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Not All Recalls Are Created Equal

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 5:12PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Not All Recalls Are Created Equal test 1-1

When Mazda Motor Corp. announced the most recent recall involving a half a million Mazda3 models worldwide, with defects that could potentially result in loss of power steering (which has allegedly caused at least three crashes), the press did not report. Just another of a string of recalls right? Well, maybe not; when the history of the problem is really examined some may wonder “where’s the outrage?” Which is the question the title of a recent Automotive News article poses.

When the facts are examined, it’s interesting to note that Mazda, being a Japanese automaker with its headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, instantly brings to mind a comparison with Toyota; Mazda recalling half a million vehicles with potential life threatening risks that could occur from sudden loss of power steering, and Toyota Corp. recalling thousands of vehicles for potential problems with sudden unintended acceleration. All things being equal, it seems that both automakers would receive equal press, particularly considering that Mazda, like Toyota, didn’t inform the U.S. public of its knowledge of power steering problems even though Mazda had knowledge of potential risks for fatal accidents for at least 1 year prior to the recall.

Yes, that’s right, one year. Federal regulators began an investigation in June of the Mazda3 models equipped with electronically assisted power steering as a result of complaints that had been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mazda replied with a letter dated August 12th stating: “rust that forms within the steering hydraulic system can damage a motorized pump, triggering an automatic shutdown to prevent overheating.”

Toyota Recalling 1.13 Million 2005-2007 Corolla and Matrix Models

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 3:40PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Recalling 1.13 Million 2005-2007 Corolla and Matrix Models test 1-1

The never-ending recall saga continues for Toyota as the Japanese automaker announced today that it will voluntarily recall 1.13 million Toyota Corolla and Matrix models for problems related to engine stalling. The most recent recall raises the grand total of vehicles that Toyota Motor Co. has recalled to 12.3 million globally and 10.5 million in the United States.

The recall will concentrate on engine control modules that may be defective. According to Toyota, the company received the first field report regarding the defective electronic control units in November 2005 and began an investigation in March 2006.

Ferrari Opens Investigation On 458 Italia Fires

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:37PM | By: Chris Weiss

Ferrari Opens Investigation On 458 Italia Fires  test 1-1

Much to the delight of fans of pictures of flaming, sizzling supercars (and the blogs that post them), Ferrari 458 Italia models have been burning up like dry brush in the middle of July since the car went on sale earlier this year. In fact, in the few short months that it's been on the road, at least 10 fires and accidents involving the 458 have been reported from California to London to China. Responding to these incidents, Ferrari has opened an official investigation.

Pictures of burning 458s have been popping up regularly on sites like Wrecked Exotics since June. Several of the models involved have been burned into a pile of rims and charred metal, resembling nothing of their former beauty. Incidents have been reported across the U.S. and Europe, with specific locations including London, Paris, China, Switzerland and California. According to Wrecked Exotics, there were 9 incidents of crashes and fires in 458 models over a time period of just 90 days--making for one per 10 days. Overall, the BBC reports that there have been 10 crashes or fires in just three months.

Ferrari released a statement earlier this week indicating that it is opening up an investigation to see if the fires are caused by driver error or a manufacturing defect. Given the sheer number of problems in such a rare car, it'd be surprising if it wasn't the latter.

Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:31PM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius  test 1-1

There has long been a public push for some sort of noise-making system on hybrids that will warn outsiders of the cars' presence, and an NHTSA study last fall that found that hybrids run into more pedestrians and cyclists than gas vehicles only intensified that push. The National Federation of the Blind has been a strong voice in the push for noise-making technology, and has worked with GM toward pedestrian warning systems for the upcoming Chevy Volt. The two major auto industry groups: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturer have also called for legislation that would require manufacturers to outfit hybrids and electric vehicles with some for of audible warning system.

Well, Toyota has answered the bell and announced that it will be offering a noisemaker for Prius models beginning at the end of this month. The system will initially be available only in Japan, and arises out of work with the country's Committee for the Consideration of Countermeasures Regarding Quiet Hybrid and Other Vehicles.

Toyota described the new system in a release: "“The onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound — aimed to alert but not annoy — rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle’s proximity and movement.”


Obligitory Cop Car Article: 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:16PM | By: John Welch

Obligitory Cop Car Article: 2011 Dodge Charger Pursuit test 1-1

As is the custom with every other US manufacturer, Chrysler is using a beefy law enforcement motif as a 'vehicle' (sic) for launching the Crispy-new 2011 Dodge Charger. Redesigned inside and out, the new Charger is fairly intimidating already (if spy shots are to be believed . . . which they usually are) but tack on some red'n'blues and a little mean-ass black paint and you have Cobra's next Mercury.

Reshaped headlamps, fog lamps and grille, the new Charger is the Charger the Charger should have been since the Charger name was resuscitated in 2003. Now looking sleeker, but still somewhat dated, the new Charger is none the less attractive in a crude, Chrysler sort of way. Blacked-out grille and blacked-out lamps team with performance suspension tuning, heavy-duty anti-lock vented-disc brakes (ABS), front- and rear-stabilizer bars, 18-inch performance tires on (Black) steel wheels, and two-mode police-specific Electronic Stability Control (ESC) calibration. Which adds up to an more effective crack-head buster. Or, as Dodge's media site puts it, "providing law-enforcement the best combination of tactical technology, safety, power, efficiency and an iconic design that makes any suspect stop in a panic,"

"For world-class ride and performance handling dynamics, the Dodge Charger Pursuit features a rear-wheel drive design and redesigned front and rear multi-link suspension geometries to deliver a smooth comfortable ride for law enforcement officers who spend long days protecting our streets." I guess that works . . .

Ford and Mazda Will Build Pickups in Thailand

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 1:47PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford and Mazda Will Build Pickups in Thailand test 1-1

Ford Motor Co., in partnership with Mazda Motor Corp., is planning a new endeavor to build subcompact pickup trucks in Thailand. Ford and Mazda plan to invest up to $350 million at the AutoAlliance Thailand plant in order to purchase tooling supplies, upgrade the plant, and train employees; production is gearing up to start in 2011.

Including the investment in the latest project, Mazda and Ford have invested more than $1.85 billion in the Thailand truck plant since its inception in 1995. In the past, Ford Motor Co. maintained controlling interest in Mazda, but recently reduced its stake in the Japanese automaker to only 13%.

The AutoAlliance plant was started in 2009 in order to manufacture the Mazda2 and Ford Fiestas slotted for Thailand and Southeast Asian markets. The factory currently produces Ford Ranger and Mazda B Series pickups to over 130 global markets. The new Ranger is projected to be exported from Thailand to Asian and Pacific markets, and other markets throughout the world.

According to Ford’s Asia Pacific operations head, Jim Hinrichs, “The new production line… will raise the bar in flexibility, efficiency, quality and environmentally-friendly production at AAT.”


Hyundai's Hardcore Racer

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:21AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Hyundai's Hardcore Racer test 1-1

As the member of a family that owned a 1987 Sonata, I can tell you that back then, Hyundai was not in the business of making a car it was easy to get excited about. That 1987 four-cylinder, four-speed auto transmission did about what you would expect it to do in a four-door family sedan. It wasn’t a race car, but, to its credit, it never tried to be despite my best 16-year-old efforts to imagine it as such.  

What that Sonata did do, however, was last a decade with very few complaints. Sure, the alternator went once or twice and the water pump gave up the ghost around year eight, but other than those natural auto ailments, there were no real surprises or recalls that made us give up our car before we were ready and willing to.  

Fast forward 23 years later. Today, Hyundai has taken most of those same principles that our 1987 Sonata conveyed to us, and gone from a relative punch line in the automotive community to the fifth largest auto manufacturer in the world. With a very simple strategy that could have once been called the ‘Toyota Model to Success’, Hyundai has worked tirelessly at building a brand name synonymous with economical quality for the masses. 

In 2010 Hyundai introduced the sports coupe for those masses in the Genesis Coupe. In 2011 Hyundai is bringing to the table a hardcore version of that sports car for all to enjoy—the Genesis Coupe R-Spec.  

Peugeot to Debut First Diesel-Electric Hybrid In Paris

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:02AM | By: Chris Weiss

Peugeot to Debut First Diesel-Electric Hybrid In Paris  test 1-1

Given the growing push by government regulators and automotive manufacturers toward cleaner, greener vehicles it's surprising that we had to wait this long to see a diesel-electric hybrid. Peugeot plans to debut the 3008 Hybrid4 at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The crossover hatchback features a diesel-electric powertrain that offers up to 62 mpg. The new car will launch in Europe next spring after its debut in October.

The 3008 Hybrid4 is based on Peugeot's 3008 hatchback. It is fitted with a 163-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine and a rear-mounted 37-hp electric motor. That combination provides a total output of 200 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Shifting for the diesel engine is provided by an electronically-controlled automated manual transmission. The electric motor is powered by a high-voltage nickel metal hydride battery pack. An 8 kW starter-generator on the engine provides start/stop capabilities and can deliver charging to the battery pack. The electric motor can charge the battery through regenerative braking.

Worst. Traffic. Ever. China Experiences 10-DAY Delays

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 8:56AM | By: Chris Weiss

Worst. Traffic. Ever. China Experiences 10-DAY Delays test 1-1

Most Americans get a little hot under the collar when road construction, accidents or other factors beyond our control create traffic delays measured in hours--or even minutes. Imagine the calamity that would ensue if traffic delays began hitting the days and weeks marks. That's beyond inconvenient, it's downright scary; and it's all happening now across the world in China.

China's traffic disaster, which has taken the country's Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway hostage, is now on its 11th day. Some drivers have been immersed in the bumper-to-bumper mayhem for five days. Yeah, it looks like they'll be a little late for that Monday morning meeting.

The traffic jam began on August 14. The Beijing-Zhangjiakou is an already packed highway and road construction in Beijing caused traffic to slow to a mind-bogglingly sluggish crawl of a half mile per day. Lines of vehicles snaked back some 60 miles.

UPDATE: The massive Chinese Traffic jam has all but subsided. NBC showed up just in time to report on a traffic jam that no longer exists. All the details at MSNBC World Blog.

Nissan Plans

On: Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 3:35PM | By: Chris Weiss

Nissan Plans test 1-1

When you first hear that Nissan is planning a convertible version of the Murano crossover, it's nearly impossible to have any reaction that doesn't include a version of "WTF?!!" Perfectly natural. According to a new Automotive News report, that's exactly what the company is going for. Nissan realizes that the Murano convertible will have a polarizing effect, but hopes that the model will draw attention to the brand and develop some buzz. It's hard to see how that plan will fail.

Prices of Pre-Owned SUVs Up 30%

On: Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 11:42AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Prices of Pre-Owned SUVs Up 30% test 1-1

In such an unstable automotive market as the U.S. has experienced in the past year, it’s difficult to predict exactly when the best time is to buy or sell a used car, but if it’s an SUV, Minivan, or Crossover that’s involved, now may be the best time to sell—not buy.

According to Edmunds.com, prices of pre-owned SUVs and Crossovers have gone up by as much as 30% since last year.  Cadillac Escalades, for example, being sold in 2010 are getting 36% more for the average sale price than buyers paid in 2009.

In a market that values vehicles that provide great fuel economy, one may think that prices for gas guzzling SUVs would be going down instead of up. On average, wholesale prices for used vehicle have decreased slightly in July as compared to record high prices in the spring.

Edmunds.com reports that the average retail price for a pre-owned Cadillac Escalade, (calculating an average price paid for all model years) was $34,715 in July, surprisingly, up 36% from the average price paid last July. Edmunds.com reports that the average retail price paid for a used Dodge Grand Caravan in July, averaged over all model years, was $15,629, up 34%.