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Saab to Return to Canada for 2011 Model Year

By Chris Haak

Swedish automaker Saab, just months from staving off death, is returning to Canada after being out of that market for the past few years.  According to a report in , 20 dealers so far have indicated willingness to offer the 2011 Saabs in Canada.  The cars will be distributed by International Fleet Sales, a company that has been distributing Saabs elsewhere in the world for the past several years, including shipping the now-departed Chevy Trailblazer-based Saab 9-7x to the Middle East.

Models to be sold include the new Saab 9-3x crossover wagon, the 9-3 sedan, 9-3 sportCombi, 9-3 convertible, and the well-regarded all-new 9-5 sedan.  Once the dealer network (hopefully, eventually, larger than 20 dealers) is up and running, those dealers will provide warranty work for Saabs already on the road in Canada.

Saab’s press release can be found after the jump below.  This should be seen as good news for Saab-philes everywhere, not just in Canada, although sales volumes will likely be very small for a while.  But from a geographic and climate standpoint, Saabs are a perfect fit in Canada, particularly the new all-wheel drive models like the 9-3x.

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GM May Return to Captive Finance

By Chris Haak

Back in 2006 when GM sold a 51 percent controlling stake in GMAC to a consortium led by Cerberus Capital Management, many saw it as a sign that the company was desperate to sell any assets that it could to raise cash and hopefully stave off bankruptcy.  The term “crown jewel” was often thrown about when referring to GMAC, since GM’s captive-finance arm had been a steady profit-generating machine for the automaker for years.  In fact, absent GMAC’s contributions, GM’s automotive operations on their own had much trouble standing up.

In the ensuing three years, both GM and GMAC (recently renamed “Ally Financial” in the past week) have both become wards of the Federal government and have received billions of dollars in aid.  The government owns 61 percent of GM and 53.8 percent of Ally Financial.  Chrysler Financial is being wound down, with GMAC (which, for the time being, has kept its name for automobile finance) becoming the de-facto captive finance company for Chrysler dealers as well.

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Review:  2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
May12

Review: 2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

By Chris Haak

Rarely does my wife get excited about new cars coming to the Techshake Garage for week-long reviews.  She’s just not a car person.  I also would not exactly call her reaction to the news that a Highlander Hybrid was coming anything approaching “excitement,” but she at least perked up.  After all, I said the magic word:  “Hybrid.”  Oh, and the other magic word too:  “Toyota.”

Like the Prius, the Highlander Hybrid’s mission is to consume less fuel.  Everything about the driving experience – handling, acceleration, steering, and braking – is secondary to that.  The Prius also carries the mantle of Toyota’s market leadership in hybrids and is the company’s green halo car, so has a shape that broadcasts the owner’s environmental friendliness to the rest of the world, for better or worse.  The Highlander Hybrid, on the other hand, is barely distinguishable from a standard Highlander, save for a HYBRID emblem on each front fender, a small Hybrid Synergy Drive emblem on the rear hatch, and a different grille.  So what does this focus on fuel economy mean to the driving experience?

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Mahindra Distributor Says Pickups Passed Tests; Parent Company Silent

By Chris Haak

John Perez, CEO of Global Vehicles of Alpharetta, Georgia – and Indian manufacturer Mahindra’s US distributor – told [sub required] that the manufacturer has completed all US EPA-required certification tests and will submit a formal request for EPA approval to sell the vehicle in the United States within the next few days.

The US compact pickup market has been struggling in recent years, with most entrants shifting from compact to midsize dimensions (with the notable exception of Ford’s antediluvian Ranger, which dates to 1993 in its current form), and the resulting size and horsepower increases bumped up the trucks’ capabilities, but also put them dangerously close to the price and fuel economy of full-size trucks.  So most buyers elected to just step up to a full-size pickup for the small difference in price.

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Ford Plans Hybrid C-MAX Van in Europe
May10

Ford Plans Hybrid C-MAX Van in Europe

By Chris Haak

Ford announced today that it will offer a hybrid version of its C-Max mini-minivan when the next-generation model bows in 2013.  Ford is investing $410 million in the company’s production facility in Valencia, Spain to produce both hybrid electric and plug-in electric C-MAXes.

Helping Ford to foot the bill is the Spanish government and the Valencia regional administration in the form of grants.  Ford did not disclose the amount of the grants, which might imply that they were sizable.  But who knows?

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