The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:56:37 +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 » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/ U.S. Auto Sales Results: July 2014 YTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/u-s-auto-sales-results-july-2014-ytd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/u-s-auto-sales-results-july-2014-ytd/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:51:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=878202 Automakers reported the sales of 1.4 million new vehicles in July 2014, representing a 9% increase compared with July of last year. Among  volume brands, the biggest percentage gains were achieved by Jeep, Subaru, GMC, and Ram. Jaguar, Scion, Acura, Volvo, and Volkswagen all reported losses of at least 14%. Cadillac, Honda, and Mini also […]

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Automakers reported the sales of 1.4 million new vehicles in July 2014, representing a 9% increase compared with July of last year. Among  volume brands, the biggest percentage gains were achieved by Jeep, Subaru, GMC, and Ram. Jaguar, Scion, Acura, Volvo, and Volkswagen all reported losses of at least 14%. Cadillac, Honda, and Mini also posted decreased July volume relative to the same period in 2013.

U.S. demand for full-size pickups from Ford, General Motors, and Ram increased 5.3% in July 2014; the overall pickup truck market grew 3.1%. Overall new vehicle sales at Chrysler Group/FCA, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors increased 12%.

Automaker July 2014 July  2013 % Change 2014  YTD 2013  YTD % Change
Acura
 12,480 15,150 -17.6% 90,431 92,131 -1.8%
Audi
 14,616 13,064 11.9% 98,965 87,341 13.3%
BMW
26,409 24,043 9.8% 183,791 164,474 11.7%
Buick
 17,683 16,393 7.9% 131,155 117,239 11.9%
Cadillac
 15,241 15,652 -2.6% 97,357 99,331 -2.0%
Chevrolet
 175,155 162,670 7.7% 1,203,063 1,177,804 2.1%
Chrysler
 23,455 19,978  17.4% 164,523 183,817  -10.5%
Dodge
 43,118 41,986  2.7% 350,042 360,400  -2.9%
Fiat
 3,807 3,783  0.6% 28,779 25,395  13.3%
Ford  203,604  186,161  9.4%  1,424,439  1,437,609  -0.9%
GMC
 48,081 39,356 22.2% 280,452 260,052 7.8%
Honda
 123,428 126,289 -2.3% 784,913 794,886 -1.3%
Hyundai
 67,011  66,005 1.5%  431,445  427,015  1.0%
Infiniti
 8,538  7,762 10.0% 67,879 59,995 13.1%
Jaguar
 1,187  1613  -26.4%  9,504  9,411  1.0%
Jeep
 59,588 42,277  40.9% 392,390 271,682  44.4%
Kia
52,309 49,004  6.7% 349,722 326,355  7.2%
Land Rover
4,643  4,050 14.6%  30,829 27,034 14.0%
Lexus
 27,333 23,031 18.7%  166,022 141,446 17.4%
Lincoln
 7,863 6,919 13.6% 52,385 45,207 15.9%
Maserati
 1132 267 324% 6574 1536 328%
Mazda
 29,238 24,977 17.1% 185,669 169,920 9.3%
Mercedes-Benz
 27,192 23,648  15.0%  178,816  165,598  8.0% 
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
 2,214 1,915  15.6%  13,697  11,398  20.2% 
Total Mercedes-Benz
 29,406  25,563  15.0%  192,513  176,996  8.8%
Mini
 5811 5950 -2.3% 29,963 38,306 -21.8%
Mitsubishi
 6,349 5,230 21.4% 46,021 35,566 29.4%
Nissan
 112,914  101,279 11.5% 758,050 673,755 12.5%
Porsche
 4300 3820  12.6% 27,219 25,129 8.3%
Ram
 37,699 32,078  17.5% 252,056 207,140  21.7%
Scion
 5,127 6,261 -18.1% 35,763 41,261 -13.3%
Smart
 1,351 860 57.1% 5,998 5,319 12.8%
Subaru
 45,714 35,994  27.0% 283,722 240,591 17.9%
Suzuki
 —  —  —-  —  5,946  -100%
Toyota
 183,342  164,102  11.7%  1,179,624  1,119,478  5.4%
Volkswagen
 30,553 35,779 -14.6% 209,697 242,571 -13.6%
Volvo
 4,894 5,909 -17.2%  34,224 38,487 -11.1%
 —
BMW-Mini
 32,220 29,993 7.4% 213,754 202,780 5.4%
Chrysler Group/FCA
 167,667 140,102  19.7% 1,187,790 1,048,434  13.3%
Daimler
30,757 26,423 16.4% 198,511 182,315 8.9%
Ford Motor Company
 211,467 193,080 9.5%  1,476,824  1,482,816  -0.4%
General Motors
 256,160 234,071 9.4% 1,712,028 1,654,417 3.5%
Honda Motor Company
135,908 141,439 -3.9% 875,344 887,017 -1.3%
Hyundai-Kia
 119,320  115,009  3.7%  781,167  753,370  3.7%
Jaguar-Land Rover
5,830  5,663  2.9% 40,333 36,445 10.7%
Nissan Motor Company
 121,452  109,041 11.4% 825,929 733,750 12.6%
Toyota Motor Corporation
215,802  193,394  11.6% 1,381,409  1,302,185  6.1%
Volkswagen Group *
 49,469  52,663  -6.1%  335,881  355,041  -5.4%
Industry Total **
1,435,805
1,315,266
9.2%
9,604,694
9,148,292
5.0%

* Volkswagen Group includes sales figures for Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen brands

** Industry total includes Automotive News sales estimates for ultra-low-volume automakers and their 1800-unit (July) Tesla sales estimate.

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The Future Of GM’s Oshawa Plant Looks Increasingly Bleak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/future-gms-oshawa-plant-looks-increasingly-bleak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/future-gms-oshawa-plant-looks-increasingly-bleak/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:07:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=878114 A report in Automotive News outlines how General Motors has committed to building a new Buick model at their plant in Russelsheim, Germany. According to AN, the logical choice is the next-generation Buick Regal, also known as the Opel Insignia, since this is a good fit for Buick, and it allows GM to use up some of the […]

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A report in Automotive News outlines how General Motors has committed to building a new Buick model at their plant in Russelsheim, Germany. According to AN, the logical choice is the next-generation Buick Regal, also known as the Opel Insignia, since this is a good fit for Buick, and it allows GM to use up some of the excess capacity that is currently plaguing their European operations. But for GM’s venerable Oshawa plant, this is not good news.

As TTAC and AN have both pointed out, product is leaving Oshawa much faster than it’s coming in. The Camaro will move to Lansing, Michigan by 2016, while the next-generation Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS has its production split between Michigan and Oshawa. The old-generation Impala, currently built on the old “Consolidated” line, is due to end production soon. The GM Theta crossovers, which are built partially in Oshawa due to a lack of capacity at GM’s Ingersoll, Ontario plant, will move there exclusively for their next generation. That leaves the Regal as GM’s lone Oshawa product, and even that appears to be going away too.

All signs appear to point to the closure of the Oshawa plant high. Between high labor costs, unfavorable exchange rates and a lack of new products, it would take a miracle to save Oshawa. As of now, the main thing tying GM to the plant is the “vitality commitment” that they signed as part of their bailout agreement with the Canadian government, obligating them to keep a certain amount of vehicle production in Canada. And when that ends in 2016, it’s hard to imagine that GM will keep producing cars in one of the world’s most costly jurisdictions.

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It’s TTAC Vs. R&T And Jalopnik In A Race Of Some Sort http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/ttac-vs-rt-jalopnik-race-sort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/ttac-vs-rt-jalopnik-race-sort/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877610 This weekend will be the inaugural race for the new American Endurance Racing (AER) series. It’s a run-what-you-brung, take-no-prisoners approach to low-cost endurance competition that welcomes everything from prepped SCCA racers to the cheaty-est of LeMons Class A rides. As you might expect, former Editor-In-Chief Jack Baruth will be there — but this time, he’s […]

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aer

This weekend will be the inaugural race for the new American Endurance Racing (AER) series. It’s a run-what-you-brung, take-no-prisoners approach to low-cost endurance competition that welcomes everything from prepped SCCA racers to the cheaty-est of LeMons Class A rides.

As you might expect, former Editor-In-Chief Jack Baruth will be there — but this time, he’s the enemy.

Or maybe not.

Hi. I’m Sam Miller, and despite the photo you see below, I try not to be a crappy driver.

sam

I’ve raced a variety of classes and done a fair amount of professional driver coaching. I’m also a long-time TTAC reader and friend of the Texas TTAC crew. So when the call went out for someone to represent this site against Jack (driving for R&T) and Travis Okulski (driving for Jalopnik) I was at least one of the choices.

This weekend, we’ll be running on the New Jersey Motorsports Park “Lightning” course in a couple of Spec E30 race cars, which are old BMWs with a surprising amount of motor and grip to them. Once we all arrive at the track, we’ll be assigned to our cars and sent out to do battle. It’s possible that they will actually make me team up with Jack while putting Travis together with pro driver Randy Pobst in an unbeatable combination we’ve already nicknamed “Randy Travis”. In which case, look for me to thoroughly humiliate my aging teammate with a series of untouchable laps before handing the car over to him for a lackluster finish.

Yesterday, Jack and I drove from Powell, Ohio to Baltimore in a brand-new Buick LaCrosse eAssist. He says there’s a review coming and something something auto-stop. All I can say is that the back seat is very comfortable.

sleepingsam

Today’s practice and qualifying. You can find out more at the AER website. Live timing and scoring will also be available. And if you’re in the area, come out and say Hi!

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Generation Why: JD Power Says Gen Y Now Buying More Cars Than Gen X http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/generation-jd-power-says-gen-y-now-buying-cars-gen-x/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/generation-jd-power-says-gen-y-now-buying-cars-gen-x/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:09:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877369 Generation Y has just edged out Generation X in the new car market. A study by J.D. Power shows that, year-to-date, Gen Y buyers (defined as being born in 1977-1994) are buying 26 percent of new vehicles, versus Gen X (1965-1976), which bought 24 percent of new vehicles in the same period. While Gen X’s […]

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Generation Y has just edged out Generation X in the new car market. A study by J.D. Power shows that, year-to-date, Gen Y buyers (defined as being born in 1977-1994) are buying 26 percent of new vehicles, versus Gen X (1965-1976), which bought 24 percent of new vehicles in the same period.

While Gen X’s share of new vehicle purchases has stayed flat from 2013, Gen Y’s share has increased by 3 percent. Boomers (born from 1946-1964) still make up the biggest demographic, at 38 percent of new car sales, but that’s down 2 percent from 2013.

Compact cars are said to be the most popular Gen Y segment, making up 20 percent of their purchases. That’s compared to compact SUVs for Gen X, which makes up 15 percent of their own car selections.

For all the talk of how the Millenial generation is turning its back on cars, it appears that things aren’t quite panning out that way. Rising incomes, changing priorities and growing families mean that the car will become something that is both more attainable and increasingly necessary to meet their needs. Quite a change from the “kids hate cars” rhetoric of the past few years. But we’ve known for a while that money, not ideology, has been what’s stopped young people from owning cars.

 

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New York City First In Nation To Ban Sales Of Unrepaired Recalled Used Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/new-york-city-first-nation-ban-sales-unrepaired-recalled-used-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/new-york-city-first-nation-ban-sales-unrepaired-recalled-used-vehicles/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877954 Shopping for a used vehicle in New York City? Thanks to city officials, the used car you buy will likely be a bit safer, as all 800 used dealerships must fix recalled vehicles prior to purchase, as well as fix those sold after the fact. The Detroit Newsreports the move is the result of an […]

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Used Car Dealership NYC

Shopping for a used vehicle in New York City? Thanks to city officials, the used car you buy will likely be a bit safer, as all 800 used dealerships must fix recalled vehicles prior to purchase, as well as fix those sold after the fact.

The Detroit Newsreports the move is the result of an investigation by the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, where 200 such dealers were subpoenaed “to provide their policies on selling unrepaired recalled cars, to reveal how many such vehicles they have sold in the past year, and whether the consumer was notified at the time of sale.”

The new requirement uses a city ordinance requiring dealers to certify their wares as roadworthy, and to not mislead customers regarding the safety of any vehicle on the lot. Dealers will also be ordered to send notices to consumers owning recalled vehicles, and to repair any that come into the shop at the dealer’s expense.

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GM Warned Of Rental-Car Crashes As Early As 2005 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-warned-rental-car-crashes-early-2005/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-warned-rental-car-crashes-early-2005/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877866 Several years prior to the February 2014 General Motors ignition switch recall, car rental companies did their best to get the automaker’s attention regarding a series of accidents and fatalities linked to the latter’s low-cost fleet offerings. Bloomberg reports that as early as 2005, companies such as Enterprise, Alamo and Hertz all reported accidents to […]

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Several years prior to the February 2014 General Motors ignition switch recall, car rental companies did their best to get the automaker’s attention regarding a series of accidents and fatalities linked to the latter’s low-cost fleet offerings.

Bloomberg reports that as early as 2005, companies such as Enterprise, Alamo and Hertz all reported accidents to GM involving the Chevrolet Cobalt. Each report noted the failed deployment of the vehicle’s airbags, such as the September 2006 fatal accident involving an Alamo unit, as well as braking and steering issues that led up to the accidents.

Though the companies did their best to get the automaker to do something, GM believed there wasn’t “sufficient information” to link the problems experienced to the accidents reported, as explained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in one of their meetings between 2005 and 2013. The reports are now part of a growing collection of evidence of both parties’ inability to act quickly prior to the February 2014 recall.

In the present, GM has modified its safety-monitoring system to handle questions and concerns from the car rental industry over potential flaws, as well as backing a U.S. Senate bill that would prohibit affected vehicles from being rented or sold without having first been repaired.

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Deconstructing GM’s Ignition Compensation Protocol http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/deconstructing-gms-ignition-compensation-protocol/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/deconstructing-gms-ignition-compensation-protocol/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876409 Please welcome Jim Yu to TTAC. Jim is an attorney, a contributor to Hooniverse and the author of the highly recommended “Tamerlane’s Thoughts“. Jim is also the owner of a manual wagon. In the face of GM’s ignition debacle, the General hired noted mass torts expert Kenneth Feinberg to set up and execute a compensation scheme for injury […]

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Please welcome Jim Yu to TTAC. Jim is an attorney, a contributor to Hooniverse and the author of the highly recommended “Tamerlane’s Thoughts“. Jim is also the owner of a manual wagon.

In the face of GM’s ignition debacle, the General hired noted mass torts expert Kenneth Feinberg to set up and execute a compensation scheme for injury victims and families who have lost loved ones. So, is it fair?

First, a little bit of background on Feinberg. I do not know him personally, but I took a semester-long course with him in the late ‘90s. He is extremely sharp and engaging. Moreover, his compassion for victims is always tempered by his calculated pragmatism. 

In virtually every case we studied in class, a company is responsible for injuring hundreds, if not thousands, of people. And in every instance, the same issues arise:

Solvency: A company will declare bankruptcy or simply go under if it compensates every victim the “full” value of their claim, given the sheer number of victims. 

Expediency: Large disasters also tend to clog the courts and drag on for years through expensive and unpredictable litigation and appeals. As the old legal maxim goes, justice delayed is justice denied.

Burden of Proof: Finally, it is unfair to victims who were injured by a bad actor when they cannot muster the requisite burden of proving fault and causation in court, whether it’s because of lost or destroyed evidence or because the victim does not have the financial resources to hire the experts to build up their case.

Given these challenges and the competing interests of the parties, Feinberg customizes compensation protocols in a manner that is as fair as possible. Given his experience and credibility, Feinberg is often the go-to guy for gigantic, catastrophic, disasters. He set up and managed the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Oil Spill Fund– no easy tasks. 

Now, let’s look at the GM compensation scheme:

Administrator Independence: GM hired Feinberg and gave him free reign on compensating victims. This is a net positive for GM, from a public relations perspective, as it gives the impression that GM accepts responsibility and is giving Feinberg a blank check. But keep in mind that GM hired him, is compensating him, and he wants to be hired again in the future by other companies in GM’s position. I have every confidence that Feinberg will be fair and do his best, but GM is also confident that Feinberg is not going to go rogue and write six- to eight-figure checks to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who makes a claim.

Who Is Covered: Media coverage gives the impression that the fund will compensate anyone who has been physically injured by the defect. Not so. First, compensation is not available if an airbag or seatbelt pretensioner deployed during the crash sequence.

After jumping over the first hurdle, the injured are divided into three categories. There is the fatality category, a no brainer. There is the catastrophic injury category (quadriplegia, amputation, severe brain injury, burns). Then, there is the third, more subjective, moderate injury category. Feinberg and his staff will have some leeway with respect to this last category, which will probably constitute the vast majority of the claims. It will be interesting to see how much these claims are compensated.

Driver Negligence: The protocol states that in determining whether the defect directly caused the claimant’s injuries, the claimant’s contributory negligence, if any, will not be taken into account. This is definitely a net positive for claimants, as evidence of impaired driving, speeding, or unsafe driving will not come into the picture.

Fatality Compensation: As a baseline, for each fatality, $1,000,000 will be awarded and $300,000 will be awarded to the widow(er) and each surviving dependent. More money on top of the above figures can be awarded based on the victim’s earnings history and age. This scheme on its face penalizes stay-at-home moms, children, and the disabled, as they often do not have incomes. For the victims’ families, the silver lining is that compensation will come within 90 to 180 days, rather than years. Furthermore, there is certainty and finality to the compensation. A family that chooses to go to court instead may receive millions more down the road, but could also easily lose and receive nothing. 

Injury Compensation: There are many variables in determining the compensation amount for the injured. If a seriously injured person is relatively young and needs a long term life-care plan, compensation will be in the millions. For the moderately injured, compensation is based strictly on how many days they were hospitalized. For those who were not hospitalized, $20,000 may be the limit.

Documentation: The types of documentation required, such as medical records and wage history, are fairly standard in personal injury claims and are not particularly onerous.

The biggest advantage in terms of proof is that GM is already admitting fault. The victim simply has to prove eligibility and damages.

“Due Process”: Serious injury victims and families who have lost loved ones are entitled to a face-to-face meeting with the administrator before the compensation is awarded. But the protocol is silent on what takes place at the meeting and whether the administrator even has to take into account any information provided at the meeting.

Is this process fair? It depends on whom you ask. The scheme helps victims by getting them compensation relatively quickly. There is value in certainty and finality. But by accepting the scheme and foregoing litigation, the victim waives their right to a potentially larger jury award.

*Disclaimer: All of the above, of course, is simply a mental exercise, written by a car enthusiast for fellow car enthusiasts. This is most definitely NOT legal advice.

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Utilities, Automakers Collaborate On Smart PHEV Charging Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/utilities-automakers-collaborate-smart-phev-charging-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/utilities-automakers-collaborate-smart-phev-charging-platform/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877810 A combination of one research institute, eight automakers and 15 utilities are working together to create a smart grid charging platform for PHEVs. Autoblog Green reports General Motors, BMW, Honda, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Toyota, as well as utilities like Con Edison, Manitoba Hydro and the TVA, are working with the Electric […]

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2015 Chevrolet Spark EV

A combination of one research institute, eight automakers and 15 utilities are working together to create a smart grid charging platform for PHEVs.

Autoblog Green reports General Motors, BMW, Honda, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Toyota, as well as utilities like Con Edison, Manitoba Hydro and the TVA, are working with the Electric Power Research Institute to develop a demand charging platform where the PHEV and the utility exchange information that would reduce the former’s charging during peak hours, then boost it back up during off-peak.

In turn, such a system would allow for increased service reliability for all customers “by helping to mitigate the impact of strain on the grid during peak periods and could contribute to curbing greenhouse gas emissions.” Further, utilities would better be able to manage usage without needing to upgrade their infrastructure, with the savings passed on to their customer base.

As for when this project would get off the ground, no timeline was given as of this time.

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Honda Dealerships Asked To Issue Waivers Over Defective Airbags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-dealerships-asked-issue-waivers-defective-airbags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-dealerships-asked-issue-waivers-defective-airbags/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877626 Ever wonder what would happen if Dethklok decided to go into the automotive business, especially with the virtual band’s use of pain waivers as a legal means to protect themselves from whatever death and/or dismemberment would likely occur during a concert? Wonder no more: Honda is asking its dealers to ask their customers to sign […]

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Scholfield Honda Dealership

Ever wonder what would happen if Dethklok decided to go into the automotive business, especially with the virtual band’s use of pain waivers as a legal means to protect themselves from whatever death and/or dismemberment would likely occur during a concert?

Wonder no more: Honda is asking its dealers to ask their customers to sign a waiver acknowledging the used car they’re about to buy off the lot may have an Takata airbag that, in the event of a crash, could kill them upon deployment.

Automotive News reports the automaker’s Airbag Inflator Recall Disclosure and Acknowledgment waiver affects the following Honda and Acura vehicles:

  • 2001-2005 Accord V6
  • 2001-2007 Accord I4
  • 2002-2003 TL
  • 2002-2003 CL
  • 2002-2004 Odyssey
  • 2002-2006 CR-V
  • 2003-2006 MDX
  • 2003-2007 Pilot
  • 2003-2011 Element
  • 2005 RL
  • 2006 Ridgeline

Most dealers believe the waiver is a smart move by Honda, citing liability concerns. However, New Jersey lawyer Eric Chase says the waver could prove to be a problem for both parties:

If a dealer called me and said, “We’re talking about something that is under recall but we can’t repair it and it’s dangerous to the point we’d have to warn them about death,” I’d say, “You’ve got to do everything you legally can to make sure a consumer does not get behind that wheel.”

Meanwhile, a Honda representative said that once the automaker has gone through its VIN database and those of all 50 states’ DMVs to find and recall all vehicles affected by the Takata airbag crisis, dealers won’t need to issue the wavers come purchase time, instead using a VIN search to determine any potential problem with a given vehicle.

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What’s Next At TTAC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/whats-next-at-ttac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/whats-next-at-ttac/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 04:33:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876314 People often talk about particular events being seared into their minds: Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, 9/11…I remember the first time I ever read an article by Jack Baruth. It was 2009, and I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, on summer break from college, working a menial job as a receiver […]

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People often talk about particular events being seared into their minds: Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, 9/11…I remember the first time I ever read an article by Jack Baruth.

It was 2009, and I was sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, on summer break from college, working a menial job as a receiver on a loading dock. I had the day off, somehow, I found myself on Speed:Sport:Life, reading Avoidable Contact #19: Rich Corinthian Swaybars. No writer had ever been able to weave so many different threads, concurrently drawing out each part into a cohesive narrative that explained the sociology of the automobile, in the most elegant prose I had seen in any automotive publication. My life was never the same again.

In the days that followed, I managed to get in touch with Jack, finally meeting him at the 2010 edition of the Detroit Auto Show. I failed to heed his advice about making this my full time job, and before I was even studying for my finals, I had a full-time auto journalism gig lined up. By the time I joined TTAC in January of 2012, Jack had become a trusted friend and mentor, someone who has been able to help me hone my voice and professional decorum as well as helping me navigate the challenges that come with learning to be an adult and a mensch in my personal life as well. Jack has shown me how to respond to criticism with magnanimity and how to remain principled and ethical in an environment that frequently tests both.

Of all the lessons Jack taught me, none has been stressed more than his words to me on the first day of our rescue mission: “your responsibility is to the readers.”

I’m cognizant of the responsibility being placed upon me.  I have never so much as spoken to Robert Farago, but I intend to keep alive his legacy, by reporting The TRUTH About Cars, no matter what it may cost us in financial resources or “access”, the great stick that the auto makers use to keep journalists “on-message”.

Meanwhile, I will strive to keep learning as much as I can about the design, engineering, manufacturing, wholesale and retail sides of the business, building on the lessons taught to me by Ed, Bertel and Jack. I will be bringing in some new faces, like Prof Mike Smitka, Timothy Cain and other former and current industry authorities, to help our coverage of the automotive world, but nobody is being shown the door. We will return to our roots as a site focused on the auto industry, but we will not turn our back on the Junkyard Finds, Piston Slaps, Vellum Venoms, crapcan racing and everything else that has made TTAC what it is.

It is a privilege to have your readership, day in, day out.  I will continue, as Cormac McCarthy put it, to “carry the fire”. It still burns white hot within me. I hope you can all see it.

 

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Panasonic, Tesla Enter Into Gigafactory Agreement http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/panasonic-tesla-enter-gigafactory-agreement/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/panasonic-tesla-enter-gigafactory-agreement/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877393 It’s official: Panasonic and Tesla have signed an agreement regarding their partnership involving the Gigafactory. In their joint press release, Tesla will be responsible for preparing, providing and managing the basics of the factory, while Panasonic will build and provide the cylindrical lithium-ion cells needed for Tesla’s battery packs, as well as any equipment Tesla […]

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It’s official: Panasonic and Tesla have signed an agreement regarding their partnership involving the Gigafactory.

In their joint press release, Tesla will be responsible for preparing, providing and managing the basics of the factory, while Panasonic will build and provide the cylindrical lithium-ion cells needed for Tesla’s battery packs, as well as any equipment Tesla may need. Tesla will also continue to purchase cells from Panasonic’s factories in Japan to meet projected demand.

Tesla Chief Technical Officer J.B. Straubel said the Gigafactory “represents a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized,” especially when it comes to dramatically reducing the cost of energy storage “across a broad range of applications.” Panasonic Executive Vice President Yoshihiko Yamada added that the Gigafactory partnership would “accelerate the expansion of the electric vehicle market” once production of Panasonic batteries begin.

The Gigafactory is expected to produce 35 GWh of cells and 50 GWh of packs annually by 2020 for both electric vehicles and stationary applications, employing up to 6,500 to produce the batteries.

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Return Of The Rear-Drive Rally Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/return-rear-drive-rally-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/return-rear-drive-rally-car/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:21:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877289 Motorsports fans, I have a question for you: when was the last competitive rear-drive rally car? Having grown up in an era of WRC homogeneity (the biggest departure from the pack was the front-drive Citroens of the Sebastian Loeb era), it’s always a bit of a surprise to see any rally car that isn’t all-wheel drive and […]

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Motorsports fans, I have a question for you: when was the last competitive rear-drive rally car?

Having grown up in an era of WRC homogeneity (the biggest departure from the pack was the front-drive Citroens of the Sebastian Loeb era), it’s always a bit of a surprise to see any rally car that isn’t all-wheel drive and turbocharged, let alone one that sends power to the rear wheels.

The GT86 rally car, shown above, is being developed by Toyota for competition in WRC. Power is boosted to between 237 and 246 horsepower, with a rally-style sequential box sending power to the rear wheels. For now, the GT86 will serve as a “recce” vehicle, with WRC competition serving as the end goal.

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Generation Why: A Sub-$30k Car “Wouldn’t Be A Lexus” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/generation-sub-30k-car-wouldnt-lexus/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:45:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877265 Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus? Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said “We could go down and build a […]

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Mercedes and Audi all have a sub-$30,000 entry in their American model ranges. BMW’s cheapest model is just a few hundred dollars above that price point. Infiniti will likely have their own model in that space. So why not Lexus?

Speaking to Automotive News, Lexus boss Mark Templin said

“We could go down and build a car under $30,000, but it would be decontented, and you’d be cutting corners. It wouldn’t be a Lexus…To be honest with you, you can’t build a Lexus with the quality, the durability, the reliability, the craftsmanship, the content that we put in a Lexus and sell it profitably under $30,000. You just can’t do it.”

Templin’s comments are about as clear a swipe at the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA as one can get. While CLA sales have been big for Benz (as much as 11 percent of the brand’s total, by AN‘s count), reviews have been mixed.

Mercedes-Benz, like other European luxury brands, face an additional dilemma beyond the usual matters of scale, volume and profitability requirements associated with those issues. In many mature markets, their buyers are getting older, while a new generation of buyers is both moving away from cars, and arguably less able to afford a new luxury car. Products like the CLA and A3 offer an affordable entry-point into the brand, while also appealing to the aesthetic, environmental and economic tastes of the Millennial generation. Lexus doesn’t necessarily have this problem in the same way that the Germans do, but they also don’t have much of a presence in Europe either.

What Lexus is doing, as AN pointed out, is attempting to stake out the “high ground” by keeping the price floor above $30,000 (the entry-level CT hybrid starts at about $32,000), which will ostensibly further entrench their “luxury” position. But Lexus, for all its success, has never achieved true global success as a luxury brand, which is something that only the Germans have managed to earn. And as we all know, it’s easier to reach downmarket than try and move up. The A-Class was a hit for Mercedes, but Volkswagen didn’t fare well with the Phaeton. And Audi is just finally turning the corner after a decades long climb to Tier 1.

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Classic Review: 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:07:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876441 The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its […]

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The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its poor sales, one of the 10 greatest automotive financial disasters of all time. Other lists, however, rate the little two-seater as one of the best sports cars of the 1980s, call it one of the ten unexpectedly best cars for tall people and even rank it as one of the best choices for future collectability. Oddly enough, the Pontiac Fiero also appeared on my own personal list of potential purchases a few months ago and, despite the fact that I ended up choosing one of its contemporaries, when I recently found a wonderful, low-mileage example at KC Classic Autos in near-by Kansas city, I knew I must see it.

The history of the Pontic Fiero is an open book. Originally conceived as a two seat, mid-engine sports car with an advanced, all-new suspension and a powerful V6 engine, the Fiero was castrated prior to its birth by GM’s bean counters who worried that the proposed car might end up stealing sales numbers from the Corvette. As a result, the new car was toned down. The powerful V6 was replaced with GM’s 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, a slow-revving long-stroke iron block engine intended for economy cars, and the advanced suspension was dropped in favor of a parts bin approach that used existing bits and pieces from economy cars like the Citation and Chevette. The result was rather lackluster and the media received it with mixed reactions. Motor Trend gave the Fiero a decent review in 1984 but other magazines felt that, as an aggressively styled mid-engine car, it needed to have more performance. Whatever the case, the public loved what they saw and bought almost 187,000 units in 1984.

For 1985 Pontiac addressed the critics’ need for more power by adding an optional 140 HP V6 to the line-up but sales dropped to around 74,000. In 1986, the – in my opinion – much better looking fastback Fiero GT was added beginning mid-year and sales climbed to almost 84,000 units. 1987 brought general improvements and more power to the four cylinder model but sales were definitely trending downward and only 45,851 cars left the showroom that year. In 1988, Pontiac introduced a more sophisticated suspension, based on the original design the bean counters had initially kept out of the car, and this model year is said to be the most desirable among collectors. But alas, only 26,402 were sold before Pontiac discontinued the model and today they are a might thin on the ground. All totaled, 370,168 Fieros of all types were sold over the course of five years.

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Like so many GM products before it, the Fiero is one of those cars that was killed just about the time its full potential was being realized. Initially the cars suffered from quality issues and design problems. The 1984 model year also experienced a number of well publicized fires and despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, only 148 reports were made to the NHTSA detailing just six injuries, the Fiero, much like the Ford Pinto, has an enduring reputation for combustability. The truth is that within a couple years of the Fiero’s introduction, the car was well sorted and the 1986 model I was able to ride in is a great example of just how far the design had come.

I appeared unannounced at KC Classic Autos late in the afternoon and, after paying my $1 entrance fee to the “museum” and introducing myself, was given the run of the place. I have had the opportunity to visit a few classic car dealers over the years and this one stacks up rather well with a clean facility and plenty of interesting cars on hand that I could get up close and personal with. After spending far too much time looking at a stunning 1969 Nova SS and several other classic American muscle cars, I finally decided to ask if I could get a ride in the 1986 Fiero they had parked close to the front door. I had two reasons for choosing this particular car, first I hope to be invited back to ride in and report on more of the classic machines that were further back in the showroom and second, because I wanted to compare my little Shelby to the much better preserved Pontiac.

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I’ve already spent some time talking about my Dodge in other articles but it’s important to do so again so I can do a little comparing and contrasting. At 31 years old, the Shelby is a well presented little car that recently had a great deal of work done to it. Despite its lumpy idle and its slightly rich smelling exhaust, it runs like a top and moves out just fine when I get on the gas. Thanks to the work that has been done, on the outside it looks almost new, but the inside is another story and the car’s threadbare interior shows almost every one of its three decades plus one year of existence.

I’ll write more on it in detail in an upcoming article, but suffice to say that my little Dodge really is an old car. It buzzes, it rattles and it has strange smells, but at a time when this Pontiac was sitting safe and secure in a temperature controlled garage, the Shelby was out living its life, running errands, hauling kids and generally being enjoyed by its owner. Every scar, every tear and every rattle inside the car has a story that goes with it and although as a second owner I can never really know what happened, I can respect the fact that this car was a valued member of someone else’s family for many years. It has, I think, a real sense of having been used, enjoyed and loved.

At 28 years old, the 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT I saw yesterday is still very much a new car. With right around 20,500 miles on the clock, it still looks new inside. The carpets are unworn and the seats are still firm and flawless. The internal plastics have been unaffected by the sun and the gauge faces were are still as bright and clear as the day the car came off the line. The two-seater started instantly at the first turn of a key and burbled happily as it rolled out of the show room. It was simply stunning in the light of the afternoon sun.

Like I would do with any new car I am reviewing, I spent a lot of time circling the Fiero and looking for flaws. Although it’s used, I had no complaints about anything I saw. Panel gaps were good, the interior pieces fit together well. Of course the switchgear is clearly 1980s GM but it still looked modern and good in the car. Overall, I found it to be a pleasant, clean little Pontiac and I was eager for a chance to ride in it.

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Why this car would appear on a list of vehicles that should be avoided by tall people is a mystery to me. In the mid ‘80s, I am sure this low slung, high belted design would have felt like sitting in an old fashioned bath tub, but compared to modern muscle cars I found the Fiero roomy, easy to see out of and I had no problems getting my sizeable corn-fed All American ass into and out of the passenger seat. Although my driver, KC Classic’s president, Kim Eldred, took it a little easy on the first leg of our drive I thought the car picked up and ran along the city streets without problems. Unlike my Shelby, there were zero rattles or strange smells and it is simply so clean that my mind cannot comprehend the fact that this is an “old” car.

As we made our turn-around on an empty back street, Kim jumped on the gas and I got a chance to see just a little of what the V6 could do. Hampered by an automatic transmission, initial acceleration was sluggish in first gear but second gear, however, was downright surprising. As it made the shift, I felt myself pushed back into the seat with enough force to put a lasting smile on my face and, although the car was not blindingly fast, it was pleasantly snappy. Overall, it was a good ride.

In the weeks since my Shelby arrived I have had to take a good long look in the mirror. I remember the 1980s with some fondness, and in my mind’s eye the colors remain neon bright, the tunes fun and happy and the cars as solid, modern machines. The idea that they, like the man who looks back at me from across the bathroom sink, have gone soft over the years and are not capable of the things that they once did so easily makes me wonder if they ever could. Were the ‘80s, I ask myself, really the way I remember them or were they simply an illusion of youth? This Pontiac, so well preserved, has put those doubts to rest. The 1980s really were good times and I know now without a doubt that the cars, even one with such a mixed reputation as the Pontiac Fiero, really were capable of the things I remember.

If my purchase of the Shelby Charger was an attempt to regain a piece of my youth by marrying the prom queen that eluded me back in 1984 now that she is now the divorced grandmother of three, this Pontiac is a true piece of history recently removed suspended animation and put on sale for the relatively reasonable price of $12,900. All it needs now is a new owner to use it, enjoy it and to love it. You perhaps?

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My thanks to KC Classic Auto for allowing me to wander around their show room and for their willingness to take me out in one of their cars for this review.

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Honda Fit EV, Insight Discontinued http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/honda-fit-ev-insight-discontinued/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/honda-fit-ev-insight-discontinued/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876985 It’s official: the Honda Fit EV and Insight have been discontinued. Edmunds reports the Insight will cease production later this summer, while inventory will be available at dealerships through the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Fit EV — of which 1,100 were ever going to be built for the United States market — will remain […]

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It’s official: the Honda Fit EV and Insight have been discontinued.

Edmunds reports the Insight will cease production later this summer, while inventory will be available at dealerships through the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Fit EV — of which 1,100 were ever going to be built for the United States market — will remain in production until sometime this autumn, with Honda providing customer support through each vehicle’s lease period.

As for the future, representative Sage Marie said the automaker would focus on “a new generation of electromotive technologies,” such as the expanded use of its two-motor hybrid system found in both the Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-In Hybrid. In addition, a decision will be announced regarding the FCX Clarity, especially with a successor — influenced by the FCEV from last year’s LA Auto Show — waiting in the wings.

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Marchionne: Alfa Romeo Still Not For Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876841 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is open to forming new alliance with other automakers as far as cost-savings are concerned, but he maintains that Alfa Romeo is not for sale. Automotive News Europe reports Marchionne said as much during a conference call regarding Fiat’s Q2 2014 earnings, reaffirming the parent company’s commitment to Alfa […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is open to forming new alliance with other automakers as far as cost-savings are concerned, but he maintains that Alfa Romeo is not for sale.

Automotive News Europe reports Marchionne said as much during a conference call regarding Fiat’s Q2 2014 earnings, reaffirming the parent company’s commitment to Alfa Romeo and proclaiming his company is not “in the business of brand-trading.”

Said commitment includes a €5 billion ($6.7 billion USD) investment to help the premium brand become a sought-after global brand of eight new models — underpinned by the upcoming Giorgio RWD/AWD platform — with annual sales of 400,000 by 2018, up from 74,000 in 2013.

As for alliances, Marchionne is open to the idea, though nothing is on the table as of this writing.

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Jaguar Reveals Face Of 2016 XE-S Ahead Of September Official Unveiling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe-s-ahead-september-official-unveiling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe-s-ahead-september-official-unveiling/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876897 Behold the face of the 2016 Jaguar XE-S. Also: Scottish recording artist Emeli Sandé. Autoblog reports the sports sedan will be launched in early September through a sound + vision extravaganza called FEEL XE. Sandé will be kicking off the festivities in a secret location near the Thames, with influence from social media from now […]

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Behold the face of the 2016 Jaguar XE-S. Also: Scottish recording artist Emeli Sandé.

Autoblog reports the sports sedan will be launched in early September through a sound + vision extravaganza called FEEL XE. Sandé will be kicking off the festivities in a secret location near the Thames, with influence from social media from now until September 8 deciding the direction of the extravaganza. Fashion designer Stella McCartney and actor Idris Elba will also be a part of the promotion through separate projects.

As for the XE-S itself, it may possess under the bonnet either a turbocharged variant of the new Ingenium 2-liter four-cylinder engines, or the 3-liter supercharged V6 from the F-Type S. The XE range as a whole will feature aluminum throughout 75 percent of its architecture, and may be the most fuel-efficient Jaguar ever built to date once official numbers are revealed.

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Icon Looks To Retro-Futurism With Helios Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/icon-looks-retro-futurism-helios-concept/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/icon-looks-retro-futurism-helios-concept/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876681 Known for improving upon Toyota Land Cruisers, Ford Broncos and Jeeps, Icon is looking to create a streamliner with a little help from Tesla. Jalopnik reports Helios, the project named after the Greek titan and personification of the sun (not a god of wind as originally published), will pull its looks from a mashup of […]

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Known for improving upon Toyota Land Cruisers, Ford Broncos and Jeeps, Icon is looking to create a streamliner with a little help from Tesla.

Jalopnik reports Helios, the project named after the Greek titan and personification of the sun (not a god of wind as originally published), will pull its looks from a mashup of post-WWI aircraft, 1930s streamliners and an alternate history where airplanes influenced automotive design a decade before the 1950s.

The Tesla connection — if owner Johnathan Ward can make it happen — will come in the form of the Model X platform, whose selectable AWD and 380-mile range are key features in Ward’s retro-future vision.

Currently, the Helios exists solely on paper, though Ward already has an owner in mind once he and his crew are able to “move mountains” to build:

I’ve got a meeting with Ralph Lauren to talk about something else. He doesn’t know I plan on totally taking over the room and making him buy this car… Most of [his cars] suck to drive except for the McLaren. So… that’s my pitch.

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Report: Nissan Scraps Small Truck Plans, Navara Now On For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876322 Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news. The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern […]

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Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news.

The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern crash standards was too onerous a task, and the costs were simply too high – even with using an already paid for architecture.

The big issue at hand is this: Nissan still wants to have a small, basic, fuel-efficient affordable truck, since they see it as an untapped niche. Their original thinking was that the D22 Frontier would let them get their in a cost-effective way (remember, small trucks are low-margin, difficult to price and carry significant regulatory burdens). But now that this option is off the table, Nissan is forced to use the all-new Navara as a starting point.

From a superficial perspective, that’s not such a bad thing. The Navara is a modern, global mid-size pickup that is a proven design and a sales success across the globe. The problem is that, as it sits now, it’s far too expensive for what Nissan USA is looking for. So, the North American truck will use the Navara architecture, due to its crashworthiness, and ability to fit a modern, diesel engine under the hood, but the tradeoff will be a fair amount of content will not make it across the ocean.

As with the now dead D22, Nissan Mexico will be responsible for engineering the truck to meet NAFTA standards. This “clean sheet” approach, if it can be called that, will cause further delays. The current Frontier will soldier on until 2018, when the new truck arrives. A diesel variant arrives a year later. The new truck will likely have a different look and stick to the original mandate of being akin to a modern-day Hardbody. But instead of actually being a a modern day Hardbody, it will be a revamped modern truck.

Nissan had planned to give North American truck buyers something truly unique, but it was not to be. We will be getting what is arguably the better, more modern option, but this new approach will just add more time, effort and expense to the program. The goal of a low-cost, fuel-efficient pickup is still in sight. Nissan will just be approaching it in a different way.

 

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European Review: Peugeot 208 GTi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/european-review-peugeot-208-gti/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/european-review-peugeot-208-gti/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:05:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875793   The Peugeot 205 GTI is one of the legends of hot hatch history. It took off where the original VW Golf GTI started, with sufficient space and practicality, lots of speed and a reasonable price. And it was even more fun to drive. With about 120 horsepower and weighing under a ton, it was […]

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 208GTI_02-450x299

The Peugeot 205 GTI is one of the legends of hot hatch history. It took off where the original VW Golf GTI started, with sufficient space and practicality, lots of speed and a reasonable price. And it was even more fun to drive. With about 120 horsepower and weighing under a ton, it was quite quick for 1980s, and its tail-happy attitude gave it the reputation of a challenging car to drive. Its fondness of going through the hedges backwards may helped its popularity – people like to think that they are better drivers than others, and driving a car notorious for unforgiving handling can thus be a great ego booster.

Now, after nearly three decades and a string of lackluster hot hatches in recent years, Peugeot wants to reignite the flame with the 208 GTi. It promises to be much more interesting and fun to drive than the fast versions of previous 206 and 207, but it also enters a market segment full of very competent rivals.

While the 205 was sleek and chic, the 208 is a bit fat and too complex in its design. But what modern car isn’t? Besides, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you better just look at the pictures and decide for yourself.

The interior is a bit different matter. Here, the design is not just about beauty, but also about useability and ergonomics. We can ignore the mish-mash of shapes, colors and materials. It’s even not important that the nav screen looks like an afterthought (after all, the ones in modern Mercedes products are even worse). But there are a few things that need to be mentioned.

First, the steering wheel. I don’t know what’s wrong with the round ones, and this one is not only flat at the bottom, but is weirdly shaped overall. It’s strange to look at, and it’s awkward to hold – too thick, too small, too unevenly shaped. On the other hand, it’s good it’s so small, because with the strange placement of instrument cluster (very high up, like in cars with the mid-mounted instruments), the only way to get a good view of the instruments is to set it very low in your lap and look over it instead of through it. With the bigger wheel in the standard car, this must be a royal pain.

Second, there’s the gear knob. Much like with the steering wheel, someone probably tried too hard to make the driver feel like he’s driving an alien racing spaceship. Which may be the reason why gear knob looks like severed alien’s head. Made of metal. Which makes it rather unpleasant to hold under most circumstances, and almost impossible to hold when the car has been left in the sun.

But we’re not here to look around. We’re here to drive.

208GTI_03

First impressions: deep bucket seats are very good, with lots of comfort and lateral support. The controls are well placed, and most of all, very light. Only the gearshift has a whiff of mechanical clunkiness in it, but not too much – just enough for you to feel like you’re really driving a real machine.

The lightness of controls in a car like this may come as a bit of a surprise. Most hot hatches try quite hard to be as sporty as possible, with meaty steering and pedal feel, stiff suspension and intense sound. The 208 GTi does almost exact the opposite.

The first thing you notice is probably the sound, of lack of any. We know that the turbocharged 1.6 under the hood can sound pretty awesome – it’s the powerplant of choice for roaring, burbling and cracking, fire-spitting Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works after all. Even in Peugeot’s own RCZ, it at least sounds interesting from the inside, even though it’s more similar to a loud vacuum cleaner from the outside. But here, nothing. Just the vacuum cleaner. I think that has to be intentional, but we’ll get to that.

The next thing to notice is the lightness of the pedals. Here, it posses no problem at all for the sporting pretensions of the car. On the contrary, the light and quick-to-react accelerator makes heel’n’toe throttle blips incredibly easy. Just a touch of the gas pedal with the right edge of your shoe, and the revs shoot up.

208GTI_04

It’s when you reach the first corner at speed when you notice the biggest problem: the steering. While its lightness is totally in keeping with the lack of any sporty sound and featherlight pedal action, it may actually be the single biggest flaw of this vehicle. While the lightness itself wouldn’t pose a huge problem, the total and utter lack of feel does. Judging by the steering wheel reactions, you have no idea whether you have plenty of grip left, or whether your front wheels are ploughing out of the corner.

But this wouldn’t be such a great problem, if it weren’t for the GTi’s chassis balance. Like many other modern hot hatches, the 208 GTi makes full use of the fact that the mandatory ESP can correct the inherent unstable behaviour, and is set to be quite a bit tail-happy in the corners. It is a bit like the jet fighters are set up in a way that they wouldn’t even fly without a computer.

This is, by the way, one of the biggest things the electronic nannies brought to the “driving enthusiasts’” world – car makers are now not afraid of building a fun to drive, oversteery car, which would, had it not been for the ESP, make it all too easy for drivers to kill themselves, bringing negative press and expensive lawsuits along the way. As it is, you can turn the ESP off and have fun, and if you crash (like I did, with the Focus ST), it’s totally your fault for being stupid.

208GTI_06

In this case, though, the playfulness of the 208′s tiny French ass is a bit of a problem. With the absent steering feel, you constantly worry that you overshoot the steering input, sending your car ass-backwards into the ditch. And while this scenario will most likely never happen (I only managed to send the car into oversteer with especially harsh treatment on slightly wet track), it is enough to discourage you from exploring the car’s limits, or even going anywhere near them, on public road.

Is it a bad hot hatch, then? Not at all. While the 208 GTi is not a hardcore tiny sportscar like hot Mini Coopers or the previous generation Clio RS, it offers other things. It’s still mighty fast, but it also offers surprising ride quality. It resembles the old Peugeots of 1990s, like 306 or 406, with their fluid, stable, but not stiff suspensions. And with the ride quality and quite comfy seats added to the mix, the whole car starts to make sense.

208GTI_07

While most hot hatches chase after the “hardcore sportscar” ideal, with loud exhausts, beefy controls and harsh suspensions, the 208 GTi puts emphasis on the first two letters in its name. For those who need one practical car for little cash, this is a “poor man’s GT”. It can cover ground at a great rate of speed – in fact, I think it is as fast a car as you may ever need. It is quite comfortable and if need be, it can transport four adults. And it can even offer a bit of a driving fun from time to time, although not as much as the best competitors in its class.

I would call it an “adult’s hot hatch”. And it’s up to its potential buyers to decide whether that’s a good or bad thing.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

208GTI_07 208GTI_01 208GTI_02 208GTI_03 208GTI_04 208GTI_05 208GTI_06

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Thank You And Goodbye (Sort Of) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/theres-no-pill-for-contextual-dysfunction/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455824 Tomorrow will be my last day as the Editor-In-Chief pro tem of The Truth About Cars. This was always meant to be a temporary situation, despite what some of the B&B thought. Given some of the differences in opinion I have recently had with TTAC’s owners, this is a good time for us to call […]

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jcb

Tomorrow will be my last day as the Editor-In-Chief pro tem of The Truth About Cars. This was always meant to be a temporary situation, despite what some of the B&B thought. Given some of the differences in opinion I have recently had with TTAC’s owners, this is a good time for us to call it quits. I will not be replaced; the site will be managed by the leadership team at VerticalScope in Toronto and Derek will continue in his capacity as Managing Editor. There will be other changes, detailed below.

I made some promises to you, the readers, and I’d like to discuss whether or not those promises have been kept. But the tl;dr crowd can best understand the situation like this: TTAC is basically Fleetwood Mac.

jcb6

The original Fleetwood Mac was founded by Peter Green, who was a one-of-a-kind talent. Kind of like Robert Farago, our august founder. Like him or hate him, there is only one Robert Farago and when he brought me on at TTAC I was humbled and thrilled all at once.

When Peter Green left the Mac due to a variety of issues, the band hoped that Danny Kirwan would be able to fill Green’s shoes. The problem was that Danny sounded kind of like a copy of Peter Green, only younger and with less experience, and he couldn’t come up with the original ideas that Peter Green generated seemingly without effort. You can say that Ed Niedermeyer was like Danny Kirwan. From a distance, his writing kind of looked like Robert’s, but it wasn’t quite the same thing. Which is not to say that Ed wasn’t occasionally bang-on correct about things, because he was.

Desperately seeking someone to lead the band, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie hired a fellow named Bob Welch, who took the band in a completely different direction. Some of the music was pretty good, some of it was terrible, almost none of it was memorable. The Welch era is more notable for the lawsuits and the personnel conflicts and the “fake Mac” tour and a bunch of other things that were fundamentally tangential to the business of making great tunes. You could say that Bertel was kind of the Bob Welch of TTAC. Sometimes he’d come up with a really great post but most of the time he was busy stirring controversy and pushing an agenda.

All true Fleetwood Mac fans know what happened next: they hired Lindsey Buckingham, who brought Stevie Nicks along with him. That’s how the Mac went from a great blues band to a lousy one to a bad pop band to a great one. Lindsey wasn’t interested in playing the blues and he wasn’t interested in the detritus of the music business. He just wanted to write, and play, the hits.

During my time at TTAC I’ve tried to be Lindsey Buckingham. Much of what made TTAC great — the Deathwatch, the bailout hysteria, the seek-and-destroy reviews of otherwise unremarkable cars — wasn’t relevant or topical any more, so I let it go. Instead, I focused on bringing the readers into the picture, expanding our range of coverage, and updating the site so it had a fighting chance against the Leviathans of the auto-blogging world.
jcb4

Last July, I made some promises to the readers. How’d I do?

I promised a TTAC Homecoming. We unbanned everybody and in general it worked. We’ve banned five users in twelve months by my count and at least two of them were directly related to the site’s previous management. No dunce hats, no Top Troll stupidity. I trusted you and you all came through.

I said we’d have Accountability and Civility, and I believe that goal was mostly met. No dildo pictures, no shibari rope bondage, no creepy Asian-girl fetish material. Every once in a while things got openly political. Sometimes it was my fault. However, during my tenure we expanded the writer base to include contributors from every political and personal walk of life. My greatest failure as TTAC’s editor, I think, was that I was unable to prevent one of those contributors, Alex Dykes, from parting ways with us. I apologize for that wholeheartedly. You can find him on my blog, jackbaruth.com, if you want to.

We tried to Refocus on the B&B and Open The Conversation. In the past year, reader submissions and reader-ride reviews are through the ceiling. Thank you for that. I believe that the private discussions I had with wayward commenters were mostly successful as well.

I promised you The Truth and only you can determine how well I delivered.

jcb5

After some discussion with Derek and the site management, I’ve agreed to stay on until the end of the year as a contributor. You won’t see me on these pages nearly as often. If you want to read work by me and Bark M., I’d encourage you to check out Road&Track, both online and print. My blog, JackBaruth.com, tracks my major contributions and has a bunch of stupid guitar pictures. Many of the contributors whom I’ve worked with on this site will stay with me until the end of the year and some may stay beyond that.

Last but not least, I’ll be releasing a book, tentatively titled Avoidable Contact: A Jack Baruth Reader, in October. Like The Itchy And Scratchy Movie, it will have at least 30% new content.

And now is the time where I say something personal. So check it out, right? I’ve tried every approach to living. I’ve tried, tried it all. I haven’t tried every thing, but I’ve tried every approach. Sometimes you don’t have to try every thing to get the approach the same.

I tried it all, I bought a bunch of stuff and went: “eh, I don’t like that”, I kinda came in and out of that a couple of times. I thought I would shut myself off, I thought maybe that’s cool. Maybe that’s what you have to do to be a genius, is you have to be mad. So if you get “mad” before the word “genius”, then maybe you can make genius appear, right?

That doesn’t work either. And I’m in a good place, I’ve paced myself pretty well. I’m forty-two, I’ve seen some cool stuff. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself, right. That’s a really cool sentence when you’re in your thirties. “I made it happen for myself.”

But all that means is that I’ve just somehow or another found another way to synthesize automotive expertise or synthesize hooning. But you can’t get that. And what I’m saying is that I’ve messed with all the approaches, except for one and it’s gonna sound really corny but that’s just love. That’s just love.

I’ve done everything in my life that I’ve wanted to do except just give and feel love for my living. And I don’t mean like, Roman-candle-firework-Hollywood-hot-pink-love. I mean like: I-got-your-back love.

I don’t need to hear “I love you.” You guys love me, I love you. We got that down. But some of the people who will tell you they love you, are the same people will be the last to just have your back.

So, I’m gonna experiment with this love thing. Giving love, feeling love. I know it sounds really corny but it’s the last thing I got to check out, before I check out.

Take me to the solo! So long, and thanks for all the fish!

heashot

Photo credits: Michelle Baruth, Bobby Ang, Drama McHourglass aka Xtina Rivera, Rachel Gibbs

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Versatile 2015 Mercedes Vito Van Puts Power To Front, Rear Or All http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/versatile-2015-mercedes-vito-van-puts-power-to-front-rear-or-all/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/versatile-2015-mercedes-vito-van-puts-power-to-front-rear-or-all/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876185 If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you. Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports the 2015 Vito — part of Mercedes’ […]

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Der neue Vito / The New Vito

If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you.

Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports the 2015 Vito — part of Mercedes’ V-Class — can be had with RWD and AWD — like the V-Class — as well as optional FWD. The previous Vito had FWD for only the EV variant, while the new one puts diesel power to the front of the line alongside the rest of the family.

Autoblog adds said power comes turbocharged through four-pots ranging from 1.6 liters to 2.1 liters, with anywhere from 136 to 190 horsepower pushed to wherever it’s meant to go through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.

Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito

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NLRB: Mercedes Violated Labor Act In Alabama Facility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nlrb-mercedes-violated-labor-act-in-alabama-facility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nlrb-mercedes-violated-labor-act-in-alabama-facility/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876081 The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz violated the right to organize among its employees at the automaker’s Vance, Ala. plant by prohibiting the distribution of union literature in common areas outside working hours. Automotive News reports Judge Keltner Locke found for the plaintiffs on one complaint out […]

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MBUSI Mercedes-Benz Alabama

The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz violated the right to organize among its employees at the automaker’s Vance, Ala. plant by prohibiting the distribution of union literature in common areas outside working hours.

Automotive News reports Judge Keltner Locke found for the plaintiffs on one complaint out of a number of complaints made against MBUSI regarding its violation of the National Labor Relations Act. In his decision, Judge Locke determined the areas where the subsidiary considered off-limits to dissemination were mixed-use areas — and thus, areas where material could be distributed freely — and that by “maintaining a solicitation and distribution rule which employees reasonably could understand to prohibit all solicitation in work areas,” MBUSI was in violation of the act.

Though no penalties were levied in the decision, the ruling ordered MBUSI to amend its rule so that off-the-clock employees may solicit other such employees. Mercedes stated that while they were pleased with most of Judge Locke’s ruling, citing his affirmation of its neutrality with regard to its employees, they disagreed with some aspects and were “evaluating next steps.”

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Piston Slap: 4Runner to A New Life? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-4runner-to-a-new-life-one-last-trip/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:49:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873921   TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes: Hi Sajeev, Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged!  But.  I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA.  My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual).  Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) […]

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Driveway Smudge

TTAC Commentator Ralph Schpoilschport writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Got a quick one for you and only asking because you begged!  But.  I am preparing to make a 3000 mile one-way trip from beautiful Vermontto, well, not so beautiful southern CA.  My rig is a 1997 Toyota 4Runner (V6, 5 speed manual).  Known problems: leaking rear diff (rust cracks) and a muffler on its last leg.  Spark plugs, starter, timing belt and water pump are recent repairs/maintenance.  As I type, an attempt is being made to seal the rear diff.  If that is successful I am having the mechanic give the chassis a once-over.

If the inspection is clear or things are easily fixed I am planning on making the trip with this car.  I figure the car is worth approx $2500 – 3000 as it sits.  Am I nuts?

Other options:

  • Rent a car one way.  Haven’t looked but figure this to be well over $1000.
  • Trade the rig in.  Nice leases for Rav 4’s going on right now.  Not sure how the bank would feel about my plan esp. considering I am leaving my job of 9 years for a new one in SoCA.
  • Buy a newer used vehicle.  This doesn’t seem like a good idea.  If I were to do this I’d rather do it in CA than here (rust).

Sajeev answers:

You aren’t exactly taking a trip:  moving to California, needing something to move your stuff is more of a life-changing moment.

  • Renting is out of the question: sell the 4Runner instead, then take a plane and ship all your stuff instead.
  • You are averse to getting a new car, which is acceptable in your position.
  • Getting another used vehicle is both buying someone else’s problems and asking to lose more money on two trade-ins in the near future instead of one.

Honestly, you need this thing to make one last road trip. Sounds like the motor is fine, and hopefully there’s a decent band-aid fix for the axle. If not, just swap the axle with a junkyard unit to give peace of mind and increase resale value.

My biggest concern is the tires: if they are worn and/or 5+ years old, they might not survive that much highway cruising.  And odds are the spare isn’t in better shape!  So get new tires for the same reasons you’d replace the axle. Ditto other rubber items you’ve overlooked (belts, hoses, vacuum lines, etc) but could explode on the trip.  Because your 4Runner (or any Toyota from that era, for that matter)  is a hot commodity in any market, especially California.  New rubber and a non-rusty axle speeds up the sale and adds value. You’re not gonna waste your money here.

Best of luck in your new career AND your new digs. Do the basics and the 4Runner will do just fine.

Who knows, you might just keep it!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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British Police To Confiscate Phones Immediately After Accidents http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/british-police-to-confiscate-phones-immediately-after-accidents/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/british-police-to-confiscate-phones-immediately-after-accidents/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876033 UK drivers who find themselves in an accident may also see their cell phones confiscated by the police to determine if they were used prior to said accident. Visordown reports one Suzette Davenport, chief constable in Gloucestershire in charge of roads policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, issued the order to check all […]

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texting behind the wheel of death

UK drivers who find themselves in an accident may also see their cell phones confiscated by the police to determine if they were used prior to said accident.

Visordown reports one Suzette Davenport, chief constable in Gloucestershire in charge of roads policing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, issued the order to check all phones on the scene, no matter the severity of the accident.

Alliance of British Drivers treasurer Hugh Bladon fears the order could be abused:

I am 100 per cent against anyone texting while driving, and those caught deserve everything they get. But I’m worried police could overdo it. Just because someone is involved in a minor shunt, surely it shouldn’t mean they should lose their phone.

The order comes as Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin proclaimed those who are caught using their phones while driving should see six points knocked off of their license, leading to a driving ban if a driver is caught twice in three years; newly minted drivers would lose their license if caught once during the first two years of holding said license.

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