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Auto Reliability Survey Reveals Tech and Infotainment System Flaws Plague New Cars

Infotainment-System-1Consumer Reports’ annual Auto Reliability Survey is out, and results reveal that in-car electronics in 2014 car models receive the most complaints among drivers more than any other category in the survey.

Some of the most common gripes drivers have with in-car electronics include unresponsive touchscreens, phone compatibility issues and dysfunctional multi-use controllers.

In an Automotive Press Association meeting held in Detroit last Monday, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing, Jake Fisher noted that in-car electronic problems act like a plague that is infecting the automotive industry. He also added that looking closely at the results of the survey suggests vehicles with in-car electronic issues also have other troubles.

Among the worst offenders in the survey are the first-year models from Cadillac, Jeep, Fiat, Ram, Ford and Honda. The said brands show significant problems with glitches and bugs in their infotainment systems.

Chrysler/Fiat tops the worst list, with its Ram brand tumbling to 26th place from 7th last year. Its Dodge brand is a notch lower, while Jeep settles in at second to the last place. The Fiat 500L is the least reliable car among the 248 surveyed vehicles.

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. leads Detroit automakers on the survey for the second straight year, though it still falls below the industry average. Its Buick line is the only domestic brand to make it to the top 10. Japanese brands like Lexus, Toyota and Mazda still hold the top spots for the most reliable cars.

Ford Motor Co., on the other hand, has shown improvements with its infotainment systems, helping it step up from last year’s bottom list to ‘worse than average.’ Its namesake brand made it to the 23rd spot, while its luxury brand Lincoln has shown the most improvement in any brand, settling in at the 15th spot.

According to Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst from, automakers should improve in-vehicle technologies because they are a serious consideration that affects a buyer’s decision on whether to purchase a vehicle or not. She added that at this point, the industry is not doing in-vehicle technologies very well and there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

Photo credit: Motor Blog / Flickr / CC BY 2.0




Ford to Pour $5 Billion Into Overhauling Lincoln Brand

Lincoln-Emblem-1Ford Motor Co. is reportedly planning to overhaul its luxury vehicle brand Lincoln to reposition it as a true competitor against top luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes. The carmaker is set to pour $5 billion or more into the project over the next five years, according to an exclusive report by the Reuters news agency.

Lincoln, a luxury brand owned by Ford since 1922, has been floundering for the past two decades. Due to this, dealers and followers of the brand are wondering if Ford has no plans to save it.

However, with the support of the company’s board members and Executive Chairman Bill Ford, CEO Mark Fields is moving forward with Lincoln’s overhaul. This change will include the creation of a new platform that is unique to the brand, according to Reuters’ sources.

In an interview with Reuters last Friday, Fields noted that having a relevant and vibrant luxury is crucial for Ford. Therefore, it is necessary to make an investment and build the brand over time. The company CEO also said that the rebuilding effort for Lincoln is integral to the company’s products generation, which will extend through to the next decade.

Last month, executives from Ford said that the main goal of overhauling Lincoln is to increase the brand’s global sales threefold to 300,000 units in the next five years. However, industry analysts contend that the said figure is overly optimistic.

A long-term goal of the turnaround is to bring Lincoln back to its position as a premium marque in the USA and make it a top competitor in China, which is a new market for Ford.

According to Reuters’ sources, the jump-off point for Lincoln’s change is a new line of vehicles, whose platform is flexible enough to allow for front-, rear- and all-wheel drive configurations. Such element will not be limited to the Lincoln, but will also be used on other Ford brands later on.

The new premium platform is internally referred to as D6, whose development is overseen by Lincoln President and engineer, Kumar Galhotra. The flexible D6 is reportedly going to be the mechanical base for Lincoln sedans and crossovers by 2019.

Prior to the rollout of the new D6-based vehicles, sources said that Lincoln will first update its existing products. This includes a completely redesigned MXK midsize crossover, which will be available in spring 2015 and a replacement for its MKS full-size sedan by spring 2016.

Sources also added that the first of the D6 models, which are slated to be rolled out in 2019, will include a midsize sedan that will likely replace the MKZ and a seven-passenger crossover, which will replace the MKT.

Photo credit: Lee Canon/ Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0



Audi Issues Worldwide Recall of 850,000 A4 Sedans Over Airbag Flaw

2011-Audi-A4-1German luxury carmaker Audi is recalling 850,000 A4 sedans worldwide due to a software flaw that prevents the vehicles’ front airbags from deploying during a crash.

Almost half of the vehicles affected by the said glitch are from the automakers’ two biggest markets, China (about 250,000) and Germany (about 150,000), while 102,000 A4s are being recalled in the United States.

A company spokesman noted that Audi’s recall is not related to the recent global recalls of millions of vehicles equipped with defective airbags manufactured by Takata Corp. Instead, the problem is related to a software code flaw that may prevent the airbags from deploying during collision. The said flaw, which was discovered during a routine quality assurance testing, affects the automaker’s A4 sedans, Avants and AllRoad vehicles from model years 2011 through October 2014.

The spokesman also noted that they are already looking into some accidents to see if their airbags were involved, adding that they are not aware of any death or injury related to the faulty airbags. They are also encouraging owners of the affected vehicles to bring their cars in to update the software, which will only take about 20 minutes for each car.

Last week, the luxury carmaker made adjustments to the production of its A4 models at its in facilities in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm in Germany, integrating new software to the vehicles.

News of Audi’s recall was first published by German-based magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

The recall issued by Audi is just one of the recent strings of global recalls from automakers as a result of defective components. Other automakers such as Honda, Toyota, BMW, Ford, GM, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler and Mazda have also recently issued recalls in connection with the faulty airbags manufactured by Takata Corp., which can explode and fling shrapnel to occupants.

Photo credit: Michael Gil / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



Michigan Governor Signs Bill Preventing Tesla Direct Sales

Elon-Musk-Tesla-Car-1Governor Rick Snyder, on Tuesday, signed legislation that prevents Tesla Motors and other automakers from directly selling their vehicles to customers in the state of Michigan.

In a letter sent to lawmakers, the governor noted that the bill simply reinforces an already existing state law that prohibits automakers from directly selling cars at retail to Michigan customers.

He also encourages lawmakers to take a hard look at the existing dealership model to know whether or not it is for the best interest of the state’s consumers. He also noted that regulatory practices should be re-examined to improve customer experience and make the entire process more efficient and inexpensive.

With the bill in place, Tesla and other automakers have to sell their vehicles through franchised dealerships in the state. In case the company does not have its own dealership, the bill requires they tap into the dealership network of another company to sell the vehicles on their behalf.

This new legislation is yet another blow for Tesla, which is known to sell its electric cars directly to customers through its own showroom or galleries or by receiving online orders. Elon Musk’s company has already lost a similar battle against the states of North Carolina and Texas.

It has also struggled with dealership groups in other states, such as New York, Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania before finally settling differences through agreements. However, it did receive the approval from the state of Nevada to directly sell its electric cars to consumers.

Although Michigan is not necessarily the biggest market for Tesla, a loss of any state market for the company will limit its reach, which, in turn, could have an impact on its growth plans in the coming years.

With the bill least likely to be reversed, Michigan residents who are interested to buy a car from Tesla will have to find a way to make the purchase. Tesla, on the other hand, either has to rely on another brand’s dealership to reach potential Michigan consumers or figure out a new way to face this new obstacle.

Photo credit:  Mauricio Pesce / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



GM Looking to Expand Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant

GM logoGeneral Motors is reportedly planning to expand its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan by 210,000 square feet. The said plant is known to produce three of the automaker’s well-known full-size crossovers: Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet. The planned expansion is said to be part of the facility’s $37 million expansion project.

Early last week, the planning commission of the township approved the addition of a body shop and general assembly facility to the Delta plant. However, GM has not yet released a statement on what its plans are for the facility, though a spokeswoman for the company noted that the automaker is on the process of creating a business case for possible future investment that could hike production.

Although it is still not clear what GM intends to do with the extra space, the proposal somehow provides an idea about the extent of the automaker’s expansion plans for the Delta plant. According to USA Today, the addition of a larger body shop as well as general assembly building will let the company tweak its assembly lines, which is usually a precedent to the production of a new or redesigned car, though there has not been notable changes to Delta’s vehicle line up as of late.

Accordingly, the planned expansion will add about 181,000 square feet to the body shop’s north and south ends, and about 28,000 square feet to the general assembly facility’s north end. As noted by Bill Reed, United Auto Workers Local 602 president, should the expansion gets underway, the Delta plant will not have difficulty accommodating the production of new or redesigned vehicles, should GM decides to do so.

The Delta plant expansion project is estimated to increase $4 million in new taxes for the automaker, while records from their application to the city of Lansing shows that 38 jobs will be kept once work is done by June 2016.

The Delta plant is not the only facility in Lansing that GM intends to expand. The company is also pouring in $44 million and $174 million to build a logistics center and a stamping plant at the Lansing Grand River plant, respectively. The logistic center is estimated to cover at least 400,000 square feet and will open early next year, while the stamping plant is estimated at 225,000 square feet and is slated to open in 2016.

Both the aforesaid additions are said to be part of the planned transfer of the production of Chevrolet Camaro next year at the Lansing Grand River plant.

Photo credit: Andrea_44 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0



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