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Takata on the search for a buyer

Takata has ruled out using bankruptcy as a way of mitigating liabilities from its record airbag recalls and is instead seeking buyers that could take a controlling stake and carry the company through its safety crisis, according to a person with knowledge of the restructuring process.

Lazard, Takata’s financial advisor, will meet manufacturers as well as financial firms with the aim to find buyers by the fall, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

Takata’s plan is to remain listed and maintain its core seat-belt, airbag and steering-wheel businesses, while selling off non-core operations, the person said. Company spokeswoman Akiko Watanabe declined to comment.

Any Takata suitor will be betting it can still make a return even after resolving claims from automakers, which until now have shouldered the vast majority of the costs of replacing air bags tied to the auto industry’s unprecedented safety crisis. Recalls of the devices, which can deploy with too much force and spray metal and plastic at passengers, are expanding by as much as 40 million units in the U.S., after 13 fatalities worldwide.

“There is no advantage and no one will benefit from turning Takata around through bankruptcy in this case,” said Taketoshi Tsuchiya, a credit analyst in Mizuho Financial Group’s fixed-income group in Tokyo. “Automakers can’t say they won’t go through with the recalls because Takata filed for bankruptcy. They have to continue paying for the costs on their own without Takata.”

New Management

In exchange for injecting capital, the founding family’s stake will be diluted, the person said. The company has targeted having new management in place this year, replacing executives including President Shigehisa Takada, the person said. A consortium of investors is also an option to raise funds.
Talks with potential buyers are at the preliminary stage and no offers have been made, the person said. Takata is negotiating with customers led by Honda over how much of the multi-billion dollar recall bill it will have to pay.

Takata is willing to be flexible with the restructuring plan as long as its top objective of supplying replacement air bags in a stable manner is met, the person said. Japan last week ordered the replacement of air bags in 7 million more vehicles, expanding the total number recalled in the country to about 19.6 million. Regulators earlier this month forced automakers to roughly double the number of air bags recalled in the U.S., to as much as 69 million.

“Now, the focus is on how Takata and automakers share the costs of air-bag recalls,” said Shintaro Niiimura, an analyst with Nomura Holdings Inc. “If Takata has to owe the majority of it, it would make it difficult for them to secure enough funds.”

Subaru announces more powerful 2017 BRZ

Subaru of America Inc. today announced a comprehensive update to the 2017 BRZ including improved handling, increased performance, more aggressive styling and new convenience features. These enhancements continue the company’s original mission of offering enthusiasts a pure sports car with an unmatched driving experience.

The BRZ, known for its ultra-low center of gravity and precision handling, offers several updates to increase its performance on the track and open roads.  For improved responsiveness, stability and comfort, BRZ receives updated coil springs and dampers as well as a larger rear stabilizer bar.  Additional reinforcements to the chassis were added to the strut tower braces, transmission cross-member plate and the rear wheel housings to increase BRZ’s rigidity.  The stability control system thresholds are raised to further improve handing.  The results are dramatic enough for Subaru to change the name of “Sport” mode to “Track”. 

The BRZ 2.0-liter SUBARU BOXER engine receives several internal updates for friction reduction including new valves, camshaft and cylinder heads. Accompanied with a new aluminum intake manifold and redesigned exhaust manifold for increased air flow, the engine output in models with the 6-speed manual transmission is increased to 205-hp and 156 lb-ft of torque. Also, a lower final drive ratio from 4.1 to 4.3:1, paired with the standard Torsen® limited-slip differential, improves acceleration on models with manual transmission.

Now standard on all models is Incline Start Assist. This system holds the vehicle momentarily in position while the driver accelerates to prevent roll back on an incline.

Volkswagen soon ready to continue business as usual

Volkswagen has had a lot on its plate ever since the diesel scandal broke out last September. Recently, a long-awaited agreement-in-principle was struck between Volkswagen AG and several U.S. authorities to assist close to 500,000 affected American customers with a similar solution expected for the other 100,000 affected Canadians.

According to Automotive News, once these agreements get sorted out, Volkswagen is planning a new brand strategy with a positive long-term goal in mind.

"We believe that the USA has in fact the greatest potential for Volkswagen worldwide in the next decade," said Volkswagen brand chief Dr. Herbert Diess.

Dr. Diess does point out that this won't happen in the near future, as Volkswagen will be starting from ground zero. But the plan centres around a more clear cut focus for the brand on the aspirational middle class, whether Volkswagen is a premium or mainstream brand, and a general push towards SUVs.

Once the rulings, fines and other legislation gets revealed, Volkswagen plans on pressing the reset button with this new strategy come mid-June, and the same plan is expected to make its way to Canada.

Marchionne adds Ferrari CEO to his name

Sergio Marchionne, the current Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO will add Ferrari boss to his resume.

In a recent press release, Ferrari appointed the Italian-Canadian Marchionne to be its company CEO, while retaining his title as chairman of the Maranello-based brand.

Marchionne will replace Amedeo Felisa, who plans to retire after 26 years at Ferrari. Felisa will still remain to serve on Ferrari's board of directors, as well as a technical adviser.

Since becoming chairman at Ferrari in the fall of 2015, Marchionne has focused on global expansion. So far this year, Ferrari has increased its global sales by 15 per cent over 2015 numbers over that same period.

VW diesel agreement has been made

A long-awaited agreement has been struck between Volkswagen AG and several U.S. authorities including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. EPA in regards to the diesel scandal that has affected close to 500,000 vehicles in the United States and another 100,000 in Canada.

The agreement-in-principle will possess options for American customers that own affected 2.0-litre diesel vehicles. They can either receive compensation for their vehicle in a buy back or have their existing car repaired at the expense of Volkswagen. This settlement does not cover 3.0-litre V-6 diesels that have also been affected by the scandal.

An agreement may have just been made in the United States, but the same solution will be offered up to Canadians, because the vehicles in Canada are certified by the EPA. For now, Canadians will have to wait for the next steps once they're announced by Volkswagen Canada.

"Volkswagen is committed to earning back the trust of its customers, dealers, regulators and the public. These agreements in principle are an important step on the road to making things right. As noted on April 21 in court, customers do not need to take any action at this time," said Thomas Tetzlaff, Manager, Media Relations at Volkswagen Canada.

The exact compensation figure has not been released, but according to Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, it would be “substantial compensation.” The specifics to the settlement will remain confidential until June 21 when the full details are to be filed in court.

Model Gigi Hadid featured in new BMW M2 campaign

BMW has gotten creative and drawn a few more eyes with its new M2 campaign.

The German brand has hired American supermodel Gigi Hadid to be the feature in its campaign, produced by agencies KBS and Serviceplan. In the video, there are five identical blue BMW M2s and the object is to follow the car Hadid hopped into.

Typically, it wouldn't be tough to follow the long-legged Gigi who is wearing a red skin tight dress, but in an M2, it's more difficult as they weave in and out with visuals being blocked by some of the front-running cars.

The voice over asks, “Can you keep your eyes on Gigi?”

At the end of the video, go to EyesOnGigi.com to make your selection and see if you were correct. So far, the campaign seems to be a big success with over 6.5-million viewers have already eyed Gigi.

BMW and Jaguar Land Rover focus on car sharing programs

We've long known about the car2go program featuring the Smart fortwo, and recently featured Ford's new GoDrive, but now both BMW and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) are jumping into the car sharing fray.

BMW will be using its new ReachNow service to debut in the EV-friendly city of Seattle; while JLR is still in the early stages with the launch of a technology business of its own called InMotion, an app service that aims to tap into a younger generation that are looking for short journeys hauls on the cheap.

It may be a first for JLR, but BMW has similar programs in Europe, but Seattle will be its first venture into the United States. The Emerald city will receive a fleet of 370 cars including BMW 3-Series, i3s and MINI Coopers. BMW expectations are for the ReachNow program to launch in three other North American cities this year with eventually hitting a total of ten major North American cities.

ReachNow works a bit differently from your typical ride share program, as it charges by the minute. This may seem expensive, but it's geared towards urban dwellers that need a ride for a short hall, even if it's a one-way trip. ReachNow vehicles can be located, reserved and paid for through a smartphone app. If you need the car for a specified period of time, a pre-determined price will be offered.

As for JLR's InMotion, the British brand will begin product testing in North America, Europe and Asia with public road tests to follow.

Michelle Rodriguez hits 201 mph in the Jaguar F-Type SVR

We've been told that the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR could hit 200 mph (322 km/h), but we hadn't seen it until Hollywood actress Michelle Rodriguez strapped on a helmet and attempted this feet on a closed highway in the Nevada desert.

Rodriguez famous for playing Leticia "Letty" Ortiz in the Fast and the Furious franchise was stoked throughout this test with a previous high speed of 140 mph in a car. For this mission, she managed to hit 201 mph, the fastest the 575-hp coupe had ever been driven.

Volt, CX-3 win AJAC Canadian Green Cars of the Year

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt and 2016 Mazda CX-3 have been named Automobile Journalist Association of Canada's (AJAC) Canadian Green Car and Canadian Green Utility Vehicle of the Year.

The award announcements took place during the opening ceremonies at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show. For 2016, AJAC added a utility category to separate its sedans from CUVs/SUVs.

The other finalists for the awards were the Honda Civic and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for the car category, while the Honda HR-V and the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) fell short in the utility grouping.

The Chevrolet Volt has an increased EV range of 85 km (up from 61 km) using its new 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery. Fuel economy numbers have reduced to a combined 5.6L/100 km with help from a reduction in its generator and cell design's weight.

The Mazda CX-3 was also the winner of AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year. It's 146-hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder SkyActiv engine improves not only the CX-3's performance, but also achieves a fuel economy rating of 8.8L/100 km in the city and 7.3L/100 km on the highway.

The Canadian Green Car and Utility Vehicle candidates were evaluated last October during AJAC's “TestFest” event by over 70 AJAC journalists. A separate round of voting was held for the ten classified green entries, and those votes were compiled on top of the regular testing results in order to determine the Canadian Green Vehicle winners.

Scion FR-S becomes the Toyota 86

Toyota has announced that the Scion FR-S will become the Toyota 86.

After the discontinuation of Toyota's youthful Scion brand, we always new the vehicles that were continuing on would be re-badged. The one thing we didn't know was that they would be given new names.

For now, the FR-S is the Toyota 86, which is not a big change considering that the 86 is the name of the FR-S in other parts of the world.

"When we announced the transition of the Scion models to Toyota we hadn't planned on changing the names of our cars, but by popular demand, for our sports car, we decided to adopt the global name of 86," said Bill Fay, Toyota Division Group Vice President.

The 86 will come to light in North America as a 2017 model year car with the same rear-wheel drive sports car setup, but with other enhancements. According to Toyota, the 86 will receive a more aggressive front fascia, a new rear bumper and LED headlights and taillights. The bold look is finished off with new alloy twist-spoke wheels and the 86 logo on the front fender and front headlamps.

Inside, new “Grandlux” material will be added on the instrument panel, accompanied by new seating materials with silver stitching and a sporty steering wheel also donning the 86 logo.

The looks are a big factor for this car, but it will also receive some enhanced performance, well at least for the manual version. For the manual option, its 2.0-litre boxer-four engine will increase production to 205 hp and 156 lb.-ft. of torque, which is an uptick of 5 hp and 5 lb.-ft. of torque. In addition, Toyota has setup new gear ratios for the six-speed manual transmission in order to enhance its performance.

The new 2017 Toyota 86 will be on display at the upcoming 2016 New York International Auto Show, alongside the Toyota C-HR crossover concept.

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