Honda Recalls 2016 CR-Vs Over Airbag Inflators

2016 Honda CR-V

While the majority of vehicles recalled due to potentially injurious Takata airbag inflators are from the 2011 model year and earlier, GM recently recalled 395 vehicles due to a “suspect lot” of seat-mounted side airbags. And now Honda’s recalling a select group of 2016 CR-Vs over a potential issue with the driver’s front airbag inflator.

From the NHTSA recall report: “The current defect hypothesis is that airbag inflator contained in the driver front airbag module may have been improperly stamped and/or contains a defect in the material used to manufacture the airbag inflator’s metal housing, which, in the event of airbag deployment, may cause inflator components to separate.

“If the inflator components separate, metal fragments could pass through the airbag cushion material possibly causing injury or fatality to vehicle occupants.”

As of October 26, Honda had not received any warranty claims or injury allegations related to the recall. It covers a specific lot of Takata inflators, whose installation was limited to 515 CR-Vs. CR-V owners can enter their VIN here to check if their vehicle is affected.

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Tesla’s Direct-Sales Gambit Would Be Nothing Without Its Cars

Direct Current

From the November 2015 issue

In the seven years since it delivered its first EV, Tesla has managed to circumvent legal barriers to direct factory-to-consumer sales in state after state, despite concerted opposition from established dealer groups. Backed by surveys showing strong public support, Tesla chairman Elon Musk mobilized acolytes through social media, even summoning them to a public demonstration in New Jersey’s capital when that state banned sales of Teslas at company stores. The effort paid off when the state Senate passed, and Governor Chris Christie signed, a bill allowing Tesla to sell cars at four locations in the state. Similar exemptions to franchise requirements, often limited to Tesla alone, were carved out in other states.

Tesla currently owns and operates 102 retail outlets in North America, almost half of which are full sales and service ­centers. The others are mostly retail stores, often in malls, and a few are “galleries,” where discussing prices, taking orders, and offering test drives are all prohibited. The company also sells online and by phone.

Tesla insists that its desire to cut out the middleman and deal directly with customers is something noble, part of spreading the electric-car gospel. Tesla owners are often champions of the carmaker, and the company offers incentives for referrals, another practice that troubles regulators.

Even so, other Silicon Valley innovators and free-market advocates enthuse over Tesla’s retail approach, a sentiment represented by a May editorial blog post from three Federal Trade Commission directors titled “Direct-to-consumer auto sales: It’s not just about Tesla.” In it, they argue that “states should allow consumers to choose not only the cars they buy, but also how they buy them.” The piece also notes that Elio Motors, a startup with plans to manufacture enclosed three-wheeled vehicles, intends to conduct direct sales.

Nobody knows better than the carmakers how thin today’s profit margin is on new-car sales.

But don’t expect the automotive establishment to line up behind the newcomers. Analysts say there is little chance of the big car companies resuming direct sales after the withering results of their past experiments. In 1998, Ford established Ford Auto Collections in five mid-size markets, and a year later General Motors stunned dealers with a plan to set up its own network, which was to own and operate up to 10 percent of its 7700 dealerships.

In reaction, dealers rushed to state l­egislatures, where friendly lawmakers strengthened franchise protections in 22 states. But the company-owned networks encountered problems beyond franchise laws. Suburban dealerships undercut Ford Auto Collection’s fixed prices, hurting sales at some company stores. By 2001, Ford announced that it was getting out of the retail business, and by then GM had already reversed course under pressure from its dealers.

Santa Monica Tesla showroom

Nobody knows better than the carmakers how thin today’s profit margin is on new-car sales. It’s typically a single-digit percentage of a dealership’s profits, which are mostly made in service, finance, and used-car sales. Factory stores would require huge investments in land, buildings, and salaries in order to establish choice locations in the best markets. Even Tesla’s hard line against independent owner­ship seems to be softening. Musk has said that he would consider a hybrid dealership model in the future, with the company sharing control.

Then why have dealers so doggedly fought Tesla’s intrusion? Some analysts bring up the specter of China, whose car companies have threatened to export vehicles to the U.S. The present overcapacity in China’s auto plants has analysts wondering where those cars will end up and how the necessary sales networks would be developed. With Tesla’s foot in the door, could China’s invasion with factory stores represent the ultimate existential threat to the franchised dealer? Perhaps.

But even this scenario has an analogue from the past. Daewoo, once one of South Korea’s largest automakers, tried to launch its brand here in 1998 using a direct-sales model. GM acquired Daewoo after it failed, in 2002. Daewoo’s demise had many causes, mainly its terrible cars. Which brings us back to Tesla’s retail success, which is really based not on its distribution model but on selling what has been widely regarded as a remarkable car.


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EPA: VW Guilty of Second Violation for V-6 Diesels, Including VW, Porsche, and Audi TDIs

2015 Volkswagen Touareg TDI

The Environmental Protection Agency has accused Volkswagen of violating the Clean Air Act a second time as it named six late-model vehicles, including those from Audi and Porsche, with so-called “defeat device” software designed to skirt federal emissions laws.

The 2014 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, 2015 Porsche Cayenne diesel, and 2016 Audi A6, A7, A8, A8L, and Q5 TDI models were cited today in a separate violation from the company’s 482,000 noncompliant 2009–2015 diesels announced by the EPA on September 18. There are roughly 10,000 Touareg and Cayenne models affected and an “unknown volume” of 2016 Audi models.

Volkswagen, in a statement from Wolfsburg headquarters, denied allegations it had purposely cheated emissions on these engines.

“Volkswagen AG wishes to emphasize that no software has been installed in the 3-liter V6 diesel power units to alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner,” the company said. “Volkswagen will cooperate fully with the EPA [to] clarify this matter in its entirety.”

Porsche Cars North America tiptoed more cautiously over the subject.

“We are surprised to learn this information,” the sports-car maker said in a separate statement. “Until this notice, all of our information was that the Porsche Cayenne Diesel is fully compliant.”

Volkswagen previously said it had withdrawn EPA certification for all 2016 diesels since it did not disclose an “auxiliary emissions-control device (AECD)” on the applications. During three lab tests, including some conducted by the California Air Resources Board and Environment Canada, the EPA said these cars—all with 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines—emit up to nine times the allowable nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions when the software detects the vehicle is not being tested. In comparison, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel models expel between 10 and 40 times the allowable NOx emissions.


Specifically, the FTP 75 (federal emissions test procedure) runs for 1370 seconds, and “exactly one second” later, the EPA said the software switched from a “temperature conditioning” mode to a “normal mode”—allowing for “different injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation rate, and common-rail fuel pressure.” When the vehicle runs without sensing any test procedure, the “temperature conditioning” mode is never activated even when cold, the agency said.

Such software is common and completely legal during cold startups, at which point automakers must “light off” the catalytic converter as quickly as possible to gain acceptable emissions levels. In VW’s instance, the “temperature conditioning” mode directed the exhaust to run hot in order to heat the selective catalytic-reduction system—which includes two catalytic converters and urea injection—so they could better reduce NOx. That would have been fine. However, Volkswagen violated the law by not disclosing this software to the EPA and by employing code that explicitly switched the car’s emissions system from a bench-testing mode that actually outperformed federal standards to allowing dirtier emissions under regular conditions.

The EPA has not issued formal penalties nor has the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted any recalls related to these diesel models.

UPDATE 11/2, 4:40 p.m.: This story has been updated to include statements from Volkswagen AG and Porsche Cars North America.

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Seeking Profitability, Tesla Ends $100 Flat Fee for Service

2015 Tesla Model S P90D

Tesla truly is growing up into a real car company, with all the disappointments and bureaucracy a larger organization inevitably brings. Cute, right?

The latest baby step is Tesla’s elimination of its $100 flat-rate fee for “Ranger” service, in which Tesla technicians come to swap a customer’s car for a loaner, bring it to one of 58 service centers, and return the repaired car with the grace of a concierge. As it turns out, that $100 is now a base price and “increases based on your distance from the nearest Tesla service center,” according to Tesla’s website. This “quiet change” occurred a few months ago, says Automotive News, which revealed a few Model S owners had to shell out more than $600 for Ranger service.

Tesla had promised $100 flat fees for Model S and Roadster owners when the Model S debuted in 2012. Hyundai still offers this sort of service for free for three years or 36,000 miles on its Equus flagship, but few automakers ever try it with higher-volume cars, which the Model S slowly is becoming. Earlier in the Model S life cycle, Tesla hand-delivered new cars to any address for the same destination price, no matter how far away customers were. But that also changed. Home delivery only applies when someone lives at least 160 miles away from the nearest service center.

We’ve said it before: Tesla can’t afford to keep these perks as it transitions to 500,000 annual sales, cheaper cars, and attempts to make a profit for more than one quarter. Will nationwide Supercharging at ridiculously high amperage remain free, too? Probably not. Suck down the juice while you still can.

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2017 Ford Escape Spy Photos: A Thorough Refresh Has It Getting Edge-ier

-Three years into its current generation, the Ford Escape shows no sign of slowing down. Sales continue at a gangbusters pace, aided in part by a booming segment. But to keep the Escape vying for the top spot in that segment, the compact sport-ute is going in for a midcycle update for the 2017 model year. What we have here is an early look.

As these photos show, while the Escape appears little changed in profile (even down to its front-fender gills), the front and rear have been restyled. Visible through the camouflage in front, we see that the current Fusion-style front-end treatment is replaced by a face that is more in line with the larger Edge. That means a deeper grille with chunky horizontal bars, a shallower and wider lower air intake, and headlamp units comprised of dual, rectangular elements underlined by an LED strip. At the rear, the tailgate has been restyled and the taillamps made smaller, but the rear glass and the bumper area look to be unchanged.


The current Escape hews to convention with its choice of front- or all-wheel drive, and the updated model is sure to do the same. It remains to be seen whether Ford will rejigger the three-engine powertrain lineup: 168-hp 2.5-liter four, 178-hp 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four, and 240-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo four. If anything, the 1.6 might be swapped out for Ford’s newer 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. On the infotainment and technology fronts, the Escape is already due to get Sync 3 for 2016, so that’s sure to carry over to the new model—although it could add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

Through the first three quarters of this year, the Honda CR-V is out in front in the compact-SUV race (259K), with the Escape in second (230K) and the Toyota RAV4 close behind (227K). The Escape, however, had been in the top spot some months, and Ford surely is hoping the 2017 update will help get it back there.

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2017 Ford Escape Spy Photos: A Thorough Refresh Has It Getting Edge-ier

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2017 Bentley Bentayga Dissected: Design, Interior, Chassis, and More

2017 Bentley Bentayga

That beguiling scent wafting through the harvest air is familiar: Oh, yeah, it’s the smell of money. Markets are roiling, inflation’s down, and the great recession is a shrinking speck in the rearview mirror. The wealthy have itchy wallets. They’re amenable to freshening their fleets and sharing a whiff of their good fortune with the world at large. READ MORE ››

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2017 Bentley Bentayga – Feature

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Claiming 280+ MPH, Hennessey Bringing E85-Capable Venom GT to SEMA

Hennessey Venom GT

As we noted last year, John Hennessey claims that his upcoming Venom F5 will do 290 mph. You may remember that Hennessey’s current Venom GT went 270.49 miles per hour at the Kennedy Space Center. That he’s bringing a Venom GT to SEMA is no surprise. Nor is his claim that he’s found over 200 more ponies running on E85. The man is nothing if not horsepower hungry, and alcohol’s anti-detonation properties allow Hennessey to turn up the twin-turbocharged 7.0-liter LS2-based engine’s boost from 19 to 26 psi.

The result? According to Hennessey, 207 more horsepower for a total of 1451. 60 mph will arrive in 2.4 seconds, with 100 coming just two seconds later. The sprint to 200 should take 12.8 seconds. The projected quarter-mile time is 9.4 seconds at 167 mph. Conveniently, the E85 car’s top-speed prediction slots in right between the Venom GT’s Cape Canaveral run and the future F5’s alleged top speed.

The Lotus-faced rocket sled won’t be around much longer. John Hennessey says his company plans to produce “a handful” of Venom GTs in 2016. We do, however, expect some Putin-esque feats of manly speed from the Texas tuning shop. So like, be on the lookout for those.

2015 SEMA Show Full Coverage

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2016 Cadillac CT6 Priced: Caddy’s De Facto Flagship Actually Not All that Expensive

2016 Cadillac CT6

We now know two things about Cadillac’s all-new CT6 sedan that we didn’t know before. First, how much it costs, and second, that its alphanumeric name apparently is an acronym for “Cadillac Touring 6″ sedan. (The “S” in sedan, it seems, didn’t make the acronymic cut.) In spite of the CT6’s general largesse, it will start at an entirely reasonable $54,490 when it arrives in March, a few thousand dollars more than the CTS and less than the price of a decently optioned BMW 3-series.

Of course, $54K only buys you the CT6 with its entry-level powertrain, a 272-hp turbocharged four-cylinder driving the rear wheels. For another $2000, buyers can step up to the mid-level, 335-hp 3.6-liter V-6, which also brings all-wheel drive to the party. Finally, a bigger jump to $65,390 nets the CT6’s 400-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 and, again, all-wheel drive. Cadillac hasn’t specified prices for each of the CT6’s three available trim packages (Luxury, Premium, and Platinum) or the plug-in-hybrid variant but mentions that a top-flight Platinum will crest $84,000. Even at that strata, the CT6 is only slightly pricier than the base 2016 BMW 7-series and a few grand more than a starter Lexus LS460.

Furthermore, the CT6’s standard equipment roster is generous, with full-LED exterior lighting, a 10.2-inch touch-screen display with navigation, an 8.0-inch digital gauge-cluster display, an eight-speaker Bose audio system, GM’s 4G LTE data connection and in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, 14-way power driver and passenger seats, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, and more. A full-bore Platinum comes packed with active rear-wheel steering, adaptive suspension dampers, a 34-speaker Bose Panaray audio system, 20-way heated and cooled front seats, a 12-inch gauge-cluster display, night vision, a head-up display, a panoramic sunroof, automatic emergency braking, a self-parking feature, a power-operated trunk, and a full suite of active safety features.

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