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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Reports

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.

Will Your Car Run on Google One Day?

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:29AM | By: Chris Weiss

Will Your Car Run on Google One Day?  test 1-1

Over the weekend, Google detailed some of its recent work on self-driven vehicles. The tech company is looking to leverage its expertise in mapping and software toward creating self-driven vehicles that could cut traffic accidents. In fact, Google believes that its technology could cut the 1.2 million lives lost in car accidents annually by as much as half. Far from a new undertaking, Google has already spent much time refining its car.

Google's fleet of prototype cars have already logged 140,000 miles in testing "from [its] Mountain View campus to [its] Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe."

Each car is driven with the help of technological components including mapping software, laser range finders, video cameras, and radar sensors. They're capable of sensing and adjusting to the traffic around them and navigating the roadways.

Of course, since the cars are still experimental, and experiments by definition are bound to fail at some point, Google always has a live person in the driver's seat when conducting on-road testing. That person can take over the second a glitch or problem occurs. Google didn't give any indication as to how often its driver has to grab the wheel back hold from the ghost in the machine, but was content in stating that the precautionary measure is taken every time. Next to this "back-up" driver, Google has a software engineer tracking the vehicle's software. The company also speaks to local police prior to running tests.

More Pictures and Info on the SSC Ultimate Aero II

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:26AM | By: Chris Weiss

More Pictures and Info on the SSC Ultimate Aero II test 1-1

Well, it's now mid-October, and September came and went without any big unveil event for the SSC Ultimate Aero II. After canceling a VIP event over the summer, SSC promised that it would introduce the world to its latest world-record-aspiring creation. Early last month, leaks of a Top Gear magazine feature made their way onto the Internet, followed by the actual feature in Top Gear magazine. But, there was no big event as we were looking forward to. It appears SSC was content with making the new Ultimate Aero official via Top Gear—an odd move in this day and age of big, public unveils with solid Web presence.

Well, luckily Top Gear is picking up the slack. This week, it released a few more pictures of the sultry, blue-eyed Ultimate Aero II and filled in some additional details.

Nissan Considering Free, One-Week Rental Car Loans For Leaf Owners

On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 12:31PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan Considering Free, One-Week Rental Car Loans For Leaf Owners  test 1-1

Simply defined, range anxiety is the fear of being stranded by a dead battery in an electric vehicle. Just the way your cell phone can die in the middle of a conversation, the lithium-ion battery in an EV can die out in the middle of the road. But instead of just ending a call early (which could be a positive), a dead car battery will leave you without a means of getting home, and possibly in harm's way.

Range anxiety is one of the huge obstacles that purveyors of all-electric vehicles face, and is one of the key weapons for automakers that want to sell hybrids. The technology just isn't quite there to feasibly offer electric vehicles that have ranges comparable to gas models, and without a charging infrastructure to rival the gas-fueling infrastructure, range anxiety remains a prominent concern.

Nissan is considering a new way of addressing the fear by offering a free rental of a traditional, gas-engined car for up to one week a year. The idea behind this program is that it would quell owners' fears of running out of juice on extended road trips—say when jetting across the desert between LA and Vegas—while still letting them cash in on the environmental benefits of an all-electric vehicle on more controlled trips, like the daily commute.


Lincoln Dealers Are Told To Invest Or Go Away

On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 9:30AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Lincoln MKX Steering apparatus  test 2

Ford has announced to Lincoln Dealers that they must all make a decision to either invest to keep up with new service standards, or to be one of the 200 or so franchises (out of 1,200 total) that Ford will let go.

"Dealers will decide," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas. “But the reality is that any dealer who does not agree to upgrades negotiated with Lincoln field staffers will get whatever severance compensation Lincoln offers.”

As part of a plan to improve Lincoln’s image and competitive edge, Ford is asking that Lincoln dealers meet new standards, which Ford says only about 25% of  all Lincoln dealers currently meet.

Currently Lincoln ranks very low on a list of 9 luxury brands for service, loyalty, residual value, and sales. Lincoln is the exception when it comes to Ford models that have gained popularity and earned high points for safety and reliability this year, but it was not always so for the Ford luxury brand. In 1998 Lincoln ranked as one of the top luxury cars in the U.S. with sales climbing over 187,000.

"Dealers know it's screwed up," said Bob Tasca Jr., a Rhode Island dealer and head of Lincoln's dealer council. "We are looking for a chance to change. It has to change, because the way it is isn't working."

Infiniti Mulling High-End Sports Car

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 4:00PM | By: Chris Weiss

Infiniti Mulling High-End Sports Car test 1-1

It looks like the Lexus LF-A may get a little competition from another Japanese luxury automaker: Infiniti. Rumors indicate that Nissan's better half is considering a high-performance sports car, a possible big brother to the GT-R. And the rumors come directly from the mouth of Infiniti chief Toru Saito.

The Infiniti sports car is far from confirmed, and may dissipate into thin air in the weeks and months that follow the report, but it does appear that the company is giving some serious consideration to introducing such a car. It's not entirely clear if the model would be high-end enough to compete with the Lexus LF-A and other all-out supercars, but indications are that Infiniti would base the car on the Essence concept that it showed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

The Essence concept, which bears serious resemblance to the Fisker Karma, featured a twin-turbo 3.7-liter V6 with a 158-hp electric motor that provided an electric assist function. The hybrid powertrain put out a total of 592 horses. After being introduced in Geneva, the Essence ran in the 2009 Goodwood Hillclimb.

It's not entirely clear how much of a possible production car would be based around the Essence, or if it will feature a similar hybrid powertrain.

Ford Credit Rating Raised Two Levels by Moodys

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 3:14PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford Credit Rating Raised Two Levels by Moodys test 1-1

According to Moody’s Investors Service, Ford Motor Company has achieved another rise in its credit rating, this time by 2 levels, Moody reported that Ford’s performance has “significantly exceeded expectations.” This was the 5th upgrade that Moody has given Ford in the last year, raising the Detroit automaker’s rating from B1 to Ba2. Moody stated it has a very optimistic outlook toward Ford Motor Credit Co., Ford’s finance auxiliary.

“The company is well positioned to continue generating strong earnings and cash flow through 2011, and to further strengthen its balance sheet,” J. Bruce Clark, Moody’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “At the same time that the industry’s business practices have become more disciplined, Ford is coming to market with an exceptionally strong product portfolio.”

Lewis Booth, Ford CFO, stated that moving back into investment grade for the first time since 2005 has “become a rallying cry within the company.”
Ford has been able to pay off $7 billion in debt as a result of its profitable second quarter although it continues to have more financial debt than General Motors after GM claimed bankruptcy last year.

Ford earned $4.7 billion in the first 6 months this year, the biggest first half profit since 1998. Sales of the redesigned Fusion and Taurus sedans were instrumental in propelling Ford’s sales to 21% through September of this year.

Bentley and Audi Teaming Up on 4.0-Liter V8 Engine

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 3:12PM | By: Chris Weiss

Bentley and Audi Teaming Up on 4.0-Liter V8 Engine  test 1-1

If you take a look at a list of the 10 or so least efficient cars in America, you'll see the name "Bentley" pop up more than once. The 2010 Bentley Continental GT, for instance, brings home just 11 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. When you make cars stacked with luxurious accents (read: weight) and powered with giant W12 engines, you're bound to find yourself on that uncoveted list.

With U.S. and global fuel economy regulations clamping down over the next few years, Bentley will need to find a way to cut its emissions. Toward that end, Bentley is working with Volkswagen stablemate Audi on a new engine that will help it cut its embarrassingly large footprint.

The new engine is direct-injected 4.0-liter V8 to be used in both Bentley and Audi models. So far the only model being mentioned is the dirty, ol' Continental GT, which currently uses a 6.0-liter W12 to deliver the aforementioned EPA figures. Bentley plans to offer the V8 option on the Continental GT toward the end of next year and indicates that the smaller, cleaner V8 will cut emissions by 40 percent over the W12.

Bentley's director of chassis and powertrain Brian Gush assured future Continental owners that the new engine will still deliver the Bentley experience. He told auto guide Whatcar: "We are adapting it for our purposes so that it delivers Bentley driving characteristics. It does not have a conventional layout."

Honda Declared America's Greenest Automaker

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 12:25PM | By: Chris Weiss

Honda Declared America's Greenest Automaker  test 1-1

According to a newly released study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Honda is officially the nation's greenest automaker, edging out Toyota and Hyundai. More than just a nod to high-profile green models, the study looked at the overall emissions performance of each automaker's entire fleet. Honda's win marks the fifth consecutive time it's topped the study.

Honda topped the field of eight automakers, who together made up 92 percent of the market for the 2008 model year. Toyota and Hyundai tied for second place, each just one point behind Honda. In scoring that works more like golf than basketball (less is better), the Honda received an all-around score of 86 vs. Toyota/Hyundai's 87. Trailing those three were Volkswagen (90), Nissan (93), Ford (108), General Motors (109), and Chrysler (113). I'd presume that the study was looking at the Volkswagen brand and not the entire auto group, because several of the country's least efficient cars hail from the VW group, including the least efficient (Lamborghini Murcielago) and second least efficient (Bugatti Veyron 16.4).

The USC's study looks at two deciding factors: the per-mile smog of an automaker's fleet and the global warming emissions. Each one is weighted equally. The numbers are compared with the industry average of all eight automakers to make the final score.

“It was a photo finish, but Honda is still the champ,” Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program and the author of the rankings report said in a press release. “Toyota was poised to take the lead, but stalled in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s fleet saw dramatic efficiency improvements, pushing the company into a title contender spot.”

Toyota Launches New Standard Service Plan In Hopes Of Repairing Its Reputation

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 11:32AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Launches New Standard Service Plan In Hopes Of Repairing Its Reputation test 1-1

Toyota Motor Corporation has announced its new service plan for U.S. buyers in an attempt to try to regain customer trust after the company’s “recall crisis.”  The new service plan will apply to all Toyota vehicles as well as the Scion brand.

Every new Toyota and Scion vehicle will now come standard with the new service plan that Toyota is calling "Toyota Care and "Scion Service Boost." These two new plans offer free factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.

The two maintenance plans, which go into effect this month, make Toyota the first full-line brand to offer a complimentary maintenance plan standard on all new vehicles within its lineup. Toyota began offering complimentary maintenance plans this spring as part of its seasonal sales promotion. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response from customers, both plans are now standard on new vehicle purchases across the Toyota and Scion line-up.

“The two complimentary maintenance plans were developed to help improve overall cost of ownership and provide invaluable peace of mind for our customers,” said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. “The new programs were inspired by owner feedback and once again reflect how Toyota listens to its customers.”

A recent survey indicated that as many as 73% of the customers who received the free maintenance service plan stated that it “improved their confidence in Toyota,” according to Automotive News.com.

The new plans cover all normal factory-recommended maintenance services outlined in the vehicle’s owners’ manual, including oil and filter changes, tire rotations, lubrication of key chassis parts/components, a 19-point inspection and 24-hour roadside assistance (lockout protection, flat tires, towing, jump starts, and more). Additional details are available through Toyota & Scion dealers.

The Toyota Care program is supported by an advertising campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency. The television ads began airing nationally the first week of October. The message emphasizes peace of mind and worry-free maintenance.

According to Toyota, the new service plan is the first complimentary maintenance plan offered on a full line of products by any automaker.  

Jaguar/Land Rover to Hit the Market With 13 New Models Over Five Years

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 10:59AM | By: Chris Weiss

Jaguar/Land Rover to Hit the Market With 13 New Models Over Five Years  test 1-1

A new Motor Trend report indicates that Jaguar and sister company Land Rover plan to remain very busy over the next half-decade. The companies will combine to bring no less than 13 new models to market between now and 2015.

After being sold from Ford to Indian company Tata Motors in 2008, Jaguar and Land Rover are ready to hit the market with a surge of new models. The 13-model barrage is actually already underway and began with the 2012 Rover Evoque, which Land Rover introduced over the summer and recently debuted at the Paris Motor Show. That three-door is billed as the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever and features 2.0-liter turbocharged four and 2.2-liter turbodiesel options under the hood. It will be offered with both front- and all-wheel drive configurations.

After the Evoque debuts next year, Land Rover will follow up with an all-new Range Rover in 2012, followed by a new Range Rover Sport. Both those models will be seated on the same platform. Those models will get choices of V6-, V8- and hybrid-based powertrains.

The final piece of the Land Rover puzzle mentioned by Motor Trend is a new Defender coming for 2015. That model will be offered in three different wheelbases and up to six different body styles.