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Lexus Plans New Models To Fend Off Surging Europeans And Retake U.S. Sales Crown

On: Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 10:09AM | By: Chris Weiss

Lexus Plans New Models To Fend Off Surging Europeans And Retake U.S. Sales  test 2

After more than a decade of being the US luxury leader, Lexus fell from its throne and watched both BMW and Mercedes Benz surpass it in 2011 sales. Lexus's year was complicated by production issues that arose in the wake of the natural disasters that hit Japan last March.

Lexus has no intentions of ceding its throne for long. It's also not about to sit back, make excuses about the natural disasters and expect a natural rebound. It plans to actively revitalize its US presence with the launch of a variety of new models.

Overall, Lexus has nine new or updated models to introduce this year and is also mulling moving into some new segments. The company hopes that the new models will help it to produce a 21 percent sales bounce, putting it back in the running for the US luxury market's top spot.

2013 Subaru B-R-Z: Fin-al-ly!

On: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 4:04PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

2013 Subaru B-R-Z:  Fin-al-ly! test 2

After what has felt like decades of waiting, the Toyota/Subaru sports car finally has a due date! No more hazy sketches, no more guessing numbers and figures, thankfully we can do away with the Tebow-sized hype and actually see what kind of car some of us having been saving up for.  

In Subaru guise, the BRZ looks strikingly like the offspring of a Nissan 370Z and a Hyundai Genesis coupe -- which in this case is a good thing. It sits low to the ground and sports a center of gravity a mere 18-inches off the pavement. One of the goals of this car since its conception was to be as light as possible, and at a scant 2,770-pounds, we would have to call that a success. Aerodynamic curves outside give way to a very familiar Subaru-style interior -- brushed aluminum pedals and trim pieces as well as the red-stitched seats, steering wheel and e-brake handle all give off a very sporty vibe. 

Not sporty enough? How about a tach mounted front and center on the gauge cluster to make sure you know when to pull or push that shifter, while a digital display clocks your pace through the atmosphere? Simple HVAC controls and a digital GPS/radio setup give a much more upscale feel than what the sticker says you paid for the car. 

Next Audi A8 To Incorporate Autonomous Driving

On: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 1:28PM | By: Chris Weiss

Next Audi A8 To Incorporate Autonomous Driving test 2

There's been many a whisper and shout about autonomous driving over the past few years. With the convergence of GPS technology, sensor-based safety systems and on-board computer systems, self-driving vehicles are essentially a matter of when, not if. At least that's the way it looks at the moment--I've seen enough groundbreaking, imminent technologies fail to materialize or disappear after a brief run to have a little cynicism when it comes to such things.

While Google has been doing a lot of the most publicized autonomous-vehicle work, other companies and automakers are researching technologies as well. In fact, Audi plans to use a form of the technology in its next A8.

Mini Recalls 88,000 Cars

On: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 12:00PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Mini Recalls 88,000 Cars test 2

Mini parent company BMW is bringing back 88,911 Mini Coopers from 2007 through 2011 in various trims and forms, all for the same reason -- a faulty circuit board on the auxiliary water pump used for cooling the turbocharger. Apparently this faulty piece may malfunction, overheat, and possibly catch fire -- ruining any chance of having a nice Sunday drive. 

The recall is expected to begin next month, but getting your Cooper in ahead of the crowd is certainly not against the rules. BMW will replace the circuit board free of charge.

Read on for the full report on exactly which model/years are included in this recall.


GM Looks Through 'Windows Of Opportunity'

On: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 10:22AM | By: Chris Salamone

WOO App test 2

What are automakers supposed to do as children become so entrenched in media exposure that they appear literally incapable of sitting quietly in the backseat? Surely today’s rear-seat DVD players and quasi-interactive gaming consoles won’t be enough to entertain kids of the future – when road trips will become something of an exercise in punishment. In a stroke of visionary boldness, GM has already pioneered a strategy to combat these rare moments of childhood un-productivity.

General Motors Research and Development issued a challenge to the students of FUTURE LAB (seriously) at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel to conceptualize new ways of helping rear seat passengers enjoy a richer riding experience. Their response: smart glass interface technology.

Toyota Reveals NS4 Plug-In Hybrid Concept

On: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 5:08PM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Reveals NS4 Plug-In Hybrid Concept test 2

After a few separate teasers, Toyota staged the introduction of its NS4 plug-in hybrid concept. The concept displays both a new plug-in system and an interesting take on sporty design language.

Toyota didn't issue details of the hybrid system in its press release, choosing to state simply that the NS4 uses a next-generation application of the Hybrid Synergy Drive plug-in system that underpins the upcoming Prius Plug-In. The NS4 is envisioned as a unique model, however, and not simply a member of the growing Prius family. Toyota calls it a "new mid-sized concept for potential global market introduction by 2015."

More than a look at the future of plug-in mobility, the car is a look at the styling direction that Toyota will take with upcoming models. Toyota hopes this direction makes an "emotional connection with consumers." It is defined by the forward-tilting cabin, which almost looks like a reverse sportback, and open trapezoid grille accented by a floating lower spoiler.

Malaysian Automaker Proton Sold; Is Lotus Next?

On: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 3:47PM | By: Chris Weiss

Malaysian Automaker Proton Sold; Is Lotus Next? test 2

In a move that's been rumored for several months, Malaysia's state-owned Khazanah Nasional Bhd sold its 43 percent stake in Malaysian automaker Proton. While Proton may not be a relevant or familiar name to the US auto market, one of its holdings--Lotus--is. Lotus' future remains in question with Proton's sale.

According to Bloomberg, DRB-Hicom Bhd paid the equivalent of $410 million for the 43-percent stake, which comprises 234.7 shares. DRB is an automotive assembly and distribution company that works with prominent global brands like Mercedes and Volkswagen. The company is owned by Syed Mokhtar, one of Southeast Asia's youngest billionaires.

The sale brings a new emphasis on questions surrounding Lotus' future. Lotus has been under Proton ownership since 1996, during which time it has not turned a profit. A Bloomberg report earlier this month said that many investors were getting antsy, believing that Proton should sell Lotus.

Nissan Introduces Nismo Micra Concept

On: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 12:26PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan Introduces Nismo Micra Concept test 2

Look quickly at the car above and you might think you're looking at the Juke Nismo concept from last month's Tokyo Motor Show. However, it's January not December; it's the Tokyo Auto Salon not the Tokyo Motor Show; and it's a new Nismo Micra concept not the Nismo Juke.

Nissan appears to be quite serious about putting that new headquarters to work and letting Nismo build more models. Within a little over a month, we've seen a Juke Nismo, Leaf Nismo and now a Micra Nismo. Soon, we'll stop asking which Nissan models will get Nismo versions and start asking which Nissan models won't be wrung through Nismo's Yokohama plant.

Hyundai Experiences Success In Transforming Its Image

On: Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 10:15AM | By: Chris Weiss

Hyundai Experiences Success In Transforming Its Image test 2

The past few years have been huge for Hyundai. Not two full decades ago, Hyundai was an automaker synonymous with "value" (read: cheap, low-end cars). It was an option if all you needed/could afford was an entry level vehicle, but wasn't a company you considered if you had the money for something--anything--more reliable and better equipped.

Over the course of last decade or so, Hyundai slowly started to shed its value-only image and became recognized for reliable, innovative products. The company that once occupied the bargain basement next to the epic failure known as Yugo even released a solid luxury vehicle in the Equus. In the past four years, Hyundai has twice won the North American Car of the Year Award, including a win for the Elantra at this year's awards. According to executives, the company has also experienced some tangible examples of perception change among consumers.

Video: This Is What It's Like To Ski In A Ferrari

On: Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 3:32PM | By: Chris Weiss

Video: This Is What It's Like To Ski In A Ferrari test 2

Ferrari has been nothing short of emphatic in showing off the all-wheel-drive capabilities of the new FF grand tourer. It's filmed it in every type of slick terrain possible, shown it off in the snowy mountains of Europe and used it as the vessel for a winter driving course here in the U.S. Ferrari's latest FF showcase includes two of its racing drivers, ski slopes in Italy, and red and blue gates.

Last week at Madonna di Campiglio, Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa each got into a Ferrari FF and competed head to head on a slalom course. They used red and blue FFs that contrasted with their respective gate colors.

What followed wasn't exactly a hair-raising feat of automotive cliffhangery, but more of a slow, purposeful course completion that ended in a tie. Watching two pristine Ferraris drive down a slalom course in the shadows of the jagged Italian Dolomites is an experience in itself, however, so the lack of heart-pounding competitive excitement can be forgiven.

2013 Viper Will Go On Sale To Viper Owners First

On: Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 2:03PM | By: Chris Weiss

2013 Viper Will Go On Sale To Viper Owners First test 2

We're still not all that excited about the Viper nameplate being moved from Dodge to SRT, but we are very excited for the dawn of a new snake. Rumors have been running wild on the 2013 Viper for years, and in a few months, we'll finally get to see it. "See" is the operative word there because only preexisting Viper owners will be invited to buy the model upon launch.

MSNBC reports that only Viper owners will have the chance to buy one of the first models to launch. If you don't already have a Viper, you'll have to wait until the loyalists get first pickings. The report doesn't have any details in terms of launch time frames, so we'll have to wait and see exactly what Dodge..er SRT has in mind.