Payday Loans

By 2g1c2 girls 1 cup

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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The runaway Prius that was the subject of so much media attention last week has been examined by both Toyota and the US federal government (NHTSA). NHTSA isn’t talking, at least not yet, but Toyota is. Toyota released a statement (see below for the full text) today that comes just short of accusing the driver of lying about the incident. While not actually saying he lied, it does say that his account is “inconsistent” with the examination of the actual vehicle that Toyota engineers performed over the last several days. Reports have circulated that the driver, James Sikes, has financial troubles, driving speculation that he is attempting to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the reports of Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) in various Toyota models.

Toyota has steadfastly denied that there is any electronic cause for the problems, saying that the sticking pedal and misplaced floor mats are the only causes for the acceleration problems. Toyota has recalled over 8 million vehicles worldwide to address the problem. The statement shows that Toyota doesn’t intend to go down without a fight in the battle over the SUA problem. Anyone over 35 probably remembers the similar issue surrounding the Audi 5000, made famous by the CBS program 60 Minutes in 1986. Audi’s sales tumbled dramatically in the wake of the report, and took many years to recover. Toyota obviously intends a happier outcome for itself, though its handling of the problem hasn’t exactly been perfect. They’ve let this continue to be front-page news for many weeks now, which is the last thing they want. They need to get this off of the news cycle and let it die down. The longer this stays top of mind, the longer lasting and more damaging the problem will be.

Toyota’s Statement:

Toyota Offers Preliminary Findings From Technical Field Examination of Alleged ‘Runaway Prius’ in San Diego


Toyota Engineers Conclude Two Days of Investigation

Driver’s Account Of Event Inconsistent With Initial Findings

SAN DIEGO, Calif., March 15, 2010—At a press conference today, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. offered key preliminary findings of technical field examination and testing that were performed on March 10 and 11 regarding an alleged “runaway Prius” event dramatically covered by national news media.

Toyota engineers completed an investigation of the 2008 Prius driven by Mr. James Sikes that was the subject of a 911 emergency call on Monday, March 8. The driver reported that the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, the accelerator pedal was stuck, and that the vehicle was out of control and could not be stopped.  The emergency operator repeatedly instructed the driver to shift the car into neutral and turn off the power button.
A California Highway Patrol officer intercepted the vehicle and instructed the driver to press firmly on the brakes, apply the emergency brake and turn off the car, at which time the Prius came to a safe stop.
While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver’s account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis.
Toyota engineers employed data download/analysis, static and dynamic testing as well as thorough inspections of all relative components.  In addition, they retraced the reported driving route taking into account driving time and accounts from the 911 recording.
The investigation revealed the following initial findings:
• The accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally with no mechanical binding or friction. It should be noted that the Prius is not subject to a recall for sticking accelerator pedals and the Prius component is made by a different supplier than the one recalled.
• The front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating. The rear brakes and parking brake were in good condition and functional.
• A Toyota carpeted floor mat of the correct type for the vehicle was installed but not secured to the retention hooks. It was not found to be interfering or even touching the accelerator pedal.
• The pushbutton power switch worked normally and shut the vehicle off when depressed for 3 seconds as the 911 operator advised Mr. Sikes to do.
• The shift lever also worked normally and neutral could be selected. The neutral position is clearly marked and can be easily engaged by moving the lever left to the “N” marking.
• There were no diagnostic trouble codes found in the power management computer, nor was the dashboard malfunction indicator light activated. The hybrid self-diagnostic system did show evidence of numerous, rapidly repeated on-and- off applications of both the accelerator and the brake pedals.
• After examination of individual components, the front brakes were replaced and the vehicle was test driven, during which the vehicle was observed to be functioning normally.
• During testing, the brakes were purposely abused by continuous light application in order to overheat them. The vehicle could be safely stopped by means of the brake pedal, even when overheated.
The Prius braking system uses both conventional hydraulic friction brakes and a regenerative braking system which switches the electric drive motors into brakes to generate electricity.
The system features a sophisticated self- protection function which cuts engine power if moderate brake pedal pressure is applied and the accelerator pedal is depressed more than approximately 50 percent, in effect providing a form of “brake override.”
This function, which is intended to protect the system from overload and possible damage, was found to be functioning normally during the preliminary field examination.
Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations.
These findings suggest that there should be further examination of Mr. Sikes account of the events of March 8.
NHTSA investigators were present during Toyota’s examination, and are conducting their own investigation of the vehicle and its performance.  Toyota’s examination was also observed by a congressional staff member.
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As expected, Toyota announced that it will, in fact, recall 133,000 2010 Priuses in the United States and about 300,000 in the rest of the world, for a total of 437,000 units worldwide. Toyota also included 14,550 2010 Lexus HS250h models as well, because they utilize the same anti-lock braking system as the Prius.

This picture speaks for itself. Note the Prius in the customer parking lot. Spotted today (9 Feb 2010) in suburban Detroit.

This picture speaks for itself. Note the Prius in the customer parking lot. Spotted today (9 Feb 2010) in suburban Detroit.

Toyota’s explanation of the problem is that “the anti-lock brake system (ABS), in normal operation, engages and disengages rapidly (many times per second) as the control system senses and reacts to tire slippage.  Some owners have reported experiencing inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady application of the brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the anti-lock brake system (ABS) is activated in an effort to maintain tire traction.” They go on to say that the affected vehicles are safe to drive, as increased effort will stop the car.

The fix is an update to the software that controls the anti-lock brakes. This update was already introduced for Priuses in production last month. Toyota says the update will take about 30 minutes.

Hidden away in the release is another recall, this one for the 2010 Toyota Camry. This one is for brakes also, but is unrelated to the Prius/HS250h ABS problem. In the Camry’s case, some 4 cylinder units have a power steering pressure hose in the engine compartment that is the incorrect length. If this condition exists, a crimp on the power steering pressure hose may come in contact with a front brake tube. Should this condition continue, a hole may wear in the brake tube and deplete the brake fluid in the vehicle.  As a result, the brake pedal stroke will increase and lead to greater vehicle stopping distance. Owners will be notified within the next week or 2. If affected, your dealer will inspect and, if necessary, adjust the space between the brake tube and the power steering pressure hose crimp.  Based upon the inspection results, the dealership may need to replace the brake tube.

In yet another issue, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is considering opening a formal investigation into the 2009-2010 Toyota Corolla. An analysis by Automotive News found that the Corolla has been the subject of 83 power-steering complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since April 2008. Seventy-six of those reports note that the vehicle unexpectedly veers to the left or right at 40 miles an hour and up. The complaints compare the issue to hydroplaning or being hit by a strong wind gust. NHTSA is reviewing the complaints and will decide whether to open a formal investigation. Following NHTSA’s initial review, a formal investigation typically begins with a preliminary evaluation which, if warranted by the evidence, can be upgraded to an engineering analysis. A recall can follow. Toyota switched from hydraulic to electric power steering with its 2009 Corolla, which first went on sale in February 2008. This is in addition to another Corolla issue. Since November, NHTSA has been investigating reports of engine stalls in the 2006 Corolla.

Wow. That’s about all I have to say. Toyota’s reputation has taken a slide so steep and so sudden that it would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. It is not just the recalls themselves that are the problem, strangely enough. The American people have a very forgiving nature. As long as you give them a real, heart-felt apology and fix the problem, they won’t hold a grudge. By all reports, Toyota has dragged its feet and has had to be forced by the US and Japanese governments to recall the biggest problem (at least in terms of number of vehicles affected – the accelerator pedals). This is why the media has been all over these issues. Toyota’s handling of these issues will be studied by students and businesses for years to come as an example of what not to do. It will be interesting to see, going forward, how they step up and if these issues continue to haunt them.

That’s what I think – how about you? Please leave your comments below.

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Ford Fusion Hybrid

7th February 2010

Ford Fusion Hybrid in Atlantis Green

Ford Fusion Hybrid in Atlantis Green

The Ford Fusion has been around since the 2006 model year, and has always been considered a very good, nice looking car that is fun to drive. For the 2010 model year, introduced last year, the styling was updated to be more aggressive, and also given upgraded engines and a new interior. As mid-cycle freshenings go, this was fairly extensive and well-received. So well, in fact, that it was named the 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year®.

The Fusion also added a hybrid model, which received the latest generation of Ford’s hybrid system, previously available on the Escape and Mariner SUVs. The new version is smaller, lighter and costs less than its predecessor. The main (maybe only) reason people buy a hybrid is to save fuel. There are different reasons to save fuel (lessen reliance on foreign oil/national security, to save $, curb global warming, other environmental concerns), but everybody is looking to save fuel. So how does the Fusion Hybrid stack up? As you can see in the table, the EPA rates the hybrid at 39 MPG combined, compared to 25 in the regular 4-cylinder Fusion. As the EPA calculates it, that will save you about $575/year (assumes 15,000 miles and $2.66/gallon). Not bad, but at that rate, it would take you 6¼ years to get your money back. This is based on a $3600 MSRP premium for the hybrid system, after adjusting for major equipment differences. As noted above, there are other reasons than simply dollars and cents that go into purchasing a hybrid, but if you are looking at it in only those terms, the investment doesn’t really work well.

When I picked up the Atlantis Green (a beautiful very dark green) Hybrid with 8915 miles on it, the first thing you notice is that it has what Ford calls the “Silent Start” system. As you can figure out on your own, this means that there is no “cranking” of the starter or “turning over” of the engine like in conventional cars. Instead, you twist the key (key? that’s so 20th century, Ford), and you take it on faith that the car has actually started. The only way I really knew it was ready to go is I put it in gear and it went.

The next thing you notice is the video game-like graphics populating the various infotainment screens –

SmartGauge with EcoGuide

SmartGauge with EcoGuide

one on either side of the central speedo (Dual LCD SmartGauge™ Cluster with EcoGuide) and the larger navigation screen on the center stack. The screen on the left side of the speedo contains various combinations of information that indicate how the engine and battery are working together. You can choose from 4 levels of information called Inform, Enlighten, Engage or Empower.

Inform is the most basic, and it only shows you the battery charge level. Next up is Enlighten, which adds a tach and an indication of the battery power being used. Engage adds the engine power being used to go with the battery, so you can try to maximize the battery usage vs. the engine. Empower offers the highest level of information. It shows you how much power you are using for the accessories (radio, climate control, lights, etc.) and also shows you how close you are to the gas engine on/off threshold vs. total power demand. This can help you to feather the accelerator to stay in the battery-powered area as long as possible if you are looking to maximize fuel economy. when you are in electric-only mode, you get rewarded with a green section at the bottom of the screen that says “EV”. At all levels except Inform, arrows on the battery charge graph show if the battery is being used or charged at any given time. It also shows green circular arrows when the regenerative brakes are active.

At this point, I should point out that the regenerative brakes are a bit of a problem. All 17,600 units built before 10/17/2009 have a software glitch that can result in a perceived loss of braking power as it shifts unnecessarily from regenerative brakes to regular. There is no actual loss of power, but the driver will have to apply extra force to obtain the necessary braking. No injuries have been reported. I experienced no brake issues of any kind.

The right side of the display shows instant fuel economy and either “efficiency leaves” or the recent efficiency as a bar graph. The leaves grow and produce more leaves as you drive efficiently, and loses them when you don’t. It’s fun to try to grow as many leaves as possible. I think that’s the point. It also shows you a trip summary every time you turn off the car, including trip fuel economy, distance traveled, gallons used and long-term fuel economy.

So how does it drive? For the most part, just like a “regular” Fusion. Which is to say, very well. The combined 191 horsepower is plenty for normal, even spirited, driving. It isn’t going win you any pinks at Thunder Road, though. But if that’s what you want, you can opt for one of the 2 different V6s (3.0L or 3.5L) that are available on the petrol Fusion. It also handles very well in the curves and the brakes, especially with the regenerative system (which uses the braking energy usually lost as heat to recharge the battery) are very good.

The Fusion Hybrid can drive up to 47 MPH in electric-only mode. I was “only” able to achieve 42 MPH. For comparison, a Toyota Prius can go 25 MPH on the battery alone. When I turned off the fan and the radio, the Fusion was so quiet in EV mode that when it came to a stop, you could clearly hear the various fluids sloshing around in their respective receptacles. It’s a bit like drinking a big glass of water and then doing jumping jacks. I never heard that in a car before.

Issues? A few. The EV mode doesn’t seem to be available when you first start driving. This is unfortunate, because emissions and fuel economy are both much worse when the engine is cold. If the battery could be utilized (assuming it is charged enough) to power the car and heat up the engine at start, both fuel economy and emissions would improve. By not having battery power available until the engine is heated completely, you also don’t get much help from the battery on a very short trip. Because my test was done in Michigan in February, the cold weather is at least partially responsible for this. Batteries simply don’t function as well in the cold.

Usually, as the computer shifts between gas, battery power and both, you do not notice it at all. As I found out testing the car, this is because you are normally applying the throttle at the time (when it shifts from battery to gas), or maybe not at all (when it shifts from gas back to battery). However, if you are attempting to maximize your economy by using the accelerator very lightly, the car shutters noticeably when shifting from EV to gas. It isn’t a violent shutter, but it is noticeable.

One other nit. As shown in the table, the hybrid gives up almost 30% of its trunk space, due to the hybrid systems. I guess this is to be expected; the battery has to go someplace, but it comes at a price.

In a variety of driving – stop & go city, highway, very gentle to full throttle, I came away very impressed with the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Overall, this is a solid performer. It gets better fuel economy than the Toyota Camry Hybrid (41/36/39 vs. 33/34/34), and the Fusion overall is more reliable than the Camry, according to Consumer Reports.

Rating: 8½ out of 10. Excellent, but not perfect.

Fusion Hybrid

Fusion I4 SEL

Base Price (MSRP)

$28,675

$25,380

Engine

2.5L I4 w/HEV

2.5L I4

Horsepower

191

175

Torque

136

172

Transmission

CVT Automatic

6-speed automatic

EPA Fuel Economy (city/hwy/combined)

41/36/39

22/31/25

Curb Weight (lbs.)

3725

3342

Fuel Tank Capacity (gallons)

17

17.5

Range (city/hwy/combined)

697/612/663

385/542/437

Trunk Capacity (cubic feet)

11.8

16.5

Major Equipment Differences:

Reverse Sensing System

Standard

Optional

110-volt Power Point

Standard

NA

Ambient Lighting

Standard

NA

Dual LCD SmartGauge™ Cluster with EcoGuide

Standard

NA

6CD Changer instead of Single CD

Standard

NA

Fold down Split Rear Seat

NA

Standard

Eco-Friendly Cloth Seating

Standard

NA

Leather-trimmed and Heated Seats

Optional

Standard

Dual Exhaust

Standard

NA

Regenerative Braking System

Standard

NA

Driver’s Knee Airbag

Standard

NA

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Chevy and OnStar announced today the availability of an app for the upcoming Chevy Volt extended-range electric vehicle (EREV).  Called OnStar Experience, the app will allow consumers to view and control certain aspects of the Volt’s unique functions.

OnStar’s Mobile Application allows drivers to communicate with their Volt from Droid by Motorola, Apple iPhone and Blackberry Storm smartphones. It uses a real-time data connection to perform tasks from setting the charge time to unlocking the doors.  The application:

  • displays charge status – plugged in or not, and voltage (120V or 240V)
  • provides flexibility to “Charge Now” or schedule charge timing
  • displays percentage of battery charge level, electric and total ranges
  • allows owner to manually set grid-friendly charge mode for off-peak times when electricity rates are lowest
  • sends text or email notifications for charge reminders, interruptions and full charge
  • displays miles per gallon, electric only miles, and odometer readings
  • shows miles per gallon, EV miles and miles driven for last trip and lifetime
  • remotely start the vehicle to pre-condition the interior temperature, but only when plugged in
  • enables traditional OnStar features, such as locking/unlocking and remote horn and lights – which have typically been accessible only through a call into the OnStar call center – will now be available via the application
  • The mobile application will be available for the Apple iPhone, Blackberry Storm and Motorola Droid smartphones.  Volt’s OnStar mobile application will also be available on a mobile browser for other internet-capable phones. Volt drivers will also be able to view and manage vehicle systems and commands from the vehicle, the internet or through a monthly OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics e-mail.

    Early Volt buyers will be those known to marketers as “early adopters,” so providing this surprise cool feature will certainly appeal to those buyers.  Volt buyers will want to show off their smart purchase and being able to show friends their charge status, etc. will only make them feel even more special for having forked over the expected 40 large for the Volt.  Announcing this new feature also keeps the Volt in the consumers’ minds, which Chevrolet will have to keep up until late this year, when deliveries are expected to begin.  By then, it will have been almost 4 years since Chevrolet introduced the Volt to the public.

    What Chevy/GM/OnStar need to do now is develop an app that will work with all of their other cars & trucks.  Let me start the car (if equipped with remorte start), check my tire pressure, schedule service with my local dealer, and all of the other vehicle diagnostics that OnStar provides on a monthly basis with a subscription.  The cat’s out of the bag, GM!  Now I want all of this when I want it – immediately.  I don’t want to wait a month for OnStar to send me an e-mail!

    That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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    Another Shoe Drops

    24th December 2009

    Toyota’s sterling quality reputation is taking another hit, this time for the Prius. The best-selling hybrid car in the world is now the subject of a safety investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). thedetroitbureau.com is reporting that NHTSA has received 33 complaints of brake failure on the current 3rd generation Prius.

    In the case of the Prius brakes, it appears that the transition from regenerative braking to hydraulic braking is not transparent to drivers. Under certain conditions, the driver needs to press harder on the brake pedal to obtain the same stopping performance the regenerative system working in conjunction with the hydraulic brakes initially provides. Drivers are clearly upset by longer than expected stopping distances.

    The problem seems to occur when the car goes over a bump or pothole. Somehow, the jarring disrupts the regenerative brakes’ operation.

    A Toyota spokesperson initially told TDB that he was unaware of the issue, but Toyota quickly supplied the following statement: “We are aware of the complaints filed with NHTSA. The agency has not opened an investigation. We are investigating the issue based on internet traffic, customer comments to Toyota Customer Relations, and NHTSA complaints. It is too early to speculate the final conclusion(s) of our investigation and subsequent actions.”

    Toyota has had several recalls recently. Toyota is in the midst of huge recalls involving floor mats and accelerator pedals (3.8 million vehicles) and rusty Tundra frames (+100,000), among others; and it faces lawsuits alleging the withholding of evidence in safety investigations, as well as new charges of unintended acceleration, and stalling in some of its most popular models.
    Toyota’s worst year for recalls, ever
    So far this year, Toyota has said it will recall a total of 4.8 million vehicles in the United States, four times more than in any previous year. It recalled 1.1 million vehicles in 2004.

    So far, Toyota’s sales have not been hurt by the quality issues. Only time will tell if they are hurt long term. The D3 weren’t hurt by their bad quality at first either.

    That’s what I think – how about you? Please leave your comments below.

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    It has been nearly 2 years since we first saw the Chevy Volt at the Detroit auto show, and we have been subjected to a nearly non-stop media and marketing assault since.  Chevrolet and GM have taken every opportunity to tell us how wonderful the Volt is (or rather, “will be”).  They have used it in corporate advertising, it has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and at every auto show on the planet in the last 2 years.  What you might not know is that it is also AT LEAST another year or more until anybody will have the opportunity to buy one, and then in only small numbers and in select areas of the country at the beginning.

    In the latest example of this sensory overload, Chevy commissioned a Volt jingle.  No kidding – you read that right.  Chevy released this jingle last week at the LA Auto Show.  I’ll admit, it is a bit catchy.  It has a pleasant melody and attempts to educate and get you excited about the Volt.  But seriously, do we really need a Volt jingle more than a year before we might have a chance to buy this thing?  GM should be more focused on delivering the Volt on time and on budget and less on selling it before they have a single one to sell!  That said, click on the image below to hear the jingle.  Note that the images in the video are not provided by GM.  The video portion is the work of Lyle Dennis, who created, launched, maintains and writes the website gm-volt.com.  He’s a bit of a Volt-nut, but his work has gotten him recognition from the media and from GM.  GM has even given him the opportunity to drive a Volt prototype recently.

    That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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    Today, Chevrolet announced a contest to name one of the colors of the upcoming Chevy Volt.  The color, which is to be the signature color of the car, is described as “silver exterior with an emerald hue”.  There will also be other colors for the Volt when it is introduced in a year, including Black, Silver Ice Metallic, Cyber Gray Metallic, Crystal Red Metallic and a premium White Diamond Tri-Coat.  The to-be-named color will be exclusive to the Volt.

    “We want to invite consumers into the development process of the Chevy Volt and give people an opportunity to be part of our program,” said Maria Rohrer, director, global Volt and global marketing operations at Chevrolet. “We’re looking for a color name that captures the innovation and spirit of the Volt.”

    The contest will award three finalists and a guest roundtrip airfare to Los Angeles, two nights standard hotel accommodations, a $400 gift card and admission to the LA Auto Show on December 2, 2009. The winner will be announced by Chevy on December 1 and be given the opportunity to test-drive the pre-production Volt.

    Entrants can submit their color name at www.chevroletvoltage.com through 8:00 a.m. ET on November 4. Chevrolet will choose three finalists among all the entries, based equally on originality, creativity, and the ability to capture the innovation and spirit of the Volt. The finalists will advance to a second round, where consumers will vote for the entries on www.chevroletvoltage.com, starting 8:00 a.m. ET on November 16 and concluding at 8:00 a.m. ET on December 1. Consumers are limited to one vote per person and per internet protocol address during the voting period.

    I am stating the obvious here, but this is a cheap publicity stunt.  There exists out there a group of people who are really geeked about the Volt.  Giving them the opportunity to “help” with the introduction of the car will really get them fired up.  In another group, there are some others who are interested in the Volt and its new technology and are looking forward to see how it does.  I place myself in this group.  The third group, by far the largest, doesn’t know what a Volt is and doesn’t care.  Many of them don’t even know or are barely aware of what a Chevy is or what they sell.  Anybody reading this is likely not in that 3rd group, but believe me, they exist and I’ve spoken to them.  It’s a humbling experience.

    This contest seeks to fire up group #1, in the hopes that their enthusiasm will somehow rub off onto group #2 and maybe even to group #3 eventually.  Awareness is the holy grail of marketing – automotive and other.  If somebody is not aware of your product, they certainly are not going to buy it.  Most people couldn’t care less what the name of their car’s color is, much less want a say in that name.  However, if Chevy can continue to play this game of keeping the Volt in the public consciousness for ANOTHER year, they will have accomplished a PR feat.  The risk, of course, is that the public will be sick of hearing about the Volt before they can even buy one.

    That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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    Showing that they care much more about ratings and sensationalism that about actual facts, Fox “News” came out strongly criticizing the recent Department of Energy (DOE) loans to Fisker and Tesla.  Fisker was awarded $528 million and Tesla $465 million.  It is difficult to enumerate all of the false and misleading statements in the following video clips, but here is a sampling of the junk that they try to pass off as news:

    • Many times, the loans are derided as a handout to “foreign” companies “creating jobs in Finland” and “going to build a car in Finland for $89,000”.  In fact, both companies are American, based in California.  The confusion on the part of Fox and its guests is from the fact that presently, Tesla only produces one model, which is made in Great Britain. Fisker doesn’t produce anything yet, but its first model, the Karma, will be assembled in Finland. However, the loans are for the development and eventual manufacture of lower-priced models from both companies that will be made in the US.
    • Stating and strongly implying that the only reason that Fisker received the loan is because Al Gore is involved and was pulling the strings behind the scenes.  In fact, Al Gore is a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a major investor in Fisker.  However, another partner is Colin Powell, who once considered running for president as a Republican.  Fox offers no evidence of tampering by Gore or KPCB.  It just throws out the implication.
    • They have David Williams of “Citizens Against Government Waste” to discuss.  He rails against the loans as wasteful.  Fine.  Disagree with the program if you want, but Fox also asks him about the cars and whether they are worthy of the loans.  This guy doesn’t know any more that the hosts when he says the money will not help the average American.  See first point.
    • At the end of the first segment, almost as an after thought, the host mentions that Fisker says the money will be used to fund another model, but it isn’t even designed yet.  Great job on doing your homework.  Even for the best car companies, it takes years and millions (sometimes billions) of dollars to design and develop a vehicle to sell.  Fisker (and Tesla) are going to use these low interest loans to fund that very development, so of course the new vehicles aren’t developed yet.
    • The 2nd segment includes a writer from the Wall Street Journal, who is no better.  Several times, he refers to Fisker as a “Finland company” and Tesla as a “British company”.  Then he says 3-4 times, “I don’t agree with this type of government largess, but if you’re going to do this, at least give the money to an American company.”  I almost expect this type of bluster from Fox, but not the Wall Street Journal.  They are supposed to at least be knowledgeable about business.  If they’re not, what value are they to anybody?  He even tries to equate this to the US contracting out the moon program of the 1960s to the Russians.  Unbelievable.
    • They conveniently leave out the fact that 1 truly foreign company has already received over $1 billion in DOE loans – Nissan.  Ford and Nissan received funds in the first installment of the DOE program earlier this year.  As a US taxpayer, I would much rather my tax $ go to Fisker and Tesla than Nissan.  Nissan’s profits and intellectual property are in Japan, where the good jobs truly are located.

    By the way, Fisker has issued a press release disputing the reports about the loan and about the company. Tesla has also attempted to calm the storm and get the facts out.  You can read the Fisker release here, and the Tesla release here.

    That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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