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from Expert Zone:

First Drive: Mercedes-Benz GLA

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The trend of luxury crossovers was started by BMW with the X1. Audi followed suit with its Q3 and Mercedes-Benz is now entering the game with the GLA.

On sheer looks, Mercedes-Benz seems to have got it right with the GLA. It’s a great effort of making the A-Class hatchback look like a crossover. Though they may not have managed to pull off a crossover per se, the GLA definitely looks well proportioned and flaunts pronounced curves. It even looks slightly muscular from some angles. It’s a bit odd, as the GLA - to the keen eye - will look more proportionate and attractive in comparison to the A-Class. The A-Class now comes across as the GLA that the Hulk sat on.

The resemblance to the A-Class isn’t limited to surface design and overall appearance; the GLA looks similar on the inside too. There’s oddity around - like the tab-type screen hooked on in the middle of the dashboard - but it sort of looks fine. Mercedes is being aggressive globally in their strategy, and that’s odd too. But it’s working, no?

The space in the cabin is also very hatch-like, which means it’s not much - especially at the rear. Particularly so if you’re tall. The business end, conversely, is supportive and finding the right driving position isn’t an issue. The quality inside is also typically Merc - properly blue-chip.

from Over-Gaffenated:

MORNING BID – Motor City Madmen

One of the day’s biggest indicators will be monthly auto sales figures, at a time when the major U.S. automakers are seeing notable weakness in their equity prices. We’re waiting on insights from General Motors as they hold an analyst day and after Ford warned that its profits would fall short of expectations for 2014 and 2015 thanks to bigger recall costs in North America and bigger losses in South America and Russia. It’s tempting to go after the world weakness – be it Brazil, Russia, Germany or what-have-you – as that which ails the likes of a big automaker like Ford, and certainly the lackluster demand there isn’t going to help anybody.

But Ford in 2013 still counted 58 percent of its sales from the United States (Russia is de minimus now, not even warranting a percentage amount in its line items on its segment breakout). Germany accounts for about 6 percent, so there’s that – but still, U.S. Fifty-eight percent. Ford full-size pickups. Big margins, y’know? So the Detroit team (and investors) are looking for any kind of weakness there, anything that supports the idea that sales incentives are doing for car sales what the Fed has done for the bond market (that is, provide lots of financing) and whether transaction prices are rising or not.

from Breakingviews:

Hertz gears up for another financial spin

By Kevin Allison

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Carl Icahn is just the latest financier to toy with Hertz Global. The activist investor reported an 8.5 percent stake on Wednesday, saying he planned to pressure the $14 billion car rental company over recent management stumbles. But Hertz has been an investor plaything for nearly a century. Automakers, an airline, a 1960s conglomerate, private equity and public investors have all owned the business.

from The Great Debate UK:

Financing must improve if UK auto sector is to thrive

--Guy Walsh is Regional Director at ABN AMRO Commercial Finance PLC. The opinion expressed are his own.--

The automotive industry is the UK’s largest sector in terms of exports, generating around £30 billion of annual revenue, but many smaller players in the sector languish due to a lack of funding.

from Photographers' Blog:

Life of a crash test dummy

Landsberg, Germany

By Michael Dalder

Have you ever thought about the number of cars that are on the road every day?

According to research by WardsAuto, in 2010 the number of cars in operation around the globe grew to more than 1 billion for the very first time.

That’s a lot of cars. No doubt, it also means a lot of accidents every day. But I had the chance to witness the work of some engineers – along with their reticent assistants – whose job it is to help prevent these accidents from happening by researching car safety.

from MacroScope:

Davos Day Two — Rouhani, Lew and Lagarde

Day one in Davos showed the masters of the universe fretting about Sino-Japanese military tensions, the treacherous investment territory in some emerging markets and the risk of a lurch to the right in Europe at May’s parliamentary elections which could make reform of the bloc even harder.

Today, the focus will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (and his main detractor, Israel’s Netanyahu). Presumably he’s there to woo the world of commerce now sanctions are to be relaxed in return for Tehran suspending enrichment of uranium beyond a certain level. Anything he says about Syria’s peace talks, which have so far been more hostile than conciliatory, will instantly be headline news.

from Photographers' Blog:

Shopping for vintage wheels

Pierce, Nebraska

By Jim Urquhart

I think I just witnessed the biggest news event to take place in the small hamlet of Pierce, Nebraska.

GALLERY: VINTAGE CAR AUCTION

Hundreds of miles away from my Salt Lake City home in the heart of fly-over country I was assigned to cover the auctioning off of 500 vintage automobiles in a field outside of town. Ray Lambrecht had run the local Chevrolet dealership for decades before retiring in 1996. Over the years he developed a habit of not selling trade-in cars and held onto many unsold cars. What was left was a scattered collection of hundreds of cars in warehouses and fields around the town of about 2,000 people.

from Photographers' Blog:

An automotive best in show

Pebble Beach, California

By Michael Fiala

When I usually don cameras to shoot on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach it's to cover what is considered one of the best finishing holes in golf. Stay an arm's length within the ropes, work as silently as possible and don't distract the golfers. Instead this past Sunday I weaved myself through this hallowed stretch of coastline and into the colorful automotive celebration that is the Concours d'Elegance. An annual charitable event, which was founded in 1950, of rare automobiles, competing in their class and for Best of Show.

GALLERY: CONCOURS D'ELEGANCE

The Pebble Beach Concours, which concludes a week of car-related festivities - much of it business related - attracts some of the world's wealthiest car enthusiasts, industry leaders, and celebrities. The week consists of five auctions, eight concours and exhibitions, three days of racing, concept car unveilings and manufacturer displays, all culminating Sunday on the shores of the foggy Pacific.

from Expert Zone:

Hyundai makes a grand move with the Grand i10

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In 1947, when India won freedom from British rule, an enterprising young man in South Korea was realizing a dream that was to become a global phenomenon. Chung Ju-yung, founder of the Hyundai group, set up a construction company at 32 and two decades later, the Hyundai Motor Company was born.

from Global Investing:

Russia’s starting blocs – the EEU

The course is more than 20 million square kilometers, and covers 15 percent of the world's land surface. It's not a new event in next month's IAAF World Championships in Moscow but a long-term project to better integrate emerging Eurasian economies.

The eventual aim of a new economic union for post-Soviet states, known as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), is to "substitute previously existing ones," according to Tatiana Valovaya, Russia's minister in charge of development of integration and macroeconomics, at a media briefing in London last week.

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