LA Auto Show: Toyota Touts Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle, Races Tesla EVs

Posted by Dale Buss on November 18, 2014 07:04 PM

Let the race to the future of automotive transportation begin! Each side—all-electric vehicle makers like Tesla versus hydrogen-fueled upcoming models from the likes of Toyota—is suspicious of the other and there are even aspersions, which makes the whole competition even tougher. And the stakes couldn't be higher.

Toyota has officially thrown down the gauntlet, as it hypes its new hydrogen fuel cell-powered car called Mirai (Japanese for "future") that it unveiled this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Only a handful of the vehicles will be available initially, primarily in Japan and California, when it's made available to car-buyers on December 15.

Still, the eco-car is nothing less than what Toyota called a reimagining "of the future of mobility," akin to the big bet it placed on gas-electric hybrids early last decade which led to the Prius brand.Continue reading...


Toyota Reboots Prius with Fresh Marketing Approach

Posted by Dale Buss on September 24, 2014 12:25 PM

Peer over the auto industry's electrified fence and you'll see more than just Tesla rising; you'll see Prius declining. The Toyota brand that became synonymous with hybrids when it launched in 2000 has seen US sales slump by 12 percent so far in 2014, while overall light vehicle sales have grown by 5 percent.

Blame a lot of things, including hybrid fatigue by American consumers, more competition selling hybrids, and the lack of any more major tricks up Toyota's sleeve to keep interest going in the original, pioneering automotive hybrid brand.

"The Prius was at one point a status car, but it's lost some of that special appeal," Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at, told Automotive News. "You look at all the [internal combustion engine] vehicles and their increasing fuel efficiency, and you have to ask, 'What is the unique selling point of the Prius anymore?'"Continue reading...

Kia Brings Hamsters Back to Raves, But What About the Soul EV?

Posted by Dale Buss on August 22, 2014 03:53 PM

Kia is bringing back its popular hamsters in a new TV ad campaign. While there has been criticism that the first commercial is sort of creepy, Kia might encounter a bigger challenge as it touts the new 2015 electrified version of its Soul model: to mix mammalian metaphors, is the brand barking up the wrong tree with this vehicle?

For now, Kia is generating excitement with the news that it is bringing back the six-year-old crew of hamsters that have entertained Super Bowl TV audiences, among others. They will be promoting the Soul EV with a music-harged commercial featuring Maroon 5's new single, "Animals," and a story line that has the lovable rodents creating sexy hamster companions in the laboratory. There's also a free iPad app that lets users digitally investigate the new car's features.

The ad will debut on the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday. Michael Sprague, Kia's North American chief, told USA Today that the spot will tap into "geek chic" as it focuses on lab-bound hamsters at first attempting to transform a gas-powered Soul into an EV—and ending up creating a leggy female of their species.Continue reading...


Saab Story: Has Fabled Swedish Brand Finally Reached the End of the Road?

Posted by Dale Buss on August 13, 2014 03:46 PM

Saab may finally be put out of its agony, and it might be a measly $22,000 debt that delivers the coup de grace.

As it struggles to revive production of a rehashed old gasoline-powered model so that it can eventually reach its stated goal of succeeding in the electric-vehicle market—stay with us now—the new owner of Saab, Chinese company National Electric Vehicle of Sweden (NEVS), has run into a minor financial obstacle that could prove existential for the Saab brand.

Labo Test, which supplies test equipment for car parts, said that NEVS had failed to pay bills amounting to about $22,000, according to the Associated Press, so Labo Test petitioned a Swedish court to declare NEVS bankrupt. The company didn't immediately respond to AP's request for comment.Continue reading...


In EV Popularity Contest, Tesla, BMW are Still Top of the Class

Posted by Dale Buss on August 8, 2014 12:17 PM

Electric-vehicle brands are rapidly bifurcating into haves and have-nots. There are Tesla and BMW, which seem to be the biggest "haves" at the moment in terms of sales, brand appeal, buzz and a future. And then there are Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR, Nissan Leaf and the others that are becoming the resigned "have-nots."

Chevrolet CMO Tim Mahoney confirmed at an industry gathering in Michigan this week that General Motors will be debuting a new version of Volt, the original plug-in hybrid, next year at the Detroit Auto Show, and he promised significant improvements in design and technology, though not in range.

Yet, as Mahoney recently told brandchannel, GM has stopped holding out hope that Volt will become a mass-market vehicle anytime soon as the company has watched a continued decline in mainstream-market interest in the vehicle, with sales down by 9 percent so far this year compared with a year ago even though it still outsells Tesla's Model S.Continue reading...


Tesla Confirms Cheaper Model as California Jumps Into Gigafactory Race

Posted by Dale Buss on July 17, 2014 05:33 PM

The new face of Tesla finally is taking shape, with emerging details about its upcoming mainstream-priced sedan and its soon-to-be-built gigafactory beginning to emerge.

The electric vehicle-maker, which so far has fielded only the $70,000 Model S all-electric sports car, this week confirmed that it will launch a $35,000 Model III in 2017, a vehicle that finally will test whether even the sexy Tesla brand can make a truly general-market proposition out of all-electric vehicles. No automaker to date has been able to do that.

Speaking of sex, Tesla’s other upcoming vehicle is the Model X crossover, a falcon-winged, all-wheel-drive model that is set to be released early next year. Founder Elon Musk would prefer that the brand’s model lineup spell “S-E-X” – but Ford maintains the rights to “Model E,” and Musk hasn’t fought that so far. Maybe Musk will turn the “III” sideways on the new model and it’ll resemble an “E.”Continue reading...


Luxury Autos Grapple Over EVs, International Expansion and Laser Beams

Posted by Dale Buss on June 24, 2014 11:29 AM

Recall madness has been obscuring most of the other news out of the auto industry these days, but there’s plenty of scrambling that has nothing to do with safety campaigns and investigations. At the top is the still-intensifying competition among BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz for the global lead in premium-vehicle sales.

Audi has just thrown the latest punch with news that it has drawn up blueprints for a range of high-performance electric cars, according to Reuters. The brand had sidelined EV-development efforts a couple of years ago in the face of slackening prospects but recently has stepped up such efforts again in the wake of the sales success of Tesla and accelerating EV moves by BMW, the news service said.

One of the new blueprints Audi has drawn up is for an electric version of a new Q8 SUV that would pit the vehicle against Tesla’s upcoming Model X crossover, Reuters said. Audi also has improved the once-limited range of its first EV, the R8 e-tron, which now is slated for a 2015 release in Europe, according to Digital Trends.Continue reading...

start your engines

Harley-Davidson Promises New Electric Bike Won't Disappoint

Posted by Dale Buss on June 19, 2014 05:10 PM

It emits a metallic purr rather than a throaty roar, but Harley-Davidson’s first-ever electric motorcycle is expected to make a big statement for how the brand is transitioning to an era that is increasingly friendly to EVs and more suspect of old-fashioned power supplied by internal combustion of hydrocarbons.

Dubbed Project LiveWire, the brand is taking the new EV prototype across the US to give fans a chance to try out the new technology. The tour will kick off with a journey along Route 66, the fabled US highway in the western part of the country, visiting more than 30 Harley dealerships this year. Riders will be able to ride the Project LiveWire prototype and non-motorcyclists will be able to enjoy a simulation. The tour will extend to other parts of the United States, Canada and Europe next year, the company said.Continue reading...

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