auto motive

Toyota Reigns in Global Auto Brands, But Audi, VW and Nissan Are Top Risers

Posted by Dale Buss on October 10, 2014 05:05 PM

Toyota remained the most valuable automotive brand worldwide for the 11th straight year in Interbrand's new ranking of the 100 Best Global Brands. But Audi, Volkswagen and Nissan comprised a trio of "top risers" that are pushing the envelope and mixing the picture for car brands worldwide.

"The auto industry in general has done pretty well" in the new ranking, Jez Frampton, global CEO of Interbrand, told brandchannel.

Automakers generally "have gotten smart in recognizing that they have to build strong brands for the future," he added. "To succeed in the new world of mobility, they have to reposition themselves in slightly different ways, and so their attempts to build brands have become much more sophisticated."

Toyota held sway in the industry once again, at No. 8 in the overall list that was headed by Apple, Google and Coca-Cola. Continue reading...

auto motive

What Was All D Buzz? Tesla Unveils All Wheel Drive, Self-Driving Features

Posted by Dale Buss on October 10, 2014 01:09 PM

As always, Elon Musk proved that shareholder frenzy and his sense of theater can combine to get a lot of attention for whatever he does with Tesla. The importance of what he actually announced on Thursday evening at an airport hanger in Hawthorne, California? Not so much.

After a week of speculation prompted by a single tweet by Musk, he unveiled some self-driving features for its Model S as well as a hopped-up version that offers all-wheel drive. But other luxury car makers already offer most of the automated-driving wizardry, so Tesla is playing catch-up there.

The purveyor of premium electric vehicles also didn't have anything to say about developments that truly would move the needle in the EV market, including news about battery-technology improvements or about planned less-expensive Tesla EVs.

Investors were also unimpressed on Friday, sending Tesla shares as much as 8 percent lower and costing Musk an estimated $500 million. But the setting, at least, was grand. Continue reading...

car talk

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...

car talk

Genius Concept: BMW USA Upgrades Powertrains, Products, Dealerships

Posted by Dale Buss on January 27, 2014 03:06 PM

"All of the above" has become a popular term in the auto industry for a power-train strategy that attempts to field entries based on every mode of propulsion in the marketplace.

But BMW now is applying the concept more broadly to its entire business model, attempting to advance in every conceivable way to include not only "green" propulsion systems but also a much wider variety of products in all segments, more expert sales people and spiffier US showrooms.

Its plans include the introduction its all-electric i3 small car in the US this spring and says that hybrids and electrics under the i sub-brand could one day comprise 10 to 15 percent of its global sales while the internal-combustion engine continues to be the major drivetrain 10 years from now.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Ford, University of Michigan Open R&D Lab for Electric Car Batteries

Posted by Sheila Shayon on October 14, 2013 12:37 PM

Ford is just the latest in a long line of global companies that are taking advantage of enterprising startups and universities to help drive innovation. Ford has teamed up with the University of Michigan to create a battery lab that will focus on research and development of a cheaper, more efficient battery that will make electric cars more affordable—a major hurdle facing the car industry as it tries to turn the technology mainstream. 

The $8 million lab is one that will uniquely cater to the auto industry, as most battery labs often don't relay their findings to the industry until late in the production process, essentially stifling innovation, according to the Detroit Free Press.  

“There is nothing like it in the industry,” said Anand Sankaran, chief engineer for energy storage and hybrid systems for Ford, which contributed $2.1 million, adding to $5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and about $900,000 from the Univ. of Michigan College of Engineering.Continue reading...

auto motive

BMW Unveils Leipzig Plant that Makes New Sustainable iCars in a Sustainable Way

Posted by Dale Buss on September 19, 2013 02:58 PM

If you can't build a powerful enough battery to make for a true breakthrough in electric vehicles, BMW seems to have figured, then change the equation by making lighter EVs so that they're easier to push around.

That fundamentally new approach to EV development and manufacturing was on display this week as BMW AG launched production at a plant in Leipzig, Germany, of its new Project 1 cars. By taking advantage of extreme "light-weighting" of the cars through use of advanced, exotic materials such as carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic instead of traditional steel or even aluminum, BMW is planning to change a global EV competition that has become relatively static.

Despite Tesla's impressive sales of the ultra-expensive and high-powered Model S, most EVs so far are saddled with little consumer interest because their range remains poor. All carmakers are working on lighter, more powerful, less expensive batteries, but huge advancements in electric powertrains are stubborn.Continue reading...

auto motive

At Frankfurt, Volkswagen, BMW Express Interest in Electrified Fleets

Posted by Dale Buss on September 11, 2013 05:46 PM

Volkswagen has been pounding the drum for clean-diesel power so vigorously for a while that it's an interesting change-up these days when company and brand executives are promoting other green technologies.

So while Volkswagen of America executives have been pushing the company's clean-diesel TDI versions in comments to the automotive press and lobbying in Washington, D.C., among other places, it's been a somewhat different story at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week. About half the cars bought by Europeans are diesel-powered, of course, so the technology isn't very new to them.

But the idea of investing more heavily in electric and hybrid vehicles is only now catching on with Volkswagen and its German automotive rivals. And VW CEO Martin Winterkorn gave EVs and hybrids the company's biggest rhetorical backing ever at the show, promising that 14 models from several VW Group brands will be offered worldwide as EVs or some form of hybrid by 2014, according to the Detroit News.Continue reading...

green shoots

Fisker Crumbles In the Wake of Mass Layoffs as Tesla Takes Off

Posted by Dale Buss on April 5, 2013 07:23 PM

"New isn't easy. Building the future never is..." 

Well, we couldn't have said it better ourselves. The words of electric car maker Fisker Automative ring extra true as more devastating news rolls out of the struggling company. And worse, the Fisker electric-car experiment appears to be crumbling as the Tesla electric-car experiment seems to be achieving liftoff velocity. The differing outcomes have come down to the basics of business, such as picking the right partners and suppliers, counting on the right sources of financing, getting the product right—and enjoying a bit of luck.

Fisker said today that it laid off 75 percent of its more than 200 employees, most of them in Anaheim, Calif. The move appeared to be a concession that about the only option left for the company is liquidation of its assets, after a horrible several months in which its battery supplier went belly up, it couldn't obtain new financing and then its founder left in a dispute over financing.

"Our efforts to secure a strategic alliance or partnership are continuing in earnest, but unfortunately we have reached a point where a significant reduction in our workforce has become necessary," Fisker said in a statement this afternoon, according to Automotive News. "This was a necessary strategic step in our efforts to maximize the value of Fiscker's core assets."Continue reading...

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