ROME: Jeep executive Mike Manley will be the new CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobile after longtime leader Sergio Marchionne’s health suddenly deteriorated following surgery, the company announced Saturday.
Marchionne, a 66-year-old Italian-Canadian, joined Fiat in 2004 and led the Turin-based company’s merger with bankrupt U.S. carmaker Chrysler. Manley, 54, had been heading the Jeep brand since June 2009 and the Ram brand from October 2015 and has been with the company since 2000.
The announcement, at the end of an emergency board meeting Saturday, marked the end of the Marchionne era, which included the turnaround of failing Fiat, the takeover of bankrupt U.S. automaker Chrysler and the spinoffs of the heavy machinery and truck maker CNH and supercar maker Ferrari.
Marchionne, who is also a lawyer, was holding multiple leadership roles in the companies, notably as CEO of FCA — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as well as CEO and chairman of Ferrari.
Fiat Chrysler said in a statement that due to his health Marchionne “will be unable to return to work.”
Marchionne had already announced he would step down from FCA in early 2019, so the board’s decision, to be confirmed at an upcoming shareholders’ meeting, will “accelerate” the CEO transition process, the statement said.
Ferrari announced that Louis Camilleri, an Egypt-born Maltese and longtime executive at tobacco company Philip Morris International, would replace Marchionne as CEO of the sports car maker.
The England-born Manley had been one of Marchionne’s closest collaborators at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and in a previous role had been responsible for product planning and all sales activities outside of North America.
Manley took over management of the Jeep brand in 2009, just after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy protection. At the time, the all-SUV Jeep mainly was a U.S. brand, where annual sales languished at around 232,000. By 2017, though, sales had nearly quadrupled to more than 828,000 as Americans snapped up all-wheel-drive SUVs.
The brand also grew internationally, especially in China, under Manley.
Marchionne put Manley in charge of the Ram brand as well as Jeep in 2015. Much of Fiat Chrysler’s profits come from the Ram pickup, especially in the U.S.
FCA didn’t give details about Marchionne’s medical condition, which was reported to be surgery for a shoulder problem three weeks ago. But questions arose after it appeared his recovery was taking longer than expected.
Fiat is considered a close-knit family, and FCA chairman John Elkann said he was “profoundly saddened to learn of Sergio’s state of health. It was a situation that was unthinkable until a few hours ago, and one that leaves us all with a sense of injustice.”
Adding that his “first thoughts go to Sergio and his family,” Elkann asked everyone to respect Marchionne’s “privacy and that of all those who are dear to him.”
Elkann is a grandson of the late Gianni Agnelli, the longtime Fiat dynasty chieftain.
Analysts praised the choice of Manley even as they noted the challenges he will face.
“It’s an end of an era with the iconic, highly quotable, sweater-wearing Sergio Marchionne stepping down, with significant very concerns about his ailing health,” said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
She called Manley a “worthy replacement at FCA, but it’s a huge job to not only fill Sergio’s shoes, but to run many brands that are facing capricious fortunes in a variety of markets.”
Lindland added that Manley’s “masterful management of Jeep and RAM will serve him well as he moves into this huge, global role.”
The boards of Ferrari and CNH Industrial, which makes heavy machinery and trucks, were also called to emergency meetings Saturday in Turin, Fiat’s headquarters.
CNH Industrial said its interim CEO, Derek Neilson, will continue on pending the selection of a permanent replacement for Marchionne. The board of CNH also named Suzanne Heywood as chairwoman, tapping a managing director of the Fiat-founding Agnelli family’s Exor investment holding company.
Marchionne made his last major presentation as CEO of Fiat Chrysler in June, unveiling the company’s plans through 2022. He announced a major investment thrust to make more electrified cars even though he said traditional engines will continue to dominate production.
Brands that have been driving the company’s revenues include Jeep SUVs, Ram trucks and the premium brands, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. Those brands were expected to account for 80 percent of revenues by 2022, compared to 65 percent currently.
The passenger-car brands of Fiat and Chrysler have been less profitable.
At the time, Marchionne said Fiat was poised to eliminate its debt. The next corporate results are to be released on July 25.
“Marchionne did an extraordinary job,” tweeted former Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni.
Then in apparent reference to Italian autoworkers unions’ protests over layoffs and restructuring, Gentiloni added: “Many criticized him, but those who remember the Fiat crisis of 20 years ago realize what courage and vision can do.”
Marchionne is passionate about the Ferrari racing team, and even after his planned retirement from Fiat Chrysler he had said he wanted to stay at the helm of the sports car company with the iconic horse symbol for a few more years.
The Ferrari racing team now leads the drivers’ and constructors’ championship this year and could end four years of Mercedes dominance.
On the eve of the running of the F1 Grand Prix in Germany on Sunday, Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff expressed concern about his rival Marchionne.
“He’s a character and an important personality for Formula One, and I’ve always appreciated sparring with him,” Wolff said.
Milan-based AP business writer Colleen Barry, AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher and AP sports writer Jerome Pugmire in Hockenheim, Germany contributed.
DETROIT: Consumer Reports is now recommending Tesla’s Model 3 compact electric car after a company software update improved its poor braking performance.
The magazine says the wireless update of antilock braking software cut 19 feet from the car’s stopping distance from 60 miles per hour.
A previous test found that it took 152 feet for the car to stop from 60. That was the longest braking distance of any modern car the magazine has tested.
But in a test after the update, the stopping distance fell to 133 feet. Consumer Reports says that’s typical for a compact luxury car.
The improved braking raised the car’s score high enough for it to be a recommended buy. But the magazine still has concerns over wind noise and the touch-screen controls.
BEIJING: China said Tuesday it will reduce auto import duties effective July 1 following pledges to buy more U.S. goods and end restrictions on foreign ownership in the industry.
President Xi Jinping promised the changes in April amid mounting pressure from Washington to narrow China’s multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States, though Chinese spokespeople said they had nothing to do with that dispute.
The Finance Ministry said charges for many imported vehicles will be cut from 25 percent to 15 percent to promote development of the Chinese industry and increase availability of goods for consumers. That still would be higher than the 2.5 percent U.S. tariff on imported autos but less than the 25 percent charged by Washington on imported pickup trucks.
The immediate impact of the changes is expected to be limited. Most cars sold in China by global automakers are produced in local factories, but the tariff cut could give them more flexibility in supplying additional models produced abroad. The changes are expected to benefit BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla the most because they export the largest number of vehicles from U.S. factories to China. The sprawling BMW factory near Spartanburg, South Carolina, for instance, exports about 87,000 SUVs to China per year, more than any other auto factory in America.
Beijing used tariffs and other curbs over the past three decades to prod global auto brands to shift production to China and help develop the local industry.
China is the world’s biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold. Purchases of SUVs, sedans and minivans totaled 24.7 million units in 2017, compared with 17.2 million for the United States, the No. 2 market.
Xi’s government promised Saturday to increase imports of American goods following talks in Washington on the trade balance, Beijing’s technology policies and other disputes.
China’s move to ease controls on its auto market reflects growing official confidence in fledgling Chinese automakers and a desire to make the industry more flexible as Beijing promotes development of electric cars.
TOLEDO: An Ohio assembly plant has made its last Jeep Wrangler JK, bringing an end to its 12-year production run.
Fiat Chrysler’s plant in Toledo has built more than 2 million Jeep Wrangler JK vehicles since 2006. The last one rolled off the assembly line Friday.
The plant will begin preparing to make a new Jeep pickup truck in the first half of 2019.
The Toledo complex has been making the new version of the Wrangler since January.
Ending production of the old Wrangler will mean temporary layoffs for about 1,700 workers.
Most of us know the new-car basic warranty, often referred to as the “bumper-to-bumper warranty,” is designed to protect the owner against any factory defects during the first few years of ownership. But did you know this coverage doesn’t actually apply to the bumpers? The vehicle’s bumpers are considered body panels and so aren’t covered.
The basic warranty is just one kind of coverage that comes standard on a new car. Here’s an overview of new-car warranties and seven things you might not know about them:
A new car comes with a basic or limited warranty, which covers everything except body panels, drivetrain components and wear-and-tear items such as brake pads, oil filters and wiper blades.
It also comes with a drivetrain warranty, which covers most of the parts that make the car move, such as the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft. Most carmakers provide roadside assistance. Some also offer free maintenance for a period of time.
Automakers Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi tout their decade-long powertrain warranties, and that’s great for new-car buyers who plan to hold on to their car for a while. But if you plan on buying one of those cars used, that 10-year warranty doesn’t apply to you. You’ll only get a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty dating from when the vehicle was first sold. A partial way around this issue is to buy the car as a certified pre-owned vehicle from a dealership. If there was a 10-year powertrain warranty, you’ll get the remainder of that term, probably seven or so years.
Tires are separate
New-car tires are not covered by the vehicle’s basic warranty. Instead, the warranty comes from the tiremaker, and it’s outlined in a booklet you should find in your new car’s glove box. The tire warranty protects against premature tire wear or manufacturing defects. Make sure you keep the tires properly inflated and hold onto receipts from any tire rotations you have done, just in case you need to file a warranty claim and are asked to prove that the tires were properly maintained.
Coverage can change
Warranties and their included benefits are subject to change. If an automaker wants to spur sales, it may offer a longer warranty or other special coverage, such as free maintenance. If the car company’s research shows that a certain benefit isn’t driving people to dealerships, it can reduce the coverage. Back in 2010, for example, Volvo offered five years of free maintenance. It has now scaled that back to three years. GMC and Chevrolet vehicles once came with a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, but that changed with the 2016 model year. Now the powertrain warranty is good for only 60,000 miles. Warranty changes aren’t retroactive, however. Whatever coverage was in force for your car’s model year will apply if you need repairs or service covered by the warranty.
Range of coverage
Starting with the 2018 model year, Volkswagen offers a six-year or 72,000-mile basic warranty. This coverage effectively doubled the warranty from the prior model years and is the longest-lasting among all brands. The shortest basic warranty currently is three years or 36,000 miles, and you’ll find it on vehicles from Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota, for example. Makers including Acura, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz and Mini offer four-year or 50,000-mile basic warranties. A handful, including Genesis, Hyundai, Jaguar and Kia, offer five-year or 60,000-mile basic coverage.
Roadside assistance is part of nearly every new-car warranty and lasts as long, if not longer, than the basic warranty. Not so for Toyota, however; its roadside coverage lasts just two years, even though the warranty is for three.
Batteries are critical to the operation of electric vehicles or hybrid cars and are expensive to replace. A Nissan Leaf battery costs $5,000, for example. Battery components are not part of the basic warranty, but there’s good news: Under federal emissions regulations, EV and hybrid batteries must be warrantied for at least eight years or 100,000 miles. This coverage is fully transferable to all subsequent owners.
Imagine that an expensive part breaks on your vehicle and your warranty has just expired. Normally, you’d have to pay up. But if the dealership service manager approves it, you can get a one-time exemption. This goodwill gesture is entirely at the discretion of your local dealership service department. But if you have a track record of having the maintenance performed there and ask nicely, you’ll increase your chances of approval.
DETROIT: Bargain prices on 2- and 3-year-old vehicles fueled record sales of used cars, trucks and SUVs last year, a trend that is expected to continue because people can save thousands of dollars over buying new.
Used vehicle sales hit 39.2 million vehicles in 2017, more than double the number of new automobiles sold, according to the Edmunds.com auto website. To be sure, Americans for years have bought more used cars than new, but a recent glut of well-equipped vehicles coming off leases is sending more people to the used market.
That cut into new vehicle sales last year, helping to push them down 2 percent. And the trend is likely to continue because leasing remains around a near-record 30 percent of all U.S. new vehicle sales. That will provide an ample supply of used cars for at least three more years, said Ivan Drury, senior manager of industry analysis for Edmunds.
“In almost every instance, that 3-year-old car is going to save you so much money it wouldn’t make any financial sense” to choose new, Drury said.
About 4 million vehicles are coming into the used market from leases this year, many of them cars that can be bought cheaply because buyers are more interested in SUVs.
On average, the buyer of a 3-year-old car can save around $14,000 over buying the same car new, according to Edmunds.
New vehicle prices continue to rise to record levels, pushing some people out of the market and making off-lease vehicles even more attractive, Drury said.
At the same time, the rate of increase for used cars is slowing due to abundant supply, so the gap between new and used prices is growing.
The difference between new and used prices grew by almost $1,600, from $14,125 in 2012 to $15,714 last year.
DETROIT: General Motors says it will stop reporting its sales figures every month and instead will post the numbers each quarter.
The move could prompt other automakers to make the same change. Currently nearly all U.S. automakers report sales monthly.
GM says 30 days isn’t long enough to separate real trends from short-term fluctuations caused by weather, new product launches or other factors. The company’s sales grew nearly 16 percent in March, pushing the company into positive territory for the first quarter. Sales are up 3.8 percent through March after falling 1.4 percent last year.
The company has been reducing low-profit sales to rental car companies. Many automakers use those sales to boost monthly numbers.
GM says it will report March sales Tuesday with other automakers, then switch to quarters.
NEW YORK: The vehicle in a fatal crash a week go in California was operating on Autopilot, making it the latest accident to involve a semiautonomous vehicle, Tesla confirmed.
The electric car maker said the driver, who was killed in the accident, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash, despite several warnings from the vehicle.
Tesla Inc. tells drivers that its Autopilot system, which can keep speed, change lanes and self-park, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel in order to take control of the vehicle to avoid accidents.
Tesla said its vehicle logs show the driver took no action to stop the Model X SUV from crashing into a concrete lane divider.
Photographs of the SUV show that the front of the vehicle was demolished; its hood was ripped off; and its front wheels were scattered on the freeway.
The vehicle also caught fire, though Tesla said no one was in the vehicle when that happened. The company said the crash was made worse by a missing or damaged safety shield on the end of the freeway barrier that is supposed to reduce the impact into the concrete lane divider.
The crash happened in Mountain View, in California’s Silicon Valley.
The driver was Walter Huang, 38, a software engineer for Apple.
“None of this changes how devastating an event like this is or how much we feel for our customer’s family and friends,” Tesla said on its website late Friday.
Huang’s family said he had taken the car to a dealer several times and complained that the function kept steering the car toward the highway divider into which he crashed.
When reached for comment on the crash last week, a Tesla spokesperson said the company has been searching its service records, “and we cannot find anything suggesting that the customer ever complained to Tesla about the performance of Autopilot.”
The spokesperson said there had been “a concern” raised about the car’s navigation not working properly, but “Autopilot’s performance is unrelated to navigation.”
The San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report.
Yes, there will be a few cars, but SUVs will capture most of the headlines at this year’s New York International Auto Show.
Automakers will be shoring up gaps in their SUV lineups and revamping models that already are popular in the hottest-selling part of the U.S. market.
Leading the way is Toyota with an all-new RAV4 compact SUV, which last year was the most popular vehicle in the U.S. that isn’t a truck. There are also new SUVs coming from Subaru, Volkswagen, Acura, Cadillac and Lincoln.
There won’t be many cars. Nissan will show a redesigned Altima midsize sedan, while Toyota will roll out a new Corolla hatchback. Kia will unveil a new K900 big luxury sedan, among others. Volkswagen put a toe into the Detroit-dominated a pickup truck market with concept built on extended Atlas SUV underpinnings.
But SUVs, which hit a record 43 percent of U.S. sales last year at just over 7.3 million, according to Kelley Blue Book, will steal the show. Here are some wheels to watch:
Honda’s luxury brand telegraphed the new entry in the red-hot luxury midsize SUV market with a concept vehicle unveiled in January. Now it’s displaying the production version in New York. The revamped RDX gets a new chassis for better ride and handling. The distance between the wheels is 2.6 inches longer for more cargo and passenger space. Its old V6 engine is replaced by a 272-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor, mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Acura promises quicker acceleration. All versions get standard safety features including collision mitigation automatic braking. The 2019 RDX is due in dealers by the middle of this year. Price and gas mileage weren’t released.
Toyota sold almost 408,000 RAV4 compact SUVs last year, making it the new American family car and the top-selling vehicle in the nation aside from Detroit’s popular big pickups. In an effort to stay on top, Toyota is revamping the RAV for the 2019 model year. The fifth-generation comes on all-new underpinnings that the company says will give it better handling and a smoother ride. It’s also slightly wider and a little lower. New looks are more chiseled and athletic, and the distance between the wheels grows by 1.2 inches for more passenger and cargo space. It comes standard with Toyota’s safety system that includes automatic emergency braking. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed transmission, or a 2.5-liter gas-electric hybrid system with a continuously variable transmission. Horsepower, gas mileage and price weren’t released. The new RAV hits showrooms in the fall.
The compact SUV is now the largest part of the U.S. market, and Cadillac hasn’t had a product to offer — until now. The General Motors luxury brand rolled out the new XT4 SUV at a pre-show event in New York Tuesday night. It’s built on underpinnings specifically designed for the Cadillac brand and comes with sculpted looks and an interior that Cadillac says is luxurious and spacious. The company says it will have segment-leading back-seat legroom. It’s powered by a 237 horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission that will get an estimated 30 miles per gallon on the highway. The XT4 is available in the fall and starts at $35,790 including shipping.
VOLKSWAGEN ATLAS CROSS SPORT CONCEPT
Volkswagen broadens its growing SUV lineup with a five-seat version of the three-row Atlas. The company calls the Atlas Cross Sport a concept, but it’s almost ready to be built at the automaker’s U.S. factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The new version is 7.5 inches shorter than the seven-seat Atlas. The concept is powered by a 355-horsepower plug-in hybrid system with a V6 gasoline engine and a battery that can take it 26 miles on electric power. The hybrid concept can go from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, VW says. There’s also a “mild hybrid” with 310-horsepower from a V6 and a smaller hybrid battery. The SUV is due in showrooms sometime next year. Mileage and price were not announced.
Ford’s luxury brand finally gets an Explorer-like midsize SUV with three rows of seats to compete in the hot luxury SUV market. The company was to unveil the Aviator Wednesday. Few details were given, except that it will have a twin-turbo engine of undisclosed size as well as a plug-in hybrid option. Ford says it will have tapered lines and a roomy interior. It also gets standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking and can be opened and started with a smart phone. The Aviator goes on sale sometime next year. The price wasn’t disclosed.
People going to the Cleveland Auto Show that opens in full this weekend at the I-X Center can gawk at an all-new, eighth-generation Rolls-Royce Phantom.
This particular 2018 white Rolls carries a list price of nearly $525,000. (The cost does not include a chauffeur, in case you were wondering.)
There’s a slightly smaller Rolls displayed at the other end of the Millionaire’s Row that goes for more than $422,000. The two Rolls-Royces provide the bookends in a line of exotic eye-candy vroom machines that would dress up almost any driveway.
Now, most mere mortals here in Northeast Ohio aren’t highly paid professional sports superstars, don’t own flourishing businesses or come from old money — or even nouveau riche lottery winnings. So, a new Rolls or something similarly pricey is probably not in our future.
But the annual car show, organized by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association, displays lots of go-buggies that fall in the realm of possibility for many a working stiff. The show traditionally kicks off the spring selling season for Northeast Ohio car dealers.
“It’s 850 cars under one roof,” said Lou Vitantonio, president of the dealers’ association. “It’s a low-pressure environment where people can compare and shop.”
There are nine ride-and-drives, including an indoor Jeep track, for people to take a car, SUV or crossover for a short spin, he said.
“You are touching and feeling,” Vitantonio said.
No surprise, Summit County new vehicle buyers tend to go for the familiar and the affordable, according to information from AutoView Online.
Here are Summit County’s top 10 best-selling new vehicles for 2017. And here’s what’s new with 2018 vehicles at the show:
• Ford Escape, 887 sales. The Escape was refreshed last year, so there’s nothing new design-wise for 2018. But Ford is offering technology improvements, including driver-assist and safety packages.
• Honda Civic, 780 sales. Largely unchanged from 2017. (Honda has redesigned the larger Accord for 2018.)
• Nissan Rogue, 670 sales. Largely unchanged from 2017 but will get semi-autonomous driving technology.
• Honda CR-V, 655 sales. Largely unchanged from being refreshed for 2017.
• Ford F-150, 627 sales. The nationally popular F-150 is refreshed for 2018, with front-end design changes and upgraded driver and safety technology. All models except those with the base engine will get a 10-speed automatic transmission. It also will get an optional diesel engine starting in the spring.
• Toyota Rav4, 548 sales. The Rav4 was freshened in 2016. There are few differences for 2018.
• Ram Pickup 1500, 534 sales. People at the show will be able to order a completely redesigned 2019 model that starts production in several weeks. Compared to its 2018 sibling, the 2019 pickup is roomier, has new technology including an optional 12-inch touchscreen, and new drivetrain options that include a mild hybrid. Look for subtle “Easter eggs” that designers placed in the vehicle.
• Hyundai Elantra, 502 sales. No major redesign, with the sedan getting some interior changes. The redesigned GT hatchback was recently introduced.
• Chevrolet Silverado, 487 sales. There is a new 100th anniversary edition out this year but otherwise the pickup is little changed. A redesigned 2019 model will be out in the fall.
• Chevrolet Cruze, 481 sales. Other than trim, the made-in-Lordstown small car is largely unchanged.
DETROIT: January’s U.S. auto sales are expected to be a little better than a year ago, but most analysts and automakers still predict a small full-year decline despite economic factors that favor the industry.
Cox Automotive and J.D. Power expect January sales to rise around 1 percent to 1.15 million vehicles.
But Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, the country’s largest dealership group, said late-model used cars coming off leases are pulling buyers from higher-priced new vehicles. Despite tax reform, low unemployment and strong consumer confidence, he sees new-car sales falling to 16.8 million from last year’s 17.2 million.
During the past few years, automakers pushed leasing to around 30 percent of sales. Now, Jackson says 4 million well-equipped used cars will be available for an average price of $25,000. “You have to say ‘who is going to buy all these things when they come back?”’ Jackson said. “Of course there’s going to be a cannibalization and a substitution.”
Here are the numbers as automakers release January figures on Thursday:
— Honda Motor Co. said sales were down 1.7 percent to 104,542. Truck and SUV sales fell 2.5 percent while cars were off just under 1 percent. The CR-V small SUV, in the hottest part of the market, saw a 16.9 percent sales drop.
— Hyundai Motor Co. sales fell 11.3 percent from last year’s record January, to 39,629. The car-heavy Korean automaker saw Sonata midsize sedan sales tumble 23.7 percent.
— Nissan Group sales rose 10 percent to 123,538, a January record. Sales were led by the Rogue small SUV, which was up nearly 26 percent to more than 36,000. Nissan brand sales rose 12 percent but Infiniti luxury sales dropped 8 percent.
— Ford Motor Co. sales fell 6.6 percent to 161,143, due in part to a decline in sales to rental car fleets. But its average vehicle sales price hit a record $37,000, largely due to a 1.6 percent sales increase for the higher priced F-Series pickup. Car sales were down 23.3 percent as the shift to SUVs and trucks continued.
— General Motors Co. sales rose 1 percent to 198,548. Buick and Chevrolet posted gains, but GMC and Cadillac saw lower sales. GM’s best-seller, the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, saw a 14.5 percent jump. A new Silverado goes on sale later this year, so GM is discounting the outgoing truck.
— Toyota Motor Corp. posted a 16.8 percent increase to 167,056 vehicles on strong demand for the RAV4, Highlander and 4Runner SUVs, which hit January sales records. Sales of the revamped Camry midsize car rose 21.3 percent, bucking the SUV trend.
— Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales were down 13 percent due to reduced sales to fleet buyers. The company sold nearly 133,000 vehicles, led by a 2 percent increase in Jeep sales. But the Chrysler brand fell 21 percent while Dodge was off 31 percent and Fiat dropped 43 percent. The Ram truck brand posted a 16 percent decline.
— Volkswagen sales were up 5.2 percent to 24,744. The German automaker is recovering from sales losses due to its diesel emissions cheating scandal by introducing new SUVs. Combined sales of the new Atlas large SUV and Tiguan small SUV hit 10,640, accounting for 43 percent of VW’s monthly sales.
This story has been corrected to show that last year’s auto sales were 17.2 million.
DETROIT: Japanese vehicle brands are exploring new design ideas — and figuring out what sets them apart from their U.S. and European rivals — with new prototype vehicles.
Nissan, Infiniti and Lexus are all unveiling new concept cars at the Detroit auto show, which opens to the public Saturday.
Concepts are used to test ideas and see how show visitors react. Some elements are glamorous but impractical, with sharply angled headlights or pencil-thin side mirrors that will never actually end up on a production vehicle. But other elements from concept cars do make it onto the road. Lexus’s gaping spindle grilles, now a feature on the automaker’s vehicles, were introduced in 2011 on the LF-Gh concept car.
“Maybe they don’t develop that concept per se, but it makes a statement about where the brand is going,” says Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst with the car buying site Autotrader.com.
This year’s auto show concepts differ in many ways, but they’re striving for one thing: simplicity. They all have serene interiors with real wood and minimal distractions. Karim Habib, Infiniti’s executive design director, says designers are reacting to all the visual stimulation in the world.
“It is our intention to be an antidote to that,” he said.
Here are some details on the concept cars at the show:
INFINITI Q INSPIRATION: The sleek sedan from Nissan Motor Co.’s luxury Infiniti brand explores how design will change as it moves to compact but powerful variable compression ratio engines. Karim Habib, Infiniti’s executive design director, said the smaller engine allows for a shorter hood and a bigger passenger cabin than Infiniti’s previous models. The exterior is bold and deceptively simple; there are few lines, but they’re deeply etched into the surface so the curves shift as the viewer moves around the vehicle. At first glance, it’s hard to see the grille, which is made of twisted metal painted the same color as the car. Inside, there are subtle details, like the traditional Japanese fabric made with gold rice paper that’s tucked under the door handles. Each passenger has a touchscreen that offers guided meditation to reduce stress. Habib says the interior is meant to reflect Japan’s tradition of polite, generous hospitality. Habib says elements from the Q Inspiration will eventually make it into production vehicles.
LEXUS LF-1 LIMITLESS: Vehicle brands have always had so-called flagship sedans, the big cars in the lineup that set the tone for all the others. Lexus, which invented the luxury crossover 20 years ago with the RX 300, is now playing with the idea of a flagship crossover SUV. The LF-1 is built so it can be powered by a fuel cell, a hybrid system, gasoline or a battery. By 2025, Lexus says, all of its models will have one of those options available. The LF-1 was designed in California but took its inspiration from a traditional Japanese sword, imagining smooth molten metal flowing into a solid, chiseled form. Inside, knobs and buttons are replaced by motion-activated controls and a wide, unobstructed dashboard. Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken says Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury Lexus brand will decide whether to build a flagship crossover based on customer and dealer response to the concept.
NISSAN XMOTION: Nissan Motor Co.’s XMotion — pronounced “cross motion” — differs from the Infiniti and Lexus concepts in exterior styling; instead of spare, undulating designs, the Xmotion is solid, square and blocky. It’s ready for rugged use, with all-terrain tires and a retractable rooftop cargo box. But Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s global design director, said the tough exterior protects the soft, cocoon-like interior. The long center console, which runs from the front to the rear seats, is made of cedar and uses a traditional Japanese architectural wood joinery technique. Cedar is also used for slats below the dashboard, which are meant to convey the sturdy “bones” of the vehicle. Nissan says the XMotion will serve as a blueprint for the company’s SUVs and eventual autonomous shared vehicles.
DETROIT: Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand is giving the Cherokee compact SUV a major face-lift so it can better compete in one of the hottest parts of the U.S. automotive market.
The 2019 Cherokee, unveiled Tuesday at the Detroit auto show, gets styling tweaks, a new engine, suspension improvements and engineering changes that save 200 pounds and improve gas mileage over the current model.
At an impromptu news conference after the SUV was revealed, CEO Sergio Marchionne hinted at three future new products and said he’ll be pushing for higher Jeep sales growth in Europe.
The updated Cherokee gets a new 2-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 270 horsepower and technology that shuts it down at stoplights to save fuel. It’s similar to the engine in Alfa Romeo sports cars. A 3.2-liter V6 and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine carry over from the current model. A polymer tailgate is among the changes that help save 200 pounds.
Jeep also redesigned the rear cargo area, adding 4 cubic feet of storage space by making it wider so golf clubs can fit in straight rather than at an angle.
All this is to better compete with new versions from the competition such as the Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.
When the latest-generation Cherokee came out in 2013, its curvy front grille departed from the normal flat Jeep front-end with round headlamps. That angered some Jeep purists who love the old look.
Jeep took a step toward the old front-end, giving the 2019 model a larger grille, combining LED headlamps and daytime running lights and adding a new hood and fender design.
“We polarized the market. We split it in half. People either loved it or they hated it. I think when you look at the rest of the range, that’s much more in line with what Jeep is offering,” Marchionne said.
The Cherokee appeals mostly to suburban drivers who seldom go off the road, yet Marchionne said it’s still capable of doing so. “You always have the right to do that. The right to go off the road and do stuff to me is worth anything,” he said.
Fiat Chrysler wouldn’t give the exact on-sale date for the revised Cherokee, to be built in Belvidere, Illinois. The company says it will release fuel mileage and pricing later.
Also at the event, Marchionne said new SUVs are coming and called the Jeep brand’s growth in Europe “shameful:”
— The company’s Alfa Romeo performance brand will add a three-row large SUV by 2022. It will be larger than the Stelvio, Alfa’s first SUV. Fiat Chrysler also has developed an SUV based on the Pacifica minivan underpinnings but hasn’t decided whether to produce it. Once a decision is made, it could come in 18 to 20 months. A new Jeep Wrangler pickup truck will debut early in 2019, after Marchionne retires. The Ferrari brand also is developing an SUV that likely will go on the market around the start of 2020, he said.
— Marchionne said he is “really ticked off” about Jeep’s relatively slow growth in Europe. He has replaced the brand’s leader there and will embark on a campaign to grow sales. “We need to get the machine started. It’s the laggard in the system. It’s the one that should be doing a lot better than it really is doing because the market is up and we’re just not getting our share.”
For the first 11 months of 2017 Jeep sales rose 2.6 percent to 96,077 over the same period in 2016. That left market share in the European Union unchanged at 0.7 percent even though the overall market grew 4.1 percent, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
DETROIT: It’s the year of the pickup truck at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit as General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford unveil new trucks in a fast-growing and highly competitive U.S. auto market.
But there are plenty of other vehicles at the show, which is one of the industry’s largest. Mercedes and BMW have new SUVs, while several Japanese automakers are showing off prototypes of future vehicles.
It’s all happening in a U.S. auto market that’s shrinking but still expected to remain at healthy levels. Last year sales fell 2 percent to 17.2 million, still near record highs. Analysts expect sales to be just under 17 million in 2018.
Here are some of the vehicles being unveiled at the show, which opens to the general public on Saturday:
ACURA RDX PROTOTYPE
Honda Motor Co.’s struggling Acura luxury brand hopes to revive sales with a new version of its best-selling RDX. Acura showed a prototype of the midsize SUV at the show, but it’s close to the version that will go on sale in mid-2018. The 2019 RDX, which is the first to be designed in the U.S., is longer, lower and wider than the current model, with sharper lines outlined in chrome. A wide, panoramic glass roof will come standard. Under the hood is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission. Acura says the RDX will have the most legroom and cargo space in its class. There’s also a touchpad to control infotainment functions on the 10.2-inch dashboard screen. Acura didn’t reveal pricing, fuel economy or other details.
Volkswagen’s redesigned Jetta offers more room — and a shot at redemption as the automaker recovers from a 2015 emissions-cheating scandal. The German automaker says the 2019 Jetta is longer, wider and taller than previous models. VW also aims for a sportier look, with a large front grille, higher chrome quotient and LED lighting. The car has a new standard six-speed manual transmission. An eight-speed automatic transmission is optional on the base model. The Jetta’s revamped interior includes a new storage console large enough to fit a standard iPad.
The car is among the first of two new models planned this year and will come with a six-year, 72,000-mile warranty — double what it has been. It goes on sale in the second quarter at a starting price of $18,545 — less than its predecessor.
Ford Motor Co. is introducing a high-performance version of its midsize Edge SUV this summer: the Edge ST. It has a 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine that puts out 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. That’s paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive comes standard, and there’s a specially tuned sport suspension.
The Edge ST also has special design cues, including a wide mesh grille, 21-inch wheels and “performance blue” paint. The regular Edge also gets an update, with a more efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 250 horsepower. New safety features include “evasive steering assist,” which uses cameras and radar to detect slower-moving vehicles. Pricing on the Edge and Edge ST hasn’t yet been released.
Toyota has taken the wraps off its revamped Avalon, which features a longer, lower and wider exterior and a rear cabin that extends another 7 inches (17.8 centimeters).
The automaker boasts of a “neater” steering wheel, with a smaller switch cluster, enlarged hand grips and cruise control now accessible on the right spoke.
The touch screen can be “pinched” or “flicked” like a smartphone. The new Avalon also can connect with a smart watch or Amazon Alexa-enabled device. The car has two new powertrains: a 3.5-liter V6 and 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid system.
The Michigan-designed Avalon will arrive in showrooms in late spring.
FORD MUSTANG BULLITT
Ford Motor Co. is making a special edition Mustang to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bullitt,” whose unforgettable car chase scene helped turn the sports car into an icon.
The 2019 Mustang Bullitt — due out this summer — will have an upgraded 5.0-liter V8 engine that puts out 475 horsepower. It has a top speed of 163 miles per hour (262 kilometers per hour) and a manual transmission with a white cue-ball shift knob. It’s available in dark highland green, the color “Bullitt” made famous, as well as black.
Molly McQueen — granddaughter of “Bullitt” star Steve McQueen — introduced the 2019 Mustang Bullitt on Sunday at the Detroit auto show. It’s the first Ford has produced since 2008. Ford didn’t reveal the cost.
Mercedes’ boxy-looking G-Class SUV gets a face-lift that the company says will boost performance both on and off the road.
The company readily acknowledges that its appearance hasn’t changed much in almost four decades. But the 2019 version gets numerous changes including 2 additional inches (5 additional centimeters) of length and 4.8 inches (12 centimeters) of width.
The G-Class gets a new independent front suspension as well as a nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s still powered by a 4-liter V8 with 416 horsepower. It also gets new LED headlamps.
The G-Class will go on sale in the U.S. by late 2018, but no specific date was announced, nor pricing or fuel mileage.
DETROIT: Japanese air bag maker Takata is recalling an additional 3.3 million faulty air bag inflators as it expands the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.
The latest recalls cover frontal air bags in certain 2009, 2010 and 2013 vehicles made by Honda, Toyota, Audi, BMW, Daimler Vans, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar-Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Tesla. Automakers will provide specific models in paperwork that will be filed later this month with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Notices of the expanded recalls were posted Saturday on the agency’s website.
Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and fill air bags quickly in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high humidity and temperatures and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister. That can hurl hot shrapnel into unsuspecting drivers and passengers.
At least 20 people have been killed worldwide and over 180 hurt.
The latest recalls are part of the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history, with 19 automakers having to recall up to 69 million inflators in 42 million vehicles. The problem brought a criminal conviction and fine against Takata and forced the Japanese company into bankruptcy protection.
The recalls, which are being managed by NHTSA, are being phased in over the next three years. Older models and those in states with high humidity and temperatures are getting priority.
Many automakers have been slow to replace the potentially deadly inflators. A report by an independent monitor said that as of Sept. 15, 2017, automakers have recalled 43.1 million inflators. Of those, only 18.5 million, or 43 percent, have been replaced even though Takata recalls began in 2001.
NHTSA has said the Takata recalls are unprecedented in size and complexity and have resulted in groundbreaking lessons that will help automakers reach their repair goals.
TOKYO: Tatsuro Toyoda, the former Toyota Motor Corp. president who led the company’s climb to become one of the world’s top automakers, has died. He was 88.
Toyoda, a son of the company’s founder, died Dec. 30 of pneumonia, the Japanese automaker said Saturday.
Toyoda, the automaker’s seventh president, stepped down from the position in 1995, while continuing in other posts, such as adviser, a title he held until his death.
He was instrumental in setting up the California joint venture with U.S. rival General Motors called NUMMI, or New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., which began production in 1984.
At that time, it was heralded as a pioneer in international collaborations in the industry.
With a career focused on international operations, Toyoda served as NUMMI’s first president, and is known for his efforts to bring together Toyota’s corporate culture of super-efficiency, teamwork and empowering workers with American culture, including introducing a new style of labor-management relations.
Toyoda’s father, Kiichiro Toyoda, founded the company.
The company name is spelled and pronounced with a “T,” instead of the “D” as in the family name, because it was considered to bring luck, according to fortune-telling.
DETROIT: Hyundai and Volkswagen each say they’re partnering with a U.S. autonomous vehicle tech firm led by former executives from Google, Tesla and Uber.
The companies on Thursday announced partnerships with Aurora Innovation, started last year by ex-Google autonomous car chief Chris Urmson and others.
VW says its collaboration will help bring self-driving cars quickly to roads worldwide, while autonomous Hyundais are expected to be in the market by 2021.
The partnerships are the latest in a string of tie-ups between traditional auto companies and tech firms as they race to be first with self-driving vehicles.
Aurora is based in Pittsburgh and Palo Alto, California. It was started last year by Urmson, former Tesla executive Sterling Anderson, and ex-Uber autonomous vehicle leader Drew Bagnell.
Terms of each partnership were not released, but Urmson, who is Aurora’s CEO, said the startup will make a profit by helping Hyundai and VW develop safe autonomous vehicles. In an interview with The Associated Press, Urmson said he isn’t sure exactly where money will be made in autonomous vehicles. It could be from developing sophisticated sensing and guidance systems, manufacturing vehicles or providing transportation as a service.
“The way the economics play out over time is still far from foregone,” he said. “We still don’t know which of these pieces will be dominant or if they will find a happy equilibrium.”
Urmson left Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2016 after more than seven years of work on its autonomous vehicles. At Tesla Inc., Anderson led development of the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system after its initial release, and he led development of the Model X SUV, according to Aurora’s website. Bagnell was a founding member of Uber Technologies Inc.’s Advanced Technology Center that’s working on autonomous cars in Pittsburgh.
Germany-based Volkswagen AG, which produces about 10 million vehicles annually, hopes the tie-up will bring autonomous vehicle technology to all of its brands. The company says it has been working with Aurora for the past six months, integrating its sensors, hardware and software into VW vehicles.
Hyundai Motor Co. said the partnership with Aurora will bring autonomous vehicles to market that can operate without human input in most conditions.
The partnership has yet to say how its first batch of self-driving vehicles will be used, but analysts expect they will likely be for commercial use, such as self-driving taxis or ride-hailing services, rather than for sales to individual consumers. General Motors said in November that its self-driving vehicles will carry passengers and deliver goods in big cities by 2019.
Hyundai earlier joined with Cisco Systems Inc. and Baidu Inc. to collaborate on internet-connected cars. It has also set up a $45 million fund with South Korea’s SK Telecom and Hanwha Asset Management to invest in artificial intelligence startups worldwide.
The South Korean automaker plans to share more details of its project with Aurora during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, where it will also unveil the brand name of a new fuel-cell SUV that will be tested for self-driving technology.
The company plans to show off some of its autonomous driving cars during the Winter Olympics Game next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Youkyung Lee contributed to this report from Seoul.
DETROIT: Ford Motor Co. is promising to roll out more than 50 new vehicles in China over the next eight years including 15 powered by electricity as it restructures its business and responds to a government push for cleaner air by making all new vehicles electric.
The automaker, currently a small player in the world’s largest auto market, announced the ambitious plan on Tuesday in Shanghai.
In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brand electric vehicles, the company said a new Zotye-Ford joint venture will sell a new line of affordable vehicles that run on batteries.
The move comes as Ford tries to become more competitive globally under new CEO Jim Hackett. In October, the company announced plans to cut $14 billion in costs, drop some car models and focus resources on trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles.
It’s also a sign that unlike rival General Motors, Ford has missed out on the past opportunities to grow substantially in China, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for the LMC Automotive consulting firm. “China is extremely important and I think this is an acknowledgement of maybe some previous missteps of investment in China for Ford,” he said.
Here’s what you need to know about Ford’s plan:
— Foreign and domestic automakers in China sold 24.4 million cars, minivans and sport-utility vehicles in China last year. LMC forecasts only 1-2 percent growth this year because part of a tax incentive expired at the end of last year, forcing buyers to act in 2017. Schuster says annual growth should settle in in the 3 percent to 4 percent range in future years.
— General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG vie for the title of largest automaker in China. GM sold 383,000 vehicles in October compared with Ford’s 150,000.
— In September China joined France and Britain in announcing plans to end sales of gasoline and diesel cars. It’s developing a timetable to end production of traditional fuel cars and no date has been set for the change to electrics.
— Schuster says it’s not too late for the company to increase sales in China, where growth is expected to outpace other developed nations.
— Ford says it will assemble five additional vehicles in China for customers there including a Lincoln SUV and Ford’s first global all-electric SUV. It also will “contain structural cost in the region” this year.
—The company says by the end of 2019 all Ford and Lincoln vehicles in China will be linked to the Internet via modems or plug-in devices, to increase consumer connectivity.
MILAN: Supercar makers have long known that parked next to that snarling Lamborghini, racing-red Ferrari, or stately Bentley at some of the globe’s toniest addresses is a practical SUV. With the sport utility vehicle market growing by leaps and bounds, they increasingly want in on those profits.
Lamborghini unveiled the once-improbable Urus SUV on Monday at its headquarters in Sant’Agata, Italy, where the supercar maker owned by the Volkswagen group is expanding the factory to meet utility vehicle demand.
The Urus enters a luxury field crowded with the Mercedes G-Class, the Bentley Bentayga and the trailblazing Porsche Cayenne — and soon to be joined by Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and in all probability, Ferrari.
Yianni Charalambous placed an order even before he saw the Urus in person Monday. He expects to park it next to his Lamborghini Aventador supercar come September.
‘’I wanted a double-Lamborghini garage,” Charalambous said, growing impatient while a technical glitch delayed the unveiling ceremony on the Sant’Agata factory floor.
‘’I have always had a four-by-four. And I have always had a Lamborghini,” the Londoner said. “I have had Range Rovers. I wanted something different.”
Lamborghini dabbled in the SUV market in the 1980s and 1990s with the boxy LM 002, which sported a body shape not all that different from the Hummer’s. But the Hummer’s lower price was hard to beat. Lamborghini ended up only building a few hundred of the LM 002.
‘’Now we live in a different world,” John Giunta, a Lamborghini dealer in Sarasota, Florida, said. ‘’The lines of this is more modernized, and something of this price point can survive now.”
The 32 Lamborghini dealers in the United States already have orders ranging from 10 to 25, Giunta said. In the U.S., the Urus starts at $200,000 (168,718 euros.) The European base price is just under 171,500 euros ($203,322.)
The Urus boasts the high center-of-gravity which has made SUVs so popular, but Lamborghini chief engineer Maurizio Reggiani said that the height can be adjusted to a lower drive for the track or higher for off-road performance.
The Urus can go from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 3.6 seconds and brake from 100 kilometers an hour to a stop in 33.7 meters (111 feet.) At a maximum speed of 305 kilometers an hour (189.5 mph), Lamborghini boasts that it is ‘’the fastest SUV in the world.”
Analysts say that the move into SUVs has become a natural fit for most brands, despite the risk of alienating aficionados.
“I think if you look at those brands’ image, I think you would look at an SUV — especially a Lamborghini — as almost a sell-out move. I don’t think that is the case anymore,” Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at LMC Automotive in Detroit.
From being nonexistent in 2006, high-end SUVs have more than quadrupled in sales since 2010, from 4,700 units to almost 21,000 units in 2016, driven by the Mercedes G-Class and Bentley Bentayga, according to IHS Automotive.
The entry of the Urus along with the planned Aston Martin DBX and Rolls Royce ‘’High Side Vehicle” is expected to push those numbers up to 29,300 by 2020.
Even Ferrari is considering entering the category, with a decision expected early next year, which could leave McLaren as the only hold-out among supercars.
Luxury SUVS are merely following the mass-market trend. SUVs are the fastest-growing overall segment of the car market, tripling in sales in a decade from just under 8 million units in 2006 to nearly 26.5 million units last year. SUV sales are forecast by IHS Automotive to grow by another 28 percent to over 34 million units by 2020.
Before having a true luxury option, IHS automotive analyst Ian Fletcher said, many SUV owners went to private modifiers and tuners to increase performance and add luxury swag to their off-the-line mass-market vehicle. “A lot of manufacturers said, ‘Oh, we can have a piece of that,”’ Fletcher said.
The decision to enter the SUV market was a no-brainer for Lamborghini. As part of the VW group, the Italian Lamborghini shares luxury SUV platforms with the Bentley Bentayga and the Audi Q7, bringing down development costs and increasing profit margins.
Lamborghini has not released sales goals, but IHS forecasts Urus sales of 2,900 a year to a peak in 2019-2020, putting it on par with the Lamborghini Huracan.
‘’This is going to sell very well,” said John Littlefield, who owns Lamborghini Carolinas dealership in Greensboro, North Carolina. ‘’I owned one of the old LM 002….The LM 002 was a beast. This is more refined luxury and beast.”
DETROIT: General Motors Co. expects to carry passengers and deliver goods with self-driving vehicles in big cities sometime in 2019, telling investors it’s moving quickly and plans to be ahead of other automakers and tech companies.
The Detroit automaker made the announcement at an investor presentation in San Francisco Thursday, saying that based on its current rate of change, it expects “commercial launch at scale” of the autonomous vehicles within the next year or so. The vehicles would not have a human backup driver, the company said.
Company executives didn’t say how many vehicles GM would deploy or what cities they would be in, but they were clear that GM plans to run ride-hailing and delivery services and quickly make money off them — at higher profit margins than it now makes from selling cars and trucks.
“This business is potentially bigger than our current core business,” Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told the group.
GM said it is important to be first to get the self-driving electric vehicles on the road so the rider experience can be improved quickly and give the company a competitive advantage. But it’s not quite clear yet whether GM will be first.
Delphi, an automotive supplier, has said it expects commercial vehicles to be using its autonomous system in limited areas in 2019. Delphi recently bought autonomous software startup NuTonomy and is also partnering with BMW AG, chipmaker Intel Corp. and camera and visual recognition software maker Mobileye.
Google’s Waymo division will soon start testing self-driving vehicles in Phoenix without a backup driver in the front seat. An employee in the back seat will be able to stop the vehicle by pushing a button but won’t be able to steer the vehicle.
German automaker Daimler AG has teamed up with supplier Bosch to develop autonomous taxis by 2020. And Ford plans to have a self-driving car available for ride-hailing services by 2021.
GM President Dan Ammann said the first commercial use of EVs would be in ride-sharing. He wouldn’t say if the service would involve ride-hailing company Lyft, in which GM has invested $500 million. More details, he said, would come closer to 2019.
GM’s Cruise Automation unit is testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles with human backup drivers in San Francisco, Detroit and Phoenix, and has plans to test in Manhattan next year.
The automaker says it’s focused on deploying self-driving vehicles safely, but it also wants to beat rivals to market. Ammann said GM is in the lead to deploy the vehicles in large numbers. Once they’re on the road, the vehicles’ computers will constantly learn and improve.
“Getting first onto that learning curve is pretty important,” he said.
Investors apparently weren’t impressed by the presentation or had already built autonomous vehicles into GM’s stock price. After the afternoon presentation, shares of GM fell just 1.6 percent to $43.10 while the broader markets were up.
Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.