Category Archives: Report

Ford North America President Raj Nair Fired Over Inappropriate Behavior

In a period defined by massive corporate upheaval at Ford Motor Company in the wake of the firing of Ford CEO Mark Fields last year. More shock-waves emanated out of Dearborn, MI earlier today with Ford’s announcement that it has fired President of Ford North America Raj Nair over allegations of “inappropriate behavior.”

It’s not clear what Nair did that led to his sudden departure from the company, but Ford’s statement does reveal that Nair was under investigation for “inappropriate behavior” after allegations were made by an anonymous filer. The investigation uncovered behavior that was “inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct.” Nair’s firing comes after the departures of several high profile business leaders either by voluntary acts or firings for sexual misconduct, though it is too early to determine if that indeed occur with Nair.

‘We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration,” stated Ford CEO Jim Hackett in a separate statement. “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”

Nair for his part apologized, though he did not elaborate on the events that led up to this decision.

‘I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the company and I have always espoused” Nair said in Ford’s official statement.

No formal replacement has been announced, but prior to today’s events, Nair had been at the helm of Ford’s U.S. operations since June of 2017 when he assumed the role a short time after the firing of Ford CEO Mark Fields in May of 2017. Prior to this he was the head of global product development as well as a chief technical officer in Ford’s ranks.

Hyundai To Offer N Sport Models In Near Future

When the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N made its first appearance alongside its revamped mainstream cousins at the 2018 North American International Auto Show, it sent shock waves through Cobo Center, and the entire world thanks to its 275 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder engine, as well as its suite of performance upgrades. However, it appears that the hot hatch was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg with a massive brand extension in the wings.
In a recent interview with Car & Driver magazine, Albert Biermann chief of the N brand revealed that the N moniker could trickle its way throughout Hyundai’s vehicle lineup in a manner similar to Mercedes and its AMG sub brand. Dubbed “N Sport” these models would not be all out offerings like the Veloster N, but each one would feature distinctive sporty styling and features to help them stand out on dealer lots.
“Each model will be tuned for a more sporty driving experience” stated Biermann. “They will also feature a few visual updates inside and out. What they won’t get, though, will be things like a different engine, bigger brakes, or a whole new suspension and axles.”
It’s unknown how many models will get the N Sport package, but while crossovers like the Kona and the Santa Fe will likely receive half baked “performance styling” packages. Our attention is focused on the Elantra and Elantra GT models, which could see a much more extensive upgrade. Designed to challenge rivals such as the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Golf, the duo could receive slightly stiffened suspensions, unique interior accents, as well as tweaked versions of their turbocharged 1.6 liter four cylinder engines to draw in younger buyers. We also hold out hope that the Elantra GT will eventually get its time to shine, and have an N package of its own, especially since its European twin (the i30) has such an option and it would be cool alongside the Veloster N.

Look for more information on the N Sport range to be revealed once the Veloster N has had some time to formally enter the marketplace. Speaking of that model, pricing still has not been revealed as of this writing, but Hyundai promises that it will be a “compelling affordability option.”

Volkswagen Suspends Chief Lobbyist Amid Fallout From Monkey Scandal

Volkswagen’s ongoing monkey scandal has claimed its first victim with the resignation of the company’s chief of external and government relations.

This resignation follows on the heels of the current controversy encircling animal experiments sponsored by the German auto company, that featured diesel equipped Beetles gassing monkeys in an effort to prove that diesel exhaust fumes were safe to breathe. The use of monkeys as subjects is controversial, considering how similar they are to humans especially when it comes to internal anatomy.

Volkswagen revealed that it has accepted a proposal by Steg himself that he step down from his post, and assume full responsibility for the experiments that were revealed in a piece posted by the New York Times last week. “Mr Steg has declared that he will take full responsibility. I respect that,” stated company CEO Matthias Muller.

In the fore-mentioned piece, it was revealed that Steg was among a small group of people who worked with EUGT, the research institute that came up with the experiment, and was ultimately disbanded last year on behalf of Volkswagen. This stunning admission also raises questions about whether the company’s board of directors (Steg’s superiors) was aware of the experiments. For their part, the company has repeatedly denied that it had any prior knowledge of the experiments, and that they were never discussed  in board meetings.

As for Steg he had an impressive resume of service prior to his resignation, with the 57 year old lobbyist lending his expertise to former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder, as well as German opposition leader Frank Walter-Steinmeier, before taking up his post at Volkswagen in early 2012.

While the investigation is still ongoing, Volkswagen has named a temporary successor with the appointment of Jens Hanefeld who is currently responsible for tackling international and European issues for the company. VW claims that Hanefeld will be carrying on in an acting capacity until the investigation is finished, but we will not be surprised if Hanefeld’s appointment morphs into a permanent spot for the seasoned executive.

Jeep Unveils 2018 Wrangler, Will Make Official Debut In L.A

With the internet practically busting at the seams with 2018 Jeep Wrangler material (leaked or otherwise) Jeep has finally given in, and has unleashed several photos of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler ahead of its official debut at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show.

The exterior styling of the Wrangler largely retains the brash and beefy motif that has defined the Wrangler for decades. Even the basic profile retains alot of the 2017’s styling theme, and that’s actually a good thing, considering how wildly popular it is with buyers. However, there are some modern touches that help it transition to the new model year gracefully, while also upping its technology credentials at the same time. These include new headlights and tail lights, as well as a new power operating top (which was revealed during one of the many leaks that the internet generated.)

But Jeep fans worried about the open air vibe being taken away will be pleased to know that Jeep engineers have those needs covered too. Like before  owners can take off the roof panels, fold down the windshield, or if they must, take the doors off too. Other features include a new fuel door for the fuel cap, a tweaked roll bar, and revised door sills possibly to help make entry and exit a bit easier.

Unfortunately Jeep did not reveal formal engine, transmission, or other specifications as of yet. All that juicy info will be unveiled at the aforementioned reveal in Los Angeles, but look for the first production units to not venture too far out of the box when they eventually make their way to dealer showrooms. While a four cylinder (the first in several decades) has been long rumored, look for the first examples to be hooked up to the familiar and readily available Pentastar V6 with either an automatic or a manual transmission. Look for the rumored four cylinder to arrive later with only an automatic as well as a turbocharger to help bring some green to the Wrangler’s gas swilling ways.

In the meantime, Jeep used the ongoing SEMA show to showoff a wide array of 2018 Wrangler accessories that it will have available for its new truck with each one designed to help bring distinction (and in some cases enhanced capability) to its eager fan base. Also look for some preliminary information to emerge about the upcoming Wrangler based pickup in L.A. though a debut will probably not be for several more years.

Mazda’s Rotary Engine Could Return As Range Extender Option

When the Mazda RX-8 ceased production several years ago, its departure represented not only the end of an era for Mazda, but also seemingly sealed the fate of the rotary engine, which was once seen as a novel solution for higher fuel economy by automakers back in the 1970s. However, recent comments by a high ranking Mazda executive appear to suggest that the rotary could be making a return to production automobiles, albeit in an unexpected role.

In a recent interview with the folks at Automotive News, Mitsuo Hitomi chief of Mazda’s powertrain division revealed that there could be a very good chance that the next iteration of the rotary engine could appear as a range extender for electric automobiles. While this would be a dramatic change in role for an engine that once defined the pinnacle of Mazda performance, its potential shift in function could help the novel powerplant fulfill its original green intentions, especially when one looks at prior efforts at this idea by Mazda.

Back in 2013 Mazda was already working on a rotary engine equipped extended range EV, with this early effort materializing in the Mazda2 RE Range Extender concept car. The tiny concept had a 250 mile driving range with half of it coming from its battery, while the other half was supplied by a 330 cc rotary engine which was hooked up to a 2.6 liter fuel tank. More recently, the RX-Vision concept also teased a rotary powered performance vehicle that could also add electrification to its list of tricks if it ever makes its way into formal production.

With all that said, its important to look at the finer details into how such an idea is possible. While the rotary engine has never been known for its efficiency (a key trait that made automakers such as GM and AMC abandon the idea for their lineups,) it is a very smooth running engine, and is also reasonably compact when compared to a conventional engine. Modern technology could allow Mazda engineers to make the engines even smaller than before, which will not only improve overall fuel economy, but also improve space and weight savings for the vehicle at the same time. These latter two traits would allow Mazda to add more batteries, or simply keep the car lightweight, and use this newfound lightness to retain the spirited handling that Mazda models have been long known for.

While this news might not be encouraging to rotary die-hards eagerly awaiting an RX-8 successor, Hitomi also revealed that a bigger rotary engine is also in development with the engine being tuned towards formal sports car applications. However, like many good things in life, the engine is reportedly being stonewalled by management that want a better business case for offering such a model in the first place. If we were in the board room, we would highlight the lack of a formal halo entry in Mazda’s lineup, which would help create a halo effect for other Mazda models including its growing CUV lineup. Either way, it looks like the humble rotary has a strong chance at catering to a new era of buyers if all the cards are right.

 

Genesis Reveals G70 Sport Sedan

Genesis has had a great start in the U.S. market thanks in part to the G90 flagship sedan, as well as the G80 sedan (AKA the artist formerly known as the Hyundai Genesis.) But the one notable thing missing from its lineup (besides CUV/SUV offerings) was a true entry level luxury sport sedan. Genesis has rectified this problem with the unveiling of the G70 sedan.

Designed to be the latest attempt at toppling the benchmark BMW 3-Series sedan, the G70 starts off with bold exterior styling cues that are quite pleasing to the eye. There’s a healthy amount of G90 traits in its well tailored suit of clothes, especially in the front fascia design albeit with more lines and creases. The side profile leads out to a short rear deck, and an equally handsome rear bumper with bold tailights rounding out the look quite nicely.

The interior reflects this theme of elegant simplicity and has a refreshingly straight forward layout for many vehicle controls. This is a nice change from many of its German competitors, and their complicated electronics.

An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, and will allegedly be the first unit to utilize server-based voice recognition technology. This is due to Kakao’s artifical intellegence platform dubbed “Kakao 1.” It’s unknown what this entails for buyers in the U.S. especially if the feature does make it state side, but it could give the G70 an edge over BMW’s I-Drive system, and even Mercedes and its formidable COMMAND system.

Three diffrent engine choices will be offered, but look for U.S. buyers to only have two engines to choose from. The base model will feature a 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four cylinder with 248 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Genesis claims that an optional Sport package will slightly raise the horsepower figure to 251 horses.

Meanwhile, the G70 Sport shoehorns the 3.3 liter turbo V6 from the bigger G80 into its engine bay. Look for 365 horsepower to be on tap, with Genesis reps claiming the Sport can make the sprint to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds. A 200 horsepower diesel engine serves as the greenest of the bunch, but don’t expect it to be offered here in the U.S. anytime soon.

Genesis revealed that the G70 will also get some serious performance tech too including launch control, dynamic torque vectoring, and a limited slip differential. Handling benefits from an adjustable suspension system, but its unclear if some of these features will trickle down to four cylinder models equipped with the Sport package.

Look for more details to be revealed in 2018. These would include final pricing figures, as well as formal fuel economy figures. The G70 will certainly face off against established players in this segment, but it will also have to prove itself against newcomers like the Cadillac ATS, Jaguar XE, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

However, we think it has a fighting chance, and we look forward to learning more over the next few months.

Mercedes Teases Project ONE Hypercar

The trail of teasers and statements surrounding the much hyped Project ONE hypercar are nearing the home stretch. With the Frankfurt Auto Show fast approaching, Mercedes-Benz has upped the ante by releasing a shadowy teaser image.

The lone image does not reveal very much, but the few elements that do stick out of the darkness offer compelling clues to the car’s wild capabilities. Mercedes claims that the Project ONE is “a two-seater supersports showcar” and it serves as the current pinnacle of the German auto giants engineering capabilities.

However, its also safe to call the Project ONE a road going Le Mans prototype with a Formula 1 engine. In fact, Project ONE evokes memories of the fabled CLK-GTR supercar. Unlike that model though, the Project ONE will be a visually innovative look into the future, especially with its performance hardware. This includes the Formula 1 grade engine and hybrid system, as well as the electronic systems.

The roof mounted scoop also hints at the aerodynamic tweaks that are in store for this car with much of the inspiration coming from Le Mans spec race cars. Look for the interior to invoke function over form with many racing elements and materials being used instead of the usual assortment of leather, wood, and other luxuries that define typical Benz models.

Performance for the Project ONE comes from a 1.6 liter turbocharged V6 that incorporates hybrid assistance technology and is largely based on the setup that sees duty in the 2015 Mercedes-AMG W06 Formula 1 hybrid car. Naturally, the engine will be reworked for road use with Mercedes claiming that it can last for 31,000 miles between rebuilds. This is impressive considering that the engine has a rev limit of over 10,000 rpm and packs “over 1000 horsepower.” This is achieved with the help of four electric motors with two mounted on the engine, and the remaining pair on the front axle.

When the Project ONE makes its debut in Frankfurt, it will appear as a near production prototype with the first deliveries expected to take place in 2019. Don’t bother pre-ordering through your local dealer unless you have done so already. Mercedes-Benz is only making 275 copies, with all of them being pre-sold for a cool $2.6 million each.

Volkswagen Unveils Europe Bound T-Roc CUV

Volkswagen has always been known for its diverse segment portfolio, but a noticeable void  existed in the compact CUV segment. The German auto giant has solved this problem with the unveiling of the 2018 T-Roc CUV.

 

Slotted just below the Tiguan, the T-Roc is a curious mixture of style, muscle, and dare we say it unconventionality. The latter item really shows when you select one of its three trim levels ( Yorkville, Style, and Sport) with the Style trim living up to its name by offering buyers three different roof colors as well as four different coordinating interior colors.

Look for this particular trim to appeal to young urbanites that want a high dose of style in their small CUV purchase. Regardless of which trim is selected the T-Roc amps up its bold credentials in other ways. The wheel arches are pumped up with the rear fascia and haunches also drawing stares thanks to their bold lines. The nose and roof shapes are clearly derived from the T-Roc two door crossover concept which is a good thing since it was one of our favorite concepts from 2014.

The interior is also a bold youthful environment with sharp geometric shapes and squared off elements that further enhance its ruggedness. As a bonus neither the Tiguan nor the Atlas boast nearly the sheer levels of color that the T-Roc possesses which is a nice change of pace from the dark cabins that define many of its current models.

The T-Roc also puts technology at the forefront thanks to its standard 6.5 inch infotainment system which can be swapped out for a bigger 8-inch unit. Volkswagen’s familiar Digital Cockpit system is also available as an option, and it is nice to see this nifty piece of technology finally begin to trickle down to some of the company’s more mainstream models.

Performance for the T-Roc comes from six different engines that cover both the gasoline and diesel sides of the spectrum while also producing between 115 and 190 horsepower. The 190 horsepower engines are only available with all-wheel drive and a 7 speed dual clutch automatic. Meanwhile, the other engines are available with front wheel drive and can be equipped with both a manual transmission and front wheel drive.

Currently, Volkswagen has no plans to bring the T-Roc to the U.S. which is a baffling decision given the high demand for crossovers in our country. Volkswagen even admitted that fact in a prior press release saying that “Crossovers are the next big thing.” In addition, Volkswagen also has room in its U.S. lineup for the T-Roc thanks to the Tiguan growing in size as well as its stylish looks which would allow it to compete with rivals like the Kia Soul, Toyota C-HR, as well as the Nissan Juke. Lastly, its MQB roots would make any conversion to U.S. specifications relatively easy.

If the T-Roc does eventually make its way across the pond, look for it to only offer the 150 and 190 horsepower engines, and have the dual clutch automatic as the sole transmission choice, due to the equally steep decline in demand for manual transmissions especially in the crossover segment.

BMW Teases Next Generation Z Roadster

BMW has been hard at work on the upcoming replacement to the dearly departed Z4 for a while now. While various heavily camoflauged prototypes have been spotted, the German auto giant has released a compelling sneak peek of the new two seater ahead of its eventual debut.

Released on the company’s Facebook page, the lone teaser image is obscured and darkened, but there are still a few details that peek out from beneath the covers. Sharper headlights as well as a more aggresive profile help it stand out from the decidedly more elegant predecessor it is replacing. This will be good news for BMW, which is hoping that the car can put up a more targeted resistance to the segment benchmark, the Porsche 718 Boxster.

The new Z will be underpinned by an all new rear drive platform that is being co-developed with Toyota engineers, and could also herald the revival of the Supra nameplate for a new generation of young Toyota buyers. Look for BMW’s turbocharged four and six cylinder engines to carryover in both models, but a Toyota designed hybrid system could make its way into the mix to increase fuel efficency  if rumors on the subject turn out to be true.

2018 Mustang

2018 Ford Mustang To Bring 460 Horsepower, Other Tweaks To Buyers

The 2018 Ford Mustang already has shaken the muscle car world thanks to its slew of updates which aim to refine the car even further. While more style and comfort are welcome features, Ford’s performance updates are causing quite the stir.

The tweaked 5.0 liter V8 now produces 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque which is a notable upgrade over the old engine. The engine benefits from an all new “Drag Strip” mode which helps trim the 0 to 60 time to a swift four seconds flat. This is mainly due to the drag mode tweaking the shifting and power delivery from the 10-speed automatic transmission, which reduces excess wheel slip.

“Typically when you shift gears you give up time” stated Mustang chief engineer Carl Widmann. “In drag mode, the engine’s torque doesn’t drop when you shift.” To illustrate this point, Widmann claimed that drag mode made the Mustang faster off the line than the $94,000 Porsche 911 Carrera (an impressive claim indeed.)

The company didn’t leave EcoBoost buyers out to dry with these updates, and has transferred some of the GT’s magic to the four cylinder version of the Mustang. Power is up to 310 horsepower, with torque increasing by 30 lb-ft to a revised 350 lb-ft. When equipped with the 10-speed and the forementioned drag mode, the four cylinder can make the sprint to 60 mph in five seconds.

Ford is opening up ordering for the 2018 Ford Mustang this week, with the first units arriving at Ford showrooms shortly after.