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Buick Reveals 2011 Excelle GT Sedan for China
Jun10

Buick Reveals 2011 Excelle GT Sedan for China

By Chris Haak

GM China has revealed its 2011 Excelle GT sedan.  The new car, which is an Opel Astra with Buick-specific front and rear clips.  The new Excelle replaces the former Daewoo Lacetti/Nubria-based model of the same name, and is dramatically better.

The Excelle shares its global compact (“Delta II”) platform with the new Chevrolet Cruze and Opel Astra, and shares the same base engine as the US-built Cruze will have.  The base engine is a 1.8 liter four cylinder that produces 138 horsepower, and the optional engine is a 1.6 liter turbo four that produces 181 horsepower.  Both engines are mated exclusively to six-speed automatics.

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Leaked GM Memo Proposes Eliminating “Chevy” Nickname for Chevrolet

Say hello to GM’s version of New Coke.

By Chris Haak

The a copy of an internal GM memo, signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s vice president for marketing, that asked Chevrolet employees at GM’s Detroit headquarters to cease referring to Chevrolet as “Chevy” in memos, communications with dealers, speaking with friends and family – basically every opportunity.

The rationale provided in the memo, which unfortunately was not posted in its entirity on the Times’ website, was to provide more consistency in the brand.  The memo cited Apple and Coke as examples of companies that have very carefully managed their brands over the years, to great success.

Interestingly, the Coke reference brings many parallels to mind, and none of them are really favorable to Mr. Campbell’s and Mr. Batey’s arguments.

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Germany Declines to Give Opel State Aid

By Chris Haak

GM’s troubled European subsidiary, Opel, requested €1.1 billion ($1.3 billion USD) in state aid to help fund its expensive €3.6 billion restructuring program. Opel already has the support of its largest works council vis-à-vis plant closings, and also has secured aid from four of the German states in which Opel has plants.

According to German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, the aid request was turned down mainly because he feels that parent company GM has enough financial wherewithal some 18 months after Opel’s future was thrown into doubt that it could fund Opel’s restructuring on its own.  Also, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has recently announced austerity measures that did not sit extremely well with the public in an effort to save €80 billion over the next four years.  Dropping 1.4 percent of the required savings in aid to Opel, where Germany didn’t think there was a dire need, would have likely proven politically unpopular.

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Review:  2010 Toyota Venza V6 4×2
Jun10

Review: 2010 Toyota Venza V6 4×2

By Roger Boylan

The 2010 Toyota Venza is a sleek and stylish SUV crossover with a pseudo-Italian name (a marriage of “venture” + “Monza”), designed to compete head-to-head with a sleek and stylish SUV crossover bearing a genuine Italian name, the Nissan Murano, which has no apparent connection to the eponymous Venetian glassblowing district but which comes closest to wearing the same three-cornered hat of sportiness, utility, and style. The others in this segment, such as the Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-7, and the new Honda Accord Crosstour, are, if you ask me (and even if you don’t), a step or two behind on the fashion runway, although all are pretty solid contenders. But in the street or the piazza, the Venza’s design stands out, with its bright chrome grille, tapering headlamp clusters, and low front valence containing a wide air dam and embedded fog lamps.

From the side, the Venza’s low rocker panels and tight doorsills evoke a more than passing resemblance to the first-generation Matrix, but on a larger scale that manages to look up-to-date, sleek, and swift. The huge wheels (in the V6 version, 20-inchers shod with 245/50 tires) sit at the corners of the body, contributing to the overall muscular, yet graceful, stance. Swoosh-shaped tail lamps add a sporty touch. It’s an eye-catching design, and it comes courtesy of Toyota’s CALTY Design Research Center in Newport Beach, California. Its Asian DNA is evident, though, in the grinning–almost leering–grille, as if Kabuki demons had a part in its creation.

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EPA Announces Top-Ten Fuel Sipper Lists, 1984-Present

By Chris Haak

The US Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release yesterday that listed the top-ten fuel sippers from the period 1984 to 2010.  During the 27 model years in question, one common theme among the most-efficient vehicles is that they are either hybrids, or very small cars from the early 1990s.  The lesson:  if you want to save fuel, you either need significant technology or very light cars.  And very light, cheap cars (like the 1989 Chevy Sprint) fare very poorly in collisions.  The list of most fuel-efficient new cars according to EPA ratings from 1984-2010 are below (numbers are presented as city/highway/combined, and are adjusted to the 2008 and later methodology):

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