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car talk

Kia Brings Hamsters Back to Raves, But What About the Soul EV?

Posted by Dale Buss on August 22, 2014 03:53 PM

Kia is bringing back its popular hamsters in a new TV ad campaign. While there has been criticism that the first commercial is sort of creepy, Kia might encounter a bigger challenge as it touts the new 2015 electrified version of its Soul model: to mix mammalian metaphors, is the brand barking up the wrong tree with this vehicle?

For now, Kia is generating excitement with the news that it is bringing back the six-year-old crew of hamsters that have entertained Super Bowl TV audiences, among others. They will be promoting the Soul EV with a music-harged commercial featuring Maroon 5's new single, "Animals," and a story line that has the lovable rodents creating sexy hamster companions in the laboratory. There's also a free iPad app that lets users digitally investigate the new car's features.

The ad will debut on the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday. Michael Sprague, Kia's North American chief, told USA Today that the spot will tap into "geek chic" as it focuses on lab-bound hamsters at first attempting to transform a gas-powered Soul into an EV—and ending up creating a leggy female of their species.Continue reading...

car talk

Genius Concept: BMW USA Upgrades Powertrains, Products, Dealerships

Posted by Dale Buss on January 27, 2014 03:06 PM

"All of the above" has become a popular term in the auto industry for a power-train strategy that attempts to field entries based on every mode of propulsion in the marketplace.

But BMW now is applying the concept more broadly to its entire business model, attempting to advance in every conceivable way to include not only "green" propulsion systems but also a much wider variety of products in all segments, more expert sales people and spiffier US showrooms.

Its plans include the introduction its all-electric i3 small car in the US this spring and says that hybrids and electrics under the i sub-brand could one day comprise 10 to 15 percent of its global sales while the internal-combustion engine continues to be the major drivetrain 10 years from now.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Ford, University of Michigan Open R&D Lab for Electric Car Batteries

Posted by Sheila Shayon on October 14, 2013 12:37 PM

Ford is just the latest in a long line of global companies that are taking advantage of enterprising startups and universities to help drive innovation. Ford has teamed up with the University of Michigan to create a battery lab that will focus on research and development of a cheaper, more efficient battery that will make electric cars more affordable—a major hurdle facing the car industry as it tries to turn the technology mainstream. 

The $8 million lab is one that will uniquely cater to the auto industry, as most battery labs often don't relay their findings to the industry until late in the production process, essentially stifling innovation, according to the Detroit Free Press.  

“There is nothing like it in the industry,” said Anand Sankaran, chief engineer for energy storage and hybrid systems for Ford, which contributed $2.1 million, adding to $5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and about $900,000 from the Univ. of Michigan College of Engineering.Continue reading...

auto motive

BMW Unveils Leipzig Plant that Makes New Sustainable iCars in a Sustainable Way

Posted by Dale Buss on September 19, 2013 02:58 PM

If you can't build a powerful enough battery to make for a true breakthrough in electric vehicles, BMW seems to have figured, then change the equation by making lighter EVs so that they're easier to push around.

That fundamentally new approach to EV development and manufacturing was on display this week as BMW AG launched production at a plant in Leipzig, Germany, of its new Project 1 cars. By taking advantage of extreme "light-weighting" of the cars through use of advanced, exotic materials such as carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic instead of traditional steel or even aluminum, BMW is planning to change a global EV competition that has become relatively static.

Despite Tesla's impressive sales of the ultra-expensive and high-powered Model S, most EVs so far are saddled with little consumer interest because their range remains poor. All carmakers are working on lighter, more powerful, less expensive batteries, but huge advancements in electric powertrains are stubborn.Continue reading...

auto motive

At Frankfurt, Volkswagen, BMW Express Interest in Electrified Fleets

Posted by Dale Buss on September 11, 2013 05:46 PM

Volkswagen has been pounding the drum for clean-diesel power so vigorously for a while that it's an interesting change-up these days when company and brand executives are promoting other green technologies.

So while Volkswagen of America executives have been pushing the company's clean-diesel TDI versions in comments to the automotive press and lobbying in Washington, D.C., among other places, it's been a somewhat different story at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week. About half the cars bought by Europeans are diesel-powered, of course, so the technology isn't very new to them.

But the idea of investing more heavily in electric and hybrid vehicles is only now catching on with Volkswagen and its German automotive rivals. And VW CEO Martin Winterkorn gave EVs and hybrids the company's biggest rhetorical backing ever at the show, promising that 14 models from several VW Group brands will be offered worldwide as EVs or some form of hybrid by 2014, according to the Detroit News.Continue reading...

green shoots

Fisker Crumbles In the Wake of Mass Layoffs as Tesla Takes Off

Posted by Dale Buss on April 5, 2013 07:23 PM

"New isn't easy. Building the future never is..." 

Well, we couldn't have said it better ourselves. The words of electric car maker Fisker Automative ring extra true as more devastating news rolls out of the struggling company. And worse, the Fisker electric-car experiment appears to be crumbling as the Tesla electric-car experiment seems to be achieving liftoff velocity. The differing outcomes have come down to the basics of business, such as picking the right partners and suppliers, counting on the right sources of financing, getting the product right—and enjoying a bit of luck.

Fisker said today that it laid off 75 percent of its more than 200 employees, most of them in Anaheim, Calif. The move appeared to be a concession that about the only option left for the company is liquidation of its assets, after a horrible several months in which its battery supplier went belly up, it couldn't obtain new financing and then its founder left in a dispute over financing.

"Our efforts to secure a strategic alliance or partnership are continuing in earnest, but unfortunately we have reached a point where a significant reduction in our workforce has become necessary," Fisker said in a statement this afternoon, according to Automotive News. "This was a necessary strategic step in our efforts to maximize the value of Fiscker's core assets."Continue reading...

auto motive

Tesla: Why a 'Word-of-Mouth' Sales Style Can Help... and Hurt

Posted by Dale Buss on February 22, 2013 06:08 PM

No doubt Tesla is far from the typical automotive brand, with a loose cannon but accomplished entrepreneur as its owner, Hollywood celebrities as some of its biggest fans and an abiding interest in its vehicles and technology, even though both remain relatively unproven in the market.

Investors certainly are still holding the electric-car startup to their same exacting standards—profits good, losses bad—because Tesla isn't an internet company, after all. So even after CEO and co-founder Elon Musk said this week that Tesla would make a slim profit for the current quarter, its first quarterly black ink so far, investors bid the stock down before it bounced back on Friday.

The volatility stems in part from the fact that the brand's debate with the New York Times is still smoldering, including an admission by the newspaper's ombudsman that its reviewer didn't get everything right about the Tesla S car that the journalist said ran out of juice on his test ride.Continue reading...

auto motive

Tesla Loses Traction in Drama vs. New York Times Auto Reviewer

Posted by Dale Buss on February 15, 2013 11:06 AM

The clear loser in the intensifying back-and-forth between Elon Musk and the New York Times is the future of the Tesla brand.

The tit-for-tat drama reached its next predictable phase on Thursday evening when Times auto reviewer John Broder countered a scathing attack from earlier in the day by Tesla founder Musk, alleging that the journalist had deliberately and roundly falsified his assessment of the cold-weather capabilities of the Tesla S in a zeal to discredit the very expensive all-electric vehicle.

So far, assessments of all the back-and-forth and of who's being completely truthful seem to be tilting in favor of Broder and his newspaper. But clearly there's a long way to go in the battle launched by the Times' publication on February 10 of "Stalled Out on Tesla's Electric Highway." Continue reading...

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