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Dacia’s New Crossover Revives Memories Best Forgotten
Dec10

Dacia’s New Crossover Revives Memories Best Forgotten

By Andy Bannister

12.10.2009

New Dacia DusterDacia, Renault’s economy car brand, has unveiled its entrant into the burgeoning small crossover sector, the Duster, which goes on sale in 2010.

The Romanian marque, owned by Renault since 1999, has taken a leaf out of the book of other manufacturers by reviving a model name from the past.

The company’s marketing men must be wearing exceedingly rose-tinted spectacles, however.

They have clearly forgotten that the previous Dacia Duster was a nightmarish incarnation of the very worst aspects of car production under the old communist system Romania has been trying to shake off for a generation.

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A Coming Glut of Small Cars?
Dec10

A Coming Glut of Small Cars?

By J. Smith

12.10.2009

2011 Fiesta Red small

Ford reports that 1,000 people have that made its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto show. Needless to say, this is very good news for the men and women that work in a certain modernist building in Dearborn, not to mention their North American dealer network and the good people at the Cuautitlán Assembly Plant in Mexico. It especially bodes well if, as Ford claims, it will make a profit on the car; traditionally, the Detroit Three small cars made in North America are for CAFE rather than profit-making purposes. But according to auto analysts interviewed by , dropping gas prices may mean a glut of small cars in our part of the world.

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New German Hybrid Vehicles Are Not Fuel-Sippers
Dec09

New German Hybrid Vehicles Are Not Fuel-Sippers

You Can Buy a Hybrid for the Green Image, or Buy a Diesel to Actually Save Fuel

By Kevin Miller

12.09.2009

2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 BlueHYBRIDHybrid cars started off simply enough, with the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight whirring along our roads a decade ago with the goal of frugally motoring from place to place. While European automakers maintained that diesel powertrains instead of hybrids were the answer, Ford (and, to a lesser extent, GM) joined Toyota and Honda in bringing hybrids into the mainstream.

It is true that a vehicle with a hybrid powertrain is much more complex than a vehicle that operates only on petroleum products or only on electric power. Because both methods of propulsion and energy storage cost money, putting both systems into a vehicle costs more money than putting in only one propulsion system, driving up the cost of hybrid vehicles in comparison to the prices of their non-hybrid counterparts.

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Chrysler Brand May Have a European Future, After All
Dec09

Chrysler Brand May Have a European Future, After All

By Andy Bannister

12.09.2009

Chrysler pentastarIn a u-turn which contradicts previous reports, it seems the Chrysler nameplate is now likely to survive in Europe after all.

Comments from Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne imply the name will be used to market Lancia models in those parts of the continent where the Italian marque is unrepresented or performs poorly.

Earlier, Fiat sources were suggesting Chrysler and Dodge would both be phased out of European showrooms in short order.

This continued churning of the rumour-mill can’t be doing much for the European public’s confidence in the long-term future of Lancia or Chrysler, not to mention Alfa Romeo and Dodge.

The fundamental problem it highlights is the current weakness of both Lancia and Chrysler in most of Europe.

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VW Will Acquire As Much As 20% of Suzuki
Dec08

VW Will Acquire As Much As 20% of Suzuki

Brendan Moore

12.08.2009

VW logoSources with direct knowledge of the deal have told Reuters that Volkswagen AG has concluded negotiations with Suzuki, Japan’s fourth-largest automaker, to take a stake in the Japanese company of as high as 20%.

The sources say that an announcement could be made as early as next week.

It is expected that VW will increase that stake in the future to at least one-third, in order to have a controlling stake in the company. Such a move would make Suzuki a VW subsidiary.

VW has stated publicly that it wishes to be the world’s largest auto manufacturer by 2018. Suzuki’s minicar and small car expertise and its sales strength in developing markets could be quite instrumental in achieving that goal.

Although Suzuki has been saying that they would welcome a partnership with a major company since they lost their previous ties to General Motors, Suzuki CEO Osamu Suzuki denied that any talks were occurring with VW as recently as three weeks ago. The news of a deal with VW, therefore, is somewhat surprising.

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Saab Believes Buyer of Whole Company Will Be Found
Dec08

Saab Believes Buyer of Whole Company Will Be Found

Meanwhile, GM works hard on a Plan B

By Brendan Moore

12.08.2009

Saab emblem blue backgroundSaab is discussing the sale of the company with “serious prospective buyers”, but the window of opportunity for selling the company outright is shrinking rapidly just as negotiations between China’s Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (BAIC) and GM regarding the sale of some of Saab’s assets “piecemeal” have picked up considerably.

The partial sale would involve all the production equipment and technology necessary to manufacture the older versions of the Saab 9-3 and the Saab 9-5 models. The production would take place in China after the equipment was relocated. BAIC has been adamant in its recent public statements that it does not want the current production hub in Trollhattan, Sweden as part of a deal.

Dutch supercar maker Spyker is interested in purchasing Saab, and so is a US-based investment company called Renco, but it is going to be very difficult to put a deal together with any prospective buyer before the end of the month, which GM has stated to be their “drop dead” date (no bad pun intended) for resolution of the Saab situation. GM has stated repeatedly that if no buyer is found by then, Saab will be shut down and liquidated.

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Toyota Corolla Is Now Focus of Federal Safety Regulators
Dec07

Toyota Corolla Is Now Focus of Federal Safety Regulators

More bad news on the quality front for Toyota

Brendan Moore

12.07.2009

Toyota logo-smallAlready beleaguered by several safety and quality issues in their new vehicle lineup, Toyota can now add the 2006 model year Toyota Corolla and the 2006 model year Toyota Matrix to the list.

The Matrix is a Corolla in a tall hatchback configuration.

United States federal safety regulators are investigating complaints of engine stalling from owners of the vehicles in question.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reviewing 397,000 cars sold in the U.S. after receiving 26 complaints regarding stalling in cars equipped with Toyota’s IZZ-FE four cylinder engines. The complaints allege that the cars in question stall at random moments, whether that is when traveling at highway speeds or at an intersection, and many of the reports indicate that the motorists subsequently have trouble re-starting the car.

It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA is merely in the first stages of a preliminary review of the situation regarding stalling – no recall of the cars has been issued, and, in fact, a recall may not occur, depending on the outcome of the review.

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2009 BMW 335d:  First Drive
Dec07

2009 BMW 335d: First Drive

By Chris Haak

12.07.2009

img_0493There are few practical “driver’s cars” that those of us with Techshake prefer more than BMW’s 3-series.  After all, they’re just the right size, are among the most attractive BMWs, have a magical soundtrack from their inline-six powerplant (or naturally aspirated V8, in the case of the M3), and manage to steer, handle, and brake like no almost two-ton sedan should be capable of doing.  But BMW is not the first brand that comes to mind when talking about fuel economy the same way Honda or Toyota might be.

Well, BMW has to improve its fleet’s fuel economy in the US and in much of the rest of the world where it sells its vehicles, and although the company offers a couple of mild hybrid models, its preferred method of improving economy in Europe has been to install diesel engines.  And now, the company is fitting a modern, powerful diesel engine in the 3-series sedan and in the X5 crossover in an attempt to solve the fuel economy puzzle while still retaining as much of the BMW experience for drivers as possible.

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