Ford tops GM in US vehicle sales in May, driven by fleets

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Ford, bolstered by heavy sales to fleet customers, surpassed General Motors in US new vehicle sales in May, according to figures reported Thursday.

Ford said May sales rose 2.2 percent from a year ago to 241,126 units. GM sales dropped 1.3 percent to 237,364.

GM said it had been trimming sales of heavily discounted vehicles to car rental companies. Such fleet sales made up about 19 percent of its total sales in May.

Ford’s fleet sales rose 8.4 percent, representing more than 34 percent of total sales. The industry average is around 20 percent.

Analysts had expected mixed results for the industry, with sales likely propped up by heavy discounts.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said May sales dipped 0.9 percent to 193,040.

Toyota’s US sales dropped 0.5 percent to 218,248.

Nissan said US sales in May rose 3.0 percent, to 137,471.

After demand fell in March and April, analysts estimated May sales at just over 1.5 million. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales in May was estimated at 16.8 million to 16.9 million vehicles, about the same as April. A year earlier, sales stood at 17.55 million vehicles.

Early reports indicated that sales over the three-day Memorial Day weekend were helped by heavy discounts.

“While demand for new vehicles is still relatively strong, it’s a bit of smoke and mirrors,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds, the car shopping website.

Manufacturers and dealers “really pushed the deals over the holiday weekend to prop up their May numbers,” she said. “Incentives were up sharply, and it seems automakers are putting more cash on the hood to nudge car shoppers to buy versus lease.”

General Motors dealers were offering discounts of up to $12,000 on the full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickup, while some dealer discounts on Ford Motor Co’s F-series pickups were more than $10,000 on 2017 models and more than $14,000 on leftover 2016 models. The 2017 model year started eight months ago.

Report says clean car tech supports 288,000 US jobs

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As automakers build more electrified vehicles and improve the fuel efficiency of traditionally powered vehicles, the green car market is slowly growing. The market share of these cars, especially EVs, may be small, but they still have an impact on average fuel economy and emissions. They’re also having an impact on jobs, according to a recent study from the BlueGreen Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report, compiled with the support of the United Steelworkers union, finds that technology that reduces pollution and improves fuel economy ­– in passenger and commercial vehicles alike – affects 288,000 jobs at more than 1,200 factories across 48 states. Michigan tops the list, with 69,593 clean-car jobs, with two more Midwest states, five Southeastern states, and California all being home to more than 10,000 jobs supported by this technology.

The sorts of technologies and parts that fall under the umbrella of this report include hybrid systems and electric propulsion, low rolling resistance tires, efficient transmissions, lightweight materials, direct injection, and turbocharging. The paper lists a number of manufacturers that produce these parts, and highlights their growth, spurred by innovation and encourage by environmental policies. Compared to 2011, these jobs have almost doubled in number, with more than 2.5 times as many facilities.

The report concludes that for this economic success to continue, decision makers need to protect and continue to improve emissions and fuel-economy standards. It says tax and trade policies are tools to encourage domestic manufacturing. It also recommends protecting and strengthening labor standards and workers’ rights to ensure decent wages, benefits, and working conditions.

The report, which admittedly reads a bit like a lobbyist’s pitch, does a good job of highlighting the ways that fuel economy standards haven’t derailed the US auto industry since it fell on hard times a few years back. Sure, job growth tends to correspond with economic growth in general, but making cars cleaner and more efficient appears to be doing its part in the grand scheme of the industry since its recovery. Despite what some might have you believe, environmental and economic trajectories can align nicely.

2017 Civic Type R will start at $34,775 according to Monroney photo

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The wait for the Civic Type R is almost over, and now we know how much it will cost when it arrives at dealers. A member of the CivicX.com forum found a lot full of new Type Rs near a port. According to his post, he saw someone attaching window stickers. Window stickers of course show prices, so he went over and snapped a picture of a stock one without options. As you can see below, the car will start at $34,775. The sticker also says the model shown is a Touring trim, which suggests there may be a better-equipped model above it. You can see the photo at CivicX.com along with photos of the cars waiting to be delivered.

This price makes the Type R the cheapest of the hardcore hot hatches. It’s over $2,000 less than the Ford Focus RS, and nearly $5,500 less than the Volkswagen Golf R. Whether it’s the better value is still up for debate, though, since both of the Type R’s primary competitors have two more driven wheels, and the Ford makes over 40 more horsepower than the Honda. As far as driven wheels go, though, the Civic Type R does have some bragging rights thanks to taking the Nürburgring record for front-wheel-drive cars.

Ford is sending the Focus RS off with a red, LSD-equipped bang

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Ford is discontinuing the current generation Focus RS after the 2018 model year, and so it’s making a special edition to cap off the car’s run. The car doesn’t get any special moniker, but it is loaded with some nifty goodies and visual changes. Immediately apparent is the new color, Race Red. It’s one of two available colors, the other being Nitrous Blue. Both colors are accented by a black roof, mirrors, and rear wing, the latter of which has blue RS logos on each side.

The limited-edition RS also gets a significant mechanical upgrade. Unlike normal Focus RS models, this one gets a Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential for the front drive wheels. Ford says this should improve traction under acceleration and aid corner exit speed. Along with limited-slip differential, the car comes standard with forged 19-inch wheels. Naturally, they’re painted black to match the mirrors, roof, and wing.

[Source: Autoblog]

 

 

2018 Jeep Cherokee may lose its split headlights

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Now that the Jeep Cherokee is three model years old, it’s about due for a refresh, and it looks like Jeep has a major one in store. New spy shots show two prototype Cherokees testing. The heavily disguised prototype has the nose and tail completely covered, and an undisguised mule with the current body shows what appear to be new radar sensors. Based on these spy shots, it looks like the Cherokee’s current split headlight design could be disappearing.

We know there must be a significant redesign to the front considering how much camouflage is used. We can also just make out a revised accent light in a similar position as the current accent lights. This wouldn’t indicate unified headlights alone, but two of the exposed mule’s apparent radar sensors sit right where the square-shaped main headlamps are located on the current model. They’ll have to at least move those lights higher in the bumper for the sensors, and if they’re moved that far up, they might as well be merged with the accent lights.

Among the other details we can make out, the rear section will likely be substantially different. The license plate mounting point has been moved out of the rear bumper and into the rear hatch. This may also be related to radar sensors, since the line of sensors on the undisguised model are right in line with the license plate. But it should also serve to break up the large swath of sheet metal in the hatch. The middle section of the car still looks the same as the current model, which is further indication that this is a refresh.

 

Jeep and Ram could be spun off from FCA, says Marchionne

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Jeep is surely the biggest single feather left in the cap of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles portfolio. Under Sergio Marchionne’s leadership, Jeep went from fewer than 500,000 annual sales in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2016, and is on track for 2 million by 2018. Add in the brand’s legacy, status as one of the most recognizable nameplates in the world, and rabid fan base, and Jeep has extraordinary monetary value to its parent company.

Investors and analysts have certainly noticed Jeep’s inherent value. According to The Detroit Free Press, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas asked FCA chief Sergio Marchionne if he would ever consider spinning Jeep and Ram, FCA’s dedicated truck brand, into a separate corporate entity, and he responded with a simple “Yes.”

Jonas estimated Jeep’s worth in January of this year at $22 billion. Ram was valued at $11.2 billion.

Marchionne has a history of spinning off brands while keeping them part of FCA’s corporate umbrella. The most noteworthy example of this value maximization was with Ferrari, which now trades on the New York Stock Exchange and rakes in $3.4 billion in annual revenue and close to $435 million in net income, reports the Free Press. Marchionne still serves as chairman and CEO of Ferrari, and Fiat heir John Elkann owns 22 percent of the Italian marque’s shares.

Even if the offloading of Jeep and Ram into a separate entity would amount to little more than a profit-driven ownership change on paper, it would be huge news to the brands’ loyal fanbases. In any case, such a move would likely take years to actually happen and probably wouldn’t mean much at all to the products that Jeep and Ram produce. In other words, Jeep fans can keep the pitchforks in the shed … for now.

[Source: Autoblog]

Couple unknowingly drive 14 miles with drunk guy passed out on trunk lid

We’ve all been there. You and your better half climb in the car after an evening out, and as you’re cruising down the freeway … BAM! A cop pulls you over to tell you that a drunk guy is passed out on your trunk lid. Wait, what? That’s never happened to you? Well, it happened recently to a couple in Memphis, Tenn.

According to WHBQ, Carl and Hazel Webb left the Barbecue Fest in downtown Memphis on the evening of May 18. They had backed their late-model Ford Taurus into a parking spot, and when they returned the lot was pretty dark and the cars were packed in. The couple approached the car from the front, hopped in, and headed for home.

“We came down the aisle, walked right to the car, opened it up on both sides then we got in the car,” Webb told WHBQ. Unbeknownst to the Webbs, though, they had a stowaway aboard. Or rather, outboard.

About 15 minutes later, as the Webbs were cruising down the interstate toward home, a Memphis police officer pulled them over.

“The officer came up and he said, ‘Mister, are you aware there’s a body on your trunk?,’ and that did not register,” said Webb. “He goes, ‘Mister, I’m not messing with you. There’s a body on your trunk.’ So I got out. We walked around and sure enough, there he was still hanging on, still unconscious, just lying there.”

There, on the Taurus’ narrow decklid, was an extremely drunk guy in a Hawaiian shirt. He had apparently crawled up onto the Webbs’ car, curled up on his side, and passed out in the parking lot. He somehow managed to cling to the car for 14 miles at highway speeds.

Webb credits the slight lip on the trunk lid for holding the blotto man in place. Webb might want to give himself some credit for an exceptionally smooth driving style.

It took forever for the officer to wake up the stowaway, and when he eventually did the guy was still so drunk and confused that he briefly wandered off into oncoming traffic. The cop snatched him back to the shoulder before anything could happen.

The drunk guy was bundled into the MPD cruiser and taken away, but there’s no word on his identity or whether charges were filed.

Webb told WHBQ that he wasn’t angry at the drunk guy, but he did hope that the incident taught him a lesson.

“I hope he takes a good look at where he put himself and the hazard that he had open up to himself. It would’ve been death.”

[Source: Autoblog]