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Google's new Android Autos OS unveiled, will be in cars this year [w/video]

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 17:59:00 EST

Connected cars are coming en-masse. We know this much. How, though, remains something of an open question, especially as two of the world's largest tech companies are preparing to battle for control of your car's dashboard. On the one hand, we have Apple and its CarPlay system. And now, we know what Google has been working on with Auto Link.
Its new name is Android Auto, and yes, it's based off the Android architecture that is the primary challenger to Apple's iOS mobile operating system. Announced at Google's I/O conference today, Android Auto functions similarly to CarPlay - owners will need to plug their smartphones into their cars to access the full breadth of capability.
In Android Auto's case, that means a wealth of voice controls to limit distracted driving. Google's marquee apps will be available when the interface arrives in production models later this year, including Google Play Music, Google Maps and voice-activated texting and text playback. Meanwhile, developers will be able to begin designing custom apps for the new system via an upcoming software development kit.

Mercedes to build CLA at Nissan plant in Mexico [w/poll]

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 14:14:00 EST

Volkswagen may have paved the way for American customers to get used to the idea of German cars produced in Mexico, but it won't be the only one for long. BMW is said to be considering production of the 1 Series, 3 Series and Mini south of the border, Audi is working on its own factory in San Jose Chiapa, and now Mercedes-Benz is reported to be following suit as well. Only instead of building its own plant, Daimler is tipped to use a Nissan factory in Aguascalientes.
According to a report in Manager Magazin recently cited by Automotive News Europe, that's where Mercedes is considering building the GLA, CLA and another A-Class sedan. Just what the point would be of another sedan based on the A-Class in addition to the CLA, we're not sure, but if Benz can produce the larger CLS in addition to the E-Class and S-Class sedans, we suppose there'd be room for an A-Class sedan alongside the CLA as well.
We're still waiting on confirmation and comment from Mercedes on the prospect, but one way or another, the increase in Mexican production of German automobiles seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Nissan's Ghosn highest paid exec in Japan again, at $10M per year

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:30:00 EST

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is on track to be the highest-paid executive in Japan for the fourth time in five years. Ghosn's salary and bonuses last year rang the register to the tune of $9.8 million (995 million yen), and when stock dividends are added to the equation, the exec's total pay crested a billion yen. That represents a 0.7-percent increase over his pay from the previous year. Ghosn earned an additional $3.1 million as CEO of Renault.
According to Bloomberg, Ghosn's compensation was announced at a shareholder's meeting in Japan, prompting an explanation from the CEO. "I understand the sensitivity of the issue," Ghosn said. "Being in Japan should not be a handicap to attract talent. We need the best minds, we need the best talents."
Few would argue with that assessment, we'd guess, but it doesn't answer the question of whether Ghosn is the most talented CEO in Japan. Akio Toyoda, head of Toyota in Japan, earned 230 yen (though, as a large shareholder in Toyota, Toyoda's dividend payments bring him closer to Ghosn) in compensation while steering his automaker to a profit that was five times higher than Nissan's. Honda President Takanobu Ito was paid the comparatively small sum of 150 million yen last year.

Nissan GT-R takes a bloody whack at supercar rivals in fake ads

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 19:15:00 EST

A big part of what makes a supercar super is how it makes you feel, but the performance stats and bragging rights are undeniably a big part of the equation as well. Which means you can't ignore the fact that, even with its price ever escalating, the Nissan GT-R makes minced meat out of European exotics costing twice or three times as much.
That's the inspiration for this trio of fake ads from photographer Tim Kent. In this mock campaign, Kent has depicted the GT-R as a butcher's knife and the European exotics as pieces of slaughtered meat. Ferrari is symbolized by a package of horse meat, Porsche by a pack of sausages and Lamborghini as a pair of, um... "prairie oysters".
Of course the ads are never going to run anywhere, and if you're squeamish (or vegetarian) we wouldn't suggest looking at them in close proximity to your lunch. But we have to admit they're creative, and effective.

Airbag recall widens to include BMW, Chrysler, Ford and Toyota

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 15:45:00 EST

The recall of faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata has exploded today to grow to seven automakers. In most cases, only models in certain high-humidity regions were affected because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in its investigation that moisture played a roll in determining whether there would be a problem. However, some companies opted for national campaigns. The exact number of affected models for these campaigns isn't yet known at this time.
BMW is recalling an undisclosed number of 325i, 325Xi, 330i and 330Xi models from the 2001 through 2005 model years and the 2001-2006 model year versions of the 325Ci and 330Ci for the driver side and passenger side inflators. Only vehicles currently registered in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands are covered under this recall.
Neither Chrysler's filing with NHTSA nor its press release list the specific models affected, but a company spokesperson told Autoblog that at this time it only covers the driver and passenger side inflators for the 2006 Dodge Charger in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands

Honda, Nissan and Mazda recalling 3 million vehicles for airbag inflators

Mon, 23 Jun 2014 09:35:00 EST

Three million more vehicles can be added to the worldwide tally to be repaired for the faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata. Honda, Nissan, and Mazda have all issued recalls to replace the bad part, including about 1.2 million of them in North America. NHTSA has been investigating all three companies, plus Chrysler and Toyota, for potentially affected vehicles.
Honda is recalling roughly 1.02 million Civic, CR-V, Odyssey and Element models In North America, built between April 2000 and October 2002. Mazda needs to repair 14,794 units of the RX-8 and Mazda6, and Nissan has 228,000 vehicles in North America to be fixed.
Chrysler is also starting what it calls a "regional field action" to replace the inflators in the 2006 Dodge Charger, according to a company spokesperson. The company says that it has not yet found the problem in any of its vehicles, but it's being done "out of an abundance of caution." The final number of Chargers affected will be announced later this week.

Nissan announces 5-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty for commercial vehicles

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:01:00 EST

Nissan is a relative new-kid when it comes to the commercial van market in the US, with its commercial vehicles division only introducing the first NV vans in February 2011. But Nissan isn't letting its newcomer status keep it from challenging the established players in the segment. The company's latest shot over competitors' bows is announcing that, starting for the 2014 model year, its NV Cargo, NV Passenger and NV200 Compact Cargo vans carry a best-in-class, five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Their powertrain coverage also gets a 40,000-mile increase to five years/100,000 miles.
The new warranty is a huge leap over adversaries in the segment and should lure in some buyers looking for a longer term of coverage. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit and Transit Connect all carry a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. The Fords offer five years and 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage, while all of the others increase that to 100,000 miles. Until this announcement, Nissan had the standard thee years of coverage, as well.
The Japanese automaker is clearly hungry to grab a bigger piece of the commercial van pie. Its heavy-duty NV vans have a relatively small 5.3 percent market share in their segment as of May 2014, according to the company's figures, but the NV200 is doing better with a 19.4 percent share. The division as a whole is on the upswing, though, with sales up 88 percent so far in 2014. With just a few years under its belt, Nissan Commercial Vehicles seems unafraid to challenge the status quo in the segment. Let's see how buyers respond. Scroll down to read the full announcement about the new warranty.

2015 Nissan Murano could have been a lot more boring to look at

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 15:30:00 EST

When it debuted at the 2014 New York Auto Show, the third-generation Nissan Murano wowed us more than just about any other car on hand (that's sort of why we handed it an Editors' Choice for the NYIAS). It's sharp, aggressive design was a dramatic departure from the smoother styling of the second-gen CUV, although it wasn't too polarizing. Most importantly, though, it was a vehicle with actual design presence - you want to see it from every angle, all of which draw your eye with something new.
Of course, settling on the design for a new vehicle is far from a straightforward process. While a design might take shape on a designer's drafting table, there are a huge number of steps it needs to get through before making it to an auto show stage or to your local dealer. According to Nissan engineer Chris Reed, those steps very nearly curtailed the Murano's design before the first die was even cast.
Reed has a full account of this sharp design's trials and tribulations in a must-read story from Ward's.

Honda may recall up to 1M vehicles for airbag issue, following Toyota's lead

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 15:30:00 EST

It seems Toyota won't be the only one recalling the faulty Takata airbag inflators for long. Honda insiders in Japan claim that the company is getting close to announcing its own worldwide campaign that would begin before the end of June.
Unnamed sources close to Honda in Japan tell Automotive News that the company is pursuing an internal investigation into possibly affected models and is working with Takata to gather more information. They claim that it could involve even more than the 1.14 million cars worldwide that the automaker covered under the first recall for the problem in April 2013, including 561,000 vehicles in the US.
Toyota jumpstarted this process last week when it recalled over 2 million cars worldwide, including 844,277 in the US. Soon after, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began a preliminary evaluation into the issue following six reported incidents, and started assembling data about potentially affected models from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Chrysler. NHTSA also began investigating Takata itself.

Race Recap: 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans defines 'endurance'

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:31:00 EST

Commenting on the rush of events that rocked beginning and end of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Paul Truswell of Radio Le Mans said "the race is about the ability to endure, not just the ability of drivers to do what they do for a long time." The entire race machine, all the way down to the pit boards and radios, has to survive the stress and abuse of the entire day. This was the race to prove those words.
There were two Toyotas, two Porsches and three Audis, five of the seven led the race at some point, six of the seven ran in the top three. Toyota will be hugely disappointed that it didn't win when its car and drivers were so, so strong, but they gave Audi the kind of scare we haven't seen since the best of Peugeot's days, and Toyota did a better job of it even in the loss. Porsche blew away everyone's expectations, falling 3.5 hours short of a fairy tale ending that would have made Disney cry.
But Le Mans doesn't really do fairy tales. Well, not that fairy tale. Audi's Twitter handle during the event was #welcomechallenges. As usual, Le Mans answered for the entire field.