Archive

Archive for March, 2009

Scanning the Auto Blogosphere

March 31st, 2009
Rick Hendrick and 2010 Camaro 0001

Rick Hendrick and 2010 Camaro 0001

We’ll all have to wait and see how the steps President Obama announced yesterday pan out for GM and Chrysler, but I wanted to take a look around to see what else folks have been excited about in the auto-blog world over the last week or so.

Fast-car fans of a few different stripes should be pleased to know that three very different cars, each with its own rabid fan base, are in various stages of resurrection for U.S. car buyers.

The reborn Chevrolet Camaro was originally expected to arrive in ’09 and has had American muscle-car fans in a lather since the appearance of the 2006 Camaro Concept. Chevrolet celebrated its commitment to build the car by auctioning low-production-number versions on eBay before the assembly line even started (interesting that this “American icon” now gets built in Canada), but fans will likely appreciate the video GM’s FastLane blog published of Rick Hendrick, CEO of Hendrick Motorsports, picking up the first 2010 Camaro, VIN #0001.

Those who prefer smaller European speedsters will no doubt be pleased to know Volkswagen plans to bring back the Golf GTI for U.S. buyers this year. This isn’t really a rebirth, since the American version of the 2009 Rabbit is almost the same as the European Golf, but some will be happy to ditch the long-eared name & logo, and the 2010 Golf GTI will feature Volkswagen’s highly touted DCC adaptive chassis control, an adjustable suspension damping system, and a new electronic locking differential that combine to give the car incredible handling.

Tuner types shouldn’t count any chickens quite yet, but the rumor mill seems to think the rear-wheel-drive coupe Toyota and Subaru have partnered to develop could be called the 2010 Toyota Celica. Unfortunately, this is speculation, rather than news, and even the speculators haven’t found much at all in the way of details on the new car. We’ll keep our eyes peeled and let you know if we find anything more.

In another bit of good go-fast news, Yokohama Rubber debuted new tires made with orange oil that use about 10 less petroleum than other tires at Sebring International Raceway. The new tires are apparently also much easier to recycle.

Two more quick tidbits: Ferrari has just launched a new web site, which is loaded with great photos, information, and videos about its Formula 1 team as well as its GT and sport cars. Yum!

And if you’re a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, and would like to win a 2009 Honda Civic Si Coupe customized by the band the All-American Rejects, drop by Honda’s web site and enter its sweepstakes. Good luck!

Anything you’d like to see get more – or less – coverage here on the CarGurus Blog?
Let me know.

-Steve Halloran

Auto Racing, Car Accessories, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Politics, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

The President Fires the President

March 31st, 2009

Obama 2008So I walk sleepily into the lobby of a Southern California motel, looking for a free continental breakfast. Instead, I immediately focus my vision on the TV mounted on the wall, where President Obama says he’s ousted Rick Wagoner from GM.

WHAT!? Of course this happens while I’m on vacation, and I’m torn on how I feel about it. I’m a firm believer that Wagoner should be ousted as CEO… I even wrote a blog wondering why he hadn’t been fired yet. For that, I give the president props for making the hard decisions that need to be made.

What I’m not sure about is Obama’s plan to pay GM’s operating costs for 60 days and have the government back their warranties. I believe that’s a lot of additional expense I don’t think the government can afford.

Some think Obama went too far in ousting Wagoner… he didn’t. That move needed to be taken. What should’ve happened next is an immediate restructuring and bankruptcy, not a government takeover of the U.S. auto industry. I believe we need to keep the auto industry in the hands of the free market, even if that means it fails.

I hope the Obama administration can navigate this automotive crisis and begin a structured bankruptcy as soon as possible. It’s long overdue, and all the government is doing is stalling the inevitable.

Do you agree with the government taking on GM’s operating costs for 60 days?

-tgriffith

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

What Do You Think of Obama’s Auto Plans?

March 30th, 2009

obama

I can’t wait to hear what tgriffith and jgoods think of today’s heaping helping of auto news, but since they’re both on vacation, I’m going to ask what you think. First, as you’ve probably heard, GM CEO Rick Wagoner stepped down yesterday, apparently having been asked to do so by the Obama administration’s auto task force on Friday, and Fritz Henderson, former COO, will take over. And here are some highlights of a speech Obama delivered this morning:

  • President Obama’s auto task force rejected the restructuring plans GM and Chrysler submitted to get more bailout money.
  • The government will cover GM’s operating expenses for 60 days while the automaker drafts a much more aggressive restructuring plan, and Chrysler will get 30 days to fine-tune its plan to partner with Fiat.
  • Obama noted that bankruptcy was still a possibility for both companies, but that the government very much wants them to stay in business and will now back both companies’ warranties.
  • Obama announced a tax incentive for new-car buyers and that he wants to implement a cash-for-clunkers program to encourage the owners of older cars to replace them with newer, more fuel efficient cars.
  • Obama appointed a Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, who will provide support to and pursue opportunities for those who’ve been most impacted by the auto industry’s difficulties.

Needless to say, all this news has generated a lot of reaction. Some think Obama went too far by forcing the exit of Wagoner, particularly since Wall Street has offered much less in the way of compromise and collaboration in return for its bailout money. Some think the government bailout of both industries may be the beginning of a march toward socialism. Many are simply alarmed by the amount of money Obama plans to spend saving GM and Chrysler. And some take a simpler, more practical view, pointing out that now may be the best – and perhaps the last – time to buy a new American-made car with a powerful V8 under the hood.

Do you think GM and Chrysler need to be saved? Do you think Obama and the steps he announced today can help save them?

-Steve Halloran

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Politics, Car Shows, Domestic Cars, Exotic Cars, General Chat, Hybrid Cars

Road trip! tgriffith heads to LA

March 29th, 2009
That's one full Honda!

That's one full Honda!

In the classic tradition of family road trips, I’m making the 1,200-mile drive to Los Angeles.

My lovely wife, two kids, and way more stuff than I thought possible are crammed into our 2002 Honda CR-V, and we’re going to Disneyland. Yes, there will be fights. I can guarantee someone’s going to throw up all over themselves and the portable DVD player will probably short out, leaving my wife and me panicked about how to keep the kids quiet. 

But we WILL have fun. I’m the dad, and I can demand that, right?

I’ll check in from the road and write thrilling blogs about life in the car and maybe share some bumper stickers that make me laugh along the way. If I end up behind a 1997 Buick going 40 in the fast lane with its left turn signal on, you’ll hear about it. 

I may not have the exotic location and foreign cars that jgoods recently posted about, but I’ve got two kids and 2,400 miles of road-trippin’ fun ahead of me.

And it WILL be fun! 

Keep the comments coming, preferably in the form of advice from all the other other well-traveled car gurus out there. Oh yeah, and happy Spring Break! 

-tgriffith

Car Minded, Foreign Cars, General Chat, Trucks & SUVs

Schwarzenegger: a Prius or Challenger guy?

March 28th, 2009

schwarzenegger-challenger

Arnold Schwarzenegger is known for driving cars that aren’t exactly easy on the gas.

I think it’s safe to say he brought the Hummer brand to the masses, all because he just HAD to have a civilian version of the almighty H1. Now, of course, he governs the great state of California and is pushing for energy conservation and smog reduction. One might think when the time came to buy a new car, he’d play it safe and go with a Prius. Or to give him a little credit, maybe the more manly Escape Hybrid.

Right… can you picture the Terminator in a Prius? I don’t think so. Our friends at Edmunds snagged some pictures of the Governator easing into his brand-new Dodge Challenger, and not the piddly V6 version, but the king-of-the-mountain 6.1-liter, 420-horsepower SRT8.

He’ll naturally catch all kinds of flack for driving a serious gas hog while preaching about saving energy. But seriously, governor or not, he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Arnold Schwarzenegger drives cool cars. 

Let’s assume he’s doing his part by installing energy-efficient windows in his house and turning lights off in all his spare rooms. The man’s got an incredibly stressful job, and if he wants to have some fun in a seriously fun car, I’m behind him. 

Tear it up, Governor! 

What do you think of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s new ride?

-tgriffith

Car Minded, Domestic Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat

Unveiled! The Tesla Model S

March 27th, 2009

tesla-s-roof

Tesla today has taken the tarp off its heavily hyped Model S luxury sedan.

While they haven’t released much about the specs of the Model S, one thing is for sure: The body is beautiful, if quite a departure from the looks of its sister, the Tesla Roadster.  

tesla-s-front-closeThe Tesla Model S is getting style comparisons to the Jaguar XF and the Buick Lucerne – the Jag in the front and rear and the Buick in the silhouette. I’m not sure I completely agree with the Buick comparison, but I definitely see some modern Jag in the design. Take a look at the pictures, and let us know if you agree.

Note the sleek coupe-like styling and glass roof! Also, the interior is said to feature a center rack consisting entirely of a touch-screen interface to control audio, HVAC, navigation, and whatever other extras Tesla loads into the Model S. 

tesla-s-side11When Tesla first announced plans for an all-electric sedan, they said it would cost around $60K. Official pricing, or even an availability date, haven’t been set. 

Will Tesla deliver on the Model S? What do you think of it?

-tgriffith

*UPDATE*

Acording to a Tesla press release, the anticipated base price of the Model S is $49,900 after a federal tax credit of $7,500. The company has not released options pricing. Three battery pack choices will offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge. The standard Model S does 0-60 mph in under six seconds and will have an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph, with sport versions expected to achieve 0-60 mph acceleration well below five seconds.

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

What Brand/Model Car Is This?

March 27th, 2009

dscn20861Can you tell us what this car is? I have a vague idea, but what do you think? It’s surely utilitarian transport, and you see a lot of that in Mexico. But the automobile is very much a means of personal expression, and Mexicans love to pimp their rides, just like we do. I’ll show you some of both varieties—utilitarian and artistic—from the streets of San Cristobàl de las Casas, way down in Chiapas.

dscn20773

Cars are a mobile platform to make sales, while Kombis and vans of all kinds are everywhere. You’ll see lots of mostly older Toyota Corollas used as taxis.

You also see many variations on the ever-present Beetle. In another post I’ll talk about the history of VW in Mexico and how important it’s been to the economy.
dscn19641
dscn2080dscn2073

Jettas, Pointers, and Tiguans are spotted frequently here. VW México’s website shows their many models, far more than we see in the U.S.

dscn2082 We’re too intimidated to paint cars like this jive Jetta.

dscn2078I’ve seen some beautiful new small cars, like this Ford Ka, and lots of SUVs—Chevys, Jeeps, etc.—so somebody’s doing well here, even in this economy.

If you have pix of Mexican cars that you want to share, please leave them in the comment section for us. Thanks! Hasta luego.

—jgoods

Car Minded, Exotic Cars, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Which Toyota model will become a hybrid next?

March 26th, 2009
Toyota Yaris: Coming soon in hybrid dress

Toyota Yaris: Coming soon in hybrid dress

Not long ago we speculated about what Toyota’s answer would be to Honda’s offering the least expensive hybrid, with their sub-$20K Insight.

We thought maybe they’d knock a few thousand off the price of the Prius to be more competitive, or load it up with technology to justify its higher price.

We even thought Toyota might introduce an all-new hybrid. 

Nope.

Toyota’s taking the easy way out and will build a hybrid version of the Yaris. The current gas-powered Yaris already gets 36 mpg on the highway and doesn’t cost more than $15K. There aren’t any estimates as to what a hybrid version would be rated at, but you can be darned sure the price will be below the Insight’s $19,800 starting price.

The price of the Prius will probably jump as the Yaris fills the entry-level hybrid slot for Toyota and competes directly with the Insight. Then it’s Honda’s move to try and undercut the price of the Yaris hybrid! We look forward to seeing what happens.

Hybrids haven’t received the warmest response from readers of this blog, but would a cheap, ultra-efficient hybrid be of any interest to you?

-tgriffith

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

Will Nissan power the city of the future?

March 26th, 2009
A Nissan Cube EV in San Diego

A Nissan Cube EV in San Diego

I can imagine a day when people in a futuristic city busily buzz through town in silent electric vehicles – some on their way to work, others heading to the grocery store, and some zipping to the mall to buy more silver jumpsuits (which we’ll all be wearing by the time this day comes).

Since it seems everyone is developing an electric vehicle (EV) or hyping up their gas-electric hybrids these days, I can only assume we’ll be led into a future where the EV is mainstream and gas-powered cars are as outdated as steam locomotives. 

But while so many carmakers seem to be working on electric vehicles, very few are working on places to charge them.

Enter Nissan, who is in a partnership to turn San Diego into this city of the future.

Okay, that’s a little bit of a stretch of the imagination, but Nissan is partnering with San Diego Gas and Electric to develop and promote an EV charging network in San Diego.  

The automaker will help the power company acquire 100 electric vehicles and will work with agencies and city departments to add infrastructure that will include 220-volt charging stations and the required surge protectors that will make San Diego plug-in ready.

Nissan also said they will work with the city to find locations that can accommodate 440-volt fast-charging stations (imagine the warning label on that outlet!). A fast-charging station can recharge the battery of Nissan’s EV in 26 minutes – ample time to run into the grocery store and come back to a fully charged car. 

Perhaps my vision of a futuristic city of electric vehicles isn’t quite as far away as I once thought. If San Diego is any indication, maybe it’s time for us all to look into buying those silver jumpsuits.

Assuming it was affordable, would you own an electric car if you could find ample places to charge it?

-tgriffith

Car Industry News, Car Minded, Electric Vehicles, Foreign Cars, Gas for your car..., General Chat, Hybrid Cars

With an Electric Ford Focus, Why Do We Need the Volt?

March 25th, 2009
The electric Focus should look something like this

The electric Focus should look something like this

Here’s a quote GM doesn’t want to hear from auto analysts: “Why do we need the Volt?”

GM has spent years and untold amounts of money developing their electric Volt concept. The quote is from Bill Pochiluk, an auto analyst with Automotive Compass. He said it in response to the news that Ford is preparing to release its own electric vehicle, despite having spent almost no development dollars of its own.

Ford’s electric Focus has been developed almost entirely by outside supplier Magna International (which has built cars for BMW, Mercedes-Benz, GM, and Chrysler, so don’t write them off). The electric Focus is due in early 2011 and expected to have a 100-mile range per charge. 

Ford’s strategy seems to make a lot of sense, as GM’s in-house development of the Volt has hit many road blocks and drained the company of valuable and hard-to-come-by money. 

While GM will earn bragging rights for developing the Volt on its own (if it’s successful), the bottom line is that consumers care a lot more about price than bragging rights. In this case, I’d expect the electric Focus to come in well below the estimated $40K cost of the Volt. 

The one drawback for Ford, if it can be called a drawback, is that Magna is free to sell the same technology to other automakers. Ford doesn’t seem to mind, though, because the more successful Magna is, the more the price of their technology will drop. Ultimately, that’s beneficial for Magna, for Ford, and for anyone buying an electric car. 

The partnership between Ford and Magna is a great example of the teamwork needed to efficiently achieve and distribute innovation in the auto industry today. Ford seems to be taking advantage, while GM struggles to succeed in innovating on their own. 

It all comes back to the question above: Why do we need the Volt?

-tgriffith

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