(LANSING) -- Brad Keselowski received a Senate Resolution honoring him as the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cub Series Champion. The ceremony took place at the Michigan State Capital Thursday, January 31.
PICTURED: Brad receiving the NASCAR Trophy, from left to right, Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Speaker of The House Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.
Photo submitted by Capital Correspondent Robert Benko
(DETROIT) -- Ford's all-new full size 2014 Transit van will provide professional tradesmen and commercial fleet customers with unmatched fuel economy, innovative new configurations and leading versatility in the expanding commercial vehicle market. "The all-new Transit is a game changer," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's President of The Americas. "Transit raises the game for our customers in North America and around the world with even greater work capability and significantly lower operating costs, helping improve their productivity and bottom lines. With global commercial vehicle sales expected to grow by 4.8 million during the next several years to 21 million units annually by 2017, Transit represents a major opportunity.
Transit joins the most fuel-efficient lineup in Ford Motor Company's history. Ford will offer eight vehicles rated at 40 mpg or higher in 2013-double the 2011 total and more than any other automaker.
The all-new Ford Transit will achieve an average of 25-percent better fuel economy and haul at least 300 pounds more than today's E-series.
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Photo submitted by Robert Benko
(DETROIT) -- The Lincoln MKC concept is one more signal that the Lincoln Motor Company intends to become a major contender in the premium market. The all-new vehicle previews Lincoln's entry into the fast-growing global small premium utility segment while building on the launch of the all-new MKZ midsize sedan. Visitors to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit will see the sleek silhouette, athletic stance, and refined proportions. The MKC features a clamshell liftgate, sleek roofline, and premium wheels and tires. The LED lighting is more efficient than standard lights. The technology allows for a thin design and signature execution.
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Photo Submitted by Robert Benko
(DETROIT) -- General Motors unveiled the new Cadillac plug-in luxury coupe based on the plug-in technology of the Chevrolet Volt. The Cadillac ELR is General Motors first luxury electric plug-in in the company's automotive lineup. GM is expected to compete in the California market against the California based all-electric TeslaMotors, a luxury electric car company. The Tesla is an all electric vehicle, the ELR Cadillac has a gasoline engine that backs up its battery. The ELR can also travel 35 miles on a single charge before the gasoline engine takes over. The company did not give the price of the ELR.
STORY AND PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ROBERT BENKO
DETROIT (AP) - The Hot Wheels edition of the Chevrolet Camaro at the Detroit auto show offers a little something for car lovers, kids and kids at heart. General Motors Co. last year announced it would sell the vehicle with Hot Wheels logos and other toy-inspired touches such as red-lined wheels. At the North American International Auto Show, the car sits on an oversized track that appears to swoop down from the ceiling. GM has said that the Hot Wheels edition would be offered as a coupe and convertible in a "Kinetic Blue" paint color. At the car's display in Detroit, visitors can take a digital photo with a Camaro in the background and share it online. There's also a track to jump toy Hot Wheels.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ROBERT BENKO
DETROIT (AP) - The Toyota Corolla is getting a facelift. But the jury is still out on how extreme its makeover should be. Toyota is hinting at a more daring style for the 2014 Corolla with the Furia, a concept car unveiled Monday at the Detroit auto show. The concept allows the cautious company to see how people react to its styling changes before it releases the final version of the Corolla, which is expected to go on sale sometime this year.
The world's largest automaker knows it needs to update the stale Corolla if it wants to attract younger buyers, who have been flocking to newer, more stylish rivals like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. The Corolla was last revamped four years ago.
Even though Corolla's U.S. sales rose 21 percent to 290,947 last year, they trailed the Honda Civic, which was new in 2012. Civic sales jumped 44 percent to 317,909.
Still, it's risky to toy with one of the best-selling cars in the world. Toyota has sold 200,000 Corollas every year in the U.S. for nearly two decades.
"It's a tough balance. How do you appeal to younger buyers without alienating your older one?" says Larry Dominique, a former Nissan executive who is now president of car value forecaster ALG Inc. "And if you make a mistake, it's very expensive to fix."
The Furia ditches the current Corolla's soft, bland styling in favor of sharper lines, a dramatically sloped windshield and hood, narrower and more aggressive headlights and a large, blacked-out grille that's reminiscent of Toyota's luxury Lexus brand. Toyota says it wants the car to look like it's in motion even when it's parked. The Furia is slightly longer, narrower and lower than the current Corolla.
Earl Stewart, a Toyota dealer in North Palm Beach, Fla., thinks the Furia is beautiful. But he worries that it could turn off his customer base of retirees.
"With my customers, the jury is out on what they would say," he says. "Some people just don't like the rocket look about the car. They just want a car. They love Camrys and they love Corollas as they are."
The reliable Corolla is still a strong performer for Stewart, who sells 700 or 800 per year, about one-quarter of his dealership's sales. But Stewart understands that Toyota has to appeal to younger buyers with a sportier look and feel.
"It's risky, but sooner or later, you've got to get into the youth game," he says.
Toyota also needs to up the ante on horsepower, fuel economy and options in an increasingly competitive market. The current Corolla starts at $16,230, slightly more than the Ford Focus. But the Focus has better fuel economy and a more powerful engine. Toyota doesn't offer an optional rearview camera, which is now available on every other competitor, or safety features like blind-spot monitors, which are found on the Chevrolet Cruze and others.
Toyota builds 70 percent of the cars it sells in the U.S. in North America. The Corolla is currently made in Canada. Toyota hasn't yet said where the 2014 Corolla will be made.
The Corolla - which means "crown" in Latin - was introduced in Japan in 1966 and came to the U.S. two years later. The new sedan went a long way toward changing U.S. buyers' perception of Toyota as a maker of cheap, poorly built cars. The Corolla was still inexpensive, but had innovations like two-speed wipers, an improved suspension and more comfortable seats. Buyers were further impressed when Toyota - responding to the U.S. market - quickly added more powerful engines.
As a result, the Corolla became the go-to car for generations of young graduates and their downsizing parents, who bought for quality and price despite the ho-hum styling. Last year, it was surpassed only by the midsize Camry and the hybrid Prius in Toyota's U.S. lineup, and it was the 8th best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
"The Corolla is known as a really great appliance," Dominique said.
Dominique said Toyota has gradually realized that reputation and quality alone can't sell a car that looks boring, especially now that its competitors are turning out cars that are just as good but look a lot better. Toyota lost sales to Hyundai after the Korean automaker brought out a dramatically styled Sonata sedan a few years ago.
Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for the Polk automotive research firm, said Toyota will see how customers and fans react to the Furia show car before making a final decision on the Corolla's design. But Libby thinks bold styling is now the price of admission to the small-car market, and the Furia isn't so radical that it will scare off traditional Corolla buyers.
"It might alienate a few people," said Libby. "But I think it will be viewed by a significant number of people as modern and stylish, and that's way better than prior versions of the Corolla."
DETROIT (AP) - Fast, sleek and 60. That's the next Corvette, being introduced at the Detroit auto show. The 2014 model is so new, it only shares two parts with the current version. General Motors engineers and designers say it won't be gas guzzler, but is slightly faster than the current model. It takes styling cues from the classic 1963 Stingray. Prices haven't been announced, but will be in the current range. The first Corvette was introduced in 1953.
PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY ROBERT BENKO
DETROIT (AP) - The Cadillac ATS and Ram 1500 pickup are the North American Car and Truck of the Year winners. The winners were unveiled Monday morning at Cobo Center in Detroit. Car finalists were the Cadillac ATS, Ford Fusion, and Honda Accord. Truck and utility vehicle finalists were the Ford C-Max, Mazda CX-5, along with the Ram. Forty-nine automotive journalists voted on the winning vehicles from the selected list of finalists. A vehicle must be all new or substantially changed to be eligible. This is the 20th year for the awards. Organizers accept no advertising, though carmakers try to capitalize on the marketing value of the honors.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ROBERT BENKO
(DETROIT) -- U.S. auto sales of light vehicles in December 2012 indicated increases at a reasonable pace of the U.S. automobile companies.
GM sold 245,733 with an increase of 4.9% from 2011
Ford sold 212,902 with an increase of 1.6% from 2011
Toyota sold 194,143 with an increase of 9.0% from 2011
Honda sold 132,774 with an increase of 26.2% from 2011
Chrysler sold 152,317 with an increase of 10.4% from 2011
Hyundai sold 59,435 with an increase of 17.1% from 2011
Nissan sold 99,290 with a decrease of 1.6% from 2011
The Detroit Big Three had 45% of all car sales in December 2012. The prediction for 2012 is an increase of at least 1.5% for all domestic auto makers for a total of 14.2 million vehicles. The actual number sold in 2012 was 14,491,873 with the Detroit Big Three selling 44.78%. The total increase in the U.S. was 13.4% over 2011.
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DETROIT (AP) - Subaru is recalling nearly 634,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. because lights beneath the doors can overheat and cause fires. The recall affects all Outback and Legacy cars from model years 2010 and 2011. Also included are Tribeca SUVs from 2006 through 2012 and Forester SUVs from 2009 through 2012. Subaru says the Tribecas and Foresters were sold before January of 2012. The company says moisture can get into puddle lights beneath the doors and cause a short circuit that can melt plastic and cause fires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website that Subaru will install an additional fuse at no cost to the owners. The recall is expected to begin in February.