Friday, November 20, 2009

Mercedes-Benz to decide whether to shift some C-Class production to its U.S. factory

To protect itself against currency swings, Daimler AG is considering an option to shift some of its C-Class passenger-car production to its factory in Vance, Ala.. At a media briefing held recently, Daimler AG said that it will announce its decision by January. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said that a decision on expanding production for the new C class would have to be made in the near future.

The company would be making its decision based on currency rates and on whether the dollar will remain weak against the euro. The C-Class is the largest-selling Mercedes-Benz vehicle in the US and transferring production to its Alabama plant would shield Daimler from further currency swings.

Reports from Germany say Daimler estimates it will produce 80,000 C-Class cars each year in Alabama. A Daimler AG spokeswoman said that shifting the production to the US would require additional investment for the factory expansion and for new tooling.

The next-generation C class is expected in 2013. The Vance, Ala. factory rolls out the M-, GL- and R-Class models. For 2009, the plant has built 83,461 units so far. In 2008, it built a total of 152,500 units.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Subaru version of FT-86 will receive an AWD system and around 250 hp

The collaboration has yet to issue final plans but here are several details on the powertrain and chassis of the Toyota FT-86 showcar, the joint Toyota-Subaru project that was built by Subaru. Inside Line has discovered a Subaru variant of this car that will arrive in 2011. It will share the Toyota FT-86’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat-4, but it’s likely that the output will be raised to about 250 horsepower.

On the other hand, Toyota’s car is speculated to have 200 horsepower. Subaru’s version is equipped with all-wheel drive, which means that it will be heavier and would require more power. Both cars will be outfitted with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Due to a stretched platform, Subaru’s car will be slightly larger than the Toyota. Pricing for the Subaru is expected to start from $30,000, which is about $5,000 higher than the Toyota. That’s because the Subaru is larger, has extra power, and has all-wheel drive.

This leads then to the conclusion that the two coupes are unlikely to directly compete with each other. Encroaching onto the market of the Subaru Impreza WRX also won’t be a problem.

Mercedes-Benz USA and Hughes launch new ‘mbrace’ telematics service

Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Hughes Telematics to launch “mbrace,” a new system that has 18 various services, ranging from a vehicle locator for packed car parks to directions on how to order online. This telematics system is comparable to Ford’s Sync system and GM’s OnStar. Another mbrace feature that has many people thrilled is its ability to link up smart phones like iPhones and BlackBerrys to the car’s electronic interface.

Car owners could then be able to lock or unlock their cars remotely by using their phones. The other services the system offers are certainly as practical. If the car gets stolen or figures in an accident, there is an automatic emergency service notification.

Other services include a vehicle health check function that goes live to the nearest dealership and real-time weather and traffic reports. A concierge service gives the driver 24/7 access to a customer-service rep who will assist in making dinner reservations, book a hotel or order a flight.

All Mercedes-Benz models will offer the mbrace system as standard equipment except for the GLK, C-Class, SLK and the new E-Class Coupe, where it is being offered as an option. The service is free for the first six months, after which an annual subscription will cost $280. For the concierge service, an additional $20 per month is needed.

Opel will not be a global brand, says General Motors

General Motors Co. has its work cut out for it if it wants to get the support of the Germany government for Opel’s restructuring. CEO Fritz Henderson went to Opel’s headquarters last Monday to attempt to mend relations. Apparently, he wasn’t able to give a good answer to demands from German unions and political leaders for greater economy from Detroit’s headquarters.

Henderson was only able to give vague assurances that Detroit would give its European carmaker more freedom. Henderson didn’t show much enthusiasm in marketing Opels outside Europe or of elevating the unit’s status from a limited liability company to an incorporated stock company as proof that the carmaker would gain a greater measure of self-determination.

Instead, he pointed to the strategy for its Chevrolet brand in Brazil, where another GM brand is certainly not needed. At the news briefing, he referred to Opel as a regional brand, which he doesn’t think will be changing anytime soon. While he said that he’s not closing his door to ideas on selling Opel elsewhere, he explained that the measure of the Opel brand’s success will be Europe, ”because if you don’t win here all the discussion of exports will be irrelevant.”

To be able to ensure state aid, Berlin is further demanding that German funds are spent in Europe on Opel. The government also wants GM to provide a water-tight legal separation between it and Opel to avoid any suspicion that German cash is being leaked to Detroit.

Zenvo planning to launch three new supercars after its ST1

Following the ST1, Zenvo Automotive will be launching three new supercars. The first supercar of the Danish supercar manufacturer is the Corvette Z01 based-Zenvo ST1, which has an output of 1104bhp and costs 850,000 euros each. Only 15 units of this supercar will be made. In an interview with Autocar, a Zenvo source said that the company has set its sights on a smaller, cheaper version of the ST1.

The project is currently under extensive development and the supercar will be available within the next three years. Not a lot of details were revealed.

The source would only say that it has cost-saving features, including the removal of more expensive items such as the carbonfiber body panels, while the engine is likely to be detuned.

The source also confirmed that two new supercars, which will also be based on the ST1, are in development.

These models will not be launched before the more affordable ST1, but it is likely that they will be even more powerful and expensive than the ST1.

PSA/Peugeot-Citroen raises its full-year outlook

Because of the improvement in the car market and the success of its models such as the C4 Picasso, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen has raised its full-year outlook. The company is revising its 2009 forecasts “significantly” upwards. In particular, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen now expects recurring operating income for the second half to be at breakeven while full-year free cash flow is anticipated to be positive.

Last July, the group had forecast cash flow to be negative in the second half and saw a full-year operating loss of 1 billion to 2 billion euros ($1.5 billion). PSA had a series of missed expectations the past few years and that had disappointed investors.

This led PSA to become reluctant in providing precise guidance for its results. Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S said that the average expectation for PSA’s full-year operating result is a loss of 1.146 billion euros after it posted a first-half loss of 1.33 billion.

The net loss is seen at 1.37 billion against a reported first-half figure of 962 million. Analyst Adam Jonas at Morgan Stanley observed that PSA had the “most conservative second half guidance of any European (carmaker) this year.”

Vw will build a new front-wheel drive platform to be used by up to 60 models

Volkswagen is nearly done creating a brand new front-wheel drive platform to be used by up to 60 models from Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen by the middle of 2010. This new structure, which is known as MQB (modularen querbaukasten or modular transverse engine mount architecture), will replace the current PQ2, PQ3 and PQ4 platforms.

Wolfsburg insiders say that this move will help save Volkswagen and its various offshoots up to a billion euros per year by streamlining production and creating greater economies of scale. The MQB has these characteristics because it provides for a common distance between the front axle and the pedals regardless of the size of the car it is applied to.

VW’s head of R&D, Ulrich Hackenberg, claims this will help reduce the number of front-wheel drive ‘engine mounting architectures’ used by Volkswagen from 18 to just two. Watch out for this new platform design on the next Audi A3 due in 2011. All in all, this is an excellent move, since it allows for a much greater variance in track width, wheelbase and wheel size than with Volkswagen’s existing transverse engine platforms, while allowing for both front drive and four-wheel drive.

Hackenberg said that the platform makes it possible for them to produce models from different segments and in varying sizes using the same basic front-end architecture. He said that the platform makes it possible to go from a typical hatchback to a saloon, cabriolet and SUV with only detailed changes to the size of the wheel carriers. The platform is slated to be used on every model from the new Lupo all the way through to the next-generation Sharan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GM posts $1.2 billion loss

General Motors Co.’s third-quarter financial results revealed a $1.15 billion loss. GM said that due to reduced costs and stabilizing sales, the company would set out to begin repaying $6.7 billion in US loans. In a statement, CEO Fritz Henderson said that the results are evident of the solid foundation being built for the new GM but that there’s more work to be done.

The third quarter report shows a “managerial net loss” for the period from July 10, which is the day GM exited court protection, through Sept. 30. For the same period last year, GM recorded an operating loss of $4.2 billion and a net loss of $2.5 billion.

GM also revealed that revenue for third quarter rose to $28 billion, up $4.9 billion from the second quarter. GM explained that much of this increase was due to a global seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 67.8 million units in the quarter, up from 62.7 million in the second quarter. GM also pointed out that it will burn through additional cash in the fourth quarter.

Included in GM’s plans is a payout of $2.8 billion for Delphi’s bankruptcy settlement while $2 billion is set aside for “payment term adjustments,” $2.5 billion for loan repayment to the U.S., Canadian and German governments and $1 billion in restructuring costs. In addition, cash levels will be “materially lower than third-quarter levels of $42.6 billion.” The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for total U.S. vehicles will be 10.7 million in the last three months of this year.

As influenced by the Cash-for-Clunkers program, GM’s adjusted demand averaged 11. 7 million units in the third quarter. Moreover, GM reported that annual light-vehicle sales are typically 200,000 to 300,000 below total vehicles and that fourth-quarter global demand will drop to a 65.4-million-unit annual rate. In 2010, global sales are expected to reach a total between 62 million and 65 million units. In the US, total-vehicle sales will hit 11 million to 12 million units.

Lotus Evora

Lotus announced today the arrival of the all-new 2010 Evora into the US market during the first quarter of 2010. With a price tag of $73,200, the Lotus Evora will enter the sports car market as the only mid-engine 2+2 in production. As you may know already, the Evora is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 which delivers 276 hp and lb./ft. of torque at 4,700 rpm. With these numbers the car can sprint to 60 mph in under 5 seconds and has a top speed of over 160 mph while delivering 30+ miles per gallon on the highway.

“Inside the Evora simplicity meets sophistication in an exquisite combination of detailing and hand-built craftsmanship. By using only the finest leather from renowned experts Muirhead, the interior is hand-trimmed and twin-stitched to create a beautifully tactile and visually striking environment. Genuine aluminum instrument and center console surfaces contain ergonomically positioned controls providing a purposeful drivers’ cockpit.

The leather wrapped steering wheel is tilt and telescopically adjustable, flat-bottomed to ease entry and exit and made from ultra-lightweight magnesium to provide super-precise feel through the wheel. The adjustable Recaro seats cradle the occupants and, along with the perfectly placed aluminum pedals, complete the optimum connection between driver - Evora - and the road. The rear seat area is cleverly hidden within the exotic, mid-engine profile of the Evora. An Alpine audio system with available touch-screen navigation, iPod™ (and other MP3 player) connectivity, Bluetooth and other amenities make the journey all the more pleasant. The Evora is a pure sports car that you can happily, comfortably enjoy every day.

For peace of mind, the 2010 Lotus Evora has a 3-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle warranty with an 8-year chassis perforation warranty. ”

Arash planning to take on the Bugatti Veyron supercar

According to a report from Autocar, British manufacturer Arash is currently working on a 1200 hp supercar to take on the Bugatti Veyron. The new car will be based on the AF-10, will share the same carbonfibre chassis built by EPM Technology but instead 550 hp engine the new car, which is yet to be named, will the receive an impressive 7.2-litre V8 engine fitted with with twin superchargers, titanium conrods and forged pistons capable to develop 900 to 1000lb ft of torque. The braking system will use carbon ceramic discs delivered by AP Racing but the car will also feature an ABS system as well as traction control systems for better handling. Regarding the design, Arash Farboud (the creator of the Arash supercar) said that the new car will look different to the AF-10 and will come with pop-up air brake and active aerodynamics, just like its target, the Veyron. The top speed achieved is expected to be at least 250 mph (402 km/h).

Honda looking to make hybrid cars more affordable

Honda is set on giving the Australian market an affordable hybrid. The launch of the Insight hybrid in Australia follows Japan, Europe and North America but Honda continues to find ways to make the hybrid more attractive and more affordable for Aussie buyers, company representatives told Drive.

Honda Australia aims to sell the Insight with a price tag of around AU$30,000. Honda Australia boss Lindsey Smalley said that if the Australian dollar is still going strongly this time next year, the company will pass that saving on to the consumer.

A comparison with Prius was pointed out but Honda said that it didn’t want to enter that type of pricing territory and that it shouldn’t even be considered a competitor.

Honda America’s environmental spokesman, Todd Mittleman, said that its key points are that it is affordable and fun to drive. He said that while the original Insight was “the ultimate hyper-miler,” this new Insight balances function with driving fun and low price point.

Vw Golf GTI wins the ‘Automobile of the Year’ award

Volkswagen of America announced today that its sixth generation GTI has been named the 2010 Automobile Magazine Automobile of the Year. This would be the second time in its history when the GTI wins this prestigious award.

For those who don’t know, the Vw Golf GTI was first introduced in the United States back in 1983 and this vehicle drew admiration for its combination of sporty performance and practicality. The 2010 GTI comes with the highly acclaimed 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC turbo-charged four-cylinder engine capable to deliver an impressive 200 hp and 207 lbs.-ft. of torque. This model is offered with an automated manual DSG transmission that utilizes direct shifting but also with a standard six-speed manual transmission. The top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph while the fuel consumption achieved is 32/24 highway/city when equipped with the DSG transmission. The 2010 GTI pricing starts at $23,490!

“At a time when the world’s economy is in shambles and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are on everyone’s minds, there remains only one car that ticks all the enthusiast boxes without setting off a single wretched-excess alarm. That’s the Volkswagen GTI, and that’s why it is, once again, Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year,” said Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor, Automobile Magazine.

“Having our GTI named AUTOMOBILE Magazine’s Automobile of the Year once again is a tremendous honor for our brand,” said Mark Barnes, Chief Operating Officer, Volkswagen of America, Inc. “We’re thrilled that the staff of AUTOMOBILE Magazine acknowledged that today’s sport’s car consumers are looking beyond horsepower and going fast, rather they are looking for vehicles that are practical, fuel efficient, and fast. The GTI truly embodies what the Volkswagen brand is all about–affordable, efficient, and fun-to-drive German Engineering,” Barnes added.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nissan launches revised version of its GT-R sports car

Nissan launched its latest GT-R sports car for Europe, boasting improved handling, ride comfort, and compliance with Euro V rules. All the modifications are internal, except for the double coat of clear paint on the bumpers for a deeper color finish.

While styling has been, for the most part, unchanged, the car’s front spring and damper rates have been adjusted and the stiffness of the suspension radius rod bushings has been increased. The purpose of these changes is to offer improved feel and responsiveness during cornering. The logic in the gearbox has been modified to provide a later downshift from sixth to fifth when being driven in automatic mode. However, a more aggressive downshift is adopted when changing down from fourth to third and from third to second gear.

For additional cooling to the exhaust and gearbox, two additional cooling ducts have been added to the carbonfiber underfloor diffuser. The front transmission mount has also been stiffened, reducing vibration under high-load conditions. For improved stability under dry-weather braking, the brake bias has been shifted rearwards.

Moreover, a modified air deflector increases rear brake cooling. CO2 emissions have dropped 3g/km to 295g/km as a result of these changes. A major achievement is that GT-R’s 3.8-litre V6 engine is now Euro V compliant. For its interior, the only changes are new rear seat insulation for more comfort and the speedometer and rev counter now have gun metallic finish surrounds.

Zenvo ST1: official details and specs

Who doesn’t dream of driving a “trackworthy supercar that would be also suitable for everyday use”? With that exact goal in mind, Zenvo Automotive started development of the prototype version of the Zenvo ST1 in 2004. The Zenvo ST1, a Danish supercar whose V8 engine produces more than 1100bhp, will be built in Denmark starting later this year.

Many of its components will come from local suppliers in Denmark and all R&D and design took place in the country. Based on a Corvette Z06, the ST1 is powered by the 7.0-liter V8 engine from the American muscle car, which is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The supercharged and turbocharged unit has been tuned to produce 1104bhp and 1055lb ft of torque.

The carmaker claims an electronically limited top speed of 233mph and an acceleration time from zero to 62mph of 3.0sec. It weighs only 1376kg due to the use of a lightweight steel spaceframe, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 802bhp per ton. Lightweight carbonfiber panels make up the bodywork.

The ST1 rides on 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inch wheels at the rear, with specially designed Michelin tires. It has double-wishbone suspension all round, with adjustable anti-roll bars and three-way adjustable hydraulic shock absorbers.

Zenvo has included a range of creature comforts, including climate control, sat-nav, a head-up display and cruise control. Information on fuel economy or CO2 emission figures have yet to be released. No pricing has been confirmed as well. It’s not like it’s up for public consumption anyway since only 15 units will be produced for “specially approved customers.”

Schumacher’s title-winning Benetton Formula One car for sale on eBay

Remember that title-winning Benetton Formula One car driven by Michael Schumacher in 1994? Well, it’s for sale on eBay. To recall, Schumacher drove the Ford Cosworth-powered car to his first of seven world titles. The seller, who is from Toronto, has advertised the car on the German eBay site.

The car is described to be in racing condition and is being sold with several spare parts, including two extra sets of wheels and tires, and its data laptop, to monitor the fluid levels and temperatures.

The bodywork and livery are identical to what they were during the 1994 season. If you’re wondering about the damage Schumacher sustained in the 1994 season finale when it crashed into Damon Hill in Adelaide, worry no more as it has been fixed.

The collision forced Hill to retire and allowed Schumacher to maintain his one-point advantage and clinch his first world championship.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mitsubishi Outlander GT to make its debut at the LA

Mitsubishi will unveil its new 2010 Outlander GT at the 2009 LA Auto Show. Images of the SUV have recently been released however, the technical details are still undisclosed. There are two engine choices including a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 167-hp mated to a 5-speed manual or an optional CVT automatic with Sports Mode sequential style shift. Powering the top-of-the-line model is a 3.0L V6 that outputs 226-hp and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Sports Mode sequential style shift change and INVECS Smart Logic.

Mercedes-Benz expects year-on-year U.S. sales growth

In the next few months, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz premium auto unit expects year-on-year U.S. sales growth. In the next year, the company recognizes its potential to increase its US market share, according to an interview with US CEO Ernst Lieb. Mercedes had a 20% drop in its US sales so far this year.

However, it posted a 21.3% rise in US sales in October, its best month of the year to date. It should be noted that the results from Mercedes followed the industry’s best monthly performance of 2009 outside of months helped by the US government cash for clunkers incentives program.

US auto industry sales achieved a 10.46 million unit annualized rate in October, the best monthly performance of the year outside of “clunkers” fueled July and August results.

Lieb also said the industrywide sales atmosphere seems to be improving but he declined to say that the US market has turned a corner since it still is too early to make the call.

At most, he’d say that it’s “maybe some stabilization.” He said that the market has become a “little bit more predictable” at least from a dealer perspective. He added that people are “a little bit more willing to look at a new car and spending money.”

Lotus green lights the replacement for the Esprit

Lotus is believed to have approved a proposal to build a replacement for the Esprit, a model that is slated to have an essential role in boosting the Hethel firm’s brand image. Gradually, reports are coming out about the key elements to the Lotus strategy weeks before new CEO Danny Bahr is scheduled to announce his seven-year plan for the company.

According to the Lotus source, the new supercar would be an “essential brand image builder” and a “high-status purchase.” The car is referred to as Esprit internally, but it’s possible that it would be given a different name.

Lotus is aiming for a power-to-weight ratio of 275-325bhp per ton for its new flagship. This is comparable to an Audi R8 V10 that has 319bhp per ton. The source further revealed that included in the plans is a three-tier line-up, with the four-cylinder Exige, Elise and Europa grouped together and the bigger V6 Evora in the other.

Talking about the Esprit-like car, the source said, “It will be the ultimate expression of the brand.” With regards to another aspect of its business plan, Lotus has been offering the Evora platform technology to other companies.

The Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) can be adapted to build almost any type of vehicle, from a sports car to an SUV. As proof of VVA’s flexibility, Lotus gave an illustration of the Evora platform with an electric powertrain. However, the source asserted that the company would not be building an electric car.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S by Techart

Techart unveiled today its latest tuning program for the latest Porsche 911 Carrera S/4S which promises to combine perfect styling, sportiness and dynamism.

According to the German tuning company, the new kit includes a new ECU software as well as a new “Racing” flap-controlled exhaust system which comes with two stainless steel racing headers, a sports catalytic converter, rear muffler with exhaust flap, an exhaust flap control unit and twin oval tailpipes in high-gloss or black chrome.

Altogether the new performance kit delivers a clearly noticeable increase in power output of 35 hp – in the upper engine speed range. Also, the car receives the TUV-certified Aerokit I which consists of a front spoiler, new sides skirts, a roof spoiler and three versions of rear wings which permit precision aerodynamic tuning on the rear axle. Back pressure air vents have also been integrated into the variable rear wing IV along with an additionally adjustable spoiler lip (gurney flap) while the dynamic character is also emphasized by decorative trims for the exterior mirrors – made from carbon fiber painted in the requested color, decorative headlamp surrounds, a low swung rear diffuser plus the new sports exhaust systems.

Regarding the suspension, Techart installed its VARIO coilover suspension in addition to a set of new sports springs. The aerodynamic kit is completed by the light alloy TECHART Formula III forged wheels available in a twin-spoke design in a 19 and 20 inch format. The Porsche 911 Carrera S/4S received a new nose lift system is also available for negotiating curbsides and other ramps (according to the manufacturer is possible to raise the automobile by up to 60 mm – even when driving at up to 60 km/h).Inside we find a plethora of different leather interiors, new color-coordinated three-spoke airbag sports steering wheels, aluminum pedals and trim strips.

A plethora of different leather interiors, color-coordinated three-spoke airbag sports steering wheels, aluminum pedals and trim strips are just a few of the interior options available. Thanks to the TECHART craftsmanship, virtually no bounds are set when it comes to realizing a customized design. The silver-colored accentuating details are applied, for instance, to the dashboard and decorative door panels, to the trim around the infotainment system, in the center console, seat backrests and coat hooks.

Ferrari planning to use turbocharging in future engines

According to the latest reports from Autocar, it appears that Ferrari is currently planning to improve its engines by adding turbochargers. Of course, there are some problems according to engine developer Jean-Jacques His and the biggest one would ne the turbo lag.

Jean-Jacques His said that a delay of any sort before the power arrives is unacceptable for a Ferrari engine.

Previously, the Italian manufacturer tried to install turbochargers to an F430’s V8 engine but this did not delivered the expected results.

“Turbocharging will come eventually, but we need to solve the issue of turbo lag,” he said.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Former Continental CEO Neumann joins Vw as electric car guru

Former Continental AG CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann will be returning to Volkswagen AG as the group chief officer responsible for electric vehicles. The 48-year-old Neumann will be stepping into this newly created role that will have him report to VW CEO Martin Winterkorn. He starts his new job on December 1.

Last August, Neumann left Continental after a power struggle with controlling shareholder Schaeffler Group. It was in 2004 that Neumann joined Continental from VW and was named CEO of the Hanover-based supplier in August 2008.

Before taking the top job, Neumann had served as the supplier’s chief technology officer where he played a key role in the opening of Continental’s lithium-ion battery production plant in Nuremberg, Germany. Neumann worked at VW from 1999-2004.

He headed electronics research and electronics strategy and later assumed responsibility for electronics at the VW passenger car brand. Neumann has a doctorate in electrical engineering from the universities of Dortmund and Duisburg.

Arash AF-10 Supercar: full details, specs and price

Another supercar is now set for production – the Arash AF-10 — a creation of Arash Farboud. This £320,000 British supercar is claimed to have a top speed of 220mph. Initially, the car will be fitted with a 7.0-liter V8 engine found in the Corvette Z06, tuned to 550bhp. For a more extreme version, the car is given a bespoke 1200bhp 7.2-litre V8.

Power will be channeled through a six-speed Graziano gearbox but another option would be the six-speed sequential gearbox found in the Zonda F.

The carbonfiber chassis is being built by EPM Technology, which is the company responsible for the Force India F1 car chassis. Keeping the AF-10 on the road is a triple rear diffuser and separate front wing inspired by the Yamaha OX99-11 supercar. Since weight is kept down to a low 1260kg, the car is able to get to 60mph in less than four seconds.

The car is quite pricey since very few parts on the AF-10 will come from other cars. The wheels will be 19-inch at the front and 20-inch at rear, with double-wishbones all round. Loris Bicocchi, who helped fine-tune the Bugatti Veyron, is carrying out the chassis work, which is due to start immediately.

You may recognize the creator Arash Farboud as the one who built the Farboud GTS that is now the Farbio.

2011 Buick Regal breaks cover

Buick intends to capitalize on its performance history from over a generation ago in order to push sales for the 2011 Regal. This model is a front-drive sedan that is German-assembled and is essentially a rebadged five-passenger Opel Insignia. Sales in the US will begin in the second quarter of 2010. The Regal name was associated with several high-performance models in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Craig Bierley, the brand’s director of product and marketing, said that the Regal would be what could be considered a performance Buick in the last 30 years. There had been variations but Bierley says that whether it’s a Grand National, a GS, a GNX, it was always its performance brand. The car started production a year ago but already, the Opel version has been given multiple awards including the coveted European Car of the Year. To distinguish the Regal from the Insignia, there are minor cosmetic changes to look out for — Buick’s waterfall grille, the design of the front headlights and some interior trim.

These developments are actually all in line with Buick’s goal to rejuvenate the brand and attract younger buyers. After the Enclave crossover came the LaCrosse sedan. The Buick said that it holds the distinction for attracting buyers who are 70 years on the average. The Regal however, is targeting buyers in their 40s and 50s. Essentially, these potential sets of buyers are those who would be interested in the Acura TSX, Audi A4 and Volvo S60. Bierley said that the Regal, with its performance credentials and capacity to change perceptions, are just a few reasons why it is of value to Buick. To be highlighted by Buick is Regal’s European-tuned chassis and an optional turbocharged engine and driver-selectable suspension system.

The system has three suspension modes: normal, sport and touring. The four dampers are electronically controlled and adjust to road conditions within milliseconds. In addition, the system modifies the throttle response, shift pattern and steering effort for each mode. Two engines are available. Buyers may opt for a turbocharged, 220-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can generate 258 pounds-feet of torque. But this engine will only be available in the third quarter of 2010. Fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg in the city and 29 highway.

On the other hand, the base engine is a 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with an estimated 172 pounds-feet of torque. Fuel economy is estimated at 20 mpg city and 30 highway. For both engines, a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. A V-6 will not be offered. The Regal will be priced and positioned below the LaCrosse, Buick’s flagship sedan. Sad news for Lucerne fans since the model will be discontinued, possibly as early as 2010 or 2011.

GM to release its first earnings statement since emerging from bankruptcy

All eyes will be on General Motors Co. on Nov. 16 as it releases its first earnings statement since it emerged from bankruptcy on July 10. GM spent exactly 39 days in federal bankruptcy protection. GM has been operating on $50 billion in government loans.

At the press briefing on Nov. 5, CEO Fritz Henderson said GM was on track to out perform the targets it had set in its viability plan submitted to the U.S. Treasury in April.

Henderson didn’t give out any specific information but on a positive note, he did say that the situation is more stable than what the outlook was even just two months ago. The third-quarter financial statement will reflect the cash derived from the Cash-for-Clunkers program.

Before filing for U.S. bankruptcy protection in June, GM presented a viability plan to the government. The plan had assumed GM would have a 19.5% US share in 2009, with that share stabilizing in the 18.4 to 18.9 percent range in the succeeding years.

GM’s announcement of its third-quarter earnings will be made at 7 a.m. eastern time on Nov. 16.

Ford of Europe’s new-car sales fell by just under 1% in October

Ford of Europe reported a 1% drop in new-car sales in October but had a 13% sales increase across its main 19 European markets, which benefited from scrappage schemes. In addition, Ford held an 8..8% market share in the 19 main European markets – its highest for the month since 1997.

Incidentally, last month is Ford’s strongest October in those markets for 12 years. It’s believed that sales of the Fiesta and Ka models helped.

Ingvar Sviggum, Ford of Europe’s head of marketing, sales and service, said that it is now the “clear No. 2 best-selling brand in the European auto industry.”

When it comes to unit sales, Volkswagen is Europe’s top brand. Sviggum said Ford is raising higher-margin sales to private customers, compared with sales to businesses.

Looking at the figures in October, 64% of Ford’s car sales were to retail customers, compared to 48% in October 2008. Sviggum added that in October, 80% of Fiesta, 75% of Ka and 70% of Kuga sales were to retail customers.

GM should pay to fix Opel, says German economy minister

It doesn’t appear likely that General Motors Co. will be given state aid by the German government to restructure Opel. Last Wednesday, Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle confirmed that a meeting had taken place with several GM executives who were armed with an apology about their failure to communicate with regards to the decision to back out of selling Opel to Magna International and its partner Sberbank.

The meeting was attended by Nick Reilly, interim head of GM’s European business, and John Smith, GM’s lead restructuring executive for Opel.

The GM executives expressed that it requires 3.3 billion euros ($4.9 billion) for its plans to fix Opel, which has half of its 50,000 employees in Germany.

Bruederle told the GM executives that he expects GM will “basically carry out the financing itself.”

GM executives said they would announce their restructuring plan for Opel soon.

Bmw will invest $735 million in China

Major automakers are relying on China to raise their sales and avoid going under due to the global financial crisis. In fact, BMW AG and its partner, Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd., will invest $735 million to expand their production capacity, from an annual figure of 30,000 units to 75,000 units.

BMW said further in its statement that the total long-term investment by BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd., the country’s eighth-largest automaker, is estimated to eventually exceed 5 billion yuan. With this investment, the partnership will be expanding an existing plant in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang that already produces the BMW 3- and 5-Series sedans.

BMW and Brilliance will have a second plant, which will begin construction in 2010. Qi Yumin, the chairman of Brilliance Group, said that this plant will have an annual production capacity of 100,000 units. Speaking to reporters, Friedrich Eichiner, a board member of the BMW Group, said that China is a “global driver of growth in the automotive market.”

In addition, Eichiner says that China will play a major role in the development of future technologies. Looking at the past year, it’s clear that china had been the “bright spot” for the global car market largely due to government incentives, including huge cuts in sales taxes on small cars, which are set to expire by the end of the year.

Geely plans to launch up to three new luxury Volvo models

Within only four years of having taken over Volvo from Ford, Geely plans to launch up to three new luxury models, according to company sources. The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which is Ford’s preferred bidder for Volvo, told the Wall Street Journal that the firm would sell two or three bigger, more luxurious cars within the next four years to boost global sales.

Under Geely’s restructuring plan for Volvo, the target is to achieve global sales of more than one million units per year. Currently, Volvo’s sales are around 400,000 units per year, but Geely plans to more than double this number within five years.

To do so, Geely plans to build a new plant in China with the capability of producing 300,000 units per year. Geely predicts that Volvo could sell up to 200,000 units per year in China.

Last year, it sold 12,600 units. Geely is offering around two billion euro for Volvo but what makes the sale drawn out are the issues over intellectual property rights.

Mazda to reduce vehicle weights by at least 220 pounds beginning in 2011

By 2011, Mazda Motor Corp. vehicles will be lighter by at least 220 pounds, according to Robert Davis, senior vice president of product development and quality for Mazda North American Operations. Mazda plans to achieve this goal using a combination of lighter-weight materials, smaller vehicle footprints and new engineering processes.

Davis, speaking to the Motor Press Guild, said that each time any Mazda vehicle gets redesigned, it gains about 80 pounds. The additional weight mostly comes from larger tires and wheels, and safety equipment. For instance, a base 2003 Protege sedan had a curb weight of 2,634 pounds. In 2004, the Protege evolved into the redesigned Mazda3 sedan that weighed 2,696 pounds. It further evolved into the 2010 Mazda3 that weighs 2,868 pounds.

A 220-pound reduction in the vehicle’s curb weight will improve its fuel economy by 3 to 5 percent. Of course, there will be consequences in lowering the weight. Engineers have to consider the aspects involving fuel economy, safety regulations, and performance. Lighter materials, such as aluminum or high-strength steel, are more expensive than traditional steel.

And definitely, a significant amount of time will be utilized to come up with a more ideal body structure. Another idea is to have new processes such as finding a way to bond aluminum to steel. However, relying on technological breakthroughs will mean waiting around for something that may take too long.

Jeep Grand Cherokee may be investigated by federal safety regulators

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a unit of the US Transportation Department, is mulling whether it will formally investigate a complaint related to a defect reportedly found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee from the 1993 to 2004 model years. The vehicles’ fuel tank is said to be an exposed fire hazard that may have contributed to hundreds of deaths.

The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety last month complained that the SUV’s fuel tank extends below the rear bumper and is inadequately protected from crashes and rollovers. The vehicle’s fuel filler neck has also been claimed to tear off in crashes.

The center filed a petition for an investigation and recall and the NTHSA says that it is deciding if there’s enough evidence to support opening a probe into the 3 million Jeeps whose models fall within the 11-year period. It’s possible that the NHTSA’s “defect petition,” which began Nov. 6, would take months or years before a resolution comes out.

An NHTSA spokesman said that since Jan. 1, 2008, this has been NHTSA’s seventh pre-investigative review of an alleged defect. So far, it has received reports of a dozen Jeep Grand Cherokee crashes involving a fuel tank leak or a fire potentially related to this kind of leak.