Microsoft Gives Boost to Ford EV Car Users

Ford EV car users concerned about managing their energy consumption while recharging are going to get a boost from Microsoft. According to Automotive News, the software giant is working with Ford to develop an online application that will help EV car users manage their energy usage while charging their cars at home.

Ford and Microsoft made the announcement about Microsoft Hohm at the New York Auto Show yesterday. Ford is rolling out five EV car lines by 2013, starting with the introduction of the Transit Connect Electric later this year. Microsoft Hohm will be a free application for all Ford car owners that will help users decide when the best time is to power their cars.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the hope is that Microsoft Hohm will encourage people to power their cars in the evening, when there is less stress on the power grid and energy prices are cheaper.

Ballmer said that the new service is “a significant step in the development of the infrastructure that will make electric vehicles successful.”

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GM Expands Chevy Crossover Production

Recently, General Motors has been dealing with a welcome problem: how to respond to the consumer demand for the Chevrolet Equinox crossover. Dealers have been airing concerns in recent months that they have been dealing with shortages caused by steady interest in the car. Automotive News reports that GM is responding to these concerns by adding a third shift to production at its plant in Oshawa, Canada.

The Equinox is currently built in GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll. The company had originally announced plans to expand that plant; the new announcement states that body assemblies will now be shipped to Oshawa for final painting and assembly.chong qi zhang peng

The third shift in Oshawa is scheduled to start in October, and will restore jobs for 600 employees who had previously been laid off. In addition, the expansion of the CAMI plant will not only restore all laid off jobs but require hiring an additional 70 employees by October.

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Ford Releases Pricing for New Mustang

Automotive News reports that Ford has set the sticker price for its 2011 Ford Mustang, and the new V-6 powered car will be priced below its main rival the Chevrolet Camaro. According to Ford, its 3.7-liter V-6 version will start at $22,995, including shipping. The 3.6-liter V-6 2009 Camaro starts at $23,530. In addition, Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8 starts at $30,495 and the V-8 premium starts at $33,695.

Ford’s pricing for the new Mustangs has barely increased over the previous year despite new innovations that have meant an increase of more than 100 horsepower.

Chevrolet has not released pricing for the 2010 Camaro; embargoes for reviews of both cars end this week.

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What Are Reviewers Saying about the Honda Accord Crosstour?

In an attempt to shake up its Accord line, Honda has introduced the Crosstour, a midsized hatchback meant to be a cornerstone to the brand. However, initial leaks of pictures and other information about the car last September led many people to question its aesthetics. Was the Accord Crosstour going to be a hit, or an ugly misfire by Honda? The car is now available, and several major reviewers have had a chance to drive it. The consensus? It’s not as bad as first thought.

Detroit Free-Press: “Honda created the Crosstour to be a flagship model for its popular Accord midsize sedan. It’s an intriguing decision, given that Americans don’t generally like big hatchback cars. The Crosstour isn’t likely to change that, despite a roomy and practical interior, plenty of power, good fuel economy and more standard features than the sedan. Badly fitted interior pieces, a limited field of vision and prices that encroach on luxury models weaken the Crosstour’s appeal. The Crosstour’s bulbous rear styling is polarizing.”

Gearlog: “Did somebody beat the Honda Accord Crosstour with the ugly stick, if only on the outside? That’s been the pre-launch knock on what is actually the cheapest and most cost-effective of the upscale, fastback, crossover utility vehicles and it offers plenty of mainstream technology. The Crosstour is a fine $30,000 people mover and cargo hauler for those who don’t need the size of an SUV or the soccer-mom aura of a minivan: empty nesters and families just starting out. The four people who sit comfortably inside also have the advantage of looking out, not in.”

Popular Mechanics: “If absolute utility is the main criteria for selecting one of these tall wagons, the Toyota Venza offers more cargo capacity and greater hauling capability in a taller crossover package. But if driving fun is the larger part of the equation, the Crosstour is the more engaging partner. ”

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UAW to Name New President Next Week

United Auto Workers officials are expected to nominate the head of the union’s Ford Motor Co. negotiating group to be their new President at a meeting next Wednesday, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Bob King is supported by Ron Gettelfinger, who is planning on leaving the post.

“My sense is that the membership is hoping Bob will be a tougher negotiator,” said Brian Pannebecker, a 13-year veteran at Ford’s Sterling Heights plant that produces parts for F-series pickup trucks.

GM Scraps Plans to Cut Back on Cadillac Dealerships

Last year, GM had announced plans to significantly reduce the number of Cadillac dealers operating in the United States, going from a total of about 1,400 at the start of 2009 to around 500 by the end of the year. However, Automotive News is reporting that those plans have been scrapped, as GM is planning on reinstating Cadillac dealerships across the country.

The initial plan was created to bring Cadillac in line with luxury car lines such as Mercedes and BMW, which have a smaller number of dealerships located in major metropolitan areas. The majority of the more than 900 Cadillac dealerships that were scheduled for closure were in rural or smaller metropolitan areas, with GM focusing its growth of the Cadillac brand on larger populations on the East and West Coasts.

“We think that GM realized that terminating these dealers would leave a lot of loyal Cadillac customers orphaned and not produce a material benefit in the form of increased sales,” said Ernie Manuel, president of the Fontana Group in Tucson, Ariz., a financial consulting firm for dealerships.

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Nissan North American Design Head to Retire

Bruce Campbell, who helped transform Nissan into one of the hippest and most forward-thinking car companies, is retiring as the manufacturer’s top American designer at the end of March, according to Automotive News.

Campbell led the San Diego-based studio that redesigned the 370Z, taking it from a low-tech model to a sleek, state-of-the-art car that earned respect from sports car lovers around the world. Campbell, 57, also led work on the Xterra, Altima and Maxima product lines.

Nissan will replace Campbell with a familiar name. Alfonso Albaisa, vice president of Nissan Design Europe, will replace Campbell as vice president of Nissan Design America. Albaisa worked with Campbell on several projects, including the designs of the Altima, Maxima and Rogue, and moved on to head Nissan’s European design team in 2007.

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Toyota: Acceleration Problems Not Electrical

As its recall fiasco continues, Toyota Motor Corp. moved on Monday to dispel persistent rumors that the issues which have plagued the accelerators in their cars were caused by electrical issues. According to Reuters, Toyota announced their own review of an independent study showed no indication that unintended acceleration problems which have been linked to at least five deaths in the United States were caused by electrical problems.

This flies against what David Gilbert, an auto engineering expert at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, told Congress during hearings on the Toyota recall in February. Gilbert said that he was able to simulate a flaw in Toyota’s accelerator controls that allowed the vehicle to surge forward without a fault code being generated for an onboard computer Toyota has designed as a safeguard.

However, Toyota claims that independent analysis by a Stanford University professor and engineering consulting firm Exponent had failed to replicate Gilbert’s claims. Instead, Toyota is saying that Gilbert “rewired” the acceleration system in order to generate his results.

80th Geneva Auto Show Opens

The reports that the 80th Geneva Auto Show, one of the largest automotive shows in Europe, opened its doors to the public on Thursday, giving many Europeans first looks at innovative cars from manufacturers in North America and Asia.

One of the most popular cars at the show was the Nissan Juke. Designed as a faux off-road vehicle, the crossover is an attempt by the company to take MINI’s crown as the coolest in small cars. Other cars drawing crowds during the first day of the show were Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta hatchback and the Volvo S60 sedan.

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