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Newsflash    11-01-2015 16:00

+++ German car maker Volkswagen will recall 80,000 cars from its luxury division AUDI due to issues with the fuel injection system, a spokesman said, adding that around 35,000 of the affected vehicles are from China. The cars were made between April 2011 and April 2012, and "in rare cases customers may notice a smell of fuel in affected vehicles", he said. China is Audi's biggest market. But official data showed the world's second-largest economy grew at its slowest pace in 24 years in 2014, even as luxury sales have been hamstrung by a crackdown on official corruption and lavish spending. China's official Xinhua news agency, citing the country's quality watchdog, reported that Volkswagen's local joint venture, China FAW-Volkswagen Automotive, will begin the recall on March 20, affecting various Audi A4, A5, A6, A7 and Q7 models. +++ General Motors' CADILLAC brand is at least 4 years away from introducing a small SUV which is a critical part of expansion plans, the brand's president said. "Product development life cycles being what they are, I don't have a date in mind but I would estimate it is at least 4 years away", Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen told reporters. The small SUV will be priced less than the larger Escalade SUV, which has a starting list price of nearly $68,000. The smaller SUV is part of Cadillac's planned $12 billion new model offensive over the next 5 years that will include 8 vehicles. Cadillac also currently sells a mid-size SUV, the SRX, which is priced from just over $38,000. GM has labored for years to rebuild Cadillac into a global brand, but it has stumbled as it tried to re-establish its stature in the U.S. market, where sales declined 6.5 percent last year. Globally, Cadillac sales increased 5 percent. Small luxury SUVs are a fast-growing segment in the United States, China and Europe. Cadillac's main rivals, including Ford's Lincoln brand, already have small luxury SUVs in the market. De Nysschen said the strong dollar would hurt Cadillac and other U.S.-based manufacturers as Asian and European competitors can be expected to use the currency advantage to cut prices. De Nysschen also said the automaker's flagship CT6 sedan will be unveiled on March 31 at the New York Auto Show. The CT6, which heralds a new naming scheme of letters and numbers that will be adopted across the Cadillac brand, is aimed at competing with models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. He declined to say how much the CT6 would cost but he did say it would be the most expensive car in Cadillac's lineup. De Nysschen said he expects Cadillac sales to be flat in 2015, partly because a raft of new products will not start hitting showrooms until late 2017. He said Cadillac will produce diesel-powered cars and SUVs, which are popular in Europe, starting in 2019. "If you want to play in Europe, you better have some diesels", de Nysschen said. "Come along the next decade I want to start pushing more strongly into Europe", he said, adding that diesels would also be offered for sale in the United States. +++ HONDA has chosen a competitor of embattled Takata to supply airbags for the next North American version of its Accord, the automaker's best-selling vehicle, 2 people with knowledge of the decision said. In the first major defection by a carmaker since Takata's safety crisis began, Honda, Takata's largest customer, will use airbags made by Toyoda Gosei for the all-new Accord, scheduled to go on sale in August 2017, the people told. Honda's decision to shift to a competitor for the most important vehicle in its largest market represents a major blow for Takata after a safety crisis involving its airbags that forced the recall for more than 21 million vehicles globally. Honda spokeswoman Akemi Ando said the company had no immediate comment. Takata also had no immediate comment. Toyoda Gosei spokesman Shingo Handa said the company would not comment on its customers as a matter of practice. Toyoda Gosei will supply driver's-side airbags as well as knee and curtain airbags for the North American version of the Accord, the people with knowledge of the move told. Honda said last month that it had signed a deal with Autoliv to begin making replacement parts for recalled vehicles later this year. The Japanese automaker also said it had begun discussions with inflator maker Daicel. Since 2008, Honda has recalled more than 13 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags, including more than 10 million in the United States. Airbags made by Takata for Honda and 10 other manufacturers have been recalled because of a defect that puts them at risk of rupturing in an accident and shooting metal shards at vehicle occupants. The defect has been linked to at least 5 deaths and dozens of injuries. Honda Chief Executive Takanobu Ito has spoken privately about his frustration with Takata, a seatbelt and airbag maker Honda groomed and had long considered part of its circle of preferred suppliers, according to people close to Ito. Takata supplied airbags for the U.S. version of the Accord since at least the 2000 model year, according to recall notices. Honda's Ando declined to comment on the automaker's airbag supply arrangements for the current version of the Accord. Honda sold just over 388,000 Accords in the United States in 2014, representing just over a quarter of its total U.S. sales. The vehicle is also the platform for other popular Honda models. One of those with knowledge of Honda's plans, who asked not to be named because the sourcing decisions remain confidential, said the automaker would begin using Toyoda Gosei airbags beginning with the redesigned CR-V and the all-new Odyssey MPV in 2016. Together, the CR-V and the Accord represent about half of Honda's U.S. sales. In another sign of pressure on Takata, General Motors, Takata's third-largest customer, said last month that it had developed contingency plans in case the recalls of potentially lethal airbags widened. GM said it had directed Takata to share specifications with TRW and Autoliv so that they could make replacement parts for the top U.S. automaker if needed. +++ JAGUAR is currently testing the facelifted XJ, which is expected to be launched at the Geneva motor show in March. Minor cosmetic changes to the front bumper will be made, with the huge grille of the current model slightly downsized by making it less deep. This will free up space below the grille for a slightly larger rectangular air intake. Large intakes in the front lower corners of the bonnet will feature a bigger, cleaner design. At the rear, the changes to the bumper will be less dramatic and centre on a restyling of the lower insert, which contains the tailpipes. Jaguar Land Rover’s all-new infotainment system, called InControl, is expected to feature in the facelifted XJ. It will be launched first in the Jaguar XE and Land Rover Discovery Sport and is also expected to appear in the facelifted Range Rover Evoque. Displayed through an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity, it allows the driver to start the car and pre-heat the cabin via a smartphone app, while the vehicle remains locked. The system also features an in-car wi-fi hotspot and vehicle tracking technology. An updated version of the Jaguar XJR is also likely to be revealed next year alongside the facelifted XJ. The revised XJR will feature new front and rear bumper designs, with larger lower air intakes at the front. The rear bumper will feature a mild redesign but still incorporates the 4 exhaust tips of the current model. The XJR is powered by a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine with 550 hp. That same engine is also set to appear in the hot new Range Rover Sport, which is also in development. +++ A plan for Nissan to supply MITSUBISHI dealers with a mid-sized sedan has stalled, according to a senior U.S. Mitsubishi executive. The high-level joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors was announced in late 2013, and has been a bright hope for Mitsubishi's U.S. dealers who are hungry for new product. But Mitsubishi informed dealers that the plan has reached an unspecified impasse. “I told them that the plan has stalled”, says Don Swearingen, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors North America. “And I said that’s really all I can tell you at this time”. Swearingen declined to discuss the impasse further, or even clarify whether the project snag is temporary or fatal. “All options are still open”, he told. The deal (announced in Nov. 2013) called for a broad exchange of products and technologies between Mitsubishi and the Renault-Nissan alliance. Several of the deal’s pieces concerned initiatives outside the United States, such as the sharing of a very small Japan-only 'kei car'. But for hungry Mitsubishi dealers in America, the deal’s promise for a new Mitsubishi-brand D-segment sedan from Nissan or Renault beamed from the announcement like glowing ink. It is not clear which sedan would be picked. Efforts to reach Nissan for comment about the project’s status were unsuccessful. It's unclear whether the D-segment piece of the Nissan-Mitsubishi venture is only in trouble, or whether the entire proposed partnership is facing difficulties. It is one of the only pieces of potentially bad news currently facing the Mitsubishi franchise. Dealers will begin receiving a wave of fresh products this year, starting with a redesigned Outlander in July. Other new and freshened Mitsubishi products include a redesigned Outlander Sport (ASX in Europe) and Lancer at the end of the year, a new Mirage next spring, along with a Mirage sedan and plug-in hybrid Outlander in the second quarter of 2016. Mitsubishi’s U.S. sales rose 25 percent in 2014 to 77,643 cars. The brand has been absent from the midsize sedan segment (one of the industry's largest but one that has slowed in recent years) since the Galant was dropped. In December, Nissan’s Altima outsold the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord to become the best-selling car in the United States for the month, with sales of 32,331. +++ RENAULT 's new SUV will be called the Kadjar when it goes on sale later this year. The Kadjar fits into the Renault range above the smaller Captur and below the latest generation of Espace. Renault says that the first part of the name is inspired by the word 'quad', representing a go-anywhere four-wheeled vehicle, suggesting that the Kadjar will be offered with four-wheel drive. The second part of the name is said to be inspired by the French words 'agile' (agility) and 'jaillir', which Renault explains as meaning 'to suddenly emerge from somewhere'. Renault is posting pictures and videos relating to the new Kadjar every day on social media until the car is revealed on 2 February. The pictures are not expected to show the actual car until that date. The new model is based heavily on the new Nissan Qashqai, thanks to the alliance between the 2 companies. It is understood to share the same architecture and most of the powertrains. Like the Qashqai, the new model will be built on Renault-Nissan's Common Module Family platform. Announced in June last year, the CMF architecture will eventually be used to underpin 14 models across firms' ranges. Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker described the new car as being developed “in strong collaboration with Nissan, but with a careful eye on not taking anything away from either side”. He also hinted that the new SUV will be styled along the lines of the successful Captur. “Conceptually, this car will not challenge conventions”, he said. “We want to hit the same sweet spot of head and heart that we did with the Captur”. The model will be revealed to the public at the Geneva motor show in March, before going on sale in the autumn. +++ VOLVO is ready to launch fully electric cars, but won’t do so until market or legislative demand makes it necessary, according to vice president of product strategy, Lex Kerssemakers. With the firm already focusing on its 4-cylinder only engine strategy, and successfully launching plug-in hybrid models including the V60 and upcoming XC90, Kerssemakers says that Volvo is already on target to meet customer requirements. “Our focus is the roll-out of our plug-in hybrids”, he said. “Once there is a more sustainable business case behind full electric vehicles we can do it; our platform is scalable and fully flexible. But we must see how the EV business evolves and what pressures there are from fuel efficiency requirements and cities closing borders. With plug-in technology we have some answers now: good efficiency and the option of driving in and out of cities on electric power alone. For now, we can offer the best of both worlds”. +++

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