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    Automotive News

    • Ford to introduce new redesigned pickups

      Ford pickup trucks are among the most sought-after vehicles on the market - and with good reason. The automobiles have struck an ideal balance between performance and appearance, and with so many truck mods readily available, it's easy for drivers to customize each machine to meet their needs. While many of the existing truck models rate highly, that hasn't stopped Ford from revamping upcoming editions to create a more comprehensive line of pickups. 

      New Ford models
      Although Ford has been at the forefront of pickup trucks in the U.S. for years, it is continuing to move forward with new models and redesigns. That includes eight new versions of the tremendously popular F-Series. One of the most anticipated new models is the F-150 Tremor half-ton sport truck.

      This vehicle, along with the standard 2015 F-150, will feature an aluminum body for the first time. With the move, Ford shifts away from steel bodies, which could have some far-ranging effects on both the auto industry and aluminum providers.

      Much remains to be seen about how the change in materials will impact the trucks, but there is a good chance a lighter weight and improved fuel economy are among the advancements. In fact, Bloomberg reported that the change could take as many as 750 pounds off of the weight of each truck in an effort to improve performance. 

      "We put so much importance on continuous improvement and making sure that we're delivering a better solution to our customer every year," Doug Scott, Ford's truck marketing manager, told Bloomberg. "It's one of the reasons we have such an aggressive product cadence, and it's what really differentiates us." 

      A positive outlook
      The manufacturer isn't willing to expound too much on the plans for its 2015 models, preferring to keep the focus on the 2014 editions that are currently entering the market. As buzz continues to build around the future vehicles, however, everyone from heavy-duty workers to fans of recreational off-road driving will likely be paying attention to Ford's plans. Of course, they prefer to focus on the 2013 and 2014 models first. 

      "It says that we've got a very competitive product," Scott told the news source of the publicity. "I don't think that there will be any problem once we're sold down completely on the '13s."

      News on the production of 2015 models and big reveals surrounding the automobiles are expected to become known in the coming months. 

    • GM increases the sticker price of its trucks

      Those who like pickup trucks may face an unfortunate rise in the price of their desired vehicles when they head to the dealership. General Motors recently announced that the base price of its 2014 full-size pickup trucks would be raised at least $1,500. With that change, the new prices for a standard model Chevrolet Silverado would reach $26,670 - up from the $24,585 that a new 2013 model cost. 

      A few drivers may be surprised about the price increase, especially considering it follows a month where GM's sales were down, USA Today reported. However, despite the drop in sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which were off approximately 10.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, GM is confident in its 2014 models.

      It will likely be an uphill battle for the brand's pickup trucks, however, as they will have to compete with the Ford F-Series and Chrysler's Ram. Those models are the two most popular in the U.S. and posted impressive gains in recent months. 

      Still, GM claims that drivers shouldn't be too concerned about the increase, even though it may irk fans of off-roading who have plans for making major truck mods or installing a Chevy lift kit. 

      "This price adjustment was planned and is a normal part of business," GM spokesman Jim Cain told USA Today. "... A new truck with more capability, more power, better mileage, more equipment - that's kind of a rebate itself." 

      The manufacturer plans on offering a $1,500 rebate to cut down on the bottom line, but many drivers may not be aware of that option - leaving GM with an additional $1,500 from each purchase. Providing special money-back deals will also allow dealers to advertise big sales and savings, which in turn may attract more buyers. 

    • Motor Trend selects its SUV of the Year

      The award season for the automotive industry has finally arrived, and one of the first major accolades was given out by Motor Trend Magazine. The publication recently set out to name the SUV of the Year, evaluating an array of redesigned vehicles to judge which is the best in the segment. 

      Motor Trend selected the winner of its Sport/Utility of the Year based on performance in six categories, including design advancement, engineering excellence, performance of intended function, efficiency, safety and value. Only models that had been significantly made over for the model year were eligible for the prize. After all was said and done, the 2014 Subaru Forester managed to set itself apart from the pack and claim the top spot in the rankings for the second year. 

      "The 2014 Subaru Forester beat a highly competitive field of SUVs because it met our award's six criteria," said Ed Loh, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend. "Smart design, thoughtful engineering and a compelling performance on road and off were the keys to the Forester's win. Our editors were particularly impressed by the powerful yet efficient turbocharged engines, the intelligent and sporty CVT transmission and the excellent visibility and interior package found within the Forester." 

      Although the Subaru Forester was the top finisher in the three rounds of testing, there were several other finalists that may be a better option for drivers who want an off-road vehicle. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the finalists, along with the Dodge Durango and Land Rover Range Rover Sport.

      All three of these automobiles boast an impressive resume of off-roading features and can be altered to include amenities that drivers want. They also performed well in the dirt-track section of Motor Trend's testing, emphasizing the fact that they could be serviceable as an off-road vehicle in addition to supporting smooth everyday driving.  

    • Trucks on display at vintage car auction

      Many drivers are familiar with the process of buying a used car, but not everyone is used to searching for their next ride at a one-of-a-kind vintage car auction. At the Lambrecht Chevrolet Auction, which just took place in Nebraska, that is exactly what happens, as the sale features some rarely seen versions of classic vehicles. 

      This auction began when the family of one Chevrolet dealer in Nebraska decided to sell some of the vehicles the dealership had accumulated over the years. What they found was more than 430 Chevy models stored in the surrounding woods - many of which had never been driven or purchased. While they may be covered in dirt or rust, they are in otherwise strong condition and could prove to be a solid investment for many lovers of classic cars. 

      "These are cars that were basically taken from the dealer and shoved out back and have been sitting ever since they were brand new," Jim Pickering, editor of American Car Collector, told NPR. "That just flat out doesn't happen. This is kind of urban legend material."

      Many of the top vehicles on display at the vintage auction are classic pickup trucks, including one 1958 Chevrolet Cameo with only 1.3 miles on it. That truck sold for $140,000 and brought in the biggest haul at the auction. Another top seller was a 1958 Chevrolet Apache 31 Series Pickup, which had clocked only 5 miles and sold for $80,000. 

      While those pickups were among the biggest prizes of the day, there were many other Chevy trucks that drivers were able to purchase for a low cost. Although they will likely need their fair share of maintenance and truck mods, it will be a small price to pay for the unique driving experience. 

    • GM recalls thousands of pickup trucks

      Owners of pickup trucks from General Motors may want to double check some features of the ride before getting behind the wheel. GM was recently forced to recall almost 22,000 pickup trucks due to a malfunction with the seats found in a few models. 

      The affected models are all the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or the 2014 GMC Sierra. In each of these trucks, the front seats can move beyond an acceptable range of motion if the vehicle is struck from behind, causing harm to the driver or passenger, or even interfering with other safety features like the seatbelt. Because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been closed as part of the government shutdown, there are few additional details known about this recall, but more information could be released in the future. 

      This is the second recall issued for the 2014 Silverado and Sierra. Previously, GM was forced to deal with a problem with the airbags in the trucks. That threat, although serious, only affected about 843 vehicles. Owners concerned about their seats or airbags can take the trucks to a dealer for a quick fix, free of charge. 

      Drivers who have made truck mods to the Silverado or the Sierra will still want to give their vehicles a once-over. While there have been no reports of injuries due to the issue, that doesn't mean it couldn't pose a problem in the future, especially if you are off-roading. Unknown terrain around an off-road vehicle could lead to accidents if drivers are not paying attention to their surroundings, and even special harnesses or armor attached to a truck may not be enough to prevent the seats from being affected in a collision. 

    • 'Truck of the Year' short list announced

      A short list of finalists for the 2014 North American Car & Truck of the Year (NACTOY) has been announced, and the list contains some of the most sought after vehicles of the past year. 

      The NACTOY short list is split into two parts, with 12 cars and 12 trucks or utility vehicles making the cut in their respective segments. The only stipulation is that the finalists have to be vehicles that can drive on North American roads, and they had to have gone through a significant redesign for the 2014 model year. All automobiles will be judged based on their performance in a variety of different scenarios as well as their special features. 

      General Motors emerged as one of the biggest winners early in the voting. The manufacturer had three vehicles up for consideration in each of the two categories, which was the best showing from any automaker. 

      The final short list for the 2014 North American Truck/Utility of the Year consists of 12 vehicles: the Acura MDX, the BMW X5, the Buick Encore, the Chevrolet Silverado, the GMC Sierra, the Hyundai Santa Fe LWB, the Jeep Cherokee, the Kia Sorento, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, the Nissan Rogue, the Subaru Forester and the Toyota Tundra. 

      Last year's winner of Truck of the Year, the Ram 1500, wasn't eligible for the 2014 list. It will be interesting to see which of the pickups or utility vehicles stands apart from the crowd, as well as which are designated as the best options for off-road driving. 

      Jurors will evaluate these models before narrowing the list down to three finalists in each category. Then there's more testing and voting in store before the winners are announced during the Detroit Auto Show in January. 

    • NHTSA to close amid government shutdown

      The government shutdown has dominated the headlines, with many people around the country concerned as to how the massive closures will affect their daily lives. What some residents may not have realized is that the U.S. Department of Transportation had to stop many of its operations, including the running of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and this change could pose some major problems to drivers around the country. 

      What the shutdown means
      When it is functioning at full strength, the NHTSA is typically in charge of investigating the state of vehicles, whether it is testing new auto products, investigating driver complaints or issuing recall notices. Many drivers rely on this organization to provide insight and information as to the performance and safety of automobiles. 

      Automakers are not currently required to announce recalls to the general public, and many choose not to in an attempt to avoid negative publicity. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center For Auto Safety, told AOL Autos that 25 to 40 percent of all recalls stem from government investigations, and the NHTSA is responsible for raising most of the awareness around these issues. Without the NHTSA alerting the public or spurring on evaluations, there could be a lapse in quality or repairs offered to the public. 

      "If an automaker does a recall, it might be because they know government investigators are on the trail," Ditlow told the news source. "Without those investigations ... in the long term, it could significantly endanger consumer safety."

      What drivers can do
      The absence of the NHTSA and other DOT efforts for the foreseeable future means that motorists will have to be proactive when it comes to vehicle maintenance and research. If they don't, they could encounter issues that affect the performance of the car. 

      "For a consumer who goes and buys a car today, then finds out a month from now it was a poor performer on a test, they're not going to be able to get their money back," Ditlow explained to the news source. "So it's a raw deal."

      Those drivers who are on the lookout for a new off-road vehicle should be sure to conduct thorough research before making a final decision. Extensive test drives and maintenance checks are just the beginning. Prospective buyers should also be looking for ways to see what current drivers have to say about the quality and performance of the automobile. Motorists will also have to pay close attention to vehicle recalls or news that comes straight from the manufacturer. 

    • Chrysler recalls thousands of SUVs and trucks

      For years, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 have been two of the most sought-after vehicles for fans of off-roading. Part of the reason so many drivers are drawn to these vehicles - other than their rugged frames and exemplary features, of course - is because of their reliability. 

      That reputation has come under fire due to a recent recall issued by Chrysler. The automaker was forced to recall more than 140,000 SUVs because of an electrical glitch that wreaks havoc on the instrument display. After testing, it was determined that the issue was caused by faulty software that is tied to the anti-lock brake system, and while it can be fixed relatively easily in the short-term, there could be other problems in the long-term that need to be checked out. The error may also affect electronic stability control systems, which could have a far-reaching impact on those who plan to partake in off-road driving. 

      "Chrysler Group quality-control personnel observed reports of random warning-light illumination and instrument-cluster blackout," Chrysler said in a statement. "Both events occur infrequently and appear to resolve themselves by turning the vehicle's ignition off and then on. However, regulatory compliance requires that clusters display complete information that is clearly legible." 

      Most of the recalled vehicles were 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokees, which comprised approximately 132,000 of the units around the world. It also issued notices for more than 10,000 2014 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 model trucks. 

      According to The Detroit News, Chrysler is not aware of any injuries or accidents that occurred as a result of this problem. The recall will start taking place over the course of the next month, and drivers of these vehicles can start preparing for repairs and updates that will improve performance. 

    • Electric pickup trucks head into production

      Drivers are always on the lookout for ways to save money in the operation and maintenance of a vehicle, if only so they can devote more funds to truck mods and similar upgrades. The possibility of driving electric cars is one area motorists may consider, but this option left many fans of off-roading in the dust - until now. 

      Production of electric trucks begins
      VIA Motors announced that it has signed a contract to produce $20 million worth of electric pickup trucks and vans. While these would be light-duty vehicles, there would be plenty of options for truck modifications and upgrades that could transform the truck into a solid option for recreational or off-road driving. 

      "The pickup truck is the No. 1 selling vehicle in America, and VIA Motors is the only automaker building electric light-duty pickup trucks, cargo vans and passenger vans," said Alan Perriton, president of VIA Motors. "The all-in cost is actually lower than driving a gas truck; this is very welcome news to budget-constrained fleets who spend more and more each year on ever-increasing gas prices, who can now save money." 

      Cutting down on gas money isn't the only reason motorists may be drawn to an electric vehicle. The trucks will also reduce harmful emissions, which helps preserve and protect the very environment they are often driving through. Creations from VIA have also shown the ability to decrease gas consumption and emissions by as much as 80 percent in early testing. That is a considerable amount that could make a big difference for cash-strapped truck drivers.  

      These efforts are still in the beginning stages, but interested parties will be able to gather more information from the technology being installed on each vehicle. Every device will transmit real-time data that will allow the U.S. Department of Energy to track savings in both fuel economy and emissions. 

      Electric versus diesel vehicles 
      One of the biggest sources of controversy surrounding electric pickup trucks is how they compare to diesel-powered vehicles. If the costs are similar, many drivers may be more likely to gravitate to an automobile with a diesel engine, which has a reputation for more power and a few eco-friendly attributes. However, a recent study conducted at Georgia Tech found that there are several instances where electric vehicles can save drivers a significant amount of money. 

      "Over the life of the truck, there are many situations in which the total cost of operating an electric vehicle is less than operating a diesel vehicle," said Marilyn Brown, a co-author of the study. "Our expectation was that the electric vehicle would provide environmental benefits, but at a cost. We found that particularly in urban settings and in locations with relatively low greenhouse gas emissions from electricity, electric delivery trucks both save money and have environmental benefits." 

      The future of electric trucks
      Looking to the future of electric pickup trucks is not easy, especially since so many factors are uncertain. However, that hasn't stopped some experts from considering whether or not these automobiles can remain a viable option for drivers. 

      "Technology advances make predicting the long-term price of electric trucks difficult," said Valerie Thomas, another co-author and professor at the Georgia Tech. "Battery price reductions down the road could have a large effect on the cost-competitiveness of electric trucks of electric trucks, while only diesel fuel prices could have a similarly large effect on the future cost-competitiveness of diesel trucks." 

      The production of electric pickups by VIA Motors is just the beginning of alternative off-road vehicles. If the light-duty pickups are successful, the technology could soon spread to more rugged models and brands, improving in ways that will ensure drivers don't miss a beat when they set out on off-road trails.

    • Mercedes SUV is ready to go off-roading

      When you think of a top off-road vehicle, a Mercedes probably is not the first thing to come to mind. That could all be changing in the near future, however. The German automaker has created a Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 that is more than capable of handling whatever type of trails or obstacles you can throw at it. 

      So strong it's bulletproof
      The first thing you'll notice about the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 is its six wheels. With two in the front and four in the back under the bed, it resembles a military vehicle, but still has a number of the high-end touches you would expect from the luxury automaker. A leather interior and intricate dashboard instrument display provide plenty of comfort and functionality, while the six tires and rugged frame are more than capable of going through any type of terrain. 

      Of course, all of these features come at a price. The basic vehicle will sell for approximately $550,000, while other drivers will have an opportunity to purchase a version with bulletproof body armor for a whopping $1.35 million. To reserve one of these vehicles, drivers will have to put down a deposit of 75 percent of that cost. 

      Ready for off-roading
      This Mercedes weighs in at five tons. That means that it's powerful enough to barrel through almost any environment, especially with the help of the powerful engine. The hand-built 5.5-liter, bi-turbo V-8 engine is great for acceleration as well as powering through all kinds of obstacles. 

      "It has a very complicated drivetrain and chassis," Mercedes-Benz spokesman Jerry Stamoulis told Carsguide. "It has absolutely no relation to the other G-class vehicles, including the 6x6 G-wagon used by the Australian Army. The G63 is a complex, super-articulated machine designed for extreme off-road conditions." 

      The one downside to this vehicle, other than the price, is that making modifications may be a tall order. Off-road parts are not typically made for luxury vehicles like a Mercedes-Benz SUV, so it could be difficult to find the right tools and gear to upgrade. On the other hand, this automobile certainly doesn't need much work, and you would be hard pressed to find many areas where you'll need to make changes. 

      Deliveries of the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x6 are expected to occur in late 2014. 

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