The Truth About Cars » Enthusiasm http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Enthusiasm http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/enthusiasm/ EPA: Rolling Coal Is Verboten According To Clean Air Act http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/epa-rolling-coal-is-verboten-according-to-clean-air-act/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/epa-rolling-coal-is-verboten-according-to-clean-air-act/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 14:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862201 coal-rolling d-bag number 69

Once upon a time, tractor pull attendees who witnessed diesels churn out black smoke under the strain of a very heavy trailer decided to make their diesel-powered pickups do the same thing, sans said heavy trailer. The practice came to be known as “rolling coal,” and until last week, was nothing more than a potential subject for a country song or two amid lyrics about drinking lots of beer and getting with the blue-eyed blonde of the singer(s) dream(s).

However, rolling coal has taken on a political guise as of late, usually (and literally) aimed at Prius owners allegedly trying to force their asphalt realities upon the coal enthusiasts. Of course, the Environmental Protection Agency has something to say about the whole thing: No.

Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports Talking Points Memo got a hold of EPA representative Liz Purchia about the legalities of pretending to be a 19th century choo-choo train on the highways of the 21st century. In short: rolling coal is a violation of the Clean Air Act. The systems used to create black smoke on purpose, including computer software “that alters diesel fuel injection timing,” are illegally overriding emissions control, something the CAA frowns upon, to say the least.

That said, enforcement of the CAA is on the manufacturer level; thus, while it is illegal to roll the coal down that old dirt road, the only punitive action may come from the police officer who just had a ton of black smoke blown directly in their face.

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2016 Cadillac SRX May See Local Production In China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2016-cadillac-srx-may-see-local-production-in-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2016-cadillac-srx-may-see-local-production-in-china/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862161 01-2013-cadillac-srx-ny

On the strength of rising SUV sales in China, General Motors will likely add production of its next-generation Cadillac SRX in the emerging market in order to better capitalize on said sales.

The Wall Street Journal reports Cadillac as a whole is doing well in China, sales rising 72 percent from January through May 2014 to 33,760 units with the SRX making up the bulk of those sales at 14,496 units, a rise of 23 percent for the crossover in the same five-month period compared to 2013. The current model goes for ¥420,000 ($67,770 USD), and has been on sale in China since 2009.

The new SRX would likely arrive as a 2016 model, with the hope Chinese production would help the automaker avoid tariffs on imported models; the crossover is only assembled in Mexico at the present. GM itself has big plans for its premium brand, including a $1.3 billion plant in Shanghai, and a goal of 300,000 units sold/10 percent share of China’s premium market by 2020.

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Mitsubishi: U.S.-Bound 2016 Outlander PHEV “Will Be Completely Different” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-u-s-bound-2016-outlander-phev-will-be-completely-different/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-u-s-bound-2016-outlander-phev-will-be-completely-different/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862137 03-2014-mitsubishi-outlander-fd

Perhaps as a result of what Mitsubishi had learned thus far since the introduction of the Outlander PHEV in Europe, Japan and Australia — as well as a MY 2016 redesign — the United States-bound PHEV “will be completely different,” according to both Mitsubishi Motors North America Executive Vice President Don Swearingen and U.S. PR boss Alex Fedorak.

Autoblog reports the SUV — now set to arrive in November 2015 — will have an interior with materials that look and feel “less value-oriented,” while its battery monitor can look each cell along with the overall pack. It will also likely take its styling cues from the GC-PHEV and XR-PHEV concepts, both debuting at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show last November.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Outlander Sport may soon possess a 2.4-liter I4 to go with its 2-liter variant as Fedorak and his employer’s dealer network discuss what needs to be done to make the bigger engine a better sell; early results point to stronger highway overtaking ability.

Finally, although Mitsubishi’s long-term goal is to evolve into “an SUV/crossover-type company,” cars will still have a role in the near-term, especially the Mirage compact. Despite most publications giving the Mirage a good thrashing — though our rising superstar managing editor had a different sort of thrashing in mind — Fedorak claims the compact is outselling both the Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris; the latter is ahead of the Mitsubishi by 265 units through the end of June.

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Next-Generation Jeep Wrangler To Take Fight To Soft-Roaders, Hold Rubicon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860793 5-2013-wrangler-rubicon-10th-anniversary-anvil

With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred.

Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and either a smaller gasoline engine than the current 3.6-liter V6 or a diesel like that found in Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel.

Regarding weight, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes aluminium would be another key ingredient in not only bringing down weight, but improving fuel economy on top of the aforementioned powertrain upgrades.

As for the solid front and rear axles that give the Wrangler its off-road prowess to compensate for increased weight and rougher highway travel, Manley didn’t say whether or not they would stay for the next generation of the iconic vehicle — due sometime in 2017 at the earliest — though he vowed Jeep would not “dilute what Wrangler stands for,” citing his killing of the two-wheel-drive Wrangler upon taking the brand’s reins.

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2015 Audi A3 Sedan Sales Outpacing Supply, Stealing From Honda, Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-audi-a3-sedan-sales-outpacing-supply-stealing-from-honda-toyota/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-audi-a3-sedan-sales-outpacing-supply-stealing-from-honda-toyota/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860769 Audi S3 Limousine

The 2015 Audi A3 Sedan is doing quite well for itself in the United States since its arrival back in April of this year, even if the hipster parties during the sedan’s U.S. unveiling more than likely just amused the automaker’s traditional clientele instead of attracting younger buyers as the party plan intended.

Autoblog reports Audi of America sold 2,452 A3 Sedans in June alone, with just over 25 percent of consumers under the age of 30. That particular group of young Audi drivers are new to the automaker, brand conquests over Honda and Toyota.

As for buying one right now, there may be a line ahead of you: Audi is still stocking its dealer network with the $30,795 sedan, with a wait as long as 30 days for those wanting specific features for their A3. The line may grow longer, however, when the automaker’s A3 E-tron arrives in Q2 2015, with every one of Audi’s U.S. dealerships being granted the opportunity to sell the PHEV.

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VW Will Begin Production Of Beetle Dune In 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/vw-will-begin-production-of-beetle-dune-in-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/vw-will-begin-production-of-beetle-dune-in-2016/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 10:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857937 vw-beetle-dune-concept-10-1

Remember the Beetle Dune Concept we showed you a while ago? It’ll be in showrooms sometime in 2016.

Car reports Volkswagen announced production of the concept through a promotional video instead of the usual press release. Pricing for the new Beetle — which will come in coupe and convertible forms — will be €2,800 ($3,800 USD) over the standard Beetle.

Though no form of power has been specified — the concept had a 210-horsepower 2-liter turbo-four mated to a six-speed dual-clutch pushing those ponies to the front wheels — the production model will receive the concept’s 2-inch ground clearance and 1.1-inch wider track.

As for when the Dune will be seeking out its Kwisatz Haderach in the United States, Autoblog says VW of America has no official plans ready for announcement as of this writing, according to representative Mark Gillies.

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Subaru Behind Jeep, Ram As Most Off-Roaded Automaker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/subaru-behind-jeep-ram-as-most-off-roaded-automaker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/subaru-behind-jeep-ram-as-most-off-roaded-automaker/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857073 green subaru xv crosstrek hybrid

Jeep may be the first thing to come to mind when the idea of going off-road comes up in conversation, but when taking a trip from Los Angeles to that secret pool/art installation in the middle of the desert, you might find a Subaru waiting nearby.

Autoblog reports the automaker’s vehicles are the third most off-roaded in a 2013 J.D. Power study, where 29.5 percent can be found departing the highway for the trail; only Ram and Jeep bested Subaru at 30.2 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Subaru’s director of corporate communications, Michael McHale, added that owners of his company’s offerings were “190 percent more likely to do outdoor activities than other brands,” meriting those treks off the beaten path.

Regarding individual vehicles, the Outback sees the highest use in the dust and mud at 34.7 percent. Meanwhile, most Jeep Grand Cherokee owners prefer the high street over high peaks, with only 21.1 percent deciding to experience just how “trail-rated” their SUVs are. The Outback is also among Subaru’s top three best-selling vehicles in 2013, sandwiched between the Forester and the XV Crosstek as the automaker celebrated its sixth consecutive year of record sales; 424,683 units were sold in the United States alone that year.

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Lincoln Nearly Axed By Mullaly, Saved By Fields http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lincoln-nearly-axed-by-mullaly-saved-by-fields/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lincoln-nearly-axed-by-mullaly-saved-by-fields/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856513 2015 Lincoln MKC

Today marks the day Mark Fields becomes CEO of Ford, taking up where now-former CEO Alan Mullaly leaves off. This day may also mark the day Lincoln begins its slow climb back from the brink, especially when Mullaly once considered killing the brand before Fields became its champion.

Bloomberg reports Lincoln, then struggling to find footing after years of assimilating Fords upmarket with no unique product in sight, would have gone the way of Mercury had not Fields and global marketing chief Jim Farley convinced Mullaly that the brand was worth saving. Now that he is CEO, Fields will be leading the effort to bring Lincoln up to fighting trim.

The first product of this effort is the MKC, which shares its mechanical base with the Ford Escape and its 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbo-four with the upcoming Ford Mustang. However, the crossover’s design is 85 percent unique to itself, and has premium features on par with its competitors — BMW X3, Audi Q5, Acura RDX — including soft-touch leather and parallel-parking technology. The crossover follows the MKZ — whose delayed roll-out over technical gremlins prompted the debate over Lincoln’s fate — and will be later joined by a redesigned MKX and the replacement for the MKS.

The MKC will be aimed at drawing buyers from premium brands like Cadillac and Lexus, Ford owners wanting to move up, as well as young first-time buyers and empty nesters looking to downsize. The road back to the top will be long, however; though U.S. sales climbed 21 percent during the first half of 2014 with 37,251 models leaving the showroom, annual sales are 65 percent down from the brand’s peak in 1990.

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Few Majors Taking Up Tesla’s Open-Source Patent Offer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/few-majors-taking-up-teslas-open-source-patent-offer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/few-majors-taking-up-teslas-open-source-patent-offer/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855713 10352722_h15508358

Remember when earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk released all of the patents related to his company’s offerings in the hope that all of the major players would eagerly buy into his vision thing of widespread EV production?

It hasn’t turned out as well as Musk had hoped.

Autoblog Green reports only Mahindra is interested in the patents and their potential application in future products; the company once had the e2o EV in its lineup, and is working on an EV version of its Verito Sedan. Meanwhile, General Motors is more interested in how Tesla does its business than how to put together a Model Volt S, Honda is satisfied with its own EV technology, and most of the other players aren’t saying much.

The lack of excitement may be attributed to the fact that, according to The Motley Fool:

Tesla is not revealing its trade secrets. There often is only so much information that you can get from a patent. Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner. Besides, by the time the competition digests the patents, some of them may have become outdated, and Tesla likely will have advanced to the next generation of its technology.

Though the patents seem to have more in common with a Cosby Christmas sweater than an Apple iPhone, Nissan and BMW are having secret meetings with Tesla to discuss charging technology. BMW of North America’s product and technology communications manager Matthew Russell proclaimed his employer and Tesla were “interested in the success of electro mobility” for their electric vehicles, though he declined to comment on similar announces from BMW’s competitors.

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National Corvette Museum Makes Sinkhole Permanent Exhibit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/national-corvette-museum-makes-sinkhole-permanent-exhibit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/national-corvette-museum-makes-sinkhole-permanent-exhibit/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 10:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854401 10-corvette-museum-sinkhole-1

Earlier this year, a sinkhole opened up within the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., taking down eight Corvettes 60 feet below the show floor. Since then, the natural disaster has proven profitable for the museum, prompting its board to make the hole a permanent attraction.

Autoblog reports the hole will be see its size modified from 40-feet wide and 60-feet deep, to 25-feet and 45-feet wide with a depth of 30 feet. There will also be a dirt embankment where up to two of the most damaged of the eight Corvettes will be displayed.

The modifications will take place in September after the museum celebrates its 20th anniversary and the grand opening of the NCM Motorsports Park in late August. CFO Christy Thomas added that if interest wanes or if the museum feels the need to retire the exhibit, the modifications would make filling in the remainder of the sinkhole a possibility.

For now, though, the hole has been a profit magnet, drawing a 71 percent boost in admissions from a 59 percent increase in visitors between March through late June of this year, with no clear signs of abating in the near-term.

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GM Ignition Issues Pile Up From Within, Abroad http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/gm-ignition-issues-pile-up-from-within-abroad/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/gm-ignition-issues-pile-up-from-within-abroad/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852961 Violet GM RenCen

In today’s General Motors digest: An ignition-related issue is quietly fixed years before the February 2014 recall; a Chinese supplier is blamed for defective switches recalled in June; Ally prepares to take flight from the Beltway; and Mark Reuss helps bring back a Corvette stolen 33 years ago.

Automotive News reports two design flaws in switches used on the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion allowed the key to slip out of the casing while the engine still had power. The flaws were investigated twice in November 2004 and June 2005, prompting supplier Ortech to modify the shape and size of the ignition lock cylinder based on the findings. However, consumers weren’t notified of this particular change until a recall notice was issued in April 2014. The design change was implemented in 2006, according to GM.

In related news, Reuters reports the recall of 3.4 million vehicles earlier this month by GM was due to a defective ignition switch made by Chinese supplier Dalian Alps Electronics. Unlike the similar situation affecting 2.6 million vehicles recalled in February, the automaker has opted to replace or rework the keys to eliminate a slot that would allow a ring to shift to one side, pulling the switch out of the “run” position. Parent company Alps Electric claims that while Dalian did make the part, the subsidiary manufactured the switch based on GM’s designs, and that neither party had received word or complaint from the automaker about the issue.

On the financial front, Automotive News says Ally Financial, the former financial wing of GM under the name GMAC Financial, is one step closer to corporate independence from ownership by the United States Treasury when two of the remaining three Treasury-nominated board members step down from the board during the lender’s annual shareholder conference July 17. Ally hopes to be out from government ownership by the end of 2014, allowing the lender to regain access to bank deposits in funding subprime loans, benefiting both it and its dealership network due to the low costs in using bank deposits over more expensive funding tools. Currently, the Treasury owns 16 percent of Ally, down from 63 percent at the start of 2014, and 37 percent prior to the lender’s IPO in April.

Finally, WXYZ-TV reports GM’s executive vice president of global product development Mark Reuss has offered to bring home a 1979 Chevrolet Corvette that was stolen 33 years ago from its owner, George Talley, at GM’s expense. Earlier this week, AAA called Talley to inform him the car was found in good condition in Hattiesburg, Miss. after a falsified VIN tipped off authorities to the car’s whereabouts. Reuss made the offer to Talley during an interview with WJR-AM’s Paul W. Smith, and the Corvette is expected to come home within the next few days.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Big In The UK http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mitsubishi-outlander-phev-big-in-the-uk/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mitsubishi-outlander-phev-big-in-the-uk/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 12:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850146 03-2013-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-paris

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV may not be coming to the United States until sometime between the autumn of 2015 and early 2016, but United Kingdom customers are already lining up at their local dealerships for a test drive of the SUV that can be had for the same price as its diesel sibling.

Cambridge News reports one particular dealership, Duxford Motor Group, had conducted 23 test drives during the two-day launch of the PHEV earlier this month, with 40 to 50 parties rebooked for test drives due to its fiscal popularity. According to sales executive Alex Dunn, the Outlander PHEV retails for £28,250 ($48,150 USD) — which includes a government tax credit of £5,000 ($8,522 USD) — the same price as the 2.2-liter diesel variant, and comes with other benefits, as well:

100 per cent write-down in first year, which is a first for employers, and if you’re an employee it’s 5 per cent Benefit in Kind which is astonishing. This is one of very few vehicles which is congestion-charge free and it’s not a little car, it’s a five-seater four-wheel drive vehicle, so it ticks so many boxes fotr [sic] people who perhaps wouldn’t have come to our door before – fans of all the big brands are coming to see us. It’s a tough car too – rock-solid and super-reliable.

The PHEV has an all-electric range of 32 imperial miles before the 2-liter gasoline engine takes over, and delivers 148 mpg between the engine and two electric motors.

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Oddball Car Collector Extraordinaire Myron Vernis’ 1972 Mazda Cosmo and 1968 Toyota Sports 800 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/oddball-car-collector-extraordinaire-myron-vernis-1972-mazda-cosmo-and-1968-toyota-sports-800/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/oddball-car-collector-extraordinaire-myron-vernis-1972-mazda-cosmo-and-1968-toyota-sports-800/#comments Sat, 21 Jun 2014 23:02:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844777 IMG_0066

Full gallery here

A while back while researching the topic of automotive scams and scoundrels, I came across the story of the Amectran Exar-1, a proposed electric car, of which only a prototype was made from a Frua built concept car. It turns out that the Exar-1 still exists and it’s in the collection of Myron Vernis, who lives near Akron, Ohio. The car writing gig has given me access to some fine collections and contact with a number of prominent car collectors like Ken Lingenfelter and Jay Leno (both of them very much regular car guys who have the means to indulge a passion for cars that must of us share with them). Ken and Jay are great car guys, without a doubt, but I have a taste for the offbeat so my favorite car collector has got to be Myron because he might very well have the best collection in the world of unusual and oddball cars.

When I found out that the Amectran prototype still existed, I called up Myron and he clued me in about the Exar-1 and its creator, Edmond X. Ramirez, Sr. For what it’s worth, Vernis thinks Ramirez is a guy who ended up believing his own PR more than a scam artist. As I mentioned, I like unusual cars and it seemed that every time I brought up something weird, Myron would say, “I have/had one of those”. Since then I’ve run into Vernis a couple of times at the annual Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, first when he was displaying his Japanese domestic market Isuzu 117 XC, and then last year he brought a Citroen CX 25 TRI station wagon (now that’s a car you don’t usually see in America).

A few weeks ago he emailed me saying that in addition to bringing something to the Orphan Car Show in the fall, he was going to be in Detroit for both of the top shelf car shows held here, the Concours of America at St. John next month and he also said he was bringing a couple of cars to the Eyes On Design show, held every Father’s Day on the grounds of the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate in Grosse Pointe Shores.

I’m not exactly sure how his cars ended up in the “Tuner” category at Eyes On Design, because they are pretty much bone stock, but regardless of how they got in the show, I’m glad that Myron brought his 1972 Mazda Cosmo, the first rotary engine powered car made by Mazda (and the first production two-rotor Wankel in the world), and a 1968 Toyota Sports 800, the direct predecessor to the great 2000GT sports car.

You may go, “Hmmmm, the first Wankel powered Mazda, yeah that’s unusual, but what’s so weird about a Toyota?” How about an 800cc horizontally opposed air-cooled twin, normally used to run the air-conditioner compressors in Toyota buses? Yes, long before they hooked up with Subaru to make the GT 86 / FR-S / BRZ, Toyota was selling a rear wheel drive sports coupe with a flat engine up front.

The Sports 800 original design is cute as a button while the Cosmo’s styling is razor sharp and perhaps a bit inspired by the Alfa Romeo roadsters of the day. Looking over the photos, I think that I can also see influences from the E Type Jaguar, and the Chrysler Turbine car.

The Cosmo’s origins date to early 1961 when Toyo Kogyo, the corporate parent of Mazda, obtained a license from NSU for the production of a rotary Wankel engine. NSU held the patent on Felix Wankel’s motor. Work began immediately on prototypes and by mid-1963, two 798cc Type 8A twin rotor engines began testing. The following year, a Cosmo concept car featuring the latest version of Mazda’s rotary, the 982cc 10A, was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show. Company engineers had trouble getting the rotors’ cast iron apex seals to last before settling on a design that used both carbon and aluminum. Eighty prototypes of what was by then known as the 0810 engine were assembled, with the majority installed in cars that were shipped to dealers for real world testing. The design of the engine was finalized in late 1966, producing 110 hp.

Production of the Cosmo coupes, intended as a halo car for the Mazda brand and for their revolutionary new engine, began in May, 1967. Front suspension was independent with A-arms, coilover spring/damper units, and a sway bar. There was a live axle on leaf springs in the back, but it was fairly sophisticated with a de Dion tube and trailing arms to control it. Brakes were disks up front with drums in the back, with no vacuum assist. The lightweight Cosmo was capable a 16.4 second quarter mile time with a top speed of 115 mph. It cost 1.48 million yen, ($4,100 in U.S. dollars). About 350 Series I Mazda Cosmos were made before a revised version was introduced in 1968. The Series II car, which stayed in production until 1972, the year of Vernis’ car, had a more powerful 0813 engine with 128 hp and 103 lb-ft, power brakes, bigger 15 inch wheels and a 5 speed gearbox. Wheelbase was bumped up 15 inches for a better ride and more interior room. The Series II car was capable of 120 mph and was more than a half second faster in the 1/4 mile than the original Cosmo, 15.8 seconds.

Another 1,176 Series II Cosmos were made for a total of 1,519 cars, which makes them pretty rare. All of them were hand made. Since only six were known to have been imported to the U.S. at the time, they are exceedingly rare here. Wikipedia says that Jay Leno owns a 1970 Cosmo and that Mazda USA found one in a garage a few years back. There’s also apparently one in Alberta, Canada. Then there’s Vernis’ Cosmo, which is actually rarer than Leno’s since Leno’s Cosmo has a more modern 12a motor from an RX-7 and Myron’s Cosmo has the numbers matching 10A with which it left Mazda’s fabrication shop in Hiroshima.

Vernis told me how he came to own his Cosmo:

I purchased the Cosmo from one of my very best friends in Greece three years ago. He is a great enthusiast and collector of Etceterini. He brought the car from Japan with a fresh rebuild on its original engine. He is a much more focused collector than I am and sold it because it really didn’t fit the nature of his collection. 

While the Cosmo competed with the now treasured 2000GT, that iconic sports car was not Toyota’s first sporting automobile. That honor goes to the miniscule Sports 800, whose history dates to 1955 and an effort by Japans famed MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. MITI wanted to encourage the development of an inexpensive “people’s car”, homegrown for the Japanese market yet and suitable for export, unlike much of the postwar Japanese car industry that was making designs licensed from outside of Japan.

MITI’s design brief was a 400 kg vehicle that had a top speed of 100 kph and fuel consumption of 1 liter per 30 kilometers when traveling 60 kph on a level road. Major repairs wouldn’t be needed for 100,000 km.

The government agency wanted the Japanese auto industry to work together on a single new design but the automakers wanted their independence and made their own versions. Toyota’s was called the Publica, a two door sedan introduced in 1961 with rear wheel drive after a developmental detour with front wheel drive caused a delay. The first Publica was a four seater powered by an air-cooled flat twin 697cc engine that put out 28 hp. There was no cargo space for luggage, nor a radio or heater, but it was fairly modern for its day with double wishbones and torsion bars up front and a live axle on leaf springs in the rear. Brakes were drums all around. It cost 389,000 yen, around $1,000 in the U.S. dollar of the day. Toyota had high hopes and even set up a separate dealer network for the Publica but like Tata would find out years later with the Nano, sometimes consumers are more aspirational than automakers give them credit for and sales were not great.

To generate interest in the Publica line, in 1962, Toyota showed a concept for a Publica based sports car with a removable roof panel, and when the Sports 800 went into production three years later, it would be the first car with such a roof, before Porsche gave it the Targa name. It was called the Sports 800 for the 790cc 2U engine, as mentioned a horizontally opposed two cylinder job directly cooled by air. By then the stock Publica had 36 horsepower. With two carburetors the power was boosted to about 45 hp in the Sports 800.

Years before the Hachi-Roku AE86, the Sports 800 got its own nickname, Yoda-Hachi (Yoda, as in Toyota, Hachi, as in Japanese  for the number eight). It was designed by Toyota engineer Tatsuo Hasegawa who had designed military aircraft during WWII, and Shozo Sato, who spent most of his career at another Japanese automaker, Nissan. The Sports 800 has a steel monocoque with aluminum trunklid, hood, roof panel and even seat frames to reduce the mass that the little 790cc twin had to carry around. The final curb weight was 1,279 lbs.

The front end foreshadows the 2000GT, and, like cars from the classic era, manually activated shutters in the grille to allow for faster heating in the winter. The body is low and aerodynamic while the tall greenhouse allows even tall drivers to fit. Good aero allowed the Sports 800 to see 100 mph if the straightaway was long enough and fuel economy exceeded MITI’s original 1 liter per 30 km standard by one km, the equivalent of 73 mpg.  A race prepped Sports 800 won the inaugural 500 km enduro at Suzuka in 1966, against much more powerful cars like the Nissan Skyline and Lotus Elan. A fuel mileage strategy kept the Sports 800 out of the pits, allowing Shihomi Hosoya to take the checkered flag.

A few left hand drive models were built to test market conditions in the U.S. but it was never officially sold here so like the Mazda Cosmo it’s not likely that you’ll see one. It’s estimated that perhaps a dozen out of the 300 or so that still exist are in the States. About 3,000 total were made from 1965 to 1969.

Vernis described his purchase of the historic Toyota:

The Sports 800 came from Seattle. It was in collection of four such vehicles imported several years ago by an exotic Koi (yes, the fish) purveyor. He retired to Hawaii and offered the package to another close friend of mine in Texas who, in turn, gave me the option on this one. The gold color is not original but was done for a special magazine feature in Japan about fifteen years ago.

Myron Vernis is a special car guy with a very special car collection but he has a humble affect and I get the impression that he sees himself as everyman. As an enthusiast he’s knows that he has an impressive collection, he just doesn’t seem to be that impressed with him Online he goes by the screen-name of “Junkman”. Even though many of his cars are rather rare and quite historic, they’re not trailer queens. Myron and his lovely daughter Zoe drove the Cosmo and Sports 800 to the show from their hotel in Troy, some miles away from the Ford estate.

I asked Myron if there was anything interesting in the provenance of either of the cars and his response demonstrates well why he’s my favorite car collector.

Even though they are pretty special cars by their nature, neither one of my examples are exceptional. The one thing that I’m most proud of is that they are probably the most driven examples of their respective models in the US and possibly globally.

He’s undoubtedly correct. Both of the cars have a very high cool factor, and they’re both very rare in this country so it was a treat to see them, but to be frank, at a car show with a large number of very special cars I enjoyed hanging out with Myron and his daughter more than I enjoyed any of the cars at the show. He’s a font of knowledge about automobiles and he’s got an almost perpetual grin on his face. Of course if you had as many unusual, special, and fun to drive cars at your disposal as Vernis does, you’d probably be grinning to.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Nissan UK: Leaf Dominated EV Sales In 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-uk-leaf-dominated-ev-sales-in-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-uk-leaf-dominated-ev-sales-in-2013/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=847961 2013 Nissan Leaf. Photo courtesy Nissan.

Though consumers in the United Kingdom may not have been too interested in electric vehicles last year, Nissan says the majority of those sold belong to the automaker.

Just-Auto reports out of the 2,507 EVs sold in the U.K. in 2013, 73 percent — 1,830 — belonged to the Nissan Leaf. The automaker added that the nation’s EV market continues to be “well-supported” by incentives and breaks on taxes and congestion pricing.

Meanwhile, charging the Leafs continues to be made easier thanks to expansion of the charging network. In 2011, only 752 units were available along the roadway; today, 5,731 thus far. Fast-charging Chademo stations also are on the rise, beginning with 60 in 2013 and growing to 232 currently. Nissan expects 500 of the fast-charging stations to be available all over the country by 2015, with 90 percent of all service areas in possession of a Chademo.

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Maserati Sells As Many Units Through June 2014 As It Had For All Of 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/maserati-sells-as-many-units-through-june-2014-as-it-had-for-all-of-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/maserati-sells-as-many-units-through-june-2014-as-it-had-for-all-of-2013/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=847945 Maserati-Alfieri-Concept-01

Maserati may have had a slow 2013 as far as sales go, but the Italian brand is on pace to sell within the first half of 2014 as many cars as it had in the last year.

Reuters reports CEO Harald Wester said that while the United States was Maserati’s biggest market, China, Italy and Europe as a whole were making big sales waves for the brand, likely helping it move 15,400 units both in 2013 and the first six months of this year. He added that Maserati was on pace to hit its mark of 50,000 units sold annually by 2015, and 75,000 by 2018 as part of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ five-year plan.

In product news, Wester proclaimed the Levante SUV would head for the showroom late next year or sometime in 2016, followed by the Alfieri in hardtop and convertible forms. Meanwhile, no new factories would be built, with an effort on filling current plants to full capacity in its fight to best the Germans in the sales game.

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Ford Australia’s FPV Builds Its Final V8 Interceptor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-australias-fpv-builds-its-final-v8-interceptor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-australias-fpv-builds-its-final-v8-interceptor/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=844825 gt-f01-1

Though Ford Australia has yet to build its last vehicle, the subsidiary’s Ford Performance Vehicles unit has come to the end of the road with its final V8 interceptor.

Autoblog reports FPV’s swan song is the Falcon GT F 351, a limited edition of 500 for Australia and 50 for New Zealand augmented by a supercharged 5-liter V8 pushing 471 horsepower — or 351 kW, in honor of the 5.8-liter/351 cubic-inch V8 that powered the Falcon GTs of history — and 420 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The GT F comes with the handling package from the Falcon R-Spec, while Brembo brakes help bring the last FPV model to a stop.

On the outside, the limited-sedan Falcon features black racing stripes that run from the bonnet to the boot, along with black accents under the headlamps and throughout the rest of the sedan. Meanwhile, orange is the new black on the inside, finding its way onto seat stitching, instrument faces and the GT F logo.

In addition to the GT F, the unit — which is taking its final bow before the Mustang takes to the stage — is also building 120 Pursuit Utes with the same 5-liter V8, though it delivers 422 horses pulling 402 lb-ft of torque to the bed in the back instead of the sedan’s “fuel-injected suicide machine”-stopping firepower. No prices have been given for either limited-edition model.

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Tesla Opens Patents To All Potential EV, ZEV Automakers Immediately http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/tesla-opens-patents-to-all-potential-ev-zev-automakers-immediately/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/tesla-opens-patents-to-all-potential-ev-zev-automakers-immediately/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843506 tesla-model-s-logo

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made available to all interested parties — including automakers — every patent related to the automaker’s electric-vehicle technology in the hope more EVs will be built.

Autoblog reports Musk had made a personal policy not to take out patents on any project he created, believing doing so actually meant buying “a lottery ticket to a lawsuit.” With Tesla, however, he claimed as many patents as he could to protect the EV automaker from the competition. To his dismay, the competition wasn’t competing at all:

… electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

Thus, all patents in Tesla’s front office have been taken down as a sign of Musk’s willingness to help spur EV and ZEV development among the majors, believing “Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.” Musk also stated the open-sourcing of the patents would boost Tesla’s position as a technology leader.

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Energy Drinks May Follow Tobacco Sponsorship Into History http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/energy-drinks-may-follow-tobacco-sponsorship-into-history/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/energy-drinks-may-follow-tobacco-sponsorship-into-history/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843482 2014 Red Bull F1

Once upon a time, the Sprint Cup was the Winston Cup, Rothmans decorated Porsche 962s in Group C, and the Marlboro chevron was everywhere a wheel turned in anger. Though those days are long gone, energy drink makers like Red Bull and Monster have stepped in to fill the financial void left behind by Big Tobacco. At least for now.

Asphalt & Rubber says that what happened to tobacco sponsorship in Europe and, eventually, the rest of the world could soon happen to energy drink sponsorship. Sales of energy drinks have been banned for sale to consumers under 18 in Lithuania thus far, while some cities and states in the United States are considering the same. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association is advocating a marketing ban on energy drinks to under-18s, which led to industry leaders from the likes of Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar et al having to testify before Congress.

The potential result of increased regulation could mean the energy drink makers may choose to focus on one-off events instead of sponsoring events and teams in Formula One, MotoGP et al, leaving both organizations and competitors alike once again seeking out the kind of sponsorship dollars tobacco once provided prior to the industry’s exodus in the mid- through late 1990s.

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Abe Administration Pushes Automakers, Nation Away From Kei Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/abe-administration-pushes-automakers-nation-away-from-kei-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/abe-administration-pushes-automakers-nation-away-from-kei-cars/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=841985 Nissan Moco

For ages, the kei car has been one of the darlings of the automotive world, owing to its tiny size and equally tiny engine (that also netted owners a smaller tax bill). Alas, Japan’s littlest cars may soon be put in a toy box destined for Goodwill as the nation’s government puts the pressure on both automakers and owners to move toward supporting bigger offerings.

The New York Times reports the Japanese government introduced three tax increases on kei owners, including a 50 percent boost in the kei car tax meant to bring their tax burden close to larger vehicles. Officials claim the cars are becoming a drain on the Diet’s coffers both on the tax and free trade fronts, and as they cannot be exported to other markets — college campuses withstanding — the keis are a waste of profit and R&D for automakers.

The Abe administration may see push back from owners and automakers alike, however. Smaller automakers such as Suzuki and Daihatsu use the R&D from their kei offerings to better compete in other markets where similar offerings are sold, as well as adding more content to make their cars more attractive to their local market base. Owners, meanwhile, opt for keis because of the low ownership costs involved, and the greater mobility offered in areas where mass transit is few and far between.

The tax increase on the kei has affected both parties, with automakers losing sales and owners who may decide not to buy any vehicle altogether; sales are expected to drop from 2.23 million in 2013 to 1.7 million in 2015.

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Alfa 4C Arrives In 86 North American Showrooms, Brings 342 Pounds Of Luggage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-arrives-in-86-north-american-showrooms-brings-342-pounds-of-luggage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/alfa-4c-arrives-in-86-north-american-showrooms-brings-342-pounds-of-luggage/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 10:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=841969 Alfa-Romeo-4C-17

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has just released their initial list of dealerships who will have the right to sell the Alfa Romeo 4C to North American customers, while the sports car will bring 342 pounds of luggage for the trip from Modena to the selected showrooms.

Autoblog reports all but four dealerships will be in the United States — the remaining four are in Canada — and the majority of those will be concentrated in three of the 33 states on the initial list: California, Florida and Texas. The chosen ones were drawn from a list of existing Fiat and Maserati dealerships, and though expected cities like Los Angeles, Orlando and Austin will be among the chosen, a few big names didn’t make the first cut, including New York, Seattle and Louisville, Ky.

Meanwhile, the chosen dealerships “will have a unique staff dedicated to the brand’s premium market clientele,” per the words of Chrysler Group vice president of network development Peter Grady. The dealerships are undergoing “an intensive curriculum” to ensure the success of the 4C and limited-edition 4C Launch Edition as FCA presses forward toward its goal of over 300 Alfa dealerships in North America.

As for the 4C itself, Jalopnik says the sports car packed on an additional 342 pounds to its 2,153-pound Euro-spec frame for the U.S. market, coming into port at 2,495 pounds. Aside from the usual federalization mandates, some of the weight comes from the standard air-con and radio equipped in the U.S.-spec model.

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Musk: Location Of First Tesla Gigafactory To Be Announced By Year-End http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/musk-location-of-first-tesla-gigafactory-to-be-announced-by-year-end/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/musk-location-of-first-tesla-gigafactory-to-be-announced-by-year-end/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 11:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=837873 Tesla Gigafactory

For those awaiting when and where Tesla will build its first Gigafactory, the automaker announced the decision should come near the end of the year, and that said Gigafactory will have siblings.

The Detroit News reports CEO Elon Musk told shareholders at Tesla’s annual meeting in Mountain View, Calif. that as many as three states could see one of the battery factories land in their boundaries, with Gigafactory 1 delivering 6,500 jobs at a cost of $5 billion between it and its investors to one of four states before the end of 2014. Musk added the plans were “quite advanced,” and that his company talks with Panasonic — who wants the Gigafactory all for itself — on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to sharing the love with the concept of American-made battery packs, Tesla plans to boost deliveries of the Model S by 56 percent as markets in China and elsewhere come online. Musk himself will travel to the United Kingdom this week to oversee delivery of the first RHD models assembled by Tesla, with other RHD markets — Japan, Hong Kong et al — to receive theirs down the road. All Ss will also receive software upgrades to provide the owners with more customization abilities, with auto-pilot features to come sometime in 2015.

Finally, Musk himself proclaimed he would not leave the controls of his company until sales of Tesla’s third-gen EVs began, a inevitability not due for the next four to five years.

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Coalition Of Eight Unveils Plan To Encourage ZEV Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/coalition-of-eight-unveils-plan-to-encourage-zev-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/coalition-of-eight-unveils-plan-to-encourage-zev-production/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836097 2013 Fiat 500e Exterior-013

A coalition of eight states have adopted a plan to encourage automakers to help meet the target of 3.3 million ZEVs taking to the road as required by the Clean Air Act by 2025.

Automotive News reports the plan would include incentives and tax credits for those who buy ZEVs, as well as access to HOV lanes and preferred parking. However, the plan also includes measures such as streamlining building codes and liability insurance rules so commercial properties can provide charging infrastructure, and improved signage and payment systems for public charging stations.

The coalition — consisting of California, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont — may have a difficult time reaching its ZEV mandate of 15 percent of all vehicles sold by 2025, though. Currently, only Nissan is among the major automakers committed to building its share of the 3.3 million required by the Clean Air Act. The rest — including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, who hoped no actually bought a Fiat 500e because FCA would lose $14,000 on each one sold — see ZEVs as nothing more than compliance vehicles with limited market prospects. California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols begs to differ:

We’re coming to this collaboration as a way of helping companies. They’ve done a great job of producing great cars. We want them to succeed and want them to make money on this.

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BMW: China To Be Largest EV Global Market By 2019 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bmw-china-to-be-largest-ev-global-market-by-2019/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/bmw-china-to-be-largest-ev-global-market-by-2019/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 12:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834009 2014 BMW i3 01

Though Chinese consumers have been slow to adopt electric vehicles thus far, BMW believes China will become the largest global market for EVs by 2019 at the earliest.

Bloomberg reports the automaker entered into a joint venture with municipal power company State Grid Shanghai, installing public charging infrastructure at the city’s former World Expo site as one of 46 such sites around the city to be installed by the end of 2014. The charging equipment will be compatible with products made by BMW, SAIC and BYD et al, while Tesla owners will have to use Supercharger stations instead.

Meanwhile, BMW will begin deliveries of the i3 in China this September, being sold in showrooms alongside the i8. BMW China CEO Karsten Engel says he expects only 1,000 will arrive in showrooms this year due to lack of supply, while BMW overall will sell over 400,000. The Bavarians join fellow Germans Volkswagen and Daimler in producing EVs for the Chinese market to help boost adoption among consumers. Currently, 70,000 total EVs are on the road in the nation, far behind the Chinese government’s goal of 500,000 by next year.

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Minivans Making A Comeback, Minus The Name http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/minivans-making-a-comeback-minus-the-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/minivans-making-a-comeback-minus-the-name/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=833506 Ford Transit Connect Wagon: The Unminivan

Once the bane of soccer moms everywhere, the minivan segment is on the rebound in sales. However, the remaining stigma surrounding the name has some marketing reps doing their best to make sure “minivan” is verbotten down on Flower Shop Lane.

The Detroit News reports the marketers are throwing around alternatives — such as “people mover,” “MPV” and “family truckster” — in an effort to make the segment cool for all. Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell, however, has reservations on such re-labeling:

Nobody wants to be categorized as a minivan, but at the same time, they have to let people know about how they can utilize these vehicles. The harder you try to convince people it’s not a minivan, the more they are going to think it’s a minivan. Just call a spade a spade.

While the marketers are trying too hard to “#unminivan” the segment, minivan sales climbed to over half a million in 2013 after a nadir of 434,000 in 2009 during the global economic superstorm’s early phase; sales peaked in 2000 at 1.3 million. Current offerings from the Minivan Three of Toyota, Honda and Chrysler dominate the market, though newer minivans such as Ford’s Transit Connect Wagon and Kia Sedona will add more choices in the coming years.

Though the segment had a homogeneous appearance for the past few decades, modern offerings seek to grab an ounce of individuality as far as what each minivan has to offer to families and young people. In particular, smaller minivans could bring new customers to a brand, leading to further sales down the road as situations change among those who enter the showroom for a “people carrier” over a hatchback.

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MG Motor Considering Roadster, US Market In Long-Term Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mg-motor-considering-roadster-us-market-in-long-term-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mg-motor-considering-roadster-us-market-in-long-term-plans/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832922 MG Icon

The last time MG sold roadsters in the United States, Jimmy Carter was President, ABSCAM (minus the efforts of Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper) entered its final phase, and CNN had newsreaders instead of “news VJs.” Should the Sino-British brand be able to assemble a roadster worthy of those 1960s and 1970s classics, however, a new MGB might board a container ship bound for the U.S. in the future.

Edmunds reports exploratory design work for a sports car under the MG name has been placed on the 2014 schedule book in SAIC’s Shanghai design studio, with one of the possibly proposals being a roadster such as those in the brand’s history, as well as the spiritual successor found in the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The starting point for whatever is drawn up is the 2012 MG Icon concept.

In the meantime, MG Motor is looking to design and produce a wider mainstream collection, with design and engineering split between Shanghai and Birmingham, England. Eventually, this could lead to a return to the U.S. market, which is considered a long-term goal for the brand and its owner.

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