THE LATEST ON CARS, CULTURE, AND DRIVING
General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, reported first-quarter profits plunged 88% after a series of vehicle recalls.

Massive recall expenses slash General Motor's first-quarter profit

Heavy spending to repair more than 6 million vehicles in the first quarter triggered an 88% plunge in General Motors Co. earnings for the period, compared to a year earlier.

The nation’s largest automaker said it earned just $108 million, or 8 cents a share, in the quarter, down from the $873 million in profits, or 63 cents a share, it collected in the same period in 2013.

Revenue edged up a little more than 1% to $37.4 billion.

“It is an understatement to say that the first quarter was challenging for General Motors,” said Mary Barra, the automaker’s chief executive. 

However, she said, that GM could still produce a profit was a testament to the strength of the company. 

The earnings reflected a $1.3-billion charge to fix millions of vehicles recalled globally so far this year, including 2.6 million of GM's Chevrolet Cobalt and other older vehicles equipped with a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 deaths. GM’s first-quarter earnings were also hurt by a...

GM will pay dealers — independent businesses licensed to sell and repair GM vehicles — to fix up to 6 million vehicles recalled so far this year. The total includes 2.2 million of GM’s Chevrolet Cobalt and other older vehicles equipped with a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 deaths. Above, the ignition switch of a 2005 Cobalt, which is included in the recall.

GM recalls could turn into a windfall for dealers

General Motors' giant recall scandal looks to have a silver lining for GM dealers — millions of dollars in lucrative repair bills that their service departments can charge back to the nation's biggest automaker.

The car company will pay dealers — independent businesses licensed to sell and repair GM vehicles — to fix up to 6 million vehicles recalled so far this year. The total includes 2.2 million of GM's Chevrolet Cobalt and other older vehicles equipped with a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 deaths.

This year's torrent of recalls are good business for dealers of other brands, too. Toyota has recalled almost 2.5 million vechiles this year. Other recent big recalls include 650,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos; 1 million cars from Nissan, including its popular Altima and Sentra sedans; and nearly 900,000 Honda Odyssey minivans.

"Recalls are definitely good for business. Smart dealers actively market recalls by calling up customers," said Jeremy Anwyl,...

A Tesla Model S waits outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. Rumors are swirling that Tesla will begin making more cars in California at a facility the company has leased east of San Francisco in Lathrop.

Is Tesla planning another electric car factory in California?

Is Tesla going to be manufacturing more cars or car parts at a new facility?

The electric car company won't comment specifically, but city officials in tiny Lathrop, Calif., say work is underway converting a 431,000-square-foot facility that once housed a Chrysler-Daimler distribution center into a Tesla factory.

Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore, confirming the arrival of Tesla in his small town of 19,000, said the company had indicated it will be hiring 100 to 125 workers, to start, and is likely to hire more.

"We're very excited about it," Salvatore said. "We've been working with the Tesla Group for the last several months, and now they've pulled the trigger."

Salvatore said Tesla had not told him exactly what it would do with the facility -- "I believe it's car-related," he said -- but that work being done at the location, which has been vacant since 2009, suggests that manufacturing, not warehousing or distribution, will take place there.

"That means higher-paying jobs,"...

The world's largest motorcycle company reported first-quarter earnings this week -- and the numbers are good.

Harley's Street Glide Special and Breakout drive earnings bump

The nation's largest motorcycle company has reported stronger-than-expected first-quarter results for 2014.

Harley-Davidson Inc., which trades on the New York Stock Exchange as HOG, on Tuesday reported net income of $265.9 million against revenue of $1.73 billion, up from a 2013 first-quarter report of net income of $224.1 million against revenue of $1.57 billion.

Among its strongest sellers?  The Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special and its new Breakout were the No. 1 and No. 2 top selling motorcycles in America for 2013, the company said.

Harley stock was up 7.5% in early morning trading.

The company also said shipments of new motorcycles were up for the first quarter, indicating continued momentum into mid-2014.

"Harley-Davidson delivered gains on many fronts in the first quarter, with shipments up 7.3%, strong margin improvement and solid growth in dealer new motorcycle sales," said Keith Wandell, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Harley-Davidson Inc.

Harley said...

A pair of Teslas suck up some electricity at a charging station near Harris Ranch, Calif.

Tesla driver completes epic all-electric cross-country journey

When Norman Hajjar rides around the country, he rides around the country. The long distance driver has just finished an epic 24-day, 12,000-mile national tour, driving a stock Tesla S model electric automobile.

Hajjar's journey began in the Pacific Northwest, traversing Washington and Oregon before crossing California from top to bottom and heading east -- to Maine, via Wyoming and South Dakota. Then he drove the Tesla south to Florida, then back north to Pennsylvania before turning west and retracing the route back to California.

The epic jaunt was an attempt to set a Guinness record for electric vehicle driving and also something of a publicity stunt: Hajjar steered the $89,770 Tesla on behalf of his employer, the electric vehicle software and analytics company Recargo, as part of a public call for a better national network of electric vehicle charging stations.

TESLA EXPANDS: Electric car company delivers first models in China

Hajjar is managing director of PlugInsights, which is...

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk greets customers in Beijing.

Tesla delivers its first electric cars in China; delays upset some

BEIJING -- Thanking his Chinese customers for “taking a chance,” Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk on Tuesday handed over the keys to the first nine electric vehicles the California car company has sold in the country.

Plugging in a Model S at Tesla’s first “supercharger” station in front of the company’s offices in northeast Beijing, Musk vowed to build a nationwide network of the high-speed chargers -- which can deliver enough power for a 340-mile journey in about an hour -- “as fast as we can.”

“We want to make sure people are able to travel almost anywhere within China using the supercharger network,” he said. “I know some customers are interested in doing cross-country journeys and that kind of thing, so you can expect to see many of these around the country.”

TESLA SALES: Have they topped out?

China has set a target of having 5 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020 as part of efforts to curb...

Mazda is recalling 109,000 of its Tribute SUVs from the 2001-04 model years to fix an issue with the front suspension.

Mazda recalling 109,000 Tribute SUVs for possible steering-loss issue

Mazda is recalling 109,000 Tribute SUVs to fix possible corrosion issues in the vehicles’ suspension, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

At least it’s not spiders.

The recall affects Mazda Tributes from the 2001-04 model year, and only those sold or currently registered in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The vehicles are being recalled due to corrosion on a piece of the front suspension called the lower control arm. In some cases, the corrosion can cause the piece to separate, causing the loss of steering, the NHTSA said. This can lead to an increased risk of a crash.

"There have been no accidents or injuries as a result of this situation," Mazda said in a statement.

Mazda will notify owners, who can bring their vehicles into dealers for an inspection.

If the vehicle needs a new cross-brace, Mazda will provide a free rental vehicle until the new part is available, which could take several weeks. All costs for replacing the part will be...

Jeep brought six prototypes to the 2014 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. Utah. We grabbed two -- the bright blue Wrangler and the dark gray Cherokee -- to see what Jeep may have in store for future customers.

Easter Jeep Safari: Testing a pair of prototype Jeeps

A world away from the bright lights and frantic rush of the current New York Auto Show, Jeep is using a very different venue to show off its latest concept vehicles. And it’s getting them dirty too.

Jeep used the recent Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, to unveil six new concepts to the public. The collection was made up of three lifted, painted and modified Wranglers, two new Cherokees looking to flex their off-road muscle, and a diesel Grand Cherokee.

The six prototypes had bolted to them a huge variety of custom parts that Jeep -- and its Mopar aftermarket group -- are considering for production. And these were no mere trailer queens either.

PHOTOS: Testing Jeep's prototypes

With thousands of Jeep owners flooding the small Utah town to drive the local trails as part of the 48th annual Safari, Jeep made sure each concept came ready to play in the dirt. So play we did.

Jeep Cherokee Dakar

Jeep is clearly eager to prove the off-road mettle of the all-new Cherokee crossover SUV....

An off-roader and his family descend Potato Salad Hill outside Moab, Utah.

Easter Jeep Safari: Dispatches from the trail

Each spring, the small town of Moab, Utah, gets overrun with Jeeps.

They come in every size, shape, and color, and they come by the thousands. The draw is the annual Easter Jeep Safari, a gathering of Jeep fanatics that is now in its 48th year.

The event was created by the Moab Chamber of Commerce, but these days it’s run by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers, a local club that promotes trail maintenance and responsible off-roading.

PHOTOS: Highlights from the Easter Jeep Safari

The draw is nine days of off-roading on public trails outside Moab that are considered some of the most picturesque -- and challenging -- in the country. An actual Jeep isn’t required, but whatever you show up in, it needs to be as stout as your nerves.

PHOTOS: Testing Jeep's prototypes

Groups of 40 or more line up each morning to head out to trails with names such as Hell’s Revenge, Poison Spider and Elephant Hill. Although experienced guides and spotters are common, each year a couple of burly off-road...

Although Toyota sold more than 400,000 Camrys last year — about 16% of the mid-size sedan market — consumers have requested improvements, says Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota's U.S. sales division. Above, Fay introduces the redesigned 2015 Camry at the New York International Auto Show this week.

Redesigned Camry, Sonata debut as competition heats up

The battle for buyers of family sedans — already the most competitive U.S. auto segment — will heat up this fall when Toyota and Hyundai launch dramatically restyled versions of their respective offerings, the Camry and the Sonata.

A decade ago, the default choices in this biggest slice of the auto market were the Camry and Honda's Accord, but the competition has grown fierce in the last five years. Automakers can't afford a misstep with a new model, and they can't fall behind with a dated model.

That's why Toyota and Hyundai debuted redesigns of their flagship sedans at the New York International Auto Show this week — even though the current version of the Camry is just 2 years old and the current Sonata launched as a 2011 model. Car companies typically wait five years between redesigns.

"The market is evolving faster, and consumer patience for vehicles that have not changed is dropping," said Karl Brauer, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book.

Th...

Riding strong recent sales, Subaru introduces a new, roomier version of its flagship Outback.

2014 New York Auto Show: 2015 Subaru Outback

Subaru is unveiling a refreshed version of its popular Outback -- the most fuel efficient and roomiest version in the model's 20-year history.

The 2015 is the fifth-generation Outback, an all-wheel-drive series that has helped the Japanese company transform itself from a niche brand - favored by sporty yuppies and Boomers headed to the mountains with skis and snowboard - to a mainstream automaker.

Currently on a sales roll, Subaru boasts that it's the only automaker in the world to post five consecutive years of sales increases. Total sales in 2013 reached 424,683 vehicles, Subaru has reported. It's February 2014 figures showed a 24% increase over February 2013.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

"Subaru has really established a heritage with this brand, and attached such a positive image to it," said Edmunds.com senior editor Bill Visnic. "They're the Jeep for people who don't want to buy a Jeep, and they're suddenly started to click with the mainstream market."

PHOTOS:...

Scott Keogh, president of Audi America, addresses the media alongside the new A3 TDI Sportback at the New York International Auto Show.

New York Auto Show: Audi pleases the faithful with new A3 TDI hatchback

Audi made a small but loyal group of buyers very happy at the New York Auto Show, announcing Wednesday the arrival of the all-new A3 TDI Sportback.

The car joins a rapidly growing family of A3 vehicles. When this tidy hatchback goes on sale in early 2015, it will join five other A3 models, all of which are new.

"The A3 TDI Sportback has an incredibly passionate and loyal fan base, and this new version has been one of our most requested models since the announcement of the new A3 family," said Scott Keogh, president of Audi America.

PHOTOS: Audi's A3 TDI Sportback

Historically, the A3 has come to the U.S. market only in hatchback form with either gas or diesel engines. Sales were never huge: In 2012 -- the last full year the A3 was for sale here -- Audi sold just over 7,200 cars.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

Audi is looking to change all that this year with the new A3 sedan, a compact car aimed at entry-level buyers who don’t want the size or cost of the ever-...

Dodge used the New York Auto Show to introduce the heavily refreshed 2015 Charger full-size sedan.

2014 New York Auto Show: Dodge introduces refreshed Charger sedan

Despite a grim outlook for full-size sedans, Dodge used the New York Auto Show to reveal a thoroughly updated Charger.

Marketed as a four-door muscle car, the Charger keeps its V-6 and V-8 power trains, but wraps them in a more contemporary body that does away with a retro-infused look.

"Our Dodge designers have resculpted nearly every single body panel of the Charger for 2015, giving it a sleek, nimble appearance," said Tim Kuniskis, president and CEO of the Dodge brand.

When the 2015 Charger goes on sale at the end of the year, the new styling will be directly aimed at a younger buyer than typically heads to the full-sized section at a dealership. It will also hope to steal sales from peers like the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Chevy Impala, Hyundai Azera and Nissan Maxima.

PHOTOS: 2015 Dodge Charger R/T

Last year was a strong one for the Charger. Sales were up 19% to nearly 100,000 cars sold, making it one of the best-selling full-size cars. Yet it hasn’t been able to keep up for...

2015 Toyota Camry

New York Auto Show: Toyota shows off new aggressive Camry styling

Toyota launched a dramatic mid-cycle restyling of its Camry sedan in a move to fend off increasing competition from rivals such as the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima.

The Camry has been the nation’s best-selling passenger car for a dozen years but its lead over competitors is narrowing. Through the first three months of this year, Toyota has sold just over 94,000 Camrys. It leads the Altima by about 5,000 sales and the Accord by about 15,000 sales.

But the Accord’s share of the market is growing and, when sales to rental car companies and other fleet customers are subtracted, actually beat the Camry last year, said Karl Brauer, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

Despite the new styling, “Toyota will remain under pressure to keep that car at the top of the sales chart,” Brauer said. “They will have to utilize sales incentives and fleet sales but that is going to hurt the resale value...

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is unveiled April 16, 2014 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.

New York Auto Show: new Hyundai Sonata targets Accord, Camry

Hyundai launched the first shot in the coming battle for the family sedan market by introducing a new generation Sonata at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday.

The South Korean automaker launched the current Sonata five years ago as a value play in the mid-size car market, packing the vehicle with features and pricing it below major competitors like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Helped by dramatic new styling, Sonata sales zoomed, proving that Hyundai could compete effectively against the segment leaders.

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

“It upset the apple cart,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst at auto information company Kelley Blue Book. “There was now an attractive, value-packed and fun-to-drive family sedan. Even the traditional Accord and Camry buyers had to stop and take a look.”

PHOTOS: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

The other automakers responded with improved new generations of their mid-sized sedans, turning the segment the most...

Mercedes confirmed Tuesday night it is building an all-new sports car, dubbed the AMG GT. The V-8 coupe will be smaller and cheaper than the outgoing SLS AMG, and will probably debut around the Paris Motor Show in October.

Mercedes confirms all-new AMG GT sports car, reveals interior

After months of whispers and quiet speculation, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it is working on a new high-performance sports car, dubbed the AMG GT.

One the eve of the 2014 New York Auto Show, Mercedes on Tuesday night revealed two interior shots of the forthcoming sports car and said little else about the successor to the popular SLS AMG.

"The new Mercedes AMG GT proves that we will be positioning AMG as a dynamic sports car brand even more strongly and aggressively than before," Tobias Moers, chief executive of Mercedes’ AMG division, said in a statement. "Following the global success of the SLS AMG, the new GT is the second sports car developed fully independently by Mercedes AMG."

PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

Though the two-seat car will succeed the $200,000 SLS AMG, the new AMG GT will be less expensive and smaller. When it debuts -- probably around the Paris Motor Show in early October -- the GT will be more of a direct competitor to higher-end Porsche 911...

The 2015 Chevrolet Trax is a sporty small-size SUV, previously released in Mexico and Canada, next year making its US and China debuts.

2014 New York Auto Show: 2015 Chevy Trax comes to the U.S.

Chevrolet is pushing further into the small-SUV segment. Having already introduced six new models into the segment in the last four years -- and enjoyed a triple-digit growth of small car sales -- the automaker will be unwrapping its 2015 Trax.

They're hoping to take a bigger bite out of the small SUV market, going up against the Nissan Jook and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

Promising "small-car agility with the utility of an SUV," the Trax comes stock with a little engine and a lot of room -- a 1.4 liter turbocharged engine, and almost 50 cubic feet of storage space. With options, it can be an all-wheel drive vehicle, with its own Wi-Fi hotspot, OnStar and MyLink systems, a 7-inch color touch screen in the dash, and Siri Eyes Free communication for the iPhone IOS 6 and IOS7.

PHOTOS: Highlights from the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

A rearview camera is standard equipment, with a rear park assist available as an option. A ten-station airbag system, which includes side curtain air bags for...

The all-new 2015 VW Golf Sportswagen debuts at the N.Y. Auto Show and will go on sale in early 2015.

N.Y. Auto Show: Volkswagen brings all-new wagon, refreshed Jetta, GTI pricing

Volkswagen kept plenty busy at the 2014 New York Auto Show, bringing with it an all-new Golf Sportswagen, a refreshed Jetta sedan, and some pricing details on its soon-to-be-released Golf GTI hot hatch.

The biggest news was VW’s 2015 Golf Sportswagen. It replaces the Jetta wagon in the U.S. lineup, though that outgoing car was always based on the Golf anyway, nomenclature aside. So fear not, Sportswagen fans, your trusty hauler isn’t any smaller.

It actually grows. The new model is just over an inch longer and just under an inch wider. Rear leg, shoulder, and headroom is all up. Cargo room with the rear seats folded is up 10 percent, VW said.

PHOTOS: Highlights from the 2014 N.Y. Auto Show

As with the previous Jetta wagon, two engines will be offered. A new 1.8-liter, turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower and comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. This new powerplant is up to 17 percent more fuel...

Land Rover used the aircraft carrier Intrepid in Manhattan to announce a new sub-brand called Discovery. In concert with Land Rover's high-end luxury Range Rover set, the Discovery lineup of vehicles will be more volume- and family-oriented, and will include the replacements for the current LR4 and LR2 SUVs.

N.Y. Auto Show: Land Rover debuts new Discovery line of SUVs

Sitting on the deck of the aircraft carrier Intrepid in Manhattan on Monday night, Land Rover’s Discovery Concept SUV previewed much more than just a future vehicle from the historically British brand.

It signified a major reorganization for Land Rover itself.

The automaker announced that the Discovery name -- previously used on a single model -- will now expand to become a range of vehicles. Similar to how Range Rover has always been Land Rover’s high-end, luxury-oriented sub-brand. Discovery will now be the volume-selling, family division.

PHOTOS: Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept

“We announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March that the Discovery family is set to evolve,” Phil Popham, marketing director for Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement. “And it is apt that in the 25th anniversary year of the original Discovery that we preview how this evolution will take us forward into a daring new era.”

The Discovery Vision Concept that Land Rover...

The 2015 Nissan Murano will be unveiled at the 2014 New York Auto Show this week and will go on sale at the end of 2014. It's the third generation of the funky-looking crossover, and the latest version brings new efficiency and refinement to the model.

N.Y. Auto Show: 2015 Nissan Murano's new look is still funky

Nissan has released details on the all-new third generation of its quirky Murano crossover ahead of its New York Auto Show debut this week.

Love or hate the oddball styling, you at least have to give the brand credit for being consistent.

The Murano has always added a dash of funk to Nissan’s lineup, dating from the first generation’s introduction in 2002. A redesign for 2009 reined in some of the crossover’s outlandish look in favor of upping the Murano’s interior refinement. For 2015, Nissan is hoping the new model will be both refined and eye-catching.

PHOTOS: 2015 Nissan Murano

"We want to go back to the wow factor," said Pierre Loing, vice president of product planning for Nissan North America. "What we’ve tried to combine is the look of a show car’s exterior with plenty of interior refinement."

For better or worse, Nissan’s design team did just that. The all-new Murano closely resembles the wild Resonance concept SUV Nissan displayed at the...

Lexus welcomes all-new NX compact crossover to the luxury family

Lexus welcomes all-new NX compact crossover to the luxury family

Lexus is jumping into the suddenly crowded field for compact luxury SUVs.

Toyota’s luxury division will welcome the all-new NX compact crossover SUV later this month at the Beijing Auto Show. The vehicle will serve as an entry-level crossover, smaller in price and stature than the company’s wildly popular RX.

In addition to entering a new segment, the NX marks the the first time Lexus has used a turbocharged engine.

PHOTOS: 2015 Lexus NX compact crossover

The NX 200t will come with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, Lexus said. The NX 300h is a hybrid that will use a 2.5-liter gas engine. Details on power for both models haven’t been released, but the Lexus ES 300h sedan uses the same hybrid setup as the NX and it’s rated at 200 horsepower.

The NX is loosely based on the Toyota RAV4 and will come in either front-wheel-drive or optional AWD. The NX shares an aggressive, angular look with other models in Lexus’ lineup, including the compact IS sedan....

Kia revealed its all-new Sedona minivan Monday. It will target rivals like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan twins.

Kia ruffles up the minivan world with debut of all-new 2015 Sedona

The cozy world of minivans got a bit more competitive Monday, as Kia officially debuted its all-new Sedona.

The 2015 people-mover is new from the ground up and replaces an outdated and slow-selling Sedona that's been around since 2006.

“Throughout the development process, our engineers in the U.S. and Korea focused on adding the element of desire to the all-new Sedona," said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning for Kia.

PHOTOS: 2015 Kia Sedona minivan

Although "desire" is not typically a word associated with the minivan set, the Korean automaker designed the new Sedona with an emphasis on driving dynamics, style and features, the company said.

The 2015 model will come with a direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6 plucked from the Cadenza full-size sedan and Sorento SUV. In minivan duty, it puts out 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission will be standard.

This new Sedona is also a complete transformation of the model's style. Under the...

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