Government

California Sticks it to Trump; Approves Vehicle Pollution Rules

California Sticks it to Trump; Approves Vehicle Pollution Rules

California thinks it knows better...

What happens when an entire state hates the President of the United States? Well, it defies him every chance they get, and in this case, they gave Trump the proverbial middle finger by approving vehicle emission regulations for 2022 to 2025 that the Trump admiration says needs further review. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) reviewed their own rules (and the work of independent analysts, apparently) and found that it’s vehicles standards are achievable and cost-effective. Meanwhile, the Trump administration looks to possibly relax emissions regulations at the federal level, with EPA Boss Scott Pruitt, saying that the 2025 emissions rules merits review.

But, that didn’t stop California and CARB from going ahead and pushing its regulations through anyway. The standards set in place would require a fuel economy as high as 46.3 mpg in 2025. The stricter pollution controls are expected, by the U.S. and California, to increase the cost of each car sold in 2025 by about $1,000. But, the Trump Administration is more worried about protecting jobs and providing consumers with affordable cars. Meanwhile, CARB board member Daniel Sperling has said that “If anything, these standards should be more aggressive.”

In the end, it’s the beginning of a battle that’s going to last at least as long as Trump is in office. The federal government can challenge California’s ability to make rules about greenhouse gasses and fuel economy, but that will only stir the pot and make things worse.

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GM to Invest Additional $1 Billion in U.S. Manufacturing

GM to Invest Additional $1 Billion in U.S. Manufacturing

Ever heard the term “Insourcing?”

General Motors has announced an investment of $1 billion into its U.S.-based manufacturing powerhouse spread across multiple vehicles, advanced technologies, and component projects. The sizable investment is expected to crease 1,500 new and retained jobs, while insourcing manufacturing that is currently taking place in Mexico. Chief among the insourced components with be pickup truck axle assemblies ready for the next-generation Silverado and Sierra trucks.

Mary Barra, General Motor’s Chairman and CEO, said, “As the U.S. manufacturing base increases its competitiveness, we are able to further increase our investment, resulting in more jobs for America and better results for our owners. The U.S. is our home market and we are committed to growth that is good for our employees, dealers, and suppliers and supports our continued effort to drive shareholder value.”

The billion-dollar investment is only the latest in sizable investments and job creation made by GM. In the last four years, GM says it has created 25,000 jobs inside the U.S., which along with raises, account for nearly $3 billion in additional annual wages and benefits to its U.S. workforce. Broken down, those jobs include 19,000 engineering, IT, and professional positions, along with some 6,000 hourly manufacturing jobs. Additionally, GM says it has insourced 90 percent of its IT work formerly being outsourced outside the U.S.

GM is also working with its independent parts suppliers in creating industrial park complexes near its main manufacturing and assembly plants. This self-contained parks allow for ultra-short-distance transportation of components from third party suppliers to GM’s assembly plants. Ultimately, this cuts down on cost and streamlines the assembly process.

All told, it seems General Motors is diligently working to reinvigorate its U.S. operations, both in blue- and white-collar positions.

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Donald Trump's Presidential Limo Will Soon be Ready

Donald Trump’s Presidential Limo Will Soon be Ready

Donald Trump will officially become President of the United States of American on January 20, 2017. Love or hate him, he’ll be living in the White House and riding around in Cadillac’s latest version of the Beast.

Trump’s new ride hasn’t officially been debuted or even confirmed, but spy photographers sleuthing around GM’s Milford proving grounds this past summer captured the world’s first look at the all-new Caddy.

The car’s overall design is clearly visible through the camouflage. Cadillac’s current designs are used, including the front clip reminiscent of the new CT-6 sedan. It features a grille with three horizontal bars and Caddy’s new crest. Vertical LED headlights and flared front fenders further solidify the look. The car’s long wheelbase is an obvious change from a conventional CT-6, as is the oddly square windows and roof. The rear of the car features more Cadillac cues, including the vertical taillights.

Despite all the Cadillac detailing, this isn’t a Cadillac. If this presidential limo is anything like President Obama’s 2009 Cadillac, Trump’s car will ride on a medium-duty GM frame and might be powered by GM’s 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V-8. Then again, the car could be riding on a modified version of the Silverado HD’s fully boxed steel frame, since GM doesn’t currently make a medium-duty truck like the TopKick of the late 2000s.

Either ways, the car will surely be filled with James Bond-like gadgets and technology, including life support to thwart bio-weapons, secure telecommunications, countermeasures for protection, and a cabin secure enough to absorb a direct impact from explosives. It’s even rumored cases of the President’s blood are carried aboard should he need an emergency transfusion. All this adds a tremendous amount of weight, hence the need for a medium-duty chassis and super huge tires. It’s no wonder Obama’s limo earned its nickname of “The Beast.”

Cadillac’s reign of providing presidential limousines dates back to 1984 when Ronald Reagan broke the long tradition of using Lincolns. The 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood featured a 17-inch stretch and a raised roof three inches taller than stock. Bulletproof glass and the extra length necessitated heavy-duty brakes, oversized tires, and an air-ride suspension system. Otherwise, the car was mostly stock.

We’d expect Trump’s ride to feature all the modern luxuries the billionaire is accustomed to. Perhaps he’ll even help pay for any personalized upgrades he’s requesting. Just don’t count on knowing anything about it – the Secret Service keep details about the president’s limo classified as top secret.

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Want to Drive a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux? Better Talk to Uncle Sam

Want to Drive a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux? Better Talk to Uncle Sam

U.S. Military wants pickups and SUVs that blend into wartime locations

The global Ford Ranger, along with the Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser 76 and 79 models aren’t available in the U.S. thanks to safety and emissions regulations. However, the U.S. Military has secured a contract with an Ohio-based company to upfit 396 of the trucks and SUVs with armor and communication equipment for duty in regions where the vehicles are commonly found.

It’s the perfect form of camouflage, actually. The enemy is far less likely to spot a Land Cruiser than a Humvee or MRAP.

The contract is between the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida and the Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio. The five-year contract is worth $170 million for as many as 556 vehicles. According to Military Aerospace, 396 of the vehicles will be armored with the remaining 160 vehicles retaining their OEM looks.

Battelle will add various levels of crew protection like armor, along with stronger suspension and braking systems, frame and body reinforcements, and run-flat tires on special wheels that can withstand small arms fire. Infrared lighting for blackout mode will be included, along with C4ISR equipment, otherwise known as command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment. These upfitted vehicles will mostly consist of the Land Cruiser.

It will be a while before these vehicles see combat, however. Battelle will need time for developing the specialized add-ons for these specific vehicles. The prototypes then have to pass the military’s grueling evaluation process and qualification testing. At that time, the government may issue delivery orders for production. Yep, none of this is set in concrete. Battelle expects to have the contract finished by 2023.

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2016 Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute Concept

2016 Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute Concept

This one-off Jeep rolled off the assembly 75 years after the U.S. ordered the first Willys MB

July 15 is an important date in Jeep history. In fact, it was on this date in 1941 that the U.S. government awarded Willys-Overland Motor Company the contract to build the Willy MB. Now, 75 years later, Jeep is celebrating by building a one-off Wrangler configured to look like its grandfather. This modern take on the original will roll off the same assembly line as the MB (minus the modernization and robots, of course), making the occasion even more sentimental.

“We are creating this unique Jeep Wrangler 75th Salute concept vehicle in celebration of the brand’s legendary history, and to demonstrate that 75 years later, today’s iconic Jeep Wrangler is instantly recognizable and clearly connected to the original Willys MB,” said Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global. “Since they were first produced in 1941, Jeep vehicles have been the authentic benchmark for off-road capability, having mastered more terrain, led more adventures and provided drivers more freedom than any other vehicle before or since.”

Manley is certainly right about the Jeep (and more specifically, the Wrangler) being the benchmark for off-road capability. Think about it – what over vehicle has remained so true to its original roots for more than 70 years? Not many. If fact, there are very little modifications needed to make this 2016 Wrangler look like a 1941 Willys MB. Let’s dive into the details below.

Update 07/18/2016: Jeep released a short video showing the Wrangler Salute Concept rolling off the assembly line. There are also interviews with Jeep executives and assembly line workers on the deep meaning this one-off Jeep carries.

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Humvee Replacement Delayed Thanks to Legal Skirmish

Humvee Replacement Delayed Thanks to Legal Skirmish

Oshkosh’s JLTV contract contested by Lockheed Martin, Troops go without

U.S. Military troops must now wait even longer before Oshkosh Defense’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the replacement for the aging Humvee, is ready for service. This comes after Lockheed Martin filed a protest against the Army’s decision to award Oshkosh with the JLTV contract. The protest, which eventually turned into a full lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, pushed final testing and military approval of the Oshkosh JLTV back some four months, subsequently causing the program to miss testing windows with the Army and Marines.

Now the JLTV program will be delayed even further, according to Thomas Dee, the deputy assist secretary of Naval Expeditionary Programs and Logistics Management. “A 90-day delay grew into about six- or an eight-month delay just because of the difficulty of rescheduling a test phase that we were going to do, which then impacts the decision date for the full-rate production decision; which, in turn, puts our funding out of phase for the JLTV program ... which then allowed us to take a look at the time difference between the completion of testing and that whole rate production decision, and it ended up stretching out IOC (Initial Operational Capability) about a year,” Dee said at a Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee hearing.

Dee went on to say the program’s new schedule is sequenced to accommodate testing and logistics development before the JLTV move on for its final testing for the military, called the Multi-Service Operational Testing and Evaluation. This final testing is currently scheduled for February 2018. Only after that will Oshkosh begin to produce the JLTV on to meet its low-rate initial production contract with the U.S. Government to 16,901 vehicles, which will cost the U.S. taxpayers $6.7 billion.

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The EPA Wants To Ban Turning Road Cars Into Race Cars

The EPA Wants To Ban Turning Road Cars Into Race Cars

Fines up to $37,000 for every emissions equipment violation threaten to kill engine moding

Hidden deep inside a 629-page document in the Federal register, the EPA has proposed changes to emissions regulations that would literally ban turning a street car into a competition-focused racing vehicle. SEMA claims the proposed regulation would impact all vehicle types that are commonly converted for use at the track. Here is a short excerpt from the proposed regulation:

“Certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition or if they become non-road vehicles or engines; anyone modifying a certified motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine for any reason is subject to the tampering and defeat device prohibitions of paragraph (a)(3) of this section and 42 U.S.C.”

As you can see, the way the rule is written, it would outlaw removing emissions equipment, even if the car is never intended to touch public roadways ever again. Ultimately, if the proposed rules fall into place, racing parts that defeat emissions equipment and the intentional act of modifying or removing emissions equipment will be completely banned.

Up until now, the Clean Air Act was understood to only apply to road-going cars, but the EPA is now claiming that isn’t the case, and competition based cars also fall under the Clean Air Act umbrella. In that document, the EPA claims it “may assess a civil penalty up to $37,500 for each engine or piece of equipment in violation. It’s hard to think of any race car performing at its best with constant worry about whether or not the car meets the EPA’s strict emission regulations.

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US Rules Car Owners Can Legally Modify Their Vehicles

US Rules Car Owners Can Legally Modify Their Vehicles

Back in April 2015, home mechanics, repair shops, and aftermarket tuners were threatened by several automakers and other companies who opposed the adoption of an exemption by the U.S. Copyright Office in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed for modification of automotive software by the car’s owner or on his behalf.

In other words, these automakers wanted to protect their vehicles’ ECU software under copyright law. This would make it illegal for owners to modify or “tune” the software in their rightfully purchased vehicles.

Thankfully the U.S. Copyright Office has granted the exemption. Owners and independent repair shops can continue tinkering on cars as they have for the last 100 years.

There is a catch, however. The exemption does prohibit the tampering or modification to software dealing with telematics or entertainment systems. The legal docket reads: “Accordingly, the recommended exemption excludes computer programs in ECUs that are chiefly designed to operate vehicle entertainment and telematics systems due to insufficient evidence demonstrating a need to access such ECUs, and out of concern that such circumvention might enable unauthorized access to creative or proprietary content.”

And while the U.S. Copyright Office’s gearhead-friendly exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows for vehicle modification, it does not allow for the vehicle to become modified beyond other legal limits. Vehicles must still meet EPA emissions and other governmental regulations.

Still, this is a huge win for gearheads and non-automaker affiliate repair and speed shops.

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France Will Use Drones To Control Traffic

France Will Use Drones To Control Traffic

Let’s face it – we generally look at automatic camera and radar systems, highway patrolmen, and speed traps as revenue generation tactics. Their whole purpose is to catch you in the act and provide the opportunity for you to be fined for breaking traffic laws. This revenue generation is pretty bad here in the U.S., but nowhere near as bad as it is about to be in France.

On Friday, October 2nd, 2015, French lawmakers passed a number of new laws that make the revenue generation tactics here in the U.S. look like child’s play. First, there will be 10,000 false hunters cabins built along various interstates within the country. Radar systems will be installed in these cabins at random, but to prevent mapping of which cabins have radar, the radar systems will be moved periodically to unused cabins. You’ve got to give them credit – this is a pretty sneaky tactic. But it gets worse.

Drones will also be used to track down drivers that are speeding, driving recklessly, passing illegally, not using turn signals, or breaking just about any other traffic law. France currently uses helicopters to observe and catch those who break traffic laws, but the use of a chopper comes with a cost of about €1,500 (nearly $1,700) per hour. Each drone that will perform the same function will only cost €30 (about $34) per hour to operate. The drones can be deployed just about anywhere by police officers or other authorities with ease.

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Paul Walker's Daughter Files Lawsuit Against Porsche

Paul Walker’s Daughter Files Lawsuit Against Porsche

Meadow Rain Walker, the 16-year-old daughter of Paul Walker, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche. The lawsuit claims the Carrera GT Walker was riding in when he died had design flaws that made it unfit to be driven on the road. Walker’s lawsuit also claims the Porsche supercar “lacked safety features” that could have saved the life of her father and his friend, Roger Rodas, when the Carrera GT caught fire after hitting a pole back in November 2013. The crash and resulting fire burned Walker and Rodas.

Shortly after the filing of the lawsuit, Porsche responded by maintaining the Carrera GT’s innocence in the crash, pointing to the investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that concluded that the crash that killed Walker resulted from “reckless driving and excessive speed.” The company did say that it had not reviewed the lawsuit, but declined making comments relating to the case.

Regardless of the validity of the lawsuit’s claims, it’s hard not to understand why Meadow Walker has filed it. She lost her father in a car that has earned a reputation for being impossible to drive despite the amount of technological features it had when it was launched in 2004. Former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson compared the car’s handling to being on the “knife’s edge” during a review of the Carrera GT back in 2008.

On the flip side, Walker, Rodas, and everybody who has driven the Carrera GT know what the supercar is capable of. Proper caution should have been of utmost importance, especially if it was going to be driven out in public. The results of the investigation have already cleared Porsche and the Carrera GT from any responsibility, so it’s going to be interesting how this case moves forward.

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The U.S. Postal Service Getting 9,000 Ram ProMaster Vans

The U.S. Postal Service Getting 9,000 Ram ProMaster Vans

The United States Postal Service is adding a new van to its fleet – the Ram ProMaster 2500 Cargo. Yep, now your daily delivery of junk mail, bills, and car magazines may have traveled in the cavernous interior of Ram’s largest van.

Ram will be supplying 9,113 new ProMasters to the USPS, adding to the government agency’s fleet of roughly 190,000 vehicles – one of the nation’s largest fleet. The ProMaster vans will be used for mail delivery in various parts of the country, with each being fitted with specialized shelving inside for packages.

“While each and every one of our fleet customers is important to us, none command our attention like USPS,” said Tim Kuniskis, Vice President of Fiat Chrysler’s North American Fleet Operations. “I can’t think of another more mission-critical service than literally delivering the goods of our nation on a daily basis, and we are honored that USPS chose the Ram ProMaster to help them meet their challenging duty.”

Beyond the interior upfits, the ProMaster vans will be regular production units. The USPS has selected the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 as its engine of choice. The venerable mill produces 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission will back up the Pentastar, providing smooth shifts and excellent cargo-hauling capabilities.

The ProMaster will replace some of the USPS’ oldest models. The agency is still using roughly 142,000 purpose-built local delivery vehicles called Long-Life Vehicles, or LLVs.

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2017 Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

2017 Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

The U.S. Military has just awarded a contract to Oshkosh Defense for its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, called the L-ATV as a replacement for the aging Humvee. The L-ATV, or Light Combat Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, will be slowly deployed over the next eight years, with approximately 17,000 units slated for production.

The $6.7 billion contract covers both variants of the L-ATV – a two seat base platform and a four-seater that comes as either the general purpose vehicle or the Close Combat Weapons Carrier. A companion trailer is also included.

The L-ATV is powered by General Motors’ 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 and is backed by an Allison six-speed automatic transmission. Though the powertrain is outsourced, the L-ATV rides on Oshkosh’s proprietary TAK-4i independent suspension system that is said to provide 20 inches of wheel travel with generous cargo capacity and unmatched off-road abilities. In fact, an early version became the first military vehicle to complete the Baja 1000, competing in the 2010 races.

Oshkosh beat out big names like AM General and Lockheed Martin in winning the contract. Not only will Oshkosh supply the L-ATV, but it will continue to supply parts and services for decades to come.

While the L-ATV nearly twice the size of the current Humvee, it still fits in a Lockheed C-130 airplane, along with other military transport vehicles. Air-lift hooks protruding from its hood and rear bumper allow for helicopter transport, despite its 14,000-pound curb weight.

Oshkosh will begin delivering L-ATVs in roughly 10 month’s time.

Continue reading for more info on the Oshkosh JLTV.

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