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Saab Gets a New Owner Today?
Jun12

Saab Gets a New Owner Today?

By Brendan Moore

06.12.2009

saab-logo1967-1974-small1The badly-kept secret in Sweden this week has been the rumor that GM is selling Saab to Koenigsegg, a small Swedish manufacturer of supercars. The rumor reached the rest of the world yesterday, and the current chatter is that his deal will be announced today.

GM took the step yesterday of stating that Koenigsegg is the preferred bidder for Saab.

“Unidentified sources” say that GM picked Koenigsegg to buy the insolvent Saab because the company is both Swedish and an actual auto manufacturer, even if their production volumes are small.

How small? Well, in 2007, they had a production capacity of around 15 units a year. No, I didn’t leave out a number. In 2008, their production capacity was reportedly increased by 100%, up to 30 units a year. Koenigsegg makes high-strung, high-horsepower (as much as 800 hp), 200 mph+ supercars, a product category dramatically different than the one Saab inhabits currently.

Koenigsegg has also had some financial issues in the recent past. It’s worth pointing that Fiat did as well, almost declaring bankruptcy not so long ago, and now they own Chrysler. koenigsegg-with-car

There is an actual Koenigsegg, and that is Christian Von Koenigsegg, the young and very wealthy owner, and, CEO of Koenigsberg.

It is thought that GM is offering Koenigsegg a “lease-to-own” type of financial arrangement, that is, Koenigsegg gets Saab with very little money up front, and then pays GM back the purchase price as Saab is successful. GM is going to provide $500 million in assets and cash, production equipment for a new Saab model as well as $150 million of cash already in Saab’s account.

The other two bidders on the short list for Saab are two investment groups from the US. Neither group has automotive experience.

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Remembering the Maxi, Forgotten Big Brother of the Legendary Mini
Jun12

Remembering the Maxi, Forgotten Big Brother of the Legendary Mini

By Andy Bannister

06.12.2009

1969-maxi-1500

Some 50 years on from its original appearance, the BMC Mini is acknowledged as one of the landmark cars of the century, with its name and some of its spirit living on in the latest models to carry the famous badge.

The Mini’s creator, Sir Alec Issigonis, is frequently lauded as a genius, but few remember the last production car he designed, consciously labelled the Austin Maxi to trade on the family connection.

If the Mini was a miracle of space efficiency in a small package, the Maxi was a family five-seater that took interior space to a new dimension. It was one of Europe’s pioneering hatchbacks and lasted 12 years, but in commercial terms was an almost total failure.

Launched in a blaze of publicity in Portugal in 1969, the Maxi was the first car unveiled after the merger of BMC and Leyland-Triumph to form the ill-fated British Leyland. It should have been a world-beater for a company with big ambitions to stamp its mark on the global stage.

Front-wheel-drive with five doors and a five-speed gearbox, the Maxi had the credentials and pedigree to herald a bright new future for the British motor industry. There were wildly ambitious plans to sell hundreds of thousands every year, just like its little brother.

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China Bans Renault Imports
Jun11

China Bans Renault Imports

By Brendan Moore

06.11.2009

In a surprising move, China’s quality inspection agency has banned all Renault imports into China, citing unexplained “serious safety risks” and failure to meet technical standards. The models banned have all passed Europe’s stringent emission standards as well as getting the

2008-renault-laguna

highest score possible in the crash tests conducted by the independent European crash test agency EuroNCAP.

Renault executives said they were “surprised” by the decision from the General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in China. One can imagine that is a considerable understatement.

The Renault models, all built in Western production plants, are:

Laguna

Scenic

Megane

Megane Coupe-Cabriolet

The statement from AQSIQ said, “In recent import inspections, we have repeatedly found batches of passenger vehicles made by the French Renault … do not conform with our country’s mandatory standards and relevant technical regulations, and there are serious safety risks.”

No, really. It actually happened yesterday.

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GM Introduces 2010 Lineup, and Pontiac is a Lineup of One
Jun10

GM Introduces 2010 Lineup, and Pontiac is a Lineup of One

By Chris Haak

06.10.2009

p8130011Yesterday, we received word that GM had the company had posted details of its 2010 product lineup to its media website.  (; login is not required).

Overall, there’s not much new information in the guide aside from random annual enhancements such as new paint colors, new wheels, an added USB port here, a different gear ratio there.  Of course, there are a few all-new models such as the 2010 Buick LaCrosse sedan, 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover, 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, 2010 Chevrolet Equinox crossover, and the 2010 GMC Terrain crossover (a vehicle whose style I still can’t get used to).

Conspicuous in their absence are a few things – namely, a couple of brands (Hummer, Saturn, and Saab; GM has tentatively sold Hummer to a Chinese company and sold Saturn to Roger Penske’s company, while Saab is still for sale and in Sweden’s equivalent of bankruptcy protection) and a couple of models.

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2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Review
Jun10

2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid Review

By Roger Boylan

06.10.2009

82231Only a moron could love this oxymoron, I thought, on first hearing about this vehicle. Cross-breed an Escalade, ultimate gas-guzzling status symbol for the flashy and vulgar, with a Prius, frugal icon of the hairshirted? How ridiculous. But after a week with a champagne-hued Escalade Hybrid I’m disinclined to think of it as ridiculous; unexpected, maybe, or paradoxical, but no more than, say, Winston Churchill in a maroon siren suit. Because, even dressed like a giant baby, Winnie won the war. And this Escalade is an oxymoron that works.

hpim3226I first learned how good the GM hybrid powerplants are when I tested a Silverado Hybrid, the Escalade’s humble and much more affordable country cousin, with which it shares a BMW/Chrysler/GM/Mercedes-Benz-derived hybrid-powerplant combo. This 332-hp 6.0-liter V-8, with cylinder deactivation (“Active Fuel Management,” in GM-blather) and variable cam timing, makes 367 lb.-ft. of torque, and is hooked up to a 300-volt electrical system that combines the gas engine with a pair of electric motors for a total power tally of 369 hp and 380 lb.-ft. of torque, compared to the regular Escalade’s 403 hp and 417 lb.-ft. respectively.  The Escalade Hybrid’s payload is 1,369 lb., a mere 241 lb. less than the standard model’s, and its towing capacity is 5,800 lb. rather than 7,900 lb., but that’s still potent enough to haul most trailers. The two electric motors are energized by a huge battery, warranted for 8 years or 100,000 miles, sealed in a box under the Escalade’s second row of seats.

The Escalade has a solid-axle rear suspension design, which is why those annoying, if functional, little third-row seats can’t be lowered into the floor but have to be either tumbled forward, with some effort, or with somewhat greater effort physically lugged out and deposited in your garage, there to gather dust and cobwebs for the duration of your love affair with your Escalade, however long that might be. Mine lasted a week, but would have lasted much longer if the thing didn’t cost half as much as my house: MSRP is $73K, which is pretty astronomical, even given the likelihood of hefty discounts and the $2200 hybrid tax break from Uncle Sam. Is it worth it? Not for me, because I don’t have the dough, but if you do, go for it. Teaming up luxury with good fuel economy is a way of indulging yourself with a clear conscience.

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Chrysler Exits Chapter 11, Forms Chrysler Group, Finalizes Fiat Alliance
Jun10

Chrysler Exits Chapter 11, Forms Chrysler Group, Finalizes Fiat Alliance

By Chris Haak

06.10.2009

pentastar_window

Hot on the heels of the US Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Indiana pension funds’ objectionsto the sale of Chrysler, the company (at least the “good” parts of it) has exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and formed a new company called Chrysler Group LLC.  Chrysler Group LLC is owned 20% by Italy’s Fiat SpA, 55% by the UAW, 8% by the US government, and 2% by the Canadian government.  Those numbers only add to 85%, but Fiat will get the remaining 15% if the loans granted by the US Treasury during Chrysler’s restructuring and bankruptcy are repaid.

Concurrent with the formation of Chrysler Group LLC (I already dislike having to type that extra word), Chrysler LLC Chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli left the company, as he previously indicated he would do.  Nardelli sent a heartfelt thank-you/farewell/congratulations letter to all Chrysler employees (download the text of his letter here as a PDF).  In his note, he also mentioned that he would be returning to Cerberus, so he may well pop up again elsewhere in the business world.

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Volvo S40 DRIVe Earns Green Car Award in UK
Jun10

Volvo S40 DRIVe Earns Green Car Award in UK

By Kevin Miller

06.10.2009

19502_1_5Here in the US, “Green Car of the Year” type awards perennially go to the Toyota Prius. Occasionally, a hybrid manufactured by GM, Ford, or Honda wins, but the default winner is usually the Prius. Over here, Volvo is seldom in the running for any type of environmental awards for their vehicles.

If you live in North America, you probably wouldn’t think of the words “Volvo” and “green” in the same sentence, unless you happened to see one of the Swedish automaker’s products in the unfortunate color they call Willow Green, In the UK, however, those words go together a bit differently, as the Volvo S40 1.6D DRIVe has been named Green Car of the Year at the 2009 What Car? Green Car Awards, which took place in London earlier this week.

The S401.6 DRIVe has features a 1.6 liter diesel engine rated at 109 HP, has a fuel economy rating which equates to 62 miles per gallon, and features an exceptionally low CO2 emissions of just 104g/km . In order to achieve those figures, the Volvo features an engine start/stop system which they introduced earlier this year in Geneva. When the driver puts the gear lever into neutral and releases the clutch while at a standstill, the engine switches off. The engine restarts when the driver steps on the clutch pedal. The system will also restart the car if air conditioning is needed in the cabin.

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Bankruptcy Blues? Ken Block to the Rescue
Jun10

Bankruptcy Blues? Ken Block to the Rescue

By Kevin Gordon

06.10.2009

43Right now in the media, anything to do with automotive news is coupled with news about bankruptcy, bailouts, dealership closure, and the end of the automotive industry as we know it. It has been a difficult and depressing time to be an automotive enthusiast. Being that there is so much automotive news, it could be argued that it is a good time to be an automotive journalist, but one can only get so excited about the sky falling. Since everything has been so gloomy, it is a great time for a 566hp (at the wheels) Subaru WRX STi to rip through multiple sets of BFGs for your enjoyment.

Ken Block co-founded DC Shoes with professional skateboarder Danny Way in 1994. A year after the start of DC Block began competing in the Rally America National Rally Championship. Since that time he and Travis Pastrana (of supercross/freestyle motocross fame) have become the public face of United States rallying. US rallying is better for their efforts to bring the sport to light. So much so, that rally became an event in the ESPN X Games. Much like my previous rant about Formula One, rallying is one of those automotive endeavors that requires true talent and a steel set of ball bearings. Ken Block has not only become a truly talented driver, he is also an excellent marketer. To help publicize his company, he sponsors his own rally car and he has used his car to create some incredible videos.  The term ‘viral video’ is extremely overused these days; anything that grabs 100,000 views on YouTube is labeled as “going viral.” Well, DC Shoes co-founder Ken Block has been in the center of a few truly viral videos.

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