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Auto Industry News
And Car Reviews

Harmon Kardon Climbing Back on Top as Car Sales Revive

On: Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 8:56AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Harmon Kardon test 2

When you first step foot—or sit—inside one of the many very fine luxury cars that are out there these days, many people don’t think of the audio system that is in that car. In fact, I would be willing to bet that most people who drive these cars don’t even know that Harmon Kardon makes audio systems for some pretty fancy rides. Cars like BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes-Benz; to name a few. According to a recent report published on Barrons, “Sales of audio and other equipment to auto makers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi account for 70% of the company's sales.”

If you could—because I know that I certainly would—would you choose to drive a luxury car? If, say, money were no object, would you desire that feature-loaded ride with a voice-activated audio system that interfaces with an MP3 transmitter to your iPod and even docks it while you drive? Or one with a touch screen Harmon Kardon GPS navigation system that will always get you where you are going safe and sound? For certain these things can be easily added to any car; you can just buy them and install them. But if you ask me, features like the Harmon Audio and GPS systems are staples that really make such luxury cars like BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benz, and others in the pack really stand out.

And Harmon—while showing dismal numbers recently, and falling stocks—is not going anywhere soon. Indeed, rather, it's quite the opposite. The company is on a strong track for success. And here is why.

The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo

On: Mon, May 31, 2010 at 10:24AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo test 1-1

BMW is well known for producing luxury sports sedans and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is no exception. The Gran Turismo combines the precision handling of the 5-Series sport sedan with a hatchback body style that adds plenty of cargo space for passengers and their gear. At first glance, this car resembles a cross between the X6 and a BMW 7 Series sedan. The Gran Turismo shares much of its engineering with the 7-series that BMW launched last year as well as the 2010 5-series.

According to BMW, the car combines “the best attributes of an elegant sedan, a contemporary Sports Activity Vehicle and a classic Gran Turismo" (a Gran Turismo is a vehicle with the performance of a sports-car with luxury features and added cargo space). The 550i's twin-turbo direct-injected 4.4-liter V-8 puts out 400 hp and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. Combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the car can go from 0-60 mph in as little as 5.4 seconds.

The Saab 92 Could be Coming Back Soon (as Well as a Newer 9-3 Model)

On: Mon, May 31, 2010 at 12:12AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Saab 92 Concept test 2

There have been lots of people who have been wondering about the future of Saab as of lately. This is for good reason too. After the fall of the Big Three automakers and GM's selling of their stakes in Saab to a European company, many owners were a bit concerned. I would have been too, because a new owner (of Saab) could change the entire spectrum.

Saab could alter vehicle warranties or make the availability of parts scarce; but such is not the case my friends, rather quite the opposite. The outlook for the carmaker is as bright as the sun, and looking better each day. Saab has a brand new concept car that is in the works, dubbed the 9-3, and the revival of the coveted Saab 92, that is sure to entice car buyers the world afar.

In a report that was recently published by Motor Trend, the founder of Spyker (who now owns Saab), Victor Muller, offered some insight into the revival of the ever so coveted Saab 92 series of cars, stating, “The Saab 92 is definitely the missing link in the portfolio of Saab cars. And this is clearly what we want to bring to the market, really soon.”

Porsche Was the Original Innovator of Hybrid Cars in the Early 1900s!

On: Sat, May 29, 2010 at 10:47AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Lohner Porsche Hybrid Car test 2

There are a lot of people out there that think that hybrid cars and electric cars are something rather new (myself included here). But in actuality, they have been around for a lot longer than you may have ever thought. Another interesting factoid is that the original maker of the world’s first truly electric cars and hybrids was none other than Porsche. I know that this may be—or may seem—hard to believe at first glance; I sure didn’t think that this was true. But as you read on, I aim to reveal to you my findings. After coming across some rather interesting and eye-opening information on the history of electric cars and hybrids in the United States, I was quite intrigued to learn their moniker. And indeed, as I found out, Porsche was the pioneer of the very first electric cars and hybrids. Here is the kicker, the ice cream sundae-topper and the deal-maker: They were making these hybrid and electric cars way back in the early 1900s!

Before I delve any further into this, it begs to ask one question: If we had this technology for over a hundred years—and then some—why is it only as of late that hybrid cars and ‘green’ cars, like electric and solar-powered cars, are finally making their debuts? One has a good mind to think that the oil companies were not that enchanted at the prospect of losing business, to the tune of trillions of dollars. Because if you really think about how much gas Americans have consumed over the past 100 years or so, that’s quite a pocketful of goodies that have been earned! But if we had only embraced this hybrid technology far earlier, one has a good mind to think that we would be leaps and bounds from where we sit presently—as it relates to the overall technology of these cars, and our precious and fragile, deteriorating environment.

Also, it makes one ponder if we would have been able to avoid terrible and devastating environmental disasters, like the BP Gulf Oil Spill?


Feds to Green Automakers: Your Cars Are Too Quiet!

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 3:10PM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

Quiet Cars test 2

It seems that the world of autos and cars has been changed forever with the advent of hybrid cars, ‘green’ cars, solar cars, and electric cars alike. Now these cars finally are falling to normal price levels, comparable to not-so-‘green’ cars. 'Green' vehicles are finally being manufactured by tons of automakers, and this market is ever so quickly expanding. As the world makes more demands on automakers to rise to the challenges of combating global warming, there is yet another hurdle that is being presented to green vehicles by the US government (and others): Apparently, they are too quiet!

Before I delve into this, let us first recognize one thing: the Feds, and most countries, have forever and a day, to be exact, vied for cleaner and more fuel-efficient and less emission-producing cars. But now, these cars drive so quietly and smoothly that governments are actually considering passing what they will call the Auto Safety Bill. This bill, in essence, would require the makers of such green cars to provide some sort of alert noise whenever, say, a pedestrian is nearby—so that they are safer on the roads.

But this is not a bad thing. No way. For sure, a smooth and quiet ride is very desirable to most consumers and has forever been a mainstay in the marketing of many different cars. However, did we really think that we would ever see the day when technology has them running so quietly that there are now bills being enacted into law to regulate that lack of noise? The last time I checked, they were passing bills for quite the opposite reasons—mostly by city and region—laws that would limit how loud a motorcycle could be, for example. In the area of auto safety, however, something is often overlooked: the street-side pedestrian. So this new bill is actually a good thing, if you ask me.

The BMW Z4 E89

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 2:54PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The BMW Z4 E89 test 1-1

The new BMW Z4 E89 offers the pleasure of a roadster with the style and finesse that could only come from BMW.  With the seating position moved close to the rear axle, retractable hardtop, and traditional Roadster dimensions, pure driving pleasure are the only words to describe this classic roadster comeback. The car’s modern classic look was created from its flowing lines, the long and low-slung engine compartment lid, short overhangs, the long wheelbase and large wheels, and the low seating position as well.

This outstanding two-seater BMW Z4 E89 offers a unique combination of sophistication, speed and luxury. The two-piece lightweight hardtop comes to rest in the roof compartment, saving maximum space in the process. Even with the roof closed, the new Z4 retains the proportions typical of a genuine roadster.

Prepare To Be Annoyed: A Guide To Holiday Driving

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 1:59PM | By: Clay Ritchings

Prepare To Be Annoyed This Weekend test 2

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and felt that I needed to get something off my chest. Maybe I am writing this because I am truly concerned for all the people who are going to pack up their cars and head out on the road to visit friends and family for the weekend—or was it the idiot driver who cut me off this morning near Dunkin Donuts on Bartow Highway and then proceeded to run his mouth and give me the finger?

Yes, Civic boy, I am the guy you flipped the bird; if this happened 15 years ago, a chase and a prompt beating would have ensued, followed by the desecration of your little car's manhood attached to the trunk. However, I have learned patience since then… Thank you, to the young punk in the Silver Civic with the aftermarket wing attached to the trunk lid like an automotive tumor; thank you, for making this post possible. Oh, and by the way, that wing works only if your car can do 100 mph—and by the look at the pile you are driving it would rattle apart before you reached the threshold…Just FYI.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, the traditional start of the summer driving season. With gas prices trending downwards, the annual family road-trip vacation in the Family Truckster could be making a comeback this year. So I have come up with a few things to make the roads a tad better this holiday weekend, and maybe some of the habits will stick around the rest of the year.

. . . And Just In Case You Can't Wait For Saturday

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:36PM | By: John Welch

. . . And Just In Case You Can't Wait For Saturday test 1-1

CBS will broadcast last week's American Le Mans Series Race tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. EST. The program will feature a documentary format, similar to 2008's "Truth In 24".

If you just can't wait until tomorrow afternoon, or you (like I,) want to witness every nanosecond of the 6-hour Grand Prix of Monterey, the entire race can be viewed courtesy of the ALMS and TodoCast.

TodoCast is a new system for professional videographers, event producers, content owners and organizations looking to reach their fans with Live Internet Broadcasts. Fortunately for us, the American Le Mans Series is one of those event-producing organizations! The race is split into three parts: hours one through three, hours four and five, and the final hour. Simply fill out the requisit "login" information, complete your free registration, and you're ready to consume six hours of motorized madness.

I have taken advantage of this service already, spacing the race out over several evenings. Even a casual fan might get lost in the intense action, action that doesn't lose pace over the course of six hours. The first two hours feature a hellacious duel among the LMP competitors, and the final four is a non-stop, fender crushing, teeth gnashing, GT brawl. The top four cars are often four different makes, and the lead changes hands so often you might think it was every lap.

The CBS broadcast has it's place. The drama and excitement of a Le Mans-style enduro might not be immediately obvious to an uninitiated observer, and the high-style documentary (ala NFL Films) is an excellent way to introduce the series. For the previously aware, however, the ability to view all of the pulse-pounding action from the Grand Prix of Monterey is a blessing from God, or Buddha, or Xenu Warrior Princess or whoever you donate your ten percent too.

Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 11:26AM | By: John Welch

Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season test 1-1

After four weeks of heel cooling and relaxation, the Grand-Am Series revs back up this weekend, at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The Lime Rock circuit has never hosted a Grand-Am event; series regulars are excited about the opportunity to race at the historic venue. Scott Pruett, Ganassi/BMW Racing driver: "I feel it's going to be a unique opportunity for everyone. It's a one-day event, which means as a team you have to be ready to roll right when you come off the truck - and the Ganassi team continually shows a lot of ability in that respect."

How’s this for a crammed schedule: The teams practice, qualify and race on Monday. After the race, they will pack up and head straight to New York for the Sahlens 6 Hour at Watkins Glen. The next weekend. Yikes.

That race, a six-hour endurance race at the famed Watkins Glen course, will feature star power in the form of Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson. More on that next week; right now we are focusing on the Connecticut farmland and Lime Rock Park. This race at the 1.5 mile Lime Rock circuit will be a one-day event. Practice begins at 9 a.m. ET, with qualifying at 11:55 a.m. and the green flag waving around 2 p.m.

Toyota Denied Request to Dismiss Dispute Regarding Hybrid Technology

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 9:01AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota Denied Request to Dismiss Dispute Regarding Hybrid Technology test 1-1

“When it rains it pours.” It seems like that should be Toyota’s new slogan as Toyota Motor Corporation lost its bid to dismiss a Florida company’s patent infringement claim.  Worst case scenario could result in the Japanese automaker being prohibited from importing its most recent model hybrids and top sellers; the Prius and Camry and Lexus Hybrids.

The Supreme Court let stand an appeal by Toyota in a $4.3 million dollar lawsuit by Paice LLC of McLean, Virginia (Paice is an acronym for Power-Assisted Internal Combustion Engines). Last year, a federal appeals court also sided with Paice. Toyota appealed but has now lost in a patent infringement case affecting their hybrid synergy system. Toyota may have to start paying Paice royalties of $25 for every Prius, Highlander Hybrid, and Lexus RX 400h sold.

Ford Preparing To Ax Mercury

On: Thu, May 27, 2010 at 5:07PM | By: John Welch

Ford Preparing To Ax Mercury test 1-1

The American Car Company graveyard might get a little larger soon; it looks like Ford is getting ready to give Mercury the "'Ole Yeller" soon. Allan Mullaly made it clear when he took the reigns at Ford, that he would emphasize one premier brand, Ford, and would eventually wind down extraneous brands Lincoln and Mercury. According to sources, the automaker's top executives are preparing a proposal to kill Mercury to be presented to directors in July. Mercury is already losing two of its models next year, leaving it with a serious product drought.

The plan hinges on Ford's ability to convince Lincoln/Mercury dealers to close or consolidate with existing Ford dealerships, a negotiation that could get rocky. No dealer wants to give up his franchise. Unfortunately for them, this plan falls right in line with Ford's other cost cutting measures, namely the elimination of small-niche European brands like Volvo and Jaguar. With the Euro-pudge trimmed, Mullaly is now turning his attention to Ford's North American fat.