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By on November 9, 2011

Thirteen years after the Mercedes-Benz SLK reintroduced the hard top convertible, the novelty has once again begun to wear off in the face of concerns about cost, complexity, and curb weight. Even high-end manufacturers like Audi, BMW, and Jaguar have fit their latest convertibles with soft tops (albeit multi-layered ones to retain heat and keep out noise). In other words, the retractable hard top has not rendered ye olde ragtop obsolete. This isn’t to say that the retractable hard top is pointless, at least not when innovatively executed. The recently updated Volkswagen Eos remains the best. But would you want one?

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By on November 9, 2011

With traditional compact pickups growing into the new “midsized” segment, Scion has long been tipped as a likely candidate to lead the US market back towards smaller, car-based pickup trucks. And, Scion’s VP Jack Hollis tells TTAC’s sister site Autoguide that such a vehicle, though not a certainty, could be possible.

Versus other vehicles, I can’t say it’s priority one. I’m very interested in it. A lot of prospective owners are interested in it and every meeting I have in Japan, I’m asking, what else can we do.

Hollis reveals that he has, in the past, pushed for an imported Daihatsu pickup for Scion’s US lineup, but that regulatory issues killed the business case. But now he’s suggesting that Scion and Daihatsu might jointly develop a small, fuel-efficient pickup… just as Subaru and Toyota/Scion developed the FT-86 together. If that happens, I’d expect something larger than Daihatsu’s typical kei-style trucks, for reasons hinted at in the video above. And to help you understand the legacy that a Daihatsu-Scion pickup might draw upon, here are a few random images of Daihatsu “trucks” (or possible inspirations) through the ages.

By on November 9, 2011

A week ago the president of OICA, Patrick Blain, ruffled some feathers on this side of the Atlantic by laying into the US auto industry with such bon mots as

If the American manufacturers had gone years ago to the government and said, ‘Listen, we have a huge project’ – electric cars, for instance, the government could at least have studied it. But they never tried.

Take the Chevrolet Volt (extended-range electric vehicle launched in 2010). Without government help, at least in the developmental stages in which certain economies of scale must be reached, it is too expensive. It’s just another example of the American industry being too late. They have missed many trends.

Because the sign of an innovative automaker is entanglement with the government… just ask Blain’s compatriots (and former colleagues) at Renault! Oh, and incidentally, Detroit did approach the government for help developing green cars back in the 1990s and managed to waste a cool billion dollars building three prototypes (see: PNGV). But there I go taking Blain at his word… when he’s already walking back his nonsensical comments.
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By on November 9, 2011

Think hybrid and electric cars are expensive? Wait until automakers start selling hydrogen fuel cell cars. Toyota tells Automotive News [sub] that it’s targeting global sales of a “few thousand” fuel cell vehicles by 2015. But because the technology will be rolled out due to emissions standards rather than widespread market demand, expect the price for the hydrogen Toyotas to be breathtakingly high. Says Toyota Europe’s Vice President for Product Planning & Marketing Alain Uyttenhoven

We could expect a fuel cell vehicle to retail at about 100,000 euros in Europe.

Phew! All of a sudden those EVs aren’t looking so overpriced, are they? Which might be why Uyttenhoven adds

We see pure battery-powered vehicles to be just a solution for small trips in the city, while a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid is the best solution both for weekday urban commuting and weekend trips. Our research shows that more than 80 percent of urban daily trips are less than the 20km.

By on November 9, 2011

The Tokyo Auto Show is coming, which means it’s time for Japan’s automakers to roll out their weirdest, quirkiest, most Japanese designs. An electric city car apparently inspired by a CD player? Check. A 1,600 lb, super-efficient compact? Actually, the Regina Concept (above) almost looks more French than Japanese to my eyes. Finally, the Swift EV Hybrid rounds out Suzuki’s Tokyo-bound lineup. What does it all say about Suzuki’s future? One theory is that here may be an electrified Swift on the market at some point. Another holds that in the future, humans will be replaced by compact discs.

To be perfectly honest, as with so many Japanese cultural artifacts and phenomena, I’m completely baffled. Luckily our East-West relations expert Bertel Schmitt will be on hand at the Tokyo Auto Show to help us figure it all out.

 

 

 

 

By on November 9, 2011

 

TTAC commenter jems86 writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I need your help again. I live in Colombia and, as you already know, I am the owner of a 2000 Subaru Forester (the 2.0 EDM model). This particular model has rear self leveling struts and recently they went bust. My dealership is asking 4 million pesos (about 2235 USD) for the replacements. I really think it’s a little bit steep so I’ve been searching online but haven’t been able to find the OEM parts. I read on a forum (http://www.subaruforester.org/) that you can put the non-self leveling struts. Is this a good idea? How much would the driving characteristics of my car change? If I go this way, what other components of the suspension should I replace? Thanks in advance for your help.

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By on November 9, 2011

Voters in eight cities in three states cast ballots Tuesday to decide whether red light cameras and speed cameras should be used in their communities. Seven of the races went against the use of photo ticketing.

The night’s first results came from Ashtabula, Ohio where 60 percent of residents approved an amendment to the city charter stating that the city “shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device” unless a police officer personally issues the citation.

“I feel that the citizens of Ashtabula stood up,” Mark Leatherman, chairman of the Citizens of Ashtabula Camera Committee told TheNewspaper. “We had the police chief attacking and fighting citizens on this issue on Facebook. We stuck to our guns to get this passed.”

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By on November 9, 2011

GM’s net income in the 3rd quarter was $1.7 billion, down a bit from $2 billion in the same quarter of last year. What was up though was total global production. According to data published by GM, global production in the first 9 months rose to 6.95 million, up 7.8 percent from the same period in 2010 when 6.45 million were made. If GM maintains that pace in the 4th quarter, and there is no reason not to, GM should end the year with a global production well over 9 million. Read More >

By on November 9, 2011

I’ve been on a Junkyard Find roll lately, but I haven’t forgotten the old/interesting cars that are still among the living. Here’s a nearly-60-year-old Chevy that lives— more accurately, thrives— on the street near downtown Denver. Read More >

By on November 9, 2011

Toyota announced today that it will resume production in Thailand on November 21. Full scale production probably is a while away. At a visit to Thailand, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said that “Toyota is starting to get a firm grasp of the situation and would like to restart production as soon as possible.” This does not mean that it is business as usual yet. Read More >

By on November 9, 2011

Car sales in India got it under the chin in October. In October 2011, sales of passenger cars were down 23.77 percent, utility vehicles were up a hair at 0.41 percent, sales of vans decelerated by 17.57 percent. Read More >

By on November 9, 2011

The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) released its October sales, and they confirmed the rumors that they were nothing to write home about. Total automobile sales are down 1.07 percent compared to October 2010. Production rose less than 2 percent. Passenger vehicles still outpace the overall market, up 1.42 percent. Read More >

By on November 8, 2011

I’m not sure what to say about this video other than it perfectly illustrates the problem with modern American discourse. The woman in the Prius has a point: it’s probably not necessary to run a diesel pickup while it’s stationary, even if there are children sleeping inside. Unfortunately for everyone involved, she never bothers to ask that they shut the pickup off. Instead, she immediately starts exhibiting every loathsome characteristic of stereotypical hybrid owners — except personal fitness. We’ve become a country of screamers, I suppose.

By on November 8, 2011

The last time we posted a photo of the forthcoming Genesis Coupe facelift, we soon found that Hyundai Motor America staff were quietly informing other blogs that it was a photoshopped fake. I inserted a warning into the post, cursed myself for having been had, and moved on. So, how do I know these pictures are real? Probably because they come from the URL blog.hyundai.com (the leaked (non-press) shots are from Gencoupe.com, and don’t look as though they could possibly be faked). It turns out that Hyundai is showing off the new coupe to either drift fans or ice skating aficionados (Google Translate is hilariously unhelpful with Korean) this Saturday at something called the Chonnam National Yeongam F1 Speed ​​Festival. Hyundai will “officially” show the car to the American market a week later at the LA Auto Show… at the earliest. More likely, Hyundai will continue to pretend that this car doesn’t exist until January, at the Detroit show. And they’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling internets!

[H/T: Our man in Korea, Walter Foreman]

 

By on November 8, 2011

 

With today’s chart showing the abject failure of Lexus’s HS250h, we thought we’d dig deeper into Lexus’s 2011 performance by breaking out the brand’s core model sales over the year. And, to be perfectly honest, they don’t look as bad as you might expect. Though the tsunami-related supply shortages cut a huge hole out of Lexus’s sales this year, the overall momentum model-by-model doesn’t seem as bad as I might have thought, given that Lexus is the most-stumbling brand of the  year, sales-wise. And, to give a little more context to this focused at Lexus’s portfolio, we’ve included a chart of year-over-year performances through October of all the luxury/premium brands. 

 

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