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Chevy Volt, What The Heck Is It?!

On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 11:53AM | By: John Welch

Chevy Volt, What The Heck Is It?! test 1-1

The controversy surrounding the Chevy Volt has turned into the sort of PR nightmare that General Motors is famous for, and has famously tried to avoid. Is it a hybrid? An electric car? A plug-in hybrid?! Any categories I'm forgetting? I can give you my personal opinion, which I have formulated over the last week by myself. This isn't the AutoShopper's opinion in any way—we have had a constant inter-office argument going since Monday. Each editor has his own thoughts on the Volt and what exactly it is; they are welcome to share their thoughts in the comments . . . so are you, dear AutoShopperBlog reader!

The media, including our blog, has muddied a few of the issues here. A hybrid car, by definition, consists of an electric motor piggybacked on top of an internal combustion engine. The Volt, by comparison, features an internal combustion engine piggybacked on an electric motor. Okay, so, by definition, the Volt isn't a hybrid, contrary to what Motor Trend and others seem to think. The Volt does not operate without its electric engine, its main source of locomotion, so clearly, it doesn't fit in the box created by the accepted definition of a "hybrid".

CNN Recognizes ALMS, Covers Petit Le Mans

On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 10:05AM | By: John Welch

CNN Recognizes ALMS, Covers Petit Le Mans test 1-1

Despite rumors suggesting the American Le Mans Series has no television package for 2011, the series ended 2010 with as much media exposure as it could have possibly hoped for. Being the second stop of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the event welcomed many news outlets and organizations from overseas, and recieved an unusal amount of coverage from our own North American outlets.

One such member of the media elite, CNN, sent a crew up to Braselton to cover the pre-race ceremonies at Petit. They did an excellent job, speaking with every important personality they could find in the paddock. It appeared that CNN, like all North American news outlets, had never witnessed big time sports car racing before. They made up for their lack of knowledge by asking the right questions, of the right people. Scott Atherton, Doug Fehan, Patrick Long, Giancarlo Fisichella, Allan McNish, Scott Sharp were all interviewed in this piece, and all had interesting things to say. Other North American Series may wonder why attendence and viewership is down; could it be that American race fans are more interested in variety and competition than who the drivers are married to? HHhmmm, food for thought . . .

Toyota Prius MPV Gets Big Teaser Photo

On: Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 9:17AM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Prius MPV Gets Big Teaser Photo test 1-1

Just a few days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported about two new Prius models, a large and a small version to make the current model medium. Both models will launch by 2013, with the larger model offering 50 percent more interior space than the current-generation Prius. Toyota has officially teased the big boy of the Prius family, using a billboard to show what the Prius MPV will be all about.

Actually, there's little of the Prius MPV to see in the billboard, which was put up in celebration of the Prius' 10-year U.S. anniversary. In a smart teaser, Toyota plants the Prius MPV behind the standard Prius, so that all we can see is the added length and height.

The MPV model is expected to gain about 300 mm of length, which will help to accommodate an extra row of seats in the back, allowing for up to seven passengers. The billboard ad also demonstrates that the roof is higher and less sloped to provide more headroom and accommodate the rear-most passengers. Overall though, the Prius MPV's footprint isn't significantly larger than the current Prius', indicating that it shouldn't hurt fuel economy numbers too much.

New Auto Trade Agreement Between Korea And Europe May Be Detrimental To Ford And Fiat Exports

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 4:35PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New Auto Trade Agreement Between Korea And Europe May Be Detrimental To Ford And Fiat Exports test 1-1

Ford Motor Company and Fiat are among the automakers that fear the South Korean export agreement with Europe may allow for importing inexpensive imports from Korea into Europe. Ford and Fiat are concerned that the agreement may result in an influx of cheap Korean cars that would compete with compacts made by Ford Motor Company and Fiat.

At the Paris auto show last week, Ford CFO Lewis Booth felt that the agreement is "very one-sided in favor of Korea." Ford reported a profit of over $300 million for its European sales in the 2nd quarter this year.  

On the other hand, Hyundai, Kia, and Chevrolet all claim there will be benefits resulting from the agreement. According to Chevrolet Europe chief Wayne Brannon: "We are optimistic this will help us. It makes building cars in Korea for Europe more affordable." General Motors exports the Chevrolet Aveo and Spark from Korea to Europe and the agreement is projected to double its European sales in the next 6 years.

The European Automakers Association (ACEA) is not necessarily against the agreement, but feels that it gives Korea an unfair advantage in the marketplace, and may set a bad example for future contracts between Europe and other world trading organizations.

In the U.S., a free trade agreement with Korea is currently on hold as the Obama administration addresses reports an “alleged imbalance in car trade,” according to Auto News.com.


Toyota Prius Family To Get a Little Bigger By 2013

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota Prius Family To Get a Little Bigger By 2013 test 1-1

Despite being the best-selling hybrid around, the Toyota Prius isn't quite for everyone. Some may need or want more interior space to fit their families and all their haulage, and some may feel the Prius isn't small and efficient enough. Both those segments will be getting the Prius they yearn for in just a few short years.

According to a Wall Street Journal report based on discussions with two dealers that were briefed at a company dealer conference last week, Toyota will be introducing both a smaller and a larger Prius to market by the end of 2012. The larger model will give drivers 50 percent more interior space while the smaller model will be comparable in size to the Yaris.

Toyota is already the world leader in hybrid sales, and the two new Prius models will be among six new hybrids that Toyota plans to introduce over the next two years. Since its introduction in 1997, the Prius has sold to the tune of two million, and Toyota plans to drive hybrid sales to the point of a million per year with its expanding family. It hopes to offer a hybrid version of every one of its vehicles by the 2020s.

Another model that's expected by the end of 2012 is the Prius Plug-In. It features the same engine/motor combination as the standard Prius: 98-hp 1.8-liter engine with an 80-hp electric motor, but uses a lithium-ion battery instead of a nickel-metal-hydride battery. The plug-in can travel for up to 13 miles under electric-only driving and can recharge in three hours.

Another Pagani One-Off: The Zonda 750

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 3:34PM | By: Chris Weiss

Another Pagani One-Off: The Zonda 750  test 1-1

Pagani is still in the process of testing and developing its next-generation, Zonda-replacing supercar: the C9. While that car continues to get snapped by stealthy photographers at tracks and roadways around the world, Pagani whiles away the days before its release, making the Zonda even more exclusive for wealthy customers. The blue Zonda HH was revealed back in August, and now word of the next one-off Zonda has made its way out. The Zonda 750 will be a purple model based on the Zonda Cinque hard-top.

There isn't a whole lot of information about the Zonda 750, but a half-hearted educated guess tells us that it will pack 750 horsepower. That means the Mercedes Benz  AMG 7.3-liter V12 used in the Cinque will be tuned up from its stock 678-hp and 575 lb-ft. That engine will likely be paired to the Cinque's paddle-controlled sequential six-speed transmission, but the gearbox could change, based upon the customer's preferences.

Debuted in 2008, the Zonda Cinque was Pagani's street-legal version of its Zonda R race car. The Cinque used a carbon-titanium chassis, as well as other titanium, carbon and magnesium components, to keep weight down to 2,670 lbs. That plus the big V12 engine powered the Cinque to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds and all the way up to 217 mph.

Chrysler 200: Different, But Is It Different Enough?

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 2:48PM | By: John Welch

Chrysler 200: Different, But Is It Different Enough? test 1-1

The name "Sebring" should make most people think of endurance racing at its finest: prototypes and sports cars crunching fenders while battling the gnarliest conditions in the road racing world. Unfortunately, almost no one thinks of the magical Central Florida Mecca that is Sebring International Raceway; instead, most individuals immediately identify "Sebring" as a Chrysler automobile, and a disappointing one at that. Former Chrysler Sebrings, coupe, sedan or convertible, have never lived up to the legend that is their namesake. In fact, they have been so grossly out-classed by their competition, so universally panned by the press, so totally uninspiring that Chrysler now feels the need to distance itself from the name "Sebring". The Sebring's replacement is called the "200". Real original. The damage done to an absolutely hallowed proper noun, "Sebring", can never be undone. Thanks, Chrysler, you jerks.

At first glance, a glance that is totally manipulated by Chrysler's penchant for "teaser" photos, the 200 looks like a radically improved car. The styling is radically improved, at least. Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this car is just a Sebring in a fancy wrapper. Slick headlights and a reshaped grille do not a segment leader make. Is Chrysler delusional, or are they just filling a wide and glaringly obvious gap in their new model lineup? Looking at the 200's C-pillar, one cannot help but be put off by this car. There is a good chance that this abomination (If you hadn't noticed, the sullying of the name "Sebring" has annoyed me to no end) will be the same rental-fleet-ready disaster that its predecessor was—doomed to be scorned by all who have any idea what the phrases "quality product" and "soft touch materials" mean.

GM Gives Employees An Opportunity To Buy Stock At IPO

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 1:01PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

GM Gives Employees An Opportunity To Buy Stock At IPO test 1-1

GM announced that the company is planning to offer hourly and salaried employees as well as retirees in Canada and the U.S. an opportunity to purchase stock at in “the direct share program” as part of the initial public offering scheduled for November of this year.

The Detroit automaker sent a letter, dated September 30th, to each of its 600,000 employees and retirees inviting them to “pre-register” their intentions regarding the stock share purchase program offered online, by October 15th. Direct share programs are commonly offered as a way for employees to take advantage of stock options offered by their employers.

The maximum number of shares that an employee qualifies to purchase under the program has not yet been established by General Motors, but the minimum investment must be at least $1,000, according to the letter, which was acquired by Automotive News today.

Ohio Dealer Running for Congress Faces Two Lawsuits

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 10:22AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ohio Dealer Running for Congress Faces Two Lawsuits test 1-1

Ohio auto dealer, Tom Ganley is running for Congress this year. Ganley is a 67-year-old Republican who is on the board of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and he faces two lawsuits pertaining to his professional conduct that is bringing unsolicited press to his political campaign.

Ganley Auto Group, located in Cleveland, is one of Ohio’s largest dealership groups with 28 franchises in 17 locations, including Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, and Volkswagen. Ganley has received criticism from other dealers for condemning the cash for clunkers program last year after selling a total of $20 million vehicles in the program.    
Russell Harris, former on-staff attorney for Ganley, claimed he was fired after he questioned Ganley about the dealer’s testimony during Chrysler arbitration hearings last year.

Ganley had stated in his testimony that Chysler delivered hundreds of inadequate vehicles, that had not been ordered, to his dealership, causing his sales to suffer. Those complaints were never substantiated by witnesses, and Harris concluded that he was unable to prove Ganley’s claims. Ganley maintains he fired Harris “on the spot for some of his conduct and performance at the arbitration,” Brent Buckley, Ganley’s current lawyer, said. Ganley’s claim was an attempt to win back reinstatement of 3 dealerships that Chrysler had closed, in the end he withdrew his claim and settled with Chrysler.

Lexus Annouces Innovative Safety Technology For The New LS 600 H Model

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 10:07AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Lexus Annouces Innovative Safety Technology For The New LS 600 H Model  test 1-1

Toyota has come up with innovative new technology for Lexus with the intention of reducing the possibility of automotive accidents caused by motorists’ inattention to the road. The new Lexus LS 600h will feature the latest in pre-crash safety technology using a system that is able to keep watch over the driver to monitor his/her concentration levels. The Lexus LS 600h goes on sale next month.

Lexus has introduced an intelligent new driver safety system using 6 cameras that monitor the driver’s face as he/she operates the car. If there’s an obstacle in the path while the driver’s head is facing the wrong direction, this ingenious technology will activate a warning signal and then initiate safety measures on its own. The system also incorporates active headrest safety features designed to minimize injury in the event of a rear-end collision.

The world’s first innovative technology that provides for the Driver Monitoring System is one element of the advanced Pre-Crash Safety (PCS) system, which brings together a series of features that can recognize a potentially dangerous traffic/road situation and assist the motorist to take action to reduce the risk of a collision. If there is an impact, the system takes action to try to minimize the impact to the driver.

(M)ost (V)enomous (P)layer

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:54AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

(M)ost (V)enomous (P)layer test 1-1

If you are among the millions of NFL fans out there, odds are you know what it feels like when a division rival’s best player gets injured or retires from the game. You know it’s good for your team, but it’s a bittersweet feeling at best. Sure if Peyton Manning got hurt, it will be good for the Texans, Titans, and Jaguar fans (and frankly, good for every team but the Colts, come to think of it). But suddenly beating the Colts won’t mean nearly as much with Curtis Painter at the helm. The victories would still be happily accepted, but they would be bittersweet to some extent. A win against a team at full strength feels more like victory than against a team that is depleted. Beyond that, a day in the NFL without Peyton Manning is a much worse NFL than the one with Peyton Manning. The league suffers if it loses one of its most fierce and demonstrative players for any amount of time.  

Such is the feeling Chevy and Ford more than likely shared when Dodge announced that it was discontinuing the Viper back on July 1 of this year. Sure, it trims the competition a bit and is one less 600 horsepower supercar the ZR-1 and GT500 have to deal with, but somehow it just feels like a hollow advancement up the ranks. Well, that feeling has come and gone faster than a Prius’ 0-60mph time, because Dodge’s MVP is on its way out of retirement and training to get back on the field. According to Autoweek.com, a concept rendition of what should be the next Viper was unveiled by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at a convention center in Orlando, Florida.