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. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Automotive Reporter Review: 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback

Okay, it's Labor Day Weekend, and frankly, the business news that hit my email in-box this week was just uninspiring. Tune in next week for more biz bits from hither, thither, and yon.
In the meantime, let's have one last fling for summer.
Here's my review of a recently borrowed 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback.
As I am fond of saying, "eau my..."

The first Ford Mustang was the 1964-1/2 model, with a V-8 engine and components borrowed from other models, including the Comet, the Fairlane, and the Falcon. That was Lee Iacocca's idea for keeping the car's initial MSRP at $2,368. Ford thought it might sell 100,000 of the first-gen Mustangs, a number the company blew through in the first 90-days. Ford produced an additional 318,000 units in the first year.

The Mustang was Ford’s prize muscle car, and the name has always been synonymous with earth-shaking power, cat-like handling, and (generally) cutting-edge styling.  

I say generally, because for a while there, in the mid-‘70’s, I don’t know what they were thinking.  My wife had one of those “Mustang-II’s,” with a V-6 engine built by Audi. One morning the car wouldn’t start because the timing chain in that German engine had broken. The quote for repairs was more than the car was worth. 
We sold it shortly thereafter.

For 2015, Ford has once again engineered a Mustang with body lines that leave you weak in the knees, an interior environment that is replete with technology gadgets, and a power plant that will snap your neck.
It’s a 2.3-Liter four-cylinder Eco-boost engine. That’s right—Ford has put an I-4 in a Mustang.

I’ve driven four-bangers for most of my life. I know their strengths (better mileage, quieter operation) and their weaknesses (sucky power, higher revs required). So when I had the opportunity to try out the Mustang EcoBboost Fastback, I jumped at the chance.
To say the least, I was impressed.

The EcoBoost 2.3-L is fitted with a twin-scrolled turbo that gooses the power output to 310-hp. Let that sink in for a moment: An I-4 engine with 310-horses.
In a pony car.
It’s a four-banger’s dream.

I drove this car for a week as I would my daily driver. It was a lot of fun. It didn’t hurt that the screaming Competition Orange paint turned heads wherever I parked the car.

My factory loaner was fitted with a 6-speed select-shift automatic. Ordinarily, I’d turn my nose at a sissified automatic. But the Mustang has four electronic settings on this transmission: Normal, Sport, Track, and Snow/Ice. The Sport and Track settings were fun, but in Houston traffic, they were somewhat annoying, and kept engine revs artificially high when downshifting. This car will snap your neck running through the gears in either of these settings! I am also humble enough to admit that the automatic can more efficiently manage the gears than can I.

Did I punch it?
Is the Pope Catholic?
I did, indeed, stick my foot in the engine, and it was a beautiful thing—gliding through traffic and slipping past slower vehicles with ease. The turbo boost is everything advertised, and more. There’s a reason why the speedometer is labeled, “Groundspeed.”

Ford’s sticker price for this model is $37,990. It teases a 25MPG average of city and highway driving. My computed average never dipped below 26MPG, and touched 29MPG a few times. I burned two tanks of fuel in my week of joyriding, just to be sure.

All of Ford’s techie goodies are packed into its EcoBoost Fastback, including its huge touchscreen display in the center dash, rear camera, and adaptive cruise control. The dual climate control system allowed my wife to cook her lumbar while I enjoyed a cooling breeze to my nether regions. 

The only criticism I have is an inordinately high level of road noise—and that’s without the usual rumble of a V-8’s exhaust.
Factor in the very efficient A/C with a blower creating a sonic wall of white noise, and you find you must nearly scream to carry on a conversation at moderate speeds. But that’s a flaw I’m willing to forgive.

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