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Archive for January, 2009

The 2010 Camaro: Delayed again or ready for launch?

January 31st, 2009

 

camaro1The 2010 Chevy Camaro is like the Chinese Democracy of the auto world.

Like the infamous Guns n’ Roses album, the Camaro has been plagued by a painfully slow release, a ton of hype, some leaked photos, and of course some controversy.

Luckily for both Chevrolet and Axl Rose, public interest in these products only tends to grow as time passes. 2008 was the year we finally experienced the release of Chinese Democracy… will 2009 be the year we can finally get our right foot on the accelerator of a Camaro? 

My magic 8-ball points to yes.

The 2010 Camaro concept was unveiled way back in 2006 at the North American International Auto Show. Of course it was a huge hit, but remained just a concept through the next couple of years with all kinds of rumors about whether or not it would make it into production.

Now that the V6 version of the Camaro has been test driven by the folks at Road & Track, it seems we can officially count on a release to the masses later this year. While I think every Camaro fan in the world would rather see the high performance SS edition first, the debut of the LT V6 should be enough to pacify us all.

Here’s a brief summary of what Road & Track said of the V6:

With 300 bhp on tap from its direct-injected 3.6-liter dohc V-6, Chevy expects that the car, with additional tweaking, may be capable of breaking the 6-second mark going 0-60 mph by the time it is launched, while delivering highway mileage in the high 20s with a sticker in the mid-$20,000 range.

That sounds like a winning combination to me, and may prove to be worth the long wait we’ve all had to endure.

Do you think launching a new Camaro is a smart move for GM right now?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, General Chat

Car Industry Still Competitive—in Race to the Bottom

January 30th, 2009

2007 Toyota YarisToyota just got hammered with a recall for a seatbelt component in its 2005-08 Vitz, Belta, and Ractis cars. Some 1.35 million cars are affected, including what we in the U.S. know as the Yaris.

The company isn’t saying how much all this will cost, but at a cheap estimate of $150 per car, it comes to more than $200 million. And that doesn’t include the negative PR value that recalls carry.

This comes at a time when Toyota has just overtaken GM as the world’s largest auto producer, though neither firm has much to celebrate. Toyota beat out everybody but Chrysler in sales drops for December ‘08: down 37% vs. Chrysler’s 53%.

Not to be outdone, Ford took a $14.6 billion bath for 2008, including a whopping $5.9 billion loss in the fourth quarter. Because the auto industry has enormous fixed costs, the companies are burning through cash at terrific rates. It’s hard to see how this can stop, short of unfreezing credit. Instead of taking money from the government, Ford is going to its credit lines for an additional $10 billion in February.

mark-fields-fordWhile it’s healthier than the other Big Two, Ford’s outlook for increasing sales is pretty bleak. One thing it could do is get rid of Mark Fields, formerly one of the company’s “leading figures” whose real contribution to the firm is in some doubt. Says Michelle Krebs:

What really rankles those in the know is that Fields isn’t here in Detroit. He lives in Florida. As part of his contract, he boards the corporate jet every Friday afternoon to go home to Florida. The crew waits for him and delivers him back to Dearborn for the start of the work week. A Detroit TV station reported the estimated cost to Ford to be anywhere from $1 million to $3 million a year. At a time when employees face layoffs, plant closings and buyout offers, such expenses seem self-indulgent at best.

Hmm, didn’t we just hear about Mr. Obama’s reaction to all those Wall Street bonuses?

Is the auto industry still too “self indulgent”?

—jgoods

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Safety, Car Shows, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars

World’s Fastest Production Car: Now in Electric?

January 30th, 2009

I guess it’s not enough to build the fastest production car in the world.

ssc-aero1Shelby SuperCars makes the 1,183-horsepower Ultimate Aero, the car that currently holds the title of World’s Fastest Production Car. How fast does it go? Well the speedometer on the 2008 model goes up to “only” 260, while the 2009 model should be capable of burying the needle at 270 mph. Holy smokes – sounds like it’s time to install a 300-mph speedometer!

To put this car in a little bit of perspective, the Ultimate Aero outperforms the Bugatti Veyron and every Ferrari and Lamborghini ever made. One would assume that SSC, a small company located in the small eastern Washington town of Richland, would be content with their record. But no, they want another record: World’s Fastest Production Electric Car.

Enter the Ultimate Aero EV, which is being built to showcase SSC’s new green powertrain. That’s exciting in itself, but here’s what really gets my blood boiling: The Ultimate Aero EV produces 1,000 horsepower, has 100% torque available at 0 RPM, rockets to 60 in an astonishing 2.5 seconds, and has a top speed of 208 mph.

SSC also claims 150-200 miles on a single charge, with a 10-minute recharge on a 110-volt outlet. That means you could plug your supercar into the same outlet that powers your toaster.

Now that the jaw-dropping specs are out of the way, I can get into the other cool part: The same powertrain that propels the Aero EV can be customized for different applications – a 200-hp version for a family sedan, a 500-hp version for an SUV, or up to 1,200 hp for commercial vehicle applications.

If the Ultimate Aero EV performs as advertised, the implications are huge. SSC could feasibly be producing electric vehicles that regular people might actually need. Affording them might be a different story, though, as the gas-powered Ultimate Aero can easily reach $650K.

According to SSC, deliveries of the Ultimate Aero EV should begin as early as the 4th quarter of this year, with automotive journalists set to witness its glory in the 2nd quarter. 

We’ll keep you posted!

Do you think it makes sense to build electric supercars? More importantly, would you want one?

-tgriffith

Auto Racing, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Electric Vehicles, Exotic Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Geneva: Cars, Watches, Good Food and Money

January 29th, 2009

Geneva has always been the most refined of the auto shows—not the largest, not the most debuts, not the most media noise. Yet the major manufacturers generally are there, and the atmosphere is less frenetic than at other venues. This year it will feature some introductions, and we want to share a few interesting preview photos with you.

bentley_continentalbentley-continental-gt-teaser-2

Much talk has been generated by the so-called Bio Bentley, a biofuel-powered Continental GT we’ve seen only in a “teaser shot” that doesn’t give much away. If the Queen can convert her limo to bio-goo, it’s probably a good idea for commoners.

mercedes-ecoupe

The new Benz E-Class Coupe replaces the current CLK and reportedly may go on sale later this year after the sedan debuts in the summer.

opel-ampera4

Opel has a 5-door hatchback called the Ampera (above), a lithium-ion battery powered, 220-volt rechargeable, with a small IC engine for longer distances. They want to be “the first European automaker to provide customers several hundred kilometers of non-stop electric driving.” Several hundred?

2007_chevy_beat_conceptside_view2 2008_chevrolet_sparkrear_three_quarter_view2 2010-chevy-spark1Much media malarkey has been generated over the Chevrolet Spark, which will finally appear in the flesh, so to speak, at Geneva. We covered some of this before, but here are three photos showing the progression from 2007 Beat concept to 2008 Spark and now the expected 2011 car (on right). As in most cases, the concept “beats” the execution.

edag_light_car_1

More concept cars for Geneva: The EDAG, a black blob in basalt fiber (lightweight, stable, recyclable, and fairly cheap stuff, they say) is an all-electric, 150-km range car using light-emitting diodes for front and rear lighting in glass panels. The company is calling it “an open-source project,” meaning it wants to work with others in the further development of the car. Interesting, but glass front and rear panels?

miev-sport-air-concept

Mitsubishi will show the MiEV SPORT AIR, an all electric zero-emissions effort with removable top and interesting lines, at least in the sketches. If you can’t tell front from back, you’re not alone. The company is pushing this as a performance vehicle that should go on sale in Japan by year’s end for “the equivalent of $24,000.” Some 30 are being tested on Tokyo’s streets.

All right, readers, tell us which of these cars you would like NOT to come to the U.S. . . . and why not?

Find more on the Geneva Auto Show website.

—jgoods

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Shows, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Cars on Death Row

January 29th, 2009

It’s been said that people don’t choose their cars… the cars choose their people.

To an extent, I agree, because cars have an incredible power to make us want them. Even if a new car is nowhere on your radar screen, you could see one in a parking lot or get sucked into a slick TV ad only to find yourself rationalizing why you need it.

I know it’s happened to me, and I am 100% positive it’ll happen again (probably soon, now that I’ve decided to keep my current car at least 3 more years!).

Be careful though, because some cars might catch your heart only to disappear by the time you’re ready to buy. Here are some cars on the chopping block, not likely to survive until the next model year:

Honda S2000

Honda S2000

2009 will be the final year for the highly praised roadster from Honda. If you’re looking for a reason why this once popular car is heading for the history books, look no further than December 2008 sales numbers: 72 of them were sold.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

 

I’ve been ready to see this one go since the novelty of its design wore off in 2001. Some people, though, still like it… so if you’ve been yearning for a new PT Cruiser, your window of opportunity is closing fast.

Saturn Sky

Saturn Sky

It was easy to fall in love with this affordable and sexy roadster. Now, though, the entire Saturn line could be headed to the gallows. Want a Saturn? Better act quick!

Hummer H3

Hummer H3

My thoughts are simple on this one: The H3 should’ve never even been produced. Maybe instead of just stopping production, GM should collect all that are still on the road and destroy them to eliminate all evidence they ever existed.

Lexus SC

Lexus SC

When the SC exits the Lexus stable, the company will be left without a convertible. Lexus isn’t really known, though, for powerful roadsters, so removing the SC keeps Lexus focused on what they do best: posh cruisers in the form of sedans and SUVs.

Cadillac XLR

Cadillac XLR

 

Cadillac only sold 1,250 XLRs last year, so its demise shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Caddy is replacing the $87,000 XLR with a CTS coupe that’ll be priced closer to $40K. Killing the XLR actually appears to make some sense!

Mercedes CLK

Mercedes CLKMercedes is debuting their new E-class, which will mean the end of the popular (at least in America) CLK.

What cars would you put on the chopping block?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Classic & Vintage Cars, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

New Porsches for the Meltdown

January 28th, 2009

Back in the Stone Age of foreign car imports to this country, we called it a “Porsh,” partly to Americanize a funny name. Today, the word “Porsche,” pronounced correctly by nearly everybody, typically ignites lust and longing in the heart of all lovers of Sportwagens.

For good reason: Over the years Porsche cars have been about 90% great. Even the 914 I once owned was a brilliant exercise in adaptive tech, and I loved it despite its flaws. The company’s marketing has also been extraordinary, making a niche car desirable and salable to a fairly broad audience.

A couple of Porsche’s new offerings seem to be turning a different page; others refine already successful models and practices. Let’s talk about a few. Click the photos for larger versions.

porsche-cayman-s-sportThe Cayman Clubsport will continue Porsche’s tradition of offering a lightweight version of a 911 for the track. Called the Cayman S Sport in England, it’s got the typical stripped-down Clubsport interior, lightweight body panels, lighter wheels and a few external body mods. Available in October in the UK for around $67K, when it will arrive in the U.S. is anybody’s guess. Demand, we think, will be high, even in these bad times. Tell us, where are you going to get a car with this kind of performance for this price?

With new fuel injection for a newly refined boxer engine (320 hp), a PDK seven-speed transmission and a host of refinements, the Cayman S Clubsport makes it possible to go to the track, win races and drive home in style—just like in the old days.

2010-porsche-boxster-sThe new U.S. Boxster starts at $46.6K for the base version, $56.7K for the S. Engines for both, like those in the Cayman, are 6-cylinder opposed (boxer) with improved fuel efficiency. Horsepower is 255 vs. 310 for the S; the suspension reportedly is improved, and you get the PDK tranny.

There is some restyling, and we like the new look. In typical Porsche fashion, these changes are incremental, while the mechanicals have evolved to keep pace with technology. A Launch Control—hold the brake, rev the engine, and take off for better acceleration—and Brake Assistant (extra power for emergency stops) are S-package options. You won’t need these to enjoy a rousing ride.

A lot of people complained about the Cayenne when it first arrived, and a lot of people are complaining about the Panamera, Porsche’s first attempt at a four-door sedan. The car debuts in Shanghai, April 19 and, we are told, will be available in South Africa sometime in 2010. Why not here? Too ugly.

panamera

Well, they said the same thing about the Cayenne, and it sold well, at least before the crash. Rich Chinese, if there are still any left, will presumably buy. They’ll get, you can be sure, a very well-engineered car, V6 or V8 powered, 300-500 bhp, and all the goodies, including Porsche Dynamic Traction Control, Traction Management (i.e., limited slip), all-wheel drive, and other options. The full boat.

maserati-quattroporteI don’t know, there’s something about the car’s appearance that just seems Teutonically . . . wrong. If you want to know how a bona fide high-end four-door sedan should look, check out the new Maserati Quattroporte, supposedly going on sale here this spring. Read the press release here.

But Porsche ain’t done yet. Their real tour de force, I think, is the 911 GT3 RSR, an update of the successful GT2 series, with a lot of aerodynamic improvements, new brake system, and larger 4.0-liter motor with a better torque curve (but less hp). The cockpit features a new multifunction display, which indicates shift points, and other racing niceties.

porsche911rsr2009rearporsche911rsr2009cockpit

Pricewise, this is one serious Porsche. In racing form it costs around €380,00 – that’s about US$500K at today’s exchange rates. Just think, you could have bought a GT2 RSR for only $200K last year. That’s what this stinking meltdown has done to us.

You just won the lottery. Which of these cars would you buy and why?

—jgoods

Auto Racing, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Foreign Cars, General Chat

The sexiest cars from the Detroit auto show!

January 28th, 2009

We all know that sometimes, you just want to look at sexy pictures without reading all the articles that go with them.

With that in mind, here’s a photo review of the sexiest cars from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Feel free to let us know which you like best.

1. Fisker Karma S electric vehicle

Fisker Karma S electric vehicle

2. Audi R8 5.2

Audi R8 5.2

3. Dodge Circuit electric vehicle

Dodge Circuit electric vehicle

4. Cadillac Converj electric vehicle

Cadillac Converj electric vehicle

5. Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

6. Mercedes Benz Stirling Moss SLR McLaren

Mercedes Benz Stirling Moss SLR McLaren

So which do you think is the best looking car here?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Shows, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Scanning the Auto Blogosphere

January 27th, 2009

Much as we’d like to, CarGurus’ bloggers just can’t cover *all* the automotive news out there each week. So here’s a quick look at some stuff we haven’t gotten to yet. We welcome your comments – please let us know if you’d like to see more info on any of the topics addressed here (or any other topic, for that matter).

The Aptera

The Aptera

Electric vehicles get almost as much coverage these days as the Audi R8 and new Dodge Challenger did last year. But most, including the Tesla Roadster we’ve covered extensively, are designed to compete with supercars in both speed and price, leaving them out of reach of most auto buyers. (Lotus has worked on a few of them, too, so many look similar as well.) But Aptera, a southern California start-up, plans to produce electric cars that will cost $25,000 to $45,000 dollars, and they certainly don’t look like Lotuses. They’ll be available only in California at launch, but the company hopes to take them nationwide ASAP. Wired’s Autopia posted a great article with technical details and a nice photo gallery – that is, if you like cars that look like spaceships. You can reserve one at Aptera’s website, but it will cost you $500.

Another unavoidable topic these days is the Fiat-Chrysler “strategic alliance.” We covered that story last week and share most car fans’ enthusiasm for the possibility of buying a new Fiat 500 or Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione here in the U.S., but many have taken the time since then to note that Fiat’s CEO visited Chrysler headquarters on Saturday, without providing much detail on what happened. Of all the coverage out there, though, we most appreciate Car Envy’s post, which has a great headline and includes a music video featuring two great cars. That singer’s voice is annoying, but can you name the other car in the video?

Two studies on traffic tickets drew attention recently. The first will get published in the Journal of Law and Economics, and while it’s not surprising, it’s bad news for Americans for at least the next couple of years. Looking at 14 years’ worth of data from North Carolina, the study’s authors determined that more traffic tickets get issued the year after a drop in revenue. Given what’s happening all over the U.S. right now, I’d guess most states already have and will likely continue to up traffic enforcement to combat revenue shortfalls.

The second study looked at what kinds of cars are most likely to get tickets. The two cars determined most likely to get tickets – the Hummer H2 and the Scion tC – don’t have much in common, but they’re both more than four times as likely to get a ticket as the average car. Ouch! Least likely to get a ticket? The Jaguar XJ. Maybe there’s something to that British elegance and reserve after all.

And we were a little amused by Car and Driver’s recent article on “aggressive” car-buying tactics. The article basically lists eight statements or scenarios that will likely come up if a typical car salesman’s trying to close a deal with you quickly, and tells you to counter most of them with pretty much the same statement, changing one word to make yourself the subject or the victim. While the article’s advice may very well work, following it will make your new-car negotiations sound like the prelude to a high-school fight: Oh yeah? *I’m* already losing a hell of a lot of money on this deal!

What would you like to see covered on the CarGurus Blog?

-Steve Halloran

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Site Review, Domestic Cars, Electric Vehicles, General Chat, Hybrid Cars

The Chevy Vega: Motor Trend’s Car of the Year?

January 27th, 2009

When auto writers make lists of the worst cars ever, the Chevy Vega is nearly always on that list, along with a Renault or two.

1983 Renault Alliance

1983 Renault Alliance

Look back through the years, however, and you’ll see something fascinating: Vegas and Renaults on some very well respected lists of annual BEST cars. Shocking, I know! Now, Car and Driver magazine is attempting to right those wrongs by formally apologizing for missteps like this: naming the Renault Alliance to their 1983 10 Best Cars list.

The apology is proof that even the highest profile automotive magazines can easily get sucked up into the hype of a new product or a new brand entering the market. Using their own words:

 It’s always a risk making judgments based on the initial exposure to a car, and sometimes a vehicle’s ultimate crappiness only reveals itself with the fullness of time.

Other cars of ultimate crappiness that have received past accolades are now notorious stinkers.

2002 Ford Thunderbird

2002 Ford Thunderbird

The 2002 Ford Thunderbird has been exposed as an overweight and overpriced clunker whose good looks initially stole the hearts of many. This was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.

Also winning Motor Trend’s coveted Car of the Year award was the infamous 1971 Chevy Vega. That’s a completely laughable notion today, but think of the poor people who went out and bought one on that advice. Seems like those folks need more than a simple apology; perhaps a reimbursement of towing costs incurred throughout the ‘70s!

1980 Chevy Citation

1980 Chevy Citation

Remember the 1980 Chevy Citation? I sure do, but I think it’s only because my brother became trapped in the backseat of one by a seatbelt that refused to detach. Maybe we only had it because my dad was a Motor Trend reader and this, once again, was a shameful Car of the Year choice.

I’m sure some cars getting attention today will turn out to be serious stinkers or simply fade into automotive mediocrity, but I also think some of today’s cars will be remembered and collected as classics for years to come.

What award-winning cars of today will fade away, and which will go down in automotive history as true classics?

My votes: The North American Car of the Year, the Hyundai Genesis, will be discontinued while the Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Cadillac CTS, will be remembered as the car that brought Caddy back.

-tgriffith

Car Magazines, Car Minded, Classic & Vintage Cars, Domestic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Emissions: New Salt in an Old Wound

January 26th, 2009
"I traded this for The Beast?"

"I traded this for The Beast?"

Today President Obama signaled that fuel efficiency, global warming and energy independence were more important than the parochial interests of the auto industry.

He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s 2007 denial of California’s (and 13 other states’) request to set its own emissions and fuel efficiency standards. If other states join California, and some 17 are leaning that way, we’re talking about 40% of the population.

Obama also directed the Department of Transportation to enact rules to get automakers to a standard of 35 mpg by 2020. The current level is 27.5 mpg. Said Obama, “That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day: nearly the amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.”

As in so many areas, the industry should have seen this one coming. Beyond energy independence, Mr. Obama wants to “spark the innovation needed to ensure that our auto industry keeps pace with competitors around the world.” So, while he sticks it to ‘em with much tougher standards, he offers something of an olive branch:

As we move forward, we will fully take into account the unique challenges facing the American auto industry and the taxpayer dollars that now support it. And let me be clear: Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry; it is to help America’s automakers prepare for the future.

Many in the industry have already been wailing that such regulations will cost them $100 billion to implement. According to Fortune, meeting the new standard will require “new smaller platforms, new high-technology engines, and, inevitably, higher prices for consumers. Forcing automakers to design a second fleet of cars for California could greatly inflate the cost.”

Well, we’ve heard this argument for years and, as the president says, “the days of Washington dragging its heels are over.” Detroit has recently shown that it can and will produce the kinds of fuel-efficient and desirable cars the public wants and needs. And, if it can’t immediately produce them for all 50 states, it can do it in a two-tiered effort.

The Obama administration, according to our friends at TheCarConnection, may well create only two sets of regulations—one for California and those states who choose to go along and one for the rest of the U.S.—to avoid the crazy quilt situation that could result if each state went its own way.

One wonders how much the automakers have spent in their legal battles over the years to postpone the inevitable. And we bet that the feds will give them future help in implementing these tougher standards.

We’d like your opinion on any of the following:

  • Will people buy the new fuel-efficent cars, or does it all depend on the price of gas?
  • Is this the smart way to encourage lower gas consumption? What about a $2/gal gas tax?
  • Will the California standard end up being the U.S. standard?

—jgoods

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Politics, Domestic Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars