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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Reports

Nissan May Drop Xterra From Its Line-Up

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 12:20PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan May Drop Xterra From Its Line-Up  test 1-1

What a difference a decade can make. At the turn of the millenium, auto manufacturers couldn't pump SUVs off the lines fast enough. But in 2010, they can't seem to give them a way. Blame the economy, rising gas prices, a reborn effort to save the environment and a certain self-awareness that just didn't exist a decade ago, but manufacturers are watering down old SUVs with unitized frames and swank interiors and/or killing off the SUVs of old altogether. We saw it with the new Ford Explorer; the new Dodge Durango is set to take the same direction and now another body-on-frame SUV is on the chopping block. Nissan may eliminate the Xterra from its line, leaving mid-size SUV traditionalists less options than ever.

Like any company, Nissan's decision will be guided by its bottom line. Sales of the Xterra have been floundering, with only 12,186 sold as of July this year, compared to 88,578 sold in 2000. According to Wards' numbers, automakers in general sold a total of 211,042 mid-size SUVs in 2009. Compare that to the 1.65 million they were selling back in the 2000 year, and it's painfully obvious that SUVs are simply no where near the cash cows they once were.

Combine the dismal sales of the greater mid-size market with tightening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, and you have the recipe for extinction. With CAFE standards set to rise to 34.1 mpg by 2016, a number that is fleet-wide and includes both passenger cars and light trucks like the Xterra, the Xterra's fuel economy numbers of 17 mpg combined certainly won't help Nissan's cause.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Sports Car Weekend

On: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 11:55AM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Sports Car Weekend test 1-1

The two premiere North American road racing series took to Canadian tracks this weekend, with mixed results. Both the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand Am Series ran their second to last races, ALMS at Mosposrt in Ontario, and Grand Am at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal. Both race courses are stunning, and feature heavy doses of history and elevation change. Mosposrt offers some of the best downhill straights in North America, bettered only by Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca. It’s no Spa Francochamps, but its damn close. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has one of the best hairpins anywhere in the world, the turn 10 complex. This is spectator heaven, at the bottom of a hill and set up so that it can be surrounded by race fans. Truly an excellent piece of track engineering.

Both races were entertaining, in their own way. The Rolex Grand Am race was disappointing because it is the last race before the season ender—at the dreadfully boring Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. The ALMS offering was bad for several other reasons. I've actually had serious nightmares about the ALMS folding or turning into a series dominated by GT cars. The bad and the ugly aren't going to help me sleep . . .

Analysts Predict U.S. Automotive Industry Recovery Rate

On: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 11:42AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Analysts Predict U.S. Automotive Industry Recovery Rate  test 1-1

The U.S. auto industry has historically been a primary indicator of how well the economy is doing. Therefore, financial analysts were pleased to report that in July retail auto sales were up, indicating that economic recovery was looking promising. As reported in an automotive news article it, “felt like it dodged a bullet in July when retail sales to consumers held up and confounded forecasts for a drop,” but when August rolled around, the numbers started to fall and the optimism for a quick turn-around of the recession plummeted.

But the game isn’t quite over yet; August sales will forecast the future outlook of what most experts are projecting will be a “slower-than-expected industry recovery,” just as General Motors prepares for its Initial Public Offering. 

This effect on the auto industry is said to result from consumers’ hesitancy to purchase new automobiles because of high unemployment rates and job uncertainty; simply stated, a lack of consumer confidence.

Driver Swap For Corvette At Mosport

On: Fri, Aug 27, 2010 at 4:51PM | By: John Welch

Driver Swap For Corvette At Mosport test 1-1

Corvette Racing is used to winning everything, with relative ease. That was the case during the better part of this century, when GT1 was viable and the team dominated all comers with their C5 and C6.Rs. Switching to GT2 (now simply 'GT') has caused a few wrinkles in the yellow-and-black armor, and Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Director, is doing the best to win with what he has. Namely, new cars, in a new class, but veteran drivers, all of which are consummate professionals.

They nearly took the GT2 crown at Le Mans this year; if it wasn't for Anthony Davidson and his over enthusiastic prototype piloting. Though not racing for position, or even in the same class, Davidson's Peugeot punted the GT2-leading Corvette ZR1 off the track following the Mulsanne Straight, totally uncalled for. This incident is indicative of Corvette Racing's GT2 campaign as a whole; supremely promising, but with severe setbacks. Only one win to show, the 2009 Mobil 1 Grand Prix of Mosport, does not properly illustrate the effort the team has put forth. Dynamic rules in GT1 allowed carbon brakes, relocated engines, and full-floor diffusers, not so in GT2. The GT2 Corvette ZR1 is a totally new car, with half the prowess of the old C6.R. And it hasn't worked too well so far.

With this in mind Fehan is shaking up his driver pairings. No one is losing their job, as Corvette Racing employs four of the best drivers in the world. The team is simply rearranging its line up, separating Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin. Gavin will pair with Jan Magnusson, as they did for endurances races during the 2004-'06 seasons. Johnny O' Connell and Beretta will drive together for the first time, but again, these are total professionals; there should be no serious hassle with the driver change.


Rob Partelo and Winner's Circle Racing

On: Fri, Aug 27, 2010 at 10:04AM | By: John Welch

Rob Partelo and Winner's Circle Racing test 1-1

Diving head-first into local motorsports, our sister-site, AutoShopper.com has sponsored a local circle-track stand out, Rob Patelo and Winner's Circle Racing. Tonight you have a chance to meet the team and drivers at the Pinellas Park Boys & Girls Club's Grand opening, tonight, from 5:30 until dark.

Pinellas' new Boys and Girls Club is located at 7790 61st Street N. Pinellas Park. Rob will have his late-model Chevy Impala on hand as well as his son Cole's Mini Cup Car. The Winner's Circle Team will be handing out AutoShopper.com freebies, and will be taking donations for the United Way and Boys and Girls Club. If you are in the area stop by say 'Hello', enjoy the machines and grab some AutoShopper.com swag!

Winner's Circle is a full service used car dealer, located at 4242 54th Avenue North, Saint Petersburg, FL 33714, they can be reached at 727-526-0046. With over 95 vehicles available, they have your transport needs covered. Offering full warranties, buy here pay here, and guaranteed financing, Rob is also buying cars. Search their AutoShopper.com ad for some stellar deals!

The AutoShopperBlog will be covering Rob's races, but you can meet him tonight from 5:30 to dark. One more time, here is the address:

Pinellas Park Boys & Girls Club

7790 61st Street N.

Pinellas Park, FL 33781

Not All Recalls Are Created Equal

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 5:12PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Not All Recalls Are Created Equal test 1-1

When Mazda Motor Corp. announced the most recent recall involving a half a million Mazda3 models worldwide, with defects that could potentially result in loss of power steering (which has allegedly caused at least three crashes), the press did not report. Just another of a string of recalls right? Well, maybe not; when the history of the problem is really examined some may wonder “where’s the outrage?” Which is the question the title of a recent Automotive News article poses.

When the facts are examined, it’s interesting to note that Mazda, being a Japanese automaker with its headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, instantly brings to mind a comparison with Toyota; Mazda recalling half a million vehicles with potential life threatening risks that could occur from sudden loss of power steering, and Toyota Corp. recalling thousands of vehicles for potential problems with sudden unintended acceleration. All things being equal, it seems that both automakers would receive equal press, particularly considering that Mazda, like Toyota, didn’t inform the U.S. public of its knowledge of power steering problems even though Mazda had knowledge of potential risks for fatal accidents for at least 1 year prior to the recall.

Yes, that’s right, one year. Federal regulators began an investigation in June of the Mazda3 models equipped with electronically assisted power steering as a result of complaints that had been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mazda replied with a letter dated August 12th stating: “rust that forms within the steering hydraulic system can damage a motorized pump, triggering an automatic shutdown to prevent overheating.”

Toyota Recalling 1.13 Million 2005-2007 Corolla and Matrix Models

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 3:40PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Recalling 1.13 Million 2005-2007 Corolla and Matrix Models test 1-1

The never-ending recall saga continues for Toyota as the Japanese automaker announced today that it will voluntarily recall 1.13 million Toyota Corolla and Matrix models for problems related to engine stalling. The most recent recall raises the grand total of vehicles that Toyota Motor Co. has recalled to 12.3 million globally and 10.5 million in the United States.

The recall will concentrate on engine control modules that may be defective. According to Toyota, the company received the first field report regarding the defective electronic control units in November 2005 and began an investigation in March 2006.

Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:31PM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius  test 1-1

There has long been a public push for some sort of noise-making system on hybrids that will warn outsiders of the cars' presence, and an NHTSA study last fall that found that hybrids run into more pedestrians and cyclists than gas vehicles only intensified that push. The National Federation of the Blind has been a strong voice in the push for noise-making technology, and has worked with GM toward pedestrian warning systems for the upcoming Chevy Volt. The two major auto industry groups: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturer have also called for legislation that would require manufacturers to outfit hybrids and electric vehicles with some for of audible warning system.

Well, Toyota has answered the bell and announced that it will be offering a noisemaker for Prius models beginning at the end of this month. The system will initially be available only in Japan, and arises out of work with the country's Committee for the Consideration of Countermeasures Regarding Quiet Hybrid and Other Vehicles.

Toyota described the new system in a release: "“The onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound — aimed to alert but not annoy — rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle’s proximity and movement.”

Obligitory Cop Car Article: 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:16PM | By: John Welch

Obligitory Cop Car Article: 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit test 1-1

As is the custom with every other US manufacturer, Chrysler is using a beefy law enforcement motif as a 'vehicle' (sic) for launching the Crispy-new 2011 Dodge Charger. Redesigned inside and out, the new Charger is fairly intimidating already (if spy shots are to be believed . . . which they usually are) but tack on some red'n'blues and a little mean-ass black paint and you have Cobra's next Mercury.

Reshaped headlamps, fog lamps and grille, the new Charger is the Charger the Charger should have been since the Charger name was resuscitated in 2003. Now looking sleeker, but still somewhat dated, the new Charger is none the less attractive in a crude, Chrysler sort of way. Blacked-out grille and blacked-out lamps team with performance suspension tuning, heavy-duty anti-lock vented-disc brakes (ABS), front- and rear-stabilizer bars, 18-inch performance tires on (Black) steel wheels, and two-mode police-specific Electronic Stability Control (ESC) calibration. Which adds up to an more effective crack-head buster. Or, as Dodge's media site puts it, "providing law-enforcement the best combination of tactical technology, safety, power, efficiency and an iconic design that makes any suspect stop in a panic,"

"For world-class ride and performance handling dynamics, the Dodge Charger Pursuit features a rear-wheel drive design and redesigned front and rear multi-link suspension geometries to deliver a smooth comfortable ride for law enforcement officers who spend long days protecting our streets." I guess that works . . .

Ford and Mazda Will Build Pickups in Thailand

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 1:47PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford and Mazda Will Build Pickups in Thailand test 1-1

Ford Motor Co., in partnership with Mazda Motor Corp., is planning a new endeavor to build subcompact pickup trucks in Thailand. Ford and Mazda plan to invest up to $350 million at the AutoAlliance Thailand plant in order to purchase tooling supplies, upgrade the plant, and train employees; production is gearing up to start in 2011.

Including the investment in the latest project, Mazda and Ford have invested more than $1.85 billion in the Thailand truck plant since its inception in 1995. In the past, Ford Motor Co. maintained controlling interest in Mazda, but recently reduced its stake in the Japanese automaker to only 13%.

The AutoAlliance plant was started in 2009 in order to manufacture the Mazda2 and Ford Fiestas slotted for Thailand and Southeast Asian markets. The factory currently produces Ford Ranger and Mazda B Series pickups to over 130 global markets. The new Ranger is projected to be exported from Thailand to Asian and Pacific markets, and other markets throughout the world.

According to Ford’s Asia Pacific operations head, Jim Hinrichs, “The new production line… will raise the bar in flexibility, efficiency, quality and environmentally-friendly production at AAT.”


Hyundai's Hardcore Racer

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:21AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Hyundai's Hardcore Racer test 1-1

As the member of a family that owned a 1987 Sonata, I can tell you that back then, Hyundai was not in the business of making a car it was easy to get excited about. That 1987 four-cylinder, four-speed auto transmission did about what you would expect it to do in a four-door family sedan. It wasn’t a race car, but, to its credit, it never tried to be despite my best 16-year-old efforts to imagine it as such.  

What that Sonata did do, however, was last a decade with very few complaints. Sure, the alternator went once or twice and the water pump gave up the ghost around year eight, but other than those natural auto ailments, there were no real surprises or recalls that made us give up our car before we were ready and willing to.  

Fast forward 23 years later. Today, Hyundai has taken most of those same principles that our 1987 Sonata conveyed to us, and gone from a relative punch line in the automotive community to the fifth largest auto manufacturer in the world. With a very simple strategy that could have once been called the ‘Toyota Model to Success’, Hyundai has worked tirelessly at building a brand name synonymous with economical quality for the masses. 

In 2010 Hyundai introduced the sports coupe for those masses in the Genesis Coupe. In 2011 Hyundai is bringing to the table a hardcore version of that sports car for all to enjoy—the Genesis Coupe R-Spec.