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Nissan Strives To Retain Profits While The Japanese Yen Rises

On: Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 5:06PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Nissan Strives To Retain Profits While The Japanese Yen Rises test 1-1

For financial analysts, spending their days surrounded by facts, figures, and spreadsheets is an everyday occurance. These are the financial gurus who tell us what is right and wrong with the economies of the world. Their pronouncements always have a ripple effect across the globe. Recent analysis has shown that the strong performing Japanese yen has forced Japanese automakers, such as Nissan, to rethink their American export business. Instead of shipping their cars from Japan, it is more economical to build them here. First on the agenda is 100,000 Rogues which are scheduled to be built at Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.

Mercedes Officially Going Electric With the SLS AMG E-Cell

On: Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 2:23PM | By: Chris Weiss

Mercedes Officially Going Electric With the SLS AMG E-Cell test 1-1

Originally introduced last summer, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell is officially go, widening the very slim all-electric supercar market. Mercedes announced the news on Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and tied it into the 125th birthday of the [Benz-invented] automobile.

The SLS AMG E-Cell (which will undoubtedly come in some more flattering colors than that flourescent yellow job) (I hope) puts an electric spin onto Mercedes' gullwinged supercar, delivering 525 hp and 649 lb-ft of torque through a series of four electric motors. The motors are powered by a 48 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Cadillac Back On Track: The CTS-V Coupe SCCA

On: Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 12:37PM | By: John Welch

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA test 2

Cadillac has been here before. In 2000 General Motor's luxury arm commissioned Riley Technologies to build a chassis for Le Mans. Utilizing the then-popular World Sports Car prototype platform, Riley (named 'Riley and Scott' at the time) produced the Cadillac Northstar LMP. Modified by Nigel Stroud in 2001 and completely replaced by the purpose-built Cadillac LMP02 in 2002, the Northstar featured a very Audiesque 4.0 liter V8, complete with twin turbos and 90 liters of race gas.

None of these cars did very well in competition, failing to win anything, ever. Cadillac cut its losses at the end of 2002 and sat on their blemished laurels until 2004 when they decided to give GT racing a shot. Having just released the CTS-V, Cadillac saw an opportunity to use racing success as a marketing tool. What a novel idea.

No two ways about it, the CTS-V has always been a Badass. The street car was a breath of fresh air from Detroit. It had everything recent American cars were lacking: rear drive, third pedal, four doors, and slick styling. Love it or hate it, the styling turned heads. There were still plenty of old-Detroit issues such as flimsy-built quality, cheesy buttons, weird seating position, and that curve-free styling, but it was the coolest thing to come out of Michigan since Tim Allen. Who isn't all that cool.

Again employing Riley Technologies, Cadillac had a 73% stock-derived GT chassis built, slammed its 5.7 liter small block right against the firewall, and went racing. In 2005 they took the SCCA World Challenge title with ease; driver Andy Pilgrim never finishing lower than 10th in any race. He also didn't win any races, but that's neither here nor there; the CTS-V won two in 2004 and continued to win until the last customer cars was re-bodied in 2008.

Long story short: Cadillac has the thirst again. If their racing ventures get more serious with each attempt, and the last go at it was pretty serious, then this new CTS-V Coupe must be dead serious. Just look at it; the sheetmetal draped over the chassis and visually melting into the tarmac, the elegant endplates on the rear wing, the impossibly low front clip. This thing means business; pop inside the post to uncover its sporting credentials . . .

The Next 300

On: Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 10:54AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

The Next 300 test 1-1

If you didn't notice something a little special about the first Chrysler 300 back in 2004, it's possible you came upon this article by accident, and you really aren't much a car buff at all. It may have been hard to describe, but for most of us, there was something about the 300 that just said, "Yea, I dig it!" Maybe it was the fact that it was one of the first true rear-wheel drive American sedans we've seen outside of a Cadillac. In fact, it was the first RWD sedan from Chrysler in 15 years. Or maybe it was that it harked back to fond memories of big sedans of the 50s and 60s that displayed a visible heft and didn't try to be anything but a solid luxury car for the masses. 

If you didn't notice any of the 300's styling, then you probably weren't one of the several hundred thousand to purchase one since its inception. To put it in perspective, 300 sales eclipsed the 300,000 mark in its first 25 months. But, have no fear because instead of running out to your nearest Chrysler dealer and picking one of the last remaining 2010 models out there, you will have a chance to be on the forefront of a new generation of Chrysler's popular flagship. The new-for-2011 Chrysler 300 promises to be better than its predecessor in almost every way ... Almost.


NAIAS 2011: Automakers Need Leaner Mid-Sized Pickups

On: Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 10:25AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

NAIAS 2011: Automakers Need Leaner Mid-Sized Pickups test 1-1

There is the pre-Detroit auto show buzz, the ongoing Detroit auto show buzz, and the post-Detroit auto show buzz. That’s a lot of buzz to sort through. Entering into the pre-show discussions is Jamie Hresko, VP of GM’s global powertrain engineering, who predicts that the days of the full-sized pickup being the GM’s No. 1 selling vehicle might be waning. He also says the same about Ford’s mighty F-Series line of pickups. The reality is that by 2025, automakers need to comply with new fuel economy standards. That puts a bull’s-eye squarely on gas guzzling heavy duty trucks.

Audi Discusses New 3D Heads-Up Displays At CES

On: Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 3:20PM | By: Chris Weiss

Audi Discusses New 3D Heads-Up Displays At CES test 1-1

When I first eyed a headline about Audi incorporating 3D displays, I was completely taken aback. Just imagine putting on your 3D glasses just so you could see roads and directions on your navigation system in 3D—sounded like yet another technological recipe for disaster. Plus, 3D technology still seems as though it could fail at any minute, so I was perplexed as to why an automaker would choose to incorporate it so early.

Luckily, Audi's system is more level-headed than I feared and may prove to be useful, if executed correctly. The 3D heads-up display that Ingolstadt detailed at the Consumer Electronics Show last week could provide some intriguing benefits.

The Next Generation Passat Hailing From Tennessee

On: Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 2:20PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The Next Generation Passat Hailing From Tennessee test 1-1

There’s a new VW coming to town and it’s the next generation of the Passat. Volkswagen is proud to proclaim this is going to “change the rules.”What it’s also going to do is provide 12,000 jobs for some lucky Americans workers. That’s because this version of the Passat is going to be built at Volkswagen’s new plant based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The job forecast breaks down as 2,000 hires at the plant and the remaining 10,000 to be scattered across various suppliers. That’s good news all around.

All of this is part of the German automaker’s big plans for the coming years. Their goal is to triple U.S. sales of Volkswagen and Audi. That’s going to mean selling 1 million units by the year 2018. Last year, VW sold 359,889 of its vehicles in America. That’s a long way to go to one million, but it also represents an increase of 21% over sales in 2009. They are obviously headed in the right direction.

Audi Building A9 Sports Coupe, May Share Platform With Lamborghini Estoque

On: Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 2:03PM | By: Chris Weiss

Audi Building A9 Sports Coupe, May Share Platform With Lamborghini Estoque test 1-1

A report out of Autocar last week points to the possibility of a new, range-topping, sporty Audi four-door coupe: the A9. The car would serve as a high-end, sports alternative to the A8 and would be positioned against competitors like the Porsche Panamera and Mercedes-Benz CL. While the potential of an A9 is good news of and in itself, it also brings some exciting implications for another VW brand: Lamborghini.

According to the report, Audi hasn't decided on the car and executives are still working up a business case for the model. One of the elements of that business case is the potential to share much of the platform—namely the aluminium spaceframe and parts of the of the modular longitudinal architecture—with Lamborghini for a sedan based on the Estoque concept.

NAIAS: Big Mouth Styling Comes To Detroit

On: Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 1:41PM | By: John Welch

Chevrolet Sonic test 2

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Mitsubishi's open nostriled schnoz or Audi's? One could argue that Aston Martin, or even Rolls Royce started this trend. I wanted to write a no-nonsense info article about all the new fangled curiosities circling the floor of the COBO Center, but after seeing my subjects lined up next to each other, I am unable to shake the creeping fear that gaping grilles are 'in' and here to stay.

Off the top of my head I can think of no less than nine new models or concept cars that are sporting rhinoplasty. The Chrysler 300, Ford C-Max, Ford Vertek, Mini Paceman, Honda Civic, Hyundai Curb, Toyota Prius C, The Mercedes SLS E-Cell (but all SLS models count), and the Chevy Sonic all feature grille work that is large, wide and ornamental. Not to mention the Audi A6 and all of its variants as well as the E-Tron. Granted, most of these examples are evolutions of previous design themes, but they were less exaggerated in their original flavors. These are the hood ornaments of the 21st Century, if you will.

The 2011 NAIAS played host to a smorgasbord of new technology, concept weirdness, and delightful presentations, but I was too busy staring at gorgeous, hook-nose free debutantes, such as the Porsche 918 RSR (they've riced it out already?!) and Cadillac CTS-V Coupe SCCA. Expect full write ups on both cars. We will feature coverage arranged by region throughout the week, but for now let's explore the besnouted new concepts and models on the NAIAS floor.

Volt and Leaf, Meet The Competition: 2012 Ford Focus Electric Debut

On: Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 3:12PM | By: Chris Weiss

Volt and Leaf, Meet The Competition: 2012 Ford Focus Electric Debut test 1-1

As promised, Ford introduced the Focus Electric at an event at the Consumer Electronics Show on Friday. Ford's first all-electric passenger car will be available later this year, and is the first of five electric vehicles that Ford plans to release by 2013. Little was known about the drivetrain of the Focus Electric ahead of time, so Ford's event was really the first look. The Focus Electric is driven by a 100 kW electric motor powered by 23 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The motor gives the car 123 hp, 181 lb-ft and 84 mph. Ford hasn't provided a final range estimate, but indications are that it will be around 100 miles.

Ferrari Doubles Sales In China

On: Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 3:08PM | By: Chris Weiss

Ferrari Doubles Sales In China test 1-1

In announcing its sales numbers for 2010, Ferrari indicated that year-over-year sales doubled in China to nearly 300 models. Ferrari, which has sold cars in China for only six years, now considers the country one of its top 5 international markets (when Hong Kong and Taiwan sales are included). China's consumption of premium sports and luxury cars is a reminder of the growing economic position of the country .

Ferrari's numbers mimic numbers of other premium brands. Last month, the Detroit News reported that Germany luxury car sales in China were up by 40 percent in 2010. Increased global demand, of which China was the largest part, inspired German automakers like BMW and Mercedes to shorten holiday breaks and keep the assembly lines running. Audi led the way in China's luxury car explosion.