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Is Hyundai's conservative new Sonata struggling out of the gate?

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 10:15AM

2015 Hyundai Sonata

"But so far, Sonata sales are up compared with last year even while we're still ramping up to full speed," - Jim Trainor

According to Reuters, the redesigned-for-2015 Hyundai Sonata is not enjoying the same degree of success in the early going as the previous sixth-gen model, which proved to be one of the most important models in the company's history and ushered in the company's so-called "Fluidic Sculpture" design language that we still see today. Citing a recent review from The New York Times that called the car's more conservative styling "bland" and "boring," Reuters also points to analysts who claim the higher price of the new Sonata, as well as smaller rebates and incentives, are hurting sales. Honda and Toyota both offered anywhere from $600 to $800 more on the hoods of their Accord and Camry sedans last month.

We reached out to Hyundai Motor America's Jim Trainor, national manager of product public relations, and he strenuously argued in-depth against many of the claims made in the Reuters story, telling Autoblog that it's too early to judge the Sonata's success, as the entire range hasn't even made it to dealers yet. He may have a point.

"All along, we had planned for a phased rollout to be sure we were delivering high-quality cars to our dealers and customers right off the bat. For the first month, we began this ramp up with just the 2.4-liter models before we introduced the 2.0-liter turbos," says Trainor. "Additionally, the all-new 1.6-liter turbo models are just now being shipped to dealers. We are right on track where we wanted to be while delivering the highest quality Sonatas possible."

Trainor also takes issue with Reuters claim that the Sonata is off to a "slow start," pointing out that sales in October were actually up seven percent (over 1,000 units) versus the same period in 2013.

In regards to the "bland" and "boring" characterizations reiterated in the Reuters piece, Trainor argues "Picking two words from a car review is a little prejudicial, to say the least. The reporter could have selected from dozens and dozens of positive reviews."

"It might be fun for some to try to guess the ending of a movie while the popcorn is still warm but that doesn't guarantee an accurate calculation. But so far, Sonata sales are up compared with last year even while we're still ramping up to full speed," Trainor said. "It was one of only 10 cars [named] to the North American Car of the Year short list. So it's fair to say we're very happy with what our new, sophisticated Sonata is doing in the market."

So, who's right? We're doing some further investigating, but in the meantime, scroll down to see the rest of Hyundai's comments – they're worth reading.
Related Gallery2015 Hyundai Sonata
2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata2015 Hyundai Sonata

News Source: Reuters

Mercedes moving some Sprinter production to North America

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 9:30AM

2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

If you look at the Sprinter and wonder how Mercedes-Benz can possibly compete against locally produced commercial vehicles with a model built in Germany and shipped over the Atlantic, you're not alone. In fact, in order to mitigate the tariffs (but at the cost of added logistical expense), Mercedes builds the vans in Germany, takes them half apart again, ships them as kits and reassembles them in Ladson, South Carolina.

Apparently the method is worth it, because the United States has become the largest market for the Sprinter outside of Germany. But Mercedes is understandably keen to cut down the costly process, and so it is reportedly looking to build the Sprinter somewhere in North America – although it has yet to confirm the move, let alone determine (or at least announce) where that location may be: in the US, Canada or Mexico.

According to Automotive News, regardless of where a new facility might be located, production would still continue in Germany, where Mercedes builds the Sprinter in two factories: one in Düsseldorf (150,000 units per year) and another in Ludwigsfelde (50,000/year). The Sprinter is sold as a Mercedes or as a Freightliner, was formerly offered as a Dodge and is still rebodied as the Volkswagen Crafter in a deal that is soon set to end.

Fisker and Galpin Auto Sport to introduce 'Ultimate American Muscle Car' in LA

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 8:44AM

Fisker Automotive Reveals

Henrik FIsker is stepping back onto the stage at a major auto show. We just aren't exactly sure what he's doing there yet.

The mysterious news comes courtesy of the press conference listing for the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. It shows Fisker in back-to-back presentations to debut vehicles on November 20 from 11:05 to 11:30 AM. The first is with Galpin Auto Sports, and the second is with Galpin Motors, which seems to indicate two different models.

From what Autoblog has learned, the project with GAS is being dubbed the "Ultimate American Muscle Car," but there's no indication about what that means yet. Even less is known about the other model, and Fisker reportedly wants to keep things a secret before the show.

While the information is certainly scant at the moment, we're intrigued by the possibilities. Fisker certainly knows how to pen an attractive vehicle – just look at his work on the BMW Z8, his term at Aston Martin and even the Fisker Karma. In addition to that, GAS is no slouch in the performance department, what with vehicles like its 1,058-horsepower GTR1, based on the Ford GT.

News Source: LA Auto Show

Image Credit: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Why China is more eager for self-driving cars than the West

Posted Oct 23rd 2014 8:01AM

China

Nielsen statistics show Chinese consumers are more interested in autonomous technology than the US and Germany.

China's auto market continues to grow, and it's having an increasingly important effect on the bottom line for all automakers worldwide. Just look at examples like General Motors' strong recent growth or Porsche's expanding sales. In addition to being vital for business, some industry watchers think the nation's huge consumer force might just make it the premier place for automatic driving technology to prosper more quickly than in any other market.

According to Ward's Auto, recent Nielsen statistics show that Chinese consumers are more interested in autonomous driving technology than their counterparts in both the US and Germany. The people there are more willing to pay to add it to their vehicles, too.

Rolf Kremer, Continental's Chinese operations boss, thinks that highly automated driving features may be offered in the market as soon as 2016, according to Ward's Auto. After that, partially autonomous driving tech could possibly be ready by 2020, and fully autonomous motoring might be feasible by 2025.

The country's national and local governments are also pursuing autonomous driving with zeal, and it's not hard to understand why. Traffic congestion is a major problem in many cities. China also loses about 100,000 people a year to auto accidents, compared to 34,080 in the US in 2012 or around 12,000 in the EU that year. While autonomous driving won't eliminate either problem completely, studies indicate they might make things safer, at least in some situations.

Furthermore, welcoming this technology might be easier for the Asian nation's consumers because affordable auto ownership is a relatively new phenomenon – at least compared to North America and Europe. Whats more, there's a strong chauffeur-driven culture, particularly in bigger cities. These factors, along with a number of others, could well might lessen whatever stigma among drivers there might be about handing over control to a machine.

News Source: Ward's Auto - sub. req.

Image Credit: Larry Downing / AP Photo

Mini-doc showing at-risk kids building motorcycles in 100 days will warm your heart

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 8:00PM

Moto Build mini-documentary

There are a lot of things in this world that can make you feel pretty defeated – just turn on the national news on any given night for dozens of examples. It's nice every once in a while to get a reminder that things aren't always so bad. If you're looking for a little pick-me-up, just watch this video.

This five-minute mini-documentary tells the story of The Running Rebels of Milwaukee, WI, as they take part in a contest called Build Moto. The group targets high-school kids who might be close to falling into gang life in the city or just need a place to go, and mentors teach them how to do something productive: build motorcycles. As part of Build Moto, each team has just 100 days to complete a bike from scratch, and later, all of the squads compete in various challenges.

It has to be hard to compress 100 days of work into just a few minutes, but this documentary tells a cohesive story about the team. Check out the video to see a cool project for at-risk kids that results in some pretty neat motorcycles.

News Source: Dear MKE via YouTube, Asphalt and Rubber

What you missed on 10.22.14

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 7:31PM

uturn

Subaru Outback2015 Subaru Outback review

The Subaru Outback strikes an interesting balance between the needs of the everyday crossover shopper and the wants of car enthusiasts. It's more of a tall wagon than a proper CUV, and even with its 2.5-liter boxer-four and continuously variable transmission, it's pretty nice to drive. Brandon Turkus explains in his review, here.




Scion iMScion's LA Auto Show concept previewed

Finally – something new from Scion is on the horizon. Kind of. Teased today, Toyota's youthful-ish brand will be bringing the new iM to this year's Los Angeles Auto Show, though it's kind of hard to tell exactly what's in store. Scion claims it's a pretty sporty offering, but we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out these first few teasers.




Honda CivicTakata recall expanded, affected car list updated

The big Takata airbag recall keeps getting bigger, and there's a new, updated list of affected models now available for your perusal. Unfortunately, the there still seem to be a number of inaccuracies, and NHTSA's own VIN-lookup site is overwhelmed by this situation. Read through the latest installment of the Takata saga, here.




Top Stories

BMW X4 M40i caught production-ready

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 6:58PM

BMW X4 M40i

It seems like BMW is pretty committed to this whole X4 thing. Aside from the current xDrive28i and xDrive35i, we've captured a round of spy photos showing what our spy shooters tell us is a more dynamic M40i model.

The higher-performance hunchback follows in the footsteps of BMW's other sub-M cars like the M235i. In fact, much like the high-po 2 Series, the M40i is expected to make use of a 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder, developing 365 to 375 horsepower.

Aside from that, the rest of the X4 M40i fits the brief of other near-M models, with a more aggressive body kit, larger wheels, firmer suspension and brawnier brakes. Expect some mild tweaks inside, too, including sportier seats and an M-specific steering wheel.

Judging by the uncamouflaged nature of this tester caught testing on Germany's Nürburgring, production will kick off before the end of the year, perhaps in December. That means a LA Auto Show debut is likely, provided BMW opts to sell the hotter X4 in the US market. Take a look above for our full gallery of spy photos.
Related GalleryBMW X4 M40i: Spy Shots
BMW X4 M40i: Spy ShotsBMW X4 M40i: Spy ShotsBMW X4 M40i: Spy ShotsBMW X4 M40i: Spy ShotsBMW X4 M40i: Spy ShotsBMW X4 M40i: Spy ShotsBMW X4 M40i: Spy Shots

Image Credit: CarPix

Honda discontinuing Euro Accord, no replacement in sight

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 6:31PM

Honda Accord

Honda has built two Accords for many years. There's the one we're familiar with here in the United States, and then there's the Accord sold in markets like Europe and Australia, known here in the US as the Acura TSX. But just like Acura did with the TSX, the Euro-market Accord has been discontinued.

The news comes from The Motor Report in Australia, which is reporting that the Accord Euro will be discontinued in 2015. Sold Down Under alongside the US-market model, the discontinuation of the Aussie car indicates an end to Honda's midsize sedan efforts in Europe, where there is no obvious replacement for the four-door and wagon models.

According to TMR, Honda Australia Director Stephen Collins indicated that focus will be placed instead on the US market "wide-body" model, as it's known. That said, this decision doesn't sound like it's sitting too well in Oz.

"To be honest, we're a bit disappointed in the global decision for it to be discontinued," Collins told TMR. "If we had our way, we would definitely be continuing down that track."

Collins, meanwhile, ruled out rebadging the Acura TLX, saying it's "definitely not" a replacement for the Accord Euro.

News Source: The Motor Report

Jaguar Land Rover opens first overseas factory in China

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 6:03PM

Chery Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Company

Anyone who's a car fan knows that Jaguar and Land Rover cars and trucks all come from the UK. And while we don't doubt that will remain true for the most part, it won't be an absolute truth for long, as the British automaker has just opened its first factory overseas.

Its new plant in Changshu, China, is the result of a $1.8-billion joint venture between JLR and local automaker Chery. It covers some 4.3-million square feet and will, once at peak capacity, produce 130,000 units specifically for the Chinese market, where JLR sells over 100,000 vehicles each year to make it the company's single largest market worldwide.

Production at what's officially known as the Chery Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Company will start with the Evoque, of which one in five globally are currently sold in China. Production will eventually encompass three models. We already know that the Discovery Sport will be next, but the third model line has yet to be announced. JLR has confirmed, however, that the Changshu plant will produce unique models and derivatives specifically for the Chinese market, so we wouldn't be surprised to see a long-wheelbase version of the forthcoming XE or next-generation XF assembled there to satisfy local tastes.

The Changshu location isn't the only overseas plant Jaguar Land Rover has in store. A new plant in Brazil is set to come on line in 2016, and another is reportedly being considered in the southern United States. Don't think that JLR is abandoning its traditional home, however, as the company is also set to open a new engine plant later this month in Wolverhampton, England, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

News Source: Jaguar Land Rover

Former Fisker CEO has some advice for Tesla Motors

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 5:56PM



Former Fisker Automotive CEO and ex-Chevrolet Volt vehicle-line director Tony Posawatz has some words of caution for Tesla Motors. The long-time automaker executive questions the California automaker's long-term viability – and gives some praise – in a talk with Benzinga, which you can listen to below.

While the all-wheel-drive D that Tesla unveiled earlier this month in Southern California wowed a packed crowd, Posawatz (starting at around minute 4:45 in the interview) says Tesla would've been better off taking the resources it expended toward that Model S upgrade and directed them towards speeding up the development of a more affordable plug-in. Perhaps a number of investors agreed, since the company's stock fell the day after the D was announced.

Posawatz says Tesla has been over-reliant on the sale of ZEV credits.

Posawatz also says that Tesla has been over-reliant on the sale of zero-emissions vehicle credits in California for its earnings and questions whether the automaker will ever work at a large enough scale to sufficiently drive down costs and make consistent profits. Tesla CEO Elon Musk would take issue with this characterization.

Posawatz first made his mark in the plug-in vehicle world when he was the vehicle-line director at General Motors for the Volt extended-range plug-in from 2006 to 2012. Later that year, he joined extended-range plug-in maker Fisker Automotive as its CEO, though quit that job during the summer of 2013 as the company was descending into insolvency. He joined the Electrification Coalition this past March.

News Source: Benzinga

Caterham F1 manufacturer files for bankruptcy

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 5:31PM

Caterham F1

Caterham is hardly the most stable and successful team on the Formula One grid, but things are looking even more troubling for the embattled outfit, as the company that makes its racecars has reportedly filed for bankruptcy protection.

The company in question, Caterham Sports Limited, is separate from both the team that races its cars and the consumer automaker of the same name, an outfit best known for continuation versions of the classic Lotus Seven. Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian executive who first started the F1 team, then bought the automaker and thereafter sold the team to a consortium of investors a few months ago. But unlike other teams which produce their own chassis in-house, the Caterham team that fields the cars (incorporated as 1 Malaysia Racing Team) is a separate entity from the factory that makes them. It's that factory which has fallen into financial trouble.

In the short term, Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) has reportedly transferred the contracts of its 200 employees to 1MRT, but if the factory is liquidated, they won't have the facility or the equipment to operate. 1MRT insists that it remains unaffected by CSL's bankruptcy administration, but if the factory falters, the team likely won't have cars to race next season.

This is just the latest episode in a string of problems affecting the team, which recently changed leadership again after only a couple of months of independence. In five years on the grid now, the team has yet to score a single championship point (let alone a podium finish or race win) and currently sits dead last in the standings. It's only managed to get both of its cars to the finish line at seven of the sixteen grands prix so far this season.

News Source: The Telegraph

Image Credit: Caterham F1 Team

Check out the trick way you access the tire valve on this BMW Alpina B6

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 4:58PM



The wheels are one of the first things you notice when checking out the 2015 BMW Alpina B6 xDrive Gran Coupe. The 20-inch aluminum alloy rollers have 21 spokes that spray out from their hubs, creating one of Alpina's signature design features. But there's also plenty of function to go along with the stylistic form of this hotted-up BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe.

By rotating the Alpina roundel and unlocking the center hub, you gain access to the tire valve and bolts, which are hidden inside. They're literally kept under lock and key, and they protect your Alpina's wheels from the elements and theft. This unique center-fill system employing a hollow spoke isn't a new setup for the favored BMW tuner, but since Autoblog had one in our offices this week, we thought we'd take the opportunity to show the unique mechanism in case you haven't seen it before. Check it out in our brief video below.

Image Credit: Gallery Copyright 2014 Steve Siler / AOL

McLaren offers glimpse inside P1 GTR program [w/video]

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 4:27PM

McLaren P1 GTR prototype on track in Bahrain

Among the many things we were looking forward to seeing at Pebble Beach this year, the McLaren P1 GTR was near the top of our list. Invoking the spirit of the legendary McLaren F1 GTR that dominated sports car racing in the mid-1990s, the P1 GTR was unveiled in Monterey this past August in concept form, giving us an idea of what to expect. But now McLaren has given us a little more.

McLaren P1 GTR cockpitEnvisioned as a track toy for the wealthy who want to play racing driver, the P1 GTR is a further evolution – and a more extreme one – of the road-going P1. The GTR is being developed exclusively for use on track. To that end, Woking has stripped out the cockpit and installed a multifunction steering wheel said to be derived from the championship-winning MP4-23 grand prix car, allowing the driver to "fully adjust the setup and characteristics of the car without having to take their hands off the wheel." The racing buckets are modeled after a DTM touring car, equipped with six-point harnesses and affixed directly to the chassis. Outside you'll notice Pirelli slicks and a fixed rear wing with F1-style Drag Reduction System.

The P1 GTR is about more than the vehicle itself, though, as McLaren – similar to what Ferrari offers with the XX client test-driver program – is launching a full driver support program to go along with it. Customers will have access to the advanced simulator at the McLaren Technology Centre (typically reserved for the team's contracted racing drivers) as well as the factory's coaches. The program will also include 10 to 12 track sessions each year, to be held at F1-certified tracks around the world, at which each customer will have his or her own garage and crew, all for the benefit of their enjoyment.

The program is laid out in the video below, along with which McLaren has released a fresh batch of images showing the uncamouflaged prototype inside and out undergoing hot-weather testing at the grand prix circuit in Bahrain.

News Source: McLaren

Ford readying dozen+ Mustang models for SEMA

Posted Oct 22nd 2014 3:58PM

Galpin Auto Sport 2015 Ford Mustang

2015 Ford Mustang Petty Garage show car for SEMA 2014 - rendering Ford is unsurprisingly bringing a herd of its new 2015 Mustang models to next month's SEMA show in Las Vegas. Over a dozen of them are arriving from top aftermarket outfits like Galpin Auto Sports, Steeda, Roush and others. The Blue Oval isn't just shining a spotlight on the V8 model, though. The new EcoBoost 2.3-liter version with 310 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque is also getting its time in the sun.

Among the shined-up ponies will be a showcar helping Galpin celebrate the Mustang's golden anniversary, with the car is covered in the precious metal. The black paint over the body has gold flecks in it, and the wheels, side sills, brake calipers and badges all match, as well. However, it takes more than something shiny to truly impress at SEMA, and Galpin's Mustang also packs a Whipple supercharger for the 5.0-liter V8, boosting the bottom line to 725 horsepower. Take that, Hellcat. There's even a window in the hood to look through, not unlike a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The coupe also wears new headlights with LED turn signals that activate in sequence, just like the taillights, and the interior features black-and-gold Recaro seats.

Also set for its SEMA debut is an MRT showcar that takes the EcoBoost Mustang for a gallop with its TKO treatment. The black and orange two-tone car has been designed to incorporate select road racing elements. Mechanical upgrades include 14-inch brake rotors with new ducts, a Vortech air-to-air intercooler and an Air Lift suspension. The Mustang also shows off the company's products for added style and performance including a hood with integrated heat extractors and a unique front splitter.

Also in the mix, Petty's Garage will show a Mustang featuring a Roush supercharged engine, and it's painted in Richard Petty's famous No. 43 livery (inset). The car will later be auctioned by Barrett-Jackson for charity.

SEMA certainly looks like quite a corral for the latest Mustang. Scroll down to read the press releases from Ford, Galpin and MRT about what they have in store.

News Source: Ford, Galpin, MRT

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