Electric Power Comes To Formula-Type Racing

Written By Thomas Ponco on Friday, August 31, 2012 | 1:30 PM

Published August 31, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Electric-powered race cars will be competing in a newly created championship to be known as Formula E.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has reached an agreement this week to license the commercial rights of the FIA Formula E Championship to a consortium of international investors, Formula E Holdings Ltd (FEH).

Formula E is a new FIA championship featuring Formula cars powered exclusively by electric energy. The FIA says it represents a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades.

FEH, the new promoter, has as anchor investor London-based entrepreneur Enrique Bañuelos, and as CEO and shareholder former MEP and racing team owner Alejandro Agag, who has a long experience in the motor sport business. Also associated with the project are Lord Drayson, Managing Partner of Drayson Racing Technologies, and Eric Barbaroux, Chairman of the French electric automotive company "Electric Formula."

Demonstration runs of the Formula E cars will start in 2013, followed by the championship in 2014 with an objective of 10 teams and 20 drivers participating in the competition. The races will be ideally staged in the heart of the world’s leading cities, around their main landmarks.

“I would like to thank all the parties involved” said Jean Todt, President of the FIA. “This new competition at the heart of major cities is certain to attract a new audience. We are pleased with this agreement with Formula E Holdings as they bring a very strong experience in motor sport. This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share the FIA values and objectives of clean energy, mobility and sustainability with a wider and younger audience as well.”

The series will be open to any cars sanctioned as Formula E by the FIA. The consortium will ensure that a Formula E Car, based on the Formulec EF 01 prototype already in operation, is available for those competing teams willing to race with it.

More information can be found on the newly created FEH Web site.

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As It Puts Out Fires, Fisker Says it Is Making Progress

Published August 31, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

In a recent interview, Fisker’s Director, Global Communications Roger Ormisher said the company is doing OK, despite another recall following a second fire, and questions whether the Atlantic will be built in the U.S.

But what about the first Texas Karma fire in May? It is still under investigation, appears like it may never be fully solved and the Fort Bend County Fire Marshal’s report is now suppressed by the county attorney general.

Not even Fisker can get at it, and media requests have all been denied except for a briefed version of the report sent out to those of us who filed an official info request.

Chief Robert Baker did tell HybridCars.com what is in the report however. He said his job was to determine whether a criminal investigation should be opened, and said he found no evidence that warranted doing so.

So he passed the report on as a closed case, saying the fire started at the Karma just as he had from day one to Autoweek. Other investigators continued beyond Baker's local level report however, and Fisker also hired a forensic fire expert to see what he could see.

So far, no one has said if the cause was a faulty fan overheating as was the case with the more recent fire in California, or some other cause.

Ormisher said they may never know as Baker also said, commenting the car was reduced to ashes on a frame and wheels. As things are, the incinerated Texas Karma is being kept secure and no one is allowed access to it unless all concerned parties – insurance companies, Fisker, government investigators, etc. – are all present. This, said Ormisher, would be cost prohibitive, and logistically complicated, so until further notice the Texas fire remains a mystery.

Other than that, Ormisher said the company will survive, and stories about Fisker’s death have been greatly exaggerated – OK, he did not really make the latter statement. What he actually said was despite setbacks, the company is growing, expanding its sales to Africa, Europe, China, Canada, and elsewhere.

Reports have also gone out that over 2,000 Karmas were sold so far, but Ormisher said only “we’re still saying ‘over 1,000’” and would not confirm accounts of as many as 2,400 worldwide Karma sales since its launch late last year.

After many delays right up to its EPA and CARB emissions certifications in October last year Fisker did ramp up production much quicker than did Tesla Motors.

The latter is assembling Model S units so carefully and deliberately, that since its June 22 launch, Tesla only just reported 100 built, of which 74 went to customers.

In contrast, in its first full sales month in January Fisker pumped out 262 Karmas to customers which had come from the well-regarded Finnish subcontractor, Velmet, which also builds certain Porsche models under contract, and a range of other vehicles. If it had been included on the HybridCars.com monthly sales Dashboard, 262 sales would have ranked it the third-best selling plug-in car in North America behind the Leaf and Volt which sold in the 600-unit range.

Fisker’s main problems this year besides its loss of federal loans in February needed to build the Atlantic here surrounded its A123 Systems batteries, These were eventually recalled by A123 and this hurt the Massachusetts battery supplier – A123’s stock price plunged so badly, it accepted an offer from a Chinese investor and gave it an 80-percent controlling share.

Presently , Fisker is recalling all its Karmas a second time for the over-heated fan in its front driver’s side wheel well which was the cause of fire number two in California. The positive news out of this is the battery and engine packaging was not at fault as had been feared.

The man whose car it was – an investment banker and managing partner at Woodside Capital in Silicon Valley – has even said he and his wife like the Karma and believe so fully in Fisker, they'll be getting another Karma, and investing in Fisker the company, as well.

These and other private investors are an indicator Fisker's business plan is more sound than naysayers would likely concede.

Fisker was denied the balance of its U.S. Energy Department loans due to missed deadlines – and reportedly a conservative attitude was induced by political critics of Obama administration green energy loans making the DOE unwilling to re-open the fund supply – but investors are still forking over hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to the green energy car company from Irvine, Calif.

Either these private investors are going to lose their own money and may not be that savvy either, or they know – or have been shown details – the naysayers from the sidelines do not know about.

Given investors are putting their own uninsured dollars down, and naysayers are, well, only saying “nay,” you decide who you’ll believe.

For its part, Fisker says it is still working toward launching its now delayed Atlantic. It still wants to build it in its wholly owned former GM Boxwood plant in Wilmington, Del., but this too is up in the air.

Another positive development for Fisker was the hiring of former Chevy Volt line director, Tony Posawatz.

While he’s never been a CEO before now, he has decades of GM experience, was on the Volt Project all the way through and past launch, and is “a great team leader” Ormisher said. Since he’s only been on the job a couple weeks, a full progress report would be early at this point, he added.

What’s absolutely certain is it is not easy launching a new car company in America. The California start-up is actually working toward goals that have otherwise been viewed quite positively. It wants to create environmentally responsible cars in the U.S. and export them globally.

It consistently repeats this while having to comply with over 70,000 pages of regulations, media ready to pounce on any negative report, politically motivated critics invoking the dreaded name of Solyndra, and having weathered several other large and small setbacks.

That it is on the defensive is also apparent, and that probably does not help, but Ormisher says while not always obvious, evidence is available to see that it is making forward strides, and most importantly, its customers for the most part do like their new cars.

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Lancia Aurelia B56 "Florida" by Pininfarina

No technical specification is available

(click images for a larger view)

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Toyota announces new four-cylinder Camry SE Sport

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TORRANCE, Calif., August 30, 2012- Toyota announces that the new 2012 Camry SE Sport Limited Edition four-cylinder model begins, and should arrive at Toyota dealers by Labor Day weekend.

This new Camry SE Sport edition combines a desirable equipment package with the proven Camry mid-size, four-cylinder sedan formula at a very accessible Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $25,995 (price does not include a Destination Preparation and Handling fee). The Camry SE Sport includes 18" alloy wheels with smoked finish, 8-way power seat, power sunroof, and Display Audio (6.1-inch touchscreen) with Navigation and Entune™.

The exterior colors offered for the Camry SE Sport include Barcelona Red, Attitude Black, and for the first time on this latest generation of Camry, Blizzard Pearl. This limited production model will offer a choice of black or black/ash interior. Production of the Barcelona Red and Attitude Black models began August 6. The Pearl White will be available for only three months from the start of production on September 12 to November 12. All Camry sedans are manufactured at Toyota's Kentucky plant.

News Source: Toyota

Category: Car Buying, Sedan, Toyota

Tags: 2012 toyota camry, camry, camry se, camry se sport, camry se sport limited edition, toyota

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Infiniti Will Soon Reveal LE Concept To Paris – When WIll Nissan Reveal More Range?

Published August 31, 2012

By Jeff Cobb


As shown here at Pebble Beach, the Infiniti LE Concept has already been introduced to the U.S. It has the body of an upscale luxury car and still has the heart of a Nissan Leaf.

Unless Nissan packs more batteries into the pending Infiniti LE Concept – or more likely reveals a superior chemistry it has waiting in the wings – its first luxury EV will be at a severe range disadvantage to Tesla’s Model S line.

Infiniti will show the all-electric luxury car to Europe for the first time at the Paris Auto Show next month, and presently the concept uses a humble Leaf’s powertrain to push the larger luxury vehicle with dimensions in line with a G sedan.

“It is too early to confirm exactly when and where it will go on sale, but we are heartened by recent moves to encourage electric cars, such as France raising the purchase incentive from €5000 to €7000 per car. It is fitting that the LE Concept should make its European debut in Paris,” said Infiniti executive Bernard Loire.

Also too early to confirm is how Infiniti expects to sell an upscale car with maybe 100-mile range – if not 70 miles in many ordinary driving scenarios – when the premium Model S can go from the 230s up to over 300 miles under conservative driving situations. Tesla’s lesser S models when they are launched later this year will come with at least a 40-kwh or 60-kwh battery, while the Infiniti LE has 24-kwh.

Nissan has not said how the LE will compete with Tesla, but it is setting the stage for Infiniti-level driving expectations that will emphasize its satisfying "performance" with luxury status while downplaying the fact that it’s an EV.

“A luxury car for a new generation of sustainable luxury buyers must not compromise on performance. Buyers want ‘green,’ but won’t settle for any aspect of the driving experience being less than that of their current luxury vehicles,” Loire said.

In 2009 reports had it that Nissan has aNickel Manganese Cobalt li-ion chemistry with maybe double the range capacity of the Leaf's manganese spinel chemistry that would see production by 2015. Nissan is also undergoing current issues with a “handful” of Leaf owners in hot states who are say they are suffering with premature battery degradation. Furthermore, Japanese media have reported improvements of around 25 percent possible for the 2013 Leaf.

While Infiniti showcases its car in premium venues do you really think it will go to market with a Leaf’s present capacity? It’s nearly certain it won’t and this is one more pressure on Nissan to up the ante for the LE – and it’s just a matter of time before we officially hear of improvements on its less-expensive EVs now and pending as well.

We have asked about these questions, and Nissan says it does not disclose such information, but the handwriting – while at present still illegible – is essentially written on the wall anyway.


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Highly modified Nissan Patrol impounded after 200-mph &quot;Hollywood-style&quot; chase in Dubai

Related Gallery 2010 Nissan Patrol

News Source: Gulfnews.com

Category: Aftermarket, SUV, Etc., Nissan, Specialty, Middle East

Tags: dubai, middle east, modified nissan patrol, nissan, nissan patrol, patrol

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Chrysler Boss Says CAFE Will Make V8s Practically Extinct

Published August 31, 2012

By Jeff Cobb


While GM is also touting the Volt, it's also promoting its ZL1 Camaro which promises 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, 184 mph at a relative bargain price of $54,995. Is this a last hurrah for a dying era or are we living in something better than the good old days?

Given just-announced federal fuel economy and emissions mandates, and calls for the same plus a certain minimum of electrified vehicles by influential California, get ready to say goodbye to the high-output V8 engine, says the CEO of Chrysler.

Actually, Sergio Marchionne predicted this result in the wake of fleet-wide belt tightening particularly from 2017-2025, the period covered by the updated federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules. These, he said, will “change the way this industry operates,” and make now proliferating V8s in muscle cars “as rare as white flies.”

If this comes to pass, it’s not a little ironic that all manner of over-the-top expressions of the high-performance automaker’s art are now experiencing something like a renaissance.

If you have the money, today you can purchase from a wide variety of automotive speed machines up to a $2 million V16 made by the VW Group that pushes over 1,100 horsepower – the Bugatti Veyron. And even car buyers with relatively average incomes are invited to the party with such models as Chevrolet’s $55,000, 580-horseepower Camaro ZL1, and Ford’s similarly priced 662-horsepower Mustang Shelby GT500.

Consider that 420 horsepower was around all you'd get from previous-generation exotics like a Lamborghini Countach, and now your local Ford or Chevy dealer has a car that will run way from it in the quarter mile. This is a fact of the automotive landscape as we contemplate extreme austerity measures nearly doubling average fleet-wide fuel economy and halving CO2 emissions over the next 13 years.

At least that's the plan while automakers are hard at work offering around twice the number of 500-plus horsepower cars than hybrid models communicating quite the mixed message to the marketplace.

If the big V8 is going to be as rare as a white fly, is it also going out with a bang, like a party on the deck of the Titanic, or a last binge banquet before the start of a New Years' resolution diet? Or is Marchionne’s opinion just one more shaky finger held in the air trying to forecast which way the wind will blow?

One veteran industry analyst from 2953 Analytics, Jim Hill, told NBC News he thinks the latter may be the case, and observed that people have predicted the V8’s demise since 1979.

What ever proves true, the Obama administration has touted its CAFE mandates as overcoming legislative inertia to set the U.S. on course to cleaner and greener.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Obama.

Even if the V8 is kept in play, automakers will also be employing an “all-of-the-above” approach to either splice extremely clean vehicles into their automotive gene pool, such as pure EVs and plug-in hybrids or they’ll throw every trick in the book at conventional vehicles for incremental gains.

These include stop/start systems becoming more commonplace, a total systems approach to optimizing vehicles, super efficient transmissions, and various means of weight reduction. Of course we’ll see more downsizing of engines while boosting output through forced induction, direct injection, and other technologies such as those found in Ford’s EcoBoost line.

As mentioned, California is also pushing for more electrified vehicles, and over a dozen states follow its lead, so these mandates too are coming in the face of the most outspoken critics who have said average new car prices could balloon by as much as $10,000 per vehicle in 2025.

GOP presidential candidate Romney has generally sided with the critics of Obama’s legislation, and really there are so many technological and market variables pending in coming years, much lower cost estimates made by the government could prove equally true.

Everyone agrees cars will become more expensive. Up in the air is by how much? Critics have also said while cars will cost more and promise back-end fuel savings, consumers will still be the ones to foot the up-front bill.

The new rules call for “54.5” mpg as an average, but the government has varying ways it calculates this somewhat mythical figure. By 2025, one estimate is that a closer to EPA sticker number will be around 45 mpg for cars and 32 mpg for light trucks.

And at that point will there be fire-breathing V8s for sale like there are so many of today? The head of Chrysler says no, others says yes, and others still say maybe.

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Tesla Contemplating All-Electric Supercar

Written By Thomas Ponco on Thursday, August 30, 2012 | 3:00 PM

Published August 30, 2012

By Jeff Cobb


Hey wait a minute! Isn't Tesla's evolutionary development supposed to be headed lower in price, higher in volume? Yes, and not to worry, says Elon Musk, but it's leaving options open to surpass its Roadster later this decade too.

If Europe's exotic car makers are planning near-million-dollar plug-in hybrids, isn’t a “supercar” something Tesla might be able to also build, maybe for less money, and in all-electric form?

Well now that you mention it, it's certainly an attainable goal, says company founder Elon Musk, though for now it is but a gleam in his mind’s eye for later this decade. The thing is, gleams in the eye of the one who also introduced the world to SpaceX spacecraft and an electric Roadster that goaded GM into building the Volt have a tendency to become reality more than perhaps they do for other dreamers.

So, in addition to going down market to a $30,000-ish car from the $50-$100k-plus Model S line now just launching, Musk is thinking of developing an over-$200,000 sports car to compete against companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Porsche.

“We will do an electric supercar at some point,” Musk said on a Web chat mentioning also that Tesla is now studying the idea.

Automotive News further reported Tesla has considered following the 2013 Model X SUV launch with the proposed supercar, but then decided that would be too soon, Musk said.

“It was going to happen right after the Model X, but it is more important to the world that we do a more affordable electric car,” Musk said. “Hopefully, we will get to an electric supercar in four to five years.”

Indeed – a lot of EV enthusiasts now sidelined and waiting would concur. Presently sub-$40,000 EVs for sale in the U.S. include those from Nissan and Mitsubishi. The 2013 Chevy Spark EV is on its way, and the Ford Focus EV is rolling out, and just knocking on the back door of $40k. There's also limited availability efforts from Honda, Smart and BMW, but the pickins otherwise remain slim.

From what we’ve heard, many people would hope first to see another more affordable EV closer to the $30,000 new car average selling price – before they’d vote for more EVs to satisfy those in the relatively exclusive Model S and Roadster owners club.

Fortunately for these everyday folks, going down market – as soon as 2015 – has been the plan. Tesla’s intention – as is true for Fisker Automotives’ plug-in series hybrids – has been to start at a premium car to establish credibility, then apply lessons learned to something closer to peoples’ cars.

Tesla has also mentioned an all-electric pickup, and by the way, Musk’s separate company SpaceX is poised to become the first private spacecraft to supply the International Space Station, having just won from the U.S. government a $440 million contract to develop spacecraft for future cargo missions.

The possibilities are many for Musk’s enterprises, and now he says they are thinking of gunning for Ferrari, Lamborghini, and other proud supercar makers later this decade? Sure, why not?

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New Chevy Volt Sales Record Expected In August

Published August 30, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

Holden Volt

Yes, that's Volt – a Holden-badged one shuttling through the Australian GM division's headquarters lobby. When the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly line re-starts after Oct. 12, it will be ready for fourth-quarter production of Volts for down under.

A couple days ago General Motors said it would idle the Detroit-Hamtramck plant where Volts are exclusively built, prompting some critics to again weigh in on perceived low sales numbers, but GM still expects to set a new sales high this month.

We’ll know soon enough for the month ending tomorrow, but GM’s Volt Communications Representative Michelle Malcho today confirmed reports “while it’s still too early to tell how the numbers will go,” the company’s August Volt sales will beat its previous record by around 10 percent or more.

“All I can say for certain is that it will be over 2,500 at this point,” Malcho said.

The present Volt sales record was set in March at 2,289 units, and this was a high-water mark above the 1,849 second-place set last month in July – and a good sized jump above the sub-2,000 unit per month numbers logged this year.

For your review, the numbers of Volts sold from the end of last year through this are: December: 1,529; January: 603, February: 1,023; March: 2,289; April: 1,429; May: 1,680, June: 1,760, July 1,849.

Malcho told us the other day the Volt was seeing “month-over-month increases, and indeed this is true this month and then some. We asked if GM thus expected to have month-over month sales the rest of the year?

“We should continue to see sales as we have for the past few months,” she said, but it’s “hard to tell if we will see progressive growth at this time.”

Malcho also told the Detroit News GM is especially seeing sales momentum in key markets – California, Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

She noted also this being the Volt’s second year, it will beat the historic second year for the first-generation Toyota Prius. The Prius sold 15,600 units in all of 2001, but two-thirds of the way through the year, the Volt will exceed 13,300 units through August, with four more months to add to that number.

Critics have however repeatedly pointed out previous sales goals far exceeding the present numbers as proof that the Volt is a failure.

It is true that GM was optimistic in early projections, and the Volt has sold fewer than were first forecast, but the car is leading the plug-in electric category, and scoring consistent numbers.

It also recently sold more units in one month than a favorite of GM’s stable, the Corvette, but no one seems to lambaste that car's sales nearly so much as they do the Volt’s. But then we've covered some of the reasons why this is so, before. /p>

Actually – and just to update the critics – since the beginning of this year GM ceased making round-number sales predictions, and says it will “match supply to demand,” and this it has done

Malcho said the Detroit-Hamtramck plant “built ahead” Volt inventories to prevent shortages.

We asked if this therefore meant GM expected to probably have no shortages at the dealer level.

“We shouldn't have any shortages,” she said. “A few dealers based on allocation may not have as much of a selection as they would like, but we have enough inventory.”

And speaking of dealers that will have supply, the Volt assembly line will begin producing Holden Volts beginning the fourth quarter of this year. From Nov. 1 onwards, Holden’s 49 Volt dealers will begin selling the Australian versions of the Volt for $59,995 AUD.

The Australian GM division has been running advertisements, generating interest for the green plug-in car, and has said it will be “a new kind of flagship for Holden.”

We shall see how sales go down under where they pay more for cars than we do, and at least for certain is this will be another pocket of demand to add to the global cars being exported – for now – from Detroit.

The Volt is also sold as an Opel Ampera in Europe and Vauxhall Ampera in the UK. Everywhere the plug-in GM been made available, reports of steadily growing interest have followed, even if it has not, as critics like to say, taken the world (yet) by storm.

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Volkswagen again named tops in Total Quality survey by Strategic Vision

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"Volkswagen Has Best Total Quality, Toyota Fewest Problems,"

The 2012 Total Quality Awards

San Diego - Strategic Vision announces results of its 2012 Total Quality Index™ (TQI) study. With the industry best of only 17% of owners reporting problems, Toyota Motor Sales corporation had the lowest reported problems, resulting in Strategic Vision's lowest "Problem Impact Measure" (PIM) score of 4.29, a Strategic Vision metric that examines the report of the problem, the nature (serious, moderate or minor) of the problem, and the nature of the problem unresolved by dealer. Although this is good for Toyota, PIM is only a subset of "Total Quality." With near universal acceptance that manufacturers are running the tightest "quality race" ever, customers are increasingly defining "quality" holistically and using Total Quality in their decisions. Total Quality measures how closely the experience of quality matches the explicit desires of the customer. In terms of Total Quality, Volkswagen Group of America is the leading corporation, followed by a tie between Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Group.

"This is really great news for all those corporations, but the key to success and sales will be products that satisfy the customer's increasingly insatiable need for innovation, and the complete picture of Quality," says Strategic Vision President, Alexander Edwards. "We point out Total Quality vs. 'Fewest Problems' for a reason. When measuring quality, the complete experience must be part of the calculation and include all the perceptions that influence how people make their decision. For instance, even when 'just' counting problems, perception is involved. One buyer may overlook what another may report. With Total Quality, we factor in all the perceptions that are proven to create the impression of Total Quality; this is ultimately how people think about vehicles and spend money," concludes Alexander Edwards.

Volkswagen Group of America's Total Quality strength centers on segment leaders like Golf, Eos, Tiguan, as well Audi segment leaders A4 and A8. Ford Motor Company was able to finish second (tied with Chrysler Group) with many strong segment rankings, and leadership from Flex, F-150 and F-250/350. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the most improved corporation-Chrysler Group. "They are definitely beginning to turn things around and the Fiat 500 (Small Car Segment winner) is just one example. Attributes like Fiat 500's Exterior Styling and Workmanship, and even Sound Systems, all become part of the Total Quality equation when one explicitly captures the heart and mind of how customer's think when spending $20,000 to $100,000 on a vehicle," adds Darrel Edwards, Ph.D. and Strategic Vision Chairman/Founder. "Of course some brands do not compete at the corporate level. BMW and Mercedes continue to do well, but monitor the pulse of America, and be sure to recognize the current trend of 'smart' luxury," opines Dr. Edwards.

Other Total Quality winners from Chrysler Group were the Dodge Charger and redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee. "Full-line corporations like Toyota and American Honda Motor are as strong as ever in terms of percentages of people reporting problems. It's just that others are doing such a great job also, and they have excelled in providing the kind of innovation that influences perceptions of quality," says Strategic Vision Vice President Christopher Chaney. "Look at the Chevrolet Volt," Chaney continues. "It may not be a sales leader, but those who purchased it were heavily influenced by a number of quality cues that made it a segment leader in Total Quality."

General Motors provided traditional leadership strength with the Chevrolet Corvette Coupe, which tied with the BMW 1-Series Coupe, among Premium Coupes. When it came to Premium Convertible/Roadsters and Luxury Utilities, BMW Z4 Roadster and X6 were the respective segment leaders. The new MINI Cooper Coupe had one of the highest Total Quality scores in the industry and, of course, was the Specialty Coupe Segment winner. Similar to Toyota, the Honda brand maintains a good overall Problem Impact Measure position and led three segments with Accord Crosstour, Odyssey and [five-time] Standard Truck Segment winner Ridgeline.

The real message is that innovation is connected to perceptions of quality. If innovation is strong, especially such that customers can say they "love it," when referring to the product, then perceptions of quality will be greatly (positively) influenced. Strategic Vision research has proven that those who recognize and acknowledge innovation (most new car buyers) will purchase, and not just be driven by counting problems. With all manufacturers being in such close traditional quality proximity (counting problems only), there is little question that those car manufacturers who offer rich and impactful, intuitive, motivationally designed cars will have the advantage going into the future. A near perfect example is the Land Rover Evoque, with its incredibly motivational styling and impactful interior experience, that rates number one among all Near-Luxury Utilities. Even in the Large Utility Segment, buyers appreciate the Total Quality experience and rated Nissan Armada the winner.

Strategic Vision has presented Total Quality Awards™ annually since 1995. Based on Strategic Vision's quantitative "ValueCentered®" NVES study, the Total Quality Index was calculated from 45,390 buyers who purchased 2012 models during September to December 2011.

Strategic Vision is a research-based consultancy with over forty years of experience in understanding the consumers' and constituents' decision-making systems for a variety of Fortune 100 clients, including most automotive manufacturers. Its unique expertise is in identifying consumers' comprehensive motivational hierarchies, including the product attributes, personal benefits, value/emotions and images that drive perceptions and behaviors. J. Susan Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, coined the phrase "True Innovators" and we measure this construct in the detailed Total Quality Index report. The ValueCentered® psychology and research methods were defined by Dr. Darrel Edwards in 1968, and enhanced by co-founders J. Susan Johnson (1972) and Sharon Shedroff (1975). For further information, contact Alexander Edwards, Christopher Chaney and Molly Sirota at (858) 576-7141 or visit www.strategicvision.com.

News Source: Strategic Vision

Category: Car Buying, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen

Tags: best new cars, quality, strategic vision, total quality awards, toyota, volkswagen

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2013 Buick Regal gets sizable price hike thanks to standard eAssist

Related Gallery 2011 Buick Regal CXL: Review

2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL 2011 Buick Regal CXL

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DETROIT – The 2013 Buick Regal luxury sport sedan arrives at dealerships this fall with a standard advanced eAssist powertrain and 36 highway mpg. Two powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engines give Regal one of the most technologically advanced engine ranges in the brand's history.

"With eAssist, Buick is redefining what a 'conventional powertrain' means to customers," said eAssist global chief engineer Stephen Poulos. "It changes the fuel economy – but not the experience – for the 97 percent of new car buyers who aren't buying hybrids."

Where a hybrid vehicle requires a complex system of large, heavy batteries and electric motors, Buick eAssist uses a compact lithium-ion battery and a small electric motor/generator in place of an alternator to achieve an EPA-estimated 36 highway mpg for both the Regal and the LaCrosse luxury sedans.

The three main advantages of the eAssist system are its stop/start functionality, which turns the engine off when the vehicle is at rest; regenerative braking that gathers and stores energy that would otherwise be lost during braking, and an electric motor assist that reduces the gas engine's work during acceleration or on inclines.

"It takes advantage of the best parts of a hybrid, and eAssist is now standard equipment for Regal," said Poulos. "These new functions happen seamlessly, a requirement for Buick drivers who demand a refined driving experience. They'll really only notice a difference at the pump."

Buyers interested in more acceleration can choose from a no-cost option of a 220-horsepower, 2.0L turbocharged Ecotec engine or the 270-hp Regal GS, both with variable valve timing and direct injection. In addition to one of the most power-dense engines ever certified by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the GS offers high-performance Brembo brakes, HiPer strut suspension technology and unique design cues inside and out.

Both Regal Turbo and Regal GS are offered with automatic or manual transmissions; Regal with eAssist is available exclusively with a six-speed automatic.

The Buick Regal name, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2013, is a powertrain innovation pioneer. In 1975, it was the only mid-size vehicle in the United States to forego a standard V-8 engine for a more efficient V-6, while remaining competitive in performance. Three years later, the Regal employed a turbocharger.

"In 1978, Buick was the only mainstream brand offering a turbocharged engine," said GM Heritage Center Manager Greg Wallace. "Only small, performance-oriented brands like Porsche and Saab were experimenting with the same technology at the time. It was very progressive of Buick to offer a turbocharged V-6 in a mid-size luxury coupe in the late '70s."

Regal powertrain engineers continued that innovation 19 years later, when the 1997 Buick Regal GS debuted with the brand's first supercharged V-6, rated at 240 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. It was among the most powerful and efficient vehicles in its segment and still achieved 28 highway mpg.

Today's Buick Regal combines sport sedan handling with intelligent powertrain technologies. Regal with eAssist offers five more highway mpg than an Acura TSX and six more than a Volvo S60, while the Regal Turbo and Regal GS offer more power than turbocharged four-cylinder engines from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen.

Buick is a modern luxury brand offering vehicles with sculpted designs, luxurious interiors with thoughtful personal technologies, along with responsive-yet-efficient performance. Buick is attracting new customers with its portfolio of award-winning luxury models, including the Enclave crossover, LaCrosse sedan, Regal sport sedan, Buick Verano sedan and the all-new 2013 Encore crossover. Learn more about Buick cars and crossovers at www.buick.com, on Twitter @buick or at www.facebook.com/buick.

News Source: General Motors

Image Credit: Copyright 2012 John Neff / AOL

Category: Car Buying, Hybrid, Sedan, Technology, Buick

Tags: 2013 buick regal, buick, eassist, hybrid, regal

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Debut Of Luxgen EV In Russia

Published August 30, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Those in Russia will have the first chance to see Taiwan’s first automotive brand at the Moscow International Automobile Salon 2012 (MIAS) held between Aug. 31 and Sept. 9.

The independent Taiwanese automotive brand, known as Luxgen, will presents what it calls “the intelligent model lineup from Taiwan.”

The Luxgen brand was established by the Yulon Group to merge Taiwan’s auto and information technology industries for, as the company states, creating a new generation of forward thinking, environmentally sustainable intelligent vehicles. Through its strategy of “Innovation and Differentiation,” Luxgen says it differentiates itself and best illustrates Taiwan’s R&D strength in the global market.

Taiwan’s IT industry has been highly acknowledged around the world, and Luxgen says it aspires to capitalize on that strength as an automaker and to compete in the automotive markets on global scales.

Suprisingly for a company just starting, Luxgen will be introducing a full product lineup in Moscow, including electric vehicles.

The Luxgen7 SUV EV+ and the Luxgen CEO EV+ are the electric vehicles offered by the company, but no technical details are yet available. The company Web site mentions a “150 kilowatt motor which can provide 201 horsepower and 220 newton-meters torque,” – but it gives no battery and/or range info aside from mentioning lithium ion technology.

The full lineup will be comprised of the Luxgen7 SUV, equipped with a 2.2-liter engine MEFI turbo, five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive; the Luxgen5 Sedan; and the Luxgen CEO, which the company describes as a “comfortable jet-cabin on the road to emphasize the status of its owner.”

Russia will be the first country to see Luxgen vehicles out of Taiwan. We are looking forward to more details about these vehicles as well.

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MIT Charged By CarCharging

Published August 30, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Car Charging Group, Inc. now provides EV charging services at three locations at University Park at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This is done through the company’s partnership with Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

Charging services are now available at parking garages located at 30 Pilgrim Street, 55 Pilgrim Street, and 80 Landsdowne Street on the University Park campus.

"We are excited to support Forest City's green initiatives at their properties and provide electric vehicle charging services at MIT," said Michael D. Farkas, CEO of CarCharging. "As our first EV charging services at a university related project, we believe that placing stations at MIT, a leader in the advancement of scientific and engineering research, perfectly complements the vision of our company."

University Park is a 27 acres urban life science campus comprised of 1.5 million square feet of biotechnology space, 675 apartments, 3 parking garages, a four star LeMeridien Hotel and 75,000 square feet of retail space. Many of the Park's tenants already utilize electric vehicles, including Forest City.

CarCharging's services utilize EV charging stations manufactured by ChargePoint, known as Level II, which provide 240 volts with 32 amps of power to quickly refuel an electric vehicle's battery. EV drivers can easily register and create a CarCharging account online, and attach a small card to their keychain to initiate use and payment at any intelligent CarCharging station.

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Lada VAZ 2106 Low Rider

S4 / 1.569 cc / 75 PS / 89 lb/ft (120 Nm) @ 3.000 / 0 - 62 mph (100 km/h): 16,0 s / Vmax: 96 mph (155 km/h)

(click images for a larger view)

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eAssist To Boost Buick Regal’s MPG

Written By Thomas Ponco on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 9:00 PM

Published August 30, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

General Motors has announced the 2013 Buick Regal luxury sport sedan will arrive at dealerships this fall with a standard advanced eAssist powertrain.

“With eAssist, Buick is redefining what a ‘conventional powertrain’ means to customers,” said eAssist global Chief Engineer Stephen Poulos. “It changes the fuel economy – but not the experience – for the 97 percent of new car buyers who aren’t buying hybrids.”

GM says where a hybrid requires a complex system of large, heavy batteries and electric motors, the eAssist setup uses a compact lithium-ion battery and a small electric motor/generator in place of an alternator to achieve an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city, 36 highway mpg for both the Regal and the LaCrosse luxury sedans.

The three main advantages of the eAssist system are its stop/start functionality, which turns the engine off when the vehicle is at rest; regenerative braking that gathers and stores energy that would otherwise be lost during braking, and an electric motor assist that reduces the gas engine’s work during acceleration or on inclines.

“It takes advantage of the best parts of a hybrid, and eAssist is now standard equipment for Regal,” said Poulos. “These new functions happen seamlessly, a requirement for Buick drivers who demand a refined driving experience. They’ll really only notice a difference at the pump.”

Regal with eAssist is available exclusively with a six-speed automatic.

GM says the Buick Regal name, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2013, is a powertrain innovation pioneer. In 1975, it was the only mid-size vehicle in the United States to forego a standard V8 engine for a more efficient V6, while remaining competitive in performance. Three years later, the Regal employed a turbocharger.

Today the company says Buick Regal combines sport sedan handling with intelligent powertrain technologies. GM notes the Regal with eAssist offers five more highway mpg than an Acura TSX and six more than a Volvo S60.

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Fisker Hosts Gathering Of Karma Owners

Published August 29, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Fisker Automotive hosted owners of its Karma sedan at the company’s global headquarters in Anaheim, Calif. over the weekend.

This was the first time the company held such an event and it was done during an owner appreciation day organized in cooperation with Fisker of Orange County, the company’s highest-volume Fisker retailer.

Fisker of Orange County, part of the Shelley Automotive Group in Southern California, has sold almost 100 Karma models since the car went on sale in December 2011.

Karma owners from all over Southern California gathered Sunday – one driving 150 miles from Bakersfield – to start their day at the retailer’s showroom in Irvine, where Henrik Fisker himself was ready to greet them, along with Richard Beattie, Chief Commercial Officer at Fisker Automotive, and Marcelo Sandoval, Sales Manager at Fisker of Orange County.

After a light breakfast the group set out in a 28-car caravan to Anaheim to tour the forward-thinking company’s design studios, but not before driving along the Pacific Coast Highway and making a stop in scenic Newport Beach.

At Fisker’s headquarters they were greeted by Alex Klatt, Vice President of Global Design, who showed them how the Karma came to be, answered their questions and gave them an exclusive look at future product.

Range anxiety was non-existent and each made their way home after a catered lunch.

“This is the first formal Fisker owner event and we hope to have many more,” said Henrik Fisker, executive chairman and co-founder of Fisker Automotive. “Our team has worked hard to make Fisker the first to bring a car like the Karma to market. It was exciting to meet so many who share our vision of environmentally conscious cars that don’t sacrifice power, style or performance.”

Ross Larson from San Diego is an early Karma depositor and now an owner, whose voice was one among many expressing enthusiasm for the plug-in series hybrid.

“This was a fantastic event,” he said. “As one of the first depositors I feel completely justified in buying my Karma, especially after meeting all the other owners and the Fisker team. The Karma is the only car that gives our family the luxury and style we can be proud of and removes us from being tied to the price of gas, which always seems to be going up.”

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Transport Scotland Joins EV Charging Network

Published August 29, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Transport Scotland, the country’s transportation agency, has announced that all 500 of its existing free-to-use electric vehicle (EV) charge points are to be added to the Charge Your Car network.

In addition, a further 250 charge points will be installed across Scotland and connected to Charge Your Car by March 2013, more than doubling the size of the Charge Your Car network.

Transport Scotland purchased the OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol) compliant charge points from manufacturers (in alphabetical order) APT, Charging Solutions, Elektromotive, PODPoint and Siemens, and is connecting them to Charge Your Car’s OCPP charge point management system.

Charge Your Car is the UK’s first national open access network. Launched in 2010 as the North East Plugged in Places scheme, it was the first network to introduce DC rapid charge points and in 2011 the first to introduce pay-as-you-go recharging, using a pay-by-phone system. This customer-focused approach enables EV drivers to roam and access recharging infrastructure in the same way that they buy petrol or park their car, that is, without multiple membership cards or payment of subscriptions.

Charge Your Car works by connecting EV drivers to charge point owners, providing a high quality service to both customer groups. From April 2013 EV drivers will be able to access the Charge Your Car network via an app on their smartphone. Unlike current apps which offer limited map functionality, the Charge Your Car app will enable EV drivers to access and instigate a charge at any pay-as-you-go charge point, making recharging quick, convenient and affordable.

Charge Your Car is the first network to offer charge point owners a fully-managed service, making their charge points accessible to all EV drivers and providing them with the ability to charge for usage and collect revenues. By joining Charge Your Car, charge point owners and regional networks will benefit from increased revenues and decreased costs, meaning that charge points can more quickly become self-funding, reducing or eliminating any reliance on public sector subsidies.

Charge points will be promoted to EV drivers across the UK via the Charge Your Car app, website and e-newsletters. Charge Your Car will collect payments from EV drivers on behalf of charge point owners, clearing funds to them on a monthly or quarterly basis. Personalized pages of the Charge Your Car website will enable charge point owners to set charge point access rights and pricing, view charge point status, and receive alerts and reports.

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235-Mpg 2014 VW XL1 Caught in Spy Photos

Published August 29, 2012

By Jeff Cobb


Work on precursors to the (sub) 1-liter XL1 dates back to 2002.

Volkswagen may have refused to sign just-announced U.S. efficiency mandates in protest to alleged discriminatory practices, but its Euro-market 235 mpg XL1 diesel plug-in hybrid caught road testing is partial proof VW does not intend to be left behind.

You may have seen this 2-seater around when it was showcased and test driven at the 2011 Qatar Motor Show and where at the time the prototype was said to deliver 261 mpg (0.9 l/100 km) on the European test cycle.

The current version shot by spy photographers is based around the same 800-cc, twin-cylinder turbo diesel delivering 48 horsepower and 88 pound-feet torque plus a 30 horsepower electric motor and seven-speed DSG transmission.

Performance is said to be in the neighborhood of 0-62 mph in 11.9 seconds, and top speed is limited to 99 mpg. All electric range is estimated at 24 miles.

Its rear wheels – shown exposed in testing – ought to have aerodynamic shrouds back in place when the car built with carbon fiber reinforced polymer on the MQB platform is launched in Germany as a limited-production offering in 2013.

The show version – a third generation effort – had measured at 153-inches long, 66-inches wide, 45-inches high, and weight was around 1,753 pounds.

VW XL1 Concept

XL1 concept photo from 2011.

The limited-production XL1 ought to be seen as early as some time in late 2012, and inside and out it appears to be staying close to the concept.

Given the “261” and “235” mpg numbers are based on the European cycle, it may wind up with somewhere between 150 mpg and 200 mpg on the EPA cycle. If it does, this will be quite a feat all by itself, although the formula to break beyond current limits looks feasible: a tiny fuel sipper, extremely low weight and aerodynamic drag coefficient of only 0.186 will perhaps triple the 50 mpg offered by a Toyota Prius, exceed also 95 MPGe for the plug-in Prius, and set a new standard for hybrids.

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BMW i8 Spyder Concept Coming To LA Auto Show

Written By Thomas Ponco on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | 9:00 PM

Published August 29, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

BMW’s i8 Spyder plug-in hybrid concept is due to make its first U.S. appearance at the LA Auto show this fall.

Originally speculation had it that the car would bow at the NY auto show, but in combing the Internet for news, yesterday AutoGuide found a tweet from the LA Auto Show confirming its inaugural appearance late November-early December on the west coast, not east.

The outrageous Spyder is a premier example from BMW’s pending line of electrified i cars.

It is said to serve up 0-60 mph times of 4.9 seconds – not quite as quick as, say, a 4.4-second all-electric Tesla Model S sedan – but the i8 Spyder is a two-seater hybrid made by the Bavarian automaker proud of its heritage of “ultimate driving machines,” so this is not actually a head-to-head competitor to the California start-up EV maker.

Power for the i8 Spyder comes from a combination of a 170-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels plus a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder gas engine delivering 223 horsepower, 295-pound-feet torque to the rear wheels.

Its all-wheel-drive status further separates it from loose comparisons to the also high-performance Tesla, and actually, the Tesla to compare more closely to it is the one no longer being produced, the even quicker Roadster.

That car would have also stomped on the BMW's all-electric range of only around 20 miles – but again, BMW's gas-plus-electric attempt is a different approach to efficiency plus performance.

Essentially, BMW’s green sports car is said to be capable of greater than petrol car efficiency, but it is a balanced compromise between peak attainable efficiency that a pure EV might offer, with extra power and range-extending advantages a petrol engine has to offer.

Is such a concoction your cup of tea, and would your bank balance support its six figure expense? The hard top version of this car is slated to go for over 100,000 euros, and BMW has said it will sell all it makes of the limited-production cars, starting in the 2014 model year.

In any event, the i8 Spyder is a unique flavor of green BMW is yet testing, and demonstrating on the auto show circuit to drum up interest.

We expect it also to have dynamic handling characteristics with a high degree of engineered refinement. Just because BMW – along with other European marques – is making a show of going green, it would be wrong to suspect it will let pass a car that would disappoint discriminating expectations BMW customers have come to demand for its other high-line sporting cars.


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California Eliminates 7,112 Nonessential Vehicles

Published August 28, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

It looks like the state of California took a step to reduce both its emissions and its vehicle expenses.

The Department of General Services today announced that Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s executive order to eliminate unnecessary state vehicles has led departments to cut 7,112 vehicles from the state fleet. The reduction included 4,204 passenger cars and light duty trucks, which alone is expected to save the state more than $12.6 million annually in fuel, insurance and depreciation costs.

“We have made tremendous strides examining every mobile asset and cutting the size of our state fleet,” said DGS Director Fred Klass. “Moving forward, we will use the methodology established to drive this reduction to help prevent unnecessary increases to the state fleet in future years.”

The Governor’s order also called on departments to eliminate all nonessential and cost-ineffective permits that allow thousands of state employees to commute to and from work in a state vehicle. The cuts resulted in 3,246 vehicle home storage permits being eliminated, a 45 percent reduction from the number of permits departments had issued in January 2011, and eliminating more than 1,000 permits than were called for in the Executive Order. These cuts are expected to save an estimated $3 million annually in fuel costs, as employees are no longer commuting in those vehicles.

Gov. Brown’s fleet reduction executive order called on the Department of General Services to conduct the first-ever examination of all mobile assets within the state fleet and eliminate any nonessential vehicles. The eliminated vehicles include passenger cars, trucks, vans, buses, heavy equipment, boats, trailers, planes and other mobile assets. The cuts represent a 14-percent reduction of the state’s fleet.

When combined with cuts made by the prior administration in 2010, more than 20 percent of the state fleet has been eliminated in four years.

Ironically, it looks like, from the picture sent by the DGS, one of the cars cut is a first gen Prius hybrid.

The largest reductions come from the following 10 departments:

 Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation: 2,263

 California Department of Transportation: 1,322

 California State Parks: 586

 California Department of Fish & Game: 494

 California Highway Patrol: 457

 Department of Developmental Services: 312

 CAL FIRE: 240

 California Department of General Services: 241

 California Department of Water Resources: 218

 Prison Industry Authority: 105

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E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid Awarded Environmental Certificate

Published August 28, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

As it celebrates its market launch, the E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID has also obtained its Environmental Certificate in accordance with ISO standard 14062.

This award is based on a life cycle assessment, in which the independent inspectors of TÜV Süd subject the vehicle to comprehensive tests covering the entire life cycle.

The E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, is Mercedes-Benz’ first diesel passenger car to feature a hybrid drive. The model is rated in energy efficiency class A+ and has now received the Environmental Certificate from TÜV Süd.

"After introducing the S 400 HYBRID in 2009, Mercedes-Benz is now setting new standards for luxury-class business vehicles with the E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID," explains Professor Herbert Kohler, chief environmental officer for Daimler AG. "The modular hybrid technology is opening the way for us to quickly expand other model series with the addition of hybrid models."

Over its entire life cycle, from production and use over 250,000 kilometers (155,343 miles) through to recovery, the Mercedes E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID gives rise to 23 percent less CO2 emissions than a comparable E 300 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY.

This is largely a result of the significant reduction in consumption. Compared with the equivalent E 300 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY diesel model, the consumption of the E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID has been reduced from between 6.1 and 5.8 l/100 km to between 4.3 and 4.2 l/100 km (109 g CO2/km) – depending on tires installed. This represents a reduction of up to 28 percent.

The E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID meets the mandatory recycling rate of 95 percent by weight that will come into force on January first 2015 in Europe. The future requirements of vehicle recycling were taken into account at the development stage, and closing material loops plays an important role here, not only in terms of the metals used.

The E 300 BlueTEC HYBRID makes use of 43 components with a total weight of 41.5 kg, some of which have been produced from recycled plastics.

In addition, the E-Class also features 44 components with a total weight of 21 kg which have been produced using natural materials. The floor in the luggage compartment, for example, is made of a honeycomb cardboard structure, and olive coke is used as an active filter.

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BMW 3200 Michelotti Vignale

V8 / 3.168 cc / 150 PS / Vmax: 127 mph (205 km/h) / one-off collector piece

(click images for a larger view)

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Corvette-Quick Electric Skateboard Ready For The Neighborhood?

Published August 28, 2012

By Jeff Cobb


Gnarboard versus C5 Corvette to 75 feet distance. Zero to 28 mph in 1.9 seconds.

Not quite ready to pay for a $32,000-plus EV, but still want to get around on four wheels with all-electric power?

This soon-to-be available board is definitely not for everyone – and if you’re an accomplished board rider that would help – but the $2,900-$4,000 four-wheel-drive electric Gnarboards look like they mean business as you’ll see in the 75-foot race with the Corvette.

The top line Trail Rider shown offers 3.4 kw of power, 16.5 kw peak power from a 37-volt, 20-amp-hour LiPo battery. It uses a 300-amp motor controller and even employs range-extending regenerative braking as it rides along on 9-inch tires intended even for off-road use.

Top speed is 28 mph, range is estimated at 13-15 miles and damping “trucks” – a skateboard’s rudimentary suspension – help keep the alloy chassis, 86-pound board in control, even on bumpy terrain. Total length is nearly four feet (47 inches), and it’s 16.6-inches wide.

Whether this mode of transportation would raise a law-enforcement red flag in a local municipality is another question a prospective buyer would want to check first.

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Crash and weather protection is zero – just like you get with a bicycle or regular skateboard – but this thing could be more hip than a Seqway in certain crowds. It undoubtedly also takes more skill to operate, so body armor, a helmet, and up-to-date health insurance policy would be advisable.

Seriously speaking, we're not recommending this for commuting – unless you actually think it could work for you. Instead, we thought you might at least like to see one more creative use batteries and motors can be put to, and how competitive they already can be with mature mainstream technology.


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Auto loan delinquency rates at historic lows

News Source: Los Angeles Times

Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Category: Car Buying, Earnings/Financials

Tags: auto loan, car buying, car loan debt, car loans, delinquency, delinquincy rate, repo man

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IIHS Is Encouraging Advanced Collision Avoidance Systems

Written By Thomas Ponco on Monday, August 27, 2012 | 10:30 PM

Published August 28, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

A growing number of new vehicles – be they alternative energy powered or not – are making advanced crash avoidance technologies available and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) is encouraged by this.

In fact, the IIHS is actively encouraging their adaptation through several ongoing efforts, including its new interactive Web page for consumers to browse and see whether the car they might be getting has such features as forward collision avoidance, adaptive headlights, lane departure warning, or blind spot protection.

We last wrote about these features and researchers' findings in July which you can scan here. Or, in very simplified terms for your review, these advanced automotive technologies are computer aided features to help keep the vehicle in control, and prevent accidents.

Researchers are finding that in today’s frenetic world where it seems tailgating has somehow become socially acceptable, and multi-tasking behind the wheel compounds already big-enough problems of driver incompetence or carelessness, the electronic aids may prove handy – as in lifesaving handy.

The IIHS, and the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) have been studying these issues and providing info for both automakers and consumers to take heed – and the IIHS hopes – to positively act upon.

Looking at Volvos equipped with the City Safety System – or if you want to discuss hybrids, Toyota does make forward collision avoidance optionally available on some models – the HLDI says the technology is working to prevent about a quarter of the common low-speed crashes that happen in everyday commuter traffic.

If this sounds like a good thing, tell your manufacturer of choice you’d pay for it if it’s not already available, although buyer beware, there are varying systems out there. The IIHS says Volvo’s setup appears to be the most effective it has thus far studied.

"This is our first real-world look at an advanced crash avoidance technology, and the findings are encouraging," said Adrian Lund, president of HLDI. "City Safety is helping XC60 drivers avoid the kinds of front-to-rear, low-speed crashes that frequently happen on congested roads."

The Case For Advanced Electronic Safety

Citing such benefits as reduced auto insurance claims, the insurance Institute is not surprisingly a growing fan of electronic driver aids – which are also pejoratively known as electronic “nannies” to those who think they can handle their cars without computers watching out for them so much.

Alluding to possible consumer resistance, we asked the IIHS even if a computer is faster than the most skilled driver with razor-sharp reflexes and eyes in the back of the head, what about the law of unintended consequences? In other words, if other less careful drivers believe their cars will protect them from themselves, will that encourage them to be all the more careless?

“Good questions,” said IIHS spokesman Russ Rader yesterday to a set of reasoned queries we fired at him along these lines.

Short answer is, the jury is still out on the perverse possibilities given human psychology.

But the other short answer is either way, IIHS likes what it has seen so much it is doing what it can to sell automakers and car shoppers on the positive benefits of computer controlled nannies – which like any proper nanny, are there to serve good purposes.

“We don't intend to be subtle,” Rader said. “We are developing data so that we can recommend specific crash avoidance features and eventually add requirements that vehicles have certain features shown to be effective in order to claim the IIHS Top Safety Pick designation.”

Aha! So, if XYZ automaker a few years hence wants its whiz-bang new automobile to be considered for the IIHS Top Safety Pick – so it can advertise and sell more of them – IIHS is putting them on notice they’d do well to offer advanced safety features optionally, if not as standard equipment.

Of course the IIHS will do all this politely and with data to support it, and you can be sure the term "nanny" will not be used to describe said safety tech.

Actually, the IIHS is not quite where it wants to be yet, Rader said, but desires to give consumers as much information as possible about what it says it already knows from real-world studies, and what features they should consider buying now if they're in the market for a new vehicle.

Our other questions focused on whether the IIHS was excited about cars occasionally doing some critical thinking and driving tasks for potentially inattentive drivers because of increased cell phone usage, texting and what the U.S. DOT now calls a distracted driving epidemic?

“We think this technology is going to play a big role in addressing the distracted driving problem,” Rader said. “By the way, data do not show that America is ‘now’ experiencing a distracted driving epidemic; we've always had a distracted driving epidemic. It's not new and didn't appear because of cell phones or other electronic devices. We just keep inventing new ways to distract ourselves behind the wheel.”

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Didn’t some of you already know that? Do some of you remember such things as when German cars did not even come with so much in the way of possible distractions as cup holders – let alone Big Gulp sized ones – and back in the day, power window switch gear was not designed to be splash proof?

No, those were concessions sober Teutonic engineers were asked to make many moons back to cater to predilections expressed by their North American customers.

So while today U.S. policymakers have cued into cell phones and hand-held devices as leading causes for the distracted driving “epidemic” diagnosed for Americans, the IIHS says distraction is a pre-existing condition dating back as long as there’ve been fast-food drive-in windows and fussy kids to attend to.

“What also has changed is that we now have technology that could address distracted driving,” Rader said, “no matter the cause of the distraction, whether it's a phone call or spilled coffee, a bug flying through the window or the kids in the backseat.”

Yes, advanced safety technology looks promising. But coming back to our earlier query, Rader concedes the IIHS knows there will now be the chance that collision avoidance systems may aid and abet some drivers to take even greater chances.

“There is a risk that drivers could let themselves become more distracted if they are confident that the car will bail them out,” he said. “That's something researchers are going to watch.”

But the bottom line, Rader said, is “that the real-world results for crash avoidance technologies show a great deal of promise in addressing distracted driving.”

So there you have it. Consider yourself encouraged. Sort of.

Since fuel prices are deterring more Americans from armoring themselves inside as many two-and-a-half ton gas-guzzling trucks as they did not long ago, advanced safety tech may be on the rise to help save us from ourselves, or those with whom we share the road, as the case may be.

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Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Review

By Larry E. Hall

Toyota – after years of doggedly stating that the Prius hybrid system was not compatible with a plug-in system, and repeatedly warning that lithium-battery-powered plug-in hybrids were too costly and the technology unproven – began delivering the Prius Plug-in Hybrid in March. Easily the most recognized hybrid on American roads, Toyota’s hybrid followers are cheering the automaker’s decision to finally plug in the Prius.

As the hybrid pioneer and leader, it makes sense that Toyota would make the step to the next cost-effective gasoline-electric technology. The chief benefit of a plug-in hybrid isn’t that it can be driven purely on electricity for several miles, but that it erases range anxiety, a fact that Toyota frequently points out. When the battery is depleted, the Prius Plug-in seamlessly becomes a conventional hybrid with the ability to be refueled with gasoline when needed and delivers fuel economy that exceeds gasoline-powered cars.

In general, Toyota’s position is that hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles with smaller and less costly battery packs – rather than pure electric cars with larger and very expensive packs – provide the most value and versatility for consumers overall. While the car itself hits that bull’s eye, the question is does the Prius Plug-in miss the target when it comes to price?

A Prius With More Electrons

Essentially, the new Prius PHV, or Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle, is a 2012 Prius Liftback with a more potent 4.4-kWh lithium-ion battery instead of the standard 1.3-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack, an onboard battery charger and an industry-standard charging port. As such, the Prius PHV can be charged and driven gasoline free for up to 15 miles at speeds up to 62 mph according to Toyota. But, under full acceleration or driving uphill while in EV mode, the system switches to full hybrid mode. And, like the regular Prius model, the PHV version shuts down the gasoline engine at a stop and accelerates away with the hybrid battery providing electricity to the front motor.

A depleted battery can be fully recharged in around three hours using a 120-volt household outlet. That time can be cut in half with a 240-volt home charging station.

Under the plug-in’s sheetmetal, the standard Prius parentage continues. The engine is a 98 horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder that operates on the Atkinson cycle and generates 105 pounds-feet of torque. (An Atkinson-cycle engine gives up a little power output in exchange for improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.)

The series-parallel hybrid system uses two high-output electric motors, one 60-kw (80 horsepower) unit that mainly works to power the transaxle, and another smaller motor that works as the electric power source for battery regeneration and as a starter for the gas engine. Combined output of the gas engine and electric motor is 134 horsepower, which is directed to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). And no, the combined output of the gas engine and electric motor is not an error. Output of the two occur at different rates, so in this case one plus two does not equal three. The electric motor produces 153 pounds-feet of torque but Toyota doesn’t publish combined torque numbers.

The Prius Plug-in offers three driver-selectable modes: EV, Eco, and Sport. EV mode operates as long as there is some battery charge available. Eco mode is programmed to maximize all driving conditions by modifying the electronic throttle control program as well as the air conditioning operation. Sport mode increases throttle response in the middle range that gives a boost to acceleration.

The standard Prius Liftback has an EPA fuel economy rating of 50 miles per gallon, and at best, it can travel about two miles on electric power only up to around 30 mph. By comparison, the Prius Plug-in is EPA rated at 95 MPGe (Miles Per Gallon equivalent): the car’s efficiency when operating on a mix of a fully charged battery and gasoline. When the battery is depleted and it operates as a hybrid, the fuel economy is 50 mpg combined – and 51 mpg city, 49 mpg highway – the same as the standard Prius.

When it comes to electric only operation, the EPA’s numbers for driving range are somewhat confusing. The estimated driving range for a fully charged battery combined with gasoline over a mix of city and highway driving is 11 miles. Then there’s the small print – 6 miles “All Electric Range,” not the 15 miles that Toyota touts.

Exterior And Interior

There is little that distinguishes the plug-in Prius’s exterior from its less-electrified sibling. Exclusive plug-in exterior trim includes a chrome finish on door handles and grille as well as blue-accent headlamps and LED taillight clusters. The most notable difference is the charging door on the right rear fender, which also has a chrome treatment. A close-up look reveals that the small front fender and rear badges are inscribed “Plug-in Hybrid” rather than just “Hybrid,” and a keen eye will notice the plug-in’s exclusive wheels.

Both cars exhibit a minor 2012 refresh, including a revised front fascia and bumper, plus new head- and taillights. In other words, there’s no elevated, “Look at me, I’m really, really green!”

Current Prius owners will feel right at home in the new Prius with a plug. Five adults can fit comfortably, with the same 16 cubic feet of cargo room left over in back. The 60/40 split rear seats still fold flat, creating a surprisingly large cargo space for hauling groceries, strollers, large boxes, and gardening supplies – all at the same time.

Interior storage spaces are abundant and flexible. The sound system is adequate, but not ground breaking. The stereo’s most-used functions are easy to see, read and use.

From the driver’s seat, everything is familiar and, yes, those annoying beeps when the unconventional shifter is positioned in reverse will not let you forget that you’re driving a Prius.

Behind The Steering Wheel

Last summer Toyota provided a pre-production Prius PHV for a weeklong evaluation. It was different from the 2012 production car we drove a couple weeks ago. The pre-production Prius PHV had a larger Li-ion battery pack, 5.2-kWh versus 4.4-kWh, and the pack weighed in at 353 pounds compared to 176 pounds. The smaller battery not only frees up space in the trunk, it also provides more electric-only driving range, 15 miles in contrast to the 13-mile distance of last year’s development model.

Like last year, the Prius PHV arrived in the morning with a depleted battery. Three hours later I selected the EV mode and backed out of our driveway with editor/wife Lynne seated next to me, charged with the task of monitoring the hybrid system’s energy flow. We had mapped out a 20-mile route of mostly flat roads with speed limits of 35 to 45 mph with the goal of driving with electric power only for as many miles as I could wring out.

Unlike the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt, acceleration from a stop lacks the zip of an electric motor’s instant-on torque. Instead, forward motion, while nearly silent, was steady but languid. With eggshell pressure on the accelerator, we clocked 13 miles of electric driving with the gas engine kicking in briefly one time traveling up a small hill. While that’s shy of Toyota’s estimate of 15 miles, it’s slightly more than double the EPA estimated 6 miles. But, the drive was on mostly flat roads and the accelerator was coddled – not exactly a normal daily excursion.

The rest of the time behind the wheel we primarily drove in Eco mode, a setting that most drivers will prefer when the EV mode is unavailable. When the Eco mode’s electronic go-pedal nanny became annoying, Sport mode injected a little life into the car. And yes, the Prius PHV can travel up to 62 mph on electric juice. Of course at that speed the battery depletes quickly, but it is a bit of fun to run at that velocity in near silence.

During our week with the extension cord connected Prius we topped the fuel tank twice. Before the first top-up, we clocked 132 miles – 102 miles on the Interstate – and plugged in twice with recorded fuel mileage of 66.2 mpg. Before the last fill up we drove 86 miles – mostly in the city – and plugged in after each trip that varied from 9 miles and 22 miles with a recorded 82.3-mpg. That’s an average of 74.25 mpg for the 218 miles driven.

From a dynamic standpoint, the Prius PHV has had all the character and personality ironed out with little passion to be found underfoot. If you’re looking for entertainment, it’s better to play with the multiple electronic screens on the dashboard. This is a driving appliance meant to get you from point A to point B while delivering fuel economy numbers that other car companies can only dream about. The only deal breaker might be the cost.

Ouch! A $32,000 Price Tag

The starting price for the 2012 Prius Plug-in is $32,000. That’s $8,000 more than the base Prius Liftback Two. And even after a federal tax credit of $2,500, the car is still close to 30 large, which is close to fully loaded Prius Liftback Five’s price of $29,805. Thankfully, there are various individual state incentives that can help ease the sting of the purchase price and, it qualifies for the coveted solo High Occupancy Vehicle (carpool) lane status in several states. For some commuters that alone is worth the price.

So, what do you get for your hard-earned money besides the eye-popping fuel economy? Quite a lot, actually: A “smart key” keyless entry system with remote air conditioning; power windows, locks and outside mirrors; tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Bluetooth and voice-command controls; heated front seat; cruise control; Display Audio with Navigation and Toyota’s Entune 1; and an integrated backup camera.

If you can’t resist bells and whistles, the Prius Plug-in Advanced goes for $39,525. It includes the above plus bonus features such as radar-guided cruise control, a pre-collision system, head-up display, navigation system, a rockin’ audio system and Toyota’s Entune 2 Internet connectivity.

Is This Plug-in Hybrid For You?

If your one-way commute is 10-12 miles and you can plug in at work, you would use little, if any, gasoline all week. However, a 30 or more mile run to the office and no chance of plugging in means fuel mileage closer to the 49 mpg. That suggests the conventional Prius with its 50 mpg combined average is the wiser choice.

Then again, if the one-way trip is around 40 miles with a place to plug in, perhaps the Chevrolet Volt with its 38-mile EV range is the best choice to kick the oil habit. Sure, it appears the 2012 Volt, with its $39,145 sticker price, is seven grand more than the Prius Plug-in, but that is somewhat misleading because the Volt qualifies for a full $7,500 Federal tax credit. That means the difference between the Prius Plug-in and Volt works out to only about $2,145. It also has various state incentives as well as HOV privileges.

Whatever your driving habits are, you might want to wait until this fall to make a decision. Ford’s C-Max Energi plug-in arrives and is priced starting at $33,745 http://www.hybridcars.com/news/ford-prices-c-max-energi-33745-48864.html

minus the available $3,750 federal and possible state tax incentives. Plus the C-Max Energi can travel up 20 miles and up to 85 mph on electricity without the gas engine kicking in.

As for cost of ownership, Car and Driver magazine gives the Prius Plug-in an “Excellent” rating over five years. If you’ve done the math plus, believe you can come close to the magical 95 MPGe number, the Prius may be the plug-in for you.

Prices are Manufacture Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of writing and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing..

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Coda Sedans Recalled For Faulty Airbag Installation

Published August 27, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

California start-up Coda Automotive is issuing a recall of 78 of its limited-production electric cars due to improperly installed side curtain airbags.

The recall has been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the main concern is the airbags might not deploy, thus risking safety during an accident.

The voluntary recall for its 2012 model year vehicles begins with the VIN of 53G1U4A48CB000026 (number 26) and extends to certain units up to 53G1U4A48CB000260 (number 260).

"Certain 2012 model year CODA vehicles may have this condition. There are no known injuries related to this recent discovery," said Coda in a statement. "CODA Automotive holds itself to the highest safety standards and continually strives to offer the most reliable product for its consumers."

We are unsure how many of the entire fleet 78 vehicles comprises, as Coda does not divulge monthly sales numbers for these cars. When we asked, we were told the same, and that Coda is still ramping up production.

Coda says owners may contact dealers or the manufacturer direct at 855-464-2632 to arrange for an airbag inspection and fix if needed.

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Puerto Rico Slashes Excise Taxes on Hybrids and EVs

Published August 27, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

Puerto Rico’s main revenue source is taxation of its people. Excise taxes are presently levied on items including lottery winnings, cigarettes, liquor, hotel rooms, cement, imports and vehicles.

That notwithstanding, Puerto Rico wants to cut combustible fuel usage, and to encourage its citizens to do so, has just added to existing excise tax breaks for the purchase of a hybrid or all-electric vehicle.

The new law signed by Gov. Luis G. Fortuno grants a rebate on the excise tax that’s a good deal for hybrids, and a better one for less fuel-consuming electric vehicles (EVs).

Under the new rules, previous excise tax refunds of up to $2,000 have been increased. For a one-year period beginning July 1, up to 65 percent of excise tax reimbursement is being offered for hybrids – up to a maximum of $8,000 – and through 2016 for EVs a 100-percent excise tax exemption is offered.

The hybrid offer beginning July 1 is reduced progressively for subsequent year. After July 1, 2013, the hybrid excise tax break is cut to 50-percent maximum, not to exceed $6,000 for the period through July 1, 2014. Following this, the excise tax break in successive years is cut to a maximum of 40 percent, not to exceed $4,000, and then a maximum of 20 percent, not to exceed $2,000.


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Prius C Eligible for College Graduates Rebate Program

Written By Thomas Ponco on Sunday, August 26, 2012 | 10:00 PM

Published August 27, 2012

By Philippe Crowe

Toyota Financial Services (TFS), in partnership with Toyota Motor Sales, announced last week that the new Prius C is its first hybrid vehicle able to take advantage of the company’s College Grad Rebate Program.

In the financial institution’s words, TFS for recent grad hopes to make the transition from college to workforce easier and more affordable by offering a $1,000 rebate to qualified college graduates toward the purchase of any new Scion models and select new Toyota vehicles, including the Camry (excluding Camry hybrid), Corolla, Matrix, RAV4, Tacoma, Yaris, and now, the Prius c.

The letter “c” in the Prius c moniker represents “city” and it was indeed designed specifically with city-dwelling millennials in mind. It functions as an urban-friendly vehicle with an engaging driving experience, accessible price, a city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg and available convenient and advanced in-car electronics features.

TFS considers the Prius C the ideal vehicle for the recent college graduate in the market for a fuel-efficient and tech-savvy solution to their transportation needs.

Qualified college graduates receiving the $1,000 rebate are also eligible for the College Graduate Finance Program (applicable for all new Toyota/Scion models) which offers a highly competitive APR/lease and special incentives such as:

• No money down when financing and no monthly payments for the first 90 days on select finance programs on all new untitled Toyota vehicles

• Competitive APRs on all new untitled Toyota vehicles and Toyota Certified Used Vehicles
• Waived security deposit on lease

• Toyota Care: a 2-year/25,000-mile, whichever comes first, complimentary worry-free maintenance plan with roadside assistance

The College Rebate Program for Toyota vehicles ends January 2, 2013 and is available to qualified customers who graduated within the last two years, or are about to graduate within the next six months.

More information can be found on TFS’ dedicated grad page.

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Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow 2-door Saloon by H. J. Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd

V8 / 6.750 cc / 200 PS / 406 ft/lb (550 Nm) @ 1.750 / 0  - 62 mph (100 km/h): 11,0 s / Vmax: 118 mph (190 km/h) / this car is for sale, the price: CHF 69.000

(click images for a larger view)

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