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Big Changes In 2012 For Rolex Grand Am Series

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 10:35AM | By: John Welch

Big Changes In 2012 For Rolex Grand Am Series test 1-1

The AutoShopper Blog has been religious in our coverage of two of North America's premier road racing series, The American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand Am Series. We covered the changes in the ALMS in previous posts, but have only just now had some light shed on the changes for Grand Am, which we will see in 2012. The ALMS is getting smaller, LMP1 is going to downsize to LMP2-size power plants, and LMP2 is going to switch to straight-up production-based engines such as Ford's EcoBoost V6. The prototypes will all get slightly smaller, and there is a new "big honking fin" that will be added to the engine cover of all LMPs in an attempt to prevent blow-over type accidents. Grand Am solved that problem in 2003 by implementing an enormous cockpit and huge side pods on all Daytona Prototype chassis. These features have worn out their welcome, the DP chassis design has proven to be a safe one, and now it's time to let the engine manufacturers loose on the DP's bodywork, effectively clearing the way for Daytona Prototypes that closely resemble the design language used by their engine providers.

Before 2012 I would have recognized the Krohn DP as a Ford/Lola, whereas a layman wouldn't have had any idea what they were looking at. Hopefully, for the 2012 season, everyone, from veteran fans to the freshly initiated, will be able to recognize this car as a FORD. The Ganassi Rileys will be obvious BMWs, and GM-powered cars will be unmistakable as one Chevrolet sports car or another.
The GT field will change as well. Realizing the need for higher car counts and greater variety, Grand Am is already allowing GT3 Audi R8 machines in for next season, and will hopefully expand that rule to all FIA GT3 machines. Grand Am is not forgetting its current GT teams either; currently they are working on a rules set that will allow the GT3 cars and the current crop of Production 1 (road cars like the Corvette) and Production 2 (tube frame Riley chassis like the Mazda RX8 and Chevy Camaro) to race under the same classification.

Despite a disturbing economic climate that is supposedly ruining racing as we know it, it is an exciting time for the two best professional series in the world, and Grand Am isn't resting on their success. 2012 looks to be an incredible season for the Rolex Series.

2011 Hyundai Sonata and BMW 5 Series Get 5-Star Crash Ratings Under NHTSA's Stricter Testing

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:47PM | By: Chris Weiss

2011 Hyundai Sonata and BMW 5 Series Get 5-Star Crash Ratings Under NHTSA's Stricter Testing test 1-1

Over the summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was implementing stricter crash testing procedures for the 2011 model year. The new system includes a single, multi-star rating for the first time, and initial test results indicate that only two cars will occupy the top, 5-star slot: the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the 2011 BMW 5 Series.

The 5-star rating reflects the newly implemented "Overall Vehicle Score," which combines frontal crash testing, side crash testing, and rollover resistance testing. The testing procedures are more rigorous under the NHTSA's revised procedures. In addition to the new overall score, NHTSA's rating procedure now incorporates a new side pole crash test, includes weighting based upon crash-prevention technologies like electronic stability control, and uses female crash test dummies for the first time.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said of the new procedures: “With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we’re raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers.”

Initially, the BMW 5 Series stood alone in the 5-star category, but Hyundai asked that the NHTSA retest the Sonata, which was originally given a 4-star rating. Upon the second testing, the NHTSA agreed with Hyundai that the Sonata is 5-star material.

Lamborghini Partners With Callaway Golf On Composites

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:23PM | By: Chris Weiss

Lamborghini Partners With Callaway Golf On Composites test 1-1

At the 2010 Paris Motor Show, Lamborghini announced a new partnership with Callaway Golf. Much deeper than a series of Lambo-branded golf clubs, the new partnership will work toward development of a composite material at the forefront of Lamborghini's goal of lightening its future models.

When I initially read the headline pairing Lamborghini and Callaway Golf, I immediately thought that the latter was licensing the Lamborghini name for a pair of clubs or series of golf equipment, similar to the lawn tool partnership with IKRA Mogatec. In fact, I didn't even bother reading it at first because golf ain't really my thing, and it seemed like a sad way for Lambo to whore itself out.

Turns out the partnership is actually a lot more substantial. The two companies will work to develop of a material called Forged Composite. Basically a type of carbon fiber, Forged Composite is stitched from 500,000 individual fibers. Lamborghini debuted the material on its new Sesto Elemento, a car that weighs a super-light 2,200 pounds, thanks to minimalist design and innovative composites like this one. Callaway will use the material to lighten its golf line.

According to Lamborghini, Forged Composite is a third as dense as titanium but still plenty impact resistant, making it ideal for automotive applications. They credit the material for helping to make the Sesto the spry, capable, lightweight bullet that it is.

Tesla Recalls Electric Vehicles For Faulty Power Cables

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:21PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Tesla Recalls Electric Vehicles For Faulty Power Cables test 1-1

Tesla Motors, makers of the all-electric Tesla Roadster, has announced that it plans to recall over 400 of its battery-powered vehicles; there may be a high risk of the power cable shorting out, which could potentially lead to a fire. The vehicles involved in the recall are the 439 Roadsters sold under the 2.0 and 2.5 model names.

The motivation for the company initiating the recall was a single report of an incident in a Tesla vehicle that experienced a problem with a 12-volt cable which rubbed against a panel, creating a short in the wire, which began smoking, eventually caught fire behind the front headlamp.

Tesla has begun the process of informing owners of the potential fire hazard in a 12-volt cable that powers auxiliary systems such as lights and turn signals. The company stated that it will send a team of service mechanics to owners’ homes and offices to check for the faulty wiring and make repairs when necessary. The repairs will involve checking the cable placement and installing a protective sleeve over the cable to prevent it from shorting out in the future, according to Tesla.

The recall is the second for Tesla on its Roadster, a $109,000 luxury car built on a Lotus platform that is powered by a battery pack composed of more than 6,800 laptop batteries. Federal safety regulators have been notified of the recall. Tesla made it clear that the defective parts do NOT involve the main battery pack or power system that propels the Roadster; Tesla will be providing battery packs for the upcoming all-electric Toyota RAV 4 that will hit the market in 2012. These safety issues are very high priority for automakers involved in the design and development of new electric power systems, companies such as Tesla, Nissan, and General Motors.


Auto Tuner Uwe Gemballa Found Dead in South Africa

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:09PM | By: Chris Weiss

Auto Tuner Uwe Gemballa Found Dead in South Africa test 1-1

Those that follow all forms of automotive news on a daily basis probably remember that Uwe Gemballa, founder and owner of the Gemballa tuning house, disappeared in Africa back in early February. The company bearing his name briefly shut down in the spring, only to be reopened under a new corporate structure headed by Andreas Schwarz. Meanwhile, Uwe Gemballa has remained missing in action.

Well, Uwe Gemballa has been found, and as many probably feared, the worst has been realized. The German tuner was murdered.

Toyota Works to Repair Its Brand Image After Recalls

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 3:54PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Works to Repair Its Brand Image After Recalls  test 1-1

Toyota Motor Co. has recently tested as many as 4,000 vehicles that were involved in last year's recall, a recall concerning unintended acceleration caused by a faulty electrical system in Toyota vehicles. Toyota was unable to find any evidence of defective electronic throttle control after examination of thousands of vehicles involved in the safety recall. Steve Angelo, Toyota’s Chief Quality Officer in North America, stated: “Toyota has not found a single case in which electronics would lead to sudden unintended acceleration.” Angelo also stated: “Toyota has reviewed 4,200 individual acceleration-related complaints so far.”

Toyota has spent a lot of time and money in attempting to repair the brand image of the once world’s largest carmaker after the recall of 8 million vehicles for problems with “sticky gas pedals,” and unintended acceleration. Federal safety regulators agreed after examination of dozens of vehicles that had allegedly sped out of control for no apparent reason. After federal findings that driver error was responsible for a high percentage of the recall vehicles, the complaints of sudden acceleration have reportedly declined by 80%, according to Toyota.

Toyota has repaired approximately 5 million vehicles that were affected by the recall and implemented new safety mechanisms such as; Smart Stop Technology and enhanced event data recorders (EDR). The software for the “brake override” system which Toyota says will control 84% of new Toyota, Lexus, and Scion models sold today, was designed to shut off the accelerator if it becomes stuck, (when the brake is applied). Toyota will be the first automaker to offer the brake override system in every vehicle in its lineup.

The Japanese automaker is also working more closely with auto parts suppliers that provide parts for assembly of Toyota vehicles to ensure higher safety standards in the components that go into building new Toyota’s.

According to St. Angelo: “Toyota has made significant progress in recent months to help ensure that our customers can have complete confidence in the quality, safety and reliability of their vehicles, and our latest initiatives build on those accomplishments.” St. Angelo also said, “Our goal is to set new, even higher standards for quality assurance and customer responsiveness in both the factory and the market by continuing to put our customers first in everything that we do.”

Porsche President Confirms a Panamera Plug-In Hybrid

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:10PM | By: Chris Weiss

Porsche President Confirms a Panamera Plug-In Hybrid test 1-1

On a busy first day at the helm of Porsche, new CEO and president Mathias Muller revealed that Porsche is working on a plug-in hybrid version of its Panamera hybrid. Muller told press that he had driven the prototype version of the new plug-in and called the car "very convincing." The model hasn't been confirmed for production, and Porsche is still considering its viability. The good news is that it looks like the company may be following suit of its 918 Spyder in making the plug-in Panamera a model that combines high-end performance with greener intentions.

The version of the Panamera discussed is built upon the Panamera Turbo's 500-hp 4.8-liter twin-turbo V8. The plug-in hybrid will get an unspecified electric motor in addition to that big powerplant and should be able to offer emissions-free city driving as well as electric-assisted high performance.

This new plug-in model is distinct from the non-plug-in Panamera hybrid that Porsche has been known to be working on for several years. That model will be based on the Cayenne S Hybrid's powertrain: a parallel hybrid system pairing a 333 hp supercharged 3-liter V6 and a 47 hp electric motor. In July, Porsche confirmed that the Panamera S Hybrid will launch by the end of next year. In the Cayenne, the hybrid powertrain boosts efficiency by 20 percent while delivering all-electric driving at speeds up to 31 mph.

Allstate Brings Lawsuit Against Toyota For Unintended Acceleration

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 9:38AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Allstate Brings Lawsuit Against Toyota For Unintended Acceleration test 1-1

Just as it seems that the Toyota saga is over, another lawsuit is brought against the Japanese automaker, this time by Allstate Insurance Company. The lawsuit involves all of the claims paid out for past accidents that were linked to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. A total of $3 million was reportedly paid out by Allstate insurance company.

The lawsuit was filed last Friday in California Supreme Court. Some project that this is just the beginning of “a relatively new front in the wave of U.S. civil litigation piling up against the Japanese automaker for economic losses resulting from complaints about Toyotas that have sped out of control and crashed,” according to Auto News.com.

According to Chirstina Loznicka, Allstate spokeswoman: "We are expected to be one of several insurance companies that are taking this action." Allstate claims that Toyota could have taken action that would have prevented the accidents by installing brake override systems in vehicles.

The law suit that Allstate has filed against Toyota claims that the acceleration defects were caused by a problem with the electronic throttle systems in recalled Toyota vehicles and that Toyota “essentially hid the problem.”  The suit claims, "This has resulted in numerous claims of instances of property damage and injuries, including, in some instances, fatalities.”

The claims paid that Allstate attributes to Toyota vehicles total over $3 million which may be the beginning of additional suits brought by other insurance companies.

Toyota spokesperson Steven Curtis stated: "Based on reports we believe the unfounded allegations in this suit have no basis."  Toyota continues to stick to its claim that no electronic defects were found even after examination of thousands of vehicles involved in the recent recall and so far in the NHTSA investigation. Federal regulators' findings agree but the investigation of 89 deaths resulting from crashes that were linked to unintended acceleration in Toyota cars continues.

Paris Motor Show All About Sexy Cars, Less About Sexy Gals

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 9:05AM | By: Chris Weiss

Paris Motor Show All About Sexy Cars, Less About Sexy Gals  test 1-1

The Paris Motor Show has been one of the hottest shows of the year in terms of sexy car and concept debuts. Just look at what we've seen so far: the lightest Lamborghini we've ever had the pleasure to meet, an all-new Jaguar plug-in supercar, six Lotus concepts, a funky Peugeot electric racer and a new BMW 6-Series, just to name a few that immediately come to mind. While all attention has been on these sexy vehicles, there's been an interesting side story going on in the background: less sexy ladies—or more accurately, less sexily dressed ladies.

Sexy women and cars have been a peanut-butter-and-jelly combination for as long as we can remember. In fact, I'd like to think that when Karl Benz finished up with his automobile back in the 1880s, he immediately called the sexiest girl in town over to lie across the hood in her best girdle to spice the design up for onlookers.

Never is the connection between eye candy of aluminum/carbon fiber and that of flesh more acute than in the auto-show circuit. Companies always employ models and hot PR folks to prance around their cars, pose for the cameras, and make the entire scene look a little more attractive. And these women aren't typically wearing long dresses and loose sweaters: skin and curves are the names of the game. In fact, take a look at any auto blog around show time and you'll usually find a post or two in some derivative of "Babes of show."

Dodge Releases 2011 Charger, Uses Up Every Adjective Available In The Process

On: Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:46PM | By: John Welch

Dodge Releases 2011 Charger, Uses Up Every Adjective Available In The Process test 1-1

Some samples from a Chrysler-supplied press kit regarding the 2011 Dodge Charger:

sinister “ready to attack the road” face

iconic character

puts the world’s best E-segment sedan competitors between its new “split crosshair” signature grille

radically raked back headlights

iconic horizontal “coke bottle” or “double-diamond” body-side styling

signature taillamp design that incorporates 164 illuminating LEDs to form its signature “racetrack” graphic and gives the new Charger its unmistakable character from blocks away.

and finally . . .

the all-new 2011 Charger is the Dodge brand’s flagship that proudly delivers premium, world-class E-segment sedan precision at an incredible value.

Chrysler seems to have made a mistake. They keep saying "E-segment" but I'm pretty sure they mean "formerly E-Class". See, this Charger is still based on the underpinnings of the '96 to 2000 Mercedes E-Class, so it has a little catching up to do. It certainly looks the part, the sheet metal is less gaudy and more aggressive than that which it replaces, but it is still slightly behind the times. Also, I must applaud Dodge for sticking with a rear-drive chassis, as another Dodge Intrepid might just cause Mopar fanatics to violently raze any number of executive domiciles located throughout Metro Detroit. So, no matter how the car is or isn't, one thing is for sure: it is rear drive. Someone pass that memo on to Acura, please . . .

New UAW Agreement Will Allow GM To Realize a Profit From Production Of The New Aveo

On: Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 12:54PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New UAW Agreement Will Allow GM To Realize a Profit From Production Of The New Aveo test 1-1

According to Automotive News.com, the United Auto Workers union has negotiated a contract with General Motors to begin production on the first profitable compact car produced by the company in the United States.

The subcompact Aveo was originally built and designed in Korea before being shipped to the US, but now GM has signed a contract with the UAW to build the next generation Aveo in Michigan’s Orion Township plant. General Motors will receive nearly $800 million in local tax credits that will enable the company to pay the full union wages of $28 per hour to auto workers who will build the Aveo in Detroit. 

GM will also score points with consumers for saving hundreds of union jobs as the contract stipulates 60% of all workers at the Orion Township assembly plant will assemble the Chevrolet Aveo in exchange for $28 per hour plus full benefits, according to Miek Dunn, shop chairman at UAW Local 5960. The other 40% will receive “a so-called Tier 2 wage equal to roughly half that of so-called legacy workers,” says Automotive News.com.