Auto Outlook: Luxury Bentley SUV not for the masses, Ford hiring

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer  |  July 28, 2013 at 5:30 AM
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Likely inspired by the success of Porsche's Cayenne sport-utility vehicle, England's Bentley Motors has announced plans to build "the world's most powerful SUV."

British Prime Minister David Cameron was on hand Tuesday when Volkswagen Group Chairman Martin Winkerhorn made the announcement at Bentley headquarters in Crewe, England.

Volkswagen, which owns Bentley, says the project will create 1,000 jobs in the next three years, 400 directly at Crewe where Bentley has its design, research and development, engineering and production functions. Bentley has 4,000 employees in Crewe.

The luxury carmaker sold 4,279 vehicles from January through June and the Americas remain its largest market, with 80 percent of Bentley's U.K.-made cars sold overseas.

"This 800-million pound ($1.22 billion) investment and 1,000 new jobs from Bentley is fantastic news for both Crewe and for the U.K. as a whole," Cameron said. "It is another important milestone in strengthening our economy. One sector that we know is sprinting ahead in the global race is our booming automotive industry," he said.

The premium four-wheel drive Bentley SUV will go on sale in 2016 -- and while the design of the vehicle is secret -- it may resemble the EXP 9F concept shown at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland, The Independent said.

The luxury-performance SUV would be capable of hitting 185 mph and the price likely would exceed 150,000 pounds (around $229,456 dollars).

"The Volkswagen Group believes in the U.K. as a competitive location for industrial production," Winterkorn said. "Bentley fans all around the world are looking forward to the brand's first SUV. Together we will make this new Bentley another true Bentley -- powerful, exclusive and successful."

Porsche gets top ranking

The Volkswagen Group's Porsche brand was ranked highest among all automotive brands in J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, with the Cayenne and two-seat Boxster sports car rated the best in their respective segments -- Premium Crossover Utility and Compact Premium Sporty Car, respectively. Porsche earned 884 points on a 1,000-point scale surpassing the industry's overall average of 795.

Audi, BMW, Land Rover and Lexus round out the top five nameplates. Cadillac was the top ranked U.S. brand.

Overall, Volkswagen won five of the study's 23 segment awards, for the Audi Allroad, Porsche Boxster and Cayenne, VW GTI and VW Passat.

"Whether buyers are in the market for a compact hatchback or a midsize sedan, a mid-engine sports car, or a luxurious CUV, our brands offer a product that will delight them," Jonathan Browning, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Volkswagen Group of America said in a statement.

The Detroit automakers also won honors: Ford for the Mustang, F-250 and F-3250 Super Duty pickups, and the Lincoln MKZ and General Motors for the Korean-made, sub-compact Buick Encore CUV, Chevrolet Avalanche truck and Chevrolet Sonic compact and Chevrolet Volt hybrid cars.

Also receiving awards was Nissan for the Armada and Murano, the Dodge Charger, Fiat 500, Honda Odyssey, Kia Soul, Lexus LS, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda CX-5 and Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. The Land Rover Range Rover had the highest score of any model, the first time an SUV has topped vehicles in the large premium car segment.

"More expensive vehicles tend to have higher scores," David Sargent, J.D. Power vice president of global automotive, told The Detroit News. "They're bigger, they're faster, they're more comfortable, they have more features, they have better quality interiors and people are generally going to rate a $60,000 car higher than a $20,000 car."

J.D. Power surveyed more than 83,000 people three months after they either bought or leased a new vehicle for its 2013 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study.

Profits up, Ford adding more white-collar workers

Ford is on a hiring spree just a few years after paring its white-collar ranks by 13,000 jobs during the economic downturn.

The Detroit News says the Dearborn, Mich., automaker has already filled about half of the 3,000 salaried jobs it expects to fill at its world headquarters. The help-wanted sign is out for engineers, technicians and electronics, software and electrical whizzes.

Ford, which had about 25,000 salaried workers in 2009, said it would add 2,200 more in January and in June announced plans for 800 more white-collar hires. The News said Ford will have about 30,000 salaried employees at year's end.

Ford laid-off about 13,000 salaried workers from 2006 to 2009. Ford says it wants a mix of recent college graduates and seasoned professionals for the new hires and plans to use social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others to recruit talent. The bulk of the new jobs will be Michigan.

Ford made $1.23 billion in the second-quarter, most of it in North America, but lost $348 million on its European operations where auto sales are at a 20-year low. Ford is shuttering two British plants this month and closing an assembly plant in Belgium in 2014.

Ford said global pretax profits for 2013 could exceed the $8 billion it made worldwide last year.

Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel gets 46 mpg

No matter how you look at it, it's good news from the company that brought the Hummer to pre-recession America.

General Motors now has the honor of selling the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car in North America: the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel.

While the gasoline-fueled Cruze Eco with a manual transmission gets an impressive 42 miles per gallon, the 151-horsepower turbo clean diesel ups the ante at 46 mpg on the highway. The turbo diesel's 2-liter engine developed by Opel, GM's European division, does away the typical diesel complaints, valve clatter, smoky fumes and slowness off the line.

The $25,695 turbo diesel equipped only with a six-speed automatic transmission can go from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 8.6 seconds and travel nearly 720 miles between fill-ups. Owners must refill a small urea tank every 10,000 to 15,000 miles to keep polluting nitrogen oxides from coming out of the exhaust pipe.

"We all know what the old diesel myths are, so we really looked to dispel them," Josh Tavel, GM's small car performance manager told The New York Times.

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