Discerning Ram owners can now match their truck to their RV

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Are you frustrated that the two-tone paint on your new pickup truck doesn’t match the RV that it’s hauling? We have good news for you. Today, at the Dallas Auto Show, Ram unveiled a new color for the 2017 Laramie Longhorn: the imaginatively named RV Match Brown. In Ram’s words, the “Luxurious two-tone premium model displays distinctive design cues” and is “designed to match or complement RV trailer graphics.”

The new color replaces White Gold in the two-tone lineup and is only available on the Laramie Longhorn trim. In addition to running the bottom length of the truck, the RC Match Brown paint covers the side steps and the spokes on the 20-inch aluminum wheels. All 1500 Laramie Longhorns come with 20-inch wheels, while the 2500 and single-wheel 3500 models come with 18s as standard and offer optional 20s. The color wasn’t designed to replicate one specific color, just that general shade of brown that seems to be ubiquitous in the RV industry. The RV Match Brown is available with nine exterior colors.

The Laramie Longhorn is the second highest trim level of the Ram 1500, slotting just below the Ram Limited. Features include items like laser-etched leather with complimenting walnut burl inserts. It’s no Rolls Royce, but it’s hard to find a more decked-out truck on the market.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford CEO Mark Fields’ pay, pensions, perks up 19 percent

Ford Motor Co CEO Mark Fields’ salary, bonus and stock awards rose 8 percent to a total of $18.8 million in 2016, Ford said on Friday, while profit dipped a bit. Including pensions and perks, Fields made $22.1 million, up nearly 19 percent from $18.6 million the previous year.

His pension award was nearly $2 million higher in 2016.

The company said the compensation increase stemmed partly from performance bonuses based on a single-year target for 2016 and a portion of a goal for the three years through 2018.

Fields, 56, became CEO in summer 2014.

The company earned a pretax profit of $10.4 billion in 2016, down slightly from $10.8 billion in 2015.

Last week, the automaker said it expected lower earnings per share in the first quarter and a drop in pretax profit in 2017 to $9 billion due to increased spending on commodities, warranties and investments and a drop in sales volume.

After a strong run in sales for automakers since they emerged from the Great Recession earlier this decade, investors are watching to see whether the boom cycle is losing steam.

U.S. sales of new cars and trucks hit a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. Automakers are set to release sales for March on Monday.

Ford also said on Friday that Executive Chairman Bill Ford, 59, received a salary, bonus and stock awards totaling $11.1 million in 2016, up 10 percent from 2015. His pension award rose about 5 percent to $1.45 million.

Last month Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said CEO Sergio Marchionne received $11.6 million (10.83 million euros) in pay and benefits for 2016.

[Source: Autoblog]

2017 Ford Focus EV’s range should grow by 45%

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The good news is that the 2017 Ford Focus Electric vehicle will likely have a longer single-charge range than the automaker previously indicated. The bad news is that the projected range is still substantially short of what a new EV like the Chevrolet Bolt will manage. The Focus will likely be a fair bit cheaper, though, so anyone who wants to trade dollars for miles will continue to have that option.

According to a spec sheet secured by Inside EVsthe Focus EV will feature a 33.5 kilowatt-hour battery, compared to the 23-kWh version for the 2016 model year. With capacity jumping by about 45 percent, the Focus EV’s single-charge range should grow from its current 76 miles to 110 or more. That would put the Focus EV on par with the single-charge range of the new Hyundai Ioniq Electric as well as the Nissan Leaf. Note that the Leaf is due – some would say overdue – for an upgrade, though, and so its range should jump as well.

“We don’t have any other news to share today until after EPA certification,” company representatives told AutoblogGreen. The company reiterated that the car would offer DC fast-charge capability, though.

Ford executive Kevin Layden, speaking at the SAE World Congress in Detroit in April, estimated that the 2017 Focus EV would have at least a 100-mile range, though the Blue Oval has bigger plans for future EVs. It pledged last December to invest $4.5 billion in electrification technology and CEO Mark Fields said this spring that the automaker would eventually develop an EV that can go 200 miles on a charge, kind of like the Bolt.

The Focus EV remains a fairly low-volume vehicle, though. Through July, Ford has sold only 504 units this year, down 47 percent from a year earlier. As for the 2017 Focus EV, no price tag was disclosed, though it’s likely to stay tethered to the $30,000 mark before federal and state rebates kick in. The Bolt will have an MSRP of $37,500.

[Source: Autoblog]

The 2018 Hyundai Azera looks pretty classy

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With the reveal of the new Azera, Hyundai has made it clear that it has no plans to leave the large, upscale sedan market. This South Korean Avalon-fighter underwent a significant redesign inside and out and will first go on sale in Korea next month.

Outside, the Azera has a significantly different and more formal, profile. While the previous model was rakish and wedgy, the new model adopts an upright version of Hyundai’s new corporate grille, along with a long hood and more vertical windshield. The flanks also receive long, flowing character lines that give it a muscular appearance. At the back, the Azera gets a new version of the full width taillights that the model has had since the nameplate’s introduction two generations ago.

The Azera also changes radically inside. Instead of the downward flowing dash of the old model, the new interior features an instrument panel that emphasizes width, with a dark top portion and lighter lower section. Sandwiched between the two halves of the dash is a section that rises up at the center stack to house the large touch screen and an analog clock, which looks a bit out of place.

Hyundai has yet to reveal any stats, pricing or availability for the new Azera, except for its aforementioned launch date in South Korea, where it will carry the Grandeur name. However, we would imagine more details will be coming soon ahead of its US launch.

[Source: Autoblog]

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk set for New York debut

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The head of Jeep confirmed Wednesday that the brand will reveal its high-powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in April at the New York Auto Show. “That is going to be quite a special vehicle,” Jeep boss Mike Manley said. “Very difficult for one not to smile.”

Speaking at an event at FCA US headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI, to preview the 2017 Easter Jeep Safari vehicles for Moab, he didn’t provide further details. The Trackhawk has been expected to bow in New York, and the confirmation comes after months of rumors and spy shots.

What’s under the hood? The blown 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat from the Charger and Challenger is the overwhelmingly obvious choice. The V8 engine makes 707 horsepower in the Dodges. The most potent current Grand Cherokee, the SRT model, is rated at 475 hp. Jeep also already sells a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk for off-road adventures.

Meanwhile, Manley reiterated the next-generation Wrangler will debut by the end of the year, as expected.

The New York show is shaping up to be a blockbuster event for FCA US, which will also debut the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon on the eve of the show next month.

Jeep Grand One and Quicksand Concepts lead the charge to Moab

cn017-003jp-2.jpgJeep’s past, present, and future all share equal billing at the 51st annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. We’re suckers for vintage Jeeps, so the all-new Grand One Concept really stands out among the seven vehicles that make up Jeep’s conceptual take on the off-road event. It’s based on a 1993 Grand Cherokee in a slightly early celebration of the model’s 25th anniversary. Exterior mods include custom fender flares for clearance over 18-inch wheels and 33-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain KM2 tires, trimmed front and rear fascias and what FCA is calling a “subtle wood grain” splashed on the vehicle’s bodysides. An extended wheelbase ought to offer a bit more room inside, and a two-inch suspension lift will help when the going gets tough. No alterations are mentioned to the vehicle’s 5.2-liter V8 or 4-speed automatic transmission.

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The second most interesting concept for Moab is the Jeep Quicksand. It’s clearly Wrangler-based, but instead of a traditional rock-climbing focus, this one’s built for the sand dunes. Power comes from a worked-over Mopar 392 Crate HEMI engine topped with an eight-stack fuel injection system that peeks through the hood. A six-speed manual sends the ponies to all four wheels, but with a unique twist: 32-inch BFGs in the front and 37s in the rear in what Jeep says is its first application of staggered tire sizes on a concept vehicle. A Warn winch concealed in a vintage-style Moon tank at the front is the finishing touch.

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The Jeep Safari Concept is all about letting the outdoors in while keeping the elements out. A translucent hardtop and four aluminum and clear vinyl doors are the most obvious changes from stock, and two rear seats have been angled outward so that their occupants get a better view outside. Dana 44 axles and a two-inch suspension lift come from the Mopar parts catalog, but the roof-rack-mounted drone and dash-mounted iPad are custom one-off touches. Power comes from a stock 3.6-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission.

Perhaps more intriguing than all the custom bits and baubles, though, are what appears to be next-gen Wrangler bodywork. Take a look at the kinked grille, the outer slats of which are pinched by the headlights, and the shape of the rocker panel between the front and rear door. No, this isn’t exactly a 2018 Wrangler hiding in plain sight, but it’s certainly a nod toward the future.

CN017_011JP.jpgJeep’s Switchback Concept looks to be a rolling Mopar parts catalog. Its front and rear Dana 44 axles, 4-inch lift with Remote Reservoir Fox shocks, heavy-duty cast differential covers, 10th Anniversary steel front and rear bumpers, Rubicon winch, grille, winch guard and cold air intake are all available from your nearest Jeep dealer. Most of the exterior bits, including the fender flares and rear spare tire carrier, are also off-the-shelf parts. The concept’s hood, cutout-style half doors, hard top, roof rack, and LED lighting package are conceptual, for now at least. Power again comes from a 3.6-liter V6 and automatic transmission.

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The Jeep Luminator Concept will be nice to have around when the lights go out at night. It’s plastered in LEDs head to toe, including some cool seven-inch projectors in place of the standard headlights. The magnetic underbody rock lights are a cool touch, but the lighted drone landing pad on top seems mostly for show, and the rooftop solar panel can’t possibly be powerful enough to provide any meaningful battery life for all those LEDs.

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Rounding out the new Jeep concepts is the Trailpass. It’s based on the new Compass Trailhawk, but gets a 1.5-inch lift kit and 18-inch wheels shod with Continental TerrainContact all-terrain tires. A Mopar/Thule roof basket holding some traction mats ought to come in handy if the Trailpass can’t pass a trail. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic are unchanged from stock.

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The final vehicle Jeep is bringing to Moab is the CJ66 Concept that was first shown off at the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. A Mopar 345 Crate 5.7-liter Hemi engine sends 383 horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission to all four wheels. A narrowed body hearkens back to the time when Wranglers were actually CJs. Take a look at the instrument panel and its single centrally located gauge.

[Source: Autoblog]

Ford hires 400 engineers to double size of its connectivity team

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Ford said on Thursday it was hiring 400 engineers, mostly in Canada, to work on connectivity software and hardware, part of a wider push to meet demand for more connected cars.

The 300 engineers in Canada and 100 in the United States will double the current size of the Detroit automaker’s mobile connectivity engineering team. Ford also plans to establish a new research and engineering center in Ottawa. That’s because the majority of the hires will come from BlackBerry’s shuttered phone handset business, TechCrunch reports, where they gained extensive experience working with QNX, the operating system that powers Ford’s SYNC 3 and is used by a large number of the world’s leading automakers in similar capacities.

Ford on Thursday was also announcing production of a new engine in Windsor, Ontario, two sources told Automotive News, an investment that would boost Canada’s auto industry after years of job losses to Mexico and the U.S. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was expected to be on hand at the Ford Essex Engine Plant in Windsor for announcement of the 7X large engine for pickups.

Connectivity is a key investment area for the auto industry as in-car technology catches up to that of smartphones. As more modems are built directly into cars, vehicles are able to access a richer array of digital services. Ford plans to equip 20 million cars with built-in modems in the next five years.

“In order to have autonomy, the vehicle’s got to be connected, it’s just fundamental,” Ford’s Chuck Gray told TechCrunch. He is Ford’s global director for Electrical and Electronic Systems Engineering.”The vehicle itself, whether there’s a driver or not, has to be communicating with the cloud for various reasons, so this group immediately is working on creating that connectivity spine or network upon which everything else can be built.”

Of the hires from BlackBerry, Gray said, “Obviously they have deep skills, in embedded software, in mobile devices, in connectivity, and when you look at the subsets of products they work in – they work in RF, they work hardware, they work at the chip level, they work in operating systems, they have a renowned reputation for security and stability […] so it was a really good fit.”

The new hires will work on infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules, handset integration, security, driver assist features and autonomous vehicles, Ford said.

The move underscores how many new jobs in the auto sector are for white-collar technology jobs related to connectivity, mobility or autonomous vehicles, versus traditional factory jobs.

Ford said on Tuesday it was investing $200 million for an advanced data center in Michigan to support advances in vehicle connectivity and future developments in autonomous vehicles.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco

[Source: Autoblog]