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(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.  

Silver Is The New Black Of Automobile Colors

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:38AM | By: Chris Weiss

Silver Is The New Black Of Automobile Colors  test 1-1

If you look hard enough, chances are that you'll find a study to answer the most trivial of questions. This is certainly true in the automotive world, and in this case, a study by PPG Industries, a Pittsburgh-based automotive coatings company, lends some evidence to the most popular car color on the road. Surprisingly, it's neither white or black, but a combinaiton of the two: grey/silver. Nearly a third of all 2010 cars in the U.S. and Canada come shaded in silver/grey/charcoal.

PPG's data shows that cars in the silver category account for 31 percent of all cars. White and black are the next most popular colors, but lag far behind silver, capturing just 18 percent each. Behind those neutrals, red shows up at the three spot with 11 percent, and blue follows closely with 10 percent. The category PPG calls "naturals," which includes orange, brown, gold, tan, and yellow, comes in fifth with 8 percent. Green is the least popular color, capturing just 4 percent.

Not only does silver dominate in this year's study, it tops it for the 10th consecutive year. This year was its strongest showing since PPG began collecting data, topping last year's 25 percent and 2008's 20 percent.

While colors like silver, black, and white may be considered rather plain and boring—especially when put against fancy, proprietary options like "Deep Bordeaux" and "Moonshine Blue"—they tend to look good across makes and models, unlike brighter colors, which don't complement every car design. I was a little surprised to see silver score so high over white and black—thinking about my average trip down the highway, I would have sworn white was more popular—but when I considered that the silver category related to grey and charcoal, as well as pure silver, it made more sense.

Will Your Car Run on Google One Day?

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:29AM | By: Chris Weiss

Will Your Car Run on Google One Day?  test 1-1

Over the weekend, Google detailed some of its recent work on self-driven vehicles. The tech company is looking to leverage its expertise in mapping and software toward creating self-driven vehicles that could cut traffic accidents. In fact, Google believes that its technology could cut the 1.2 million lives lost in car accidents annually by as much as half. Far from a new undertaking, Google has already spent much time refining its car.

Google's fleet of prototype cars have already logged 140,000 miles in testing "from [its] Mountain View campus to [its] Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe."

Each car is driven with the help of technological components including mapping software, laser range finders, video cameras, and radar sensors. They're capable of sensing and adjusting to the traffic around them and navigating the roadways.

Of course, since the cars are still experimental, and experiments by definition are bound to fail at some point, Google always has a live person in the driver's seat when conducting on-road testing. That person can take over the second a glitch or problem occurs. Google didn't give any indication as to how often its driver has to grab the wheel back hold from the ghost in the machine, but was content in stating that the precautionary measure is taken every time. Next to this "back-up" driver, Google has a software engineer tracking the vehicle's software. The company also speaks to local police prior to running tests.

More Pictures and Info on the SSC Ultimate Aero II

On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 9:26AM | By: Chris Weiss

More Pictures and Info on the SSC Ultimate Aero II test 1-1

Well, it's now mid-October, and September came and went without any big unveil event for the SSC Ultimate Aero II. After canceling a VIP event over the summer, SSC promised that it would introduce the world to its latest world-record-aspiring creation. Early last month, leaks of a Top Gear magazine feature made their way onto the Internet, followed by the actual feature in Top Gear magazine. But, there was no big event as we were looking forward to. It appears SSC was content with making the new Ultimate Aero official via Top Gear—an odd move in this day and age of big, public unveils with solid Web presence.

Well, luckily Top Gear is picking up the slack. This week, it released a few more pictures of the sultry, blue-eyed Ultimate Aero II and filled in some additional details.


Nissan Considering Free, One-Week Rental Car Loans For Leaf Owners

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

Nissan Considering Free, One-Week Rental Car Loans For Leaf Owners  test 1-1

Simply defined, range anxiety is the fear of being stranded by a dead battery in an electric vehicle. Just the way your cell phone can die in the middle of a conversation, the lithium-ion battery in an EV can die out in the middle of the road. But instead of just ending a call early (which could be a positive), a dead car battery will leave you without a means of getting home, and possibly in harm's way.

Range anxiety is one of the huge obstacles that purveyors of all-electric vehicles face, and is one of the key weapons for automakers that want to sell hybrids. The technology just isn't quite there to feasibly offer electric vehicles that have ranges comparable to gas models, and without a charging infrastructure to rival the gas-fueling infrastructure, range anxiety remains a prominent concern.

Nissan is considering a new way of addressing the fear by offering a free rental of a traditional, gas-engined car for up to one week a year. The idea behind this program is that it would quell owners' fears of running out of juice on extended road trips—say when jetting across the desert between LA and Vegas—while still letting them cash in on the environmental benefits of an all-electric vehicle on more controlled trips, like the daily commute.

Critics Say GM Lied About Chevrolet Volt

On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 12:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Critics Say GM Lied About Chevrolet Volt test 1-1

Just one month before the official launch of the Chevrolet Volt, there is a controversy brewing over whether or not the Volt is truly an electric vehicle. General Motors claims on its website that the Volt is not a hybrid, but an "extended-range electric vehicle", but many are saying that the car’s engine uses gasoline as the primary energy source for an electric generator subsequently turning the wheels of the vehicle—exactly how hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius engine, operate. GM has been representing the Volt for the past 3 years as an all electric vehicle, not a hybrid like the Prius.

According to Jim Hall, of 2953 Auto Analytics Inc.: "You have a PR problem with any one of these vehicles." Hall also stated, "GM had this sort of schizophrenic thing about doing its best to manage perception and at the same time going off into traditional old-style GM hype."

General Motors has promoted the Volt for 3 years as a green vehicle that would run on electric power and get 230 miles per gallon. The $41,000 Volt was assigned a unique marketing strategy in hopes that the Volt’s image would be differentiated from the Toyota Prius, giving the vehicle an edge in the market.

The EPA has not released an official rating on the Volt as far as fuel economy, and GM has released a statement that some consumers may realize lower fuel ratings.

Auto critics from  Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics are saying that the Volt uses its combustion gas-powered engine to charge an electric generator which powers the wheels—just as a hybrid operates. They deem the Chevrolet Volt to be an electric plug-in hybrid, NOT the all-electric vehicle that General Motors has claimed for years the Volt would be.

A recent Edmunds review of the car contains the headline that reads, “GM Lied: Chevy Volt is not a true EV.”

Fleet Sales Account For The Third Quarter Rise In U.S. Auto Sales

On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 9:44AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Fleet Sales Account For The Third Quarter Rise In U.S. Auto Sales  test 1-1

Although the highest sales rates in over a year were posted last month for the U.S. auto industry, fleet sales accounted for more growth than retail sales, according to Automotive News.com. Fleet sales accounts for all of the vehicles purchased for commercial use, such as for car rental agencies, transportation, and/or government agency use (such as the sedans purchased for the local police force).

September numbers posted were higher than third quarter numbers last year, even considering that the cash for clunkers program was going on last year, which was initially very encouraging for the automotive industry. The bad news is that, according to analyst George Magliano, "Fleet is still the driver—it certainly isn't the consumer."  Magliano also stated, "Fleet has backed off a bit from the first half, but it's still strong. The retail side is still a bit weak." Of the total 2.3 million units sold by Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan combined retail sales reportedly fell 4% to 1.8 million, but fleet units went up by 24% to 461,786 units.

Every automaker in the U.S., other than General Motors, realized increased sales that were according to automotive news; “double- or triple-digit percentages.” GM actually realized a decrease in sales of 2% last quarter, but its fleet volume was 26% of the total sales volume.

Honda Motors, which does not offer fleet sales, was one of automakers seeing a drop in U.S. sales for the third quarter, and experts attribute that decline to the lack of fleet sales offered.

Chrysler posted a total fleet sales number of 34% for the third quarter, up from only 25% at this time last year, and Nissan tripled its third-quarter fleet volume to 14,076. Ford sold 26% more fleet vehicles in the third quarter, up from 23% last year.

Ford chief sales analyst George Pipas reports that he feels the auto market is doing better in general, but making a comparison to last years’ sales volume is difficult because of the Cash for Clunkers program. "It's positive that retail sales are off just a little from a period with an extremely popular incentive," Pipas said. He also commented, "Without clunkers a year ago, then the industry's third quarter [this year] would have been up for both fleet and retail."

Lincoln Dealers Are Told To Invest Or Go Away

On: Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 9:30AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Lincoln MKX Steering apparatus  test 2

Ford has announced to Lincoln Dealers that they must all make a decision to either invest to keep up with new service standards, or to be one of the 200 or so franchises (out of 1,200 total) that Ford will let go.

"Dealers will decide," said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas. “But the reality is that any dealer who does not agree to upgrades negotiated with Lincoln field staffers will get whatever severance compensation Lincoln offers.”

As part of a plan to improve Lincoln’s image and competitive edge, Ford is asking that Lincoln dealers meet new standards, which Ford says only about 25% of  all Lincoln dealers currently meet.

Currently Lincoln ranks very low on a list of 9 luxury brands for service, loyalty, residual value, and sales. Lincoln is the exception when it comes to Ford models that have gained popularity and earned high points for safety and reliability this year, but it was not always so for the Ford luxury brand. In 1998 Lincoln ranked as one of the top luxury cars in the U.S. with sales climbing over 187,000.

"Dealers know it's screwed up," said Bob Tasca Jr., a Rhode Island dealer and head of Lincoln's dealer council. "We are looking for a chance to change. It has to change, because the way it is isn't working."

Infiniti Mulling High-End Sports Car

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 4:00PM | By: Chris Weiss

Infiniti Mulling High-End Sports Car test 1-1

It looks like the Lexus LF-A may get a little competition from another Japanese luxury automaker: Infiniti. Rumors indicate that Nissan's better half is considering a high-performance sports car, a possible big brother to the GT-R. And the rumors come directly from the mouth of Infiniti chief Toru Saito.

The Infiniti sports car is far from confirmed, and may dissipate into thin air in the weeks and months that follow the report, but it does appear that the company is giving some serious consideration to introducing such a car. It's not entirely clear if the model would be high-end enough to compete with the Lexus LF-A and other all-out supercars, but indications are that Infiniti would base the car on the Essence concept that it showed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

The Essence concept, which bears serious resemblance to the Fisker Karma, featured a twin-turbo 3.7-liter V6 with a 158-hp electric motor that provided an electric assist function. The hybrid powertrain put out a total of 592 horses. After being introduced in Geneva, the Essence ran in the 2009 Goodwood Hillclimb.

It's not entirely clear how much of a possible production car would be based around the Essence, or if it will feature a similar hybrid powertrain.

Ford Credit Rating Raised Two Levels by Moodys

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 3:14PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford Credit Rating Raised Two Levels by Moodys test 1-1

According to Moody’s Investors Service, Ford Motor Company has achieved another rise in its credit rating, this time by 2 levels, Moody reported that Ford’s performance has “significantly exceeded expectations.” This was the 5th upgrade that Moody has given Ford in the last year, raising the Detroit automaker’s rating from B1 to Ba2. Moody stated it has a very optimistic outlook toward Ford Motor Credit Co., Ford’s finance auxiliary.

“The company is well positioned to continue generating strong earnings and cash flow through 2011, and to further strengthen its balance sheet,” J. Bruce Clark, Moody’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “At the same time that the industry’s business practices have become more disciplined, Ford is coming to market with an exceptionally strong product portfolio.”

Lewis Booth, Ford CFO, stated that moving back into investment grade for the first time since 2005 has “become a rallying cry within the company.”
Ford has been able to pay off $7 billion in debt as a result of its profitable second quarter although it continues to have more financial debt than General Motors after GM claimed bankruptcy last year.

Ford earned $4.7 billion in the first 6 months this year, the biggest first half profit since 1998. Sales of the redesigned Fusion and Taurus sedans were instrumental in propelling Ford’s sales to 21% through September of this year.

Bentley and Audi Teaming Up on 4.0-Liter V8 Engine

On: Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 3:12PM | By: Chris Weiss

Bentley and Audi Teaming Up on 4.0-Liter V8 Engine  test 1-1

If you take a look at a list of the 10 or so least efficient cars in America, you'll see the name "Bentley" pop up more than once. The 2010 Bentley Continental GT, for instance, brings home just 11 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. When you make cars stacked with luxurious accents (read: weight) and powered with giant W12 engines, you're bound to find yourself on that uncoveted list.

With U.S. and global fuel economy regulations clamping down over the next few years, Bentley will need to find a way to cut its emissions. Toward that end, Bentley is working with Volkswagen stablemate Audi on a new engine that will help it cut its embarrassingly large footprint.

The new engine is direct-injected 4.0-liter V8 to be used in both Bentley and Audi models. So far the only model being mentioned is the dirty, ol' Continental GT, which currently uses a 6.0-liter W12 to deliver the aforementioned EPA figures. Bentley plans to offer the V8 option on the Continental GT toward the end of next year and indicates that the smaller, cleaner V8 will cut emissions by 40 percent over the W12.

Bentley's director of chassis and powertrain Brian Gush assured future Continental owners that the new engine will still deliver the Bentley experience. He told auto guide Whatcar: "We are adapting it for our purposes so that it delivers Bentley driving characteristics. It does not have a conventional layout."