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By on August 10, 2011

You know what I could really go for? A turbocharged Astro modified to, er, “look like a Lamborghini”. A show called “Ultimate Car Build” created such a vehicle a year or so ago. The “Astroghini” ran from 0-60 in 6.2 seconds thanks to a turbocharger sitting in place of the passenger seat. It sold on eBay in September, but the precise whereabouts of the Astroghini were unknown… until now. It sits just a few miles from a General Motors plant which closed in 1999 and nearly put the surrounding community down for the proverbial count.

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By on August 9, 2011

The source of today’s Quote Of The Day, a BMW M Division engineer, is clearly not a native English speaker, but he reveals just where performance cars like the new M5 are going when he says:

More and more demand is from our test engineers from the referring(?) departments and they come over and 80%, 90% are only working on the electronic systems. The other 10, 20 percent are working at the car, under the car….

Of course, the M engineers aren’t developing a car from the ground up here, but it’s still amazing that the workload is so unevenly weighted towards electronic rather than, for lack of a better term, “greasy hands” work.

By on August 9, 2011 presents our first look at… no, that’s not a Jetta, it’s a stretched Polo sedan. What, you had a hard time telling the difference? That’s China for you...

By on August 9, 2011

When news hit late last week that one of Google’s driverless cars had been involved in a minor fender-bender, the anti-autonomous driver argument made itself. “This is precisely why we’re worried about self-driving cars,” howled Jalopnik.”Google’s self-driving car seems like the ultimate distracted driving machine.” But on the very same day, Google claimed that

One of our goals is to prevent fender-benders like this one, which occurred while a person was manually driving the car [emphasis added]

Before you know it, the other side of the debate, as epitomized by Popular Science flipped the argument, insisting that

this incident is yet another example — as if we need one — of the human capacity for error. Hopefully when cars do take over, they’ll be able to prevent these types of incidents on their own.

So yeah, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on the issue. And with Nevada’s legalization of driverless cars, it’s only a matter of time before something happens that busts the debate wide open again. So, how do you feel about our new robot overlords? I, for one, could live with the technology for freeway/expressway use… but not without drawing some kind of clear lines around legal liability. Off-freeway? No thanks. Too few benefits from packing traffic tighter and too many other variables in traffic. What say you?

By on August 9, 2011

Six days ago, Honda announced minor revisions to its slow-selling Accord Crosstour. They are summarized in the press release:

For 2012, new features on the Crosstour EX include auto on/off headlights, a rearview camera, Bluetooth®1 HandsFreeLink® and USB audio interface. Two new colors are also available on all Crosstour models: Twilight Blue Metallic replaces Glacier Blue Metallic, and Basque Red Pearl replaces Tango Red Pearl.

The other change: it’s not the “Accord Crosstour” anymore. Like Sting, Madonna, Ke$ha, Shakira, et al, it’s now just the one-word “Crosstour”.

I was curious as to how the automotive media would cover this important news, and how each of the TTAC contributors might cover it, given the chance. If you are, as well, click the jump.

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By on August 9, 2011

With GM’s share price currently hovering below $25, well under its $33 IPO price, The General is holding its second annual Global Business Conference in hopes of encouraging investors the world over to buy into its turnaround. A webcast is currently streaming over at the GM Investor Relations website, but the key points are available in slides available in PDF here. The presentation involves nearly every level of GM’s business, so listening in and reading the entire PDF is going to be the best way to make sense of what GM is trying to communicate… but if you just want an overview, check out the gallery below for a few hand-picked slides, illustrating some of the more important points.

By on August 9, 2011

Honda, long a fixture in the upper reaches of rolling YTD sales charts, has been well and properly knocked off its pedestal by now, with its best-seller, the Accord, just barely making it into the top ten at number nine. Civic came in at 11th, while CR-V was 14th. And Honda’s not the only long-reigning volume champ that’son its way down: compared to last year, Toyota’s Corolla and Camry have shed about eight percent of their volume, and right below them the Altima and Fusion are both growing at around 17.5%. By the end of this month, Toyota could easily have only one vehicle in the top five (and could even be knocked out altogether), Honda could be completely out of the top ten, and Ford, Chevy and Nissan could be dominating the upper reaches of our YTD chart. Ch-ch-ch-changes…

[UPDATE: Old Codger-friendly version in gallery below]


By on August 9, 2011

Kia no longer exists. Yes there is that Hyundai subsidiary now known as Kia. But before Kia Motors went Chapter 11, there was this strange Korean company that sold spasm inducing horrific vehicles.

I’m not sure any female car enthusiast would ever be happy with the name Sephia. Just saying that name alone can induce ugly flashbacks for prior owners and dealers. Sportage rhymed with ‘shortage’ and had parts that may have indeed come directly from plastic soda bottles and aluminum foil. Then there was this plain wretched thing…

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By on August 9, 2011

By late 2012, BMW will be showing the world a facelifted version of its current 7-Series flagship, in hopes of extending its new dominance in the luxury thermonuclear wars. But, with Mercedes determined to retake the throne, it’s developing an all-new S-Class, to debut in early 2013. Known as the 222, this new S-Class will reportedly be styled with an eye towards the 2007 F700 concept, and will debut in Detroit rather than Beijing, where the updated 7er will launch. For now though, it’s rolling around in heavily-camouflaged mule form, practicing the fine art of luxury before going into battle with the Bavarians. With all the hopes of the Mercedes brand on its back, this next-generation luxury warrior has a lot to live up to.

By on August 9, 2011

Few topics attain as much attention as something only a few can afford: Luxury cars, with special emphasis on who sells the most.

While some snootily state that a lot of these cars can’t possibly be listed as luxury comment, Connolly leathernecks battle in the burlwoods.  The war for luxury-leadership is fought on a global scale, where Dr. Z. exhorts his troops to fight back the onslaught of the Bavarian Barbarians. Month after month, skirmishes for market share erupt on U.S. shores as well. Read More >

By on August 9, 2011

The auditor general for New South Wales, Australia last month issued a report on speed camera use in the state. The Liberal Party government had ordered the review after it took power at the end of March. Following the results, thirty-eight camera locations have been taken offline.

As with the like-minded Conservative Party in the UK, NSW Liberals did not set out not to end the use of photo enforcement which generated 371,015 tickets worth $58,117,038 last year. Instead, the party’s leaders are taking steps reduce the number of cameras and reverse the ruling Labor Party policies that kept safety, operational and revenue data for individual cameras a closely guarded secret. No effort had been made to evaluate the program since 2005.

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By on August 9, 2011

Yesterday, we saw an once-ubiquitous 80s Japanese econobox that has nearly disappeared from the face of the earth; at the same Denver junkyard, I found a once-ubiquitous 70s Japanese econobox that also hasn’t been seen on the street for many years. The little fastback B210 was once everywhere. Read More >

By on August 8, 2011

About a minute into this clip, the auto industry’s most ubiquitous reporter John McElroy reveals that he’s seen three future Lincoln concepts and insists that they

definitely signal that a big change is coming.

What he doesn’t say: what they look like or what the “big change” is… which is enough to make any inveterate skeptic wonder whether McElroy is shooting straight or if saying what he did was a condition of being shown the “future products.” What McElroy does reveal is that Lincoln now has

its own unique design studio located within Ford’s product development center in Dearborn Michigan, with its own unique design team. That has not been done in modern times.

Unfortunately, as Cadillac’s recent history proves, new design is just part of the successful luxury brand equation. Unique platforms are another. Strong marketing is another. Lincoln may be taking the first steps in the right direction, but it’s got a long, long way to go…

By on August 8, 2011

Today, my phone rang repeatedly, and my email inbox quickly filled with questions. They all said: “Did you see this? Do you know these people?”

I knew the guy in the picture. I used to be married into a family that was in the Washington Green book. I lived in Virginia two driveways from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  I was surrounded by gentleman farmers and politicos. Jeez, the late Ambassador Fritz Nolting drove into my pool on a riding mower with a cocktail in one hand and a cigar in the other. Talk about distracted driving.

The right man in the picture wanted to be Governor of Virginia. He still does. The left man wants to be a tycoon.

The man who leans over that sign somewhere in the godforsaken desert of Inner Mongolia, China, is Terence “Terry” McAuliffe. Yes, the very same Terry McAuliffe who was a Democratic National Committee head and a close Bill Clinton adviser who, according to a United States Senate document organized the famous coffees and sleepovers that saved Bill Clinton from electoral annihilation.

According to one source, “McAuliffe’s soft money strategy was responsible for President Clinton’s 1996 scandal concerning the Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers and the White House coffees, two tactics employed to solicit huge donations from wealthy friends and patrons of the Clintons.”

Putting the Lincoln Bedroom up for sale for $100,000 a night (on average) was only a minor scandal compared to what was called “Chinagate.”

Al Gore, friend and beneficiary of Buddhist monks, praised McAuliffe as ”the greatest fund-raiser in the history of the universe.” Coming from Gore, that’s the best endorsement one can get.

Yes, you are looking at THAT Terry McAuliffe.

Yes, it’s the same and he is back in China, and back in the fundraising business. This time, he promises to bring 300,000 cars to China. Made in America by Americans. Assembled in China. In that new factory which is going up behind the two gentlemen.

Wait, there is more. A lot more. Read More >

By on August 8, 2011

Welcome back to ongoing coverage of the latest transcontinental tale of romance and betrayal, in which Volkswagen and Suzuki’s young-but-troubled relationship is put to the test while the world watches. Last time we checked in, a piece of pricey gossip suggested what the rumors had been saying for weeks: VW and Suzuki were headed for Splitsville. But despite the angry blogging outbursts and talk of “reviewing the relationship,” Volkswagen is standing by its Japanese bride, telling Automotive News Europe [sub] that the latest gossip that the “relationship is headed for dissolution” is “nonsense.” Suzuki joined the show of support, saying it had no plans to leave. But all the while, an Italian temptress is putting even more pressure on this relationship, as Bertel reported last month: Read More >

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