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Categories: Reports

The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival, 2010

On: Sat, Oct 16, 2010 at 1:17PM | By: John Welch


The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival, 2010 test 1-1

I felt pretty lucky this morning. Not because I was up at dawn, I'm never happy about that. I was feeling lucky because I live in downtown Lakeland, FL. Every October, this area comes alive with collectible cars. Pre-war, Post-war, 60s muscle, vintage hot rods, modern supercars . . . priceless Cadillacs, Buicks, Hudsons, Fords, Chevrolets, Porsches, Ferraris . . . Corvettes, Mustangs, Vipers, and DMC-12s. A third of a mile from my front door all of these cars, motorcycles, and  assorted exotica bekoned. 6:30 wasn't so bad, for once.

I filled the memory card, stuffing it to the gills with as much polished sheetmetal as I possibly could. In the interest of whetting your appetite for eye-candy, this post contains a small sample of the first few cars to arrive at the Lake Mirror Classic. Beginning with opening ceremonies and a outdoor concert last night, the Classic will continue today and end tomorrow with a cruise through the historic boulevards of central Lakeland. Enjoy these early morning images and check back all weekend for more coverage of Lakeland's crown jewel, the Lake Mirror Classic.


Enterprise Rent-a-Car Continues to Get Greener With Coda Electrics

On: Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 3:53PM | By: Chris Weiss


Enterprise Rent-a-Car Continues to Get Greener With Coda Electrics test 1-1

The Coda electric car might not be as well-publicized or anticipated as the Nissan Leaf, but the car will appear alongside the Leaf at Enterprise rental outlets in select states. In a continued effort to distinguish itself as a more eco-friendly car rental operation, and to give its customers access to new EVs, Enterprise announced that it will be adding a fleet of 100 Codas by next year.

Enterprise has not made a final determination as to what markets will get the 100 Coda EVs. Coda is set to launch its vehicles in California sometime next year, and Enterprise plans to make California a market for Coda rentals. What cities in California and what other areas will be added remains an unknown, though Columbus, Ohio has been speculated as one possible market.

A relatively unhyped electric vehicle, Coda comes from California-based start-up Coda Automotive. The electric cars feature a 134-hp electric motor. The company uses a unique 33.8 kWh lithium-iron phosphate battery that provides a different look from the lithium-ion batteries that are more common among EVs and hybrids. Range varies between 90 and 120 miles, and a battery management system displays projected ranges based on driving conditions (traffic, aggressive driving, and open-road cruising). Not likely to be particularly popular with Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts to compete with, the Coda will carry a base price of $44,900, well more expensive than either the Volt or Leaf. It offers far less of a range than a Volt and a comparable range to a Leaf.


V8-Based Bentley Continental GT to Get Audi S Tronic Transmission

On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 4:59PM | By: Chris Weiss


V8-Based Bentley Continental GT to Get Audi S Tronic Transmission test 1-1

Audi and Bentley are known to be working jointly on a 4.0-liter V8 engine that will be used in the Continental GT and Audi models. The latest indications are that Bentley will also share a transmission with Audi for the V8 Continental GT. In an effort to appeal to the buyers it has in mind for the V8 Continental, Bentley will equip it with Audi's S Tronic transmission.

The S Tronic transmission is a sporty, dual-clutch transmission. The S Tronic set-up uses two wet clutches, one for odd-numbered gears and one for even numbers, to ensure seamless power flow, short, decisive gear shifts, and smooth acceleration. The S Tronic provides for both manual and automated shifts.

Bentley believes that the buyer for the V8 Continental GT will be a different breed than that of the W12 model. Sales and marketing chief Alasdair Stewart said: "The V8 will find a new audience for us. There are sports car enthusiasts out there, particularly in the US, who won’t buy a sports car unless it’s powered by a V8." 

The Crewe crew believes that the S Tronic gearbox will appeal to sports car fans over the ZF automatic transmission used in the current W12-based Continental. The company is currently assessing how the underbody of the car will need to be changed to fit the S Tronic hardware. A feasibility study will determine if the S Tronic is the right solution for Bentley.


Chevy Volt, What The Heck Is It?!

On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 11:53AM | By: John Welch


Chevy Volt, What The Heck Is It?! test 1-1

The controversy surrounding the Chevy Volt has turned into the sort of PR nightmare that General Motors is famous for, and has famously tried to avoid. Is it a hybrid? An electric car? A plug-in hybrid?! Any categories I'm forgetting? I can give you my personal opinion, which I have formulated over the last week by myself. This isn't the AutoShopper's opinion in any way—we have had a constant inter-office argument going since Monday. Each editor has his own thoughts on the Volt and what exactly it is; they are welcome to share their thoughts in the comments . . . so are you, dear AutoShopperBlog reader!

The media, including our blog, has muddied a few of the issues here. A hybrid car, by definition, consists of an electric motor piggybacked on top of an internal combustion engine. The Volt, by comparison, features an internal combustion engine piggybacked on an electric motor. Okay, so, by definition, the Volt isn't a hybrid, contrary to what Motor Trend and others seem to think. The Volt does not operate without its electric engine, its main source of locomotion, so clearly, it doesn't fit in the box created by the accepted definition of a "hybrid".


 

CNN Recognizes ALMS, Covers Petit Le Mans

On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 10:05AM | By: John Welch


CNN Recognizes ALMS, Covers Petit Le Mans test 1-1

Despite rumors suggesting the American Le Mans Series has no television package for 2011, the series ended 2010 with as much media exposure as it could have possibly hoped for. Being the second stop of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the event welcomed many news outlets and organizations from overseas, and recieved an unusal amount of coverage from our own North American outlets.

One such member of the media elite, CNN, sent a crew up to Braselton to cover the pre-race ceremonies at Petit. They did an excellent job, speaking with every important personality they could find in the paddock. It appeared that CNN, like all North American news outlets, had never witnessed big time sports car racing before. They made up for their lack of knowledge by asking the right questions, of the right people. Scott Atherton, Doug Fehan, Patrick Long, Giancarlo Fisichella, Allan McNish, Scott Sharp were all interviewed in this piece, and all had interesting things to say. Other North American Series may wonder why attendence and viewership is down; could it be that American race fans are more interested in variety and competition than who the drivers are married to? HHhmmm, food for thought . . .


New Auto Trade Agreement Between Korea And Europe May Be Detrimental To Ford And Fiat Exports

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 4:35PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


New Auto Trade Agreement Between Korea And Europe May Be Detrimental To Ford And Fiat Exports test 1-1

Ford Motor Company and Fiat are among the automakers that fear the South Korean export agreement with Europe may allow for importing inexpensive imports from Korea into Europe. Ford and Fiat are concerned that the agreement may result in an influx of cheap Korean cars that would compete with compacts made by Ford Motor Company and Fiat.

At the Paris auto show last week, Ford CFO Lewis Booth felt that the agreement is "very one-sided in favor of Korea." Ford reported a profit of over $300 million for its European sales in the 2nd quarter this year.  

On the other hand, Hyundai, Kia, and Chevrolet all claim there will be benefits resulting from the agreement. According to Chevrolet Europe chief Wayne Brannon: "We are optimistic this will help us. It makes building cars in Korea for Europe more affordable." General Motors exports the Chevrolet Aveo and Spark from Korea to Europe and the agreement is projected to double its European sales in the next 6 years.

The European Automakers Association (ACEA) is not necessarily against the agreement, but feels that it gives Korea an unfair advantage in the marketplace, and may set a bad example for future contracts between Europe and other world trading organizations.

In the U.S., a free trade agreement with Korea is currently on hold as the Obama administration addresses reports an “alleged imbalance in car trade,” according to Auto News.com.


Toyota Prius Family To Get a Little Bigger By 2013

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: Chris Weiss


Toyota Prius Family To Get a Little Bigger By 2013 test 1-1

Despite being the best-selling hybrid around, the Toyota Prius isn't quite for everyone. Some may need or want more interior space to fit their families and all their haulage, and some may feel the Prius isn't small and efficient enough. Both those segments will be getting the Prius they yearn for in just a few short years.

According to a Wall Street Journal report based on discussions with two dealers that were briefed at a company dealer conference last week, Toyota will be introducing both a smaller and a larger Prius to market by the end of 2012. The larger model will give drivers 50 percent more interior space while the smaller model will be comparable in size to the Yaris.

Toyota is already the world leader in hybrid sales, and the two new Prius models will be among six new hybrids that Toyota plans to introduce over the next two years. Since its introduction in 1997, the Prius has sold to the tune of two million, and Toyota plans to drive hybrid sales to the point of a million per year with its expanding family. It hopes to offer a hybrid version of every one of its vehicles by the 2020s.

Another model that's expected by the end of 2012 is the Prius Plug-In. It features the same engine/motor combination as the standard Prius: 98-hp 1.8-liter engine with an 80-hp electric motor, but uses a lithium-ion battery instead of a nickel-metal-hydride battery. The plug-in can travel for up to 13 miles under electric-only driving and can recharge in three hours.


Another Pagani One-Off: The Zonda 750

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 3:34PM | By: Chris Weiss


Another Pagani One-Off: The Zonda 750  test 1-1

Pagani is still in the process of testing and developing its next-generation, Zonda-replacing supercar: the C9. While that car continues to get snapped by stealthy photographers at tracks and roadways around the world, Pagani whiles away the days before its release, making the Zonda even more exclusive for wealthy customers. The blue Zonda HH was revealed back in August, and now word of the next one-off Zonda has made its way out. The Zonda 750 will be a purple model based on the Zonda Cinque hard-top.

There isn't a whole lot of information about the Zonda 750, but a half-hearted educated guess tells us that it will pack 750 horsepower. That means the Mercedes Benz  AMG 7.3-liter V12 used in the Cinque will be tuned up from its stock 678-hp and 575 lb-ft. That engine will likely be paired to the Cinque's paddle-controlled sequential six-speed transmission, but the gearbox could change, based upon the customer's preferences.

Debuted in 2008, the Zonda Cinque was Pagani's street-legal version of its Zonda R race car. The Cinque used a carbon-titanium chassis, as well as other titanium, carbon and magnesium components, to keep weight down to 2,670 lbs. That plus the big V12 engine powered the Cinque to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds and all the way up to 217 mph.


Chrysler 200: Different, But Is It Different Enough?

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 2:48PM | By: John Welch


Chrysler 200: Different, But Is It Different Enough? test 1-1

The name "Sebring" should make most people think of endurance racing at its finest: prototypes and sports cars crunching fenders while battling the gnarliest conditions in the road racing world. Unfortunately, almost no one thinks of the magical Central Florida Mecca that is Sebring International Raceway; instead, most individuals immediately identify "Sebring" as a Chrysler automobile, and a disappointing one at that. Former Chrysler Sebrings, coupe, sedan or convertible, have never lived up to the legend that is their namesake. In fact, they have been so grossly out-classed by their competition, so universally panned by the press, so totally uninspiring that Chrysler now feels the need to distance itself from the name "Sebring". The Sebring's replacement is called the "200". Real original. The damage done to an absolutely hallowed proper noun, "Sebring", can never be undone. Thanks, Chrysler, you jerks.

At first glance, a glance that is totally manipulated by Chrysler's penchant for "teaser" photos, the 200 looks like a radically improved car. The styling is radically improved, at least. Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this car is just a Sebring in a fancy wrapper. Slick headlights and a reshaped grille do not a segment leader make. Is Chrysler delusional, or are they just filling a wide and glaringly obvious gap in their new model lineup? Looking at the 200's C-pillar, one cannot help but be put off by this car. There is a good chance that this abomination (If you hadn't noticed, the sullying of the name "Sebring" has annoyed me to no end) will be the same rental-fleet-ready disaster that its predecessor was—doomed to be scorned by all who have any idea what the phrases "quality product" and "soft touch materials" mean.


Ohio Dealer Running for Congress Faces Two Lawsuits

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 10:22AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Ohio Dealer Running for Congress Faces Two Lawsuits test 1-1

Ohio auto dealer, Tom Ganley is running for Congress this year. Ganley is a 67-year-old Republican who is on the board of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and he faces two lawsuits pertaining to his professional conduct that is bringing unsolicited press to his political campaign.

Ganley Auto Group, located in Cleveland, is one of Ohio’s largest dealership groups with 28 franchises in 17 locations, including Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, and Volkswagen. Ganley has received criticism from other dealers for condemning the cash for clunkers program last year after selling a total of $20 million vehicles in the program.    
Russell Harris, former on-staff attorney for Ganley, claimed he was fired after he questioned Ganley about the dealer’s testimony during Chrysler arbitration hearings last year.

Ganley had stated in his testimony that Chysler delivered hundreds of inadequate vehicles, that had not been ordered, to his dealership, causing his sales to suffer. Those complaints were never substantiated by witnesses, and Harris concluded that he was unable to prove Ganley’s claims. Ganley maintains he fired Harris “on the spot for some of his conduct and performance at the arbitration,” Brent Buckley, Ganley’s current lawyer, said. Ganley’s claim was an attempt to win back reinstatement of 3 dealerships that Chrysler had closed, in the end he withdrew his claim and settled with Chrysler.


Silver Is The New Black Of Automobile Colors

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:38AM | By: Chris Weiss


Silver Is The New Black Of Automobile Colors  test 1-1

If you look hard enough, chances are that you'll find a study to answer the most trivial of questions. This is certainly true in the automotive world, and in this case, a study by PPG Industries, a Pittsburgh-based automotive coatings company, lends some evidence to the most popular car color on the road. Surprisingly, it's neither white or black, but a combinaiton of the two: grey/silver. Nearly a third of all 2010 cars in the U.S. and Canada come shaded in silver/grey/charcoal.

PPG's data shows that cars in the silver category account for 31 percent of all cars. White and black are the next most popular colors, but lag far behind silver, capturing just 18 percent each. Behind those neutrals, red shows up at the three spot with 11 percent, and blue follows closely with 10 percent. The category PPG calls "naturals," which includes orange, brown, gold, tan, and yellow, comes in fifth with 8 percent. Green is the least popular color, capturing just 4 percent.

Not only does silver dominate in this year's study, it tops it for the 10th consecutive year. This year was its strongest showing since PPG began collecting data, topping last year's 25 percent and 2008's 20 percent.

While colors like silver, black, and white may be considered rather plain and boring—especially when put against fancy, proprietary options like "Deep Bordeaux" and "Moonshine Blue"—they tend to look good across makes and models, unlike brighter colors, which don't complement every car design. I was a little surprised to see silver score so high over white and black—thinking about my average trip down the highway, I would have sworn white was more popular—but when I considered that the silver category related to grey and charcoal, as well as pure silver, it made more sense.