NTSB offers NHTSA advice on semi truck safety

April 15th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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Highway Crash

Based on studies conducted last year, the National Transportation Safety Board has sent seven recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “to improve the safety of tractor-trailers.” The suggestions range from changing actual physical components on tractor-trailers, like adding protection along the sides of trailers to keep cars from going under them, to recording VIN information on trailers – which isn’t currently collected – in accident reports.

The NTSB research revealed that more than half the time, truckers who hit pedestrians after pulling away from a stoplight weren’t aware they had done so until other motorists or bystanders told them. When it comes to “underride events” – when a vehicle goes under the trailer – the NTSB said many of the 500 deaths caused by such incidents come from collisions with the sides of trailers, and reaffirmed the assessment by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that rear trailer guard regulations aren’t up to scratch.

The full list of recommendations also believes the NHTSA should mandate blind-spot reduction systems. NHTSA hasn’t responded to points laid out, but it already does a lot of research in heavy truck safety, such as the recently concluded five-year study on Integrated Vehicle-Based Safety Systems.

NTSB offers NHTSA advice on semi truck safety originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:44:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Did hard feelings between GM and Delphi contribute to ignition-switch woes?

April 15th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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Delphi Bankruptcy

The Detroit News has lodged another exhibit in the attempt to reconstruct how General Motors used an ignition switch part that might not have met the company’s own standards, citing acrimonious relations between it and parts supplier Delphi just after the turn of the millennium. The short story alleges that that Delphi made a part that wasn’t up to scratch, but the long story is about why Delphi may have done such a thing and why GM would have accepted it.

Until 1999, Delphi was a division of GM, but an initial public offering for the auto parts unit made it a separate company and had everyone crowing about the benefits the move would accrue to all parties. According to The Detroit News piece, three years later, Delphi still couldn’t get by without GM’s money, but The General was treating it like any other supplier and squeezing it for cost savings with some truly Machiavellian tactics that many powerful purchasing department heads would file in the drawer marked, “It’s Just Business.” The occasional consequence was “suppliers bidding so low that they had to cut corners to meet the promised price.”

Why wasn’t the problem caught and stopped even though GM might have known about it? Again, according to the report, fixing the part meant production delays, but Old GM’s contract with the United Auto Workers included a provision for job banks, which meant that workers had to be paid whether or not lines were running. Idling factories to fix the part would obliterate all the savings gained by hammering down the price, an outside analyst saying of such moments, “There were unquestionably times when parts were accepted that did not meet GM’s specifications. But you had to keep the production lines running at all costs.” None of it ended up helping Delphi, either: the company, already in “a low- or no-margin business” and saddled with heavy legacy benefits from its GM days, declared bankruptcy in 2005 and didn’t exit it until 2009.

Head over to the DetNews for the full skinny on this new wrinkle to GM’s ongoing recall nightmare. It’s a compelling read.

Did hard feelings between GM and Delphi contribute to ignition-switch woes? originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet being phased out, no replacement planned

April 15th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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2011 Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet - front three-quarter view, top down

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet - rear 3/4 viewOver the years, I’ve been given many nicknames – a few of them have even been repeatable around small children. One such moniker is “Mr. Other Makes,” a title given to me because of my predilection for sifting through eBay Motors seeking out automotive misfits and orphans. I’ve got a soft spot for the dreamers and automakers who take big chances on beancounter-enraging flights of fancy.

I count Nissan among that bunch, because for every safe-as-houses Altima or Sentra that rolls out of its factory gates, the Japanese automaker has often secreted away a little funding for white-space niche vehicles that any sane person wouldn’t expect to pencil out. Some, like the Juke, have proven to be massive hits. Others, like the GT-R, have become icons. And then there are models like the Murano CrossCabriolet, a segment-bending mashup the likes of which we haven’t seen since the AMC Eagle Sundancer.

Yesterday, upon revealing the new third-generation Murano ahead of its New York Auto Show debut, we reported “the writing appears to be on the wall” for the midsize crossover’s novel convertible cousin. It appears we were right. Autoblog can now confirm that the CrossCabriolet will die at the end of this model year, and our source at Nissan tells us unequivocally, “there is no plan for a next-generation Murano CC.”

Nissan didn’t pinch pennies when developing the model – the CrossCabriolet received all-new sheetmetal from the A-pillar rearward, countless structural reinforcements and all-new seats front and rear. It wasn’t cheap. It also wasn’t enough – the model’s modest sales were compounded by its high starting price ($42,855 delivered) and limited marketing efforts.

While Nissan itself doesn’t break out the CrossCabriolet’s sales from the rest of the Murano line, IHS Automotive sales data indicates that for 2011, Nissan sold 1,159 examples in North America, and in 2012, sales peaked at 3,278 units before sagging to 1,332 in 2013. If the Murano CC was the answer to a question that few had been asking, IHS senior analyst Stephanie Brinley tells Autoblog, “Everyone who did ask that question picked up one in 2012 or 2013.”

The passing of the Murano CrossCabriolet is a loss likely to be mourned by few, but I’ll be one of them – if only because cars that make a point of coloring outside the lines are too rare in this business.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet being phased out, no replacement planned originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 15 Apr 2014 14:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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J.D. Power customer survey of dealers counts Cadillac, Buick as big winners

April 14th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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2014 Cadillac CTS, front three-quarter view

Cadillac and Buick have taken the trophies in J.D. Power’s latest Customer Service Index Study examining satisfaction with dealer service. Surveying more than 90,000 owners and lessees of 2009-2013 model-year cars, the study found that those with pre-paid maintenance packages were ten percent more likely to buy their next car from the same brand.

Dealer satisfaction scores have improved overall, Cadillac nabbed the luxury segment ahead of Audi and Lexus, taking the crown that Lexus held last year. Buick keeps the mass-market dealer satisfaction win in the family, finishing ahead of Volkswagen and last year’s winner GMC. The study also found that service department use of tablets increased customer satisfaction, as did “best practices” like “providing helpful advice.” Who knew?

You can find details on those and more findings in the press release below.

Continue reading J.D. Power customer survey of dealers counts Cadillac, Buick as big winners

J.D. Power customer survey of dealers counts Cadillac, Buick as big winners originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:35:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Villopoto Dominates at Round 15 of the 2014 AMA Supercross Series in Seattle

April 14th, 2014 by admin No comments »

Ryan Villopoto Battling with Ryan Dungey at Century Link Stadium in Seattle.

VILLOPOTO DOMINATES TO CLAIM HOMETOWN WIN IN SEATTLE 

Monster Energy AMA Supecross took the stage Saturday night at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle, Washingston, showcasing the most talented supercross athletes in the world. Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto dominated, once again, to grab the win in the premier class in front of his hometown crowd of 54,000 fans. Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda’s Cole Seely also led the entire moto to take home the win in Seattle and close up the points gap on Jason Anderson.

Ryan Villopoto captured the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot award leading the pack into turn one, followed by Red Bull/KTM’s Ryan Dungey, BTO Sports/KTM’s Andrew Short and Yoshimura/Suzuki’s James Stewart.

Stewart made quick work of Andrew Short, making the pass in lap two and setting his sights on former champ, Ryan Dungey. With all the top three riders sitting in podium positions on lap two, it seemed as though the reigning champion and points leader, Ryan Villopoto, would have his work cut out for him. While Dungey and Stewart went to work on shutting down Villopoto’s chances of clinching the championship early, GEICO/Honda’s Justin Barcia and Red Bull/KTM’s Ken Roczen battled over eighth position. Barcia managed to gain some ground on Roczen and quickly made the pass on Alessi to move into sixth.

Stewart managed to make the pass on Dungey for second place on lap four, as Tomac made the pass on Short to move into fourth. Following Barcia, Roczen looked to make a pass on Motoconcept’s Mike Alessi but had trouble finding an alternative line to make the pass. Despite his efforts to get by Alessi, Roczen managed to lose some time to the number forty-one of Trey Canard.

Stewart had to hang it all out, making a few mistakes along the way, to close up the gap on Villopoto to four seconds by the halfway point. The number seven managed to run the fastest lap on lap twelve but couldn’t seem to make up any time on Villopoto despite his ability to ride through excessive mistakes and the tough track conditions.

As the conditions of the track continued to deteriorate Roczen searched hard to find a line to make the pass on Alessi with only five laps to go. Muscle Milk/Honda’s Trey Canard followed Roczen, making the pass on Alessi, followed by a move on Roczen to take over sixth position. Canard set his sights on Andrew Short, sitting in fifth and quickly initiated the pass to take over the position.

Unfortunately for Stewart, time ran out and the track conditions were less than favourable to make a move on Villopoto in order to capture another win Seattle.

The Washington state native, Ryan Villopoto led the entire moto for his hometown fans to capture the win at CenturyLink Stadium. He was unable to clinch the championship in Seattle but now sits forty-eight points ahead of Stewart, sitting in second.

Repping his custom jersey in support for the Seattle Seahawks, James Stewart put everything into the race to come out with a second, extinguishing Ryan Villopoto’s hopes of clinching the early championship.

Red Bull/KTM’s Ryan Dungey struggled with the track conditions in Seattle but managed to hang onto the final podium position until the end, taking home a third place finish.

Seattle Supercross 250 winner Cole Seely

In the 250SX class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson got out front early to capture the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot award. Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda’s Cole Seely was not far behind followed by Wilson’s rookie teammate Justin Hill.

Seely managed to make quick work of Wilson after he made a mistake in the rhythm section, putting him back to second, with Hill on his heels. After banging bars with Seely, Wilson also swapped some paint with Hill as the two came together from different lines in the rhythm section.

By lap three Jason Anderson had made his way into fourth position after a mediocre jump out of the gate. After watching Wilson go down, Hill made his way into second with Anderson putting him into wheel to wheel action around the halfway point. Wilson dropped back to fifth.

Anderson managed to get a wheel on Hill, making the pass and moving into second position with sights set on Seely. Unfortunately, Anderson went down with only five laps to go, letting Hill back by into second.

After catching back up to Hill, Anderson made the pass again but Hill was ready to battle back this time. After a few attempts to make the pass back, Anderson managed to pull away from Hill and close the gap up on Seely. Unfortunately, time ran out for Anderson and Troy Lee Designs/ Lucas Oil/Honda’s Cole Seely took the win in Seattle, tightening up the championship points chase before Vegas.

Anderson sealed the deal on second and Justin Hill took home third place at CenturyLink Stadium in Seattle, Washington.

The series will be taking a break this weekend, allowing riders to take some time to recuperate and spend Easter with their families before they head to round sixteen at MetLife Stadium in Easter Rutherford, New Jersey.

Ryan Villopoto will be heading into the last round before Las Vegas with a forty-eight point gap over James Stewart who sits in second. This will also be the last round for the East 250SX class before they head to Las Vegas for the East/West Shootout.

250SX RACE RESULTS-SEATTLE

  1. Cole Seely
  2. Jason Anderson
  3. Justin Hill
  4. Dean Wilson
  5. Jessy Nelson
  6. Zach Osborne
  7. Cooper Webb
  8. Jake Canada
  9. Malcolm Stewart
  10. Shane McElrath

450SX RACE RESULTS-SEATTLE

  1. Ryan Villopoto
  2. James Stewart
  3. Ryan Dungey
  4. Eli Tomac
  5. Justin Barcia
  6. Trey Canard
  7. Ken Roczen
  8. Andew Short
  9. Josh Hill
  10. Mike Alessi

250SX WEST POINT STANDINGS

  1. Jason Anderson (178)
  2. Cole Seely (170)
  3. Justin Hill (139)
  4. Dean Wilson (138)
  5. Cooper Webb (121)
  6. Malcolm Stewart (121)
  7. Jessy Nelson (103)
  8. Zach Osborne (100)
  9. Shane McElrath (96)
  10. Jake Canada (72)

250SX EAST POINT STANDINGS

  1. Martin Davalos (149)
  2. Justin Bogle (141)
  3. Adam Cianciarulo (120)
  4. Blake Baggett (120)
  5. Vince Friese (100)
  6. Kyle Cunnigham (94)
  7. Cole Thopson (89)
  8. Jimmy Decotis (78)
  9. Matt Lemoine (74)
  10. Alex Martin (72)

450SX POINT STANDINGS

  1. Ryan Villopoto (318)
  2. James Stewart (270)
  3. Ryan Dungey (267)
  4. Ken Roczen (249)
  5. Justin Barcia (214)
  6. Justin Brayton (196)
  7. Andrew Short (194)
  8. Broc Tickle (126)
  9. Josh Hill (124)
  10. Wil Hahn (122)

Ryan Villopoto Battling with Ryan Dungey at Century Link Stadium in Seattle.
Seattle Supercross 250 winner Cole Seely
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2015 Nissan Murano gets edgier, lighter for NY [w/video]

April 14th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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2015 Nissan Murano

2015 Nissan Murano rear 3/4Nissan’s Murano stands as one of the originators of the crossover movement – it was perhaps the first such vehicle to throw out the idea that a CUV had to look like a boxy, cladded-up sport utility vehicle in order to be successful. Now poised to enter its third generation, the midsize Nissan is not only getting a new look and a host of new technologies, it’s getting a new home: Canton, MS.

With dramatic new styling presaged by the Resonance Concept at last year’s Detroit Auto Show, the new Murano debuting at this week’s New York Auto Show includes a toned-down “V-Motion” nose and the Japanese automaker’s trademark boomerang-shaped light fixtures. Aside from the chunky chrome U-shaped grille element up front, the new Murano’s most striking design detail is its cantilevered roof with funky “disconnected” D-pillars, a floating look reinforced by a greenhouse edged in brightwork. Overall, it’s a much more bold and expressive piece of design than Nissan’s recent second-generation Rogue, fitting, as the Murano has always been on the daring end of CUV design.

Boasting a 0.31 coefficient of drag and a ton of sheetmetal surface development, the Murano’s new form is available with LED headlamps and features active grille shutters for improved aerodynamics. The company claims visibility has been improved as well – and not just because of its brilliant available Around View Monitor camera system – Nissan says it has “optimized the angles and thickness of the bottom of the A-pillar,” along with fiddling with the size and location of the side mirrors.

Power continues to be delivered by VQ-Series 3.5-liter V6, tuned here to deliver 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, just as it did last year. That power is routed through Nissan’s latest Xtronic continually variable transmission, with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. Fuel economy figures have not yet been released, but Nissan says it expects a 20-percent improvement over the outgoing model’s middling figures (FWD model: 18 miles per gallon city/24 highway) thanks to a 130-pound weight loss, improved aerodynamics and a more efficient powertrain. This, despite a larger footprint.

The interior is all-new as well, and it needed to be – the newer, less-costly Rogue had grown in size and ambition, crowding the Kyushu-built second-generation Murano’s space and besting its cabin quality. The 2015 Murano looks to have successfully separated itself from its upstart sibling, with so-called “Zero Gravity” seats like those found in the Altima, along with available heating and cooling (rear seats are also available heated), a much larger panoramic moonroof and an upsized cargo area. While not the most practical of colors, the leather-lined ivory cabin seen here looks very premium, offset by piano black trim and some unusual white striated “wood” on the center console, doors and dashboard.

It is not yet clear what this means for the bizarre Murano CrossCabriolet, a two-door convertible model introduced for the 2011 model year. Based on the outgoing second-generation Murano architecture, the writing appears to be on the wall for this slow-selling nichemobile.

The 2015 Murano will become the ninth model built in Nissan’s Mississippi plant, and it will hit dealers in the fourth quarter of this year. Feel free to check below to watch an official video and read all the details in the press release.

Continue reading 2015 Nissan Murano gets edgier, lighter for NY [w/video]

2015 Nissan Murano gets edgier, lighter for NY [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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BMW to follow Honda back into F1?

April 14th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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BMW Sauber F1.09 at Interlagos

The economic downturn wrought devastating effects on motor racing. Formula One alone lost half its engine suppliers when Honda left at the end of the 2008 season, and both BMW and Toyota followed at the end of 2009. But things are looking up again. Cosworth may have dropped out this season, reducing the engine suppliers to three: Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes, the latter of which admits that it may have left had the engine formula not changed. But Mercedes has stayed and is dominating the championship. Honda is coming back next season. And word around the paddock is it may not be the only one.

According to Giancarlo Minardi – founder of the team now known as Scuderia Toro Rosso – BMW engineers have been conspicuously spotted lately at F1 test sessions and grands prix, lending to speculation that the new engine regulations may entice the Bavarian automaker back into the series. According to Minardi, BMW’s marketing division is pushing for the automaker’s return to F1, with the board slated to make a decision in May. BMW would be more likely to consider an engine-supply deal rather than taking a team over like it had with Sauber, but with which team or teams it might collaborate remains a big question mark at this point.

As if that’s not enough, Ford is said to be considering taking over Cosworth’s aborted V6 turbo engine program to take both outfits back into the sport as well. Cosworth supplied F1 engines under the Ford banner for years, but returned under its own name for four seasons from 2010 through 2013 before shuttering its program to develop an engine to meet the new regulations adopted this season.

With Honda, BMW and Ford back on the grid, F1 would be back up to six engine suppliers like it had been in the 2008 season that marked the highest level of participation from automakers in decades.

BMW to follow Honda back into F1? originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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NHTSA closes Ford F-150 EcoBoost acceleration probe

April 14th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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2011 Ford F-150

Typically when we report on the findings of an investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s because the government body has discovered a safety issue and prescribed a recall. In this case, however, NHTSA has closed an investigation into a reported performance deficit without ever getting to the recall stage.

The issue revolves around the Ford F-150 – specifically those equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine – of which some 360,000 were built in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 model years. After receiving an initial 95 complaints, NHTSA opened an investigation last May – almost a year ago – into the reported issue of reduced engine power under hard acceleration. The agency has since received a total of 525 such complaints, and Ford itself reported receiving over 4,000.

Together, NHTSA and Ford determined that the problem resulted from cylinders misfiring, an issue itself stemming from water getting into the charge air cooler (CAC) mated to the turbochargers. In particularly humid or rainy conditions, water was found to get into the CAC, causing some of the cylinders to misfire, which in turn triggered the ECU to disable those cylinders in order to protect the catalytic converter from damage.

Ford conducted its own testing and, rather than issue a recall, published a series of technical service bulletins prompting dealers to install deflect shields onto the CAC in the vehicles in question, solving the problem to 95-percent effectiveness in 2011-12 models and 100 percent in 2013 models. Apparently satisfied that Ford had resolved the issue, NHTSA has closed the file on this particular case.

NHTSA closes Ford F-150 EcoBoost acceleration probe originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 08:43:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Daimler names Bernd Pischetsrieder to supervisory board

April 14th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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GERMANY VOLKSWAGEN

Some executives in the automotive industry stay with one company for their entire careers, while others bounce from one to the other, often leaving their indelible mark on each automaker at which they serve. Bob Lutz is certainly an example of the latter. So is Lee Iacocca, having presided over Ford and later charing the Chrysler board. Carlos Tavares was chief operating officer of Renault before being nominated as chief executive at PSA Peugeot Citroën. But as far as the Germans go, nobody’s jumped from the leadership of one automaker to the next quite like Bernd Pischetsrieder – especially now that he’s been named to the supervisory board of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler.

An engineer by training, Pischetsrieder started his career at BMW in 1973, eventually rising to the office of CEO after twenty years. There he remained until 1999, only to be dismissed after orchestrating BMW’s takeover of the Rover Group (of which only the Mini brand remains in the company’s portfolio, the other brands having been sold off after his dismissal).

The next year he was named chairman of Volkswagen’s Seat brand, and rose to the chairmanship of the entire Volkswagen Group two years later. Despite a largely successful four-year tenure (that gave birth, incidentally, to the Bugatti Veyron), disagreements with supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piëch saw him leave the helm at VW AG, focusing his attention on the Scania truck division. He’s since been touted as a potential chief executive for Opel and for Continental, but neither potential was apparently realized.

Pischetsrieder’s appointment to the Daimler board was approved just days ago at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Berlin. Alongside him, former Bosch chief Bernd Bohr and current Siemens CEO Joseph Kaeser were also elected, all of them serving for a period of five years.

Continue reading Daimler names Bernd Pischetsrieder to supervisory board

Daimler names Bernd Pischetsrieder to supervisory board originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 07:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ontario looks to liquidate its holdings in General Motors

April 13th, 2014 by admin No comments »

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General Views of General Motors Co. Oshawa Assembly Plant

The late-80s and early-90s saw the Canadian government divest itself from some of its largest state-owned businesses (known in Commonwealth countries as Crown Corporations) – particularly when it came to transport and energy companies. In a sweeping implementation of Thatcherism led by Conservative premier Brian Mulroney, Ottawa privatized aerospace companies Canadair and de Havilland in 1986, sold off Air Canada in 1988, liquidated its majority stake in Petro-Canada in 1991 and finished selling off its shares in CN (the Canadian National Railway Company) in 1995. But after General Motors emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments (and, when it comes down to it, Queen Elizabeth II) found themselves among the largest shareholders in one of the biggest automakers in the world. And so they remain today, but that’s all about to change.

In a public address on Friday, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced the implementation of a new policy that would see the Ontario provincial government sell off a large portfolio of assets. On the docket are such state-owned assets as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (which has a monopoly over alcohol sale across the country’s second-largest and most populous province), utility companies Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation, some valuable pieces of real estate… and the province’s shares in GM.

According to Bloomberg, the provincial government is convening a panel to determine how best to sell off the assets, to be chaired by TD bank chief Ed Clark and populated by such notables as former provincial finance minister Janet Ecker and former Canada Pension Plan Investment Board chief David Denison. Funds raised by the sale of these assets will be reinvested in infrastructure and not applied towards the provincial debt that is fast approaching $300 billion (in Canadian dollars).

Back in August we reported that the Canadian federal government was also planning to sell its stake in GM, but today the government-owned Canada Development Investment Corporation remains the company’s second-largest shareholder with over 110 million shares, behind the UAW healthcare trust with precisely 140 million shares. The Canadian governments may, however, want to wait for GM’s stock prices to recover in the wake of the recall scandal before it begins offloading.

Ontario looks to liquidate its holdings in General Motors originally appeared on Autoblog on Sun, 13 Apr 2014 18:03:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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