Ford, GM, Chrysler Prey on Toyota Customers

Toyota Tundra

Tundra: now worth an extra $1,000

I shouldn’t feel bad for the world’s largest automaker just because it stands to lose a few percentage points of market share. Toyota is obviously having a bit of a rough patch, and it’s no surprise that other automakers want to take advantage and try to steal some customers.

Toyota’s two latest major recalls and last week’s decision to cease sales of eight models over safety concerns is sure to put the company’s sales numbers at risk. Even longtime Toyota customers are fleeing to other brands.

While it’s a nightmare for Toyota, it’s an opportunity for Ford, GM, and Chrysler to take advantage and get some of those uncertain ToMoCo customers into domestic vehicles.

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Silly Car Videos to Watch This Weekend

A few days ago, our New York spies learned that P. Diddy Combs, rich rapper extraordinaire, gave his son a $360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday. Because Justin is still learning to drive, the car comes complete with chauffeur. Justin is supposed to be a pretty cool kid, and during the partying at M2 he “reportedly sat on a jewel-encrusted throne.” Diddy-bop.

And now, to the videos. In Chile, a super-competent road crew set an overturned stone truck upright. However, they neglected to notice the engine was still running and in gear, so the truck took off on its own. Watch the elegant crowd control and fabulous camera work after the jump. Just another slice of everyday life in Latin America.

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The Ongoing Toyota Recall/Stop-Sale/Halt-Production Debacle

It's not so ugly, is it (2010 Camry)? Note immense garage behind.

When a company as important as the Toyota Motor Corp. gets into big trouble, a lot of people take notice. When the issues don’t get resolved, they take more notice. We are going to break down the onrushing Toyota recall news into a few categories—and I’m doing this for my own better understanding as well as yours!

What has happened
The latest is that the November 25 recall (for possibly faulty accelerator pedal assemblies) will extend to another 1.1 million U.S. vehicles, plus 2 million in Europe (cars not specified), 75,000 in China, perhaps 99,000 Pontiac Vibes (same car basically as Toyota Matrix) which have affected pedal assemblies.

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Seventeen Years in the Making, Federal Auto Database Debuts

Don't get stuck with a car that's been wrecked

I once bought a used Nissan Altima from a dealership, only to find out later the car I bought was actually a former rental.

I wasn’t happy, because I know how rental cars are treated. Within months, the rear bumper began changing colors, and I dumped the Altima right away. That was in 2002, 10 years after the U.S. Justice Department was ordered by Congress to create a national database to show which vehicles were involved in thefts or other incidents.

Maybe had that database been in effect, I could have known the history of the Altima.

Now, almost 18 years after the order, the database finally exists. The Detroit News reports:

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Sale and Production of Eight Toyota Models Halted

2009 Matrix wagons at a Colorado dealer

Toyota has finally acknowledged that it has a major safety problem with unintended acceleration. The sticking pedal has reared its head again, after a 4.3-million-vehicle recall last fall and after the floormat issue (which sounded like a coverup to many). Now with a 2.3-million-vehicle recall last week, Toyota isn’t really sure what the cause is, so they must halt sales and production of the most popular Toyota models. This is a rare and serious action for an automaker.

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GM Unloads Saab to Spyker

Spyker C8 Aileron Spyder

Spyker C8 Aileron Spyder

Well, it finally happened. Saab has been saved from the scrap metal heap that its brothers Saturn and Pontiac ended up on.

Spyker Cars, maker of the sexy C8 Aileron Spyder, is the proud new owner and savior for Saab fans around the world.

The deal (you can find the full details on Spyker’s site) involves a cash payment of $74 million and $326 million in preferred stock. The deal is also subject to Sweden agreeing to guarantee a 400-million-euro ($563 million) European Investment Bank loan for Saab. To top it all off, the whole thing is expected to close in February.

The financial details aren’t the interesting part of this, though. The thing we all want to know is, will Spyker be able to save Saab?

There’s a lot of optimism in the car blogosphere, with hopes of  super-Saabs and an all-new generation of 9-5 sedans.

I don’t mean to crash the party, but here’s the reality:

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Green Update–>How Far Out Is the Electric Future?

Tesla charging

As we all should know by now, making cars is a big gamble. With lead times of two to three years, new products have to anticipate the market and factor in huge development costs. Not to mention marketing and merchandising expense. Not to mention fickle and whimsical changes in public taste and governmental priorities.

But perhaps the biggest variable of all is the Green Movement. It influences us all, negatively and positively, pushing everything from cap-and-trade to capitalist investment. Everyone is betting on Green, and no one yet knows which way it will turn—or turn out. The mix of politics, economics, and engineering is fascinating but murky.

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Pagani Zonda’s Replacement Makes Us Think

Pagani Zonda

Pagani Zonda

The Pagani Zonda is one of those cars.

It’s the kind of car that might as well exist only in dreams, as a fairytale chariot most humans will never have the pleasure of driving. Cars like Zondas (and Veyrons) might as well exist on the same level as unicorns, because to the vast majority of us, we’ll never see one (unless Conan dresses one up like a mouse out of spite.)

So when news comes that Pagani is discontinuing the Zonda and replacing it with something called the C9, we’re both excited and grief-stricken. Excited because we’ll have something new to fantasize about, sad because the Zonda will cease to exist.

But check out some of the specs that Top Gear has reported on the C9. It will be powered:

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New GM CEO Whitacre says, “I’m gonna do it for a while.”

So GM’s Chairman now has two jobs, as he revealed in a press conference this Monday morning in Detroit. Many expected the new and now-permanent CEO to name himself, though, as usual in such cases, he gratefully acceded to the Board’s wishes. “I didn’t anticipate doing this, but you sorta get pulled in, …it happened. I feel very comfortable with this company.” He may be in place for two or three years, he said.

What this development means for the company depends on who you read or talk to. Joe Phillippi, an industry consultant, thinks it takes away the uncertainty: “This move tells the troops that Whitacre is the boss and everybody should put on their helmets and march forward.” (Images of World War I come to mind.)

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