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Mazda3 versus BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 in Euro diesel showdown

Posted Dec 27th 2014 8:00PM

Mazda 3 vs Audi A3 & BMW 1 Series Group Test Video

It's not exactly a Tesla Model S taking on a Ferrari, but for us green enthusiasts, a drag race and comparison between reasonably priced diesel hatchbacks does hold interest, and UK's Auto Express was kind enough to do the deed. When raced, the diesels actually laid a little rubber coming off the line, though the track was covered in rain. Did we mention it was in the UK?

The comparison was between diesel hatchbacks priced at less than 22,000 British pounds (about CAD$40,000), and Auto Express pitted a Mazda3, a BMW 1-Series and an Audi A3 against each other. The results are revealed in the 11-minute video you can watch below.

In short, one car smoked the others. In order to set the tone, you should know that the Mazda's 150 horsepower is about 35 more than the other two entrants. The Mazda also earned points for its quiet motor (it sounds more like a petrol engine, the host says), standard equipment that would add about $4,000 to the other two cars if included and relative roominess in front and in back.

The Audi gained points for its storage space, while the BMW had the only rear-wheel-drive car in the hunt. See for yourself how the competition stacks up.

News Source: Auto Express via YouTube

Krafcik says VW merging with Fiat Chrysler would be a 'brilliant' idea

Posted Dec 27th 2014 4:00PM

CEO Interview Hyundai

"For sure, these two companies have a natural attraction to each other." –John Krafcik

Honestly, this is really hard to even imagine, but what if the Volkswagen Group merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? Aside from being easily the largest automaker on the planet, it'd bring the following makes under one roof: Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Fiat, Fiat Professional Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep, Maserati and Ram. Product overlap aside, this arrangement would, in the estimation of former Hyundai Motor America boss and current TrueCar President John Krafcik, be "highly profitable."

"This is an absolutely brilliant combination," Krafcik told Bloomberg at an event in Detroit this week. "For sure, these two companies have a natural attraction to each other."

Krafcik's statements hinge on the fact that, at least in the US, FCA has a booming SUV and pickup business, courtesy of Jeep and Ram, while the Volkswagen Group's Audi and Porsche tie down the premium business which is complemented by a strong mainstream lineup.

Now, the VW/FCA tieup has been periodically rumoured for some time, and the two manufacturers have gone as far as denying any official talks. Still, Krafcik, who called his thoughts an "academic exercise," did add that a merger is "just such a natural possibility."

"It makes so much sense," Krafcik said. "You get a pretty interesting hypothetical company that covers all those bases pretty well."

While Krafcik makes good points, there's real potential for serious product overlap. How do you stratify 17 different brands? Lamborghini and Porsche already have a contentious relationship within the Volkswagen empire, what would happen when notoriously independent Ferrari is added to the mix? And Maserati?

Let's have our own academic exercise, Autoblog readers. Of the 17 brands currently built by FCA and VAG, which would you retain in a merged company? For the record, your author would retain VW (mainstream), Audi (premium), Porsche (sports cars), Bentley (luxury), Bugatti (hypercar), Alfa Romeo (premium performance), Ferrari (exotic performance), Jeep (SUV/CUV), Ram (trucks) and Fiat Professional (commercial vehicles). Build your own lineup, or just tell me why I'm wrong in Comments.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: Richard Drew / AP

Mercedes to keep C63 AMG Coupe around through early 2015

Posted Dec 27th 2014 12:00PM

2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe

Want to get your hands on an Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe? With the new C63 sedan already released, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the old model won't be around for much longer. But according to Car and Driver, the existing coupe will stick around for a little longer than we might have thought.

Apparently because the new model has only thus far been released in sedan and Euro-only wagon forms, the existing coupe will stay on the market – including the North American one – through the spring of 2015. After that, it's anyone's guess whether a new coupe will be introduced, but we're hoping it will.

The strategy looks similar to what Cadillac did with its V8 muscle coupe, keeping the CTS-V Coupe around alongside the new CTS sedan – which has still yet to be released in CTS-V form, even if the new Vsport seemingly comes close.

News Source: Car and Driver

Car companies may need to start curbing model proliferation

Posted Dec 27th 2014 10:00AM

Auto Show

Looking at the current automotive landscape, especially from German makers, you quickly get the impression that less definitely isn't more. BMW alone offers its 3 Series platform in practically every segment possible, including the regular sedan and 4 Series Gran Coupe, which would seem to be direct competitors. Porsche might be the winner, though, with 20 different variants of the 911 listed for sale on its website. However, some of this model madness might be reaching an end as companies begin cutting back spending or shifting money to other priorities.

According to Yahoo Finance, the offerings from the German automakers are up 25 per cent over the past three years to over 200 models in Europe. The peak is expected to come around 2018 at 230 separate vehicles, according to consulting company PwC.

Amazingly, BMW, which is among the poster children for this model explosion, might be changing its tune. "I'm sure there will be points in the future where we look at certain cars and say, 'Maybe we need to think differently now,'" said head of sales Ian Robertson in an interview, according to Yahoo Finance. The statement certainly sounds shocking coming from a company rumoured to have 23 front-wheel-drive vehicles all using a single platform on the way.

The shift in thinking might not be a question of whether automakers can build all of these distinct models, but rather if it's the best way to invest their money. The small footprint of European dealers makes it difficult to show all of these vehicles off. Also, even if platforms and drivetrains are shared, there's still the extra expense in marketing each one. Finally, "every single variant increases development and logistics expenditure," said Porsche spokesperson Achim Schneider to Yahoo Finance.

So what do the German automakers do with the extra funds from not exploiting every possible niche? Volkswagen is reportedly working on cutting costs, and BMW is too. Also, Porsche is trying to grow overall sales. If this actually happens, maybe picking the perfect 911 will be a bit less complicated in just a few years.

News Source: Yahoo Finance

Image Credit: Carlos Osorio / AP Photo

Top Car Buying Mistakes You Should Avoid at All Costs

Posted Dec 26th 2014 8:00PM



The customer is always right. Many business owners and customer service reps go by this motto in order to satisfy their clients. However, if you, as a consumer, wholeheartedly believe this notion, then you might be in for one heck of a disappointment very soon. Customers make mistakes all the time, and those mistakes can sometimes lead to a feeling of buyer's remorse, especially when it comes to a big purchase like a car.

If you don't want to regret your next purchase, you may want to learn the basics of car pricing and how to negotiate. You should also avoid making the following rookie mistakes...

Israeli cyber-security researchers remotely hack a car

Posted Dec 26th 2014 4:00PM

HACKERS -1995 POSTER

Former members of an Israeli intelligence unit dedicated to thwarting cyber crimes announced Friday they had remotely hacked into a vehicle that contained an aftermarket device with a big security hole.

Once they exploited the vulnerability in the device, called a Zubie, they controlled vehicle functions, like unlocking doors and manipulating instrument-cluster readings. The researchers, now founders of Argus Cyber Security, say they could have also controlled the vehicle's engine, brakes and steering components.

The remote breakthrough is a big one in an auto industry that has only recently started to take the threat of cyber attacks more seriously.

Industry officials have downplayed the possibility of someone with nefarious intent launching a remote attack. Previously, cyber-security researchers have hacked cars and controlled essential functions either via a physical connection to the vehicle or remotely from a short distance. In this case, the Argus team says the security flaw would have allowed them to remotely commandeer the car from "anywhere in the world."

The flaw existed, ironically, in the Zubie, an aftermarket device that intends to make cars safer.

Image Credit: Moviestore collection Ltd / Alamy

How your Facebook and Twitter feed could lead to your car being repossessed

Posted Dec 26th 2014 2:00PM



It might go without saying for some that if you're trying to hide from someone – an angry ex, law enforcement, that kid who always steals your lunch money – the smart thing to do would be to lay low and not post anything online that would give away your whereabouts. But repo men are finding that amount of common sense is anything but common.

According to a report in Automotive News, some credit companies are turning to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to track down customers who have defaulted on their car loans. So if you've skipped a couple of payments and are expecting that the repo man won't find you to take away your car, but post directions to, say a wedding you're going to, or that cabin in the woods where you're holed up, you may end up disappointed – and without a set of wheels to get you home again.

Although using social media to find someone, the report notes, may not be illegal in and of itself, "friending" someone under false pretenses could run afoul of the Federal Trade Commission Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That could, in theory, get the repo agency or credit company in trouble, but they'd still have your car. Or their car, legally speaking.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: John Moore/Getty

Honda rolls out various oddities for 2015 Tokyo Auto Salon

Posted Dec 26th 2014 12:00PM



On January 9 the doors at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba will open for the 2015 Tokyo Auto Salon. and you know what that means, boys and girls: that's right, all sorts of strange mod jobs. Not to be confused with the Tokyo Motor Show that's Japan's main automotive expo, the Tokyo Auto Salon is the Nipponese equivalent of SEMA. Honda is among the first to announce its lineup for the show, and, well... let's just say they're not all hideous and leave it at that.

The H brand has got a whole array of customized machinery in store for the tuner expo, starting with the new N-Box Slash that just went on sale in Japan as the company's latest Kei car. One version of the tall wagon on the tiny wheelbase is obviously inspired by America, or at least a Japanese impression of what North American car culture is like: it's decked out in red with racing stripes, flame graphics, a highway road sign and strange chequerboard wheels. Another N-Box Slash dubbed the Cyber Code:89 concept looks like something from anime, all decked out in futuristic graphics and glowing lights. A third example is rather more tastefully done up in teal with yellow accents.

Of course Honda hasn't put all its eggs in the Slash basket, turning its attention as it has to other models in the JDM lineup. There's a retro N-One concept with a low-key grey and white exterior but with a zany multicolor interior, a tasteful white N-WGN with Modulo accessories, an Odyssey Absolute 20th Anniversary edition minivan, a take on the NM4 cruiser bike that'd look right at home in Akira and – one of our favourites from the lot – a Mugen take on the Honda Legend that we know as the Acura RLX. Whether your plans will take you to Tokyo for the show or not, you can scope 'em all out in the high-res image gallery for a closer look.

News Source: Honda

Vehicles awarded IIHS Top Safety Pick awards skyrockets for 2015 [w/video]

Posted Dec 26th 2014 10:00AM



By practically every measure, passenger vehicles in North America are continuing to get safer. With the year rapidly coming to an end, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is releasing its annual list tallying of the scores for the latest vehicles to see how they compare to last year. Judging by the agency's evaluations, the numbers look quite positive.

According to the institute, 71 vehicles earned either the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ rating so far in its testing for 2015. Among the latest winners, there have been 33 TSP+ awards and 38 TSP medalists. That's a healthy increase over the 22 TSP+ and 17 TSP grades in 2014.

The figures appear even more impressive when you consider that it keeps getting harder to earn the + designation. In the latest round of testing, a vehicle must offer some form of front crash prevention automatic braking to get the mark. Previously, just a warning to drivers was necessary.

This list also illustrates the ways that automakers adapt to new testing procedures. In 2013 there were 117 TSP ratings and 13 TSP+ awards. Then, the IIHS mandated that to be a safety pick, a model had to score Good in the institute's four crash tests, plus a Good or Acceptable in the small overlap front test. That brought a plunge in 2014 to just 17 TSP grades. With the numbers climbing again, companies apparently have deciphered how to perform better.

Some brands especially stood out on this year's list. The IIHS praised Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Acura for offering standard front crash prevention systems on some models. Subaru received at least one of the awards for all seven of its models. Toyota also had seven, and the Honda brand did too – though the institute counts the two- and four-door versions of the Civic and Accord separately.

Check out the full announcement below and a video about this year's winners. The full list can be viewed, here.



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