Auto Car News and Review

Weekly Recap: Aluminum spurs controversy for Ford, Chrysler

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
Ford F-150

Automakers are increasingly turning to aluminum as a way to cut weight and improve fuel economy.

Aluminum was a flammable topic this week, and its use in the 2015 Ford F-150 and potential use in the future Jeep Wrangler ignited controversy.

In both cases, it came down to money.

Ford stock took a brief hit on Wednesday when Morgan Stanley cut its price target from $ 16 to $ 14 a share, though it soon recovered later in the day. The reason? In a note to investors, Morgan Stanley said the aluminum-bodied F-150 could be a challenge to make and launches into an ultra-competitive market against entrenched products from Chevrolet, GMC and Chrysler. All of this could eat into Ford’s short- and mid-term profits, the brokerage firm said.

A Ford spokesperson said the company generally doesn’t comment on analyst reports, adding that it’s working “to deliver profitable growth for all of Ford’s stakeholders.”

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested at the Paris Motor Show that the redesigned Jeep Wrangler – which is likely still years away – could shift to an aluminum body in a bid to cut weight and improve fuel economy. That could mean relocating the Wrangler to a different factory, as retrofitting its longtime home in Toledo, OH, could prove too expensive.

Male Baby Boomers most likely to drive connected cars, according to Nielsen study

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
Cadillac CUE

Nielsen Connected Car SurveyThere’s no denying that new cars are becoming increasingly packed with tech that connects drivers to the internet, even if it can be distracting. Whether it’s as simple as streaming audio or turning the interior into a wifi hotspot, these connected car systems appear here to stay. So who actually uses this stuff? The survey-meisters at Nielsen have issued the results of a new study that sheds light on the subject, and some of the results aren’t what you might expect.

The analysis is based on surveys from 5,985 people who consider themselves “extremely, very, or somewhat interested” in things like connected homes, automotive technology and wearable tech.

You might presume young whippersnappers to be the ones most likely to drive vehicles with this cutting-edge telematics technology, but as it turns out, it’s the opposite. Of those with who own a vehicle with connected features, 42 percent of them are 55 or older. They’re also 58 percent men, well educated and 37 percent make over $ 100,000 a year. The most important parts of the tech to them (full data at right) are crash notifications, Internet-enabled navigation, safety alerts and vehicle diagnostics.

Of course, this might simply be a case of youthful drivers not being able to afford the latest and greatest technology. Of the people considering buying a new car in the next two years, 39 percent of them want it to be a model with such built-in connectivity features. However, their reasons appear somewhat frivolous with 60 percent of them just wanting to experience the systems, 58 percent wanting to entertain passengers and 43 percent believing the systems might boost productivity.

Nielsen’s study suggests that automakers need to make sure their tech is usable by the entire swath of the population, especially for the older drivers who are most likely to actually have the systems in their vehicles. Scroll down the read the study’s full results.

Toyota Prius + gets refresh in UK, is it coming here?

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
Toyota Prius +

Toyota has unveiled a mid-cycle refresh of its seven-passenger, UK-market Prius +, known here in the US as the five-passenger Prius V. The revised hybrid MPV now boasts looks inspired by Toyota’s more aggressive compact stylings as seen on its new Yaris and Aygo – particularly in the redone front fascia.

The new LED headlights are the most obvious change, sporting a sharper style, while the vertical slats that bookend front fascia are much larger and deeper, and are now home to LED running lights. The lower grille is also newly enlarged and trimmed in black plastic. Changes out back are far less noticeable, with the biggest tweak being a new diffuser that’s been integrated into the rear bumper.

The interior gets a light freshening, too, with fresh trimmings around the switchgear, as well as a new 4.2-inch TFT display in the center mounted instrument cluster. The latter includes a new “Eco Judge” function designed to help owners drive more efficiently through a point-based reward system.

Cosmetics aside, Toyota has also tweaked the suspension damping, added additional sound deadening and adjusted the powertrain to comply with Euro6 emission standards.

Now, what’s all this mean for our Toyota Prius V? Will we see a similar refresh to our US market vehicle? Well, we’d love to tell you yes or no, however, our calls to Toyota have thus far gone unanswered. As soon as we hear back, we’ll be sure to update this story with an answer.

Until then, scroll down for the full press release from Toyota UK and check out the refreshed Prius + in our gallery.

Mitsubishi recalling 166k cars, crossovers over stall risk

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Mitsubishi is recalling 165,923 vehicles in the US because it’s possible for the drive belt to detach from their engines, potentially causing a stall. Specifically, the campaign covers 2008-2011 model-year examples of the Lancer, Lancer Evolution (pictured above) and Outlander as well as the 2009-2011 Lancer Sportback and 2011 Outlander Sport. All of the affected models use some version of the brand’s 4B1 four-cylinder engine.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the engine pulley can wear causing the drive belt to slip off. If this happens, the alternator, cooling fan and hydraulic power steering can all stop working, and obviously, any of those things could make driving unsafe. However, if the belt detaches, then a warning light should come on in the cabin.

To fix the problem, Mitsubishi dealers will replace the original belt with a redesigned rubber part and will inspect the pulley. If worn, it’ll also be replaced free of charge.

According to Mitsubishi’s defect notice, the first report of this problem was in 2010 in Ukraine. After that, it began monitoring the problem and eventually instated this recall. Scroll down to read the full details.

Chrysler mum on Toledo Wrangler production after meeting Ohio leaders

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
2014 Jeep Wrangler Polar edition

“Fiat Chrysler remains committed to producing vehicles in Toledo and anticipates employment to remain at current levels.”

The future of the iconic Jeep Wrangler in Toledo, OH, remains uncertain after a meeting Thursday between Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and Ohio government leaders.

Marchionne met with Ohio officials at Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI, after his comments at the Paris Motor Show last week started a firestorm in the northwestern Ohio city. He said the next-generation Wrangler would likely shift to an aluminum body, which could require moving production from its longtime home in Toledo.

If the iconic Jeep were to move to another factory, Chrysler has already confirmed it will continue to build vehicles at the Toledo complex and maintain employment levels there. The site also currently makes the Jeep Cherokee.

In a statement to Autoblog, Chrysler said: “It was a productive meeting that helped further the understanding of all parties. It is important to emphasize that Fiat Chrysler remains committed to producing vehicles in Toledo and anticipates employment to remain at current levels. The parties have agreed to meet again in short order.”

Ken Block pulls out of Istanbul Rallycross over security concerns

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
FIA World Rally Championship Australia - Shakedown

It will ultimately be up to the FIA to decide whether the event should go on.

Ken Block may be best-known for his Gymkhana video series, but over the past couple of years, he’s begun competing on the world stage as well. He’s competed in the Rally America series and even in the World Rally Championship, albeit with limited success. The Red Bull Global Rallycross series and FIA World Rallycross Championship have been more up his alley, but Turkish fans who’d hoped to see the driftmaster doing his thing in Istanbul this weekend will be disappointed to learn that Block has apparently withdrawn from the event.

The reason, according to reports, comes down to security. Skirmishes along the Syrian border and protests on the streets of Istanbul (on the opposite European side of the country, closer to Greece and Bulgaria) have, according to some, made the country unsafe for visitors. Apparently Block is among those heeding the travel advisories.

Block was set to compete against Tanner Foust at the Turkish rallycross event. We’ve yet to receive word from Foust, the only other American in the series, on whether he’ll still drive in Istanbul, however former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve from Canada cited conflicting commitments preventing him from participating in this weekend’s round. It will ultimately be up to the FIA, however, to decide whether the event should go on.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen protests in the region get in the way of motor racing. The Bahrain Grand Prix had to be canceled in 2011 due to political unrest, and there was considerable debate over whether it should have ever returned to the Formula One calendar. The WRC’s Jordan Rally was postponed the same year for similar reasons. And, of course, organizers moved the famous Dakar Rally out of nearby North Africa several years ago following repeated and credible threats from al-Qaeda. (The cancellation of the World Touring Car Championship race in Morocco was reportedly due to financial, not political reasons.)

Turkey itself made a splash at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix when it had its governor of Cyprus, over which there is an ongoing dispute with Greece, present the winner’s trophy to Felipe Massa – a controversial political display which reportedly cost the government a $ 5 million fine.

Dacia Duster pickup is what the world needs now

October 11th, 2014 0 Comments
Dacia Duster Pick-Up

The Dacia brand from Romania is probably best known in the US as a curious obsession of James May from Top Gear, but the company is a growing force. Its inexpensive models just keeping selling better, and the business represents a healthy portion of parent Renault’s sales in Western Europe.

Dacia’s latest model is a Holy Grail of sorts among many Autoblog enthusiasts – the small, inexpensive pickup. However, even Europeans can’t just walk into a dealer and buy one – they are being specially built for Romanian oil and gas company OMV Petrom Group. Called the Duster Pick-Up, it’s based on rugged, inexpensive Dacia Duster, as its name and appearance suggests. However, the Duster’s usual enclosed, SUV-style body has been removed in place of a small, high-sided truck bed.

Each one starts as a standard Duster 4×4 with a 1.5-liter diesel engine making 110 horsepower. There are two seats in the cabin and the bed in the back is about five-feet, seven-inches long (1.7 meters) with a claimed 992-pound (450-kilogram) payload. The other big change is an exterior roll cage that runs over the body and around the rear window for extra protection. It looks like a cute little mountain goat that’s ready to go anywhere.

Dacia has a deal to build over 500 Pick-Ups for OMV Petrom, and the company intends to use the trucks to monitor and maintain its 9,000 wells in Romania. Another business called Romturingia has been contracted to do the actual conversions on the Dusters. The first 10 of them are just being delivered now, with the rest on the way through 2015. Scroll down to read the Dacia’s full announcement about this attractive little Romanian pickup.