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The Golf R From The Perspective Of A GTI Owner
May01

The Golf R From The Perspective Of A GTI Owner

By James Wong

It’s a bit difficult to talk about the Golf R from an objective point of view since I drive something else from the same company, the GTI. But I’ll try, because what I’ve learnt about the Golf R I’ve had the privilege of driving during the past three days is worth sharing with anybody who’s making a choice between these two cars. As I’ve come to realize, the Golf R has a very different temperament when compared to the GTI. You’d expect the fastest Golf VW has ever made to be an exercise of extremity, but that could not be further from the truth.

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Geithner Claims “Reasonable Chance” GM and Chrysler Will Repay Aid

But of course, there’s a catch.

By Chris Haak

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that taxpayers were still at risk of loss from the investments that the US government made in GM and Chrysler, but that any potential loss would be just a fraction of the original amounts feared.  He also said that there was a “reasonable chance” that both GM and Chrysler would be recouped.

However, it’s important to hone in on specifically what he said.  He said there was a “reasonable chance now that we will recover all of the dollars we put into these companies” since January 2009.  Of course, on January 20, 2009, the Obama administration took office.  The key phrase (which I italicized above) is “since January 2009.”  (Alternately, “we put into these companies” would work, if “we” in that context is the Obama administration.

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China’s Brilliance Withdraws from European Market

By Chris Haak

We have yet to see Chinese cars in the US, and they’re about to become more scarce in Europe.  Back in November 2009, HSO Motors, the European importer of Brilliance automobiles, filed for bankruptcy protection.  Brilliance itself took over distribution of its cars, which sold only about 4,000 units since 2007.  Now, Brilliance has halted exports to Europe.

Five years ago, it seemed as if the entry of Chinese automakers into developed markets such as Europe and the US was all but imminent.  It was not so much a question of whether it would happen – that seemed to be a foregone conclusion – but more like one of when it would happen, or which automaker it would be.

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Review: 2011 Kia Sorento EX 4×4
Apr29

Review: 2011 Kia Sorento EX 4×4

By Chris Haak

Kia has completely shocked me over the past few years with the dramatic improvement in its vehicles from generation to generation.  And the company’s move to hire Peter Schreyer as its chief designer was an absolute stroke of brilliance.  Schreyer has brought an interesting, attractive design language to the brand where previously there had been little more than a hodgepodge of various design cliches slapped together.  Take the Kia Amante, for an example of what was wrong with Kia design prior to Schreyer’s arrival.

The last Kia that I evaluated for a week was a Sportage, and I really didn’t care for it at all.  As we’ve recently covered from New York, the 2011 Sportage is an all-new beast, and one that mercifully completely erases all memory of the former sub-par crossover.  And as an added bonus, the Sorento is the first Kia model built in the US, in Kia’s new Georgia plant.  So if you buy a Sorento, you’re not just supporting American assembly workers, but members of Kia’s US-based supplier community build interior plastics that smell like a new car’s should, unlike the odd olfactory sensations that Korean-built Kias tend to bring to the table.

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GM to Invest $893 Million in Next-Generation V8s

By Chris Haak

To steal from Mark Twain, rumors of the V8’s death have been greatly exaggerated.  We reported in January on the end of big block V8 production at GM’s Tonawanda, New York plant, which meant that another 108 employees on the L18 big block line landed in GM’s layoff pool, joining some 162 others on layoff there.  But after that bad news for V8s and Tonawanda, news came today that the facility would receive a $400 million investment to produce GM’s next-generation V8 engines.  The investment will create or preserve more than 710 jobs – meaning that the company will either have to hire new workers to fill all of the spots or will have to draw from its pool of laid-off employees from elsewhere in the country.

It’s not just Tonawanda getting good news from GM today, though.  St. Catharines is getting a $235 million investment and about 400 jobs; Defiance is getting $115 million and up to 189 jobs; Bedford is receiving an investment of $111 million and roughly 245 jobs; Bay City is getting investment worth $32 million that should yiedl more than 80 jobs.  GM did not confirm the timing of the investments or the hiring, nor did it get specific about which vehicles the new engines would find these engines under their hoods.

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Ford Posts $2.1 Billion First Quarter Profit

By Chris Haak

It doesn’t seem as if things could go much better for Ford these days, particularly in terms of relative performance.  While its crosstown rivals are still struggling from either buyer apathy, taxpayer ire, or a dearth of new products, Ford has clearly pulled away from the pack in the past two quarters.  Its first quarter 2010 financial results underscore that point.

The company reported this morning that it posted net income of $2.1 billion USD for the quarter, up from a loss of $1.4 billion in Q1 2009.  Revenue rose to $28.1 billion this year from $24.4 billion in the year-earlier period.  The company’s automotive operations had a pre-tax operating profit of $1.2 billion, against a loss of $1.9 billion a year ago.  Automotive cash declined slightly from Q4 2009 to Q1 2010, from $25.5 billion to $25.3 billion.  At that burn rate, which has slowed dramatically, Ford is in a very solid position.  Too, CFO Lewis Booth attributed the $200 million cash decline to depleting its year-end inventory and building up new vehicles for the 2010 model year.  Mr. Booth asserted that the company has positive cash flow; this is anotherr example of the hazards of quarter-to-quarter comparisons.

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Review: 2010 Audi A4 Avant quattro
Apr26

Review: 2010 Audi A4 Avant quattro

By J. Smith

“Mommy doesn’t like red cars.”

“Well, she might like this one.”

Such was the conversation between my seven year-old daughter and me a few hours after I received delivery of a bright red Audi A4 Avant—“avant” being Audi-speak for “station wagon.”

At the outset, I saw much to like.  A lithe, lean-looking wagon with Germanic poise and performance, yet all the practicality of an SUV. Sculpted sides.  A low, aggressive stance. Compact dimensions—185.2” long and 71.9” wide, with a wheelbase of 110.6.”  All of this held the promise of athleticism that would certainly be fulfilled the 2.0 liter turbo-charged four-banger, cranking out 211 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque.  To be fair, 211 horses seems to be on the low side of the scale these days, but this was, after all, a relatively small car, at least by the supersize-me standards of middle America.  And 2.oT punches a bit above its weight in the torque department.

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Beijing Auto Show:  BMW Concept Gran Coupé
Apr23

Beijing Auto Show: BMW Concept Gran Coupé

By Chris Haak

Back in 2007, BMW used the occasion of the Shanghai Motor Show (obviously in China) to debut its Concept CS, which was BMW’s take on the then-nascent four-door coupe concept.  The design was for the most part well-received by the motoring press and by potential buyers, and BMW had been proceeding toward series production of a version of the car.  However, the economy tanked, and BMW cancelled the car as it focused more closely on profitability.  According to the company at the time, the Gran Turismo project just was not meeting internal requirements for rate of return.

But it now appears that BMW has figured out a way to build its four-door coupe after all – and has chosen a venue in China to display it.  Instead of building a unique four door coupe model, the company is likely to heavily base the next 6 Series coupe on the BMW Concept Gran Coupé that you see here.  To my sometimes-jaded eye, it looks like a heck of an attractive car.  Even better, according to some , BMW will produce a production version of this four-door coupe, to be called the 6 Series Gran Coupé.  The regular 6er will then, of course, continue as a two-door coupe.

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