The Truth About Cars » Enthusiasm The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 New York 2014: 2015 SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Edition Unveiled Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:29:49 +0000 2015-SRT-Viper-Anodized-Carbon-Time-Attack-Edition-3

In an effort to help boost lagging sales, the 2015 SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Edition was unveiled at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Viper ACE will be limited to 50 units, with the last 10 receiving both a Time Attack package injection and matte gunmetal “Metallic Matte” paint. Orange stitching in the upholstery and gunmetal bezels make up the rest of the story.

As for how much, it may fall under the standard SRT Viper’s base of $100,000, though SRT has yet to say anything on pricing.

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Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 Ubuntu_GNOME_13.10_ScreenShot

Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

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Tesla Business Model Reconsidered In NJ, Talking Point In 2016 Presidential Election Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:30:25 +0000 tesla-model-s-logo

Even though the door on Tesla’s direct sales model appeared to be closed in New Jersey, the Garden State is reconsidering its position just as the automaker’s way of doing business could find itself a major talking point in the 2016 run for the White House.

Automotive News reports that New Jersey Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced a bill which would allow Tesla to continue selling its cars to the state’s consumers. The bill, which is the third in a series of actions related to the currently strained relationship between the two parties, comes on the heels of the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision to reinforce existing law banning direct sales by automakers, which would have unintended consequences for the local economy according to Eustace:

Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car. How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?

For their part, the New Jersey Coalition of Automobile Retailers, lobbying on behalf of the state’s franchise dealer network, stressed that while they have no intention of driving Tesla out of business, they only want Tesla to play by their long-established rulebook. Association president Jim Appleton is willing to work with the automaker to a point, however:

We hold as sacrosanct the franchise system. There is no resolution to this problem that allows Tesla to operate outside the franchise system forever. But we’re open to accommodations if Tesla can make the case that there’s a reason why they can’t.

Meanwhile, Tesla has a new ally in the form of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who, in his support for the business model, puts him in opposition of New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the run to represent the Republican base against the Democrat nominee during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Chrysler Hellcat V8 Could Unseat Viper V10 Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:09:47 +0000 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For over a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working on a Hemi V8 dubbed the Hellcat, which set to debut in a revised Dodge Challenger. However, the Hellcat could prove a challenge to the SRT Viper’s V10, possibly unseating the venerable monster from the throne.

Automotive News reports the rumored V8 has caused an internal debate within FCA, in particular what it would mean for the Viper when the Challenger receives the engine. SRT brand boss Ralph Giles told Hot Rod magazine:

We have a situation where, you know — we may have a situation — where the flagship car is not the most powerful car in our arsenal … how do we explain that to ourselves? So we have an internal horsepower race as well as an external one.

While the Viper’s naturally aspirated V10 pushes 660 horsepower, the SRT variant of the Challenger — pitted against the Ford Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 — is rumored to put out as much as 700 horses .

The 2015 Challenger is rumored to debut in New York next month.

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Tesla Reader’s Digest Vol. 1: The Politics Of Dancing Mon, 24 Mar 2014 12:19:42 +0000 Tesla Roadster and Model S

In the first edition of the Tesla Reader’s Digest, Washington state makes nice with Tesla’s business model as Arizona ponders doing the same — while fighting three other states for the right to host Tesla’s Gigafactory, no less. Meanwhile, General Motors pens a letter to Ohio asking the state to force the EV automaker to play by the same rules as they already do, pricing of the Model S falls in Europe, and Edward Niedemeyer offers his view on how Tesla can topple the auto dealer monopoly.

The Detroit News ran our former EIC (originally published at Bloomberg View) a few inches to explain the situation Tesla faces with its revolutionary-for-the-United States model of doing business from the rent-seeking opposition found in the entrenched dealer franchise system. Though the automaker has already been locked out of Texas and New Jersey due to such opposition thus far, Niedermeyer offers that CEO Elon Musk has a few potential allies — including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, eBay, Costco and TrueCar — who could help him and the U.S auto industry as a whole bring about a future where all automakers can sell directly to customers.

Reuters and CNN Money report the states of Washington and Arizona are or soon will be signing legislation allowing Tesla to market directly to consumers; previously, the automaker’s sole Washington direct-sales efforts were in Seattle, whereas Arizona only allowed showrooms, pushing sales across the border to California.

The Washington legislation came as a result of campaigning from that state’s Tesla-owning constituents with help from a lobbyist, which will allow the automaker to expand into more cities while forcing every other automaker — upcoming or long-established — to sell through franchise dealerships, a situation advocates claim will need to be remedied when legislatures return to Olympia next January.

Arizona, however, is coming around to help improve the state’s chances in becoming the home of Musk’s grand energy project, the Tesla Gigafactory. Autoblog Green also reports Tucson has not only a suitable site for the 1,000-acre, 10 million-square-foot battery factory, but the tax incentives to lure 6,500 jobs away from Nevada, Texas and New Mexico.

As for the other three states, New Mexico is working on an economic package, while Nevada remains silent on their moves, and Texas has incentives galore in spite of banning direct-sales, the latter of which could hurt the state’s chances.

Speaking of direct-sale bans, Automotive News reports General Motors penned a letter to Ohio governor John Kasich over concerns his state could open the door to Tesla. GM’s senior vice president of global communications and public policy Selim Bingol explains his employer’s viewpoint:

We understand discussions are ongoing over legislation which could provide a broad exemption for a single manufacturer, Tesla Motors Inc., to circumvent long-established legal precedent on how new motor vehicles are marketed, sold and serviced in your state.

GM is not alone, as lobbyists representing the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association warned the state legislature last week that by allowing Tesla to sell directly to consumers, it would allow all automakers to do the same, casting the franchise model to the wind.

Finally, Tesla may be fighting a different battle in Europe. Inside EVs reports pricing of the Model S has dropped in Germany and Netherlands 6,700 euro and 4,000 euro respectively to 65,300 euro and 66,200 euro. Though Tesla cites currency appreciation against the dollar, low demand and lack of a sufficient Supercharger network may be to blame.

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The Manly Art Of Stick Handling Sat, 22 Mar 2014 15:02:58 +0000 6-speed manual transmission

I was browsing the internet the other day and came across a website that purports to be “A guy’s post-college guide to growing up.” Normally I avoid websites like this. I learned about the manly arts the old fashioned way, dangerous experimentation, but since I have been wrestling with an especially verdant crop of nose hair recently I thought I might find some grooming tips and so I decided to check it out. Amongst all the articles on slick, greasy-looking haircuts, sensual massage techniques and the power of positive self-development, I found this handy beginners’ guide on how to drive a stick shift. Since it was one of the only things on the site I had any real experience with, I looked it over and decided it was pretty good. Naturally, I thought I would share it.

Like sword fighting and bare knuckle boxing before it, driving a car with a manual transmission is on the verge of becoming a lost manly art. One day soon I expect to tune into the History Channel and hear someone explain how archeologists think these devices might have worked and watch as historic re-enactors dress up in their oldest bell bottoms and tie dyed shirts in order to drive around in their automatic transmission equipped replicas while making shift noises and pretending to step on a clutch pedal that isn’t there.

You keep both hands on the wheel, Frankie. I’ll handle the stick.

OK, perhaps I am being just a little facetious here, but let’s face it, manual transmissions are moving out of the mainstream and there will come a time when only cars aimed at the enthusiast market will bother to offer them. History tells me, of course, that it wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things that all cars had manual transmissions. Some people will say they also had crank starts, hand-operated chokes and manual spark advance too, and that no one ever laments the loss of those things. It is, they will say, the price we pay for progress. The old things go away, replaced with new things that serve the masses better and, despite the fact that a few people may lament their loss, the fact is that vast majority will hardly notice their absence.

That’s not going to be the case with the manual transmission. Learning to shift your own gears is a right of passage. It is something that people grew up watching their elders do and upon a child’s entry into adulthood, the skill was handed down across the generations, person to person. With few exceptions, those clever, intrepid people who had the gumption to teach themselves, every one of us who knows how to work a stick learned from someone else.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I started out the way most young people do, pretending to row the gears in an old broken down Opel Kadette in my parents’ garage and eventually wheedled a lesson from my older brother Tracy who took me out in his, then, fairly new 1978 Nova. It was a pretty little car, a red on red two door coupe that had a 250 cid six cylinder under the hood and was as utilitarian as they come. I started out shifting gears from the passenger seat to get the feel of the shift lever and by the time I slipped over behind the controls had a fairly good idea of what I needed to be doing with my hands. Learning how to work the pedals took a little longer but, with my brother’s encouragement, I eventually got the hang of it.

I won’t say the experience changed my world, but it did open up a part of it that is, unfortunately, closed to many young people today. By the time I got my first car, a slightly older six cylinder three speed manual Nova of my own, there was no doubt about my ability to work the thing and, over the years and in the many manual equipped cars that would follow, I built upon the skills my brother taught me.


Running a car with a manual transmission connects man and machine in a way few other things can. In that same way the bumps and judders transmitted to a driver’s fingers through steering wheel gives one a connection to the pavement rushing beneath their seat, the vibrations transmitted to the palm of your hand by a shift ball and the sole of your left foot by the clutch pedal gives you a direct connection to a car’s drive train. Also, because you don’t have computer managing your engine speed and choosing the best gear, a manual transmission forces you to watch your gauges, to monitor the tachometer, and to actively think about the process of driving. These things pull driver and car together and when a driver has real focus they can join with the vehicle in the way that jockeys talk about becoming one with the animal during a race. That experience is, in a nutshell, enthusiasm is its purest form.

As a fat, hairy, old-school ape man, I have a special disdain for the “self-improvement” media and magazines that try to tell young men what it means to be a man while, at the same time, attempting to sell them a plethora of products to make them ever softer and ever more sensual, but this time I think they nailed it. Perhaps driving a manual is no longer a skill that every man must have, but it is a skill that every man – and every woman, really – should aspire to. It doesn’t matter if you learn if from your brother or a magazine, just get out there and learn it before it’s too late.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Fewer Than 4,000 Green Calif. HOV Stickers Remain Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:56:39 +0000 2012-Chevrolet-Volt-HOV-052_610x407

For potential California PHEV owners, time may soon run out to obtain the Green Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California Environmental Protection Agency for HOV lane use, as only 3,770 of the 40,000 stickers remain available.

Inside EVs reports a huge spike in applications for the green stickers since the start of 2013, with 12,000 issued last year, and 8,000 more since January. This is in contrast to 2012, when around 500 stickers per month were issued in the first seven months of the year.

The stickers, meant for AT PZEVs such as the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt, will likely be gone by the time BMW brings the i3 extended-range model to the United States this summer, and in spite of the automaker’s best efforts, only the pure-electric i3 will be eligible for the White Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued to as many approved EVs, fuel-cell- and CNG-powered vehicles — like the Tesla Model S, Ram 2500 and Honda FCX Clarity — as can be registered.

Both green and white HOV stickers are set to expire New Year’s Day 2019, extended from the same date in 2015.

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VW Confirms New Turbodiesel Due Later This Year Wed, 19 Mar 2014 10:15:55 +0000 VW EA288 TDI Diesel Engine

Fans of Volkswagen diesels will be thrilled to know that later this year, the automaker’s latest 2-liter turbo-four will be available for the 2015 Golf, Jetta, Passat, Beetle and Beetle Convertible.

Autoblog reports the new EA288 TDI will produce 150 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, with an additional 10-horsepower boost for road train-passing emergencies. Other features include EGR, an intake manifold with integrated intercooler, and low-friction camshaft bearings.

Though the turbodiesel will arrive in five VW models for the 2015 model year, all Audis and Volkswagens will eventually receive the EA288 as the automaker phases out the current 2-liter TDI; 12 such models are in showrooms at present, with 105,899 units sold in 2013.

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Viper Production Sidelined For Two Months Due To Slow Sales Wed, 19 Mar 2014 09:15:53 +0000 anodized-carbon-srt-viper-la-auto-show-04

Due to slow sales, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will halt production of the SRT Viper for the next two months, with 91 hourly workers temporarily booted to the unemployment line.

Automotive News reports the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit will go into hibernation beginning April 14, with production to resume June 23.

Speaking of 91, that was the number of Vipers sold in the United States between January and February of this year, with a 412-day supply of 756 unsold vehicles as of March 1.

Factors leading to the temporary shutdown include unseasonably cold weather, and the habit of dealers keeping the doors locked on the exotic car, hindering sales. SRT brand head Ralph Giles aims to change the latter through a factory team tour of the U.S. already underway in the South, allowing customers to take the Viper for a test-drive. The tour will expand north once warmer weather arrives.

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No Replacements For MINI Coupe, Paceman, Roadster Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:49 +0000 2012 Mini Coupe

BMW’s MINI may not replace the Coupe, Paceman or Roadster when their day comes, opting to focus on three “pillar” models that allow the brand to be “more relevant to more people,” according to MINI head of product management Oliver Friedmann.

Automotive News Europe reports Friedmann’s first priority for MINI “is to roll out a portfolio that has strong pillars,” with each pillar being clear in what it means to the overall brand. With the original hatchback and Countryman identified as the first two pillars, a potential third pillar could come in the form of a compact model based upon the Clubman concept shown in Geneva.

As for the Coupe, Paceman and Roadster, Friedmann says the trio aren’t a priority to the brand at this time, with the possibility all three may end up in the crusher of history in the near future.

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2014 Autorama: Ridler Award Winner & Great 8 Finalists Sat, 15 Mar 2014 18:04:20 +0000 IMG_0475_l

2014 Ridler Award Winner: “Rivision” – 1964 Buick Riviera. Full gallery here.

Please consider this post to be an exercise in automotive ecumenism. Sometimes car enthusiasts like to separate into tribes, Fords vs Chevys, road racers vs drag racers, customs vs concours. About a year ago I wrote a piece for Hemmings about the competition at the Detroit Autorama for the Ridler Award, that show’s top prize. Apparently some people are rather orthodox and fussy about their view of the car hobby. A few of the comments complained that Hemmings, a publication often devoted to 100 point concours or historically significant collectors’ cars, had deigned to slum among the customs at the Autorama. Before I had a chance to respond and point out that the same family that was showing Chip Foose’s Eldorod at the 2013 Autorama had won “best of show” with a prewar Mercedes at the 2012 Pebble Beach concours, a couple of other readers pointed out that the build quality on a Ridler level custom is at least the equal of a top shelf concours winner. We provide detailed coverage of the big corporate auto shows here at TTAC, but we  haven’t covered the custom car scene much. That’s a shame because the Detroit Autorama is probably a better expression of enthusiasts’ car culture than the big NAIAS held a couple months earlier in the same Cobo Hall.

There are car guys that do attend both shows, which redounds to the benefit of enthusiasts. Some of the people who attend the Detroit Autorama are part of the automotive design community in the Motor City. That community includes staff designers at the Big 3, as well as Toyota and Hyundai/Kia who have design centers in the region, along with freelance designers and students at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. It’s an undeniable fact that features and trends first seen in the custom and hot rod world end up on production cars. Since the event is large and content-rich, I hope to be putting up a few posts on this year’s Autorama.


Getting back to that tribal thing, some in the hot rod and custom world look down on the Ridler competitors that are displayed in the front part of Cobo Hall. Downstairs at Cobo where the Autorama organizers put rat rods, works in progress, and other “Extreme” customs, you may hear a remark or two about the basement crowd being “real Detroit car culture” as opposed to the detailed to a fare thee well “checkbook hot rods” that come in from around the country to compete for the Ridler. Still, when tribal bone fides are put aside, nearly everyone that attends the Autorama admires the skill and talent that goes into the cars vying for that award. 

Over the years the Ridler, named for Detroit area promoter and PR maven, the late Don Ridler, has developed into the most prestigious award in the world of custom cars. Only the top award at Pomona, California’s Grand National Roadster Show comes close and that’s restricted to more traditional style hot rod roadsters. A persuasive argument can be made that the Detroit Autorama is the best custom car show in the world.  Participating in the build of a Ridler winner, or even doing the paint, bodywork or interior of one of the Great 8 finalists, can be a huge break in a fabricator’s career.

All manner of custom cars can compete for the Ridler and the Detroit custom show has become the place where high dollar hot rods and customs get revealed. One of the rules is that to be eligible for the Ridler Award, a car must not have been shown to the public (including publications of the build process) prior to that year’s Autorama.

It’s probably appropriate that a custom show in Detroit has a more diverse selection of competing cars than one in California. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Detroit’s great Alexander Brothers (who made the Dodge Deora, Little Deuce Coupe and other award winning customs) were trying to get the attention of hot rod magazines based on the west coast, their ideas were regarded as being a bit outside the envelope. The California tribe had a different concept of the hot rod than the Detroit tribe. Much of hot rod and custom culture started in Southern California, but there’s a reason why they gravitated to fairly traditional looking vehicles based mostly on Fords from the 1920s and 1930s: rust, or rather a lack of it. In the late ’50s, those old Fords may not have been worth much, but in sunny California, they didn’t rust into nothingness, like cars around Detroit did, subjected to winter weather and salted roads. So Detroit customizers were more likely to be basing their projects on more recent cars than the trad rods of SoCal. Their projects were also more radical, also because of rust problems with donor cars. When the lower edges of doors, front and rear pans, and even complete rocker panels, were no longer there, the victim of the tinworm, that gave customizers in the midwest more freedom to create new and radical shapes, sometimes so radical that it was hard to tell just what the donor vehicle was to begin with.

Most years the majority of Ridler competitors seem to be pre war Fords and tri-five Chevys. This year was no exception with 7 of the 8 finalists wearing either the blue oval or a bow-tie. The winner, though, was neither a classic Ford, nor a 1950s Chevrolet, it was J.F. Launier’s 1964 Buick Riviera appropriately named “Revision”. Launier owns the car and his shop, J F Kustoms, did the job updating Bill Mitchell’s masterpiece with more than a few modern touches. Launier has built three Ridler finalists for other people and with Rivision he was specifically aiming to win the Ridler for himself, putting in approximately 20,000 hours of labor and over $300.000 in parts and materials.

Many of those 20,000 hours were devoted to creating what Launier considers to be more of a concept car than a custom. In back, the 3rd generation Riv’s boattail was grafted on and below the front bumper is a very contemporary looking and rather aggressive aero splitter. Body mods include that fastback roofline and rear window from a ’71 Riviera, hand formed fenders, hood and quarter panels as well as a completely fabricated rear section. The body is mounted on a one off custom perimeter frame that lets the body sit close tot he ground. All four wheels are unique to their corners. The interior is full leather, though those the interior’s most prominent feature is a huge intake duct that runs from the back of the car to the engine compartment. The reason for that duct is that the Rivision’s two turbochargers and related waste gates are mounted under glass in the rear of the car. With the hood down, all that plumbing and the car’s radical looks tricked more than a couple of observers into thinking that the the bright yellow Riviera is a midengine car but the 850 hp 6.2 liter GM LS family V8 sits about where the Riviera’s original Nailhead sat. Now that the subject has been brought up, though, I expect to see a midengined boattail Buick at a future Autorama. Use a first gen Toronado “unitized power package” transaxle and keep it in the E Body family.

The Autorama runs from Friday through Sunday and the Ridler Award winner is named late on Sunday, at the awards banquet. Prior to that announcement, eight finalists, today known as the Pirelli Great 8, are identified. I don’t envy the judges’ their task. To begin with, picking out 8 cars from the two dozen or so cars conceived and built to a level that puts them under Ridler consideration is hard enough. To my eyes, they all look amazing, with superlative build quality and clever design touches. Choosing one winner from eight worthy competitors is a job best reserved for experts.

Here are the remaining Great 8 finalists:

Dan Duffy's 1956 Chevy 210. Full gallery here.

Dan Duffy’s 1956 Chevy 210. Full gallery here.

In 1956, the Chevy 210 was the brand’s middle trim level, in between the base 150 and the more luxurious Bel Air. I guess the supply of Bel Air hardtops must be running low because Dan Duffy of Marietta, GA started with a pillared two-door 210 and proudly named the bright metallic orange result “two ten” (if he makes a replica, perhaps he can sell the pair to a medical marijuana dispensary to use as promotional vehicles since 210 x 2=420). Tom Manner was responsible for the design and fabrication, while Thunder Valley Customs, of White, GA did the final body prep and paint. M&M Hot Rods, of Holly Pond, AL provided the interior. A 450 HP LS3 provides the motive force.

John ad x Sadler's "Cross Hair" 1957 Chevy. Full gallery here.

John and Phyliss Sadler’s “Cross Hair” 1957 Chevy. Full gallery here.

John and Phyllis Sadler of Little Rock, Arkansas own this ’57 Chevy hardtop that they call “Cross Hair”. At first glance it may appear to be just another tri-five Chevy but that’s only because the alterations, including a chopped top, are so subtly done. Unlike many top shelf customs these days, which often have custom frames made by someone like Art Morrison, Cross Hair retains its original frame, albeit with more than two dozen alterations. Heidts supplied the independent rear suspension, Colin Kimmens of Lake Havesau, AZ did the metal fabrication, D&D Specialty Cars of Van Buren, Arkansas did the body and paint work, and Chuck Rowland Upholstery, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma did the full-leather (including the floor) interior. It’s not unusual for cars competing for the Ridler to have been shuttled around the country as their builds progress. Another LS engine, this one a LS6, powers Cross Hair.

Steve Tornari's 1967 Chevy Nova. Full gallery here.

Steve Tornari’s 1967 Chevy Nova. Full gallery here.

Steve Tornari’s 1967 Chevy Nova, done up as a pro touring style resto mod, was finished just three days before it had to be on the stand at the Autorama. It’s my personal favorite among the Great 8 finalists and is the definition of clean. Miranda Built, the shop that built the car, was just barely able to get it on a trailer in Florida, headed north for Detroit. Charley Hutton, who gained notice spraying paint for Boyd Coddington and who has painted a number of Ridler winning cars before, did the color. Eric Borckmeyer designed a very contemporary looking interior, which was fabricated by Extreme Performance. Instead of a ubiquitous first gen SBC or LS engine, it uses a different kind of small block Chevy, a 355 cubic inch Chevy SB2 NASCAR engine out of Rick Hendrick’s engine shop. With the twin turbos spooled up it can produce 850 hp at the rear wheels. The Ride Tech air suspension as well as all of the car’s electronics are controlled by an iPad embedded in the dash running through an ISIS Intelligent Multiplex System.

Brian Ganos' 1969 Camaro "ZRS". Full gallery here.

Brian Ganos’ 1969 Camaro “ZRS”. Full gallery here.

One of my “rules” when deciding what to photograph at a car show is “no ’57 Chevys and no ’69 Camaros” (and I’m thinking of adding perfectly restored Isetta microcars to the list). Why take pictures of cars you can see at just about any car show? Of course rules are meant to be broken and when I come across a real ZL1 or Yenko Camaro, you can be sure that I take lots of photographs. This year’s Ridler finalists included both a ’57 Chevy 210 and this 1969 Camaro RS/SS and to be honest, I probably would have shot this pro touring Camaro despite my rule, even if it wasn’t a Great 8 car because it is so nicely done.  That two of the Great 8 finalists were pro touring resto mods says to me that show organizers and judges are starting to appreciate cars that can handle and stop in addition to having straight line speed and custom styling. Having been founded by the Michigan Hot Rod Association the Autorama has always been as much about go as it’s been about show.

Brian Ganos, of Fond du Lac, WI, calls his car a Camaro ZRS. Larry Williams rendered the design and Jim Hubbel did the build. As with at least one other Great 8 car, Charley Hutton prepped the body and painted it. Advanced Plating, another frequent choice of Ridler competitors, did the chrome and powder coating. M&M Hot Rods, yet another name that shows up in the build sheet of another competitor, did the interior.


Opting for a Gen I small block Chevy V8 that’s been bored and stroked to 427 cubic inches, rather than a LS, Ganos specified a Tremec T56 six speed manual transmission to transmit power and torque to the independently suspended rear end, courtesy of a C4 Corvette which also donated the front suspension as well. Baer six pot brake calipers are at the corners. It’s all wrapped up in a very cleanly executed body painted in cerulean blue.

ed Seese's 1933 Ford Sedan Delivery is based on Corvette mechanicals. Full gallery here.

Al Seese’s 1933 Ford Sedan Delivery is based on Corvette mechanicals. Full gallery here.

Another blue car, this 1933 Ford Sedan Delivery, didn’t start out as a panel truck. Before Albert Seese of Lee’s Summit, MO, made over 200 body modifications it was a regular ’33 Ford sedan. I’m rather partial to panel trucks so I spent some time shooting this one. Seese’s team was standing nearby and I happened to mention to them the vital role the Dodge brothers had in supplying Henry Ford in FoMoCo’s early days. One of them reacted in mock horror that I was talking about the Dodges to Ford fans. Then I pointed out that with a C6 Corvette transaxle in back, front and rear suspensions out of an ’05 ‘Vette, and a LS2 engine, most likely from the same C6 donor as those other components, their “Ford” could be described as a 2005 Corvette with a custom body.

Rocky Roler's 1933 Ford 5 Window Coupe. Full gallery here.

Rocky Roler’s 1933 Ford 5 Window Coupe. Full gallery here.

The Brown Car Appreciation Society should take note, not only was one of the Ridler Award finalists painted in that earthy tone, quite a few of the other high quality customs and hot rods in the front section of Cobo Hall were painted, brown, beige, copper or brownish shades of red. Because of brown’s renewed popularity Rocky Roler of Creative Rod & Kustom in Southampton, New York was able to choose a current factory Chrysler 300 color to paint his restyled Ford five window coupe. That restyling is supposed to, according to Roler, combine European styling with a classic American hot rod look. Roler is an artist whose medium happens to be sheet metal. Per classic rods, his ’33 has been chopped 4 inches and channeled 3 inches to get a real low look. The grille shell and integrated radiator cover was scratch built from steel. The entire back section of the car, including the trunk lid, was also newly fabricated. Lest you think that it’s only supposed to look good and go fast in a straight line, check out the IRS with coilovers in the back and unequal length control arms with pushrod actuated inboard coilover shock absorbers in front. Customs at this level are very sophisticated machines.

Don Smith of Mansfield, Texas told Hot Rods by JSK that he wanted a late ’50s, early ’60s period hot rod, a traditional rod with an old school look. JSK succeeded. This “Fordor” just looks right, particular from the back. It states “hot rod” unequivocally,  I used quotation marks around Fordor because they didn’t really start with a deuce four door. The entire car has been fabricated, taking three years to complete the build.

It has a custom frame that’s closer to that of a ’33 or ’34 Ford than a ’32 and a completely new body was built on that frame to reproduce the look of a Ford sedan that had been chopped and channeled. The car’s name, Y’d Open, comes from the fact that there is apparently no B pillar between the doors. The doors open to reveal a wide open interior. That look was achieved by integrating the B pillar structure into the leading edge of the rear suicide doors.


The period theme is consistent, with a bored and stroked 312 cubic inch real Y block Thunderbird V8, with chromed Laker style headers flowing into straight pipes on each side of the car. Induction is via a hard to find Hilborne fuel injection unit, though it’s been modernized with digital controls so the car isn’t exactly a period build. Another modern concession to driveability is the 5-speed Chevy gearbox.

Y’d Open is so well executed that its picture should be next to the dictionary listing for “hot rod”.

The judges liked the custom Riv, and it’s hard to fault their decision. Though it wasn’t my personal aesthetic favorite, engineering is one of the judging criteria, and Rivision’s induction system may look roundabout but the car is indeed well engineered. On the other hand, the underlying concepts and build quality of the Great 8 finalists would make any of them worthy winners, even the ’57 Chevy or the ’69 Camaro.

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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Ellinghaus: Cadillac Could “Easily Flourish” In Australian Market Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:05:57 +0000 2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe

Sometime in the future, Cadillac global marketing boss Uwe Ellinghaus believes Cadillac could enter the Australian market, being able to “easily flourish” under the proper conditions established on top of the goodwill the brand already has in the country.

Auto Advice reports however the main goal for Cadillac is to go after what Ellinghaus calls “low-hanging fruit” markets:

We see the opportunity [in Australia] and we want to expand into as many markets as we can afford, but it’s also fair to say we have so much growth potential unexploited in China, even in the US, Canada, Russia, Dubai, Mexico… This is the lower-hanging fruit.

We have limited resources and great opportunities elsewhere that we need to make a very careful plan when to enter which market.

Regarding where Cadillac could enter the Australian market, he says the space soon to be vacated by the Holden Commodore would be the perfect point of entry. Offering the brand for Commodore prices, though, would be easier said than done as far as a business case is concerned, pointing toward both the BMW M Series and Mercedes AMG as to where pricing would occur for Cadillac’s high-performance lineup. He also had high hopes for the CTS, and the SRX and Escalade, with the latter two finding huge success in Australian burgeoning SUV marketplace.

As for when Cadillac would enter the scene, Ellinghaus says an introduction would occur near the end of the 2010s at the earliest, and would be headed by one or two models converted to right-hand drive. This follows an near-entry into the market back in 2008 before turning back at the last moment, though not before exporting a few vehicles and appointing dealers to sell them.

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2016 Camaro Receives New Architecture, Maintains Retro Looks Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:16:08 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Camaro

Due in 2015 as a 2016 model, the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro will be based upon the same architecture underpinning the Cadillac CTS and ATS while maintaining its overall retro looks.

Edmunds reports the pony car’s styling will only undergo an evolutionary change in a manner similar to the 2015 Ford Mustang, according to a source familiar with the matter, with the revolutionary change occurring under the skin via the car’s new Alpha platform.

Though Chevrolet remains mum on the upcoming car, brand spokesman Mike Albano said the next Camaro “will have expressive design and will evoke the passion the previous-generation Camaros have done.”

The new Camaro will move from Oshawa, Ontario to Lansing, Mich., where the CTS and ATS are assembled, and will make its global debut during the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

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Jeep Considering Power-Retractable Top For Fourth-Gen Wrangler Mon, 10 Mar 2014 14:00:16 +0000 002-jeep-wrangler-polar-edition-1

Rumored to be in the early stages of development, the fourth generation of the Jeep Wrangler could have an power-retractable top as one of a few items designed to attract more customers to the off-roading legend.

Road & Track reports the top would be aimed as a high-end option at those who can’t be bothered undoing the soft-top or disassembling the hard top found on current models. Also on the agenda are removable doors and a frame redesign aimed at delivering a smoother ride while retaining the Wrangler’s solid axles.

What won’t make it to the new Wrangler? The folding windshield and rear-mounted spare tire, due to safety concerns and an overall goal of saving weight.

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Tax Refunds, Easy Credit Boost Used Car Prices Mon, 10 Mar 2014 13:42:53 +0000 145640_cars_KJH_

A combination of income tax refunds issued in January and February with accessible financing have boosted used-car prices overall in the first two months of 2014.

Automotive News reports prices rose 1.1 percent year to date, and 0.8 percent over the past month, according to the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index. Meanwhile, the IRS processed 40.4 million returns in the first two months of the year, refunding $125.8 billion to taxpayers at an average of $3,112, which helped in propping up wholesale used vehicle prices.

Easy credit with attractive terms also aided used-vehicle pricing, making the market “more profitable than the underlying unit sale numbers would suggest” according to Manheim.

Overall sales fell 1 percent from the previous year, and 12 percent from January to 2.05 million units, with used compact cars falling the hardest at 3 percent from last year due to heavy supply and competition from newer vehicles. Used truck sales rose 8 percent in the same period due to high demand and low inventories.

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Winterkorn: T-ROC Will Be Built If Customers Want It Sat, 08 Mar 2014 14:00:10 +0000 Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept-02

Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn is optimistic for the future of the T-ROC, with the automaker willing to build the crossover if the customers want it.

Automotive News Europe reports the production version of the concept crossover — based upon the MQB architecture found in the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf — would slot between the compact Tiguan and VW’s planned Taigun subcompact SUV.

Winterkorn believes the concept will have a mass appeal for the automaker’s customer base — especially as sales of crossovers and small SUVs rise in Europe and the United States. VW brand head of development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser concurred, dubbing the T-ROC a logical evolution of the Golf.

The three-door T-ROC seats four, comes with a removable tablet infotainment display, and is powered by a 2-liter diesel found in the Golf GTD, pushing 182 horses through all four wheels.

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Manley: Renegade Will Appeal To U.S. Customers Despite Italian Roots Fri, 07 Mar 2014 20:30:39 +0000 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

According to Jeep boss Mike Manley, the Italian-built Renegade will appeal to the off-road brand’s United States customer base despite its Italian roots, especially in Trailhawk form.

Automotive News Europe reports the main concern regarding the Renegade is its off-road capability, which Manley believes will be resolved once the trail-rated Trailhawk arrives in showrooms in 2015 along with the rest of the Renegade family. He also noted the design language expressed by the entry-level Jeep, as well as its footprint, echo that of the CJ family:

The Renegade’s footprint is similar to one of the CJs. It’s much more Wrangler. We’re very pleased, and I think it will work well in the United States.

Though Manley remained silent on the subject of sales figures for the Renegade and platform sibling Fiat 500X, supplier sources expect a total of 280,000 units annually between the two, with Jeep moving 150,000 units and Fiat accounting for 130,000. Price of admission will be announced by Jeep in Q4 2014 for the U.S., Q2 2014 for the European market.

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Smaller Jeep To Slot Beneath Renegade Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:00:39 +0000 Jeep-Renegade-18

Though the Jeep Renegade already bowed at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, the off-road brand has plans for not only a fullsize SUV similar to the discontinued Commander, but an A segment SUV slotted beneath the Renegade, as well.

Auto Express reports the A segment vehicle could possibly be underpinned by the next-generation Fiat 500, though would face greater engineering challenges than those faced by the Renegade — built upon Fiat’s “small-wide” archecture underpinning the upcoming 500X — to make it Rubicon-ready, as Jeep boss Mike Manley explained:

We couldn’t make an SUV off of “small wide” as you can’t get the ground clearance. It was completely changed by Jeep engineers so now it’s “small wide 4×4″ architecture.

The A segment Jeep could also aid in bringing the brand into compliance with increasing CO2 emissions standards, though the improvement drive — much like the vehicle itself — will be a long, hard road to hew:

There’s relentless pressure to reduce CO2 and there’s much more for us to do. We’re trying to stay away from complexity and improvements are slowly coming.

Meanwhile, Manley’s focus is toward the Grand Wagoneer, which will slot above the Grand Cherokee. The fullsize SUV will boast room for seven and “be bigger than the old Commander” made between 2006 and 2010.

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FCA Beginning Maserati SUV Production In 2015 Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:45:29 +0000 Maserati_Kubang_front

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne announced this week production of the Maserati Levante SUV will begin at the automaker’s Mirafiori plant in Turin, Italy beginning in 2015.

Reuters reports Marchionne also proclaimed the Alfieri introduced at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show could go into production within 28 months if FCA wanted to make it so, noting that “the platforms and motors are there” for the grand tourer, though no word was given on whether the Alfieri will join the Levante at Mirafiori should plans come to pass.

Regarding the financial health of Maserati, Marchionne remained optimistic for what the future holds, stating the Alfieri was “an indication of things to come” for the luxury brand. Maserati’s increased profits also signal a sea change for FCA overall as they prepare for Alfa Romeo’s re-introduction into the United States this summer.

However, an uphill battle still waits for FCA; while Maserati moved 15,400 units last year, the figure is far short of the brand’s goal of 50,000 units for 2015. The brand must also contend with the likes of Audi and BMW, emulating their successes with more affordable vehicles while also avoiding potential damage to its image.

Along with the aforementioned re-introduction, FCA is crossing its fingers that their two-prong strategy will pay off big by bringing the Italo-American automaker back in the black by 2016, surviving the economic storm in Europe that has all but battered the auto industry as a whole.

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VW Considering Larger Pickup For U.S. Market Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:14:02 +0000 2013-Volkswagen-Amarok-Canyon-07

The Amarok may not be coming to the United States, but depending on the success of the General Motors’ twin midsize pickups, Volkswagen may re-enter the light-duty truck market with a product more suited to a U.S. audience.

Autoblog reports VW is mulling over the idea of bringing a truck to the U.S. market, though it may not be the Amarok popular around the world, according to VW Group head of powertrain development Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer:

We are just reworking our truck strategy, and this is part of thinking about it. But the Amarok fits not very well to the efforts of the market.

Speculation around the VW U.S. pickup include a revised Amarok or a separate U.S.-only model.

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VW Budget Brand Hitting Budget Wall, Still Under Consideration Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:47:21 +0000 2013 Volkswagen Up

In 2012, Volkswagen began research into starting a budget brand in the vein of Datsun and intended rival Dacia, with the aim of having a full lineup ready for sale by 2015. Two years later, the budget brand has hit a budget wall, and that’s only the start.

Autoblog and Autocar report VW is having issues hitting safety and quality targets while maintaining the low-cost pricing — aimed between 6,000 and 8,000 euro; the Up above begins at nearly 10,000 euro — the automaker expects for the unnamed budget brand.

Though no business case has been found thus far, VW’s project is still under consideration as technicians pour over how similar rivals — including one-time partner Suzuki and considered partner Proton — are able to build low-cost vehicles without compromising on quality or price. Even though Renault-Nissan manages to be profitable with Dacia, VW is concerned that a low-cost car would erode their own margins.

Last year, Volkswagen announced they would work in a joint venture with Chinese automaker FAW to bring a budget vehicle to China by 2016; cost issues are affecting this effort, as well.

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Mercedes Adding New Sprinter Models, Dealers As Van Sales Rise Mon, 03 Mar 2014 06:18:55 +0000 2014 Mercedes Sprinter

With European vans such as the Ford Transit Connect and the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster finding overwhelming success in the United States commercial van market, Mercedes is preparing its Sprinter to show the competition how it’s done on Floral Shop Lane.

Automotive News reports Mercedes-Benz Vans USA — part of the overall global van division Mercedes created last year during an internal reorganization resulting in three self-contained units for vans, cars and commercial products — will be adding new models to the Sprinter lineup alongside more dealerships to sell the lighter and taller new generation van, all in an effort to capitalize on an evolving U.S. commercial van market as MBUSA vice president and MB Vans USA managing director Bernie Glaser explains:

The Sprinter is the benchmark and the norm of the Euro-style vans. There is a revolution happening in the segment and big changes coming that were caused by the Sprinter — vans with a smaller footprint but big cargo volume.

Changes planned for the Sprinter include: a new four-pot turbodiesel from the E-Class mated to a seven-speed transmission; electronic stability control standard with options available for collision prevention, blind-spot assistance and crosswind stabilization; an all-wheel drive model due in 2015; and a small 12-passenger variant under consideration.

Meanwhile, the sales channel for the Sprinter will expand from 188 to 218 within five years; 57 Freightliner dealers will also be added. Stronger marketing tactics are in the offing, aimed to move more Sprinters into the wrap shop in 2014 than the 21,816 sold in 2013. However, the unit saw 1,288 vans sold in January as small business owners coming out of the Great Recession with more confidence in the market headed to the nearest dealer.

As for 2014, the new Sprinter uses a base 2.1-liter BlueTEC I4 driving 161 horsepower and 320 lb-ft torque through its seven-speed transmission, whose fuel economy is 20 percent better than the optional 3-liter BlueTEC V6/five-speed transmission combo. The latter pairing gets 25 mpg on the highway from the supplied 188 horses and 265 lb-ft torque. Prices range from $35,920 for a Sprinter 2500 with 144-inch wheelbase and standard roof, to $45,400 for the same model with a 170-inch wheelbase and high roof.

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Barclays: GM Suffering From Worst Large Pickup Launch In 15 Years Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:29:25 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior

Though the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado took home North American Truck/Utility of the Year at last month’s Detroit Auto Show, the large pickup and its brother, the GMC Sierra, have suffered from “the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years” according to Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson.

Automotive News reports the truck twins “faced a full-court press” from the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, though winter weather also played a role in lower sales across the board. General Motors executives have come to the defense of their products, proclaiming average transaction prices of $4,000 to $5,000 more than the previous generation pickups and a combined market share hovering around 33 percent over the past few months, though the latter point held between 35 and 40 percent of the market in years past.

With dealers begging for stronger promotion and better incentives for the pickups, Chevrolet will host its Chevy Truck Month promotion. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing (dealer invoice plus destination charges and a $150 fee) on light- and heavy-duty Silverados, and will be heavily pushed during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with television advertising beginning March 18.

In addition, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC will all hold Open House events throughout the month of March. The month-long sale will offer supplier pricing on nearly every 2014 vehicle sold under each brand, with the exception of the SS and Corvette Stingray for Chevrolet.

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Booming Van Sales Driven By Small Business Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:25:16 +0000 Florist Vans

In a sign the broader economy is on an upswing, small business owners who use commercial vans in their business are replacing their aging equipment with new vans, fueling a boom not seen since the start of the Great Recession.

USA Today reports as small businesses begin to invest in their companies once more — and with borrowing on the rise with loosened credit now available — commercial van sales rose to over 40 percent since 2010. The winter weather failed to put a dent in sales, rising 9 percent in January as auto sales fell 3 percent in the same period. IHS Automotive, in particular, expects sales to grow 27 percent overall between 2013 and 2015, with over 400,000 units leaving the lot for the wrap shop annually.

Though the commercial van market has been dominated by Ford, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, more automakers are entering the market with offerings of their own, such as Nissan’s NV series and Ram’s minivan-based Cargo Van. As a result, total small van sales — such as the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200 — were over 53,000 units in 2013, while 259,000 large vans were sold in the same period.

More vans are expected to enter the market this year, including the Nissan NV200-based Chevrolet City Express and Fiat Doblo-based Ram ProMaster City.

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Diaz Promises Profitable Share Gains, More Competitive Titan For Nissan Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:20:54 +0000 Fred Diaz with Cummins Diesel For Nissan Titan

Nissan North America sales boss Fred Diaz expects his employer will gain more mind and market share in 2014 in the run-up to the 2016 Titan’s debut in showrooms, a truck promised to be more competitive than the current model.

Automotive News and WardsAuto report Nissan’s market share in 2013 nudged upward to 8 percent from 2012′s 7.9 percent share. Meanwhile, January 2014 sales rose 12 percent while overall industry sales fell 3 percent, and slashed sticker prices on a number of Nissan’s most popular models helped to to lower incentives by $375 while raising average transaction prices to $95 per unit sold.

Finally, Diaz himself met with the dealer advisory board monthly, as well as held discussions with all 1,167 dealerships in the United States, to learn about and adopt necessary product changes needed to bring more profits back to his employer.

One of the products in question is the 2016 Titan, where Diaz took those suggestions to heart during his visit to Nissan’s design studio in La Jolla, Calif.:

I was pleasantly surprised, but I also saw some things that could be improved significantly. No doubt I hurt some feelings and stepped on a few toes. I was pretty tough with the suggestions I made. We just needed to do a few things with the lines and the front of the vehicle.

The upcoming Titan is expected to match 90 percent of the competition’s various features and configurations in terms of cabs and engines, including a Cummins 5-liter turbodiesel V8. Nissan is also betting on the all-American soul that the newly designed pickup will bring to the table, having been engineered in Farmington Hills, Mich, designed in California, and assembled in Canton, Miss. with the aforementioned Cummins coming down from Columbus, Ind.

Diaz expects his employer will source 85 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. to come from plants in the U.S. and Mexico. Nissan is also in the early stages of revamping its ordering system so dealers can order and receive inventory at a faster clip than current.

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