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30 Jun 2014

2015 Hyundai Sonata

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2015 Hyundai Sonata

Completely redesigning a vehicle competing in a fiercely contested segment requires delicately balancing styling, performance, safety, efficiency, innovation, passenger comfort and pricing, while simultaneously not alienating model loyalists. In other words, it’s no simple task.

Automakers generally follow one of two paths. Some take a conservative approach and choose to raise each bar marginally, in an effort to appease all and estrange none. Others strategically take risks and focus on specific attributes in an attempt to shift perception about their vehicle.

With its all-new 2015 Sonata, Hyundai has taken the second approach when overhauling one of its best-selling vehicles. The Korean automaker has executed an impressive number of targeted improvements, yet it’s also softened some of its predecessor’s qualities in an attempt to demonstrate greater refinement and position its midsize sedan upscale. Whereas the outgoing car successfully aimed to establish itself as a credible contender in the midsize segment, the new model is gunning for customers that might otherwise be seeking entry-level models from luxury automakers.

Continue reading 2015 Hyundai Sonata

2015 Hyundai Sonata originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jun 2014

Ken Feinberg details General Motors' ignition switch recall compensation plan [UPDATE]

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Penn State Abuse

Kenneth Feinberg and General Motors have announced the long-awaited compensation plan for victims of the Detroit-based manufacturer’s botched ignition switch recall.

The compensation plan will be open to family members of anyone that was killed or injured due to ignition switch failure. That includes drivers, passengers, pedestrians and other motorists that were killed or seriously injured in the incidents. While GM acknowledges 13 deaths and 54 crashes, the actual number of claims is expected to be much higher.

Plaintiffs can begin filing claims on August 1 with an end date of December 31. According to the Associated Press, Feinberg is expecting claims to be completed in 90 to 180 days.

As for the size of the compensation, there is no limit for deaths or extreme injuries (brain damage, loss of limb, paralysis or severe burns). Lesser injuries will come with smaller compensation, with Feinberg expecting to use the formulae and scale used for the Boston Marathon bombing compensation plan. General Motors, for its part, hasn’t placed a limit on how much money Feinberg has at his disposal and the company is unable to overrule any of his decisions.

This won’t be a free-for-all, though. The burden of proof is on the claimants, who must show that their crash was due to the faulty ignition switch. That even includes drivers that were drunk or speeding, who will not be prevented from filing for compensation.

Finally, those that choose to settle with Feinberg surrender their right to sue GM at a later date.

General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra issued the following statement after the unveiling of Feinberg’s plan:

“We are pleased that Mr. Feinberg has completed the next step with our ignition switch compensation program to help victims and their families. We are taking responsibility for what has happened by treating them with compassion, decency and fairness. To that end, we are looking forward to Mr. Feinberg handling claims in a fair and expeditious manner.”

We’ve reached out to General Motors for an any additional information and will update this story as it becomes available.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story indicated that the filing status of drivers that were drunk or weren’t wearing a seat belt was uncertain. It has since been revealed that these drivers will not be prevented from filing for compensation, provided they’re able to provide evidence of ignition failure. The story has been edited to reflect this.

Ken Feinberg details General Motors’ ignition switch recall compensation plan [UPDATE] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jun 2014

NHTSA investigating Ram 1500 models for rear differential failure

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2005 Dodge Ram 1500

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and its Ram brand following a number of reports regarding the 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup. According to 15 consumer complaints, the trucks’ rear differential locked up while in other cases, the driveshaft separated at its connection to the diff.

Nearly half of the reports claim the truck was traveling at or above 50 miles per hour, while two consumers reported that the diff lockup/driveshaft separation sent their pickups into a spin. Most troubling, though, is that consumers reported little to no sound indicating there was a problem with their truck.

We reached out to Ram for additional information, such as how many vehicles may be affected or what equipment might be fitted that could cause the issue. Unfortunately, the company wasn’t willing to elaborate on specifics.

“Chrysler Group is cooperating fully with NHTSA and would like to remind customers that this is an investigation, not a recall,” Ram spokesman Nick Cappa told Autoblog via email.

As more information on this incident becomes available, we’ll be sure to update you. Scroll down for the official blast from NTHSA.

Continue reading NHTSA investigating Ram 1500 models for rear differential failure

NHTSA investigating Ram 1500 models for rear differential failure originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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30 Jun 2014

GM recalling 8.4M cars, 8.2M related to ignition problems

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GM's Barra Says Not Planning Further Ignition Switch Dismissals

GM Recall ChartGeneral Motors today announced a truly massive recall covering some 8.4 million vehicles in North America. Most significantly, 8.2 million examples of the affected vehicles are being called back due to “unintended ignition key rotation,” though GM spokesperson Alan Adler tells Autoblog that this issue is not like the infamous Chevy Cobalt ignition switch fiasco.

For the sake of perspective, translated to US population, this total recall figure would equal a car for each resident of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, the District of Columbia, Vermont and Wyoming. Combined. Here’s how it all breaks down:

7,610,862 vehicles in North America being recalled for unintended ignition key rotation. 6,805,679 are in the United States.

A second group of vehicles* are being recalled for a slightly different ignition key rotation issue (more details below). 616,179 of these vehicles are in North America, with 554,328 found in the United States.

Additionally 20,134 North American vehicles are being recalled because “insulation on the engine block heater power cord (if equipped) may become damaged during very cold conditions.” 2,990 of these vehicles are in the United States.

117 vehicles in North America “may not have had a ‘Superhold’ joint fastener torqued to specification at the assembly plant.” 106 of these vehicles are in the US.

12,002 vehicles in North America are being recalled because “an overload in the feed may cause the underhood fusible link to melt due to electrical overload, resulting in potential smoke or flames that could damage the electrical center cover and/or the nearby wiring harness conduit.” 9,371 of the affected vehicles are in the US.

Finally, 188,705 SUVs in North America are being recalled due to “a possible electrical short in the driver’s door module that could disable the power door lock and window switches and, in rare cases, overheat the module.” Here, 181,984 of these vehicles are in the US.

The Cadillac models in the second grouping* have been found to be subject to unintended key rotation because of accidental bumping of one’s key fobs (a condition similar to the June 13 Camaro recall), whereas the other, larger group of older vehicles is not subject to bumping. In either case, this is not like the infamous Chevy Cobalt ignition switch issue – the switch in these vehicles meet GM specifications, the company says the problem is with the key design itself.

The solution won’t be a new ignition switch at all, it will be sending additional detachable key rings to owners (allowing drivers to disconnect their car key from the rest of their key chain to reduce strain on the system) and/or inserts designed to fit within the ignition key head itself to alter the keyring attachment loop from a slot to a hole (because the slot can cause the weight of the keychain to hang asymmetrically, thereby increasing the amount of torque on the key and as a result, the switch.

Company spokesperson Alan Adler, tells Autoblog that GM “changed the [key] design in late December of 2010,” so vehicles built after that time are not affected by the issue.

GM is aware of seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities related to these issues. “The fatal crashes occurred in older model fullsize sedans being recalled for inadvertent ignition key rotation. There is no conclusive evidence that the defect condition caused those crashes,” GM said in a press release. Scroll down to read the automaker’s full statement.

Continue reading GM recalling 8.4M cars, 8.2M related to ignition problems

GM recalling 8.4M cars, 8.2M related to ignition problems originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 30 Jun 2014 15:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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28 Jun 2014

GM announces four new recalls, 507k vehicles affected

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Chevy Cruze

428,211 of these vehicles are located in the United States, 57,706 are in Canada, and 20,956 are in other markets.

In its seemingly never-ending string of recalls, General Motors today announced four new campaigns covering some 506,873 vehicles. 428,211 of these vehicles are located in the United States, 57,706 are in Canada, and 20,956 are in other markets.

First up is the 2013-14 Chevrolet Cruze, which is being recalled because “the inflator in the driver’s front airbag may rupture and/or the airbag may not inflate during airbag deployment,” according to GM. This could shoot metal pieces of the inflator into the cabin, injuring occupants during a crash. What’s more, GM says that if the airbag does not inflate, this could, obviously, increase the risk of injury to the driver. A total of 29,019 Cruzes are affected in the United States, with an additional 4,066 units being recalled in Canada.

The largest of the four recall campaigns involves four-wheel-drive versions of the 2014-15 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, as well as the 2015 Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. A grand total of 392,459 vehicles are affected in the US, with 53,607 more found in Canada, and an additional 20,874 in other markets. Here, the transfer case “may electronically switch to neutral without input from the driver,” GM states. The automaker adds that if this occurs while the vehicle is moving, power will not be sent to the wheels. On top of that, if the vehicle is parked, it may roll away unexpectedly if the parking brake has not been set.

In smaller recall news, 4,794 2013-14 Chevy Caprice police cars and SS sedans are being recalled in the US. According to GM, “If the motor gear teeth become stripped, the wipers may not operate” in these models.

Lastly, 1,939 2014 Chevy Corvettes fitted with the FE1 or FE3 suspension are being recalled in the US “to repair a possible insufficient weld in the rear shocks that could lead to a fracture and/or reduce the shocks’ service life.” In Canada, 33 additional vehicles are affected, as are 82 more ‘Vettes that were exported to other markets.

General Motors is aware of one injury regarding the Cruze recall, and is not aware of any crashes or injuries in the other three recalls. Scroll down for the automaker’s official release.

Continue reading GM announces four new recalls, 507k vehicles affected

GM announces four new recalls, 507k vehicles affected originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 27 Jun 2014 19:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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27 Jun 2014

2014 Mini Cooper S

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2014 Mini Cooper S

One of the big challenges as an automotive journalist is reviewing cars that you have a personal connection to. I have a strong passion for Minis. My first new car was a 2004 Cooper S, and I still own a 2006 model. It’s this affinity that’s left me with a general disdain of the 2007 to 2013 model relative to my first-gen.

The last-generation cars, with their turbocharged engines, softer suspensions, duller steering and homelier looks are, in my mind, inferior to their 2002 to 2006 predecessors. As a car reviewer, though, I couldn’t in good conscience argue the same point. The R56, as the last-gen cars were known internally and by enthusiasts, was a better-balanced vehicle that retained the lion’s share of the abilities and character of the first-generation, R53 Cooper S, but they were better thought out, better designed, more livable, and felt like more complete products.

Before the third-generation of the reborn Mini Cooper S landed in my driveway, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the model would continue its slide towards mass appeal, or if it would re-embrace the enthusiast realm with a stronger driver-focused mission. As I found out during my week with the car, it was a bit of both.

Continue reading 2014 Mini Cooper S

2014 Mini Cooper S originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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27 Jun 2014

2014 Pikes Peak Hill Climb: Practice Day 3

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2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Greg Tracy’s MiEV Evolution III topped the time sheets almost 14 seconds ahead of third-place Monster Tajima.

On Thursday, qualifying times for six categories were set on the bottom-section switchbacks of Pikes Peak: Electric Modified – near-unlimited showcases of electric-vehicle engineering; Electric Production – electric vehicles “readily available to the public;” Open Wheel – single engine, open wheeled, open cockpit, single seat vehicles; Open – based upon a production or approved-aftermarket-replica vehicle; Exhibition – a prototype or pre-production vehicle limited to one year of eligibility in this class; and Vintage – vehicles and drivelines from 1990 or earlier.

The big story was Greg Tracy in his MiEV Evolution III topping the time sheets almost 14 seconds ahead of third-placed Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima, with the second MiEV Evolution III driven by Hiroshi Masuoka about three seconds behind Tracy. The Mitsus also lined up in the first two positions last year with Monster Tajima in third, but Monster was only two seconds behind Tracy in 2013. The times don’t mean anything to the mountain, though; everyone expected Mitsubishi to win last year, but rain during their run slowed them and Monster Tajima took the crown.

Roy Richards took pole in Electric Production Class in a 2012 Honda Fit EV, Michael Skeen is atop the Open Class in a 2009 Nissan GT-R, Donald Hoffman leads the Exhibition Class in a Radical RXC and Christopher Lennon is ahead of all the Exhibition runners in a 1973 Porsche 911.

The Open Wheel Class is led by none other than Paul Dallenbach, with three overall wins on Pikes Peak and four more class wins. Dallenbach set a new record in the Time Attack Class last year in a Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and a Production Car World Record in a 2014 Range Rover Sport. This year he’s driving a 750-horsepower Dallenbach PV03 that his brother Wally Dallenbach, Jr. used to win the class in 2006 and that Paul drove to a win at the Goodwood Festival in 2007.

In other news, Mike Ryan suffered a big accident in his popular Unlimited Exhibition-Class Freightliner semi truck, with the rig damaged beyond repair for this year’s event. Ryan may yet make a run up the mountain for time, but he’d be doing so on something much smaller – his Triumph motorcycle.

Enjoy the high-res gallery of photos from yesterday’s runs, and we’ll be back later with the results of today’s qualifying.

2014 Pikes Peak Hill Climb: Practice Day 3 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 27 Jun 2014 14:16:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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26 Jun 2014

Porsche 356 Outlaw is the other Continental

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1955 Porsche 356 Outlaw

In Porsche parlance, ‘outlaw’ basically means ‘hot rod,’ and that definition can vary from person to person. For Jack Griffin and his 1955 Porsche 356 Continental, it means taking a great car to start with and reworking it to become a classic coupe that fits its driver perfectly. The latest video from Petrolicious highlights Griffin’s 356 and all of the personalization he has in the beautiful ride.

Griffin acquired this 356 in 1994, but it came in rough shape. That made it the perfect canvas to transform the coupe into the Porsche of his dreams. On the outside, only things like the hood-mounted fuel filler, louvered decklid and Fuchs wheels give it away as something special, but underneath, it is modernized to be a faster, more robust car. Griffin considers it “a piece of art on wheels.”

Hearing the Continental name associated with Griffin’s Porsche might be throwing you, since it’s normally more associated with Lincoln, but Griffin tells the whole story of what makes it so special on his ’55 in the video. Scroll down to get an automotive history lesson and check out this fantastic 356 hot rod.

Continue reading Porsche 356 Outlaw is the other Continental

Porsche 356 Outlaw is the other Continental originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 25 Jun 2014 19:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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26 Jun 2014

National Corvette Museum votes to preserve sinkhole

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National Corvette Museum sinkhole

Since the catastrophe, attendance has shot up 59 percent.

The people behind the National Corvette Museum really know how to turn lemons into lemonade. In February, a 40-feet wide by 60-feet deep sinkhole opened up in the middle of the museum’s Skydome, eating eight rare ‘Vettes on display. But the folks in Bowling Green, KY, are turning the tragedy into opportunity. The natural disaster has turned into a major attendance windfall for the museum, pulling in record crowds. And now, as previously hinted at, the museum’s board has officially voted for new plans to keep the crater in place in modified form – even displaying cars in it.

The museum’s board felt that it had three options available: completely repair the sinkhole, leave it as-is or modify it slightly to be somewhat smaller. In a vote, the members decided on the third option, which would reduce the cavity’s size to 25-feet by 45-feet wide and 30-feet deep. That might be further modified after studies into how having an open hole in the Skydome will affect the humidity and heating costs. Regardless, the hope is to leave enough room to display two Corvette models down there, possibly the ones most badly damaged in the collapse.

“We have to look at creative ways to generate interest in the Museum. It would be so much easier to just be a regular automotive museum with our Corvettes on display, but we have to think outside the box,” said Executive Director Wendell Strode in the museum’s statement.

After the initial shock of the sinkhole subsided, the museum’s administrators realized that the giant crater might turn out to be one of the best things to ever happen to the institution. Since the catastrophe, attendance has shot up 59 percent compared to last year, with increased revenue at its gift shop and restaurant, as well. It has become a real tourist attraction.

Of course, going with the option of a reduced-size sinkhole always leaves the door open to fill it in completely, notes Christy Thomas, the museum’s chief financial officer. “If the interest in the exhibit wanes, or if down the road we decided that we don’t want the hole any longer there is always an option to put the room back how it was,” she says.

If you want to see the original 60-feet-deep hole in all its glory, then don’t worry. The museum is leaving it open until construction begins on the modifications, which are scheduled for September. Scroll down to read the full announcement.

Continue reading National Corvette Museum votes to preserve sinkhole

National Corvette Museum votes to preserve sinkhole originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 26 Jun 2014 13:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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26 Jun 2014

GM says second recalled ignition switch was made in China

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Buick Lucerne

The defective ignition switch that led General Motors to recall an additional 3.4 million large sedans earlier this month was manufactured in China, according to a report filed with safety regulators obtained by Reuters.

The switches can be knocked out of the run position, much like those affecting the Chevrolet Cobalt and other GM small cars, turning off the engine and safety systems like the airbags. Unlike GM’s previous ignition switch recall, though, this latest issue will see dealers simply modify the key rather than replace the ignition switch outright, despite the fact that the switches were “slightly” below torque specifications.

If what GM is claiming about this switch’s origin is true, it’d mark the second high-profile recall of a part manufactured in China, following Aston Martin’s (relatively) huge recall due to faulty accelerator arms in over 75 percent of the cars it had built since 2007.

For what it’s worth, from our perspective, the link between the Aston plastics and this GM switch seems just a bit too tenuous for us to put a lot of stock in GM’s problems stemming from the location of its parts supplier, especially when the related investigation into its corporate culture has resulted in so many other culpable actors.

GM says second recalled ignition switch was made in China originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 25 Jun 2014 18:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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