Auto Outlook: Corvette Stingray, Silverado pickup earn top honors

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer
2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ (Photo Courtesy of General Motors Co.)
2014 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ (Photo Courtesy of General Motors Co.)

Trucks made as much news as cars at the Detroit auto show -- but no automaker made more news than General Motors.

Chevrolet won both the 2014 Car and Truck awards claiming honors for the Corvette Stingray and redesigned full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickup, the first time the bowtie brand has won both honors the same year. Ford did it in 2010 with the Fusion Hybrid and the Transit Connect truck.


"I'm really proud of the whole global product development team, starting with design through engineering and powertrain," said new GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, who took over Wednesday with the retirement of outgoing Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson. "They've worked really hard. They've sweated the details of each and every aspect of those vehicles."

Company executives said the resurgence at Chevrolet shows how far GM has come since the bankruptcy and government bailout five years ago. GM sold 9.71 million vehicles in 2013, up 400,000 from 2012, and is looking to keep the momentum going and improve on its nearly 18 percent market share in the United States. Fifteen new or refreshed vehicles are scheduled for U.S. introductions this year and around 17 new or updated vehicles in China.


GM has posted 15 straight profitable quarters -- making billions -- and is paying a 30 cents per share dividend on common stock March 28, its first dividend since emerging from bankruptcy.

"Today's General Motors is designing high-quality, world-class vehicles for our customers and delivering consistently solid financial results," Akerson said in a statement. "The board understands that our investors should share in this success and is pleased to announce a quarterly dividend for our common stockholders."

Polishing its halo vehicle, Chevy debuted the racetrack-ready 2015 Corvette Stingray Z06 -- whose all-aluminum 6.2-liter supercharged V8 puts out at least 625 horsepower and 635 pound-feet of torque. The X06 has either a seven-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed full automatic with paddle shifters.

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General Motors North America President Mark Reuss said the Z06 rivals "the most exotic supercars in the world."

Chevy sold 4.98 million vehicles worldwide in 2013, a record.

"We're right in the middle of 32 new products between 2013 and 2014," Barra said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. "My hope is as we continue to get more of these award-winning products out into the marketplace that we will get attention and continue to win customers."


Barra said she hopes consumers who ordinarily bypass Chevrolet and General Motors will come into a showroom "because I'm confident if they get to the showroom, they're going to see a lot of vehicles they'll like."

The other finalists for 2014 car of the year were the Cadillac CTS and the all-new Mazda3 compact. The Silverado beat the all-new Jeep Cherokee and Acura MDX for 2014 truck of the year.

The winners are determined by a jury of 48 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.

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Ford's F-150 slims down

The F-150 pickup may look the same outside but it will get better mileage.

The secret sauce for Ford is high-strength aluminum alloys.

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The F-150 unveiled at the Joe Louis Arena at the North America International Auto Show weighs in around 700 pounds less than the current F-150, the world's best-selling light-duty truck, but Ford says it's just as tough.

"A lot of people are surprised we took such a big step with this product," said Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. "I think people probably thought, 'Well, you're the leader already -- you're going to play it safe with the new truck.' We are adding lots of new to the vehicle. The market's never seen a vehicle like this."


After 30 years on top of the light truck segment, Ford says it knows who buys F-Series pickups and understands what they want, and that not innovating would be a bigger risk. The F-150 is a favorite among contractors from mega-corporations to the local landscaper and kitchen and bath remodeler.

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The 2014 F-150 has a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine that sports start-stop technology that saves gas by not idling. The engine block is made of a weight-saving composite aluminum graphite and the body and truck bed are aluminum alloys.

"We have all-new cabs and boxes, five interior trim choices, a host of technologies new to the full-size pickup truck segment, an all-new engine and upgrades to existing powertrains. We also have an all-new chassis," project chief engineer Pete Reyes said in a statement.

Optional engines include a new 3.5-liter V6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and the 5-liter V8. The new F-150 pickup begins production in the fourth quarter of 2014 and should reach showrooms late this year.

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More highs and lows for Tesla Motors

Tesla sales are soaring as engineers iron out the technological kinks.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company said it sold and delivered 6,900 Model S electric cars in the fourth quarter of 2013, about 20 percent, or 900 more vehicles, than forecast. The sales surge, despite a federal investigation into two Model S fires in Kent, Wash., and Smyrna, Tenn. blamed on road debris, bring full year sales to around 22,400.


On the same day it announced higher sales, Tesla recalled more than 29,000 NEMA 14-50 240-volt charging adapters for the sedan because they can overheat and catch fire. Tesla will replace the adapters and has sent out a software update for the cars.

In a report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tesla blamed the overheating problem on defective or improperly installed wall receptacles, the Detroit News reported. Tesla began an inquiry after a fire in Irvine, Calif., but said there was no safety problem with vehicle itself.

"Tesla does not believe the improved adapters are required to address the issue, but is including this measure to ensure confidence in all Tesla-branded products," the company said in a release.

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The software update will instruct the car's on board charging system to detect unexpected power fluctuations that could increase electrical resistance and automatically reduce charging current by 25 percent. Replacement adapters also will have a thermal fuse to stop overheating.

Tesla Roadsters and Model S sedans have been driven nearly 200 million miles in the past six years and the company said it remains the only automaker with a perfect safety record or no deaths or serious permanent injuries.


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