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The Land Speed Record for Bad Ideas
Aug20

The Land Speed Record for Bad Ideas

By Charles Krome

Okay, here’s another one for the “what were they thinking?” file:

Let’s say you’ve got an auto company that’s seen some relatively big success outside of the U.S. but has never quite found its mojo in the states. Not so many years ago you were selling 100,000 vehicles a year here, but at this stage in the game, your total monthly sales are under the 2,000-unit mark and your best-seller in July only found 788 customers.

But one of those products is a sharp new mid-size sedan with notably nimble handling—its development included the requisite trip to the Nurburgring—as well as a trunkful of kudos from reviewers, third-party quality groups and customers alike. For what it’s worth, the vehicle was even rated as the top car from the whole industry in the 2010 AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Awards.

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The California 200 Tragedy: Taking Responsibility
Aug17

The California 200 Tragedy: Taking Responsibility

By Charles Krome

As most people likely know by now, an off-road racer named Brett Sloppy flipped his truck into the crowd at the California 200, leaving 8 people dead and another 12 injured. For those who follow racing history, it no doubt brought back thoughts of the infamous 1955 Le Mans disaster, in which Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (like the one pictured below) left the track at 150 mph. The car began disintegrating almost immediately, with pieces flying off the car and into the crowd with lethal affect, and once the racer’s magnesium-based body began to burn, the scene quickly turned into an inferno. In the end, Levegh and more than 80 people died, and 120 were injured.

Now, you might think that this loss of life would have been enough for all of motorsports to rethink its safety measures, but not so. There were certainly major immediate changes to LeMans, but the pace of improvements to spectator safety in other series, even major ones, has often bordered on the glacial—especially for non-oval racing.

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OnStar In Action
Aug13

OnStar In Action

By Charles Krome

GM’s OnStar technology has been around for some 15 years now, and its impact on the auto industry is hard to overstate. OnStar essentially kicked off the whole automotive telematics industry in 1996, blazing the trail for today’s ubiquitous nav and hands-free calling systems, as well as more comprehensive offerings like Ford’s SYNC.

It’s not just an expensive toy, either. The current OnStar system offers functionality that can be legitimately called “life-saving.” If you’re in an accident, for example, the system can automatically send emergency medical services to your location in minutes, even if you’re unconscious or can’t otherwise respond. And it can come in pretty handy when dealing with a range of less serious annoyances, from getting yourself locked out of your car to having it stolen. In the latter case, OnStar can track down your ride and then shut down power to its engine in some situations.

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New Recaro Kid Seats: Perfect for the Day-Care 500
Aug10

New Recaro Kid Seats: Perfect for the Day-Care 500

By Charles Krome

In my last article, I spouted off a bit about how the next generation of minivans may finally see the kind of design changes that would make hauling the kids around look like a cool thing to do. But it turns out that parents don’t have to wait for a Dodge man van, or even the 2011 Nissan Quest, to play Jimmie Johnson with junior in the back. You can just order one of Recaro’s new child safety seats.

Yes, the company renowned for protecting the butts of some of the world’s best race-car drivers—and outfitting some of the world’s top-performing production vehicles—now offers a line of top-quality safety seats for children ranging in size from 5 lbs. to 120.

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Nissan’s Elgrand Could be the Big One
Aug06

Nissan’s Elgrand Could be the Big One

By Charles Krome

Despite the best recent efforts of Honda and Toyota, the minivan segment remains a decidedly unsexy one. Yes, U.S. customers still buy a couple hundred thousand of them each year, but it usually seems to be more out of necessity than desire. It’s like this: If you need to haul around more than four people in anything like comfort, your choices are essentially limited to minivans, SUV or crossovers. The days of adults sitting three across in a car and liking it are long gone, and putting three kids in the same row, with just an inch or two or less between them, can be like putting three cats in a cardboard box and then shaking it up.

On the other hand, three-row body-on-frame SUVs are not exactly known for their fuel efficiency, and full-size three-row crossovers, although they’re not as thirsty, just can’t offer the same kind of interior room and versatility because of their less-boxy designs. Thus, minivans.

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