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Tesla, BMW to Possibly Collaborate in Battery Technology, Lightweight Components

Tesla-MotorsIn an interview with German weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said that his company, Tesla Motors, is in talks with Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) for a possible collaboration in batteries and light-weight components.

BMW is known to use carbon fibers in making reinforced passenger cell components for its electric hatchback i3 and plug-in hybrid sports car i8. Such material is produced by materials supplier SGL Group, which BMW has a joint venture with.

In the interview, Musk was quoted saying that BMW’s production and usage of carbon fiber in reinforcing car body parts is both “interesting” and “relatively cost efficient.” He also noted that they are talking with the German carmaker for a possible collaboration in battery technology or charging stations.

BMW has yet to make a statement regarding this matter. There are also no further details concerning the specific nature of the possible collaboration, though executives from both auto companies have already met in June to tackle the development of charging stations that would benefit a variety of electric cars.

Aside from discussing the possible alliance with BMW, Musk also mentioned to Der Spiegel that he is looking to have a plant in Germany in the next five to six years. The plant will serve as the place of production for their vehicles’ batteries.

Tesla has been teaming up with different auto companies in recent years on projects involving electric vehicles. It has worked with Toyota on the RAV4 EV project as well as with Daimler AG, which is the owner of the Mercedes brand and rival of BMW. The latter automaker used to hold shares in Tesla, but sold its remaining 4 percent stake in the electric car company last month. However, the German automaker said that it would still continue collaborating with Tesla Motors even after selling its shares in the electric car company.

Photo credit:  Sam Felder / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0



General Motors Reorganizes Some Executive Posts

General Motors announces senior leadership changes Thursday, NovGeneral Motors Co. announced on Thursday that it has done some leadership changes to make the organization stronger and more customer-centric. The company also mentioned that one of its top-ranking female officials has stepped down from her position to pursue other opportunities.

According to the Detroit-based automaker, effective March 31, Mary Chan will no longer hold the position of the company’s vice president, global connected consumer. Replacing her and assuming all her responsibilities, including overseeing OnStar communications network, will be Alicia Boler-Davis, who is currently senior vice president, global quality and customer experience of the company.

Boler-Davis’ position will then be assumed by Grace Lieblein, who is currently GM’s vice president, global purchasing and supply chain. The two women will then report directly to CEO Mary Barra.

Taking over Lieblein’s post will be Steve Kiefer, vice president, global powertrain, while Dan Nicholson, who is GM’s executive director of powertrain embedded controls, will take the post that Kiefer will vacate. Once Kiefer and Nicholson have assumed their new positions, they will be reporting directly to GM’s North America president Mark Russ.

In a statement made by Barra, the leadership changes are made to earn the trust and loyalty of customers. She also noted that such changes, along with delivering exception quality and customer care, will put them on the path to earn customers for life.

According to GM, the personnel changes it has made will take effect immediately.

Photo credit: © General Motors CC BY-NC 3.0



Wallet Hub Study Reveals Loan for New Car is Cheaper Than Used One

Loan-ImageFor those thinking of ditching their existing cars, this is probably a good time to push through with the idea and switch to a new model instead of a used one. A recent study from financial comparison website Wallet Hub reveals that interest rates for car loans is lower this quarter compared to that in 2012. However, they are significantly cheaper for loans of new cars.

Accordingly, average rate for a 36-month new car loan declined by 4.31 percent this quarter or 20 percent lower than a similar rate for a used car. That also compares to the first quarter of 2012 when new car loan rates were 10 percent lower than used car loans. This figure is encouraging enough for consumers to consider buying a new car.

Aside from the lower rate of new car loans, it was also found that of the 157 lenders that were analyzed in the study, car manufacturers charge the lowest interest for new cars or 40 percent below average. Credit unions come in at second, charging 24 percent below average and National banks are on the third spot, charging rates close to average. Regional banks are at the tail end of the list, charging consumer with interest rates that are 40 percent higher than average.

As for the manufacturers that were analyzed during the study, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Kia provide lowest financing rates to consumers, while Chevrolet, BMW, Mitsubishi and Honda have the best deals on lease.

It was also reported that consumers with the best credit scores are still at an advantage as they are most likely to receive the best car loan deals. Compared to consumers with fair credit or whose score range anywhere between 620 and 659, a borrower with a credit score of 720 or higher might save up to $6,000 in interest rates on a five year loan. This only goes to show that banks and dealers still prefer to lend money to individuals with long credit histories, good payment record and low debts, according to Wallet Hub spokeswoman Jill Gonzales.

However, it should be noted that the actual loan terms provided by lenders will still depend on the circumstances the borrower is in. Lenders will still look at factors such as location, income, special promotions and negotiating skills to figure out the most suitable loan term for a borrower, Gonzales says.

Photo credit: Chris Potter / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



Ford Includes Ranger Pickups on List of Recalls Due to Faulty Takata Airbags

Ford-EmblemFord Motor Co. expands its list of recalls to include its Ranger pickups after Takata Corp. said that the vehicles are equipped with inflators that are slightly different from the one used in a Honda vehicle that was involved in a fatal accident in Malaysia that killed a pregnant woman last July.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Ford said that it will be replacing the driver’s side and passenger airbags in certain Ranger trucks whose model years were from 2004 and 2005.

This recent pullback is in addition to the recall that Ford issued last June, wherein the automaker announced it would recall 58,000 vehicles due to flawed Takata airbags. Last month, Kelli Felker, Ford spokeswoman stated the figure went up to 85,004 and was expanded to include Mustangs and Rangers whose model years run from 2005-2008 and 2004-2005, respectively. Felker then mentioned on Friday that Ford decided to expand its recall list as the NHTSA asked for it.

The NHTSA met with Ford in late September and October this year to discuss the issue, and according to the regulator, both Ford and Takata agreed to replace the driver airbags from the vehicles in question so that the inflators can be tested and evaluated by Takata.

The incident in Malaysia last July 27, which involved a Honda city car and had killed a pregnant woman, was the fifth worldwide and the first to occur outside of the USA that has been linked to faulty Takata inflators. The said flaw on the inflators resulted for the airbags to send metal fragments to occupants of the vehicles when they deploy during a crash. Recalls associated with the faulty airbag has already reached 16 million vehicles worldwide, 7.8 million of which are in the United States.

Takata Corp. disclosed to the NHTSA that it did not use the exact same inflator in the Malaysia accident in US vehicles. However, the Japanese company also said that it did produce an inflator that is slightly different from the one in the Malaysia incident, which are being used in 2005 and 2005 Ford Ranger trucks. However, both Ford and Takata said that they are not aware any problems related to the Ranger trucks.

David Friedman, NHTSA’s deputy administrator noted that they are aggressively investigating the flawed airbags created by Takata on all affected manufacturers, adding that they are carefully looking at all angles to ensure safety.

The regulator is also investigating whether to expand the recalls by at least 1.1 million vehicles and has been encouraging automakers to take more steps to address the issue at hand.

Photo credit: Photo credit:  Ian Muttoo / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0



Subaru on Track to Hitting North America Sales Target Ahead of Schedule

MY11 Subaru ForesterIn a report by Autonews, Fuji Heavy Industries, the automaker behind Subaru cars, reported on Thursday that they are on track to hitting their North America mid-term sales target three years ahead of schedule. This is on the back of strong demand for its Forester and Legacy brands.

Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, Fuji Heavy Industries’ CEO, said in an interview that by 2016 or 2017 they are looking to sell 600,000 units in North America. After hitting such target, a new mid-term sales target will likely be announced by the company.

Fuji Heavy Industries believes it will be hitting record profits for the third consecutive year as decline in domestic market is being countered by weaker yen and increased US demand. It can be remembered that back in May, the automaker set its annual sales to hit more than 1.1 million units by March 2021. Of the said figure, 600,000 units are expected to be sold within North America.

Most of the vehicles of Fuji Heavy Industries are manufactured back home and majority of them are sold overseas. In its mid-term plan, the Japanese automaker looks to boost its production to cover 40 percent of its total capacity by March 2021, which will also help protect the company against foreign-exchange rate swings.

It should be noted that Fuji Heavy Industries is the only Japanese automaker that did not get the approval to manufacture its vehicles in China. This initially put the company at a disadvantage since imports have a 25 percent duty. However, this eventually changed in 2012 after a territorial dispute between China and Japan resulted to anti-Japan protest, which resulted for Japanese automakers like Toyota, Honda and Nissan to experience weaker sales in China.

Yoshinaga noted they have no plans to build a manufacturing plant in China before 2020 even if they receive a stamp of approval from the government. This is because they have their hands full on increasing their capacity in the US and there will be not enough people to handle manufacturing in China.

While a China manufacturing plant is not in plan, however, Fuji Heavy Industries is looking to annually sell 120,000 units in the country by March 2021, which they intend to do by exporting from Japan and by widening its local dealer reach.

Photo credit: NRMA Motoring and Services / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



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