WLTP Kills Another One In Europe, This Time Its a Jaguar
The stringent World Harmonized Light Vehicle test Procedure (WLTP) has struck again. This time, Jaguar bears the brunt. Introduced at the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Jaguar XJR575 is no longer available in Europe. Since the powerful sedan is a gas-guzzler, Jaguar had no option but to retire the car in Europe.
BMW Confirms the i3 Will Continue to Survive
After all the mumbo jumbo surrounding the i3’s existence, the automaker has finally confirmed that the little electric hatchback will continue to live on. When the i4 was announced at the Paris Motor Show, it looked like a legit replacement for the i3; also because BMW did not address the i3. Now, however, BMW has confirmed that it has got future plans for the i3, according to The Drive.
Shocker! Elon Musk May Delay Tesla Model 3 Production
Elon Musk is, undeniably, a very busy and ambitious man. But, it comes at a cost. In this case, that cost is the reliability of his word when it comes to timetables. It almost seems as if every time we turn around Tesla is missing one of its targets, and now, that’s about to happen again. Not only did Elon Musk tweet that its semi-truck unveiling would be pushed back, but that the Model 3 was “deep in production hell.” You know what that means? It means you’re probably not going to get your Model 3 when the company said you would. When a customer asked Musk if he would get his Model 3 this year, Musk’s reply was a little sketchy: “December will be a big month, so probably, but it is impossible to be certain right now.”
The truth is, Tesla is in some hot water as far as Model 3 production goes. Musk had originally projected that Tesla would produce 1,500 examples of the Model 3 in the third quarter but fell far short, with official numbers stopping at 260. To add to that, of those 260, only 220 of them were actually delivered. Apparently, there is a huge bottleneck happening, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that some parts for the Model 3 were being made by hand back in September. Of course, this isn’t the only thing holding the company back, as Musk now has a deal with Puerto Rico to help bring power back to the island after it was ravaged by mother nature . As such, some sources have also been diverted to increasing Tesla battery production.
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Ford Builds First Truck 100 Years Ago Today
Ford is celebrating 100 years of making pickups today. It was July 27, 1917 that Ford introduced the Model TT pickup. It was based on the hugely popular Model T, but came with a stronger frame built to carry 2,000 pounds in its cargo bed. A meager 209 examples were built that year. Now, a century later, Ford’s F-Series pickups continue the legacy build by Henry Ford with trucks ranging from the half-ton F-150 to the commercial medium-duty F-750 Super Duty. Nearly a million examples sold in 2017, each costing a bit more than the Model TT’s price of $600.
Henry Ford designed the Model TT to accommodate aftermarket beds, allowing the truck to cater to an endless number of industries. Yet, the Model TT used the Model T’s cab and engine, helping cut costs while streamlining Ford’s genius of an assembly line production. Remember, it was Mr. Ford who started producing vehicles on an assembly line with the Model T just nine years prior. Amazingly, this concept hasn’t changed. Ford trucks continue to share parts, like the cab section between the F-150 and the updated-for-2017 Super Duty. Between 1917 and 2017, Ford has built dozens of generations and variations of its pickups, including more unique examples like the car-based Ranchero and the compact Ranger. A more comprehensive list is down below.
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If you Missed the Chance to Get a 2017 Shelby GT350 Mustang, We’ve got Good News for You!
After a 42-year hiatus, Ford brought the GT350 nameplate back into play for the fifth-gen, 2011 Ford Mustang. There was no telling if the nameplate would carry on to the sixth-gen model, but sure enough, Ford delivered. With an updated Mustang rolling into dealers for 2018, it was uncertain whether or not the GT350 nameplate would carry on through the remaining life of this generation or not but, as it turns out, Ford knows better. The Shelby GT350 and GT350R will continue on through the 2018 model year, but there’s a catch. Despite the fact that the Mustang was facelifted for the 2018 model year, the Shelby GT350 and GT350R will carry on unchanged from the 2017 model year, so purchasers of this iconic nameplate will have to get by with pre-2018 styling cues.
As a rather small, but fair consolation price, the 2018 GT350 and GT350R will be available in three new exterior color choices that include Orange Fury, Kona Blue, and Lead Foot Gray. The latter of which has the sole purpose of paying tribute to all those guys that crash after a Cars & Coffee meet. Okay, that’s not necessarily true, but I couldn’t pass at a chance to ruffle a few feathers. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the Shelby GT350 and GT350R are the baddest Mustangs that you can get at the current time. The do come at a rather stout premium, with the GT350 starting at $56,145 and the GT350R commanding $63,645. That’s an increase over the range-toping GT Premium Convertible of $13,450 and $20,950, respectively.
Some would argue that the massive price hike for either model is well worth it, so let’s take a closer look both models real quick.
Ford Says Trump Presidency Could Boost Truck Sales
Ford Motor Company’s president of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, says Trump’s presidency could spark big growth in sales for the pickup truck segment. Hinrichs cites Trump’s pro-growth and promise of extensive infrastructure revitalization as factors, which could spark truck demand.
“If the infrastructure investment in the United States takes off as part of the conversation with the new administration, that certainly could help the industry and the business,” Hinrichs said at the Automotive News World Congress.
Ford sold an impressive 820,000 F-Series trucks in 2016. That marks the F-Series’ highest sales since 2005. Ford is currently chasing the 1 million annual sales mark for the F-Series, having almost reached the goal in 2004 with more than 930,000 units sold in the U.S. Adding the 145,409 F-Series trucks sold in Canada that year technically pushes Ford to its goal, but Ford undoubtedly wants to claim the title for sole U.S. sales.
While Hinrichs’ optimism is well founded in an a-political statement regarding economics, it just seems odd for a Ford executive to be commenting positively about a Trump administration after the flack Trump gave Ford on the campaign trail over its plan to relocate small car production from Michigan to Mexico. As we reported, Ford canceled the plans after Trump’s November victory, vowing to invest in American manufacturing.
Part of that boost will come with the upcoming 2019 Ranger pickup and 2020 Bronco SUV. Both were officially announced at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, though no concept vehicles or even renderings were shows. Ford is also divulged it will bring five new utility vehicles to the U.S. by 2020, including the Bronco. And though initial speculation pegged the iconic nameplate as being a rebadged Ford Everest, Hinrichs said the Bronco will be “true to its heritage” and “you’ll recognize it as a Bronco.”
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Ford Idling F-150, Transit Assembly Plant for One Week
Ford Motor Company is planning to idle F-150 and Transit van production for one week during January at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri. The time will be used primarily to help reduce Ford’s supply of the trucks and vans as consumer demand wanes. Facility maintenance will also be performed during the down time, scheduled for January 2 through 9.
Production of the F-150 will continue uninterrupted at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant.
Ford says it has a 108-day supply of Transit vans, up from an 83-day supply at this time last year. The F-Series pickups currently have an 85-day supply, which is actually down from an 87-day supply last year.
The Kansas City Assembly Plant employs roughly 7,400 workers and runs three shifts around the clock. Employees will be retained for the week-long stint. This marks the second time in four months Ford has idled the Kansas City Plant. Back in October of 2016, the plant, along with four other Ford manufacturing facilities, halted production for a week.
Other automakers are doing the same. General Motors is having to go a step further come 2017. The automaker is planning to idle a number of its small car assembly plants in order to realign its output supply the slowing customer demand for compact and mid-size cars. Come January, GM will begin laying off nearly 3,300 workers as it cuts production shifts in three of its assembly plants in Michigan and Ohio.
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Ford Conducts Last-Minute Tests on F-150’s 10-Speed Transmission
Ford is conducting additional tests on some models of F-150 equipped with the new 10-speed automatic transmission. The news comes by way of Ford executive Joe Hinrichs, who is the head of Ford’s automotive operations in the Americas. Despite the testing, Hinrichs made clear these trucks would reach dealer lots by the end of 2016.
The news comes from Automotive News who interviewed Hinrichs Monday, December 5th. "We are launching the new Raptor and F-150 with the new 10-speed transmission," Hinrichs told AN. "We continued building but we’re holding (trucks) longer so we could do more testing and make sure everything is right before we release them."
Undoubtedly this is a smart move in today’s climate of near-daily announcement of recalls and publishing of Technical Service Bulletins. Ford has to get the F-150 right as so much of its business rides on the pickup’s success. As for the F-150 Raptor, this off-road beast serves as the company’s halo truck and ambassador to the wealthy. Having issues with the transmission while in customer hands won’t bode well.
Despite their rivalry, Ford co-developed this 10-speed transmission with General Motors. GM’s first application with the gearbox will be the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Six-speed manual-equipped ZL1s are already in showrooms, but GM has not shipped Camaros with the 10-speed as of early December. The transmissions share physical components, but Ford and GM have ownership of the proprietary software they use for programming. And of course, the Camaro ZL1 will have much different software than the F-150 – even the sport-tuned, 450-horsepower Raptor.
Neither Hinrichs nor Ford has disclosed the number of F-150s being held for testing, though it’s possible every example could. Ford will have plenty of other 2017 F-150 iterations at its dealerships, thankfully. Only the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and its high-output Raptor version are currently offered with the 10-speed. While we expect the 10-speed’s prevalence to grow, Ford is still using a six-speed automatic in most versions of its F-150.
This story will be updated once Ford begins shipment of 10-speed automatic-equipped F-150s.
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The Forgotten Inline Engine: GM’s 4.2-liter Atlas I-6
General Motors has a long history with making innovative strides in engine development. The Chevrolet small-block V-8, for example, began life in the 1950s and soon became the standard for high horsepower in a small package – a legacy that continues into today’s fifth-generation GM V-8s. Even GM’s lineup of V-6 engines is impressive, ranging from the 60-degree V-6 that powered nearly every GM car from 1980 through 2010, up to the twin-turbocharged V-6 powering the Cadillac ATS-V. However, GM has a lesser-known engine family that deserves admiration for its outside-the-box thinking and outstanding technological advancements: the Atlas inline family.
That Atlas family had three main members, the front-running 4.2-liter inline-six, the 3.5-liter five-cylinder, and the 2.8-liter four-cylinder. All three shared the same basic architecture and a wide range of parts, though it was the 4.2-liter that led the Atlas program.
The 4.2-liter called the GMT360 platform home. This included the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier, Oldsmobile Bravada, Isuzu Ascender, and Saab 9-7X. Each of these mid-sized SUVs shared the same architecture, including the industry’s first fully hydroformed frame in a mid-size SUV. Introduced for the 2002 model year, the GMT360 platform sold a couple million examples worldwide before ending production after 2009.
The 4.2-liter Atlas LL8, otherwise called the Vortec 4200, was a groundbreaking engine for GM. It featured an all-aluminum construction, dual overhead cams with variable valve timing on the exhaust side, four valves per cylinder, a coil-on-plug ignition system, a high compression ratio of 10:1, and its cylinder heads featured GM’s then-prevalent “Vortec” engineering designed to maximize airflow.
This combination allowed for the production of 1.06 horsepower per cubic inch – a total of 270 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Torque was rated at 275 pound-feet at 3,600 rpm, but 90 percent of peak torque was available between 1,600 and 5,600 rpm. These stats far exceeded every comparable V-6 on the market at the time, including GM’s own 4.3-liter Vortec V-6.
We decided to take a closer look at the Vortec 4200 and its forward-thinking design. We reached out to GM and found Tom Sutter, the Assistant Chief Engineer for the Atlas. Sutter has been involved with engine programs for the last 30 years, ranging from Oldsmobile’s Quad Four to Cadillac’s current V-Series mills. Sutter was able to give us a deeper insight into the Atlas program, so keep reading for more.
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Watch the Ram 1500 Assembly Process: Video
Just a few weeks ago we brought you a short video of the 2017 Nissan Titan and Titan XD rolling down the assembly line. Today it’s the Ram 1500. The video comes from the same fine folks over at Trucks.com and shows how the Ram goes from rolls of steel to completed pickups heading to dealerships nationwide.
It all starts in the stamping room where large machines pump out fenders, hoods, doors, floor pans, and other components. The parts are then welded together by an army of robots to form the shell of the pickup. The body then moves to paint, where it is submerged into a bath of primer that coats every nook and cranny with rust-prohibitor. Once baked on, the truck body then moves to the color booth where the final coats of blue, red, orange, white, green, silver, or black paint are applied.
At another side of the assembly plant, workers add components to the boxed frame rails, including suspension parts, hub, brakes, fuel system components, and the drivetrain. Mid-way through the assembly process, the chassis section meets up with the body and is lowered into place. Workers make the final connections between the two before heading to the trim department.
In trim, the trucks really start taking shape. The bumpers, grille, dashboard, carpet, seats, and exterior badging are all added. With the truck complete, its engine is started for the first time and the truck rolls off the assembly line under its own power. Quality checks and tests are done before the trucks are loaded onto transport trucks and trails for shipment.
Toyota Expanding Tacoma Production in Tijuana
Toyota is investing $150 million into its Tijuana, Mexico assembly plant in an effort to increase the production capacity of the Tacoma midsize pickup. This comes in response to the high demand Toyota says it’s experienced for the Tacoma.
The investment will push production from roughly 100,000 units to around 160,000 units annually. The investment should be fully realized and production in full swing by late 2017 or early 2018.
Toyota has already added a third shift to the Tijuana plant back in April of 2015, allowing it to run 24 hours a day Monday through Friday, with two shifts on Saturday. Toyota has also added a Saturday shift at its San Antonio assembly plant, which produces the bulk of Tacomas and every Tundra pickup.
“Demand for trucks has grown exponentially,” Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz said. “By leveraging our manufacturing facilities’ availability and expertise, we can be nimbler and better adjust to market needs in a just-in-time manner.”
Automotive News reports Tacoma sales were up four percent in 2016 through August despite it losing market share to the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and new Honda Ridgeline. The Tacoma dropped from holding 51 percent of the midsize pickup market to 43 percent. Nevertheless, Toyota’s David Crouch, the Vice president of administration and production control at the San Antonio plant, says the automaker hopes to regain market share with the increased production.
Crouch told AM that Toyota dealers don’t have enough pickup inventory on the lot to tempt shoppers to buy. “Obviously, one of the biggest challenges that we have for Tundra and Tacoma is we’re capacity-limited. We could sell a lot more trucks right now.”
Having the supply to meet consumer demand is obviously a huge part of doing business, and for Toyota, it seems business is doing exceptionally well.
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Nissan Launches "Steel to Wheels" Video
Production of the Nissan Titan and Titan XD is fully under way at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly plant. To celebrate, Nissan has released a short video called “Steel to Wheels” that highlights the plant, the assembly process, and the people that built the trucks.
Just like the video title suggests, the process starts as huge rolls of steel are unwound and stamped into doors, hoods, and beds to form the basic body structure. From there, the panels move into the body shop where the pieces are assembled together. The cab and bed are built separately before coming together just before the painting process begins.
In paint, workers closely inspect the bare metal, shaving off any imperfections with a grinder wheel. The bodies are then dunked in a cleaning solution that removes any oil, fingerprints, or debris before being primed with rust prohibitor. Paint is then applied in either a solid color or two-tone scheme. Those trucks with two-tone paint jobs spend extra time in the paint department since both colors have to be added separately. Another round of close inspections are done, looking for any type of imperfection in the body or paint.
From there, the Titan and Titan XD roll to the trim line. It’s here that the interiors are installed, including the carpet, headliner, dashboard, seats, and windows. It takes many workers during this stage, as most of the parts are installed by hand using pneumatic tools. With the body and interior assembled, the trucks meat up with the chassis, which is merging from its own assembly line were suspension and drivetrain components are added.
A massive cradle lowers the truck bodies onto the complete chassis. Workers then connect all the wiring harnesses, hoses, and tubes between the two sections. From here, final pieces like the grille, headlights, wheels, and tires are added. Workers then test all the computer systems to verify each are working properly. The trucks are then started for the first time, before driving off the assembly line.
Each Titan is put though its paces on a short road course where inspectors listen for any squeaks or rattles and look for any other anomalies. From there, each truck is loaded onto a transport truck for delivery to Nissan dealerships nationwide.
Erik Fields, the director of engineering for the Canton assembly plant, makes an interesting observation near the end of the video: every Titan truck has been built in the Canton assembly plant. Since Nissan introduced the first-generation Titan in 2003, every Titan calls Mississippi home.
Be sure to watch the video for all the details.
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Jeep Launches Sales of Wrangler, Grand Cherokee in India
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has official begun selling the U.S.-built Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee to the Indian market. It’s part of FCA’s push to make Jeep a stronger global brand, with a concentration in China and now India. Both products compete with high-end vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, and Audi, while wearing a price tag nearly three times larger than U.S. pricing.
The Wrangler Unlimited, for example, will cost the equivalent of roughly $107,000, while the EcoDiesel-powered Grand Cherokee Limited will cost around $140,000. The range topping Grand Cherokee SRT commands a whopping $167,000.
This comes after Jeep squared away a $280 million partnership with Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company, the India-based Tata, to build an assembly plant in Ranjangaon, India for the construction of the Compass, Renegade, and upcoming compact A-segment Jeep. These smaller, lest costly Jeeps will still bring a premium when they begin selling next year.
With over 1.2 billion people in India, the market represents a huge potential selling ground. It, along with China, will go far in helping Jeep achieve its goal of 2 million annual worldwide sales by the end of 2018. Combined, China and India will account for roughly 500,000 of those sales. The remaining sales will come from Jeep’s traditional markets like the U.S. and Europe.
“The heart of that market is still very, very low-priced, dominated by local manufacturers,” Manley told Automotive News. “Even when global manufacturers break into that marketplace, it is with their lowest-cost platforms. All the signs are that, at some stage, India is going to develop and develop strongly, which is why we need to be there.”
Despite most Indian buyers purchasing low-cost vehicle options, there are the plenty of high-earners wanting luxury vehicles. And while Americans might not consider the Wrangler particularly luxurious, Land Rover Defenders were sold at a high premium on U.S. soul – showing the relationship can flow both ways.
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Watch the Nissan Titan XD’s Assembly: Video
The assembly process for mass-production vehicles is immensely entertaining to watch. The swinging robot arms, the army of workers pieces parts together, the finished products rolling off the line under power – its all quite magical to see happen. Well, the guys at Trucks.com partnered with Nissan to produce this short video showing how the Titan XD goes from rolls of steel to a freshly polished truck.
The process takes place at Nissan’s Vehicle Assembly Plant in Canton, Mississippi. The plant employs nearly 6,400 people and covers 4.7 million square feet. In addition to the Titan XD, the plant also produces the half-ton Titan, the Murano SUV, the Frontier pickup, and the NV cargo and passenger vans.
For more on the Titan XD, be sure to check out our full review, as well as our first-drive impression review.