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, 31 Oct 2014 19:42:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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/ Editorial: By Royal Decree http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-royal-decree/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/editorial-royal-decree/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:26:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938985 Buried in a Reuters article on Hyundai’s new Prius-fighter was talk of Hyundai’s new Aslan sedan. The Aslan is intended to take on the growing sales of imported sedans in South Korea, namely the VW Passat, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Based on a front-drive architecture, the Aslan seems to occupy a slot between the […]

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Buried in a Reuters article on Hyundai’s new Prius-fighter was talk of Hyundai’s new Aslan sedan. The Aslan is intended to take on the growing sales of imported sedans in South Korea, namely the VW Passat, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Based on a front-drive architecture, the Aslan seems to occupy a slot between the Sonata and the Grandeur (aka our Azera) – which made it all the more surprising when Reuters reported that “The automaker is also looking at introducing the Aslan in China, the United States and Middle Eastern countries.”

A sort of large, sort of premium sedan makes sense for China and the Middle East. These vehicles tend to thrive in markets where lots of passenger space, “premium styling” and a comfort-focused driving experience are prized by consumers.

But the United States? Sales of the new Sonata haven’t had the same impact as the previous generation. The mid-size sedan market is on a downward trend, and the outlook for large sedans is dismal. Between the Sonata and the Azera, Hyundai has the large sedan space sewn up, and Hyundai product planners would be the first to tell you that the Aslan would be a redundant offering. So why the talk of exports?

Simple. Sometimes, certain vehicles are sent to certain markets by “royal decree”. See also: Phaeton, Volkswagen. Products are cooked up at the “mothership” and sent to certain markets, even if they may not be wholly appropriate for sale there. The regional arm is tasked with the sales and marketing of said product, even if it doesn’t make sense (yet another large-ish sedan) or wholly inappropriate for the brand (think about the Kia K900).

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 Honda Fit, Grandma Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-honda-fit-grandma-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-honda-fit-grandma-edition/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:09:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938993 (N.B. This review was penned by my grandmother, Yvette Lerner, posted under my account) When my husband, daughter (Derek’s Mum) and I left England in 1961, we left behind a beautiful MG Magnette. Upon arriving in Canada, my husband went out and bought the first car he could find with a V8 engine. We had […]

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(N.B. This review was penned by my grandmother, Yvette Lerner, posted under my account)

When my husband, daughter (Derek’s Mum) and I left England in 1961, we left behind a beautiful MG Magnette. Upon arriving in Canada, my husband went out and bought the first car he could find with a V8 engine. We had left behind the damp flats, the rationing (which still went on when we got married in 1953) and the grey weather for a new life, and my husband felt that the transformation wasn’t complete unless we had a big, 8-cylinder American car to go with it. We wouldn’t drive anything smaller than a V8 until 1973.

In 1965, I got a Mustang 2 door with a V8 and a stick shift. From then on, it was all Chrysler products, culminating in my husband’s pride and joy, a 1970 New Yorker with a 440 V8 as big as our kitchen table. My husband was a clergyman, and we never had much money, but we did love cars. My husband had variously lusted after both a Mercedes-Benz and later on, an Audi owned by my cousin, but he felt that it would be inappropriate as a Rabbi to own a German car when so many of his parishioners had survived Nazi concentration camps just a few decades earlier.

American cars were the default choice. We didn’t even know about Japanese cars, until one day in 1973, when a man in our congregation asked us if we wanted to come and look at a new car he was selling. It was called a “Honda Civic”. It had a tiny 4-cylinder engine and drove the front wheels. When I first saw it, I thought it looked like the little car that Fred Flintstone drove. But with gas prices going nowhere but up, we took a chance on the little Honda.

Our neighbors laughed at us. I even affixed a bumper sticker that said “Stop honking, I’m pedaling as fast as I can”. But we were happy. It was great on gas, and sure enough, when winter came, we were the only ones who didn’t get stuck. In 1991, my husband replaced a 1979 Chevrolet Caprice (with a 350 and aftermarket sway bars) with a 1991 Honda Accord that was briefly owned by Derek’s father, as a Honda company car. My husband drove the Accord until he died in 1998. I ended up trading that car in on a 2000 Honda Civic

If it were not for old age, I’d have kept the Civic. It has enough room for all my groceries and it doesn’t cost me very much to maintain. I keep the car tuned up according to Honda’s schedule, and it’s zippy enough to get me around town. But at 81, I have broken my hip and my pelvis, and I find it hard to get in and out of such a low car. The Civic also has crank windows, and reaching over to wind down the passenger window (something I do often – I love to pull over and chat with friends and neighbors) gets tiresome.

The last few years have been kind to my retirement accounts, and left me feeling comfortable with buying a new car. When Derek was a young boy, my husband and I always had to take him to different dealerships so that he could look at all the new cars – I decided to call in a favor and have him help me look at a new car.

I have to admit that I’ve always liked the Fit since I first saw it, but Derek urged me to look at some others. I did not like the Kia Soul that some of you suggested. It’s too weird for me. The Hyundai Accent looked nice, but I found the driving position to be a bit tough (I’m only 5’2″ and seeing over the instrument cluster and hood caused me to crane my neck far too much). The Kia Rio was the same, and the Mazda3 had the sort of long, blunt hood that I don’t like.

The Fit ended up being, pardon the word choice, a good Fit for me. It sits just a bit higher up than the other cars, which is a lot easier for someone like me to get into. I like that the hood seems to drop down, so I get a nice, clear view of the road. Derek thought that the touch screen would be a bit challenging for me, but I have my own iPod and Android Tablet, and have figured out how to use both on my own! The best part for me is the Magic Seat. Instead of having to put everything in the trunk, I can fold the rear seat cushions upwards, and put things like walkers (don’t laugh), house plants and other parcels on the footwell.

The CVT transmission took some getting used to. I also wasn’t happy with the way the accelerator feels, but Derek told me that all cars feel this way (something about a computer, but my car uses a cable). I don’t find it as responsive as my Civic, but there is a lot more power. I wish I had a sunroof, but the Fit has power windows, locks, a much better stereo (I love music) and is a lot safer. It’s amazing to think that 15 years ago, I paid about $16,000 for my Civic. I didn’t pay too much more than that for my Fit, but I get so much more car, even when you think about inflation (and as a pensioner, I do).

Derek told me that a lot of his colleagues seem to think that the Fit isn’t as fun or as nice as it used to be. I don’t get to drive a new car every week, but I do like to go fast (I told the salesman to make sure the “ECON” button never comes on) and I know that the Fit drives a lot better than my Civic, or any of the cars I’ve rented recently (a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Nissan Sentra and a 2013 Honda Civic). Thank you all for helping me pick a new car!

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Coast to Coast 2014: Driving Old Route 66 (Part 1) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-driving-old-route-66-part-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-driving-old-route-66-part-1/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:42:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938873 Albert on the Route 66 in Tucumcari New Mexico.  Check out all my Coast to Coast Reports here This is it! After stopping in Oklahoma City, we are now on one of my most anticipated stretches of road in this entire trip: the Old Route 66, or the Mother Road as it is fondly called. Even […]

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1. Ram 1500 Albert Route 66Albert on the Route 66 in Tucumcari New Mexico. 

Check out all my Coast to Coast Reports here

This is it! After stopping in Oklahoma City, we are now on one of my most anticipated stretches of road in this entire trip: the Old Route 66, or the Mother Road as it is fondly called. Even though I didn’t have enough time to drive Route 66 in its entire length from Chicago to Los Angeles, I still managed to hop on it for a good 1/3 of its length, all the way from Oklahoma City OK to Gallup NM, driving alongside Interstate 40 which ended up replacing it and visiting places such as Clinton OK, Texola OK, Shamrock TX, Amarillo TX, Tucumcari NM and Albuquerque NM. We will hop back onto Route 66 later in this Coast to Coast trip in California. A thorough visit of this part of Route 66 full of photographs as well as my impressions on the vehicle landscape in this region of the United States are below…

Route 66 mapThe stretch of Route 66 we are following

This part of Route 66, arguably the most ‘historic’ as this is where it all started, sweeps through 3 states: Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Although New Mexico car sales data will be covered in more detail in my next Report, it is worth noting that looking at the Top 5 best-sellers in each of these states, a passenger car only appears once: the Toyota Camry at #4 in Texas. Indeed the entire Top 5 in both Oklahoma and New Mexico are monopolised by full-size pickup trucks, the first two states displaying this since the start of my Coast to Coast trip.

Ford F150 F250 Route 66Ford F150 and F250 Super Duty in Sayre OK

Best-selling light vehicles in Oklahoma – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Chevrolet Silverado 13,994
2 Ford F-150 11,517
3 Ram Pickup 9,762
4 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4,932
5 GMC Sierra 4,712

Source: JATO

Ford F250 x 2 Route 662 x Ford F-250 Super Duty in Elk City OK

Chevrolet Silverado Route 66 1A Chevrolet Silverado in our mirror near Elk City OK

Best-selling light vehicles in Texas – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 96,663
2 Chevrolet Silverado 78,047
3 Ram Pickup 67,378
4 Toyota Camry 36,953
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 33,305

Source: JATO

Ram 2500 Route 66Ram 2500 in Elk City OK

Ford F250 Shamrock 2Ford F-250 Super Duty in Shamrock TX

Best-selling light vehicles in New Mexico – 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 4,757
2 Chevrolet Silverado 3,601
3 Ram Pickup 3,368
4 GMC Sierra 2,214
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 1,837

Source: JATO

Matt Route 66You know you’re in full-size pickup heartland when the squeegees are also full-size.

If the Ford F-150 dominates in Texas and New Mexico, the Chevrolet Silverado, #2 in both states, takes the lead in Oklahoma, kicking the F-150 to #2 there. The Ram Pickup, my very own Albert, remains very stable in third position of all states explored here while the Ford F-250 Super Duty manages the very impressive feat of ranking inside the Top 5 in all of these states as well, peaking at #4 in Oklahoma. The GMC Sierra appears twice: at #4 in New Mexico (its best state ranking so far in this trip) and #5 in Oklahoma, and finally as I mentioned above the Toyota Camry makes a lonely appearance at #4 in Texas.

Dodge Pickup Route 66Vintage Dodge Pickup near Foss OK

That is for official stats, but what does real life observation tell us? Having the opportunity to slow down and take the secondary road that the remnants of Route 66 have become enables us to take in the sleepiness of most towns we crossed. This is the heartland of pickup country, 2 or 3 pickup trucks of various ages parked in front of each house and no sedan in sight isn’t rare. The 2-door white ‘tradesman’ Ford F150 rules here, the F250 Super Duty is even over performing on its Top 5 ranking in the parts of the states we crossed, I would put it on the podium and even potentially in first place in Elk City OK. Even though we were in Texas for part of the journey, the locally-produced Toyota Tundra is much less frequent on this stretch of land as is the Nissan Altima, reversing a trend we have seen since Tennessee and as we approached the Mexican border.

7. Chevrolet Impala Route 66Chevrolet Impala rental in Elk City OK

Being a particularly touristic part of Route 66, the ratio of rental cars is on a steep rising curve, with the favourites being the Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe and Impala. This isn’t any different to what I have seen on American roads since my departure from New York City.

Now that we have cleared the vehicle landscape in this part of the country, let’s get straight into Route 66 highlights, starting with a bit of history on this legendary stretch of road, courtesy of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton OK, a very authentic, thorough and friendly-manned little museum way more interesting than its larger, commercial and fake-looking counterpart a few miles further down the Route in Elk City OK.

Route 66 ca. 1920Road conditions on Rock Island railroad crossing OK ca. 1920 (Picture courtesy ODOT)

The beginning

The numerical designation 66 wasn’t assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route before 1926, but the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum traces the history of the first paved road system in Oklahoma, the foundation of what would become U.S. Route 66. $1 million was allocated in 1917 for the construction of the Oklahoma state road system, with the first paving laid in 1918 on a stretch that would later be Route 66. From the outset, public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.

IMG_9968Paving an Oklahoma section of what would become Route 66, ca. 1920

Paving and traffic growth

U.S. 66 was first signed into law in 1927 as one of the original U.S. Highways. Much of the early highway was gravel or graded dirt. Due to the efforts of the U.S. Highway 66 Association established by Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery, Route 66 became the first U.S. highway to be completely paved in 1938. Traffic grew because of the geography through which it passed: much of the highway was essentially flat and made it a popular truck route. In the aftermath of the Great Depression of 1929, a large part of unemployed workers found their salute in the construction and paving of Route 66, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s saw many farming families, mainly from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas, heading west on the Route 66 course for agricultural jobs in California.

AAA service station Route 66 1930AAA Route 66 service station in St James MO ca. 1930

Being the first truly long distance highway in the U.S., Route 66 encouraged the development of more than a few iconic highway habits that are still at play today…

The filling station

One of them is the filling station: on a road that stretched for over 2000 miles, gas stations became a necessity. Before the establishment of dedicated gasoline stations, fuel was purchased at liveries, repair shops or general stores. The drivers poured gas into buckets and then funnelled it into their gas tanks. By the 1920s, with the growing popularity of the automobile, filling stations became the lifeline of Route 66. One could not travel along Route 66 without stopping at a filling station approximately every 70 miles because cars had smaller gas tanks then. Between 1920 and 1930 the number of gas stations in the U.S. increased from 15,000 to 124,000. They evolved from the simplest concept, a house or shack with one or two service pumps in front to a more elaborate model with service bays and tired outlets, selling a particular brand of gasoline.

First Parking meter Oklahoma City 1935The first parking meters in the world were installed in Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 (above).

The parking meter

With the increase of traffic generated by Route 66, businesses began to develop along Main Street and the need for parking became an issue. In order to control parking and to encourage turnover of users, a method of device had to be created to curb the problem. Two professors of engineering from Oklahoma State University devised the parking meter as a viable solution to the increasing need for Main Street parking control. The first of their meters was installed in Oklahoma City on 16 July 1935 as part of a 175-meter experiment. They proved very successful and were soon implemented all over town. The rest is, well… history. Because it was relatively easy to abuse a parking meter system, many town established patrolling meter person which became a hot topic along Route 66.

Truck Route 66 1940Capital Steel & Foundation truck in a no passing zone of Route 66 east of Oklahoma City ca. 1940

Commerce

One of the earliest arguments for new and better roads such as Route 66 was commerce, and it did not take long for truckers to take advantage of new opportunities. With the inability of the railroad system to handle the growing volume of traffic during World War II, over-the-road trucking traffic increased. Paved roads opened small towns and rural consumers to efficient and low-cost truck delivery. Of the 25.000 trucks registered in Oklahoma in 1926, most used the paved highways and competed directly with the railroads. Responding to complaints from railroad companies the state legislature passed a regulatory law in 1929 that set truck rates and routes.

Oklahoma buses 1940

Bus travel

The bus industry, born in the early 1920s, boomed during the 1930s and 1940s. Bus lines had to get permits from the State Corporation to operate over fixed routes. Bus stops were located at gas stations, hotels, grocery stores and restaurants. The bus driver stopped if a flag was hanging outside, the flag later replaced by a light. Bus traffic increased dramatically during World War II and peaked after the war. In 1944, Oklahoma was served by 31 bus companies, with the heaviest traffic located along Route 66. Several towns on the Mother Road, such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa, had as many as eight different bus companies serving their area.

Burma-Shave advertising Route 66Iconic Burma-Shave advertising signs on Route 66

Snow Cap Drive-In Route 66Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman AZ

Blue Swallow Motel 1939The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM was created in 1939

Oklahoma Roadside Park Route 66Route 66 sign for Roadside park in Oklahoma

Motels

Route 66 was affected by the expanding economy and middle-class vacationers. This led to several changes – the most dramatic was the expansion of the variety of overnight accommodations. In the 1920s, local merchants had set aside campsites near downtown business districts to keep potential customers nearby. Entrepreneurs quickly developed additional camp areas with services, on the edges of towns. Campsite cabins were soon equipped with cots, chairs, and camp stoves, costing from 50c to 74c per night. By 1926, most cabins included a bed, table, benches and water pitcher. Check out my review of the best motel chains in the U.S. as part of this Coast to Coast series here.

Route 66 sign

The end

The beginning of the end for Route 66 came in 1956 with the signing of the Interstate Highway Act by President Dwight Eisenhower who was influenced by his appreciation of the German Autobahn network as a necessary component of a national defense system. Super highways, with divided lanes, limited access and no Stop signs were first built along Route 66 in California and Illinois. In 1976, when the states of California, Illinois and Missouri removed the old 66 shields from the road, the Mother Road ceased to exist as a continuous stretch of highway. In 1984, Arizona also saw its final stretch of highway decommissioned with the completion of Interstate 40 just north of Williams, Arizona. The U.S. Route 66 officially ceased to exist in 1985, with no single interstate route designated to replace it. Within many cities, the route became a “business loop” for the interstate. Some sections became state roads, local roads, private drives, or were abandoned completely.

Today, it requires careful planning to follow Route 66 on the part I travelled along, with many ‘jogs’ across Interstate 40 required, and a mile-by-mile map sometimes necessary. Next I will go into the detail of the most interesting stops along Route 66 from Oklahoma City OK to Gallup NM, including:

1. Texola OK

2. U-Drop Inn and Tower station in Shamrock TX

3. Magnolia gas station in Shamrock TX

4. Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo TX

5. Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari NM

6. Main street in Tucumcari NM

7. Albuquerque NM

8. Gallup NM

… so stay tuned for Part 2 of this Route 66 section of my US Coast to Coast 2014 Photo Report!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

The Full Photo Report continues below.

Cyrus AveryCyrus Avery, the Father of Route 66

Top of the World Route 66 HotelTop of the World Hotel in Continental Divide NM

WPA Route 66Work Projects Administration sign, ca.1935 

Parking meter Route 66bParking meters in Omaha NE, 1938 

Lee Way Motor FreightLee Way Motor Freight truck 

Ford F150 Route 66 2Ford F-150 in Sayre OK

Ram Pickup x 3 Route 663 x Ram Pickup in Elk City OK

Chevrolet Tahoe Route 66Chevrolet Tahoe rental in Elk City OK

Ford F250 Shamrock 1Ford F-250 Super Duty in Shamrock TX

Chevrolet Silverado Route 66 2 Chevrolet Silverado in Elk City OK

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Low Fuel Prices, Strong New-Car Sales Boost US Economy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/low-fuel-prices-strong-new-car-sales-boost-us-economy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/low-fuel-prices-strong-new-car-sales-boost-us-economy/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938937 What happens when $2.99 for a gallon of regular fuels demand for new vehicles? The U.S. economy feels its VTEC kick in, of course. According to The Detroit News, the U.S. Commerce Department reported the economy grew 3.5 percent in Q3 2014, with 0.59 percentage points contributed by auto sales. Said sales also delivered an […]

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What happens when $2.99 for a gallon of regular fuels demand for new vehicles? The U.S. economy feels its VTEC kick in, of course.

According to The Detroit News, the U.S. Commerce Department reported the economy grew 3.5 percent in Q3 2014, with 0.59 percentage points contributed by auto sales. Said sales also delivered an 0.55 percent boost in Q2 2014, helping the GDP climb to 4.6 percent.

Spending is up, as well: 9.5 percent increase in automotive spending through September 30, resulting in a SAAR of $457.1 billion.

Meanwhile, October’s sales are expected to rise 6.4 percent in comparison to the same time last year, with more to come according to Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell:

Car and truck sales have settled into a groove. Dealers are welcoming a consistent flow of shoppers into their showrooms, and the pace will likely remain steady through the end of the year. With declining gas prices and strong truck and SUV sales, the industry is poised for a very busy holiday season.

Forecasters are predicting 2014 sales will hit 16.4 million units, the best performance since 2006, with LMC Automotive projecting 17 million sold by 2018, 17.5 million by 2020. The figure would just best the previous high of 17.4 million SAAR, achieved in 2000.

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Spotlight Shines Brighter On Takata Airbag Failures http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/spotlight-shines-brighter-takata-airbag-failures/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/spotlight-shines-brighter-takata-airbag-failures/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938913 Investigators unearth more reports of deaths and injuries linked to catastrophic detonations of Takata’s airbags; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets a deadline for the supplier to submit related documents; and attorneys urge a U.S. district judge to act quickly on a class action against Takata and four of its client automakers. Automotive News […]

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takata sign holder

Investigators unearth more reports of deaths and injuries linked to catastrophic detonations of Takata’s airbags; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets a deadline for the supplier to submit related documents; and attorneys urge a U.S. district judge to act quickly on a class action against Takata and four of its client automakers.

Automotive News reports a number of cases linked to Takata airbags are coming to the surface as investigators begin their probes into the supplier. A common thread through the cases — such as an incident in Atlanta that left a woman with a speech disorder, as well as caused a number of strokes and one seizure, as a result of a piece of shrapnel from the unit slicing through her carotid artery — is settlement. Most of the cases are being settled out-of-court, just before prosecutors can gather the evidence needed to go after Takata, and just before such cases enter the public eye.

Over in the Beltway, Reuters says the NHTSA has set a deadline of December 1 for Takata to submit documents and answers to questions under oath as part of the agency’s probe into the defects. The order also cites an October 17 report by the news organization about manufacturing issues at the supplier’s Mexico facility, particularly a reference to an email written in March of 2011 that proclaimed “a part that is not welded = one life less,” as well as the discovery of chewing gum in a unit. The agency also wants a list of every death and injury caused by the airbags.

Finally, attorneys representing their clients in a class action suit against the supplier have asked Miami-based U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King to move their case quickly forward. One of the attorneys, Peter Prieto, stated the urging was necessary due to the danger the airbags create among the public. Eighteen plaintiffs in 10 states are involved in the suit, which also names Toyota, Ford, BMW and Honda as defendants. The next hearing will be on December 8.

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Treasury: GM Bailout Suit Would Hinder Future Actions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/treasury-gm-bailout-suit-hinder-future-actions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/treasury-gm-bailout-suit-hinder-future-actions/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938857 Should companies in the future need to be bailed-out by the federal government, they may not be so forthcoming with the necessary information if General Motors’ confidential documents linked to its own bailout see the light of day. Bloomberg reports the U.S. Treasury is doing all it can to protect the information submitted by GM […]

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Should companies in the future need to be bailed-out by the federal government, they may not be so forthcoming with the necessary information if General Motors’ confidential documents linked to its own bailout see the light of day.

Bloomberg reports the U.S. Treasury is doing all it can to protect the information submitted by GM prior to investing $49.5 billion into the automaker during the early days of the Great Recession:

Disclosure of the disputed information would also impair Treasury’s ability to obtain necessary information from companies in the future. [The] Treasury’s ability to act as a lender would be hampered.

The information is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Auto Safety in 2011. Over 50,000 records were obtained thus far, but the advocacy group wants information on how much of a role the Treasury played in preventing pre-bankruptcy claims made against GM over vehicles linked to the February 2014 ignition switch recall from moving forward.

Clarence Ditlow, head of the Center for Auto Safety, disputed the idea that future companies in need of help would be dissuaded from “begging for billion in taxpayer dollars” were the desired documents revealed.

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Hyundai Developing Dedicated Hybrid To Battle Toyota Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundai-developing-dedicated-hybrid-battle-toyota-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundai-developing-dedicated-hybrid-battle-toyota-prius/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938833 Though one can already purchase a hybrid from Hyundai — the Sonata Hybrid, to be exact — the South Korean automaker is now planning to follow in the footsteps of Toyota and Honda by building a hybrid that always was from the get-go. Reuters reports the Korean Prius will add onto Hyundai’s green portfolio, which […]

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Though one can already purchase a hybrid from Hyundai — the Sonata Hybrid, to be exact — the South Korean automaker is now planning to follow in the footsteps of Toyota and Honda by building a hybrid that always was from the get-go.

Reuters reports the Korean Prius will add onto Hyundai’s green portfolio, which also includes the Tucson Fuel Cell FCV, as well as act as a hedge against ever-tightening fuel economy and emissions standards. CEO Kim Choong-ho explained as much during the launch of his company’s latest premium sedan, the Aslan:

We will take the lead in the future by raising the competitiveness of our environment-friendly cars like hybrid-only cars, plug-in hybrid cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars.

Hyundai won’t be alone in bringing a new dedicated hybrid to market; Ford plans to do the same on a compact platform by 2019. Kim did not offer a timetable or other details about Hyundai’s hybrid, however.

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GM Invests $63M Into Lansing Delta Township Expansion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-invests-63m-lansing-delta-township-expansion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-invests-63m-lansing-delta-township-expansion/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 10:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938809 General Motors is gearing up to spend $63 million on expanding its Lansing Delta Township plant — home of the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse — as part of an overall $300 million improvement plan involving the automaker’s Michigan properties. The expansion will add 263,000 square feet in total to the 3.4 million […]

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2011 GMC Acadia Denali

General Motors is gearing up to spend $63 million on expanding its Lansing Delta Township plant — home of the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse — as part of an overall $300 million improvement plan involving the automaker’s Michigan properties.

The expansion will add 263,000 square feet in total to the 3.4 million square-foot plant, which first opened in 2006. The footage will be split into three pieces, with over 181,000 square feet going to the body shop to accommodate new robots and lean flexible tooling; 54,000 square feet to the paint shop for usage of improved body sealers and coatings; and 28,000 square feet for general assembly.

The investment is the second put into the plant since opening; Lansing Delta received $37 million in 2010 for tooling and equipment “to enhance the plant’s manufacturing capabilities.”

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And The Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/and-the-winner-is-28/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/and-the-winner-is-28/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:39:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938521   Well, my grandma has finally got her car. She decided on a Honda Fit LX CVT. Thanks to the B&B for their suggestions. In the end, the higher driving position, multi-angle backup camera and complimentary extended warranty (6 year/100,000 km bumper to bumper) won out. That and the fact that she’s been a loyal […]

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IMG_8674

Well, my grandma has finally got her car.

She decided on a Honda Fit LX CVT. Thanks to the B&B for their suggestions. In the end, the higher driving position, multi-angle backup camera and complimentary extended warranty (6 year/100,000 km bumper to bumper) won out. That and the fact that she’s been a loyal Honda customer since she bought her first Civic in 1973.

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Dispatches Do Brasil: FCA Finds Its Feet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dispatches-brasil-fca-finds-feet/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:39:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938489 It’s pretty amazing how the world spins and moves forward yet people refuse to budge. Fiat consistently scores in or near the top of Euro reliability rankings, besting most if not all of the mainstream Euro makers as well as other competitors from other continents who, somehow, are given a pass in this area. It […]

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Fiat-500X-2-550x364

It’s pretty amazing how the world spins and moves forward yet people refuse to budge. Fiat consistently scores in or near the top of Euro reliability rankings, besting most if not all of the mainstream Euro makers as well as other competitors from other continents who, somehow, are given a pass in this area. It does likewise in South America. In terms of “fix-ability” it is among the most appreciated, being its corporate policy to share information with mechanics quite openly about its cars’ needs and selling every small bit as a separate part so that people need only change what needs changing, saving its customers money .

I go to the factory in Betim, Brazil, every so often and the place is always filled with Japanese consultants on the factory floor, not just in conference rooms and secluded offices, teaching and implementing more and more quality control techniques. Brazilian engineers I know personally go north and tell me of all the changes they are seeing at Chrysler Group, with leaner, more exact engineering being implemented, inefficiencies controlled, paint shops and water handling completely overhauled.

The place is a brute, the second largest in capacity in the world, being beaten only by a Russian AvtoVAZ unit. Receiving investments of almost 6 billion reais in improvements, it’s being expanded from a capacity of 800,000 cars a year to 950,000. While the expansion and renovation is happening, it will pump out over 700 thousand cars this year in a bewildering, complex environment. A total of 16 different models are produced there, from passenger cars to light commercial vehicles. The closest factory in terms of complexity in Brazil is a GM unit in São Caetano do Sul making a total of 5 models.

It is also a research and development facility, with the capacity to design cars from the ground up. When I go to that specific place, I see future Fiat products, engines and systems, Chryslers of all stripes and also competitors’ cars being stripped down and rebuilt.  The R&D facility received a portion of that investment money and is putting it to good use. Suppliers are often there, trying to fulfill Fiat’s ever-increasing demands on quality, all the while complaining that it’s impossible within the given budgets.

I also recognize the problems. Some of them are cultural others structural. I know the pressure is there to push the product out when sales are high, leading people to overlook some things they know should be addressed before sticking the quality control stickers on. It is not an easy place to work in if you are a supplier as Fiat is a notorious penny-pincher and will and does sit on suppliers demanding more from them at ever lower prices.

There also seems to be a problem with follow through and repetition. Italian and Brazilian culture mesh well in this regard. Improvisation does and can happen and I have seen condemned bits and pieces being stripped from cars while the same parts are taken from half-built cars. It is easy to see the havoc created upstream in the production, while at the same time the possibility for errors is ripe. Some of the initially condemned pieces are sometimes reworked, deemed good, and installed in other cars.

Brazilian workers and engineers are also notorious for not adhering strictly to a given procedure. While a Japanese worker has the reputation of repeating the same procedure for 40 years without question, workers and professionals in Brazil will often improvise, turning step 2 and 4 into just one, or doing what was supposed to be step 6 before step 5 and so on.

Meanwhile, in North America, perhaps surprisingly, Italian and American culture and business practices have also congealed nicely and even Wall Street likes what it sees. There are no rampant manifestations of dissatisfaction and major suits have had their fears of German-style merger of (un)equals allayed, being that American voices are heard and American butts are promoted and given positions of power. Further down in the corporate hierarchy, at the engineering levels, experiences and information are freely shared among engineers of all nationalities. The Italians hear the Americans and vice-versa and the result are cars improved by cross-pollination.

Southern Europe is slowly coming back, at a time Fiat’s plans are slowly bearing fruition. Key to its future, there are now Jeep products, like the Renegade and Cherokee, not to mention the 500X, confirming the event horizon of our own Derek Kreindler (henceforth nominated auto industry sage extraordinaire) and the “final” victory of the CUV over other car shapes as they seem to give people what they want. The Panda and 500 continue raising the flag in northern Europe for those who wish to go against the norm and don’t conform to the notion of German engineering superiority and overbearing market presence. In light of all of this, FCA head honcho Sergio Marchionne may be confirmed as the savviest auto exec in the business.

Alfa Romeo remains a work in progress, while Maserati sales show that FCA can still credibly build and sell a luxury car. With the upcoming Alfa and Maserati CUVs, Italian vehicles will grace in higher numbers exclusive country clubs the world over.

In the US, Fiat will remain a niche player with the 500 satisfying non-conformists, while the 500X could prove more adapted to local conditions. Fiats will also continue donning RAM horns and underlying and motivating Dodge and Chrysler cars and Jeep CUVs. FCA, in spite of the naysayers and doom-and-gloom merchants, keeps growing in the US. Chrysler Group has passed Toyota becoming the third largest OEM in that important and expanding market.

It is so easy to laugh and point at FCA products and buyers. It is also intellectually easy to step on them while they are down, ignoring all the evidence to the opposite. Taken in scope, the improvements and ongoing investments point only in one direction: Up.

Improving on already good reliability, working closely with the aftermarket to keep mechanics informed and up-to-date of the sometimes different engineering seen in their cars, keeping fingers crossed that nothing bombastic happens, FCA could be on its way to an event horizon of its own, selling cars on their merits and not just pricing, becoming a full-line maker capable of attracting and poaching customers from other makes, providing shareholders with nice returns, and creating wealth and employment the world over.

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Review: 1982 VAZ 21033 – Lada 1300 for the Soviets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/review-1982-vaz-21033-lada-1300-soviets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/review-1982-vaz-21033-lada-1300-soviets/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:26:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937082 Everyone knows it by its export name, Lada, but its real name was VAZ and that is how it was commonly known in Soviet Union. Like all other Soviet automakers, VAZ is an acronym and it stands for Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or Volga Automobile Plant. This is not to be confused with Volga cars which were […]

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1982 vaz lada 21033 front 34

Everyone knows it by its export name, Lada, but its real name was VAZ and that is how it was commonly known in Soviet Union. Like all other Soviet automakers, VAZ is an acronym and it stands for Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or Volga Automobile Plant. This is not to be confused with Volga cars which were made by GAZ, Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod or Gorky Automobile Plant, some 600 kilometers southeast.

1982 vaz lada 21033 rear 34

The 2103 model, like all Ladas in this series, 2101 through 2107, is based off the 1966–1974 Fiat 124 Special. Designed to be the car of the people, in its transformation from Fiat to VAZ, the vehicle lost most things that could have been described as a luxurious. Furthermore, the body and chassis were modified to withstand the harsh Soviet climates; thicker steel, better heater, increased ride height, and a newer Fiat-designed engine. The 2100-series VAZs and Ladas, also known as Classic, Riva, Signet, Laika, or Kalinka depending on the market, were produced from 1970 until 2012 in Russia, and the 2107 is still in production in Egypt!

1982 lada vaz 21033 exterior details

The VAZ 21033 pictured here is one of the more rare models. The 21033 was a less expensive version of the basic VAZ 2103. The differences between the two are limited to the 21033 having a 70hp 1.3-liter engine, versus a 75hp 1.5-liter engine. The 2103 also had a radio with a single speaker, whereas the 21033 did not. Those lucky enough to be able to purchase a new VAZ may have been given the options of some models which included engine size or a wagon body. The price for the 21033 was 8617 Rubles, whereas the price for the more powerful 2103 was 8667 Rubels in 1982. Needless to say anyone who could choose, chose the 2103.

1982 lada vaz 21033 exterior details 2

The story of the pictured 21033 is that it was won in a state lottery by some lady in 1982. Because she was not buying a car, she was not given a choice of model, so she got what no one else wanted. After thirty years of use and abuse, the VAZ was purchased by a young Russian-American enthusiast of Soviet vehicles named Roman. With the exception of paint, he restored mostly by himself in Ukraine and then shipped the car to New York two years ago. After proper federal and state paperwork was completed, the car was issued New York state license plates.

1982 lada vaz 21033 interior dash

Vehicle restorations can vary in forms and qualities; for instance I have a personal distain for cars that have been supposedly restored to factory level, but are in reality over-restored and therefore superior to what they were brand new. Over-restoring any Eastern Bloc car would be a rather simple task given their original built quality, and that is where Roman was extra careful. The car was improved where it seemed practical, so factory issues such as poor panel gaps and overs-pray were avoided.

1982 lada vaz 21033 interior details driver

 

Each part used was an original factory part, many of which proudly display a CCCP logo, otherwise known as “made in USSR”. Brand new parts were used on few rare occasions but most were old, restored to original condition. Since these vehicles have been in production for such a long time, finding the original model year part was not always easy for Roman. One such instance were the front fenders, which varied in style but not in fitment. The replacements for the rusted out original fenders were no longer available, so fenders from a newer model had to be adopted for proper side-marker and trim fitment. Steel wheels with chrome covers are also original, down to what looks like a missing center cap.

1982 lada vaz 21033 other details

All interior parts are original, including seat covering. Shockingly, such luxury item as the rear center armrest was standard but headrests were not added until later in production. Manual seat-belts provide world class insecurity and a lot of the interior had a very familiar Fiat feel. Where he could, Roman added factory accessories, such as the factory radio and with a mono-speaker mounted below it; at the right frequency, the ignition system is very audible. Other interesting features are designed with security in mind, such as quick disconnect wiper blades and side mirror, both of which were frequently stolen in communist Russia.

1982 lada vaz 21033 interior details

The front seats offer little support yet are comfortable, feeling springy like older Mercedes-Benz seats. They give an impression on being seated on, rather than seated in. The rear bench has the same springy feel to it. I was really impressed with the amount of leg and headroom for such a small car; a modern 3-series would not be any more spacious, with the exception of the VAZ being a lot narrower, having smaller doors, and much smaller overall exterior dimensions. This is a small car by modern standards, one can almost hug it!

1982 lada vaz 21033 engine

The trunk is lined with a factory-like vinyl cover which I have never seen before as it was something that was likely easily ripped and therefore quickly discarded. The full-size spare tire fits snugly on the left side and is complimented by two tool kits and a foot air pump, all factory parts. Yes, it may seem mind-boggling by today’s standards, but VAZ owners were expected to perform minor service and repairs by themselves. On the right side of the trunk is the gas tank, which in some other Fiat models was relocated under the rear seat.

1982 lada vaz 21033 tool kit

Around town, the little VAZ keeps up with traffic just fine, but it does struggle a bit at highway speeds. The peak of 70hp and square shape simply does not allow it to cruise like an S-class, or even a new Hyundai Accent. Nor should it, as it was designed in time and place where freeways just did not exist, speeds over 60mph were rarely reached and considered fast. The engine has a narrow power-band and does not like to be spun at speeds that approach the redline. The clutch, the shifter, and the steering feel like they have an organic, unobstructed, mechanical connection to the engine and the chassis; it can be felt and heard. From personal experience of driving similar cars over longer distances, this is amazingly unique these days but it does get tiresome.

1982 vaz lada 21033 side

Once the iron curtain fell, one of the first things people in Eastern Europe did was ditch their crappy commie cars. They wanted something, anything, with more power, better reliability, and improved fuel economy. They wanted to be able to hear the radio while driving and have enough power to safely pass a tractor on a narrow two-lane road. With time they developed taste for status which is best shown by the automobile one drives.  In recent years, however, the Eastern Blok cars have developed a cult and patriotic following. People want to restore and preserve them. To many of those people those once hated but now charming cars represent an important era in history, one that shows perseverance and victory against communist tyranny.

1982 lada vaz 21033 greenwich concours 2014

If you want to learn more about Eastern Bloc cars, I suggest this Facebook page. Additionally, in the past I have reviewed an FSO Polonez and a Lada Niva. On semi-regular basis I do write-ups on Hooniverse about weird and obscure cars and trucks that are living and dying on the streets of Poland; see the many links within that post.

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

1982 vaz lada 21033 front

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Comes Packed With Technology And Stuff http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2015-chevrolet-colorado-comes-packed-technology-stuff/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2015-chevrolet-colorado-comes-packed-technology-stuff/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:12:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938273 TTAC  reader (and former GM employee) Mikey alerted me to this video, which I missed, due to promptly shutting off the TV after the Kansas City Royals lost the World Series. Chevrolet’s Rikk Wilde (who, a source informs me, is a regional manager, not a Sales and Marketing exec), who is clearly nervous about appearing […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

TTAC  reader (and former GM employee) Mikey alerted me to this video, which I missed, due to promptly shutting off the TV after the Kansas City Royals lost the World Series.

Chevrolet’s Rikk Wilde (who, a source informs me, is a regional manager, not a Sales and Marketing exec), who is clearly nervous about appearing on national TV, flubs his lines spectacularly when presenting World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner with a brand new Chevrolet Colorado, telling him that it comes “packed with technology and stuff”.

It would be easy to pile on and lambaste Wilde for his performance, and one could argue that as part of his job duties, he should be more comfortable appearing on camera. But as someone who once completely froze and walked out of a room in a cold sweat during a speaking gig, I recognize the rapid breathing and stilted delivery, and can only feel empathy.

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FCA Quality Chief Replaced Day After Poor Survey Outing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fca-quality-chief-replaced-day-poor-survey-outing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fca-quality-chief-replaced-day-poor-survey-outing/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938217 A day after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles found itself near or at the bottom of Consumer Reports 2014 Annual Reliability Survey, FCA quality boss Doug Betts left the building. Per Autoblog, Betts came over to what was then Chrysler in 2007 after leaving Nissan, and had a challenging relationship with CEO Sergio Marchionne near the end […]

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Doug Betts

A day after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles found itself near or at the bottom of Consumer Reports 2014 Annual Reliability Survey, FCA quality boss Doug Betts left the building.

Per Autoblog, Betts came over to what was then Chrysler in 2007 after leaving Nissan, and had a challenging relationship with CEO Sergio Marchionne near the end of his tenure with the automaker.

In a brief press release, FCA announced Matthew Lidane would take Betts’ place as quality chief. Lidane has been with the automaker since 1987, having worked with Jeep as chief engineer, and was the boss for the U.S. compact wide platform underpinning two poor performers in this year’s survey, the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Dart.

As for Betts, he left “to pursue other interests.”

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Obama Administration In Search Of New, Permanent NHTSA Boss http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/obama-administration-search-new-permanent-nhtsa-boss/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/obama-administration-search-new-permanent-nhtsa-boss/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938193 Think you could be the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s next top boss? Then you’re in luck: The Obama administration is looking for someone to fill the shoes currently worn by interim chief David Friedman. Reuters reports Friedman will likely be passed over as far as being promoted to permanently take up where previous chief, […]

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David Friedman

Think you could be the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s next top boss? Then you’re in luck: The Obama administration is looking for someone to fill the shoes currently worn by interim chief David Friedman.

Reuters reports Friedman will likely be passed over as far as being promoted to permanently take up where previous chief, David Strickland, left off late last year, due to the handling of both the General Motors February 2014 ignition switch recall, and the ongoing Takata airbag debacle.

As for who U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and White House officials have in mind for the top job at the agency, nothing has been made clear thus far beyond Foxx proclaiming a candidate would be nominated in the near future.

Friedman was named deputy administrator upon Strickland’s departure, having joined the NHTSA in May 2013 after working at the Union of Concerned Scientists for 12 years.

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GM’s Big Crossovers vs. GM’s Big SUVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gms-big-crossovers-vs-gms-big-suvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gms-big-crossovers-vs-gms-big-suvs/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:41:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935722 General Motors has sold 189,354 copies of its big Lambda-platform crossovers in the United States this year. Combined sales of the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia have risen by a scant 137 units through the first nine months of 2014. GM’s six full-size, body-on-frame, pickup-based SUVs, on the other hand, have collectively increased […]

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2015 Chevrolet Tahoe whiteGeneral Motors has sold 189,354 copies of its big Lambda-platform crossovers in the United States this year. Combined sales of the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, and GMC Acadia have risen by a scant 137 units through the first nine months of 2014.

GM’s six full-size, body-on-frame, pickup-based SUVs, on the other hand, have collectively increased their U.S. volume by 22%, a gain of 32,652 sales, to 183,080 units in total.

These nine nameplates have generated 17% of GM’s 2.2 million year-to-date sales.

Examining each nameplate individually reveals multiple storylines wrapped inside the hefty numbers.

Enclave sales reached record highs in 2013, and 2014’s 1% decrease, if it holds, should still translate to the nameplate’s second-best year in the model’s eight-year history.

The Traverse hasn’t been around as long – 2014 will be its sixth full year on the market – but it’s the highest-volume Lambda product, accounting for 42% of the trio’s sales. Traverse volume has risen 6% this year to 79,560 units through nine months. Year end volume should reach a three-year high but it’s unlikely the Traverse will match its 2011 record-high levels.

GM SUV crossover sales chart 2014 Like the Enclave, the Acadia also produced best-ever sales in 2013, but 2014 sales are down 5.3%. Year end volume should top 80,000 units for the just the second time since the Acadia went on sale in late 2006.

Among the fresh-faced, truck-based SUVs in GM’s portfolio, long-wheelbase variants account for 37% of the sextuplet’s year-to-date volume. The Tahoe and Suburban are the two volume leaders, with 70,528 and 38,588 sales in 2014’s first nine months. These big SUVs aren’t quite as readily available as the big crossovers, which all possess abundant inventory. The Escalade and Escalade ESV, in particular, are rather rare, with just 25 days of supply as of the beginning of October.

So, Lambda wins the family fight? Not so fast. While through nine months the crossover trio has outsold the GMT900/K2XX family, that wasn’t the case in July and August, and they outsold the big SUVs by only 225 units in September. Third-quarter sales of the Escalade, Escalade ESV, Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, and Yukon XL shot up to 72,216 units. The Acadia, Enclave, and Traverse managed 65,989 third-quarter sales.

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Next-Gen Nissan Titan Equipped With New Turbodiesel Tech http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/next-gen-nissan-titan-equipped-new-turbodiesel-tech/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/next-gen-nissan-titan-equipped-new-turbodiesel-tech/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938169 When the next-gen Nissan Titan rolls up to the stage at next year’s Detroit Auto Show, the full-size truck will have a big oil-burner with enough sequential firepower to put all on Truck Mountain on notice. Car & Driver reports the 5-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8 — expected to pump out 300 horsepower and 500 lb-ft. […]

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Nissan Titan Cummins Holset M2 Two-Stage System with Rotary Turbine Control

When the next-gen Nissan Titan rolls up to the stage at next year’s Detroit Auto Show, the full-size truck will have a big oil-burner with enough sequential firepower to put all on Truck Mountain on notice.

Car & Driver reports the 5-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8 — expected to pump out 300 horsepower and 500 lb-ft. of torque — will come equipped with a sequential turbocharging system called the Holset M2 Two-Stage System with Rotary Turbine Control; Holset was an engineering firm in England that was purchased by Cummins in the 1970s, then renamed Cummins Turbo Technologies in 2006.

The system uses an electronically controlled rotary valve to direct exhaust flow to either one of the two turbos feeding power to the engine, shifting focus from the smaller to the larger of the turbos as airflow increases with engine speed and load.

As well as regulating boost pressure, the Rotary Turbine Control can be used as an exhaust brake when the accelerator is lifted. In turn, the increased temperatures resulting from the act help burn off more soot in the engine’s particulate filter.

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Dorizas Leaves Holden, General Motors To Pursue New Ventures http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dorizas-leaves-holden-general-motors-pursue-new-ventures/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dorizas-leaves-holden-general-motors-pursue-new-ventures/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938145 Another bell tolls as Holden draws closer to the end of local production in 2017, this time for brand boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned after serving just eight months in the position. Motoring.com.au reports Dorizas was the fifth Holden head in four years, taking up where Mike Devereaux — who helmed the General Motors subsidiary […]

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gerry-dorizas-2

Another bell tolls as Holden draws closer to the end of local production in 2017, this time for brand boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned after serving just eight months in the position.

Motoring.com.au reports Dorizas was the fifth Holden head in four years, taking up where Mike Devereaux — who helmed the General Motors subsidiary from 2010 to 2013 — left off. Current COO Jeff Rolfs will fill the void until a new chief is found.

Dorizas, who proclaimed Holden would retake the top of the podium by 2020, has also left GM altogether “to pursue other opportunities.” Brand communications manager Sean Poppitt did not offer an explanation for the departure, but affirmed it would not change the brand’s goals and strategy.

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2016 Chevrolet Volt Won’t Need Premium To Move http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2016-chevrolet-volt-wont-need-premium-move/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2016-chevrolet-volt-wont-need-premium-move/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938105 When customers arrive to pick up the 2016 Chevrolet Volt late next year, they won’t need to spend money on premium when it eventually comes time to fill the tank. AutoblogGreen reports the 1.5-liter engine taking the place of the outgoing 1.4-liter unit will be more than happy with regular gasoline. Volt chief engineer Andrew […]

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2016-chevy-volt-powertrain-details-6-1

When customers arrive to pick up the 2016 Chevrolet Volt late next year, they won’t need to spend money on premium when it eventually comes time to fill the tank.

AutoblogGreen reports the 1.5-liter engine taking the place of the outgoing 1.4-liter unit will be more than happy with regular gasoline. Volt chief engineer Andrew Farah explained the move was on the suggestion from consumers who didn’t want to pay more for gas than they thought necessary:

The ability to use regular unleaded was based directly on customer feedback. Since the range extender is an all-new engine, it was optimized to use regular unleaded at the outset. Using regular fuel will not have effect on vehicle acceleration or other performance factors.

The new engine is a part of a new global family of engines — ranging in size from 1 to 1.5 liters — and is quieter and more powerful than the mill extending the range of the current Volt.

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FCA Spinning Ferrari Off From Parent Company By 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fca-spinning-ferrari-parent-company-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fca-spinning-ferrari-parent-company-2015/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:19:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938057 By this time next year, Ferrari will no longer be a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, thanks to a plan announced today that will spin the exotic brand off from the rest of the Italo-American automaker. Bloomberg reports FCA will sell 10 percent of its stake to the public, giving the remaining 90 percent to […]

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Ferrari-458-Speciale-A-1

By this time next year, Ferrari will no longer be a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, thanks to a plan announced today that will spin the exotic brand off from the rest of the Italo-American automaker.

Bloomberg reports FCA will sell 10 percent of its stake to the public, giving the remaining 90 percent to the automaker’s own shareholders. The shares will be listed in the United States stock market, with Europe possibly receiving some of those shares, as well.

According to Morningstar analyst Richard Hilgert, the split “unlocks the value” in the Ferrari brand, which could be worth as much as $7.4 billion. He adds that the move helps pull Ferrari out of the shadow of FCA, citing “the street’s perception of low profitability to no profitability” regarding the automaker’s market performance.

Speaking of performance, FCA stock climbed to $11.56 Wednesday after opening at $11.31, falling to $10.85 at the closing bell. Ferrari stock, meanwhile, would go for $5.90/share for FCA shareholders.

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Ditlow And Nader: Put Executives In Jail For Takata And GM Recalls http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ditlow-nader-put-executives-jail-takata-gm-recalls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ditlow-nader-put-executives-jail-takata-gm-recalls/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:30:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938001 Did Takata effectively bribe their way out of an NHTSA investgation? That appears to be the allegation made in the New York Times by auto-safety careerists Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader. Titled Weak Oversight, Deadly Cars, the co-authored piece argues for the return of iron-fisted regulatory behavior on the part of the United States Government […]

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Did Takata effectively bribe their way out of an NHTSA investgation? That appears to be the allegation made in the New York Times by auto-safety careerists Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader.

Titled Weak Oversight, Deadly Cars, the co-authored piece argues for the return of iron-fisted regulatory behavior on the part of the United States Government — up to and including the incarceration of major industry figures.

Shots are fired as the duo open the piece with outright allegations of corruption and what amounts to bribery and coercion of public officials:

Only after a lengthy delay was the agency prodded, in 2009, into opening an investigation into whether the first two Honda recalls of Takata airbags were adequate. Although the agency asked tough questions, it quickly closed the investigation after Takata hired a former senior N.H.T.S.A. official to represent the company… [N]umerous officials — including Diane K. Steed, Jerry Ralph Curry, Sue Bailey and David L. Strickland, who all served as head of the agency, and Erika Z. Jones, Jacqueline S. Glassman and Paul Jackson Rice, who all served as chief counsel to the agency — have gone on to become consultants, lawyers or expert witnesses for auto companies.

In other words, there’s a revolving door between the industry and the governmental agency assigned to control its deadliest excesses. Sound familiar? Only because the same thing exists between automotive journalism and manufacturer public relations offices.

What’s the solution? Unsurprisingly for anyone familiar with Messrs. Nader and Ditlow, it’s some Soviet-style personal responsibility for corporate failures:

[T]he industry has blocked any meaningful provision for criminal penalties that would make company executives who concealed defects or decided not to recall dangerous vehicles subject to prison sentences. No single reform would change corporate behavior as much as this.

Why stop at throwing them in jail? Why not just have them purged via the expedient of a bullet to the head? It’s not difficult to imagine Nader licking his lips as he fantasizes about taking the role of the Scarecrow in Bane’s “court of the people”:

The utterly repugnant idea of throwing engineers in jail for failing to design the perfect airbag is a relic of the Soviet era in more ways than one: surely every automaker in the United States would react by moving their entire engineering and technical staffs overseas within months, something Nader and Ditlow have perhaps failed to consider. Alternately, they are confident that the United States could impose such penalties on Japanese, German, or Korean engineers, perhaps with the assistance of Seal Team Six.

Yet it must be admitted that the American public’s natural resistance to Stalin-esque rubbish like this diminishes significantly every time the so-called free market fires metal shrapnel into an accident victim’s neck. Which is why the automakers need to consider Messrs. Nader and Ditlow less the discarded remnants of Carter-era idiocy and more the voices crying out in the wilderness, telling the sinners of this world to clean up their mess lest it be cleaned for them, with unpredictable results.

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Coast to Coast 2014: Oklahoma – last stop before Route 66 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-oklahoma-last-stop-route-66/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/coast-coast-2014-oklahoma-last-stop-route-66/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:52:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937738 In Oklahoma, the Chevrolet Silverado hits its highest state ranking so far in this trip… * You can check out all Coast to Coast 2014 reports here! * After driving from New Orleans, Louisiana through Texas via Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, we now enter the Great Plains in the Oklahoma state to reach Oklahoma City. This is our […]

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Chevrolet Silverado Oklahoma September 2014In Oklahoma, the Chevrolet Silverado hits its highest state ranking so far in this trip…

You can check out all Coast to Coast 2014 reports here! *

After driving from New Orleans, Louisiana through Texas via Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, we now enter the Great Plains in the Oklahoma state to reach Oklahoma City. This is our last stretch of the trip before we roll onto legendary Route 66… If Texas was the kingdom of pickup trucks, their proportion in the overall traffic is actually even higher in Oklahoma, with sales statistics to prove it – along with a surprise state sales leader… These, my Oklahoma impressions and a review of my Ram 1500 ecoDiesel (“Albert”) interior ergonomics below.

Ford F250 Oklahoma CityThe Ford F250 Super Duty ranks 4th in Oklahoma.

First let’s start with a bit of trivia about the Oklahoma state, one of the country’s fastest growing thanks to natural gas, oil and agriculture among other things. It gets its name from the Choctaw phrase “okla humma”, meaning “red people” and used to describe Native American people. 39 Native American tribes are located here and more than 25 Native American languages are spoken in Oklahoma, second only to California. Oklahoma was originally used to label a project to create an all-Indian state that failed, along with a later similar attempt named Sequoyah.

Ram 3500 LonghornRam 3500 Longhorn Pickup

Oklahoma has the second-highest number of Native Americans of any state (around 330.000), and at 8.6% of the population compared to just 2.4% in 1950, Oklahoma ranks third highest in the country below only New Mexico at 9.4% (6.2% in 1950) and South Dakota at 8.8% (3.6% in 1950). It is also one of only 7 states where the share of Native Americans in the population is above 1.5%, along with Montana (6.3%), North Dakota (5.4%), Arizona (4.6%) and Wyoming (2.4%). Oklahoma is nicknamed the Sooner State, in reference to the non-Native settlers (“sooners”) who staked their claims on the choicest pieces of land prior to the official opening date, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which opened the door for white settlement in America’s Indian Territory.

Albert Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Stockards CityAlbert in Stockyards City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma state map. Picture courtesy of Smart-Traveler.InfoOklahoma state. I drove North on the I35 to OKC then West on the I40 towards Amarillo.

Oklahoma is home to 3.8 million “Okies” including almost 600,000 in its capital Oklahoma City, and its second largest city, Tulsa, was considered the Oil Capital of the World for most of the 20th century. Last bits of trivia: 1. Cimarron County in Oklahoma’s panhandle is the only county in the United States that touches four other states: New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Kansas. 2. An Oklahoman business man, Cyrus Avery, began the campaign to create U.S. Route 66 using the stretch of road from Amarillo, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. But this is another story that I will cover in my next Report…

Dodge Challenger OklahomaDodge Challenger in front of the Oklahoma City Symbolic Memorial for the 1995 bombing.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, the proportion of pickup trucks in the overall traffic is even higher than in Texas, even though the latter is considered the kingdom of pickup trucks. This is due to the relative rurality of the state, with Oklahoma City and Tulsa being pretty much the only sizeable urban centres. This observation translates into official sales statistics in a very striking way: the Top 5 best-selling light vehicles in Oklahoma over the Full Year 2013 are all pickup trucks, making it the first state to achieve this feat so far in my trip. But wait there are more surprises…

Ford F250 Oklahoma City 3Old and new… in Oklahoma City

Best-selling new light vehicles in Oklahoma – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Chevrolet Silverado 13,994
2 Ford F-150 11,517
3 Ram Pickup 9,762
4 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4,932
5 GMC Sierra 4,712

Source: JATO

Albert Stockyards CityAlbert in Stockyards City, Oklahoma

Also for the first time in this Coast to Coast trip so far, the Chevrolet Silverado outsells the Ford F-150 to claim the Oklahoma crown, and not by a tiny margin: almost 1,500 units separate it from Ford’s best-seller… The Ram Pickup rounds up the podium, and after making its first appearance of the trip in any Top 5 in Texas, the Ford F-250 Super Duty is up one notch to a fantastic 4th place in Oklahoma thanks to just under 5,000 sales in 2013. The GMC Sierra makes a comeback into the Top 5 (it ranked 4th in Louisiana) thanks to 4,700 sales.

Nissan Altima Honda Accord Toyota Camry OklahomaNissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry: rare passenger cars in Oklahoma.

Note prior data from other sources (including MSN Autos) claim the Nissan Altima is the best-seller in Oklahoma. I will interpret this as being the best-selling passenger car, continuing a trend we have seen in Tennessee and Mississippi, because the clear dominance of pickup trucks excludes all possibility the Altima could threaten any of the pickups mentioned above in the overall Oklahoma sales charts.

Ford F150 Stockyards City3 x Ford F150 in Stockyards City

A must see in Oklahoma City is the National Memorial for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, America’s worst incident of domestic terrorism. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial rests between two twin Gates of Time, framing the moment of destruction (9:02 am on April 19, 1995). The East Gate has graved into it 9:01 and represents the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate has 9:03 in it, the moment Oklahoma City was changed forever. The Memorial has 168 empty chair sculptures for each of the people killed in the attack, including 19 small ones for the children. A beautiful, moving and humbling experience. There is a real feel in this place that the event will mark the city for the rest of its existence. This, combined with the fact that this National Memorial is widely considered as the single location in Oklahoma most worthy of a visit (and I agree), was a bit of a wake up call for me. After having visited the National September 11 Memorial in New York City and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, this was the time I truly took stock of the horror that terrorism has inflicted on America.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Albert gearboxAlbert’s gearbox knob in all its glory

Now that we are well into this Coast to Coast trip at over 3000 miles since our starting point in New York City, it is time for me to update you on my ride Albert, my valiant Ram 1500 ecoDiesel, and today I’ll go into its day-to-day controls ergonomics. Hundreds of routine commands and adjustments all through the trip so far are a fast-track way of testing how natural and intuitive Albert is to drive. Firstly my overall impression, and if you have read my coverage of the last Beijingand Paris Auto Shows you will now I am very picky as far as interiors are concerned: Albert does not know the word flimsiness. All instruments inside are and feel sturdy and robust, day after day, thousand miles after thousand miles. Albert is tough and made for work.

I have said this before and I will say it again, I love the gearbox transformed into a simple dashboard knob, freeing leg space for a potential third person in the front row. Once you train your brain to not use that knob to adjust air con – located just next to it, all is good and well in the best of worlds.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel dashboardAlbert’s centre dashboard console. Simple and functional (click on image to enlarge)

Overall, the dashboard of this Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Tradesman is simple but functional, with no superfluous buttons. Is a navigation system superfluous? When you use this truck to and from work yes, but on a Coast to Coast trip no. Oh well, my iPhone and the Google Maps app are now best mates, and the centre dashboard console screen is content just telling me what song I’m listening to. The three cup holders accommodate every size of Starbucks coffee or watered down McDonalds to-go Coke thanks to flexible rubber padding, and the USB port hidden inside the large container in-between the two front seats enables to both play all the music on my iPhone and keep the latter hidden from view.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel control barAlbert’s left and sole steering wheel control bar

A few tidbits are a little less intuitive on this Ram 1500 ecoDiesel, starting from the controls on the steering wheel. Keep in mind this is the base model so all controls have been kept to their most pragmatic selves, however I would have liked to avoid fiddling with the radio commands right in the middle of the dashboard every time I wanted to adjust volume or skip to the next song, in the process looking away from the road for a little too long for my liking. There is no right control bar next to the steering wheel, only a left one that controls wipers, on-off headlights and (very feeble) high beams.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel steering wheel RAlbert’s steering wheel commands (right)

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel steering wheel LAlbert’s steering wheel commands (left)

The steering wheel controls are for (right) cruise control and gears and (left) onboard computer navigation to access things like fuel economy or change the speed measures from mph to km/h. The navigation buttons pictured above somehow required me to always check I was using the correct arrow, forcing me to successively look at the road, the commands, the computer screen, the commands, the screen and back to the road. An arrangement in a cross would remove that need. Also, a simple right control bar just under my right hand on the wheel letting me adjust volume and ‘next’ or ‘prev’ song would be a welcome improvement.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel coin dispenserAlbert’s oh so quaint coin dispenser

I’ll finish on a favourite of mine: the coin dispenser located inside the central container next to the USB port, keeping Albert in touch with its Tradesman label, roots and target market. I haven’t used it much while driving as all tolls can be paid with bills or card, more as a way to keep my change in eyesight, helping me making sure I spend it all before leaving the country!

The next Report will be dedicated to the Old Route 66, so stay tuned!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars

Thanks to David Curry for all the pictures in this report

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel lights commandAlbert’s headlights commands

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel L front doorAlbert’s electric windows and mirrors commands, located on the left front door.

Stockyards City sceneStockyards City street scene 

Ram 3500 Longhorn2Ram 3500 Longhorn Pickup

 

Cadillac 2 1997 Cadillac DeVille in Oklahoma City

Nissan Altima OklahomaNissan Altima, 1993 Ford F-Series and Lincoln Navigator in Oklahoma City

Ford F150 Oklahoma 2Ford F150 in Stockyards City, Oklahoma

Toyota FJ Cruiser Ford Fusion OklahomaToyota FJ Cruiser and Ford Fusion in Oklahoma City

Cadillac 11997 Cadillac DeVille

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Ford Brings Telematics To Law Enforcement For Greater Safety, Transparency http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ford-brings-telematics-law-enforcement-greater-safety-transparency/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ford-brings-telematics-law-enforcement-greater-safety-transparency/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937850 To further transparency and improve safety, Ford and Telogis have debuted a system that will gather information on a given police officer’s driving practices. The Detroit News reports the system — having debuted in both Explorer- and Taurus-based Police Interceptors last week — can track speed, when lights are switched on, whether an officer is […]

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Chicago PD Ford Explorer Interceptor

To further transparency and improve safety, Ford and Telogis have debuted a system that will gather information on a given police officer’s driving practices.

The Detroit News reports the system — having debuted in both Explorer- and Taurus-based Police Interceptors last week — can track speed, when lights are switched on, whether an officer is wearing their seat belt et al, all in real time from its place under the dashboard.

The goal? For agencies to use the information to improve how their officers drive, and to have detailed records linked to any crashes that may occur in the line of duty. Ford’s manager of business and product development, Bill Frykman, explains:

Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of officer fatalities, and even the slightest improvements in driver training and behavior within law enforcement organizations can potentially save lives. Whether in emergency operation or not, vehicle data from this technology, in context with different driving situations will help illustrate to police organizations where changes can be made that will have a profound effect on officer safety.

The telematics technology originated in Ford’s line of commercial fleet models back in 2009, with Telogis coming in to help the automaker bring the system to the law enforcement market. Ford has no access to whatever is recorded, with the data secured between the vehicle and the agency that owns it.

The Los Angeles Police Department will be the first to implement the system, with other agencies coming on-board in early 2015.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-dodge-charger-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-dodge-charger-hellcat/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937274 It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods. How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? […]

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods.

How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? More shocking than an auto journalist paying for his own gas is the fact that 13 gallons of the good stuff cost me about $45.

A sudden plummet in the price of crude oil was a lucky break for enthusiasts. The origin of the Dodge Charger Hellcat isn’t quite as serendipitous. For the Hellcat program to exist, there had to be multiple nameplates to help amortize the cost of development. After the Challenger, the Charger was the next logical step. Don’t be surprised to see this engine wind up in another FCA vehicle, even if it’s not the Viper.

photo (5)

There are few visual differences between the SRT 392 (aka the former SRT8 Charger) and the Hellcat – the most obvious one being the subtle, stylized feline “Hellcat” badge on the front fender. The same wheel and tire package, red Brembo brakes and rear wing can be had on both cars. Inside, the supple leather, UConnect 8.4 infotainment system and sport seats are present as well. With the programmable SRT Performance Pages (read, adjustments for the suspension, traction control, gear changes and access to the full 707 horsepower) set to “Street”, this car is as sedate and docile as the rental-spec V6 Charger SXT we drove earlier that day. On the highway, the blown V8 spins at just a tick over 1200 rpm. At 70 mph, we saw an indicated 22.4 mpg, while the plush, heated seats, XM Radio and solidly soundproofed cabin made the Hellcat an effortless cruiser.

photo (6)

If you desire a bit of the old ultraviolence, simply go back to the Performance Pages and change everything to “Track” (you did keep it at full power, rather than limiting it to just 500 horsepower, right?). In the same way that the right combination of settings transform the Jaguar F-Type  from Jamie Oliver on wheels into Harry Brown, inputting the proper cheat codes unlocks the full potential of the Hellcat.

Without having driven the Challenger version, it’s tough to draw comparisons between the two Hellcats. Nevertheless, the straight-line performance of the Charger Hellcat is literally violent. Nothing more needs to be said, and even the most floral Dan Neil prose cannot do it justice. At 1200 rpm, the supercharger 6.2L engine makes as much torque as the old 6.4L SRT V8, which led to a rythmic ritual on the damp backroads of West Virginia: gently press the throttle, wait for the rear tires to lose grip, wait for TCS to kick in, rinse and repeat until you are breaching triple digit velocities. In a Nissan GT-R, you have an army of driver aides and all-wheel drive to help keep you on the pavement. On a Suzuki Hayabusa, you have a motorcycle jacket and a pair of Levis (hopefully more than that) to keep the pebbles and broken glass from tattooing themselves into your posterior. In terms of sheer acceleration and wet weather traction, the Hellcat sits between the two.

The ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox is the gold standard for longitudinal automatic gearboxes, but the reworked edition for the Hellcat manages to make even greater improvements. In track mode, gear changes are executed are faster than a Parisian pickpocket, taking just 120 milliseconds. Only the briefest of pauses in the Hellcat’s .50 BMG exhaust note lets you know that an upshift has occurred. In Street and Sport modes, they help keep the car humming along. It has all the best qualities of a dual-clutch, with none of the drawbacks, and I think that it might be the most significant advancements in modern performance cars.

Lacking an ample supply of sunshine, dry roads and extra-absorbent adult diapers, I was unable to properly put the Hellcat to the test on the track or the street, but its dynamic characteristics will be familiar to anyone who has driven prior LX-chassis SRT cars. Steering is heavy but not exactly the last word in communicative. The big Brembos bring the car to a halt with a consistent pedal feel. The ride is firm without being overly punishing. There is room for five adults and all of their stuff. In Jazz Blue with the saddle leather interior and the dark wheels, it looks less like a photo-enlarged Dart, and more like something that will cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1 million at some future date.

In the grand scheme of things, the Charger Hellcat is an irrelevant, low-volume marketing exercise. Most of them will sit in climate-controlled garages, snapped up by dealer principals, waiting for that financially fruitful day under the big tent in Scottsdale. A few will be wrapped around telephone poles mere weeks after they were presented as 16th birthday presents to select members of America’s overindulged youth.

What I love about it can’t be quantified by sales volume, P&L statements or performance data. I love it because no matter how many times we are told by malcontent motoring writers that cars are lack “soul”, or that profligate performance cars are a dying species, we seem to get yet another crop of American muscle car that is exponentially more belligerent and incrementally more efficient. Underneath it all is a statement, a crass, puerile one at that, for which the Charger Hellcat happens to be a vessel. And that vessel is a very good, very grown up car.

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Maserati Is Surging In The United States http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/maserati-surging-united-states/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/maserati-surging-united-states/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:26:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935506 How does one make it in America? Grow your product portfolio by 50%. Grow your North American dealership network by 29%. Make all-wheel-drive a part of your business’s best practices. Spend $11 million airing a commercial during the Super Bowl while only bothering to display your product at the tail end of the ad. Name […]

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Maserati GhibliHow does one make it in America? Grow your product portfolio by 50%. Grow your North American dealership network by 29%. Make all-wheel-drive a part of your business’s best practices. Spend $11 million airing a commercial during the Super Bowl while only bothering to display your product at the tail end of the ad. Name your products after a Mediterranean wind, the number of doors they possess, or a video game.

And continue to place one of the industry’s coolest logos on a highly visible portion of all your products.

Cue year-over-year Maserati sales growth in the United States of 307% through the first nine months of 2014, a gain of 6884 units.

Maserati’s U.S. volume has grown in 16 consecutive months. Already in 2014, with one-quarter of the year remaining, Maserati sold more cars than in any year in the company’s not terribly illustrious history; more cars in nine months than in the previous 32 combined.

Yes, Maserati remains a very low-volume brand. Only 1318 Maseratis were sold during the month of September, the brand’s best-ever month of selling cars in America.

But they’re not the lowest-volume brand, either, at least not lately. We’re not just talking about the obvious bit players like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley, but Jaguar, too. Maserati outsold Jaguar by 49 units in August and by 176 units in September. Jaguar USA sold more than 61,000 new vehicles in 2002, a figure which tumbled in five consecutive years before rising slightly in 2008, falling to fewer than 12,000 units in 2009, and climbing back in 2013 to fewer than 17,000 sales.

Jaguar volume is down 5% through three-quarters of 2014 to 11,830 units, 2705 more sales than Maserati has managed. (Jaguar sells cars through 163 dealers in the United States, translating to eight sales per showroom per month.) We’ve already discussed the F-Type-centric nature of Jaguar’s current portfolio.

Naturally, Maserati’s goals are not Jaguar-based. Besides, Jaguar’s product lineup will expand in the near future with a far more affordable XE while the C-X17 Concept previewed a non-Land Rover crossover. Of course, Maserati plans to join the ess-you-vee game, too. In 2012, Maserati hoped to triple global sales between 2012 and 2015 to 50,000 units. The addition of the Ghibli makes this dream possible.

Maserati refused to provide model-specific sales data when asked last week, saying, “We are not able to disclose such granular information at this time.” If we use current Cars.com inventory levels as a general guide, the Ghibli would account for 59% of Maserati sales in the U.S., or around 5380 year-to-date sales. The Quattroporte would generate another 26% of the brand’s volume, or approximately 2370 year-to-date sales. Finally, the GranTurismo lineup would attract the remaining 15% of buyers, about 1370 sales so far this year.

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AutoNation Ceases Sales Of Used Models Affected By Takata Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/autonation-ceases-sales-used-models-affected-takata-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/autonation-ceases-sales-used-models-affected-takata-recall/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937826 Automotive retailer AutoNation is pulling used vehicles off the lot that may be affected by the ongoing Takata airbag recall. Automotive News reports 400 vehicles will be pulled until their airbag units — which could violently scatter metal shrapnel through the entire cabin upon detonation in a climate with high humidity — are replaced. CEO […]

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Automotive retailer AutoNation is pulling used vehicles off the lot that may be affected by the ongoing Takata airbag recall.

Automotive News reports 400 vehicles will be pulled until their airbag units — which could violently scatter metal shrapnel through the entire cabin upon detonation in a climate with high humidity — are replaced.

CEO Mike Jackson, meanwhile, called upon all automakers to act as one in deciding how best to handle the issue, citing conflicting guidance from the latter, ranging from telling drivers not to allow passengers to ride shotgun, to not worrying about the possibility due to its alleged rarity:

There should be some entity that says to the industry: “Look, every individual manufacturer doesn’t get to make a decision here. This is what we are going to do.” And you would say maybe that’s NHTSA but NHTSA has been a Tower of Babel.

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