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Check Your Mirrors
Dec31

Check Your Mirrors

Odds and ends about cars and the car business – What better way to end the year?

By Brendan Moore

12.31.2009

TOYOTA (and its reputation for quality and customer care) really takes a beating in an articleToyota logo-small published in the business section of the Los Angeles Times on December 23. This is merely the way it begins:

[Quote] During a routine test on its Sienna minivan in April 2003, Toyota Motor Corp. engineers discovered that a plastic panel could come loose and cause the gas pedal to stick, potentially making the vehicle accelerate out of control.

The automaker redesigned the part and by that June every 2004 model year Sienna off the assembly line came with the new panel. Toyota did not notify tens of thousands of people who had already bought vans with the old panel, however.

It wasn’t until U.S. safety officials opened an investigation last year that Toyota acknowledged in a letter to regulators that the part could come loose and “lead to unwanted or sudden acceleration.”

In January, nearly six years after discovering the potential hazard, the automaker recalled 26,501 vans made with the old panel.

In a statement to The Times, Toyota said that there was no defect in the Sienna and that “a safety recall was not deemed necessary” when it discovered the problem in 2003. The company called the replacement part “an additional safety measure.” [Quote]

For the whole article,

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GM’s “Last Call” for remaining Pontiacs and Saturns
Dec31

GM’s “Last Call” for remaining Pontiacs and Saturns

By George Straton

12.31.2009

GM_LC_a_pontiac-logo-xlGM_LC_b_saturn-logoThose who shop Neiman Marcus, the Dallas based high end retailer, are certain to be familiar with their “Last Call” end-of-year sales event where Sunkist bright orange Giorgio Armani sports jackets can be garnered at stupendous markdowns.  That is, if you fancy a Sunkist orange sports jacket.

Well, GM seems to be resorting to a similar event to clear the inventory of unsold new Pontiacs and Saturns that found no takers during this past August’s government-subsidized Cash Allowance Rebate “Cash for Clunkers” event.

In a cash-to-dealer incentive program announced yesterday dealers will be eligible for $7,000 from GM for each vehicle sold to rental-vehicle or servic-evehicle fleets.  The effect of this is that the vehicles will then be classified as used cars (because the dealer would be considered the vehicle’s first owner), and dealers will then be able to sell them at even steeper discounts to prospective customers.  The deal also will have the likely effect of boosting GM’s December sales results at least somewhat.

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Saab Resumes Production
Dec30

Saab Resumes Production

General Motors extends their bid deadline, so Saab starts making cars again

By Brendan Moore

12.30.2009

Saab emblem blue backgroundReuters is reporting this morning that Saab is restarting some production lines after the New Year as a result of General Motors extending the bid deadline for prospective buyers.

GM had previously stated that it would only wait until the end of this month (tomorrow) to decide on potential bids for Saab, but has now set a later date of January 7 for evaluation of the bid from Spyker, the Dutch supercar maker. It is believed that GM may have provided an even later evaluation date to other bidders that entered the bidding process after Spyker.

Saab has taken that respite as a signal to start making cars again, with production of the new 9-5 and the 9-3 Cabrio slated to commence after the traditional winter holiday ends at the factory in Trollhattan, Sweden.

Saab spokesman Eric Geers stated, “We have the orders and we have to deliver them as usual. We also have the orders for the 9-3 and others. The factory has to continue again.” He added, “We are preparing the wind-down process. At the same time we are open to options, to bids that come in. Therefore the deadline has also been dropped.”

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Genius or Joker? João Gurgel and the Lost Cars of Brazil
Dec29

Genius or Joker? João Gurgel and the Lost Cars of Brazil

By Andy Bannister

12.29.2009

Joao GurgelAs 2009 draws to a close, spare a thought for one of the lesser- known personalities of the auto industry to die this year, the enigmatic João Gurgel.

Largely unheard of outside his homeland, Gurgel was lauded by nationalists there as “Brazil’s Henry Ford”. He created a car brand which bore his own name and sold some decidedly outlandish creations in the years up to the early 1990s.

His dream of a mass-market, wholly Brazilian small car was brave but ultimately doomed.

Back in 1969, when enterprising 43-year-old businessman Gurgel set up his own tiny factory, Brazil was still a slumbering giant, with a small local auto industry. It was protected by strict regulations effectively preventing car imports.

A string of multinationals like GM, Ford, Chrysler and Volkswagen were, however, well-entrenched, manufacturing cars locally, and had the market all but sewn-up.

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Techshake’s Ten Most Popular Articles of 2009
Dec29

Techshake’s Ten Most Popular Articles of 2009

By Chris Haak

12.29.2009

2008_08_04_09rav4_sportAs 2009 draws to a close this week, we thought that it would be fun to list the top ten most popular articles on Techshake during the past 12 months.  This top ten list is not necessarily a list of our favorite articles – though of course we’re fond of many of them – but rather just a ranking of the most popular in terms of the number of people who have viewed them.  Of course, this means that articles written earlier in the year had a “head start” of sorts, because they had the benefit of 9, 10, 11, or 12 months of pageviews, while something written in November or December had to make its mark in just one or two months.  Enough introduction; on with the list:

10.  Preview:  2010 Buick LaCrosse. This was an overview of the all-new Buick LaCrosse, including the car’s technology, design, powertrains, and more.  The funny thing about this article’s popularity is that it was written before we had actually driven the car, yet it managed to pull in more cumulative traffic during 2009 than our review of the 2010 LaCrosse CXS managed to do.

9.  The Ranger is Dead – Long Live the Ranger. This article was written in April 2008, and still has lots of staying power for us.  It also has unfortunately become a major target of comment spam in recent months, so we had to disable comments on its post.  This article also happened to be the third-most popular article of 2008.  As we said in last year’s “most popular” summary, the news on the Ranger changed, and the US-built model got a reprieve until 2011, and Ford shelved plans for a smaller-than-F-150 F-100 model.

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First Look: 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
Dec28

First Look: 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0

By Alex Kalogiannis

12.28.2009

2011 Ford Mustang GT

You may have heard rumblings about Ford’s engineers in Dearborn tinkering away at something special, but now we can say without a doubt: the 5.0 is back. In 2011, the Mustang GT will be powered by an all new 5.0 liter V8 that will deliver 412 horsepower and 390 ft-lbs of torque. This naturally aspirated feat owes much of its efficiency to the 4-valve Twin independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT), producing a substantial amount of power while still upping the fuel economy to 25 miles per gallon.

This double-o2011 Ford Mustang GTverhead-camshaft configuration employs two camshafts per cylinder bank – one camshaft to operate the intake valves and one camshaft to operate the exhaust valves. Ti-VCT rotates the camshafts to advance or retard the cam timing, based on several measures including throttle opening. An element unique to the Mustang GT 5.0-liter V8 is that Ti-VCT is actuated by camshaft torque, with assistance from pressurized oil. Using camshaft torque energy should provide faster throttle response and maximize use of existing energy, aiding fuel economy.

An additional element is the increased capacity and baffling of the deep-sump stamped steel oil pan to enable sustained high-rpm use and keep the oil change interval at 10,000-miles. Piston-cooling jets also were incorporated for performance-minded customers and for faster oil warm-up on cold start. Specially designed tubular exhaust headers were developed to maximize exhaust pulse separation and improve flow. This was a response to customers immediately swapping the headers out for 3rd party replacements for an easy performance boost, so the engineering team sought to make them better from the get-go.

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First Look: Ford Mustang BOSS 302R
Dec28

First Look: Ford Mustang BOSS 302R

By Alex Kalogiannis

12.28.2009

Ford Mustang BOSS 302R

Don’t look now, but your boss is coming.

Hot on the tail of the news of the 2011 5.0 Mustang GT is the announcement that Ford Racing is returning the road racing legend back to the track.

Dubbed the BOSS 302R, this factory-built race car is set to go for Grand-Am, SCCA, and NASA classes.  “From Shelbys to Bullitt, Mach and Cobra Jet, it is now time for BOSS to join the list of America’s most coveted Mustangs’ says Jamie Allison, director of For North America Motorsports.  The BOSS 302R will come equipped with the new 5.0 –liter 4-valve engine like the 2011 GT, a 6-speed manual transmission, roll cage, race seats, harness, data acquisition, and race dampers/springs, a Brembo brake and tire package.

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Camaro Designer Moves to VW and SoCal
Dec28

Camaro Designer Moves to VW and SoCal

By Brendan Moore

12.28.2009

Sangyup LeeThe GM designer that created the exterior design of the new Camaro has left Detroit and GM and will now ply his trade in Santa Monica at VW’s Southern California design studio.

It was probably tough to leave Detroit in winter, but Sangyup Lee will now be designing Volkswagens and Audis at the same studio that was responsible for the Audi TT concept cars and the VW New Beetle.

Mr. Lee grew up in Korea, graduated with a degree in fine art from Hongik University in Seoul, where he also studied sculpture, subsequently discovered car design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, worked at Porsche for awhile, and then, was at GM for almost ten years. He was partially responsible for the stunning Buick Velite concept car and the Corvette Sting Ray concept.

Lee will start at his new position as Chief Designer of Exterior at the Volkswagen/Audi Advanced studio in mid-2010. He will report to the new head of that studio, Jens Manske, who was appointed Executive Director earlier this year after Derek Jenkins bolted for Mazda.

So, VW now owns Porsche, where Lee used to work, and he’s going to be working in Santa Monica, which is just a short hop away from Pasadena, where he used to go to school. Guess it will be almost like old home week for Lee when he starts his new job.

It’s probably not good news for GM, but they do seem to have a lot of very talented young designers at the company, so maybe he will not be missed too much for too long. VW has to be very happy to get a designer of his caliber, and it will be interesting to see what sort of impact he’ll have on future Volkswagens and Audis.

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