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2014 Nissan NV200 photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Ford to Share Inflatable Safety Belt Love

Innovative seat belts provide enhanced crash protection.

Nearly five years have passed since Auto Trends first shared news about Ford’s inflatable safety belt technology. This writer called the technology “nifty” in recognition of the innovative thinking and engineering behind this important safety device.

Over the intervening years, Ford has introduced inflatable seat belts to several Ford and Lincoln models, and has plans to make them available with the next generation Ford F-150 arriving later this year. Inflatable safety belts are available for second row, outboard seating passengers only.

inflatable safety belt
Ford provides an innovative way to protect passengers with its inflatable safety belt technologies. Ford announced that it will license the technology, including to its competitors.

Inflatable Safety Belts

Inflatable seat belts deploy in the same way as regular airbags: in an accident and within 40 milliseconds following an accident. These belts inflate with cold compressed air and provide protection for the occupant’s torso and shoulders.

Ford says that the safety belts spread crash forces across and up to five times the area of conventional seat belts. Specifically, pressure is spread across a passenger’s chest; the safety belts help to control head and neck motion. Moreover, they look and operate just like regular seat belts and can be used in conjunction with both infant car seats and child booster seats.

Technology to License

The Ford Motor Company patented its inflatable seat belts and is the only car manufacturer offering them. However, it is willing to license the technology to other companies including competing car manufacturers in a bid to reduce injuries everywhere.

And not just passenger vehicles can make use of inflatable safety belts. Ford says that that military vehicles, boats and aircraft might also benefit from the technology.

Ford’s longstanding commitment to democratizing technology goes beyond our customers,” said Bill Coughlin, president and CEO, Ford Global Technologies. “In this case, the wider adoption of inflatable safety belts has the potential to make travel safer and help mitigate passenger injuries – especially among children and the elderly.”

To prepare inflatable seat belts for licensing, Ford purchased additional safety patents from United Technologies Corp. Ford is also working with the AutoHarvest Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for collaboration of innovative technologies including advanced manufacturing intellectual property.

Additional Licenses Available

Ford has several other patented technologies it is willing to license as well. Its roll stability control or RSC system utilizes sensors that provide steady surveillance of a vehicle’s movement in relation to the road surface. Braking is automatically applied and/or engine power reduced if a rollover situation is detected.

Ford’s belt minder system reminds people to buckle up and has received plaudits from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its success. Other licensable technologies include a surveillance mode for law enforcement and a driver alert warning system that senses when the driver has become distracted.


Additional Safety Articles

Nifty Idea: Inflatable Seat Belts!

IIHS Research Underscores Child Safety Seat Problems

The Rise of Automotive Safety Features

How is Tech Making Car Travel Safer?


Chart courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.

Brembo Expands Michigan Plant, Seeks North American Leadership

Brembo seeks a boost in market share.

If you are an automotive enthusiast, then you are familiar with the Brembo name. The Italian company is one of the world’s largest brake manufacturers, with its red, black or silver painted brake calipers supplying high-end OEMs including Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Citroën.


Brembo brake calipers.

This Porsche Cayman S features cant miss Brembo brake calipers.

Expanded Michigan Facility

Brembo has a strong presence in the North American market and recently expanded its Homer, Michigan, facility in a bid to increase its market share. Indeed, the facility is known for its brake, disc, caliper and corner module manufacturing, what should help Brembo reach its ultimate goal of making North America its lead market by the end of 2014.

With additional manufacturing facilities in Avenel, New Jersey, and Monterey, Mexico, the company says that it will be better positioned to serve its clients. Daniel Sandberg, president and CEO of Brembo North America said, “The investment in the Homer facility will allow us to expand our product offerings not only in North America, but also for customers across the globe.”

The Michigan plant was acquired in 2007 when Brembo purchased the Hayes-Lemmerz brakes discs division that same year. Brembo immediately set out to expand the plant in 2008, completing the second phase of that expansion in 2012 and 2013. The company also built a separate caliper and corner module manufacturing facility next to its disc plant, now offering 47 processing lines and 12 painting lines.

Brembo brakes.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT relies on Brembo brakes.

Acquisition and OEM Demand

With added production capacity, Brembo expects to increase its discs output from 10 million discs in 2013 to 12.5 million in 2014. The company is also on track to boost calipers and corners modules production by one-third to 400,000 units this year.

Brembo credits two changes in recent years that have expanded the company’s already strong presence in the North America. The first was its 2007 acquisition of the Hayes-Lemmerz Automotive Brake Component division. The second follows much stronger demand for the US-based OEMs that use Brembo products.

Besides supplying the likes of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, Fiat Chrysler is an important partner for Brembo too. Fiat Racing uses Brembo and Chrysler products, including its minivans and select Jeep products, are also outfitted with Brembo brakes.

Brembo: Formula 1 and NASCAR

Brembo is not, of course, the only supplier of high performance brake products. Earlier this year, Motor Trend provided an excellent overview of the company and its influence on the market.

Brembo is also involved in Formula 1 racing, first getting involved in motorsports in 1975. The company operates a facility in Mooresville, North Carolina, conveniently located near the headquarters of several racing teams. The company has supplied brakes for many NASCAR winners and claims Jimmy Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Clint Boyer as champions that have relied on its products to race to the winner’s circle.


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Delayed: 2015 Honda Fit

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Delayed: 2015 Honda Fit

The battlefield for small cars is an intense one with numerous compact and other small models available to entice first-time car buyers. Honda has its Civic, a compact model that competes with the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus for customers.

On the subcompact level is the Honda Fit, a vehicle that is nowhere near as popular as the Civic. Yet, Honda has big plans for its smallest model, having invested more than $800 million to build a new plant in Celaya, Mexico. This is the first time that the Honda Fit will be built in North America.

That manufacturing plant was supposed to have begun producing the next generation Fit in April, but quality control and transportation issues have pushed back its release until June reports Automotive News.

Im thrilled that we’ve been able to greatly enhance and add to the Fits already excellent attributes to provide Honda customers with class-above features and refinement at such a value price point, said Jeff Conrad, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Honda. The 2015 Fit is practical, roomy, efficient, affordable and perhaps best of all, great fun to drive.

2015 Honda Fit

Subcompact Honda Fit

Nevertheless, the front-wheel drive, five-passenger subcompact will soon arrive and will position the Fit to better compete against several models. Those models include the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda2, Mitsubishi Mirage, Volkswagen Golf, and the Nissan Versa. The Versa, including the Versa Note hatchback, is currently the best selling model in the segment, a position that Honda hopes it will soon take.

To get to greater sales Honda is aggressively pricing the 2015 Fit. The base Honda Fit LX with a six-speed manual transmission retails from $15,525. Choose the available continuously variable transmission and your starting price rises to $16,325.

The Fit EX outfitted with the six-speed manual transmission retails from $17,435. Choose the CVT and the base price comes in at $18,235. Honda also sells Fit EX-L CVT ($19,800) and a Fit EX-L CVT with Navi ($20,800) editions.

Engine Choice and Trim Levels

All 2015 Honda Fit models are powered by a 1.5-liter (1498 cc) four cylinder engine making 130 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 114 foot-pounds of torque at 4,600 rpm. Fuel economy ranges from 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway when equipped with a manual transmission to 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway with the CVT. The Honda Fit is outfitted with a 10.6-gallon fuel tank and runs on regular grade gasoline.

The Fit LX comes equipped with a security systems with remote entry, intermittent wipers, a body-colored rear spoiler, automatic halogen headlamps, air conditioning, a rear view camera, power windows and door locks, cruise control, map lights, two 12-volt outlets, a cargo area light, and a 160-watt audio system with four speakers. This model also includes Bluetooth audio streaming, an auxiliary input jack, and speed-sensitive volume control.

Choose the EX or EX-L editions and your standard equipment includes a one-touch power moonroof with a tilt feature, smart entry and fog lights. Heated, power side mirrors with embedded turn signals are standard with the EX-L.

Other standard equipment with the EX and EX-L include Honda LaneWatch, push button start, HDMI port, cargo area tie down anchors, floor mats, a 180-watt, six-speaker sound system, audio display, and Pandora compatibility. All EX-L models upgrade to leather seats from cloth and include heated front seats.

Safety Features and Warranties

All 2015 Honda Fit models come equipped with stability control, traction control, an antilock brake system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and daytime running lights. Six airbags are included.

Honda also provides the following warranties with its new vehicles: a 3-year/36,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and a 5-year/unlimited-mile corrosion limited warranty.


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Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Dangerous by Design: A Look at Pedestrian Fatalities

Pedestrian safety report points out problems, outlines solutions.

As a driver, you are very much aware of what other drivers are doing while on the road. You also take note of motorcycles and bicycles, giving them enough room to share the road.

Pedestrians are another concern, especially young children that dart out into traffic as in going after a ball. Even so, young children are not the ones most likely to be killed in a pedestrian accident. Instead, it is older adults and people of color that have the greatest chance of getting killed when traveling on foot.

Dangerous by Design 2014

pedestrian crossingThese and other findings were part of a Dangerous by Design 2014 report released this month by Smart Growth America, a national coalition of state and local organizations that are working for better communities across the United States. These groups include CEOs for Cities, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Alliance to Save Energy and Reconnecting America.

The organization found that more than 47,000 people died in pedestrian accidents in the decade beginning in 2003 and ending in 2012. Pedestrian fatalities represented 15 percent of all deaths in 2012, increasing by 6 percent over the previous year and representing a five-year high.

The report examines where fatalities take place while also looking at who is most vulnerable, drilling down to every state, metro area and community in the country.

Young Pedestrians at Risk

Pedestrians are most at risk in Sunbelt communities, areas that have grown the most in the past 75 years. Many modern communities developed rapidly, including low-density communities that are interconnected by broad roadways that bring people to work, school and to retail outlets.

These roads are usually built only with cars in mind, not even providing basic access for pedestrians including sidewalks. Even so, the report points out “…the unacceptably high number of pedestrian deaths seen in nearly every major metro region,” not just boom towns.

The number of children that die in pedestrians accidents has fallen dramatically since 1984. Three decades ago, more than 1,000 children were killed each year. In 2012, that number fell to 319. However, the researchers claim that the reduction is due to a decrease in physical activity among children for what has led to another problem: childhood obesity.

Children remain vulnerable to pedestrian injury or death in part for their small size. Another factor is their inability to comprehend danger. For instance, the report cited a study that found children aged 6 to 11 are unable to detect vehicles that are going faster than 20 mph. In other words, they do not see the cars coming.

A federal program established in 2005, Safe Routes to School (SRTS), has provided funding to help communities build sidewalks, crosswalks and other safety features in a bid to provide safer access for students. A continual drop in pedestrian accidents near schools has been a positive impact for a program that is no longer funded.

Elderly Pedestrian Death Demographics

If you are an older American who gets around on foot beware: your chances of getting killed are greater than other segments of the population. Although representing 12.6 percent of the population, the elderly accounted for 21 percent of all pedestrian deaths from 2003 to 2010, with an even greater concentration of deaths for seniors who were aged 75 and older.

Why are older Americans walking? For many the reason is simple: they no longer drive and they rely on public transportation. Getting to transportation spots means traveling there on foot including crossing dangerous intersections. With reaction times that are much slower than young people, older Americans are more likely to get injured or killed.

People of Color on Foot

People of color, including blacks and Latinos, also are more likely to be killed in a pedestrian accident. The researchers found that these individuals tend to travel on foot in greater numbers. Moreover, African Americans and Hispanics are highly concentrated in urbanized areas especially the previously mentioned suburban areas where roadways are not pedestrian friendly.

As gloomy as pedestrian death statistics are, the researchers stressed that improving street design can have a big impact on making people safe. A number of communities across the country have taken steps to improve street layouts.

Phoenix Street Improvement Project

Indeed, the report pointed to Phoenix as one city that recently made significant changes near the downtown campus of Arizona State University. City designers realized that on First Street there was more street capacity than needed, then set out a new configuration to cover a six-block area.

The designers improved drainage, added ADA compliant ramps and crossings, widened sidewalks and added shade trees. The new scheme provides improved access for pedestrians and cyclists, while also addressing flooding issues.

Making Walking Areas Safer

The researchers also offered guidance by what means planners might develop walkable communities. That guidance takes under consideration two matters: first, understanding how people currently use streets and public spaces; second, how they would like to use these areas in the future.

So-called “flow considerations,” including separating people walking from people driving vehicles, maintaining lower speed limits, and providing sidewalk and ramp access for people with disabilities were among the ideas offered. From there, planners and engineers could use a variety of design elements including pedestrian countdown signals, refuge islands, curb extensions and wide sidewalks to improve safety.

Other changes include mid-block crossing —including at transit stops — pedestrian hybrid beacons, narrow travel lanes and restricting right turns on red signals. Backed-in angled parking and planting street trees can also help.

Better Data Needed

The data behind Dangerous by Design, although helpful, is not exhaustive. Researchers admit that the data supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration looks at only fatal pedestrian crashes. There is no national database that tracks non-fatal pedestrian injuries including those resulting in life-long disabilities.

Based on the data, the NHTSA estimates that 76,000 people were injured in pedestrian collisions in 2012. However, without data showing where non-fatal accidents occur, dangerous intersections or blocks cannot be pinpointed nor can the factors that contribute to pedestrian danger be fully known.

Just how dangerous are roads in your area? Smart Growth America provides a fatalities map to help you learn how many pedestrians were killed in your area and where those deaths took place in the 10-year period ending 2012. By simply inputting a zip code, pedestrian death locations show up on a map with the total number of fatalities listed.


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Midsize Maven: 2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited

The Hyundai Sonata is not the best selling vehicle in the midsize segment. That honor belongs to the Toyota Camry.


2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited

2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited

As a matter of fact, the Sonata trails the Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the Ford Fusion. And at present, it is running neck and neck with the Chevrolet Malibu for a distant fifth place. Yet, if there is one vehicle that has redefined the D-segment (midsize models), the Sonata would be it.

Introduced in early 2010 as a 2011 model, the current Hyundai Sonata threw the style gauntlet down. That gauntlet had “no more boring vehicles” written all over it, serving notice to consumers that inspiring design was not limited to luxury models. Consumers responded in kind, snapping up Sonatas and nearly doubling model sales in just three years.

The big Sonata redo of 2010 set off a chain of new or refreshed D-segment models from competitors, forced to up the styling ante and counter Hyundai’s then 35 mpg fuel leadership. The most significant changes have come from Nissan and Ford with Hyundai’s corporate cousin getting in the act too with its dashing Kia Optima.

2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited

Although just four years have come and gone, Hyundai is already planning a new Sonata. That seventh-generation model goes on sale early this summer, a slightly larger sedan at that. However, the next-generation model was not what I received. Instead, I was handed the keys to a 2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited ($27,000) to serve as my most recent weekly driver.

Hyundai prices the 2014 Sonata from $21,450 (GLS) and positions an SE model ($24,300) smack in the middle. All GLS, SE and Limited editions are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 190 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 179 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm.

You can also choose a Sonata with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. If you do, you will be treated to 274 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 269 foot-pounds of torque at 1,750. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. Hyundai offers two turbo editions: $25,850 for the SE 2.0T and $28,550 for the Limited 2.0T. A hybrid model is also available and was previously tested by Auto Trends.

Sleek Exterior

Although the Sonata’s current design has been around for a few years, it still pushes the styling envelope for its segment.

Its bold grille is flanked by a pair of curvilinear light assemblies that includes its headlamps, LED lights and turn signal indicators. Fog lamps are standard with the Sonata Limited.

“Fluidic sculpture” is what Hyundai calls the Sonata’s design language, what delivers a sweeping motion from bumper to bumper. In between, this sedan features very pronounced character lines that run from the front fascia and across the hood and are further delineated by strong profile lines across the upper and lower door panels before disappearing near the end of the sedan. The rear deck is a bit less striking, but it still manages to provide an upscale motif.

Upscale Interior

Inside, the styling drama continues with similar arched lines running across the dashboard, along the door panels and around the cockpit.

The instrument panel is dominated by a pair of oversized analog displays accented with brightwork trim. A digital driver’s information center is between the two.

The center stack offers a full-color screen that provides access to Hyundai’s BlueLink Infotainment system with music, navigation and media functions. In my one test of the navigation feature, it quickly provided directions to my destination, delivering pleasant voice instructed turn-by-turn guidance. Knobs and switches control the audio and climate control systems beneath that. USB and auxiliary ports and a pair of 12-volt outlets are at the base of the stack along with multiple storage compartments including a deep, enclosable unit suitable for housing your smartphone or wallet.

Hyundai offers no surprises when it comes to the placement of the drive controls with secondary controls located right on the steering wheel, on the door panel or on a control stalk jutting out of the steering wheel. The power-operated driver’s seat was comfortable, offering ample leg, arm and thigh support. The same could be said for the front passenger seat although that seat does not offer a power feature. Heating and cooling front seats and heated rear seats are standard with the Hyundai Sonata Limited.

The 60-40 split rear seat is also comfortable, but take note that the receding roofline does limit your headroom. Standing at just under 6 feet tall, my head touches the ceiling when I was seated in the rear. Other analysts have noted that the Sonata’s headroom is one of the best in its class, but if someone in your family is tall or relegated to the back seat, you might want to sit back there first to see what I mean. Rear seating is otherwise excellent for two and good for three people especially if the middle rider is not an adult.


2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited

View manufacturer details and pricing


On the Road

If you are looking for robust performance with the Hyundai Sonata, the standard engine will disappoint you. Given that I did not have access to the turbo edition, those that crave more power will definitely want to consider the boosted model.

The standard Sonata features keyless entry and push-button start with the transmission stick situated between the front seats. Turn on the engine, slip the transmission into gear and you will find adequate power at the ready. You will also hear a generous amount of engine noise, raising to a whine when you push the accelerator to the floor. Not as refined sounding as other cars in this class that I have driven, but hardly worth complaining about.

Torque steer was minimal with only a slight nudge to either side when pressing the pedal to metal. Steering is good, though at times squishy — on a few occasions I found myself holding on to the wheel a bit tighter as the road rose and fell before me. Braking was also good with the attendant traction control, stability control, ABS and brake assist at work.

The ride offered no surprises which is the type of response I expected from this front-wheel-drive sedan. The Sonata has 110 inches between its front and back wheels for the longest wheelbase in its class. Its suspension is noticeably soft, likely what most buyers prefer. Choose the turbo and a sport-tuned suspension is included.

Sonata Technology Package

Opting for the Hyundai Sonata Limited and in this case, one loaded with a technology package ($3,000) pushed its final price to $31,120. That package included a panoramic sunroof with tilt and two shades, HID Xenon headlamps, LED tail lights, a navigation system, and a 400-watt Infinity audio system. Even so, I kept thinking about the slightly larger Hyundai Azera sedan that I had in March with a V-6 engine and even more amenities. At the higher end of the Sonata price spectrum, the base Azera comes into play.

You may also want to look at the Sonata Hybrid ($26,000) a model that can be packed with many of the amenities found in the gas-only Limited and for about the same price. The hybrid is rated 36 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, offering considerably better fuel economy numbers than the standard model.

2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited

  • Sticker price from $27,000
  • Price as tested: $31,120
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 2.4-liter 16-valve four cylinder engine
  • 190 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
  • 179 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,250 rpm
  • 3.46 inches bore by 3.82 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 11.3-to-1
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 110 inches
  • Length: 189.8 inches
  • Width: 72.2 inches
  • Height: 57.9 inches
  • Passenger volume: 103.8 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 16.4 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: Not recommended
  • EPA: 24 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,245 to 3,428 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Good all categories except marginal in small overlap front testing
  • Safety features: Blind spot detection system
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/Unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Montgomery, Alabama

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2014 Hyundai Sonata Limited photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Happy Memorial Day! Except for the Stop-Sale Orders.

Cadillac Escalade

Stop Sale: No 2015 Cadillac Escalades can be sold until further notice.

The Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching. It is the unofficial start of the summer season and that means people will be taking to the road in greater numbers over the next few days.

That also means many consumers will be looking at their current drives and will want to make a change. After all, if your utility vehicle has seen better days, there are a plethora of new crossovers on dealer lots ready to be snapped up.

Unless you sell GM products.

Cadillac Escalade Recall

Yes, this weekend customers flocking to Cadillac dealer lots in search of the just released 2015 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESV are in for a rude awakening — GM told Cadillac dealers not to sell these vehicles. Moreover, the company sent overnight letters to the 224 customers already in possession of these vehicles and instructed them not to allow passengers to sit in the front seat until the vehicle has been serviced.

At issue is a passenger airbag module attached to a chute glued to the backside of the instrument panel. GM has learned that the infrared weld used to adhere the part was not sufficiently heated. The supplier has since corrected the problem, but there is a matter of fixing those models now sitting on dealer lots. Take a nice look at them, place your order, but you will need to wait a bit to take delivery.


Chevrolet Traverse

The Chevrolet Traverse is one of three crossovers under recall.

Three Crossovers Affected

Cadillac dealers won’t be the only ones faced with disappointed customers this week. Three large crossover utility models are also being recalled: the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and the Chevrolet Traverse.

In a press announcement covering the three affected models (plus all 2009-2010 Saturn Outlook models), GM said that the “…front safety lap belt cables can fatigue and separate over time. In a crash, a separated cable could increase the risk of injury to front seat passengers.” The recall spans six model years beginning in 2009 and continuing through the current 2014 model year.

Car dealers will most certainly look for ways to take orders this holiday weekend. Indeed, many dealerships already have long-planned sales in place and are expecting a rush in shoppers. What they won’t be able to do is allow customers to test drive certain models. However, if they do make sales this weekend, dealers can provide loaner vehicles for models unaffected by the recall.

Ratcheting Up the Recalls

The latest batch of GM recalls number 2.42 million units. A week earlier GM announced recalls covering 2.7 million vehicles in the United States including 2,440,524 previous generation Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx vehicles, the Pontiac G6 and the Saturn Aura. GM said that the brake lamp wiring harnesses in the affected models will need to be replaced to prevent taillamp malfunctions.

Other recalls made in recent months have included fixing power steering problems in more than 1.3 million vehicles, reworking the instrument panel in more than 300,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans, and repairing the wiring harness in 1.18 million Buick, GMC, Chevrolet and Saturn models.


Chevrolet Cobalt

The Chevy Cobalt was subject to an earlier recall this year.

Millions Upon Millions Recalled

GM has issued 30 recalls involving 13.8 million cars this year, breaking its previous yearly record reports CBS News. That total is about five times the number of new vehicles sold by GM in the US each year and includes many models that have been discontinued from brands that have been shuttered. Driving the recall surge are lawsuits, government pressure and consumer dismay, especially over an ignition switch problem that was ignored by GM and has led to at least 13 deaths.


See AlsoTakata Recalls to Pace Yet Another Record Year

Elio Motors: Production Delayed Until Late 2015

Lack of capitalization delays the Elio dream.

Elio Motors

Paul Elio has been busy lately promoting Elio Motors, a company he founded with plans to build a $6,800 three-wheeled vehicle in Louisiana.

Following a brief appearance on Fox Friends late last month, Elio announced that Pep Boys would serve as its official service provider. Over the following weeks Elio has been busy showing off a prototype of the vehicle at venues across the country.

Elio: Production Delay

Earlier this week Elio announced that it had pushed back production until the third quarter of 2015. The company has secured a portion of a former General Motors assembly plant complex near Shreveport, Louisiana, to build the two-seater, a model it says will get 84 mpg on the highway.

Elio citied a funding delay as the reason for pushing back production. In a May 16, 2014, letter to supporters obtained by Auto Trends, Paul Elio said about the change, “This is a few months later than anticipated, with the delay tied to the evaluation of the plant as well as the timely closing of financing commitments.” He went on to explain that the company was moving forward with its plans and would apprise supporters of additional updates in the coming months.

Market Capitalization

Elio Motors has assembled a Board of Directors composed of five members: James Holden, David C. Schembri, Hari Iyer, Kenneth L. Way and Stuart Lichter, with Lichter investing $7.5 million to support the company. That funding is part of the $55 million the Shreveport Times says has been raised by Elio to date. Elio claims it will need $200 million just to get production started.

Without sufficient capital, Elio Motors simply will not move forward. That is the contention of Stephanie Lynch, a Caddo Parish Commissioner, and the lone dissenter in a 2013 11-1 commission vote approving the parish’s purchase of the property. Lynch then sued the commission to stop the purchase citing that it may have violated state law by using taxpayer dollars to benefit a for-profit enterprise reports Shreveport’s KSLA News. That lawsuit was thrown out by a judge, but Lynch’s skepticism remains.

Early Reservations Taken

Elio continues to push for early reservations, with more than 17,600 signed up as of May 14, 2014. The company provides four funding levels: $100, $250, $500 and $1,000, refundable deposits that gives people first dibs on production models based on their level of support. Those who make $1,000 deposits will also receive an additional $500 off of their purchase price.

The headwinds for bringing the Elio to market are strong and it won’t be the first attempt that a three-wheeled vehicle has been proposed.

In 2005, Aptera Motors was formed with plans to bring a two-seat, three-wheeled passenger vehicle to market. The company had plans to build both electric and hybrid versions of its vehicles, acquiring funding from Google and other investors. Production was supposed to have started in 2008, but production problems and the refusal of the Department of Energy to fund a loan quashed its plans. By summer 2011 the company had begun refunding deposits, liquidating its assets just four months later.

The Elon Musk Factor

Elio supporters point to Tesla Motors as an example of an upstart automaker that has defied the odds and remains viable. Yet, Tesla was launched when government funding was strong and its founder, Elon Musk, had SpaceX and Paypal to point to as successful early ventures. Paul Elio may have a vision, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the name recognition of a Musk. And with much funding still needed, Elio’s plans may soon fizzle.

Additional Elio Motors News

Elio: American Made and Only $6,800?!

Elio Motors: Shreveport Fact or Fantasy?

Arrived: 2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell

Consumers interested in green vehicles will soon have access to yet another technology: fuel cell vehicles. Though the technology is not new — it has been tested extensively for a number of years — the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell vehicles that arrived at a port near Los Angeles this week are the first mass produced models to hit the US market.

Sales to Commence Within Weeks

Sales of the new models are expected to commence within the next few weeks. Three Southern California dealers will receive the initial supply.

2015 Hyundai Tucson FCEV
A beautiful sight: 2015 Hyundai Tucson FCEV
disembark near L.A.
You can’t buy the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell (FCEV), but you can lease one.

Hyundai’s leasing program is offering the vehicle for $499 per month, a price that includes unlimited free hydrogen refueling and a valet maintenance program just like the one offered with the Hyundai Equus. Customers will also be required to put $2,999 down for this 36-month lease.

“Hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles represent the next generation of zero-emission electric vehicle technology, and we’re proud of our leadership role in this important segment of the alternative fuel vehicle market,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president, corporate and product planning, Hyundai Motor America. “The range and refueling time of our Tucson FCEV compare favorably with gasoline vehicles, making them a seamless transition from traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. We’re excited to provide customers in Southern California a way to transition to a zero-emission vehicle with minimal compromises.

FCEV Interest

Hyundai claims that consumers have shown strong interest in fuel cells, with more than 200,000 hits to its fuel cell microsite. In the Tucson Fuel Cell, Hyundai beats out its competitors by offering the first mass produced hydrogen vehicle of its kinds, beating Toyota, GM, BMW and others to the market. Honda has long had its FCX Clarity available, but only in very small quantities.

Hyundai is touting the Tucson FCEV as an “EV for people on the move.” The company says that it will take less than 10 minutes to fully fill the Tucson FCV compared to three hours for today’s EVs using a 240-volt outlet.

Other benefits of the Tucson FCEV is that it has a long driving range, limited weather impact, zero emissions (it emits only water vapor), instant torque and that it uses a domestic fuel source. FCVs also are quiet and the technology scales to other sized vehicles.

Hydrogen Refilling Station Network

The main challenge for consumers will be refueling. At present, there are just 11 public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States — 9 are in Southern California. Earlier this month the state of California updated its plans for a hydrogen refueling network, nothing that Toyota promised to contribute financial backing.

California’s investment is about $200 million and will push the number of filling stations past 100. No other states have yet to commit to the technology as has California.


Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America.

3 All-New Models for the Big Three in 2015

New 2015 models on the way.

The Big Three automakers continue to fight back in a wide open US market. GM remains the market leader, but Ford and Fiat Chrysler continue to boost market share in various segments, sometimes at the expense of each other. For 2015, all three automakers will have several new models to offer including the following three that are all-new and should boost sales.

Ford Motor Company — Lincoln MKC

Props must be given to Lincoln dealers who have suffered enormously since the Mercury brand was discontinued in 2011. With very few models to offer, Mercury-free Lincoln dealers have seen sales tumble and their profits with it.

Ford has promised to revive its luxury brand and began to make a positive stride last year with the introduction of the updated MKZ sedan. That model has helped sales, but Lincoln dealers want and need more. Fortunately, that wait is nearly over as the Lincoln MKC crossover utility vehicle debuts this June.

Never mind that the Lincoln MKC shares its platform with the Ford Escape. You will not find badge engineering here as the MKC has its own body, interior and many mechanical components that are unique to this model. Priced from $33,100, the MKC joins two other crossovers in the Lincoln line: MXK and MKT. Lincoln still sells its traditional body-on-frame Navigator, what will also be new for 2015.

Big Three: Lincoln MKC

A pair of EcoBoost engines (i.e., turbochargers, direct injection, variable valve timing) will be available with the MKC including a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower and is also sold with the Ford Escape. New for 2015 is a 2.3-liter four that makes 275 horsepower and is available only with the all-wheel-drive edition. Standard adaptive suspension, bi-xenon headlamps, push-button transmission, and real leather and wood are among its highlights, features you won’t find in the Escape.

The Lincoln MKC serves one of the fastest growing segments in all of autodom: compact luxury utility vehicles. It will have many competitors including the Cadillac SRX, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Audi Q3, and the BMW X3. It should quickly become Lincoln’s best selling model, even topping the 40,000 units the MKZ is projected to garner this year.

General Motors Company — Cadillac ATS Coupe

Two years ago GM introduced the Cadillac ATS, a compact sedan that slotted below the popular CTS line. It was the first time since the Catera of the 1990s and the Cimarron of the 1980s that Cadillac has sold a compact model, with the ATS immediately proving a hit for the brand.

GM made it known back then that new ATS models would follow. The next body style for the ATS line is a coupe, a model that has the BMW 4-Series in its crosshairs. Comparable models from Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Infiniti and Audi are also game.

Cadillac has priced its luxury 2+2 sport coupe from $38,900. What you get is a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine makes 272 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel-drive is available.

Big Three: Cadillac ATS Coupe

You can also choose a 321-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine paired with a 6-speed automatic. Brembo brakes are standard across the model line; magnetic ride control suspension is also available.

Cadillac describes the ATS coupe as a “true driver’s car” with four color themes available making use of Sapele wood, aluminum trim and leather. Its near 50-50 front to rear weight distribution, magnesium paddle shifters, speed sensitive steering, and independent suspension are designed to emphasize the thrill of the drive.

Cadillac sales have slipped slightly this year, but the addition of the ATS coupe and an all-new Escalade should help GM’s luxury brand bring in more customers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, N.V. — Chrysler 200

Fresh off the official merger of Fiat and Chrysler to form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, N.V., the combined corporate entity continues to bang out new models. One such vehicle is the Chrysler 200, a midsize sedan that has not competed well in a segment dominated by the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima and the Ford Fusion.

The Chrysler 200 made its debut in 2011, essentially a refreshed version of the previous Chrysler Sebring. The name change alone helped sales for a model line that also included a convertible. The convertible is no more, just a sedan will be offered.

The latest iteration of the 200 is not like any one previously offered. It is based on Fiat’s compact-wide platform, what underpins the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee. That platform has been stretched and widened to accommodate the Chrysler, a model priced from $21,700.

Big Three: Chrysler 200

A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 184 horsepower is standard. Also available is a 295 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Both engines are paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. New for 2015 is the available all-wheel drive, an improved infotainment system and other technologies, plus eight airbags.

Perhaps the biggest change for the 200 is how Chrysler is recasting the brand. In April, CEO Sergio Marchionne said that Chrysler is now its mainstream brand. In other words, it no longer competes with Buick and defunct Mercury, rather it is on the same playing field as Ford and Chevrolet.

Big Three and Other New Models

Auto Trends will have reviews of these and other new models as they pass through our press fleet. That information will be posted to our new car reviews section in the coming months.


See Also — MRY Study Reveals That We Still Love Our Cars