Sunday, April 19, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 4-20-15

I finally got around to seeing “Furious-7,” the latest in the series of heavy-metal car chase thrillers. The movie lives up to the hype. It also ends with a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker, who was killed in a non-related car crash before filming had wrapped. I think I must’ve gotten popcorn salt in my eye, or something. 

In past episodes of the franchise, there was always a teaser at the end of the closing credits letting you know what was in store in the next edition. No such footage was included at the end of “7.”

The Wall Street Journal reports filmmakers destroyed 230 cars in the production of “Furious-7.”
That's nothing.

TV Producers ran through 300 Dodge Chargers filming seasons of “The Dukes of Hazard,” many of which were recycled into set pieces (no longer running) for additional scenes of the show.
Just some good ol’ boys…

Japanese engines in Alabama; American engines in Mexico: Oh, my!
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama is celebrating new production at its automated engine assembly plant in Lincoln, AL. The upgraded facility will manufacture 1,500 V-6 engines a day for Honda’s Odyssey, Pilot and Acura MDX luxury SUV’s.
Meanwhile in Chihuahua and Guanajuato, Mexico, Ford Motor Company is investing $2.5-Billion in new engine and transmission plants. The projects are part of the One Ford global competitiveness program. Ford is marking it’s 90th year of production in Mexico this year.

Viper. You know you want one. And now, Dodge will let you custom design your next Viper sports car online with the Viper GTC Customizer.

There are more than 25-Million unique combination possibilities for the ultra sports car. Dodge will send you a 1:18 scale replica of your customized car upon completion of your order. You know, just to whet your appetite before it’s delivered. The 2015 Custom Viper GTC can be yours for under $95,000…by about $5.
MSRP is $94,995. But who’s counting?

General Motors is upping the ante in the drop-top market by offering Buick’s first new convertible in North America in 25-years. 

The 2016 Cascada (rhymes with “cicada”) will feature a 2+2 configuration in a rigid-body structure. The soft-top coupe will be powered by a 1.6-liter 200-hp turbocharged engine driving the front wheels. Buick designed the Cascada from the ground-up as a convertible; this is no chopped coupe cousin from one of the other assembly lines!

The convertible top can be raised or lowered electrically in about 17-seconds…at speeds up to 31-mph. After that, it becomes a handy speed brake. Not.

GM is sensitive to leaks about the Cascada. Seriously.
See how they test each convertible before it leaves the plant.

How do you market your next, new introduction to the small SUV market? Hire a band. FCA and Jeep are teaming up with X Ambassadors to sing the praises of the new 2015 Jeep Renegade

The group taped a snappy :60-second ditty about topics and themes that resonate with the Renegade crowd. You know, things like adventure, exploration, rebels and skinny-dipping. All of those things are appealing to me, but who wants to watch a Gen-X’er cavorting about? X Ambassadors and Alex Da Kid are featured in the video short.  

In space, no one can hear you scream. But they can see large-font messages from the International Space Station
The 13-year old daughter of ISS Astronaut Terry Virts, Stephanie, was the impetus behind Hyundai’s epic love note in the sand. The feat was accomplished on a dry lake bed back in January. 

The car company not only got the message through, it also set a new Guiness World’s Record for the Largest Tire Track Message, carved by a team of stunt drivers piloting 11 Hyundai Genesis sedans. I don't know what Hyundai's market budget is for the rest of the year, but they could stop spending dollars now--they're never going to top this one!
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 4-13-15

Those acid trips of the '60's could be coming back to haunt you.
Or you may be just viewing the world through Mini's newest innovation, "MINI Augmented Vision," which is being debuted at the 2015 Shanghai Autoshow. At a first glance, however, I must admit I thought I was trippin'.

The concept is described as "intelligent connectivity" between some pretty snappy eyewear and the next-generation of Mini automobiles.

Dr. Jörg Preißinger, project-manager MINI Augmented Vision, BMW Group research and technology, says the company has been working with several Qualcomm divisions on the project. "We have created an interlinked system and Augmented Reality eyewear with a characteristic MINI design that revolutionise the experience both in and outside the vehicle," the good Doctor says.

So where did the psychedelic dog on the surfboard come from? Using see-through technology, the AR Eyewear shows relevant information in your direct field of vision, but without concealing other road users. The main idea is increasing safety and comfort while driving. 

Among the nifty things the system will let you do:
  • Create destination entry for navigation and transfer to vehicle.
Huh?  Select destination points when outside the vehicle, then transferring them to the vehicle. Sort of like programming your GPS by remote control.
  • First Mile/Last Mile: Navigation display from the current location to the vehicle or from the vehicle to the final destination. 
  • Heads-up display functions: Display of speed, speed limits etc. in the eyewear, so the information is your primary field of view, with data always shown in same place above steering wheel to make sure that no road users are concealed from sight. This is like wearing a Corvette heads up display on your head.
  • Contact-analogue navigation and points of interest: Reality is enhanced by contact-analogue navigation arrows “on” the road, as well as display of points of interest along the route, such as open parking spaces.  
  • CMessaging: A small icon is shown in the eyewear when a message is received. The SMS/message can then be read out by the car while driving for safety.
  • X-Ray View / transparent vehicle parts: A virtual view through parts of the vehicle (such as A-pillars and doors) serves to render external areas or objects concealed by the car visible. You might want to disable this on a first-date.
  • Augmented Parking: This facilitates parking by projecting the images from a camera housed in the (farside) mirror into the eyewear. In this way, the distance from the curb can be clearly and easily ascertained.
I think that's all well and good.
But do you think they could include a prompt to let you know when your turn signal is left on, say, for the past 5-miles?

Toyota continues its teaser campaign with glimpses of its new stable of products with this fetching photo of the new Lexus ES luxury sedan. The latest Lexus will make its global debut at Auto Shanghai 2015 on April 20.

The new Lexus ES maintains its classical elegance "while conveying a more dynamic experience and luxurious craftsmanship," so saith the release.


After a protracted period of ugly-ducklingness, the new 2016 Honda Pilot has achieved puberty and grown some sensual curves. The third generation Pilot will go on sale this summer, and Honda says it's ready to take the mid-size SUV segment by storm.

A beefier 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC Earth Dreams Technology engine will produce 280-horsepower, and be mated to new 6- and 9-speed transmissions. The 2016 edition also gets a new Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD System--including a selectable Intelligent Management system featuring four modes.

The 2016 Pilot is available in a new top-of-the-line Elite trim that will include a panoramic glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, second-row heated captain's chairs, and LED headlights, in addition to a long list of standard features throughout the Pilot trim range.

In an answer to many prayers, Honda finally has produced a Civic SI model with wings.

Honda Aircraft Company's HondaJet will begin a world tour in late April with the advanced light jet making its first appearances in Japan and Europe. The HondaJet will travel more than 26,000 nautical miles during the tour and stop in 13 countries along its flight route. I have no idea what that carbon footprint will look like, but I'd sure like a ticket to ride.

"The HondaJet world tour is a tribute to Honda's challenging spirit to bring something truly innovative to business aviation," said Honda Aircraft Company President and CEO Michimasa Fujino. The HondaJet is currently offered for sale in North America and Europe through the HondaJet dealer network.  

Speaking of sweet dreams, if you've been coveting the new 2016 Nissan 370Z line-up, and were wondering how much the Coupe, NISMO or  Roadster might set you back, Nissan has released its new pricing grid for the sinfully fast cars. 

There are eight Coupes, four NISMO's and five Roadster configurations...aaand they'll all cost the same this year as last year.  You can't blame inflation on the price of a Z-car.

The starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (M.S.R.P.) for the 370Z Coupe with manual transmission is $29,990, while the 2016 370Z NISMO has a starting MSRP of $41,990 USD with a manual transmission. The 2016 370Z Roadster starts at $41,820 USD.

Complete details on all 2016 370Z models are available here. All prices plus
$825 Destination and Handling ...but I'd do it for half.

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Monday, April 06, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News Wk of 4-6-15

Nissan's all-new 2016 Maxima is being heralded as the new "four-door sports car." Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn introduced the new sedan at the New York International Auto Show last week.

"This is the flagship sedan for Nissan in the U.S., and we expect big things from this car in terms of sales and expanding the reach and impact of the Nissan brand in North America," Ghosn said on Thursday. 

Ghosen notes that Maxima holds 10 percent of market share in the upper mid-size segment. "We are targeting more than that for what we feel will be the most exciting and modern car in the class," he said.

The 2016 edition gets a new, 3.5-liter VQ-series V6 engine, producing 300 horsepower with an anticipated 15 percent increase in highway fuel economy to an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon. Nissan Chief Product Specialist Mike Drongowski said, "My mantra to all groups, to design, to styling, engineering, manufacturing, was 'Maxima exists to be special. That is its role in our lineup.'"

Ford Motor Company's unveiling of the new 2016 Lincoln Continental last week at the New York International Auto Show was not without controversy. The stunning, new design is reminiscent of...of...Bentley's Flying Spur design. At least that's the claim by Bentley engineers, chief among them, Luc Donckerwolke. He vented on social media, posting to the Facaebook page of Lincoln chief designer, David Woodhouse, "Do you want us to send the product tooling?" 


April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, which reads like an oxymoron.
Kia is capitalizing on the campaign by offering no-cost behind the wheel training with the B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) program for 300 drivers education students. Kia is the Official Vehicle and presenting sponsor of the B.R.A.K.E.S. Teen Pro-Active Driving School.

The half-day curriculum includes a distracted driving exercise, emergency braking using the anti-lock braking system (ABS), evasive maneuvering and skid-control practice.  Kia says "at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010." Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 14-18 year olds in the U.S.

April is not the only month the courses are being offered. No Texas dates are listed...yet...but you can check this website for cities to be added throughout the year.


FCA North America says its Indiana Transmission Plant I (ITPI) employees have achieved something few in the manufacturing industry can claim – 10-million hours without a lost time injury. That's about three-years' worth of work time with no downtime due to injuries.

Brian Harlow, Vice President/Manufacturing, FCA North America, credits a focus on World Class Manufacturing (WCM), which includes safety as one of its 10 foundational principles. Fiat first implemented WCM in 2006, and introduced the process to Chrysler Group when the two companies allied in June 2009. ITPI was the first facility to build Jeep Cherokee's fuel efficient nine-speed transmission. The plant has built more than 500,000 of the all-new transmission since May 2013.


It's the Monday after Easter...which was also Opening Day for Baseball. In preparation of this hallowed occasion, the Detroit Tigers and Chevrolet were not planting Easter eggs at Comerica Stadium.

Oh, no.

They used a heavy-lift crane to park a 2015 Corvette Z06 atop the Chevrolet Fountain behind centerfield. They also put a Chevy Silverado Pickup truck up there--a process that took about three hours to complete. For each vehicle.

When Mazda America Senior Designer Jacques Flynn isn't drawing up the latest cool lines for the automaker, he's working his side business: hand-crafted leather wallets. Flynn is part of the team involved in Mazda's exterior designs, based in Los Angeles. A few years ago he needed to replace a wallet, but couldn't find exactly what he was looking for. 

Photo Credit: Nara Shin/
Flynn's idea for a custom wallet went astray when friends tried to use machines to replicate his design. He finally just bought some leather and went to work on his own, sans machines. You want something done right...etc.

How do Mazda's brass feel about their designer's side gig? Most of the guys in the C-suite now carry a Jaqet wallet in their pocket.

You can see the results here, and check out his eye for design in items other than leather, on his blog. 
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