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2014 Detroit Auto Show

18th January 2014

{cue the Sanford & Son theme song} Welcome to Detroit, where everything is for sale! Belle Isle…already sold to the state! Priceless art at the Detroit Institute of Arts…make an offer! You want a building downtown? Sorry, they’ve all been sold to Dan Gilbert! Oh, you want a car? Well, we’ve got those too! Thousands of them, just waiting to be adopted by a nice family…or you. Read on for the bios of the best of these lovely children just looking for a good home (or yours).

Ford
2015 F-150: new look with LED lamps, bold new grille. New engine 2.7L EcoBoost with start/stop. HP and torque are TBD officially, but expect about 325 horsepower and 350 torques. New features: 360-degree camera view, Integrated loading ramps, Remote tailgate, 8-inch LCD “productivity screen”, inflatable seatbelts for rear passengers, curve control, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and blind spot warning. A first in the segment, F-150 will now have an aluminum body. Seeking to cutoff criticism of aluminum at the knees, Ford calls it “High-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys – already used in aerospace, commercial transportation, energy and many other rugged industries”

2015 Mustang: first in-person look at the new Pony car, revealed late last year. The new ‘stang is instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but it’s all new at the same time. This is exactly what Ford needed to do with an icon like Mustang. The design is no longer retro, except for some of the switches inside. The 3.7L V6 and the 5.0L V8 carry on and are now joined by a 2.3L EcoBoost making over 300HP and 300 torques.

Ford Edge Concept: previewing the next-generation Edge, this crossover is larger than the current model, and really nice looking. It’s full of advanced technology, but who knows how much of it will make it to production?

2015 Lincoln MKC: we saw the concept last year. Now it’s time for the real deal. Maybe not quite as striking as the concept (but then when are any cars?), the MKC is still quite the looker. Available this summer.

Transit Connect: this homely commercial van is homely no longer. It’s actually downright beautiful compared to its predecessor. It’s also more powerful. Also new for 2014 is a passenger version. Ford is back in the minivan segment.

Toyota
FT-1 Concept: this concept’s “audacious” styling is very aggressive and a far cry from Toyota’s usual offerings. It is, however, a concept. While no specs are given, other than “front engine, rear drive”, if you squint, the shape evokes the Scion FR-S. Did the FT-1 start out like as the Scion? Not sure, but it certainly looks like it might have. Either way, it’s very cool and worth a look.

2015 Lexus RC F: high-performance version of the RC Coupe, already shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show late last year. The base RC, a rear-drive 4-passenger coupe, is based on the GS platform, and will come with either a 3.5L V6 (RC 350) or a 2.5L Hybrid powertrain (RC 300h). The “F” ups the ante with a 5.0L 32-valve V8, making “more than 450” hp and “more than 383” torques. Its styling is also amped up, giving it a much more aggressive look than its tamer sibling.

Toyota FCV Concept: really cool looking car, and it runs on hydrogen. Don’t look for it at a dealer anytime soon, as fuel cells are still a ways off from being commercially viable. The research continues though, and it’s nice to look at.

Chrysler-FIAT
Chrysler 200: redesigned inside and out. LED lamps (especially in the back) give the new 200 an Audi-esque look, and that’s a good thing. This is quite an upgrade from the present 200. Better in every way. Looks great inside and out. It has carryover engines, though now matched with a segment-first 9-speed tranny. The dirty parts are derived from the same place as the Dodge Dart. If you know what to look for, the 200 shares some styling / parts with the Dart. AWD is a new addition, and it completely disconnects from the rear wheels when not in use to save gas. Strange that in the unveiling, Chrysler brand CEO Al Gardner called the 200 Chrysler’s flagship. Don’t tell the 300. It might get angry, and you wouldn’t like it when it’s angry.

GM
Corvette Z06: menacing new looks with improved aerodynamics and “unprecedented” downforce, supercharged 6.2L V8, with 625 horsepower and 635 torques. Automatic tranny will be available, meaning that the 3-pedal-challenged among you can attain stupid speeds and risk your lives too. Three cheers for equality!

2015 GMC Canyon: the GMC twin of the Chevy Colorado already seen. Looks like a Sierra that shrunk in the wash. Available in extended cab and crew cab, 2 box lengths and 2 engines (2.5L I4 and 3.6L V6) at launch. A 2.8L Diesel engine will be available for 2016.

2015 ATS Coupe: looks pretty much exactly as you would expect, which is very good. The 2.5L I4 base engine from the sedan is not available with the coupe, making the excellent 2.0L Turbo (272HP / 295 torques) the base engine. The 3.6L V6 (321 / 275) is optional. A true, 3-pedal manual is available, but only with the turbo. The truly big news here is that the 2015 ATS Coupe will be the first appearance of Cadillac’s new…wait for it…badge! Honestly, if you make that big of a deal about a badge, you need more to do. And frankly, we don’t need no stinking badges.

Mercedes-Benz
2015 C-Class: redesigned for 2015, the C moves up in size and price to make sure the CLA (See below) has room to maneuver. The C300 sports a 235 HP, 273-torques 2.0-liter turbo. The C400 has a 329 HP, 354-torques 3.0-liter turbo. AWD will be standard, though RWD is expected later. Much better looking inside and out. Production moves to the U.S. for this new model.

S-Class Coupe: why an S-Class Coupe? Why not? Mercedes, like its friends at BMW and Audi, continues to explore and fill niches that we never knew existed (and neither did they).

CLA: see niche comment above. New smaller sedan, starting at $30,000. Inexpensive is not the problem. The problem is that the CLA looks and feels cheap. That might fly in Europe, where M-B product spans a much wider range. Here in the U.S., they are taking a big risk with this product. The AMG model is way better and nicer.

GLA: see niche comment above. This is a small crossover version of the CLA. Only the AMG version is shown.

Hyundai
2015 Genesis: engines are the same, but that’s about all. The new Genesis moves up in styling and luxury, gets a new ZF 8-Speed tranny and AWD is now available.

Kia GT4 Stinger Concept: very stylish 2+2 coupe. The general shape seems to be channeling the Jaguar E-Type. Powered by a 2L turbo with 315HP.

Kia K900: Kia’s first entry in the large premium segment, following cousin Hyundai Equus. The K900 will be available early next year.

Kia Soul: minor update to the best-selling subcompact. Already on sale.

Honda
2015 Fit: fairly major freshening. It’s smaller on the outside and roomier on the inside. More power and better fuel economy (estimated to be 33 city / 41 city). Goes into production next month at a new plant in Mexico, marking the first time the Fit will be made in North America.

2015 Acura TLX: TLX replaces the TL and TSX in Acura’s lineup, and it goes on sale mid year. The TLX is a nice-looking car, despite retaining the ugly, guillotine grille that all Acuras have had for the last few years. 2 powertrains will be offered: a 2.4L I4 with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission and Precision All-Wheel Steer™ (P-AWS) or a 3.5L V6 with a 9-speed auto and either P-AWS or Super-Handling All Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™). I feel like a broken record, but Acura really needs to fire Wylie Coyote from their marketing department.

Nissan
Sport Sedan Concept: really cool looking car, stupid name. Maybe Nissan can hire Wylie Coyote? Though it looks more like Volvo’s current design language, this car is beautiful and Nissan says they expect to build it. Maybe the next-gen Maxima or Altima?

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept: a high performance version of the new Q50 sedan. I’ve never heard words like this used for a car introduction, “If we built this car I would expect it to feature over 500hp and 600 lb-ft torque.” Anyway, it looks great, but maybe Infiniti needs to hire Wylie Coyote too? He likely would have consulted urbandictionary.com before deciding on the name.

Infiniti Q30 Concept: already shown in LA, the Q30 shows where Infiniti is headed next – into the compact luxury utility segment, along with…well…everybody.

BMW
M3 & M4: the new M is here…the new M is here!! 425 HP/406 torques, 3.0L twin-turbo I6, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. What’s not to love?

2-Series: continues BMW’s new model designations, which move the coupes and convertibles to even numbers and leaves the sedans as odd numbers. The 2-Series is larger than the 1-Series coupe it replaces, and will offered as a 228i ($33,025 base price) and M235i ($44,025). On sale any minute now.

2014 Mini Cooper: the Mini Hardtop is new inside and out (but you wouldn’t notice it unless you really know what to look for). The base model now comes with a turbo 3-cylinder engine that makes more HP than the prior 4-cylinder engine (134 vs. 121). The Cooper S engine is bumped up from 1.6L to 2.0L, increasing power to 189 from 181. Mini expects 25% improvement in fuel economy from the base, which would make its combined number 36-37. Fuel economy on the Cooper S is TBD, but considering its displacement increase only results in 8 HP and a LOSS of 33 torques, fuel econ should be going up significantly as well.

Volkswagen
Audi A8/S8: mild freshening of Audi’s flagship sedan. Revised front and rear design, new technology and more horsepower for the 4.0L V8 (435 from 420). On sale this summer.

Audi allroad shooting brake Concept: a look at the upcoming 2015 TT? This looks like the offspring of an Audi TT and a Volvo C30 coupe, and foreshadows the design of the new TT, though the TT will not be a shooting brake/crossover/electric. Take the front design and the rear design and give it the old TT’s middle, and there you have the new TT. Capisce?

2015 Audi A3/S3: already shown in LA, the new A3 family includes the A3 sedan, S3 sedan, A3 cabriolet and A3 Sportback e-tron® gasoline electric plug-in hybrid. The A3 looks very much like a small, premium sedan – inside and out. Engines include 1.8L turbo, 2.0L turbo, 2.0L Diesel, 1.4L Turbo with the plug-in and a high output 2.0L turbo on the S3. Sales begin in the spring.

Porsche 911 Targa: just like legendary 911 Targa of yore, the new models feature the distinctive Targa roof bar, a movable front roof section, and a wraparound rear window. But unlike those classics, the roof segment can be opened and closed at the push of a button. The fully automatic roof system stows the Targa top behind the rear seats. Cool, yes? The Targa will be offered only as AWD models: Targa 4 and Targa 4S. The 911 Targa 4 will have an MSRP of $101,600, while the 911 Targa 4S model will have an MSRP of $116,200.

Porsche Macan: introduced at the LA Auto Show in November, the Macan is the “mini-me” to the Cayenne SUV. The Macan S comes with a 3.0L twin turbo V6, making 340HP / 339 torques and a 7-speed PDK transmission. 0-60 is achieved in 5.2 seconds. It has a base price of $49,900. The Macan Turbo has a 3.6L twin turbo with the same tranny. It makes 400 / 406, goes to 60 in 4.4 seconds and costs $72,300. While these stats are certainly awesome, and Porsche is likely to sell many of these, at what point does Porsche go too far with its product line breadth? When will customers forget what “Porsche” means and why it is so desirable? In other words, when will Porsche cease being Porsche? I’m not smart enough to know the answers to these questions. I just hope that Porsche management is asking them.

Others
Mazda3: introduced last summer and already on sale, the Mazda3 goes all SKYACTIV on us. It has SKYACTIV manufacturing, SKYACTIV engines and SKYACTIV transmissions. I’ve said it before, SKYACTIV might be the greatest thing since sliced roast beef, but it means nothing to customers. It’s just a word (sort of) that only confuses. Just give us the performance and fuel economy and leave it at that. All that said, the new 3 is a really nice car: it has great looks (like a smaller CX-5), performance and economy.

2015 Subaru WRX STI: the hot car from Subaru gets an update to a new platform, which promises even better handling for its 305HP. AWD helps too.

Volvo XC Coupe Concept: winner of the Eyes on Design award for best concept car, the XC looks a bit like a stretched C30 coupe, but with a radically different front end.

Jaguar C-X17: Jaguar keeps threatening to make a SUV or crossover, and now maybe they will. The C-X17 (great name, BTW) bears more than a passing resemblance to the Land Rover Evoque. This is not likely a coincidence, as they are part of the same company. Damn gorgeous though!

Jaguar F-Type Coupe: hardtop version of the beautiful F-Type. Already shown in Tokyo and LA, the coupe shares all of its mechanicals with its topless friend.

The 2014 Slandy Awards®

Slandy Best in Show: Corvette Stingray Z06
SBIS Honorable Mention: F-150, Mustang, Chrysler 200, Hyundai genesis, Nissan Sport Sedan Concept, BMW M3/M4, Jaguar C-X17
WATT: Mercedes-Benz CLA. Inexpensive is fine; cheap is not.
Bet the Farm: Ford F-150. The F-150 pays all the bills in Dearborn, so any large change better be right.
Oops!: CLA (see above)
Uh-Oh!: Kia K900. Kia enters yet another new segment, causing executives on several continents to up their dose of Mylanta.
Most Annoying Trend: the touchy-feely, pointless naming on some brands/cars. These are internal initiatives for these companies. They are not the type of thing that should be branded on the cars. Some MBAs needed more to do. These include the following, along with the companies’ own definitions of these initiatives in parenthesis:
• Mazda’s “SKYACTIV Technology” (SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is a blanket term for Mazda’s innovative new-generation technologies that are being developed under the company’s long-term vision for technology development, Sustainable Zoom-Zoom. The SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY name is intended to reflect Mazda’s desire to provide driving pleasure as well as outstanding environmental and safety performance in its vehicles. To achieve this goal, Mazda has implemented an internal Building Block Strategy to be completed by 2015. This ambitious strategy involves the comprehensive optimization of Mazda’s base technologies, which determine the core performance of its vehicles, and the progressive introduction of electric devices such as regenerative braking and a hybrid system. All the technologies that are developed based on the Building Block Strategy will fall under the SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY umbrella)
• Honda’s “Earth Dreams Technology” (”Earth Dreams Technology” is a next generation set of technological advancements which greatly enhance both driving performance and fuel efficiency at a high level, using as its base advanced environmental technologies to pursue the joy of driving unique to Honda. It is a series of measures in which efficiency of internal combustion components including engine, and transmission, as well as electric-powered motor technology, is further improved)
• Nissan’s “Pure Drive” (“PURE DRIVE” is our action to improve fuel economy of engine-powered vehicles. A combination of advanced technology measures are prepared, from the comprehensive energy loss reduction from within the power train, the reduction of needless energy usage through idling stop, to the recovering of the wasted energy using hybrid vehicles. All of this advanced technology is being prepared in order to provide all our customers with good fuel economy vehicles)

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2013 Detroit Auto Show

19th January 2013

This year’s auto show was supposed to be bigger and better than it has in many years. In some respects, it is. More than 50 introductions, big, bold displays from the manufacturers and the companies are making money. However, the show had a certain feel to it that didn’t quite live up to the hype. Sure, there’s a new Corvette and many others, but the big news at Ford is a commercial van that they already sell almost everywhere else in the world. Anyway, read on for the highlights and must-see vehicles at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. For pictures, go to our Facebook page.

Ford

  • 2014 Transit – it’s a slow show when one of the biggest premiers is also one of the biggest vehicles. The Ford Transit is a box that comes in Transit will be offered in three body lengths; two wheelbases; three roof heights; van, wagon, chassis cab and cutaway bodystyles; 3 engines and in XL and XLT trim levels. If you can’t find a Transit to suit your needs, maybe you didn’t really want a commercial vehicle.
  • 2014 Transit Connect – this is Transit’s little brother. It’s been the ugly ducking of the family, but no longer. New styling for 2014, along with new engines, will make the Transit Connect more appealing.
  • Fusion – not new, but still one of the best-looking vehicles to be introduced in a long time.
  • Atlas Concept – this truck hints at the next-generation F-150, due out of the 2015 model year. Big, bold and aggressive.
  • Lincoln MKZ – built on the same platform as the Ford Fusion, this car is better looking every time I see it. Especially from the rear.
  • Lincoln MKC “Concept” – on sale later this year, the MKC is an entry into the growing small luxury crossover segment. Beautiful design, but they’ll probably have to add door handles when they make it for sale. Just a thought.

Nissan

  • Infiniti Q50 Sedan – the first of the new Infiniti naming plan (“everything’s a Q” - sounds like a Star Trek TNG episode). This is a really nice update to the G37 sedan. Has classic long hood, short deck proportions. The front grille seems to be a copy of Lexus’s new spindle grille design.
  • Nissan Versa Note – an update to the Versa hatchback only. The sedan was updated for 2011.
  • Nissan Resonance Concept – supposedly signals the direction of Nissan’s crossover design. They better ask Volvo if they don’t mind, because this looks like a cross between the Volvo C30 and XC60. It’s good-looking, though, and that’s why it tied for the Eyes on Design Award for best concept.

Hyundai/Kia

  • 2014 Kia Cadenza – as I have pointed out before, styling from Hyundai/Kia tends to be “borrowed” from other vehicles. The Cadenza is really great looking, but has a definite resemblance to the BMW 5 Series.
  • 2014 Kia Forte – nice update to the small sedan. As is customary from Kia, this little guy is loaded with features for its price.
  • 2014 Kia Sorento – see Forte. Same nice updates.
  • Hyundai HCD-14 Concept – hints at the next-gen Genesis. Looks part Audi; part Chrysler 300. See styling comment above. Darn good looking though, especially the lamps – front and back.

Chrysler/Fiat

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee – nice update inside and out. Sports a new 8-speed tranny and a new 3.0L Diesel that will get 30 MPG.
  • Ram Pickups – the light-duty (1500) has been on sale and the heavy-duty (2500-5500) will be on sale soon. They get a nice visual update inside and out, though the overall look is the same. An 8-speed trans with the 3.6L V6 on the 1500 yields 25 MPG highway, best in the pickup segment. The 2500+ get up to 850 lb-ft of torque. You can tow up to 30,000 pounds. Not sure where to stay on your next vacation? Just tow your house!
  • Fiat 500L – the bigger Fiat is basically Fiat’s answer to the Mini Countryman. It’s a 500 for adults (with kids). I should have ordered one when I had the chance.
  • Fiat 500e – all-electric version of the 500. It has a push-button transmission selector where the “regular” shifter is on the “regular” 500.
  • Maserati Quattroporte – I have only 3 things to say about the latest 4-door. Drop. Dead. Gorgeous.

General Motors

  • 2014 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra – the big pickup gets a major update for 2014, but if they didn’t tell you, would you notice? GM showed the twins last month. This is the first showing in public. Big mistake, in my opinion. They spent a ton of money updating the truck, but then show it about 6 months before you can buy it. This is no win for GM. For folks that really like it, GM just gave them a reason to not buy the current truck (which is already having some trouble). For everybody else, they will wonder why GM is calling it new. It has new, forward hinged rear doors (see Ram Quad Cab), a cool bumper step and a damped tailgate that won’t come crashing down on its own anymore.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala – this, more than anything else in GM’s lineup, badly needed an update. It finally gets one, and it’s a good one. It’s no longer an appliance on wheels. The touch screen lifts out of the way to reveal storage space and a USB port. It also has tons of legroom and trunk space.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Corvette (C7) – major update. It’s more exotic looking, more powerful, better fuel economy. Brings back the Stingray name, but GM made way too much of that. They said it was only used for special Corvettes, but it was used on all Corvettes from 1963-1976. Also worth noting is that on “Industry Preview Day” when engineers and others are spending their time measuring anything you can imagine on the cars, everybody at the Corvette display was just standing and staring (maybe drooling). That’s Detroit for you.
  • Cadillac ELR – it’s the offspring of the CTS Coupe and Chevy Volt. The baby got its daddy’s looks and its mommy’s spirit.

Toyota

  • 2014 Lexus IS – adopts a new, aggressive look borrowed from the Lexus LFA. The new look includes new daytime running lamps that seem inspired by Nike. The powertrain is carryover.
  • Toyota Furia Concept – signals that Toyota design has finally woken up. The car shows what the next Corolla will look like. If so, then the next Corolla will be quite the looker. This is one good-looking car.

Volkswagen

  • Porsche Cayenne Turbo S – because the 500 horsepower Cayenne Turbo is just a slacker. 550? Now you’re talking.
  • VW Cross Blue Concept – hints at a new crossover for the VW brand. Bears some resemblance to the Audi Q7. Concept sports a Diesel plug-in hybrid.
  • Audi SQ5 – slaps a turbo 3L V6 into the Q5. 354 hp, 0-62 in 5.3 seconds. 21” wheels.
  • Audi RS7 – the A7 is gorgeous; the S7 is hot, so what do we do next? More power! This hottest of the 7’s has a 4.0L twin turbo good for 560 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Get in line behind me.

BMW

  • BMW M6 Gran Coupe – adds “M” power to the gorgeous 6 Series Gran Coupe.
  • BMW 4-Series Coupe Concept – really nice looking. Low and wide. BMW’s naming has been odd numbers for sedans and even for coupes and convertibles. Except for the 3-Series, which has had all 3 body types. BMW fixes that with the 4-Series. Coming soon.

Jaguar

  • XFR-S – adds a 5.8L Supercharged V8 to the lineup, good for 550 hp. $99,000, which is more than twice the base XF model.
  • F-Type – the spiritual successor to the E-Type (clever naming strategy, right?), the F-Type might be the best-looking car at the show. On sale this spring, the prices range from $69,000 - $92,000.

Mercedes-Benz

  • E-Class – new styling looks great, especially the front end. The coupe and cabriolet are more aggressive than the sedan and wagon.

Honda

  • Honda EV-Ster – cool, little open-air EV roadster
  • Honda Urban SUV Concept – hints at a car you can actually buy next year. Styled like the CR-V, but smaller and built on the Fit platform.

Others

  • 2014 Mazda6 – new 3rd generation with SkyActiv Technology. What’s SkyActiv? All you need to know is that it allows Mazda to have cars that are fast, handle great and get great fuel economy – all without expensive hybrid or turbo or other technology. Has the same 2.5L I4 engine as the CX-5 SUV. Why does “SkyActiv” sound like it might be the new James Bond movie?
  • Subaru BRZ – not new, but I really like this car (and its brother, the Scion FR-S). Worth noting that this car is the only vehicle in Subaru’s lineup that is NOT all-wheel drive (AWD).
  • Tesla Model X – to be built on the same platform as Model S, Tesla says this is the SUV of Tesla. Whatever you call it, it’s certainly pleasant to look at, especially with the rear “falcon doors” open. Not gull-wing, but similar. You have to see it to understand, but it’s way cool. Should be priced about the same as a similarly-equipped Model S, meaning starting in the low 60s. Available in about 1½ years.
  • Destino – the Fisker Karma is a great looking car, but has a powertrain that many people might not want, or trust. Enter VL Automotive. They’ve made 2 running prototypes, with more on the way. The car is a Karma, with all of the electric motor removed (and sent back to Fisker for re-use) and replaced with the Supercharged LS9 engine from a Corvette ZR1. Now the Destino has the power to back up the looks. Wow!

The Slandy Awards® 2013

Slandy Best in Show-Production - 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7.

Slandy Best in Show Concept - Acura NSX. proves that there is still a pulse at Honda and Acura

Honorable Mention (in no particular order) - Maserati Quattroporte, Cadillac ELR, Audi RS7, Tesla Model X, Jaguar F-Type, Destino

WATT - Mini JCW lineup. I get it that Mini is all hip and cool. Probably too cool and hip for me. But honestly? That color scheme? Me thinks they are trying WAY too hard to keep up that cool and hip image.

Trends to watch - Logos and other messages in the headlamps of many vehicles (Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram pickup, matte finish paint is showing up more and more. See Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Chevrolet

Oops Award - Edsel B. Ford II spotted trying to get into a (locked) Jaguar. He showed a bit of frustration that he couldn’t get in. Sorry, Edsel, you don’t own that company anymore.

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Old Car Brochures

31st January 2012

If you love cars like I do, you’ll want to check out this website. Was your first car a 1966 Dodge Charger? They have it here. How about a 1963 Studebaker Avanti? They have it too. They don’t have everything though. But it’s still a pretty cool repository of old car and truck ads and brochures. Click here for the main page, and have fun!

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GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson testified before Congress yesterday. He opened with the following statement. Akerson has been criticized in the media for his lack of experience in the auto industry and his public comments of his competitors’ products, specifically Prius and Lincoln. This statement to open the hearing, though, is perfect. Whoever wrote this statement should have prepped Rick Wagoner and the rest of the auto CEOs when they testified a few years ago. Enjoy.

Good morning and thank you Chairman Jordan and Ranking Members Cummings and Kucinich.  I welcome the opportunity to testify today and stand behind a car that all of us at GM are proud of.

Please allow me to start with some Volt history: 

GM unveiled the Volt concept at the January 2007 Detroit Auto Show.  In June of 2008, the “old GM’s” Board of Directors approved the Volt project for production well before the bankruptcy and infusion of government funds.

The battery story goes back much farther to the early 1990s with GM’s extensive work on the EV1.

Drawing on that experience, we engineered the Volt to be a winner on the road and in customers’ hearts.

Today, I’m proud to say the Volt is performing exactly as we engineered it…

            …In its first year, Volt garnered the Triple Crown of industry awards: Motor Trend Car of the Year; Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year; and, North American Car of the Year;

            …Volt is among the safest cars on the road – earning 5 Stars for occupant safety and a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety;

            …And, 93 percent of Volt owners report the highest customer satisfaction with their car — more than any other vehicle and the highest ever recorded in the industry.

Beyond the accolades, the Volt’s importance to GM and our country’s long term prospects is far reaching.

We engineered Volt to be the only EV that you can drive across town or across the country without fear of being stranded when the battery power is drained.

You can go 35 miles, and in some cases much more, on a single charge… which for 80 percent of American drivers is their total driving range.

After that, a small gas engine extends your range to 375 miles before you have to recharge or re-fill.

But, if the Volt message boards are any indication, there’s some real one-upmanship going on out there – with customers reporting going months and thousands of miles without stopping once at a gas pump.

No other current EV can do this or ‘generate’ that much passion with its drivers.

We engineered Volt to give drivers a choice— to use energy produced in the United States rather than oil from places that may not always put America’s best interests first.

And, we engineered Volt to show the world what great vehicles we make at General Motors.

Unfortunately, there is one thing we did not engineer.  Although we loaded the Volt with state-of-the-art safety features — we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag.

And that, sadly, is what it’s become.

For all of the loose talk about fires, we are here today because tests by regulators resulted in battery fires under lab conditions that no driver would experience in the real world.

In fact, Volt customers have driven over 25 million miles without a single, similar incident.

In one test, the fire occurred seven days after a simulated crash.  In another, it took three weeks after the test.  Not three minutes.  Not three hours.  Not three days.  Three weeks.

Based on those test results, did we think there was an imminent safety risk?  No.

Or, as one of our customers put it:  if they couldn’t cut him out of the vehicle in two or three weeks, he had a bigger problem to worry about.

However, given those test results, GM had a choice on how we would react.  It was an easy call.

We put our customers first.  We moved fast and with great transparency to engineer a solution.

We contacted every Volt owner and offered them a loaner car until the issue was settled.  And if that wasn’t enough, we offered to buy the car back.

We assembled a team of engineers who worked non-stop to develop a modest enhancement to the battery system to address the issue.

We’ll begin adding the enhancement on the line and in customers’ cars in a few weeks.

And in doing so, we took a 5-star rated vehicle and made it even safer.

Nonetheless, these recent events have cast an undeserved, damaging light on a promising new American technology that we are exporting around the world, right from Detroit.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote in its Volt review:  We should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet.

The Volt is safe.  It’s a marvelous machine. It represents so much of what is right about General Motors and, frankly, about American ingenuity and manufacturing. 

I look forward to taking your questions.

Thank you

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Relax, your Volt isn’t going to spontaneously combust as your drive to Grandma’s house. The sky isn’t falling. Fox News has its head up its…butt.

Despite the bad press, which was only that and not a real-world issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a statement today saying that it closed the investigation into the Volt because they found “…no discernible defect…exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.” See below for the entire statement from NHTSA.

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the following statement today regarding the conclusion of its safety defect investigation into the post-crash fire risk of Chevy Volts (PE11037):

Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its safety defect investigation into the potential risk of fire in Chevy Volts that have been involved in a serious crash. Opened on November 25, the agency’s investigation has concluded that no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts.

NHTSA remains unaware of any real-world crashes that have resulted in a battery-related fire involving the Chevy Volt or any other electric vehicle. NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles show great promise as a safe and fuel-efficient option for American drivers. However, as the reports released in conjunction with the closure of the investigation today indicate, fires following NHTSA crash tests of the vehicle and its battery components—and the innovative nature of this emerging technology—led the agency to take the unusual step of opening a safety defect investigation in the absence of data from real-world incidents.

Based on the available data, NHTSA does not believe that Chevy Volts or other electric vehicles pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered vehicles. Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash. However, electric vehicles have specific attributes that should be made clear to consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facilities. Recognizing these considerations, NHTSA has developed interim guidance—with the assistance of the National Fire Protection Association, the Department of Energy, and others—to increase awareness and identify appropriate safety measures for these groups. The agency expects this guidance will help inform the ongoing work by NFPA, DOE, and vehicle manufacturers to educate the emergency response community, law enforcement officers, and others about electric vehicles.

For additional information on the Volt investigation and others, visit www.SaferCar.gov

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2012 Detroit Auto Show

14th January 2012

5000 international journalists in town? Check. Dozens of world premiers? Check. All of the cars spiffed up and ready for their debuts? Check. Must be time for a cold snap and some snow! Welcome to the 2012 North American International Auto Show, or as we call it here at The Slandy Report, The Detroit Auto Show. Read on for all of the must-see cars and trucks this year!

General Motors
Cadillac ATS
- Caddy finally has a legitimate small car that can rival the best of the world - at least on paper. On sale this summer, the ATS features 3 engine choices (2.5L I-4 with 202HP, 2.0L I-4 Turbo with 270HP and a 3.6L V6 with 320HP), auto and manual (only with the turbo) trannies and RWD or AWD. It is designed to compete with the BMW 3-Series and other small luxury cars (Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class). It’s almost the exact same size as the new 3-Series sedan (see below), so a showdown appears imminent.
Chevrolet Sonic RS- you might think that the Sonic RS means that it’s the hot-rod of the lineup, and that’s probabbly what Chevy wants you to think. Sadly, though, it’s mostly just an appearance package, albeit a nice one. It has an upgraded interior, including sport seats, thicker sport steering wheel and aluminum pedals. It also includes four-wheel discs, stiffer suspension and a retuned exhaust, a unique front fascia with a new grille and fog lamps, a new spoiler and rocker moldings, a chrome exhaust tip, and unique wheels.
Chevrolet Tru 140S and Code 130R Concepts- these are both coupes that Chevrolet design crafted over 12 months of interviews and research with Millennials (age 11 to 30) to find out what they want in (or even if they want) a Chevrolet. They both have a 1.4L Turbo with eAssist (mild hybrid). Tru 140S is a front wheel drive that looks way too much like a Mitsubishi Eclipse, but is not unattractive. The Code 130R is more interesting, with cues from Camaro and Malibu, but incorporates them into a new, unique look. It is rear wheel drive. Both are concepts, meaning they are not slated for production anytime soon. Curious, then, that the General chose to list certain features as “optional” in the press material.
2013 Chevrolet Malibu - a minor update visually, but it makes a nice improvement. The rear takes on a Camaro-like presence. The interior of the top of the line LTZ model is particularly nice.
2013 Chevrolet Spark - despite the small stature and weird colors, this is not a toy car. It really works. It’s even bigger than a Fiat 500. Cute. Electric version is also in the works.
Chevrolet MiRay concept - sleek sports car. It has a mid-engine, 1.4L Turbo motor, plus 2 electric motors. Batman’s Chevrolet.
2013 Buick Encore - very small new crossover with a 1.4L Turbo and a 6-speed auto tranny. Front or all-wheel drive. Expected to get 30MPG on the highway. It’s the Enclave’s little brother.
2013 Cadillac XTS - shown here before, this is now the actual production version. Great lines, and has a presence that will command attention on the road. Powered by a 3.6L V6 and comes in front or all-wheel drive.

Chrysler/Fiat
2013 Dodge Dart- all-new entry based on the award-winning Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart combines world-class European architecture with Dodge’s design and attitude. Dodge hasn’t had an entry in the compact car segment for a while, so the Dart is a welcome addition. In addition to great style, the Dart should be a great drive as well. 3 I-4 engine choices (2.0L with 160 HP and 145 lb-ft of torque, 1.4L Turbo with 160/184 and a 2.4L with 184/171), 3 transmissions (6-speed manual, 6-speed auto and 6-speed dual dry clutch), 12 exterior colors, 14 interior trim combos, 6 wheel choices. It will have the 8.4″ touch screen from other Chrysler products and a smart phone app like other products are starting to have. I think Dodge has a winner on its hands - if it can execute the launch flawlessly. Customers are still skeptical of Chrysler, and they won’t need much reason to reject the Dart if there are any problems.
Chrysler 700C Concept - preview of next-gen minivan? Chrysler says no, it’s just a styling exercise. It certainly is interesting to look at. Complex lines. Looks part Mercedes-Benz R-Class from the back. It definitely doesn’t look like any minivan I’ve seen.
Ram is showing a Red Wings edition of its 1500 pickup. Limited appeal, for sure, but Go Wings!
Fiat 500 Abarth - this scorpion-laced version of the little 500 is “small but wicked”. It has a 170HP turbo version of the 500’s basic 1.4L engine. The nice lady showing it off does justice to the other nice lady in the commercial/video for the Abarth. Google it. Trust me.
Maserati Kubang - not the best name in the world, and you might think, “Why does Maserati want to sell an SUV?” The answer might be, “Well, Porsche is selling one, why can’t Maserati?” and that’s good enough for me. The Kubang is actually built on the mechanicals of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but powered by a Ferrari engine. The looks are all Maserati, which is to say, awesome.

Ford
2013 Ford Fusion- the Fusion has consistently been one of Ford’s best selling vehicles since its introduction in 2005, and the 2013 should only enhance its appeal. It looks great and ups the ante in the midsize segment with class-leading powertrains and fuel economy. Ford dropped the V6 option, so all of the engines are of the 4-cylinder variety. This saves weight in the structure, which allows more efficient architecture and allows other components to be smaller and lighter (like the brakes). This follows the example from the Hyundai Sonata. The base engine is a 2.5L (170HP/170 torque), and is joined by 1.6L EcoBoost (179/172/26 city/37 highway) and 2.0 EcoBoost (237/250) engines, a hybrid (185/130/47 city/44 highway) and the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid (>100 MPGe - better than the plug-in Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt). A manual will continue to be available, but only with the 1.6 Turbo. AWD will also continue, but only with the 2.0 Turbo. On sale late fall, and will be sold in other markets around the world as the new Mondeo.
2013 Ford Escape- already shown in LA, the Escape is all-new with a look previewed last year by the Vertrek concept. It’s an attractive, but somewhat busy design, and it looks more like something from Hyundai or Kia than from Ford. It has the same gas engines as the new Fusion, so no V6 here either. It also has Ford’s “hands-free liftgate” feature, which opens the liftgate by waving your foot under the rear bumper. Pretty cool.
2013 Focus ST - 247HP in a small package from the 2.0L EcoBoost. Has a big, bold black grille. Nice.
C-Max - “regular” hybrid or plug-in (”Energi”) hybrid versions. It’s like a tall Focus wagon. The plug-in has a special quick charging system. The battery takes up some of the cargo area in both versions, forcing the load floor to be higher by 8″-9″ in the Energi and ~4″ in the hybrid.
Lincoln MKZ “Concept” - not really a concept. Sources tell me that it is 80-85% production intent, including the glass roof. Nice update. The Lincoln display area is very cool as well, separated from the rest of the show by a big fence/wall. Very striking.

Volkswagen
2013 Jetta Hybrid- this is VW’s first hybrid, making VW among the last to offer this technology. Combined fuel economy is estimated at 45MPG. It has a 1.4L Turbo and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. On sale late this year.
Audi allroad - returning to the US after an 8 year absence, the allroad is now based on the A4 (previous version was based on the A6). It has a turbo 2.0L making 211HP and 258 lb-ft torque.
Audi Q3 - Audi announced that they will sell the Q3 in the US when production begins for Europe in late 2013 (should be between July and September). It had not been slated for the US. Audi is showing it as a concept called the Q3 Vail, which is designed for winter sports enthusiasts.
E-Bugster concept - this is a 2-seat, electric Beetle with a lower, flattened roof. Very cool.

Nissan
Pathfinder Concept - Nissan is showing a concept of where the Pathfinder is going. It’s an attractive vehicle, but it’s going right to the heart of the SUV market - car-based and fuel-efficient, but only partly off-road capable. The list of truly capable off-road vehicles is shrinking, and the late ones to leave might find themselves losing their current customers, but getting lost in the shuffle for new ones. The back end reminds me of the Mazda CX-9. Not a good scenario for Nissan. On sale this fall.
2013 Infiniti JX - on sale this spring, the JX is a 3-row, 7-passenger crossover. It has great styling, and is a close relative of the Pathfinder.
Infiniti Etherea Concept - a front-drive compact 4-door hybrid hatchback that looks like it could get a speeding ticket without moving.
QX - not new, but I just had to mention that this is one of the most ridiculous vehicles on the planet. Fugly.

Mercedes-Benz
2013 SL - next gen of M-Bs venerable roadster. Despite a smaller V8 engine and larger size, it has more horsepower (429), more torque (516) and accelerates to 60 faster (4.5 seconds). Includes the wave the foot feature like the Escape, but also will close the trunk as well. The SL550 will be available this spring.
2013 E-Class Hybrids - the E300 is a 2.1L Diesel, combined with an electric motor. Total power is 230Hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. The E400 is a 3.5L gas engine with the same electric motor. Total is 333HP/457lb-ft.
Maybach 57 - nothing new to see here, but check it out while you still can. M-B has announced that Maybach is being discontinued after this model year. There just aren’t that many people willing to part with the better part of $400K anymore. It doesn’t help that it’s (just) a bigger, more expensive M-B S-Class, and that a Rolls is way more desirable. Oh well.
smart for-us concept - electric pickup from the most ironically-named automotive brand in history. Once again, answering the question nobody asked.

Toyota
Lexus LF-LC Concept - really hot new concept, it is a hybrid, but Lexus isn’t giving any specs.
FCV-R Concept - very cool looking fuel cell-powered 4-door.
NSA4 Concept - a midsize hybrid, this might preview the next generation Camry. If so, Camry might go from vanilla to chocolate chip cookie dough. Mmmmm, cookie dough…
“New” Camry - yawn.
Prius - so many Prii, so little time, or gas for that matter. The lineup now includes Prius, Prius Plug-In, Prius v and Prius c. The c is the news here, it’s smaller (think c = “compact”), and gets 53 city MPG and 46 highway. That’s no better overall than the “regular” Prius, which gets 51/48. But it’s less than $19,000, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
Scion FR-S - co-developed with Subaru (which will sell its version as the RBZ), this is a hot little sports car. It has a 2.0L, 200HP boxer engine. It’s rear wheel drive and comes with a 6-speed manual, as god intended.

Honda
Honda Accord Coupe Concept - nice freshening of the Accord Coupe, but it doesn’t break any new ground. Powertrains are revised with more horsepower and fuel economy. The big news is the addition of a plug-in hybrid model. Honda says the electric motor can power the car for up to 15 miles of city driving at speeds as high as 62 mph. The battery can be fully recharged in four hours using a 120-volt outlet or in 90 minutes with a 240-volt charger.
2013 Acura ILX - this is a new Civic-based sedan that will eventually replace the TSX in Acura’s lineup. It will have 3 powertrains: 2.0L I-4, 2.4L I-4 and a hybrid (Acura’s first). Nice looking car, but when is Acura going to dump the guillotine grille? They need a new look, and fast. On sale this spring.
2013 Acura RDX - updated and nice looking, the big news here is the bigger engine. While most automakers are downsizing their engines and adding turbo power to make up the power, Acura goes in the opposite direction by dropping the turbo 4 and moving to a 3.5L V6. It nows gets 273HP, up 33 from last year. Also on sale this spring.
Acura NSX Concept - the NSX is back! With sleek new styling and enough technology to make Bill Gates jealous, this new generation NSX could get a speeding ticket standing still. It sports a mid-engine V6 AND electric-driven AWD system. Expected for sale in 3 years. Get in line now.
Acura Display - besides the 3 cars above, the Acura display just looks like the collected rejects from a bad orthodontist nightmare because of all of the buck-toothed grilles, or maybe they belong on The Island of Misfit Toys. Hard to say.

BMW
3-Series - yet another new version of the venerable 3-Series, but don’t expect it to look very different from the current model. When it goes on sale next month, it will be longer and wider with many fuel savings technologies included (lighter curb weight, improved automatic transmission, start-stop and regenerative braking). The 328i and 335i will both have twin turbo engines, with 240 and 300 HP, respectively. Prices start at $35,795. In yet more proof of The Slandy Report’s influence, BMW is now showing an actual manual tranny on the floor, but only 1. They also announced that the new M5 will indeed have a proper manual again. Yeah!
i3 Concept - cool-looking small electric that weighs only 2756 lbs.
i8 Concept - another cool-looking concept. This one has a mid-engine 3-cylinder turbo, PLUS electric motors in the front and back. Total power is 350HP and 406 lb-ft of torque. 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds.
Mini Roadster - yet another variation of the basic Mini Cooper, Roadster is a 2-seat convertible that will come in the standard 3 versions: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. Goes on sale in February.

Hyundai
2013 Veloster Turbo - so what happens with you slap a turbocharger on the pedestrian 1.6L Veloster engine? a. 201HP   b. 195 lb-ft torque or c. All of the above? C!! It also gets a revised, more aggressive front end. On sale this summer.

Others
Volvo Concept You - very cool-looking car. Name sucks.
Tesla Model S - shown before, but this is the production version of the all-electric sedan. Can go up to 300 miles on a charge. Has a rear-facing 3rd row for kids - with 5-point belts. It also has 3 other things of note: Biggest. Touch screen. Ever. (17″!)
Mazda CX-5 - new small crossover that becomes the little brother to the CX-7 and CX-9.First model to show the new design language for Mazda. Interesting that the info from Mazda really emphasizes that it was developed only by Mazda. Maybe they are afraid that people will think it was developed by Ford, which was the case with the Tribute, which the CX-5 replaces in Mazda’s lineup. Powered by a 2.0L motor, it makes 155HP and 150 lb-ft torque. A manual (!) tranny is standard, and in front-drive models, gets 35MPG on the highway. Best in Class figures for all powertrain combos.
Subaru BRZ - see Scion FR-S. It’s basically the same car.

The 2012 Slandy Awards
Slandy Best in Show Production - Dodge Dart. It might not be the most desirable of the nominees, but it gets the nod because of its extreme importance to its company’s future (see below). And it’s damn good too.
Slandy Best in Show Concept - Chevrolet Code 130R Concept
Honorable Mention (in no particular order) - Ford Fusion, Infiniti JX35, Chevrolet MiRay, Buick Encore, Cadillac ATS, Lexus LF-LC, Dodge Dart, BMW i8, Mercedes-Benz SL, Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
WATT - Infiniti QX, Nissan Quest. These have got to be 2 of the fugliest vehicles on the planet. Coincidentally from the same company. Or maybe not coincidentally.
Bet the Farm Award - Dodge Dart. Though this looks like a winner (see above), it might very well kill Chrysler and the alliance with Fiat if the launch isn’t flawless AND if it doesn’t sell very well. With several future models based on this new platform, it would be hard to overstate the importance of this product to Chrysler and Fiat.

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Chicago Auto Show - Camaro ZL1

9th February 2011

Chevrolet introduced the upcoming Camaro ZL1 at the Chicago Auto Show today. All you really need to know is that it has a 6.2L Supercharged V8 making 550HP and 550 lb-ft of torque. It will only be available with a 6-speed manual transmission. It has a revised suspension and a dual-mode exhaust system, which alters the sound level and character in response to engine rpm. First used on the legendary Corvette, and specifically tuned for Camaro ZL1, the dual-mode exhaust will give the car a signature sound.

The ZL1 name is derived from the all-aluminum racing engine of the same name, which was developed in the late 1960s and installed into a handful of regular-production 1969 Camaros. Only 69 were built with the engine, but they’ve achieved mythical status among enthusiasts, as they represented the pinnacle in Camaro performance – until now.

Camaro ZL1’s design communicates and supports its performance mission. Rather than using decorative elements, ZL1 is visually differentiated from other current Camaro models with elements vital to the car’s elevated capabilities.

“Everything about the ZL1’s design is directly related to its technology and serious performance, especially aerodynamics,” said Ed Welburn, vice president, Global Design. “Our designers’ goal was to execute that function-oriented design with beautifully sculpted forms, creating an imposing, powerful persona. Function becomes the aesthetic. The intent is a car that delivers on the attitude it projects.”

Major elements of the ZL1’s design are a new front fascia and hood with air extractors, designed in tandem to create aerodynamic downforce to aid handling. The car’s hood includes a signature center section constructed of carbon fiber and rendered in satin black finish. New rocker panels, wide tires, 20-inch wheels and exhaust tips portray the car’s handling and power. The ZL1 badge appears on the grille, hood and the brake calipers, all key areas portraying the technology within.

 
chevy-logo-56x29 Chicago Auto Show - Camaro ZL1 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Learn about the Camaro ZL1 Performance Car | Follow on Twitter | Facebook
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Welcome to the 2011 North American International Auto Show, or with apologies to Monty Python, We’re Not Dead Yet! Ford and Chevrolet won the North American Car (Chevy Volt) and Truck (Ford Explorer) of the Year Awards, which really annoyed Hyundai, Nissan and Chrysler (which had the runners-up). The show must go on, and it sure does this year. Not as many truly exciting, hot cars, but lots of good stuff. Read on for the details and what you must see if you go.

Chrysler

  • Chrysler reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, when he said, “I’ll be back.” Last year, the Chrysler stand was sad. It made you feel like they had given up. No longer. Almost the entire lineup has been made over in the last 18 months, since Fiat took over. Still no Jeep waterfall, though. Read on for the highlights.
  • Chrysler 300 has a more refined look, but is a bit cartoonish now. It also has a new interior and better ride and handling. It has clearly gone further upscale. The 300 has the new 3.6L “Pentastar” engine, which is a wonderful new engine. Gets 280+ hp (depending on the vehicle) and pretty decent mileage.
  • Chrysler 200 replaces the Sebring. It is not a completely new vehicle, but it’s way better than the Sebring in every way, including looks. Very nice update. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Chrysler Town & Country has a nicer interior and a very modest exterior update. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the major new products from the Pentastar company this year. It’s way better than its predecessor. There’s also a 70th Anniversary edition to see, which is even nicer. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Jeep Compass now has the Grand Cherokee’s front end, which is a huge improvement, but the rest of it looks mostly the same. The side, rear and interior still are lacking. It’s better, but not good.
  • Dodge Grand Caravan – see Town & Country
  • Dodge Durango is now a 3-row Grand Cherokee with a Dodge front end. That’s not to say it isn’t good. It is. It just looks too much like its platform-mate to me. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Dodge Charger gets the same treatment as the 300. At first glance, it looks too much like the old one. However, the details are all new. The scooped out side, the taillamps and the grill all look great. The interior is very good too. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Dodge Avenger gets much of the same treatment as the 200, but the exterior changed much less. Also gets the Pentastar.
  • Dodge Journey looks very much the same, but gets a nice update to the interior, new suspension improvements and also gets the Pentastar.
  • Ram Laramie Longhorn – I’ll ignore the obvious joke about crossbreeding here, and say that this is the ultimate blinged pickup. It out King Ranch’s the King Ranch. Clearly, the Ram designers didn’t see Blazing Saddles (“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.”).
  • Fiat 500 – several models in different colors are there in all their cuteness, including a 1970 vintage that is half the size of the new one.

Ford Motor Company

  • Ford Vertrek “Concept” – preview of new Escape and European Kuga. I4 engines only, but because this is a “concept”, there aren’t many details. No word on whether a manual will be available. Looks like the 5-seat C-Max Energi (see below).
  • Ford Focus – in dealer showrooms soon. Ford also unveiled the electric Focus. Ford will only say that its range will be more than the Nissan Leaf’s. Ford is showing a hot-rod ST version. Love the wheels!
  • Ford C-Max – Ford sells 2 versions of this micro-van in Europe: C-Max and Grand C-Max. C-Max is a 5-seater, while Grand C-Max is a 7-seater, or as Ford calls it, “5+2” because the 3rd row is very small. So Ford will sell the Grand C-Max here and just call it C-Max. Also, Ford will sell a hybrid (“C-Max Hybrid”) and a plug-in hybrid (“C-Max Energi”) version of the 5-seater, and still use the C-Max name. Got that? The C-Max is similar to the Mazda5, but before you think it’s too small, consider this: it’s bigger in every dimension (length, width and height) than the original minivan, the 1984 Dodge Caravan.
  • Also new at is the 2011 Ford Explorer, just recently on sale. Prices start at $28,995. This is a major change to the former best-selling SUV. No longer does it ride on a truck platform. Now it shares its mechanicals with the Flex and Taurus. It still has decent off-road credentials though, and it was named North American Truck of the Year. Check out the power-folding 3rd row seats (Flex has the same ones).
  • Flex fuel has come to the Ford F-250, but in this case, it means B20 (not E85). That means it can run on Diesel with up to 20% biodiesel mix. Also, the Ford badge on the front of this thing deserves its own zip code!
  • Speaking of Flex, there is a new version of the giant box called Titanium. This is Ford’s new high-end series. The Ford Flex Titanium on display has a sticker of $50,000. Wow!
  • The only thing exciting at the Lincoln stand is the 1965 Lincoln Continental (there’s also one at the DUB display). Amazing, a Lincoln with an actual name. Who woulda thunk it? Prediction: one day, real names will make a comeback, as a “retro” thing.
  • Ford’s display also has its own demo ride of 2 electric cars. You can get a ride (you can’t drive) in an electric Transit Connect and an electric Focus. In the middle of the track is a dynamometer, where they can accelerate up to about 45 mph without risk of plowing through the GM display.

General Motors

  • 2012 Chevrolet Sonic – replaces the Aveo, which nobody can pronounce. Sonic is a better name, and looks nicer, but will Chevy sell these through the burger chain of the same name? What about the Hedgehog version? Same engines as the Cruze (1.4L I4 Turbo and 1.8L I4) in a smaller, lighter package! It will be available as a sedan and a 5-door hatch. The hatch has the same general shape as the Chevy Orlando shown (LAST YEAR?) and somewhat odd rear door handles. It also has an odd speedo display. Overall, a bit quirky, but that will help it get through the clutter. People will notice it.
  • Camaro Convertible – shown last year (?), but worth another look. Adding the convertible will help the sales momentum (BTW, Camaro outsold Mustang in 2010 for the first time since (WHEN) – and that’s with only a coupe.
  • Volt – not new (it’s been at the show for about 17 years), but this is the first time you can get in and really check it out. So check it out! Really nice interior!
  • Cruze – on actual display is a Cruze with a proper 6-speed manual tranny! I was beginning to think that manuals went out of style along with actual names that are real words. Check out the Cruze LT with the red fabric seats. The dash material matches the seats, so the dash has the fabric. Nice look.
  • Buick Regal – was there last year, but now it’s for sale. A true European sports sedan from Buick (it’s virtually the same as the Opel Insignia, which won the European Car of the Year). One question: when does the damn manual come out already?
  • Buick Verano – out later this year, the Verano looks like a Regal that shrunk in the wash, which is good, because the Regal looks great. Standard powertrain is a 2.4L I4 with a 6-speed auto transmission. A 2.0L Turbo will be available later. No word on whether it will have the all-important 3rd pedal on the floor. The Verano is based on the same architecture as the Chevy Cruze. Buick apparently rejected the name Bruze and Cruick. Verano is Spanish for summer, so I’ll be waiting for the obvious convertible version at next year’s show.
  • GMC is showing the Sierra All-Terrain HD Concept. It’s a true off-road pickup that certainly looks the part. It doesn’t really look like a concept. Looks ready to go. Unfortunately for GMC, Ram already has this on the market. It’s called the PowerWagon.

Volkswagen

  • We are witnessing nothing short of the downfall of this company. They are going down the road to oblivion, and it’s all because of their egomaniac CEO, who wants to conquer the (automotive) world and overtake Toyota as the biggest. Look where that got Toyota. The newest products (Jetta and Passat) are too mainstream, too dumbed-down. They’ve lost the soul of a VW. They may very well increase sales, but at what cost? My only hope is that VW’s “other” brands (Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche) are spared this fate. In the goal to be bigger, VW is losing the cache that has made them loved by their customers. Sounds a little like Toyota’s recent problems. Be careful what you wish for, VW. You just might get it
  • That said, I think the new Jetta and Passat are pretty nice looking, if bland. They look too much like each other, though. If others and I need to look at the badge on the back to tell the difference, they’re too similar.
  • 2012 Passat – the car formerly known as NMS (new midsize sedan) that will be built at VW’s new plant in Tennessee was anointed as Passat. 3 engines – 2.5L I4 (170HP), 3.6L V6 (280HP) and a Diesel that VW claims will have an 800-mile highway range. It looks nice and more directly competes with Camry and Accord
  • CC – still the best-looking car VW makes. Love it.
  • 2012 Audi A6 – beautiful update. Won Eyes on Design award at the show. Will include a hybrid model.
  • 2012 Audi A7 – a new beautiful design in the “4-door coupe” family that began with the Mercedes CLS, but with Audi’s wonderful styling.
  • Porsche returns to the show after X year absence. 918 RSR is a race car version of the 918 spyder shown at last year’s Geneva autoshow. 4.5L V8 makes 565HP at 10,300 rpm (holy crap!). electric motors on the front axle add another 200, but only for 8 seconds at a time. Like an afterburner.

Toyota

  • Prius family – in a surprise to nobody, Toyota has decided to make Prius a family of vehicles, like a sub-brand. All of the product experts are wearing t-shirts that say, “Prius Goes Plural” and there is also a sign that says “Prium” like that’s the plural of Prius. Cute, but they might have a problem from the Jewish lobby, which will argue that Prium sounds too much like Purim. So the new models are a plug-in, a wagon (Prius v) and a smaller model (Prius c), which appears to be based on the FT-CH concept from last year.
  • Sienna has a new design. Looks pretty good, but it is a van. The 2nd row slides fore/aft, and the 3rd row folds into the floor very easily, but all of the instruction and warning stickers will intimidate you at first. It’s much easier than it appears, but not as easy as Honda’s.
  • There’s also a Sienna Swagger Wagon concept, which plays off of the Sienna Swagger wagon commercial. It’s a Sienna limo, and it’s pretty ridiculous.
  • Lexus has the CT200h, its latest hybrid. What’s odd here is the imagery that Lexus is using for this vehicle. “Welcome to the Darker Side of Green” is loudly exclaimed in big bold letters. Smaller letters on the info stand say, “43 MPG Hybrid with and Attitude.” I’m not quite sure how this little hybrid that goes 0-60 in 9.8 seconds got the attitude, but somebody (like maybe the 392 Dodge Challenger) is going to kick its butt if it shows any of this attitude on the playground.
  • The Scion iQ is one of the smallest cars you will ever see. It’s slightly bigger than a smart fortwo at 120” long, but it seats 4. Actually, it’s “3+1” (what’s with all the math in seating these days?). This means (I had to ask) that it will hold 3 adults, plus 1 kid/dog in the rear seat behind the driver, where there is virtually no room. Still, it’s way more practical than the smart, and it’s way more of a “real” car – at least, Aston Martin thinks so. 1.3L (“90+ HP”) engine, 8.5 gallon fuel tank, 2116 lbs.
  • In the corner of Toyota’s display is a very big video board, which they use to play commercials (including the Swagger mentioned above) and other propaganda. One of these pieces touts how the Sienna is made in America and how many jobs it supports. While it is true that it is made in America, the piece comes off as being a bit desperate. Grabbing at straws. My, how the mighty have fallen.

Hyundai/Kia

  • Hyundai and Kia are the only parts of the same company that are not right near each other on the show floor. I don’t have an opinion about it; I just find it interesting.
  • Hyundai Sonata – already successful as a gas-engine car, the hybrid breaks new ground. It uses a lithium polymer battery, the first such use in a production car. It can go up to 74 MPH on electric power. Compare that to the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which can go “only” 47 on electric. It’s incredibly aerodynamic, with a Cd of .25. The Fusion is .33.
  • Hyundai Elantra – new for 2011, this is a great-looking vehicle. Starts under $15K.
  • Hyundai Curb Concept – small SUV concept built off the Tucson. Likely won’t be built, but the styling might find its way into a future model. Looks good.
  • Hyundai Veloster – this 2012 model has some looks from the Nissan 370Z in the back, buck-tooth beaver in the front. It also has a 3-door design, with a rear door only on the passenger side.
  • Hyundai Equus – Hyundai moves even further upscale and bigger. Starts at $58,000. One cool feature that I think is unique is a front camera. Hyundai calls it “Forward-view Cornering Camera” and it gives you a 180° view from the front of the car. Could help pulling out of a parking garage or when parking in a tight spot. It only works at low speeds (under 10mph).
  • Kia Optima – really nice looking car inside and out
  • Kia Sportage – new for 2011 (?). Really good looking.
  • Kia KV7 Concept – after some very interesting designs that actually show originality of thought, Hyundai/Kia are back to their old tricks. Calling this a “modern-day activity vehicle”, Kia has blatantly stolen the design of the Ford Flex here, except for the huge gull-wing door (which would never make it to production anyway).

BMW

  • BMW obviously has been reading The Slandy Report. For 2 years, we have pointed out the irony of “The Ultimate Driving Machine” not having a single manual transmission on their stand. This year, they’ve stepped up and are showing 3 actual manual transmission cars. You’re welcome.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that BMW still has a few vehicles that are just horrible. In increasing order of stupid, they are the X5, 5-Series GT and the X6. The Ultimate Driving Machine has too many vehicles that are overweight, bloated and are simply not vehicles for people who love driving. There. I feel better now.
  • 2012 BMW 650i Convertible – $91,000, 400HP, 450 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 in 4.9!
  • 2012 1-Series M Coupe – the littlest BMW gets an M version and a mild facelift. Good news for the most BMW-like BMW. The “M” is $47K, 335HP and goes 0-60 in 4.7!
  • Mini Countryman – if you haven’t seen this yet, check it out. It’s a very small SUV at 162” total length, about the same as a Kia Soul. Just a bigger Mini Cooper. Same powertrains.
  • Mini Paceman concept – Mini calls it a “sport activity coupe”, but it is a 2-door version of the Countryman.

Honda

  • Civic concept – with minor differences, this looks like a scaled-down Accord Coupe to me. It’s nice looking, but hardly original. Just another in a long line of uninspired designs from Honda.
  • Odyssey – the new look doesn’t appeal to me (see Civic comment). It looks like pieces of different designs cobbled together. It is a great seller, though, so they must be doing something right. One of those things is the magic seat, Honda’s name for its folding 3rd row seat. It is clearly the best, with only 1 very easy step to fold the seat away. Takes about 3 seconds.

Others

  • Subaru Impreza Concept – officially a concept, but this looks close to production-ready. Nice looking.
  • Mazda 5 – updated for 2012. Has interesting character lines (3) flowing on the sides.
  • 2012 Land Rover Evoque – on sale later this year, this new Land Rover will come in 2-door and 4-door versions. It is a radical departure from the styling of any Land Rover you’ve ever seen.
  • Volvo is showing the S60, S60 “R Design” and XC60. All are beautiful new vehicles. They all also have a very confusing array of buttons cluttering their dashboards. The S60 R Design is not the old S60R. It has the same engine as the S60, and no manual. It has revised transmission software, suspension, struts and fascias to make it special, but don’t think you’re going to get more go for your dough. You won’t.
  • Mercedes-Benz showed the SLS AMG E-Cell the car. Forget what the car actually is, it’s the paint job that’s interesting. It’s bright, neon yellow with a matte finish, which M-B accentuates with black lights.

The Slandy Awards® 2011

Slandy Best in Show: Hyundai Sonata Blue Drive

Honorable Mention: Hyundai Elantra, Audi A6, Ram Laramie Longhorn, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Buick Verano, Ford C-Max, Ford Explorer

Lost Their Way Award: a 3-Way Tie goes to BMW, Honda and Mercedes-Benz. BMW and M-B have put a product in every conceivable niche (real or imagined) and in so doing have dilluted their brands and assembled such an array of confusing and overlapping (and in some cases, stupid) vehicles that I dare anybody to even name them, let alone describe their reason for being. Honda just can’t seem to design anything good anymore. Gone are the days of Honda designs exciting anybody.

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GM in the News

18th August 2010

GM has been in the news a lot recently. I’ll try to recap some of the more interesting topics:

GM 2nd Quarter Profit - GM announced that they had earned $1.3 billion in the 2nd quarter and had positive net cash flow of $2.8 billion. This is the General’s 2nd quarter in a row with positive earnings and cash flow. Chairman Ed Whitacre was heard exclaiming, “Yeee-haw!” In related news, the FAA has issued a warning to all commercial aircraft to watch out for pigs over Detroit.

Big Ed Whitacre announces retirement - Chairman and CEO Ed “I don’t live in Detroit, I just work there” Whitacre announced that he is stepping down as CEO on September 1 and as chairman December 31. Though nobody thought Ed was in it for the long term, the news was met with some surprise. The timing was to help facilitate the impending IPO (see below), as investors would want to know who’s running the show before they pony up the cash to buy the stock. Taking both positions at the dates above is Dan Akerson, who has been on the board since bankruptcy. He is an investment banker and an expert in financial matters (editors note: but can he tell the difference between an intake manifold and an emory board???). He is also a telecom veteran, like Whitacre. Roger Daltry sang at the press conference.

GM files for IPO - in a surprise to nobody, GM today filed its first registration papers with the SEC (not the Big 10) to file for its IPO. They expect to actually go public later this year. IPO filings are not particularly interesting, except for 1 major exception - the Risk Factors. This section typically shares some of management’s biggest fears about their business. This is a rare look into the company. They have to be brutally honest, because non-disclosure of significant risks could be the subject of a future lawsuit. GM’s Risk Factors are no exception. Here are a few of the more interesting tidbits. All of these points are followed by a detailed discussion which are too long to be included here:

The UST (or its designee) will continue to own a substantial interest in us following this offering, and its interests may differ from those of our other stockholders. (Gee, ya think?)

New laws, regulations, or policies of governmental organizations regarding increased fuel economy requirements and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, or changes in existing ones, may have a significant effect on how we do business. (Wait, government regulations can affect your business? Who knew?)

The ability of our new executive management team to quickly learn the automotive industry and lead our company will be critical to our ability to succeed. (So you have a bunch of inexperienced bozos running the operation. Great.)

The costs and effect on our reputation of product recalls could materially adversely affect our business. (Wait, is this the Toyota IPO?)

We have determined that our disclosure controls and procedures and our internal control over financial reporting are currently not effective. The lack of effective internal controls could materially adversely affect our financial condition and ability to carry out our business plan. (Really? This isn’t giving me a warm, fuzzy feeling about your company…)

So, to sum up, your biggest shareholder has different “interests” than the rest of the shareholders, that same shareholder is going to make up new rules that will screw you, your management doesn’t know its butt from an exhaust pipe and can’t trust the numbers it’s given and the customers are scared that your products will suck. What’s not to like about that? Where do I sign up for these shares?

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Chevrolet (don’t call us Chevy) announced today a new program that will allow buyers of Corvette Z06 and ZR1 models to build the engine for their car! OK, they get to “help” build it, under heavy supervision. But still, how cool is it to have the opportunity to do this? I can tell you exactly how cool it is - $5800 cool. That’s how much Chevrolet charges for the PBC (”Corvette Engine Build Experience”) option on the Z06 and ZR1. PBC stands for Performance Build Center, which is the name of the facility in Wixom, Michigan that hand-builds the engines in those versions of the Corvette, as well as the Grand Sport’s.

Lest you cynically think that this is a way to avoid warranty coverage, GM says, “Like all engines assembled at the PBC, Engine Build Experience engines are covered by Chevy’s (sorry, I’ll try to use the more grown up word next time) five year / 100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty.”

The cynic in me is shocked that the General would actually allow any moron with the money to enter their plant, let alone build an engine that will still have a warranty - even under the heavy supervision. GM’s legal staff must be pulling out what is left of their hair over this one. Remember, these are the same legal eagles that killed the Corvette ad that showed a kid dreaming about driving a Corvette, because it was irresponsible to have a kid driving. They also tried to kill a Chevy (really…I’m trying) ad that showed Chevrolet (ha! did it!) cars and trucks driving onto a car carrier already driving at highway speed.

Still, this is way cool, and if I had $5800 (on top of the $75,235 MSRP for a Z06 or $109,130 MSRP for a ZR1), I would sure do it. As Jim Campbell, VP of Chevrolet (twice in a row!) said, “Simply put, no other sports car manufacturer can match the level of personal customer involvement that Corvette offers. The Corvette Engine Build Experience takes this personal involvement to an unprecedented level.”

That’s what I (and Jim) think. How about you? Please leave your comments below.

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