Archive for April, 2011

Daimler’s first quarter profit nearly doubles

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  Daimler said Friday that it nearly doubled its profit in the first quarter as sales in China continued to show big gains and the market for heavy trucks recovered. The maker of Mercedes cars and Freightliner trucks, based in Stuttgart, said that net profit rose to $1.75 billion USD, compared to $908 million in the first quarter of 2010. Sales rose 17 percent to $36.6 billion. The figures were in line with expectations, but shares in the company fell 2 percent as investors registered disappointment that the company seemed to simply be benefiting from an improved global economy. “I wouldn’t say there is anything particular about their products or way of doing business that is the main reason for the improvement,” said Sascha Heiden, an auto analyst at IHS Global Insight in Frankfurt. “It’s the natural mechanism of volumes bouncing back and purchasing …

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William takes Kate for a drive in his father’s 1969 Aston Martin Convertible

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  That was quite a fleet of classic British cars hauling the blue bloods around London today for the Royal Wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William. After the wedding, Prince William borrowed his father’s car to take his bride for a ride: The rare 1969 Aston Martin DB6 Volante MKII that the Queen gave Prince Charles on his 21st birthday. The Seychelles blue roadster is one of just 38 that were built with the high-performance 4.0-liter, 325 hp. straight six. The eco-minded Prince has had it converted to run on ethanol made from wine. Some might say that’s a better use for British wine than drinking it — but it’s because of EU winemaking quotas. Excess production goes to a biofuels maker to be distilled into fuel. The prize for oldest ride went to the father of the groom, Prince Charles, and wife …

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Kate Middleton to ride in the Queen’s classic 1977 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI

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  Kate Middleton will arrive for her wedding to Prince William pulled by 200 horses. She’ll leave as a Princess, but drawn by just four horses. Kate, the commoner, has chosen to ride to the church — Westminster Abbey — with her father in the Queen’s classic 1977 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI (200 hp.). She’ll leave a Princess, with husband Prince William, in the 1902 State Landau carriage drawn by four-horse hitch led by a big gray named Dan (or the enclosed Glass Coach if it rains). The famous Rolls-Royce was given to the Queen in 1978 for the Silver Jubilee of her reign by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, a grand gesture by the imploding British auto industry. It’s a sign of those times for British automakers that the Queen’s 25th anniversary was 1977, but a strike delayed delivery of the …

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Used car prices increase as gas prices soar

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  High gas prices are starting to impact other prices, from the cost of food to used cars. Increased demand this year for fuel-sipping economy cars, coupled with the shortage of new Japanese cars after the earthquake, is leading to a new type of sticker shock at used car lots. Everyone Wants Good Gas Mileage John Morse needs a car for his teenage son, and like a lot of drivers, there’s only one type of car he’s considering right now. Morse said “just the way gas prices are going up, I’m going to try to find something a little more economical.” Unfortunately, as gas prices soar this spring, so is the price of economical small cars. Car dealer Gary Heflin can’t keep Corollas, Kias, Ford Focuses, and Hyundais in stock. Blue Book Prices Soar But as a result of surging demand, Heflin says wholesale prices on small cars are …

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Ford posts best first quarter profit in 13 years on small car sales

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  Ford Motor combined strong sales and improved pricing to roar past earnings forecasts and post its best first-quarter profit since 1998. Ford earned $2.6 billion, or 61 cents a share, up 22% from a year earlier, the company said Tuesday. The earnings not only topped the consensus forecast of 50 cents a share, they were better than the most bullish estimate of any analyst surveyed by earning tracker Thomson Reuters. The last time Ford earned this much in the first quarter was in 1998, when the company sold part of its financial services unit. The past quarter’s performance underlined the continued turnaround at the company, which has now posted seven straight quarters of profit after years of losses. Shares of Ford (F, Fortune 500) climbed nearly 3% in morning trading to $15.96. Ford’s stock has struggled since the company missed earnings forecasts with …

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Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf get top crash protection scores

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  The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf got top safety ratings in some of the first-ever tests of electric cars by an insurer-funded research group. Both cars earned top scores for front, side and rear-impact crashes and for rollover crash protection, according to results released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While both the Leaf and Volt are classified as small cars, the institute said their heavy battery packs put their weight closer to large sedans. The Volt, for example, weighs 3,760 pounds, which is close to the weight of the Chevrolet Impala. The Leaf weighs 3,370 pounds, which is similar to a Nissan Altima midsize car. That extra mass helps protect their occupants, since heavier cars are less likely to be pushed around in a crash. The Leaf runs solely on battery power and has a range of around 100 miles. …

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Scion unveils FR-S sports coupe at NY Auto Show

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  Scion, the Toyota Motor Corp. brand that aspires to be edgy and youthful, rolled out a new concept sports coupe called the FR-S at the New York International Auto Show. The car maker says the concept will inspire a new model Scion plans to roll out next year. The FR-S is a departure from previous Scion models in a number of ways. But the most noticeable differences are its sleek, sports-car shape and its rear-wheel-drive setup. Up until now Scion was known for boxy, quirky, front-drive economy cars like the xB and xD. The new model, Scion says, is meant to ”stimulate the souls of true driving enthusiasts.” Scion says the main inspiration for the FR-S is the two-door coupe version of the mid-1980s Toyota Corolla called the AE86. It was one of the last small cars of its type to have …

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Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt win at NY auto show

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  The Nissan Leaf won the 2011 World Car of the Year, besting the Audi A8 and the BMW 5 Series. “It’s a great honor,” said Brian Carolin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America. “The Nissan Leaf truly is a game changer.” The Nissan Leaf has been appreciated throughout the world for its zero emission and excellent performance. The car was noted by the Jurors of the award for its zero emissions and its generally carlike performance. The award was the latest sign of the ascendancy of fuel-efficient models over high-performance models at this year’s show in New York. General Motors Co.’s extended range Chevrolet Volt won World Green Car at the New York International Auto Show today, defeating BMW 320d and the Nissan Leaf. The World Car Design award went to the Aston Martin Rapide, defeating the Alfa Romeo Giulietta …

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Nissan Leaf electric car hit with starting problems

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  The much-anticipated Nissan Leaf battery-powered sedan has been hit with its first mechanical malfunction, acknowledged over the weekend at headquarters in Japan, a problem affecting an unspecified number of vehicles that can prevent the vehicle from restarting. According to Nissan, the problem resides in a sensor in the air conditioning system. If the sensor is activated “it will illuminate a warning light on the instrument panel” and the may prevent the car from restarting once it’s been shut down. Nissan described the number of vehicles affected as “a small number.” The Japanese automaker said it is investigating to discover the “root cause” of the failures and what actions to take. So far Nissan hasn’t issued a recall because the malfunction has no bearing on vehicle safety. But the number has to be small simply because the number of Leafs sold so far is …

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Fuel efficient cars are all the rage as gas prices rise

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  With $5-a-gallon gas on the horizon, automakers unveiled fuel efficient models Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show with the hopes of luring budget-minded consumers to showrooms. Honda, Subaru, Nissan, Kia and Hyundai all introduced more fuel efficient compact and subcompact models. Several of the new models are 20 or 30 percent more fuel efficient than previous versions — with new engines and less weight. Automakers also are upgrading smaller cars with more leg room, nicer interiors and more safety features to attract buyers who are choosing a small car because they want it — not just because it’s less expensive. Those automakers who introduced large vehicles, like the Malibu and the Taurus, also emphasized fuel efficiency, and Chrysler Group LLC announced that it was likely to bring a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee to the U.S. market as soon as 2013. Automakers are …

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