Thursday, September 28, 2006

GM wants money from Nissan, Renault

The latest round of reports coming out of the Nissan-Renault-GM talks are quite sensational. Although there have been hints that Ford is on Carlos Ghosn's speed dial should things go sour with GM, according to the latest newsletter from the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) General Motors is going to tell Nissan and Renault today that their proposed deal looks good. As long as they can cough up a few billion dollars to secure the three-way alliance.GM feels it would need the money as compensation because it would be bringing much more to the table in any partnership between the three, reports The Wall Street Journal. This doesn't sound like a simple request to get the i's dotted and t's crossed. Whereas Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn wishes to have an alliance involving taking big stakes in GM, such a deal is unlikely.GM Chief Rick Wagoner will go before his board of directors on Oct. 3, to outline his analysis of the proposed alliance, showing how it would favor Nissan-Renault more than GM. A final decision is expected by October 15.[Source: The Auto Channel]:

Nissan Moon city-car concept

Designer Robert Hoffmann drew up this Nissan concept for an auto magazine. The futuristic conveyance is not intended for production, but it's an interesting exercise just the same.

The oversized rear wheels are slanted inward, and move backward for highway cruising, optimizing space when retracted for city driving and enhancing stability in conjunction with a deployable rear wing at higher speeds.

The "car of tomorrow" would theoretically employ a hybrid or electric power plant if it were actually built. Kinda looks like a cross between an alien and an iPod.

(Follow the jump for more pics.)

[Source: via Motor Authority]

BREAKING NEWS: Kerkorian may buy up more of GM

Kirk Kerkorian may buy up to 12 million additional shares of GM stock, according to Automotive News. The billionaire investor would need approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission for the deal because it would send his company, Tracinda Corporation, well over 10 percent ownership of GM common stock.

The move supports GM's potential alliance with Renault/Nissan, a merger that Kerkorian has battled for from the beginning. Officially, Tracinda said this in the filing with the SEC:

"Tracinda continues to believe that a strong opportunity exists in a potential alliance between General Motors, Renault and Nissan and that there should be strong General Motors board involvement in the analysis of such a potential alliance, including the utilization of independent advisors."

We're interested to see what power this gives Kerkorian and right-hand man Jerry York, whom Kerkorian has placed onto GM's board of directors.

[Source: Automotive News]

Nissan to unveil '07 Altima Hybrid one week from today

While the news this week will be dominated by the goings-on in Paris, Nissan is getting ready to make a spash of its own exactly one week from today.At the Orange County Auto Show, Nissan will officially pull the wraps off the 2007 Altima Hybrid. The car is the first gasoline-electric hybrid for the automaker, and it will be greeted in the marketplace by competitors from Toyota (whose hybrid technology it uses), Honda and GM. If you live outside of California or the Northeastern United States, you're going to be out of luck if you want one, as Nissan is only offering the car for sale in these : California, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The car will be built at Nissan's Smyrna, TN manufacturing facility.We'll bring you full details on the Altima Hybrid when Nissan releases them next week. will also be following the story closely.[Source: PR Newswire]

GM and Renault/Nissan come back into the forefront, continuing talks

There's been a lot of buzz in the air distracting us from the proposed alliance between General Motors and Renault/Nissan, including talk about a GM alliance with Ford, purported "lukewarm feelings" within the ranks at GM about becoming aligned with the French-Japanese powerhouse, and even GM looking for cash as part of the deal.

Not to worry.

GM and Renault/Nissan have clambered back up to the forefront with a press release distributed this morning, stating that talks are still happening and the possibility of a merger is still under consideration.

GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner and Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn met today with the Paris Motor Show as their backdrop, hinting that a decision could be made in as early as three weeks. The two sides said in today's statements that GM, Nissan and Renault will continue to explore "how an alliance could generate significant shareholder value for each company."

[Source: Automotive News]

3-year-old buys Nissan Figaro on eBay

Jack Neal sat in front of his computer, smiling at the car he had just purchased on eBay. £8,999.99 (approximately $17,000) was a fairly good price for the much loved Nissan Figaro. Even if it was a bit "Hello Kitty" in shocking pink. So what if the Figaro is just a rebodied 10-year-old Micra, Jack used the "Buy it now" link to complete the purchase and was the winning bidder. But Jack is only three years old.Jack's mother, Rachel, wasn't as pleased as he was when she found out about the purchase through a congratulatory e-mail from eBay. She had apparently saved her password on the site and when Jack started clicking away, the Nissan ended up being sold to her toddler. "Jack's a whizz on the PC and just pressed all the right buttons," Rachel Neal said. The Worcestershire dealer who was selling the car seemed amused by the story and decided not to enforce the sale. "Luckily he saw the funny side and said he would re-advertise," Neal said.[Source: Reuters]

Paris Motor Show: SHIFT_convention - the Nissan Qashqai

Nissan debuted the Ford Focus-sized Qashqai (say Kash-kai) crossover in Paris on Thursday, and our man on the spot, John Neff, was as impressed with Nissan's new softroader as he was underwhelmed with Mitsubishi's new Pajero. (Although we have to admit, you're not likely to see a Qashqai dominate the Dakar rally.)The Qashqai was designed virtually from the ground up by Nissan Europe, and it goes into production at Nissan's U.K. facility later this year. The Qashqai is the first European vehicle built on the Nissan/Renault Alliance "C" platform. Let's hope Nissan's new "Urban Nomad" makes it North America before long.Lots of live and studio shots after the jump, plus Nissan's press release.Official Press Release:CATALYST FOR CHANGEUnique is an oft misused word, but not when mentioned in connection with the new Nissan QASHQAI. A passenger car with SUV attributes, QASHQAI really does bring unique qualities to one of the most conservative sectors of the new car market."There's change in the air. As consumers, we are no longer prepared to put up with the dull or the conventional. We want something new, something different... especially when it comes to cars. Well, thanks to the Nissan QASHQAI something different has arrived. You need never drive a boring car again." Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President, Product Planning and Corporate Strategy, Nissan Motor Co LtdAt a glanceo. Unique Crossover concepto. Agile yet sturdy, elegant yet practicalo. Airy interior with high quality materialso. Two and four-wheel drive versionso. Choice of petrol and diesel modelso. Sophisticated featuresNissan's new QASHQAI is a catalyst for change. A totally new vehicle in a totally new sector of the car market, QASHQAI mixes elegance, agility and sheer ability in one very different package.The QASHQAI is same size as a Ford Focus yet smaller than a typical compact SUV, and promises the driving comfort and fun of the former with the ability and practicality of the latter.Distinctive stylingIts distinctive styling is a marriage of the sleek shape of a passenger car with the strength of a 4x4 to create something fresh and different in the new car market. Named after a desert-dwelling nomadic tribe living near the Zagros mountains in South Western Iran, QASHQAI (say it Kash-Kai) should be seen as an 'Urban Nomad', says Design Director at Nissan Design Europe, Stephane Schwarz."It is a car of contrasts for a world of contrasts," he says. "It is tough and compact for the city but sleek and agile for journeys away from the town. It reflects our personalities, our imagination."Although initial design concepts started in Japan, most of QASHQAI's design and development work has been undertaken in Europe, notably at Nissan Design Europe in London and at Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) in Cranfield also in the UK. It will be built at Sunderland in Nissan's award-winning plant in the North East of England. Full production is due to start towards the end of 2006, with sales starting early in 2007.QASHQAI's dynamic exterior is matched by a asymetric interior, providing a focused cockpit environment for the driver and a relaxing space for the occupants. High seating positions provide the sense of security normally found in an SUV, yet QASHQAI is a more dynamic performer with the accelerative and handling capabilities of a hatchback.Four enginesQASHQAI offers a choice of two and four-wheel drive and no fewer than four engines, two diesel and two petrol. The engine range starts with a 1.6-litre 115PS (84kW) petrol and 1.5 dCi diesel developing 106PS (78kW). A pair of petrol and diesel 2.0-litre engines develop 140PS (103kW) and 150PS (110kW) respectively.Five and six-speed manual transmissions, six-speed automatic and an advanced CVT gearbox are available.The carefully conceived interior is crammed with intelligent storage solutions for maximum functionality and flexibility, while - as is to be expected from a Nissan - only features that make a difference, rather than technology for technology's sake, can be found either as standard or on the options list. These include a large panoramic glass roof, automatic headlights and wipers, satellite navigation, reversing camera and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones. Nissan's highly praised electronically controlled ALL-MODE 4x4 system - as pioneered in X-TRAIL - is available on 2.0-litre versions. Despite having greater ground clearance than an ordinary hatchback, however, QASHQAI's four-wheel drive is there to provide greater traction for safer driving and extra control in all weathers: QASHQAI has not been designed as a go-anywhere 4x4.Safe and secureSafety is a key strength of the vehicle, too. A rigid bodyshell providing maximum passive safety is matched by a plethora of active safety features including the latest generation ESP which includes brake torque control and engine torque control. The braking system is similarly advanced and features hydraulic fade compensation (HFC) to provide the ultimate stopping power at all times.Who will buy QASHQAI? In the same way the car doesn't conform to the norm, so its customers will tend to be individuals with their own agendas. They will be open-minded and progressive with a passionate appetite for life. They are not among life's spectators."QASHQAI is bold, imaginative and exciting. And it is very different to every other car currently on sale. With QASHQAI, Nissan is determined to SHIFT_ convention," said Carlos Tavares, Executive Vice President, Product Planning and Corporate Strategy, Nissan Motor Co Ltd.THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDSTake the good parts of an SUV - the traction, the high seating position and the space - and mix them with the best attributes of a hatchback, including driving dynamics and comfort, and what have you got? QASHQAI."Traditional SUVs are often seen as too big and too difficult to drive. The engineering concept behind QASHQAI was to provide much of the sheer ability of an SUV but in a package that's as manoeuvrable, agile and comfortable as a conventional car." Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan EuropeAt a glanceo. Two- and four-wheel drive versionso. Strut front suspension, multi-link rearo. Two diesel, two petrol engineso. Manual, automatic and CVT optionso. Latest generation ESPQASHQAI is the first European vehicle to be built on the Nissan/Renault Alliance 'C' Platform, and follows the successful introduction in Japan of the Nissan Lafesta.For QASHQAI, a wheelbase length of 2630mm provides the best possible interior space within an overall compact body as well as ensuring strong ride and handling dynamics. Sub-frame isolationThe front suspension features a sub-frame mounted strut-type system with combined coil-over-strut assemblies and a forward lower link. The sub-frame has compliant rubber mounts to isolate road noise and vibration from the platform, improving both general refinement and ride comfort. A front anti-roll bar is attached directly to the strut assembly for more effective control of body roll under cornering, while high performance Sachs shock absorbers are fitted to maintain serene road-manners. Multi-link rear suspensionFully independent multi-link rear suspension has been used for precise handling and high-speed stability. Attached to the vehicle via a rigid rear subframe to keep unwanted noise and vibrations to a minimum, the compact assembly features an aluminium rear upper link to reduce weight: the saving is in the region of 4kg. In addition, the rear shock absorbers are tilted to ensure minimal intrusion into the trunk area as Nissan' research has shown that intrusion into the trunk from suspension components is a common complaint from customers.Rebound springs reduce body roll to give a greater feeling of security behind the wheel while ride comfort is enhanced by the adoption of friction control dampers. Fine tuning of the ride and handling has been carried out by engineers from Nissan Europe's technical centres in the UK and at Barcelona in Spain.Detailed analysis of the forces passing through the suspension allowed engineers to precisely tune the platform and subframe to ensure handling precision and ride comfort are maximised.Depending on the version, QASHQAI is equipped with 16 inch steel or alloy wheels shod with 215/65R16 tyres or 17 inch broad spoke alloys with unusual ball shaped bolt surrounds. The 17 inch wheel has 215/60R 17 tyres.Electric power steeringHandling and manoeuvrability are aided by the adoption of electric power steering (EPS). This state-of-the-art system offers greater assistance at lower speeds with more steering feel provided as speeds rise. The system checks speed inputs every 40 milliseconds and is speed sensitive to 0.01 km/h. It is tuned specifically for European tastes to give a strong self-centering action at lower engine speeds for easier town driving and greater feel at higher speeds.Top braking performanceThere's invariably a wide gap in braking performance between an SUV and a conventional car with the 4x4's higher centre of gravity translating into less controllability in an emergency as well as longer stopping distances. However, despite sitting higher than a rival hatchback, QASHQAI's braking performance is far superior to that of a typical 4x4 thanks to its lower centre of gravity and the most advanced braking and traction control systems currently available.Discs brakes all round with standard anti-lock (ABS) are boosted by Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD). Brake Assist maintains maximum deceleration during an emergency stop while EBD constantly alters the front rear balance to achieve optimum brake performance, automatically compensating for differing load conditions. ALL-MODE 4x4QASHQAI's four-wheel drive system incorporates some of the most sophisticated technology available anywhere on the 4x4 market. Developed by Nissan, the ALL-MODE 4x4 system allows secure and relaxed driving with advanced electronics taking care of all traction needs. In essence, ALL-MODE 4x4 ensures QASHQAI has grip at all times no matter how severe the conditions. But unlike some other automatic four-wheel drive systems, ALL-MODE uses advanced electronics rather than dual hydraulic pumps to ensure drive is transferred between wheels and axles the instant a problem arises. Under normal conditions, the QASHQAI operates in front-wheel drive which reduces energy losses and saves on fuel. The instant wheel slippage is detected however, a centre clutch in the rear final drive is electronically activated and drive is correctly apportioned between front and rear axles. Three mode settingsThe system has three modes, selected via a switch on the centre console. In 2WD, the system is permanently set in front-wheel drive, ideal for fine weather on-road use. When the Lock setting is pushed, however, the system switches to permanent four-wheel drive mode with drive split 57:43 front to rear.The most often used mode, however, is 'select-and-forget' Auto, in which the system is left to its own devices. Sensors linking the engine's ECU with the four-wheel drive and ABS controller constantly monitor wheel slippage and automatically send signals to the electromagnetic centre clutch mounted just ahead of the rear axle to apportion torque correctly. Left in Auto, the system will automatically compensate for unexpected slippery conditions on-road, such as wet leaves in autumn, early morning winter ice or loose gravel at any time of the year.Advance electronic systemsALL-MODE 4x4 is inextricably linked to Bosch's eighth generation Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Using sensors linked to the brakes, steering, wheels and the body itself, ESP constantly monitors the way the car is being driven. From the steering angle and wheel speeds, ESP calculates what manoeuvres the driver intends to perform and from signals from the yaw-rate and lateral acceleration sensors ESP recognises whether the vehicle might skid off course. In an emergency ESP reacts swiftly, and by selectively applying the brakes at each wheel ESP 'steers' the vehicle in the desired direction. Among the other electronic control systems that QASHQAI has in its armoury are cornering brake control (CBC) and EUC, which stands for enhanced understeer control. In the latter case, the system applies the brakes to all four wheels to reduce excessive understeer. Finally, hydraulic fade compensation (HFC) prevents brake fade after a period of heavy brake usage.Choice of four enginesOf the four engines available to power QASHQAI, the two petrol units are Nissan designs while both common rail diesels have been developed by Alliance partner Renault.Petrol offeringsThe entry-level petrol engine was originally developed for the recently released Micra SR and Note. An all-aluminium unit displacing 1598cc, power and torque have increased slightly for its new application to 115PS (84kW) and 160Nm of torque: improvements of 5PS and 7Nm.Exceptionally light - some 25kg lighter than Nissan's previous 1.6-litre petrol unit - and highly thermally efficient, it has four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, multi-point port injection and vane-type continuous intake cam phasing. Lightweight 2.0-litreThe 2.0-litre petrol unit is a new lightweight engine that currently powers the Japanese market Lafesta. Another all-aluminium 16 valve design, it displaces 1997cc and develops 140PS (103kW) and 200Nm of torque. Some 90 per cent of that torque is available from 2000rpm providing the accelerative 'punch' more usually expected in larger engines.Almost as compact as the 1.6 engine, among its key design features is a notable reduction in internal friction. A mirror-like finishing technique is applied to the surfaces of the crankshaft pin journal and the cam lobe journal and to a new machining method that ensures truly circular bores is used: this procedure is common practice in the machining of bores of racing engines but is seldom used in volume production engines. CVT advantagesCVT is a computer controlled 'stepless' transmission providing a virtually limitless number of ratios, ensuring the engine is always working as efficiently as possible, resulting in smoother acceleration as well as better fuel economy and lower emissions.It's more comfortable, too: a long uphill drive in a conventional automatic will invariably be accompanied by regular down shifts as the engine hunts for power. With CVT, the engine revs stay constant as the transmission itself adjusts seamlessly to ensure momentum is maintained. CVT also ensures less power loss, resulting in better efficiency and acceleration.For a more sporty drive, the CVT system has a manual override. Operated via the central gear stick, six set ratios can be accessed manually by nudging the lever forward or back, motorcycle style.Diesel offeringsDiesel is accounting for a growing proportion of sales in the C-segment, so QASHQAI has two strong diesel offerings. Both dCi units have second-generation common rail direct injection for improved performance, refinement and emissions. The entry-level diesel uses the most powerful version of Renault's acclaimed 16 valve 1.5 dCi (K9K) engine developing 106PS (78kW) and 240Nm of torque. Praised for its fuel efficiency and low noise, it features a flexible flywheel to filter out the effects of acyclic movements. Specifically developed to comply with Euro 4 legislation the engine has a lowered compression ratio (16:1) and a variable geometry, multi-blade turbocharger.Advanced 2.0-litreThe 2.0 dCi is a brand new engine fitted with a Bosch piezoelectric-controlled injection system to develop 150PS (110kW) and 320Nm of torque. Piezoelectric technology gives fast, very precise control allowing a 'five squirt' injection cycle: two pre-squirts, one main squirt and two post-squirts. The pre-squirts improve engine acoustics by minimizing the characteristic diesel clatter. The post-squirts sustain the main injection combustion, to burn off soot and thus bring down pollutant emissions before the exhaust gases have even left the combustion chamber.Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) produces a controlled temperature rise in the combustion chamber to reduce pollutant emission levels (NOx) and thus enhance the engine's overall environment performance, ensuring it complies with Euro 4 legislation.DPF technologyThe 2.0 dCi is equipped as standard with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) with a periodic regeneration system. When the particulates that have been collected from the engine emissions reach a specified level, the engine runs a process called thermal regeneration performing a second post-injection to overheat the exhaust gas. Above a certain temperature, the soot in the filter oxidizes off, and the filter can continue trapping particulates. Acoustics was one of the engineering priorities for the new engine. The bottom of the engine, with its aluminium bedplate, is designed for higher efficiency and improved vibration absorption. Twin counter rotating balancer shafts cancel crankshaft rotary vibration, making a major contribution to refinement. The 1.5 dCi drives the front wheels through a new six-speed manual transmission. Two-wheel drive versions of the 2.0dCi also use the six-speed manual, while the four-wheel drive version offers a choice between the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. INTELLIGENT THINKINGWhat's the point of a clever extra if it never gets used? As far as Nissan is concerned if a feature or option serves a useful purpose it's in. If it will only ever be used once when the car is still a new 'toy' then there's no point in having it"A mobile phones should never be used by a driver unless it's hands free. And that's why QASHQAI has integrated Bluetooth connectivity so drivers need never miss a call or take a risk fumbling for their phone. Thinking about safety goes far deeper than airbags and ABS." Hideto Murakami, Senior Vice President, Nissan Technical Centre EuropeAt a glanceo. Mild flow air conditioningo. Leather optiono. Sat nav and reversing camerao. Bluetooth connectivityo. Ambient mood lightingo. Intelligent Keyo. Automatic lights and wipersIn common with other recent new Nissan models, QASHQAI bristles with innovative and advanced features... but each has a good reason for being there. To be chosen as standard or optional equipment for QASHQAI, a feature needs to have a serious purpose or perform a useful function: looking good in the brochure doesn't count.Take the heating and ventilation system as an example. When air conditioning is fitted - either a manual system or a full dual zone automatic system depending on the model - it has an added refinement. At the top of the dashboard is an independently controlled mild flow vent which wafts a light breeze of cooled air around the cabin. Hands-free with BluetoothAnother is the Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones. Every QASHQAI with a factory fitted audio system has standard Bluetooth integration for hands-free use of a mobile. A high quality microphone is installed near the interior rear view mirror to improve voice quality while incoming calls are automatically heard over the car's sound system, which mutes the audio source for the duration of the call.Better still, total integration means incoming caller ID is displayed on the audio read-out and the system has an internal phone book which can store up to 40 numbers. Once set up, a mobile phone can stay in a pocket or handbag and its presence will be automatically discovered once the car's ignition is turned on, boosting convenience and safety.Intuitive navigation displayThe ultimate communications package incorporates satellite navigation. The system, first seen in Pathfinder, is highly intuitive to use and provides map coverage of 26 countries across Europe, including Poland, Slovenia, the Canary Islands, Croatia and Hungary. The fixed seven-inch display benefits from improved graphics, with split guidance displays showing both maps and overhead views of junctions. The system also has voice recognition in a total of seven languages.When sat nav is specified, the package comes complete with a colour rear parking camera. The display includes static guidelines allowing millimetre perfect parking every time. The final bonus is that the six disc CD player will also play MP3 discs.Safety firstSafety is one of QASHQAI's key attributes. Active safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist (BAS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) while electronic stability programme (ESP) and ALL-MODE 4x4 provide the ultimate traction no matter how tricky the conditions are. Passive safety equipment starts with six airbags standard on all models. As well as dual stage driver and front passenger airbags, there are thorax side airbags mounted in the front seats and full-length curtain airbags on both sides giving extra protection for all occupants in a side impact. As well as creating an airy cabin, the full-length panoramic glass roof, available on four-wheel drive versions, is made from laminated glass to ensure it will not shatter in the event of a roll-over crash.Principal optionsPrincipal options include the Intelligent Key, electric folding mirrors, leather upholstery, Xenon headlamps, cruise control, 6CD changer, ESP, navigation and reversing camera. "All the standard features and options available on QASHQAI have genuine practical benefits," says Pierre Loing, Vice President, Product Planning, Nissan Europe.