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2009 Lamborghini Academy Announced
Feb20

2009 Lamborghini Academy Announced

By Kevin Miller

02.20.2009

lb_academy_1-215Providing a break from all of the doom-and-gloom type automotive news this week, Lamborghini today announced details about their 2009 Lamborghini Academy, an on-track driving school which allows drivers to experience the full potential of Lamborghini vehicles. Lamborghini Academy courses are open to all driving enthusiasts as well as Lamborghini owners, and allows attendees to receive training from the supercar manufacturer’s professional instructors. The training consists of two tiers of classes.

Track Academy is the name of the introductory course, which is required for advancement into the Lamborghini Academy. Held at various European race tracks from Spring 2009 onwards, participants’ driving skills are improved as they drive with a professional instructor in the passenger seat while exploring the full potential of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4.

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Rolls-Royce 200EX Concept to Debut in Geneva
Feb20

Rolls-Royce 200EX Concept to Debut in Geneva

By Chris Haak

02.20.2009

10-rolls-royce-200ex-official_580opThe long-rumored and often spy-photographed “Baby Rolls” or RR4 has finally broken cover via a press release last evening from Rolls-Royce, and it’s called the 200EX in concept form.  The word “concept” is used lightly in this context, however, because the car shown is said to be a nearly identical match to the production car (which will be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show later in 2009, and will go on sale in 2010 with a non-alphanumeric name).

The nickname “Baby Rolls” is something of a misnomer, because the car – while smaller than the Rolls-Royce Phantom – is still a very big car.  The car is built on a modified version of the new BMW 7-series platform, but supposedly only shares 20% of its parts with the BMW flagship.  Underhood (or “underbonnet” if you prefer)  will be a “new V12” with unknown specifications (at least at this time).

The car seems to wear the classic Rolls-Royce shape and design cues far better than the hulking and somewhat awkward-looking Phantom sedan.  The lines have been softened in the 200EX and it’s actualy a fairly handsome car.  A modern interpretation of the classic Rolls-Royce grille is found on the front and really seems to work fairly well for this car.  Headlamps are all-LED, of course.  The profile features 20 inch wheels, chrome suicide doors (but with a fixed B-pillar for safety), short front overhang, and an interesting line that sweeps from the front fender to the bottom of the doors, keeping the side of the car fairly interesting.

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Will Saturn Die Or Become a Purveyor of Other Companies’ Rebadges?
Feb20

Will Saturn Die Or Become a Purveyor of Other Companies’ Rebadges?

By Chris Haak

02.20.2009

saturn-sky-redline-003_jpgWednesday night, GM’s Saturn division sent letters to approximately 1.5 million Saturn owners to alert them that even in the face of GM announcing that it would likely close down the Saturn brand, Saturn would not necessarily fade into the sunset in 2011 when the current models’ life cycles ended.  Somewhat surprising, however, was the concept that the letter put forth of Saturn continuing beyond 2011 by distributing vehicles built by either GM or other manufacturers.

Saturn Distribution Corporation, or SDC, already exists as a subsidiary of GM, and is the entity with which Saturn dealers have their franchise agreements.  Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak noted in the letter that any future Saturn vehicles – whether or not they were sourced from GM – would be “fuel efficient, safe, reliable, and affordable.”  GM has asked Saturn retailers to not make any decisions about their franchises for 60 days to allow the company adequate time to study the spinoff alternative.  A working group consisting of Saturn dealers, GM employees, and independent consultants is conducting the due diligence to determine what would be needed in order to spin off Saturn.

A spinoff of the Saturn brand would have several advantages to General Motors.  First, GM won’t incur the the prohibitively expensive costs of shuttering a division.  The cost of Oldsmobile’s demise in 2004 was estimated to be $2 billion (which sounds like chump change now, and in fact is the same amount that GM had to pay Fiat just to break up their joint venture a few years ag0).  With fewer Saturn franchises than there were Oldsmobile franchises, but another five years of inflation, it’s unclear how expensive shuttering Saturn would be.  Saturn showrooms are among the most modern in the GM universe, and are – according to the franchise agreement – required to be standalone stores.  That means a more difficult transition to a different brand, but a consistently good and well-regarded customer service experience if there could be a way to keep the stores open.

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Ford’s Romeo Plant Produces 10 Millionth Engine
Feb19

Ford’s Romeo Plant Produces 10 Millionth Engine

By Kevin Gordon

02.19.2009

10 Millionth Ford Engine

Number 10 Million

Ford’s Romeo, Michigan plant has produced their 10 Millionth Engine. The 10,000,000th engine will power a new 2010 Mustang. The Romeo, Michigan plant primarily manufactures V-8 modular motors that power the Mustang and F-150. To put this milestone into perspective, if you took 10 Million 4.6 liter Mustang Engines and placed them in a line they would stretch over 3,700 miles, easily covering the United States. The combined weight of 10 Million cast iron 4.6s would be 2.5 Million U.S. tons. The combined horsepower output of all of the engines would be close to 2.5 Billion horsepower. The full Ford press release is available in the link below.

The engine made in this plant is an overhead camshaft V-8 that began to replace the Windsor small-block and 385 cubic inch big-block over many years in the mid-1990s. The “modular” motor got its name, not from its design or shared parts, but from the manufacturing technique where lines and tools could be quickly changed. One of the other lesser known facts about the modular engine is that a modified version of it powered 2005’s fastest production car, the Koenigsegg CCR. Underneath multiple Rotrex superchargers is a Ford 4-valve double overhead cam (DOHC) 4.7 liter V-8.  This motor produced over 800 horsepower and pushed the Koenigsegg to 241 miles per hour, breaking the previous record held by the McLaren F1.

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Performance Vehicles Also Have No Home in Restructured GM Organization
Feb19

Performance Vehicles Also Have No Home in Restructured GM Organization

By Chris Haak

02.19.2009

2009_cadillac_cts_v_10Aside from jettisoning Saab, Hummer, Saturn, and 47,000 employees, GM announced that the company has disbanded its High Performance Vehicle Operations unit, which had previously been based at the company’s technical center in Warren, Michigan.  The employees previously assigned to the team have been redeployed elsewhere in the organization.

The former team had been responsible for such low-volume, gearhead-adored vehicles as the Cobalt SS, HHR SS, and the Cadillac V-series.  According to GM spokesman Vince Muniga, “all high performance products are on indefinite hold.”  It turns out that part of GM’s commitment to the US government to prove that it’s changing its ways (as in dramatically reducing its focus on trucks and focusing on “fuel efficient cars and crossovers”) over the next few years, it’s hard for GM to convince its new overlords in the Treasury Department that performance vehicles are good for the environment (they generally are not) and that developing them is a worthwhile use of taxpayer funds – and will help the company to survive (they probably are not).

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Video Coverage – GM Holds Press Conference to Discuss Viability Plan

By Kevin Gordon

02.18.2009

Late yesterday afternoon General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner held a news conference to discuss the viability plan that was submitted to the U.S. Treasury. The highlights have been noted by Blake M and Kevin M. Here I wanted to focus on some of the video coverage that has been available online.

First, Rick Wagoner’s press conference should be available to view at noon (EST) today. (Click read the rest of this entry below for additional videos)

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Crisis? What Crisis? GM’s Vauxhall Division Launches Its Fastest, Priciest Car
Feb18

Crisis? What Crisis? GM’s Vauxhall Division Launches Its Fastest, Priciest Car

By Andy Bannister

02.18.2009

badgeThey breed optimists in Luton, the unremarkable English city which is home to the headquarters of Vauxhall, GM’s British division. Despite almost universal gloom about falling sales and slowing production, the company has just announced what is arguably its most extravagant car ever.

The Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst S is a significantly souped-up version of the already fairly-extreme VXR8 saloon – the same Australian-made design which sells as a Holden in its native land and as the Pontiac G8 in the US.

The Bathurst name isn’t going to be familiar to many Brits but is a fitting homage to the race series held in New South Wales, using the Mount Panorama hill circuit.

The Corvette-sourced 6.2-litre V8 has been enhanced by a Walkinshaw Performance 122 Supercharger giving the car a staggering 552hp with 527lb ft of torque. This makes the big Aussie offered in the UK more powerful than the HSV-badged Holdens on sale in the design’s native Australia.

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Saab Has No Home In Restructured GM Organization
Feb18

Saab Has No Home In Restructured GM Organization

Reorganization Plan Calls For Saab To Become Independent By Year-End

By Kevin Miller

02.18.2009

Yesterday was the day that GM’s long-awaited restructuring plan made it to Washington, DC. It confirmed some things we had heard before as well as containing plenty of new information. Some facts that have been confirmed include the fact that unless Saturn is sold or spun-off, it will be phased out at the end of the current product lifecycle, which is in 2010-2011. Also, a decision to sell or phase-out Hummer will be made this quarter. These are major decisions, ones that affect uncounted retailers, suppliers, assemblers, and customers.

One of the big pieces of news surrounds Swedish carmaker Saab. A full member of the GM family since 2000 (GM first acquired half of the company in 1990), Saab has consistently underperformed in the market, though the fact that the automaker has only two vehicle nameplates for sale, which were introduced in 1998 and 2003, respectively, is largely thanks to GM’s stewardship of the brand (or lack thereof). In any case, the paragraph below, from GM’s Restructuring Plan, shows that Saab will be off of GM’s books as of December 31, 2009.

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