2018 Hyundai Kona improves headlights to get top IIHS award

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Only about two months ago, the IIHS tested the 2018 Hyundai Kona subcompact crossover for safety, and it did well in almost every category except headlights. The subpar lights meant it only received the second-highest award available from the organization: Top Safety Pick. But now Hyundai has updated the lights, and IIHS agrees that some of them are a massive improvement, enough to upgrade the rating to Top Safety Pick+.

The versions of the Kona that have the highly rated lights are Limited and Ultimate trims with projector LED lights. The rating applies to cars built after May 2018, and the main improvement is reduction in glare for oncoming drivers. While these high-level Konas now have solid lights, the IIHS still rates base models with the halogen lights as “Poor” due to weak forward illumination.

All of this makes the Kona an attractive crossover option. Not only does it have good crash test results and headlights, but it’s actually an enjoyable car to drive, particularly with the spunky turbo engine. Add in the distinctive, funky styling, and the Kona is a stand-out in its class.

[Source: Autoblog]

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Ford forms development group of 10 divisions for ‘breakthrough products’

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More iconic Ford vehicles may become inspiration for the rest of Ford’s product range. Earlier this week, Ford spoke of trying to transfer the passion for and emotional design of the 54-year-old Mustang to other vehicles in the automaker’s lineup. Now the company wants to use its deep knowledge of F-150, Transit, and Mustang customers as a template for creating vehicles that “better meet emerging customer needs.” To do that, Ford’s created the Enterprise Product Line Management (EPLM) group charged to “create a winning portfolio of vehicles and bring them to market faster and more efficiently.”

Consider this another effort at the kind of internal interdisciplinary planning that every company says it strives for but rarely pulls off successfully. First, the carmaker’s broken its developing and growing model range into 10 product lines: family utilities, urban utilities, rugged utilities, performance vehicles, luxury vehicles, compact trucks, F-Series, commercial vehicles, electric vehicles, and emerging market vehicles. The “nimble, customer-focused” teams managing those 10 product lines will do so from conception through to customer engagement “as end-to-end businesses,” and include members from engineering, product planning, manufacturing, marketing, and finance so as “to create breakthrough products and customer experiences.”

As the Detroit automaker sheds cars, moves to fewer and modular platforms, resurrects icons, expands nameplates from 20 to 23, and pieces together one of the industry’s youngest lineups, it views EPLM as the means to “create a winning portfolio of vehicles and bring them to market faster and more efficiently.” And of course, just as much as this is about what’s being put out, it’s about what’s being brought in; i.e., an “unyielding commitment to strong returns” and “profitable growth,” in the words of Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets. Ford’s North American and global profit marginstook substantial drops in the second quarter this year compared to Q2 last year, to 7.4 percent and 2.7 percent respectively. Company leaders had sought a 10 percent profit margin in North America, and 8 percent globally, by 2020.

According to Automotive News, “Ford CEO Jim Hackett and other senior executives say the automaker wants to offer products in segments where it knows it can win. …” Longtime Ford exec Jim Baumbick (pictured), who oversaw the creation of the flexible modular architecture plans, becomes a company officer as VP of the EPLM and will report to Farley. Baumbick retains his current role within the global product planning and strategy department.

We’re not aware of an umbrella term for the various overhauls happening at Ford right now. However, this latest comes right on time as the third sweeping reorganization in a 12-year cycle. In 1995, Scotsman and former Ford CEO Alex Trotman instituted his Ford 2000 plan to harmonize global operations, saving the company scads of money even with bumpy implementation and uneven results and earning a knighthood for it. In 2007, Alan Mulally rolled out One Ford, and we know how that went. Here we go again, so start your timers. And your profit-watching machines.

Hyundai to give the Elantra GT sportier N-Line trim

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Hyundai’s Elantra GT will get a spicier N-Line version according to new NHTSA filings — so far, it doesn’t seem like a full-on N is on its way, but the N-Line at least gives the GT a bit more sporty kit.

N-Line pretty much stands for the same as the S-Line on Audis and M Performance bits on BMWs: sportier seats and better suspension, but the engines remain largely unimproved. In the Elantra GT’s case, the available engine options will remain the 2-liter, 161 horsepower and 1.6-liter, 201 horsepower inline fours, the latter of which is turbocharged. In other markets, the 2-liter engine is available turbocharged for the full-on N experience, giving the car as much as 275 horsepower. As the Elantra GT Sport was made available for 2018, Hyundai’s representatives were adamant that the actual N version wouldn’t make it to the U.S, but an “unnamed N-tuned model” would; perhaps the N-Line will be that.

On Jalopnik, Bozi Tatarevic, who noticed the NHTSA filing, compares the Elantra GT’s N-Line package to the one available for the European Hyundai i30 N-Line sibling. For that car, the setup includes sportier bumper design, dual exhaust tips, more sculpted seats, bigger front brakes, improved suspension — and a better throttle response from the engine. Wheels are also different and come with more performance-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. It’s likely that most of that kit will be offered for the Elantra’s N-Line, but we’ll know more when Hyundai officially introduces it. The Elantra GT Sport version already comes with goodies such as a multi-link rear suspension in place of the regular GT’s torsion beam; our best bet is to imagine that spec but with a bit more intent.

Ford cancels Focus Active import plans due to China tariffs

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Back in April, when the new generation Ford Focus was introduced for global markets, Ford announced that the redesigned hatchback would only make it to the United States as the Focus Active crossover version. Now, those plans appear to have been scrapped thanks to 25 percent import tariffs on Chinese-built goods.

Originally, Focus Active sales would have begun in the second half of next year. For Ford, the vehicle would have been largely a niche seller, with less than 50,000 sales projected annually. But as the Focus would have been imported from China, the tariffs would have eaten into Ford’s profits too much – so the automaker refocused, for the lack of a better term.

As Automotive News quotes Ford’s North American president, Kumar Galhotra: “Our viewpoint is that, given the tariffs, our costs would be substantially higher. Our resources could be better deployed at this stage.” And even if the tariffs were dropped, the decision will not be changed; Ford also didn’t seek for a tariff exemption for the Focus Active, citing the vehicle’s production timing. The Indian-built Ecosport compact crossover and the Spanish-built Transit Connect continue to be sold as previously.

The change of plans makes the Mustang the only passenger car Ford will sell in the United States: by 2020, 90 percent of new Ford vehicles sold in the United States are to be trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles. Behind the portfolio restructuring is an attempt to improve profitability, and consumer demand in the U.S. is said to have shifted away from sedans.

[Source: Autoblog]

2018 Jeep Wrangler Moab splits the Sahara and Rubicon gap

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We knew it was coming, and it’s pretty much what we were expecting. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Moab Edition is now official, is available solely as a four-door Unlimited Model with the 3.6-liter V6 engine, and splits the gap between the luxury-biased Sahara and the off-road-ready Rubicon. It’s easily identifiable by the big Moab lettering on the hood, but there’s a lot more to this limited edition model besides its graphics.

The Moab borrows its hood and steel bumpers, complete with removable end caps, from the Rubicon. The 17-inch wheels are painted in a low-gloss black that matches the headlight surrounds, grill inserts, and tow hooks, and are shod in 32-inch mud-terrain tires. LED lighting clusters are standard front and rear. Rock rails from the Rubicon are standard, but the Sahara’s side steps are a no-cost option for owners who don’t plan to do any hardcore rock crawling.

Jeep’s new Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive two-speed transfer case is also standard equipment, which means all Wrangler Moab models will have an eight-speed automatic transmission. A limited-slip rear differential is also standard. The Safety Group, which includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection and a rear backup camera, is included along with an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system.

A leather interior package comes standard on the Moab and includes contrast stitching on the seats and dash. Granite Crystal, Billet Silver, Punk’n Metallic (orange), Mojito! (green), Black, Bright White, Sting Gray, Ocean Blue Metallic and Firecracker Red are all available on the Moab, which leaves the recently introduced Hellayella (bright yellow) as the only stock color that’s not offered on the Moab. A body-color hard top comes standard on the Moab, and the Dual Top Group and power-operated Sky top are optional.

Jeep didn’t release pricing when it announced the 2018 Wrangler Moab, but an ordering guide showing a starting price of $52,695 out the door has already made the internet rounds. That makes the Moab Edition Jeep’s priciest Wrangler package… so far.

[Source: Autoblog]

2019 Jeep Cherokee reveals a much more normal face

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Since we started seeing redesigned Jeep Cherokee prototypes, we’ve suspected that the crossover would lose its controversial split headlights and pointy grille. Finally, we get a good look at a mostly uncovered test car, and it confirms that the new Cherokee will look quite conventional.

The obvious change is the headlights. Instead of the slender daytime running lights at the top next to the grille, and the actual illuminating headlights lower in the bumper, all of the elements are integrated into single housings on either side. They’re somewhat rectangular now, looking more like those on the Compass and the Grand Cherokee. But you can still see the same hockey-stick shaped LED running light design in the new lamps. The grille has changed, too. It looks much more blunt than the sharply creased, almost pointy grille of the current model. It also looks as though it may extend farther down than the current version.

The rest of the Cherokee is very similar to the current model. The flanks are virtually unchanged, as is the interior, and the tail sees only minor changes. The most significant is the move of the license plate from the bumper to the hatch. The taillights’ shape hasn’t really changed, but the white section is now broken up by black lines, and the red element looks darker.

We expect to see the Cherokee refresh soon, possibly by the end of the year.

[Source: Autoblog]

2019 Jeep Renegade teased with taillight photo

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We’ve seen a number of 2019 Jeep Renegade prototypes running around lately, and now we know when we’ll finally see all the ways the little crossover SUV has been updated: June 6. It will make its debut at the Turin Motor Show. Before then, Jeep did reveal a couple of details, including the above shot of the new taillight design.

Though the taillight is very similar to the current version, particularly in how it’s still square with a distinct “X” motif in center, it has a few differences. The thick black surround of the current model is gone entirely. It makes way for dark-tinted red plastic to wrap all the way around, and it has indentations that echo the X in the center. That center X isn’t all a reverse light anymore. It’s now part of the taillight’s internal design. Only a small white square in the middle is now for the reverse light.

Aside from small styling changes on the lights, Jeep also announced powertrains for the European version of the Renegade. It will be available with at least three gasoline engine options. There will be a roughly 120-horsepower 1.0-liter three-cylinder, and two versions of a 1.3-liter four-cylinder making 150 horsepower or 180. Jeep didn’t mention anything about a diesel or a hybrid, the latter of which we expect based on previous spy shots. In the U.S., the Renegade is available either with a 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder or a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. We would assume at least the 1.3-liter engine will make it to the U.S., considering its similar power output to current numbers.

[Source: Autoblog]