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What The Hell Is Going On With America’s Auto Safety Regulation

Photo: AP

Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.


1st Gear: Do You Want To Run NHTSA?

So, believe it or not, we’re nearing the 100 day mark of Donald Trump’s fledgling presidency. Wooosh, time flies. Trump has signed a flurry of executive orders but what he hasn’t done is fill hundreds of jobs in his administration. There’s one in particular that’s pretty relevant to the auto industry, and that got some of Trump’s critics thinking: Is this guy going to appoint a car exec to run the industry’s regulatory agency?


Rosemary Shahan, president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety group, said she would not be surprised if Trump reaches out to an auto executive to fill the position of National Highway Traffic Safety administrator, vacant since Trump took office in January.

“He has a penchant of appointing people who have been regulated and allowing them to dismantle agencies,” Shahan continued. “You have all these companies who have been under investigations for safety violations recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if he appointed somebody from one of them. It would be consistent with his other appointments.”

The Detroit News notes this isn’t unusual based on Trump’s predecessors, but his critics have space to air this sort of thing because the president has, for instance, appointed a banking exec to run the U.S. treasury, an Exxon guy to run the state department, a former banker to run commerce. And… there’s no possible names for NHTSA’s top position floating around D.C.

No names for candidates appear to be circulating among industry and government insiders in Washington. Several have said it does not appear that filling the position is a high priority for the president, who has yet to make numerous appointments in the government.

But Shahan speculates on one potential candidate: General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

“He seems to be very friendly with her,” Shahan said of Trump’s relationship with GM’s chief, noting he has named Barra to a Strategic and Policy Forum that advises him on economic issues and jobs growth, and met with her in Washington on at least two occasions.

The White House didn’t want to comment to the News, but hey, if you’re interested in the job, give them a shout.


2nd Gear: Ghosn Spikes A Merger

Carlos Ghosn, man of many hustles, may have stepped down as CEO of Nissan, but the guy still holds the title of chairman at the automaker, as well as at Mitsubishi. Nissan recently announced it was acquiring a significant stake in Mitsubishi, which is set to face the cost-cutting wrath of Ghosn.


But he has heard your talk of merging the two. And Ghosn says hell no.

“Full merger is not on the table. We want Mitsubishi to reform itself,” said Ghosn, who was attending the opening ceremony of a new Mitsubishi factory on the outskirts of Jakarta.

He also said it was likely for Mitsubishi and Nissan to cross-manufacture in areas where it makes sense.

Last year, Nissan bought a controlling stake in Mitsubishi for $2.3 billion after the smaller automaker admitted to cheating on mileage tests.

It has been a struggle for Mitsubishi, but Reuters says the automaker’s studying joint production of pickup trucks in Asia, and the company’s CEO optimistically estimates it’ll have a 10 percent cut of Indonesia’s car market by 2020. If it gets there, it’ll be doing it alone.

3rd Gear: China Wants To Sell 7 Million New Energy Vehicles By 2025


China’s proposed regulation to have electric vehicles comprise a larger chunk of vehicle sales by next decade has been in the news frequently lately, and now the country’s government is saying it wants to have 7 million sold annually by 2025. From Reuters:

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a market “road map” that China’s urbanization drive and the overseas expansion of its automakers would help drive annual vehicle sales up around 25 percent from last year’s total.

Automakers in China, the world’s largest automobile market with sales of 28 million vehicles in 2016, are increasingly pushing into electric and hybrid vehicles to meet stringent new government quotas.

Sales of new energy vehicles should reach 2 million by 2020 and account for more than 20 percent of total vehicle production and sales by 2025, the ministry said. That implied annual NEV sales of over 7 million within the next decade.

Bring on the electrification.

4th Gear: Lyft Drivers Are In ‘Hell’



Uber has a toolbox of secret hacking tools with goofy codenames, and one recent revelation showed the ride-hailing giant spared no expense to track drivers for competitor Lyft. The reason? To lure them to drive solely for Uber. That particular project went a tad further than what we reported last month, and it had a funny name of its own: Hell.

Now, Lyft drivers are suing Uber over putting them there. From Bloomberg:

Uber engaged in “illegal, surreptitious, and unauthorized remote electronic surveillance” and intruded on the privacy of Lyft drivers, according to the complaint filed Monday as a class action in San Francisco federal court.

From 2014 to 2016, the spyware allowed Uber employees or its contractors to pose as Lyft customers and access the location of as many as eight Lyft drivers at one time, through their unique Lyft IDs, according to the complaint. The goal was to identify drivers who worked for both companies so they could be targeted with incentives to primarily work for Uber, according to the complaint.

Ride-hailing’s a cutthroat world, and when you take a firm stance against regulation, Hell is fair play, I guess.


5th Gear: Amazon Also Getting Into Self-Driving Cars

Last week, it was Apple. This week, Amazon revealed serious self-driving car ambitions of its own.

Amazon didn’t comment on the report from The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed people familiar with the project, but the newspaper said a team of about a dozen employees are serving as “an in-house think tank to figure out how to leverage autonomous vehicles.” The tech behemoth has no plans to build a vehicle of its own, according to the WSJ.



But as Automotive News notes, the company’s worked to be on the forefront of the automotive industry.

Amazon consistently has been edging into the automotive space. It launched Amazon Vehicles, a vehicle-research portal, in August; it has long partnered with major aftermarket suppliers to deliver products; and its voice-activated virtual assistant, Alexa, has made its way into connectivity systems in Ford, BMW, Hyundai-Genesis and Volkswagen vehicles.

VW is directly integrating Alexa into a vehicle infotainment system, as opposed to Alexa being connected through a smartphone.

Amazon won a patent in January for autonomous vehicles to navigate lanes in both directions, so it isn’t terribly surprising to see the company’s self-driving ambitions are expanding. But the AV field is getting pretty crowded.

Reverse: RIP Alboreto

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April US auto sales seen down nearly 2 percent: JD Power and LMC

DETROIT U.S. auto sales in April likely fell almost 2 percent from a year earlier, with consumer discounts remaining at levels high enough to threaten the industry’s long-term health, industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said on Tuesday.

The consultancies also lowered their full-year 2017 forecast for new vehicle sales to 17.5 million units, from a previous forecast of 17.6 million.

April U.S. new vehicle sales will be about 1.48 million units, a drop of nearly 2 percent from 1.51 million units a year earlier, the consultancies said.

The forecast was based on the first 13 selling days of the month. Automakers are expected to report April U.S. sales results on May 2.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for the month will be 17.5 million vehicles, flat versus the same month in 2016.

Retail sales to consumers, which do not include multiple fleet sales to rental agencies, businesses and government, were set to decline more than 0.2 percent in April.

U.S. sales of new cars and trucks hit a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. But as the market has begun to saturate, automakers have been hiking incentives to entice consumers to buy.

Fears that the U.S. auto industry has peaked were stoked earlier this month when automakers released sales figures for March that came in at an annualized rate of around 16.6 million, below market expectations of 17.2 million units.

“While industry retail sales pace remains high, it is being powered by elevated levels of incentive spending which pose a serious threat to the long-term health of the industry,” said Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power.

Excessive discounts can help sell new vehicles, but undermine resale prices.

The consultancies said consumer discounts averaged $3,499 per new vehicle sold, the highest ever for the month of April. The previous record was set in April 2009, during the height of the Great Recession.

But the average vehicle price also hit a new record for the month of $31,380.

Inventory levels at major automakers have also become a concern as sales have apparently hit a peak.

The average number of days a new vehicle sits on a dealer’s lot before being sold hit 70 in the first 13 days of April, the highest level for any month since July 2009.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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These auto show hotties know way more about cars than you do

This column will be about car models and their high cost.

But not Chevy Camaros, Maseratis or even the Lamborghini Centenario.

This is about models with names like Nicole, Sara, Caroline, Meghan and hundreds more who last week wore very tight dresses and high heels and talked about one of the roughly 1,000 cars at the New York International Auto Show.

These are more than just a bunch of pretty faces. They are experts on their specific car — and are able to talk with any of the more than 1 million New York auto show attendees about chassis, thrust and any other auto part that is a double entendre.

If you are looking for someone to object to this sort of behavior, I’m going to disappoint you.

The women, as I said, are all well-equipped to talk cars — having gone to school on the technical stuff. And some guys might even be listening to what they have to say.

Entertaining the attendees is exactly what any car company worth its four wheels is aiming at. And that’s why the companies spend millions of dollars a year on these beautiful female “accoutrements.”

“It’s a great gig. It pays well,” says Meghan Tarmey, who had worked the auto show circuit for five years before founding her own New York City company called the Caddy Girls, which provides — you guessed it — beautiful caddies for high-end golf tournaments.

Tarmey says women can earn anywhere from $250 to over $1,000 a day working auto shows, depending on the brand they are representing. “The higher the price of the car, the better the pay.”

You may not know this if you are particularly New York-centric, but each year there are 66 auto shows — 41 of which are international in nature — run by Auto Shows of North America.

It’s like a traveling circus and, while some of the show dates overlap, it is possible for some models to work 18 of the larger shows during the car show season — which stretches from the Miami show in September to the grand finale, New York, in mid-April.

That’s a total of 96 days, meaning it is possible for the better-paid models to earn nearly six figures — or the price of a gently used Bentley.

Abeba Davis is another of the “product specialists” — one of the terms the auto companies insist that the women use when talking to customers (and journalists). Davis, who’s working for Infiniti, is extremely discreet about how much she makes, which is OK since I won’t tell her my salary either.

But she will say that the perks are great. In addition to bolstering her modeling and acting portfolio — which already includes Pepsi and other print ads — Davis says the car companies treat them well. “They take care of your travel, your expenses and your wardrobe.”

In the case of two models — er, “specialists” — working the Alfa Romeo display, that includes dresses shipped straight from Italian designers.

The carmakers don’t like to talk about their models (the women, not the cars) or the costs associated with this marketing maneuver.

They also won’t discuss why male models are seldom used. After all, 51 percent of attendees at the 2016 New York auto show were women.

“[The models] aren’t all women,” said a spokesman for General Motors. “We have men presenting as well.”

OK, OK. Back off. I said I don’t care.

And “we aren’t going to talk about budget,” this GM rep added. In fact, GM wouldn’t talk about anything since its auto show manager never got back to me.

But that’s OK. Others know the secrets of the women who do this kind of work.

Chris Hanna, who with his wife, Caryn, owns TSM Agency, provides a lot of “car show girls” as well as models for trade shows, auto races and anywhere else a pretty woman is deemed necessary.

Hanna says auto companies can spend thousands a week for “top tier” women for each show, especially since the models often work in teams of up to 24. Each one gets her own car — to promote, not to own— which she knows fender to fender.

“They spend a lot money on this. More than the average person would think,” Hanna says.

Just look at the TSM Agency Web site — — and you’ll not only see how above-average the models are but, more important, you’ll also notice how many women want to caress cars at these shows.

There is one blemish on this pretty picture.

While it’s not quite a disaster yet, carmakers have been having a rough spell of late. March vehicle sales fell below expectations, and unsold inventories at companies like GM are rising faster than some experts think is healthy.

While this isn’t likely to knock the car models out of their pumps, some experts think they’ll end up on a fiscal diet.

Already the automakers are using women who live in the cities where the exhibits are being held to cut down on travel costs.

And some models are sharing Airbnb accommodations because the snazzy hotel accommodations are being downgraded to three-star ones.

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Construction starting on $95M auto parts plant in Detroit

Eleven months ago, Pakistani-born billionaire Shahid Khan promised to build a high-tech factory employing hundreds of workers at a failed industrial park in Detroit.

On Monday,   the promise is one step closer to becoming a reality when Khan, the owner of Flex-N-Gate; Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and others are  to break ground on the $95-million manufacturing facility that will create up to 750 jobs at the I-94 Industrial Park.

The global auto supplier is to be the newest tenant at the industrial park and is committed to hiring Detroiters first, with a Detroit-based, minority-owned contractor to lead construction, the city announced in a news release Sunday.

The groundbreaking on the Flex-N-Gate facility will be held at its future site at 7000 Georgia St., in the industrial park, northeast of I-94 and I-75 interchange.

Also on

Flex-N-Gate confirms $95-million Detroit investment

How Detroit landed $95 million Flex-N-Gate deal

The development is another economic shot in the arm for a city that has been plagued by chronic unemployment and, according to an article last  May by the Free Press, is to bring jobs to an area of the city with the highest unemployment.

The company has a website — — for the new facility, at which it states that it is accepting applications for professional, management, skilled trades and production.

The 186-acre industrial park has sat vacant for nearly 15 years.

The Free Press previously reported that Flex-N-Gate planned to build a  plant to supply parts to Ford and that the deal came together in just half a year’s time, in part because of the personal involvement of Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford.

Ford owns the Detroit Lions and Khan owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the two football team owners having the opportunity to talk from time to time.

Duggan said in a prior article that Ford “intervened on this personally. You had the advantage of a couple of NFL teams talking to each other.”

“Building a new plant from the ground up within the Detroit city limits will be a milestone moment for Flex-N-Gate, made possible thanks to our partnership and collaboration with Ford, the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan,” Khan said in a statement last May.

Khan’s company was to commit to occupy a 30-acre portion of the industrial park, which was established in 1999.

Khan, who has been accused by the UAW of underpaying workers at factories in Texas and elsewhere, said in May that the jobs at the Detroit factory were to pay “in the mid-to-high $20s per hour.”​ The new plant, he said, was to initially create about 400 jobs with the potential of leading up to 750 jobs.

“The headline is about jobs. Hundreds of outstanding, well-paying jobs,” Khan previously said. ”The kinds of jobs that were really the backbone of the middle class and really the definition of the American dream when I came here in ’67.”

Khan has owned Flex-N-Gate for more than three decades. The company has made bumpers, plastic trim components and mechanical assemblies for Ford, but it has not disclosed what parts the company would make at the new production and sequencing facility in Detroit.

In October, the company qualified for a tax-free designation, which was expected to save it more than $1 million a year for 10 years. Earlier last year, it received a $3.5-million grant from the state to help it open the plant.

Contact Christina Hall: Follow her on Twitter @challreporter. Staff writer Matthew Dolan contributed to this report.

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Critics fear Trump will tap auto exec for NHTSA

Washington — Car-safety advocates are worried that President Donald Trump might turn over the keys to the agency charged with regulating the safety of the nation’s automobiles to someone from within the industry’s ranks.

Rosemary Shahan, president of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety group, said she would not be surprised if Trump reaches out to an auto executive to fill the position of National Highway Traffic Safety administrator, vacant since Trump took office in January.

“He has a penchant of appointing people who have been regulated and allowing them to dismantle agencies,” Shahan continued. “You have all these companies who have been under investigations for safety violations recently. I wouldn’t be surprised if he appointed somebody from one of them. It would be consistent with his other appointments.”

No names for candidates appear to be circulating among industry and government insiders in Washington. Several have said it does not appear that filling the position is a high priority for the president, who has yet to make numerous appointments in the government.

But Shahan speculates on one potential candidate: General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

“He seems to be very friendly with her,” Shahan said of Trump’s relationship with GM’s chief, noting he has named Barra to a Strategic and Policy Forum that advises him on economic issues and jobs growth, and met with her in Washington on at least two occasions.

The White House declined to comment on the president’s plans for filling the vacancy. GM would not comment on whether Barra would be interested in the regulatory job.

Barra, who became the first woman to lead an automaker in January 2014, is in a strong position at her company, which is posting record profits. She has assembled a cohesive team of executives who all stand to earn substantial bonuses if they remain with the company.

Trump has appointed other high-level business executives to serve in his Cabinet: Former Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson is U.S. secretary of state. Investor Wilbur Ross is commerce secretary. Additionally, Trump selected school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos, a West Michigan GOP mega-donor and philanthropist, to be his education secretary. World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon leads the Small Business Administration.

“If he appoints someone from the auto industry, there is going to be a lot of concern on the Hill and among groups like ours,” said former Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook, who was National Highway Traffic Safety administrator during the Carter administration in the late 1970s. “That’s a real conflict of interest. You need someone who is more even-minded about what needs to be done.”

Trump has signed an executive order that requires the federal government to cut two regulations for every one that’s enacted. He has proposed cutting $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s current budget levels as part of his effort to cut non-military spending by $54 billion to support an increase in defense funding. NHTSA is a subsidiary of the transportation department.

Shahan, the safety group president, expressed concern that an industry insider would target regulations that address auto safety.

“He’s on a deregulation kick,” she said. “That’s not comforting. That’s worrisome. Is the new administrator at NHTSA going to deregulate auto safety? He’s so fixated on threats from outside the U.S. that he doesn’t consider that there are threats to us domestically like auto crashes. When he talks about threats to our safety, he’s talking about ISIS.”

NHTSA and other federal agencies have career staffers who remain in place when presidential administrations change. It will likely be hard for Trump to make drastic changes to auto regulations before naming a new top highway safety cop.

Jeff Davis, senior fellow with the independent Eno Center for Transportation think tank in Washington, said Trump is not tardy with his NHTSA choice by recent historical standards. He noted that Obama did not nominate his first NHTSA administrator until nearly 11 months after taking office. President George W. Bush did not nominate his first until five months after moving into the White House. And President Bill Clinton did not nominate his first NHTSA administrator until 13 months after taking office.

Davis said the NHTSA vacancy is not impeding the Trump administration’s ability to police safety regulations.

“Legally, the authority to issue and revise motor vehicle safety standards … is vested in the secretary of transportation,” he said. “The secretary can delegate or un-delegate that authority to the NHTSA administrator as they see fit, but the important thing is that the regulation-and-recall process can be carried out by the career staff of NHTSA and put into legal effect by the secretary in the absence of a confirmed NHTSA administrator.”

Claybrook, the former NHTSA administrator, said she started working at the agency three months after Jimmy Carter became president. “Agency heads are usually the last ones to get appointed,” she said.

But she said the highway safety agency needs a strong administrator because it has “always been a bit of a stepchild among agencies” and it is “desperately underfunded.”

“You need someone who is talented to fight those battles,” she said of the effort to convince Congress to spend more money on such things as hiring staff to monitor potential safety recalls. “There are quite a number of opportunities to save lives that there is no leadership on right now.”

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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Auto Club Speedway now a beloved NASCAR race track

FONTANA There was a time when Auto Club Speedway was derided by NASCAR Nation.

“There’s no getting around the reality that 500-mile Fontana parades are not very exciting,” veteran NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck wrote in SB Nation in 2010. “The drivers always claim it’s exciting, but they’re not watching the races … but most of the race was a bore-fest. I won’t try to argue otherwise.”

There were hundreds who felt that way. But not any more.

“I love race tracks like this,” said Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series points leader Kyle Larson, who won Sunday’s Auto Club 400, along with Saturday’s Xfinity Series Service King 300. “It’s big and wide and it suites my style.”

Auto Club Speedway is the “in” place, now.

It is now held in reverence with some of the old Southern tracks.

“We used to have the Darlington stripe,” seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty said on Sunday of the cars skimming along the walls. “Now it’s the California stripe.”

Fox Sports’ Jamie Little then alluded it to what fellow broadcaster and three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip called it on Saturday: “The California Crush.”

What took open-wheel cars only a few seasons to do, it took NASCAR 20 years. IndyCar drivers have always loved the various racing lines. It took NASCAR’s drivers a lot longer to grow fond. Sunday’s race had 17 lead changes among eight drivers.

The racing surface has never been repaved and now NASCAR has four racing lines and drivers use the track from the wall down to the apron.

“It makes it interesting for the drivers and makes it interesting to watch,” said Petty, who retired in 1992, five years before ACS opened. “If everything is smooth and if everything is neat and a perfect situation, anybody can go out and get around a race track pretty good. You have got to have a challenge at any race track in order to make racing. To separate the men from the boys.

“Auto Club Speedway’s track got older and it’s cracks got bigger. It’s gotten a lot more competitive. When we first came here, it was a one-groove race track. Right now it’s in the best shape it’s been.”

The secret, apparently, has been keeping track, bumps, grooves, seams and all, exactly the same for all these years, with the wear and tear.

“In 2003 the high lines started opening up and you could see cars on the apron,” Michael Waltrip said.

Numerous cars brushed the wall in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 and Saturday’s Xfinity Service King 300.

“I remember (racing) single-file not too long ago,” third-place finisher Clint Bowyer said. “Now all heck breaks loose. It’s a fast race track with a lot of grooves. It is a very challenging track.”

The drivers now consider it their favorite track.

“What an awesome race track,” said Joey Logano, who finished fifth. “It is so much fun. You can run anywhere you want and the racing is great. You have tire fall out and bumps. There is everything here.

“This is the perfect race track. I wish we would came here more often because this is the best race track we come to.”

NASCAR had been missing from Southern California for a decade with the closures of Riverside International Raceway and then Ontario Motor Speedway in the 1980s. Car and track owner Roger Penske’s idea was to create another Southern California major racing venue. The first race was in 1997, won by Jeff Gordon.

Penske built the track on the 560-acre superfund Kaiser Steel site.

“For me, I wanted to race out here and have a track,” Penske said.

“Racing was a Southern sport,” Petty said. “We got sponsors like STP that wanted to advertise all over country and build tracks in different places. We got TV. It took a long time to get it out of the South. I’m glad we can go over all over world with it.”

Michigan, at the time owned by Penske, was built 30 years earlier.

“We really looked at Michigan as a template,” Penske said. “We have a little more banking and more apron. You can mess up so easily building these things. We wanted to keep the Michigan-style race track with a little more banking and that made the difference.”

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The 2017 New York International Auto Show: best of the rest | Ars …

NEW YORK—There has been much to see at this year’s New York International Auto Show. Ford had a new hybrid police car. Cadillac brought its new race car—unbeaten in 2017—and a new semi-autonomous system that uses head-tracking to know if the driver is paying attention. Range Rover added a fourth SUV to its line-up, and Genesis showed us a rather attractive fuel cell concept. And Honda is finally bringing a proper Civic Type R to these shores. Elsewhere in our coverage we chose our picks of the show, but there were a few more vehicles that caught our eye after two days of walking the floors of the Javits Center.

Like the Dodge Demon. Dodge had already made its mark on the 21st century muscle-car market with the 707hp (527kW) Hellcat. You’d think the Hellcat would be sufficiently terrifying, but the Demon’s specs blow it out of the water. The 6.2L supercharged Hemi V8 has 840hp (626kW) and 770lb-ft (1045Nm) at its beck and call. Optimized for the drag strip, the Demon can hit 60mph from a standstill in 2.3 seconds and reaches the quarter-mile in 9.65 seconds. Dodge even chucked out the front and rear passenger seats to save more weight, although you can add them back as a $1 option (yes, you read that correctly).

Mercedes-AMG was also feeling the need to display some powerful V8 metal. It’s shoehorned its 4.0L twin-turbo V8 into the GLC SUV and coupe. The pick of these would be the GLC63 S Coupe, with 505hp (376kW), a new nine-speed automatic transmission, and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. Knowing AMG’s reputation, we bet nothing else on the school run would sound like it.

There was yet another GT-R from Nissan, and a hybrid Panamera Turbo from Porsche. If those don’t push your performance button, how about Bugatti’s new Chiron? The new Bugatti has have stupendous performance, its top speed still unknown but electronically limited to 261mph (400km/h).

For those who consider the idea of a massive 16-cylinder, 8.0L, 1,479hp (1,103kW) engine socially unacceptable in 2017, take a look at the Rimac Concept_One. Rimac is the Croatian company behind some very clever electric powertrains, including the Pikes Peak hill climb car we went to see in 2016.

Check out all of those, and more, in the gallery and video above.

Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin

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The 7 most interesting cars at the Shanghai auto show – The Verge

Auto show season marches on. The end of the New York International Auto Show signals the beginning of Auto Shanghai 2017, and this year there was no shortage of gorgeous cars with interesting designs and bizarre-looking technology. Let’s take a look at some of the major reveals from the show.

Renault R.S. 2027

At first blush, the Renault R.S. 2027 is an elegant concept racecar packed with LED lights. But for a concept, it’s actually pretty timid. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on your point of view. On one hand, the ideas Renault is suggesting with the car (four wheel drive, better fuel efficiency, increased fan engagement) are a more practical take on the next 10 years of Formula One.

But on the other, why bother with a concept car if you’re only going to aim for practicality? Most of the ideas Renault proposed with the R.S. 2027 were already being worked on, if not by F1, then by its closest competitors. We’re not saying concept cars should only be used to propose impossible ideas. We’re just saying it would’ve been nice to hear something a little bit crazier from Renault.

Lynk Co.

Lynk Co, a Volvo-sibling startup owned by Chinese automaker Geely, might not be the first company to suggest shared ownership of a car — but it doubled down on the idea this week with the 03 concept, a staid but smart sedan to compliment the SUV that was announced last fall. You might own this car one day, or you might split it with your family. Or maybe you’ll only rent it when you need it, allowing others to access the car during the times when the only thing controlling its movement are gravity and the parking brake.

Unlike some other recent car startups with questionable futures, Lynk Co at least has a lineage that makes one believe the company can survive the slog of making cars at a significant volume. Lynk Co hopes the 03 concept can make a few waves, but it’s hard to break into an already turbulent auto industry.


NIO (née NextEV) is being frustratingly vague about its all-electric concept SUV. We reached out to the Chinese startup about battery power and range, and all we got back were specs on the ES8’s dimensions, suspension, and all-wheel drive. These are not the specs most people want from their electric cars. People want to know how far they can drive it, and how much storage it has. To this NIO says, “TK.”

NIO previously has showed off an ultrafast supercar, a self-driving concept, and not much else. So whether or not the ES8 actually makes it to production is anyone’s guess. And aside from Tesla’s Model X, there aren’t many electric SUVs on the market. So it would be nice to have a few more to choose from.

Audi E-tron Sportback

Look at that glowing badge on the front of Audi’s new E-tron Sportback concept! Nothing says “Hi, I’m from the future” like a glowing badge, which explains why other automakers like Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti have also slapped illuminated logos on the grilles of their futuristic concepts. It’s a like digital kiss from a cold and distant robot.

Which is not to say that the Sportback isn’t a nifty car. Audi says it will have 320 kilowatts of power — in addition to a “boost mode” to 370 kW — and can sprint to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds. A 95 kWh battery pack will enable just over 310 miles of range per charge, though that will probably be closer to 275 miles, given that the German carmaker uses the European rating system for electric vehicle range. The automaker says the new electric coupe crossover will hit the market in 2019, about a year after the Quattro E-tron, Audi’s first electric concept which it introduced back in 2015.

Volkswagen I.D. Crozz

It’s not as sharp as the E-Tron concept, but Volkswagen’s I.D. Crozz SUV concept still looks pretty good in renderings. As we learned from the plasticky and frankly kind of gross interior of the I.D. Buzz microbus in Detroit, concept renderings aren’t everything. But an electric crossover SUV seems more likely to actually hit the road than the microbus revival Volkswagen so clearly loves to tease, so here’s hoping the company can eventually deliver on things like the 300-plus mile range and quick charging capabilities. After all, VW’s got a lot of ozone to make up for.

Mercedes-Benz Concept A Sedan

Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is building some beautiful concepts these days. At the Geneva Motor Show, Merc gave us the gorgeous Mercedes-AMG GT Concept, and now it brought the Concept A Sedan to Shanghai. It’s a hint at what the German carmaker’s next generation of compact cars will look like, embodied by Mercedes’ “sensual purity” design language. The head of design for Daimler says it “shows that the time of creases is over,” with “perfect proportions and a sensual treatment of surfaces with reduced lines.” OK then. Looks good, though, right?

MG E-motion

MG Motor hasn’t appeared much — or at all — on this site, but the UK-based brand’s latest concept, the E-motion, seems tailor made for The Verge. A powerful electric powertrain wrapped up in the body of a wickedly voluptuous sports coupe, the E-motion is both fun and environmentally sustainable. MG, a subsidiary of Shanghai’s SAIC Motor, says the vehicle will go 0-to-62 mph in under four seconds, and will boast a range of more than 310 miles on a single charge. Those are pretty incredible numbers, so hopefully MG will see this particular concept through to the end.

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Feeling Pressed by Beijing, Auto Makers Set Plans to Build Electric Cars in China

SHANGHAI—The world’s top auto makers are gearing up to build electric cars in China, despite concerns about market demand and the potential their technology could be compromised in a market with weak safeguards for intellectual property.

Companies including Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. set out plans for electric-car…

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Sears to close 50 auto centers, 92 Kmart pharmacies to cut costs

Sears Holdings plans to close scores of Sears Auto Center locations and underperforming Kmart pharmacies as part of its effort to cut costs by $1.25 billion this year.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer already has closed 150 stores nationally — including two in downstate Illinois — in cost-cutting efforts, but more needs to be done in this “very challenging retail environment,” Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert said Friday in a news release.

“We need to take further action,” he said.

The closures and other steps the company already has taken add up to $700 million in annual savings. Closing 50 Sears Auto Center locations and 92 pharmacy operations in certain Kmart stores will help the company reach its $1.25 billion cost-cutting goal, which it increased from a previous target of $1 billion.

Sears, once a stalwart, has 'substantial doubt' about future

Sears, once a stalwart, has ‘substantial doubt’ about future

Sears, a back-to-school shopping destination for generations of kids, has said that after years of losing money that there is “substantial doubt” it will be able to keep its doors open. But it also insisted that its actions to turn around its business should help reduce that risk.

It was still…

Sears, a back-to-school shopping destination for generations of kids, has said that after years of losing money that there is “substantial doubt” it will be able to keep its doors open. But it also insisted that its actions to turn around its business should help reduce that risk.

It was still…

(Anne D’Innocenzio and Hannah Weikel)

The embattled retailer did not give a timeline for the store closures. Company spokesman Chris Brathwaite said he did not have a list of which locations are scheduled to close.

The company also plans to eliminate senior management roles at Sears and Kmart, though it has not said how many.

Some employees were notified Friday that they would be losing their jobs, Brathwaite said. The rest will be told in the coming weeks.

“We obviously don’t take these decisions lightly,” he said. “But in order to be a more competitive retailer and return the company to profitability, we need to look for ways to streamline the operations.”

Twitter @AllyMarotti

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