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We apologize for the late start. Now, without further delay.

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Chicago 2014: S60 & V60 Polestar Performance Models Thu, 06 Feb 2014 22:04:12 +0000 Volvo-V60-S60-Polestar-Models-01

Two new, performance-oriented Volvo models made their North American debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

Billed as the S60 Polestar and V60 Polestar, the bespoke aerodynamic pieces set them apart from your parents’ V60 or S60. Handling is further improved by a combination of high-performance shock absorbers and stiffer springs. Tucked neatly behind the Polestar exclusive 20-inch wheels are Brembo brakes. Polestar models will only be offered in Sapphire Black or Rebel Blue.

The turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six boasts 345 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque capable of sub-5 second 0-60 times. These numbers are achieved via a new twin-scroll turbocharger, a larger intercooler, a 2.5-inch exhaust system and special ECU tweaks. The only available transmission is a six-speed automatic wih steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

With only 120 examples slated for our shores, we expect Volvo will have no problem selling every one before they’re scheduled to hit select dealerships this June. Additional information, including pricing, is to be announced.

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Frankfurt Motor Show: A Look Back Fri, 13 Sep 2013 17:36:35 +0000 Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 1.17.27 PM

Well, folks, the time has come: another Frankfurt Motor Show is in the books. Of course, by “Frankfurt Motor Show,” what I really mean is “Frankfurt Motor Show press days.” This is all us journalists care about, and by “us journalists” what I really mean is a bunch of well-paid professional writers and also me.

Anyway: I think we’re all pleased Frankfurt has come and gone successfully. I know I am. And I bet the citizens of Frankfurt feel the same way, since their city can now go back to its usual purpose of serving as an airline hub for Americans traveling to places like Greece.

But for those of you who missed Frankfurt, it’s time to provide a comprehensive, well-written guide to the unveilings at this year’s show. I think Autoblog has it. Instead, I have this:

Aston Martin released an all-new DB9 Centenary Edition with updated wheels and interior parts, eschewing the brand’s usual trend of a) making subtle changes to an existing model, and b) spending the next year trying to convince the automotive press it’s a new vehicle.

Audi used this year’s Frankfurt show to display the new Nanuk Concept, the latest in a series of concept cars intended to remind people Audis weren’t always front-wheel drive lease specials. Unfortunately, the Nanuk is unlikely to see production, largely because it isn’t a front-wheel drive lease special.

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 1.19.18 PM

Audi’s other concept, the Sport Quattro, is a plug-in hybrid capable of reaching 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and driving 31 miles on electric power alone. Reached for comment, Elon Musk briefly chuckled before returning to that roadtrip with his kids.

Speaking of plug-in hybrids, BMW showed off its all-new i8, which offers two doors, four seats, and styling that BMW fanboys are currently convincing themselves that they like. Pricing will start around $136,000, though electric-only range is limited to just 22 miles. Reached for comment, Elon Musk laughed heartily before noting he would soon take his kids on a roadtrip “to Mars.”

Chevrolet unveiled its updated 2014 Camaro Convertible, which excited the show’s German attendees until Chevrolet announced it wouldn’t be sold as a five-door hatchback with hubcaps and a 1.2-liter turbodiesel engine.

Infiniti showed off its Q30 Concept, keeping to the brand’s strict rule that it must show off at least one concept car with huge wheels and no door handles at every major auto show. In an official press release about the Q30, Infiniti marketing direction Hughes Fabre used the term “premium-ness,” possibly forgetting that a press release can be edited later.

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 1.19.53 PM

The Lamborghini Gallardo special editions have now hit critical mass, as the new LP 570-4 Squadra Corse is actually the exact same vehicle as the Gallardo Performante. When reached for comment, Lamborghini officials noted, “Who cares? Rich people are going to buy it anyway.”

The highlight of Land Rover’s booth in Frankfurt was a facelifted Discovery, known in the States as the LR4. The updated Disco garnered a lot of attention from European media, who photographed the “DISCOVERY” badge on the hood, and convention hall staff, who billed Land Rover for oil stains on the carpet.

Lexus’s big debut in Frankfurt was the LF-NX, a strangely-shaped SUV concept filled with jagged edges, bizarre holes, and unusual creases. After considerable prodding, Lexus admitted the concept was designed “in about 20 minutes, on a conference call.”

The Mercedes S-Class Plug-In Hybrid really excited a lot of people in attendance, although I couldn’t find any of them. Mercedes didn’t announce pricing, though its 19-mile electric-only range supposedly had Elon Musk “in stitches” before he realized there isn’t a single charging station in all of Utah.

Nissan revealed the all-new X-Trail, which will be sold stateside as the Rogue. Female drivers rejoiced, while male car shoppers thought to themselves: Am I comfortable enough with my sexuality to like this?

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Porsche finally revealed its production-ready 918 Spyder, whose incredible, amazing, and tremendous Nurburgring lap record will stand, unbroken, until Ferrari gets around to it.

Maybe my favorite plug-in hybrid debut was the Range Rover Plug-In Hybrid, which is capable of traveling – I am not joking here – one single mile on electric power alone. Land Rover won’t sell this vehicle in the States, presumably out of fear that it will kill Elon Musk from a laughing-induced heart attack.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was everything that happened in Frankfurt. Admittedly, I left out the Volkswagen Golf. But let’s be honest: you will too, when it comes time to buy your next car.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars and the operator of He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Read between the lines: Volvo’s 8-speed automatic Wed, 10 Apr 2013 19:40:20 +0000

What do the Volvo XC60 and Lexus RX F-Sport have in common? Not much. Yet. Today’s vehicles aren’t just built on “modular” platforms, sharing parts with other vehicles from the same manufacturer, they are also “parts bin creations.” You’ll find the same power mirror switch in a Chevy, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroën, Lancia, Lincon and many more. That’s because car parts are like Lego pieces, made by a handful of car parts companies and designed to be everything for everyone. It’s cheaper for everyone to design one switch, one control module, one key fob and just alter some of the plastics and a connector to suit your new car design.

Parts sharing isn’t new of course, it’s been going on ever since “badge engineering” was invented in 1917, but this is different. Instead of one company buying parts from another, or GM tossing a new logo on an Oldsmobile to create a Buick, these parts are made by a third party, available for sale to anyone with the cash. Ever wonder how Fiskar and Tesla can create a unique vehicle so quickly? The universal parts bin is how.

Most car companies dive into the same interior parts bins time after time, rarely seeking new foraging grounds. This is why the Big Three seem to frequently share things like those window switches, seat controls, etc. Meanwhile the Europeans and Japanese tend to have their own circle of parts suppliers. It’s also why the Coda sedan looks so odd to Americans; Coda raided a Chinese market parts bin. When it comes to powertrains, geographic divisions drop because engines and transmissions are expensive to develop resulting in a smaller global pond to fish from.

The big boys in passenger car automatic transmission design are: ZF, GM, Aisin, Mercedes, Jatco and Hyundai. Why am I not including Chrysler and Honda? Chrysler is easy: they have chosen to license/tweak transmissions from ZF rather than developing their own. Ford can’t make up their mind co-developing a 6-speed transaxle with GM, then licensing ZF’s 6-speed RWD swapper. All indications seem to point to Ford licensing the 8-speed RWD box from ZF while splitting development costs with GM on new xx-speed transaxles for smaller cars. Honda doesn’t tend to sell its in-house transmissions to other companies and if the rumor mill is correct, Honda will be buying ZF’s 9-speed transaxle while they shift R&D dollars to CVT development.

What does that mean to you as a consumer? And why are we talking Volvo and Lexus? Because companies tend to stick with a transmission maker for the long haul. BMW has a history of buying GM and ZF. Luxury car companies (and now Ford and Chrysler) typically use ZF cog-swappers. Ford Europe and Renault are in bed with Jatco. Chrysler likes Hyundai’s FWD transaxles. Toyota, Lexus, Volvo, MINI, VW, Mitsubishi and Porsche order from Aisin’s transmission catalog. Consequently when a new Euro sedan comes out with ZF’s latest widget, you know that sooner-or-later every ZF customer have it. (There is usually a delay because companies will pay extra to have a period of exclusive access to new technology.)

When the 2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport dropped quietly last year at a Lexus event, I was excited and intrigued. Not by the refreshed RX, but by what;s under the hood: the first production 8-speed automatic transaxle. Since the RX is a Lexus, we know that the transmission was made by Aisin (Toyota doesn’t use anyone else). Logically it was only a matter of time until this tranny landed on the Aisin general catalog and today appears to be that day. As a footnote in Volvo’s press release about their new four-cylinder engine family is buried one line “Volvo will also introduce a new 8-speed automatic gearbox that contributes to a refined drive and excellent fuel economy.” I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts the new slushbox is the same 8-speed unit that’s in the RX F-Sport I’m driving this week. Next stop: 8-speed Mazda 6, VW Jetta, MINI Cooper.

If you’ve ever wondered why it took so long for the four speed automatic to be developed, while 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 speed units have happened so rapidly, part of the answer is in this shift to communal parts-bin technology. While this means technology can develop more rapidly with more resources being applied to the same development project, it also means cars lack the uniqueness they once had. No longer can we sit around the card table drinking beer and arguing the eternal question: TorqueFlite vs Cruise-O-Matic vs Hydra-Matic.


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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van Thu, 07 Feb 2013 20:26:55 +0000  

Car guys with a commercial leaning seem to usually wax poetic about the old Dodge Ram vans. Chrysler’s four speed automatic transmission may not have been the most reliable cog-swapper ever built, but the 318 engine will run forever. Chrysler gave up on the van market in the middle of the last decade to focus on getting raped by Mercedes other projects. Enter the 2014 ProMaster.

Dodge’s, er, I mean RAM’s new full-sized cargo van is a thinly disguised Fiat Ducato from Europe. Rather than a complete redesign on the same theme for the American market like Ford did with the Transit van, Fiat and Chrysler have decided to keep the changes to a minimum. This of course means the ProMaster is a front wheel drive van. Yes, you heard that right, front wheel drive. This means you won’t find a V8 under the RAM’s tiny hood, instead you’ll find Chrysler’s latest 280HP 3.6L V6 engine or a Fiat 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel. The diesel is rated for 174H and 295lb-ft of torque. Sending power to the ground is a heavy-duty version of the 6-seed transaxle from Chrysler’s minivans with the V6, or a 6-speed Fiat “automated manual” transmission if you decide to burn oil.

RAM is claiming that the ProMaster is capable of an impressive 5,145lb cargo capacity and a towing rating of 5,100lbs when properly equipped. While some may scoff at the FWD design (and I wonder what a fully loaded van on a steep hill will be like), the benefits may outweigh the concerns. RAM is claiming best-in-class fuel economy, smallest turning circle (36 feet), largest cargo hold, lowest step-in height, lowest load floor and tallest ceiling height. Trying to allay some fears RAM is tossing in a 5 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 10,000 mile or 18,000 mile oil change intervals depending on your engine choice. There is of course some uConnect love, plenty of European Fiat parts going on inside, Brembo brakes (I took a double-take as well) and the uncertainty of reliability and pricing. Commercial shoppers look like they are in for some tough decision-making in 2014.

All the other details: Pricing hasn’t been announced. It will be built in Saltillo Mexico. The diesel uses urea. Yes, t does look a little funky in person.

  2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-1 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-2 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-3 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-4 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-5 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-6 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-7 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-8 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-9 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-10 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-11 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-12 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-13 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-14 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-15 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van-16 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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No, Jeep Is Not Shifting Production From Toledo To China Mon, 29 Oct 2012 12:00:07 +0000

Poor reporting by unscrupulous bloggers is nothing new - there’s even a book about it. We try and stay above the fray and simply write accurately the first time around. But a story regarding Jeep and Chinese production has been making the rounds with such speed that TTAC readers have been emailing us for clarification. It got so bad that even Mitt Romney got things wrong.

While the original report by Bloomberg correctly stated that additional capacity for Jeep may be sought out in China, other blogs followed the time honored tradition of spinning the facts to create a new story, in the name of gaining all-important clicks. Chrysler ended up issuing a statement clarifying the matter.

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

So there you have it folks. Jeep production is not in danger of leaving Toledo any time soon.

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The Truth About Tesla’s Charging Stations Tue, 25 Sep 2012 16:52:46 +0000

Tesla has officially launched their long-awaited “Supercharging” network last night to a star-studded crowd in Southern California. (We assume it was star-studded since our invitation got lost in the mail.) The EV network promises to enable Model S and Model X owners to charge 150 miles of range in 30 minutes. What about your Roadster? Sorry, you aren’t invited to this charging party. Have a Tesla and a LEAF? You’ll have to be satisfied with separate but equal charging facilities as the Tesla proprietary charging connector restricts access to Tesla shoppers only. Is this class warfare or do we parallel the computer industry where connectors come and go with the seasons?

What’s the big deal with charging? Let’s go over the Model S’s charging time chart and you’ll understand. From a regular 120V wall outlet the Model S will gain 4-5 miles per hour of charging and consumes about the same amount of power as a space heater. Charging at 41 amps, the car gains 31 miles per hour and consumes as much power as TWO average electric clothes dryers. Charging at 81 amps (a service that many homes with older wiring or smaller services cannot support) the Model S gains 62 miles an hour and consumes more power than an average home’s A/C, dryer, washer, stove, oven, lights and small appliances put together. With a range of 300 miles and a 10 hour charge time at the 41A rate, it’s easy to see why fast charging stations are appealing. Tesla’s Supercharger’s specs are yet to be revealed, but by the numbers it is apparent the system is delivering a massive 90kWh charge which is likely 440V DC at around 200A. An hour of charging at that rate is 70% of the power that my home uses in an entire month.

Is this a Tesla issue? No, it’s an EV issue. If you expect your EV to drive like a regular car, modern EVs are a delight. If you expect your EV to refuel like a regular car, we’ve hit a snag. But it’s more complex than that, you see, only three of the four Model S trims support DC fast charging and the only other EVs on the market with a DC charge port are the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Except they don’t use the same connector or the same standard. Oops. Adding more complications to the mix are the EVs with no DC charge connector like the RAV4 EV, Volt, Prius Plug-In, Accord Plug-In, Focus, Active E and Coda while the new Chevy Spark is rumored to début a third standard: the SAE combo plug.

Of course, if you think of your car like you think of your cell phone, this makes sense as the phone you bought last year wont use the same charger as the phone you buy today. If you think of this in car terms however it’s like buying a new car and finding out that most of the gas stations have a nozzle that won’t fit your car.

Back to those Tesla charging stations. Tesla opened the first four in Southern California and announced two more stations will go online in October with stations in Las Vegas, Northern California and Oregon by summer 2013 with the 100 station network being complete by 2015. If that network sounds familiar then it should, because the recent settlement in the California vs NRG lawsuit means there will be 200 new CHAdeMO stations in California over the same time frame in addition to the 8 already installed and the 75 commercial stations planned or under construction. It isn’t just California on the CHAdeMO bandwagon however, the Department of Energy claims there are over 113 CHAdeMO stations in the USA and a 1,200+ unit installed base in Japan.

What does this mean to Tesla owners? Until Tesla creates a CHAdeMO to Tesla charging adapter cable (much like they have a J1772 to Tesla cable for use at public AC charging stations), Tesla owners will be restricted to regular AC charging or the smaller Tesla only charging network. On the flip side, Tesla is promising the Tesla charging stations will be free to Tesla owners, positioned next to trendy restaurants and you won’t have to mix with the Leaf owning rabble. You can also feel superior because Tesla’s newer standard charges 80% faster than the 50kWh CHAdeMO connector.

What does this mean to LEAF and i-MiEV owners? It means this is just the beginning of a standards battle. If you bought an EV before this raft of new J1772-connector-toting models, you know what I’m talking about. While CHAdeMO has the lead now, depending on what standard the rest of the industry supports this could change rapidly.

What about the rest of us? If we continue to build more battery electric vehicles and continue to develop batteries that are more and more power dense, you can expect even the snazzy Tesla charging connector to be outdated on a few years. If you expect an EV SUV to deliver 300 miles of electric range, AWD, decent performance, mild off-road ability and Range Rover quality luxury trappings, then expect it to have a battery that is 50-100% larger than the Model S’ massive 85kWh pack. This means you have to either take all the charging rates and nearly double them, or you have to develop a charging method that charges 50-100% faster to keep the same performance.

Of course, just like LEAF owners experience battery degradation caused by repeated use of DC quick charge stations, Tesla owners should be mindful that batteries don’t last forever and the faster you charge them the shorter their life will be.


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LA Auto Show: The Undercovered Bits Sat, 19 Nov 2011 17:23:57 +0000

You’ve no doubt read Alex’s coverage of the Cadillac XTS, Mazda CX-5 and others on TTAC all day, but there’s a lot that goes on at auto shows besides just new car introductions. I’m here to fill in the gaps.

Best Concept: Volvo Concept You

Volvo’s Concept You looked just as sleek and stunning on the show floor. The down-turned taillights echo the Horbury shoulders of recent Volvos, but this is new ground for Volvo. No powerplant was mentioned, and I didn’t have a chance to try out the novel FreshAir subwoofer developed in conjunction with Alpine.

Volvo’s Concept You was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

Best New Hassle-Saver: Ford Escape’s foot-activated tailgate

Ford introduced the new C-platform Escape with EcoBoost engines and a novel foot-level motion sensor for to open the power tailgate. With full hands, this feature works great–except when you don’t have the key fob, it doesn’t work, as a bunch of sore-legged auto journos found out when repeated kicks to the area didn’t achieve any opening. A thoughtful Ford rep set us straight.

Best Press Conference: Kia Motors

When Honda talks about “the power of dreams” and other companies trump up their achievements, the weary auto show journalist appreciates Kia’s Pardon the Interuption topical countdown. “Fifteen items in fifteen minutes” was promised, and the upfront overview and self-discipline of a countdown in full view made it easy to overlook the fact that Kia didn’t really have that much new to say.

Best Celebrity Joining the Press Conference: Blake Griffin–Kia Motors.

Griffin arrives in a basketball-themed car by West Coast Customs. They made NBA lockout jokes and his shoe size. Griffin also shows his acting chops in an Optima commercial in which he does lunges while feeding a deer and lecturing two campers about Optima’s safety record.

This was better than Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol actress Paula Patton’s interview with BMW CEO Ludwig Willisch. Willisch seem uncomfortable with Patton’s considerable beauty, while Patton seem uncomfortable with following a script as she giggled her way through a puff interview that strayed far from lines displayed on the teleprompters. In fact, maybe Willisch was uncomfortable with improvisation. Anyway, it would win Best Awkward Moment except for…

Best Awkward Moment: David Moore,

While trying to get a shot of Patrick Dempsey with Mazda NA CEO Jim O’Sullivan during the Mazda CX-5 introduction, I was assaulted–assaulted!-by a videographer who objected to my placement near his equipment. And when I say assaulted, I mean grabbed–firmly– on my shoulder and pulled away. No charges were filed, but I did get the picture. You can thank me in the comments.

Best Useful Feature: Infiniti JX

Infiniti’s new seven-passenger SUV has a second-row that allows access to the third-row without collapsing either seat back or seat cushion. So what? Those with children will immediately realize that this allows third-row access without removing and reinstalling a child safety seat, thus preventing passengers from the “rear-hatch entry/egress of shame.”

Best Unimportant Feature: Center console ashtray lid, Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

You get at lot for your $200k. Sexy looks, British heritage, and a screaming 500-hp V12. Not least important, the high-quality alloy ashtray lid that closes with the thunk of a Fiat 800 t-boning a Benz. I told a Honda employee with me in the car that it was my favorite feature. He laughed because he knew Honda could never produce such a lovely thing.

Most Delicious Emissions: Nissan NV2500/CoolHaus

An institution among the Los Angeles food truck cognoscenti, CoolHaus serves gourmet ice cream sandwiches. Nissan used its very, uh, functional-looking NV2500 cargo van to give out the sweet treats.

Best New Car Intro: BMW M5

The 4.4 twin-turbo V8 bellowed in fury, then rolled slowly onto the stage as BMW PR reps formed a human wall against people getting in it’s five mile-per-hour fury. It was as fitting an introduction as the gaggle of Chevy Sparks darting onto the stage like pastel hyperactive lemmings.

Best Use of a Backpack as a Desk: Alex L. Dykes

If you think it’s easy running from one press conference to another, think again. Intrepid journalist Alex L. Dykes tirelessly covered the most significant introductions for you while furiously typing and coordinating with photographer Rob. When is the time to type? Anytime you’ve got a backpack that can double as a desk, my friend.

Disclosure: A press pass was received in exchange for access to the event. Ford furnished a hot dog and a soda. BMW also provided a soda. The author also received a few USB drives from Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac.
AM ashtray Backpack as Desk Blake Griffin JX Seat Kia Presser M5 Nissan NV2500 Patrick et al Paula and Ludwig Paula Patton Welcome to the show! Volvo Concept You 2 Volvo Concept You 3 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Hammer Time: Some Buy Cars, Others Buy Names Thu, 10 Nov 2011 16:45:44 +0000
October and the first half of November have historically been a great time for dealers to buy cars on the cheap. There are no spending holidays. No Christmas or end of the year bonuses. No tax refunds. Not even a hint of federal legislation that may push old beaters onto the ‘cheap’ side of the ledger.

But there are thousands of used car sales managers that see nothing but big losses on much of their inventory at this time of year. The green Hummer that seemed like such a great deal back in red-hot June may be molderizing at the back of the lot by November. Same goes for the trade-in’s that were valued perhaps a bit too strong… just so the deal on the new car could get done.

This is usually a great time to buy. But not always.

Here are some of my most recent purchases:

  • 1993 Lexus LS400 (Auto, Leather, 180k $725)
  • 1996 Chevy Camaro (5-speed, V6, Leather, Black, Large Spolier, $1815)
  • 1998 Lincoln Navigator (Auto, Leather, 190k $1815)
  • 1998 Lincoln Town Car (Auto Leather, 176k, $1525)
  • 1998 Mercedes E320 Wagon (MB Tex, Records, 166k, $2725)
  • 1998 Ford Explorer XLT (Auto, Leather, 140k, $575)
  • 1999 Toyota Camry CE (Auto, Cloth, Inop, $500)
  • 1999 Dodge Caravan (Gov’t Vehicle, 109k, 3.0L V6, $590)
  • 1999 Cadillac Escalade (Auto Leather, 212k, $2450)
  • 2002 Saturn SL2 (Auto, Silver, Power Pkg, 104k, $900)
  • 2002 Chevy Tracker (Auto, 4WD, V6, ZR2 model $2315)
  • 2003 Saturn Ion Coupe (Auto, Side Graphics, 120k, $2815)
  • 2003 Cadillac Seville SLS (Leather, Dealer Records, 125k, $2015)
  • 2005 Chevy Malibu Maxx (Auto, V6, 115k, $3670)
  • 2005 Ford Freestyle SE (Leather, 149k, $3170)

This is quite a list… and it reflects a few buying realities for the author. From the beginning you’ll notice that I avoid most older European vehicles and buy a bit heavy on the domestics. I also tend to stay under $3500 due to lower down payments ($500 to $1000) and favor vehicles that have leather interiors.
This is all purely intentional. Let’s look at the European side of the ledger first, or the lack thereof.

The European Sleds

Saabs, Jaguars, and VWs tend to be problematic at these lower price ranges, while Audi’s, BMW’s, Land Rovers and Mercs are usually far, far worse. When I was a ‘cash’ dealer I simply looked at the ownership histories and bought the ones that had the best combination of dealer maintenance and low wear regardless of the brand.

However when you finance a vehicle, you have to pay special attention towards getting vehicles that can withstand abuse and neglect. Not to mention having reasonable cost of repairs. In my experiences, most European models from the late 90’s and early 2000’s will become buggy high maintenance bastards. So I avoid them like the plague.

When I (rarely) buy one of the brands above, it will usually be a wagon model that has a very strong dealer maintenance history. Larger wagons in particular tend to have less abusive and more affluent owners. In days of yore, Volvos in particular lived up to this standard.

Volvos: Then and Now

Volvos used to be my absolute favorite for this ‘conservative’ combination. In fact Volvos and Subarus tended to make up nearly a quarter of what I sold when I first started. But the ETM issues of 1999-2002 combined with the transmission and electrical issues of more recent Volvos makes them far more chancy than in times past.

Sometimes making the wrong maintenance recommendations (lifetime transmission fluid) or chronic electrical and software issues can kill a brand. That’s Volvo in a nutshell.

The Second-Tiers: Why old Kias will never be like Hyundais

I am far more liberal when it comes to the domestics, Korean (except Kia until the most recent models), and the Japanese (except Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Isuzu, and certain Mazda models). The brands that I put in the proverbial parentheses I do buy… but just not in as large quantities as everything else.

To be blunt, most of these models I buy in smaller quantities because they have trouble selling and making the note. Weak trannies, a propensity for oil leaks, abysmal quality levels and an orientation towards ‘cheap’ low end trim makes these brands proverbial paperweights at the low end side of the range. As the old saying goes at the auctions, “Everyone wants a great deal on an eight year old Kia… until they actually drive one.”

One brief little story related to Kias. The funniest thing I ever saw at an auction came from an auctioneer who had always managed to get himself deep-sixed for shooting his mouth off at just the wrong time. Upon seeing a Kia rolling up to the block he bellowed out, “This was the shittiest car in America until they made the Daewoo!” Needless to say the seller flew into a rage and his time on the block didn’t last very long.

Domestics: Most GM and Fords, A Few Chryslers

The domestics pretty much fare down this way…

1) Rear wheel drive is more durable than front wheel drive
2) The bigger the engine, the greater the opportunity for longevity (Northstars and ealrier Chrysler 4.7’s are notable exceptions)
3) Certain powertrain combinations for FWD models will be near bulletproof, while others for the same exact model will be borderline garbage. (i.e. Tauruses, Grand Prixs, Luminas, Intrepids)
4) Never finance a domestic with a CVT. Always, always make those cash deals
5) The prior owner is the ‘pitcher’. Your job as a buyer is to inspect the vehicle, find out the type of owner they were, and why the vehicle wound up at the auction.
6) Older owners tend to be less abusive than younger owners.
7) Trade-in’s and repos tend to be the most abused. But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a good one.
8) A well-kept leather interior is a big plus. Most consumers do research… and then buy with their eyes.
9) Orphan brands only sit longer when they’re ugly (Saturn L-Series, Olds Bravada, etc.)
10) If you can’t bother with giving a trade-in a good wash & vac, don’t even keep it at your lot. See #8 and ‘broom it’ at an auction.

Japanese Models: Why do the good become bad?

Japanese models come in two tiers. Toyota, Honda, Nissan (some models) and Subaru are in the higher tier. Why? Because they almost always sell for more money, wholesale and retail.

It doesn’t matter if the vehicle had engine sludge, or transmission issues, or a blown head gasket in the past. It doesn’t matter if the car is as new as the day the two ‘parts cars’ met and decided to kiss on their first and only date. The fact that this ‘new’ used car has the right name on it’s grille makes it highly attractive to the buying public. Same goes for Hyundai.

As I mentioned earlier I used to buy a lot of Subarus. But that changed around 2007 and now I buy no more than a few a year.

The same is true for the other brands and their more luxurious namesakes. 9 times out of 10 they will go for stiff price premiums at the auctions, and due to the lack of used car inventory at the sales, you’re likely getting a mediocre product at a premium price. At least when it comes to the lower end of the market ($3500 or less wholesale).

The other Japanese brands are seond tiers that are just hard to sell. A few models may go for premiums (Evo, Mazda 3, Mazda 5, etc) but those are simply not the ones you find on the lower end. Aerio, Reno, Verona, 626, Millenia, Rodeo, and Galants are far more common at the sales. If they have a nice upscale interior and a good maintenance history I will put them on my list.

The Bubble Market: Wall Street’s Next Rendezvous

Ironically, these same brands tend to sell well for the higher end buy-here pay-here lots that are looking for the newest vehicles. Why? Because they offer steep levels of depreciation along with healthy NADA values if they happen to be late models (2007 and newer).

Most folks are clueless about cars. A thick slice of them just want a late model vehicle at a monthly payment they can afford. Even if it’s for the next five to seven years. Then more times than not, they repeat the cycle.

Dealers who specialize in financing a bad credit customer with a late model vehicle will usually sell the paper to finance companies after a given time period. It will then be resold to a financial firm that doesn’t know any better, or will be kept if the assets and customers are perceived as less risky.

The Game… and how not to play it…

Thanks to the declining fortunes of the middle-class, there is a lot of money in this game. Sales at buy-here pay-here dealerships are up by more than 50% from only five years ago and the dirty secret of the modern day is that even the best names in the business now make their money by attracting the hard to finance customer to their ‘superstores’.

So for those of you in the market for a car… please do yourselves a big favor. Don’t buy a name. Don’t buy a low price. Don’t buy anything based on words… especially from a dealer who exchanges ‘convenience’ for a high sales price.

Buy the prior owner. Drive what you enjoy. Look at the history. Have it independently inspected, and then keep it up so that you don’t have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous sub-prime misfortunes. My series on buying a used car should help. Good luck!

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Why Is Google Paying Websites To Rip Me Off? Sat, 15 Oct 2011 19:38:15 +0000

Here’s a simple truth. Virtually everything that I write online about cars gets ripped off. Whether I publish it here, at Cars In Depth, over at The Truth About Cars, or Left Lane News, I can go to sleep at night safe in the knowledge that I’m getting ripped off by other websites, usually single topic content aggregators. When the site operators are nice, they just excerpt the first paragraph and link back to the originating site. While that’s still a copyright violation (it’s not “fair use” because the excerpt isn’t used for the purpose of commentary or criticism), at least the original publisher gets some traffic out of the situation. Other site operators just go ahead and steal the entire post.

Take just about any post on TTAC, select and copy a complete sentence, drop that phrase in Google and you’ll probably find a plethora of purloining publishers. This site, copied Steve Lang’s post about repossessing cars verbatim. Another site,, does nothing but publish content from TTAC, probably from our RSS feed.

It’s so commonplace that those of us who write for the site have a ho hum attitude about it because there really isn’t much that we can do about it.

Unfortunately, the only reason this can go on is because of Google and their AdSense and AdChoice programs. Were it not for Google paying those sites for ads that Google AdSense runs on those sites, they wouldn’t have a reason to exist and rip us off. AdSense specifically is based on site content, and those sites’ content is stolen. The theft is actually on two levels. First, there’s the basic copyright thievery. Then there’s the traffic and ad revenue we don’t get because readers find our content somewhere else. Google is the “fence” that pays for the stolen goods. To keep this in an automotive vein, Google is the chop shop that pays the car thief to steal your car.

Also, Google isn’t just paying websites to rip off high traffic sites like TTAC, which gets millions of pageviews every month. I’ve found content from my own site, Cars In Depth, all over the place, and CID gets a tiny fraction of TTAC’s traffic. The fact that Google is paying people who rip me off is all the more aggravating because AdSense keeps turning CID down. The bots that Google uses to evaluate AdSense applications aren’t very smart and apparently can’t navigate the site. Google won’t pay me any ad revenue for my original content but they’ll pay someone else to rip me off.

This doesn’t just harm the writers and publishers. It ultimately harms you, the reader, because if enough traffic and ad revenue is hijacked, the sites that you go to for original content may not thrive.

This is little more than a rant because, as I said, there’s nothing we can do about it. Google is about as unresponsive a company as exists today. If you think that the Detroit automakers were convinced of their own infallibility, the Big 3 were meek and humble compared to the magnitude of Google’s hubris.

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Bob Lutz Myth #11: Lutz Hates Car Design Clinics Tue, 20 Sep 2011 15:30:00 +0000

Ed’s outstanding editorial largely disproved ten widely believed myths about Bob Lutz based on their candid interview. But my favorite Lutz myth apparently didn’t pop up in their wide-ranging discussion: that Lutz believes in designing cars from the gut, and opposes testing potential designs with representative car buyers in clinics.

You’ll often read that boring, even bad designs are the way they are because of clinics. Clinics have been blamed for the Edsel, the Aztek, and myriad other car design failures over the past half-century. Touted as the superior alternative: the golden gut, with Lutz as poster boy. The reality from Lutz’s new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business: he has found clinics to be an excellent indicator of a design’s future potential and firmly believes in their use.

This wasn’t news to me. Lutz’s 1998 book, Guts, includes as the first of its seven “immutable laws of business” that “the customer isn’t always right.” To whit, survey results are often misleading and, at a minimum, require careful interpretation. Lutz enthusiastically notes about the Viper, “We didn’t do any research at all—we just did it!” But not long after that book was published I interviewed Chrysler’s head of market research as part of the work for my Ph.D. thesis. He told a different story. While Lutz is most famous for the Viper, his most profitable successes while at Chrysler were the far more practical, far less flashy minivans and Jeep Grand Cherokee. These vehicles were based on extensive research. Even with Lutz heavily involved, the Viper was the exception, not the rule. (See Ed’s Myth #4, where Lutz claimed to get equally excited about both sorts of products.)

When Lutz took charge of GM’s new product development in 2001 I was still in touch with people inside GM’s design analysis and market research groups. They were fearful that Lutz would cut them way back or even shut them down entirely, based on his popular reputation. I told them they had nothing to worry about as long as GM got the actual Lutz and not the one that occupied the popular imagination. Lutz was against the mechanical use of market research and other data, but firmly believed in clinics as a tool to inform decision-makers’ judgment.

Which brings us to Car Guys. Before rejoining GM as a senior executive, Lutz had assumed that poorly conducted research must be to blame for the unattractive styling of many GM cars. But this wasn’t what he actually found. As he recounts, “To my surprise, I found GM’s research methodology to be excellent, much like that used to great success by Chrysler, and in some ways even superior.” The actual problem: “a general disdain for consumer input.” GM executives were disregarding clinic scores that were mediocre at best, and that were often awful. Vehicles like the Aztek were approved despite failing in clinics because revisions would require missing critical time and costs targets. The Vehicle Line Executives (VLEs) chose a probable future failure in the marketplace over a certain immediate failure to achieve their goals.
Rationalizations would come into play. In the case of the 2004 Cadillac SRX, the designers successfully argued that poor clinic results could be ignored because the general public couldn’t tell what they wanted in the future, that they lacked “reach.” As we now know, the first-generation SRX flopped. When the 2004 Grand Prix tested worse than the old design, the VLE reacted by telling the senior executive board that he wanted to take a baseball bat to the research group. Apparently the board bought this “argument,” as they approved the design despite the clinic results. The market then vindicated the clinic.

Lutz put an end to these practices. Designers’ passions and creativity are essential to creating beautiful cars, and Lutz did what he could to free them. But he also required that every design win its clinic by “a substantial margin” to get approved. Designs with merely decent (or worse) scores were revised, even if this or that gut suggested that the clinic results were wrong, and even if this made the project late and over budget. As is often the case, there isn’t a correct choice between “right brain” guts and “left brain” clinic scores. Successful cars follow from the proper combination of the two.

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Can Somebody Steal Your Car By Calling It On The Phone? Wed, 10 Aug 2011 15:47:47 +0000

A team of researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Washington, Seattle, has just published a paper titled “Comprehensive Experimental Analyses of Automotive Attack Surfaces“. Behind that dry title is a very exciting research study. In essence, they bought a modern reasonably-priced car with lots of fancy features, including a built-in cellular phone interface, and did a serious reverse-engineering exercise to determine whether it had any security vulnerabilities. It’s the most comprehensive study of its kind.

Curiously, you can read their paper all the way through and not see any name of the particular car they studied; they argue these issues apply everywhere. This seems unnecessarily conservative. Besides, if you read their previous paper and look at the photos, any car nut will be able to identify the car without any trouble. Let’s play along anyway; we’ll just say it’s a Generic Motors product.

You see, Generic Motors (and, I agree that this is about far more than any one car company) thought it would be really cool to have a telematics system that could do a variety of clever things, like automatically connect an operator to your car when the airbags deploy to ask you whether you’re in need of medical assistance. The way a security person looks at that, though, is that there’s a communications path from the inside of the car out to a data center somewhere and back in again. If the attacker can interpose on that, there’s just no end of mayhem that could be accomplished.

Earlier press reports on this research focused on how they found an attack against the car through the CD player. A carefully constructed CD-ROM, using a malicious compressed music file that would play without issue on your regular PC, could exploit a buffer overflow vulnerability and then control the CD player. Meanwhile, in modern cars, everything’s actually networked together. Consequently, from the compromised CD player, the attacker can take over everything else in the car with the greatest of ease: engine control, door locks, you name it.

Still, that attack is for chumps. How’s a car thief supposed to realistically get a malicious CD into your CD player? Do you valet park your car? No, the really exciting attack, and by exciting I mean “expensive factory recall” exciting, focuses on that built-in cellular phone interface. You see, that means that every Generic Motors car has a phone number and it turns out you can call it. Generic Motors got the security all wrong, and an attacker can thus take over your car without being anywhere physically near it.

What could this evil attacker do? Track you, actuate your brakes, listen in to your conversations, etc. This is normally the stuff that only dystopian science fiction authors dream about. If you want to get seriously dystopian, though, you have to read the paper’s own speculation (page 13). The authors imagine a world where a criminal agency tracks all of the Generic Motors cars in the city. When a garden variety criminal has an hankering for a particular car, he phones up the agency and asks where such a car might be and what it’s owners’ habits are. For a suitable fee, the agency directs the criminal to the car, helpfully unlocks the doors, and starts the engine, all for a modest fee. That’s service with a smile! Similarly, think how much fun the paparazzi could have using similar techniques to eavesdrop on the Hollywood starlet du jour.

Is this just a problem for Generic Motors? Far from it. Virtually any modern car can connect to your phone via Bluetooth and increasingly many cars come with built-in phones. To pick one example, the new Audi A7 uses this to great effect with Google Maps for navigation. To pick another example, Tesla has said that the forthcoming Model S will allow third parties to develop “apps” for their car. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Are our automotive companies and their suppliers responding appropriately? Maybe. I’ve spoken to a number of security people, both in the U.S. and Europe, who consult with these companies. The companies prefer to keep their security concerns under wraps. Suffice to say “they’re working on it.”

[Disclosure, I was the "shepherd" for this paper, meaning that the USENIX Security conference program committee asked me to help the authors of the paper make the changes that the committee requested. I'm not a co-author of the paper and I have had not personally participated in any automotive security analyses, unless you count the time, in high school, that we discovered that my Nissan key worked perfectly in a friend's Mazda. Zoom zoom.]

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US Sales In March: Up, Up, Up Fri, 01 Apr 2011 17:13:53 +0000

March sales are coming in, and it looks to have been another month of steady growth for the US market. GM’s “core brand” sales were up 11 percent, Chrysler enjoyed a 31% increase in volume, while Ford’s sales grew 19 percent. For only the second time since 1998, Ford beat GM’s overall volume by 5,674. Meanwhile, Nissan recorded its strongest monthly sales in its history in the US market, and at came within 589 units of topping Chrysler’s volume. Honda’s sales rose 19 percent last month. Hit the jump for a developing table, and check back in for more sales data as it becomes available.

Automaker March 2011 March 2010 Pct. chng. 3 month
3 month
Pct. chng.
BMW Group* 26,426 21,712 22% 65,090 55,177 18%
BMW division 20,295 18,060 12% 52,617 46,323 14%
Mini 6,087 3,610 69% 12,341 8,728 41%
Rolls-Royce 44 42 5% 132 126 5%
BMW Group* 26,426 21,712 22% 65,090 55,177 18%
Chrysler Group LLC 121,730 92,623 31% 286,950 234,215 23%
Chrysler Division 20,463 19,780 4% 42,796 47,148 –9%
Dodge 44,102 29,506 50% 101,977 82,434 24%
Dodge/Ram 67,612 48,450 40% 158,801 123,620 29%
Fiat 500 –% 500 –%
Jeep 33,155 24,393 36% 84,853 63,447 34%
Ram 23,510 18,944 24% 56,824 41,186 38%
Chrysler Group LLC 121,730 92,623 31% 286,950 234,215 23%
Daimler AG** 22,976 20,707 11% 57,277 51,984 10%
Maybach 5 6 –17% 15 18 –17%
Mercedes-Benz 22,546 20,024 13% 55,995 50,569 11%
Smart USA 425 677 –37% 1,267 1,397 –9%
Daimler AG** 22,976 20,707 11% 57,277 51,984 10%
Ford Motor Co.*** 212,295 183,425 16% 495,508 441,708 12%
Ford division 203,794 159,009 28% 475,253 381,868 25%
Ford/Lincoln/Mercury 212,295 178,188 19% 495,508 427,702 16%
Lincoln 8,501 8,693 –2% 20,007 22,410 –11%
Mercury 10,486 –100% 248 23,424 –99%
Volvo 5,237 –100% 14,006 –100%
Ford Motor Co.*** 212,295 183,425 16% 495,508 441,708 12%
General Motors**** 206,621 188,011 10% 592,546 475,859 25%
Buick 15,663 12,954 21% 44,739 32,136 39%
Cadillac 12,164 11,639 5% 40,513 29,352 38%
Chevrolet 148,197 132,889 12% 416,505 337,785 23%
GMC 30,597 27,389 12% 90,789 68,619 32%
Hummer 294 –100% 855 –100%
Pontiac 109 –100% 582 –100%
Saab –% 606 –100%
Saturn 2,737 –100% 5,924 –100%
General Motors**** 206,621 188,011 10% 592,546 475,859 25%
Honda (American)† 133,650 108,262 24% 307,978 256,412 20%
Acura 12,611 11,722 8% 31,368 27,793 13%
Honda Division 121,039 96,540 25% 276,610 228,619 21%
Honda (American)† 133,650 108,262 24% 307,978 256,412 20%
Hyundai Group†† 106,052 77,524 37% 247,394 188,205 31%
Hyundai division 61,873 47,002 32% 142,620 111,509 28%
Kia 44,179 30,522 45% 104,774 76,696 37%
Hyundai Group†† 106,052 77,524 37% 247,394 188,205 31%
Jaguar Land Rover 4,315 3,709 16% 10,768 9,091 18%
Jaguar 874 893 –11% 2,501 2,375 5%
Land Rover 3,441 2,726 26% 8,267 6,716 23%
Jaguar Land Rover 4,315 3,709 16% 10,768 9,091 18%
Maserati 200 189 6% 473 394 20%
Maserati 200 189 6% 473 394 20%
Mazda 30,905 23,193 33% 64,559 55,941 15%
Mazda 30,905 23,193 33% 64,559 55,941 15%
Mitsubishi 7,560 5,434 39% 20,167 13,623 48%
Mitsubishi 7,560 5,434 39% 20,167 13,623 48%
Nissan††† 121,141 95,468 27% 285,358 228,229 25%
Infiniti 11,287 9,942 14% 27,836 23,694 18%
Nissan Division 109,854 85,526 28% 257,522 204,535 26%
Nissan††† 121,141 95,468 27% 285,358 228,229 25%
Porsche 2,588 1,905 36% 7,007 5,222 34%
Porsche 2,588 1,905 36% 7,007 5,222 34%
Saab Cars North America‡ 830 133 524% 2,069 133 1456%
Saab Cars North America‡ 830 133 524% 2,069 133 1456%
Subaru 26,916 23,785 13% 67,457 57,494 17%
Subaru 26,916 23,785 13% 67,457 57,494 17%
Suzuki 2,497 2,246 11% 6,702 5,661 18%
Suzuki 2,497 2,246 11% 6,702 5,661 18%
Toyota‡‡ 176,222 186,863 –6% 433,924 385,686 13%
Lexus 20,682 20,219 2% 47,356 49,523 –4%
Scion 5,540 3,511 58% 12,759 9,573 33%
Toyota division 150,000 163,133 –8% 373,809 326,590 15%
Toyota/Scion 155,540 166,644 –7% 386,568 336,163 15%
Toyota‡‡ 176,222 186,863 –6% 433,924 385,686 13%
Volkswagen‡‡‡ 37,131 30,868 20% 92,741 79,909 16%
Audi 9,818 8,589 14% 25,383 21,315 19%
Bentley 137 131 5% 320 311 3%
VW division 27,176 22,148 23% 67,038 58,283 15%
Volkswagen‡‡‡ 37,131 30,868 20% 92,741 79,909 16%
Volvo Cars North America‡‡‡‡ 6,369 –% 15,440 –%
Volvo Cars North America‡‡‡‡ 6,369 –% 15,440 –%
Other (estimate) 244 241 1% 732 710 3%
TOTAL 1,246,668 1,066,298 17% 3,060,140 2,545,653 20%

Data Courtesy: Automotive News

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The MetaCars Week In Review Sat, 02 Jan 2010 17:38:01 +0000 Time for a spin cycle?

[Editor's note: TTAC prides itself on covering the most compelling stories in the automotive world, connecting the biggest trends, and exploring the most momentous decisions. We endlessly pore over the ceaseless stream of automotive news and data, and bring the most significant and momentous stories to these pages for your enlightenment and debate. But sometimes we just plain need a break from all the seriousness. Luckily, former TTACer Justin Berkowitz has the perfect palate-cleanser after a long week of news and analysis. His site,, publishes some of the best auto humor on the web, and we've asked him to compile a weekly digest of the funniest car news that never happened over the previous seven days. Unlike AutoWeek, the MetaCars Week In Review will actually be published every week, and unlike Jalopnik it will actually be funny. We hope you enjoy it.]

You're either with the embargo or against the embargo...Man Responsible for Ford Mustang Information Leaks Begins 10-Year Prison Term in Secret CIA Facility in Kazakhstan

The man responsible for leaking information on the new 2011 Ford Mustang has been transferred from Ford Intelligence to a secret prison facility in Kazakhstan, according to insiders at the CIA.

Details about Ford’s updated 2011 model leaked within the past two weeks as journalists broke embargoes on the details of the new V8 engine in particular, which is rated at a disappointing and class-trailing 390 lb-ft of torque.

TTAC’s Volt Birthwatch Series Accidentally Prompts 36,000 Volt Pre-Orders

The popular “Volt Birthwatch” series on has prompted some 36,000 pre-orders, according to a spokesperson for General Motors’ Division of Pre-Ordering and Dealer Markups. “After reading 180 chronicles of the Volt’s development, I guess TTAC’s own readers flipped on them.”

TTAC Editor in Chief Edward Niedermeyer has demanded a commission for the sales.

General Motors To Make Buick a Sporty Youth Brand, Lutz Calls it “American BMW.”

According to recent posts on General Motors’ corporate Twitster page, Buick will become a performance-focused brand with rear wheel drive vehicles and manual transmissions.

“This is a bold decision. For the first time ever, we will take on BMW,” said branding guru Bob Lutz. “We’re going to develop a rear wheel drive roadster to fight the Z4 and a RWD sedan based on our successful Holden Commodore to take on the BMW 5-Series.”

The goal is to get the sales numbers up to about 300,000 sales per year, approximately three times what they are now.

MetaCars Speaks with BMW’s Lead Designer on X6, 5-Series GT Projects Like the X6... only with a brighter future

MetaCars: What inspired you to pen the X6 and 5-Series GT?

Hans Schroeder: Like many car designers, I look for beauty in nature. For example, Ian Callum styled the XK8 on actress Kate Winslet’s curvy figure.

MC: And what about the X6 and 5-Series GT?

HS: Those are pleasing shapes in general. A lot of inspiration came from [actress and singer] Jennifer Lopez.

MC: Well thanks for sitting down with us!

HS: I’m always happy to sit down.

Blog Reader Scrolls Past That Story About Toyota and the Floormats

A Cortland, NY man has scrolled past several blog posts about that thing with Toyota and floormats, according to reports.

Tim Scott told MetaCars “These posts keep coming about it on several of the car blogs I read. But I admit I’ve never actually stopped to read the story. I’m just interested in the stuff on the new Mustang, like the horsepower and what it’s going to cost.”

Scott may have a point — according to statistics from the mainstream CarsRulez blog, as many as 100% of readers may be skipping posts about Toyota and recalled floormats.

“Really,” Scott told us, “I just don’t give a shit. If I wanted that serious stuff I’d read the Wall Street Journal”

GM: “We swear to God, we’re selling Saab this week or shutting it down. For real this time, trust us.”

General Motors claims that this week is definitely, seriously the week it will make a decision about Saab’s fate. And they swear to God about it. “I know we set some deadlines in the past about selling or shuttering Saab. But now we mean it. This time you can trust us,” said a GM spokesman.

The brand’s fate has been in flux since it had a bad sales year in 1959, and hasn’t been profitable for the past 6 or 7 or 50 years or so.

GM has entertained offers from sports car manufacturers Koenigsegg and Spyker but is looking for a buyer who doesn’t have such enormous sales volumes, with 20 and 23 cars per year respectively.

MKF-off!Lincoln Changes Company Name to MKL, VP Mark Fields Now Called MKF

In a move anticipated by industry analysts for several months, Ford Motor Company has announced that the Lincoln brand name will change to MKL. The announcement was made at the LA Auto Show by Ford of the Americas President Mark Fields. who is concurrently changing his own name to MKF.

“The Mark series cars were always the most successful, interesting Lincolns. As a contrast, Lincolns with real names have negative customer associations: Towncars are just big taxis. The Navigator hasn’t been cool since the Escalade came out. The Continental was once popular, but then Kennedy got shot in one,” MKF explained.

Most recently, Lincoln has renamed virtually all of its models MK-something. The Zephyr became the MKZ, the Aviator became the MKX, the Blackwood became the Mark LT, and the Ford Taurus became the MKS.

Catch the most accurate (if not technically true) coverage of the world of internet car news at

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