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Quick Drive: 2009 Renault Scenic Dynamique
Aug08

Quick Drive: 2009 Renault Scenic Dynamique

By Kevin Miller

08.08.2009

img_0634The Renault Scenic was the pioneer of Europe’s MPV class, and has been that segment’s best seller for over a decade, with over 3.3 million units sold since 1996. The third generation of Renault’s popular family vehicle was just launched in June of this year. Based on the French automaker’s new Megane platform, the Scenic is a vehicle similar in concept to the US-market Mazda5 or Kia Rondo.

I was fortunate to spend a long weekend in Switzerland with the new Scenic, and I came away quite impressed. My time was spent in a Scenic Dynamique TCe 130, which is the mid-range car with the mid range gasoline engine.

Entry to the Scenic is gained using the Renault Card, a key fob unlike any I’ve seen in the US. Flat and shaped like a credit card, it could literally be kept in one’s wallet, rather than needing to be kept in a pocket or purse. Doing most so-called Intelligent Keys one better, the Renault Card unlocks the vehicle automatically when it is approached, and automatically locks when the driver (or whomever is carrying the key) walks away. One fault I experienced was that the car would sometimes lock itself when I got out just to walk to the trunk, with the Renault Card in my pocket. Once inside the Scenic, the vehicle is started using a dash-mounted pushbutton.

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“Cash for Clunkers”:  Truth Behind the Numbers
Aug08

“Cash for Clunkers”: Truth Behind the Numbers

By J. Smith

08.08.2009

cars-programEveryone loves Cash for Clunkers (C4C to those of us in the trenches)-.  They even .  The program, recently renewed by our beloved Congress, has been a boon to dealers, manufacturers and consumers (at least ones with old SUVs or full-size vans).

The intent, as most of our readers already know, is to (1) stimulate the economy, (2) decrease dependence on foreign oil and (3) improve the environment.  Trade in inefficient, polluting vehicles for more efficient, cleaner new ones.  Makes sense.  And the numbers we’ve seen show a long list of trucks and SUVs traded in for an equally long list of small, fuel-efficient cars:

  1. Ford Focus
  2. Toyota Corolla
  3. Honda Civic
  4. Toyota Prius
  5. Toyota Camry
  6. Ford Escape
  7. Hyundai Elantra
  8. Dodge Caliber
  9. Honda Fit
  10. Chevy Cobalt

Based on this, the program looks even more successful than proponents would have thought possible.

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Proton Looks to India for Export Sales
Aug07

Proton Looks to India for Export Sales

By Brendan Moore

08.07.2009

proton-logoProton, the inscrutable Malaysian auto manufacturer, has announced that they intend to sell their cars in India.

Proton has some sales in the Southeast Asia market, and some sales in the Middle East and Asia, but over 90% of their annual sales are still in their home country of Malaysia.

Proton used to have a protected market until a few years ago, when the Malaysian government liberalized their home market, which led to Proton’s sales plummeting. Proton had, and still has, some quality issues with their vehicles, and once Malaysians were able to buy Japanese cars, they did.

The company plunged into a financial abyss, prompting intense speculation at the time that a partnership with either VW or GM was imminent. But, Proton rebuffed both those suitors, and decided to go it alone.

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Cash for Clunkers Program Replenished
Aug07

Cash for Clunkers Program Replenished

By Brendan Moore

08.07.2009

cars-programThe United States Senate approved an extension of funding for the Cash for Clunkers program yesterday afternoon, and President Obama signed the legislation this morning.

The program now has another $2 billion USD to use in the popular program, which provides up to $4500 to the buyer of a new vehicle that trades in a gas guzzler that meets the program terms. The original $1 billion funding of the program was depleted almost immediately, leading to the program’s suspension a mere seven days after the program rules were delineated to U.S. automobile dealers.

The political pressure on the Obama administration and the Democratic majority to continue the program was immediate and intense. The Cash for Clunkers program found favor with the public, and is one of the overall economic stimulus program’s most successful measures.

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Check Your Mirrors
Aug06

Check Your Mirrors

Odd and Ends about Cars and the Car Business

By Brendan Moore

08.06.2009

gm-logo-smallBuick is going to get a plug-in hybrid crossover. It will use the same type of battery technology as the Chevrolet Volt. Saturn was supposed to get the same vehicle, but Saturn is now gone, so it looks like Buick is the beneficiary of Saturn’s demise in this regard. Buick is also getting a crossover (what else?) built on the next-generation of the Chevrolet Aveo, a small economy car platform. Look for the plug-in in 2011; the small crossover in 2012.

Timothy Egan, a writer for The New York Times, published an interesting piece on the “Cash For Clunkers” program late last night, titled Clunker Class War. Here’s an excerpt:

But according to a barnacled cluster of senators, this program must be sunk, now. It’s been far too successful — dealers have been swamped, people are lining up to buy cars that burn less gas and bring instant cash to crippled local economies.

This is old fashioned stimulus of a sort that Republicans have always advocated, using financial incentives to change behavior. Representative Candice Miller, a G.O.P. lawmaker — albeit from the car-dependent state of Michigan — called it “the best $1 billion of economic stimulus the government has ever spent.”

But look where the rest of Miller’s party is. Last week, Senator John McCain threatened to lead a filibuster rather than let Cash for Clunkers continue to September, as the House has agreed to do with an additional $2 billion from money already approved in the stimulus law.

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Cash For Clunkers Program Shows Interesting Data
Aug05

Cash For Clunkers Program Shows Interesting Data

By Brendan Moore

08.05.2009

cars-programYou might be curious about which vehicles are being purchased by customers under the “Cash For Clunkers” program, as we were.

Now that break-out is here, courtesy of the federal government.

The U.S. Transportation Department has slaked that thirst for information by releasing a list of the top vehicles purchased and the top vehicles traded in through the program so far.

Top 10 vehicles retailed under the Cash-For-Clunkers program, according to the U.S. Transportation Department:

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Cash For Clunkers Funding Delayed by Amendments to Bill?
Aug05

Cash For Clunkers Funding Delayed by Amendments to Bill?

By Brendan Moore

08.05.2009

cars-programIt looks like the “Cash For Clunkers” program is going to be extended, but, there is a problem.

Senate Republicans want to add several amendments to the bill that the House passed and if that happens, then the incentive will be suspended again, while the amendments are debated by the House, and then voted on by the House.

Neither the Democratic Senate leadership nor the Republican Senate minority leader will delineate what is in the proposed amendments.

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Britax Roundabout 50 Convertible Car Seat Review
Aug05

Britax Roundabout 50 Convertible Car Seat Review

By Chris Haak

roundabout50Aside from a few exceptions, nearly all of the reviews that I write are for entire vehicles – not add-ons like exhaust systems, aftermarket stereos, or even car seats.  That being said, this is the second car seat that we’ve reviewed at Techshake – the first one being the Britax Marathon back in 2008.  I do bring a bit of battlefield experience to this review, however.  My wife and I have two sons under age four and have purchased five or six different child seats over the past four years, giving me some perspective on what was good and what was not in this realm.  I’ve also installed our car seats into scores of different vehicles over the past few years, as I try to spend as much seat time as possible in cars that I’m reviewing, which means moving car seats from our own vehicles into the ones loaned to me for evaluation.  Over time, there are some features that I grew to love about our seats and features that I continually was frustrated by.

The Britax Roundabout 50 convertible car seat falls around the middle of various seat sizes offered by Britax.  The company classifies it as a “Mid-Capacity Convertible,” and it is capable of safely transporting children rear facing from 5 to 30 pounds and forward facing from 1 year and 20 pounds up to 50 pounds.  Other categories that the company offers are infant carriers (4 to 30 pounds, 32 inches or less), compact convertibles (5 to 40 pounds, 40 inches or less), high-capacity convertibles (5 to 65 pounds, 49 inches or less), forward-facing harnessed (22 to 80 pounds, 53 inches or less), and two categories of boosters for larger/older children.

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