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. Sat, 18 Apr 2015 19:36:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/ Automatic Door Locks Simply Shouldn’t Exist http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automatic-door-locks-simply-shouldnt-exist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automatic-door-locks-simply-shouldnt-exist/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 14:19:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046778 I would like to raise a complaint here with an automotive feature that we’ve all had to live with now for some time: automatic door locks. Usually, when it comes to cars, the word “automatic” is a good thing. Not the transmission, of course. But automatic climate control, for example, is dramatically better than those […]

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door_lock

I would like to raise a complaint here with an automotive feature that we’ve all had to live with now for some time: automatic door locks.

Usually, when it comes to cars, the word “automatic” is a good thing. Not the transmission, of course. But automatic climate control, for example, is dramatically better than those manual levers that you’re always twisting and turning and arguing with your passenger about. (“NO HONEY, WE NEED MORE RED!”)

And I think most of us would agree that automatic windows are way better than crank windows. Same with automatic mirrors, and automatic locks, and automatic lights, and an automatic tailgate, and a wide variety of automatic stuff that has replaced our need to really do anything except drive, change the stereo, and speak to our passengers. And if we could get an automatic passenger interaction system, I would probably be pretty excited about that.

But what I absolutely can’t stand is automatic door locks.

Allow me to explain how automatic door locks work. You’re cruising along in your automobile, and you reach a certain speed, and then your doors lock, usually without you noticing it. This is all fine and acceptable, until you go to pick up someone, and they try the handle, and you realize that they’re locked out. Then you have to press the damn button and let them in, when you never really wanted them locked out in the first place.

Here’s an even worse application of automatic locks: my uncle once had a fairly modern vehicle that touted, as a “feature,” an automatic locking system that would lock the doors after the car was turned on for approximately two minutes, regardless of speed. So one time he parked at the dry cleaner, and left the car running in the service drive outside, and went in to drop off his dry cleaning.

Well, after a few minutes, he’s talking to the dry cleaner, he’s standing in line, he’s giving instructions, whatever, and he comes out to his automobile to discover that the doors are locked and the engine is running. The man had locked himself out of a running automobile.

Now, if this sounds like something that absolutely shouldn’t happen, you’re right. And that’s why automatic locks should be abolished in their entirety.

Here’s the thing: if I want my doors to be locked, I personally will lock them myself. I will get in my car, reach over, and press the “lock” button on the door panel. This is a simple action, and I am more than capable, as a human being and a consumer of automobiles, of carrying it out in its entirety.

What I don’t want to happen is the doors start locking and unlocking at random intervals without my knowledge. I don’t want to end up locked out of the car. I don’t want my passengers to end up locked out of the car. I would almost rather have the windows go down at random levels, causing me to quickly react and send them back up like an automotive whack-a-mole game, than have to deal with this crap from the door locks.

This is especially annoying when you’re driving press cars. Allow me to illustrate the situation: you find a nice open spot to take a lovely picture of the latest press car you’ve been given. You pull over. You get out to grab a great image; a lovely shot that will make all the readers excited to learn about your press vehicle du jour. And then you stop. You think. Does this thing have auto locks?

So what you do is, you either leave it running with a window down, or you turn it of off and bring the keys with you. And not once: Every. Single. Time. Because you’re that worried about the potential of the doors automatically locking and blocking you out from returning from your vehicle. You’re that worried about having to call the local PR guy for whatever automaker you’re dealing with, and announcing: “I’ve locked myself out of your press car, and also I’m parked in front of a decaying urban structure that I thought would make a good photo background.”

So I have a piece of advice here for automakers: We like the other automatic features. We like the automatic seats, and the automatic trunk, and the automatic brake lights that pulse really fast when you’re slamming on the brakes. But automatic locking has no business in any of today’s automobiles. Please. Spare us.

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Chart Of The Day: The Rise Of Commercial Van Sales In America – 2015 Q1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chart-day-rise-commercial-van-sales-america-2015-q1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/chart-day-rise-commercial-van-sales-america-2015-q1/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:13:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046402 Commercial van sales are on the rise in the United States. But of greater interest than the improvements – total sales jumped 14% to 356,814 units in 2014 and are up 26% to 87,866 year-to-date – is the constant change in the category. The best-selling commercial van in America in each of the last five […]

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USA commercial van sales chart March 2015Commercial van sales are on the rise in the United States. But of greater interest than the improvements – total sales jumped 14% to 356,814 units in 2014 and are up 26% to 87,866 year-to-date – is the constant change in the category.

The best-selling commercial van in America in each of the last five months was the Ford Transit, a Euro-style van that’s replacing the Ford E-Series. Together, the Transit and similar-looking products from Mercedes-Benz (the established Sprinter) and Ram (the Fiat Ducato-based ProMaster), account for 39% of the commercial van market so far this year and 50.4% of the full-size category.

The small van sector, meanwhile, is growing rapidly. Sales are up 76% in early 2015. The quintet, led by the Ford Transit Connect and joined most recently by the Ram ProMaster City, generated 23% market share in 2015’s first-quarter, up from 17% a year ago. Click the chart for a larger view. Specific figures in the column are explained by the descriptions below with, for example, the Transit generating 22,881 first-quarter sales, the Sprinter 5,559, and the ProMaster 5,549.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Question Of The Day: What Car Offends You The Most? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-car-offends/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-car-offends/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:27:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046985 So I recently purchased this Hummer, which is a tremendously offensive automobile in the sense that it looks like the military has invaded our cities and is currently driving around getting the same fuel economy as a tugboat. I figured, with my Hummer, that people would really hate me. What I thought would happen was, […]

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Hummer- drive - Picture courtesy AM General

So I recently purchased this Hummer, which is a tremendously offensive automobile in the sense that it looks like the military has invaded our cities and is currently driving around getting the same fuel economy as a tugboat.

I figured, with my Hummer, that people would really hate me. What I thought would happen was, people would roll down their Prius window in traffic, and motion for me to roll down mine, and then berate me for several minutes about how I am a seal-killing gas guzzler, and a baby-destroying Republican, and an environment-ruining asshole, none of which I could hear because my engine is too loud. Then we would start up and drive away and they would win any drag race, because my Hummer is slower than a grandfather who’s learning how to downhill ski.

But that isn’t what happens. What happens is, people give me thumbs-ups. They wave. They smile. They tell me “Cool truck!” The other day some guy in a Chevy Avalanche offered to buy it, though I suspect he would’ve balked at the fact that this giant old piece of crap costs more than thirty grand.

In other words: people actually seem to like this thing.

I think part of it is the fact that I live in Philadelphia. Ultimately, this is something of a working-class city, and people kind of like cool trucks, and cool SUVs, and cool pickups, and they can tell this thing is a little older and a little different. A older, different truck that gets the same fuel economy as a tugboat.

I suspect it would be different if I were driving an H2. It’s very obvious to me that people can quickly spot the size and design differences between the original Hummer and the H2, because people are always saying things like: Look man! There’s an original Hummer! Or: Nice Hummer man, that’s the real deal! Whereas people look at an H2 and they assume it’s some guy who’s behind on his alimony payments.

As I result, I think people would probably be a lot more offended if I were driving around in an H2. I don’t think they’d necessarily say anything, of course, because this isn’t Northern California where people in plug-in vehicles feel that it’s their right to verbally harass people in gas guzzlers. But I would notice them glaring at me, disapprovingly, as I took up two lanes at traffic lights.

So today I’m asking you: what vehicle offends you the most? Is it the Hummer H2? Or is there some even more offensive vehicle that you just can’t help but slow down as you drive past in order to see what kind of idiot would buy it?

For me, the answer is twofold. Number one, any previous-generation Chrysler 200 or Dodge Avenger with a dealer plate frame or a bumper sticker. When there’s no plate frame and no bumper stickers, you can sort of assume it’s a rental car, and so you can’t really be too offended at the idea that someone might turn down the Camry, the Accord, a used Hyundai, an old Taurus, a bus pass, etc., in order to buy one of these things. But when there’s evidence that someone actually purchased this vehicle, you have to sit there and, as a car guy, take a little offense that someone would stoop to such a poor automotive decision.

Here’s another thing that pisses me off: every time I see a heavy-duty pickup in a big city.

A couple of months ago I was driving around Manhattan and I got up behind a guy in a fairly recent Chevrolet Silverado Dually; the kind of truck that’s so wide they have to put those little orange lights above the windshield to remind everyone that it may actually be a city bus.

Driving this thing in Manhattan must’ve been an absolutely nightmare, but here this guy was: cruising down Park Avenue dodging taxis and bicyclists as if he was just another old guy in a Saab 900.

So I used the Carfax app to run the guy’s plate number, and sure enough: this behemoth of an automobile was registered in New York, New York. In other words: this wasn’t some weekender down from the Catskills, taking a break from his usual job of hauling stuff and looking manly. This guy actually possessed this vehicle in New York City. Admittedly, he could’ve lived in Staten Island, but I think that would’ve only been a little less offensive.

So, what say you? Is there any car that makes your jaw drop with disgust when you see it on the street? Is there any car where you really want to walk over, tap on the window, and say: what the hell were you thinking?

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Volkswagen Jetta GLI: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-jetta-gli-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/volkswagen-jetta-gli-reviewed/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045378 This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. Cross your tees and line your elles, this is not that darling of the #millennial boot-scoot generation: the My First Big Boy Car Volkswagen GTI. It’s not a GTI with a trunk, either, despite everything you might think. The GLI certainly […]

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VW Jetta GLI front

This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. This is not a GTI. Cross your tees and line your elles, this is not that darling of the #millennial boot-scoot generation: the My First Big Boy Car Volkswagen GTI.

It’s not a GTI with a trunk, either, despite everything you might think.

Nice Touch Alert: the red line framing the grille extends into the headlights. Clever!

Nice Touch Alert: the red line framing the grille extends into the headlights. Clever!

The GLI certainly makes a good first impression. Split-spoke wheels with just the right-sized tires, too much sidewall, a hint of red from the front grille—there’s a nice touch, Volkswagen, how the red line continues into the headlight housings. Subtle, sophisticated: a very Grown Up Car. Junior pulls into the office park on his first day of his post-college job and he knows his bosses, safely ensconced in their corner offices, are watching. Just to see what kind of young upstart they hired. Let’s get lunch—PF Chang’s? Great. We can take my car!

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Nice wheels. Nice new grille. Open the door and imagine four plaid seats, just like the GTI—how cool would that look? Instead, the GLI only receives V-Tex Leatherette, patterned in carbon-look and framed in red piping, for a look resembling Darth Vader’s softball uniform. I appreciate the honesty inherent in a cloth interior, but we have believed for decades that even faux leather looks expensive. Even when this doesn’t.

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Darth Vader’s softball team would be called “The Empire Strikes Out.”

And yet, the illusion is over by that first turn out of the parking lot. Because that exhaust note is the GLI’s most characterful asset, carrying an unmistakable presence: it growls and rips and sounds edgy, exuberant. Coupled with the turbo pssht! when shifting through the DSG transmission, and it’s the GLI again with the first impressions, especially the impression that there’s a serious performance car lurking underneath all that sophistication.

Even when there isn’t.

VW Jetta GLI rear

Angeles Crest Highway looks pretty good in the mornings.

The GLI shares its 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged engine with its hatchbacked brother, producing 210 horsepower, with the full brunt of its 207 lb-ft of torque ready to go at a mere 1,700 RPM. Below that, it positively bogs when coming off a stop. Then it’s wait, wait, wait, hold on, whoosh!

It sounds best in second gear. Of course, Angeles Crest Highway, where these photos were taken, is a third gear kind of road…and once you lift off the throttle, anywhere below 4,000 RPM, the GLI is as quiet as ever. The dual-clutch DSG snaps off shifts with near-imperceptible quickness, fast as ever. Volkswagen claims “upgraded brakes” on the GLI, but at least the calipers are painted red. They work powerfully.

VW Jetta GLI wheels

Red calipers add BRAKE horsepower. Get it?

And here’s the shocker of the century: the whole chassis tends toward understeer. The XDS Cross Differential is an electronic system, available across the Golf lineup, and applies the brakes to inside wheels—VW-speak for torque vectoring, and without it the GLI might feel even sloppier. But as it stands now, it lacks precision. The ride is relatively well composed, with little body roll, but there’s a lot of road noise. The steering is weighty, not as sharp, not particularly involving— not much to feel, no resistance to bear, heavy as hell at a crawl, but numb and inconsistent when on the move. Compare this to the GTI, whose steering is consistent at any speed—probably why it feels so gratifying as a result.

At least you can get it with a manual. The esteemed Mr. Kreindler and I both recommended that you do.

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Our Jetta GLI SEL rang in a hair over $30,000, reigning at the top of the Jetta food chain. And yet, it still comes with the built-to-cost sensibility the motoring world griped when it came out: harsh door panels, hard-knock plastics, a bouncy trunklid, a tiny screen the size of a pack of Orbit.

But for the same price, there’s a four-door GTI. And that’s the full package: the MQB platform is new, the interior is new, the touchscreen is new, the suspension is newer, certainly. I think this is what sums it up about the GLI: go to Volkswagen’s website and look at their models. Go past the lease deals on a stripper Jetta or Passat (with manuals!). Look past the Beetle, the Eos (they still make those?), the Golf. Take a look: the GTI is its own standalone model, now, proof of serious intent from Volkswagen. On some college campuses, the GTI is so popular that your average incoming freshman can walk from one side of campus to another, entirely on the roofs of GTIs, without ever touching ground.

If you’re a sporting gentleman, get that. If you’re practical, get that. If you “drive tastefully,” get that with the plaid seats. Because America’s cheapest sports sedan—the GLI SE starts at $26,920 with a manual—is more cheap than sport.

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There’s A Reason Why the New Lincoln Continental Concept Looked Familiar to Me http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/theres-reason-new-lincoln-continental-concept-looked-familiar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/theres-reason-new-lincoln-continental-concept-looked-familiar/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041569 I was at the press conference in Chicago a few years back when Lincoln  announced that they had decided to jettison billions of dollars worth of brand equity and go with alphanumeric model names (well, the announcement didn’t quite go like that, but that’s a pretty close approximation of what it meant). Around that time Ford […]

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Full gallery here

Full gallery here

I was at the press conference in Chicago a few years back when Lincoln  announced that they had decided to jettison billions of dollars worth of brand equity and go with alphanumeric model names (well, the announcement didn’t quite go like that, but that’s a pretty close approximation of what it meant). Around that time Ford was still trying to sell luxury F-150 pickups under the Lincoln brand, first the Lincoln Blackwood and then the Mark LT, before they realized the margins were greater on Platinum F-150s. When the sedan model now known as the MKS was introduced as a concept, the press kit referred to it as the Mark S, with Mk S badging, just like Mk IIIs and Mk IVs of yore – alphanumeric badging but the model name was spoken as “Mark x”.  By the time it reached production, though, the new large Lincoln was simply the MKS. I asked a Lincoln rep what happened to “Mark” and was told that customers associated the name with old fashioned land yachts, not contemporary cars. With the new Lincoln Continental concept it’s clear that Ford Motor Company’s luxury brand has decided to embrace their inner land yacht.

Some of the brightwork includes taillights that look like chrome when unlit.

Some of the brightwork includes taillights that look like chrome when unlit. Full gallery here.

The throwback name is one indicator, and so is the rhetoric, “elegant, effortlessly powerful and serene”.  Lincoln even chose a signature color from the Continental nameplate’s history, what they are today calling Rhapsody Blue, a not quite dark blue that has a lot of warmth and richness. Of course the modern version has some pearl in the finish, but it’s clearly a nod to the brand’s history. Another way the Conti concept embraces its heritage is with the lavish use of chrome. For a long time, car designers have avoided lots of brightwork, a reaction to the prior use of chromium plated trim. What worked in the 1950s and 1960s started looking dated and gaudy in the 1970s as designers struggled to make good looking cars in the new regulatory era of 5 mph bumpers. Today we have fascias, not chrome plated bumpers, and trim is more likely to be body colored or some shade of grey than chrome. A lot of metal and metal looking trim these days has a brushed or satin look. Glossy, shiny chrome just has been out of fashion for a while.

While contemplating the Continental concept, taking in the long expanses of blue paint and all that shiny chrome, particularly the broad chrome strip that circles the car at rocker panel level, I was reminded of another blue Continental, one of the two 1956 Continental Mark II convertibles made for Ford Motor Company to test the feasibility of a Mk II ragtop. I guess you could call it a Mk II convertible concept. We ran a post on TTAC about that specific car, which is owned by Barry Wolk, a Detroit area car enthusiast and restorer (disclaimer: Barry’s wife is my mother’s cousin).

David Woodhouse, Lincoln’s head of styling, happened to be on the stand while I was thinking about all that chrome and rich blue paint, so I walked over and told him that the color and the chrome reminded me of a 1956 Continental Mark II convertible that I’d photographed. Woodhouse replied, “Barry’s car? It was in the studio as an inspiration while we worked on this.” Besides the color and the chrome, it appears to me that the rear fender line of the new concept echoes the way the fender line of the Mark II dips near the door.

In introducing the new Continental, Lincoln Motor president Kumar Galhotra, who not quite coincidentally was wearing a blue suit that matched the concept car, said that the project really took off once they told the design team that Lincoln was going to call the project they were working on a Continental. Normally I might be skeptical of the just-so nature of that story, but the fact that they had at least one classic Continental on hand to give the stylists a sense of what the brand has meant, makes me believe that working on such a historic nameplate had to have jazzed up the designers.

Can you count the Lincoln logos in the front end. Though the retail Continental will be close to the concept, Lincoln has given two different reasons why the lighted Lincoln star in the grille won't make it to production: it's not compliant with some government regulations and that the technology isn't production ready. I hope they figure out how to do it, it would be an even better nighttime brand identifier than Audi's LED eyebrows.

Can you count the Lincoln logos in the front end (check the headlamps too). Though the retail Continental will be close to the concept, Lincoln has given two different reasons why the lighted Lincoln star in the grille won’t make it to production: it’s not compliant with some government regulations and the technology isn’t production ready. I hope they figure out how to do it, it would be an even better nighttime brand identifier than Audi’s LED eyebrows.

To be honest, I feel a little vindicated since I’ve said more than once that what Lincoln had to do was sit their design team down with a 1940 Continental, a 1956 Mk II, a suicide door Conti from the early 1960s and then an early 1970s Mk IV (before the battering ram bumpers ruined its lines) so they could get a sense of Lincoln’s true brand identity. Even cooler than vindication, though, was finding out that there was a good reason why the new Continental concept reminded me of an older Continental concept.

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

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Hillary Clinton Throws Support Behind Ethanol While In Iowa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/hillary-clinton-throws-support-behind-ethanol-iowa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/hillary-clinton-throws-support-behind-ethanol-iowa/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046370 During a campaign tour stop in Iowa, Democrat hopeful Hillary Clinton threw her support behind corn ethanol. Autoblog reports Clinton met with a number of Democrats at a private affair in Marshalltown, Iowa Thursday, including America’s Renewable Future co-chair Patty Judge and Iowa Corn Growers board member Bruce Rohwer. Judge stated via a press release […]

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Hillary Clinton Boarding Chevrolet Scooby Van In New York

During a campaign tour stop in Iowa, Democrat hopeful Hillary Clinton threw her support behind corn ethanol.

Autoblog reports Clinton met with a number of Democrats at a private affair in Marshalltown, Iowa Thursday, including America’s Renewable Future co-chair Patty Judge and Iowa Corn Growers board member Bruce Rohwer. Judge stated via a press release that Clinton “was extremely receptive” about ethanol, and felt encouraged “by by her comments about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).” Rohwer added that he was able to thank Clinton for her support, and believed future conversations on the topic would be “just as positive.”

Clinton has supported RFS since at least 2007, when she first made a go for the presidency, though The Daily Beast found that in a 2002 joint letter with Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California and Barbara Boxer of California, then-Senator Clinton described legislation that would bring ethanol into the United States gasoline supply as being “the equivalent of a new gasoline tax” forced upon consumers; she would vote against ethanol 17 times during her time in the U.S. Senate.

Clinton’s re-enforcement of her current stance follows support of ethanol by most Republican hopefuls, as noted during a GOP candidate gathering during last month’s Iowa Ag Summit.

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Tesla To Offer $25 Average Hourly Wage To Gigafactory Employees http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/tesla-offer-25-average-hourly-wage-gigafactory-employees/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/tesla-offer-25-average-hourly-wage-gigafactory-employees/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046338 Tesla is set to offer an average of $25/hour for future employees at its Gigafactory battery-pack production facility in Nevada. Valuewalk reports the figure comes from Economic Development Authority for Western Nevada chief Mike Kazmierski, who adds that the average wage — set to exceed those given to new employees of other automakers, suppliers, and […]

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gigafactory-aerial-1

Tesla is set to offer an average of $25/hour for future employees at its Gigafactory battery-pack production facility in Nevada.

Valuewalk reports the figure comes from Economic Development Authority for Western Nevada chief Mike Kazmierski, who adds that the average wage — set to exceed those given to new employees of other automakers, suppliers, and Tesla’s own workers on the factory floor in California — is helping to push the state’s minimum wage from between $10 and $12 in 2012, to $12 and $15 now.

The breakdown of the average is as follows:

  • $22.79: the minimum for 4,250 Gigafactory workers on the factory floor
  • $27.88: the minimum for 820 technicians tasked with managing equipment and quality
  • $41.83: the minimum for engineering and senior staff

Though Tesla says it never claimed it would pay Gigafactory employees $25/hour via a statement to AutoblogGreen — noting that its projected wages “were informed by regional wage trends” — University of California professor and labor economist Harley Shaikin said the automaker was doing this not only “to attract the best and brightest,” but to keep unions at bay through higher compensation.

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA’s Arrival Isn’t Slowing Down The Mercedes-Benz CLA: U.S. 2015 Q1 Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-benz-glas-arrival-isnt-slowing-mercedes-benz-cla-u-s-2015-q1-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-benz-glas-arrival-isnt-slowing-mercedes-benz-cla-u-s-2015-q1-sales/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:36:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046474 As Mercedes-Benz USA levels off with slightly less than 2000 GLA SUV/crossover/hatchback/whatever-it-is sales per month, U.S. sales of the GLA’s sedan donor vehicle, the CLA, haven’t slowed at all. In other words, the GLA’s presence in Mercedes-Benz showrooms is not a deterrent to the CLA. Yes, America, buyers continue to flock to the sedan even though […]

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Mercedes-Benz CLA250As Mercedes-Benz USA levels off with slightly less than 2000 GLA SUV/crossover/hatchback/whatever-it-is sales per month, U.S. sales of the GLA’s sedan donor vehicle, the CLA, haven’t slowed at all.

In other words, the GLA’s presence in Mercedes-Benz showrooms is not a deterrent to the CLA.

Yes, America, buyers continue to flock to the sedan even though there’s a crossover version of that sedan available. Believe it.

Granted, the CLA isn’t selling like it did during its launch period. Anticipated and hyped, the CLA generated 8518 U.S. sales in its first full two months, October and November 2013.

But over the last five months, a period in which the GLA became readily available, CLA sales increased 13%, year-over-year.

March volume jumped 81% after a 16% gain through the first two months of 2015. In the eight months immediately preceding the GLA’s launch, Mercedes-Benz USA was selling fewer than 2000 CLAs per month, although the belief was that dealers could have sold more if they had greater inventory of the Hungary-built sedan.

Mercedes-Benz USA salesMercedes-Benz needed to supply more CLAs to North America, and they have, but one might have expected that the increase in CLA inventory would be timed with decreased CLA demand as the GLA launch period began. Instead, Mercedes-Benz has proved capable of selling more than 2800 CLAs per month alongside the GLA, 45% more monthly sales than they were doing in pre-GLA 2014.

The impact on the brand? Excluding Sprinter, 18% of the Mercedes-Benzes sold in the U.S. in the first-quarter of 2015 were entry-level CLAs and GLAs – 11% for the CLA alone – up from 8% in the first-quarter of 2014, before the GLA. Non-CLA/GLA Benz sales are down 3% in the early stages of 2015.

With the entry-level pairing intact, Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. volume was up 9% in March; 8% in the first-quarter.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG (X 156) 2013Even so, only twice in the last six months has Mercedes-Benz topped the premium leaderboard. BMW, the brand which outperformed Mercedes-Benz USA in December, February, and March, adopted a markedly different entry-level strategy compared with Mercedes-Benz and Audi, with their front and all-wheel-drive sedans. The 2-Series is a performance coupe with nothing more than low-volume potential: March was the best 1-Series/2-Series sales month since August 2010, but with only 1249 units, it wasn’t a common car.

No, BMW’s true entry-level car is the 320i, simply a lesser version of the nation’s top-selling premium brand car. BMW doesn’t release specific monthly figures for engine variants, but if we use Cars.com’s inventory results as a guide, BMW likely sold around 4600 copies of the 320i in 2015’s first-quarter.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Crapwagon Outtake: Squeeze My Lemon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/crapwagon-outtake-squeeze-lemon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/crapwagon-outtake-squeeze-lemon/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044594 Apologies to Messrs Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Plant for the title. We continue our journey through the wasteland of the automotive internet with another car that fills my imaginary garage–that fantasy world where there are no orthodontist’s bills. I distinctly remember when the Z32 started hitting the enthusiast magazines in 1989, around the […]

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Apologies to Messrs Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Plant for the title.

We continue our journey through the wasteland of the automotive internet with another car that fills my imaginary garage–that fantasy world where there are no orthodontist’s bills.

I distinctly remember when the Z32 started hitting the enthusiast magazines in 1989, around the same time as another iconic Japanese sports car was filling the same pages. It didn’t hurt that my dad was a long-time Z owner–and occasional president of the local Z club–and a regional Nissan marketing executive lived two blocks away. The 1990 300ZX was right up there in my preteen automotive poster dreamworld with the usual suspects from Maranello, Stuttgart, and Sant’Agata. Dad ended up with a non-turbo version, in middle-aged-guy-appropriate deep cherry red, that he ended up trading before the 60k timing belt service was due.

The 300hp twin-turbo was mind-blowing back then–of course, minivans had around 150hp rather than the 283 in my T&C. Corvette and 944 Turbo performance from the same place that serviced Mom’s Sentra? That’s why I can’t believe this yellow example on eBay has only fifteen thousand miles on the odometer. Who wouldn’t want to drive this halfway across the continent?

The color probably doesn’t help. But otherwise (save for the Nissan hamburger logo that shouldn’t be on the between-headlamp panel on a ’90) this looks just like the cars I drooled over in the local showroom as a kid. $29k might be a stretch, too. But there are so few left that are this clean that I can imagine someone will pull the trigger.

 

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Hyundai To Build Mexican Factory After Sales Exceed 50K Per Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/hyundai-build-mexican-factory-sales-exceed-50k-per-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/hyundai-build-mexican-factory-sales-exceed-50k-per-year/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046314 Hyundai is planning on building a factory in Mexico, but only after annual domestic sales in the country rise to appropriate levels. Bloomberg reports the automaker is waiting until annual sales exceed 50,000 before breaking ground on a factory for the Hyundai brand, per Hyundai Motor de Mexico managing director Pedro Albarran. He adds that […]

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Hyundai Grand i10 Receiving Service in Mexico

Hyundai is planning on building a factory in Mexico, but only after annual domestic sales in the country rise to appropriate levels.

Bloomberg reports the automaker is waiting until annual sales exceed 50,000 before breaking ground on a factory for the Hyundai brand, per Hyundai Motor de Mexico managing director Pedro Albarran. He adds that the target could come as soon as 2018; 2014 sales totalled 12,000.

As for where it could be built, Albarran says the state of Nuevo Leon — where Kia is investing $1 billion into building a new factory of its own — would be an ideal location, and that Kia’s move to build the factory made Mexico more desirable for Hyundai, thanks to the factory attracting suppliers.

When operational, the Hyundai factory would produce over 100,000 units per year, and would include subcompacts popular in the country.

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Michigan Diesel Shop Refuses To Serve Openly Gay Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/michigan-diesel-shop-refuses-serve-openly-gay-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/michigan-diesel-shop-refuses-serve-openly-gay-customers/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 11:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046290 What does a diesel shop in Michigan have in common with a Washingtonian florist and a Hoosier pizza hut? An owner who refuses to serve openly gay customers. WOOD-TV reports the owner of Grandville, Mich.-based Dieseltec, Brian Klawiter, posted a statement to his shop’s Facebook page Tuesday regarding his view that those with conservative, Christian […]

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Dieseltec Ram Diesel Burnout

What does a diesel shop in Michigan have in common with a Washingtonian florist and a Hoosier pizza hut? An owner who refuses to serve openly gay customers.

WOOD-TV reports the owner of Grandville, Mich.-based Dieseltec, Brian Klawiter, posted a statement to his shop’s Facebook page Tuesday regarding his view that those with conservative, Christian values are being drowned out by those who don’t hold those values. Said statement includes the following passage:

I am a Christian. My company will be run in a way that reflects that. Dishonesty, thievery, immoral behavior, etc. will not be welcomed at MY place of business. (I would not hesitate to refuse service to an openly gay person or persons. Homosexuality is wrong, period. If you want to argue this fact with me then I will put your vehicle together with all bolts and no nuts and you can see how that works.)

When interviewed by the NBC affiliate, Klawiter said that while he’d fix a vehicle in need of repair, he would not welcome a gay male couple openly displaying their affection in his shop, proclaiming he and his shop doesn’t believe in homosexuality. Klawiter adds that he isn’t going to ask customers about their sexuality, while also reaffirming his stance on PDAs by same-sex couples.

Asked to view his post from the eyes of a gay individual, he said he would find the statement of belief “enlightening,” and that he would cross off Dieseltec from his list of shops.

UPDATE: And just like the aforementioned theoretical gay customer — and myself, if I had diesel business in the first place — Cummins wants no part of Dieseltec. Per their Twitter to another consumer who noted the engine manufacturer’s support of the LGBT community:

Diversity = our core values. We have no affiliation with this business and are notifying them to stop using our logo.

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Virginia Set To Establish Strict Retention Limits On LPR Data http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/virginia-set-establish-strict-retention-limits-lpr-data/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/virginia-set-establish-strict-retention-limits-lpr-data/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046218 The Commonwealth of Virginia is ready to set strict limits on how long license plate reader data can be retained, said limits being on the order of days. Autoblog reports two bills hit Governor Terry McAuliffe’s desk Wednesday that would balance the citizens’ right to privacy with law enforcement’s need to investigate potential crimes. One […]

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Alexandria Virginia Police Dodge Charger With License Plate Readers

The Commonwealth of Virginia is ready to set strict limits on how long license plate reader data can be retained, said limits being on the order of days.

Autoblog reports two bills hit Governor Terry McAuliffe’s desk Wednesday that would balance the citizens’ right to privacy with law enforcement’s need to investigate potential crimes. One bill would limit data retention to just seven days, the other to 60 days.

McAuliffe would have 30 days to act on the bills before both go into effect without his signature, with the review process set to begin “in the coming days” according to representative Christina Nuckols. Either way, the new limit would be one of the shortest — if not the shortest overall — limits on data retention in the United States; Maine currently holds the record with its 21-day limit.

As for which bill privacy advocates would prefer, the American Civil Liberties Union is pushing McAuliffe to sign the seven-day limit into law, as the other limit also expands the scope of law enforcement’s ability to conduct surveillance.

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Please Visit Your Local Public Off-Road Park http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/please-visit-local-public-off-road-park/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/please-visit-local-public-off-road-park/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:30:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045306 Whenever you buy a performance car, there’s generally an intent to test its limits. There’s a winding country road by your house, but you likely will have to avoid cyclists, motorcyclists, residents mad about the broken speed limits and loud engine noise, as well as police officers ready to write a ticket. Highways are much […]

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DSC_0231

Whenever you buy a performance car, there’s generally an intent to test its limits. There’s a winding country road by your house, but you likely will have to avoid cyclists, motorcyclists, residents mad about the broken speed limits and loud engine noise, as well as police officers ready to write a ticket. Highways are much rougher than they used to be (at least in California), so verifying the top speed of your Porsche down a freeway late at night might be a hairy proposition with the uneven road surfaces and random potholes. Consequently, your new performance car will be sitting in the garage most of the time, only taken out on days when the sun is shining and traffic is at a minimum. Eventually, a performance car owner will resolve to take his or her car to a track day and see what the car can do.

When you do attend a track day, there’s always a few procedures to go through, the first of which usually involves paying a third-party company hundreds of dollars for organizing the track day. Then, when the day to test your car’s limits comes, since the track is an hour away and the track instruction meeting is at 7:30 AM, you’ll have to wake up early. You might even have to spend two or three laps in a different car with a track instructor if it’s your first time at the track. There might be two or three track sessions during the day with a half-hour to an hour gap between them. You’ll have to be careful not to shatter the sound regulations (at Laguna Seca, it’s typically 92 dBa), which is shockingly easy to do in any V-8-powered Chrysler vehicle, or otherwise you’ll be forced to remove your car from the track.

Meanwhile across America, thousands of people have bought off-road ready vehicles with 4WD like the Land Cruiser, 4Runner, Xterra, LX570, GX460, G-Wagen, and any Land Rover vehicle which are capable of driving through some tough trails and tricky obstacles. Many of their owners probably bought them as prestige vehicles, or as a family, or for towing a boat or trailer. They’ll talk about the off-road prowess of their SUVs at parties, but their vehicles likely won’t see a dedicated off-road trail. Four-wheel-drive is most necessary to them for the winter skiing trips. Many of them are oblivious to the fact their state offers them the facilities to actually test out the capabilities of their 4WD vehicle.

And these parks with both off-road trails and off-road obstacles are very simple to access. There’s no dedicated classroom instruction. You can come into the park anytime you want, which means you can sleep in. The fee for entering the off-road park (in California) is $5. You’ll have photos on your phone to show what your “family vehicle” is capable of. There’s no such thing as a session where you can drive. The most instruction you’ll get around the park is following what the Jeep in front of you is doing and whatever off-roading tips are in the owners’ manual. Though there are sound ordinances at the SVRA, they’re not readily enforced. There is little to no supervision in the park. Most importantly, your 4×4 won’t be sitting in some shopping center’s parking lot during the weekend. You’ll be out having fun away from the sounds of cash registers and people complaining about Abercrombie and Fitch.

My experience with off-roading parks comes from California’s State Vehicular Recreation Areas where you can take your four-wheel-drive vehicles and “play” with them by driving on off-road trails and seeing if they can clear obstacles specifically built for those vehicles. The best part is all these activities are sanctioned by California, a state that has the most intense car emissions rules in the nation. Amazingly, California, a state where one has to go through a fairly comprehensive background check to buy a gun, thinks that anyone with a driver’s license is capable of climbing a 50 degree hill or driving through a pile of rocks in a four-wheel-drive vehicle with no ambulances or tow trucks in sight.

When I had a 4Runner TRD Pro as a test vehicle, taking it to my local SVRA would be one of the few ways I could test the truck’s capabilities. The park I took the 4Runner to, Hollister Hills, provided enough different obstacles that I could play with all the settings of the 4Runner’s Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control systems. I was able to go there on a weekday and a weekend without any problems. All the trails were clearly marked and contained their difficulty level. If I compare it to getting a Chevrolet SS as a test vehicle and taking it to Sonoma Raceway to test its capabilities, I have to take it strictly on a weekend through a third-party that has booked the track, and I will have to ensure I don’t break any local sound ordinances, which I know the SS is very much able to do.

At California SVRAs (though I’ve found it also corresponds to a few off-road parks in other states), the trail difficulty level more or less corresponds with ski slope difficulty level, with the green circle for easy trails, a blue square for more difficult trails, and a black diamond denoting the most difficult trails. Green trails can be traversed by most all-wheel-drive crossovers while blue trails can be driven on by any novice in a Jeep. Black diamonds are generally very steep and not much else. Hollister Hills had double and triple black diamond trails too, but those are strictly for dedicated off-road vehicles such as rock crawlers and very highly-modified Jeeps.

Though I’m most familiar with California, many other states have their own off-road vehicle parks. While some of them are privately-owned, their prices tend to be fairly reasonable (I’ve seen rates of $20 online), while many state parks have dedicated four-wheeling trails within them for whatever it costs to enter the park. Some parks may require a special sticker that allows a 4×4 into the park. Most of these states have similar policies to California’s off-road parks. Visiting and posting onto one of the many off-roading forums will give you an idea of the best local off-road parks to take your 4×4 to.

When it comes to safety at off-road parks, it helps to go with someone else who has a 4×4 so he or she can pull you out if you become stuck in an obstacle. If it’s your first time off-roading, check out your model-specific forum to see if any members are planning an off-road meetup. It also helps to have the number of a tow truck driver who can recover your vehicle from a trail if anything goes awry. As for speeds traveled around the park, unless the trail is fairly smooth and/or is a “green,” the highest speed you should go might be less than 15 mph. Since low range 4WD will likely be engaged, high speeds shouldn’t be an issue. Furthermore, since most modern SUVs come with hill descent control and some with hill ascent control, you should learn how to engage those systems and safely drive up or drive down some steep trails. Additionally, learn how and when to use the locking differentials if your vehicle comes with them. They can save you in slippery situations.

At the Hollister Hills SVRA, one aspect that astonished me was how few people there were with their four-wheel-drive vehicles on a Saturday. Though I went in February, it was just me, a small meetup of the local Nissan Xterra club, and a few people trying out their rock crawlers. Closer to the summer, there are generally more people, but somehow driving around the park is manageable and good etiquette between drivers actually exists. Compare this to a track day, where sometimes there’s that one car that won’t point you by, or the drivers who think they’re Ayrton Senna and attempt to pass you in the corners though they aren’t supposed to.

In the end, get anyone you possibly can to take advantage of where their taxes go, drive their 4×4 off-road, and explore multiple places across America where rental cars can’t go. Considering automakers are making and selling less 4×4 SUVs these days, with the Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer becoming Honda Pilot competitors and the focus on fuel economy, there might not be as many vehicles in the future that can go off the beaten path in the Rockies or Death Valley. Going four-wheeling is incredibly cheap compared to a track day, while being much more memorable because of the vistas you’ll come across. And best of all, you’ll definitely know you pushed the limits of your vehicle.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He recently renewed his search for a P38 Range Rover in decent condition and currently feels Christopher Columbus probably had an easier time finding America.

 

 

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While You Were Sleeping: April 16th, 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-april-16th-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-april-16th-2015/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:04:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045290 Mazda has managed to outsell Nissan in one major market. Any guesses? Mazda is on a roll in Germany, surpassing Nissan and other major brands. Honda’s all-new global platform for the Civic will allow for unprecedented manufacturing flexibility. Toyota will shift production of the Corolla from Canada to Mexico, and build larger vehicles in Canada […]

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mazda-2-sedan-005-1-450x164

Mazda has managed to outsell Nissan in one major market. Any guesses?

 

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General Motors Saved From Pre-Bankruptcy Ignition Lawsuits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/general-motors-saved-pre-bankruptcy-ignition-lawsuits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/general-motors-saved-pre-bankruptcy-ignition-lawsuits/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045274 Per a bankruptcy court ruling Wednesday, General Motors won’t be on the hook for pre-bankruptcy claims linked to the February 2014 ignition recall. Reuters reports U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Gerber ruled that plaintiffs seeking damages from GM involving claims made prior to the automaker’s 2009 exit from bankruptcy would have to sue “Old GM” […]

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Recalled GM ignition switch

Per a bankruptcy court ruling Wednesday, General Motors won’t be on the hook for pre-bankruptcy claims linked to the February 2014 ignition recall.

Reuters reports U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Gerber ruled that plaintiffs seeking damages from GM involving claims made prior to the automaker’s 2009 exit from bankruptcy would have to sue “Old GM” for said damages. Though the claims come to $32 billion, Old GM’s assets in October 2014 totaled around $9.25 billion, a recovery of 29 cents on the dollar.

Gerber added that economic-loss plaintiffs could bring their claims against “New GM” based on the automaker’s behavior since leaving bankruptcy, and would certify the case for direct review by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He also said there were due process failures involved in GM’s exit, but that those failures weren’t enough to become violation-level issues due to lack of evidence by plaintiffs demonstrating that they were denied their day in court because they did not receive notice in time.

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Best-In-A-Decade March 2015 Ford Explorer Sales Cause Us To Remember Times Gone By http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/best-decade-march-2015-ford-explorer-sales-cause-us-remember-times-gone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/best-decade-march-2015-ford-explorer-sales-cause-us-remember-times-gone/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:18:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044946 In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005. Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor […]

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Ford SUV sales chart March 2015In the lead-up to the launch of a refreshed 2016 Ford Explorer, March 2015 sales of the current model rose to the highest March output since 2005 and the highest monthly level regardless of season since July 2005.

Explorer volume jumped 19% to 23,058 in March 2015, a total made up of 2293 Police Interceptor Utilities (up 45%) and 20,765 civilian Explorers (up 17%).

In a month which saw particularly strong results from the Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox, the Explorer ranked sixth among America’s best-selling SUVs and crossovers. (With consistently strong performances from the CR-V, Escape, and RAV4, it’s not reasonable to think the Explorer could routinely stand on the podium.)

But those are all smaller CUVs. Among vehicles which come standard with a third row of seating, the Explorer outsold the next-best-selling three-row crossover, Toyota’s Highlander, by more than 10,019 units and the best-selling minivan, Toyota’s Sienna, by 10,203 sales.

2015 Ford ExplorerCombined, GM sold 24,197 copies of their Lambda-platform (Traverse, Acadia, Enclave) crossovers, a 2% year-over-year gain. But in the interest of full disclosure, Ford also sold 1848 copies of the Flex, which takes the Ford brand’s three-row CUV total up to a Lambda-besting 24,906 units.

That’s besides the point, however. The real story is the return to high-volume status for the Explorer. Last America’s top-selling SUV nine years ago, the Explorer has improved upon its 2006 total in each of the last two years. If the current rate of improvement holds through the next three-quarters, Ford will sell more than 260,000 Explorers in the U.S. this year, the highest total since 2004. March 2015 sales marked the first time since May of last year, which had marked the best month of Explorer sales since July 2005, that Ford had sold more than 20,000 Explorers in a single month. But Explorer sales have increased in 13 consecutive months.

Last month’s 23,058-unit tally was down 7% compared to the previous best March of 2005, but there’s a key difference between the two performances. In March 2005, sales tumbled 17%, a loss of 5000 units compared with March 2004. 2005 was to be the third consecutive year of decline in what would become a seven-year streak. March 2015, on the other hand, marked a 19%, 3700-unit improvement. 2015 is set to be the sixth consecutive year of improved Explorer sales.

Granted, the Explorer isn’t back to historic levels yet, nor is it likely to get back there. Ford averaged 405,000 annual Explorer sales in the U.S. during the decade between 1995 and 2004. The utility vehicle sector has broadened significantly since then, and the competition between nameplates, not to mention the changing tastes of consumers, hasn’t allowed a single SUV/CUV nameplate to come within 60,000 units of the 400K mark since Ford sold 373,000 Explorers twelve years ago.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Japan Hydrogen Ambitions Fall Short Of March 2016 Target http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/japan-hydrogen-ambitions-fall-short-march-2016-target/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/japan-hydrogen-ambitions-fall-short-march-2016-target/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045250 Japan’s ambition to have 100 hydrogen fueling stations by next March may fall short of reality now that the deadline to apply for subsidies has passed. Reuters reports only 76 such stations were approved for subsidies by the government, which had set aside ¥21.4 billion ($178.4 billion USD) over three years for the sole purpose […]

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Eneos Gas Station With Hydrogen Pumps

Japan’s ambition to have 100 hydrogen fueling stations by next March may fall short of reality now that the deadline to apply for subsidies has passed.

Reuters reports only 76 such stations were approved for subsidies by the government, which had set aside ¥21.4 billion ($178.4 billion USD) over three years for the sole purpose of helping would-be hydrogen-station operators build them; each station costs $5 million to build, with the government pitching in $2.5 million in aid.

Though a representative for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry stated the government is considering increasing the amount given to encourage more infrastructure development, energy companies are asking for proof that building the stations are worth the investment in the first place. In turn, consumers may find the lack of said stations off-putting as far as considering an FCV like Toyota’s Mirai goes, while FCVs themselves need government incentives to attract said consumers.

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Study: Battery Pack Costs Fell 14 Percent Annually Over Seven Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/study-battery-pack-costs-fell-14-percent-annually-seven-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/study-battery-pack-costs-fell-14-percent-annually-seven-years/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045226 Though the most expensive part of an EV or PHEV is its battery pack, a new study shows those costs are falling at a hefty clip. According to Green Car Reports, a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute in Stockholm, Sweden found that the cost of a battery pack fell 14 percent per year between […]

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2016 Chevrolet Volt battery

Though the most expensive part of an EV or PHEV is its battery pack, a new study shows those costs are falling at a hefty clip.

According to Green Car Reports, a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute in Stockholm, Sweden found that the cost of a battery pack fell 14 percent per year between 2007 and 2014, coming down from over $1,000 USD per kWh, to around $410/kWh; market-leading EV makers saw their costs decline 8 percent annually to $300/kWh over the same period.

The study’s findings are the result of data from 85 cost estimates found in peer-reviewed academic journals, as well as reports from automakers, analysts and the media. However, the authors note that since battery producers and automakers almost never disclose the actual costs for those cells, the study is incomplete at best.

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Hyundai Patent Shows Cell-Phone Disabling Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/hyundai-patent-shows-cell-phone-disabling-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/hyundai-patent-shows-cell-phone-disabling-technology/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045106 Can’t put down the smartphone while driving? Hyundai has a patent for technology that can render it as dumb as a Motorola DynaTAC. Autoblog reports the patent shows technology that “limits or disables the use of some of mobile device features which could cause distraction to the user.” The system determines when and what to […]

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Hyundai Driver Cell Phone Blocking Patent

Can’t put down the smartphone while driving? Hyundai has a patent for technology that can render it as dumb as a Motorola DynaTAC.

Autoblog reports the patent shows technology that “limits or disables the use of some of mobile device features which could cause distraction to the user.” The system determines when and what to disable on a phone based on vehicle speed, time of day, importance of message, and other factors, and can do so either at the driver’s seat or the entire vehicle.

According to the patent, this is done with cellular-signal-monitoring antennas placed throughout the cabin. When an antenna detects a signal, the system performs the tasks needed to disable functions that would otherwise hinder a driver’s ability to maintain vigilance. However, the system requires the phone in question to have firmware that would accept the former’s commands.

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Shanghai 2015: Volvo S60L T6 Twin Engine Ready For The Spotlight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/shanghai-2015-volvo-s60l-t6-twin-engine-ready-spotlight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/shanghai-2015-volvo-s60l-t6-twin-engine-ready-spotlight/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 10:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045066 Debuting alongside the XC90 Excellence at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show, the Volvo S60L T6 Twin Engine PHEV brings hybrid power to the Sino-Swede party. The S60L Twin Engine will arrive in Chinese showrooms from Volvo’s plant in Chengdu April 22, and is powered by a Drive-E 2-liter four up front with a 50-kW electric […]

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Debuting alongside the XC90 Excellence at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show, the Volvo S60L T6 Twin Engine PHEV brings hybrid power to the Sino-Swede party.

The S60L Twin Engine will arrive in Chinese showrooms from Volvo’s plant in Chengdu April 22, and is powered by a Drive-E 2-liter four up front with a 50-kW electric motor on the rear axle; the latter is fed by “an energy-optimized” 11.2 kWH lithium-ion pack. Total output comes to 306 horses and 406 lb-ft of torque, and range tops out at 33 miles in electric-only travel.

Volvo says that the PHEV’s green credentials allows would-be owners to bypass the standard license-plate process — lotteries and auctions — in cities such as Shanghai, where the car “fulfills the relevant environmental regulations.”

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2016 Cadillac ELR Drops In Price, Gains In Power http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2016-cadillac-elr-drops-price-gains-power/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2016-cadillac-elr-drops-price-gains-power/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:19:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044866 The Cadillac ELR may be heading off into the sunset soon, but the premium PHEV still has a few tricks left up its sleeve. After federal tax credits, the 2016 ELR will start with a price of $58,495, just nearly $18,000 less than the original price tag of $75,000 when it first hit showrooms in […]

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The Cadillac ELR may be heading off into the sunset soon, but the premium PHEV still has a few tricks left up its sleeve.

After federal tax credits, the 2016 ELR will start with a price of $58,495, just nearly $18,000 less than the original price tag of $75,000 when it first hit showrooms in late 2013.

For that starting price, new ELR owners will also benefit from a few upgrades over the MY 2014 and 2015 editions, one of which is an improved Sport driving mode. The improved mode — part of the optional Performance Package — helps push the PHEV from 0-60 in 6.4 seconds, 1.5 seconds faster than the recent model; top speed comes to 106 mph, 130 mph with the aforementioned package.

The ELR’s hybrid system gets a makeover, as well, with a new lithium-ion pack capable of 17.1 kWh of capacity that’s good for 39 miles of electric-only travel; the Performance Package option knocks that range down to 35 miles. Overall power from the system, which pairs the pack with a 1.4-liter gasoline engine — comes to 233 horses and 373 lb-ft of torque, while total range falls 10 miles to 330 miles. Recharge time takes around five hours when plugged into a 240-volt charger.

Other features include the aforementioned Performance Package, which adds 20-inch wheels and summer-only tires mounted over Brembo brakes and vented rotors as well as the new Sport mode, and improvements to the ELR’s electric power steering and continuous damping control; OnStar with 4G LTE; three USB ports; 8-inch configurable driver instrument and information displays; magnetic inductive charging for passengers’ smartphones; standard Wi-Fi; and on-demand regenerative braking.

Per Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen via AutoGuide, the ELR won’t see a second generation, likely due to low sales; 1,310 left the lot in 2014, and 311 had been purchased or leased through the first three months of 2015.

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Ford To Announce $2.5B Investment In Mexico On 90th Anniversary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-announce-2-5b-investment-mexico-90th-anniversary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-announce-2-5b-investment-mexico-90th-anniversary/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044762 This Friday, Ford will announce a $2.5-billion investment plan for two of its factories in Mexico. According to Reuters, Ford will spend $1.3 billion to expand its engine production facility in northern Chihuahua for two new diesels, with the remaining $1.2 billion to go a transmission plant in Guanajuato. A government representative said the Chihuahua […]

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Ford Chihuahua Plant in Mexico

This Friday, Ford will announce a $2.5-billion investment plan for two of its factories in Mexico.

According to Reuters, Ford will spend $1.3 billion to expand its engine production facility in northern Chihuahua for two new diesels, with the remaining $1.2 billion to go a transmission plant in Guanajuato. A government representative said the Chihuahua investment would create 4,000 jobs as a result.

The announcement will be made in Mexico City in celebration of Ford’s 90th anniversary in Mexico, with Mexico president Enrique Peña Nieto set to attend. Ford’s previous major investment occurred in 2008, when the automaker spent $3 billion to update the Cuautitlan plant for production of the Fiesta.

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While You Were Sleeping: April 15th, 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-april-15th-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/sleeping-april-15th-2015/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:49:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044834 We’re driving the Fiat 500X today. In the mean time, here are the top overnight stories. FCA Chairman calls for further consolidation in the auto industry. VW is gearing up for a wagon onslaught in Europe. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn may be forced out in favor of Porsche’s current CEO. Cadillac CT6 could spawn a […]

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We’re driving the Fiat 500X today. In the mean time, here are the top overnight stories.

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Led By New A3, Entry-Level Autos Are Carrying The Load For Audi USA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/led-new-a3-entry-level-autos-carrying-load-audi-usa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/led-new-a3-entry-level-autos-carrying-load-audi-usa/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:17:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044794 March was the highest-volume U.S. sales month in the Audi A3’s decade-long history. Never before had the A3 topped the 3000-unit mark, but March volume climbed to 3081 sales, equal to 18% of Audi USA’s volume last month. Year-over-year comparisons for the A3 are all but completely invalid, as a hiatus between the departure of […]

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Audi A3/A4 sales chart USAMarch was the highest-volume U.S. sales month in the Audi A3’s decade-long history. Never before had the A3 topped the 3000-unit mark, but March volume climbed to 3081 sales, equal to 18% of Audi USA’s volume last month.

Year-over-year comparisons for the A3 are all but completely invalid, as a hiatus between the departure of the A3 hatchback and the current A3 sedan resulted in a three-month-long sales-free period between November 2013 and January 2014. That period was followed by only 863 sales during the new A3’s first two months of February and March 2014.

2015’s first-quarter was, however, the best quarter yet for the new A3 despite the fact that January-March is the slowest period of the year for auto sales in the United States.

Audi sold 7743 A3 sedans and cabriolets (S3-inclusive) over the last three months, a 2% gain compared with the final three months of 2014, a 12% improvement over 2014 Q3, and a 13% jump compared to the April-June launch period of last year.

Healthy A3 volume has been tremendously important for Audi USA, which last month reported the brand’s second-best-ever monthly sales total, the best March ever, and the 51st consecutive monthly sales record.

2015 Audi A3Audi wouldn’t have come close to doing so without such strong entry-level volume, as the aging A4 and A5 fell 32% and 15%, respectively. The A7 was down 30%. A8, R8, TT, and Q7 sales slipped, as well. Excluding the A3 and Q3 crossover, Audi sales were actually down 9%.

But with the A3’s 3081 sales, the Q3’s 1268-unit tally, and the best-selling Q5’s 17% jump, Audi brand sales shot up 20% as the overall U.S. auto industry barely moved the needle forward. New vehicle volume was up just 0.5% in March. Audi’s 14% improvement through the first-quarter is far in excess of the industry’s 6% increase.

The A3 trails Mercedes-Benz’s CLA by 483 units heading into April. Lexus’s hybrid-only CT200h is down 15% to 3399 units in 2015, less than half the A3’s total. Acura is just now launching the 2016 ILX with a more powerful standard engine: ILX sales are down 15% to a CT-besting 3505 year-to-date. The Buick Verano, which straddles the mainstream and entry-level premium categories, is down 17% to 9079 sales so far this year, just 853 sales ahead of the Mercedes-Benz CLA. The CLA’s base price is 35% higher than the Verano’s.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Audi A3 is the eighth-best-selling vehicle in the United Kingdom so far this year. A3 sales totalled 14,358 in the UK in 2015’s first-quarter, nearly double Audi USA’s total in a market that’s less than one-fifth the size.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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European Long-Term Review: Chrysler LHS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/european-long-term-review-chrysler-lhs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/european-long-term-review-chrysler-lhs/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041313 Replacing a Lincoln Town Car with Chrysler LHS may be a strange decision, and it’s definitely an interesting experience. But it’s also very educating one, for the differences between the two tell surprisingly much about the way people think about cars, the way people buy cars and the way cars are designed. I’ve always loved […]

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Replacing a Lincoln Town Car with Chrysler LHS may be a strange decision, and it’s definitely an interesting experience. But it’s also very educating one, for the differences between the two tell surprisingly much about the way people think about cars, the way people buy cars and the way cars are designed.

I’ve always loved a true American fullsize sedan – a body-on-frame, RWD behemoth with a large V8 in front, bench seat in the middle and a trunk large enough for several bodies in the back. And the ’98 Lincoln Town Car I have driven daily for more than a year fits that bill perfectly. But it was borrowed and to buy it (and fix remaining issues) was not really within my financial means. So it had to go, and I had to find a replacement. And I found a car that’s like Town Car’s lost sibling in many ways, and its polar opposite in many others. The 1994 Chrysler LHS.

The 1990s Chryslers do not get much love among American car enthusiasts in Czech Republic. Not only they lack a pair of cylinders and they are driven by the wrong wheels, but, what’s probably the worst, they are quite common. They may not admit it, but for most US car owners in Europe, the rarity is large part of the magic. And because Chryslers were officialy imported in 1990s and 00s, they’re usually not held to such esteem as the “true American” cars – e.g. those that had to be brough here by “gray importers”.

But if you want a cheap luxobarge, this makes big Chryslers pretty interesting. Not being as cool as other American cars means they’re cheap. While a ’98 Town Car would cost around $5k here, which is significantly more than a 7-Series (E38) BMW or first generation Audi A8, the LHS can be had for under $2,000. In my case, with broken timing gear but otherwise fine, it cost 11,000 CZK. That’s $433 at today’s exchange rate. That’s Škoda Felicia money. And a Felicia isn’t much better than Yugo. Included in the price was a parts car with working a drivetrain. So, after another few hundered bucks for timing gear repair (about $150 for parts + shipping, roughly twice that for work, as the tensioner was broken out from the block), I have a nice and fully driveable fullsize sedan.

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It still has a few flaws – mostly the front suspension needs attention – but it’s got a pretty decent interior, the Infinity sound system works just fine, the body and paint is not perfect, but nice enough, the transmission shifts, the engine purrs, the power stuff works. A nice start to finding out what’s the story with those big Chryslers. I’ve always avoided them for reasons mentioned above, but that was a few years ago, when they did cost money. So, how does one compare to a Town Car? And will it keep up, or it will it commit a mechanical suicide?

When it was launched, the LH platform was the Chrysler’s return to the world of true fullsize cars and presented a thoroughly modern approach to the same brief that gave birth to B-bodies and Panthers a long time ago. And, viewed by cold, rational eyes, it was far superior to both. The reasons why Panther outlived the LH by many years, and why LH was replaced by much more Panther-like LX are are a fascinating look into the automotive market.

If you compare a ’98 Town Car with a ’94 LHS, the first thing you’ll notice is how similar the two cars are. I would even venture to say that the Town Car’s design was largely inspired by the older LHS – especially the rear part. And even the size, interior space and driving characteristics are quite similar, though nowhere near identical. Which leads us to the second thing you’ll notice.

That the LHS feels much more modern. Yes, you read that right. I switched from a ’98 car (which was the first year of the new model) to a ’94 car (which was also the first year), and it felt like I went half a decade newer. In some ways, it’s no surprise – after all, the Panther platform was introduced in late 70s, while the LH made its debut in 1993. But that explains the fundamental differences in packaging and handling, not things like interior fit, finish and technologies. The LHS feels almost European, in a good way. Truth to be said, I don’t feel much difference when I transfer from the Chrysler to a friend’s ’04 Mercedes CLK 270 CDI, which I’m testing this week.

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While the Town Car must have looked and felt like a cost-cutted re-hash of an old platform (which it actually was), the LHS must have felt like a spaceship when it appeared in dealer lots in late 1993. The instrument cluster wasn’t as cutting-edge as in Lexus LS400 a few years earlier, but it was still wonderfully illuminated and supremely legible. The excellent Infinity stereo had in-dash CD player. There was a nifty “message center” in the centre of the dashboard – a pitch black panel in the middle of the dash where the idiot lights show up.

The main difference, though, is the space. When designing the new LH platform, Chrysler engineers took a rational approach and decided that there’s no need to make room for a V8 when a V6 can power the car quick enough (the LHS with its 3.5 V6 feels a bit quicker than Lincoln with 4.6 V8), and that there’s no point in making it RWD. Rear wheel drive costs money, it costs space and it adds weight. It improves balance and driving feel, but people who buy large American sedans mostly couldn’t care less about such things.

As a result of this cold, rational thinking, they did the most modern and most practical one could think of at the time. They moved the longitudinally mounted V6 far to the front – it is in front of the front axle – and used the resulting space to make most of the wheelbase. It paid off. Even though it almost a foot shorter, the LHS provides more interior space than the Town Car, as well as larger (or at least more usefully shaped) trunk.

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The costs? First, the looks. Although LHS must have looked striking when it was launched, and it still feels much more modern than your typical 20 year old car, it lacked the imposing presence of Panthers and B-bodies. Its short, low-slung hood makes it look a bit tail heavy, and a bit like a car from the not-so-welcome future, where cars are on their way to become transportation pods.

Then, the driving. On paper, it’s a perfectly fine automobile. It’s reasonably quick in a straight line and it can at least keep up with its fullsize RWD brethren in corners as well. So far so good. But the engine hanging over the front axle has immense effect on how the car feels. With most cars, the understeer/oversteer is something you read about in reviews, but most drivers never really understand what that means. In LHS? Oh yeah, the car can teach understeer on university! You don’t need to be driving quick at all to feel that the thing Just. Doesn’t. Want. To. Turn.

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Probably the worst, though, is the way the car behaves when you accelerate hard from a standstill while cornering. While a rear drive sedan just slightly squats and moves forward stately, unless you’re acting as a lead-footed maniac, the front drive car starts scraping for traction and screeching its tires. And even if traction control sets in, there’s still no grace in that.

If people bought cars purely by logic and not based on feel and characeter, the LH-platform could be deemed superior to its Mercedes-derived successor, the LX. But LX, with its elegant proportions and rear wheel drive, much better fits the buyer’s idea of how a luxury sedan should look and feel. People are not rational – and their car buying habits aren’t rational, either.

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

Photo: David Marek

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