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And Car Reviews

Tesla, Toyota's Fremont Revival of the NUMMI Auto Plant Has Residents Estatic

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:43AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

New United Motor Manufacturing Inc test 2

The city of Fremont, California is buzzing with giddiness. This is for a very good reason. After taking a huge economic blow during the housing market collapse (which greatly affected the state), as well as the combined decline and near fallout of the auto market, the city is starting to rebound. This is because Toyota—who co-owned with GM the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont, which employed around 5,000 autoworkers, but was closed down early in 2010 by both entities due to declining auto sales—has announced that they plan to reopen the plant in the near future to start producing a new line of electric cars to be branded by Tesla.

This could not come at a better time for the residents, the businesses, and the entire town of Fremont. Bringing back thousands of high-paying jobs to the area could really revive this once prosperous but now struggling town. And the Mayor of Fremont could not be any happier about this prospect.

In an interview with Mercury News, Bob Wasserman, the mayor of Freemont, expresses his gratitude and explains why he is thrilled about the NUMMI plant being reopened. “In a great big hurry, our fortunes have changed. We're thrilled to see something good happening with that property. It'll employ a lot of the folks who just lost their jobs, but it'll also be a catalyst to bring.”

Sweet New McLaren on the Way: MP4-12C

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:29AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

McLaren MP4-12C test 2

If you love Formula 1 racing cars, there is a good chance you know about Ron Dennis. This is the man who essentially became the head of operations for the McLaren Formula 1 racing staff nearly three decades ago. Now, he is setting up his own operations to manufacture what he calls the “Expensive Swiss watch of luxury cars". Indeed, one look (skip to photos) at this fancy, sleek & sporty car will make you say Awesome. However, this does make one ponder such questions like, how much does it cost? What are the features and specs? Where is it being made? And when will it be on the market for sale in the US?

As to why he (Dennis) has plans for making a street version of these very popular racing cars, in an interview with BBC News he answered that question, where he states, “We are exposing our brand through going motor racing.”

He further adds in the BBC interview, “It shows off our technology. We make no secret of the fact that we want to take technology that we've developed in F1 and bring that into our production cars.”

The creation of the estimated £40m (around sixty some-odd million dollars US) manufacturing plant will create at least three hundred jobs in the small and homey town where Dennis grew up, Surrey (UK). Aside from this model, which the company plans on launching sometime in 2011, they also have plans to make a vast array of other related sports cars over the next decade. So one would have a good mind to think that there are some cool innovations yet to come from Dennis’ line of luxury cars.

RSR Jaguar XKR GT Completes Its First Enduro

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: John Welch

RSR Jaguar XKR GT Completes Its First Enduro test 1-1

May 29th. That is the day we will get to view the Monterey Grand Prix. Which took place this last weekend. Blame insufferable television schedules for the delay in coverage. Instead of the race, CBS treated me too an informative (sic) infomercial involving a rotisserie and geriatric joint cream. By some cruel twist of physics Ronco has figured out how to provide the modern senior with an entire Lemon Pepper chicken (white meat only, of course) and pre-warmed Chondriotin-infusing skin cream . . . all on the same plate!! After an hour I was "oohh"ing and "awww"ing right along with the compensated studio audience. Apparently the joint medication doubles as a fine horseradish sauce! Ain't science grand?!

While this shameless advertisement was filling my head with notions of fully-cooked birds in under five minutes, there was a little race going on in Monterey. Maybe you couldn't care less what the results were. Maybe endurance racing isn't your thing. Maybe if I told you the results it wouldn't effect your day one way or the other. And that's fine.

There are some people who will avoid SPEED and ESPN all week because they would like to see the race before they know the results OF the race. I respect those people. Long ago, I was one of them. A tape-delayed race meant complete media shutdown for me, until the day network television got around to broadcasting the affair. I can no longer avoid the results of a race through total computer/television blackout. However, I still respect those who do. I won't ruin the race for you, Comrades, some other website can have the guilt.

I will report on a car that had little to do with the points battle, but whose presence in the ALMS is greatly appreciated. The RSR Jaguar was featured in the 'Shopper blog last year, and we have been anxiously following its development since. Unfortunately, that development has been slow and painful. Completing only a handful of laps in 2009, the Jag was all but absent fro this year's Sebring race. Out in the first quarter of Long Beach, it appeared that the eighth manufacturer in the ALMS GT class was going to be a memory by the middle of the season. These factors conspire to make a 13th (in class) finish seem like a serious victory. A victory for Rocket Sports Racing, for Jaguar, for the AMS, and for us fans.

2011 Chevy Volt Could be Big Jolt for GM

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 10:28AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar

2011 Chevy Volt test 2

The latest innovation from GM, as they try to break into the growing world of electric cars, is their newest vehicle: the 2011 Chevy Volt electric car. When it becomes available in November, this vehicle will actually have much to offer to the world of eco-friendly and earth-conscious car drivers the world afar, and for many good reasons too. For one, the car uses a different, newer and very intuitive type of design in the way that their engine actually runs. The electric battery that is housed in the car offers up to 40 miles on a single charge, and according to Chevy (on their website),— it can be easily recharged overnight. If you are running around town and you find that your electrical charge is about to expire, Chevy has that base covered as well.

According to their website, “Volt uses a range-extending gas generator that produces enough energy to power it for hundreds of miles on a single tank of gas.” The Volt's expected total range on one tank of gas is more than 300 miles, according to GM.


Race Wars

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 9:18AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Race Wars test 1-1


In April of 1964 the country was in the midst of turmoil. African Americans were fighting for their right to live like everyone else and Lyndon B. Johnson's administration was trying to cope with increased economic pressure. Americans lived in a country divided. Riots, fights, hate crimes, and a nation at war with itself.  

That same month Ford made it easier than it had been for a long time to get away from the fighting with exactly what the country needed: A two-doored escape pod called the Mustang. Built from inauspicious Fairlane and Falcon DNA, Ford projected sales to be about 100,000 units in its first year. Whether it was due to a simple need for something new, or just the right cure for just the right itch, Mustang sales topped Ford's projection in less than four months. The Pony Car was born. Despite arguments that cars like the Chevy Corvair, Monza, the Ford Thunderbird, or the Dodge Dart were the beginning of this segment, it was the Mustang that caught America’s attention.

After almost three years of watching Ford rake in the dough, The General decided to launch an ‘inadvertent’ counterattack. GM had said that the Camaro was in the works before they even knew about the Mustang. But the timing of it was all too coincidental to not have been seen as a direct shot aimed squared at Dearborn. In September of 1966 the Camaro roared onto the scene with a bigger engine, stronger suspension, and more muscle. All at once GM made the country just a little more divisive, just as the riots were calming down and it seemed peace and love were all you needed. The Pony Car war had begun.  

Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors

On: Sun, May 23, 2010 at 10:10AM | By: John Welch

Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors test 1-1

Akio Toyoda is determined to erase Toyota's staid, Big Brotherish reputation. First mandating more passion be injected into Toyota's marginally boring line-up, now he is doing his best to instill a entrepreneurial spirit into Toyota's corporate philosophy. By dropping $50 million into Tesla Motors, Toyoda has found a use for the dormant NUMMI plant, as well as provided his company with some much needed positive motivation.

“I’ve felt an infinite possibility about Tesla’s technology,” said Toyoda, chief executive officer of Toyota, founded by his grandfather. “By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business’ spirit.”

For Tesla, this is the second $50 million investment received in as many years. Diamler bought into Tesla in 2009, though they have reduced their stake since. The Toyota-Tesla partnership doesn’t impede Daimler’s cooperation with the California automaker, said Brigitte Bertram, a Daimler spokeswoman. Tesla is supplying Diamler with battery packs for a test fleet of electric Smart minicars.

The most important news here is the revival of the NUMMI plant in California, a joint venture between Toyota and GM for nearly 25 years. NUMMI produced the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins most recently, but fell on hard times after 2008. The death of Pontiac and Toyota's moving Matrix production to Japan left NUMMI with little to do. First GM, then Toyota pulled out of the plant, leaving all of its 4,700 employees looking for work.

Though not rehiring that much man power right away, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has a comprehensive plan for providing as many jobs as possible. Tesla has hired back about 90 former NUMMI workers and expects to add about 50 a month, Musk said. The plant’s restart “is welcome news for the state’s economy and workers after the closing of this highly productive plant,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement.

Toyota plans to use Tesla's technology to produce short-range plug-in Hybrids, similar to the Chevrolet Volt. The first plug-in Prius should turn a wheel in the fall of 2012.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey

On: Fri, May 21, 2010 at 3:51PM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey test 1-1

We haven't enjoyed an American Le Mans Series race since the weekend of April 18th, when the ALMS parade put on an excellent show in Long Beach. That race was won on a last lap pass, an astounding move by Simon Pagenuad in his formally LMP2 ARX-01c. Remember, the Le Mans Prototype classes have been combined this season. Performance equalizers have been put in place to ensure fierce, competitive racing between the powerful, heavy LMP1s and the nimble but less powerful LMP2s. The car Pagenaud dusted off for the win, Adrian Fernandez's Lola/Aston Martin, is powered by a 6 liter V12. Pagenaud's Acura sports a tiny, wheezing HPD (Honda Performance Development) V8. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the advantage the Aston might have over the Acura. This sort of competitive parity is found only in the ALMS (the European Le Mans Series still separates LMP1 and 2) and it makes for some fantastic finishes.

As far as the points battles are concerned, 2010 is a stellar year for fans of razor-thin margins. Two, I repeat, TWO of the four classes are tied at the top, and these classes just happen to be the two top classes—LMP and GT. In LMP there are eight teams within ten points of each other. The ALMS proves time and time again that its formula for parity is unrivaled in top-level motorsports the world over.

There are no European teams competeing in the Monterey Grand Prix this weekend, which is a significant disappointment. That means the Audi drought continues and no oil-buring French-Lions. For the first time this season there will be no Prodrive/Gulf/Lola/Aston-Martin prototype to lust after. I think the embassment of being defeated by an inferior marque/car may have put the gorgeous AMR Lola back in Europe for good. I sure hope not; that thing is baby-blue candy-coated sex on wheels and it would hurt me deeply if I was never given the opportunity to hear its twelve-cylinder siren song again . . .

Stupid CBS and your stupid delayed programming. The Monterey Grand Prix takes place this weekend, but will not be seen on television until May 29th. Let's be honest, if this is the only "Ugly" thing I can find to gripe about then the ALMS must really kick ass. Seriously, the ALMS absolutely flattens ass and then rearranges ass's molecules. Throws ass in the dryer right after wringing ass's neck. Beats ass with ass's own sister. Tases ass while curb stomping ass. You get the picture. The American Le Mans Series is pretty sweet.

Chrysler Pays $1.9 billion on Federal Debt

On: Fri, May 21, 2010 at 2:08PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Chrysler Pays $1.9 billion on Federal Debt test 1-1

In 2009, the Chrysler Corporation got in line for federal funding that would serve to bail the company out financially after the recession hit the auto industry, which resulted in tremendous losses to automakers. A loan was offered to Chrysler for $4 billion, but the company went into default shortly before filing bankruptcy.

Recently Chrysler paid back another $1.9 billion to the United States Department of Treasury toward the debt that was incurred to support Chrysler’s financial services arm of the corporation. The United States Treasury reports that of the $14.3 billion in loans to Chrysler, it has received $3.9 billion in re-payment.

Toyota Bomb Hoax: Was It Real?

On: Fri, May 21, 2010 at 9:19AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Toyota's facility located in Princeton Indiana test 2

If you have been reading recent automotive news, you may be confused about exactly what Toyota's new "crisis" is. Rumors about bomb threats and closing down Toyota plants across the country are all over the internet, but what really happened? Did Toyota get threatened by a mentally unbalanced consumer who couldn't take the thought of having to getting another Toyota model serviced for recalls? Well, apparently not…

The perceived “crisis” for Toyota was discovered recently when, according to the Associated Press, Toyota "received four fake bombs through the mail since Friday. The first suspicious package arrived at Toyota America’s headquarters in Erlanger, Kentucky on Friday, followed by similar packages delivered to the company’s West Virginia and Texas production facilities on Monday. The latest package was addressed to Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant, but was discovered before it left the local post office. The post office was evacuated, but a bomb expert later found the package to be a fake.”

The New Car-Based Ford Explorer

On: Thu, May 20, 2010 at 4:12PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

The New Car-Based Ford Explorer test 1-1

The new re-designed Ford Explorer crossover (concept version pictured) is scheduled to arrive at dealerships later this year. Many advocates of the Explorer want to know if the SUV-turned-crossover will have the same level of ruggedness and towing capacity when it gets built on a car chassis instead of a truck.

Ford plans to continue marketing the Explorer as an SUV even after the redesign project. Aaron Bragman, automotive analyst responded: "They can call it whatever they like. It's built on a Taurus platform, so it is actually a crossover."

Analysts believe that the new Explorer (which hasn't even been seen by the public yet) will probably not meet the expectations of Ford's SUV customers.  Some believe that the new Explorer may be competition for other Ford Crossovers such as the Ford Flex, which has not been a great hit for Ford so far.

The present model Explorer has seen a sales increase of 41% and, so far this year, has outsold the Flex (the Flex saw a sales increase of only 16% this year).

Ford is hoping that the new Explorer will be a hit with a different type of consumer, possibly a car buyer with a large family. The new Explorer will be a seven passenger vehicle with three rows of seats, just like the Flex. Ford reports that 70% of current Explorer buyers already select the extra row of seats which indicates to the company that they may be interested in the three row crossover conversion of the Explorer.

"When you see it, you know it's a Ford, you will know it is an SUV, and you will know it's a very modern interpretation of our Explorer," according to Jim Holland, Ford’s engineer in charge of the redesign project.

Nissan Offers Relief to Victims of Flood Zone

On: Thu, May 20, 2010 at 4:12PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Nissan Offers Relief to Victims of Flood Zone test 1-1

On May 4th, 2010, Nissan Motors stepped up to the plate to offer charitable donations after a record-breaking flash flood swooped across the state lines of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky before it reportedly took the lives of at least 30 people and destroyed many communities located in all three states.

The rapidly rising flood waters resulted from severe storms, tornadoes, and torrential rain fall across the affected states this month. Many residential homes, apartment complexes, and other structures, such as nursing homes, were destroyed statewide in all three regions of the country. The flooding was so severe that residents had to be evacuated by rescue boats and helicopters. Hundreds of people lost their homes, cars, and literally all of their possessions, and were left stranded without the basic necessities such as food and a place to sleep, all a direct result of the flash flooding.