Japanese Destruction Leads to Higher Car Prices, Part II

Earthquake damage at the Toyota factory in Miyagi

Toyota has told all thirteen of its U.S. plants to prepare for a possible shutdown because of parts shortages from Japan. Honda extends its shutdown of Japanese assembly plants through April 3.

Nissan will continue producing at least until further notice and may even bring U.S.-made engines to Japan. GM stopped production in one engine plant and idled its pickup assembly plant in another. Suzuki has been out, and Mazda sees shortages ahead.

So these parts stoppages are sporadic, uncertain, and beginning to spread across the globe. The earthquake/tsunami’s effects were so horrendous that damage assessment has been slow, not to mention human rescue efforts and recovery of infrastructure. The latter will take years. You saw the pictures.

Continue reading >>>

Cars Coming Soon->Audi A9, Next-Gen Chevy Colorado, Maserati Quattroporte Replacement

Audi A9 concept

Audi’s impressive lineup of vehicles continues to grow, with the A9 about to become the latest flagship to sit atop the four-ringed stable.

The car, which will look nothing like the concept above (though the LEDs in the wheels would be cool), will add a whole new level of awesome to the Audi brand, since the A9 is rumored to be based on the same underpinnings as the coming Lamborghini Estoque sedan, the next Porsche Panamera and maybe the Bentley Continental GT.

AutoBild, according to our Google Translator, says coupe and convertible versions will come by 2014. We can hope a sedan version follows and, dare we ask for it, an S9 sedan? That’s something that should give the Aston Martin Rapide and Maserati Quattroporte a run for their money!

Continue reading >>>

The Fiskers Are Coming, The Fiskers Are Coming!

Fisker Karma

Henrik Fisker is not a guy to sell short. Many have been skeptical about his efforts to produce the Karma, a beautiful, high-performance hybrid, but he’s doing it. The first cars are coming off the line at Valmet Automotive in Finland, which also builds cars for Porsche.

The idea is to sell 7,000 units this year but to ramp up production very slowly to keep quality high.

You know about the Karma, right? Three trims, priced from $95,900 to $108,900, put the car squarely in Mercedes territory, but it will be the most exclusive, extended-range luxury EV on the planet. Every well-heeled greenie grandstander will want one.

Continue reading >>>

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet Takes On Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus RX

You gotta give Nissan credit for setting its sights high.

With its new, and extremely odd, Murano CrossCabriolet, Nissan hopes to snag buyers away from the Lexus RX, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. That’s certainly a strange mix of competitors, but at about $47K, it’s certainly priced with those vehicles. But will it actually take sales from them?

Maybe that’s not such a far-fetched proposition.

By all accounts, the Murano CrossCabriolet shouldn’t even exist. At any other automaker, the idea would have never gone further than a designer sketch or, at the most, a one-off auto show concept. A convertible SUV just isn’t on the shopping list of most carbuyers. Yet somehow the lure of creating something entirely different prevailed over common sense and the Murano convertible has been born.

Continue reading >>>

Green Update–>Gas Is Up; Diesel’s Up; Demand is Up

Our rosy, rebounding economy is still powering the American demand for gasoline, according to the American Petroleum Institute. February gas deliveries were up 4.2 percent over a year ago—a new record—and U.S. drivers were still buying, despite a near 40-cent boost in gas prices last month.

Yes, we know it hurts, and you’re probably looking at $4.00 gas this summer.

Others besides Big Oil aren’t so sanguine about the rebound. Nielsen Wire considers the budget impact of these price increases on typical households. It finds four scenarios in which increases in gas price from 10 cents to $2.00 would hit household budgets with anywhere from $10.50 to $210 per month.

Add in the Middle East uncertainties, the Japanese disruptions in supply, rising commodity prices, still-way-too-high unemployment, and the fact that household wages have not kept up with inflation—and the picture is hardly rosy.

Continue reading >>>

Japanese Destruction Leads to Higher Car Prices

Toyota Prius

Will the Prius sell for more than MSRP?

As supply dwindles and production continues to sputter, new-car shoppers are already seeing higher prices for some of the more fuel-efficient Japanese vehicles.

The cost of the imports is going up, because earthquake-related production shutdowns in Japan are reducing supply of the autos that people are increasingly snatching off dealer lots.

That’s a simple supply-and-demand equation, with cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Fit becoming more popular as gas prices get closer to $4 per gallon. It just so happens those are also two of the cars hard-hit by production slowdowns, and dealers are raising their prices, in some cases, to over MSRP.

Will a similar price increase trickle down to used cars? It’s entirely possible.

Continue reading >>>

BMW’s Most Desirable Car, the 650i Coupe

BMW 6 Series Coupe

Our own tgriffith’s heart will be broken when he reads today’s news that the outrageous Porsche 918 Spyder will officially go on sale in November at the price of $845,000. After he recovers from the cardiovascular consequences of learning this, he may take heart.

We don’t yet know the price of BMW’s new (2012) 650i (above), but it’s got to be way under $100K, which means he could likely buy nine of ’em for the cost of one Spyder, a machine not meant for public roads in any case. The 6 Series has great style, performance, and comfort, while the Spyder is a show-off, oil-sheik, ultimate toy kind of thing.

As a family man, tgriffith will be happy with the gorgeous and spacious interior of the 6 Series coupe, which his kids can trash, and he will get his kicks from the stark 400-hp, 450 lb-ft/torque twin-turbo V8. Gas mileage in the mid-20s ain’t too shabby either for a car like this. It has every kind of technological tweak you could want, described in 14 pages of press release.

Continue reading >>>

Ford Ranger Wildtrak: Ford’s Greatest Tease

Ford Ranger Wildtrak

You can cling to hope all you want, but the fact remains that the new Ford Ranger won’t be sold in the United States. Ford’s reasoning is that its new compact pickup is too close in size to the F-150, and buyers should just opt for that truck.

That reasoning doesn’t make sense, though. Ford has 5 crossovers/SUVs and 5 different cars, so by its own logic shouldn’t have a Fusion, because it offers the Taurus. And it shouldn’t have the Escape, because it has the Explorer. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet for some reason, when it comes to trucks, that’s the thinking that has prevailed.

Continue reading >>>

Car Execs Making Fools of Themselves

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Carlos Ghosn, right

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and Carlos Ghosn, right

Renault of France is not a giant automaker (third largest in Europe), but it has built good cars and is part of a rather strange and complicated alliance with Nissan of Japan. The French government owns 15 percent of Renault; Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan; and Nissan owns 15 percent (non-voting stock) of Renault.

Carlos Ghosn of Brazil runs the whole shebang and for the past two months has been at the heart of a corporate spy scandal in which he dramatically accused three senior executives of stealing and selling electric-car secrets.

But Carlos the Competent is more and more looking like Inspector Clouseau in this convoluted and continuing corporate farce.

Turns out the three were recently exonerated, and Carlos was left with more than a little egg on his face. He has duly apologized, foregone stock options, and been given a vote of confidence by the board of directors. Whew!

Continue reading >>>

Looking Into Lamborghini’s Future: Estoque Sedan, Sesto Elemento, Cabrera and More

Lamborghini Sesto Elemento Concept

Lamborghini Sesto Elemento Concept

I don’t know about you, but I need a quick escape to fantasyland.

The humanitarian situation in Japan is heartbreaking, and the nuclear crisis there gets more terrifying as each day unfolds.

I won’t look to the economy or my mutual funds to make me feel better, and I can’t afford the gas to go on a therapeutic drive. But I did find something that helps, at least momentarily, to get away from reality and provide hope that, one day, things will get better.

That hope is in Italy, and it’s funded by Volkswagen. Lamborghini is planning a series of all-new ultra-expensive vehicles, which can only mean that things will turn around… even if only for a few select people. Keep reading for a peek inside Lambo’s product plans for the coming years, and hope you’re lucky enough to be among the folks it wants to reach.

Continue reading >>>