Monday, October 05, 2015

Automotive Reporter Biz News for Wk of 10-5-15

As if the exciting previews of the new 007 movie aren’t enough brand placement for Aston Martin, the automaker is also capitalizing on the final flight of an iconic Cold War-era British bomber later this month.   

The Avro Vulcan XH558, a delta-wing  long-range bomber built in the ‘50’s, is being reunited with its modern day namesake, the Aston Martin Vulcan, an 800-hp, all-carbon fiber supercar. There are only 24 models of the racecar in existence. 

The company staged a flyby of the Vulcan bomber over the Vulcan race car at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire. The final flight of the Vulcan will be this weekend (10/10-11).

The charity that owns and operates the XH558, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, has concluded it is no longer safe to fly the aircraft, as technical support for the bombers Rolls Royce jet engines and other systems are being discontinued by various vendors and providers. The Vulcan has already exceeded the maximum flight hours experienced by other Vulcans by more than ten percent, and it is the studied opinion of her operators that identifying and diagnosing future problems and maintenance issues with the aircraft would be increasingly difficult. Without such support, the British Civil Aviation Authority is effectively grounding the aircraft. The bomber will be on permanent static display in England at the Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.
I have no idea where that is.

Aston Martin says the first deliveries of the track-only Aston Martin Vulcan to customers worldwide will take place before the end of the year. This week Aston Martin also announced the appointment of Laura Schwab as President for Aston Martin The Americas, effective later this month.

The recent backlash over cellphone use in public places has created some interesting social solutions. There is an emerging trend to stack smartphones in the center of the table for the duration of a meal, and the first person to grab theirs has to pay for the group’s tab.

Chevrolet takes that notion one step further, while capitalizing on the need for personal connectivity in a new series of TV commercials you’ll be seeing this week. The point is memorably made.

“Focus Groups” are brought into a room with a big round table, and a big red wood chipper. They are told to surrender their devices for reasons of intellectual security, at which point the moderator calmly walks over to the wood chipper, and feeds the phones into the machine. The reactions of the group members are pretty priceless, albeit rather sedate compared to what my personal response might be in the same situation. The point of the exercise keys in on our perceived need for total connectivity at all times, which Chevrolet says it can deliver in the new Cruse Lite 4G Wifi automobile.

Has Toyota created a flying car? While the new Toyota Mirai Hyrdogen Fuel Cell electric car cannot literally fly, Toyota says it is flying off the virtual shelf!

Nearly 1,900 people have reserved their Miraii, exceeding the expected initial production run of 1,000 vehicles, and pushing the grammatical envelope on how to properly describe what is the plural of Mirai.
Mirai's? Miraii? What?  

Toyota’s order request portal now directs customers to a wait list until production can catch up with demand.  Toyota says existing order requests are being reviewed, and automaker will begin placing the first customers in the driver’s seat of their new Mirai later this month.   

A fellow Mazda MX-5 Miata owner pulled up in front of my house on Friday evening in his early-edition NB and turned off the engine. He sat in the car at the curb for a very long time, tapping on his smartphone, before walking up to my door. His clutch slave cylinder had failed, and he couldn’t shift the manual transmission. 

I repressed my urge to discuss with him the art of engine-rev clutchless shifting, and instead commiserated about the extent to which owners go to keep our MX-5’s running at peak performance, regardless of the vintage. The car remains parked in front of my house this morning, as I compose this column. I don’t know who his insurance company is, but my towing service would’ve been on scene within the hour.

As a public service to him, and to you, I am passing on Mazda’s just-released pricing points for its new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup cars. The version is Mazda Motorsports first-ever ready-to-race production MX-5 Miata, checking in at only $53k. It is an entry-level  racing car, and is Mazda’s contribution to growing the sport by encouraging new drivers to affordably enter the competition. What do you get for that price?

Long Road Racing, Inc. takes a street version of the MX-5 and strips it down to replace several OEM items with high-performance components, including a high-capacity radiator, limited slip differential, a racing cage, cooling lines, performance brakes, and racing fluids for the transmission and crankcase. 

Each Miata Cup car is built identically so that their performance on the track is altered only by the skill of who’s behind the wheel. You can order yours online at
You’re welcome.

Ford Motor Company’s newest advertising campaign for Ford service is themed, “The Specialists at Ford,” and will feature big-screen action hero, producer and business entrepreneur Dwayne Johnson.
Yes, The Rock drives a Ford—several, in fact. His favorite: The Ford F-150.

“The Specialists at Ford” are an elite crew of Ford technicians led by Johnson. This dedicated team has all of the training, diagnostic tools and Motorcraft parts that make servicing your vehicle at your local Ford dealership the right decision.

I wonder if he’ll glare into the camera and snarl, “Can you smell what The Rock is fixing?”

Listen to the Automotive Reporter Radio Show every weekend on, or from our webpage.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Automotive Reporter Biz News for Wk of 9-28-15

If you missed that bombshell over Berlin last week, Volkswagen announced that numbers touting its clean diesel engines were not entirely accurate, thanks to a fudging of emissions control algorithms in the cars’ computers. Actually, the bombshell dropped in Wolfsburg, 230-km west of Berlin, but there’s still a lot of fallout raining down.

VW CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn said, “"I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.” While completely unaware of what was being done to the cars, he took responsibility, and removed himself from the equation to allow VW “a fresh start.”

Stateside, the Diesel Technology Forum posted this comment, while painstakingly avoiding any mention of the letters “V” or “W”: “The circumstances involving a single manufacturer do not define an entire technology, or an industry. Vehicle manufacturers and engine makers have invested billions of dollars in research and development to successfully meet the most aggressive emissions standards in the world.”

Volkswagen has erected a webpage for VW owners, listing the affected models, and featuring a video clip from VW America President and CEO, Michael Horn, saying, “oops.” 

Porsche AG Chairman Mattias Muller is now acting interim chief for Volkswagen AG.  He began his automotive career as an apprentice tool maker with Audi, and earned a Masters Degree in Computer Science before returning to Audi. He knows his stuff.

Volkswagen’s internal review reveals nearly 5-million passenger cars with the Type EA 189 diesel engines are affected. VW says the cars “remain technically safe and roadworthy.” This morning, the Financial Times predicts the scandal could eclipse the Enron debacle.

Volvo Cars of North America is building its first American factory in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
The new facility will produce Volvo’s S60 sedans, and ship globally from the Port of Charleston starting in 2018.
In Bloom County, Berkley Breathed had no comment.

Forget the Amazing Race.
Ford Motor Company is releasing a series on the re-making of the Ford Focus RS, one of the most surprising small cars you’ll ever climb into. I rented one of these a few weeks ago while my beloved Silver Bullet was getting a nose job.
It was wicked-fast.
The Focus, not the cosmetic work on my car.

Ford this week launches the first in a series of eight films shot behind the scenes as the RS evolves, “Ford Focus RS: Rebirth of an Icon.” If the trailer is any indication of what’s in store, it should rival any “must-see TV” offerings on any network this Fall.

Nissan’s new 2016 Altima goes on sale this Fall, as well. Over the weekend, Nissan Chairman Jose Munoz undraped the extensively redesigned sedan in Detroit. 

Munoz noted that the Altima has achieved five consecutive years of sales growth, growing more than 60% since 2009. Nissan will offer the new Altima in seven trim levels, including an SR-version powered by a 3.5-L V-6.

Sunday night’s eclipse is big news on social media this morning.
Houston, alas, was socked in by clouds and rain. If you missed it, here’s a two-minute eclipse clip.
You’re welcome.

Listen to the Automotive Reporter Radio Show every weekend on, or from our webpage. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Automotive Reporter Biz News for Wk of 9-14-15

What do you get when you cross a dirt bike with a Nissan 240-Z? Take a peak.
This week’s Frankfurt Motor Show will reveal the latest Frankensteinian creation from the Skunkworks in Yokohama, Japan as Nissan’s Gripz Concept Crossover is rolled out for the first time.

The automotive rumor mill is guessing the Gripz might be a replacement for the Juke, but why change what’s already working well for Nissan? 

The company’s press office says the Gripz represents “a new sporty direction for a Crossover concept and was conceived to create an innovative new driving sensation.”
Can’t wait to get my hands on one!

Your next new automobile could be more like an automaton than you think. Volvo is among ten manufacturers which are voluntarily adopting Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking as standard features on their products within the next five years. General Motors is also jumping on the bandwagon in committing to calls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Institute for Highway Safety for such improvements in automobile safety.

Volvo wants regulators to include the safety system in the 5-Star Crash Rating system that compares new cars’ relative safety rankings. GM offers the Forward Collision Alert system in 32 of its vehicles, and  in 19 also offers Automatic Emergency Braking. 

Volvo first introduced Automatic Emergency Braking on the the XC60 in 2009, and made the feature standard on all of its models in 2014. Volvo’s “Vision 2020 Statement” sets a standard of having no one killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo vehicle by 2020.

General Motors is joining the ranks of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI)—the only US automaker to be so listed. The Index grades companies for environmental, economic, and social sustainability performance and disclosure. 

Volkswagen Group is also listed in the DJSI this year, and is considered the top performer with a score of 91 out of a possible 100-points.The grading is conducted by sustainability investment firm RobeccoSAM, which recognizes companies which are best-equipped for long term success as measured against sustainability risks and opportunities. RobeccoSAM analyzed over 1,800 companies this year.

While achieving great marks for sustainability, Volkswagen also produced some winning vehicles, including a new Golf GTI to commemorate the car’s 40th anniversary. The Golf GTI ClubSport will be introduced this week at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, with a 265 PS Special Edition.

Volkswagen says the ClubSport is the most powerful production Golf ever, with an overboost function that pushes horsepower from 265- to 290-PS for up to ten seconds. That translates into a zero-to-62/mph time of 5.9-seconds. Hence the snappy decal on the side of the car. The 6-speed automatic version promises 34.8/mpg. Those innovative Germans!

Never underestimate the value of product placement in a movie. But not just any movie. Aston Martin continues its 50-year association with the James Bond movie franchise, and is teasing us with a few scenes from the upcoming “Spectre” installment.

The YouTube clip features “Spectre” stunt driver Mark Higgins behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB-10. His wheelwork is most impressive…if not artistic.

Aston Martin developed the DB-10 exclusively for the newest 007 film, making only ten examples to commemorate the automaker’s 50-year association with the genre. 

The first Aston Martin featured in a James Bond flick was the iconic DB-5.
“Spectre” opens November 6.

Listen to the Automotive Reporter Radio Show every weekend on, or from our webpage.