Friday, May 29, 2009

GM to Sell Opel and Vauxhall to Magna

General Motors (GM) is working feverishly on a number of projects related to the bankruptcy. GM has scheduled an announcement for Monday is anticipated that they will declare a chapter eleven bankruptcy. The government had given them until June 1st to resolve their financial issues or file for bankruptcy. Presently, bond holders have withheld their approval of the deal to give them shares in GM in exchange for the bond debt. The United Automobile Workers have already reached an agreement with GM.

GM is also working on the sale of GM Europe to Magna International (MI). Magna International is a Canadian company based in Aurora, Ontario. It is Canada's largest automobile parts manufacturer and one of the country's largest companies. MI is a business to business company...with a name that is not well know to the public. They manufacturer parts for the Big 3 U.S. auto manufacturers in addition to Volkswagen, BMW, and Toyota.

The German government has requested that the GM subsidiary Opel be shielded from the parent GM's U.S. bankruptcy. The German government apparently be willing to put up 1.5 billion Euros($2.1 billion) for a bridge loan that would be repaid when the deal is closed.

It appears that Fiat has withdrawn from bidding on GM Europe, due to the German governments demand for emergency funds during the transition. Apparently, Fiat does not have the ability to fund the transaction.

Today, a memorandum of understanding was signed outlining a plan for the future ownership of the Opel and Vauxhall assets. The assets are to be transferred to a new company, which Magna International will take a 20 per cent stake and Sberbank, a Russian bank, will take a 35 per cent stake, giving their consortium a majority. GM will retain a 35 per cent holding, while the remaining 10 per cent will go to Opel employees.

The fate of Saab has not been resolved, but as soon as I have information I will advise!

2010 Jaguar XFR

Based on a number of my posts, readers are aware that I am a real Jaguar fan. There is something about the brand that I find very appealing....from the English styling..... to the leather the beautiful woods used. Jaguar has always been known for their luxury! Lately, they have been producing some excellent luxurious sports cars.

Today, I am outlining a car that is a BMW M5 killer. The new 2010 Jaguar XFR is one hot car! The Jaguar XFR is so fast that it reached 225 mph. on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
This is the fastest production car in Jaguar history.....surpassing the exceptional XJ220, which was a mid-engine supercar....named for its top speed. Check out this cool Jaguar promotion video!

The XFR was designed to give Jaguar a true luxury sedan with the performance of a super car. It will compete against these substantial competitors as the Audi RS6, BMW M5, and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.

The XFR will be powered by an all new 5.0 liter engine displacing 5.0 liters...which is super charged and generates an impressive 510 horsepower. The 0-60 time is a fast 4.6 seconds.

Pricing for the standard 2010 XF starts at $52,000 or $57,000 USD for the XF Premium model. Jaguar pricing for the 2010 XFR will be $80,000 USD when it hits showrooms this summer.

The XF's standard six-speed automatic transmission....had been strengthened to handle the substantial torque. It's also been tuned for a sportier shift response......and steering-wheel levers for manual shifting.

The XFR is equipped with a Adaptive Dynamics suspension system....which should give the car exceptional handling and high speed stability. Jaguar indicates that the ride quality should not suffer substantially.

The XFR will come standard with 20-inch alloy wheels and performance tires.

Interesting new features include a back up camera with guidance lines and a radar based blind spot monitor.


My take on this beautiful is very fast and apparently handles great! It will have an exceptional speed and handling...without the hard edge of an M5.
I cannot wait to take this car for a spin!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ford Overtakes GM In North American Production

General Motors (GM) has been the largest manufacturer in the united states since 1923. Due to the anticipated Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing GM will shrink substantially. Currently, GM has the following brands on the auction block....Hummer, Saab, GM Europe, and Saturn. In addition, they will discontinue the Pontiac brand.
Ford will displace GM as the largest North American auto producer this year. Ford’s North American output is actually expected to fall by 17.7 percent to 1.9 million units this year. But that number should keep the Blue Oval ahead of GM. GM is planning to sell or close the brands mentioned above.....also GM will cut production at 13 of its North American plants for up to 9 weeks this summer. GM North America should produce approximately 1.7 million vehicles this year.
Since the recession hit, GM financial problems have magnified. In 2008, Toyota overtook GM as the world's largest auto manufacturer. So it appears that GM will loose the second largest manufacturer in the world to Volkswagon.

Chrysler’s bankruptcy will also clear the way for Honda to move up to the number three spot. In fact, Chrysler will produce just over 900,000 vehicles this year – a decrease of more than 50 percent from last year – sliding the automaker all the way down to number five. Toyota should finish just ahead of Chrysler with approxximately 904,000 units produced.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Honda Fuzo Concept

Would you like this to be your ride? Here is a car that maybe in your future! Honda is a very progressive technological automobile manufacturer. They are working the Honda Fuzo Concept....which is a flying car.

There is a very interesting story behind the Fuzo, the automotive designer Jonathan Mahieddine applied for a job with Honda an submitted his design for the Fuzo as part of the his resume. If Honda does not hire this young man.....another smart auto manufacturer should!

There is no doubt that Mr Mahieddine has created a unique vision of the future. Personally, the car reminds me of vehicles that were used in Star Wars (the movie). But, what impresses me most if the fact that this car shows great innovation.

The Fuzo seats three people and was designed with Kevlar, carbon fiber and carbon nanotubes to reduce weight. The Fuzo is powered by four turbine engines and reaches a top speed of 350 mph.

What is interesting about the car is that it can take off like vertically like a Harrier Jet ....then it can fly straight. The Fuzo uses retractable wheels when landing ....then it can drive on the streets like a normal car.

The Fuzo would have a GPS system that navigates to the destination but also acts as a collision avoidance system. An interesting feature would be airbags on the exterior of the car to protect pedestrians in an accident. For more pictures go to the Road and Track Slideshow: Honda's Hovering Concept Car. This post was based on an article in Road and Track.
My take on the Fuzo is that it is a great design exercise. There have been a number of flying cars designed in the past.
The technological problems have kept them from production. In the future, maybe twenty years or so this might be an actual production car. I would certainly enjoy taking it for a spin!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2010 Lexus IS250/350C

It is going to be summer there is nothing like a drive in a I thought that a beautiful convertible would be in order today. In Southern California that means a ride down Pacific Coast Highway with a beautiful view of the ocean.
The Lexus IS 250/350 is entry level luxury car that competes against mainly against the BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class, Cadillac CTS. Infinity will introduce a G37 convertible, which will be covered in another post. The IS stands for Intelligent Sport per Lexus. Today's post is on the IS 250/350C which is a new convertible for 2010....which will be in dealer showrooms by end of the month.

The IS25/350C features a three piece aluminum hardtop roof that requires 15 electric motors and 37 sensors to fold into the trunk...which takes approximately 21 seconds.
The engine choices are a 204 hp 2.5-liter V-6 in the IS250 and a306 hp 3.5-liter V-6 for the IS350. Performance times 0-60 are approximately 5.7 & 8.3 seconds respectively.
The transmission choices are a six speed manual in the IS250C and a six speed automatic in both models. As expected, the IS convertible features Lexus fit and finish and, somewhat less appealingly, Lexus dynamics.
Pricing starts at $39,365 USD plus options for the IS250C and $44,815 USD for the IS350C.
Both of these cars are great convertibles to drive! The Lexus models should have exemplary reliability, fit and finish. The Lexus models do not quite match up to the best in the category in the driving dynamics, which is a BMW 328 Convertible. The BMW is also costs $6000 over the IS250C. So if cost is a factor in the decision then the Lexus models deserve a look.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Cars You Will Drive in 2014

Here is an interesting Yahoo article! It is very entertaining reading! The title is The Cars You Will Drive in 2014. It has some cars that will be produced in the near future.

It is difficult to predict the future! But, events are happening that will undoubtedly impact the future cars we drive.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Auto Pacific Announces Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

AutoPacific announced its 13th Annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA). The top ranked auto manufacturer for the second year in a row is Cadillac. Cadillac was ranked highest among 25,000 new car owners for 2009. This proves that General Motors is building good cars...with satisfied owners. Much of the public is till under the assumption that American cars are not made as well as the Japanese vehicles. It is simply not true anymore!
This has been a turbulent year for GM with sales down substantialy, and the auto industry in such turmoil. This year has been one of the most dismal sales years for the automobile business in recent history.

The VSA award is coveted among auto manufacturers since earning this award will result in sales in the showroom. Also, friends will ask their friends and co-workers typically ask if they like their new car....the real test is if they would buy this car again.
The manufacturer that has increased their satisfaction with their vehicles the most for 2009 is Hyundai! They have come a long way since 1986 when they started selling cars here in the U.S. They moved up eleven spots in the Overall brand satisfaction ratings earning 2009 Rising Star Award. Outlined below are the passenger cars...if anyone is interested in the light truck category go to Auto Pacific.

  • Premium Luxury Car - Lexus LS

  • Aspirational Luxury Car - Hyundai Genesis

  • Luxury Large Car - Lincoln Town Car

  • Luxury Mid Size Car - Lexus ES

  • Premium Mid Size Car - Hyundai Sonata

  • Mid Size Car - Ford Fusion

  • Image Compact Car - Toyota Prius

  • Compact Car - Mitsubishi Lancer

  • Economy Car - Honda Fit

  • Sports Car - Porsche 911


The VSA is a factor that everyone buying a new car should consider. If a car earns the top honor in the Auto Pacific VSA, then it should be put on your shopping list and worth a test drive. There are still a number of other factors to consider such as the styling, drive ability, price, deal, rebates etc.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tesla Sells Stake to Daimler Mercedes

I have done several posts on this company.....actually they have not been very popular. Most people are not aware of the name. I have predicted that they will become a household name within two years. The reason I made that statement is that they have the best battery technology of any of the auto manufacturers. If I were in the auto business.....I would be trying to buy them or at a minimum access that technology. Currently, Tesla is not a public company, but if I they came out with a public offering .....I would be first in line for some shares.
Daimler (Mercedes) has done just that....they have acquired a 10% stake in Tesla. The deal was not disclosed but was priced at eight figures in Euros....$20 million minimum. This deal could give Mercedes a leg up on their European competition.

In January, Mercedes selected Tesla to provide batteries and charges for their Smart EV. Tesla has agreed to supply 1000 batteries within the next two years. It gives them access to the most advanced electric car manufacturer in the world. It is anticipated that Mercedes and Tesla will work collectively on battery systems, electric drive systems, and electric cars in development.

One of the weaknesses of German cars has been their electronics. Typically, the Japanese and American manufacturers produce cars with fewer electronic problems.

The Mercedes deal also has advantages for Tesla accessing Mercedes engineering production and supply chain management. Translated it means that Tesla will have access to German engineering for setting up the factory for the new Model S, and access to parts suppliers.


Obviously, the Germans are very good business people....this is an exceptional deal for Mercedes. They were looking out for their strategic interests. The car business is done in billions of dollars, so this is a cheap investment in the future.

It gives Tesla help in building the factory for the Model S and some cash until federal loans are approved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honda Insight

This car was the top selling model in Japan for April of 2009....considering that Honda started selling the Insight in Japan in February that is quite extraordinary. This if the first time that a gasoline electric hybrid or any type of hybrid has taken the top selling honor in Japan. The Insight went on sale in the US in April.

The EPA fuel-economy ratings are 40 mpg city and 43 highway—versus the Prius which gets 48 city and 45 highway, respectively. The Honda Insight operates differently than the Toyota Prius, this explains the fuel economy differences. When you turn on the key in the Insight the motor turns on, most of the time when the vehicle is operating the motor will be running. When you turn on the Prius the electric motor will operate and propel the vehicle on electric power below 35 mph. The Toyota Prius is a complex system, which costs more to build but results in higher fuel economy.

The Insight is equipped with a 88 hp, 1.3 liter four cylinder engine along with a 13-hp electric motor. Honda has Integrated Motor Assist (IMA)....IMA is an engineering feature where the electric motor is placed between the engine and the transmission. The electric motor assists the motor as needed.
A CVT transmission is the only transmission offered. The Insight has an interesting ECON button, that cuts down air-conditioning cycles and moderates acceleration to improve the fuel economy.

Honda estimates that it should sell approximately 90,000 Insights per year in the U.S.
Pricing for the Insight starts at $19,800 USD, and £15,490 in the UK plus options. Pricing for a Prius starts at $22,000 USD plus options.


My take on the Insight is that Honda manufactured the Insight to compete on price. It is the cheapest hybrid available.....but as with most hybrids you sacrifice performance and handling. The most fun to drive hybrid that I have driven is the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama Sets Fuel Mileage and Emissions Regulations

This man will have a major impact on the vehicles that we drive! Changes are coming that are the largest since the invention of the automobile. I do not agree with him on many issues, but regarding the issues of fuel economy and pollution standards, the U.S. has to be the world leader. Stay tuned for my series Paradigm Shift, which outlines all the changes occurring that will change our vehicles, the auto industry and the way we live!
He is the first president that is truly an environmental giant. On Tuesday, President Obama will announce new green house pollution standards and national fuel economy standards (CAFE). Obama began this process on the seventh day of his administration. He ordered the Transportation Department to establish higher automobile efficiency standards starting with the 2011 year.
The new standards are being set so the auto manufacturers have a solid target regarding emission standards and fuel economy standards (CAFE). They have previously engaged in litigation and engaged in pressing congress to hold the EPA in check.
The CAFE standard was established in 1975 in response to the Arab Oil Embargo. Under the proposed new CAFE guidelines auto manufacturers would be required to increase fuel economy by 5% annually from 2011 -2016.

Apparently, Obama has lined up support from state governments and many of the domestic and foreign automakers. California had been seeking permission to establish their own emission standards for automobiles sold in California. This will set a federal standard that all the states must follow. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will attend the announcement.
He is raising the CAFE standards to reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to cut green house gases caused by automobiles. The U.S. imports approximately 70% of the oil used in the manufacture of gasoline! It is projected that the price of oil will skyrocket again once the world economy turns around.
This will impact the automobiles that we drive in the following ways.
(1) Auto manufacturers will cut production of high output motors...such as the Chevrolet ZR1, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Mustang Shelby GT. General Motors has already transferred the engineers, who work on high performance vehicles like the Chevrolet ZRI, Cadillac CTS-V, to other units. These types of cars will be phased out in their normal life cycle but not replaced.
(2) They will begin manufacturing smaller lighter vehicles. In the SUV class Crossovers will replace most SUV's.
(3) Auto manufacturers will begin manufacturing more hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles.
(4) Auto manufacturers will start manufacturing diesel powered vehicles.
(5) Turbo engines will begin a resurgence...Ford is currently starting to manufacturer a V-6 turbo series of engines with the power of the a V-8. These will also be used for pickups and SUV powertrains.
(6) These government mandated changes will cost the consumers an estimated $1300 plus per vehicle.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chevrolet Cruz - Is This The Car That Can Save GM?

General Motors is a large corporate conglomerate which operates around the world. As such cars that they design should be marketable around the world. Here is a car that fits that requirement. The Chevrolet Cruze is essentially a world compact car that will replace the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5. The current Cobalt will continue to be offered, probably thru June 2010, with the 2011 Cruze built alongside it until the Cobalt is phased out.

Since the Cruze is a world car, it was engineered at GM’s Russelsheim, Germany, development center, and was designed in Korea by GM Daewoo. The Cruze will be assembled in plants in the U.S., Mexico, various parts of Europe, South Korea, and Brazil.

The interior was done by GM Daewoo in Korea and appears to be the best interior in the compact class.....and arguably makes the car. The attention to detail is what sets the Cruze apart from the has a nice mixture of textures, including inset panels in the doors and on the dash of metal mesh, as well as satin finish on the center console. The seats have the mesh look along with accented stitching. An interesting feature is a sunglass holder that is built into the headliner above the drivers door.

Production has already started with Europe, with the Cruze going on sale as a 2010 model. In the Australian market, it will be sold as as the Holden Cruze starting in June 2009.
Production in the U.S. will be delayed until the remodeling and retooling of the Lordstown, Ohio plant is completed. GM is investing $500 million to build the car at the Lordstown plant. Plant capacity at Lordstown will remain unchanged at about 330,000 units annually.

The Cruze will be powered by GM’s new family of direct injection four cylinder engines, with a displacement of 2.0 liters, and with some turbocharged. Mileage will be in the 40 plus mpg range.

The European lineup of powertrains includes 112-hp, 1.6-liter and 140-hp, 1.8-liter gasoline engines as well as a new 150-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-diesel. Five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions will be offered.

And with North America such a major piece of GM's global business, "we have to get our U.S. business turned around for GM to succeed," CEO Fritz Henderson said in an interview.


General Motors is starting to build some good cars! The inevitable GM bankruptcy will impact GM in the short run, but Chevrolet will remain a viable brand. Producing products like this they will eventually recover. The Chevrolet Cobalt was a good step in that direction, but did not beat the best of the competition. The Chevrolet Cruze is the next generation....and I anticipate that it will be highly competitive.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chrysler Closes 789 Dealers

Chrysler LLC announced today that they are planning on eliminating 789 of their 3,200 U.S. dealerships by early next month. They will formally petition the bankruptcy court...they indicated that the dealership network is antiquated and has too many stores competing with each other.

The issue with Chrysler is that these are the smaller dealers...they probably have done cost accounting and determined that it costs them more to support the dealers than they make from the sales of those dealers. Chrysler indicated that 50 % of the dealers accounted for 90 % of the the companies U. S. Sales.

Dealers were informed this morning via United Parcel Service letters...the letter notified all dealers if they if they would remain or be eliminated. A hearing is scheduled for June 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, at that time the judge will approve or deny the motion. In most business bankrupcy cases, judges rely on the bankrupt corporations input to determine if contract cancellations are necessary.

Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press called the cuts difficult but necessary. He said the list of dealers is final and there will be no appeal process. Eliminating dealer will cut down on the cross town competition in many cases, which will increase dealer profits.

Chrysler is trying to cut the number of single brand dealers, so that Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep can be one dealership. Chrysler averages of 300 vehicles per dealer in 2008, meanwhile Honda sells 1,200 and Toyota sells 1,300 respectively.

The dealership cuts will cut also cut deep into the city budgets, as thousands of employees will be laid off and the city will loose sales tax revenue from vehicle sales.

My take is that this is one of the necessary steps to get Chrysler back in the game! It will be very painful to the employees, the dealers and the cities impacted. Chysler has done this so it can change the dealer contracts at will....outside of bankrupcy they would have been hit with a barrage of lawsuits.

I do feel that giving these small businesses less than a months notice is highly unfair! Many of these dealers have been with Chrysler for many years, then to tell them they don't have a contract under a month is very cold. The dealers should be notified and given time to take appropriate steps to wind down the business. Actually, this action will probably throw many of the dealers and employees impacted into bankrupcy themselves.

It is estimated that approximately 190,000 jobs would be lost from the GM and Chrysler bankrupcies.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mercedes S400 Diesel/Hybrid

Diesels are a popular engine choice in Europe today, due to the lower cost of diesel fuel and the impressive mileage. I have always speculated that the German manufacturers would combine the fuel efficiency with hybrid electric technology. That seem to make sense since they would combine their most fuel efficient powertrain with a electric hybrid technology to stretch the fuel economy.

Mercedes announced the production of the S400 BlueHybrid, based on the S350 model. The vehicle should be launched this summer as a 2010 model. Mercedes diesels are not the diesels of the 1980's with slow acceleration, noise and noticeable particulate exhaust.
Mercedes today produces the cleanest diesels available on the market today....with their Bluetec diesel engine and exhaust technology. Diesels burn less fuel than gasoline vehicles so they also produce substantially lower emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which is actually comparable or better than the gasoline version.
Bluetec diesels utilize AdBlue injection, which is a process that adds precisely measured quantities of urea into the exhaust stream. This process enhances the long term emissions performance to meet all U.S. 50-state emission standards. California's requirements have kept new diesel automobiles models out of the California for almost ten years.
Mercedes plans on manufacturing the S400 with a lithium battery. The 3.5 liter gasoline engine develops 279 hp. and the electric motor generates 20 hp. The result is a combined output of 299 hp. and 220 kw.

Mercedes has been able to build a luxury diesel-hybrid with an estimated 40 Miles per gallon...and the power of a V8. Performance is also exceptional at 0-60 mph accelerations of 7.3 seconds. Pricing for the S400 BlueHybrid is $110,350 plus, which is a $21K premium over the 2009 S550 model.
This is a super achievement for Mercedes.....a 40 MPG luxury automobile. The 2009 S550 averaged 17 MPG. These figures are even more impressive when considering that the S-Class is a large heavy luxury sedan. The additional cost is expensive versus the cost of gasoline...but it is one green machine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hummer Hybrid Gets 100 MPG

General Motors is in in discussions with three companies to sell the Hummer brand. I suspect that Raser Technologies is one of those companies. Raser Technologies has developed a Hummer H3 Hybrid. Raser Technologies of a Provo, Utah-based builder of geothermal power plants, which tap underground steam to turn generators and produce electricity with less pollution than those fueled by coal or oil.

Raser plans to use an electric technology similar to that in the Chevrolet Volt, which should give the Hummer Hybrid a gas saving 100 MPG.

Raser says, their E-REV (Extended-Range Electric Vehicle) powertrain technology, will give the Hummer Hybrid approximately 100 miles (161 kilometers) per gallon when driven as much as 40 miles a day and can travel 40 miles on electrical power alone.

Raser chose the Hummer for the demonstration because “it’s the worst,” Higginson said in an interview. The company wanted to “show the world that technology can take the worst offender and make it greener than a” Toyota Prius, he said.

A 2008 Hummer H3 gets 14 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, while a Prius gets 48 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway, according to the E.P.A.

My take is that I am somewhat skeptical that 100 MPG can be achieved with such a heavy vehicle. If they can...they deserve the recognition and sales that this achievement will generate.

This also demonstrates that smaller companies are on the forefront of this technological shift in the automobile powertrains. Then, why cannot the big three generate this kind of technology with all their money and resources?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mini E

Mini has an electric car that they are putting into a one year test program. The Mini E is a fully electric Mini coupe. They will be leased to 450 people in California, New York and New Jersey in a one year test program. The cost to lease is $850 per month plus tax and insurance. The cost is approximately twice of what you can lease a standard Mini.

The Mini I can only seat two people since the back seat is taken up by the batteries. The motor is a 204 hp electric motor, with an estimated range of 150 miles. Performance is 0-60 in 8.5 seconds....with the top speed of the vehicle 95 mph.

The car boasts a 150 mile range off its 35 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Charging the electric Mini with a high current charging station is 2 1/2 hours. As with most hybrids and electrics it is equipped with a regenerative braking system to charge the battery in city driving.
BMW will begin doing testing in Europe in 2010. No formal production plans have been announced, but BMW is using the Mini E as a test mule. They actually plan to deploy the technology in 2012 in another car.

Here is a great resource for additional information from the LA Times.... Mini E Leases Put Electricity In Air!

My take is that they should deploy this electric technology in the Mini! They would sell like hot cakes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

2010 Mercedes E350 Coupe

Today, I would like to bring up a trend in German cars that I have not seen in the American or Japanese brands. The Germans are focusing on coupes or sedans that appear to be styled like a coupe. Coupe sales have dropped significantly over the last ten years. Mercedes has replaced the CLK coupe with the E-class coupe for 2010. The CLK was based on the C-class and the new E-class couple is a blend of C-class and E-class components.
A full-length moonroof will be standard, if you want more of an open air motoring experience the E-class convertible will be introduced as a 2011 model.

The new coupe will also follow a similar powertrain program as the current CLK, with the current 268 hp., 3.5 liter V-6 as the base motor and the 382 hp., 5.5-liter V-8 as the upgrade. Each motor will be attached to a new seven speed automatic transmission. Standard on all coupes is a variable-damping “Agility Control” suspension, which has not been explained how it works. I would suspect that it similar to GM magnetic ride control which controls the pressure in the shocks depending on driving conditions. There are no immediate plans for an all-wheel-drive model to compete with the Audi A5.

It is anticipated that Mercedes will manufacture an AMG version powered by the fabulous 6.2-liter V-8, which should have about 507 hp.
The E-class coupe has all the safety features of the E-class sedan. An interesting feature is the PRE-SAFE system...which attempts to reduce the severity of crashes by applying the brakes and tightening the seat belts when a collision is imminent. The E-class also has a new monitoring system, called Attention Assist, which tries to alert the driver if it detects that the driver is sleepy. The E-class coupe made its North American debut at this April’s 2009 New York auto show.
My take on the E-class coupe is that Mercedes has decided to make attractively styled cars. I would recommend that you put it on your shopping list.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Honda Clarity FCX Concept

Here is a future technology that one day may power automobiles. Presently, Honda, GM, and BMW have hydrogen fuel cell autos in development. Today's post is on the Honda FCX Clarity, which is Honda's entry into the hydrogen fuel cell automobile race. Honda believes it could start mass producing vehicles based on the FCX concept by the year 2018.

The advantage to hydrogen powered vehicles is that they are non polluting, the only product to come out of the tailpipe is water vapor. Hydrogen would be manufactured locally, therefore concerns about the cost and availability price of imported oil are negated. Check out the video!
The vehicle is powered by a .57-litre, 100kW Honda hydrogen fuel cell stack. Electricity is stored in a 288V lithium ion battery. The electric motor has 134 horsepower and powers the front wheels of the vehicle. The Clarity goes from 0-60 mph in 9.2 seconds, which is two seconds slower than the average four cylinder mid size car. The estimated range is 240 miles with a full tank of 4.1 kg compressed hydrogen. The Clarity is also available in one color Star Garnet Metallic.

Currently consumers are not currently allowed to purchase the vehicle. The Clarity is only available for leasing in the Southern California area.....where the hydrogen refueling stations are located. The leases are only available to a select 200 people over the next three years at $600.00 USD per month for 3 years. Fuel and maintenance are included with the lease cost! Here is an Car and Driver interview
with Jim Salomon the third person to lease a Clarity.

My take on this car is that Honda appears to be the most advanced of the manufacturers working on the technology. The Clarity launch is similar to the
Saturn EVI launch back in the 1980's.

This could be the type of car that we are driving in twenty years. The most likely scenario is that a number of different technologies will be available in automobiles. Due to the major improvements in battery technology... the electric car may be the largest automobile technology in twenty years.

The problem with the hydrogen technology is that the hydrogen refueling infrastructure would have to be built to support those vehicles.

For additional information go to the Honda FCX Clarity website!

Tata Nano - The World's Cheapest Car

The Tata Group multinational conglomerate based in India. Tata Group is the largest private corporate group in India and has interests in steel, automobiles, information technology, communication, power, tea and hotels. This is the company that purchased Jaguar and Land Rover in2007 from the Ford Motor Company.
The Tata Group have unveiled a $2500 USD car billed as the world's cheapest. This is a ground breaking event similar to the introduction of the Model T in the U.S. The Model T launched the automobile revolution in the United States and the world. It put more people in cars....the assembly line originated by Ford is now the world standard for car assembly.
"The launch of the Tata Nano was a landmark in the history of transportation, like the first powered flight by the Wright brothers or the first lunar landing", said 70-year-old tycoon Ratan Tata, head of the Tata Group.

The Tata Nano is a rear engine four passenger car initially aimed at the Indian market. But, Tata anticipates exporting the car to the rest of the world by 2011. It will have to be modified to meet the safety requirements in Europe and the U.S. Pricing to reflect the safety and emissions requirements will increase the cost.
The car gets great gas mileage at 78 mpg on the highway and about 92 in the city. The sales of the car will begin in July 2009, with a starting price of Rs 115,000 $2500 USD, cheaper than any other car in the world. "
My take is what we are seeing is the automobile landscape changing substantially. The advent of China and India will make a big splash onto the automobile landscape. I am of the opinion that at this price Tata will sell millions of them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

2010 BMW X6 M

The BMW X6 is an SUV that was released for sale in by German automaker BMW. Now, BMW has come out with the 2010 BMW X6 M, which was first shown at the 2009 New York Auto Show. The X6 M has to be one of the best performance SUV's manufactured. BMW calls it as a Sports Activity Coupe since it combines the attributes of an SUV with the stance of a coupe. It is also BMW's first SUV only equipped with an automatic transmission.

It is built in BMW's in Spartanburg, South Carolina along withe the BMW X5, which shares the same platform. It is significantly lower and seats only four people. A hybrid version of the X6, the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid, will be the first hybrid from BMW. It will be introduced as 2010 model.

The X6 M has a twin turbo version of BMW N63 motor which is rated at 547 hp. It is equipped with with a six speed automatic transmission.... with aluminum pull style paddles on the steering wheel. Standard equipment are the 20 inch alloy wheels with run flat tires.

Pricing for the 2010 BMW X6 M starts at $89,725 USD. My take is that this is a fun SUV.....but very pricey! If it is an is one hot ride!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Geely Automobile

Geely is currently in talks to acquire the Saab unit of General Motors. Geely would gain Saab's safety technology along with an existing dealer network in Europe and the United States. The prototype model shown above and below is a Geely GT Tiger, which debuted at the 2008 Shanghai Motor Show.
Geely Automobile is a Chinese Automaker and is the first independent automobile manufacturer in the People's Republic of China. Geely started in 1986 manufacturing refrigerators, motorcycle parts in 1992. In 1994, Geely began manufacturing motorcycles. By 1996, Geely had produced over 200,000 motorcycles and scooters. Automobile production started in 1998. Geely began exporting its first cars in 2003.

Rolls Royce Motor Cars is considering legal action against Geely Automobile. Geely has a prototype GE, which apparently is a knockoff of the Rolls Royce Phantom. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is very protective of its brand image and takes seriously any attempt to imitate it's products.
The grille, the Flying Lady mascot, also known as the Spirit of Ecstasy, and the Rolls Royce name and initials are specifically protected. The Rolls Royce Phantom starts at £250,000, the Geely GE anticipated sales price is £30,000.

Geely had planned to start selling car in North America in 2008, but after several test vehicles failed U.S. crash and emissions tests, Geely's delayed the debut until late 2009. Currently, Geely sells in Peru, Uruguay, Romanian, Pakistan, South Africa, Bangladesh, and Venezuela.
My take is that Geely will be a name to watch! The Chinese will come onto the world automotive stage shortly. China has a vast manufacturing base and will be a substantial competitor. Initially, they will compete based on price similarly to the Japanese models in the 1970's.
Their initial cars imported will be inexpensive due to the low Chinese labor costs. They have apparently eight different models in development up to the high end Geely GE, so they will eventually compete at all price points. Currently, they have not passed the safety requirements to sell cars in the U.S., I anticipate that will change in the near future.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fiat's Grand Design

Fiat S.p.A.(Fiat), an acronym for Fabrica Italiana Automobili Torino, is an Italian automobile manufacturer, financial and industrial group based in Turin, Italy. Founded in 1899, Fiat based cars are constructed around the world in Brazil, Argentina, and Poland. Fiat currently owned the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari brands. The auto shown above is 2009 Ferrari California!

Fiat and Chrysler LLC announced that they were going to form a global alliance. Under the terms of the agreement, Fiat would take a 20% stake in Chrysler and gain access to its North American dealer network. Chrysler in exchange will get the platforms to build smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles in the US and reciprocal access to Fiat's global distribution network.

Fiat would have the option of increasing that to as much as 55%, when the government loans are repaid. Fiat would not put cash into Chrysler, but will pay for the cost of retooling a Chrysler plant to produce one or more Fiat models, which will be sold in the us. Fiat would also provide engine and transmission technology to help Chrysler introduce new, fuel-efficient small cars.

The deal is the latest maneuver by Fiat's chief,
Sergio Marchionne, who has pulled the Italian company back from the brink of collapse since taking over in 2004. The partnership would provide each company with economies of scale and geographical reach at a time when both are struggling to compete with larger and more global rivals like Toyota, Volkswagen and the alliance of Renault S.A. and Nissan.
The auto shown below is a 2008 Fiat 500, which won the 2008 European Car of the Year Award. This car will probably be one of the vehicles manufactured in the U.S.

In every difficult financial time, there are tremendous opportunities to profit! Since this is such a severe downturn, the opportunities are magnified. Car companies that would have sold for substantial amounts of money are being sold a fraction of the previous value.

The Chrysler acquisition is only part of Sergio Machionne's plan. Fiat is attempting to buy General Motors (GM) European operations. Those operations include GM's German Opel division, British Vauxhall and Swedish carmaker Saab.

It is anticipated that Fiat would have to spin off the current auto business into a core of a new company, then add the new additions Chrysler and GM Europe. It will take a substantial amount of capital to realize Machionne's plan. Another suitor Magna International, Inc. of Canada has submitted a plan for the purchase of GM's Opel unit.

Shown below is a Alfa Romeo 159!

My take on this is that with every severe financial downturn opportunities like this come up. The corporations that have the cash and the financial backing to pull this off will succeed. Fiat would go from bring a side-line player to a major player on the world automotive stage.

Information via Wikipedia!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tucker The Man and The Machine

Here is an interesting auto story about Preston Tucker. He started in the racing business working on Indianapolis 500 cars during the 1930's. Since WWII was in progress, he designing a armored combat car for the U.S. government. The car could reach over 115 mph (185 km/h), far in excess of the design specifications. The armored combat car was rejected by the government. Shown above is a rare example of Tucker Torpedo.
The U.S. Navy selected the highly mobile, power-operated gun turret the combat car featured earned the interest of the U.S. Navy. The Tucker Turret was soon in production... it was used in PT boats, landing craft, B-17 and B-29 bombers.
After the war, he had visions of building a advanced automobile superior to anything else on the road. He was able to get preliminary funding and production started on the 1948 Tucker Torpedo.

The technical features of the Tucker Torpedo were very innovative. A perimeter frame surrounded the vehicle for crash protection. General Motors in the in the 1980's came out with their "space frame" which is a similar design. The space frame design was used on the Saturn line of vehicles, and the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird. If this design had been used as a standard in the would have saved tens of thousands of lives. Currently, there are over 40,000 automobile related fatalities in the U.S. every year. GM subsequently discontinued the design due to cost and weight factors.
The Tucker engine was a flat-6 cylinder with hemispherical combustion chambers, fuel injection and overhead valves. These features would have been auto industry firsts in 1948. Most have become industry standards in the subsequent fifty years. The flat-6 has been a BMW engine design feature on their 3-series for decades....and does Hemi sound familiar.
The following features were left on the drawing board... magnesium wheels, disc brakes, and a direct-drive torque converter transmissions. One of the Tucker's most unusual features was a third headlight located directly in the center of the front facia. It was called the "Cyclops Eye", the light turned as the vehicle turned. This feature has just been re-introduced almost fifty years later...except both headlights turn rather than a center light.

One of Tucker's most innovative business ideas caused trouble for the company, however. His Accessories Program raised funds by selling accessories before the car was even in production. The SEC brought formal charges against Tucker and six other executives in 1949. It went to the jury in January 1950, and Tucker and the other executives were acquitted on all charges just seventeen hours later. However, Tucker Corporation, now without a factory, was no more. Only fifty one of the cars ended up being assembled before it was said and done.

To counteract the bad press, Tucker again took the cars on the road. He scheduled a two-week public test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a few of the cars that had been built. One car was rolled at 100 mph (160 km/h), and the driver walked away with just bruises. Public perception changed from outrage at Tucker's alleged misconduct to anger at the press and the government.

During the trouble Tucker faced while trying to promote his car and get it into production, he claimed that the "Big Three" automakers were deliberately attempting to sabotage his efforts, through the influence of Detroit Senator Homer Fergusion, who is commonly held responsible for initiating the SEC's pursuing of Tucker's business.

This is one of the saddest stories of the automobile business in the U.S. Tucker was a visionary, and an innovative entrepreneur. In fact, 1988 movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream is based on the his story and production of the car. I would highly recommend the is quite entertaining and informative!

The great majority of the Tucker Torpedoes are in excellent condition. When the cars are sold at auction, which is rare, they command premium prices. The last Tucker sold was for the record-setting price of $1,017,500. The Tucker can be viewed at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles...they have a wonderful collection of classic cars! When you are in the Los Angeles area, it is well worth the trip.

My take on the Tucker is that is a car that should have been built! The big three auto manufacturers and the government were responsible for holding a innovative and forward thinking entrepreneur from improving cars for decades to come! The auto companies would have had to improve their products to compete....only recently have they come to that conclusion.

Information via Wikipedia!