Less than a day after announcing a massive recall of 1.56 million Jeeps, Chrysler again struck a defiant tone, saying that the trailer hitches it agreed to install won’t protect motorists in high speed crashes and that the recalled vehicles are not, in fact, defective.
In two letters submitted late Tuesday to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s third-largest automaker said it would continue to deny NHTSA’s request to recall vehicles prone to fires after high-speed rear-end collisions.
It also noted that the trailer hitches -- which it will install in the 1993 to 1998 Grand Cherokee and 2002 to 2007 Liberty as part of the recall -- “cannot, and will not, mitigate the risk of the high energy rear collisions identified in your recall request letter."
A solar-powered car designed by students at the University of Michigan looks like a rolling table top with wheels. But aesthetic oddities might give them the edge in this year’s World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile race across Australia spanning one week in October.
The team calls their model Generation. A bubble pod for the driver sticks up from its otherwise flat, rectangular body, meant to slice through the wind with the least possible resistance. Some of the design details resulted from changes in race rules, most notably a requirement that all cars have four wheels, not three.
That led the team to reconfigure where each wheel could go to maximize aerodynamics. Converting solar to electricity, the car is an example of hyperefficiency even if solar vehicles aren’t likely to hit consumer markets any time soon.
General Motors Co. brands made a big jump in the rankings of the 2013 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which examines the problems drivers encounter during the first 90 days of owning a new vehicle.
Porsche topped the list — it regularly ranks near the top — but the GMC truck division of GM was second, up from 12th last year. GMC was followed by Lexus, Infiniti and GM’s Chevrolet division.
Including Buick and Cadillac, all four GM brands, scored above the industry average. It was the best showing for an American automaker. Ford and the Chrysler Group brands of Jeep and Dodge all scored below average in the study, which J.D. Power released Wednesday.
“GM quality has been improving over several years, but we weren’t anticipating that GMC would be No. 2 and Chevrolet No. 5.,” said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. “That was higher than even GM anticipated. They were more than pleased with the results.”
Add another first to electric car company Tesla Motors’ list of accomplishments -- its first recall of its Model S sporty sedan.
Tesla will recall about 1,228 of its expensive Model S because of a problem with a seat latch, Elon Musk, the automaker’s chief executive said in a statement.
“The mounting bracket for the left hand latch of the second row seat could be weaker than intended. This reduces our confidence that the left hand seat back will be properly retained in the event of a crash,” Musk wrote on the company’s website.
Musk said Tesla discovered the problem during routine testing and no customers have complained of problems with the latch.He said the automaker knows of no injuries resulting from the weaker than expected latch.
Tesla plans to reinforce the bracket.Musk apologized for the problem and said Tesla will contact owners, pick up their cars, provide a loaner if needed and make the repair. Only cars manufactured in May and June have the...
Just weeks after announcing its fastest car on the market, Aston Martin continued a busy centenary year Tuesday by officially announcing a convertible version of its breathtaking 565-horsepower Vanquish.
The British automaker said the Vanquish Volante (which has long been Aston-speak for convertible) will join its fixed-roof counterpart at the top of its lineup. Its other cars include the four-door Rapide S, the DB9, and the Vantage V8 and V-12.
“Aston Martin is celebrating 100 years of excellence in 2013, and the arrival of this new sports car ... underlines that our mission to make the next 100 years even more successful is starting perfectly,” said company Chief Executive Ulrich Bez in a statement announcing the car.
Like the coupe, the Volante is powered by a 6.0-liter V-12 engine that makes 565 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque. Power flows to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Top...
Chevrolet’s Volt topped the Sierra Club’s list of plug-in hybrids in the environmental organization’s annual Electric Vehicle Guide.
At a price falling mid-range in the list of six EVs reviewed, the Volt takes drivers 38 electric-only miles before its gasoline engine kicks in. That results in a miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) of 98 on the Environmental Protection Agency's scale.
In total, Volt owners get a range of 380 miles at an annual fuel cost of $950. (The estimate uses average $0.12 per kilowatt-hour and $3.61 for regular gas – quite a bit lower than the typical cost of gasoline in California.)
Two weeks after defiantly refusing a government request to recall 2.7 million Jeeps prone to dangerous fires in rear-end collisions, Chrysler has reversed course and agreed to repair many of the vehicles.
The move helps the automaker avoid what could have been a drawn-out showdown with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But by choosing to blink in a high-stakes game of chicken, Chrysler may in fact come out the big winner.
That's because the proposed repair — installing low-cost trailer hitches — could prove far less expensive than other potential remedies. By pushing back against NHTSA, experts say, the automaker may have persuaded the regulator to agree to the cheaper fix, affecting a smaller group of vehicles, to avoid litigation that neither side wanted. Rather than recalling the full 2.7 million trucks, Chrysler said it would recall 1.56 million.
"This seems to be something of a strategic move," said Allan Kam, a former senior NHTSA attorney who now...
Two weeks after refusing a government request to recall roughly 2.7 million Jeep sport utility vehicles for alleged fire risks, Chrysler has cut a deal with regulators.
The nation’s third-largest automaker announced Tuesday that it would address the problem by installing a trailer hitch on the SUVs to "better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts."
On June 4, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked for a recall after determining that at least 50 people had died in fires after rear-end collisions. After a two-year investigation, regulators said the likely cause was a defective gas tank design.
The alleged defect involves 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-07 Jeep Liberty models.
Chrysler will install trailer hitches on Grand Cherokee and Liberty vehicles that don’t already have them, and replace aftermarket hitches with Chrysler-made parts.
But the company maintains the posture that the Jeeps have no safety defect. The automaker made the deal over...
Most American drivers say they've been burned more than once by their GPS navigation systems, according to a new survey commissioned by Michelin.
In the online survey of 2,200 drivers, 63% reported being taken off track an average of 4.4 times since starting to use global positioning systems. Younger adults between 18 and 34 said they’d been given wrong directions 6.3 times. An unfortunate 7% of motorists were misdirected more than 10 times.
The fallibility of GPS systems is “something that we all kind of think [is true]” said Tony Fouladpour, a Michelin North America spokesman, “but this actually quantifies it.”
The errors could result from out-of-date map data, said Phil Magney, an analyst at research firm IHS Automotive.
“That has been an industry problem for some time,” Magney said. “You could buy a new car today and the GPS data could easily be a year old. That’s how long it takes to get through the supply chain.”
Auto sales in Europe fell to their lowest level in 20 years last month, a sign that analysts said represents the depth of the economic malaise spreading across the continent.
Sales of new passenger cars declined 5.9% in the European Union compared with the same month a year earlier to just 1 million vehicles, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Assn. That was the lowest since May 1993 when new auto sales dipped below 1 million.
Through the first five months of this year, the industry has sold just under 5.1 million autos, a 6.8% decline from the same period last year. The report covers 27 European nations.
The downturn included a 2.6% dip in Spain, 8% in Italy, 9.9% in Germany and 10.4% in France. England was the only country to post growth, an 11% gain.
Car sales are expected to continue to fall in Western Europe for the rest of this year, said John Hoffecker, who heads the automotive practice for the AlixPartners consulting firm.
The program uses robots to drive Ford’s upcoming full-sized Transit van around a closed test course. Each van is fitted with a "robotic control module" that handles the steering, braking, and acceleration.
Ford said the vehicles are programmed to follow a preset course. The automaker tracks the van’s progress with cameras in a nearby control room, and a GPS system keeps the vehicle accurate to within an inch, according to Ford. Additional sensors monitor for pedestrians or other vehicles that might cross into its path.
As part of a big recall of almost 200,000 cars – including Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs, Isuzus and Saabs – General Motors is warning the owners to park outside because an electrical glitch in the driver’s side door might cause the vehicle to catch on fire.
The recall of 193,652 vehicles includes the 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL and 2006-07 Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, SAAB 9-7x, and Isuzu Ascender vehicles.
GM said it knows of six fires and one injury caused by the problem among this group of cars.Previously, it recalled 249,000 similar models for the same problem. The original safety recall covered 20 states and the District of Columbia. Now, all states are covered.
Altogether, there have been 58 reported fires and 11 injuries.
The problem results when road salt, rainwater and other liquids enter the driver's door electronic module and cause corrosion that creates a short in the circuit board. Such a short circuit interferes with...
An all-electric motorcycle has beaten the traditional gas-powered bikes and posted top times in practice runs at Pikes Peak in Colorado.
The electric Lightning, under rider Carlin Dunne, this week ran the lower half of the steep, 12-mile course at 4:32 and the top at 5:04 -- many seconds ahead of the next-fastest machines, officials at Lightning said.
That sets up the possibility that Dunne will beat his own record, set last year at Pikes Peak on a Ducati Multistrada. He's the fastest person ever to climb the hill on a motorcycle, with a total course time of 9:52.819. (A couple of cars have made it just a fraction faster. The current record is held by driver Rhys Millen, who ran the hill at 9:46.164 in a Hyundai Genesis coupe.)
Lightning is a Silicon Valley motorcycle manufacturer based in San Carlos, Calif. The brainchild of investment banker-turned-entrepreneur Richard Hatfield, Lightning has set multiple land-speed records on flat...
Once used mostly to move luxury cars, leasing has reached record levels, helped by easing credit restrictions and a move downmarket.
Leases on Jaguars and BMWs remain plentiful, but the most-leased cars in America are now the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata, according to Experian Automotive, an arm of the consumer credit-rating company.
Consumers gravitate to leases — essentially long-term car rentals — mostly because they offer lower payments. Last year, the median lease payment was $361, about 20% lower that the median $434 loan payment on a purchase, according to auto information company Edmunds.com.
Shoppers have pushed leasing to a record 25.6% share of new-vehicle sales in the first quarter of this year, up from just 16.3% in 2004, according to Edmunds.
Leasing attracts buyers such as Jerry Festa, a Pacific Palisades insurance agent who likes the "simplicity and convenience."
"I go down, pick out the car that I want. I drive it for a few...
The BMW 3 Series coupe is dead. Long live the 4 Series.
Looking to delineate the 3 Series sedan and its more upmarket two-door brethren, BMW officially unveiled the 4 Series coupe on Friday. It’s the first time the German automaker has sold the coupe under the 4 Series name.
By separating the two, BMW’s move is similar to what the automaker did with its 6 Series coupe. That car is a more luxurious and sporty model based on the 5 Series sedan, and has spawned a convertible and four-door coupe variant. Expect a 4 Series convertible and possibly four-door coupe version in the coming years.
Audi has taken a similar approach with its A5 coupe and convertible, which are based on the less expensive A4 sedan.
Mechanically, the 4 Series coupe is identical to the 3 Series, and most of the dimensions are the same. The wheelbase and length are identical, while the coupe is almost three inches lower and half an inch wider.
Honda issued a rare apology on Friday to frustrated customers who were having difficulty grabbing one of its 1,100 all-electric Fit EV cars.
Honda has seen a rush of interest in the low-volume model since dropping the lease price in late May, to $259 from $389. The deal requires no money down, has no mileage limit, and includes a free in-home charger and collision insurance.
One Santa Monica dealership said it had three of the cars sitting on the lot for months. Just after Honda’s announcement, all three were snatched up by customers in a single morning and a waiting list formed.
Honda saw similar interest nationwide. After selling just 176 Fit EVs during the first 11 months the car was available in the U.S., the lease deal led to an additional 144 sold in the first two weeks of June alone.
Dealers sold out of the model in Southern California and elsewhere, but more Fit EVs are on the way, assured Steve Center, Honda’s vice president of Environmental Business Development, in...
Automakers topped the list of the greenest global businesses when Interbrand released its annual list earlier this week.
But while the industry has made gains, it isn’t a bastion of green policies and often fights the efforts by regulators to reduce emissions, according to some environmentalists.
“The question remains as to whether the auto industry continues to invest in fuel economy and zero emission technologies or will they fight back whenever there is a periodic review,” said Simon Mui, director of the California vehicles and fuels office at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Toyota, followed by Ford and Honda claimed the top three spots on the brand consulting firm’s list, which measures companies against two criteria: their ability to demonstrate that they source and produce products in an environmentally responsible manner and the consumer perceptions of their environmental credibility.
There are probably two reasons why automakers score so well.
Projects supporting California’s hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure will see a hefty boost thanks to more than $18 million in grant funding, the state’s Energy Commission announced this week.
The agency’s dollars will go toward installing, or in some cases upgrading, hydrogen fuel stations in several counties around Southern California. Ranging in size from $1.5 million to more than $6.6 million, the five awards come through the Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program.
The initiative and this particular round of awards are intended to move the state toward reaching a goal set by Gov. Jerry Brown in an executive order last year to have 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.
Here’s what else you may have missed from this week’s car news:
Apple announced its latest operating system will have an in-car component. Speaking at Apple’s 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, senior vice president Eddy Cue said iOS in the Car would use the iPhone’s voice-activated Siri system and integrate the phone’s maps, texting and music into the existing screen in the car.
In his address, Cue said 95% of vehicles being sold today can integrate "music playback and control" from an Apple device. Seeking to build on this connectivity, Cue said, iOS in the Car will use voice-activated commands for hands-free and eyes-free control.
Numerous automakers are slated to include this system in their...
Chrysler Group is recalling about 30,000 new Ram pickup trucks to fix a dashboard light that is supposed to warn drivers if their vehicle tail lights aren't working.
Chrysler dealers will perform a software upgrade on the recalled trucks to reactivate the warning light, which is a mandated safety feature.
“Chrysler Group is unaware of any accidents, injuries or complaints associated with this recall,” said Kristin Kolodge, a senior manager at Chrysler for product investigations and Campaigns. “This proactive response reflects our ongoing commitment to regulatory compliance and customer satisfaction.”
The malfunction was discovered by Chrysler engineers during routine testing.
The campaign involves approximately 17,400 model-year 2013 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups in the U.S.; 11,500 in Canada; 470 in Mexico and 775 in overseas markets.
The price of used cars posted its biggest drop since October, according to an industry guide, an indication the tight market for late-model-year vehicles is starting to ease.
The NADA Used Car Guide said prices for cars and trucks up to 8 years old declined 2.1% in May.
“While prices this year have held up well, a growing supply of 3-year-old vehicles is applying downward pressure on prices for late-model used vehicles,” said Jonathan Banks, executive automotive analyst for the NADA Used Car Guide.
A better supply of late-model used cars results from a rebound in the new auto sales since the low in 2009. More people are buying new vehicles, trading in their used cars and more cars are coming off lease or are being sold by the car rental companies.
Some types of vehicles are in better supply and have prices that are declining faster than others.
For example, NADA estimated the late-model supply of midsize cars and compact and luxury utility vehicles has increased on average by...
Honda is recalling about 18,000 vehicles including the Acura RSX sedan and the Honda S2000 sports car sold in the U.S. because of a brake problem.
The automaker said a manufacturing error in the power brake system components may cause it to decrease the assistance it provides in braking, a factor that increases the risk of a crash.
However, no crashes or injuries have been reported related to this issue, which was discovered through an analysis of warranty claims.
The recall includes 5,239 Honda S2000 vehicles from the 2006-2007 model years and 13,113 Acura RSX vehicles from the 2006 model year. Honda said it will inspect and, if needed, replace the brake booster in these vehicles.