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FIA re-acquires part of Formula One

Posted Nov 28th 2014 10:58AM

F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Qualifying

To the casual observer, it would seem at least likely that F1 is owned by the FIA. It is, after all, known as the FIA Formula One World Championship. But in actuality, as far as the commercial rights are concerned, the sport is effectively owned by an intricate web of investment companies. But now the FIA has taken back at least a small part of it.

According to Forbes, the FIA has taken possession of 45,819,734 ordinary shares in Delta Topco, the holding company presided over by Bernie Ecclestone and which controls the Formula One Group. That may seem like a lot of shares, but considering that the company is split up into more than 4 billion shares, it comes down to just 1.06 percent. The shares are said to be worth $120 million, but it does not appear that the FIA paid that much – if anything – to receive them.

That could be because F1's commercial rights ultimately belong to the FIA. However, a European Commission anti-trust investigation in 2001 ruled that the governance and commercial management of the series had to be separated, so the FIA licensed the commercial rights to Delta Topco for a period of 100 years in exchange for a one-time payment of $313.6 million.

In 2005, CVC Capital Partners (an offshoot of Citigroup) bought controlling interest in Delta Topco (and through it the Formula One Group) for $2 billion, an investment from which it has since made a reported $4.4 billion. But CVC has been looking to sell its stake. It planned on launching an IPO in 2012, a move from which the FIA was set to retake possession of 1 percent of the shares.

The combination of the economic crisis in Europe and Bernie Ecclestone's bribery scandal forced those plans to be delayed, but now it seems the FIA has gotten its shares anyway. The dividends from those shares ought to help the FIA balance its budget, which reportedly saw it lose $3.4 million on revenues of $81.5 million in 2012. Whether that one percent stake will raise the ire of European regulators, however, remains to be seen.

News Source: Forbes

Image Credit: Vladimir Rys/Getty

GM execs keeping eye on social media to find vehicle flaws

Posted Nov 28th 2014 10:01AM

General Motors Recall Investigation

Complain loudly enough online about quality problems in your General Motors vehicle, and it might be noted by the automaker. Or you might get a call from CEO Mary Barra for feedback on the company. The strategy is part of a new initiative from the automaker to be more proactive about fixing small issues before they grow into a year like 2014, with over 26-million recalled autos from GM in the US.

The company is trying to reverse a culture without a priority on reporting flaws with vehicles. "We have to identify issues before they become a problem. We will get past this, but we can't forget the most important thing we've learned," said GM President Dan Ammann in an interview about the new focus published by Automotive News.

The automaker reportedly has a team of social media managers and customer service personnel roving the Internet on sites like Twitter to find people with quality concerns about their models. In addition to looking online, GM is paying closer attention to dealer complaints, and the Speak Up for Safety program gets workers involved in spotting problems with vehicles.

The strategy is already paying dividends for GM. Ammann told AN that he and Barra even called some customers for their opinions on the company's vehicles. Keeping an eye on Twitter led to the Chevy Colorado being advertising for its "Technology and stuff" after the World Series, and under the Speak Up program, an intern found the fuel pump problem that led to a 10,000-vehicle recall of the CTS-V and STS-V.

GM isn't the only one keeping an eye online. Chrysler Group spokesperson Eric Mayne confirmed to Autoblog that his employer does, too. "We monitor a range of social media," he said, including sites like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, as well. The company isn't just looking for quality or safety info, and depending on which department could use the details most, it gets passed there. Toyota does something similar through its Social Media Command Center, according to spokesperson Cindy Knight.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Carlos Osorio / AP Photo

Skoda reveals new Fabia R5 rally concept in Essen

Posted Nov 28th 2014 8:00AM

Skoda Fabia R5 Concept

A few months ago, Škoda revealed its all-new Fabia, a model that will undoubtedly be a vital product for the Czech automaker, yet it hardly registered on our scale of the most exciting debuts at the Paris Motor Show this year. But this... this is more like it.

What you're looking at is the Škoda Fabia R5 Concept, a preview of Škoda's upcoming new rally machine. Looking like a Fabia on 'roids, the R5 concept previews the brand's new contender for the second top rally class. That means a 1.6-liter turbo engine mated to a five-speed sequential gearbox, MacPherson strut suspension and a curb weight of at least 2,712 pounds.

Once complete, the new Fabia R5 will have big shoes to fill. The outgoing Fabia S2000 was one of the most successful rally machines on dirt, gravel, snow or tarmac, winning countless stages, rallies and titles in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the FIA European Rally Championship and others. Introduced back in 2009, the Fabia S2000 also served as the basis for Volkswagen's dominant WRC program, whose success the new Fabia R5 will be tasked with matching in the lower classes.

Škoda will be showcasing the concept at the Essen Motor Show in Germany this weekend, where it will appear alongside the rest of the brand's lineup as well as some specially prepared show cars.
Related GallerySkoda Fabia R5 Concept
Skoda Fabia R5 ConceptSkoda Fabia R5 ConceptSkoda Fabia R5 Concept

News Source: Skoda

Watch this dude paint his Toyota pickup like Eddie Van Halen's guitar

Posted Nov 27th 2014 7:57PM

Van Halen guitar truck

Eddie van Halen is one of the greatest rock musicians around, and his Eruption guitar solo alone puts him in the pantheon with the best of the best. Artist Ryan Humphrey was looking for a design to repaint his ratty Toyota pickup, and as a Van Halen super fan, he set on the classic scheme of Eddie's guitar for the look.

The paint job is made up of a crisscrossing geometric pattern of black and white stripes with a red body. The eye-catching, rock-inspired design should give Humphrey no problems finding his pickup in a parking lot. In a video hosted by Plutonium Paint, he shows you how to get the look using the company's product. Even if you're not interested in watching a guy paint his old truck, the video is still enjoyable just for the chance to listen to some Van Halen tunes.

News Source: Plutonium Paint via Vimeo

eBay Find of the Day: 25-station video gaming trailer w/ bonus Ford F-250

Posted Nov 27th 2014 6:01PM

Why, you might be asking yourself, is Autoblog showing me an eBay Motors listing for a 2006 Ford F-250 and a box trailer (with a badly cropped photo to boot)? It's not because we're highly interested in this blue-collar rig, to be sure, but rather because we're interested in throwing the greatest Forza party of all time.

Housed in that innocuous white 26-foot trailer is a gamer's delight, with 25 Xbox 360 systems connected up to 25 high-definition monitors and 24 headsets to keep everyone locked into the action (one of the stations is outside the trailer). When connected up to one of two included generators, the setup allows for two-dozen combatants to square off, back-to-back and head-to-head.

Sure, the Buy It Now price of $79,000 seems steep considering the trailer will need about ten grand worth of Xbox One or Playstation 4 upgrades in the near future. But that doesn't mean you couldn't squeeze out a few more years of massive multiplayer fun. Check out the listing here, and do let us know if you buy it, we'd love to come over and game.

News Source: eBay Motors

Toledo Jeep workers pushing city to buy land to secure Wrangler future

Posted Nov 27th 2014 4:59PM

2013 Jeep Wrangler

Based on what we've seen so far, were Chrysler to move Jeep Wrangler production out of Toledo, the effect would be devastating to the city's morale, which has never been quite the same after it was forced to become part of Ohio following the Toledo War.

The latest push by the former chunk of Michigan has seen 100 members of the UAW rally ahead of a city council meeting, Automotive News reports. The members, from the Toledo factory's Local 12, are pushing for the city to approve a land purchase of 28 acres, valued at some $738,000. If the go-ahead is given, the deal would grant the factory room to expand ahead of a rumored switch to an aluminum construction for the next-gen Wrangler, due in 2017.

This most recent move follows up on the UAW's previous efforts, which have included proactive moves on the part of Ohio Governor John Kasich and Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins. For its part, Chrysler has remained largely mum on the issue of moving Wrangler production, simply saying that neither it nor the Grand Cherokee will lose their "Made in the USA" tag.

A recent Automotive News report, however, suggested that despite shifting to a more aluminum-intensive architecture, Wrangler production was likely to stay put. Even if it isn't, Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne has gone on record as saying that his company will find another vehicle to produce in Toledo, meaning that no jobs are likely to be lost. If true, this suggests that much of the uproar isn't about employment and economic impact, it's specifically about keeping the iconic Wrangler a Toledo-made product.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Michael Harley / AOL

More details emerge on hotter BMW i8S coming next year

Posted Nov 27th 2014 4:00PM

BMW i8, front three-quarter view.

The BMW i8 recently won the Autoblog Technology of the Year award, and it's going to get even better. In October, Automobile magazine reported that BMW's i brand is working on an i8S that would be stiffer and more powerful, and celebrate the marque's centenary in 2016. At the time, one of two power unit combinations was suggested, either one of them good for more than 500 horsepower.

Car magazine has added more info on the coupe said to be called Project M100, saying that in addition to being a birthday gift for BMW, it will also be a going-away statement to current chairman Norbert Reithofer, who is expected to retire in 2016 or 2017. It will also be so thoroughly reworked that there will be plenty of daylight between it and the standard i8: a more integrated carbon fiber and aluminum chassis, a wider range of materials used in the build, a larger luggage bay due to the omission of rear seats, a more aggressive suspension supporting heartier brakes and wider tires, and - perhaps - a different aero and ground-effects package to be visually different and make the most of the alterations.

As for that power unit, Car says that the two options mentioned by Automobile are still under consideration, being either a 2.0-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder with 320 horsepower and a 204-hp electric motor, or a 3.0-liter straight six with 480 hp and an electric motor with 109 hp. Either choice gets an integrated starter motor good for another 27 hp, and a total torque number of roughly 520 pound-feet, 100 additional lb-ft than the current car. Word is that it will be shown for the centenary in 2016 then go on sale by the end of 2017.
Related Gallery2015 BMW i8: First Drive
2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive2015 BMW i8: First Drive

News Source: Car via World Car Fans

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Quick Play: Grand Theft Auto V [w/video]

The Next Generation Is A Beautiful One

Posted Nov 27th 2014 3:00PM

Grand Theft Auto V on Xbox One

We've spilled a lot of virtual ink in our coverage of Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar Games' 2013 blockbuster was arguably one of that year's very best titles, delivering a unique version of automotive mayhem, along with all the other things – guns, sex, drugs, murder, thievery and biting satire – that the series has been praised and criticized for.

We originally reviewed it shortly after its September 2013 release and walked away hugely impressed, heaping praise on the game as a whole, while also reserving many positive words for the automotive experience, with the car selection, physics and customization options ranking highly in our original review.

Now, here we are in 2014 and with Black Friday bearing down on us. Rockstar has made a very clever play. With a year of next-gen console sales in the books, the studio has released a heavily updated version of its blockbuster title for the Xbox One and Playstation 4, leading folks like your author to shell out another $59.99 for the privilege of terrorizing San Andreas in the glory of next-gen. Considering how well it was received last year, we figured we'd take a second look and see if the original's goodness translated to our trusty Xbox One.
  • One of our biggest points of praise on the X360/PS3 version focused on the car selection. It was, to put it simply, huge. Every body type you can imagine was represented, as well as work vehicles like semis, garbage trucks, bulldozers, concrete haulers and more. They were complemented by a slew of motorcycles, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, boats and jet skis. In other words, there really was something for everyone.
  • The next-gen updates add to the already impressive roster of vehicles by including everything from the standard game's downloadable content packs. There are a few next-gen exclusives, including boats, planes, motorcycles and cars. Many of them, though, were rather difficult to come by, although this could be attributed to the sheer number of vehicles on the roads of San Andreas.
  • The car collection was remarkable when this game first showed up last year, but it isn't the thing we'll be raving about in this Quick Play. That honor will be reserved for the graphics. GTAV's updated looks dramatically change the atmosphere and character of the game. The cars are crisper and far better defined relative to the Xbox 360. You can really notice body details, particularly in first-person mode, while the more accurate lighting and shadowing give the cars a more life-like appearance. Driving down a street, you'll see reflections of other cars and buildings in your vehicle's paint. Walk past a car parked in the sun, and light plays across it in a very realistic manner, catching bits of chrome here and there. It all looks remarkable, especially if you've been playing GTAV on a last-gen system.
  • The more powerful next-gen consoles also have a powerful effect on the vistas of San Andreas and Los Santos. Obviously, you'll get the most breathtaking views by pilfering one of the game's helicopters or aircraft and flying around (we strongly recommend this, if you want to see what your next-gen system can really do), but even from the seat of a car, the game's surroundings are seriously impressive.
  • It all runs beautifully, too. Unlike other next-gen titles (cough, cough Assassin's Creed Unity cough, cough), the framerate remained consistently smooth throughout our testing. The sole incident of our Xbox One stumbling came while flying a fighter jet, through the city at extremely low altitude. Aside from that singular instance, though, GTAV runs as smoothly on the next-gen as it does on older systems.
  • The biggest addition to GTA for next-gen consoles is the new first-person mode. Not only do you get a criminal's-eye view of your felonies as you commit them, but it opens up an entirely new world while behind the wheel of the game's many vehicles and aircraft. See the video below for a few minutes' worth of mayhem in the new mode.
  • Interiors are fully rendered on every vehicle, and just like in third-person mode, you have full control of the camera, which can be panned around about 270 degrees. Honestly, racing games like Forza Motorsports and Gran Turismo could take a lesson from GTA, as the camera is slower to pan, and in turn, more controllable. Driving in first-person in Forza and looking to the left or right, the camera almost snaps to a predetermined point. GTA, though, doesn't hem its players in like that. You can fix on an angle, and the camera will only self-center once you start accelerating. It's pretty much exactly how we'd like every racing game's interior view to be handled.
  • The real highlight of first-person view, though, comes on the game's motorcycles. The sensation of flying through traffic, at speed, is exhilarating. Hit a car, which is almost inevitable, and the camera tumbles end over end. It's all hugely entertaining. Moreover, there's a sense of detail in Rockstar's handling of first-person mode. If you're on a bike, your avatar will put on a helmet, with the visor impacting your overall view. Fit your character with a pair of sunglasses, and it filters your view accordingly. Our main quibble focused on driving at night. We wish we could lift the visor or remove the sunglasses, as it gets so dark we were regularly forced to switch back to third-person mode.

Grand Theft Auto V is far from the only last-gen game to get a next-gen re-release. Crystal Dynamics' phenomenal reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise comes to mind (it's a must-play if you dig third-person adventure), as does the Playstation-exclusive The Last of Us. But where the differences in the last-gen and next-gen version of Tomb Raider were notable, they weren't game changing. The effect in GTA is far more revolutionary. Spending another $59.99 on a game that's been out for a year (and which you may have already bought) is an understandably hard pill to swallow. Rest assured then, that with GTAV, the price is wholly worth it.

Grand Theft Auto V First Person View | Autoblog Short Cut

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

NHTSA closes book on Ford, GM probes of 600,000 vehicles

Posted Nov 27th 2014 1:30PM

Ford Crown Victoria

US safety regulators have closed a pair of investigations into some 500,000 Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Marauder sedans built between 2004 to 2007, and 100,000 Chevrolet Impala models from 2014.

The Ford investigation focused on rusting heat shields, which may become dislodged and jam the steering, according to Reuters. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that this happened very rarely. In fact, of the ten incidents filed with the government safety watchdog, six came from a single police department, which evidently had some sort of problem with its reporting.

As for the Impala, the NHTSA investigators attributed two incidences of "unintended autonomous braking" to user error. In both cases, the vehicles were involved in rear-end collisions. According to GM investigators, it's believed that drivers accidentally activated the electric parking brake, causing the collisions. The vehicles in question were rental cars.
Related GalleryFord Crown Victoria
Ford Crown VictoriaFord Crown VictoriaFord Crown VictoriaFord Crown VictoriaFord Crown Victoria

News Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Ford, Chevrolet

Happy Thanksgiving! Autoblog is thankful for... [w/videos]

The Editorial Staff Weighs In With A Few Thank-You Notes

Posted Nov 27th 2014 12:01PM

The inimitable David E. Davis, Jr., once described himself as "...the luckiest guy in the world; a car enthusiast and I live in car-enthusiast heaven."

I think about that line a lot, but it seems ever-more poignant around this time of year, when families are gathered, stories are told and words of thanks are offered up more readily than on your average Thursday.

And even though, as a group, we wear a good deal fewer cravats than DED usually did, we can't help but feel as though we belong to that same Luckiest Guy group ourselves. Every man, woman and child of us.

So, keeping up with tradition, we offer you the 2014 version of our Thanksgiving List. Take a break from the carbo-loading, have a read, and then tell us which motoring wonders you're thankful for this year, in Comments.

Image Credit: Getty | Copyright 2014 AOL

Jean-Eric Vergne loses his ride with Toro Rosso

Posted Nov 27th 2014 10:59AM

Jean-Eric Vergne

After Ferrari confirmed its signing of Sebastian Vettel and with McLaren set to announce its lineup any day now, Scuderia Toro Rosso is one of the last teams with a seat open for the 2015 Formula One World Championship. But now, even the answer to that question is coming into focus, as the team's longtime driver Jean-Éric Vergne has confirmed he's leaving.

The French driver started out as a test pilot with Toro Rosso in 2011, was promoted to the race seat the following season and has been competing for the team ever since. But over the course of his three years on the grid, he has yet to score a single podium finish or emerge from the back of the field. And in a tweet on his personal account, he's now revealed that he won't be staying with the team next season.
Toro Rosso has already confirmed that newcomer Max Verstappen will take one of its race seats next season, but with the promotion of Daniil Kvyat to join fellow STR graduate Daniel Ricciardo and replace Vettel on the A-squad, the prevailing wisdom had the team keeping Vergne in place to lend some consistency and experience to its lineup. But the Toro Rosso has always existed as an avenue to bring new talent up through Red Bull's extensive driver training program and into F1.

The expectation at this point is that Toro Rosso will give Carlos Sainz, Jr. the vacant seat. If that name sounds familiar, that's because he's son of the former World Rally Championship star and an accomplished aspiring formula driver in his own right, winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Series title this year and performing admirably in the GP3 series, skipping over the GP2 ranks that have given F1 much of its new talent since its formulation a decade ago.

Just where Vergne will end up next remains to be seen. His career has focused entirely on getting into F1, but his record reveals he's failed to deliver better than sixth-place finishes at the 2013 Canadian and 2014 Singapore grands prix. Still, having made it into the world's top racing series in the first place and competed for three straight seasons, his talents will likely find him landing a seat in another high-profile racing series in short order.

News Source: Jean-Eric Vergne via Twitter, ESPN

Image Credit: Clive Mason/Getty/STR

Mercedes confirms first AMG Sport models for Detroit

Posted Nov 27th 2014 9:58AM

Mercedes AMG Sport teaser

If you're looking for a sportier Mercedes-Benz but can't quite make the leap to a full-on AMG model, we've got some good news for you: the German automaker is about to expand its performance portfolio with a more accessible AMG Sport range.

Set to bridge the gap between a standard Mercedes fitted with an AMG Sports package and a complete AMG performance variant, models in the the new AMG Sport line will feature upgraded engines, suspensions and brakes. They'll even have "all-wheel drive as standard in selected markets" (almost certain to include ours).

Affalterbach has confirmed that the first two AMG Sport models will debut at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show in January. Though it's not saying which models will hit the stage, the teaser image above suggests that one of them will be the new MLC crossover coupe (or whatever it'll be called under the new nomenclature), while the other is almost certain to be the new C450 AMG Sport sedan.

The launch of the AMG Sport line is part of the brand's effort to double its 2013 sales figures by 2017 to top over 40,000 units per year globally. With the AMG Sport line joining the standard AMG and AMG S models, the sub-brand is considerably expanding its product portfolio to cater to more customers and budgets, and will give Mercedes a vehicle range to challenge Audi S models and the BMW M Performance range.

News Source: Mercedes-Benz

Here's the new face of the Ford Ranger

Posted Nov 27th 2014 8:58AM

2015 Ford Ranger shown rendered in a teaser video.

Ford Asia Pacific has put a teaser video on YouTube showing off details on the 2015 Ranger pickup, and at the end we get a quick glimpse of the whole truck. This is the T6 Ranger that we still don't get in North America, but that shares its underpinnings with the Everest SUV recently introduced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The Ranger gets a chunkier front end than the Everest, identified by its grille with three floating slats, reminiscent of designs on the previous F-150, and a less-stylized lower front bumper. Ford says it will be smarter, safer, smoother and stronger, but we'll have to wait for its reveal to find out what that means. Meanwhile, you can admire its new looks in the video below.

News Source: Ford Asia Pacific via YouTube

Ferrari 458 Speciale vs Porsche 911 GT3 shows what Chris Harris does best

Posted Nov 26th 2014 7:57PM

Chris Harris on Cars with Ferrari 458 Speciale versus Porsche 911 GT3

After a brief trip behind a pay wall, British auto journalist Chris Harris is back posting videos for free online, and shorts like this one are the perfect example of why his return is so welcome. Showing up at the damp Anglesey Circuit on the Welsh coast with the Ferrari 458 Speciale and Porsche 911 GT3, Harris ostensibly aims to find the better model. However, the final result really succeeds in showcasing the fun to be had behind the wheels of both supercars, particularly when initiating huge slides around the track.

As Harris presents it, the vehicles get through the circuit in somewhat different ways The Ferrari is brash and "feels alive," as he puts it as it screams around the track. Alternatively, the Porsche is a bit more restrained, while still being able to show some emotion. In the end, it comes down to trying to get a controlled lap around Anglesey from this duo, but it's pretty clear that the times don't tell the whole story. If you're in the mood to watch two of the world's premiere supercars wag their tails in the wet, then this video cannot be missed.

News Source: Chris Harris on Cars via YouTube

Image Credit: Related images copyright 2014 Jonathon Ramsey, Drew Phillips / AOL


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