General Motors recalled hundreds of thousands of cars due to their faulty ignition, but was it too late? The death toll tied to faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ small cars has risen to 19, according to a compensation expert hired by the company. That number is likely to rise.
Kenneth Feinberg determined 19 wrongful death claims are eligible for payments from GM; the company’s estimate of deaths has remained at 13 for months, although the automaker acknowledged the possibility of a higher count.
Feinberg received 125 death claims due to the faulty switches in older-model small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt. The rest remain under review or require further documentation, he said in a report issued Monday.
“The public report is simply reporting on those eligible to date,” Feinberg spokeswoman Camille Biros said in an email. “There will certainly be others.”
GM has admitted to knowing about the ignition switch problem for over a decade, though it didn’t begin recalling the switches in 2.6 million small cars until earlier this year. The automaker hired Feinberg to compensate victims of crashes caused by the switches, and Feinberg has said GM has not limited the total amount he can pay.
Some lawmakers have estimated the death toll is closer to 100.
Biros, citing confidentiality agreements, said Feinberg will not identify any of those eligible for payments, nor will he say if the 19 deemed eligible include the 13 deaths that GM has documented. GM has not identified the 13 victims; the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has not tallied the total number of deaths.
Biros said no claims have been rejected yet, although Feinberg is in the process of turning down a few because they don’t meet the requirements for compensation. Feinberg will issue reports each Monday on how many claims have been granted, she added.
Feinberg also has received 320 claims for compensation due to injuries. Of those, 12 have been deemed eligible for payments so far.
Of the injury claims, 58 were in the most serious category, seeking compensation for injuries resulting in loss of use of limbs, amputation, permanent brain damage or pervasive burns, the Feinberg statement said. Another 262 claims are for less-serious injuries that required hospital stays or outpatient medical treatment within 48 hours of the crash. Will GM be able to get out of this without it affecting their brand?
Ferrari announced today that Luca Cordero di Montezemolo will step down as chairman of Ferrari as of Oct. 13 and will be replaced by Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, Fiat said in a statement today.
The departure of Montezemolo, 67, was widely expected after escalating clashes between the two executives over strategy and the role of Ferrari within the Fiat group.
Ferrari is a key component of Marchionne’s plans to expand in luxury cars to better compete with Volkswagen, which owns Lamborghini among its stable of high-end nameplates.
Montezemolo wanted to maintain Ferrari’s autonomous status and limit sales to about 7,000 cars a year to preserve the brand’s exclusive allure. That clashed with Marchionne’s goal of having Ferrari bolster a shift by Fiat into upscale cars as part of its merger with Chrysler Group.
Marchionne told reporters today that Ferrari will continue to limit annual sales but may gradually raise the cap to cater for rising demand. The cap could undergo “small changes” in some markets to prevent rivals getting an advantage by letting waiting lists get too long, he said. A Ferrari spokesman said the U.S. is one of the markets where demand for Ferrari cars is strong.
Ferrari will continue to provide engineering assistance to Fiat Group’s Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands to improve the quality of their cars. “Ferrari is a good school. Its importance within the group should not be underestimated,” Marchionne said.
Marchionne added that his new role as Ferrari chairman was not temporary and that bringing in a new chief executive for the brand was not on the agenda. He said there is no plan to fold Ferrari into the rest of Fiat Chrysler. “The success of Ferrari is mainly due to its unique brand,” he said.
Montezemolo’s Oct. 13 resignation date coincides with the day when Fiat plans to list Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in New York after completing a merger with its U.S. business and cementing a shift of the Italian group from its home for the past 115 years.
“Ferrari will have an important role to play within the FCA Group in the upcoming flotation on Wall Street. This will open up a new and different phase, which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the Group,” Montezemolo said in a statement.
Marchionne said that he and Montezemolo had discussed the future of Ferrari at length and that “our mutual desire to see Ferrari achieve its true potential on the [Formula One] track has led to misunderstandings, which became clearly visible over the last weekend.” Marchionne said on Sunday that the recent disappointing performance of Ferrari’s F1 team was “unacceptable” and that it was “absolutely non-negotiable” that Ferrari should win F1 races. He also took issue with comments from Montezemolo offering to continue running the brand for three more years, saying that “nobody is indispensable.”
Under Montezemolo’s tenure, Ferrari raced to the top of the F1 standings, increased revenues tenfold and tripled sales volumes as the Italian family business grew into one of the world’s most powerful brands. Will this move benefit the auto giant?
Subaru wants to expand their market with their new WRX with is greener then any of their other vehicles. Subaru hopes the redesigned WRX line will capture a wider customer base with better fuel economy and safety features after spinning off the nameplate from its Impreza stablemate.
The longer, roomier and sportier looking WRX went on sale in the U.S. in the spring and was released in Japan on Monday.
The performance car, long a staple of the rally circuits, already has a dedicated motor-fan following. But Subaru wants to cast a wider net with better fuel consumption and safety features, Takeshi Tachimori, executive vice president in charge of global marketing, said at the car’s home market debut.
“So far, the WRX was a very narrow, polarizing category, but we want to make it appeal to a wider customer base,” he said.
That’s one reason Subaru brand parent Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd., decided to make the WRX and tuner STI variant a standalone entry after long offering it as a sub-brand of the Impreza.
That, and the goal of strengthening Subaru’s sporty lineup.
The Japan and U.S. versions of the base WRX chug less gasoline thanks to a new 2.0-liter direct-injection engine mated to a continuously variable transmission or 6-speed manual.
And both variants get a more rigid bodies and chassis set-ups, replete with more use of high-tensile steel plating, to enhance control and crash-worthiness. It gets the same reinforced frame structure used in other models that passed the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test.
The Japan spec car also offers the latest version of Subaru’s trademark Eyesight camera-actuated pre-crash safety system, which delivers automatic braking and active lane keep assist.
Subaru hopes adding Eyesight will attract older customers. Will this be enough to change the way the market views their brand?
Cadillac announced that they will be releasing a new luxury Sedan. General Motors global product chief Mark Reuss said that a large luxury sedan being developed for Cadillac will “define its brand” and is a prerequisite to competing against rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.
“If we’re a serious luxury carmaker, it’s really important to us,” Reuss said at an event here Tuesday.
“This is a car that Cadillac needs, that will define its brand in terms of innovation and excellence,” Reuss told reporters. “That’s the mission.”
Cadillac’s chief engineer, Dave Leone, told Bloomberg last week that the rear-wheel drive sedan would arrive sometime in late 2015. It was the first time a GM official has publicly given a timeframe for the long-rumored sedan, codenamed LTS for now.
Reuss declined to discuss specifics but said Cadillac’s entry in the large luxury sedan segment “has got to be a symbol of excellence.”
Engineering mules of the sedan have been spotted recently being put through the paces at GM’s proving ground in Milford, Mich. It’s expected to ride on a new rwd platform and compete against the Mercedes-Benz S class, BMW 7 series and Audi A8.
Reuss downplayed Cadillac’s sluggish U.S. sales, which have fallen 2 percent this year through July, vs. 6 percent for the luxury market and 5 percent for all light vehicle. How will this luxury Sedan change the brand of Cadillac and stop this decline in sales?
GM was told to settle. A federal judge told lawyers on Monday he’ll encourage settlements in lawsuits brought on behalf of nearly 1,000 plaintiffs against General Motors for defective ignition switches.
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman told dozens of lawyers at a hearing that he’ll be careful not to interfere with the work of a bankruptcy judge who is deciding if the Detroit-based automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy protects it from economic damages claims.
Furman said he wanted to be “sensitive about stepping on the toes” of the bankruptcy judge but planned to advance the litigation as much as possible nonetheless.
He made introductory remarks at an initial hearing after he was chosen to preside over more than 100 lawsuits that were consolidated in New York because of their common attributes. He said he planned “to encourage settlement as much as possible” once any potential payouts were better defined after rulings by the bankruptcy court.
Lawsuits were filed after General Motors Co. in February began recalling 2.6 million of the cars, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions. GM has acknowledged knowing that the switches in its small cars had problems since at least 2001. Federal law requires automakers to report safety defects to the government within five days of discovering them.
The ignition switches, when jostled, can shut off the engine, cutting power steering and brakes and potentially causing drivers to lose control. The problem also can disable air bags.
GM says at least 13 people have died in 54 crashes linked to the problem, while lawyers suing the company say the death toll is more than 60.
In May, federal safety regulators ordered General Motors to pay a record $35 million fine for failing to disclose the ignition switch defect in millions of cars for more than a decade.
GM attorney Richard C. Godfrey told Furman that 983 plaintiffs had filed 109 lawsuits, with about a dozen of the lawsuits making personal-injury claims while the rest were solely for economic losses.
Owners of the 2.6 million small cars that were recalled are eligible for compensation from a fund being administered by compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg on GM’s behalf. Feinberg, who handled claims for the BP Gulf Oil Spill and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has said GM has placed no limit on the amount of money he can spend to compensate anyone who was injured or killed. The money won’t bring these people back, but it may help the family.
There is nothing more iconic then a Lamborghini with its doors open. Finding a good Lamborghini Countach in British Columbia isn’t easy. Even in supercar-crazy Vancouver there’s maybe a half-dozen total, and most for-sale examples are in the southern U.S, says Jeff Dow. With so few available, when Dow found a red ’84 up for grabs in Calgary seven years ago, he had to have it. “For me, it was the first car that fit the definition of ‘exotic,’” he says.
Wherever Dow drives, people comment on it—and smile when its ‘scissor doors’ flip up. “When it came out, I don’t think any other car had anything besides regular doors, other than maybe the ‘gullwing’ and the Kaiser-Darrin,” Dow says. “Not only was the Countach a big wedge with a huge V12 engine right behind your ear, but on top of that, you flip the latch and the door scissors up. It’s a defining feature.”
The scissor doors: then
In October 1968 stylist Marcello Gandini of design studio Bertone introduced the world to a new way to open car doors: upward and forward.
His Tipo 33 Carabo stole the spotlight at the Paris Motor Show that year with its scissor-style doors, which Gandini incorporated to help clear the wide door sills of the Alfa Romeo racecar the Carabo concept car was based on.
The scissor doors: now
Though they’re universally referred to as “Lambo doors,” today you can find aftermarket-fitted scissor doors on everything from Plymouth Prowlers to Volvo station wagons to Geo Metro hatchbacks.
Several supercar rivals have adopted similar “vertical lift system” or “jack-knife” doors, too, but still nobody does it like Lamborghini.
“For us, the [scissor] door is something very important, very unique; in other cars, it works in a different way. We have a tradition with it,” says Filippo Perini, Lamborghini’s chief of design since 2004.
On the brand’s new Aventador, the doors open not just upward, but also outward slightly, to allow them to better seal shut, reducing road noise. Outside of engineering that change, the doors posed almost no design problems—almost.
“The only problem you face designing a car with doors like this is it is immediately compared to the Countach, and that does not make us comfortable as designers, because we have to do something better,” Perini chuckles.
“We are not allowed to do just a beautiful design—we have to do iconic design.”
The Aventador’s sharp creases and planar surfaces were very much inspired by modern stealth fighter aircraft, Perini says, and the doors fit that theme as well since they flip forward like a jet canopy.
When shortly after he was tapped by Lamborghini to work on Project 112, the Countach LP500 prototype, Gandini again went with scissor doors to work around that car’s space-frame-style chassis.
They helped make the car a hit at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, but posed some problems during development.
The opening mechanism was simple enough: a single gas strut forced the doors to swing upward just more than 45 degrees to open 80 inches. But by autumn 1973, engineers gave up on trying to build a traditional two-piece side window into the door – they found it kept shattering – and went with a three-piece configuration instead.
The production LP400 bowed in 1974, and looked largely liked the prototype (though the NACA-style ducts in the doors were now painted black). Almost immediately the unique design of the doors made for some interesting owner experiences.
“It took a while to figure out the easiest way to get in and out,” explains Dow. “Personally I just slide in backwards, put my ass in the seat, then swing my legs in, and vice-versa getting out.”
The car’s poor rearward visibility, combined with those wide door sills, also led many drivers to try a new way of reversing into a parking spot: by opening the door, sitting on the sill, and looking backward over the top of the car’s rear.
By the time its successor, the Diablo, came out in 1990, the Countach and its scissor doors were already an icon. Including the scissor doors on the new offering cemented their status as a trademark Lamborghini design feature, and helped ensure that from then on they would widely be known as “Lambo doors.”
The Diablo’s one-piece, electrically powered side windows were a major improvement, and the door opening was slightly larger, too. In 2001, when the Murcielago debuted, it, too, featured scissor doors that opened even wider, as well as a 25-mm lower door sill. What will happen in the future for these iconic doors?
Everyone wants luxury, but those who can afford it should consider the new Mercedes C-class. Mercedes-Benz is vying for the luxury compact crown with the redesigned 2015 C-class sedan, equipped with new technology and features trickled down from the S-class flagship.
BMW is the market leader in the segment, with the 3- and 4-series compacts. But Mercedes-Benz executives say the C class may finally give them the edge.
The C class looks like a smaller version of the S-class sedan, and it has the optional $2,800 Intelligent Drive package of integrated safety features. They include adaptive cruise control, rear-end collision protection, Pre-Safe braking and steering, and cross-traffic and lane-keeping assist.
“Mercedes-Benz is demonstrating that we are not just going to set the standard with the S class, our goal is to set the standard in every segment — even one that might be traditionally associated with the 3 series and BMW,” said Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. “We have spent the last few generations closing that gap.”
With the new-generation C class that goes on sale Aug. 25, “we are going to set a standard for style, for interior fit and finish and standard features,” Cannon said. “We have been more of an S- and E-class company.”
To further separate the C class from the CLA sedan — the entry to the brand that went on sale last year — Mercedes made the C-class sedan about 4 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider than the previous model.
With the frame and body structure made of aluminum, it will be more agile and handle better than today’s model, said Bart Herring, general manager of product management for Mercedes-Benz USA. The redesigned C class is up to 200 pounds lighter than today’s model.
The C class will have Collision Prevention Assist Plus as a standard feature. The system senses if a collision is imminent, and if the driver doesn’t respond, it autonomously brakes the car at speeds up to 124 mph. It also can brake to avoid a stationary vehicle ahead and to prevent rear collisions.
Competing brands don’t offer this feature in this segment — or on many of their high-end vehicles, Cannon said.
Collision Prevention Assist Plus “is us throwing down the gauntlet — no one has it in the segment,” he said. “Our competitors do not have it on their highest cars. It demonstrates where we are going.”
The Intelligent Drive package is another edge, said Herring. “We have networked it to almost give the car senses to set you up to make better decisions or assist to keep you out of danger. That is cool on a $100,000 S class. Will this new technology take off? Who will be the next to adapt this technology to their line of vehicles?
The Lincoln brand has been on a steady decline for quiet some time now, Ford needed to switch things up. Kumar Galhotra, Ford Motor Co.’s top engineer, was named president of the Lincoln brand today, a new position that reports directly to CEO Mark Fields, in another management change designed to jumpstart sales at the luxury brand.
Jim Farley, executive vice president of global sales, service and marketing, has directed Lincoln since 2012, and will continue to oversee Ford’s sales, service and marketing operations, but will also have a role in Lincoln’s marketing and product plans, Ford said today.
“Now is the right time to have a dedicated global leader for the brand,” Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said today.
She said it was Farley who recommended to Ford’s board of directors that Lincoln get a “totally dedicated leader.”
Galhotra, 48, has been Ford’s vice president of engineering since August 2013. He will oversee all Lincoln operations worldwide, including product development; marketing, sales and service; and all team members under the Lincoln brand.
The change is effective Sept. 1. Fields, who took the reins at Ford on July 1 after the retirement of Alan Mulally, said the move makes clear the company is “serious about Lincoln.”
“Now is the right time for the next chapter in accelerating Lincoln as a world-class luxury brand,” Fields said in a statement. “Kumar has more than 25 years of global product and business experience, including leading engineering for all of our Lincoln vehicles today. Being our dedicated senior Lincoln leader will serve our clients, employees and dealers extremely well going forward.” Will this change in leadership help rebuild the brand?
The Aston Martin is a iconic car, and will continue to be with the release of this new generation. You have to hand it to Aston Martin. Its entry-level V8 Vantage may be nearly a decade old, but the British automaker never tires of rolling out ever more powerful versions. Where the original packed a 4.3-litre V8 derived from a Jaguar design and producing 380 horsepower, this latest version packs 565 hp to become the company’s quickest and fastest roadster to date, not to mention its most powerful.
Following the debut of the V12 Vantage S coupe, the new V12 Vantage S Roadster packs the most powerful iteration of Aston’s ubiquitous 6.0-litre V12 engine to date. Equipped with CNC-machined combustion chambers and hollow camshafts, unburdened of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of excess weight and mated to Gaydon’s latest Graziano-developed Sportshift III seven-speed sequential gearbox, that engine is capable of propelling the open-top rocket to 60 (0-96km/h) in 3.9 seconds en route to a top speed of 201 miles per hour (324 kilometres per hour). That’s considerably quicker than the flagship Vanquish Volante, which runs to 60 (96 km/h) in 4.1 seconds and tops out at 183 mph (295 km/h), painting the V12 Vantage S Roadster as Aston’s most performance-focused droptop to date.
It’s also got a flatter and fatter torque curve than the previous V12 Vantage Roadster, three-stage adaptive damping, three-stage stability control and two-stage ABS, carbon-ceramic disc brakes and a lightweight exhaust derived from the pipes on the One-77. Like what you see? There are more details to digest in the press release below, including a full range of customization options from the Q by Aston Martin catalog. This new Aston Martin is going to rip up the street near you in the next year.
Audi has become a well establish luxury car marker and is now become a household name. Audi’s A3 compact sedan and Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line S-class model helped the German companies narrow the sales gap with global luxury-car leader BMW in the first half of 2014.
Six-month auto sales by BMW’s namesake brand exceeded Audi’s deliveries by 16,997 vehicles compared with a difference of 23,760 a year earlier, according to figures released by the manufacturers this week. BMW’s lead against Mercedes shrank 6 percent to 102,827 cars. All three automakers posted record deliveries for the period.
Audi has been renewing its A3 lineup since early 2013, and No. 3 Mercedes has been offering a wider range of compacts in addition to the new S-class version brought out a year ago. Both are pushing to overtake BMW in premium-auto sales by the end of the decade. BMW has responded with the 2-series and 4-series coupes and X4 SUV and is rolling out the plug-in i8, its first sports car in more than three decades.
“The gap should continue to narrow while BMW should see some support of its own, like the 2-series and the X4 as we go into the end of the year,” Stuart Pearson, a London-based analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said by phone. “BMW will stay in the lead for the foreseeable future.”
Demand for premium models in China and the United States is contributing to growth at the German carmakers, which are all targeting record deliveries for 2014 as they vie for the global lead.
In the United States, Mercedes was the luxury leader, with 163,107 units sold in the first half of the year, up 8 percent compared with the same period last year. BMW followed with 157,382 units sold, up 12 percent. Audi sold 84,349 units, up 14 percent. Watch Audi to continue to grow throughout the next quarter.