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GM September Sales Improve 11% Over Sept. 2009

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 12:09PM | By: John Welch

GM September Sales Improve 11% Over Sept. 2009 test 1-1

Is the much hyped economic recovery really starting to bear fruit? Heh, not for me, personally, but somebody seems to be doing better than they were in September of 2009. Otherwise how could we have bought so many GM vehicles in the last month? I don't witness it in my day to day life, but somebody, somewhere is generating more cash lately, and taking that cash to GM dealerships to the tune of an 11 % sales increase over September 2009.

GMC leads the charge with a whopping 41.6 % gain over last year. Golly, we still need those big ass, lane clogging trucks I s'pose. GMC's success could be contributed to the mind boggling popularity of its Equinox sibling, the GMC Terrain. A slightly smaller, less lane clogging SUV, the Terrain features, uhm, "abstract" styling and excellent fuel economy. 

The other three remaining GM brands are all up as well, rounding out a decidedly bullish month for GM.

GM Specifies Volt Electric Range of 20 to 50 Miles Depending On Conditions

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: Chris Weiss

GM Specifies Volt Electric Range of 20 to 50 Miles Depending On Conditions test 1-1

For as long as we can remember, the Chevy Volt has been defined by a 40-mile electric range. Chevy quotes that range in official materials and it's been the most practical number that we've seen to denote how far the car will drive under battery power. Much more practical than the 230 mpg number the company once touted.

Of course, any such figure, even those prized mpg numbers from the EPA, are subject to a certain amount of variation based on how, when and where you drive. And the Volt is no different. GM recently clarified that Volt drivers can expect to get anywhere from 25 to 50 miles of all-electric driving depending upon a range of factors.

Spokesman Rob Peterson said last week that after further testing Chevy had come to the new conclusion. Certain predictable factors like use of air conditioning, heating, extreme weather, aggressive driving and hilly drives can limit the range of the Volt. The extra 300 miles provided by the range-extending gas engine was unaffected by the new announcement.

Despite these newly detailed caveats, GM is sticking with its 40-mile range for "most drivers under normal conditions." This is an important distinction, since Chevy has said that that figure gives the car enough electric range for 75 percent of U.S. drivers to get to work under pure battery power.

Where Do We Go From Here?

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:11AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Where Do We Go From Here? test 1-1

Ten years ago I bought my 2001 Pontiac TransAm WS6 with a very limited set of criteria.  It was a process my 19 year old mind went through almost without my conscious involvement:  I needed a car, I saw a car, I fell in love with the car, I bought the car.  That was it.  Of course there were other minor decisions along the way, but my brain rationalized its way around all of those potential hurdles with the deft agility of an Olympic athlete.  Sure the car was a lot of money, more than I'd ever spent on anything in my entire life, but with some fairly simple mathematics, I decided picking up another shift or two a week at the bar was well worth the opportunity to roll up in my dream car.  Gas in October of 2000 was not much of an issue.   Ethanol was something that only NHRA guys ran their cars on, and a gallon of regular gas was not much more than a liter of soda at the time.  I decided that the back seat was just big enough to squeeze two friends in that really wanted to come along for the ride, and the T-tops just made things a little sweeter during the summer months. 

But now my car is fast approaching old age, and just as life teaches us in so many other ways, I need to start coming to terms with the fact that one day my car will no longer be with me.  As small pains and aches start to creep up my near 30 year old body each morning, I realize things are changing.  My life is evolving slowly into ... Something.  And so it has been my belief that a man's (or woman's) car is an extension of themselves.  It seemed clear that the message my WS6 told the world was that I liked attention and speed on a no frills budget.  But now there seem to be so many more things to consider, so many options, and variables to try and figure out, and with that thought comes the question:  What do I get next ? 

Jaguar Jumps Back in the Supercar Ring With Paris Concept

On: Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 9:11AM | By: Chris Weiss

Jaguar Jumps Back in the Supercar Ring With Paris Concept test 1-1

Back in the early 1990s, Jaguar was among the elite of the elite in terms of high-performing supercars. For a brief time between 1992 and 1994, the company produced the XJ220, a car that held a world speed record of 217 mph for several years before the McLaren F1 broke it with its 240 mph run. Not only was the Jaguar XJ220 fast, if you look at a list of the world's fastest cars over the past 20 years or so, the XJ220 was arguably (not very arguably, in my opinion) the sexiest one of all.

Unfortunately for the auto world, while the XJ220 was a great success at the track, it was a market flop. And Jaguar abandoned the supercar segment ever since its production ended. Until today.


Petit Le Mans 2010; Audi, Peugeot, Hybrids, Oh My!

On: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:33PM | By: John Welch

Petit Le Mans 2010; Audi, Peugeot, Hybrids, Oh My! test 1-1

It's been a while since we covered America's most entertaining road racing association, probably because it has been a while since the American Le Mans Series has raced. The Autoshopper was there in March for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and though we can't make it to Braselton, we will cover every heart-stopping minute of the 2010 Petit Le Mans. To ramp up excitement for the event we have here a primer for the slightly uninitiated, a short guide to the new cars, new teams, and of course, the fearsome diesel monsters that will be murdering the Road Atlanta tarmac on Saturday. 

Two practice sessions down, two more scheduled for today. Venture inside the post for a break down of the new teams, and the time sheets from this morning.

Paris Motor Show Debuts: BMW 6 Series

On: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 11:10AM | By: John Welch

Paris Motor Show Debuts: BMW 6 Series test 1-1

Before its unveiling in 2004, the spec sheet of the BMW 6 Series was enough to make a grown man weep. Solid chassis, imposing size, true coupe body, strong V8 options with a chance of V10. It was a rad car, on paper. Then we got a look at it. Sad Bloodhound or Drowning Guppy, that’s what came to mind after laying eyes on the 6 Series. Who wants to tool around in a Sad Bloodhound? The dynamics didn't work out quite as advertised either.

Though physically smaller than the 5 Series sedan, on the outside, the 6 Series was just as heavy as its 4-door counterpart. This issue led to lack-luster acceleration, porky handling and a tendency towards tire howling hysterics when pushed past seven-tenths. Not to say that the 6 Series was slow, it just wasn't as fast as it should have been. Couple its ample waistline with Chris Bangles odd "flame surfacing" and you had a recipe for an expensive, unattractive, slightly sluggish convertible. It looks absolutely menacing when duded up for racing (see Turner BMW M6) but the road car left something to be desired.

BMW has redesigned the 6 Series, and it plans to reverse the 6's backsliding reputation. Pulling the headlights back, smoothing out the strange cut lines on the side of the car, changing the cheap-looking rear end treatment, all of these elements serve to pacify the 6's detractors. Also, the new interior is particularly inviting. It could be said that these styling changes soften the 6's image a little too much, possibly even make the car more boring. I say thee, nay! Just like the 3 Series, 5 Series and Z4, these updates make for a more focused looking, classier 6 Series.

Making its debut at the Mondial de l'Automobile Paris 2010, the 6 Series features new sheet metal, new engines and a host of interior upgrades that should improve its appeal to North American buyers.

Lamborghini Pulls Covers Off 'Sesto Elemento' Concept After Leaked Photo

On: Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 9:37AM | By: Chris Weiss

Lamborghini Pulls Covers Off 'Sesto Elemento' Concept After Leaked Photo test 1-1

Lamborghini tried its best to keep our interest piqued for its Paris show car. They released five non-revealing teaser photos as of Tuesday, and yesterday, we were expecting nothing more than the sixth and final teaser. Unfortunately, for the Raging Bull, a leaked document showing a new, unidentified Lambo next to such cars as the Audi A8 and the Porsche 911 Speedster showed up on the French Blog Automobile. And thus, Lamborghini's hand was forced into a full reveal instead of just another painful teaser.

We see now why Lamborghini was set on six teaser images: the concept is called 'Sesto Elemento' or 'Sixth Element'. The Sesto is designed to show off a refocused Raging Bull with lightweight design at its core. The coupe makes extensive use of carbon fiber beginning with a carbon monocoque chassis and working into the front frame, rims, suspension components, and body panels. Carbon fiber may be the composite of choice, but other lightweight composites like Pyrosic, a glass-ceramic material, are also used. The result is a scant curb weight (especially for a Lamborghini) of 2,202 lbs. That number is even more impressive as a metric figure: 999 kg.

The lightweight base pairs with a 570-hp V10 engine and all-wheel drive to deliver a power-to-weight ratio of 1.75 kilograms per hp. And it's quick, real quick: 62 mph comes in the same 2.5 seconds that it takes the Bugatti Veyron to complete the same, and the car still manages a very solid 218 mph top speed, despite Lamborghini's new focus on acceleration over terminal velocity. The lightweight design also helps to deliver better fuel economy, something that Lamborghini desperately needs: the Murcielago is the least fuel efficient car in the United States, delivering a measly 8/13 mpg. Lamborghini also brags about the increased handling that the lightened bull possesses.

Ferrari World Announces Pricing, Opens October 27

On: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 4:39PM | By: Chris Weiss

Ferrari World Announces Pricing, Opens October 27 test 1-1

A Ferrari amusement park sounds like something any supercar-lusting, red-blooded man or woman dreamed up on a particular good night of REM. Happily, it's one of those dreams that's as true when you wake up as it is when your eyes are shut. Deep in the works in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World, which features all kinds of Maranello-inspired rides and attractions, has announced its official pricing. And visitors just seething to get their first taste of the park will be able to do it a day earlier than originally scheduled. 

Ferrari World will open on October 27 at 7 p.m., less than one month from today. The park pushed the opening date up by one day. The opening will mark the start of the "inaugural period," which will run through November. In December, Ferrari World will hold a grand opening celebration.

As for pricing, Ferrari World uses height rather than age to distinguish between guests. Guests 1.5 meter (4' 11") and taller will be charged AED 225 ($61) and those guests shorter than that will be 165 AED ($45). And since the park is located in the Middle East, where richer folks love to distinguish themselves from the masses, there will also be a premium ticket, which includes priority on rides and attractions, and entry into a private lounge with refreshments. Those tickets will cost 375 AED ($102) and 270 AED ($74). 

The park will be open on Tuesdays through Sundays beginning at 12 p.m. each day.

Infiniti Details Its First Electric Vehicle

On: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 4:10PM | By: Chris Weiss

Infiniti Details Its First Electric Vehicle  test 1-1

The Nissan Leaf is due to arrive in showrooms beginning later this year. With this launch on the horizon, Infiniti, Nissan's premium brand, provided some details of its first electric vehicle, which will be introduced in 2013. If you like the 100-mile, no-emissions specs of the Leaf, but want a sportier exterior or more plush interior, it will be only a few years. 

As would be expected, the Infiniti EV will be based on the Nissan Leaf platform, bringing a premium trim to Nissan's growing EV family. With launch over two years away, details are scant, but Infiniti described the car as "a stylish, high performance five-seat luxury vehicle with zero emissions technology." Of course, we probably could have written that description without any input from Infiniti whatsoever, so we'll have to wait until development is further underway for any meaty details.

As to what the car will look like, Infiniti released the blurred-out sketch above on its Facebook page last Friday, giving the world a very vague idea. The car clearly departs from the frumpy front-end of the Leaf, boosting visuals with a more styled nose and slit headlights. The cabin is significantly more slung-back than the Leaf, and the Infiniti is markedly more sporty and stylish than its Nissan predecessor. Of course, that's just a sketch, so we'll have to wait a while to see how dramatic the departure is in the final iteration.

Ford Focus ST Looks Like An Angry Bass, Goes Like A Fast Angry Bass

On: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 3:48PM | By: John Welch

Ford Focus ST Looks Like An Angry Bass, Goes Like A Fast Angry Bass test 1-1

Perhaps Ford would prefer I use the Piranha as my Focus design comparison fish of choice. Eh, sure, I see it, but I still like Bass better. Think "fast moving, bait swallowing small mouth Guy Harvey shirt" Bass. The aquatic resemblance aside, Ford is finally bestowing one of its turbo-fed hatches on us 'Murrikens, and it is hawt. With 247 bhp surging through the front wheels courtesy of a 2.0 liter EcoBoost mill, the Focus ST should be an enjoyable hatch, and hopefully a harbinger of things to come. RS-badged things. Evil, torque steering to the horizon, dirty noises from the exhaust Cosworthish things.

What we have to go on so far ain't much, but the media shots of the Focus ST and its interior remind us that this car has gone up-market. Way up-market when compared to the US-only, Mexican-built Focus we have been saddled with since 2002. Yes, it's undergone updates, but it is essentially the same Focus originally released eight years ago. That is nearly two normal product cycles for a mass-volume small-car such as this. Almost shameful. Ford knows it, they're using the Focus as a starting point for their global Performance Vehicles strategy. This strategy could result in Ford selling versions of all of their tasty, low-volume, turbo hatches in the States. The wheezy 170 bhp SVT Focus is currently wondering why no one remembers it ever existed . . .

Take a good long look at that interior, it is a thing of beauty. Expensive materials, less hard plastic than a $40,000 Taurus, engaging gauges, a stout shifter, seats that would feel at home in any Akira-style future-cartoon . . . huff huff . . . Lincolns haven't had interiors this nice since 1969. This isn't a new Town Car either, it’s a workaday Focus!

Ford has elevated the small car game with the new Focus ST, set to debut at the Paris Motor Show tomorrow, September 30th.

U.S. Proposes New Energy Plan for Future Auto Regulations

On: Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:01PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

U.S. Proposes New Energy Plan for Future Auto Regulations test 1-1

In breaking automotive news today, the Obama administration is planning a new proposal that will regulate fuel efficiency and emissions guidelines for cars and light trucks starting in 2017.

The White House budget office is currently reviewing the plan that is a focal point of Obama’s energy agenda aimed at reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil supplies. While the results will not be released until Thursday, experts in the environmental field are projecting that government regulations will be set at a range of an average increase in fuel economy by 3%-6% per year starting in 2017. The Obama administration has made it clear that regulations will be more aggressive than the automotive industry has experienced in the past.

The astonishing facts are that the United States, home to only 5% of the world's population, is currently consuming 44% of the oil supplies and producing 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The average car puts out 6 tons of pollution in the air every year in the form of carbon emissions.