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First Drive: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Mainstay of brand's line-up only getting better with age.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.20, 2018

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 will be offered in a variety of versions, including the new Hybrid.

The Toyota RAV4 has been around for more than two decades but its recent performance has been nothing short of spectacular as its sales have doubled in the past five years, which is most impressive for a vehicle in various iterations has been around for more than 20 years.

However, the competition is intense. Toyota’s market share it can rightfully claim it created in the segment is under siege from rivals from North America, Europe and Asia.

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But Toyota isn’t sitting still either. With the 2019 RAV4, it is substantially changing the character of compact utility vehicle with more power, a new exterior look and an impressive hybrid version that Toyota expects to account for significant sales volume that is quite likely to surpass that of the Prius.

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New NAFTA Faces Tough Road to Approval in Congress

Dems want tougher rules on Mexico, Reps want LGBT protections out.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.19, 2018

President Donald Trump's success to NAFTA is facing serious trouble with Democrats and Republicans and may not get passed in its current form.

The new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico that President Donald Trump hailed as a major breakthrough back in August appears headed for serious trouble.

Forty Congressional Republicans have stated they will not vote for the agreement because it includes protections for the LGBT community, according to Politico. The protection for the LGBT community was included in the proposed tentative NAFTA 2.0 at the insistence of negotiators from Canada.

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The Republicans are the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, but campaign means the LGBT section means that the Trump administration cannot pass NAFTA 2.0 without Democratic votes. (more…)

U-M Economists Predicting Solid Auto Sales for 2018

Next year's results expected to drop slightly.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.19, 2018

U-M economists are predicting a solid sales year for 2018 with 2019 being slightly lower.

Robust demand for fleet sales will push light vehicle sales into the 17.1 million units per year range in 2018, according to the annual economic forecast by economists from the University of Michigan.

The influential U-M forecast, which is used by car makers and suppliers to help preparing forward-looking production schedules, also predicted that light vehicle sales will decline slightly in 2019, to 16.9 million units in each of 2019 and 2020 as interest rates rise and the economy cools gradually during that time frame.

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“While the U.S. economy is expected to expand 2.9% for the year after a strong 3.5% growth rate in the third quarter, the effects of federal spending and tax cut boosts will start to diminish in 2019 before fading out in 2020,” the forecast noted. (more…)

First Drive: 2018 Lexus NX 300h

New version boasts an improved powertrain and expansive interior.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.15, 2018

The 2018 Lexus NX 300h features an updated powertrain that provides plenty of power right away without the hard shifts.

Lexus doesn’t have the long history of Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac or BMW but over the years it has succeeded in pushing innovation and change within the luxury segment, which for most of the auto industry’s history was built around expensive sedans.

However, as the prices of new vehicles have climbed and what was once considered luxury equipment winds up in more and more cars, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks, brands such as Lexus are being forced to reconsider what defines luxury.

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The 2018 Lexus NX 300h certainly doesn’t look like a traditional luxury vehicle, inside or out. But it has plenty of the attributes long connected to luxury vehicles such as a quiet cabin, comfortable interior and a smooth ride powered by some of the latest and most sophisticated technology. (more…)

Automakers on Edge Over Possibility of New Tariffs

Commerce Dept. findings key to Trump administration's plans.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.14, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is leading the Section 232 investigation into whether or not imported automobiles and parts represent a threat to the United States.

While the U.S. midterm elections have passed, carmakers are waiting on a final decision from the Trump administration on the Section 232 investigation. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 allows the White House to use national security grounds to impose tariffs on vehicles and auto parts imported into the U.S.

The industry’s lobbyists have said they were expecting the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is responsible for the investigation, to issue its ruling soon, perhaps this week well ahead of the February deadline fixed by the statute. The general assumption is the report will offer Trump a chance to impose new tariffs on autos and auto parts made in Europe and Asia.

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The 232 query has become a major issue for the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe, which has spent weeks trying to defuse the administration’s threat to impose tariffs that could have a major impact on the Japanese auto industry. (more…)

Lexus Launches Key Holiday Advertising Campaign

The originator of the "holiday" sales push, kicks off its latest round.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.13, 2018

Lexus, which essentially originated the holiday season ad campaigns for automakers, is kicking off its latest round of ads.

The traditional American holiday season, stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year, has long been marked by parties, celebration and football but in recent years it also has become a critical period for selling cars, SUVs and trucks.

For the 19th consecutive year, Lexus, one of the brands instrumental helping make the holiday season in into a major period for marketing vehicles, is launching its annual “December to Remember” Sales Event this week.

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The marketing campaign began with three national spots, showcasing how the gift of a Lexus during the holidays offers experiences throughout the entire year. It has since been copied by others in the industry such as Mercedes-Benz and GMC. (more…)

Hyundai Set to Debut New Large Ute – Palisade – at LA Auto Show

New seven-passenger ute coming to U.S. next year.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.08, 2018

Can you guess the name of Hyundai's newest member of its SUV line-up? Yup. Palisade.

Hyundai continues to expand its SUV portfolio, looking to turn around sluggish sales after missing the utility craze by a few years. The new three-row sport utility vehicle is named Palisade and hits dealer showrooms next year.

Mike O’Brien, Hyundai vice president of product, corporate and digital planning, said the new name carries with it connotations of luxury strength and safety.

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“The Palisade is place and a fortress,” he said, recounting that a Palisade can mean either a place with towering cliffs topped either by a castle or expensive homes. A palisade also means a fortification, he said. (more…)

Former Auto Designer Elected to Michigan Senate

"Build that wall" chant by middle schoolers pushed her into politics.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.08, 2018

Former auto designer Mallory McMorrow is now Michigan state senator-elect Mallory McMorrow.

In a first, a car designer is going to the Michigan State Senate in Michigan come January.

“Everybody thinks I’m a lawyer,” said Mallory McMorrow, but her experience as an automotive designer proved useful in striking up conversation as she campaigned across her state Senate District that includes a large portion of suburban Oakland County, just north of Detroit, against a seemingly entrenched incumbent whose father had also served in Congress for 16 years.

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McMorrow studied industrial and car design at Notre Dame University, and in 2007 she won a design contest that led to a six-month internship while working on high profile projects such as a concept Mazda3. However, she admits, somewhat wistfully, her stint at Mazda was cut short by the Great Recession.   (more…)

More UAW, FCA Officials Sentenced in Bribery Scandal

Borman declared no leniency for defendants.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.07, 2018

The UAW long tried to maintain a squeaky clean reputation, but the scandal has sorely tarnished its image.

Two former Fiat Chrysler Automobile N.V. officials and one former leader of the United Auto Workers have been sentenced to prison terms, ranging from 12 months to 15 months, for their part in a conspiracy to violate federal labor law.

The sentences imposed on FCA’s Michael Brown and Jerome Durden as well as the UAW’s Keith Mickens come more than two years after the federal government announced indictments triggered by a scheme in which FCA officials used subterfuge to bribe union officials in a bid to secure labor peace.

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Former FCA Vice President Alphons Iacobelli, a central figure in the case, was sentenced to five and a half years in a federal prison, while Monica Morgan, the widow of former UAW VP General Holiefield, one of the central figures in the scheme, was sentenced to 18 months prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to federal tax charges.

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GM Moves to Close Ohio Parts Warehouse

Company building new site in Michigan.

by Joseph Szczesny on Nov.07, 2018

GM officials break ground on $65 million ACDelco and Genuine GM Parts processing facility.

General Motors is moving to close a warehouse outside of Dayton, Ohio, as it re-aligns its parts distribution system.

Jim Cain, GM spokesman, told TheDetroitBureau.com the closing of the Ohio warehouse does not represent a cutback. The labor team at West Chester was informed in June that work for would be transferring to a new facility sometime in 2019, Cain said in an e-mail.

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“The new facility is under construction in Burton, Michigan,” he added. The United Auto Workers had no immediate comment. (more…)