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Today’s FirstUp

November 21, 2014 

Takata Learned Early of Air Bag Problems

According to The Wall Street Journal, Takata Corp., the air-bag supplier at the center of a massive recall involving millions of vehicles, knew one of its air bags exploded as early as May 2005 but didn’t investigate it further or warn automakers of a potential defect until two years later. “If there were any communication before [2005], I’m not aware of it,” Hiroshi Shimizu , Takata’s senior vice president of global quality assurance, testified before a Senate committee hearing on Thursday. Mr. Shimizu said Honda Motor Co. provided it with a photo of a ruptured air bag that year, but it was considered an “anomaly” and records didn’t show any air-bag system errors. “We didn’t believe it required further investigation at the time,” Mr. Shimizu told a senate committee in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Takata’s Mr. Shimizu said, “We are currently producing more than 300,000 replacement kits a month and will be increasing those production levels beginning January,” he added. “We believe we will be able to meet the demand currently expected by auto makers for these replacement parts.” For more from yesterday’s Takata air bag hearing on Capitol Hill, click here

VW Says It Will Invest $106 Billion Chasing Toyota for Global Sales Lead
According to Automotive News, Volkswagen Group will keep pouring money into new vehicles, technology, and factories as it chases Toyota Motor Corp. for the lead as world's largest automaker. The automaker plans to invest $106 billion (85.6 billion euros) over the next five years, Europe's biggest manufacturer of cars, vans, and trucks said today in a statement. The plan calls for an increase in average annual spending on auto operations to about 17.1 billion euros a year, compared with 16.8 billion euros under its previous rolling five-year budget. "We will continue to invest in the future to become the leading automotive group in both ecological and economic terms," CEO Martin Winterkorn said in the statement. "Development costs will remain high in the future as a result of high innovation pressure and increasing demands on the automotive industry." Winterkorn has pushed VW to expand in recent years and expects to sell more than 10 million vehicles this year for the first time, four years earlier than initially planned. The German carmaker narrowed Toyota's global sales lead to 72,000 vehicles in the first nine months of 2014 from 227,000 a year earlier. For more on Volkswagen’s plans to oust Toyota from its global sales lead, click here

Honda Odyssey Leads in Crash Tests
According to the Los Angeles Times, several minivans don’t do a good job of protecting occupants in crashes and failed recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests. The Honda Odyssey was the only van among those tested to get a “good” rating and Toyota’s Sienna tested at the “acceptable” level, the insurance group reported Thursday. “Minivans are popular among parents, a group that tends to be safety-conscious, but we’ve only seen two so far that offer decent protection in small overlap crashes," says David Zuby, IIHS’ chief research officer. The safety research group put all the vans through the small overlap front crash test, in which 25 percent of a car's front end on the driver's side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph, with test dummies onboard. “As the only minivan to offer the highest possible IIHS-rated protection in small overlap crashes, car buyers can look to the Honda Odyssey to securely and safely transport what’s most important – their families,” said Art St. Cyr, vice president of auto operations at American Honda Motor Co. For more on the Honda Odyssey’s crash test rating, click here

BMW i3 Wins Green Car of the Year Award
According to USA TodayBMW's i3 on Thursday became the first electric car to be named Green Car of the Year, the top honor among automakers developing eco-friendly cars gathered here at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It wasn't just the car itself that led to the victory, but BMW's entire strategy around sustainable transportation, says Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal, which sponsors the award, in a statement. BMW used innovative technologies, materials, and construction methods in the making of the i3, not just the fact that it is electric. "BMW's i3 is a milestone vehicle in many respects and illustrates the automaker's expansive vision of future motoring," says Cogan in a statement. "It is purposefully designed with a small environmental footprint and zero emissions, offering the best features of an electric vehicle with the functionality of an available on-board engine-generator that nearly doubles its battery electric range." In winning, i3 beats out the other finalists: A3 TDI, Chevrolet Impala Bi-Fuel, Honda Fit, and Volkswagen Golf. It's the 10th year that the honor has been chosen at the Los Angeles Auto Show. For more on the selection of the BMW i3 as Green Car of the Year, click here

CUVs Shine During Los Angeles Auto Show
America's love affair with capability and performance is alive and well judging by debuts at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Dozens of vehicles debuted this week, but crossovers and utility vehicles really stole the headlines. "They're just driving the market right now," said Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell. "For the subcompact SUVS, that's a market evolution. They like the SUV, but they want good fuel economy and they do want that more flexible utility." According to The Detroit News, popular debuts for the growing CUV segment included the 2016 Honda HR-V, 2016Mazda CX-3, and Fiat 500X. The Honda HR-V will serve as the entry point to the Honda light-truck lineup, positioned below the CR-V in both price and size and competing in an all-new segment for the brand. The Mazda CX-3 is the fifth model in Mazda's line-up of new-generation vehicles. The global introduction will start in Japan in the spring 2015, and in the U.S. during the summer. Olivier Francois, Chrysler Group LLC chief marketing officer and head of Fiat brand, called the Fiat 500X subcompact its "answer to the American market," showing numerous playful ads during the vehicle's unveiling Thursday. Find out more about the infusion of CUVs at the LA Auto Show here

Around the Web
BMW Promises Track-Worthy X5 M [CNET]
The All-Electric Audi is Coming [TopGear]
This Beautiful Block of Wood is Where the Fiat 500 Came From [Jalopnik]
Hardcore Mercedes-AMG G63 Spy Shots [MotorAuthority]

 

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