Weekly Auto News: Uber nabs a Ford executive.

Plus, Volvo gets serious about the self-driving car, Faraday Future teases a new concept, no more Mazdaspeed

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Volvo has announced plans to test 100 autonomous vehicles in everyday driving conditions on the public roads of China. In a recent announcement in Beijing, Volvo is calling it “China’s most advanced autonomous driving experiment.”

Volvo, known for its safety record, is now owned by the Chinese automaker Geely. The company had previously made a pledge that no one will be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020. The autonomous plan seems to be one of the first steps in achieving that goal, as well as being in line with China’s commitment to develop autonomous driving technologies.

The plan laid out Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson is to soon open negotiations with individual Chinese cities. Samuelsson will be looking for not only interested parties, but ones that can get the appropriate permissions and regulations in order, as well as supply the necessary infrastructure.

“The sooner AD (autonomous driving) cars are on the roads, the sooner lives will start being saved,” Samuelsson said in the seminar speech in Beijing.

A public test of these autonomous Volvo cars will take place at some point in 2017 in Sweden before sending the fleet of 100 over to China.

Video: Special Nissan GT-R breaks drifting world record

A specially-tuned 2016 Nissan GT-R with 1,380 horsepower has set the fastest drift time at a 3 km airport strip in the UAE.

Behind the wheel was Japanese Drifting Series Champion Kawabata Masato. He not only set a record at 304.96 km/h, but he broke it three times with this run captured on video. Watch as he goes sideways across the finish line.

Michelin, Pirelli top J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Study

J.D. Power and Associates have released the results from its 2016 Original Equipment Tire Customer Satisfaction Study, and Michelin and Pirelli hold a lead above all.

Michelin took top honours in three out of four categories: Luxury, Passenger Car and Truck/Utility. The sports performance tire segment was won by Pirelli for the third year in a row, and the fifth year out of the last seven. In all of the four categories, Michelin or Pirelli filled one of the top two spots.

Michelin is now the all-time leader in the J.D. Power and Associates’ awards with 80, a total that is four times more than any other competitor.

“At Michelin, we have always been strongly committed to the quality and performance of our tires at every level, and we never stop finding ways to remain the leading innovator to improve our tires and satisfy the high expectations of new-car buyers,” said Ken Kruithof, Michelin North and South America’s vice president of operations for passenger and light truck original equipment tires.

Say goodbye to the Mazdaspeed

Accord to the Australian website Motoring, Mazda scrapped a performance-minded Mazdaspeed Concept that was scheduled to be revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Instead, Mazda opted to show-off the Koeru Crossover Concept. The news of this was discovered in an interview between the website and North America president Masahiro Moro.

“Mazda has become more mature, more upscale, more sophisticated, and we have a new transition of the brand to relate to that direction,” Moro stated in the interview.

The news is a hard pill to swallow for Mazdaspeed3 fans, but Moro at least hints that something would come in its place, just different than what was. That difference looks to be in the development of second-generation SkyActiv II vehicles, which Moro states are the 100 per cent focus of the Mazda’s research team.

A new ride awaits Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon be rolling down toward the Kremlin in a new domestically-produced limousine. It’s all part of a 12.4 billion ruble ($243 million Cdn.) Kortezh project that will see a wave of new Russian-built vehicles, including sedans, SUVs, a microbus and the limousine.

The report comes from state-owned media outlet Sputnik News. It states that the project will be built at the Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automotive Institute in Moscow. The plan is to build 5,000 vehicles annually from now until 2020.

The Kortezh vehicles have undergone testing for more than a year, with crash testing soon to commence. If all goes well, Putin’s limousine should be ready for delivery in late 2017. The other vehicles will be sold to the public, and some will be allocated to transport top Russian government officials.

Could an e-sports car be in the works for Nissan?

According to Auto Express, Nissan has a new modular platform in the works that could expand its alternative vehicle offerings to possibly include an electric sports car.

“We’re the leading EV manufacturer, but I don’t think we can make it just off one EV, so we want to grow the portfolio — that’s our next plan,” Nissan senior vice president Shiro Nakamura told the British outlet. “It could be a crossover, it could be a sports car; we see much more opportunity for EVs than just a hatchback.”

Recently, Nissan has shown off possible future design language in its IDS Concept and Gripz Concept that could work with the new modular platform. The new platform is expected to be ready in five years and can be used for both gasoline-powered or alternative powertrains, so we can’t be certain that an electric sports car will become a reality.

FCA looks to spark Pacifica sales with the help of a comedian

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is taking a different approach to selling its latest Pacifica minivan — it’s directing its focus towards dads, rather than the typical “soccer mom.” The FCA’s latest marketing campaign is called “Dad Brand,” and has opted to feature standup comedian Jim Gaffigan, a father of five, largely known for his humour revolving around fatherhood.

RELATED: All-new Pacifica raises the bar for minivan styling

The ads are comprised of four 30-second spots with more to follow that showcase the Chrysler Pacifica assisting Gaffigan on keeping up his “Dad Brand.” Gaffigan is joined in the ads with his and children.

“As the Chrysler brand is reinventing the minivan from the ground up, the objective of our campaign is to challenge the conventional category stereotypes and appeal to a new generation of minivan buyers, including younger families,” said Olivier Francois, FCA’s global chief marketing officer.

The television spots have already begun to air as the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica starts rolling out to dealerships later this spring.

Uber grabs Ford exec

In its quest to become a leader in autonomous driving, ride-hailing specialist Uber has hired Sherif Marakby, a top technology and engineering expert, from Ford.

Marakby will head to Uber’s Advanced Technology Centre in Pittsburgh to be vice president of its global vehicle programs. His focus will be on manufacturer strategy and integration efforts.

“Self-driving technology can help prevent these tragedies as well as improve the quality of life in cities,” Marakby said in a statement. “It’s one of the many reasons I am so excited to join Uber’s team in Pittsburgh.”

Prior to taking the new role with Uber, Marakby acted as director of global electronics and engineering at Ford.

Marakby isn’t the first executive to be lured from other major companies. His boss at Uber was hired from Google’s Maps department, one of Uber’s biggest autonomous vehicle competitors.

Faraday Future teases crossover

Faraday Future appears to have given a slight hint to its future roster in a teaser silhouette drawn on their booth backdrop at the recent Formula E race in Long Beach, Calif. The image captures a crossover-like vehicle that will use Faraday Future’s Variable Platform Architecture (VPA).

If you’re unfamiliar with Faraday Future, they’re the wannabe-rival company to Tesla. The company unveiled its 1,000 horsepower FFZero1 battery-powered concept sports car at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in January.

It wowed the crowd in attendance with its low, long-shaped Batmobile-esque appearance, which featured an open glass roof, aero tunnels and “UFO lines” running across its carbon fibre hood. Faraday Future’s plan to use the same VPA platform that underpins the FFZero1 for multiple vehicles in its lineup has come closer to reality with news that it is breaking ground on its new Nevada manufacturing facility after some initial financial setbacks.

Call for asbestos brakes to be eliminated from Canada

Brake pads that contain asbestos have been imported and used in Canada to the tune of $100 million between the years 2005 to 2015. Despite political denouncements and lobbyist campaigns, the import of the cancer-causing mineral still goes on without any prevention from the law.

Now, Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC) are joining in on the fight by adding vocal support to urge the federal government to eliminate the import and use of asbestos in Canada.

“This is an unacceptable and wholly unnecessary risk,” said Steve Fletcher, managing director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada. “Asbestos brake pads should simply not exist in Canada. We are calling for the federal Ministers of Health and Environment and Climate Change to act now.”

Annually, approximately 1.6 million vehicles reach their end-of-life stage. Part of the Canadian standard protocol is the removal of asbestos brake pads ahead of vehicle compaction before it gets shipped off to recycle its metal and other bits. The main problem is you cannot detect whether brake pads contain asbestos, therefore all aftermarket brake pads have to be removed, causing the worker to be potentially exposed to the lung cancer threat.

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