TIME Automakers

Tesla Motors’ New ‘D’ Cars Are All-Wheel Drive, Not Self-Drive

Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk unveils a new dual-engine chassis at the Hawthorne Airport in Los Angeles on Oct. 9, 2014 Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

The “D” in Tesla’s big reveal stands not for “self-driving," but for “dual motor”

Tesla Motors on Thursday night disappointed some auto-market watchers’ expectations that it would put out a self-driving car — but the electric car juggernaut did announce the release of a higher tech version of its Model S car, with all-wheel drive and rapid acceleration rivaling that of luxury vehicles, USA Today reports.

The tripped-out new Model S will have all-wheel drive, plus acceleration of 0-60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, says the newspaper. It can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, up from the Model S’s peak velocity of 130 mph.

“This car is nuts. It’s like taking off from a carrier deck,” Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, told press assembled at Los Angeles’ Hawthorne airport, where his commercial space travel company SpaceX is also based.

The “D” cars will also come with a package of new safety features, including the ability to read speed-limit signs and shift speeds, USA Today says.

Tesla will release three versions of the upgraded car under the “D” designation. The all-wheel drive version without the acceleration boost will be a $4,000 add-on to the basic and mid-level models of the Model S, which starts at $71,000, says the Associated Press. The base price for the all-wheel drive car with boosted acceleration, dubbed the P85D, is $120,000.

The P85D will go on sale in December, while the other versions will go on sale in February, the Associated Press reports.

Musk had fueled speculation about the announcement in Los Angeles with a tweet that the company would roll out something he referred to just as “the D,” plus “something else.” He also tweeted a photo that appeared to be of Tesla’s Model S car.

Some Tesla fans had speculated that the unveiling might be of a ramped-up version of the Model S — but observers had debated if the “D” referred to an automated driving feature, or all-wheel drive.

TIME Automakers

Lamborghini Just Unveiled a Beautiful Plug-In Hybrid That Can Go Almost 200mph

Now you can be environmentally conscious and really, really fast

Pull over, Prius drivers: Lamborghini just unveiled a 910-horsepower supercar called the Asterion at the 2014 Paris Auto Show.

The Asterion, seen here in blue, has a 5.2-liter V-10 engine putting out 610 horsepower of its own before getting a jolt from three separate electric motors.

All told, the Asterion can do zero to 60mph in about three seconds before topping off at nearly 200mph. It’s also got a tablet in the dash for GPS and some other functions, taking a page from other high-tech car manufacturers like Tesla, whose cars offer touchscreen controls in lieu of the knobs and switches of yesteryear.

Lamborghini’s message? Hybrids aren’t just for the environmentally-conscious anymore — now speed demons can get their hands on them, too. No word on cost, though. Start saving your pennies now, Lambo fans.

TIME Automakers

Chrysler Recalls Up to 800,000 Jeeps Over Ignition-Switch Problems

A 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolls down the assembly line Wedn
A 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolls down the assembly line Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2004, at Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan. John F. Martin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Older Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Commanders may have a faulty ignition switch

Around 800,000 older Chrysler Jeeps could be affected by a recall due to a problem with the ignition switch, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

The company said it is aware of one reported accident associated with the defect, but no injuries.

The recall will affect a still-undetermined number of model year 2006-2007 Jeep Commanders and 2005-2007 Jeep Grand Cherokees. In vehicles affected by the problem, contact with a driver’s knee or other outside force can move the ignition switch from on to off, causing the engine to stall and cutting power brakes and power steering.

The company said its investigation is ongoing but that around 792,000 vehicles could have faulty switches, including 659,900 in the U.S. and others in Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere. Newer models have been redesigned are unaffected, the company said.

Chrysler’s recalls come as rival automaker General Motors has recalled nearly 28 million automobiles worldwide for similar ignition switch issues. The GM problems have been linked to at least 13 deaths, and the company has faced federal investigation over its handling of the situation.

Chrysler also announced that 21,000 vehicles, including certain 2014 Ram pickups, 2015 Jeep Cherokees and 2015 Chrysler 200 sedans, will be recalled for inspection and, if necessary, have their shocks and struts replaced.

TIME Innovation

Ford President Says Aluminum F-150 Is All Engines Go


Ford says the truck will ship on time this year, despite analyst concerns that manufacturing plant retooling will impact availability.

Investment firm Morgan Stanley is publicly fretting the truck might be delayed, but Ford says its new lightweight aluminum Ford F-150 pickup is on track and we’ll see it later this year.

“Everything is on schedule and everything is going as planned,” Ford Americas President Joe Hinrichs told reporters, speaking at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan (via Automotive News), adding that he was “very confident in this vehicle.” Morgan Stanley’s analyst Ravi Shanker had said earlier that Ford’s planned factory retooling, which it has to perform in order to produce the new pickup, would result in “slow changeover, with tight supply.”

Ford has noted the planned retooling would temporarily deplete its production by over 90,000 F-Series pickups, reducing company sales and profits. Furthermore, margins are expected to be lower on the new aluminum-bodied F-150. But Ford views all of that as necessary back-stepping to be first to market with a truck that uses a combination of “military-grade aluminum and high-strength steel,” and that’ll weigh roughly 700 pounds less than the version it’s replacing.

Note that Shanker doesn’t say the launch itself is in danger of being delayed, only that supply is going to be very tight in 2014 given manufacturing constraints. If supply is at a trickle, that could mean higher demand-driven dealer pricing, of course, culminating in a scenario where the truck’s debut looks more like a paper launch, and buyers wind up having to wait to lay hands on one until supply catches up.

TIME Automakers

GM Recalls Another 2.7 Million Vehicles

The car giant is recalling about 2.7 million vehicles in the U.S. for issues like a hydraulic brake booster problem, hoping to raise flags early this time, amid a federal investigation into why it waited more than a decade to recall vehicles with a deadly ignition switch defect

General Motors said Thursday it’s recalling about 2.7 million additional vehicles in the U.S., including more than 140,000 cars suffering from brake problems.

Among GM’s newly-recalled vehicles is the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, which has a hydraulic brake booster problem that can make stopping the vehicle more difficult. The company said it was aware of four crashes, but no injuries, that may have been related to the brake issue.

The fresh recalls come as GM is already grappling with the recent recall of 2.59 million cars over defective ignition switches. GM faces a federal recall over its decade-long delay to address the ignition switch problem, which has been linked to at least 13 deaths.

“These are examples of our focus to surface issues quickly and promptly take necessary actions in the best interest of our customers,” Jeff Boyer, vice president of GM Global Vehicle Safety, said in a statement regarding the new recalls.

The largest of the recalls announced Thursday involves break lamp wiring corrosion affecting 2.4 million previous generation cars. GM said the defect could result in brake lamp failures as well as disable cruise control, traction control, electronic stability control and panic braking assist operations where applicable.

GM said it was aware of two injuries and 13 crashes as a result of the brake lamp defect as well as several hundred complaints. The recall related to the brake lamps involves the 2004-2012 Chevrolet Malibu, 2004-2007 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, 2005-2010 Pontiac G6 and 2007-2010 Saturn Aura. The automaker also said it issued a technical service bulletin about the problem in 2008.

In a third recall, GM said that 477 recently built full-size trucks may have defective tie-rods — part of the vehicles’ steering system — that could separate and cause a crash. The company said it has already fixed the problem on the assembly line and is now warning dealers and owners of vehicles that have already been sent to market.

GM said last month it took a $1.3 billion hit after it recalled 7 million vehicles worldwide, including cars with the defective ignition switch. GM said Thursday it expects the latest recalls to cost the company another $200 million.

TIME Companies

Ford Announces Mark Fields As New CEO, Will Replace Alan Mulally

Mulally is credited with turning Ford around after the recession.

Ford Motor Company announced Thursday that Mark Fields will run the company after current CEO Alan Mulally retires this summer.

Fields, who’s been Ford’s Chief Operating Officer since 2012, is a long-time company executive with substantial experience overseeing international markets.

Mulally, who joined Ford from Boeing in 2006, will retire July 1, the company said. Mulally, 68, has overseen 19 consecutive quarters of profits since the recession took its toll on Ford and other automakers.

“Alan deservedly will be long remembered for engineering one of the most successful business turnarounds in history,” Ford Executive Chariman Bill Ford said in a statement. “Under Alan’s leadership, Ford not only survived the global economic crisis, it emerged as one of the world’s strongest auto companies.”

Fields, 53, has been at the company for more than 25 years. He previously led Ford’s operations in the Americas as well as oversaw transformations in Ford’s European operations and of the Japanese-based Mazda Motor Corporation, which was previously partnered with Ford.

TIME Earnings

General Motors Profits Drop 86 Percent After Recalls

The troubled automaker took a $1.3 billion hit after it had to recall 7 million vehicles worldwide, 2.6 million of them because of problems with ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths so far

General Motors said Thursday its first quarter profits dropped approximately 86% from the same period last year after a series of massive recalls cost the automaker $1.3 billion.

The company’s profits in the first three months of the year fell to $125 million, compared to $865 million for the first quarter of 2013. This year’s first quarterly earnings report marks the company’s worst showing since it reported a loss after going through bankruptcy in 2009, the New York Times reports.

But the company’s first quarter profits still trounced analyst estimates. Excluding one-time items, GM’s profit was 29 cents a share, well above the Bloomberg estimate of 4 cents a share.

GM has recently recalled 7 million vehicles worldwide, 2.6 million of which because of faulty ignition switches that have been linked to at least 13 deaths. The company was also hit with $300 million in restructuring costs and $419 million because of a valuation change in Venezuelan currency.

TIME Autos

Car Dealers Are Even Happier Than You That Spring Weather Is Here

Car sales ended March on a hot streak, and an even bigger period for automakers and car dealers is upon us.

The year got off to an awful start for the auto industry, with two-plus months of frigid, snow weather resulting in subpar sales tallies that left car dealerships desperate for buyers. Eventually, the buyers didn’t disappoint.

Many of the car purchases that probably would have taken place earlier in the year had Mother Nature cooperated wound up as done deals in March, which started slow but ended up as a strong month for auto sales. According to The Detroit Bureau, Subaru sales in March rose 21% compared to the same month in 2013, while automakers such as Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, and Nissan posted significant (though smaller) sales gains as well.

Clearly, warmer weather helped the cause. “March sales turned noticeably higher mid-month and finished strong,” Ford executive John Felice said. In an end-of-March report, Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds.com senior analyst, said, “Car buyers who chose not to brave the cold weather last month found plenty of opportunity this month.”

(MORE: Your City Could Pay for Car Damage Caused by Potholes. But It Probably Won’t)

Mercedes, Bloomberg News reported, sold more cars in March than any other month in the company’s history, thanks to an expanded line of vehicles of high- and lower-priced models.

Substantial incentives and discounts offered by car sellers eager to make up for the underwhelming start of the year certainly boosted sales totals as well. TrueCar noted that the average transaction price for a new car in March was up 1.2% over last year, while the average incentive was up 7.9% compared to March 2013, and up 2.6% compared to February 2014.

Overall, the number of light-vehicle sales in March was up 6% year over year. But according to experts cited by Automotive News, the increase is more impressive than it seems because a disproportionate percentage of the sales took place toward the end of the month, after a fairly sluggish start. The end-of-March sales spurt put the industry on pace to sell 16.4 million vehicles for the entire year. Richard Kwas, an analyst with Wells Fargo, thinks that the untold delayed purchases of early 2014 are likely to result in a flood of new-car buys this spring, perhaps bringing the pace up to 17 million or more cars sold by year’s end. A figure that high hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since before the Great Recession.

(MORE: Only 2 Mid-Size SUVs Get Top Rating in Crash Tests)

“The industry needs to see continued momentum,” Kwas said. “But March represents a good start to the spring selling season.”


Ford Recalls Nearly 435,000 Cars to Fix Faulty Parts

The car company is making two recalls, covering five models, in order to repair faulty parts. The larger recall was of Ford Escapes, which can rust and lead to steering issues. No injuries were linked to either recall

Ford said Monday it was recalling nearly 435,000 cars and SUVs in total to fix two separate potentially faulty parts, the Associated Press reports.

The larger recall comprises 386,000 Ford Escapes from models years 2001 through 2004, which have frames that can rust and hamper steering control. That recall covers models sold or registered in 20 states and Washington, D.C. as well as six Canadian provinces, where salt used to clear snow and ice from area roads can exacerbate the problem.

The other recall, which applies to 49,000 Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ, Ford Escape and C-MAX vehicles from model years 2013 and 2014, will replace seat back frames that weren’t welded properly.

No injuries were linked to either recall, though Ford said it was aware of one crash related to the rusting frames.

Ford’s recall comes as rival automaker General Motors is in the hot seat over allegations it mishandled manufacturing problems that have been linked to at least 13 deaths.



Nissan’s Ugly Little SUV: Now Uglier Than Ever

New Nissan JUKE: Designed to thrill

What does an automaker do when one of its cars is bashed as hideous? Well, Nissan decided to accentuate the features people hated to make the car stand out even more from the pack.

Introduced in the 2011 model year, the Nissan Juke has quickly ascended to the top of many automotive enthusiast lists. Not in terms of reliability or fuel economy or value—but for sheer ugliness.

Readers at Car Throttle voted the Juke into its “Top 10 Ugliest Cars Ever Made” lists, and a Motor Trend forum gave the Juke the Ugliest Car Award. While not at the very top of Edmunds “100 Ugliest Cars of All Time,” the Juke did get bashed by editors thusly: “It has at least six headlights and fenders that seem tacked on as an afterthought. It’s proudly peculiar and un-pretty.”

Nissan has good reason to embrace the Juke’s peculiarity, however, even if its most unique attributes are considered unattractive by the masses. For all the criticism, the vehicle has been a sales success. The automaker has sold 420,000 Jukes worldwide in less than 40 months, including 135,000 in 2013. Nissan will take those kinds of results over a “pretty” car that’s a sales dud any day.

(MORE: Selling Cars to Millennials: Quirky Models, Flashy Colors Aim to Get Gen Y Out of Neutral)

Now, Nissan is pushing the peculiar angle even further. This week at the Geneva Motor Show, the automaker announced that the Juke, a “design trend-setter” in its own words, will be redesigned in even more “dramatic” fashion. The new model, on sale in Europe this summer (and perhaps soon thereafter in North America, though plans haven’t been released), is even more angular than its “ugly” predecessor, and its rounded front end features odd pointy lights stretching around the hood.

Clearly, the original Juke was polarizing—hated by many, but purchased and described as “cute” by many others—and the new model will be more so. “Great design often is polarizing,” Nissan spokesman Travis Parman told USA TODAY. “Juke is a fun car that allows for more assertive expression—which is exactly what many buyers want.”

Nissan is hardly the only automaker that’s been toying with design described as ugly or, more generously, “polarizing.” The Kia Soul and Honda Element are among the small SUVs launched in the recent past with distinct—some would say homely—exteriors.

(MORE: Will Millennials Change How Cars Are Bought and Sold?)

More recently, Jeep has redesigned one its crossover SUVs and introduced another that have both been subject to unkind attention due to their appearances. Plenty of hate has accompanied the tweaked new grill on the Jeep Cherokee, described by CNN Money in a mostly glowing review as a “strange look, kind of like it got its nose stuck in a print roller.”

The initial reactions to Jeep’s “crazy” little new SUV, the subcompact Renegade, have been all over the map. Many say it got walloped with the ugly stick, while others love its boxy body, garishly bright exterior colors, and most of all that it’s not just another boring, vaguely CR-V-like crossover. “I think it looks pretty cool,” Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book said to MLive.com. “It’s going to be a massive success. That small SUV market … is going to be hot in the U.S. and globally. I think the timing on it is very good.”

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