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By on May 14, 2011

Editor’s note: Car News China has some pictures of the Dongfeng EQ250 in police livery, accompanied by the nearly-unbelievable tale of the HMMWV’s Sinification, which we have excerpted here. Do surf over and check out one of the better Chinese car blogs out there.

AM General tried to sell the HMMWV to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the late 1980′s.

The PLA however had no interest in the vehicle by that time, they thought it too big and heavy. AM General left one HMMWV in China, hoping the Chinese would change their mind. They did after the first Gulf War in 1991 when the HMMWV was on every TV screen in the world, seen as a winning vehicle that could cross every desert.

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By on May 14, 2011

It started as a flippant Twitter comment, in which GM Global Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick agreed to champion a return for the “El Camino” if 100,000 potential buyers raised their hands for it. Smelling an opportunity for some publicity, Jalopnik quickly picked up on the “challenge” and urged readers to leave a comment in support of the trucklet. At first Ewanick tried to hedge, saying he needed 100k deposits, rather than blog comments, to approve an El Camino for the US market. But now the former Hyundai marketer has taken Jalopnik’s challenge to Chevy’s Facebook page, giving a surprising amount of credibility for a “challenge” that began with a throwaway tweet. What makes Chevy’s endorsement of the “El Camino Challenge” even more surprising: the total lack of apparent enthusiasm.

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By on May 14, 2011

TTAC has paid close attention to the fortunes of ethanol in the United States, where grossly wasteful subsidies have forced the corn-derived fuel into the fuel supply in growing percentages, drawing backlash from small but vocal portions of the population. But much of the ethanol ire is directed at higher blends like the recently-approved E15 and the increasingly-unpopular E85 mixtures. Meanwhile, most Americans regularly fill up their tanks with E10, which has become standard at pumps across the nation. But in Germany, where E10 was only just introduced, people are rejecting the low-ethanol blend that even the most vocal American ethanol opponents use every day. Initially, the biofuel industry in Germany blamed a lack of education for suspicion of E10, but according to Autobild, some 75 percent of German drivers now know whether their vehicle takes E10 (and most do)… but still, only 17 percent actually chose E10 for their last fill-up. And only 39 percent who know for a fact that their car can take E10 have ever used the ten-percent ethanol fuel. Why? Despite the high level of education, 52 percent of respondents still feared motor damage from the ethanol. Another 50 are opposed to “filling up with food.” Sometimes the more you know about something, the less you like it.

By on May 14, 2011

The reboot at Lotus has been much discussed in the motoring press, but amidst all the talk of styling and strategy, one of the brand’s major competitive issues has been widely overlooked. Lotus’s strategy is, in essence, to build up its brand to the level of a Porsche or Ferrari… in other words, reviving the UK’s position in the brutally competitive world of European sportscars. But just as Lotus is eying a return to greatness, targeting the top-tier of the sportscar market, another UK competitor with (at least) equally-burnished credentials is making is own play for a slice of the high-performance road car market: McLaren. Unlike Lotus, McLaren’s racing roots aren’t just deep, but are recent as well; the brand is rebuilding its legacy on the strength of its Formula One racing heritage as much as its legendary F1 road car. And unlike Lotus, McLaren has already delivered one of the more intriguing road cars in recent memory, the MP4-12C, which is lighter and faster than Ferrari’s lauded 458, while breaking new technical ground with its carbon fiber monocoque and adaptive hydraulic suspension.

And now Autocar reports that McLaren is following up its Mp4-12C with a limited-edition flagship hypercar boasting 800 HP from a 5 liter V8 that should hit 100 MPH in 5.5 seconds. With a 2014 launch date, the “Mega Mac” should hit the market just after Lotus introduces its first, rapidly-developed sportscars… and make Lotus’s task of capturing the position of UK’s top sportscar brand much, much harder. Can Lotus make up the difference with branding alone? We’ll sure enjoy watching the battle unfold, as nerdy, product-led, race-tech-happy McLaren takes on splashy, branding-led, glamor-happy Lotus.

By on May 14, 2011

After Great Britain’s official (an royal) figures last weekend, now is the time to explore a country that doesn’t have any official car sales data available. And what better time to go back to basics and look at the alphabet and where it all began: the letter A. So this weekend we are going to Albania.

And why not?

Now if you want to know about the best selling models in less obscure countries in the world, you’ve found the right place. There are 154 other countries to explore in my blog. You will enjoy it. That’s an order.

The reason why I wanted to stop in Albania for a while during our round the world tour is that the Albanian car market is very particular. Read More >

By on May 14, 2011


Many of you said a twin-engined Toyota race car would never work, but the Doublesuck MR2/Corolla combo (automatic transmission in the back, manual in the front) went out onto the Reno-Fernley Raceway track for some practice laps today and did just fine! Read More >

By on May 13, 2011

The combined market share of GM and Ford will reach 40% of the US market by the end of 2015. Yes, you just read that correctly. That’s a full five percent more share than what they have today, or a gain of just one percent a year. Call me crazy… but recall that Farago and I called the GM bankruptcy way before most industry observers (and certainly before the BoD of Old GM) could see it coming. Long time TTAC readers will also remember my call to buy Ford’s stock in April 2009 when it was trading in the three buck range. So calm those gut-reactions for a few minutes and let’s walk through this.

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By on May 13, 2011

The war of words over a possible 62 MPG 2025 CAFE standard is accelerating this week, as letters in support of the standard [sub] are vying with industry responses against the proposal for media attention. And though environmentalists are quick to point out the often-misunderstood difference between EPA and CAFE mileage ratings (a fact that even the industry-friendly Automotive News [sub] concedes, if only in a blog post], the industry’s response is miles away from any kind of compromise, saying

The alliance believes it is inappropriate to be promoting any specific fuel economy/greenhouse gas at this point

How’s that for some old-school, don’t-tread-on-me corporate attitude? No room for compromise, no sense of nuance… and yet, that doesn’t actually represent the industry’s position at all.

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By on May 13, 2011

In a normal world, an automaker wants to time the announcement of a new car just right: In time to build anticipation. Not too early, because that would hurt sales of last year’s models. In Japan, they keep things simple and have the press event the day the car goes on sale. Today, I was at a press event in Tokyo that celebrated the Prius Alpha, a bigger, roomier minivanish Prius that can seat 7. If you’d order it today, you would get your car in a distant future, in April 2012. No typo. 11 months from now. Next year.

Welcome to the new world of post-tsunami car launches. Read More >

By on May 13, 2011

When we heard that Saab’s deal with the Chinese automaker Hawtai had fallen through, our initial reaction was a complete lack of surprise. My take was that Saab’s attempts to seek Chinese White Knight from the ranks of that country’s smaller automakers was doomed to fail, as the Chinese government has made it clear that it would like to see its auto industry consolidate. As with all things Chinese, however, I should have consulted more closely with Bertel before writing. Our man in China was quick to point out that the Beijing scuttlebut blamed Saab’s lack of intellectual property, rather than government consolidation rules, was to blame for the collapse of the Saab-Hawtai deal. And sure enough, Automotive News [sub] reports today that

Sweden’s Saab Automobile failed to secure investment from Hawtai Motor Group because of “commercial and economic realities,” not a lack of government approval

And, it turns out that’s the nice way of putting it…

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By on May 13, 2011

On my way home from Toronto’s trendy Queen West nightlife district, I often take the long way home, up through the newly gentrified working class neighborhoods of the city’s west end, which gives the chance to drive past a row of exotic car dealerships. A quarter mile stretch is home to Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley, Land Rover and Lotus. The Lotus dealer formerly sold Ferraris as well, and the place was a long-time haunt when I was a child, where the only two cars in stock were a Mondial T and a gorgeous British Racing Green Esprit S4.

The same Esprit later ended up in the hands of a neighbor, a geeky looking guy who was probably in IT and also owned an Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight LSS. I had no real idea about the Esprit’s mechanical content, just that it made a fantastic racket when it would tear through the flat, straight stretches of my neighborhood – and I loved the color.

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By on May 13, 2011


Elvis Presley famously bought (and gave away) Cadillacs, lots of them. One of the first cars he bought after his first success with Sun Records was a 1955 Caddy, which caught fire and burned up out while on tour. Around that same time he bought Sun owner Sam Phillips a Cadillac as well. He bought a 1955 Fleetwood 60 Special and had it custom painted pink for his mother, Gladys, but she never drove it. There’s even a web site devoted just to Elvis’ Cadillacs. though he had at least a couple of notable Lincolns including a ’55 Continental that Ford had customized by Hess & Eisenhardt, the same company that made presidential limos. That web site documents about 30 Cadillacs known to be owned by the King, along with at least a score of Caddys that he gifted to friends and associates. The Cadillac fit Elvis’ image. They were big, bold, brash and fast. That big white Cadillac hearse that the king of rock and roll took for his last ride seemed particularly fitting. All it was missing were rhinestones. That’s why it’s a bit surprising to find out that Elvis owned and drove a tiny three-wheeler Messerschmitt micro car, and he owned it right around the time he couldn’t help falling in love with the much bigger Cadillacs.

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By on May 13, 2011

Members of the public are not allowed to attend red light camera trials and other proceedings at the Superior Court of California courthouse in the city of Corona. For the past several weeks a policy has been place denying entry to anyone who does not have a direct involvement in a specific case scheduled that day. Court security checks anyone attempting to enter the building.

“Please be advised that this court facility is closed to the general public,” a sign posted at the door states. “The facility conducts criminal trials Monday through Friday and only jurors, witnesses and associated trial personnel are permitted to enter. On Fridays, the facility is also open for litigants reporting for court trial on traffic or minor offense matters.”

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By on May 13, 2011

When I saw this in the distance, I hustled up to see what it was, hoping it was part of an Airbus or Boeing of some type. It wasn’t, unfortunately. Do you know what it is?

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By on May 12, 2011

Despite being on something of a roll product-wise, Ford has just experienced its second run-in with Consumer Reports, which failed to give Ford’s new Explorer a coveted “recommended” rating. Why? CR explains its decision in Automotive News [sub] thusly

“The engine is a little noisy, handling is secure but lacks agility, and the driving position is flawed,” the magazine says.

“The optional ‘MyFord Touch’ control interface is over-complicated and distracting,” the magazine says, echoing ongoing complaints about Ford’s family of in-vehicle communications systems.

But there’s more.

“The six-speed automatic is not the smoothest out there and wants to hold on to higher gears too long. It was sometimes slow to downshift and overly aggressive engine braking slowed the Explorer going down hills unless we gave the gas pedal a prod.

“An optional Terrain Management system for the all-wheel-drive system lets you dial in various terrain types such as snow and sand, and it alters throttle, brake and torque split between front and rear wheels accordingly.”

Finally, the latest Explorer is too new to be recommended, the magazine says.

But here’s the kicker: as our “Crossover Report” proves, the Explorer killed the competition last month, outselling every other midsized and large CUV on the market. So, is CR right to rate products like Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Ford Flex, Acura MDX, Volkswagen Touareg, Hyundai Veracruz, Subaru Tribeca, Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9 higher than Explorer? Or is this yet another example of CR’s well-disguised but often-noted bias against American cars? Is CR right about the Explorer, or is the market?

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