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Texas and New York Included in Early Launch For the Volt

On: Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:35AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Texas and New York Included in Early Launch For the Volt test 1-1

The Chevy Volt will soon be upon us.  Chevrolet plans to launch the new electric car in select markets across the county, but there are a few select markets that will have access to Volt much earlier than the fall 2010 scheduled date.

GM has made the decision to include extra markets for the Volt due to the extensive interest that has been shown in the electric hybrid.  “We can add markets as diverse as Texas and New York because the Chevrolet Volt can handle both urban commuting and longer trips, in Austin summers and Manhattan winters,” Whitacre said. “The Volt can be your primary vehicle, giving you the freedom to drive gas-free without the stress of planning every trip around the battery’s charge level.”

New Technology May Allow the Blind to Drive

On: Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 3:41PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New Technology May Allow the Blind to Drive test 1-1

When it comes to innovative automobile technology, the possibilities are seemingly endless. In recent news, there is actually a new driving interface being developed that is intended to allow the blind to independently drive a car on the open road.

The new technology being designed by engineers at Virginia Tech utilizes several methods to inform the driver of his/her surroundings. One such non-visual cue is sent via a set of gloves called “Drive Grip.” The gloves vibrate on various portions of the knuckles to signal to the driver with information regarding where he/she needs to turn. Another type of interface  is called “AirPix,” which uses compressed air to inform a blind driver of where other cars and obstacles are located in his/her immediate environment, creating a type of map that the vehicle operator would use to understand when and where to navigate the vehicle.

The project started in 2007, when a group of Virginia Tech researchers participated in a competition to develop a vehicle that could drive itself. Later, that same group received a grant from the National Federation of the Blind to incorporate the laser detection system, which allowed the car to navigate and detect obstacles, into an interface that could be understood through tactile senses instead of sight.

Ganassi Celebrates The Fourth With Win Despite Penalties

On: Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 3:10PM | By: John Welch

Ganassi Celebrates The Fourth With Win Despite Penalties test 1-1

A NASCAR weekend is its own microcosm, it's own universe of t-shirts and ball caps and beer cozies and all of the tens of thousands of semi-trailers and support equipment needed in order to supply the NASCAR fan with poorly made merchandise that they can get for half-price on the Internet. An added bonus, all of this commercialism completely covers every square inch of Daytona International Speedway parking space. Except, of course, for the handicapped parking that never fills all the way up. The one crappy thing I have to say about the entire weekend is that all of the P.R. nonsense about "free parking" is complete B.S. There it is, rant over, now for the unabashed puffery. The pro-motorsports Wonkism. Whatever you'd like to call it, it was worth the $40 parking and the mile and a half walk.

Dateline, July 3rd, 9 a.m., Grand-Am final practice begins under auspicious skies of gray and eggshell. Rain threatening, a few GT cars made their way out on to the Speedway, Mazda 4-rotors competing for my ear's attention with low-pitched, baby-eating Chevy small-blocks. Repeat: never has a vehicle made an ear-splittingly beautiful noise like the Speed Source Mazda RX8's. F1 cars wail, the Lola Aston Martin reports with a Singer-smooth V12 syrup symphony, and full-bore racing small-blocks sound as if they are rearranging molecules within each tortured cylinder. The Mazda, again, sounds like thirty CART open-wheelers at once. The bizarre roar emanating from a single 4-rotor powered car as it blasts around Daytona is enough to cause goose-bumps that fist fight each other. My pores are bloodied. This opinion is not universal; my camera-mule, Steve, was not fond of the Mazda engine note one bit. After practice he opined that the Mazda was borderline annoying. Different strokes for different folks I guess, but I think he's nuts!

Not that the other Grand-Am cars aren't absolutely astounding either. Upon clearing the entrance to the grandstands directly underneath the Sprint tower, the sounds and smells of race-gas being squished, popped and then evacuated by Daytona Prototypes was clear and refreshing. I had been listening to either police sirens or rain all night, the muted farts of a DP banging off its pit-speed limiter was music to my ears. Farts, really, I'm not kidding. I don't think these high-strung engines enjoy rpms lower then 2,000. They seem to protest, argue with the pit road mandated speed limiter. The Ganassi BMW sounds as if it is shedding all four camshafts when relegated to the pit-road engine map. It isn't, in fact those cam shafts are spinning with perfection, as expected from the nearly flawless Ganassi boys.

Practice complete, we retire to our rented Ford Focus for a quick breakfast of Equate-brand Turkey and white bread of indistinguishable origins. 7-11 maybe? Winn-Dixie? Who knows where we got it from; we were very tired when packing for the day. Good thing the car was a rental; it was the unfortunate recipient of a merciless barrage of corn-hole bags and footballs, launched from the wobbling, drunken arms of our fellow race fans as they attempted to mix copious amounts of booze with serious competition. Munching my soggy sandwich while watching the showdown through my Ford-supplied vanity mirror, I was unable to tell who was winning but could clearly see that everyone was having a great time.

No time for Steve and I to enjoy this thing they called "beer", it was almost 11 a.m. now, time for the Brumos Porsche 250. Our impression of the race, inside the post . . .

Last Dodge Viper Rolls Off the Assembly Line

On: Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 10:01AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Last Dodge Viper Rolls Off the Assembly Line test 1-1

In Detroit news, the very last Dodge Viper rolled off the assembly line as 400 loyal Viper owners and members from both the Motor City Viper Club and the Viper Club of America participated in a celebration to watch the presentation of the factory custom, 2010 Viper Coupe being given to new owner D’Ann Rauh by Dodge Brand President and CEO Ralph Gilles.

New owner, D’Ann, and her husband, Wayne Raugh, from Arp, Texas, own more than 40 Dodge Vipers—the largest personal collection of Vipers in the world.

This was the last of the current generation of Vipers built at the Connor Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit. A spokesperson for Chrysler stated that “Dodge has created more special-edition Viper models for the 2010 model year than all other years that the Viper was produced combined. Assembly of the Dodge Viper started in 1992.”

Rauh, who is a member of the Mid-South Viper Club of America, was given the privilege of working with the design specialists at Chrysler, in order to select many of the custom personal features that she wanted on her car.

Like many other final models built, the 2010 Viper SRT10 Coupe was a highly customized special edition. Rauh was allowed to work directly with the design team to select a custom bronze gold exterior paint supplied by the “House of Koler.”  The extraordinary paint job was complimented by two racing stripes painted by Bob Soroka, from Chrysler Group LLC's Street and Racing Technology team, featuring airbrushed layouts of Viper-significant race tracks into the custom-painted copper stripes. The five-spoke forged-aluminum wheels are custom painted in the color—dark graphite.


A Short Rant On The Eve Of The Shopper's First NASCAR Race . . .

On: Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 4:27PM | By: John Welch

A Short Rant On The Eve Of The Shopper's First NASCAR Race . . .  test 1-1

NASCAR is not a topic we devote a ton of time to (well, no time at all, yet) because, like Formula 1, it is heavily copyrighted and there are billions of other places to get info on either series. We like to stick to our favorites, if we can, series such as the ALMS, Grand-Am, and other assorted North American racing. Drifting, rally, and random sports cars can all be found here, but generally NASCAR is left to Speedtv.com, NASCAR.com, and everyone else with an affinity for turning left. That is, until we get a dedicated NASCAR writer, which we are currently attempting to obtain.

Slow going on that front, the human race is becoming disenfranchised with rolling billboards that have absolutely zero relevance to the autos being sold by today's manufacturers. Exactly which Toyota is it that is powered by a push-rod actuated V8 again? That's right, there isn't one! Which means Toyota developed the engine just for stock-car racing (and Tanner Foust's wicked Scion tC, which, itself, has little, if anything, to do with an actual Scion tC), thereby proving what is already obvious: developing new methods of brake cooling is the only thing NASCAR does for the auto industry, as a whole.

Seriously, the justification for racing is the development and implementation of new parts and systems in road cars, not a circle jerk for Cheerios, Pennzoil, and freaking cell phone companies. All other racing employs sponsorship; don't get me wrong, but other forms of racing are directly responsible for traction control, self-tightening belts, Rain-X, HID lightning, variable valve timing, suspension lightening and strengthening, and suspension design, on the whole. Carbon fiber, carbon Kevlar, dual-clutch gear boxes (Porsche 962, loogitup!), methods of engine cooling, passenger cooling, aerodynamics, methods for testing . . . this list could go on for days. NASCAR contributes tiny 15-inch rims that limit brake size. They then go to short tracks and road courses and run those brakes into the ground. The research done at the track has directly affected brake development at many companies, Brembo and Stop Tech being two of the biggest and most recognizable. Compare that with the developments and advancements achieved in Rally, sports car, or Formula 1 racing, and one might think that NASCAR is doing the rest of the racing world a slight disservice.

In no way am I stating any sort of hatred for NASCAR, just a disgust at its popularity relative to its competitors. NASCAR absolutely has its place. Think about what is going on out on the track: a Sprint Cup stock car is heavy, really heavy, 3,400 lbs. to be exact. There is no other serious race car on this planet approaching that sort of mass, not even close. Even dirt modifieds weigh a thousand or more pounds less. That heavy car is fitted with a fussy, nearly six-liter V8. These engines wind out to more than 9,000 rpm, and stay there for 350 to 600 miles. Pegged, at redline, for three hours. The technology may no longer be relevant to anyone other than Chevrolet customers, but the fact that these engines can squish on push-rods for that amount of time is just an astounding feat of engineering. It is a total shame that that engineering doesn't matter to anyone other than Corvette, Bentley, and truck buyers.

Micro Machine

On: Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 11:47AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Micro Machine test 1-1

It seems that the bar for car size keeps dropping every year. (Anyone remember when a Honda Civic looked tiny?) Big cars are almost extinct, small cars are now big cars, and the smallest cars today won't be for too much longer. If you haven't heard of the British-born company Gordon Murray Design yet, you will in the next year or two. The new kid on the block, who hasn't quite moved in yet, has designed a car that will make the current Mini Cooper look like a portly slob.  It’s called the T.25, and we believe the T should stand for 'Tiny'.  

Small does not begin to describe this car. At a hair under eight feet long (94.5 inches) and a hair over four feet wide (51.2 inches), this 1265 pound car will remind many of their childhood Power Wheels toys more than a revolutionary paradigm-shifting answer to pollution.  

Lotus Cars Consults With Advisors From BMW and GM

On: Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 10:41AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Tom Purves test 2

It has always been said that if you want to be rich, surround yourself with millionaires; advice that Lotus Cars Ltd., British automaker, has taken seriously as the company plans to team up with automotive expert, Bob Lutz from GM, and retired BMW and Rolls Royce exec.; Tom Purves, regarding a 5-year turn-around plan.

According to auto week.com source, Lutz who has been retired only 2 months from GM, is talking to Lotus, but no formal offer has been accepted.  Purves reportedly stated, in a phone conversation, that he wants to be involved in the project, but plans have not yet been finalized.  Purves was quoted as saying; “The goal is to make a contribution to projects of the future--improving the quality, the product offerings and the operations of the company,” Perves also stated: “It's exciting, and there is no question it is a great brand and has a good future.”

Chrysler Sales Soar To 35% Increase Over June 2009

On: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 4:37PM | By: John Welch

Chrysler Sales Soar To 35% Increase Over June 2009 test 1-1

Numbers numbers numbers numbers . . . every story always has a ton of numbers. I'm getting really sick of numbers. Currently Chrysler is nutty about numbers. Compared with the same time last year, June's numbers were good numbers. They're still numbers, and I still hate 'em. College Algebra can bite it!

Here are some numbers for you: 68,297. That is the number of vehicles sold by Chrysler in June, 2009.

92,482, the number of vehicles sold in June 2010. Jeep sales rose 25%, on an 86% jump Jeep Wrangler sales. Dodge sales increased 67% due to strong sales of the Charger, Avenger (puke!) and Challenger (yes please!). Even the lowly mini-vans got in on the act, sales of the Chrysler Town & Country rose 34% and sales of the Dodge Caravan jumped nearly 50%.

“This 35% increase in year-over-year sales shows that we continue to build on our sales momentum," said Fred Diaz, lead executive for Chrysler’s U.S. sales, in a statement. Sure sure, but do you have to use so many damn numbers to help make your point? I mean, isn't there another way? Is it strange that a grown adult is searching for some sort of flow chart that involves bright colors and pictures and not so much numbers? Continue into the post for more info on Chrysler's uplifting month . . .

Range Rover Celebrates 40 With New Compact SUV

On: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 3:47PM | By: John Welch

Range Rover Celebrates 40 With New Compact SUV test 1-1

Land and Range Rovers receive altered styling so in frequently that you could time said updates by Margret Thatcher's "cycle". That is to say, almost never.

For their 40th anniversary however, Range Rover is introducing a new compact SUV (I think I might get shot if I call a Rover a "CrossOver" . . .) that represents a serious departure from the typical military-grade kiddie carrying boxes we are used to seeing from Rover.

Rumored to be based on the LRX concept seen at larger auto-shows the last two years, the new SUV will be unvieled during an event in London at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Rover isn't telling us everything about the new vehicle, saving some of the juiciest morsels for the Paris Motor Show this fall.

Ganassi Fined By GRAND-AM For Engine Violation

On: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 3:20PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

 Ganassi Fined By GRAND-AM For Engine Violation test 1-1

The Grand American Road Racing Association has assigned penalties to the No. 01 team that will compete in the Daytona Prototype class at Daytona International Raceway this weekend. The penalties are because of a violation that occurred at the June 19 Rolex Series race in Ohio.  After the race an inspection found that the team was in violation of an engine eligibility regulation that names engine components and performance levels and must be strictly abided by.

Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett have had their points lead reduced to 7 as they prepare for Saturday July 3rd’s Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona.

Ford Pays $3.8 billion in Cash To Health Care Fund

On: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 1:00PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

 Ford Pays $3.8 billion in Cash To Health Care Fund test 1-1

Although the auto industry is no longer the giant of the U.S. market it once was, Ford Motor Company is confident enough about the future of its brand that the company is planning to pay $3.8 billion to its union health care fund this quarter.

The requirement was for Ford to pay $859 million to the United Auto Workers Medical Benefits Trust for Ford retirees by June 30th. Not only did the Detroit auto maker pay its obligation on time, the company paid in cash, even though there was an option to pay $600 million from its stock under last year’s union contract. Ford also opted to prepay $2.9 billion toward the company’s commitment for health care expenses.  

“There was speculation that they would pay with equity; that would have been a bit alarming,” said Colin Langan, an analyst with UBS Securities. “With all of the risk out there, it’s a good sign that they feel they can pay with cash.”