Auto Car News and Review

U-Turn: Weekly Recap: Tesla’s sales ban fortified in Michigan as franchise laws draw fire

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
2013 Tesla Model S

“Tesla’s quest to own its stores has brought to light issues that have long faced the industry.” – Adam Jones

Tesla’s fight to challenge dealer franchise laws moved to the home state of the American auto industry this week, as the governor of Michigan signed a controversial bill that excludes Tesla from selling its electric cars directly to consumers.

Experts agree it was probably already illegal for Tesla to sell cars in Michigan, as the state’s franchise laws require that cars be sold through dealerships. But, the legislation closed a gap in the law that Tesla might have been able to exploit.

Ironically, the bill sailed through both houses of the state legislature with little fanfare this year, as voters and officials have been preoccupied with midterm elections. It’s not even a new law: just an amendment to an existing rule that touches on a number of issues, including transaction fees charged by dealers to consumers during the sale process.

The controversy seemingly exploded overnight, as a last-minute change in the language of the bill – which appeared aimed at Tesla – strengthened Michigan’s franchise laws. It wasn’t until the bill was already on the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder that most of the public was even aware of it, or of the implications of the 11th hour changes.

Not surprisingly, Tesla was peeved.

Report: UberTaxi now operating in Seoul using licensed cab drivers

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
South Korea Taxi Driver Protest

In countries across the globe, ride-hiring app Uber has faced criticism from taxi drivers, who claim the service is unfair, citing the way its (unregistered) drivers can be hired, eliminating the need to stand on a corner hailing. In the South Korean capital of Seoul, though, Uber and the taxi drivers are living harmoniously, thanks to a new service.

Called UberTaxi, the app has signed up a number of official, registered cab drivers who can be hired from a smartphone. Drivers won’t be paid a commission, according to The Wall Street Journal, although they’ll receive a $ 1.90 subsidy for each fare they handle that’s been ordered by the app.

While the new pairing is a positive sign for Uber, the app’s core service, the low-cost UberX, remains illegal in South Korea. WSJ also reports that the country is taking aim at the premium UberBlack livery service, and is even going so far as to develop an app that would give taxi drivers the same capabilities without using the ride-hiring service.

Report: 2015 Honda CR-V performs poorly in Swedish AWD test [w/video]

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
Honda CR-V all-wheel drive test

Swedish auto magazine Teknikens Värld has never been afraid to call out automakers when a vehicle fails one of its battery of examinations. Its famous Moose Test recently caught the Porsche Macan out, and a few years ago, there was a protracted argument between Teknikens Värld and Jeep over the performance of a Grand Cherokee in that evaluation.

This time, the 2015 Honda CR-V is raising the magazine’s hackles, but it has nothing to do with avoiding a giant mammal. Snow is obviously an issue in Sweden, and Teknikens Värld has a test that challenges all-wheel drive systems in low-traction settings. On a slanted surface, the Swedes put the vehicles’ front wheels on rollers with no traction and demands the rears accelerate away. The Honda couldn’t do it. Teknikens Värld claims that it initially found the same result last year from the European CR-V, but Honda Sweden put out a software upgrade correcting the behavior in the test. This year, the CUV went back to failing.

While that’s the magazine’s side, Honda Sweden doesn’t see the test as fair. In a statement to Teknikens Värld, the company explains the way the CUV’s all-wheel drive system works. It also claims that the test isn’t simulating a realistic situation. “In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels,” the announcement says. “A scenario like the roll test with such a high difference in grip between the front and the rear wheels is highly unlikely.”

Teknikens Värld, for its part, counters that the test was approved by Honda last year. Scroll down to watch the evaluation for yourself and read the magazine’s announcement of the results. Let us know in Comments whether you think this is a fair way to assess all-wheel drive systems.

Official: Ford Q3 pretax profits drop to $1.18B

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
Ford Investigation

Following positive third quarter financial results recently from General Motors, rival Ford took a tumble in Q3. The automaker posted pre-tax profits of $ 1.18 billion, compared to about $ 2.59 billion in Q3 2013, a drop of around 54 percent. Net income also suffered with $ 835 million made in the quarter, versus $ 1.272 billion last year, a decline of about 34 percent. The Blue Oval blamed the gloomy figures on three reasons in its release: “lower volume, higher warranty costs and adverse balance sheet exchange effects.”

There were problems of one kind or another in practically every region. North America experienced higher warranty costs than expected, partially due to recalls. The sales volume for the quarter was 665,000 units, versus 725,000 in Q3 2013, and pre-tax results amounted to $ 1.41 billion versus $ 2.296 billion last year.

South America and Europe both posted worse pre-tax results than last year. On the bright side, European volume was up slightly to 321,000 vehicles, from 303,000 in Q3 2013. The Middle East and Africa also lost $ 15 million, but that was an improvement compared to the $ 25 million loss previously experienced in this region.

The Asia Pacific region was also a mixed bag. Volume increased to 346,000 units, but pre-tax financials were $ 44 million, compared $ 116 million last year. According to Ford’s release, the reason for the change is that the company is opening five factories there in the next nine months and launching Lincoln in China.

Ford was optimistic about future growth, though. It said that one of the reasons for falling volume was changing dealer stock in preparation of new models. In 2015, those updates should start being reflected on he balance sheet with “all five Automotive regions improving on 2014 results,” according to the Blue Oval’s release. Ford’s results can be viewed in total as a PDF, here.

Report: Porsche working on turbo V12 for Putin limo project?

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ex

Porsche is best known for building very well-regarded sports cars and better-selling utility vehicles. Come to the company with a big enough bag of cash, though, and the Porsche Engineering division can create just about anything. The group’s past projects include working with Harley-Davidson, Mercedes-Benz and corporate cousin Audi, but if rumors prove true, then its latest partner might be the last one you’d expect.

Russian website Wroom reports that Porsche Engineering is building the engine for the Project Cortege government limousine project for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The mill is supposedly a turbocharged V12 displacing between 6.0- and 6.6-liters and making around 800 horsepower. When complete, it will reportedly be built by ZMZ with Russian-sourced parts.

The limo is expected to debut in 2017, according to Wroom, but it’s just the beginning of Putin’s grandiose plans, which also goes by the name of the Motorcade Project. The same platform is also meant to underpin several vehicles for use by the government, including an SUV, a small bus and a sedan. All of them would reportedly have a longitudinally mounted engine and all-wheel drive.

The Porsche link to Project Cortege isn’t entirely new. Russian media snapped a picture of a model of one design a few months back, and that vehicle reportedly had some engineering input from the German company. The work on the limo was estimated to have cost the government between $ 150 million and $ 400 million, even at that stage.

However, it might be safe to take the apparent success of this whole scheme with a grain of sale. Putin’s project has been in the works for several years. Initially, ZiL created the ZiL-4112P as a new government limousine, but the Russian premier reportedly was unhappy with it. Since then, it’s been back to the drawing board.

Read This: Artist Peter Max’s Corvette collection headed to auction [w/video]

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
Peter Max - A Retrospective - 1960-2014

Sometimes, the stories that lead to cars turning up at auction are as interesting as the vehicles themselves. That’s absolutely the case with the Peter Max (pictured above) collection of vintage Chevrolet Corvette models that are scheduled to cross the block in the spring of 2016.

Max is perhaps best known as a ’60s pop artist who mixed vibrant colors with iconic imagery. However, classic car fans around New York City might know him better for storing a collection of 36 vintage ‘Vettes in public parking garages for decades. The assortment is pretty special because it consists of one example of every model year from the original 1953 up until 1989, according to The New York Times.

Unfortunately, New York parking garages aren’t really known for their cleanliness, and photos show the artist’s Chevrolet collection neglected, caked in dirt and dust. After moving the collection around between several locations in the past few years, Max finally brokered a deal to sell them all off for an undisclosed price earlier this summer.

The collection’s new owners are rehabbing the cars in preparation for selling them off. They’re hoping to keep them all together as a set, but they’re also apparently ready to let them go individually if that doesn’t work, a move that will likely build buzz around these cars as they move toward the auction block.

The most bizarre part about these Corvettes is how Max acquired them. Without spoiling too much, it involves a 1989 contest from the cable music channel VH1. Scroll below to watch a video about this fascinating collection, then go read the whole story over at The New York Times.

Study: Berkeley findings says motorcycle lane-splitting safer than ever [w/video, poll]

October 25th, 2014 0 Comments
Motorcycle Commuter Safety

The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

In some parts of the US, the concept of a motorcycle buzzing between lanes of slower traffic is a foreign concept, but it’s an accepted practice in others. Each year since 2012, The Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, conducts a study to check acceptance and safety of lane-splitting in the state, where the act is legal. The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

Among California motorcyclists, lane-splitting is becoming increasingly accepted. In the study, 80.6 percent of riders report doing it on freeways, about the same as before. However, of them, 37.3 percent of them say it happens “Always” compared to 30.9 percent in 2012.

On non-freeways, 71.4 of riders split lanes, up 10.3 percent from 2013. Of them 32.9 percent say it happens “Always,” up 7.6 percent from a year ago. Furthermore, 62.1 percent of people split on both types of roads, up 7.5 percent form 2013.

With more people splitting lanes, the question of its impact on safety arises, and the study indicates that the act is getting less dangerous, too. The UC Berkeley study shows 4.7 percent of riders on freeways were hit by a vehicle while lane-splitting in 2014, down from 8.6 percent in 2013 and 11.8 percent in 2012. Non-freeways have seen a similar decline to just 2.0 percent in 2014 compared to 7.4 percent last year and 8.3 percent in 2012. Motorcyclists saying they nearly hit a car or had one try to block them are both lower this year, as well. Drivers are seemingly also finding the practice more acceptable, too.

This year’s study includes info from 1,660 respondents, including 951 drivers and 709 motorcycle riders, and it paints a fairly positive picture about the safety of lane-splitting. The entire 51-page study can be read here in PDF format, and scroll down for a report about the study from CBS News.

What do you think of lane-splitting? Vote in our poll below, then have your say in Comments.

Do you think motorcycle lane-splitting is safe?