Yesterday, GM’s first Chevrolet Cruze for the United States market, rolled off the assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio. The car first made its debut at the last LA Auto Show, and has been GM’s second best seller overseas after their Silverado pickup trucks.

The Cruze is GM’s most significant new model introduced into the United States since last year’s bankruptcy. With the forty miles per gallon fuel consumption on the highway, they hope to break into the fuel efficient market that they gave up to imports thirty years ago. With an emphasis on safety, like ten air bags and traction control as standard equipment, they hope to make the Cruze stand out from all other models.

While the Cruze costs a little more than most of its competitors, G.M. argues that it provides a better value with extras like air-conditioning and power locks that are basics in high end models but extra on most compacts. That approach helps the Cruze generate more revenue and allows the car to be built profitably at a union plant in the United States. (Most competing compact cars are built at nonunion plants or in other countries.)

To build the Cruze, G.M. added a third shift at the Lordstown plant after being downsized to a single shift during the height of the recession. The plant now has about 4,500 workers, including 800 who transferred from elsewhere at G.M.

There are many stories about the dangers of drivers becoming distracted by their cell phones while driving. The problem has become so wide spread that some states have brought in laws that prevent drivers from using their phones completely while behind the wheel. The government spends millions of dollars every year, on programs to catch anyone who ignores these laws.

A new survey done by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that pets riding in cars can be just as distracting to drivers as texting while driving. One in five dog owners say that they let their dogs sit on their lap while driving. Owners have also addmitted to petting, playing and feeding their dogs while driving. With reports like these, it is not surprising that 60% of pet owners say that they have been distracted at least once by their pets while behind the wheel. Even a well behaved dog can become a hazard in a vehicle during hard braking or quick maneuvering situations.

For now, there are no laws requiring drivers to buckle up their pets or prohibiting them from holding animals on their laps. But police can ticket drivers for having an obstructed view of the road or being obstructed from using the steering wheel and other mechanisms in the vehicle.

In March of 2008, when Tata Motors purchased Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford, some feared the sale would alienate the typical Jaguar owner. Based on early sales figures, this just isn’t true.

The XJ model has been one of the best sellers for Jaguar since it was introduced in 1968. Over the years the car has undergone major redesigns, but never really strayed far from the original model. The new 2011 XJ model is said to have a “wow factor that has smitten those who thought the XJ model had become too old school.”

“We are trying to bring the word ‘sleek’ back to Jaguar styling,” said Ian Callum, chief designer.

  • The dashboard has been redesigned nine inches lower, giving the cabin a roomy feeling.
  • The new interior is one of the most elegant in the industry, with soft grain leather trimmed with choice wood or carbon fiber.
  • The mechanical components of the XJ is basically the same as its predecessor, but with key refinements.
  • The exterior still has the same luxurious Jaguar look, but with a thoroughly modern design.

It seems that the transition of Jaguar from Ford to Tata motors has been a smooth one. With the help of Ford, Jaguar continues to offer the luxury and design their customers expect.

Kia has announced that they will be recalling their 2010 Kia Soul and the 2011 Kia Sorento over wire harnesses which have been improperly soldered. The wiring that runs in the door trim panels are susceptible to an electrical short which could lead to a fire.

No accidents or injuries have been reported due to this problem. After receiving a recall letter later this month Kia owners will be able to bring in their vehicles to have the harnesses replaced, free of charge.

Posted in Kia.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into a possible defect with the gas tanks on 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees. The investigation was encouraged by the advocacy group Center for Auto Safety in October when they said that the plastic fuel tank was susceptible to ruptures during rear end collisions and roll overs.

In the last two decades, the NHTSA said that there have been 55 deaths in crashes involving the sport utility, in which fire was listed as the probable cause of death. In ten of those crashes, the vehicle was involved in a rear end collision.

After an initial review, the NHTSA has reported that the Grand Cherokee does not have a significantly higher number of fires than any other vehicle. In a statement, NHTSA said, “The existence of these post-crash fires does not, by itself, establish a defect trend.” Further review and investigation into these accidents is needed to determine if the problem constitutes a recall.

Last Tuesday, Oakland opened its first bio fuels station offering fill ups for cars that can run on renewable alternatives to gasoline. The station, operated by Propel Fuels, not only offered each new customer five free gallons of fuel, but had a marketing team on hand to assist customers who were not sure whether their vehicle was bio fuel compatible. (Those wondering whether their cars can run on bio fuels can visit Propel’s online guide).

Propel has been expanding its California operations rapidly since entering the state in January 2009. Stations similar to this one opened in Fremont and San Jose this summer, and a Berkeley station is expected to open soon. Emily Shellabarger, Propels marketing specialists says, “our focus is now on California. We are interested in building a California-wide network .” And this network will soon be a reality with an $11 billion grant from the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. With this money, they will build and operate 75 self serve alternative fuel stations across the state over the next two years. Propel said it will match the grant funding with $16 million in private investment to speed up building of Propel’s network of fueling stations.

In addition to luring drivers to its stations, Propel has tried to widen its customer base through social networking. The company communicates with customers and seeks out new ones online by means of both a blog and a page on Facebook.