Explorers and Suburbans Aren’t Dead… Yet

Chevrolet Suburban

Some of you fools thought that the day of reckoning had arrived: Hybrids were on the rise, guzzlers were socially unacceptable, and cars like the Suburban were going out of production. Guess again, greenheads.

There are plenty of folks who want to buy big SUVs, even though sales have dropped off sharply. According to Automotive News and quoted here, GM is developing new versions of its Suburban and Escalade on its full-size truck platform. The cars should be here in about three years—during which time, planners assume, demand will swell once again.

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Cars That Debuted (or Got Famous) in Movies

Aston Martin DBS

Aston Martin DBS on the set of Quantum of Solace

Sometimes a movie is nothing more than one big advertisement.

Product placement in film is perhaps the most subtle, and effective, way to advertise a car or build excitement about a new one coming soon.

That’s why it’s smart for movie studios to shack up with automotive marketing departments. The studio gets to use a hot new car, and the auto company gets months of hype while its car becomes a movie star. Pretty sweet deal. So what are the best cars to debut (or get really famous) in feature films? Read on, friend.


Compassion, Sorrow for Tesla

Three employees of Tesla Motors were killed in a plane crash in Palo Alto, California, yesterday.

The twin-engine Cessna 310 involved in the crash was owned by Tesla senior electrical engineer Doug Bourn. It is presumed that Bourn was piloting the plane, but the identities of the dead haven’t been officially released.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk posted this message on his company’s website:

Three Tesla employees were on board a plane that crashed in East Palo Alto early this morning. We are withholding their identities as we work with the relevant authorities to notify the families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Tesla is a small, tightly-knit company, and this is a tragic day for us.

As supporters of Tesla, and the auto industry as a whole, we send our compassion and share in the grief for Tesla’s loss.

The tragedy comes just as Tesla is beginning a new phase by preparing to launch an IPO and ready production of its electric sedan, the Model S.


Porsche Panamera V6 Coming to a Town Near You

Porsche Panamera V6

Porsche is placing a big bet on its Panamera lineup and just knocked some $15,000 off the price of entry, compared to its existing S, 4S, and Turbo cars. Prices for the two new Panamera “budget” models now start at $74,400.

They will arrive in U.S. showrooms in June 2010. If you want to see one before that, the world debut will be at the Beijing Motor Show on April 23. They feature a new V6 with 300 bhp, 295 lb-ft of torque, and much improved fuel efficiency (30.4 mpg). One car will have standard rear-wheel drive; the Panamera 4 will have active all-wheel drive and cost $4,500 more. All U.S. cars will have the PDK double-clutch seven-speed gearbox standard.

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Cars Coming Soon->My Favorite Expensive Cars of 2011

2011 Jaguar XKR Special Edition

Let’s have some fun in this edition of Cars Coming Soon, whaddaya say? We all need to take some time to dream once in a while, and lucky for us, plenty of automakers give us seriously dream-worthy automobiles.

We’ll start with Jaguar, which is about to release its fastest XK-Series ever. The XKR Special Edition coupe will debut at the Geneva Motor Show and have an electronically limited top speed of 174 mph, along with styling features that Autoweek calls “sinister.” Cool.

Power comes from a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that makes 510 horsepower and can hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.

I’ve always been a fan of Jaguar design and believe Jags capture a British elegance better than any other automaker… and that includes Bentley.

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The Toyotathon Continues

Toyota zombie ad

New Toyota ad, featuring zombies

Here we go again, but there is some important news, including Akio’s latest press conference in which he promised new quality control and safety measures. He also declined to appear before the Congressional hearings scheduled for later this month, but will come to the U.S. to “rally workers, dealers and suppliers.”

Instead, Mr. Toyoda’s head of U.S. operations, Yoshimi Inaba, will testify. Once again, the company has made a totally bad PR move. It sends the signal that corporate operations are more important than responding to government scrutiny. Not that the people on the oversight committee are qualified to do much more than grandstand the issues.

Then there’s the company’s recent zombie ad campaign: What are they thinking??

Akio did say that Toyota is going to improve its onboard data recorders for all models (a sore point that has often been overlooked) and install brake-override systems worldwide on all future models. The NHTSA said it was demanding documents from the company to decide whether it had acted quickly enough in the sudden-acceleration recalls.

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Alfa Romeo Ready for U.S. Comeback

Will Alfa Romeo be sold in the U.S. again?

In 1995, Alfa Romeo quietly pulled out of the U.S. market with its head hung lower than Stan Humphries’ after losing that year’s Super Bowl XXIX.

The automaker was suffering from an image of poor quality and low sales, a combo that doesn’t bode well for marketing cars in North America.

Since then, there have been rumblings about Alfa Romeo coming back, including plans for a 2003 re-introduction as a result of a GM/Fiat alliance. Obviously that fell apart.

Now Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne has been quoted as saying,

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Toyota’s Loss Is Ford and Chevrolet’s Gain

Toyota logo

Toyota’s recent product recall has consumers moving product consideration toward Ford and Chevrolet models – Toyota Corolla consideration down 13%, Chevrolet Cobalt consideration up 11%.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 16, 2010 — CarGurus® (www.cargurus.com), a leading online automotive community, today announced the results of its Toyota Recall car-shopping study. For this study, CarGurus measured the change in online search volume within its car shopping product for specific recalled Toyota models. Search volumes were measured 10 days prior to and 10 days after Toyota’s January 26th product recall announcement. After the recall announcement, Toyota’s share of shopping search volume at CarGurus dropped between 6 and 16% depending on the car model (see chart below). For the top four best-selling Toyota models recalled, comparable models from Ford and Chevrolet garnered the greatest increase in search volume share.

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Green Update–>Porsche, Lexus, Volkswagen, Kia, Ford, and Short Takes

We know, we know, it still sounds crazy: the idea of an all-out racing hybrid. Yet the Porsche GT3 R makes weird sense, once you understand it. Designed for Le Mans-type endurance racing, this car has two electric motors powering the front wheels, and a 480-hp boxer six in the rear.

Instead of batteries, there’s a flywheel in the passenger seat area that stores energy from braking and releases it as extra power (up to 160 hp) on demand for acceleration. Or it simply can save on fuel and therefore weight and pit stops over the long haul. The car will debut at Geneva (March) and test at Nurburgring in May.

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