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. Wed, 02 Sep 2015 22:11:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Maserati May Have Falsified Monthly Sales Before FCA Went Public http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/maserati-may-have-falsified-monthly-sales-before-fca-went-public/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/maserati-may-have-falsified-monthly-sales-before-fca-went-public/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 21:47:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1159170 According to a report by Automotive News, Maserati North America may have falsified nearly half their sales in December 2014 and an undisclosed amount for other months through a demonstration car scheme that rewarded dealers for being complicit in the scheme. A lawsuit filed by Recovery Racing, owner of multiple Maserati stores in the northeastern U.S., […]

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According to a report by Automotive News, Maserati North America may have falsified nearly half their sales in December 2014 and an undisclosed amount for other months through a demonstration car scheme that rewarded dealers for being complicit in the scheme.

A lawsuit filed by Recovery Racing, owner of multiple Maserati stores in the northeastern U.S., claims a program aimed at falsely boosting sales numbers financially disadvantaged its business because of its reluctance to participate.

Court documents filed by Recovery Racing state former Maserati North America CEO Peter Grady communicated on Sept. 23, 2014, the details of a Ghibli Performance Bonus that would apply to new 2014 and 2015 Ghibis sold in a specific timeframe.

On Sept. 29, Regional Sales Vice President Rick Fuller demanded via email that dealers “punch” a 2015 Ghibli demonstrator unit, even though those units had not yet been delivered.

A “punched” vehicle is considered sold; when a digital retail delivery report — or RDR card — is filled out and submitted to the distributor. It also marks the vehicle as unavailable for dealer trade. Dealers commonly “punch” demonstrator units, but in small numbers — typically one per model available within a manufacturer’s lineup. Toward the end of a vehicle’s life as a demonstrator, the vehicle is sold as “new” to a customer — usually at a reduced price — and the RDR card is updated with the customer’s information.

A day after the first “punch” request, Fuller sent out another email demanding dealers do the same to their 2014 GranTurismo, GranTurismo Convertible Sport and GranTurismo Convertible MC demonstrator vehicles, threatening that Maserati would eliminate future incentives if dealers didn’t comply.

Maserati claimed a 300-percent increase in sales the following October with 1,367 vehicles sold, the same month FCA went public.

I’ll allow Automotive News to explain the kicker:

In December, Maserati again told dealers to punch vehicles into demonstrator status. On Dec. 31, Fuller forwarded an email indicating that Maserati of Westlake in Thousand Oaks, Calif., had sold 70 Maserati vehicles in December 2014, and Maserati as a whole had sold 743 vehicles that month, according to court documents.

But two days later, Fuller forwarded an email saying that Maserati of Westlake had sold 155 vehicles in that month and Maserati as a whole had sold 1,431 vehicles, according to the documents.

“The purported increase in vehicles allegedly sold by both Maserati of Westlake and Defendant Maserati in December 2014 was due to vehicles punched into demonstrator status and not yet sold to a retail customer,” the complaint said.

Maserati North America and former CEO Peter Grady declined to comment on the report with Automotive News.

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BlueIndy Electric Car Sharing is Born (Under a Bad Sign) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/blueindy-electric-car-sharing-born-bad-sign/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/blueindy-electric-car-sharing-born-bad-sign/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 20:14:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1159138 BlueIndy, the nation’s first electric car sharing service, launched in Indianapolis on Wednesday, according to Time, but with controversy. The car service, which uses Bollore Group electric cars, has met initial opposition with the Indianapolis City Council, who’ve taken aim at the mayor who launched the project with Bollore — whose other EV car-sharing cities include […]

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Vincent Bollore with his Bluecars in Paris

BlueIndy, the nation’s first electric car sharing service, launched in Indianapolis on Wednesday, according to Time, but with controversy.

The car service, which uses Bollore Group electric cars, has met initial opposition with the Indianapolis City Council, who’ve taken aim at the mayor who launched the project with Bollore — whose other EV car-sharing cities include Paris and London.

The cars shouldn’t be parked in downtown spots, council members say.

“The mayor needs to understand that even though this is one of his pet projects, he is not above the law,” City council member Zach Adamson, told WXIN. 

The program is drawing fire from local residents as well.

The city’s buses are among the worst in the nation, according to StreetsBlog.org, and residents say the $6 million from city coffers for the service could be better spent on better public transportation. The lack of public transportation is reason alone for the service, BlueIndy General Manager Scott Prince told the Indianapolis Business Journal:

“We think it’s the perfect city to do this,” he said. “If we had the world’s greatest mass transit system today, this arguably would not be the first city we’d be launching in in America.”

Nonetheless, neighbors say the dedicated city parking spots and charging stations for the cars are an eyesore:

“I live in a historic neighborhood, and I’ve got a rental car business in front of my house,” Chas Navarra told the Indianapolis Star. “What’s the difference between having this and Hertz or Avis parked out there? How is this going to be good for my (property) valuation?”

A safety hazard:

“When it smacks you on the forehead like that, it’s really something,” Navarra said. “Do we even know if these chargers are safe or if children should be playing around them?”

Unnecessary:

“I drive my car to work Downtown,” Sean McCarthy told the Indianapolis Star. “It’s only three miles, but we have a parking garage, and traffic isn’t bad at all.

“I just don’t think Indianapolis is at that point where we have to find all kinds of other ways to get to work. It might make sense in a larger city but not here, yet.”

And a “leap of faith”:

“It’s quite alien,” Michael Thwaite, who is president of Plug-In America, told the Indianapolis Business Journal. The car “requires someone to take a leap of faith that the thing will work and it will meet their needs. It has to be better than the alternatives.”

The service will eventually have 500 cars available, according to its website. The cars fit four adult passengers and have a range of 150 miles.

Membership for the service costs $9.99 a month and $4 for 20 minutes in the car. After 20 minutes, users are charged $0.20 per minute.

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Breaking the Law Is Safer When Everyone Else Is Breaking It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/breaking-the-law-is-safer-when-everyone-else-is-breaking-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/breaking-the-law-is-safer-when-everyone-else-is-breaking-it/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:59:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1159034 Google. While breaking privacy laws seems to be their global sport of choice, they sure do stick to the letter of the law when their autonomous cars are perusing American roads. Oddly, that’s a problem according to the New York Times, because the rest of us operate our automobiles in a legal gray area, bending the rules to […]

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Google Autonomous Vehicle Prototype Circa December 2014

Google. While breaking privacy laws seems to be their global sport of choice, they sure do stick to the letter of the law when their autonomous cars are perusing American roads.

Oddly, that’s a problem according to the New York Times, because the rest of us operate our automobiles in a legal gray area, bending the rules to our benefit when we know we won’t get caught.

Google’s autonomous car project is — in its simplest form — four wheels, an array of sensors and software that tells the wheels what to do based on signals from the sensor array. Because that software is programmed in a way that follows traffic law in an absolute form, human drivers don’t know how to react it — and it doesn’t know how to react to humans.

This is because, for the most part, we break traffic laws is small ways all the time.

For example, four-way stops:

One Google car, in a test in 2009, couldn’t get through a four-way stop because its sensors kept waiting for other (human) drivers to stop completely and let it go. The human drivers kept inching forward, looking for the advantage — paralyzing Google’s robot.

If the Google car had been programmed to break the law by not waiting for all other vehicles to stop, it would have made it through the intersection.

But, it isn’t just the autonomous car of the future; drivers are having difficulties with the semi-autonomous features of today found in a number of vehicles, like lane departure warning systems:

Humans and machines, it seems, are an imperfect mix. Take lane departure technology, which uses a beep or steering-wheel vibration to warn a driver if the car drifts into another lane. A 2012 insurance industry study that surprised researchers found that cars with these systems experienced a slightly higher crash rate than cars without them.

Bill Windsor, a safety expert with Nationwide Insurance, said that drivers who grew irritated by the beep might turn the system off. That highlights a clash between the way humans actually behave and how the cars wrongly interpret that behavior; the car beeps when a driver moves into another lane but, in reality, the human driver is intending to change lanes without having signaled so the driver, irked by the beep, turns the technology off.

As difficult as it will be for autonomous vehicles to seamlessly blend in with the current infrastructure — regardless of the condition of that infrastructure — the biggest hurdle will likely be something much more difficult to change: human nature.

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QOTD: Should ‘Buyback’ Cars Carry a Branded Title? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/buy-recalled-buyback-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/buy-recalled-buyback-car/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:04:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1159010 In 37 pages of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s consent order with the government, the unprecedented action mentions little about what life will be like for the cars re-sold by the automaker after being repaired. At issue are thousands of trucks and SUVs — Ram 1500s, 2500s, 3500s, Dodge Durangos and Dakotas, and Chrysler Aspens — that could be […]

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In 37 pages of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s consent order with the government, the unprecedented action mentions little about what life will be like for the cars re-sold by the automaker after being repaired.

At issue are thousands of trucks and SUVs — Ram 1500s, 2500s, 3500s, Dodge Durangos and Dakotas, and Chrysler Aspens — that could be eligible for buyback from the automaker. FCA spokesman Eric Mayne told us in July that FCA has the ability to buy, repair and resell those cars under the order.

The recall order doesn’t address whether those cars would need to be identified as “buyback” cars, which the manufacturer isn’t obligated to disclose. But already, the consent order asks FCA to go above and beyond what the law requires for a while.

Unlike Lemon Law cars, which receive “manufacturer branded” titles, buyers may be relying on the dealer to tell you if the car was purchased and repaired by the manufacturer as part of the large-scale recall. And in the U.S., used car dealers are required to disclose only what they know about the vehicle’s history, including recalls, which may not be much.

FCA has (rightfully) said that the cars it buys back, repairs and re-sells would comply with all applicable safety standards outlined for the cars, and in theory wouldn’t be much different than any other successfully recalled and repaired vehicle.

However, it would be incumbent upon buyers (and even more so, dealers) to uncover their vehicle’s history — if they’re curious — and we all know CarFax is hit or miss.

So the question I have for the B&B is: Should titles reflect whether cars were purchased from manufacturers as part of a non-lemon “buyback?” Would buyers want to know recall history? Should the automaker or dealer be compelled to disclose its history?

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Crapwagon Outtake: 1987 Toyota 4×4 Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/crapwagon-outtake-1987-toyota-4x4-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/crapwagon-outtake-1987-toyota-4x4-truck/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 16:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158226 Go to any small town cruise-in, and you’re likely to find one: a tribute to the owner’s favorite “movie car.” A “Bullitt“ Mustang, or for the younger guys who like fixing stress cracks in cheap fiberglass, a “Gone in Sixty Seconds” Mustang. A “Smokey and The Bandit” Trans Am, complete with screaming chicken. A racist […]

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Go to any small town cruise-in, and you’re likely to find one: a tribute to the owner’s favorite “movie car.” A “Bullitt Mustang, or for the younger guys who like fixing stress cracks in cheap fiberglass, a “Gone in Sixty Seconds” Mustang. A “Smokey and The Bandit” Trans Am, complete with screaming chicken. A racist General Lee. If the show is at a private golf club rather than the back lot of a Sonic Drive-In, perhaps a “Goldfinger” DB5.

DeLoreans figure heavily into this mix, too. Faux flux capacitors abound. But for me, my absolute favorite movie car is Marty’s Toyota HiLux from “Back to The Future.” Gleaming in black, with polished rims, a phalanx of lights atop a useless roll bar, the truck of Marty’s dreams was also that of mine when I was seven. I recall building a plastic scale version as a poor substitute.

There are folks out there who will dress up used trucks to recall the legendary movie vehicle, like this one on eBay. I can’t imagine restoration parts are easy to come by, with a vast majority of these tough trucks being used as troop transport somewhere in less-developed lands. A recently rebuilt engine helps ease the shock of the odometer figure.

The seller wants $3,500, which might be a bit crazy for a faded, rusty, 271,000-mile, old pickup. But squint a little, ignore the independent front suspension that wasn’t available in ’85, and you can imagine yourself with a Jennifer next to you, and a Flea in the next lane over.

Seven-year-old Chris wants to turn on some Huey Lewis, and place a bid. Thirty-something Chris is listening to Dave Brubeck, however, in an effort to tune out the child within.

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Nissan, Hyundai Execs Play Musical Chairs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/nissan-hyundai-execs-play-musical-chairs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/nissan-hyundai-execs-play-musical-chairs/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 15:23:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158818 Hyundai’s U.S. sales chief Bob Pradzinski left abruptly Tuesday and was promptly replaced by Nissan’s U.S. sales chief — and former Hyundai exec — Derrick Hatami, Automotive News is reporting. Separately, Nissan announced that Chief Marketing Officer Dan Mohnke would assume lead sales responsibilities after Hatami’s departure. Pradzinski’s sudden departure may have triggered the moves, but it’s not […]

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Hyundai’s U.S. sales chief Bob Pradzinski left abruptly Tuesday and was promptly replaced by Nissan’s U.S. sales chief — and former Hyundai exec — Derrick Hatami, Automotive News is reporting.

Separately, Nissan announced that Chief Marketing Officer Dan Mohnke would assume lead sales responsibilities after Hatami’s departure.

Pradzinski’s sudden departure may have triggered the moves, but it’s not unusual for Hyundai, according to the report. Pradzinski assumed his No. 2 role after former CEO John Krafcik abruptly left Hyundai and became president of TrueCar.

According to Automotive News, Hyundai didn’t report why Pradzinski left other than that he “elected to step down.” Pradzinski worked for Hyundai for 26 years, appointed to head sales in January 2014.

(Sometimes it’s par for the course to be shown the door immediately in the car business if you leave to a competitor. I’m not speculating on the specific circumstances, just for context. — Aaron)

Hatami was recently Western region sales chief for Hyundai, where he helped the automaker gain a larger market foothold.

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro – Mix to Match http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2015-toyota-tacoma-trd-pro-mix-match/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2015-toyota-tacoma-trd-pro-mix-match/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 15:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158394 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4-liter, DOHC V-6 with variable-valve timing (236 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 266 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm) 5-speed ECT-i automatic 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway (EPA Rating, MPG) 17 mpg combined (observed, 40 percent highway/20 percent city/40 percent off road/100 percent totally bruh!) Tested Options: TRD Performance Air Filter $90; Bed Mat […]

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

4-liter, DOHC V-6 with variable-valve timing (236 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 266 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm)

5-speed ECT-i automatic

16 mpg city/21 mpg highway (EPA Rating, MPG)

17 mpg combined (observed, 40 percent highway/20 percent city/40 percent off road/100 percent totally bruh!)

Tested Options: TRD Performance Air Filter $90; Bed Mat $120; Paint Protection Film $395; Security System $469; Front Skid Plate $205.

Base Price:
$38,300*
As Tested Price:
$39,579*

* Prices include $885 destination and handling fee.

Forgive me for getting all emotional here.

The 2015 Toyota Tacoma represents to me the end of the road for the truck I knew so well, complete with a growl more familiar to me than my own father’s voice. Like many mountain-state millennials, the Tacoma seemed for me to be just the right size for a party in the mountains, a last-minute move (or eviction, perhaps), a camping trip or hauling an over-welded pig smoker and cherry picker to a friend’s backyard.

I expected the 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro to be a greatest hits album, replaying the most successful tunes from my young adulthood through its chunky tires and searing orange paint package.

It turned out to be more of a remix.

When I had the chance to drive the all-new 2016 Toyota Tacoma and the 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro back-to-back, I presumed that I’d get misty-eyed and nostalgic for one; geezerly and cynical for another.

In a way, I am. The TRD Pro feels like a rough-and-tumble truck, the kind of burnt orange brick to throttle through your neighbor’s window if they call the cops too many times for loud music. The 2016 Tacoma has a 3.5-liter engine like a Camry for chrissakes.

I just didn’t count on the fact that I grew up.

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Exterior
If you ask me now, I’d take the burnt orange (or Inferno, as Toyota calls it) Tacoma or 4Runner. Ask me in five years and I may have a different opinion, but for now: yup, I’d take one.

The Macho Taco is really just a hyper-sexed version of the Tacoma we already know. The basic truck has gotten larger in the decades since we’ve had the Tacoma/Toyota pickup, but the proportions are still the same. The 5-foot box and double cab configuration has a barrel-chested silhouette, and the truck’s overall length — which is still about 2 feet shorter than a short-bed F-150 — belies its interior space.

2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(4_of_8)Around front, our tester sported the automotive equivalent of a manicured soul patch: a very visible, very silver front skid plate (which, surprisingly, was optional). The skid plate didn’t bother me as much as the blacked-out grille and TRD Pro badges up front, but don’t ask me why.

In all, the styling on the truck makes it look like a bit of a special edition can of Mountain Dew, and that’s what owners are presumably signing up for. Have you seen the nostrils on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon?

Shod with chunky 16-inch A/T BFGs, the Tacoma looks the part. Its Eibach springs, which are TRD tuned and 2 inches taller, and Bilsteins confirm what the tires promise: it’s at home in the dirty stuff.

Interior
I won’t surprise anyone at Toyota for saying that the Tacoma shows its age more on the inside than anywhere else. I can look past the black badges, the hair-on-fire orange or even the silver skid plate, but goodness, that instrument cluster.

Toyota Tacoma GaugesIn reality, the Macho Taco is a very old runner in compression leggings and cross-trainers — it only fools everyone for so long. The chunky climate controls and Spartan interior aren’t exactly what you’d expect from a truck that costs nearly $40,000 and its seating position isn’t much to write home to the folks about either.

But I’m the forgiving type, and I’d rather highlight the Tacoma TRD Pro’s infotainment system, which is actually better than the new generation’s touchscreen. The tactile buttons are better and that’s because I’m an old man, but also because windows down and dust and dirt in, the thing actually works without wiping it off too much.

As found in higher trims of the Tacoma, the 6-speaker audio system is remarkably good for an unbranded unit. (A few years ago, I drove a Tacoma with a flux capacitor-looking subwoofer in the back and that was just the best. I wish we could still get subs like those.)

In back, the double cab’s rear seats sport 32.3 inches of legroom, according to the automaker. It’s enough room for my 6-foot-2-inch lanky frame to fit without changing the driving position much, according to me.

As you would expect from a truck of its age, the Tacoma sports interior materials that you’d likely find on a 1992 Corolla. Its straightforward graphite fabric and plain, hard plastics are less exciting than hold music on the phone with the IRS, but think about the patina of dirt you could grind into those bad boys! See? Every atomic cloud has a silver lining.

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Powertrain
It’s not hyperbole: Firing up the 4-liter V-6 sounds like home to me. The Toyota’s roar and (hollow) growl is easy to deride; its 236 horsepower isn’t exactly pushing the limit. Its real power is in its twist, which it finds higher in the range that you’d expect in a truck, until you realize that very few buyers actually tow with their Tacomas. The replacement engine for 2016 has no material improvement in torque (266 vs. 265) and actually comes on higher in its range (4,000 rpm vs. 4,600 rpm). I suspect our truck’s might was boosted slightly by its performance air filter and TRD exhaust, but only just.

In reality, the base mill is just fine. Sifted through a five-speed automatic with one overdrive gear, the Tacoma could be accused of being eager — but probably not meaty. At altitude (around 10,000 feet), the truck wheezed and huffed, but who needs air conditioning anyway? Takes me back to the old days.

One of the benefits of buying a TRD Pro, of course, is the truck’s electronically locking rear differential, which may get an equal number of “What’s that do?” questions as the “ECT Power” button. The Taco Supreme’s rear locker may be two fewer than a G-Wagon and one less than a Rubicon, but it’s probably one more than most people need.

The TRD Pro’s limited run of 1,500 examples means all the six-speed manuals are long gone, slowly depreciating in Washington garages where the owners will inevitably sell them in five years for whatever they paid for them today. It’s a shame; the manual would have been more fun and should have been more accessible.

The Tacoma’s low-range is easy to find and shift into; a rotary knob near the key is all that stands between you and conquering that rock like a boss.

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Drive
There’s no reason, whatsoever, for the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro to ever find dry pavement. The reasons are two-fold.

First, the Taco Supreme is sublime off road. The faster you run down dirt roads, the better the truck’s mission comes into view. I won’t evoke baja trucks and Toyota off-road racing heritage (supposedly the 2016 truck does that for you), but rather I can say that it works and work very well.

Second, if you do happen to find pavement, keep the chiro on speed dial. The Tacoma TRD Pro’s stiffened spring rate and stiff sidewalls keep the truck harder than a $10 mattress.

2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(6_of_8)Ditto for the brakes, which stop harder than swearing at the dinner table on Thanksgiving. The pedal is unforgiving and so are my kidneys, which are moving around in my back like a paint shaker.

I have ridden in stiffer trucks before (Ram Power Wagon), but any fantasies of living with a TRD Pro in day-to-day commutes should end right now: it’s not that type of truck.

And that type of unforgiving truck is something I’m OK with. I appreciate automakers holding fast to their concepts, and staying true to their missions. The TRD Pro feels like a Tacoma that won’t give an inch to take an off-road mile.

It’s not the ultimate expression of what an old Tacoma should be, rather it’s the last in a line of Tacomas that are left to appreciate.

In that way it felt like the Jay-Z/Beatles “Grey Album.” That record wasn’t necessarily good (although I liked it) but rather it was good for what it was.

(Interior instrument shot courtesy of Toyota because I can’t shoot interiors apparently.)

2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(1_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(2_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(3_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(4_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(5_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(6_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(7_of_8) 2015_Toyota_Tacoma_TRD_Pro_(8_of_8)

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Bark M. On The Smoking Tire, This Time With Added Soberness http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/bark-m-on-the-smoking-tire-this-time-with-added-soberness/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/bark-m-on-the-smoking-tire-this-time-with-added-soberness/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:59:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158514 “Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta.” Our own Bark M. found himself in Los Angeles, so why not crash The Smoking Tire Podcast and praise the Fiesta ST a bit? King Farah of Lexus was joined by Bark and Jeff Glucker of Hooniverse to talk about the Fiesta, autocross (where Bark predicts future hatemail), haters, and the GT350R […]

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“Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta.”

Our own Bark M. found himself in Los Angeles, so why not crash The Smoking Tire Podcast and praise the Fiesta ST a bit?

King Farah of Lexus was joined by Bark and Jeff Glucker of Hooniverse to talk about the Fiesta, autocross (where Bark predicts future hatemail), haters, and the GT350R for starters.

If you’re allowed to drink at work, take a sip of Glenfiddich Single Malt for every f-bomb.


The Smoking Tire – Fiesta Fiesta Fiesta

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Winterkorn Continuing At VW, But Maybe Not How He Wanted http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/winterkorn-continuing-vw-maybe-not-wanted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/winterkorn-continuing-vw-maybe-not-wanted/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:43:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158650 Volkswagen will extend its contract with CEO Martin Winterkorn through 2018, Automotive News is reporting, but that two-year deal may make him too old to succeed the man he ousted, Ferdinand Piech, who left the company last year after clashing with Winterkorn. At the end of Winterkorn’s contract, the man who led Volkswagen’s recent revolution in […]

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Martin Winterkorn in Shanghai - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Volkswagen will extend its contract with CEO Martin Winterkorn through 2018, Automotive News is reporting, but that two-year deal may make him too old to succeed the man he ousted, Ferdinand Piech, who left the company last year after clashing with Winterkorn.

At the end of Winterkorn’s contract, the man who led Volkswagen’s recent revolution in America will be 71, making him too old for the top slot held by interim chairman Berthold Huber. Winterkorn was seen as the likely replacement for Piech, according to Reuters, but that job may go to an outsider now.

“This increases the chances for an external chairman, which is good news in our view,” Arndt Ellinghorst, an analyst with Evercore ISI’s global research head, said in a statement to Automotive News.

The distance between Winterkorn and Piech seemed to grow over their different strategies for VW in the Americas.

Volkswagen is competing with Toyota to be the world’s largest automaker. Through six months, VW had a narrow lead delivering 5.04 million cars worldwide, compared to Toyota’s 5.02 million.

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An Unexpected Lesson: Making the Long Trip Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/an-unexpected-lesson-making-the-long-trip-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/an-unexpected-lesson-making-the-long-trip-home/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158466 In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it […]

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shelby side

In addition to advice about the long-term benefits of wearing sunscreen, the world’s most famous commencement address included this bit of wisdom: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” And so it was, true to the author of that essay’s own meandering experience, that I found myself on a sunny, if not entirely idle, afternoon this past June tossing a small rucksack into the back of my well-worn Shelby Charger setting out for Seattle, some 1800 miles away.

That my mother was ill was a fact I had long known. Just how serious the situation truly was, however, took everyone by surprise. One day the doctors were telling my brothers and sisters that our mother had as much as a year left to live and then, almost the next day, were coming back to say that she might have just a few weeks. By the time the news reached me in Leavenworth, the prognosis had been shortened to just days. After an hour or two of hand wringing, I decided I should probably go.

I can say now that the right thing to do would have been to fly, but there were several factors that played into my decision to drive. The first was that I really didn’t believe the news. I had spoken to my mother the previous week and she had sounded healthy and happy, so this sudden turn for the worse didn’t really register with me at the time. She had been sick and then better several times and this was, I reasoned, just another low point that she would claw her way back from. She had done it before and she would, I thought, do it again.

Also, my time in Leavenworth was coming to an end. Graduation was just a week away and, the best year of our life completed, our household goods were set to be packed and shipped almost immediately thereafter. I had a thousand things on my mind — orders, passports, reservations, airline tickets, the kids, the dog, and, added in there somewhere, the disposal of my Shelby Charger. This last thing, surprisingly, was proving to be quite irksome.

Selling the Shelby should have been a snap. It looked great, ran good, and had a raft of new-old-stock replacement parts to go along with it. Someone somewhere, I reasoned, should want it. Originally, I had worried about selling it too quickly. I still needed a second vehicle for our final days in Kansas and so, overconfident that the buyers would beat down my door, I hung too high a price on it. Ultimately, I think now, that helped drive them away.

Shelby front

Looking back, I can see that a Shelby Charger isn’t the kind of car the general public is usually interested in. Most people who buy a car like this, a “near classic” I call them, have to be a model-specific enthusiast; someone who wants a specific car in good but not totally pristine condition, at a good price. These people, it turns out, are in short supply, so after weeks of running fruitless advertisements,I decided to send the car to my brother’s house where he could use it as he saw fit and where it would be when I ventured back to the Seattle area on whatever odd errand would eventually carry me there.

I was considering shipping the car and had already obtained several quotes when the news of my mother’s situation interrupted my planning process. Still not entirely convinced that she really was in her last days, driving the Shelby out to Seattle would help solve two problems at one time. The added benefit would be that I wouldn’t need to rent a car while I was there and, once mom got better, I could just fly home. It was a perfect solution.

With this in mind, I carefully packed the car with the many replacement parts that had been included when I purchased it, packed a small bag for what was sure to be a quick trip, and said goodbye to my wife and kids. It was about 3 p.m. when I put the little car on the road to the interstate and, although I had originally questioned the decision to go, now that I was on my way it felt right. After a stop for gas in Platte City, MO, I caught northbound Interstate 29 and gradually wicked the speed up to just under the limit. Although I had owned the car for several months, this was the first time I had taken it out for more than a short blast. As I rolled through St. Joseph, the town where my mom was born and raised, I was surprised at how smooth the car was running.

Way back in 1983 when the little Shelby had rolled off the production line, the speed limit was just 55 miles per hour and it seemed logical to me that the car had been geared to run most efficiently at right around that speed. To my happy surprise, however, the car wanted to run at 65. Although that was still slower than most of the posted speed limits in the many states that lay west of the Mississippi, it seemed a good pace. I could, of course, have pushed the car harder, but after noticing that the temperature gauge was hanging just below the red zone, I decided not to push my luck.

Nor was handling an issue. The Shelby felt at home on the superslab and tracked smoothly along at speed. The little car might be old, I thought, but it was definitely in its element on the open road.

I passed into Nebraska in the late afternoon and switched over to I-80 in Omaha just after the evening rush hour had cleared. As I ran westward, a line of severe storms plunged the countryside into an early, ominous dusk and soon I was observing lightning with an ever increasing frequency off to my right. At around 8 p.m. the storms that had been staying just slightly north of the Interstate finally worked their way south and began to dump buckets of rain onto the road. The little Shelby’s windshield wipers beat furiously on their high-speed setting, but no matter how hard they worked the driving rain made clearing the windshield impossible and I found it difficult to see. Blinded, I moved the car to the right side of the interstate, found the fog line, and switched on my emergency flashers as I straddled that glorious line at a bare 30 miles per hour like a slot car on a track. At one point, the steady drum of raindrops turned into the pinging of high-speed hail and, for the first time that day, I began to wonder just what the hell I had gotten myself into. As I approached the town of Grand Island, I decided enough was enough and pulled off the road for the night. Although that sort of weather may seem normal to some people, I felt lucky to just be alive.

By 5 a.m. the next morning, the skies had cleared and the raging torrent that had been the road the night before was once again dry. I spent a few minutes looking over the little car before I started on my way and was relieved to find out that the only damage the hail had caused had been to my nerves. After topping off the oil and filling up with gas I put the car back on the interstate determined to reach Salt Lake City in just one Jump.

It turns out that it is almost 800 miles from Grand Island, Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. Google Maps tells me that it should take somewhere around 11 hours and, in order to make it, I had to push the little car relentlessly. Although I was confined to the slow lane almost the entire way, I made decent time as the sun rose behind me and about the time it got into my eyes I had noted that the countryside turned from verdant farmland into the drier, more varied terrain of the high plains. Sometime in the early afternoon , I entered Wyoming and, a few hours after, crossed the continental divide. From there, I reminded myself that it was, technically, all down-hill and I found myself relieved to be, once again, on “my own side of the continent.”

Shelby interior

All through the long, hot day, the car beat steadily along at just over 65 miles per hour and, despite their age, the Shelby’s overstuffed, velour seats proved to be surprisingly comfortable. Once again the needle on the temperature gauge climbed and remained dangerously close to the redline and I worried as, from time to time, the slight odor of blistering hot motor oil wafted through the cabin. Still, as car after car screamed by in the fast lane, the little Charger continued to hum merrily along, looking good and, I’m sure, providing a fun momentary distraction to the bored passengers of those faster, if only slightly more comfortable, cars as they flashed by.

I had another run-in with a huge thunderstorm that again left me driving blind and questioning the wisdom of my journey and by 5 p.m. had reached the town of Rock Springs, Wyoming. By now I had been in the driver’s seat long enough to be tired and cranky and, as the day had progressed, left me spending considerable time thinking about my mother’s condition. Now, as I found myself stopped in the back-up for what had obviously been a terrible one-car accident, thoughts of life and death were hitting close to home. My mood was thoroughly dark when I finally rolled past the nearly unrecognizable hulk of what had once been a Jeep Liberty and got back up to speed.

I still had a long way to go and, to make matters worse, the Shelby struggled as I worked my way upward through the gears. The engine seemed to be fine. I had shut the car down during the long wait and it had cooled off nicely, but the clutch was having a real issue as its normally high engagement point had dropped to the final inch of its travel. Getting it to disengage as I ran up through the gears was a problem and, as I worked my way further west, I considered the possible mechanical issues. The car had a non-hydraulic clutch, I knew, and it seemed most likely that an lock-nut or adjustment screw had vibrated loose during the day-long drone. It wouldn’t be especially difficult to fix, I thought, but despite the fact that I had a car full of replacement parts not having any tools would be a problem. I was pondering my options when I passed a billboard for a place called “Little America” and noticed that they had a mechanic on duty 24 hours a day. Problem solved, I thought.

As the desert oasis known as Little America hove into view I worked the car down through the gears with as little grinding as possible and exited the highway. I limped over to a service area only to find that it was intended for semi-trucks, not cars, but by now the situation was obviously so bad that I could go no further. I shut it down right there and went inside.

It took some convincing to get one of the mechanics to come and look at my car, but to his credit, when he finally did, he spotted the issue right away. The plastic housing on the clutch cable was broken and the entire part needed to be replaced. Parts I had in abundance, so I unloaded the back of the car looking for what I needed but came up empty handed. I sat there pondering my luck, if it had been almost anything else I would have been fine, but for whatever reason it had turned out that the one part I needed was the one I didn’t have.

Of course I tried to cobble something together, to make some temporary modification that would make it work in order to get back on the road, but after an hour of rolling around under the car on the still-hot asphalt I realized my journey was at an end. Even if I could get the car back on the road, I thought, there was still a 150 miles of desolate western Wyoming terrain to cross and at least one major mountain pass to clear before I pulled into Salt Lake. Having a breakdown out there in the dark could be fatal and I had already had enough thoughts about death and dying for one day. Enough was enough. Defeated, I called my sister in Salt Lake and she agreed to come and get me.

With the help of a good Samaritan, I pushed the Shelby to the corner of the parking lot and wondered how much of it would remain there in the time it would take to arrange to get someone to come and get it. I couldn’t stay, I had to go on, and so it was likely I wouldn’t see the car again soon, if at all. Physically exhausted and emotionally drained, I walked past the gas pumps to the store to get a drink and, as I did so, noticed an almost empty car hauler at one of the pumps. “Are you heading to Salt Lake” I asked.

“No,” the man told me, “I’m going to Kansas City.”

I paused for a second and then asked, “How much would cost to have you take my broken down car to Leavenworth?”

The man thought for a moment and answered, “$500?” We struck the deal on a handshake and within the hour the Shelby was on the truck, headed back the way it came. Problem solved. I was exhausted and repaired to the snack bar where, it turned out, the food was pretty good and I had time to decompress.

Shlby on carrier

It took a couple of hours for my sister and her husband to arrive and we returned to Salt Lake that night. As we cleared the pass and dropped down into the deep canyons that Interstate 80 followed into the city, I realized there was no way I could have made it with the car locked into 5th gear. Safe and relieved, I slept that night at my sister’s house, the steering wheel of the Shelby still buzzing in my fingertips as I drifted off to sleep.

The next day, my sister and I flew to Seattle and on Sunday afternoon, just about the time we probably would have arrived, my mother passed away. Although she was not entirely lucid during the few hours we had with her, I know that she knew my sister and I were there. If we hadn’t arrived when we did ,we would have missed it or needlessly prolonged her suffering while she strained to wait for us.

A few days later I flew back to Leavenworth where a classmate met me at the airport. After stopping at the local auto parts store to pick up the part I had ordered on-line prior to departing to Seattle, my friend took me home where I found the little Shelby waiting in my driveway exactly where the car hauler had assured me he would put it. The next morning, I used the new part to fix the car in about 10 minutes without any tools and then took it for a short test drive. Out on my favorite road the little car shrugged off the days of hard travel and buzzed along as happily as ever. Life, I realized, goes on.

As I worked the car up and down through the gears, noting the flawless action of the clutch pedal beneath my left foot, I pondered the mysteries of the universe and how I have, over the past few years, questioned the faith in which I was raised. God is in everything and every man, people told me; God has a plan but I wasn’t so sure any more. My mother believed but, having fought the good fight every day without reward and having only advanced myself in life through interminable struggles, I had my own doubts. But, after breaking down in a little car filled with every replacement part but the one I needed, and as a result taking the flight to see my mom that one last time when she was really there in the hours before cancer finally took her, I wonder now if maybe I haven’t been wrong.

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

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No Fixed Abode: Denali Ain’t Just A Mountain In Alaska http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/no-fixed-abode-denali-aint-just-mountain-alaska/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/no-fixed-abode-denali-aint-just-mountain-alaska/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158354 As those of you with access to the Internet will know, President Obama recently discovered the executive superpower to rename mountains. As a consequence, Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world when the measurement is taken from the surrounding ground, is now known by the name given […]

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yukon

As those of you with access to the Internet will know, President Obama recently discovered the executive superpower to rename mountains. As a consequence, Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and the tallest mountain in the world when the measurement is taken from the surrounding ground, is now known by the name given to it by the Athabascans: Denali.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Obama said, “With this action, I am fulfilling two of my most cherished dreams. First, I’m living the progressive dream of presiding over the surrender of a national monument to a native group. Secondly, I’m honoring my childhood memories of Mount Kenya, which rose in splendid African majesty over the place of my birth and early years.”

Just kidding, of course. Mr. Obama is as American as Dave Matthews or Steve Nash and to suggest otherwise is to lend strength to the right-wing racist slander of people like Linda Starr and Philip Berg. But enough of that twaddle. If you’re like me, your initial reaction to the news was simple: What does this mean for General Motors?


Face it: When you hear “Denali”, you think “GMC”.

The only people who don’t are certain native-born Alaskans and people who knew what a “piton” was before Krakauer published Into Thin Air. GMC has spent millions of dollars and sold hundreds of thousands of vehicles to make sure that you associate the word with a Remington-shaver grille and not a national park. If you don’t realize just how critical the Denali sub-brand is to GM’s fortunes, let me bring you up to speed.

“GMC’s Denali line represents about 23 percent of all GMC sales but is nearly 60 percent of Yukon and Yukon XL full-size SUV sales and 44 percent of Sierra HD sales.” Think about that. The plain-Jane Yukon is actually rarer than the Denali nowadays, which is a staggering fact once you consider the seventeen-thousand-dollar premium for that chrome cheese grater up front. Much of that seventeen grand is profit, and every penny is needed to balance out the continuing and inexcusably tragic implosion of GM’s passenger-car line.

Just as important, the demographics of the Denali line are beyond reproach. Buyers of the Yukon models are eight years younger than Escalade owners (46 v 54) and nearly as wealthy ($188k household income v. $200k) despite that age gap. If you read between the lines of PR comments about Denali owners, you’ll also hear a lot of socioeconomic clues about race and class. GM wrings its hands about the “athletes and rappers” image of the Escalade — “Cadillac says they wouldn’t mind retaining them, but aren’t going out of their way to attract them.” I assure you that any time a company says it “wouldn’t mind retaining” a few customers for a $90,000 product, that what they really mean is “we wish to God that we could prevent those people from driving them in public.”

The positioning of the Yukon Denali as the vehicle of choice for old money, horse-farm types, and “quietly confident” self-made business owners, compared to the old-people-and-rappers Escalade, combined with the never-ending tailspin of Cadillacs that don’t have a twelve-square-foot grille mounted at the height of the average American woman’s thorax, means that the Yukon Denali XL is, effectively, the flagship of General Motors. It’s the American S-Class, complete with a Cheap-class variant (the Acadia Denali) for the people who want the look of the premium product without the functionality or price. As such, the name is slightly less likely to disappear from GM order books than the names “Corvette” or “Silverado” no matter how politicized it becomes in the near future. If Donald Trump is re-elected and he changes the name of the mountain back, it might even cause a few progressives to shed their LX470s and Range Rovers in favor of the big GMC refrigerator, strictly as a statement of intent. “Yes, I drive a Denali, not a McKinley, thank you very much.”

Truth is, you can learn a lot about America from the place names given to GM cars in any particular era. Think of the Chevrolet Malibu: it appeared in 1964, just in time for the nation to fall in love with California. The Monte Carlo? 1970, a time when more Americans were focusing outward and looking to Europe for ideas about cars and fashion. The Pontiac Bonneville? Straight outta the power-crazed, post-war Fifties. The Cadillac Calais? An attempt to give the base ‘Lac some Continental glamour. The Celebrity Eurosport? Let’s just forget about that one.

But the choice of “Denali” twenty years ago to adorn an upscale GMC truck was one of GM’s marketing master strokes. It was the perfect name, on the perfect product, at the perfect time. At the time, the country’s upper middle class was entering a period of bizarre self-exaltation-via-self-abnegation. Bling was out: conspicuous non-consumption was in. The farmhouses of upstate New York were stripped of their rough-sawn furnishings as Manhattan housewives battled tooth and nail to make their kitchens “rustic”. David Brooks nailed it in 1998:

It is perfectly acceptable to spend lots on money on anything that is “professional quality”… You must practice one-downmanship… you will proudly dine on a two-hundred-year-old pine table that was once used for slaughtering chickens… Eventually, every object in your house will look as it had once been owned by someone much poorer than you.

The Denali, therefore, was acceptable, even desirable, “one-downmanship” from the S-Class or Siebener in your neighbors’ garages. It was “professional grade”, and it could easily be used for an expedition that your ninety-hour work-week at Goldman Sachs or Intel would never permit. Once the truly wealthy bought in to the Denali ideal, the upper middle class dutifully lined up behind them. What it means when suburban attorneys shoulder a $1700-per-month car payment they can ill afford, all in the service of pretending to be Boston Brahmin in their slummin’ truck, is an exercise I leave up to the reader.

Thus it happens that this most American of vehicles is named after a mountain in a park in a state that wasn’t even a state until after the Korean War. Nobody goes there, although it’s possible to be short-roped up the thing the same way the socialites are dragged up the side of Everest. I have no idea what the terrain around Denali looks like and neither do you. What matters is that it represents something beyond civilization:

But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

That’s what Denali is: the territory ahead that we will never reach. Instead, we’ll stay at the office for another evening of forcible civilization and Starbucks. It’s all the better for being essentially useless and inhospitable, because that helps it remain just an idea and not a place you’d use your NetJets share to visit on a long weekend.

And that’s what America has become in 2015. You live in offices and put the names of things you’ll never understand on the side of trucks you don’t need, can’t afford, and can’t even change the oil on yourself. Our president is so helpless in the face of the economy and the multinationals and the media that he resorts to apologizing to people he’s never harmed in hopes that someone will grant him absolution for crimes he didn’t commit. The daughters of your friends drive Jeeps to party schools and the daughters of the people who grow your food drive MRAPs over landmines. There are no jobs left and the ones that are available are all at Amazon, and that’s a hellhole. Every day you’re beaten over the head about your responsibility for the inevitable climate change but when you fly anywhere it’s in the middle seat of a Southwest 737, not the teak-appointed cabin of a G-Five. You don’t believe you can change anything and if you thought you could you’d be afraid to try.

No wonder, then, that the mountain is being renamed. We don’t deserve a Mount McKinley. McKinley was a winner. He protected American jobs and saved the economy and won a war and picked up Hawaii while he was at it. And when he died, the man he agreed to take as vice-president did a pretty decent job, too. We couldn’t use a guy like that nowadays; wouldn’t know what to do with him. So it’s perfectly reasonable to change Mount McKinley back to Mount Denali. Maybe Rainier will change back to Tacoma before you know it. That’s been in the works since 1921 or so, and it makes more sense. And it would free the name of Rainier to find its natural home: on the side of upscale Enclaves. Enclave Rainier. You know it makes sense. What better way to celebrate a class of vehicles, and of owners, that never looks up from the quotidian to the mountain, or, indeed, anything at all?

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Junkyard Find: 1951 Ford 2-Door Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/junkyard-find-1951-ford-2-door-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/junkyard-find-1951-ford-2-door-sedan/#comments Wed, 02 Sep 2015 12:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156074 We’ve been seeing a lot of 21st century Junkyard Finds lately, so today we’ll change up and go to one of the older cars I’ve seen in a self-service yard lately. This ’51 Ford showed up at a Colorado yard last month. It has the look of a long-abandoned project: interior gutted, bodywork, etc. You’d […]

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14 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

We’ve been seeing a lot of 21st century Junkyard Finds lately, so today we’ll change up and go to one of the older cars I’ve seen in a self-service yard lately. This ’51 Ford showed up at a Colorado yard last month.
02 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

It has the look of a long-abandoned project: interior gutted, bodywork, etc. You’d think that a non-rusty two-door shoebox Ford would be worth enough to keep it safe from the clutches of the wrecking yard, but such was not the case here.

15 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Someone put some work into the body and paint and then forgot about the car, but it’s impossible to say whether that happened in 1968 (with indoor storage since) or 2008 (with outdoor storage).

07 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

You could get the ’51 Ford with the famous flathead V8 or the 254-cubic-inch flathead straight-six engine. This car has the six.

49FordComesToLife-23

A Denver friend owns this ’49 sedan project, so he was all over the junkyard ’51 within hours of learning of its existence, grabbing bits and pieces for low prices. When you have an elderly project vehicle and one like it shows up at U-Wrench-It, you drop everything and pull what you can!

 

This generation of Ford was the first true postwar design from the Detroit Big Three, and the first Ford to be mostly free of the late Henry’s erratic leadership and limitations as an engineer. Other than the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle, few cars you’d find in this sort of junkyard will have this level of historical significance.

00 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 02 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 04 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 05 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 06 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 07 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 09 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 10 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 11 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 12 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 14 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 15 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 16 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 17 - 1951 Ford Deluxe Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

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Model X Buyers Can Spec Out Their $100K Cars, Add $10K in Speed, Still Get Rebate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/model-x-buyers-can-spec-100k-cars-add-10k-speed-still-get-rebate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/model-x-buyers-can-spec-100k-cars-add-10k-speed-still-get-rebate/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:20:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1158082 Prospective buyers of Tesla’s coming Model X SUV can go online Tuesday and pick out their color and options for their cars, which should be arriving at the end of September, Automotive News is reporting. The online configurator popped up Monday night for potential buyers and forum users started posting pictures of their cars online. The pictures are […]

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teaser@2x

Prospective buyers of Tesla’s coming Model X SUV can go online Tuesday and pick out their color and options for their cars, which should be arriving at the end of September, Automotive News is reporting.

The online configurator popped up Monday night for potential buyers and forum users started posting pictures of their cars online. The pictures are the first from the automaker before its official reveal.

The interior pictures detail seating for seven adults and the Model X’s falcon doors that will reportedly sport sensors that keep passengers from getting out hitting the doors on low garages.

20870112889_866fbd89a7_oAccording to the Automotive News report, the Model X Signature series will start at $132,000 and can be configured with Tesla’s “Ludicrous Speed” update that’ll boost performance.

A standard Model X can also get the “Ludicrous Speed” update, but buyers would have to opt first for the performance package and then “Ludicrous Speed” beyond that.

Other features on the Model X include the option to have the car park itself, leather seating, heated and ventilated seats and the ability to return your federal rebate satellite radio.

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(Photos courtesy the automaker and Flickr user tobi_wan_kenobi.)

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider Set for November Reveal in Los Angeles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2017-fiat-124-spider-set-november-reveal-los-angeles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2017-fiat-124-spider-set-november-reveal-los-angeles/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:03:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157914 Those really keen on the Mazda MX-5, but undeterred by reliability and resale issues are in luck. The reborn Fiat 124 Spider, built upon the fourth-generation MX-5, will be revealed in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show as expected, reports The Detroit Bureau. Citing a source within the company, the reborn 124 Spider nameplate will […]

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124 Spider_010

Those really keen on the Mazda MX-5, but undeterred by reliability and resale issues are in luck. The reborn Fiat 124 Spider, built upon the fourth-generation MX-5, will be revealed in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show as expected, reports The Detroit Bureau.

Citing a source within the company, the reborn 124 Spider nameplate will be the home of two flavors — normal and Abarth — with the latter receiving the same 1.75-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine as the Alfa Romeo 4C.

While Sergio Marchionne is openly courting General Motors, the Fiat 124 Spider project with Mazda is about to bear fruit.

The “normal” Spider is expected to be powered by the same 1.4-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine found in the Fiat 500 Turbo and Abarth, 500L, 500X and Jeep Renegade. However, it’s the Abarth version that’s far more interesting.

“Abarth is all about performance, and so I’ve told my team to stop working on colors and trims. Any new version of an Abarth car should deliver some sort of a performance enhancement, otherwise it is useless,” said Fiat COO Alfredo Altavilla.

That performance is expected to come from the aforementioned 4C mill mated to a dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

With the Abarth model, Fiat could beat Mazda to the punch. Rumors of a Mazdaspeed version of the newest Miata have been weak at best.

The Fiat 124 Spider will be the first model from the company to wear the nameplate since production and marketing of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider was assumed by Pininfarina in 1983.

The addition to Fiat’s North American lineup is expected to hit dealer lots sometime during the sunny months next year.

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Peugeot Has This Whole Concept Thing Figured Out http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/peugeot-whole-concept-thing-figured/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/peugeot-whole-concept-thing-figured/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:02:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157954 Peugeot’s geometrically marvelous and electrically powered Fractal concept car will make its way to Frankfurt this year. The 201-horsepower coupe is powered by two electric motors for each axle and has a 280-mile range, according to the automaker. Probably a wholly separate electric sub-station exists for its “9.1.2” surround sound system that sports woofers in the seats to […]

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Peugeot-Fractal-Concept-19

Peugeot’s geometrically marvelous and electrically powered Fractal concept car will make its way to Frankfurt this year.

The 201-horsepower coupe is powered by two electric motors for each axle and has a 280-mile range, according to the automaker. Probably a wholly separate electric sub-station exists for its “9.1.2” surround sound system that sports woofers in the seats to acoustically relay information about what’s ahead like we’re all bats or something.

A heads up driver information system relays information via hologram, according to the automaker, and the rest is just the best.

Perhaps the only thing usable in real life from the Fractal would be the car’s interior production process. According to Peugeot, 80 percent of the car’s interior was 3D printed, which could make its way into mass market production cars eventually as suppliers look to produce more and make less.

Either way, the rest of the automaking world could learn a thing or two from Peugeot: this is how you make a concept car. Stop it with the “crossover concepts” already.

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What If Jeep’s Mid-size Pickup Was a Ram Instead? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/jeeps-mid-size-pickup-ram-instead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/jeeps-mid-size-pickup-ram-instead/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 17:16:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157666 Like an NFL expansion team in Los Angeles, music in the hallways during passing periods, “welfare queens” and the full-time McRib, Jeep’s mid-sized Wrangler-based pickup might be the only thing we ever talk about. Guess which one may happen now? According to Automotive News, the Wrangler-based pickup may make an appearance in 2018-ish, after the […]

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Jeep Wrangler Eliminator

Like an NFL expansion team in Los Angeles, music in the hallways during passing periods, “welfare queens” and the full-time McRib, Jeep’s mid-sized Wrangler-based pickup might be the only thing we ever talk about. Guess which one may happen now?

According to Automotive News, the Wrangler-based pickup may make an appearance in 2018-ish, after the iconic Jeep platform gets is overdue overhaul, moves to an 8-speed automatic (maybe diesel, too) and incorporates more aluminum into its structure.

The General Motors twins prove there’s room in the segment for something not called a Tacoma or Frontier, so a mid-size makes sense — but a seven-slot grille up front may not.

According to the 2014 long-range plan for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ram doesn’t have a mid-size on its radar until beyond 2018, at least, to replace its defunct Dakota. And Ram doesn’t have what it needs right now to make it happen — officially, at least.

“The formula hasn’t changed. The (North American) customer expects four elements in a compact or midsize pickup truck: the right size, right capability, right fuel efficiency and right price. We have yet to find a way to build a truck that meets all four of those criteria,” a Ram spokesman told us.

(Fiat will have a new mid-size pickup in 2016, but we’re more likely to get Elvis back from the dead than that car.)

The minute you start talking about a Wrangler-based pickup, Grandad’s fishing truck comes to mind; an upright-grille, standard cab and probably two-tone red and white paint with flannel-colored interiors. In other words: nothing like what mid-size pickups need to be today to satisfy fuel economy standards and expectations.

Ram has more flexibility with its design language to sculpt a body that makes more sense than a Jeep pickup ever would. Ram is also the caretaker of FCA’s trucks last I checked.

And in the words of Jack Baruth, “You really don’t want a Jeep pickup, you pansy.”

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Fiat Chrysler Posts Sales Gains In August, Keeps 5-year Streak Alive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/fiat-chrysler-posts-sales-gains-august-keeps-5-year-streak-alive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/fiat-chrysler-posts-sales-gains-august-keeps-5-year-streak-alive/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 17:15:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157906 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted a 2-percent overall gain in sales for August, keeping its 65-month streak of increased sales alive, the automaker reported Tuesday. Jeep jumped the largest amount for the automaker; Jeep reported an 18-percent increase as a brand and four of its models posted sales gains. Sales of Dodge-branded vehicles slid 15 percent overall, and Chrysler-branded […]

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Jeep Compass. Photo courtesy wikipedia.org

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted a 2-percent overall gain in sales for August, keeping its 65-month streak of increased sales alive, the automaker reported Tuesday.

Jeep jumped the largest amount for the automaker; Jeep reported an 18-percent increase as a brand and four of its models posted sales gains. Sales of Dodge-branded vehicles slid 15 percent overall, and Chrysler-branded cars fell 14 percent.

FCA reported it sold more than 200,000 vehicles in North America for the second month this year.

The Jeep Compass was the brand’s biggest gainer over August 2014 sales. Compass improved 58 percent over the same month a year ago. Jeep also reported that sales of its new Renegade were up 29 percent over July.

Chrysler-branded cars were down overall, but the automaker said sales of its Chrysler 200 were up 30 percent over last year.

FCA said Ram-branded trucks and vans posted a 6-percent increase, led by its full-size pickup.

(According to the automaker, Fiat 500L sales were up over last year and now I’ve seen everything.)

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Report: Toledo Plant Gains a Jeep Pickup, Loses a Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/report-toledo-plant-gains-jeep-pickup-loses-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/report-toledo-plant-gains-jeep-pickup-loses-cherokee/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157850 Automotive News is reporting that Jeep will produce a Wrangler-based pickup at its Toledo, Ohio plant and shift production of its Cherokee to another site. The details were reported by the outlet as part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ ongoing negotiations with the United Auto Workers union. Officials from FCA didn’t comment on the report.  According […]

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Jeep Wranglers Coming Down The Line In Toledo

Automotive News is reporting that Jeep will produce a Wrangler-based pickup at its Toledo, Ohio plant and shift production of its Cherokee to another site.

The details were reported by the outlet as part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ ongoing negotiations with the United Auto Workers union.

Officials from FCA didn’t comment on the report. 

According to the story, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne addressed the plan in vague details.

“We found a solution that accommodates a variety of other interests to us because of the way in which we can move some product around,” Marchionne told Automotive News. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (to know) that the only way I can move around the Wrangler is to move it into the other Toledo plant.”

Union officials said they would have liked to have kept Cherokee production in Ohio, however the plant’s unique supply structure, production requirements and Wrangler sales required Cherokee to move, according to the report.

Production of the Wrangler and its associated pickup could reach up to 350,000 units per year.

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Fields Are Fertile For Now, But Marchionne Has a Long View http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/fields-fertile-now-marchionne-long-view/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/fields-fertile-now-marchionne-long-view/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:09:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157570 Farmers are the ultimate craftsman when it comes to small-scale production. The level of management needed to stay competitive and above the high water line is, simply put, astounding. Consolidation in certain areas of agriculture has lead to factory farming, the widespread adoption of automation and genetically modified seeds that keep seed producers competitive. Private […]

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sergio-marchionne

Farmers are the ultimate craftsman when it comes to small-scale production. The level of management needed to stay competitive and above the high water line is, simply put, astounding. Consolidation in certain areas of agriculture has lead to factory farming, the widespread adoption of automation and genetically modified seeds that keep seed producers competitive. Private farmers are constantly at war with the market and their own budgets.

The agriculture industry has wholly transformed itself over the last 100 years. The automotive industry, which has only really existed for that same period of time, has seen similar levels of change. We are now building more cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, trikes and quadracycles than ever before, just like we are growing more food than we’ve ever seen in human history.

But, there’s one major stumbling block ahead — and Sergio Marchionne sees it.

Marchionne, at this point in his tenure as CEO of one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, is a farmer with a cliff-side plot of land. He’s also the only farmer in his town with a massive debt bill to pay and no cash on hand to clear the ledger.

The reality of farming is, at the point of sale, the vast majority of consumers couldn’t care less where their produce is grown. On a macro level, produce buyers will purchase strawberries in the middle of winter, even if they are grown in Mexico. Locally, during in-season months, as long as those strawberries are juicy and ripe, produce buyers don’t check the label to figure out where they were grown. Sure, there are those who buy organic, gluten-free options at the grocery store — and they are a statistically significant in their numbers to deserve a whole aisle devoted to their tastes — but the rest of us are completely apathetic.

The same goes for cars.

Car enthusiasts — us folks who write, comment, drive, wrench on, wash and generally love our cars — are one percent of the overall consumer market. The other 99 percent of people are totally agnostic to the efforts of automotive research, engineering, manufacturing and branding, with a few exceptions for those who want to “Buy American!” or some other loyalties of varying degrees. Enthusiasts do buy a very specific type of product, and automakers are more than willing to provide those products to the degree they are demanded on the market, but we still only get a single aisle in a vast dealer lot.

Corn enthusiasts, if there is such a thing, might see the agriculture industry thusly:

“The General Farms corn stays fresh much, much longer than the new American-Italian corn from Marchionne Farms,” a connoisseur of corn might say.

“But, the Marchionne Farms’ Hellcat Corn tastes better,” an equally loyal corn enthusiast might rebuff.

The other 99 percent of corn buyers are, well, not talking about corn. They don’t care where it comes from. They don’t care who made it. They look at the corn in the produce aisles, figure out the best deal for their needs, and buy the corn that makes the most sense — a combination of number of ears of corn and how much it costs. All the while, corn enthusiasts are trying to push their corn consuming friends one way or another. Sometimes they succeed in their suggestions, but not enough to make a real market impact. (See: SKYACTIV Corn.)

Standing at the cliff’s edge of his farm, Marchionne — with a hefty bank note on his mind — has an epiphany: Why am I spending all this money growing different corn than my neighbor? The components of corn — the cob, kernels and the way it’s packaged — are essentially the same. How you dress it up and sell it, that’s the only real difference!

But, it isn’t the sameness of corn — or automobiles — that’s the real issue here.

In probably a distant future, we aren’t going to need corn. We will plug some instructions into a machine, a whirring sound will emanate, and a meal will be replicated for consumption. You won’t need to own the food replicator. Instead, you will pay a fee to use it that’s magnitudes less than the current cost of food. The farm as we know it will be a thing of the past.

Automakers are staring down the barrel of a similar fate.

Google and automakers themselves are developing fully autonomous vehicles to be used by the masses. Their solutions are similar to the food replicator of the future: plug in a destination, a whirring sound will emanate and you’ll arrive at your destination. You won’t need to own the autonomous car of the future. Instead, you will pay a fee to use it that’s magnitudes less than the current cost of personal transportation. The car as we know it will be a thing of the past.

The autonomous car is the ocean lapping against the cliff’s edge, slowly — but with increased intensity — swallowing Marchionne’s farm.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way saying that the things we love — cars as we know them today — will be gone next year or even in the next 20 years. There might be a few companies still catering to the enthusiast, offering cars as artisanal luxury good for those of us who enjoy the speed and knowledge needed to pilot just such a machine. But the days of the automobile as a privately owned consumer necessity are numbered. Those who enjoy the act of driving will be the gasoline-fed hipsters of tom0rrow.

Marchionne, I assume, knows this. The day his farm is needed is coming to an end. But not today. Today there’s corn to grow and money to be made, and he’s looking at his neighbor at General Farms that grows the same crop.

Farmer Barra, let’s grind some corn together, shall we?

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Mergers Don’t Make Better Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/aotd-mergers-dont-make-better-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/aotd-mergers-dont-make-better-cars/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157218 Mergers don’t excite me. I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco. Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

Mergers don’t excite me.

I’m not excited about the prospect of walking in to my neighborhood Jeep/Chevy/Buick/Dodge/GMC superstore and thumbing through the soul-less car stocks like a weekend trip to Costco.

Bark makes a good business case that Mazda and Subaru could help each other in worldwide sales, and brings up some interesting short-term mashups: rotary engines with all-wheel drive, a boxer in a Miata, et al. All those things sound fun like monster trucks and cans of Pabst on a Friday night.

But in reality, despite repeated calls from automakers that consolidation will mean the car business can stay “in business,” mergers don’t make better products — but they try to make shareholders happy, if they can even do that (see: Suzuki-Volkswagen, page 231 of your textbook). Shared R&D is often synonymous with “badge engineering” (Cimarron) and when it’s not, well, just look at Saab.

If history has taught us anything, mergers simply leave car people left out in the cold. 

After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne said this weekend that he’d press for consolidation — whether GM liked it or not — it got me thinking about how it would impact consumers.

In our theoretical world of a GM-Fiat merger on Sept. 1, 2015, there’d be signatures; on Sept. 1, 2020, there’d be cars. And by the looks of most automotive mergers in the past, they wouldn’t be all that good.

History is littered with failed automotive marriages (Ford and its polygamous relationship with European luxury brands, GM and Saab … and Suzuki … and Subaru … and …) with successful partnerships being the exception — not the rule. For every Renault-Nissans, there are three DaimlerChryslers.

If GM and Fiat were to elope tomorrow in all likelihood the platforms would stay where they are for a while — maybe an engine swap here and there — and the marquee stuff would live on. GM would still sell the Corvette, Jeep would still sell the Wrangler. (And the Viper would probably die to death, again.)

But at risk would be unremarkable mass-market cars built to appease a bottom line for a merger that started off with a profit to make. Sergio said the marriage could produce $30 billion a year in EBITDA, and you’d figure they’d be out for every dime. Remember: If GM killed Pontiac once, why not do it again with Dodge?

There’s also the risk of massive recalls on a scale we’ve never seen before. If you put a shared part, designed and built to a budget, on 15 million cars we’d be wise to buy stock in Advil — NHTSA will need all of it.

Perhaps for everyday consumers the differences would be hardly noticeable. The post-merger cars could blend together in a way they already have been blending for the last five years, and normal consumers couldn’t — and wouldn’t — care less.

But for car people, any merger means fewer products on the road and the cars foisted upon us would march closer to a joyless appliance, like our refrigerators.

And I can’t stand cars that are cold.

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Corrupt Red Light Camera Company Sued By Chicago for $300M http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/corrupt-red-light-camera-company-sued-chicago-300m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/corrupt-red-light-camera-company-sued-chicago-300m/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:15:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157554 Chicago wants $300 million from the company it hired to photograph, ticket and follow drivers after it was revealed that executives bribed city officials for the contract, the Chicago Tribune is reporting. Executives for Redflex paid over $2 million to city officials through a bag man for the $124 million contract from the city, which started […]

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Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon

Chicago wants $300 million from the company it hired to photograph, ticket and follow drivers after it was revealed that executives bribed city officials for the contract, the Chicago Tribune is reporting.

Executives for Redflex paid over $2 million to city officials through a bag man for the $124 million contract from the city, which started in 2003. City officials are suing for roughly triple that amount, including penalties.

Redflex has been accused of handing out thousands of unnecessary tickets to motorists, including 13,000 in Chicago alone, according to the Tribune. 

The CEO of Redflex, Karen Finley, stepped down after pleading guilty to bribery charges. The city official accused of accepting the $2 million in bribe payments, John Bills, is facing federal charges later this year.

The controversial cameras face an uncertain future in many cities. Officials in Tampa are reviewing that city’s contract that fines motorists more than $150 per offense, with the contracting company pocketing nearly half that amount. The cameras don’t produce significant revenue, Tampa officials say, and the cameras may not make problematic intersections any safer.

“When I saw the numbers of the money and where the money is going right now, that’s money being taken out of our city and it’s quite a large amount,” Tampa City Council member Yolie Capin told the Tampa Tribune. “We felt it should be used for engineering those problematic intersections.”

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2016 Audi Q3 Quattro Review – New-To-You Utility [w/ Video] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2016-audi-q3-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/2016-audi-q3-review-video/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155553 2016 Audi Q3 Prestige 2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT (200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm; 207 lbs-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm) 6-speed Tiptronic automatic 20 city/28 highway/23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 20.2 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Prestige Trim, Quattro AWD, Sport Package Base Price: $34,625* As Tested: $42,175* * Prices include $925 destination charge. Audi’s Q3 isn’t a new vehicle by any stretch. […]

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2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-002

2016 Audi Q3 Prestige

2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT (200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm; 207 lbs-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm)

6-speed Tiptronic automatic

20 city/28 highway/23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Prestige Trim, Quattro AWD, Sport Package

Base Price:
$34,625*
As Tested:

$42,175*

* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Audi’s Q3 isn’t a new vehicle by any stretch. It was first launched in 2011 but didn’t make it to America until the 2015 model year. That’s because the Q3 plays in a segment that’s new to us — the even-smaller compact luxury crossover. This form factor isn’t new to the rest of the world, but until Land Rover brought the Range Rover Evoque to America and BMW followed up with the X1, there wasn’t a real focus on small luxury soft-roaders.

With crossovers being the latest craze and every luxury brand looking to move down-market to capture fresh young buyers, it was only a matter of time till Mercedes and Audi joined the party with the GLA and the Q3. With a “low” $33,700 starting MSRP, the baby Audi is the more practical counterpart to Audi’s sharp-looking A3 sedan. Although CamCord shoppers have to give up a great deal of room to upgrade to the A3, the Q3 has the potential to be a more sensible option.

Exterior
Outside, the Q3 plays the same farm girl card as the majority of the Audi lineup. The wholesome sheetmetal is attractive, but completely devoid of the dramatic styling cues that grace the new GLA. Closer inspection reveals that the headlamps and grille design are different from the 2015 Q5. That’s because the Q3 was one of the first Audis to wear the brand’s latest front end design. The sharper lines, crisper angles and new headlamp design can also be seen on the next generation Q5. The look is fresh and instantly recognizable, but some may call it is so restrained that it is almost boring. 

At 172.6 inches long, the Q3 is nearly a foot shorter than the X3, Q5, NX or XC60. That means the Q3 is aimed squarely at the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes GLA. Unlike the GLA and X1, the Q3’s side profile screams miniaturized SUV, not jacked up hatchback.

The rear design is 8/10ths Q5 despite being totally unrelated. Unlike most crossovers, the tail lamps are housed solely on the hatch itself. You’d think that this would allow the opening to be larger, but access is somewhat limited much like its bigger brother Q5. Total cargo room suffers more than you would think since Audi decided to give the rear window a more dramatic rake than on its other crossovers.

2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard

Interior
Like the exterior, the interior design is simple almost to the point of being plain. Although the A3 came to the USA before the Q3, the latter houses an older design and that explains why the interior looks more like the rest of the Audi line up, not the minimalist design we see in the A3. Our model didn’t have the optional wood trim ($350) but I recommend it as it helps break up the black-on-black-on-black interior in our model. Also on the must-have list are the optional sport seats that add extending seat bottom cushions. Audi’s usual attention to detail is easily seen in the interior where fit and finish is notably higher than the mass-market Escape, CR-V or Tiguan.

In an unusual move, Audi makes 12-way power front seats standard and equips them with 4-way power lumbar support. This puts front seat adjustability above the GLA, which skimps on passenger seat comfort to keep the price low. Also surprising, leather seating surfaces are standard while most luxury brands have moved to imitation leather as the base material. The optional sport seats are the most comfortable seats in this segment, according to my back, besting the BMW and Mercedes. Helping my marriage out during the week I had the Q3, the passenger seat is just as comfortable (eliminating the complaints I received when I tested the RDX and GLA). Like Audi’s A3, the Q3 lacks driver’s seat memory, an odd omission when you can find that feature on less expensive Kias, not to mention the Range Rover, BMW and Mercedes. Heck, Mercedes even gives the front passenger standard 3 position seat memory.

Thanks to the Q3’s upright profile, the rear seats are surprisingly accommodating. Although combined front and rear legroom figures are lower than the Q5 and the overall vehicle is smaller than the larger Audi, the Q3 was better able to handle a rearward facing child seat behind a front passenger. The difference is down to the shape of the Q3’s dash which allows the right front seat to move farther forward, freeing up more room in the back. Headroom was equally impressive despite the panoramic moonroof. BMW is claiming a hair more room in the 2016 X1 which will mean the Audi and BMW are the best options if you plan on carrying folks in the rear. On the other hand, the GLA has a more cramped rear bench and my head touched the ceiling unless I leaned inboard. When it comes to cargo hauling, the Q3’s hold is 33-percent smaller than the next size crossover and right about the same as your average midsize sedan.

2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-004

Infotainment
The Germans have cornered the market in controller-knob based infotainment systems since BMW first introduced iDrive in 2001. Since then, BMW and Audi have been in a gadget arms race. Taken as a whole, MMI isn’t as intuitive as iDrive with more confusing menus and illogical button placement. While I’m sure you would get used to it over time, even after a week I found myself needing to stare at the array of buttons for way too long to find what I needed. If you have another Audi in the family, the Q3’s MMI button placement will take even more getting used to since they dropped it in the dash, not the center console. On the flip side, this means you’re less likely to spill your drink on your MMI controller.

On the flip side, MMI has probably one of the most advanced feature sets on the market thanks to their well-executed Google integration. While iDrive allows you to search for Google results (as do a number of other systems), MMI takes it a step further and overlays your traditional map images with Google satellite imagery and even allows you to zoom in and view Google Street View images so you can “creep” your neighbors. On the down side, the Google map function requires a $15-$30 a month subscription after the first few years for the built-in cellular modem, and the system has troubles downloading maps fast enough when traveling at freeway speeds, leaving you with a blank screen at times.

Although navigation and the Google Map love is optional, the large LCD and iPod integration are standard, things not found in the 2015 Mercedes GLA. Likely due to the Q3’s standard LCD and upcoming 2016 X1, Mercedes has announced the 2016+ GLA will get a 7-inch LCD standard.

2016 Audi Q3 Engine-001

Drivetrain
Nestled sideways under the hood is one of VW/Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engines. Despite having the latest in direct injection and variable valve timing tech, the engine is a little short on twist. Output comes in at 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. This is essentially the same as the related Volkswagen Tiguan, but notably lower than the X1 (228 hp/258 lb-ft), Evoque (240 hp/250 lb-ft) or the GLA (208 hp/258 lb-ft). This is also lower than the nearly identical 2.0-liter engine in the Q5, which produces 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque in 2015 and 245 hp, 273 lb-ft in the upcoming next generation Q5.

In order to keep costs down, American bound Q3 models ditch Audi’s 7-speed dual clutch for a more traditional 6-speed Tiptronic automatic. This means that in addition to being down on power, the Q5 is short on gears. Although 6-speeds is the norm in the mass-market segment, the GLA has a 7-speed DCT, the X1 uses an 8-speed and the Evoque a 9-speed. While the engine is partly to blame, the lack of gears has a distinct impact on fuel economy and acceleration. Despite being heavier, producing more power, and being faster to 60, the larger Q5 2.0T nets the same EPA combined score of 23 mpg in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive models. That’s behind the 24 mpg rating for the Evoque, 27 mpg for the 2015 X1 and significantly lower than the 29 mpg delivered by the GLA 250. In a week of mixed driving, our Q3 averaged under 21 mpg.

2016 Audi Q3 Instrument Cluster

Drive
Out on the road, the first thing you need to know is that the rear wheel drive 2015 BMW X1 is not long for this world. While you may find them on dealer lots now, between the time I had the Q3 and me writing this review BMW announced the new FWD-based X1 will be arriving in the fall. This means two things. First, if you want a small luxury crossover with tail-happy RWD dynamics, you need to hurry. Second, TTAC hasn’t driven the new X1 so it’s not possible to comment on it in an intelligent fashion, but we can make some educated assumptions.

BMW is making all US-bound X1 models AWD. The logic is likely driving dynamics (like Jaguar with their ill-fated X-Type sedan) and not supposed off-road ability as found in the Land Rover Evoque. That sets the BMW apart from the Audi and Mercedes which both have front-wheel drive. Standard all-wheel drive solves the traction and torque steer problems found in a front driver, but it does little to address the nearly 60/40 weight balance found in most transverse engined vehicles. While the 2016 X1 may be the best balanced in this shoe box sized category, 56/44 (front/rear) is a far cry from BMW’s almost religious dedication to 50/50 weight balanced vehicles. This means that when chucking your 2016 crossover into a corner, the BMW no longer has a neutral handling advantage, and it’s where the strangely wide tires on the Q3 make a surprising difference.

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-010

BMW shoes the new X1 with 225-width tires, the narrowest in the segment, while the GLA and Evoque start with 235s. Audi starts with 235s on the base model, but the Premium trim and an $800 option on the base model kick the rubber up two sizes to 255/40R18s — two sizes larger than the GLA 45 AMG and three sizes ahead of the X1. While suspension tuning obviously plays a big role in road holding, the Audi starts with more grip and then adds an excellent suspension to boot. Despite the wide 40-series tires, the Q3’s suspension is tuned more compliant than the GLA 250 and lacks the unsettled behavior on broken pavement I noted in the Evoque. While BMW’s FWD models I’ve tested in Europe aren’t as dynamic as their RWD models, they are excellent for front drivers.

Although there is clearly more body roll in the Audi than in the GLA or GLA AMG, the Audi is quite simply more sure footed. Sure, the GLA is lighter at about 3,500lbs vs the Q3’s nearly 3,700, but the 200 pound difference can’t make up for the wider rubber on the Audi. While the 2015 BMW X1 with the M Sport package was the best handling vehicle in this segment by a hair, 2016 transfers the crown to the Q3. (And the difference in 2015 was smaller than X1 buyers would like to admit.)

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-012

On the downside, the Q3’s heritage does reveal. You see, the Q3 is not based on VW-Audi’s new MQB platform like the current Golf and A3, instead related to the older A3. That shows itself in steering feel. There isn’t any. While the rest of the competition also employs electric power steering, the Q3’s rack is particularly vague, although it is precise and well weighted. Also a problem is the Q3’s acceleration. The Audi’s 0-60 acceleration time clocked in at 7.6 seconds, slower than a Hybrid Camry and about the same as a Honda CR-V. That’s 8/10ths slower than the Evoque, a full second slower than the GLA 250 and 1.3 seconds behind BMW’s claim for the new 2016 X1. That’s before we consider the 2016 Mercedes GLA 45 AMG with its blistering 4.3 second 0-60 sprint thanks to a whopping 375 horsepower.

Although the Q3 is slower and thirstier than the GLA, value, interior accommodations and handling are where the Audi shines. Even though the $33,700 starting price of the Q3 is higher than the 2015 GLA 250 at $31,300, the Audi comes with standard leather seating, dual-zone climate control, xenon headlamps, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and keyless go, backup camera, iPod interface, auto dimming mirror, and HD and SiriusXM radio. All of these are extra on the Mercedes. This makes a comparably equipped GLA $3,000 more than the Audi. The Evoque is the most expensive, running $7,000-10,000 more than the Q3, and the 2016 X1 starts at $34,800 and would crest $37,000 when equipped comparably to a base Q3.

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-011

The surprising thing about the Q3’s pricing structure is how slowly the pricing builds compared to the other luxury options. This makes the Q3 perhaps the easiest upsell from a Hyundai Tucson or a VW Tiguan. Hyundai’s 2016 Tucson Limited ranges from $29,900-34,900 with equipment levels similar to a $33,700-39,000 Q3 making the bump a reasonable $5,000 or so. That’s much narrower than the distance between the Tuscon and GLA 250, which would end up $6,400-10,000 more when comparably equipped. The Range Rover Evoque? The Baby Rover is by far the premium entry and will set you back $15,000-20,000 more than a comparable Hyundai.

I know it sounds odd to compare an Audi and a Hyundai. In most other segments I would say it’s an inappropriate comparison. However, this crop of “inexpensive” luxury vehicles was designed to attract mainstream brand shoppers, so the comparison makes sense. In this light, the Q3 also makes sense. It’s a much easier up-sell over a mainstream crossover while delivering a luxury brand, luxury interior and the best handling in the segment. The X1 and GLA are faster to 60, the Mercedes is arguably a more premium brand and the Evoque offers a level of customization that higher-end luxury shoppers demand, but none of them is as easy of a cross-shop with the top-end mainstream CUVs. For that value proposition and handling performance the Q3 is my favorite entry in this segment, and it’s a new engine and 7-speed DCT away from perfection. Let’s hope someone at Audi is listening.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.85 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 89.2 MPH

2016 Audi Q3 Cargo Area 2016 Audi Q3 Cargo Area-001 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-001 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-002 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-003 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-004 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-005 2016 Audi Q3 Dashboard-006 2016 Audi Q3 Engine 2016 Audi Q3 Engine-001 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-001 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-002 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-003 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-004 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-007 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-008 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-009 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-010 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-011 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-012 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-013 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-014 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-015 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-016 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-017 2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-018 2016 Audi Q3 Front Seats 2016 Audi Q3 Grille 2016 Audi Q3 Grille-001 2016 Audi Q3 Headlamps 2016 Audi Q3 HVAC Controls 2016 Audi Q3 Instrument Cluster 2016 Audi Q3 Instrument Cluster-001 2016 Audi Q3 Seat Controls 2016 Audi Q3 Seats 2016 Audi Q3 Seats-001

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Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin’ over CVTs, Part V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/09/piston-slap-justy-fied-freestylin-cvts-part-v/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1156466   TTAC commentator Anomaly149 writes: Sajeev, here’s one for you: I have a CVT-equipped 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with ~140,000 miles. While you can write a book on the things that are weird with the car (key won’t release from cylinder sometimes unless you push this button inside the steering column, sometimes the neutral safety […]

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TTAC commentator Anomaly149 writes:

Sajeev, here’s one for you:

I have a CVT-equipped 2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with ~140,000 miles. While you can write a book on the things that are weird with the car (key won’t release from cylinder sometimes unless you push this button inside the steering column, sometimes the neutral safety switch actuator machine-guns when stopped at a stoplight, it eats front sway links like it’s a contest, etc.), so far it’s been reliable and efficient.

The thing I’m worried about is the longevity of that CVT. I’ve read a lot of bad things, and recently the transmission has started “shifting” hard from a stop. Sometimes the vehicle starts moving from a stop with a fairly violent jolt, even if the gas pedal is barely pressed. The problem is very intermittent, but has been getting a little more frequent. The dealer says they find nothing wrong. Is this worth investigating? Do they even make repair parts for these CVTs anymore?

I’d love to keep the car running a bit longer, but the last thing I need is a dead transmission on an hour-long commute.

Sajeev answers:

Wow. You got 140,000 miles out of a VTi transaxle: the centerpiece of terrible ideas leading up to GM’s decision to burn 2 billion to NOT buy Fiat.

No surprise TTAC did the Death Watch thang, but Farago himself couldn’t imagine a world where Fiat dusts off a classic move, hostile takeover style.

Does anyone remember the VTi and the lawsuit? Repair or rebuilding is out of the question: consider yourself lucky and shop for a new vehicle. Or perform a gearbox swap with a Delta-bodied GM product with a more conventional auto or manual transmission, if you are the “save and restomod” type. I did quite like the Cobalt XFE I tested way back — it was super-cheap fun!

And don’t laugh, an ION Quad Coupe is the AMC Pacer of the last decade: the restomod route isn’t totally stupid, especially if you can cram LS4-FTW into the Delta’s engine bay. A more believable 5-speed automatic swap sounds pretty sweet.

I’d do this in a heartbeat. Parts will be dirt cheap, especially if you buy a complete car on Craigslist. Take out the gearbox, spend a weekend swap, scrap the rest and lose less than a grand on the deal.

Or just sell it now while it runs, telling the new owner about the swap and it’s future as the next AMC Pacer.

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

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You Can Pay $2.5 Million For a Volkswagen Now http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-pay-2-5-million-volkswagen-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-pay-2-5-million-volkswagen-now/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 20:30:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157306 Bugatti’s successor to the Veyron, the Chiron (are those pronounced similarly?) will reportedly cost $2.5 million, according to Car. The hyper car, which was shown to prospective owners in France, will be a quad turbo, W-16 that produces more than 1,400 horsepower. According to the report, the car will make its debut in Geneva next […]

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Bugatti Veyron Pur Sang

Bugatti’s successor to the Veyron, the Chiron (are those pronounced similarly?) will reportedly cost $2.5 million, according to Car.

The hyper car, which was shown to prospective owners in France, will be a quad turbo, W-16 that produces more than 1,400 horsepower. According to the report, the car will make its debut in Geneva next year.

The price hike is roughly $200,000 over the Veyron, which started at $1.7 million and eventually ballooned to $2.3 million by the end of its production. While the price difference is enough for your own personal fleet of Volkswagen GTIs, how big does your yacht need to be anyway?

Car says that more than a few prospective buyers have raised their hands for the new car — somewhere between 10 and 99 (Double-digit isn’t a very descriptive modifier, Car) and that they expect the Chiron’s top speed to approach 300 mph.

Bugatti has said the plan is to build 500 cars — 1 Chiron for $2.5 million and 499 Special Editions that will cost much, much more.

A few prototypes have been spotted around Los Angeles International Airport and other locales, but it’s unclear how Bugatti will spit in the face of physics this time around.

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The Biggest Car Interior Makers Are Now Companies We’ve Never Heard Of http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/biggest-car-interior-makers-now-companies-weve-never-heard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/biggest-car-interior-makers-now-companies-weve-never-heard/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 17:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1157170 On Monday, Magna International completed its sale of its interior business to Grupo Antolin, a Spanish firm that’s relatively unknown outside of Spain. That’s on top of Johnson Control International getting out of the interior business, along with other automakers and suppliers, as John McElroy pointed out in a well-written column for Autoblog. Magna’s sale underscores […]

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magnastronach Picture courtesy deadlysins.info

On Monday, Magna International completed its sale of its interior business to Grupo Antolin, a Spanish firm that’s relatively unknown outside of Spain.

That’s on top of Johnson Control International getting out of the interior business, along with other automakers and suppliers, as John McElroy pointed out in a well-written column for Autoblog.

Magna’s sale underscores the fact that the car-making business — and especially their interiors — isn’t exactly lucrative for most suppliers.

For what it’s worth, the sale helps reduce Magna’s exposure to a recently volatile Canadian currency, but long-term, Magna didn’t see margins improving on interiors and got out.

Instead, Magna’s looking at transmissions and other automotive parts — like other suppliers — as a better source of revenue and margins for a healthier bottom line.

(His concern is shared by Sergio Marchionne, who has a few ideas about consolidation.)

Like McElroy points out, the large players in the interior business, now Grupo Antolin and Yanfeng, are relative unknowns in a business where sales are brisk and cheaper is always better.

In short, hold on to your door handles.

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