The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:00:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Cadillac Flagship Sedan May Not Officially Bear LTS Name http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillac-flagship-sedan-may-officially-bear-lts-name/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillac-flagship-sedan-may-officially-bear-lts-name/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915994 What’s in a name? A lot, if you’re Cadillac. Though the brand’s green-lit flagship F-segment sedan bears the internal codename LTS, it likely won’t keep the name when the 7 Series/S-Class fighter makes its debut next year. Automotive News says the reason for the possible move is due to the bottomless bowls of alphabet soup […]

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What’s in a name? A lot, if you’re Cadillac. Though the brand’s green-lit flagship F-segment sedan bears the internal codename LTS, it likely won’t keep the name when the 7 Series/S-Class fighter makes its debut next year.

Automotive News says the reason for the possible move is due to the bottomless bowls of alphabet soup being served to Cadillac customers entering the showroom, “a weakness of the Cadillac brand” chief marketing officer Uwe Ellinghaus proclaimed earlier this year.

Last month, the premium brand snagged former Infiniti boss Johan de Nysschen as its new chief. In his former role, de Nysschen revamped the naming scheme for the Japanese premium brand’s offerings, using Q for cars and QX for crossovers and SUVs. The claim for the method behind the madness was that he wanted Infiniti to have a broader range of vehicles around the world.

No matter what happens, the world will likely know the name of the beast by the time of the New York Auto Show next March.

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Does 999 Mean “Ford Performance” More Than SVT? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/does-999-mean-ford-performance-more-than-svt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/does-999-mean-ford-performance-more-than-svt/#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 14:15:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915450 Based on a market research study commissioned by Ford Motor Company rumors are circulating that FoMoCo will change the branding for its high performance vehicles from SVT (for Special Vehicle Team) to 999, the name of Henry Ford’s second race car, popularized by barnstorming driver Barney Oldfield. Marketers have seized on “authenticity” as a lever […]

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Full gallery here

Based on a market research study commissioned by Ford Motor Company rumors are circulating that FoMoCo will change the branding for its high performance vehicles from SVT (for Special Vehicle Team) to 999, the name of Henry Ford’s second race car, popularized by barnstorming driver Barney Oldfield. Marketers have seized on “authenticity” as a lever by which they can move consumers and I suspect that reaching back over a century for a brand name may have something to do with that. As someone who likes history I can’t complain about Ford looking into reusing a historic name, but  while its true that the name 999 has been associated with Ford racing since before the establishment of the Ford Motor Company, the name SVT means something to today’s car enthusiasts and for most of them 999 is just the number before 1,000. Today’s performance consumers are more likely to recognize the name Ken Block than Barney Oldfield.

Henry_Ford_and_Barney_Oldfield_with_Old_999,_1902

Henry Ford (standing) with Barney Oldfield and Old 999, 1902

There was a time, though, when 999 was the name of the most famous racing car(s) of the early motoring age, holder of a land speed record and winner of numerous races and exhibition matches with Oldfield at the wheel, er, rather tiller. Unlike Henry Ford’s first racer, the Sweepstakes car, which was a nifty little runabout, 999 was a relatively primitive machine that was all about “brute force” in the words of the transportation curator of the Henry Ford Museum, Matt Anderson. Both the Sweepstakes car and 999 are in the Racing in America exhibit in the Museum’s Driving America display.

It’s not known exactly who first coined the phrase, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”, but Henry Ford understood the publicity value in winning races with his automobiles. It was his 1901 win with the Sweepstakes car against established automaker Alexander Winton that gave him credibility with investors and allowed the formation fo the Henry Ford Company. Ford almost immediately ran into difficulties with his backers. Part of it was his dream of building an inexpensive car for the masses but also part of it was that Henry wanted to race cars and his partners wanted him to focus on building and selling them.

In early 1902, he told his brother in law, Milton Bryant that his interest in racing was all about dollars and cents: “… there is a barrel of money to be made in this business.… My company will kick about me following racing but they will get the Advertising and I expect to make $ where I can’t make ¢s at Manufacturing.”

By March of that year Henry had left the company that bore his name, taking with him $900 severance and the plans for a new race cars. With financial backing from bicycle racer Tom Cooper and the technical assistance of Ed “Spider Huff and C.H. Willis (who would later persuade Ford to use vanadium steel in the Model T to great success), in May 1902 Ford began construction of two race cars with huge engines and wooden frames. One was painted red and the other yellow, named respectively, Red Devil and Arrow. The had four cylinder inline engines with 7.25 inch bores and a stroke of 7 inches for a total displacement of a massive 1,155.3 cubic inches. It put out between 70 and 100 horsepower. There was no transmission. Power was transferred to the rear wheels via a wooden block clutch on the 230 lb exposed flywheel. There were also no universal joints nor was there a differential. A solid drive shaft connected to what was literally an open rear axle, just a ring and pinion gear setup. There was no rear suspension and steering was by a primitive tiller with two upright handles and a center pivot. Not only was the flywheel exposed, so was the valve gear and the crankshaft. With a bumpy ride and oil spraying everywhere, it wasn’t a pleasant drive.

Barney Oldfield and the car that made him and Henry Ford famous.

Barney Oldfield and the car that made him and Henry Ford famous.

As primitive as 999 looks, it did have at least a couple of features that were advanced for its day like that simple drive shaft and rear axle. Most early automobiles had a chain drive for each of the driving wheels. 999′s pneumatic “balloon” tires were also novel at the time.

Though he would later *drive Arrow to a land speed recordof 91.37 mph in the flying mile, Henry was said to be a bit intimidated by the machine. Instead he hired bicycle racer Barney Oldfield to pilot 999 in the five-mile Manufacturers’ Challenge Cup race on Oct. 25, 1902, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. In a way it was a rematch between Ford and Winton, but while the 999 became firmly associated with Henry Ford in the public mind, by the time of the actual race Ford had backed out of the venture, selling his interest to Cooper because of a poor test session a couple of weeks before the race.

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According to legend, Oldfield had never driven an automobile before the race, which he won going away, covering the five miles in 5 minutes and 28 seconds, a record for the distance on a closed course. Though he sold his interest in 999, Ford, though, retained publicity rights, which proved to be invaluable. Oldfield renamed Red Devil “999″ after a famous locomotive of the day. Oldfield and Cooper took the two cars around the country, setting speed records, winning races and establishing Oldfield as the first celebrity race driver in America. Having made a name for himself driving a Ford, though, Oldfield switched to the competition, Winton, in the summer of 1903. By then Henry Ford was focusing on getting the Ford Motor Company off of the ground.

It's tempting to call that an "open differential" but there's no differential at all, just a ring & pinion gear set. Full gallery here.

It’s tempting to call that an “open differential” but there’s no differential at all, just a ring & pinion gear set. Full gallery here.

In September of that year, both the 999 and the Arrow were entered into the inaugural car race at the Wisconsin state fair. Huff was driving 999 and Frank Day piloted the Arrow. Day, though, was killed when he crashed the car. The destroyed Arrow was returned to Detroit where Ford rebuilt it, planning on a land speed record attempt that winter on frozen Lake St. Clair. On Jan. 12, 1904, Ford set a new flying mile record. Though that record would stand for less than a month, the young Ford Motor Company benefited mightily from the publicity surrounding Ford’s LSR effort.

The Detroit Tribune described the record attempt: “As Ford flashed by it was noticed he wore no goggles or other face protection. Humped over his steering tiller, the tremendous speed throwing the machine in zig-zag fashion. Ford was taking chances that no man, not even that specialist in averted suicide, Barney Oldfield, had dared to attempt.”

Henry Ford driving the "999" in an Exhibition Run against Harry Harkness in a Mercedes Simplex, at the Detroit Driving Club's 1 Mile Track in Grosse Pointe.

Henry Ford driving the “999″ in an Exhibition Run against Harry Harkness in a Mercedes Simplex, at the Detroit Driving Club’s 1 Mile Track in Grosse Pointe.

Cooper sold the cars in 1904 and some years later Henry Ford would acquire it for the museum that bears his name. Shortly before his death, Henry Ford is said to have remarked to Barney Oldfield: “You made me and I made you.” Oldfield shook his head and replied “Old 999 made both of us.”

I’ll have to check with Matt Anderson to find out the current running status of “Old 999″. It was still in operating condition in 1963 when racer Dan Gurney visited the Henry Ford Museum while he was racing for Ford. Gurney would go on to win at LeMans with co-driver A.J. Foyt and as one of the leading American racers who happened to be driving for the blue oval, he was an honored guest. When the curator asked him if he’d like to drive it, Gurney jumped at the opportunity and soon afterwards the then over 60 year old race car was transported to Ford’s nearby test track where the all-American racer took it for a spin.

Dan Gurney drives Old 999 on Ford's Dearborn test track, 1963

Dan Gurney drives Old 999 on Ford’s Dearborn test track, 1963

Richard Barrett described the scene for Ford Times magazine:

It was a bone-chilling, blustery day nearly sixty years ago when Henry Ford drove his famous “999″ racer over the ice at Lake St. Clair, Michigan, to set a new world’s speed mark of ninety-two miles per hour. The Detroit Tribune of January 13, 1904, headlined the event as a “wild drive against time.” The article went on to say, “As Ford flashed by it was noticed he wore no goggles or other face protection. Humped over his steering tiller, the tremendous speed throwing the machine in zig-zag fashion. Ford was taking chances that no man, not even that specialist in averted suicide, Barney Oldfield, had dared to attempt.” As fate would surely be delighted to have it, the day last March when Dan Gurney, one of today’s racing greats, drove the same old “999″ at Ford Motor Company’s high-speed test track, the cold wind cut like a knife and a driving snow all but blinded the eyes. As the car was started up, and Gurney got his first close look, he whistled in wonder and said, “It’s a fire-breathing monster!” Henry Ford said exactly the same thing the first time he drove it.

Gurney, like Ford before him, proved his championship mettle that cold March day. With only a short briefing on the mechanics of the monster, a few questions asked and answered, he took the “999″ out on the infield track to get the “feel” of the car. A short time later, after the high-speed test track was cleared, Gurney got his flying start and roared into the “soup bowl” (a high-speed, steeply banked turn). Here’s how Gurney later described the sensation: “It’s quite a thrill. I was looking for the exhaust pipes and then I realized there are hardly any. They’re about two inches long and I could see flame coming out. The car is vibrating and everything is twisting every time it fires; you can feel everything from one end of the car to the other.

“The car is a little bit deceiving because it’s so high geared, but you’re really covering the ground. It’s sort of like comparing a running elephant to a deer. The low revs of the engine are what do it, and those four big cylinders. You can feel them working. Until it’s going forty to fifty miles an hour it doesn’t really settle down, and then it hardly seems to be turning over at all. It’s just chug, chug, chug with a lot of popping, smoke and roar. All the while you’re sitting there, straddling that big engine high on the single seat and remembering to keep your feet out of the way of that exposed flywheel. It’s as big as a man-hole cover.”

Asked if he was concerned about controlling the flying “999″ Gurney smiled and answered, “I just prayed nobody would get in front of me. There were patches of ice and snow on the track, and at the speed I was going it would take at least two hundred yards to stop. I can imagine Henry Ford driving that thing ninety-two miles an hour on ice. Very, very tricky. You’d have to be extremely delicate with the tiller and braking or you’d really be in trouble. Having good eyesight would be a help in a panic stop, although with all the engine racket they could probably hear you coming far enough so they could get out of the way.”

Gurney later recounted the experience for the Car Crazy television show.

*My recent post on the Sweepstakes car said that the 1901 race was the first and last time Henry Ford raced a car. While that’s technically true, Ford indeed never again raced in wheel to wheel competition, he did race against the clock on the ice in 999 and participated in at least one exhibition at speed in the car.

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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More Evidence That The Macan Is Taking Over Porsche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/evidence-macan-taking-porsche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/evidence-macan-taking-porsche/#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 12:01:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912938 You’ve closely tracked the Porsche Cayenne’s success by scanning parking lots outside fancy restaurants. You understand that the Cayenne’s omnipresence in Orange County translates directly to the mere presence of a 918 Spyder in Porsche’s lineup, which is important to you, the owner of a Buick Verano Turbo, just like every other TTAC reader. As […]

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porsche-macan-2013-la-auto-show-02You’ve closely tracked the Porsche Cayenne’s success by scanning parking lots outside fancy restaurants. You understand that the Cayenne’s omnipresence in Orange County translates directly to the mere presence of a 918 Spyder in Porsche’s lineup, which is important to you, the owner of a Buick Verano Turbo, just like every other TTAC reader.

As a result, you know that the Macan is simply the next rung on Porsche’s ladder. Oh, it’s the lesser of the two SUVs; smaller in size and price and probably status, too. But this is the vehicle which moves Porsche from niche luxury player closer to the mainstream premium arena. Three sports cars won’t do it, not even with the addition of an SUV and a massive four-door hatchback.

Thanks in part to an additional 3947 Macan sales in the U.S. over the last four months, Porsche USA has sold 31,759 total vehicles through the first eight months of 2014. This moves Porsche’s market share up to 0.284% from 0.268% a year ago.

An incremental improvement? Most definitely, but the rate of Porsche’s improvement is in excess of what the overall market is averaging. Total new vehicle sales are up 5% in the United States in 2014. Porsche USA volume is up 12%.

The figure achieved by the Macan in its first month on the market, when 1263 were sold, was both representative of some pent-up demand and Porsche’s ability to meet that demand, if only at first. But it was also a tell-tale that the Macan, as if there was ever any doubt, was not another low-volume Porsche sports car. (Porsche sold 312 Caymans in May; 411 Boxsters.)

August told another, different story. The Panamera’s 3945 year-to-date sales represent a 14% year-over-year improvement for the brand’s people-carrying passenger car. Yet the Macan has generated more sales activity for Porsche in the last four months than the Panamera has over the last eight. That the Macan can quickly muster more sales in a shorter period than the Boxster or Cayman is no surprise. Yet in August, the Macan’s 969 U.S. sales nearly matched the 1056-unit total achieved by the Boxster, Cayman, and Panamera combined.

PanameraNow, the Panamera is not exactly America’s favourite car. Mercedes-Benz sold 1855 S-Classes and 1150 CLS-Class sedans last month. The Lexus LS, Audi A7, BMW 5-Series, BMW 6-Series, and Audi A8 were just a few of the other high-end premium brand cars which found more new customers than the Panamera.

But from a purely inward-looking Porsche perspective, the Macan’s early-onset success and the Panamera’s inability to keep up speaks to the current state of the automotive industry. Crossover tops car. Porsche USA’s Panamera volume met a monthly peak in April 2012, when 868 were sold. The Macan has surpassed that peak in three of its four months on the market. Yes, it’s been helped along by a much lower sticker price than the Panamera, but also by its bodystyle.

This isn’t just something we’re seeing at Porsche, nor is it a trend we see only with oddly-styled large hatchbacks and especially sporty small crossovers. By recent standards, Mercedes-Benz USA will report particularly strong S-Class sales this year, but the current pace suggests at least a 25% decline compared with 2006 levels. Yes, 2006, the year Mercedes-Benz USA sold their first 18,776 GLs to go along with nearly 31,000 S-Classes. Over the last three years, Mercedes-Benz has averaged 27,000 GL sales per year in the U.S., the kind of number they haven’t achieved with the S-Class since 2007.

BMW will sell less than half the number of 7-Series sedans this year than they did in 2003 while likely selling close to 110,000 total SAVs, around 2.5 times the number of X5s sold in 2003. Tata’s JLR? 60% of Jaguar-Land Rover’s volume in 2002 was Jaguar-derived, now it’s 77% Land Rover.

No matter which data point you use, it’s remarkably easy to see that the Macan went from non-existence to Porsche USA’s deuteragonist in the matter of one summer. It’s perhaps easier to see that big luxury cars are quickly being pushed to the sidelines, while the Macan and its more common premium cohorts move in on their territory.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Nashville, Tennessee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-nashville-tennessee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-nashville-tennessee/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915250 Follow all my Coast to Coast 2014 trip reports as they get published here. After crossing Georgia and part of Tennessee – the State of Davy Crockett, Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton (of course) – we have now landed in Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Having grown up in France, I am not overly […]

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Follow all my Coast to Coast 2014 trip reports as they get published here.

After crossing Georgia and part of Tennessee – the State of Davy Crockett, Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton (of course) – we have now landed in Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Having grown up in France, I am not overly familiar with this music genre but listening to Sirius XM’s “The Highway” satellite radio station all day long while driving had me catch up on lost time in a flash.

Full report below.

1. Nissan Altima NashvilleNissan Altima in Nashville TN

Current country music favourites are Kenny Chesney (American Kids), Aaron Lewis (Endless Summer), Luke Bryant (Drink A Beer), Dierks Bentley (How Am I Doin’) and The Cadillac Three (Party Like You). I also had the privilege to attend the 6pm show at the legendary Bluebird Café which caught me by surprise with an intimate atmosphere, the songwriters playing right in the middle of the audience. For those of you in the know, the night I was there John Pierce, Justin Lantz, Corey Crowder and Cale Dodds were playing – or rather joking around most of the time while taking turns singing. Unforgettable night.

2. Ford F150 NashvilleFord F150 in Nashville TN

So which cars do Nashville country music songwriters and hipsters buy? Based on the areas I visited (Downtown, West End and Hilsboro Road), rather different ones from the rest of the regions I have traversed so far. Logically, in a more urban environment we have more passenger cars and less pick-up trucks, with the most popular vehicles in town being (in this order) the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord – not seen at these levels since New York, Ford F-Series and Toyota Camry.

3. Chevrolet Traverse NashvilleChevrolet Traverse

Yes, I did write the Nissan Altima was the most frequent new vehicle I spotted in Nashville, ahead of all pickup trucks. Similarly to yesterday in Georgia for the Kia Optima, this could simply be because it is manufactured close-by in Canton, Mississippi. There is another Nissan plant located in Tennessee (in Smyrna) and models being spat out of this plant are also significantly more frequent in Nashville than they were up to now: the Infiniti JX, Nissan Pathfinder, Murano, Maxima, ( the now defunct) Altima coupé and most interestingly the Leaf: I saw more in Nashville than in the entire trip combined so far (including New York!).

5. GMC Acadia NashvilleGMC Acadia in Nashville TN

But there are a couple of models with an even more striking surge in popularity in Nashville: the Hero in Town is the Chevrolet Traverse and I have to confess that I did not know that car very well before landing here. This is fixed now as I had many opportunities to spot it all around town. Logically, its “twins” the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, using the same platform and very similar in size, are also extremely popular in town.

Nissan Quest NashvilleNissan Quest

Other extremely popular vehicles in Nashville are large MPVs: the Nissan Quest is everywhere, followed closely by the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and most taxis are Dodge Grand Caravan. Would Nashville be a big soccer mum car market? Arguably the Toyota 4Runner, never more popular so far than here in Nashville could also fit this category. Small sedans also are disproportionately successful here, led by the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, VW Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.

7. GMC Sierra NashvilleGMC Sierra in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville TN

One brand stands out in Nashville that I had not seen much before: Swedish carmaker Volvo, with the S60 sedan seemingly the most popular followed by the XC60 and XC90 SUVs. Cadillac SUVs also seem to be much more popular here than they have been so far in this trip. Other over-performing models in Nashville include the Nissan Juke, Ford Escape and Lexus HS, with the Hummer brand getting noticed as well here and for the first time on my itinerary.

10. Pontiac Aztek NashvillePontiac Aztek in Nashville TN

Finallly, Nashville carbuyers seem to have had a (masochistic?) love for late Pontiac models, including the horrible-looking Aztek and the G3, a rebadged Chevrolet Aveo… That’s it for Nashville! Next stop is Memphis, still in Tennessee.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and writes a blog dedicated to tracking car sales around the globe: BestSellingCarsBlog

6. Ford E-Series NashvilleFord E-Series in Nashville TN

11. Buick Enclave NashvilleBuick Enclave

12. Dodge Grand Caravan Taxi NashvilleDodge Grand Caravan

13. Ford F150 NashvilleFord F150

14. Lexus HS NashvilleLexus HS

15. Nissan Altima Nashville 2Nissan Altima

16. GMC Acadia Nashville 2GMC Acadia

17. Pontiac G3 NashvillePontiac G3

18. Toyota 4Runner NashvilleToyota 4 Runner

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Ian James Corlett’s ElectroPorsche: From Beater To Electrifying Showstopper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ian-james-corletts-electroporsche-from-beater-to-electrifying-showstopper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ian-james-corletts-electroporsche-from-beater-to-electrifying-showstopper/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=909898 [AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is one I've been pursuing since a couple of days before returning to TTAC on the back of the Bumpasaurus Rex last October. As today is my 36th birthday, this is my gift to you, dearest B&B. - CA] Meet Ian James Corlett and his 1966 Porsche 912. Corlett calls Vancouver, […]

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[AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is one I've been pursuing since a couple of days before returning to TTAC on the back of the Bumpasaurus Rex last October. As today is my 36th birthday, this is my gift to you, dearest B&B. - CA]

Meet Ian James Corlett and his 1966 Porsche 912. Corlett calls Vancouver, B.C. his home, where he works in the entertainment industry as a voice actor, director, producer, author and musician; his son and daughter, Phillip and Claire, also work in the industry as voice actors in their own right.

As for his 912, it may appear to be no more than a beautifully restored vintage Porsche, but as you’ll soon discover, there’s more than meets the eye with this particular sports car.

All photos provided by Ian James Corlett, Brendan McAleer and Wikipedia.

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“I didn’t start with the notion of electrifying a Porsche,” said Corlett. “I was gonna do an old VW Beetle, mostly because I love Beetles, and it was one of the first cars I ever had. But the electric kits and the conversions were relatively available, and lots of people had done them. So, I thought, ‘Well, that’s good, because the geometry works and it’s easy to bolt in an electric motor onto the existing transmission. So, that’s what I’ll do!’”

Corlett’s interest in all things electric began years ago during one of his “reverse midlife crisis” phases, when he happened upon a Vespa scooter whose engine lived up to its Italian heritage. Preferring to ride over working on the Vespa during the few sunny days Vancouver received in a given year, he turned to a since-defunct scooter shop in Seattle for help. There, Corlett obtained a 10-inch hub motor and custom components for the Vespa, then made the switch to electric power back home.

Another reason for going electric: To escape the leasing cycle, and to reconnect with the idea of ownership. Corlett grew up interested in European and Japanese vehicles, finding U.S.-made models of the 1970s and 1980s too big, heavy and brutal to his liking. His first cars included the aforementioned Beetle, his mother’s 1969 Datsun, a Honda Accord — his first new car — two Volkswagen Cabriolets with a Jetta in between, and ultimately, the first of many Porsche 911s.

Porsche_911_993_--_11-26-2011

Though he owned his vehicles through his first 911 — a 1994 993 model — outright, the leasing bug would soon sting him and his wallet:

Somebody introduced me to this wizard of leasing, and they said, ‘No. Actually, people just don’t realize that leasing is all about the differential between what a car is going to be worth in a couple of years, and what you paid for it. You’re only really paying for that difference.’

With the then-low depreciation rates of Porsche’s offering in mind, and the leasing guru’s flexibility in setting up the contract, Corlett found leasing was less expensive than regular car payments at the time. However, the first lease was like “the drug dealer offering [a new customer] the first one for free,” with the second and third leases as easy as the first.

Alas, the rates would soon climb, Porsche began expanding its lineup, and residual values were falling hard. After the sixth 911, Corlett was quitting leasing for good, preferring to own his cars again, as well as use the money that would have gone into a new lease toward his children’s private school tuition and other fiscal responsibilities.

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Though his search began with numerous old Beetles, Corlett took to the idea of converting a 912 to electric power after his attempt to buy a converted 912 from an aerospace engineer in the Phoenix area on eBay ended with a last-second loss to a higher bidder; converting a 911 of similar vintage was a bridge too far in his mind. This new journey would end outside of the desert city, where Corlett snagged a 1966 beater with rust galore — thanks to its previous life outside of Arizona — instead of a hoped-for “very dry, desert car.”

“It was really a two-step process,” he explained. “We needed to restore the car, and then fit it and measure it for the electric components.”

The restoration proved to be daunting for Corlett’s electric dream. Opting to perform both steps in Phoenix — the labor costs were lower than in Canada — he left the 912 with a restorer who turned out to be as nightmarish as the vehicle itself upon media-blasting by the following restorer, Arizona Street Customs, months later.

The project ultimately took three years, though Corlett admitted that “it shouldn’t have taken three years,” citing a change in focus toward a move to a new house in Vancouver, as well as project-related issues:

One of the huge delays, as an example, was the batteries. We ordered $15,000 worth of batteries, and they had to come from China. We just made a wrong choice on who the supplier was. That was eight months of waiting, because the guy would sell large amounts of batteries in containers. He waited for a container to be full before he would fulfill his order from China and ship to the U.S. That’s just big, long delay for no good reason.

1966 Porsche 912 EV 15

Since coming home to Vancouver late last year, the 912 has been making the rounds at events throughout the area, such as the Luxury Supercar Weekend at VanDusen Botanical Garden, and the Key West Ford Shine & Show in New Westminster, B.C., where Corlett took home trophies in the best special interest and unfinished categories. He says he enjoys being able to take part in any event that allows him to show off his masterpiece in the brief window of sunny days between June and October.

The reaction to such a conversion? “I have had nothing but jaw-drops and great comments,” he proclaimed. “Now, that’s to my face. I’m sure there are people that feel differently. I’ve been really surprised by some of the Porsche people — and I know a lot of them in town — some of them that are just hardcore, real Porsche fanatics.”

One in particular, his mechanic — a “very abrasive guy of German heritage” who’s “not too fond of electric cars, period” — enthusiastically approved of the 912 during a shakedown following a suspension adjustment, allaying Corlett’s fears of taking a classic Porsche and transforming it into a vintage EV. Nonetheless, he’s very happy with the overall response his car is receiving.

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Registration and insurance for a unique vehicle like this was easier to obtain than one might imagine. The most difficult part was importation from the U.S. to Canada, though this was waved away by declaring the 912 as just a restored vintage vehicle. Once at home, registration was simply a matter of switching the “G” — for gasoline — to “E” — for electric — on the paperwork.

Finally, though the 912 has standard insurance at present, it may soon have coverage better suited for its unique features, which would provide the benefit of being insured and appraised properly.

Range testing is ongoing as far as long drives are concerned, having gone as far south as Corlett’s P.O. Box in nearby Blaine, Wash., as well some handling issues that need to be resolved before taking it 9/10ths. In the meantime, he switches between the 912 and his 2011 BMW 135i, the latter his daily driver. His reasoning for the BMW is the same as the 911s before: the ability to go from the school and the studio during the week, to the track during the weekends when not piloting or showing the 912 EV.

As far as future electrification is concerned, an experience with the Tesla Model S has Corlett thinking of an EV suitable for his family’s needs. As the premium sedan is too large, he says the Kia Soul EV will likely fulfill the role, if only because the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive won’t be in Canada anytime soon.

By the way, he still has the electric Vespa, and he aims to have both it and the 912 out on the road to praise the sun next year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 1966 Porsche 912 EV 02 1966 Porsche 912 EV 03 1966 Porsche 912 EV 04 1966 Porsche 912 EV 05 1966 Porsche 912 EV 06 1966 Porsche 912 EV 07 1966 Porsche 912 EV 08 1966 Porsche 912 EV 09 1966 Porsche 912 EV 10 1966 Porsche 912 EV 11 1966 Porsche 912 EV 12 1966 Porsche 912 EV 13 1966 Porsche 912 EV 14 1966 Porsche 912 EV 15 1966 Porsche 912 EV 16 1966 Porsche 912 EV 17 1966 Porsche 912 EV 18 1966 Porsche 912 EV 20 1966 Porsche 912 EV 21 1966 Porsche 912 EV 22 1966 Porsche 912 EV 23 1966 Porsche 912 EV Spec Sheet

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Chart Of The Day: Subaru vs. Volkswagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chart-day-subaru-vs-volkswagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chart-day-subaru-vs-volkswagen/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:53:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912882 It’s not a brand new thing, this Subaru-besting-Volkswagen trend. But when Subaru outsold the Volkswagen brand in the United States in 2009 and 2010, Subaru was on a rapid upswing despite the market’s sharp decline, and all auto sales results were thought to be skewed by the recession. Year-over-year, Volkswagen volume shot up 26% in […]

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Subaru vs Volkswagen sales chartIt’s not a brand new thing, this Subaru-besting-Volkswagen trend. But when Subaru outsold the Volkswagen brand in the United States in 2009 and 2010, Subaru was on a rapid upswing despite the market’s sharp decline, and all auto sales results were thought to be skewed by the recession.

Year-over-year, Volkswagen volume shot up 26% in calendar year 2011 and 35% in 2012, a 113,731-unit increase. But 2013 volume fell 7%, and though the total number of sales was still far higher than anything Volkswagen had recently achieved, 2012 aside, there was cause for concern. Volkswagen’s new Passat, which, when 14,462 were sold in late December 2012 looked to have potential, slid 6% in a slowly growing midsize market. Volkswagen’s next big launch was to be the Golf, a car which, in America, simply didn’t have the potential for restore-the-brand volume that the Jetta and Passat sedans possess, or were thought to posess.

So here we are, with Subaru having reported its highest monthly U.S. sales total ever in August and Volkswagen having reported 17 consecutive year-over-year declines. Not all of the products marketed by these two brands in the United States are necessarily direct rivals, but they are both seen by many of their own buyers as slightly upmarket mainstream brands: Subaru arrived at this point after, until recently, fostering a niche status, while Volkswagen has consistently played on its German heritage.

The contradictions are obvious. Subaru is a tiny, part-Toyota-owned Japanese automaker. Volkswagen is the headline brand for the world’s second-largest automaker. The average margin of Subaru’s “victories” over Volkswagen during the last four months has been 13,693 units.

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Cadillac’s RWD Flagship Is Going Into Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillacs-rwd-flagship-going-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/cadillacs-rwd-flagship-going-production/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:48:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915258 Cadillac confirmed that a rear-drive flagship would go into production next year at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. In a statement released to the media, Cadillac boss Johan De Nysschen said “The objective for this upcoming model is to lift the Cadillac range by entering the elite class of top-level luxury cars. Currently in development, this new […]

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Cadillac confirmed that a rear-drive flagship would go into production next year at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

In a statement released to the media, Cadillac boss Johan De Nysschen said

“The objective for this upcoming model is to lift the Cadillac range by entering the elite class of top-level luxury cars. Currently in development, this new rear wheel drive-oriented sedan uses completely new, custom-designed materials on a unique vehicle architecture.”

Riding on the all-new Omega rear-drive platform, the car will be unveiled in the first half of 2015. Styling is said to be inspired by the Elmiraj show car that won critical acclaim at its 2013 debut at Pebble Beach.

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Ford Cutting European Fiesta Output On Weak Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ford-cutting-european-fiesta-output-weak-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/ford-cutting-european-fiesta-output-weak-demand/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:36:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915210 As one of Europe’s most popular vehicles, the Ford Fiesta’s sales is an interesting datapoint when it comes to looking at the strength of the overall European car market. So it’s interesting that despite a supposed rebound of Europe’s new car market, Ford is cutting Fiesta output at its plant in Cologne, Germany. Just-Auto is […]

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As one of Europe’s most popular vehicles, the Ford Fiesta’s sales is an interesting datapoint when it comes to looking at the strength of the overall European car market. So it’s interesting that despite a supposed rebound of Europe’s new car market, Ford is cutting Fiesta output at its plant in Cologne, Germany.

Just-Auto is reporting that Ford will cut output for 11 days, despite an overall EU market up 6 percent this year, though key markets like France, Italy and Germany were down slightly. Last year, the Fiesta was Europe’s best-selling small car, and according to Polk registration data, the top-selling subcompact in the world. The aforementioned countries are also key markets for the Fiesta (though the UK, its top market, is still going strong), so Ford won’t be taking this development lightly.

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Chevrolet, Honda Give CNG Passenger Cars Another Chance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chevrolet-honda-give-cng-passenger-cars-another-chance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chevrolet-honda-give-cng-passenger-cars-another-chance/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915178 Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike. […]

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Aside from a few trucks, some taxis and a fair number of buses, natural gas doesn’t receive a lot of play in the alternative energy game in comparison to darlings such as electric power and hydrogen. Despite this condition, Chevrolet and Honda are both ready to push natural gas onto commuters and efficiency-minded consumers alike.

The Detroit News reports Honda recently introduced a new generation of its Civic Natural Gas model, featuring amenities like heated leather seats and premium sound systems the previous model lacked. Chevrolet, on the other hand, plans to bring a dual-fuel Impala to the party in a few months, being able to use either CNG or gasoline depending on the situation.

Though both brands are willing to give CNG passenger cars another shot, not too many others are as willing. Most automakers believe there’s no money or demand to be found in the alternative fuel, legislators are too focused on the in-crowd of energy solutions, and environmentalists are playing the long game instead of being in the present.

As for the vehicles themselves, both models will come straight from the factory with the same warranties as their gasoline-powered siblings, with the expectation of greater confidence in CNG from the consumer as a result. The Civic and Impala will likely drum up competition among other CNG vehicle manufacturers for the first time in a decade, as well.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-fiat-uno-brazil-domestic-market/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914930 Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka […]

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Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka and Volkswagen up! The Uno had to come hard in order to remain a relevant player, capable of attracting the new Brazilian consumer that demands more in terms of comfort, finishing, content and safety.

Can this Uno face off the competition and remain among the top sellers in Brazil?

With the demise of the Mille, Uno nameplate sales took a hit, though the car kept its top 3 ranking. However, new competition kept underscoring how outdated the car was. First, the Asian competition appeared; the  Toyota Etios (mechanically efficient) and Hyundai HB20 ( great design) showed how dated the Uno was. Then, Chevrolet conjured up its Onix (mobile connectivity), Renault launched the Sandero (size, content). Each one traded on its own merits, but all were priced higher than the Uno and were not direct competitors (Fiat has the Palio to face those down). Of late though, the almost simultaneous emergence of Ka and up!, both directly aimed at the Uno, in size and pricing, left the Uno looking downtrodden and old.

Looking at the car from the outside I couldn’t avoid feeling disappointed, as I positively adored the outgoing model’s design. The hood now has a heavy crease running through it, and the headlights lost some of the square-ness that has forever been part of the Uno’s heritage. It has lost some of the playfulness of the original design and has a more aggressive and generic visage, vaguely reminiscent of some small Asian cars. It also makes concessions to modern sensibilities and the bumpers look more aggressive and pronounced, lending the car a more robust look that will appeal to many. On the Sporting model, the bumpers are frankly ridiculous, but again remit to something vaguely Asian and surely Evo and Imprezza fans will not mind. Plus, it does have a double central chromes exhaust tips and square wheels, I’ll give it that!

Spending more time and taking in the details, it becomes clear Fiat did sweat it out. The front bumper design gives it a lower stance, the backlights have a dazzling mini squares motif that looks novel and interesting, and the frontal section is now highlighted by being painted black. The side mirrors have a new shape and include small, tasteful, square blinkers. The wipers have new stalks and true flat blades. The handles are new and include the key lock. I’m sure I’d would have found more had I spent more time, but enough of Uno arcana.

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Stepping inside is where we see Fiat really spent (some) money. It now has a design reminiscent of what FCA has been lavishing on American Chrysler products and seen for the first time in a Fiat. Attractive, it works well in this small car and suggests modernity. The steering wheel is new and has buttons to control many functions. The plastics are better than ever, with textures and splashes of color, highly-configurable and dependent on version. It does seem Fiat understands that Brazilian private buyers are not interested in absolutely Spartan cars anymore. To do this, Fiat added hearty doses of interactive technology and connectivity. This was made possible because the new Uno sports a more advanced electronic architecture and as such has more computing power and can offer features like color display in the instrument cluster with many more functions than before, automatic left mirror tilt down when reverse is engaged, creep function and even an OEM back up camera. Fabrics can now be seen on the doors and in the back, the fold down seats can optionally be 60/40, in which case it offers a three point seat belt even for the middle passenger, a first for a car in this segment in Brazil. Finally, it offers three headrests in the back, which is, unfortunately, something most competitors don’t.

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As before, since it’s the same car, internal roominess is not that great, especially in light of the new launches. The seat cushions are still short and don’t offer enough thigh support, which can be tiring on long trips though, in Fiat tradition, it is placed high and offers a good, upright seating position. The steering wheel is slightly skewed, and the pedals are placed rather tightly. The trunk is now smallish for the category, beating only the Ka’s. However, all the controls are light and easy to use (and yes, durable) and the Uno offers some equipment still rare on other Brazilian cars like an internal rear hatch release mechanism and gas cap opener, while power window commands are now on the doors as ergonomics recommends.  All in all, an agreeable place to spend time that though configured for five, is more comfortable for four.

Mechanically the car does not stand out to the enthusiast anymore. The engines are holdovers from the previous cars and their age is showing, especially when compared to Ford’s and VW’s spiffy new three cylinders. The Fire EVO 1.0 is good for about 75 horses, while the 1.4 Fire EVO puts forth 88. Though a hefty total of the torque is available at low RPMs, both engines offer low top speeds (the smaller unit doesn’t crack 100 mph) and slow 0 to 60 times. While both Ka and up! 1.0s do this feat at around 14 seconds, the 1.0 Uno takes more than 18, while the 1.4 is more competitive. Fuel economy is average to good for the class and driven carefully can achieve high numbers. The 1.0 at least feels good and is a rounder engine, while the 1.4’s behavior is squarer (it doesn’t like to rev). Fiat has addressed these problems in a roundabout way by adding more sound insulation and new engine mounts. Also, being an in-line 4 cylinder, the vibrations noticed in the three cylinder engines is absent and the noise is better, but time moves on and most competitors’ motors, 3 or 4 cylinders, are surely better. I know they’re here Fiat, so where are the MultiAirs?

Driving the car, it is feels soft and comfortable. Nevertheless, Fiat has changed the specifications for shock absorbers and added insulation. It has also reinforced the Uno’s underlying structure to make it pass Latin NCap’s testing. This has not only added safety, but also affected the car’s behavior as the car is a bit heavier, but more planted and feels more solid. Around town, it is probably still the most comfortable in its class, being extraordinarily light and pliant. Out on the road, however, the car rolls too much. Of course, a more experienced Fiat driver knows this and knows he can force it some more. At that point, it settles down nicely and takes curves well. Most however, let off at the first sign of roll, making it more of a cruiser than a canyon carver. The new competition, specifically the Ka and up!, show that these relative low limits are not necessary as they combine comfort and sportiness much more convincingly.

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Finally, what may make Brazilians still pick the Uno in great numbers is the new added-in technology. As mentioned, the new electronic harness permits more electronic prowess. The 1.4s can be had with Fiat’s Dualogic single clutch automated transmission that makes do without a lever. In its place, there are buttons (and vague references to Ferrari technology in Uno literature) and shift paddles. In the Fiat line, this is the best implementation yet. Faster than before, shifts are done more suavely and the increased intelligence allows the unit to hold a gear when it perceives the driver’s intention to gun it. Though it doesn’t have a true hill holder function, it does have a creep function that will allow the car to slowly move forward at lower speeds and even on some inclines, which will of course help launch. Though a technology that is rougher than true automatics and double clutch automated systems, its simpler cost and ease of use is gaining ground and automating even the smallest Brazilian cars.

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The Uno is also the first small car that offers a Start and Stop system in Brazil. In fact, it will be the first car in the world that uses such a system even when running on ethanol. Fully automatic, it turns the car off when in neutral and stopped. It turns the car back on in 0.4 seconds when the clutch is depressed (it will not be offered, for now, on the Dualogic-equipped cars) and the functioning is quite seamless, so much so that a distracted driver might not even notice. It also re-fires the engine if the car is stopped for over 165 seconds, if the battery is stressed by high use of accessories, if there is a loss in braking power and if the car moves at more than 3 km/h. It won’t work in the warm up phase or if the battery is at under 75 percent capacity. It will also fire the car up again if the air conditioning is on and the engine is stopped for more than 60 seconds. Thankfully, as even that measure may not be enough in a hot country like Brazil, the system can easily be turned off at the flick of a button. INMETRO, the official Brazilian weight, measurements and balances agency rates the system’s impact on fuel economy at just 3 percent while Fiat claims as much as 20 can be had in cities like São Paulo at rush hour where traffic doesn’t move.

That’s the Fiat Uno then. A market leader under pressure by newer rivals. Adding a touch of razzle dazzle technology, some piecemeal mechanical improvements, a sprinkling of safety enhancements and a completely new interior, the Uno adds on to its strengths in the South American markets it is sold (reliability, ease of repair, economy, colors and beaucoup personalization possibilities). Though now outclassed mechanically, it still has what it takes to keep selling. Would I buy one now? Only if I got a spanking good deal or intended to keep the car for a very long time. The use of proven technology and engines virtually guarantee ease of mind, even to the new Brazilian consumer.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-tercel-sr5-4wd-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-tercel-sr5-4wd-wagon/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914002 I’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just […]

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20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just about every time I hit the junkyard, but mostly they don’t seem special enough to merit photographing. Realizing that this one is 30 years old, however, inspired me to pull out the camera.
17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in New Mexico, died in Colorado. There’s some rust, but more of the paint-burned-off/snow-buildup variety than the cancerous Midwestern type,
18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou are awesome!
19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe notorious “ice maker” next to the license plate. I’ve never been fully clear on what you got with the SR5 package, which was available on just about everything Toyota sold in the 1980s.
06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 3A engine was harder to kill than rats and cockroaches combined.
04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause the driver had to select front- or four-wheel-drive manually, many owners of these no-center-differential-equipped cars tore up tires and/or wore out drivetrain components by driving 365 days a year on dry pavement in the 4WD setting. Probably most of those Tercel 4WD owners bought Subarus after this happened.
05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith the air conditioning turned off, you were jamming econo.
09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI was able to skip chaining up when driving Donner pass in the winter in FWD Tercels, simply by picking up this emblem at the junkyard and adding it to my cars. Easiest 4WD conversion ever!

01 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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The Lexus IS Is Competing Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lexus-competes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lexus-competes/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:24:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912810 In the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008. Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous […]

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2014 Lexus ISIn the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008.

Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous 44 months.

U.S. Lexus IS volume has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last 14 months, although six of those year-over-year comparisons include prior-year results from the IS’s worst sales year (2012) since 2005.

In its segment, the IS trails only the premium-brand-leading BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Granted, the Audi A4, though relatively appealing even now, is as old as the hills. Also, while Infiniti’s Q50 trails the IS by 10,305 units, the Q50/G sedan combo is narrowly ahead of the Lexus.

Cadillac ATS volume has plunged 20% so far this year as total Cadillac passenger car volume has tumbled 15%. Volvo S60 sales are down 15% to 14,684 units, 18,743 sales back of the IS. The S60 trailed the IS by just 1672 units at this point one year ago.

The tide has clearly turned. In both 2011 and 2012, even Acura’s TSX was a more popular choice than the IS. Year-to-date IS sales in America are up 77%. The rapid growth rate has slowed as year-over-year comparisons now include results from both years, both 2014 and 2013, of the current, third-generation IS. August sales jumped 20% to 5312, more than the figure managed by the traditional second-ranked C-Class.

That C-Class, however, is now being replaced by a much more competitive, wildly more modern C. Will that car put the brakes on the IS’s ascent? It’s possible. One could argue that the brash IS with its massive spindle grille and controversial interior targets a different buyer. But we don’t determine which vehicles consumers will decide to cross-shop.

TTAC_3-Series-sales-chart-August-2014-YTDThe IS has nevertheless regained the status of a major player in the category. Lexus is on pace for the IS’s first year since 2007 with more than 50,000 sales. Not surprisingly, the IS has once again become important to traditionally RX-dependant Lexus. Through the first eight months of 2013, the IS accounted for just 11% of Lexus’s U.S. volume; the RX and ES 66%.

The RX/ES portion has fallen to 58% in 2014, however, as the IS now generates 17% of Lexus volume. You’re not surprised to learn, therefore, that Lexus outsold BMW and Mercedes-Benz in both July and August.

One thing is certain, the IS is not close to challenging the top-selling BMW in terms of U.S. sales. No entry-level premium sports sedan is, nor are any about to. The 3-Series range is massive, from the 320i sedan which undercuts the base IS by a few thousand dollars, to hatchback versions of both the 3-Series and 4-Series (which BMW USA still includes in the 3er’s total), countless powertrain options, and even a wagon. Not that BMW necessarily needs such broad appeal for the 3-Series to top the sales charts. The margins of victory are typically fairly large.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Crossing Georgia and Tennessee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-crossing-georgia-tennessee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-crossing-georgia-tennessee/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914218 30 mpg average in a full-size pick-up truck is possible: the proof. I started this New York to Los Angeles Coast to Coast trip by driving South along the East Coast all the way through to Charleston SC and Savannah GA. It’s now time to go north-west, taking Interstate 16 to Macon then the 75 through to Chattanooga, […]

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30 mpg30 mpg average in a full-size pick-up truck is possible: the proof.

I started this New York to Los Angeles Coast to Coast trip by driving South along the East Coast all the way through to Charleston SC and Savannah GA. It’s now time to go north-west, taking Interstate 16 to Macon then the 75 through to Chattanooga, Tennessee via Atlanta, and continuing on the 24 to Nashville. A total of 585 miles (940 km) from Savannah to Nashville, the longest daily stretch so far in this Coast to Coast trip. And this is where Albert – my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pick-up truck – met his match in the form of a bright yellow Peterbilt truck, and beat his fuel economy record to reach a very symbolic milestone…

Full report below the jump.

Albert Peterbilt 2Albert rubbing shoulders with a Peterbilt truck

At the last update (Savannah), Albert’s average mpg since the start of this road trip was 27.1. That was already on par with this model’s advertised highway mpg average (27) even though my trip has included quite a lot of city driving so far, notably in Manhattan for 3 excruciating hours of virtual standstill. The combination of a relatively low speed limit across Georgia highways (varying between 60 and 70 mpg), extensive use of cruise control and virtually 100% highway for 9 hours has lifted my pick-up truck’s average mpg to a very symbolic 30 mpg by the time I arrived in my Nashville motel.

New York NashvilleUS Coast to Coast trip so far. Picture courtesy of Google Maps

This means that since my departure from New York, I traveled 1,664 miles (2,678 km) on just 55.5 gallons of diesel. For those of you who are reading this outside of the United States, it won’t mean much unless I translate this fuel consumption into 210 litres or 8.1 litres/100 km. Back to the US, where I have to admit a 30 mpg average for a full-size pick-up truck had every local I shared it with raising their eyebrows. Fuel economy had not been much of a concern for full-size pick-up buyers. Then we saw the Great Recession, spikes in gas prices and a raft of economy-concious powertrains. Chrysler is the first to offer a diesel engine on a base (“1500″) full-size pick-up truck, lifting the mpg average to new heights. Advertised at 28 mpg highway in its 4×2 version and 27 as a 4×4 (the one I’m driving), the Ram 1500 has the best fuel economy in its category, and I completely verified it today. Big tick.

Kia Optima. Picture courtesy of motortrend.comThe Kia Optima is the Hero of the Day…

Now which vehicles did Albert have the pleasure of crossing on our way through Georgia? It should be noted first that I did the entire trip on the highway and only stopped at a couple of exits to rest, refuel and eat, and obviously this impacts the type of vehicles I have spotted and will describe here. Final note is I did not stop in Atlanta (sorry!) simply and sadly for lack of time, and after I left Chattanooga in Tennessee, it was night time which meant I could not recognize most of the cars on the other side of the highway, limiting my findings on Tennessee for now.

Hyundai Elantra. Picture courtesy of motortrend.com…with the Hyundai Elantra not far behind.

Once again we have a very unique vehicle landscape on Georgian highways. The Car of the Day is… wait for it… the Kia Optima, going from extremely discreet so far despite its #26 year-to-date ranking in the US overall (#15 passenger car) to contender for #1 passenger car – no less! There is a very simple explanation for this sudden change of heart: the Optima is manufactured locally in West Point GA… The Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, manufactured in the same plant, are much less frequent than the Optima on Georgia highways but still frankly above the numbers I spotted up until now. The other very impressive model today is the is the Hyundai Elantra, also a contender to the title of #1 passenger car in Georgia based on my observations, and manufactured in neighbouring Alabama.

VW Passat ChattanoogaNot that many VW Passats near Chattanooga…

I can already hear some of you wondering out loud whether I saw lots of VW Passats in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they are manufactured. And the answer is no. I paid special attention to this very model the entire day to try and get a feel for its success (or lack therof) as we approached the border with Tennessee and I specifically drove in and around town to try and spot a surge in popularity for the VW sedan. The result: I saw my first Passat of the day 70 miles before Chattanooga (some 300 miles after leaving Savannah), only two in Chattanooga itself and around (if anything I saw more Jettas than usual but this model is manufactured in Mexico) and 3 between Chattanooga and Dalton in Tennessee. In other words, had I not known the Passat was manufactured here, I wouldn’t have noticed anything abnormal.

Albert Peterbilt 1

Apart from the Optima/Elantra surge, pick-up trucks continue to rule the roost in this region and their ratio to the overall traffic keeps increasing, rising to almost 50% in Georgia’s heartland but receding somewhat as we get North and into Tennessee towards Nashville. Other models spotted in higher than expected numbers across Georgia include the Ford Focus – truly popuar for the first time in this trip, the new generation Toyota Highlander – not seen at these levels since New York, the Ford Taurus, Nissan Versa Note, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Nissan Sentra, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Dart, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger.

Chevrolet Suburban2015 Chevrolet Suburban

All-in-all, mid-size sedans dominate the Georgian landscape as they do nationally, with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima the most popular. A special mention once again to the new generation Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban – GMC Yukon/Yukon XL combo, spotted on the highway as if it was a Top 10 model, and to the defunct 2007 Saturn Sky: none in the 1500 miles coming up to the first one spotted and a total of 3 today!

2007 Saturn Sky2007 Saturn Sky

I will close this update by thanking the Peterbilt of Atlanta dealership in Jackson GA for letting me roam their massive parking lots, loiter for a good hour waiting for the sun to come back and take hundreds of pictures of Albert in various settings along with their trucks. To the salesman who drove to me in his golf buggy to apologetically let me know that the dealership had to close now: it’s ok. I got it all in the can! Next update will be on Nashville, Tennessee.

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Howes: No Escape Yet From Recall Woes For General Motors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/howes-escape-yet-recall-woes-general-motors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/howes-escape-yet-recall-woes-general-motors/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915162 After running the gauntlet of congressional hearings, numerous recalls and personnel firings under the dark cloud of scandal created in the wake of the February 2014 recall crisis, General Motors believes it’s ready to turn the page, that everything is now in the rear view. Not so fast. The Detroit News‘ own Daniel Howes states […]

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GM RenCen Storm Clouds

After running the gauntlet of congressional hearings, numerous recalls and personnel firings under the dark cloud of scandal created in the wake of the February 2014 recall crisis, General Motors believes it’s ready to turn the page, that everything is now in the rear view.

Not so fast.

The Detroit News‘ own Daniel Howes states that the next chapter of the story has just begun, with the combination of this week’s congressional hearing — where National Highway Traffic Safety Administration director David Friedman experienced the lash from the Senate Commerce Committee — and the revelation of 131 fatality claims submitted to the victim compensation plan GM hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to run.

The transparency and independence granted to Feinberg — including weekly updates on the number and types of claims submitted and approved/rejected — and the open-ended nature of the fund itself as far as compensation is concerned are both likely to further dent the automaker’s reputation until the last claims are put through the paces mid-2015.

Further, with investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission nowhere near close to completion, as well as the possibility of Attorney General Eric Holder bringing the hammer down on GM or its lower-level execs in the same manner as Toyota suffered, it may be a long time before the automaker’s reputation recovers to what it once was.

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Tesla Appeals NJ Franchise Statute, May Win Via Legislation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/tesla-appeals-nj-franchise-statute-may-win-via-legislation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/tesla-appeals-nj-franchise-statute-may-win-via-legislation/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915130 Months after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission forced Tesla to stop directly selling its vehicles to the public, the automaker’s appeal moves closer to its day in court. Automotive News reports the appeal, made in March of 2014, proclaims that Tesla has a right to sell its cars with its business model, as the […]

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Tesla Model S Burnout

Months after the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission forced Tesla to stop directly selling its vehicles to the public, the automaker’s appeal moves closer to its day in court.

Automotive News reports the appeal, made in March of 2014, proclaims that Tesla has a right to sell its cars with its business model, as the state’s franchise statute does not apply to the automaker — no franchise agreements were ever made — the MVC overstepped its bounds by enforcing the statute, and the statute itself violates the state’s constitution in part.

That said, the case may not need to see the light of day, as two bills in the state senate would allow Tesla to continue doing business its way, with some limits. The first would give the automaker four stores to itself — two of which are already in operation — with any more to be franchised. Two service facilities would also be required of Tesla were the bill to pass. The second bill would update the franchise statute.

Both bills are expected to be voted upon by late September at the earliest.

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IRS Plug-In Vehicle Credit Cap Data Lacking Accuracy, Detail http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/irs-plug-vehicle-credit-cap-data-lacking-accuracy-detail/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/irs-plug-vehicle-credit-cap-data-lacking-accuracy-detail/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=915098 In 2008, Congress passed a tax bill that would provide a credit of up to $7,500 for customers who purchase plug-in vehicles as a way to encourage adoption of cleaner vehicles. The credit would last in full for the first 200,000 units an automaker sold, then phased out over the course of 12 months. The […]

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A general view of the Internal Revenue Service Building in Washington

In 2008, Congress passed a tax bill that would provide a credit of up to $7,500 for customers who purchase plug-in vehicles as a way to encourage adoption of cleaner vehicles. The credit would last in full for the first 200,000 units an automaker sold, then phased out over the course of 12 months.

The problem? The agency responsible for handling the credit, the Internal Revenue Service, has no clue as to where things stand as far as that cap is concerned, despite every automaker that sells a plug-in model reporting the figures every quarter, as required by law.

AutoblogGreen reports that despite the fact that no automaker has yet to hit the cap, the IRS website meant to help consumers in their decision as to whether or not to purchase a plug-in vehicle is as dysfunctional as the legislative branch that passed the tax credit in the first place.

From the vehicles listed on the site — only six out of 24 vehicles from various manufacturers are listed — to the reported number of vehicles sold not matching up with what the automakers send to the agency per quarter, the IRS is dropping the ball on consumers who might want a plug-in in part because of the credit. This lack of attention to detail could knock new owners upside the head when the credit they thought they were going to receive ends up being less than desired.

When asked why the current situation exists, along with how the IRS receives and interprets its data regarding the credit cap, a representative stated that for a model to be listed on the site, a waiver must be submitted to the agency by the automaker in question. Both Chevrolet and Tesla, however, would beg to differ, as best explained by Tesla representative Liz Jarvis-Shean:

We’re compliant with reporting our quarterly US sales to the IRS and submit this information to the IRS shortly after each quarter’s close. One would assume that if Model S owners were having issues with this, you’d have heard about it.

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A 21st Century 240D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/21st-century-240d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/21st-century-240d/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:16:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914898 The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed. For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old […]

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The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed.

For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old V6 was good for 240 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, the new 4-cylinder will put down 200 horsepower and 362 lb-ft. Fuel economy is said to improve with the new mill, but a big car and a small engine tends to sometimes hurt real world figures, as the smaller mill must work harder to motivate the same amount of mass. Official fuel economy and towing ratings will be released later.

While AutoGuide.com quotes an M-B product manager as saying that the change comes from consumer demand for increased fuel economy, you can bet that CAFE had a lot to do with this change. Mercedes-Benz sells plenty of gas-guzzling cars, SUVs and AMG models and has been fined over $260 million for not meeting CAFE standards. No surprise that M-B has been a vocal opponent of the regime, which it says favors large trucks and SUVs.

So what better way to juice their CAFE averages than by saddling a large SUV with a tiny diesel engine? It’s not like this is something unknown for Mercedes-Benz. How many gutless, MB-TEX equipped 240Ds did they foist upon the American public, painted in hideous hues and sold at prices far beyond what many Americans expected a Cadillac or Lincoln to sticker at. Decades later, you’ll still have to fork out a $50,725 base price for the privilege of driving an ML250 BlueTec.

We may not exactly be in the Second Malaise Era – not with the advances made in automotive safety, fuel economy and power outputs, that let us have a 22 mpg Hellcat – but this ML250 is mostly definitely a modern day Brougham. Or a 250TD, if you prefer.

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Behold, The Leafamino http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/behold-leafamino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/behold-leafamino/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:37:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914794 Engineers at Nissan’s Arizona proving grounds have created a one-off pickup truck variant of the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf truck was apparently built to haul people and goods around Nissan’s campus, but is apparently “not very tough”. I can’t say its terribly appealing to me, but I’m sure there are a few of you who […]

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Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s

Engineers at Nissan’s Arizona proving grounds have created a one-off pickup truck variant of the Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf truck was apparently built to haul people and goods around Nissan’s campus, but is apparently “not very tough”. I can’t say its terribly appealing to me, but I’m sure there are a few of you who would gladly disagree.

Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s Nissan engineers marry a LEAF to a Frontier for use around the s

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Volvo Will Only Appear At Three Major Auto Shows http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volvo-will-appear-three-major-auto-shows/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volvo-will-appear-three-major-auto-shows/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:30:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914746 A report in Canada’s The Globe and Mail claims that Volvo is withdrawing from all but three major world auto shows – Detroit, Paris and one unnamed auto show in Asia – as part of a new marketing strategy. According to a Volvo spokesperson, the new display format, which will debut at Paris, will be “unlike what […]

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A report in Canada’s The Globe and Mail claims that Volvo is withdrawing from all but three major world auto shows – Detroit, Paris and one unnamed auto show in Asia – as part of a new marketing strategy.

According to a Volvo spokesperson, the new display format, which will debut at Paris, will be “unlike what anybody has seen before.” Volvo recently sold a run of 1,927 2016 XC90 SUVs in an online pre-sale campaign, with the entire allocation being sold off in less than two days, and may be feeling a bit optimistic about doing things differently. But not all of their dealers are thrilled. Toronto-area dealers have banded together to stake out a spot at the Toronto Auto Show, and although Volvo Canada has endorsed the initiative, the display will be funded entirely by the dealer body.

 

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Captives To Face CFPB Oversight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/captives-face-cfpb-oversight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/captives-face-cfpb-oversight/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:06:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914466 New rules being announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would mean that the captive finance arms would be subject to oversight from the CFPB. Automotive News reports that the CFPB will now have jurisdiction over “nonbank lenders” that  “make, acquire, or refinance 10,000 or more loans or leases in a year.” This rule would encompass […]

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New rules being announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would mean that the captive finance arms would be subject to oversight from the CFPB.

Automotive News reports that the CFPB will now have jurisdiction over “nonbank lenders” that  “make, acquire, or refinance 10,000 or more loans or leases in a year.” This rule would encompass virtually all captive finance arms, covering a total of 38 lenders that originate roughly 90 percent of nonbank auto loans and leases.

Until now, the CFPB has not defined its cutoff point for overseeing “larger participants”, which largely included financial institutions. But the new definition brings auto maker finance arms under the CFPBs umbrella, something which has been expected for some time.

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Toyota Boosting Capacity To Crank Out More Tacomas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-boosting-capacity-crank-tacomas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-boosting-capacity-crank-tacomas/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:33:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914474 Toyota’s lone Mexican assembly plant will boost output by as much as 40 percent to increase production of the Tacoma mid-size pickup truck starting in April, 2015. Automotive News is reporting that the Baja California plant, which handles final assembly duties from CKD kits, will produce 89,000 Tacomas annually, up from 63,000. The move comes […]

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Toyota’s lone Mexican assembly plant will boost output by as much as 40 percent to increase production of the Tacoma mid-size pickup truck starting in April, 2015.

Automotive News is reporting that the Baja California plant, which handles final assembly duties from CKD kits, will produce 89,000 Tacomas annually, up from 63,000. The move comes as GM announced a third shift at the Missouri plant that builds the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks, which have yet to go on sale.

The Tacoma is expected to be redesigned in 2016 to better compete with the GM mid-sizers. While Tacoma sales have been down year-to-date, the full-size Tundra has seen an increase, and moving production away from Toyota’s Texas truck plant could allow for more Tundras to be built to help satisfy demand.

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A Hot Hatch Polo Match http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/hot-hatch-polo-match/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/hot-hatch-polo-match/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:15:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914410 At 155 inches long, the current Volkswagen Polo fits neatly in between the size of the MK1 and MK2 Volkswagen GTI hatchbacks. That’s a foot shorter than the current MK7, and in GTI trim, an enticing competitor to the Ford Fiesta ST. For 2015, the Polo GTI gets a nice bump in power. Out goes […]

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At 155 inches long, the current Volkswagen Polo fits neatly in between the size of the MK1 and MK2 Volkswagen GTI hatchbacks. That’s a foot shorter than the current MK7, and in GTI trim, an enticing competitor to the Ford Fiesta ST.

For 2015, the Polo GTI gets a nice bump in power. Out goes the nifty twincharged 1.4L 4-cylinder, in favor of VW’s corporate 1.8L turbo mill. With 189 horsepower and about 2600 lbs to move around, the Polo GTI just nips the Fiesta ST to 60 mph (6.7 seconds, versus 6.9 for the Ford) while offering a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG, as well as a nicer looking interior.

Unfortunately, the Polo GTI is not in the cards for North America. A shame, since the new MK7 platform has now morphed into something beyond a mere compact hatchback in terms of size. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the Fiesta ST and Fiat 500 Abarth have both shown that there is a market for hot hatches that are still small in stature. And for all its technical brilliance, the GTI, as Jack mentioned, just lacks that ineffable quality that puts a smile on your face – something that the Fiesta ST has in spades. The economics of importing a subcompact for sale in America are likely tough to justify for VW, but that won’t stop me from lusting after a Polo GTI.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Coast to Coast 2014 – Savannah GA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-savannah-ga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/best-selling-cars-around-globe-coast-coast-2014-savannah-ga/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:36:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914202 Albert in the Avenue of the Oaks – Wormsloe Plantation Historic Site in Savannah, GA Now that we have gone through New York City, Washington DC through Virginia, North & South Carolina and Charleston, it’s time to travel further South along the East Coast of the United States and the Interstate 95 to Georgia – the birthplace of Martin Luther […]

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Albert Savannah 2Albert in the Avenue of the Oaks – Wormsloe Plantation Historic Site in Savannah, GA

Now that we have gone through New York CityWashington DC through Virginia, North & South Carolina and Charleston, it’s time to travel further South along the East Coast of the United States and the Interstate 95 to Georgia – the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr and Ray Charles. But first, I’ll give you my first impressions on running a full-size pick-up on diesel in the US.

Full report below the jump…

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT. Picture courtesy ChevroletThe Chevrolet Silverado Work Truck is the Hero in Town in Savannah

By now I have had the opportunity to fill up Albert – my Ram 1500 EcoDiesel for the trip – a couple of times and test his range: approximately 660 miles (1060 km), which is more than I expected. I also ended up spending less money than I thought (US$77) to rejuvenate Albert with 20 gallons of diesel so he could continue to faithfully lead me along in this Coast to Coast trip.

A few quirks about running on diesel in the US: as opposed to France for example where up to 80% of new cars sold in the country run on diesel, not all service stations offer diesel, especially when you step away from the main highways -an interesting find when you start to run low and the next 3 stations you pass only have unleaded. On highway exits, I would say on average 50% to 75% of stations have offered diesel so far.

Albert refuelling 1Albert next to one of his Heavy Duty big bruvas

The other big surprise is the price. In Europe, one of the main reasons for choosing a diesel vehicle – on top of the fact that it is more fuel efficient – is its price, significantly lower than unleaded although that price difference has narrowed over the past few years. In the US, diesel is always more expensive, by at least 50 cents a gallon – a very significant margin. Starting off in New York where gas prices are much higher($4.50+ a gallon), I have noticed prices going down steadily as I was driving South to reach about $3.15 a gallon (unleaded) and $3.65 (diesel).

Ford F250 SavannahFord F250 in Savannah GA

Third surprise: for diesel, prices differ depending on your method of payment, with credit a full 6 cents per gallon more expensive than cash. I had never encountered that type of distinction before, and this does not apply to unleaded (for now). Most Americans don’t actually need to walk inside the station’s building if they’re paying with a card, as all pumps are equipped with swipe machines. Having a non-American credit card, I had to pay in advance each time and I had estimated (and paid) my first fill-up to be $100 but the pump put on full stops at ‘only’ $77.

Matt Savannah 2Good old me with Albert

Lastly, an update on Albert’s fuel economy, now standing at an excellent 27.1 mpg after a little bit more than 1,000 miles travelled (1,600 km). This Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 4×4’s advertised fuel economy being 27 mpg highway, we are now right on target, even though my trip hasn’t been all highway.

Ram 1500 Chrysler 200Quick check for size: Albert with a previous gen Chrysler 200

Onto the Savannah vehicle landscape, and although we are only 107 miles away from Charleston, this is a different state and a different landscape altogether. Georgia is another Ford F-Series State but for the first time during this trip, the Chevrolet Silverado is genuinely threatening it for the title of most frequent vehicle spotted in the streets of Savannah, making the Silverado Work Truck (with black plastic grille and bumpers like Albert) the Hero in Town.

Chevrolet Silverado Work Truck SavannahChevrolet Silverado Work Truck in Savannah GA

While in Charleston the Ford F250 was surprisingly more popular that its little brother the F150, in Savannah the ‘logical’ order is back with the F150 seemingly more successful. However even when adding up F150, F250 and F350, we still only come level with the new generation Silverado. But wait there are more surprises in the Savannah vehicle landscape…

Albert closeup SavannahAlbert on the Isle of Hope in Savannah GA

Based on my observations uptown, downtown, in Garden City, Port Wentworth, Vernon River and the Isle of Hope, along with the Silverado/F-Series tandem, other very successful models here include the GMC Sierra, surprisingly frequent, the Toyota Corolla – seemingly the most popular new passenger car in town, the Toyota Tundra back to levels last seen in Northern Virginia, the Ram pick-up, Honda Accord and Toyota Tacoma, also way above its national level here in Savannah. That’s it for the Southern belle, next we are crossing Georgia on our way to Nashville, Tennessee…

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and writes a blog dedicated to tracking car sales around the globe: BestSellingCarsBlog

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House Dems Take Republicans To Task Over NHTSA Report http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/house-dems-take-republicans-task-nhtsa-report/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/house-dems-take-republicans-task-nhtsa-report/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914338 In the wake of a report written by Republican members of the United States House of Representatives regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inability to find and link evidence regarding General Motors’ involvement in the design and implementation of an ignition switch now linked to 54 accidents and 19 fatalities, two Democrat members took […]

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Henry Waxman

In the wake of a report written by Republican members of the United States House of Representatives regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inability to find and link evidence regarding General Motors’ involvement in the design and implementation of an ignition switch now linked to 54 accidents and 19 fatalities, two Democrat members took the report’s authors to task.

The Detroit News reports Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado, both members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee whose Republican majority penned the report, proclaim the report ignores GM’s role in the problems leading up to the February 2014 recall crisis that saw 2.6 million vehicles recalled in one go, placing the blame squarely upon the automaker’s shoulders.

The duo also laid criticism upon Republicans in both houses of Congress for not moving faster on legislation meant to prevent disasters like the one experienced by GM:

There is still time to improve auto safety in this country and to demand more from both car companies and regulators. Republicans should act quickly to pass legislation that solves the auto safety problems they identified in their report.

Meanwhile, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, who had planned to bring automotive safety legislation up for consideration back in July, said he wasn’t decided on the matter. He explained that while Congress would continue to look for answers and build toward solving them, the “NHTSA was part of the problem and is going to have to be part of the solution.”

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Maserati Biturbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1981-maserati-biturbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1981-maserati-biturbo/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913882 Your typical Maserati Biturbo isn’t worth much these days, which means that the cost/benefit analysis of one sitting under a tarp in the driveway often results in a trip to the nearest wrecking yard. In this series so far, we’ve seen this super-rare ’86 Biturbo Spyder, this not-so-rare ’84 Biturbo, and today’s first-year ’81 ’84 […]

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08 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYour typical Maserati Biturbo isn’t worth much these days, which means that the cost/benefit analysis of one sitting under a tarp in the driveway often results in a trip to the nearest wrecking yard. In this series so far, we’ve seen this super-rare ’86 Biturbo Spyder, this not-so-rare ’84 Biturbo, and today’s first-year ’81 ’84 Biturbo. All three of these cars were photographed in California, one in Los Angeles and the other two in Oakland, and it’s a safe bet than none of them had driven on the street in the decade prior to arriving in the wrecking yard.
03 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot even 75,000 miles on the clock.
07 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe hood-release mechanism was broken and I didn’t feel like futzing with it in order to see if some local tuner kid had grabbed the turbochargers.
04 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere are valuable Maseratis, and then there are cars like this one and the Chrysler TC By Maserati.

01 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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