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By on January 24, 2011


Norway’s automotive industry never got quite as large as neighbor Sweden’s (to put it mildly), but Norwegians can still puff up their chests with pride when they see a Troll Sportcupe cruise by. Read More >

By on January 24, 2011

The Department of Energy’s $25b Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program was very nearly used as a slush fund to keep GM and Chrysler afloat during the dangerous days leading up to the federal auto bailout. Though President Bush’s decision to use TARP to rescue America’s failing automakers took away the need to tap the so-called “retooling loan” program to fund America’s auto bailout, that decision also contributed to a long delay in the allocation of the ATVM loans. Because the loans require applicants prove “financial viability,” GM and Chrysler’s requests (which account for $17.4b out of the remaining pool of $16.7b in non-allocated loans) have been on hold, and with them, every other automaker still seeking approval for its requests. And now, with no word from the DOE on the loan program since last April, congress is agitating for the DOE to make with the loans already. Senator Diane Feinstein captures the frustration in a letter published by the Detroit News

“On multiple occasions, the department has missed internal deadlines for initial decisions, term negotiations, final decisions and loan closure,” she wrote, saying the department failed to give applicants “a clear timeline.”

But did the DOE miss deadlines and string automakers along out of negligence, or because it had to wait in order to fulfill the loan program’s mission, namely supporting the bailed-out automakers?

Read More >

By on January 24, 2011

If you are the proud owner of a Porsche 997, which can slurp as much as 1.6 quarts of oil every 622 miles, you may be asking yourself “what do you mean am I ready?” But Porsche isn’t talking about upping the tolerated oil consumption numbers for its gas-powered flat-six engine… it’s considering adding a diesel engine to its US lineup, starting with an oil-burning version of its Panamera sports sedan and Cayenne SUV. With diesel versions of both of its two largest vehicles planned to debut at the Geneva Auto Show, Porsche’s Bernhard Maier tells Automotive News Europe [sub] that

We are discussing internally if we should introduce the Cayenne diesel in the U.S. this year. Also a Panamera diesel is an option.

Porsche has offered a 240 HP diesel version of its Cayenne in Europe since 2009, which gets over 30 MPG combined on the European test-cycle (non-EPA). And with 63 percent of Porsche’s sales last year coming from either the Cayenne or the Panamera last year, the firm is looking to those two nameplates for volume growth until its new products (like the next-gen 911 and a forthcoming “baby boxster”) hit dealerships. Offering diesels in the US may not create a huge surge in demand for Porsche’s most popular products, but it won’t hurt efforts to broaden their appeal.

By on January 24, 2011

Jonathon writes:

Sajeev, my just post-college daughter is driving our 2003 Honda Accord EX – V-6, leather, Navigation, all the sweet bells and whistles.  The bulk of 175,000 miles have been highway-easy, and the vehicle has been well-maintained during its life. . . except the transmission.  After an early flush-and-fill at 30K, it didn’t see fluid change until something north of 95K, and is now waaay due for fresh fluid.

It doesn’t whine, and up- and downshifts when expected.  My daughter mentioned a “shudder” in the car when she backs from her parking space and shifts into Drive.  She took it to the dealer and — guess what? — they recommended she replace the tranny for a cost of $4,000.  “We give you a three-year guarantee,” they cheerily promise.

Uh, not gonna happen.  But, she plans on keeping the car for at least another year or two.  Maybe longer.

That’s the windup and here’s the pitch:  Considering the age, mileage and mostly highway-driven wear, when I have the transmission fluid replaced next month, should I have it powerflushed to make it squeaky clean or do a simple drain and topoff (out of fear of “dislodging” some clearances that have been built over thousands of miles)?

Read More >

By on January 24, 2011

With a number of shocking nameplate-engineering jobs on deck (who’s ready for a Chrysler 200-based Lancia Flavia?), Fiat’s easing into things with one of the more innocuous moves on the to-do list: rebadging Dodges Journey as a Fiat. In Europe, the Freemont will slip into obscurity between Fiat’s Qubo and Doblò, much as the real Fremont struggles to serve as more than a unnecessary and unwanted distraction between Oakland and San Jose. And even though European buyers don’t buy many midsized crossovers, and don’t come to Fiat when they do, the Journey has been reworked to live up to the refined tastes of the European soccer mom. From retuned steering and suspension, to diesel engines, a new instrument panel and more soft-touch materials, The Freemont is a Dodge Journey for people who aren’t willing to buy shockingly poor-quality vehicles on the strength of inane advertising alone. And since they’re not calling it the Multipla, there’s no tip-toeing around comparisons to storied predecessors. But the fact that Fiat isn’t used to selling vehicles like the Journey is already showing up in its marketing literature, which enigmatically refers to the Freemont as a

“factotum vehicle” which has been “designed to meet the diverse needs of families and those seeking a spacious, comfortable and versatile vehicle to cater for the frenetic pace of everyday life or weekend leisure time”

By on January 24, 2011

The Tennessee General Assembly, which in past sessions has endorsed the use of speed cameras and red light cameras, is preparing once more to either expand or restrict their use. Bills introduced earlier this month provide the foundation for action that frequently takes a different turn after committee consideration.

Lobbyists for municipalities that use automated ticketing machines have a strong hold over the General Assembly and its committees. In 2008, municipalities joined forces with the camera industry to push through a measure authorizing photo ticketing. To deal with vocal opponents to the idea, then-state Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) drafted the bill in such a way that its wording appeared to be a ban on cameras. Similarly, attempts at placing limitations on camera use last year were watered down in the committee process to the point where the remaining “limits” merely reflected existing practices.

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By on January 24, 2011


American-made overhead-cam engines were almost as rare as reliable South Vietnamese presidents in the mid-1960s, so I did a doubletake when I spotted one in a Denver self-service wrecking yard. Read More >

By on January 24, 2011

BYD had a bit of a rough time lately. This might cheer them up: According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, a joint design team of BYD and Daimler has finished the styling of an all-electric battery car that will be launched by a BYD/Daimler ( or “Benz” as they call them in China) joint venture. Read More >

By on January 24, 2011

Toyota released year-end global sales numbers for 2010. Thanks to an uptick in December sales, they were slightly better than estimated in December. Toyota Motor Corporation global group sales rose 8 percent to 8.418 million units. This includes Daihatsu and Hino.

Toyota sold 7.528 million units under its own nameplate, up 8 percent. Daihatsu sold 783,000 units, up 4 percent, and truck maker Hino moved 107,000 units, up a strong 35 percent.  Japanese group sales were 2.204 million units, up 10 percent. Overseas sales rose 6 percent to 5.962 million units. But are 8.418 million units enough to keep Toyota in the top spot?

Read More >

By on January 24, 2011

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. has to write off 15 billion yen ($181 million) “resulting from recently discovered improper transactions at a trading business subsidiary in Tokyo,” reports The Nikkei [sub]. It was all about dead fish. Read More >

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