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Buick to Bring Back Regal

13th November 2009

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Buick announced details of its upcoming Regal sedan, which will go on sale in the second quarter of next year. Regal, a name that carries a performance heritage of the Grand National from the 1980s, has not been used since 2004. This latest iteration is based on the new Opel Insignia, which has won many awards, including European Car of the Year. Before Saturn was cancelled, rumors were that the Insignia would be the new Saturn Aura in North America. Now Buick gets it.  And what it gets looks pretty good.  The Regal is not just “based on” the Insignia, it is the Insignia, with minor styling changes to make it a Buick.

The Regal will have a 182 horsepower 2.4L I4 engine as its base powerplant.  This engine is also the base engine in the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.  It is expected to get 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.  Arriving later in the year will be the 2.0L turbo making 220 hp and getting 18/29 mpg.  No V6 or V8?  This is Buick, right?  Home of the land barges that come with their own ZIP code?  This ain’t your father’s Buick, kids (apologies to Oldsmobile).  In the land of the 35 MPG CAFE standards, the turbo 4 will have to do.  The standard, and only, tranny will be a 6-speed auto.

Buick’s intended targets are the Acura TSX, Volvo S60, Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat and says that it has a longer wheelbase and greater trunk volume than those vehicles, along with standard features – including the six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels and OnStar – that aren’t offered standard on either competitor.  If Buick really intends to compete with these great vehicles (and you can probably add the Audi A4), it should realize that a true sports sedan at least offers a manual transmission (the 6-speed auto isn’t standard on these vehicles because a manual is standard).  True, the take rate of a manual will be low, likely less than 10%, but a car that hopes to have street cred among the intended buyers in this segment needs to offer the stick.  That’s why Caddy offers it in the CTS.  And because the Regal is an Insignia, the engineering to offer a manual is already done (at least paired with the 2.0L turbo).  So except for stocking service parts and other indirect costs, offering the manual is FREE.

The Regal will only be offered in top-of-the-line CXL trim at first, with a CX model to follow.  Buick gave the following list of some of the equipment to be offered:

  • All-new Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) available with the 2.0L turbo, offering driver-selectable suspension settings and automatic driver suspension setting adaptability
  • Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel anti-lock braking system, brake assist and electronic parking brake
  • Standard StabiliTrak stability control system and full-function traction control
  • Standard dual-stage frontal air bags, side-curtain air bags and pedal-release system; rear-seat thorax air bags available
  • Available navigation system, Harmon Kardon sound system, internal flash drive (1GB), hard drive with 10GB for music and USB port
  • Standard 18-inch wheels (19-inch wheels standard with IDCS)
  • Standard 12-way power, leather and heated driver seat; leather and heated passenger front seat; Bluetooth capability; XM Satellite Radio and OnStar.

In an effort to get the Regal to market quickly, it will be made in Russelsheim, Germany alongside the Insignia for the first 15 months.  After that, production will shift to a yet to be named North American plant.  A good bet would be the Fairfax, Kansas plant that makes the Chevy Malibu, as both products are based on the global Epsilon platform.

At the end of the day, the Regal will be a success if customers don’t mind that it is a Buick.  It is an attractive, well-equipped European sedan that will likely be priced very competitively.  The only thing getting in the way is the Buick’s image.  Personally, I don’t care about a brand’s so-called “baggage”.  A good-looking vehicle, with the right equipment at the right price is what I want.  I’ll leave the interpretation of what that means to my image to others.

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

Thanksgiving Eve Update:
Autoweek magazine has reported that the 2.0L Turbo will also include a 6-speed manual transmission when it is introduced, making the Regal a legitimate competitor to the vehicles listed above.  Buick’s announcement 2 weeks ago said nothing about a manual.  Maybe they read The Slandy Report?  Also, GM announced this week that the Regal will be built in their Oshawa, Ontario plant in the first quarter of 2011.  Why Oshawa, which presently makes the Chevy Camaro and Impala, and not Fairfax, which already makes the Malibu and LaCrosse (made on the same Epsilon platform as the Regal)?  No idea – Oshawa will then have 3 vehicles all made on distinct platforms, pushing the envelope on complexity of the Oshawa plant.

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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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Today, another new American car company, V-Vehicle Company (VVC), headquartered in San Diego, announced that it has selected Monroe, Louisiana to be the sight of its new manufacturing location.  VVC said that its initial product will be “a high quality, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient car for the U.S. market. The goal of the company is to provide the American car buyer greater product value and a superior automotive experience.”

The project will create over 1,400 direct jobs at an average annual salary of nearly $40,000, plus benefits, as well as a capital investment of at least $248 million.

The project is funded by Silicon Valley venture capital firm KPCB (which has also made significant investments in Fisker Automotive, Th!nk and Segway) and T. Boone Pickens, author and chief promoter of a plan to turn most of the midwest into a giant wind farm.  Ray Lane, KPCB partner, said, “The thing that excites me the most about V-Vehicle Company is that it is a holistic change.  We’re thinking about, from beginning to end, how to reconstruct a car company. The V-Vehicle Company has the opportunity to change the automotive business in the United States.”

While no photos were released of the vehicle, the lead designer is Tom Matano, formerly of Mazda, so it is likely to be a good-looking car.

Matano, whose Mazda Miata design was recently recognized by BusinessWeek as the most iconic car of the last 25 years said that “this car will be another icon of American industry. Miata was recognized as the iconic car of the last 25 years; this will be the iconic car of the next 25. Not many designers have the opportunity to work on such a project, so I’m really excited that I have an opportunity to do another one.”

VVC will assemble the cars at the former Guide Corp. plant in Ouachita Parish, which has been closed for years. The 425,000-square-foot plant currently occupies 189 acres of land; this project will increase the size of the facility to approximately 750,000 square feet.

Is the influx of new car companies recently related to the troubles plaguing the incumbent US car companies, or is this timing coincidental?  It takes years to design, develop and produce a new vehicle for sale, and you can add a LOT more time if the company is a start-up.  VVC plans to begin manufacturing next year, so this has been in the works for some time.  Of course, we’ve only seen the drawings below of the proposed vehicle, so the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.  Or the transmission.  Whichever.



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Welcome to Detroit – home of the Jailhouse Mayor, 0-16 Lions and the corporate jet For Sale sign!  Also the home of the domestic auto industry (until certain southern senators succeed in giving away the treasury to foreign automakers while telling the D3 they need to get by on their own) and the North American International Auto Show.  We have the NAIAS in January to prove to everybody that we are tougher than they are.

This year’s show is a little more subdued than in prior years, due to the lack of actual money to pay for fancy displays and freebies for the press (side note: this is the first year that your humble reporter actually got a press pass – and no freebies!  Darn!).  A number of automakers are skipping the show this year, also due to the economy, or maybe they just don’t like snow. The largest of those automakers is Nissan, and other skippers include Porsche, Suzuki & Ferrari. Mitsubishi skipped as well, but the local dealers have a display anyway.

2009 NAIAS Must-See Cars and Trucks

General Motors
Chevrolet

  • Volt – Chevy is showing the production version of the electric car. Not as striking as the concept (but production versions rarely are), but still nice looking.
  • Cruze – this car will replace the Cobalt next year. In photos, Cruze looks angry (maybe at Richard Shelby?), but not as much in person. It’s nice looking. Interesting observation: Cruze uses the word, “Chevrolet” on the back when no other Chevrolets do. The others have the Chevy logo, the name of the vehicle, and the series (LS, LT, etc.). Apparently, it was a “design decision.”
  • Orlando – somewhere between a crossover and a minivan, this 7-seat MPV will join the Chevy lineup in 2011. The show car is powered by a 2.0L turbodiesel, but the production version will likely have a gas engine, at least in the US.
  • Spark – the tiny car on the floor says “Beat”, but Chevy has announced that it will be called Spark when it arrives for sale in 2011.
  • Corvette ZR1 – not new, but it’s still SO cool!
  • Equinox – new for 2010, sports a new 182hp, 2.4L Direct Injection (DI) engine that will get an estimated 21 city, 30 highway MPG. Will also have a 3.0L V6, good for 255hp and will get 18/25 MPG. It’s a real nice update to the smallish crossover
  • Silverado Hybrid – nothing special to look at, but gets 21 city, 22 highway MPG.

Cadillac

  • SRX – previously reported by The Slandy Report, but now you can see a clean one.
  • CTS Sport Wagon – exactly what it sounds like. They might not sell many here, but the Europeans love wagons. The design is a little awkward in the wagon area. Too much sheet metal; not enough glass.
  • Converj – can’t anybody at Cadillac spell? They’ve previously given us the Evoq, Provoq, Vizón and Imaj. This is a Cadillac Volt. Makes perfect sense for the next vehicle to utilize this expensive electric system to be a Cadillac, where the high price won’t seem quite so ridiculous.

Buick

  • 2010 Buick LaCrosse – nice freshening, but will anybody notice? This really is a nice looking car, though the back end and sides look a bit too much like a Lexus GS to me.

Pontiac

  • G8 – nothing new here, but as I was sitting in it, I noticed how nicely GM engineers integrated the parking brake handle into the center console. Worth a look if you get a chance.
  • G3 – itty-bitty Pontiac due out this spring. Based on Chevy Aveo. Strange how it is the only new car Pontiac has, and it is shoved as far into the corner as possible. Weird. Almost like they don’t want you to find it.

Ford Motor Company
Ford

  • Taurus – the new-for-2010 Taurus has made quite the splash, and for good reason. This is a stylish sedan full of advanced technology that will do well for Ford when introduced this spring. It has the potential to do for Ford what the original did 20 years ago – save the company. It’s that good.  Check it out.
  • Fusion – updated look for 2010 model year. More aggressive look with a larger, bolder 3-bar grille, domed hood. Launches this spring. Will include a new hybrid model that boasts 41MPG city / 36 highway. The city mpg is 8 higher than Camry hybrid. Wow! Also includes a new Sport model with the 3.5L V6 from the Flex & Edge.
  • Mustang – also freshened for 2010, inside and out. GT power is up 15 hp to 315 and torque is up 5 to 325 lb-ft. The new GT500 from SVT is up to 540hp from 500. Mustangs are all about affordable power and now they have more.
  • F-150 – all-new for 2009, the F-150 won Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year and the North American Truck of the Year at NAIAS. It’s new inside and out, which will help it continue its string of 32 consecutive years of truck sales leadership. Also new is the Raptor model from our SVT friends. Check out the grille. Way cool.
  • Transit Connect – small version of Ford Europe’s commercial van. Ford says, “It will be available in select North American markets in mid-2009.”

Lincoln

  • MKT – 3-row, 6-seat large crossover available late summer. This is a new take on the whole luxury crossover thing. You might like it; you might not. It’s not for everybody. I like it. Starts at $44,995 for front-wheel drive and the 3.7L V6 (268hp). Add $2K for all-wheel drive and $3K more for the 3.5L EcoBoost, making 355hp, which is only available with AWD.
  • MKZ – restyled to more closely resemble the stunning MKS. Same car, better looks.
  • “C” Concept – this one is hard to describe (see photo below). It’s small and is powered by a 180hp 1.6L EcoBoost engine and Ford’s all-new PowerShift six-speed transmission.  The Lincoln C concept gets 43 mpg on the highway. It is able to seat 6 (3+3) on the 2 bench seats because of its width.

Mercury

  • Milan – freshened with the Fusion, but not as extensively. It also gets the same powertrain revisions as the Fusion, except no 3.5L Sport edition here.
  • Sable – might want to take a look at it now, because when Taurus gets freshened, Sable goes bye-bye.

Volvo

  • S60 Concept – form a mental image of the result if AMG (Mercedes-Benz’s performance division) decided to make a Volvo.  That’s what this looks like. Check out the center stack area. Wow.
  • XC60 – new, little buddy to the XC90 crossover. Will compete with the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

Mazda

  • 6 – “all new”, which really means that the 6 has adopted the Fusion/Milan/MKZ platform, which itself was just a 6 platform made bigger. Got that? The 6 has more room, more power and new styling. All of which should make it sell more, but I think it has lost some of what made it such a great car before; some of the zoom-zoom of the original.
  • 3 – “all-new” as well, but the appearance seems to be only a freshening. This car has always been good looking, and the new one is more so. The base 2.0L I4 engine is the same power, but with improved fuel economy. The optional 2.5L I4 engine is up from 2.3L and delivers more power (167 vs. 156hp) and just slightly lower fuel economy (22 to 21 in the city with a manual – all other figures the same).

Chrysler continues to try to show that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. It is showing several electric-propelled concept vehicles, some of which we have seen before.

  • The 200C is a stylish, rear-wheel drive, 4-door sedan based on the 300C platform (but looks nothing like the 300). It has an electric powertrain that includes a traditional engine that only recharges the battery – like a Chevy Volt. Chrysler claims 0-60 time of 7.0 seconds. They would sell a ton of these with or without the hybrid/electric powertrain. It’s that good looking.
  • The Jeep Patriot EV, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV and the Chrysler Town & Country EV also have powertrains similar to the Chevy Volt.
  • Dodge Circuit EV is a Lotus-based, all-electric sports car that looks great – like a nicer, friendlier version of a Viper. Dodge claims a range of 150-200 miles and a top speed of 120MPH.

Toyota
Toyota

  • Venza – Toyota showed this vehicle last year, but now is in production. Toyota is clearly looking for “white space” in its lineup to produce yet another derivative off their highly successful Camry. But is there any white space here? Originally, crossovers found white space between cars and true SUVs. Venza is slotted between cars and crossovers. I have no doubt that Venza will sell well, as most everything Toyota makes does do well. However, given the narrow niche, it very well could steal most of its sales from Camry, Avalon and/or Highlander. I guess we’ll see… Check out the very clever sliding center console. The whole front area slides rearward, revealing extra storage, aux input and a 12V power point. Nicely done.
  • Prius – 3rd generation of the most successful hybrid on the market. Prius is larger, more powerful and gets better fuel economy than its predecessor. The design change, however, is barely noticeable. That shouldn’t bother its buyers, though. One cool new feature is the available sliding glass moonroof which includes solar panels to power the ventilation system.
  • FT-EV – this very small all-electric car is based on the iQ minicar sold in other markets. Don’t look for it at your Toyota dealer anytime soon.

Lexus

  • IS Convertible – already shown at the LA Auto Show, but this is the Detroit premiere. Very nice.
  • 2010 RX – redesigned (called “all-new”, but the visual change is subtle), bigger in every dimension, more powerful (27 more hp on the hybrid RX450h which now uses the 3.5L V6, 5 more on the base RX350).
  • HS250h – a new, dedicated hybrid (no traditional powertrain is available). Only the 3rd dedicated hybrid from a major manufacturer, and the first dedicated luxury hybrid. Note also that the front-end styling includes a 3-bar grille which is very similar to the Ford brand’s.
  • Hybrids – note also that all of the Lexus hybrids have a new hybrid badge at the bottom of their rear doors to give them a visual connection to each other.
  • Remote Touch – the new RX and HS both have this new system, which is a new interface for the navigation system. It works like a computer mouse and is very intuitive to use. It comes standard with navigation on these 2 vehicles.

Honda
Honda

  • Insight – the all-new dedicated hybrid that is larger and more powerful than the previous Insight. Fuel economy is 40 city, 43 highway. Insight has a new 5-door body, which Honda says is evocative of their FCX Clarity fuel cell car. Most people have never heard of that car, but they will notice that it looks a lot like the Toyota Prius, which is its natural competition. Actual pricing has not yet been announced, but Honda said their target is “less than $20,000.” They are also targeting 90,000 units per year in the US and 200,000 worldwide.
  • Others – the Civic receives a freshening, the Pilot and Fit are all-new.

Volkswagen
VW

  • Bluesport Concept – great-looking roadster with a 50mpg turbo Diesel engine. The 2.0L engine makes 180hp, but 258 lb-ft of torque, which enables a 0-60 sprint of 6 seconds. Think of it as a VW version of the Audi TT or the BMW Z4.

Audi

  • Q5 – new, smaller crossover with the great looks and stunning interior of Audi’s other vehicles
  • Sportback concept – this is a beautiful car, and is clearly meant to compete with the gorgeous Mercedes-Benz CLS. Expect the upcoming A7 to look very much like this when it is introduced – maybe for the 2010 model year. The concept is driven by a 255hp turbodiesel with 406 lb-ft of torque.
  • R8 V10 – the beautiful R8 sports car will get this new V10 engine, probably around mid-2010, which will make the present $114K base price seem like small change. Of course, it will also increase the power by about ~100hp and the top speed to just under 200mph.

BMW
BMW

  • Z4 – the roadster gets an update with the addition of a retractable hardtop and updated looks.
  • 7 Series – nice update to the biggest BMW which seems to finally have been de-Bangled. Starts at $80K.
  • No manuals? – BMW (“the ultimate driving machine”?) has about 10 vehicles on display, and not one of them is a manual tranny. What gives with that?

Mini

  • Cooper Convertible – an update to the cutest convertible on the market. My kids love the Mini (me, too). New is the “Openometer”, which keeps track of how long you have been driving top-down. Way cool.
  • Mini E – a pure electric that was already shown at the LA Auto Show, but this is the Detroit premiere. Mini will lease 500 in California, New York and New Jersey as a test for now.

Daimler
Mercedes-Benz

  • SL65 AMG – not new, but the M-B SL has always been a favorite of mine, and this one has 661hp…wow…pause for a deep breath and a moment of silence…OK, now we can go on to the next car:
  • Concept Blue Zero – pure electric based on Mercedes’ European small car. There are 2 other versions slated for production, but not shown – a hybrid and a fuel cell. Worth a look. Mercedes sells small cars in other markets, but will Americans accept such a small Mercedes? Will it hurt their image here?
  • S400 Blue Hybrid – the hybrid wave extends its reach to the big Mercedes sedan. Is no place safe from this beast?

Hyundai
Hyundai

  • Genesis – won the North American Car of the Year. The styling is nice, but I would called it derivative, not innovative. It breaks no new ground, and looks a little too much like a Lexus LS. That said, this is a very nice-looking car, especially the interior. It is attempting to do to Lexus what Lexus did to Mercedes-Benz (exactly 20 years ago at the 1989 NAIAS) – give comparable luxury and features for a much lower price. We’ll see how many people are willing to pay the price.

Kia

  • Soul – already shown at the LA Auto Show, this is a funky-looking car/trucklet that looks like it’s trying to out-Scion xB the Scion xB. Goes on sale early this year.
  • Soul’ster concept – this is a Soul with a sliding cloth roof, and is even funkier than the Soul.

Chinese Manufacturers

BYD showed 5 cars at NAIAS. The F3DM is a small, plug-in hybrid sedan (DM stands for Dual Mode). The F6DM is a midsize sedan with the same powertrain. They also showed the “regular” F6. F0 is a micro car, and the e6 is a pure electric in a crossover shape. It has available electric motors at the front and rear, giving it effective 4WD. It goes 0-60 in “under 8 seconds” and has a range of 249 miles. BYD plans to begin importing their products to the US in 2011.

Brilliance is showing 4 vehicles: FRV is a small 5-door hatchback, M1 is a midsize “luxury” sedan with a 1.8L I4 turbo engine making only 167hp, M2 is also a midsize sedan on the same platform with the same 1.8L engine and M3 is a sporty coupe based on a shortened version of the M1/M2 platform. It also shares the same engine.

Others

  • Maserati Quattroporte Sport GTS – even more power for one of the most beautiful cars on the road!
  • Tesla – the $100,000 pure electric sports car from California is in production and available at a dealer near you – if you live in LA or SF, that is.
  • Fisker – not yet available, but getting closer, the Karma sedan won Slandy Best in Show last year, when we called it a “4-door BMW Corvette” (see photo below). Fisker plans to begin delivery of the Karma in the 4th quarter of 2009. This year, they have added the Sunset convertible, which uses the same plug-in hybrid powertrain. That powertrain is similar in concept to the Chevy Volt. Coincidentally, the Karma uses a GM Ecotec 2.4L turbo engine.
  • Revenge – the small company from Indiana is showing the GTM-R supercar, which uses a Corvette Z06 engine for 505hp and an estimated top speed of 200 mph. It has 4-point racing safety harnesses. Lest you think this is an uncivilized brute, it also has available navigation, reverse camera and digital instrumentation. Only $145,000 – if I could only get my hands on some of those TARP funds!
  • Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4 – not sure if this car has been shown at NAIAS before, and maybe it was just there for the press preview. The interesting this about this car is that the most expensive car in the entire show (~$1.5 million) looked like an orphan. Just sitting there with no signs or information or people to ask any questions. Odd scene, but very cool car!

The Slandy Awards® 2009

Slandy Best in Show: Ford Taurus
Honorable Mention: Lincoln MKT, Fisker Karma Sunset, Revenge GTM-R, Audi Sportback, VW Bluesport
Coolest New Feature: The “Openometer” from Mini
Most Annoying New Trend: “Blue” means “Green” – several automakers have decided that using the word “blue” means that the vehicle is “Green”, as in Mercedes-Benz Bluetec (Diesel), Blue Hybrid and Concept Blue Zero (electric); VW Bluesport concept (Diesel); Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive and Lexus’s use of blue-trimmed Lexus logos on their hybrids. Has the whole world become colorblind?!?
Best Quote: GM’s Bob Lutz (who else?) said, “The way you use less of something in the marketplace is to raise the price. At $1.50 a gallon, the American public is not willing to pay for fuel-saving technology, and at some point the people who make the rules are going to have to recognize that fact.”  Amen, Brother Bob!
Best Models: Maserati and Lamborghini
Best Food: VW’s German curry sausage.  Honorable Mention: Fisker’s chicken sandwich


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