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]

Portland to use sewage gas to shift away from diesel

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Portland, Oregon has a plan to get polluting diesels off its streets, and it involves sewage.

Since 2008, the city’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant has been collecting methane – a stinky greenhouse gas that also doubles as a relatively clean-burning hydrocarbon fuel – produced by bacteria as it decomposes solid waste in sewage. It currently captures about 77 percent of the methane generated there, and uses some to generate electricity, and sells the rest. The other 23 percent is essentially wasted, as it’s flared off, producing carbon dioxide.

But Portland now wants to use 100 percent of the methane produced at the treatment plant, turning it into renewable natural gas for use in vehicles. City Council approved a plan to build a CNG fueling station at the site, and convert or replace diesel vehicles. The plan could make a significant impact, too, as the Bureau of Environmental Services estimates the plant can produce enough natural gas to fuel 154 garbage trucks, with the diverted methane and the move away from diesel saving 21,000 tons in carbon emissions every year.

As renewable natural gas fetches a higher price than the extracted kind – despite being chemically and practically identical – the city will use the gas they generate for vehicles, and simply purchase the natural gas they need to continue to provide their electricity generation needs. While city vehicles can fill up at the onsite fueling station, Portland also wants to sell its renewable natural gas to outside customers to help pay for the project and CNG vehicles. While the construction and CNG conversions are expected to cost about $12 million, the city expects to generate some $3 million in revenue per year from sales.

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]

Hyundai’s Genesis G90 caught totally uncovered

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It seems weird to type “Genesis” without “Hyundai” in front of it – unless we’re referring to the band, of course, which we aren’t. What we have here is the first car that’ll launch under Hyundai’s new premium brand, officially called Genesis. This is essentially the replacement for the Equus, and when it reaches the States, it’ll be called G90.

The G90 clearly makes strong use of Hyundai’s “Athletic Elegance” design language, and looks like a more premium version of the existing Genesis sedan. There’s a long hood, hexagonal grille, and vertically oriented taillamps that flow down the rear fascia. Judging by these low-res spy shots, we like what we see – even if, from some angles, it looks strangely familiar.

Genesis (the brand) launches next month in Hyundai’s home market. Following the G90, the Genesis sedan as we currently know it will move to G80 nomenclature, and a midsize, rear-wheel-drive sedan – G70 – will follow. A luxury SUV and sport coupe will round out the premium lineup.

Head over to Korean site Bobaedream.co.kr for a view of the G90’s rump, as well.

[Source: Autoblog]

A nearly 300-mph twin-turbo Ford GT sets a standing-mile record

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The Texas Mile is no stranger to ridiculously fast Ford GTs. Back in 2013, a Hennessey Ford GT topped out at 267.6 mph. This past weekend, M2K Motorsports put that number to shame, reaching 293.6 mph in its heavily modified 2006 Ford GT. Not only is that faster than the new $3 million Bugatti Chiron we just drove, it reached that speed in just one mile.

M2K’s Ford GT is equipped with an Accufab-prepped 5.4-liter Ford V8 with two massive turbos. MoTeC handles the ECU, the ignition, and the car’s data acquisition.The engine is packed into a relatively stock looking car, making it one hell of a sleeper. 200 mph is supercar territory. Running to nearly 300 mph puts it in NHRA dragster territory. We’re sure the group will be working hard to push the car even faster.

[Source: Autoblog]

2018 Honda Civic Si will have 192 lb-ft of torque

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Now that Honda has officially released performance numbers on the Civic Type R, the only Civic model for which we didn’t have specs is the Si … until now. A member of car forum CivicX claims to have received an email from Honda saying the upcoming sport compact will have 192 pound-feet of torque. It can be seen in the screenshots of the email posted to the forum, here.

Unsurprisingly, this number puts the Si between the top-tier Type R, and the milder Civic Hatchback Sport. What is a bit surprising is how much closer the Si is to the Sport than the Type R. The Sport makes 177 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel, which means the Si’s hotter turbo 1.5-liter only makes 15 lb-ft of torque more, a roughly 8 percent increase over the Sport. In fact, if this information is true, the new Si will only make 19 more lb-ft compared with the last naturally aspirated Civic Si. Current competitors like the VW GTI (258 lb-ft) and Focus ST (270 lb-ft) also out-torque the new Si.

Based on this, it looks like the Si may be leaving the gate with one wheel tied behind its axle. However, it’s possible Honda’s seminal sport compact could even the playing field in other ways. It may have a more substantial respective horsepower increase. It will likely have more power than the last Si’s 205 horsepower, and likely more than the similarly powerful base, GTI, which makes 210 horsepower. There’s also the possibility of having a lower base price or more standard features than its torquier competition. The Focus ST starts at just over $25,650, so anywhere below that, or the same price with more standard equipment, could also make it more compelling.

[Source: Autoblog]