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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry

Categories: Reports

Two Races In Four Days: Grand (Am) Insanity

On: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 3:38PM | By: John Welch

Two Races In Four Days: Grand (Am) Insanity test 1-1

Last week, the race was at Lime Rock, this week Watkins Glen. Using the word "week" to describe Grand-Am's recent schedule is a wee bit excessive. The Lime Rock portion of this cavalcade of road racing madness took place last Monday, Memorial Day. While the rest of us ate pork and drank Schlitz, Rolex Sports Car teams were dueling each other on a new (to Grand-Am) circuit. Afterwards, while we were faking sleep on the couch to avoid dishes, these teams were driving 18-wheelers filled with racecars and race paraphernalia north, to Watkins Glen New York. Where, after just four short days, they will unload and begin terrorizing the Catskills countryside with the sounds and tremors of 40 angry, dinosaur-fueled sports cars. Almost makes a person forget about that whole "oil spill" thingee. Almost.

Though domination by the Ganassi BMWs was every knowledgeable know-nothing's prediction (yours truly included) the blue and white Riley was crippled two laps into the race—the outcome of a scuffle with the championship-contending No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Chevrolet. This incident left the door open for the SunTrust/Wayne Taylor Racing team, who were starting the race from the pole position. Max Angelli drove a smooth race and brought the SunTrust Dallara its first victory of the season.

A video review of Lime Rock and a preview of the Sahlens 6 Hours at the Glen inside the post . . .

GM Sets Sights Upon Growing Indonesian Auto Market

On: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 12:19PM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Chevy Cruze test 2

If you are curious about how GM is doing, guess what: They are doing great! Not only have they been repaying their loans, and on time—and actually early on some—but they are really making strides to expand their market. Next stop: Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world, and one of the world's hottest and fasting growing auto markets. And, to boot, people in Indonesia love the current US president (who lived there as a kid), and they also adore GM, namely, Chevys! So for GM, the next stop is Indonesia, particularly the capitol city, Jakarta.

According to a recent report published in the Detroit Free Press, General Motors “aims to capture at least 10% of the Indonesian market, which is viewed as holding the potential to substantially increase the automaker's overall sales and help boost the bottom line.”

The carmaker has been seeing some pretty good sales in this region as of late, as well. Showing some strong and steady gains in the market and really pushing sales of their very popular Chevy Cruze—a newer and sleek, very affordable four-door sedan that GM is making. An interesting perspective here on the popularity of this car is that it comes with the endorsement of the US President, Barrack Obama.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, M. Juansyah (a salesman for Chevrolet in Jakarta) said, “President Obama signed the car. This makes it kind of interesting to customers. It showed that President Obama himself is interested in buying this car. So why don't you? Obama is very well known here."

AutoNation Streamlines Sales Predictions

On: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 11:51AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

AutoNation Streamlines Sales Predictions test 1-1

If you are looking to get into a brand new pickup truck, you are not alone. In fact more people bought pickup trucks in the US during the past month (May) than they have in recent years. How much has this truck buying trend increased, you may be wondering? According to a recent report by CNBC, truck sales in the US are up a whopping 50% from the same time last year. More people are buying more trucks, and thanks to massive dealer incentives, rebates, and lighter financing restrictions, this is a trend that should hopefully continue well into the future.

Over the months that lay ahead it should be far easier to see what the real numbers are for truck sales in the US. This is because one of the leading auto sales companies in the US, AutoNation, is going to start releasing monthly reports to aid consumers and news sources. This new reporting method should serve to work wonders for analysts, buyers, and just about anybody who is interested in how the US truck market is currently faring.

According to a recent report published on CNBC, “AutoNation, the country's largest vehicle sales company, is now giving us some insight. Starting today, AutoNation will begin releasing its own monthly sales figures, and will provide more detail than the big auto companies.”

AutoNation also has reported a vast surge in sales for the month of May, 2010. In fact, they are up around 22% overall. And, pickup truck sales saw a vast increase in overall units sold, to the tune of a 50% increase from this same time last year. The CNBC report really offers some solid perspective on what the current numbers are, and what automakers that are manufacturing and selling pickup trucks in the US are experiencing, as far as overall sales in the month of May.

In the CNBC report they highlight these aspects, “For May, AutoNation's sales were up 22 percent, matching what we saw from some of the big automakers, including Ford (NYSE: F - News), General Motors, and Toyota (NYSE: TM - News). But get this: Pickup truck sales were up 50 percent year-over-year. That's a huge sign of strength for American small businesses, according to AutoNation Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson.”

German Auto Exports Rose by Nearly 50% in May

On: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 9:59AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

German Auto Exports Rose by Nearly 50% in May test 1-1

Germany: The home to some pretty well-known automakers—like Daimler AG, Porsche SE, Volkswagen AG, and BMW AG—is also following what seems to be the melody of rising car sales on a global scale. After taking a look at some recent news reports, indications are that sales of auto exports from Germany are up nearly 50% for the month of May; this is sorta kinda on par with a global trend of rising auto sales. (See a prior post I wrote about the Indian auto industry enjoying similar rising sales trends by clicking here.) Considering all of the recent calamity that has ensued in the auto market globally over the past few years, one has a good mind to think that this burgeoning trend can denote a final passage of the auto recession, as more consumers opt to purchase import cars from Germany and abroad. And some of these cars don’t come cheap: They are sought-after, coveted luxury autos like BMWs and Porsches.

According to an early June Associated Press report, “ 'German car exports increased by nearly half in May compared to a year earlier but sales continued to slide at home', an industry group said Wednesday.”

The report further sheds some light on how vast this increase of production in car exports from Germany really is: “Germany exported 367,700 cars last month, an increase of 46 percent compared with May 2009," said the VDA group, which represents automakers. That followed a 58 percent year-on-year rise in April. Orders from abroad were up 22 percent in May compared to a year earlier, rising for the 10th consecutive month. China and the United States have provided strong demand this year, VDA said.


How The Tide Turns; Quick US Sales Update

On: Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 12:23PM | By: John Welch

Things are getting brighter in downtown Detroit test 2

Spring has sprung and, in some cases, stank. Sales reports for May are smiling on the Big Three, helping boost confidence in our once extremely shaky domestic auto industry. As far as GM is concerned, 'everything's comin' up Milhouse'!

General Motors stuck with its 2010 forecast of 11.3 million to 11.8 million U.S. light-vehicle sales for the industry, and used this foresight to nail their sales targets. GM, which yesterday marked the anniversary of its 2009 bankruptcy filing, saw overall sales rise 17 percent. All three Detroit automakers beat analysts' average forecasts by at least 6 percentage points.

Every major automaker reported a double-digit spike in U.S. sales—all except poor downtrodden Toyota. In May, the light-vehicle sales rate hit its highest level since December. The incentives offered during Toyota's March sales push increased sales by only 7 percent, Toyota's worst sales performance since posting declines in January and February during recall kafuffles. After recent global recalls of more than 8 million vehicles Toyota is still struggling to fix its image.

Inside the post you will find all of the hard numbers for all of the automakers currently selling cars in the U.S...

Indian Car Industry Expected to Grow 25%

On: Wed, Jun 2, 2010 at 9:50AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Indian Auto Industry test 2

According to a late May report published on BS Motoring, “The passenger vehicle industry is poised to record another good month in May, at an estimated 25 per cent growth in sales vis-à-vis the same month last year. This came on the back of a low base, revival in demand and a larger number of models compared to the same period last year. However, the absolute numbers are likely to be slightly lower than in April, when the industry registered its highest-ever growth of 33.9 per cent, at 1,82,182 units, in a decade.”

So indeed, as you can see, even in April the industry recorded its highest growth ever, in the history of auto-making. Hardly something that you would say is a decline, or stunted growth. So it does look like the carmakers are really pushing to get new cars and used cars on the road as more consumers recover from the recession, and finally undo those belts that they have had so tight over the past few years in order to meet their monthly obligations. In short: More people are buying more new cars, and that’s a really good thing!

In the same BS Motoring report, Vishnu Mathur (the director-general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) projects the sales boom to keep going, “With new emission norms and the confusion pertaining to it, there have been fluctuations in sales in May and we expect the sales would be the same or slightly lower than April. However, it will continue to be significantly higher than May last year and we expect the growth momentum to continue.”

The industry for new cars and used cars in India looks pretty good, too. According to Arvind Saxena, the director of sales and marketing at Hyundai Motor India, who stated in the same BS Motoring report that, “We should see mid double-digit growth in May, with the i10 and i20 being in great demand.”

And growth for GM is looking up as well in India. P Balendran, the vice-president of GM India explained in the same article on BS Motoring that, “While the wholesale numbers would be the same or slightly lower than April, retail sales are expected to be higher, as companies are offering discounts on several models.”

GM projects that they will have sold around 8,000 units, in India during the month of May.

Honda's New EV-neo Electric Scooter Set to Debut in Dec in Japan

On: Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 9:45AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Honda EV-neo Electric Scooter test 2

According to a recent press release Honda issued, they have plans to start selling their new electric scooter (EV-neo) in Japan by December of 2010. The car company is touting this as something that could really change the way that people get around in a country where there are very narrow streets and scooters are a very popular form of transportation. The press release really offers the whole scoop on this cool-looking and zero emission-producing electric scooter.

Press Release from Honda

TOKYO, Japan, April 13, 2010 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. revealed the latest prototype of the EV-neo electric scooter and announced plans to begin lease sales in Japan in December 2010 to businesses and individual business owners that provide mainly delivery services.
Honda developed the EV-neo, an electric scooter designed to provide the durability necessary for commercial use, envisioning a wide range of uses by businesses such as delivery services. Equipped with a lithium-ion battery and a brushless motor, EV-neo realizes excellent environmental performance with zero CO2 emissions in use. The battery is rechargeable using a household power source with attention given to the range per charge. Moreover, EV-neo provides performance equivalent to that of mass-market under-50cc gasoline engine motorcycles realizing a powerful ride even with cargo by leveraging the characteristics of a high-torque motor even at a low speed ride.

Under the key words of "quiet and clean" Honda held the world premier exhibition of the EV-neo concept model (under the name EVE-neo) at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show in 2009 as one of Honda's new-generation personal mobility products which will contribute to the realization of a low-carbon society while transporting people and cargo. The mass-market model of EV-neo is currently under development.

Honda will continue providing products with excellent environmental performance to more customers in order to contribute to global CO2 emission reduction efforts.”

This electric scooter – as you can see from the pictures above and in the slideshow – is very sleek and modern looking. But it also has some pretty amazing technology that is at work inside of it too. The car uses a newer and very powerful Lithium-ion battery that is made by Toshiba. According to their website (www.honda.com) the EV-neo will offer, “With quick charger: Approximately 80% of the battery capacity will be charged in 20 minutes (200V power source).” So you can really charge that battery up in a hurry, less than half an hour; wow! If you don’t have their quick charger it will take a bit longer to charge your scooter up, “With regular charger: 100% of the battery capacity will be charged in approximately 4 hours (100V power source).

Harmon Kardon Climbing Back on Top as Car Sales Revive

On: Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 8:56AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Harmon Kardon test 2

When you first step foot—or sit—inside one of the many very fine luxury cars that are out there these days, many people don’t think of the audio system that is in that car. In fact, I would be willing to bet that most people who drive these cars don’t even know that Harmon Kardon makes audio systems for some pretty fancy rides. Cars like BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benz; to name a few. According to a recent report published on Barrons, “Sales of audio and other equipment to auto makers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi account for 70% of the company's sales.”

If you could—because I know that I certainly would—would you choose to drive a luxury car? If, say, money were no object, would you desire that feature-loaded ride with a voice-activated audio system that interfaces with an MP3 transmitter to your iPod and even docks it while you drive? Or one with a touch screen Harmon Kardon GPS navigation system that will always get you where you are going safe and sound? For certain these things can be easily added to any car; you can just buy them and install them. But if you ask me, features like the Harmon Audio and GPS systems are staples that really make such luxury cars like BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benz, and others in the pack really stand out.

And Harmon—while showing dismal numbers recently, and falling stocks—is not going anywhere soon. Indeed, rather, it's quite the opposite. The company is on a strong track for success. And here is why.

The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo

On: Mon, May 31, 2010 at 10:24AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo test 1-1

BMW is well known for producing luxury sports sedans and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is no exception. The Gran Turismo combines the precision handling of the 5-Series sport sedan with a hatchback body style that adds plenty of cargo space for passengers and their gear. At first glance, this car resembles a cross between the X6 and a BMW 7 Series sedan. The Gran Turismo shares much of its engineering with the 7-series that BMW launched last year as well as the 2010 5-series.

According to BMW, the car combines “the best attributes of an elegant sedan, a contemporary Sports Activity Vehicle and a classic Gran Turismo" (a Gran Turismo is a vehicle with the performance of a sports-car with luxury features and added cargo space). The 550i's twin-turbo direct-injected 4.4-liter V-8 puts out 400 hp and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. Combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the car can go from 0-60 mph in as little as 5.4 seconds.

The Saab 92 Could be Coming Back Soon (as Well as a Newer 9-3 Model)

On: Mon, May 31, 2010 at 12:12AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Saab 92 Concept test 2

There have been lots of people who have been wondering about the future of Saab as of lately. This is for good reason too. After the fall of the Big Three automakers and GM's selling of their stakes in Saab to a European company, many owners were a bit concerned. I would have been too, because a new owner (of Saab) could change the entire spectrum.

Saab could alter vehicle warranties or make the availability of parts scarce; but such is not the case my friends, rather quite the opposite. The outlook for the carmaker is as bright as the sun, and looking better each day. Saab has a brand new concept car that is in the works, dubbed the 9-3, and the revival of the coveted Saab 92, that is sure to entice car buyers the world afar.

In a report that was recently published by Motor Trend, the founder of Spyker (who now owns Saab), Victor Muller, offered some insight into the revival of the ever so coveted Saab 92 series of cars, stating, “The Saab 92 is definitely the missing link in the portfolio of Saab cars. And this is clearly what we want to bring to the market, really soon.”

Porsche Was the Original Innovator of Hybrid Cars in the Early 1900s!

On: Sat, May 29, 2010 at 10:47AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Lohner Porsche Hybrid Car test 2

There are a lot of people out there that think that hybrid cars and electric cars are something rather new (myself included here). But in actuality, they have been around for a lot longer than you may have ever thought. Another interesting factoid is that the original maker of the world’s first truly electric cars and hybrids was none other than Porsche. I know that this may be—or may seem—hard to believe at first glance; I sure didn’t think that this was true. But as you read on, I aim to reveal to you my findings. After coming across some rather interesting and eye-opening information on the history of electric cars and hybrids in the United States, I was quite intrigued to learn their moniker. And indeed, as I found out, Porsche was the pioneer of the very first electric cars and hybrids. Here is the kicker, the ice cream sundae-topper and the deal-maker: They were making these hybrid and electric cars way back in the early 1900s!

Before I delve any further into this, it begs to ask one question: If we had this technology for over a hundred years—and then some—why is it only as of late that hybrid cars and ‘green’ cars, like electric and solar-powered cars, are finally making their debuts? One has a good mind to think that the oil companies were not that enchanted at the prospect of losing business, to the tune of trillions of dollars. Because if you really think about how much gas Americans have consumed over the past 100 years or so, that’s quite a pocketful of goodies that have been earned! But if we had only embraced this hybrid technology far earlier, one has a good mind to think that we would be leaps and bounds from where we sit presently—as it relates to the overall technology of these cars, and our precious and fragile, deteriorating environment.

Also, it makes one ponder if we would have been able to avoid terrible and devastating environmental disasters, like the BP Gulf Oil Spill?