Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Lamborghini sees worldwide sales doubling by 2019 after SUV launch

A concept version of Lamborghini’s SUV, the Urus, was unveiled at the 2012 Beijing auto show. Photo credit: Lamborghini

NEW YORK — Lamborghini expects to at least double production to 7,000 vehicles a year by 2019 once it rolls out its new SUV, but it will not lose its focus on making sports cars, CEO Stefano Domenicali said.

Domenicali said the company plans to cap yearly production of its supercars at 3,500. He also expects SUV production will be at least as high but could be higher depending on demand.

Lamborghini is owned by Volkswagen Group through its Audi unit.

The SUV, based on the Urus concept, will go on sale in 2018 starting at around $200,000 and will be built alongside the Huracan and Aventador supercars at the brand’s factory in Sant‘Agata Bolognese, Italy.

“We will push like hell to” sell 3,500 or more of the SUVs, Domenicali said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that interest in it is high in the U.S. and elsewhere. “It’s a big game-changer.”

Domenicali, a former Ferrari Formula One team boss,joined Lamborghini as CEO in February, replacing long-time chief Stephan Winkelmann.

He said Lamborghini plans to boost its worldwide dealer network to 160 from 132 now.

About 30 percent of its dealers and sales are in the U.S., its largest market. Lamborghini sold a record 3,245 vehicles worldwide in 2015, including just over 1,000 in the U.S. “We will not, clearly, give up on our DNA, which is to produce super sports cars,” he said.

Lamborghini is adding 500 employees and doubling the size of its Sant’Agata Bolognese plant as part of an investment worth hundreds of millions of euros announced in 2015.

Lamborghini is joining several luxury carmakers that have entered the profitable SUV market, including VW’s Porsche and Bentley units.

Domenicali said he wants to keep brand volume limited. The company unveiled its Centenario Roadster in California, and said the company had already sold the 20 roadsters it was building at a starting price of 2 million euros before taxes.

Lamborghini plans a plug-in hybrid electric version of the SUV by 2020, and could add an electric version.

Domenicali said the SUV could be a platform for future autonomous vehicles, but such vehicles won’t hurt the brand.

“If you buy a Lamborghini you want to drive … We are talking about emotions,” he said, adding that steering wheels won’t go away in Lamborghinis: “In life, technology has to be part of the emotion.”

Automotive News Europe contributed to this report.

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Volvo’s 2,400-hp semi is the quickest truck in the world

This massive semi would embarrass some sports cars.Volvo Trucks isn’t a stranger to doing cool, innovative things with its semi trucks. The automaker has done some crazy stunts in the past to showcase its technology, which includes putting a four-year-old in control of one of its dump trucks and racing against a Koenigsegg on a track. Earlier this month, the automaker teased its latest endeavor to break its own speed records – and now it has officially accomplished the feat.

Thanks to its 13-liter mid-mounted D13 engine that generates 2,400-horsepower and 4,425 pound feet of torque, The Iron Knight set new speed records for 500- and 1,000-meter runs. The custom-built semi achieved a time of 13.710 seconds over 500 meters with an average speed of 81.58 mph and completed the 1,000-meter run in 21.290 seconds at an average of 105 mph. The massive semi also managed to reach a top speed of 171 mph.

To set the new speed records, The Iron Knight, which was piloted by truck racing driver Boije Ovebrink, had to complete two passes for both the 500- and 1,000-meter runs. After completing one run, Ovebrink had to complete the same distance in the opposite direction within an hour. Ovebrink’s latest run bests his previous speed record, which he set in Volvo Trucks’ Mean Green hybrid in 2012. Compared to the Mean Green, The Iron Knight has 600 more horsepower and is roughly 2,205 pounds lighter.

There was never a doubt of whether The Iron Knight would break Volvo Trucks’ previous speed records, but the question was always by how much. Clearly, the folks at Volvo Trucks have a fun side, which we hope never subsides.

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Saturday, 20 August 2016

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Ford to extend GT production two more years

Now that production has been extended, Year 3 production will go to applicants who were placed on the wait list, Ford said.

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is officially extending production of its GT supercar for two additional years. The initial run included 500 GTs, with 250 being built a year at a facility in Markham, Ontario.

Ford said it received 6,506 completed applicationsfor the first 500. The car is expected to be priced around $400,000.

Acceptance, but more commonly rejection, letters for the first round of GTs started popping up in late July.

“While we can’t build enough Ford GTs for everyone who has applied, we are going to produce additional vehicles in an effort to satisfy more of our most loyal Ford ambassadors,” said Dave Pericak, global director at Ford Performance, in a statement Friday. “We want to keep Ford GT exclusive, but at the same time we know how vital this customer is to our brand.”

Now that production has been extended, Year 3 production will go to applicants who were placed on the wait list, Ford said.

Applicants who already applied only need to update their request.

Additionally, previously deferred applicants and those who missed the initial application window will be able to apply for Year 4 production when it opens in early 2018, Ford said.

Of the accepted applications, 87 percent currently own a Ford vehicle and 69 percent own a previous-generation GT, said Raj Nair, Ford’s vice president, product development, and chief technical officer, in an interview on the automaker’s employee website.

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Porsche drivers fume: Where’s our VW diesel payout?

Photo credit: Reuters

Volkswagen settled its diesel deception involving almost 500,000 U.S. automobiles, paying dearly to satisfy car owners affected by the emissions scandal.

What it hasn’t done is make whole its very best customers — those who own its pricier brands, which nevertheless run on smog-spewing engines.

Anand Jobalia, a hotel and home developer in Daytona Beach, Fla., is still paying $1,300 a month on his 2014 Porsche Cayenne. The SUV originally cost $81,531. Now he can’t find a buyer willing to offer more than $42,000, including the Porsche dealership where he bought it.

“I’d have a very hard time buying another Porsche at this point,” Jobalia said. “When you spend this kind of money, the least you can expect is some communication when something like this happens.”

Volkswagen has agreed to fork over about $10 billion in a settlement with U.S. regulators to buy back most of its dirty diesel models at generous rates. But that deal applies only to the company’s 2.0-liter diesel engine, a staple of Volkswagen’s eponymous product line, Jettas, Passats, and Beetles. The company has yet to address the emission cheating in its larger, 3.0-liter diesel engines, which were bolted into Porsches and Audis that cost two and three times more than an entry-level Volkswagen.

In addition to Porsche’s Cayenne, the larger diesel engine went into recent Audi sedans –A6, A7, A8; Audi SUVs — Q5, Q7; and the Volkswagen Touareg. It was particularly popular among Porsche fans. At one time, diesel Cayennes accounted for 15 percent of U.S. Porsche sales.

All told, roughly 85,000 vehicles are waiting for resolution on the larger engine. Joe Rice, a South Carolina attorney appointed to represent the class of plaintiffs, contends that Volkswagen is being more nonchalant this time around.

“These owners are very frustrated, and they feel like they’ve been abandoned,” Rice said. “Granted, Volkswagen has had a lot on their plate … but it’s self-inflicted, and they just need to gear up and deal with it.”

James Kohm, director of enforcement at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, said an appropriate resolution would be a settlement similar to the one hammered out for the smaller engines. Volkswagen, however, hasn’t started negotiating over its Porsches and Audis.

“Right now, we’re in litigation mode,” Kohm said. “And we think we have an extremely strong case.”

Although far fewer customers are still awaiting a payout, they paid far more for their cars. The sticker price on a 2015 diesel Jetta started around $21,640, while a diesel Cayenne went for almost triple that amount. Audi’s Q7 commanded at least $53,400 in the 2015 model year. “It’s a big case,” Kohm said. “You’re still talking about billions of dollars.”

‘Working cooperatively’ 

Porsche said in an e-mailed statement that it “continues working cooperatively with all regulatory authorities.” Audi sent a similar statement.

The longer the scandal goes on, the more likely it is to tarnish the company’s blue-chip brands. After all, there’s no scarcity of choice for someone looking to spend more than $50,000 on a vehicle. Porsche, in particular, is Volkswagen’s treasure. It’s still seen as the architect of both the best-performing cars and the best-built cars. In J.D. Power rankings, the brand tops the list on performance and design and is second only to Lexus on dependability.

Car aficionados tend to get a bit breathless when they talk about Porsche. And they aren’t wrong. Close the door on a contemporary Porsche, and you’ll know what they’re talking about. It’s a six-figure “thwump” that sounds as if it were designed by NASA.

Porsche is also one of the world’s most profitable car companies. Part of that is a result of the price premium commanded by its brand. But it also comes from the clever engineering of a massive conglomerate: Porsche engineers can occasionally tuck Volkswagen parts under all its lustrous metal. A chassis here, a turbo there, or, in the case of the Cayenne, a devious diesel engine.

Reputational protection

Porsche wisely never put the pilloried engine in any of its sports cars, which no doubt will help it maintain some momentum through the diesel fallout. The Cayenne, to purists, is a kind of a compromise — a junior-varsity Porsche, or perhaps a Porsche Light. The line workers in the brand’s Slovakia plant could bolt old Pontiac Aztek engines into the Cayenne, and thousands of the Stuttgart faithful would still clamor for a 911.

Indeed, Porsche-pining doesn’t seem to have slowed much. In the 11 months since the VW diesel scandal broke, Porsche sold 5.2 percent more cars than in the year-earlier period, even without diesel SUVs. And for Audi, sales barely dipped over the same period.

Nevertheless, our Florida home developer won’t be buying another Porsche. Jobalia has been hankering for another sports car, something similar to the 911 he owned. But if he decides to treat himself, he says, the first test drive will be in a Maserati.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Hitachi Automotive to pay $55.5 million fine for role in U.S. price-fixing

WASHINGTON — Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd. agreed to plead guilty to fixing the price of shock absorbers installed in U.S. autos, and to pay a criminal fine of $55.48 million, the Justice Department said in a statement on Tuesday.

Hitachi had pleaded guilty in 2013 to fixing the price of starters and other auto parts, the department said.

According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Hitachi Automotive worked with unnamed competitors from the mid-1990s to 2011 to decide who would provide shock absorbers to which buyers and to coordinate prices.

Suzuki Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. were the customers, the complaint said.

The Justice Department has been investigating price-fixing in the auto supply chain for at least six years and it has now become the largest such criminal prosecution in U.S. history.

Including Hitachi Automotive Systems, 46 companies and 64 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.8 billion in criminal fines, the Justice Department said in today’s press release.

Similar price-fixing investigations have been ongoing in Europe and Asia.

Automotive News contributed to this report.

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All The Gross Toxic Automotive Chemicals I’m Pretty Sure I’ve Ingested