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China to overhaul factory safety standards following GM supplier plant explosion

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Government/Legal, Safety, GM

CHINA-EXPLOSION-DISASTER

Last weekend's explosion at the factory of an automotive component supplier in China has led to a major crackdown in plant safety across the People's Republic, as the country's communist authorities attempt to avoid another catastrophe.

According to Bloomberg, facilities that use aluminum, magnesium, coal, wood, paper, tobacco, cotton and plastic are all subject to the safety campaign instigated by the State Council Work Safety Commission.

At least 75 people were killed and 185 injured in the explosion at Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products' factory outside of Shanghai, early Saturday morning. It's the latest incident in a trouble-filled year for Chinese industry, which has seen 19 separate safety incidents during the first half of 2014, with over 200 people killed or missing.

This latest issue is being blamed on overcrowded workshops and an inability to remove metal dust, according to Bloomberg, leading Chinese President Xi Jinping to call for harsh punishments for those responsible and prompting the safety crackdown across the PRC.

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2015 Chevy Colorado to start at $20,100*, GMC Canyon at $20,995**

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trucks/Pickups, Chevrolet, GM

Chevy Colorado

General Motors has just announced pricing for its new midsize pickup trucks, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Chevy's truck starts at $20,100, *not including $895 for destination, and the GMC starts at $20,995, **not including $925 for destination. These prices are for the base, extended cab models with the 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine.

Comparatively, these prices fit nicely with the $18,125 starting MSRP of the Toyota Tacoma and the $21,510 of the Nissan Frontier. Compared to the Colorado, the Canyon's extra $895 gets you niceties like LED running lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a four-way power driver's seat.

Both trucks come standard with the 2.5-liter engine, and a more powerful, 305-hp 3.6-liter V6 will also be available. Pricing has not been announced for the upcoming diesel model, which is expected to launch for the 2016 model year.

Chevrolet has confirmed that the Colorado LT Crew Cab 2WD with a five-foot box will start at $27,090, and the more upscale Colorado Z70 Crew Cab 4x4 with a five-foot box comes in at $34,095. On the GMC front, the Canyon SLE Extended Cab 2WD will start at $$26,595, and the SLT Crew Cab 4x4 arrives at $36,950, including the aforementioned V6.

Optional features on the trucks include GM's new 4G LTE connectivity with a built-in wifi hotspot, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and the GearOn accessory system. Specific option pricing has not been released as of this writing.

Scroll down for the full details in the pair of press releases.

Continue reading 2015 Chevy Colorado to start at $20,100*, GMC Canyon at $20,995**

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GM financing arm investigated over subprime loans

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Government/Legal, GM, Earnings/Financials

General Motors Investigation

General Motors just can't seem to avoid controversy in 2014. Of course, there has been a continual run of recalls throughout the year, and now, its GM Financial division is under investigation for possibly violating the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act, according to Reuters. FIRREA gives the DoJ the power to examine and potentially sue companies that are found to be acting fraudulently. In this case, the feds want to know the division's criteria when securitizing subprime loans.

GM bought the company previously known as AmeriCredit in 2010 for $3.5 billion and renamed it GM Financial. It allowed the automaker to have an in-house division to offer finance and lease options through dealers, since it sold off GMAC, now Ally Financial. According to Reuters, GM Financial has issued $2.15 billion in subprime-auto-loan-backed securities in the first six months of the year.

Subprime auto loans have been on the upswing this year, despite the recent financial crisis. According to a recent study from credit reporting company Equifax looking at data as of April 2014, $46.2 billion in auto loans have been extended to subprime buyers. That's an eight-year high and about 28 percent of the auto loan balance.

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GM extends sympathy to Chinese explosion victims as death toll climbs to 75

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: China, Government/Legal, Safety, GM

65 Dead & Over 100 Injured In Kunshan Factory Blast

General Motors China has extended its "deepest sympathy" to families of the 75 killed and 185 injured in Saturday's explosion at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products' factory, near Shanghai. Kunshan Zhongrong polishes aluminum wheels for GM vehicles, is a component supplier of Dicastal, a major aluminum parts manufacturer, according to Just Auto.

"For the families of the victims and those injured in this terrible tragedy, we extend our deepest sympathy to them," a GM China spokesman told Just Auto.

The death toll at the plant has risen from 71 killed to 75, while the number of people injured has fallen from 186 to 185. Initial reports claimed that 68 people were killed and 187 injured in the blast, which occurred at 7:37 AM local time on Saturday (Friday evening on America's East Coast). The plant employs some 450 employees.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has sworn that those responsible will face severe punishment, with President Xi Jinping dispatching one of China's five state councilors to the facility, Automotive News reports. Five of the company's executives are currently in custody.

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NHTSA says GM recall website isn't completely accurate

08/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Tech, GM

General Motors-Recall

As of this writing, General Motors has issued 60 recalls in 2014 covering about 25.5-million vehicles in the Unites States. That's a lot of drivers left wondering if their model in need of repair. GM is actually already complying with the request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to make these campaigns searchable by a model's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) online. However, the feds reportedly don't like the way that the company has set up its website. NHTSA is requesting changes to The General's page because some cars could fall through the cracks without owners even knowing it.

While GM's site allows owners to search for recalls based on VINs, it only displayed a campaign for a vehicle if the parts were actually available to perform the repair, according to The Detroit News. If the components aren't ready yet, then the model isn't listed. That could obviously have given drivers a false sense of security about their car. NHTSA has asked the automaker to update the website to make it more accurate and to display the info whether or not the fix had been done.

GM spokesperson Alan Adler tells Autoblog that the company first learned about the problem on Friday, August 1. "Basically, the VIN lookup wasn't giving up accurate information," he said. The automaker worked over the weekend to fix things, and Adler says that the majority of the updates are now complete, but GM still has a few more to do. He expects the changes to be finished soon.

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GM also sheds parts from its pickups to boost payload ratings [UPDATE]

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Commercial Trucks, Chevrolet, Ford, GM, GMC, Special/Limited Editions, Ram

Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD

The row between Ford and Ram over who boasts the best-in-class tow rating for heavy duty pickups has revealed a number of things. Chief among them is a report that Ford removes items like the spare tire, jack, radio and center console from its trucks in a bid to lower its base curb weight, and therefore its gross vehicle weight.

For those that need a refresher, GVW is the combination of a truck's curb weight plus its payload. Gross vehicle weight rating, meanwhile, is the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can handle, and it's also used to classify pickups. In Ford's case, tweaking the GVW by removing parts allows it to station the F-450 among the so-called Class III pickups. This is despite the fact that it's hewn from stiffer stuff than the average Class III and has the elevated towing capacity to prove it.

Ford explains away these deletions, saying a customer could order their vehicle in such a manner. It has also come to light that Ford is not the only automaker to engage in such practices.

General Motors started deleting the rear bumper and swapping in alloy wheels for heavier steel wheels for its 2014 pickups (both light-duty and heavy duty models). This is despite originally claiming that it did no such thing, a statement GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson told Automotive News was a mistake.

Wilkinson, like Ford, justifies the practice, explaining to AN, "You can delete the rear bumper, which some business customers do so they can install a custom bumper or other equipment on the back of the truck."

What are your thoughts on this? Is the process for figuring out tow ratings and GVWR too easy to manipulate? We want to hear from you. Head into Comments, and let us know what you think.

UPDATE: This story originally stated that gross vehicle weight rating was a combination of curb weight and payload. To clarify, GVWR is a fixed figure, which a vehicle's curb weight and payload cannot exceed. The story has been edited to reflect this.

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GM also sheds parts from its pickups to boost payload ratings

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Commercial Trucks, Chevrolet, Ford, GM, GMC, Special/Limited Editions, Ram

Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD

The row between Ford and Ram over who boasts the best-in-class tow rating for heavy duty pickups has revealed a number of things. Chief among them is a report that Ford removes items like the spare tire, jack, radio and center console from its vehicles in a bid to lower its base curb weight and therefore keep the truck's gross vehicle weight rating down.

For those that need a refresher, GVWR is the vehicle's curb weight plus its maximum payload. A lower GVWR allows Ford to station its F-450 among the so-called Class III pickups, despite the fact that internally, it has the makings of a more brutish Class IV truck.

Ford explains away these deletions, saying a customer could order their vehicle in such a manner. It has also come to light that Ford is not the only automaker to engage in such practices.

General Motors started deleting the rear bumper and swapping in alloy wheels for heavier steel wheels for its 2014 pickups (both light-duty and heavy duty models). This is despite originally claiming that it did no such thing, a statement GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson told Automotive News was a mistake.

Wilkinson, like Ford, justifies the practice, explaining to AN, "You can delete the rear bumper, which some business customers do so they can install a custom bumper or other equipment on the back of the truck."

What are your thoughts on this? Is the process for figuring out tow ratings and GVWR too easy to manipulate? We want to hear from you. Head into Comments, and let us know what you think.

Read more..

GM thinks Colorado and Canyon midsize trucks will lure crossover buyers

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Marketing/Advertising, Chevrolet, GM, GMC

The invitation to come out and sample product at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, MI is rarely dull, and after spending this morning driving preproduction versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon all we can say is... under strict embargo. Sorry, America, we were as excited as many of you are to learn more about GM's new midsize truck range and take note of how they go down the road, but it's going to be September before we're allowed to share that with all of you. Here's to sweet suspense.

While we might not be able to talk about refinement or handling yet, we did find some of the product positioning and marketing statements from GMC and Chevy officials on hand at the program to be pretty interesting.

Of course, we all know that the literal competitive set for Canyon and Colorado is comprised of two comparatively ancient Japanese midsize trucks: the Toyota Tacoma (which currently owns this segment) and the Nissan Frontier. The Frontier's bones are as old as the 2005 model year, with 2009 marking the last time the truck was updated. The Taco was also launched in 2005, though it did see a freshening for 2012. The point remains that, in every facet from powertrain to dash plastics, the GM midsize truck twins are going to look positively space age by comparison when they hit the market for MY 2015.

Interestingly though, The General isn't simply shooting for its aged, small-truck competitors when it comes to the planned conquest of customers. The automaker believes that both Chevy and GMC products will offer an interesting alternative to small-crossover shoppers as well. In fact, the engineering and marketing teams were possessed of this notion enough to bring along a Ford Escape as one of the competitive drives for our test day in Milford.

GM believes that both Chevy and GMC products will offer an interesting proposition to small-CUV shoppers.

Certainly, images of the Canyon and Colorado interiors that we've seen indicate that these two trucks will have cabins worthy of suburban tastemakers; full of the available comfort and convenience amenities that CUV shoppers are so keen on. Just as in their fullsize brothers, we expect these smaller trucks to be comfy places in which to pass your daily commute. We'd argue that the exterior styling of the trucks is a fit with the CUV ethos, as well.

Looking deeper, we can also see that the new trucks will probably offer reasonable tradeoffs in terms of utility, performance, mileage, space and price. Just comparing base models, the Chevy Canyon's 2.5-liter four-cylinder, rated at 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, is slightly stronger than the average output of four-bangers from Ford, Honda and Toyota small crossovers. Now, the Canyon is likely to be somewhat thirstier than the 26 combined miles per gallon that those three offer, but it'll do so will the decided boost in tow/haul utility is the most obvious pickup strong suit.

And, of course, while we don't yet have pricing, sticking around the low $20k starting MSRPs of the best-selling small crossovers seems quite doable. Bare bones Tacoma and Frontier trucks start at $18,125 and $20,510, respectively, leaving a good gap to appropriately price the content-plus new trucks, and still stay in-budget for a typical CUV shopper.

Those tradeoffs won't work for a lot of CUV buyers, but the argument on paper is quite a bit more compelling than we would have initially thought. GM apparently believes it, as it's jumping with two feet into a segment that most automakers have abandoned or at least let wither on the vine. What say you? Would a more livable, frugal pickup make sense to you as a cross-shop with a smaller crossover? Let us know in Comments.

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Weekly Recap: New bosses try to jump-start Cadillac and Lincoln

07/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Hirings/Firings, Aston Martin, Cadillac, Dodge, Ford, GM, Infiniti, Lincoln, Nissan, Luxury, Read This

Cadillac and Lincoln

Both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.

It's ironic that Cadillac and Lincoln got new bosses within days of each other this month. It's also a commentary on the fact both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.

Cadillac has received barrels of good ink in recent years, thanks to its sporty, fun-to-drive cars with gaudy horsepower figures and eye-catching designs. The problem is sales have been uneven, and this year they've fallen 1.9 percent to 82,117 vehicles.

Enter Johan de Nysschen. You know him from such roles as the head of Audi in the United States and more recently, as the global boss of Infiniti. Both brands have somewhat underdog status compared with segment leaders Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, and de Nysschen was lauded for his work at his previous stops, overseeing sales and product successes.

Cadillac went out and got a "name" with a proven track record. The 54-year-old South African brings strong leadership and industry credibility to a brand that needs both. He'll be tested right away, as 554,328 Cadillac CTS and SRX models were recalled in June in the United States for ignition switch problems. More recalls involving Cadillacs and other General Motors vehicles for a welding problem was also announced in July.

He's taking over for Bob Ferguson, who had been dividing his time between Cadillac and handling GM recall response on Capital Hill. Ferguson moved to a full-time role as GM's top public policy and government relations executive in July.

Meanwhile, Ford tapped a relatively obscure engineer, Kumar Galhotra, to lead Lincoln. He's replacing an industry star, Jim Farley, who's giving up the reins at Lincoln to focus on his other job - overseeing Ford's global marketing efforts.

Galhotra doesn't have as much name recognition as Farley or de Nysschen, but that means nothing. Lincoln needs momentum, and the only way Galhotra will ultimately be measured is through increasing sales and strengthening the product portfolio.

Continue reading Weekly Recap: New bosses try to jump-start Cadillac and Lincoln

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NHTSA investigating more than 300k Chevy Impala sedans for airbags

07/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Safety, Chevrolet, GM

2011 Chevrolet Impala

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating vehicles from General Motors (if we had a nickel for every time we've written that this year). This time around, 320,000 Chevrolet Impala sedans from model year 2008 (the above photo is a 2011 model) are the focus, thanks to a defect petition filed way back in November, which NHTSA has just now opted to take a closer look at. This isn't a formal investigation just yet, although it could evolve into one depending on the review of the petition.

Donald Friedman, from Xprts, LLC, filed the original complaint, which focuses on the passenger airbag's Occupant Classification System. If any of this sounds familiar, it's because Friedman and Xprts aren't the only safety-focused folks asking NHTSA to take a closer look at the last-generation Impala. Clarence Ditlow and the Center for Auto Safety have also called out the OCS on certain last-gen Impalas. In those cases, a bad algorithm in the system would prevent the airbag from deploying if a seat's occupant bounced out ahead the impact.

While Xprts' complaint doesn't get into OCS specifics, it does call out the "software logic and algorithm," according to The Detroit News. The focus of the investigation revolves around a crash involving an elderly Texas couple and their 2008 Impala. Both occupants weighed around 170 pounds, yet only the driver's-side airbag deployed. The passenger airbag, meanwhile, was kept from deploying by the OCS.

Despite this case, NHTSA "has not identified reports indicating the presence of an OCS related defect in the 2004-2014 Impala," it said in a statement. "However, and in an abundance of caution, an evaluation of a limited scope of GM models, which will include a request for potentially related data on the MY 2007 to 2009 Impala, will be conducted to further evaluate the petitioner's allegations."

GM spokesman Alan Adler has told The News that the embattled company "will cooperate with NHTSA on its request for information. While the agency has 'out of an abundance of caution' asked for information on certain models of Impalas in the original defect petition, it is important to note that the agency has not opened a formal investigation."

More on this as it develops.

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