report, GM paid out $1.2 billion in recall-related repairs during the quarter. The company had to set aside $400 million for ignition-switch compensation, an amount it admits is an estimate that may need to be raised by an additional $200 million in the future. To prepare for possible future campaigns, the automaker also took a charge of around $900 million to be ready to pay for them.

Earnings before interest and tax also fell to $1.4 billion, compared to $2.3 billion in the same quarter of 2013. However, net revenue was up slightly to $39.6 billion, compared to $39.1 billion in the previous comparable quarter, and revenue was also up through the first six months of the year.

CEO Mary Barra put a positive spin on the tepid results, saying, "Our underlying business performance in the first half of the year was strong as we grew our revenue on improved pricing and solid new vehicle launches," she said in the company's announcement. Scroll down to read the entire release, including a table comparing Q2 2014 to 2013.

News Source: General Motors

Image Credit: Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

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