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By on October 31, 2011

You know what Dodge A100s don’t have? (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

Well, it’s Halloween…. the time of year when a young man’s thoughts turn towards death. Bertel gave us a double-shot of the macabre earlier today, but it was an unplanned spin-and-a-half (no, not on public roads) that most recently and viscerally reminded me just how deadly this whole driving a car business can be. And that particular bit of man-machine miscommunication didn’t even happen in the most scary car I’ve ever driven (thank goodness).

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

Honda has shown off its CR-V in “concept” form already, so today’s leak of the first production-spec images from Japan ahead of the reveal in Los Angeles isn’t a huge revelation. On the other hand, it does come at a bad time, as the leak comes just as Automotive News [sub] reports that flooding in Thailand means

Honda will cut its North American output by 50 percent, starting Wednesday. All six North American plants will be affected through Nov. 10… Production likely will be affected for at least “the next several weeks,” Honda said. More cuts could be announced later. In addition, the December on-sale date of the redesigned 2012 Honda CR-V may be delayed by several weeks. (emphasis added)

So, if you’re jonesing for your fix of frumpy new CUV hotness, you’re just going to have to be patient. Speaking of which, while we patiently wait for October sales, Honda is telling Bloomberg that its sales went up in the last month, its first such gain since April. But between the ongoing problems in Thailand, a 50% production cut in North America, and the awkward looks of this CR-V, it looks like Honda had better enjoy this moment of good news while it can.

 

 

By on October 31, 2011

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the EV luxury brand has pre-sold all 6,500 units of its new Model S to be built next year, and the company is on-track for a 2013 profit. Bt if you’re comparing Tesla to the erstwhile EV darling BYD in order for it to look good, you have to wonder how good things really are. If anything, Tesla should be compared to Audi, an established (and hot) luxury brand with the same EV technology and one of Tesla’s founders on board. Losses for this fiscal year are estimated at $437m, and Tesla’s crucial loans from the Department of Energy are attracting a distracting investigation in the wake of the Solyndra scandal (but hey, Musk is “personally guaranteeing” those loans, so no worries…). And, in a truly puzzling move, Tesla is ignoring the SAE J1772 protocol for rapid EV charging because it isn’t sexy looking enough. As EV guru Chelsea Sexton puts it to the New York Times

It’s hardly unusual for Tesla to zig where the rest of the industry zags. But it’s particularly counterintuitive not to use the J1772 standard, since Model S drivers will be more interested in public charging than Roadster owners. Tesla’s proprietary connector choice requires getting customers to care about form over function on one of the most utilitarian aspects of the car. How many people stare at a gas nozzle and think, ‘If only that were better looking’?

Selling out of a first-year production run is good news, but hardly surprising (all plug-in vehicles are currently capacity-constrained). Preventing buyers from using public charging infrastructure because it’s unsexy is the kind of surprising news that could seriously damage Tesla’s long-term efforts. Meanwhile, we still don’t know how this company will do with regards to manufacturing quality and reliability, especially as volumes ramp up to 20k units per year. After all, Tesla’s hype and niche marketing efforts are well-proven… it’s all the other aspects of building and selling cars that we’re still unsure about.

By on October 31, 2011

According to svd.se, this is an image of the next-generation Saab 9-3, as revealed in a presentation to Sweden’s National Debt Office. Based on a new Phoenix platform that is supposedly under development (although with what money is unclear… new platforms typically cost around a billion dollars to develop), the new 9-3 will be the first Saab developed by the brand since gaining independence from GM. If, in fact, the company survives long enough to bring it to market in the 2013-2014 projected timeframe. And, based on all the news we’ve seen, the chances of Saab surviving, let alone developing a new car on a new platform, are extremely slim. But if you’re still holding out hope for The Industry’s Most Troubled Brand ®, this might inspire some more wholly unjustified optimism… as might the leaked image of Saab’s future product “plans.” Just don’t come crying to us when this all falls apart again in mid-November…

 

By on October 31, 2011

Throw “Sport” on a car, and I’m going to expect certain things from it. So I wasn’t kind to the first FIAT 500 I reviewed. But, as with people, I’m always willing to give a car a second take from a more amenable angle. To avoid bits I didn’t care for, I requested the base-level […]

By on October 31, 2011

You know, it’s getting goddamned hard for a chap to enjoy a decent corporate-sponsored nosebag from time to time what with the ever-imminent prospect of Jack “Banquo” Baruth popping out from behind a silver soup tureen and shouting “J’accuse!” like some sort of admonitory, jort-clad Visigoth. At least, such I was thinking to myself as I lined the walls of my pericardium with the rich yellow fat best produced by overly-sauced food and moderately crappy wines.

This was in the latter stages of a lunch – sorry - launch I was attending in, admittedly, a very unprofessional capacity. I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up here, but I’m one of those people who can’t say no when offered work; here though there would be no byline, and theoretically therefore, no conflict of interest.

Still, I was keeping one eye open, metaphorically-speaking, for our own favourite Sword of Damocles, as – pardon me good sir, but I believe your trotter is in my trough!

Lifer Automotive Journalist the Size of a Small Moon: “Oh, do beg pardon. Snarfle-snarfle-glub.”

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

 

I’m sure you know the stage trick where a woman is sawed in half and lives. Now, try the same with a Volvo and a truck loaded with masses of steel bars. Volvo S40 crashes into truck. Bundles of steel bars crash through the windshield,  exit on the other side of the car. What happens to the driver and front seat passenger? (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

 

Last year, world car production had jumped 26 percent to 77.8 million units, as it recovered from  a carmageddon-induced slump. This year, global car output will see a “sharp slowdown,” if  The Nikkei [sub] is to be believed. The Tokyo business paper cites IHS and J.D.Power, both expect only 4 percent growth. The Nikkei however should do some chart studies before writing. (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

We’ve already seen what Toyota’s forthcoming FT-86 looks like (basically), and now that the spec sheet has been leaked [via ft86club.com] there’s really not much more suspense left around the new rear-drive sports coupe. In case you don’t read Japanese, here are the basics:

HP: 147kw (200ps) / 200hp @7000rpm
Torque: 205nm (151 lb/ft) @ 6600rpm
Weight: 1210kg (2662 pounds)

Of course, that’s for a low-spec, manual transmission version, which rides on 16 inch wheels. Top-spec versions with an automatic transmission will weigh as much as 2,755 lbs. Toys for the top-spec version include LED headlights, leather steering wheel, 6 speakers audio and sport pedals… but then, this is all JDM spec anyway. Since the FT-86 will be coming to the US as a Scion, it’s tough to predict how the spec sheet will be structured. Still, the basics are there… and they look tempting (and in line with what the car’s chief engineer has told us). Now we just need to drive the thing!

 

By on October 31, 2011

After decades of offering some of the best C-segment products available, Honda made the mistake of phoning in its latest generation of Civic just as the entire competition stepped up its game. Compared to the previous generation of Cobalts, Corollas, Elantras and Focii, the current Civic might be a fine car… but compared to the new crop of compacts, its barely competitive. In his TTAC review, Michael Karesh called the new Civic “a low point” and “dreadfully dull,” while Consumer Reports struck the body blow by failing to recommend the Civic for the first time in memory. And though Honda’s initial reaction showed signs of a potentially fatal bunker mentality, lashing out at CR and pointing to a second place Motor Trend showing (because that’s proof of an absence of mediocrity), it seems the company is coming around.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

Residents of Austin, Texas may soon have the power to issue parking tickets by taking a few photographs of someone else’s car with their smartphones. A unanimous council voted on October 20 to explore the concept of deputizing vigilante meter maids using an iPhone app. Disabled advocates pushed the program at the council meeting in the hopes of guaranteeing easier parking. They were joined by others who were just interested in writing the $511 tickets.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

You rarely see first-gen Cressidas, such as the junked ’80 I found last week these days; it seems that the third-gen (84-88) models make up the bulk of survivor Cressidas in North America. Fourth-gen examples— like this one I spotted in a Los Angeles self-service yard— are about as common as Crowns. (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

 

Today, Saab creditors met in a packed-beyond capacity courtroom on Vänersborg. After a short deliberation, the district court approved the reorganization plan, Göteborg’s Posten reports. It will cost 500 jobs in Trollhättan. On Friday, China’s Youngman and Pangda had agreed to take over Saab 100 percent – in a Memorandum of Understanding, which isn’t worth much, and which is littered with caveats.

The reorganization plan, (full text here), was feted in a lengthy press release. It starts like this: (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2011

It’s probably a safe bet that at some point in the future, access to mobile communications while driving will be completely regulated throughout the Western world in general… but how will it be done? Using in-car jammers or simply blanketing the signal along roadways causes a variety of thorny potential issues, from interrupting government communications to liability exposure if someone can’t call for help.

Don’t worry, though… in the 21st century, when a government has a will to impose, private industry finds a way.

(Read More…)

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