AutoOutlook: Ford lowers C-Max mpg rating, GM suspends ops in Egypt

By PAT NASON, United Press International   |   Aug. 18, 2013 at 5:40 AM   |   0 comments

U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co. said last week it will lower the fuel efficiency rating on the C-Max, a hybrid vehicle, from 47 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving to 43 mpg.

Some customers have filed lawsuits against Ford during the past several months but the company said it will send $550 checks to C-Max owners and $325 to people leasing a C-Max. The company has sold about 32,000 C-Max vehicles.

Ford said it tested the mileage using a C-Max engine and a Ford Fusion body, even though the Fusion's body shape is not the same as the C-Max. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows for that kind of crossover testing, given the vehicles use identical transmissions and engines and are in the same weight class.

The EPA did not fault Ford or fine the company.

"This is allowable under our regulations. What we know now is that even small changes on high-fuel-economy vehicles produce big differences in the results," said Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

The EPA said it will revise fuel economy rating test procedures.

Ford has sold more than 23,000 C-Max vehicles in the first seven months of 2013, helping the company improve to a 15 percent share of the alternative-powered vehicle market, Automotive Week said.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told the Detroit Free Press the incident is "yet another sign that real-world fuel economy has to match manufacturers' claims."

"Ford isn't the first automaker to run into trouble here, but with today's heightened level of accountability, maybe they'll be the last."


GM shutters Cairo plant amid political turmoil

Turmoil in Egypt -- where hundreds were killed last week in clashes between authorities and demonstrators protesting the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi -- is affecting the automotive business, with General Motors Co. announcing it is shuttering its operations until further notice.

"We made the decision to close our Cairo office and halt production operations in our plant in 6th October City," GM said in a statement. "The safety and security of our employees is of paramount importance to us. We will continue to monitor the situation closely."

The company is expected to consider resuming operations when the violence ends, the Detroit Free Press reported.

GM has more than 1,500 employees in Egypt where it began operations in 1983.

The plant in Egypt began production in 2012 of the Chevrolet Move passenger van after GM spent $10 million to get the plant ready for production, the Free Press said.


Infiniti hires Porsche COO to head Americas operation

Infiniti announced last week it hired Michael Bartsch, Porsche Cars North America chief operating officer and executive vice president, to replace Ben Poore as its Americas' chief.

The move is part of an effort to reverse lagging U.S. sales of Nissan's top-shelf brand, Automotive News reported. Infiniti is also renaming its entire product line and replacing its best-selling G37 with the newly designed Q50 sedan, the report said.

Poore, 47, is to remain on the Infiniti board until October but the company, based in Hong Kong, said he will otherwise be leaving the auto industry, Automotive News reported.

Bartsch, 54, had been scheduled to be promoted to chief executive officer at Porsche Sept. 1.

The native of Australia with dual Australian-German citizenship has been COO and executive vice president of Porsche Cars North America since 2005. In May, Porsche said Joe Lawrence would succeed Bartsch as COO.

Infiniti Motor Co. President Johan de Nysschen last week named former Starwood Hotels & Resorts executive Vincent Gillet to take over global marketing for Infiniti, which announced Friday Simon Cox -- whose resume includes stints at Ford, Peugeot and General Motors -- would head up a new design studio in London.

Infiniti reported a 22 percent sales increase in 2012, but sales were down 9 percent through the first seven months of 2013.

Porsche sales were up 31 percent during the same period.


Recalls news

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Friday BMW of North America LLC is recalling some 2009-10 X5 xDrive35d diesel-engine vehicles because the fuel filter heater -- used for warming up fuel in cold weather -- could become permanently activated as a result of electrical overload, possibly leading to a dead battery.

The recall affects as many as 1,540 vehicles manufactured from June 13, 2009, through Nov. 9, 2009.

BMW said it will notify owners and dealers the part will be replaced free of charge.

The Department of Transportation said Beijing Capital Tyre Co. LTD is recalling some Autoguard LT245/75R16 tires, manufactured June 25, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2012, because they failed endurance tests and bear incorrect maximum load data on the sidewall. The tires may experience sudden air loss or customers may overload vehicles -- both of which increase the risk of crash.

The announcement said the recall affects as many as 2,711 owners. The company said it will notify affected owners and dealers will replace the defective tires free of charge.


U.S. to mandate free online vehicle recall search tool

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last week it will require motor vehicle manufacturers to provide a free online tool that will enable consumers to search recall information by Vehicle Identification Number beginning in August 2014.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said vehicle owners and potential buyers will "be able to identify whether a safety recall for their specific vehicle is incomplete" by conducting a search at SaferCar.gov.

In a news release, the department said information on recalls of automobiles and motorcycles will be updated at least weekly.

"Consumers will be able to instantly determine whether action is required to address an uncompleted safety recall that affects their personal vehicle, as identified by their unique VIN," the release said.

Several automakers already offer such a feature. The rest have until Aug. 14, 2014, to comply.

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