The Truth About Cars » Chevrolet The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chevrolet GM Divides Engineering Division, Faces More Recall Woes Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:00:00 +0000 gm-headquarters-logo-opt

Automotive News reports General Motors has split its engineering division in two, with executives Ken Kezler and Kenneth Morris becoming vice presidents of global vehicle components and subsystems and global product integrity, respectively. The split also means vice president of (what was) global vehicle engineering, John Calabrese will retire, though the retirement is alleged to not be linked with the ongoing recall crisis. The immediate changes are the result of the ongoing review of the ignition switch issue affecting the company since early this year, with the aim of flagging potential safety problems within a product sooner than when the division was united. GM product chief Mark Reuss proclaimed the new divisions “would have expedited a whole bunch of things” had they been in place earlier.

The new divisions may have been established too late, however, as Bloomberg reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is readying a new investigation into the automaker, this time involving the brake systems in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. The probe comes from a report by an owner who experienced several incidences linked to the car’s driver-assist technologies, including one where the collision-avoidance system brought the car to a halt despite no traffic ahead of the vehicle, leading to a rear-end collision instead. The investigation is expected to affect around 60,580 Impalas, and GM is cooperating with the agency in the probe.

In addition, both GM and the NHTSA may find themselves under the gun once more. According to CNN Money, the recall issued in late March affecting 1.3 million Saturn Ions between 2004 and 2007 regarding power-steering issues is the second recall to have taken over a decade to resolve. The agency first received word of the Ion’s problems in 2004, with an investigation opened in 2011 after 4,800 complaints and 30,000 warranty claims were filed, while the automaker didn’t include the Ions in a 2010 power-steering recall despite the Saturn sharing the same part as those affected.

Reuters reports Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is interested in bringing in former GM CEOs before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee over the main recall, especially Dan Akerson, who passed the torch to current CEO Mary Barra in late December of 2013, approximately a month before the recall began. Whether this happens will be up to Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is in charge of scheduling hearings and selecting who will testify before the committee.

Finally, GM itself filed a motion before the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this week, asking the court to reinforce the liability protections established when the automaker left bankruptcy, forcing those whose lawsuits came prior to July 2009 to take their fight to “Old GM.” On the other side, the plaintiffs seeking to collect damages from “New GM” over “Old GM’s” negligence filed a proposed class action lawsuit that would prevent GM from using the protections. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber issued an order for a procedural conference May 2 to determine course of action moving forward, proclaiming “no substantive matters will be decided” during the conference.

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Beijing 2014: China Gets Its Own Chevrolet Cruze Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:19:10 +0000 2015-chevrolet-cruze-china-04


While our Chevrolet Cruze gets a re-style to look more like the Malibu, China’s Cruze now looks like a 2015 Subaru WRX in the back, with a Dodge Dart-like front end.


Unlike our Cruze, this one get’s GM’s next-generation of turbocharged Ecotec powertrains, and there’s even a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox to go along with the usual manual and automatic transmissions. Perhaps this is a preview of what to expect in 2016, when the Cruze gets a redesign?

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Too Big To Fail, Too Confused To Operate: Analysis Of 619 Pages Of Cobalt Engineering Documents [w/ Full Text] Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000  

The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out of the “run” position; and in the case of several accidents, allowed the ignition cylinder to rotate out of the run condition before or during accidents, causing the airbags to not deploy when required.

The documents, totaling 619 pages (some with repeat info), reveal just how deep seated “old GM” was in their cost cutting ways (Driving down supplier costs to the point of sacrificing quality, admittedly poorly designed ignition cylinder, and removing internal quality control on the parts), and just how blind sided “new GM” was during their investigations. It also confirms how suspended engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the ignition switch response, and fuzzy problem solving. Full text and an analysis of key documents below.

We already know the basics of how this happened, but it’s still surprising just how ingrained GM was in putting the issue aside. The key issues are these:

  • GM became aware of the ignition issue in the 2001 preproduction Saturn Ion and the 2005 preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Gary Altman initiated the report that lead to the insert, and Ray DeGiorgio consulted on the fix and argued against ignition switch changes.
  • Many different options were proposed, including suggestions from Delphi.
  • Cost played a major role in the decision to not recall the ignition switch early on.
  • The later key insert was the result, and was seen not as a fix, but as a “containment.”
  • GM also had very little oversight on parts from Delphi, only relying on Delphi’s incomplete testing.
  • GM’s engineers knowingly put the cars to market with a defective ignition switch.
  • This lead to ISB #05-02-35-007.
  • In 2006, DeGiorgio eventually signed off on design changes for Delphi, that included a stronger spring and plunger for the detent mechanism in the ignition cylinder, which provides a physical resistance between the different key positions.
  • When implemented in 2007, the new ignition cylinders cost less than a dollar per unit more than the original design; $400,000 to retool the production lines. These are the same changes that were deemed “not an acceptable business case” in 2005
  • As company, however, no one knew who signed off on the change until the Melton family lawsuit.
  • In court, DeGiorgio testified that he was unaware of changes to the ignition cylinder that would have effected the detents, only mentioning the key change..
  • Later investigations showed that the Cobalt had a substantial number of airbag warranty claims.
  • Higher level GM representatives broadsided by NHTSA’s investigations and disapproval of their slow reaction to other recent recalls.

First up, Gary Altman’s and Ray Giorgio’s role in the ignition cylinder issue is a problem. In court, Altman claimed that he did not feel that the Melton’s car was “unsafe.” This coming after submitting the initial mechanical complaint about the ignition falling out of run, in 2004: meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf
During the investigation, several different approaches to modify the ignition cylinder were brought up to DeGiorgio. All of which were quickly dismissed by DeGiorgio, because the switch was already “very fragile,” meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (1)
Later on, all fixes were dropped, as it wasn’t deemed necessary. With a tight deadline and budget, the engineers could not justify any of the fixes at the time, as it wasn’t an “acceptable business case.” meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (2) meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (3) meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (4)

In 2006, DeGiorgio finally signed off on a design change for Delphi. The design change included  a stronger spring and longer detent plunger to increase the force needed to switch the key between different positions, along with an unrelated electrical upgrade. In an unexplained move, DeGiorgio did not assign a new part number to the improved switch design. The design change added 90 cents to the parts cost, and about $400,000 in tooling costs.


cobalt report 3 meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD047.pdf (1)

But, with this large of a role in the decision to delay the redesigned ignition switch, DeGiorgio claimed that he was not aware of any mechanical changes to the switches during his testimony in the Melton family suit against GM: meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD056.pdf
Though, he did sign off on the changes, and worked with Delphi to test batches of ignition cylinders that contained an upgraded PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and detent plunger:

cobalt report 14 sites default files documents GM-Commodity-Validation-Sign-Off-2006-4-26.pdf


Curiously enough, though, is that GM had very little oversight on Delphi’s quality control, and Delphi did not check the rotational torque needed to turn past the switches detents. GM simply accepted Delphi’s parts and trusted their QC. But with rumored tensions between GM and Delphi, it’s said that cost cutting measures might be to blame as GM forced Delphi to push prices down, sacrificing parts quality. If this were true, GM’s choice to outsource QC to the supplier left them in the dark for too long, preventing them from seeing the immediate effects of their problems with Delphi:

cobalt report 4cobalt report 18

While this was going on, GM released the key insert as a “containment solution;” it would be the minimum needed to alleviate the problem for effected customers. This was chosen over two other modifications to the ignition cylinder, which were seen as a “partial solution” in the case of adding an additional detent mechanism to add more resistance to rotating the key out of “run,” and a “sure solution” involving moving the ignition switch higher up on the column, using a gear drive system to reach the rotary switch responsible for selecting which electrical circuit to run on. The added gearing would also increase rotational torque, the design stated.
cobalt report 11
cobalt report 12cobalt report 13
In 2007, the NHTSA began to probe into the surprising number of airbag-related complaints, despite “GM’s indications that they see no specific pattern.”
cobalt report 15

The issue was set aside, for the most part, until GM was informed by the Melton suit that there was a possible design change in the switch, based on an investigation into junkyard-found switches from the effected models. The testing showed that there was a noticeable change in detent torque, but no documentation from GM to show the changes. The GM engineers and representatives in the case were caught off guard by this design change, and began an internal investigation. This investigation lead GM engineer Brian Stouffer to find the documents that showed DeGiorgio signing off on design changes with no part number change.

cobalt report 5cobalt report 16
Finally, the most impressive point of this story comes from GM’s reactions to the NHTSA’s investigations. The NHTSA emailed GM asking for clarification on several other recalls, documenting GM’s reactions to other product issues with a disdain for GM’s penchant for doing the least amout possible to avoid full recalls; ie: regional recalls for parts failures in the rust-belt states. Saying that some were broadsided by this information would be an understatement:

cobalt report 19[...]
cobalt report 19

The response by Mike Robinson, VP for environment, energy and safety policy, sums up GM’s perception and confusion over their responses to the Cobalt issue, and several other poor recall responses in the past. “This note from NHTsA, both the content and tone, comes like a bolt out of the blue,” he states, “We worked way too hard to earn a reputation as the best and we are not going to let this slide.”

cobalt report 19
To summarize, GM is its own worst enemy. They responded poorly to incredibly early reports, dismissing the issue too quickly as a casual problem. With reports going back to 2001, during the Saturn Ion development, there is no reason why the switch should have come unmodified to the Cobalt development; never mind the dismissal of the problem before the car was produced. Ray DeGiorgio’s role in this problem is larger than he initially lead on in the Melton case, though his motive in this discrepancy is unknown at this time.

Full text to all 619 pages can be find here.

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New York 2014: 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible Live Shots Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:33:45 +0000 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-12

Turning up alongside the new-for-United States Chevrolet Trax, the 2015 Corvette Z06 posed topless before the cameras at the 2014 New York Auto Show. Speaking of, the top can be raised at speeds of up to 30 mph, while the car itself can go from naught to 60 in 3.5 seconds; the time matches that of the hardtop variant.

As for what’s under the more airy clothes, a chassis that is 20 percent stiffer than the hardtop, upon which rests the same 6.2-liter V8 pushing approximately 625 horsepower and 635 lb-ft of torque toward the back tires. The engine will be mated with a choice of either a seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, the latter’s fast shifts could prove venerable on the track once a roll bar is installed.

The Z06, in both guises, will arrive sometime in 2015, and can be upgraded with the Z07′s list of goodies, with Chevrolet providing an open options list for future owners.

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New York 2014: Chevrolet Makes Trax With New B-Segment Crossover Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:18:32 +0000 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-7_edited-1


It’s impolite to gloat, but we called the introduction of the Chevrolet Trax back in March. It’s nice to be right once in a while.

Using the same underpinnings and 1.4L drivetrain as the Buick Encore, the Trax will go up against the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Honda Vezel and other entrants in the subcompact crossover segment. The Korean-made Trax is already on sale in Canada, starting at about $17,000 USD. That price probably won’t change much when it comes to America. Though versions with AWD and more equipment will get pricier.

2015-Chevrolet-Trax-2 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-4 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-5 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-6 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-7 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-8 2015-Chevrolet-Trax-10 ]]> 52
2015 Chevrolet Cruze Gets A New Mug Sun, 13 Apr 2014 14:31:30 +0000 2015 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ


The back of the 2015 Chevrolet Cruze is largely unchanged. The front has sadly been messed with to look more like the Malibu. A shame, since the Cruze was a rather handsome car.

The big change is apparently a revised infotainment system, with a 4G LTE hotspot and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users. Powertrains remain unchanged.

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New York 2014: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:04:07 +0000 gallery_19_17_4023


Courtesy of Stingray Forums and Jalopnik, we have our first look at the Corvette Z06 Convertible – an automatic one to boot.

The Z06 convertible is the next logical step beyond the C6 427 convertible – but does that mean that the equity built up around the Z06 nameplate is tarnished? In the eyes of some people, it will be. But as far as the bottom line goes, Chevrolet is going to sell these – with two pedals, not three – in sufficient quantities to justify their R&D costs. And no amount of protest can change the realities of market demand.

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Hammer Time: Might As Well Go For A Soda Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:56:11 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

“Steve, what car should I buy?”

“Well, if I give you the real answer, you’ll roll your eyes and buy what you want anyway.”

“No really. I’m open to new ideas.”

“Okay then! Buy a 2012 Malibu. Buy a Buick Park Avenue. Buy a Dodge Raider or buy a Suzuki Equator.”

“Ummm… are you sure about that?”

“Hell no! Now go buy me a soda and buy yourself a Camry!”

A lot of enthusiasts give grief to the mainstream publications in this business. Sometimes I kinda don’t get why because to be brutally blunt, the “best car”  is usually firmly planted in the third row of most folk’s priorities when it comes to buying their next car.

For all the manufacturers desires to offer power, performance and utility together in one great vehicle, most of the general public just doesn’t care.

They usually want a brand first. Looks second. Then there’s fuel economy, safety, perceived quality… and a long, long list of excuses to get away from the less popular alternatives.

The best new car is rarely the best selling car in this business. There are Mazdas that I love which have a snowballs chance in hell of taking on the Toyotas and Chevys. Even if they do a far better job of checking off most consumer’s real world priorities, it’s a moot point and an inevitable outcome.

If Volvo came out with a breakthrough product, I seriously doubt that most shoppers of prestige brands would even remotely consider it. Never mind that there are plenty of reputable sources out there that can help dispel those myths as to which models now offer the best bang for the buck. Volvo no longer ranks in the pantheons of marketplace leaders. Case closed.

Even when mainstream publication have the gall to endorse an Oldsmobile or a Suzuki over a Camry or an Accord, the result of that neighborly advice is that people just won’t take it.

Why? People are brand loyal, and they are bias loyal.

Click here to view the embedded video.

That Ford station wagon that killed Aunt Edna’s dog 35 years ago?  Well, that just means Detroit cars are pure crap. Never mind that carsurvey, TrueDelta, and even the long-term reliability index I am co-developing have disproved a lot of those myths.

Cadillac can’t ever match a Mercedes. Mercedes isn’t as good as a Lexus. Lexus isn’t as good as a BMW. On and on through the merry go round of biases and BS until you can’t help but SAAB at the futility of recommending a great car at a steal of a price.

Kizashi! What? Exactly. It’s a great car if you play around with a stickshift version. You say you’re an enthusiast… but then when I recommend a stick version, you look at me like I’m from Mars.

The truth is that enthusiast cars don’t sell. The best cars for pure driving enjoyment, don’t sell. The Miata has been shucked in the low 10k range of annual sales for a long time now. Mustangs? An ungodly sales decline. There are some who blame these types of things on demographics or the police state. But I have a third theory.

American tastes increasingly resemble the American interstate. There is a sameness and sadness to the menu which is dictating that the best cars are psychologically unaccessible. Nobody wants to get off the straight and dull road that leads to the Camcrods, the Cor-antr-ics and the American badged truck.

Are all those models good? Well, yeah. But good seldom equals love. You want love? Go tear down a bias and rediscover why a great car is worthy buying.

Don’t forget the radar detector.

P.S. :  Feel free to share your thoughts below on great cars that have missed that elusive mark of mainstream acceptance over the years. I am going to be spending most of today getting a bonded title for a 21 year old Cadillac limousine. I will need intensive comic relief thanks to the interminable tortures that come with taking care of that type of title issue at the DMV. So please, feel free to share your stories and insights. I can always be reached directly at .

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Could The 2015 Corvette Stingray Crack 30 MPG With New 8-Speed Automatic? Mon, 07 Apr 2014 14:35:49 +0000 2014-GM-Eight-Speed-Automatic-Transmission

GM’s upcoming 8-speed automatic, dubbed the 8L90, will be a cornerstone of their new rear-wheel drive cars – and the 2015 Corvette lineup will be among the first to get it.

Back in December, our own Ronnie Schreiber gave us a preview of the new 8-speed gearbox via a leaked SAE paper. Although it carries the same footprint as the outgoing 6L80, the 8L90 is full of improvements. First gear is shorter, for better acceleration, while fuel economy is said to be improved by 5 percent across the board. With 6-speed automatic C7 able to hit 28 mpg on the highway, a 5 percent gain translates to 29.4 mpg – but it wouldn’t be shocking if Chevy pulled out all the stops to hit the magical thirty em pee gee number, if only for marketing bragging rights.

Along with the Corvette, the 8L90 is expected to appear on other rear-drive cars, as well as trucks. The addition of the 8-speed auto will certainly be a nice boost for GM’s full-size SUVs and pickup trucks, not to mention rear-drive Cadillacs and the upcoming Camaro.

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Chevrolet Offers Incentives, Extends Truck Month To Take Back Sales Crown Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:02:44 +0000 2014-Chevy-Silverado _12_

Though Ram knocked Chevrolet off the monthly sales throne for the first time since August 1999, the brand is ready to reclaim their part of Truck Mountain by offering incentives and extending their annual Truck Month into April.

Automotive News reports brand vice president Brian Sweeney threw down an additional $1,000 on the hoods of 2014 Silverado double-cabs in pursuit of “the heart of the pickup market.” Furthermore, Chevy’s second Truck Month boosts incentives offered last month, dropping a maximum discount of $8,974 into the bed of the Silverado 2500 HD crew cab or $8,162 for the light-duty double cab V8 model.

Lease offerings were also boosted for the reclamation battle, as one email from a Northeastern United States gave details for a regional lease agreement of $269 per month with $1,900 due upon signature; the Ram’s terms were $259 per month, but with a higher down payment of $2,999 upon signature.

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QOTD: Ram Beats Chevrolet For The First Time Since 1999, GM Gets Pouty Tue, 01 Apr 2014 22:06:20 +0000 2014-RAM-1500-Eco-Diesel-Exterior-001

For the first time since 1999, Ram trucks outsold Chevrolet in a monthly sales period, with Ram edging out the bowtie brand by just 285 trucks.

With 42,532 trucks sold in March, Ram just edged out Chevy’s 42,247 trucks, but lagged Ford, which moved just under 71,000 F-Series trucks.

GM spokesman Jim Cain issued a rather acid-tongued statement to Automotive News, telling the trade paper

“The 1980s called. They want their marketing strategy back…It’s really easy to deeply discount your truck, mine the subprime market and offer cheap lease deals to buy market share.”

Although I am a dubious authority figure when it comes to withholding sharply worded responses, I can’t help but wince when I see this quote by Cain, as well as his other comments about the Chevrolet Colorado rendering other trucks “obsolete”. Clearly, things aren’t going well over in GM’s truck department, but reacting with a response best left for a “deep background” conversation at a Detroit-area watering hole only serves to further telegraph that fact.

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General Motors Puts Stop-Sale & Recall On Chevrolet Cruze Due To Axle Failure [W/ Full Text] Tue, 01 Apr 2014 20:24:27 +0000 2014-Chevrolet-CruzeRS-010-medium
Last weekend, Chevrolet issued a stop-sale 2013-2014 Chevrolet Cruze equipped with the 1.4L turbo-four with no initial reason for the action. A stop-sale is an order given by a manufacturer to dealers to cease the sales of a specific model of car to repair a problem. It can be anything from minor quality issues, up to major mechanical maladies. While not an uncommon event, this comes on the heels of a tidal wave of expanded recalls and investigations centered around the maligned Delta-Platform cars. TTAC was able to obtain a copy of the stop-sale notice for the B&B, which pinpoints the failure to the front-passenger half-shaft not meeting GM specifications, with the half-shafts possibly fracturing as the result. 

It is notable that this is the second time the Cruze was recalled for this exact issue last September. In GM’s letter to the NHTSA on September 23, 2013, GM noted the response time from the initial reports in July of 2013 to the initial stop-sale and recall in September of 2013 after receiving field report of the half-shafts breaking. GM found that poor quality control from the parts supplier lead to micro fractures inside the shaft. It’s unknown at this time why GM has again initiated this recall, but GM plans to release a full chronology in two weeks.

Below is a full text copy of the current stop-sale notice to dealers, and a partial copy of the recall letter which details the failure; the portion of the document left it is merely repair instructions for the technician.


Date: March 28, 2014

Subject: 14079 – Safety Recall — Stop Delivery Until Safety Recall Has Been Performed On Vehicle
Front Axle Right Half Shaft Fracture

To: All Chevrolet Dealers

Attention: General Manager, Service Advisor, Service Manager, Parts and Service Director, Parts Manager, New Vehicle Sales Manager

General Motors is announcing Safety Recall 14079 today. Please see the attached bulletin for details.

Vehicles involved in this recall were placed on stop delivery March 27, 2014. Once the service procedure contained in the bulletin has been performed on the vehicle, the vehicle is released from stop delivery and the vehicle can be delivered to the customer.

Customer Letter Mailing
The customer letter mailing date has not yet been determined.

Global Connect (GWM)
The “Investigate Vehicle History” (IVH) screen will be updated week of March 24, 2014. A list of involved vehicles in dealer inventory is attached to this message. Please hold all warranty transactions until the VIN appears in IVH.

Campaign Initiation Detail Report (CIDR)
The CIDR will be available in the near future.


And, finally, the recall report. Full text with photos detailing how to diagnose whether or not your Cruze has the defective half-shaft is here.


SUBJECT: Front Axle Right Half Shaft Fracture

MODELS: 2013-2014 Chevrolet Cruze Equipped with 1.4L Turbo Engine (LUV)


General Motors has decided that a defect which relates to motor vehicle safety exists in some 2013-2014 model year Chevrolet Cruze vehicles, equipped with a 1.4L turbo engine (LUV). The interconnecting tubular bar on the front right axle half shaft on some of these vehicles may not meet GM specification and could fracture and separate. If this occurs while driving the vehicle, steering and braking control would be maintained; however, the vehicle would lose power to the wheels and would coast to a stop. If a vehicle with a fractured half shaft is parked on an incline without the parking brake applied, the vehicle could move unexpectedly, resulting in a possible crash or injury to pedestrians.


Dealers are to inspect and, if necessary, replace the half shaft.


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2016 Chevrolet Cruze Spied Mon, 31 Mar 2014 16:30:14 +0000 2016-Chevrolet-Cruze-01


In advance of its debut, these pictures from a Chinese website purport to show the Chevrolet Cruze, sans camouflage.

The updated Cruze, which may see a debut as early as the New York Auto Show, gets an updated nose that aligns closer with Chevrolet’s new corporate styling, along with a revamped interior. Power should come from GM’s new modular engine family.

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Rental Car Review: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro SS Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:30:37 +0000 ttac1

The Victory Red 2013 Camaro Super Sport that awaited me on the third floor of what I still think of as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s “new” rental car facility was not my preferred choice. It was, instead, the vehicle that had appeared at that perfect intersection of my desire to drive something fun during my brief trip home and my own innate frugality. It was, I thought, a good-enough-for-who-it’s-for kind of car, a convenient compromise made possible by a friendly rental agent who had offered it to me for the low-low rate of just $100 per day. But now as I approached it and saw first-hand the car’s cartoonish silhouette, its low roof line, its impossibly high windowsills and its over accentuated, nee, bulging curves, – a modern, steroid-era rethink that has changed car design in the same way that the grotesquely overdeveloped bodies of professional wrestlers have usurped the rightful place of Michelangelo’s David as the embodiment of the perfect male form – I wondered if I shouldn’t have suppressed my frugality just long enough to drop the extra cash for a BMW 5 series.

Of course, I had known when I struck the deal just what I would be getting. Camaros aren’t exactly exotic and I’d seen plenty on the street. Although I had yet to drive one, I had sat in one during a visit to my local dealership a year or two ago and so I knew that being in the Camaro was a little like sitting in an uncomfortably tall bathtub. Time had muted that feeling but, as I opened the door and slipped behind the wheel, that impression returned with real force.


The Camaro is not like my little cute-ute or the family minivan and, as I sat in it, I had my doubts about my ability to make myself comfortable in what I looked like a fairly small and restricted cabin. After some simple adjustments, however, I found the interior of the car a nice place to be. The leather seats were a tad too low for my taste, I prefer to sit up high and to have my seat back almost bolt-upright. But thanks to the power seats’ wide range of adjustability I was able to make myself comfortable without much trouble. The seats themselves were quite supportive and, although they were deeply dished with high side bolsters, I never felt like I was too big – or too wide – to fit. Leg room was very good and this was the first time in a long time that I haven’t had to have my seat all the way against the rear stops in order to be comfortable.


Taking stock of my surroundings, I noted that the inside of the car was well-appointed and very well put together. I spent a lot of time looking for imperfections and didn’t find anything of note. The stitching on the seats and the leather dash cover were flawless and the various panels all fit together without any annoying gaps or spaces. The controls were well placed and everything my hand touched felt good under my fingers. On the downside, the gauges, specifically the plastic bezel that surrounded them, looked cheap. Also, I was not especially enamored with the gold-colored hard plastic on the console and I noted that the one in my car had several nasty, deep scratches, indicating to me that this surface may become an unsightly problem after a few years of normal use. The radio was easy to use and although I never really cranked it up, it sounded passable. The climate controls, which looked a lot like a 1980’s boom box I once owned, were retrotastic tacky but easy to figure out and intuitive to use as well.

2013 camaro SS

2013 camaro SS

The view out of the car was much more of a mixed bag. The high windowsills, something I was really dreading, had almost zero effect on my overall driving experience. Thanks to all the liquid sunshine, I never felt the urge to put my elbow on the windowsill. Visibility out the front was, despite A pillars almost as big around as my leg, surprisingly good. Even the car’s low roofline did not prove to be a problem, and I didn’t need to duck my head to see out, as I did when I sat in the last iteration of this car back in the 90s. The high hood and low seat position did make it hard to judge where the front of the car was and, while this was never a problem while I was out on the road, it made me feel especially vulnerable while moving around at slow speeds in parking lots.

The view out the back was a flat mess, with noticeable blind spots on both rear quarters made worse by small sport bike-esque  sideview mirrors. The interior mirror was just as bad and, although it was large enough to block out an entire car at a four-way stop, it offered only a panoramic view of the tiny rear window framed by the car’s package tray and interior trim parts. At the very least, the car I drove was equipped with a back up monitor that I much appreciated, but since it only worked while I was backing up, I needed to exercise extra caution before making lane changes on the highway.


The drive between the Sea-Tac airport and Snohomish takes about an hour, and uses the same roads that I once spent great amounts of time traversing as a part of my daily commute. Generally, the roads are in good shape and I whisked my way northward without incident in a car that I had already determined I really didn’t care for. The steering felt heavy but precise and the car’s big, wide tires seemed to find every imperfection in the pavement. Still, despite the fact that I hit almost every bump for 50 miles, I simply could not find fault with the way the Camaro drove. The suspension felt perfect, firm but never rough or jarring, and the car motored up the freeway with only the steady drum of tires on pavement finding their way into the interior.

After a stop at my mother’s house in Monroe, I decided to take the Camaro up into the hills, to those roads that I have written about on these pages so often, where I determined that I would, once and for all, ring the snot out of it. On the climb up and out of the valley, I noticed the first thing I felt was a real problem with the car, a transmission that seemed devoted to fuel mileage rather than performance. The car was constantly looking to up shift as quickly as possible, and I caught it several times lugging the engine at lower speeds on the flats or failing to downshift on grades. The answer to my problem was, of course, to put the car into manual mode and control the shifts myself via the paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel. I had hated the Autostick in my 300M and seldom used it, but the paddles on the Camaro worked well and gave crisp shifts as I ran up through the gears. I was more reluctant about manual downshifts and engine braking with an automatic, but I soon found that the car handled most of the downshifts on its own, leaving me solely responsible for the up shifts or on those few occasions when I needed to downshift to bump up the revs.


I’m not going to say I went crazy out there, the roads were wet and in the decades since I left the hills hundreds of new homes have been built where once only woodland creatures walked, but the Camaro handled itself well on the twistiest of what were once my own personal twisties. With 426 horsepower under the hood, this is hands-down the most powerful car I have ever driven, and it should have been easy to get the car out of shape, but that never happened. Despite the wet surface, the wide tires clung to the road with real tenacity and the big brakes were always quick and accurate when hauling the car down from high speed. On my favorite stretch of road, the one with the curve known locally as “devil’s elbow,” the Camaro set such a blistering pace that I could hardly believe how slow my old Shadow and 200SX felt in comparison.

In the days that followed, I took the Camaro out into the hills at every opportunity and soon I noticed a strange thing happening. Little by little, I began to connect with the car. Just like when I still rode sport bikes, there came a point where the machine just fell away and I found myself working the vehicle automatically while my mind ranged out ahead of my forward progress. One mile at a time the Camaro and I began to gel, and I realized that what I had originally believed to be major faults with the car were just tiny little annoyances that were wiped away by everything the car does right.


On Saturday morning at 3:00 AM, I rolled out of my brother’s modest abode and made the hour drive back down to Sea-Tac. The rain had abated, and the pavement on Interstate 405 was mostly bare and dry. This time, the roar of the car’s tires did not bother me and somewhere within it, if I cocked my head just right, I could recognize the sound of the engine as I motored smoothly down the freeway. From my seat I looked out through the windshield and across the broad, bulging hood as the road rushed towards me and wondered why it was exactly that I had decided not to like the car in the first place.

The Camaro SS is one of those cars that makes no secret of what it is. It is a Mr. Hyde who does not hide behind the facade of Doctor Jekyll, an Incredible Hulk free to roam about with no concern for Dr. Bruce Banner. It is the monster in its purest form, loud, brash and in your face, even if it is overwrought. Chevrolet has built something amazing here – maybe it just took me a little longer than some to realize it.


Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York 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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QOTD: Chevrolet Colorado To Render Other Trucks “Obsolete” Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:27:45 +0000 2015-Chevy-Colorado-3

Today’s quote of the day comes from GM’s Jim Cain (not to be confused with our own Tim Cain), who is quoted by Automotive News as making some rather bold predictions for the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado mid-size truck.

Speaking to AN about possible cannibalization on the part of the Colorado, Cain said

“We’re not worried about the Chevrolet Colorado attracting would-be Silverado customers…The people who should be worried are the ones who orphaned their mid-size truck customers, and those who sell trucks that are about to be rendered obsolete.”

I’m not sure which trucks will be “rendered obsolete”. The Tacoma? The Frontier? The V6 F-150? The GM full-sizers that have to be redesigned in 2018 due to what many observers agree is a botched launch?

As someone who prefers smaller vehicles and lives in region with high gas prices, the emotional appeal of a mid-sizer is there. But the business case is weak. Market share for smaller trucks is just 225,000 units, in a truck market worth 1.6 million units overall and a total car market with a SAAR of around 16 million. And the majority of that one segment belongs to just one truck, the Toyota Tacoma.

The main selling points of a smaller truck, namely price and fuel economy, have been eroded by increasing full-size fuel economy and lower prices. Anyone who has seen the new GM mid-sizers knows that they aren’t all that mid-size: they have a footprint similar to a GMT900 pickup, as opposed to a Ranger. And too few Americans have the sort of space constraints – the kind that necessitate these trucks in world markets – that would make a mid-size truck successful.

Corporate communication strategy dictates that the sort of tough talk that Cain is relaying is essential to their messaging, especially in such uncharted territory. But it’s difficult to take take in these claims with a straight face, especially when every other factor indicates a different outlook. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe the Colorado is a game changer.

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Ur-Turn: The Cruze-amino Is GM’s CAFE-Proof Small Truck Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:00:05 +0000 mm_gal_item_c2_0.img_resize.img_stage._2

TTAC reader Evan Reisner thinks that a small pickup is just the ticket for GM. But it’s not the one you may expect.

The prevailing wisdom on TTAC is that many Americans are interested in a compact pickup truck – but the same wisdom also suggests that such a truck would be bad for GM’s CAFE ratings. Market demand aside, CAFE is one of the reasons that Chrysler and Ford got out of the small truck game.

Yet few people know that The General has a product that can combine the best of both worlds. But they’ve chosen not to offer it in the USA.



You can buy it in South Africa, where it’s called the Chevrolet Utility. In Brazil, it’s the Chevrolet Montana. When it’s built and sold in Mexico, it’s the Chevrolet Tornado. I call it the Cruze-amino. And Mexico, which is one of its assembly sites, can allow for duty-free importation, without the dreaded Chicken Tax.

In terms of wheelbase, the truck is squarely between a Cruze and a Sonic. Ironically, it has more in common with the Jeep Renegade than either of those cars, since it’s based on the same SCCS platform shared with Fiat Chrysler. And yes, a diesel is available too.

The Chevrolet is only available in a single body style, and two trim levels. The bed is 66″ long by 52″ wide. That bed would be plenty handy for a lot of folks’ needs. If you need to haul sheetrock or plywood on a regular basis, this probably isn’t the truck for you anyhow. But if you need to do the occasional Home Depot run, you can always buy a small trailer.

Pricing is reasonable as well – right in Sonic and Cruze territory. There’s a base model that’s pretty stripped, starting out at US$13,800. The next level up adds A/C and some creature comforts for around $15,500. The top of the line doesn’t get much over $18,000.

Some time ago, a front-drive “lifestyle” truck was apparently being considered by FCA, using a Fiat platform, but the project never made it to America. Unlike the mid-size Colorado, which is a revival of a declining segment, the front-drive truck has scarcely been tested in America – only the Subaru BRAT comes to mind. Maybe it’s time to try something new.

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SRT Needs More Firepower: The Case For A V8 Viper Thu, 20 Mar 2014 18:37:45 +0000 chrysler-firepower-concept

Years ago, after my first trip to the Detroit Auto Show, I was browsing the inventory at Lamborghini of Ohio with Jack. There was snow on the ground—Phaeton weather—and the cozy showroom seemed the perfect attraction to kill a few hours before my flight back to Baltimore. Jack was going on and on about the throat-stompingly awesome Murcielago. “That’s the only one to have,” I think he said. “I dunno,” I said, “I kind of like the Gallardo.”

“That,” he replied, “is because you have girl parts.”

I’ll admit, he had a point. The Gallardo was the baby Lamborghini—the “poor man’s” Lambo, if such a thing ever existed. If you’re going to lust after an Italian supercar, why not lust after the most super-ific supercar they build? Perfectly valid reasoning. But in the real world, where money is spent and things are purchased, people bought Gallardos.  It thus stands to reason that there are those in the world who are Gallardo-rich, but not quite Murcielago-rich. That doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, right? Though I suppose it’s possible that some people just have girl parts.

At one time, that choice did not exist. Until the Urraco went on sale in 1973, there was no fakerich-spec vehicle in the Lamborghini lineup. You had only two options at a Lamborghini dealership: Buy a V12-powered Lamborghini or buy no Lamborghini at all. Lamborghini’s chief domestic rival, on the other hand, did offer such an alternative. It was called the Dino.

Today, Chrysler faces a similar, though not identical predicament. For twenty years, there has been only one Viper. And for most of those twenty years, one was enough. No longer.

The time has come for a second Viper—a V8 Viper.

This isn’t an original idea. In 2005, Chrysler showed the Firepower concept. It was, in my not-so-humble opinion, the most beautiful concept car shown by any domestic manufacturer in decades. It was to be powered by a 6.1L Hemi V8 engine mated to—I’m bracing myself here—an automatic transmission. This was blasphemy on top of blasphemy, if you ask the die-hard Viper faithful. But it was exactly what Chrysler needed to keep the sub-brand healthy. It was a play for volume. Even if the Firepower was destined to carry a sticker price nearly as a high as its rough-and-tumble, V10-powered brother, it was the kind of car that would have attracted buyers Chrysler needed to keep the brand relevant—the Corvette crowd.

And now, nearly ten years later, that domestic rival is poised to eat the Viper’s lunch. In 2001, the Viper ACR laid waste to the first-generation Corvette Z06 in just about every performance category out there, and it should have, considering it cost nearly double what you would have paid for the Bowling Green bruiser. In 2015, the Viper will still cost you an entry-level luxury sedan more than what you’ll pay for the forthcoming C7 Z06, but I’ll bet a fine steak dinner that it won’t be winning any comparison tests.

Vipers are not selling now, a full year ahead of the C7 Z06 arriving on showroom floors. In what sort of shape to they expect to find themselves when that time comes?

SRT CEO Ralph Gilles insists that the Viper is not built to beat the Corvette, and maybe he believes that. But shouldn’t it be? The Viper is a 6.2L aluminum-block Hemi away from a serious C7 contender. In the age of aluminum F150s, a lightweight truck engine certainly isn’t out of the question, and something has to power the Challenger’s replacement. And mind you, I don’t think the Viper should compete with the Corvette on price. It doesn’t have to. But the Viper buyer demographic has not historically been one to purchase cars with triple-digit price tags. These guys are Viper-rich, not Gallardo-rich.

I grew up with Viper posters on my wall and Viper die-casts on my dresser.  I watched the terrible Viper TV show. As much as I believe that the V10 is critical to the Viper-ness of the Viper, my fear is that the two choices we now have at the SRT dealership—buy a V10 Viper or buy no Viper at all—will soon be taken away from us entirely.  Add the V8 option. Bring back the ragtop. Hell, offer an automatic if you have to. It will sell.

But better than that, it will win.

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QOTD: Is The Chevrolet Trax Debuting In New York? Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:14:25 +0000 800px-Chevrolet_Trax_LS+_1.4_4WD_–_Frontansicht,_11._August_2013,_Wuppertal

Sources tell us that General Motors is set to debut at least one new model at the 2014 New York Auto Show, and that model will apparently be a small crossover for the Chevrolet brand.

Based on what we know, it’s likely that the vehicle in question is the Chevrolet Trax, which is related to the Buick Encore and Opel Mokka. The Trax is already sold in Canada, and ostensibly homologated to meet Canadian standards (which are very close to America’s FMVSS standard), which should reduce the normally prohibitive harmonization costs that tend to prevent world market vehicles from being sold in North America.

If the Trax is indeed the debut, it would be a shrewd one by GM. The small crossover segment is booming worldwide, and even Americans, with their legendary aversion to small hatchbacks, seem to be embracing them as long as they ride a little higher and look a little taller. The Buick Encore is selling better than expected (and completely counter to my own predictions), and while 30,000 units isn’t going to set the world on fire, it’s a good indication that a Chevrolet counterpart will succeed in the market. With Nissan’s Juke and the BMW X1 already occupying the segment, and competitors from Honda and Jeep on the way, as well as entrants from Mercedes and Audi, the small crossover segment will be the one to watch in the coming years. And don’t be surprised if sales of small sedans shrink proportionately.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe there is a new Zeta-based Caprice? Some kind of new Buick based on the Opel Adam or Cascada? Perhaps a new body-on-frame SUV? Or even the Orlando? We’ll know starting April 14th, when the NY Auto Show kicks off.

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Super Piston Slap: Poorvette Fever! Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:12:57 +0000

Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash.  As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…

…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip.  And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you.  The Poorvette is proof positive.

Now this ain’t no secret, as Murilee Martin already mentioned how the Poorvette shoulda been buried under penalty laps. But wasn’t.  Why?

  1. The team: historically they‘ve been nice to everyone, pre C4 Corvette ownership.  Sometimes that goes a long way in determining penalty laps, or lack thereof.
  2. The Poorvette’s somewhat believable story: being an earlier C4 (Tuned Port Injection) body with an LT-1/6-speed swap gone wrong (supposedly), then sold for cheap-ish and parted out to fit in LeMons rules.***
  3. Track record:  American V8 iron has rarely endured in LeMony races, much less possessing the fuel economy to match with the infrequent pit stops of more efficient metal. #notwinning
  4. Margin for error: you are guaranteed to enjoy passing every lily livered furrin’ car in your wedge-tastic Vette, to the point that euphoria nets you a black flag. Then serious repercussions (that often come with zero-penalty laps) in the judging area…resulting in no chance of winning.
  5. Not winning is a big “win” for everyone: the fanbois have grist for their mill, the haters do their thang, and LeMons tells another insane story.

Clearly this is a win-win for everyone. Especially you, oh cheaty race team.

Photo courtesy: (

And how did the Poorvette do? It led the pack, getting everyone all hot and bothered.  But then the stock fuel tank/pump had starvation issues in the corners, which was the icing on the cake after the power steering failed the day before in testing.  No matter how fast you’re going, those Z06-style wheels are too wide to ever make a lack of power steering acceptable. Even still, the Poorvette probably also set one of the fastest lap times, which totally means nothing in an endurance race.

Hare, meet the Tortoise…son!

But still, the Poorvette’s maiden voyage netted a respectable 6th place on a weekend lacking Corvette friendly weather.  Not bad considering how many Porsche 944s need far more work to accomplish similar results.  Perhaps one day we will see C4s give those Porkers the drubbing they got back in the 1980s. If so, don’t expect Judge Phil to be generous with C4s again. Ever.

No matter, the Poorvette’s crew even earned a Judge’s Choice Award, which proves once more: we need more C4s in LeMons!  Well not exactly.

Perhaps more “taboo” cars that aren’t of the E30 or retired Spec-Miata variety. Like more Porsche 928s, rear-wheel drive Maximas souped up with Z-car parts, more cheaty compact trucks (cough, RANGER, cough) and more GM sedans easily modified to DOMINATE in the slower classes: C and B.   And let’s not forget more super-durable CVPI Panthers, too.

So there you have it: good stuff happens in LeMons when you play your cards right. Thank the Poorvette for proving that.

*** Considering the early C4s utter domination in SCCA back in the day, and their still impressive autocross performances today, the Poorvette crew would do just as well in LeMons with the stock aluminum headed L98 and a close ratio 4+3 gearbox. Their LT-1 swap and wide ratio T-56 gearbox did very little for me. This is an endurance race, not a drag race!



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Crapwagon Outtake: GM’s Forgotten Wagon Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:36:29 +0000 2004-2005_Chevrolet_Malibu_MAXX_LS

Not long ago, seemingly off-the-cuff comments by Mark Reuss, GM’s chief “car guy”, got everyone in a tizzy. Reuss lamented the lack of affordable station wagons on the market today, and suggested that GM ought to start offering one in the near future. The comments, of course, came at the Detroit Auto Show’s, and Reuss, who certainly has had ample media training, had nothing to lose by throwing a bone to the assembled enthusiast media, who are uniformly pro-wagon, no matter how poor of a business case the wagon in question may be.

From the way Reuss spoke, you’d think that GM hadn’t offered a proper affordable wagon since the last of the full-size B-Body wagons rolled off the line in 1995. It turns out there was one more that had escaped many people’s imagination. I can only assume that the Malibu Maxx had been collectively blotted out of our memories in the post-bankruptcy era. Like the Saturn Astra and L-Series, the Malibu Maxx was another ill-fated experiemnt in rebranding a European offering as something wholly American.

The Maxx was essentially an Opel Signum with a bowtie – the Signum being the hatch/pseudo-wagon variant of the Opel Vectra. In the run-up to its launch, the Signum was touted by the famously jingoistic UK motoring press as a new kind of “executive car” (their term for a near-luxury sedan). To nobody’s surprise, the Signum was a flop – fleet customers stuck with the sedan and families remained with the “estate” (what we’d consider a traditional wagon).  The Signum died quietly after a few years on the market.

The Maxx never achieved a lot of traction in the North American marketplace either, despite the presence of a hot SS version offering a 3.9L 240 horsepower V6 engine. Compared to the current crop of GM wagons – whether it’s the Cruze, the Astra estate or the Commodore station wagon – the Maxx was a crude, odd-looking version of a rather uncompetitive mid-size car. Unfortunately, I am not sure that any of the three modern wagons would sell in greater quantities than the Maxx, even though they’re vastly superior.

Reuss may be a car guy at heart, but he also knows how to manipulate the media, and nothing gets the hacks going like talk of a new wagon. In the mean time, you can still buy a GM wagon. A Maxx will run you about $3,000, and you’re sure to be the only one on your block.

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GM Found Ignition Switch Issues In 2001 With Saturn, Updated Chronology, New Study Shows 303 No-Airbag Deaths [w/ Full Text] Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:45:57 +0000 DSC_9022
General Motors released their updated chronology to the recall effecting the 2007 and earlier Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR; Pontiac G5 and Solstice; and Saturn Ion and Sky. Most of the new chronology works just to update the document with the expanded recall, but there’s a key update:

During the Saturn Ion development in 2001, a preproduction model had  an ignition cylinder problem that was caused by, you guessed it, “low detent plunger force,” the result being that it takes a low amount of effort to knock the key out of the “run” position.

The 2001 Saturn Ion pre-production report goes on to say that design changes to the ignition cylinder seemingly eliminated the issue. However, in 2003 a report documented an instance where an Ion was brought in for repair, and the technician servicing the car experienced a situation where the Ion stalled while driving, due to the key rotating “off.” The technician noted that “[t]he owner had several keys on the key ring,” and initially thought that “[t]he additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch.” The technician replaced the ignition cylinder, and the report was closed.

As we discussed in previous posts, Technical Service Bulletins (known by GM as Information Service Bulletins, or ISP for short) is the result of several field reports on a common issue, and is eventually entered into a database known as the General Motors Vehicle Information System, or GMVIS for short. ISB’s are not found by a tech unless they are searching for a related issue. Thus, the 2003 example above is an early report that lead to ISB  #05-02-35-007.

Also outlined in the updated chronology deals with Saturn’s  sensing and diagnostic module (“SDM”), which differs from the Cobalt in that it is designed to stop recording once the engine of the car is no longer running. This means that crash data from a Saturn Ion SDM is not as conclusive as a Cobalt’s, which continues to record the ignition position during an accident in which the engine has been turned off.

Despite this, GM believes that the ignition cylinder issue has lead to eight accidents and four fatalities involving a Saturn Ion. At least three accidents involving the Chevrolet HHR can be linked; but no accidents involving a Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky have been found by GM. This brings the confirmed number of accidents to 31, and total number of deaths to 13.

The New York Times reports that in a study initiated by the Center for Automotive Safety (“CSA”), a private watchdog group, Friedman Research Corporation analyzed federal crash data and found 303 deaths linked to no airbag deployment in the recall-effected vehicles. The study does not link these no-airbag crashes to the ignition switch maladies, but questions why the NHTSA took so long to react to a mounting problem with the Cobalt and Ion.

In the letter to the NHTSA, CSA states the “NHTSA should have and could have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags are not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers.” And GM has began its own internal investigation, hiring former United States attorney for Northern Illinois, Anton Valukas to investigate.

“Research is underway at G.M. and the investigation of the ignition switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing,” Mr. Martin, the G.M. spokesman, said. “While this is happening, we are doing what we can now to ensure our customers’ safety and peace of mind. We want our customers to know that today’s G.M. is committed to fixing this problem in a manner that earns their trust.”

What have we learned through all of this? The engineers and technicians did their job, and GM had every piece of the puzzle; but as explained in the chronology, each piece was scattered about by an alphabet soup of committees. The review process let us down, both with Delphi’s quality control in the early switches and GM’s internal reaction to the situation. Further investigation will hopefully lead us to fully understanding the error in GM’s review process.

The full text of the updated chronology can be seen here.

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2016 Camaro Receives New Architecture, Maintains Retro Looks Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:16:08 +0000 2014 Chevrolet Camaro

Due in 2015 as a 2016 model, the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro will be based upon the same architecture underpinning the Cadillac CTS and ATS while maintaining its overall retro looks.

Edmunds reports the pony car’s styling will only undergo an evolutionary change in a manner similar to the 2015 Ford Mustang, according to a source familiar with the matter, with the revolutionary change occurring under the skin via the car’s new Alpha platform.

Though Chevrolet remains mum on the upcoming car, brand spokesman Mike Albano said the next Camaro “will have expressive design and will evoke the passion the previous-generation Camaros have done.”

The new Camaro will move from Oshawa, Ontario to Lansing, Mich., where the CTS and ATS are assembled, and will make its global debut during the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

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Cain’s Segments: Trucks Redux Tue, 11 Mar 2014 05:47:39 +0000 450x244x2014-Chevrolet-Silverado-1500-Exterior-006-450x244.jpg.pagespeed.ic.zAXX8qzO80

February 2014 sales of America’s six continuing full-size pickup lineups grew 1.8%, but GM’s truck twins, the newest trucks on the block, fell 8.9%. Ford, Ram, Toyota, and Nissan combined for an 8.7% year-over-year increase to 94,225 units. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra’s decline equalled a loss of 4960 units compared with February 2013.

These full-size trucks accounted for 12.2% of the U.S. auto industry’s total February 2014 volume, up slightly from 11.9% in the equivalent period one year earlier.

Although the F-Series’ gain of 2.6% appears slight, this improvement occurred in an auto market which grew not at all. Moreover, a 2.6% increase for the F-Series adds 1393 extra units of a very profitable vehicle, more added sales than the Chevrolet Volt managed in total.

Total Ford brand sales slid more than 7% in February as car volume plunged 16.8% and sales of the Blue Oval’s five utility vehicles dropped 4.3%. Ford’s car division outsold the F-Series by just 1354 units; the F-Series outsold the utility vehicle lineup by 3040 units. 30.5% of the new vehicles sold by the Ford Motor Company last month were F-Series pickups.

At the Chrysler Group, where car sales dropped 14.7% and generated just 29% of the company’s February sales volume, the Ram Pickup range’s 28.4% improvement was more than welcome. And it was also expected. Over the eleven months leading up to February, the average year-over-year Ram P/U sales increase weighed in at 25.5%. From 16.3% in February 2013, Ram’s share of the full-size truck market (extinguished Escalade EXT and Avalanche excluded) rose to 20.2% in February 2014.

Often mocked for its inability to crank out sales like the top-selling Detroit trucks, the Toyota Tundra continues to be a somewhat popular vehicle by conventional automobile standards. Through the first two months of 2014, it ranks 41st among all vehicles in total U.S. sales, having ended 2013 as America’s 43rd-best-selling vehicle. Tundra sales have increased in each of the last five months, but the current pace won’t have Toyota matching 2007’s high-water mark. Toyota could easily sell more than 120,000 Tundras in 2014 – 196,555 were sold in 2007.

Analyzing the Nissan Titan’s market penetration as it begins its eleventh full year without any meaningful refresh is like studying the merits of a veteran linebacker’s knack for sacking in the twilight of his career. The Titan has for the most part become irrelevant, a fact which won’t make the reintroduction process an easy one when the new Titan arrives. Titan sales reached their peak in 2005 at 86,945 units, fell below 20,000 units four years later, and totalled just 15,691 in 2013. Titan volume is down 33.8% this year and February market share in the category fell below 1%.

From a market share-losing perspective, the Chevrolet Silverado’s decline was worse. (Obviously, the Silverado is America’s second-best-selling vehicle. The Titan is not.) 29.2% of the segment’s sales were Silverado-derived at this time last year, but last month, that figure fell to 25.2%. GMC Sierra market share declined by only a hair, from 9.9% in February 2013 to 9.8% last month.

As a whole, the pickup truck segment generated 11% of its February 2014 sales with small/midsize trucks, on par with results from the equivalent period one year earlier. Thank the Nissan Frontier. Sales of the Titan’s little brother shot up 112% to 5791 units.

2 mos.
2 mos.
Ford F-Series
55,882 54,589 + 2.6% 102,418 101,330 + 1.1%
Chevrolet Silverado
36,584 41,643 - 12.1% 65,510 77,088 - 15.0%
Ram P/U
29,303 23,289 + 25.8% 54,374 43,763 + 24.2%
GMC Sierra
14,232 14,133 + 0.7% 25,350 26,979 - 6.0%
Toyota Tundra
7923 7306 + 8.4% 15,813 14,310 + 10.5%
Nissan Titan
1117 1634 - 31.6% 2004 3028 - 33.8%
142,494 + 1.8% 265,469 266,498 - 0.4%


2 mos.
2 mos.
Ford F-Series
38.5% 38.2% 38.6% 38.0%
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
35.0% 39.1% 34.2% 39.0%
Ram P/U
20.2% 16.3% 20.5% 16.4%
Toyota Tundra
5.5% 5.1% 6.0% 5.4%
Nissan Titan
0.8% 1.1% 0.8% 1.1%
Full-Size Share Of
Total Pickup Truck Market
89.0% 87.6% 88.7% 87.2%
Full-Size Pickup Share
Of Total Industry
12.2% 11.9% 12.0% 11.9%
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GM Korea May Increase Exports To Australia Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:52:32 +0000 Holden Cruze

As Chevrolet slowly exits from the European market while Holden exits the production line altogether, General Motors is mulling over increasing exports to Australia out of South Korea.

Bloomberg reports the increase in exports is compensation for GM Korea losing as much as 15 percent to 20 percent of its production volume when Chevrolet closes the door on Europe at the end of 2015, and is roughly the same volume needed to fill the showroom floors in Australia while Holden winds down local production — and possibly itself — by 2017.

The Chevrolet experiment ultimately lost General Motors “millions” of dollars according to GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha, though he expects the Australian market will more than make up for it:

With this money that we call ‘loss avoidance,’ I’m going to have a lot of money in the next couple of years that we can invest in new products to be competitive in the local market and for exports as well.

Meanwhile, GM will focus on Vauxhall and Opel vehicles in their native markets, with Opel also providing select vehicles to the Australian market, beginning with the Cascada convertible.

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Finally, Flying Car Mode Sun, 02 Mar 2014 14:00:07 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

A flying car is one of the evergreen fantasies of car guys, and finally Chevrolet has fulfilled that fantasy, sort of. GM engineers have developed what they call “Flying Car Mode” for the Camaro Z/28, the most track-capable version of Chevy’s muscle car. While it doesn’t make the Camaro fly, it is a rather clever use of technology that’s already on board when the Z/28 does get off the ground that allows the car to do faster laps.

Though getting air is not typically an issue on the road, on a race track with elevation changes you can get all four wheels to leave terra firma at the same time. While developing the new Z/28, the car was taken to the Nurburgring and they discovered that because of the way the vehicle’s traction control system worked, whenever the car got air the system sensed wheel spin and cut power to the driving wheels, which meant that it slowed down when it hit the ground, producing slower lap times. Since bragging rights from the ‘Ring have become a part of performance car marketing and since you can get air several times a lap there, a solution had to be found. The proposed solution GM engineers came up with was to deactivate traction control when the car is in the air. That will keep the wheels spinning under power, allowing the car to accelerate as soon as the wheels are back on the pavement. The question then becomes, how do the computers running things know that the car is off of the ground?

While the Z/28's Flying Car Mode was developed to around the 'Ring faster, this looks more like Milford, Michigan than Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate.

While the Z/28′s Flying Car Mode was developed to go around the ‘Ring faster, this is the road course at the GM Proving Grounds near Milford, Michigan, not the Flugplatz near Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate.

GM’s highest performance cars like the ZR1 Corvette, and the ZL-1 and Z/28 versions of the Camaro feature what the automaker calls the Performance Traction Management system, or PTM, which integrates traction control, Active Handling, and chassis mode selection to work together. Cars with PTM are equipped with ride height sensors. On the Z/28, when the PTM system senses full chassis drop from the ride height sensors, it goes into Flying Car Mode, deactivating traction control. GM says that keeping the wheels spinning when getting air saved them 5 seconds a lap at the ‘Ring’s Nordschleife circuit.

Bill Wise, Camaro Z/28 vehicle performance engineer, explained the details. “PTM uses torque, lateral acceleration and rear-axle wheel slip to define the amount of traction control required, but when the car clears a rise on the track, it normally wants to decrease torque to increase traction. The unique logic in the system uses the ride-height sensors to determine the reduction in force on the tires that’s unique to track driving and allows the car to continue with uninterrupted momentum and, ultimately, a better lap time.”

Once the ride height sensors detect that the wheels have touched down, the PTM system reactivates traction control.

PTM has five performance levels and the flying car logic is active, to varying degrees, in all five modes, so if you manage to catch some air while tooling around on public roads, you’ll still hit the ground running, so to speak, but flying car mode is most effective in Mode 5, the setting Z/28 drivers would likely use on the track.

Source: General Motors.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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