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Jo Borrás

I've been in and around the auto industry since 1997, and have written for a number of well-known outlets like Cleantechnica, the Truth About Cars, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can also find me talking EVs with Matt Teske and Chris DeMorro on the Electrify Expo Podcast, writing about Swedish cars on my Volvo fan site, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.

By on October 15, 2021

Barely a month has passed since Rivian’s CEO first posted pictures of the company’s fully certified, in-production R1T electric pickup rolling down the Normal, Illinois assembly line. The R1T is here, it’s real, and it’s got the blessing of the NHTSA, EPA, and CARB to prove it – but the fact that the R1T made it to production more-or-less as promised isn’t what I’m here to talk about today.

Instead, I want to talk about how a brash, spunky startup managed to beat not just Ford, and not just GM, but every single established automaker to market to deliver the first modern electric pickup truck … and the answer might not be what you expect.

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By on October 13, 2021

H-Ko/Shutterstock.com

In 1921, there were more than 25 million horses in a United States populated by less than 110 million humans. I’m not a mathematographer, by any means, but I think that puts us at a ratio of about one horse for every four-ish people out there.  And, just like there are many kinds of people, there are many kinds of horses, too.  There are Quarter Horses, paints, Arabians, Appaloosas, and – of course – Thoroughbred racing horses.

Something strange has happened in the last hundred years, though. There are a lot more people and a lot fewer horses, for one thing – just 3 million horses for a whopping 330 million Americans – but it’s a curious thing that there are a lot more Thoroughbreds in 2021 than there were in 1921. What’s more, it’s almost certain that the meticulously bred horses spending their 21st Century days in luxurious stables are serving a vastly different purpose than their hard-working forbears.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

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By on October 6, 2021

AppleZoomZoom/Shutterstock.com

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday. That’s been something of a mantra for car companies over the last hundred-odd years, and success in motorsports is considered a worthy enough goal for major automakers the world over to invest tens of millions – heck, hundreds of millions of dollars – to compete, if not to win. But, is it real? Does “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” hold water?

I think the answer is obvious – because, if winning races actually sold cars, Lancia would be the best-selling car brand on Earth.

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By on October 1, 2021

Lucid

You can say what you want about Lucid Motors and their upcoming Air luxury sedan, but you can’t call their PR team “shy”.

“An absolute triumph of efficiency,” reads the headline. “Lucid Air achieves 520 miles of range … besting the closest competition by over 100 miles.”

Think about that. There is a fast, comfortable electric car that will go a full five-hundred and twenty miles before you need to stop and plug it in. As Jasper said when he stepped out the Kwik-E-Mart freezer, “What a time to be alive.”

But, like, do you really even want an electric car that can go 520 miles? The more I stare at that figure, the more I think the answer to that question is: Maybe I don’t.

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By on September 29, 2021

Chevy

In 1996, General Motors unveiled the first modern electric car: The EV1. Built to prove that GM could satisfy California’s then-new zero-emissions regulations, the EV1 was a quick, efficient, electric two-seater that could be plugged into a standard 110 outlet. By all accounts, the car was well-loved by its owners lessors, but wasn’t profitable enough for GM to make a business case for the development of an EV2. GM halted production after the 1999 model year.

What if they hadn’t stopped there, though? What if, instead of cancelling the EV1, GM had decided to build on everything they’d learned about EVs and doubled down on it, using economies of scale to drive down costs to a level that could have been profitable? What if they had a platform that they already knew they were going to make hundreds of thousands of, every year, standing by at the ready? And, finally, what if that platform had been sturdy enough to carry around an extra thousand pounds of battery without breaking a sweat?

They did, and the 1999 Chevrolet Silverado EV2 is the story of GM dominance that never was.

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By on September 27, 2021

Kia

I got my first, in-person taste of the upcoming Kia EV6 this past weekend in Irvine, California. It was a beautiful 77-degree day spent amid rolling hills under blue, sunny skies – even the people I met were wonderful. They were tanned, attractive, “California” people who were cheerful and engaging. No matter what California sent to distract me, though, my eyes kept turning back to the EV6.

There’s simply no escaping it. The Kia EV6, especially in the matte metallic gray finish, is an incredibly good-looking car.

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By on September 22, 2021

Ford

It’s become something of a mantra for me, lately, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It goes like this: Electric cars aren’t coming, they’re already here. And, depending on who you ask, they’ve been here – they just haven’t quite made it into the mainstream, yet. With the dawn of the Rivian R1T (which became the first full-size electric pickup to reach series production earlier this month), though, a lot of people would have you believe that’s set to change. I happen to be one of them.

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By on September 14, 2021

Chrysler/Stellantis

Mainstream hybrid cars have been with us for more than twenty years – at least since the first Toyota Prius hit the market in 1998 – and their image has evolved considerably. When they first arrived on the scene, for example, they were hailed as the car to be seen in if you wanted to be seen saving the planet, and there were a lot of celebrities who wanted to be seen in the things in the early Aughts. Over time, the virtue-signaling vehicle of choice switched from the Prius to the Tesla, but the Prius soldiered on with considerable green cred, eventually spawning an entire line of Priuses (Prii?) in the process. These days, however, the green crowd doesn’t want to talk about hybrids in a positive light, with some journalists calling for an end to the “era” of hybrids to come – now.

From climate crusader to internal-combustion enabler in the span of just two decades, then. That’s kind of impressive, I think, but it got us thinking about plug-in hybrids. Were they really a transitional technology that could hold the hands of overly cautious consumers as they tiptoe from internal combustion to battery power, or were they a flawed, compromised technology by definition – the worst of all possible worlds, combining the pollution and maintenance needs of internal combustion with the added weight and electrical complexity of electric, with nary a benefit over either to be found?  (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2021

Twinsterphoto/Shutterstock.com

Whether it’s adapting to a rapidly changing performance landscape or overcoming the encryption that’s being built in to cars’ electronic brains, it’s tough to be a tuner these days. But you know what they say, “When it rains, it pours.” And, for aftermarket performance tuners, the hits just keep on coming.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Ask Brent Leivestad, the owner of a small Colorado speed shop called PFI Speed who just got hit with an $18,000 EPA fine – a fine that, if not paid within 30 days, could increase to $180,000.

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By on September 7, 2021

 

The Suzuki Kizashi was not a great car. That said, it certainly wasn’t a bad car – and I don’t think I’ll court controversy by saying that the car, launched nearly in tandem with news that Suzuki was withdrawing from the U.S. market, never really got a fair shake. It was a car that, for a reasonable-ish $27,000, could be had with a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive. That, along with a willing chassis and some “drivers’ car” marketing, makes for a great story. “I coulda been a contender,” and all that.

There was another marketing pitch for the little Suzuki Kizashi that lives rent-free in my brain, though. It’s the one where Suzuki compares the Kizashi to its racy GSX-R sport bikes and all-conquering, big-bore hyperbike, the Hayabusa, and makes the case that the Kizashi might just be a four-wheeled Suzuki motorcycle that you can strap some child seats into.

Would a simple engine swap be enough to make the Kizashi a sports car for the ages? Let’s find out.

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By on September 3, 2021

Chevrolet/GM

You have to feel for the people in charge of marketing the Chevy Bolt. After months of news stories about the company’s first mainstream EV bursting into flames in customers’ garages and various statements blaming everyone from the battery manufacturer to the charging stations to the owners themselves for failing to stick to the NHTSA safety recommendations, General Motors launched a massive recall.

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By on August 31, 2021

shiv.mer/Shutterstock.com

They say that the first auto race happened about five minutes after the second car was built, and there was probably an obvious winner (heck, the first “official” US auto race only had six starters, and two finishers). But progress begets parity. Before long, the cars started to get closer to one another in terms of performance and the drivers’ relative talents became more and more important to ensuring victories – but talent is a tough thing to eyeball. You need something a little more precise.

What you need, is a watch. Ideally, something you can depend on to deliver accurate results, lap after lap, shine or rain. Maybe something Swiss, you know?

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By on August 27, 2021

When it launched in 1994, the original Dodge Neon was a different kind of car – and not just because it looked fun and friendly while the outgoing Shadow it replaced was trying very hard to look sporty by the end.

It was different because of its ads, which were simple and non-threatening. The car was kept simple inside, too. A 2.0-liter engine was standard (available in 132 horsepower with a SOHC head or 150 hp with DOHC), and could be had with a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. You could get power front windows, but rear windows were crank-only. What’s more, the cars were genuinely fun to drive in almost any trim level, leading our very own Matthew Guy to label it as one of the best, unheralded performance cars of its day.

Which, I mean, that’s great and all. But what if Chrysler had made a different call with the Neon powertrain? What if we could go back in time again, Sam Beckett-style, and fill the space under the Neon’s hood with the 175 hp turbocharged engine from the Dodge Omni GLH-S, would that car have ended up as an “unheralded” performance car, or one of the all-time classic sport compacts?

Let’s talk it through.

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By on August 25, 2021

Den Rozhnovsky/Shutterstock.com

Software updates. Precisely when we had to start having a conversation about software updates – over the air or otherwise – in an automotive context isn’t something I can answer. We didn’t have them for about 100 years. Then, we did. What’s more, it seems like everyone is more or less OK with that, but should they be? Are these software updates really making your car better, or are they slowly throttling back your car’s performance and functionality in a bid to frustrate you into buying a new one?

Let’s take a few minutes to explore the possibilities.

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By on August 25, 2021

GM

To many children of the 1970s and 80s, the Pontiac Fiero is something of a tragic figure. Its mid-engine chassis and clean, sporty lines made performance promises that its 2.5L OHV, 92 horsepower “Iron Duke” could never deliver on. Even later models, with their 140 HP, 2.8L V6 engines were disappointments – albeit lesser ones. Despite continuous improvements, the car was only in production for four years, and ultimately became more sought-after as the basis for a number of ill-conceived Faux-rrari kit cars than for what it was … but it didn’t have to be this way.

Across town, Pontiac’s GM stablemate Oldsmobile had something that could have changed the fate of Pontiac’s Fiero – and maybe the Chevrolet Corvette’s, too – and that’s the subject of this first engine swap fantasy file: the Quad 4.

(Read More…)

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