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GM And Chrysler Show Their Cards to the Government
Feb18

GM And Chrysler Show Their Cards to the Government

By Blake Muntzinger

02.17.2009

gm-logo-smallchrysler-logo-smallThe deadline for restructuring their businesses was met this evening by both Chrysler and General Motors; General Motors laid out some fairly detailed plans, Chrysler not so much.

Both companies asked for a lot more money than the billions of dollars they asked for previously. GM asked for another $16.6 billion USD, saying market conditions had deteriorated even worse than forecasted a few months ago. Chrysler, much smaller than GM, asked for another $2 billion to supplement the $7 billion it said it needed at the end of 2008. If you’re keeping score, that brings the total amount requested by the two automakers to $39 billion. And, in the documents submitted by both companies, they stated that they may have to ask for more money later.

Further, the two auto manufacturers said that a bankruptcy reorganization for either company would cost a lot more than the money they are asking for currently since the government would have to provide financing in order for a reorganization to occur. If the federal government does nothing and provides no financing for either business continuance or bankruptcy reorganization, then GM and Chrysler would liquidate immediately via bankruptcy, which would result in massive job losses at the manufacturers, their supplier networks and their retail networks.

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Dual-Clutch Gearboxes for the Future?
Feb16

Dual-Clutch Gearboxes for the Future?

By James Wong

02.16.2009

For a long while now, people have had to live with compromises regarding their choice of gearbox. They either choose an all-out manual gearbox, one which may require a deft coordination of the hands and legs to shift gears, and, If one were to be stuck in traffic, that gearbox would be quite a physical workout as well.

Or, they would go for a torque-converter automatic, which smooths things out quite a bit, offering fuss-free motoring at the expense of fuel consumption and what some might call ‘driver feel’.

Another alternative, a semi-automatic clutch-less manual, which is commonly found in cars with a sportier outlook, like the F430 or the Gallardo, offers a manual gearbox but with a computer shifting the gears for you. Like in an F1 car, you control shifts via paddles behind the steering wheel. Sounds like the best of both worlds, but by and large their jerky nature while shifting puts off all but the most tolerant of drivers.

A continuously-variable transmission is a belt-driven gearbox, which dampens the responsiveness of the car to throttle inputs, but it’s a frugal and smooth gearbox – still, not quite suitable for sporty purposes. For a long time a solution has yet to be found – until the appearance of the dual-clutch gearbox in recent times.

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2009 Mazda Mazda6 i Grand Touring Review
Feb16

2009 Mazda Mazda6 i Grand Touring Review

By Kevin Miller

02.16.2009

The first car I spent my own money on was a 1988 Mazda MX-6, a two-door version of Mazda’s 626 sedan. In 1988 Mazda introduced it’s third-generation 626 family, which included the two-door MX-6 coupe, a 5-door hatch, and the traditional four-door sedan. Even six years later, when I bought my used MX-6 in 1994, it seemed sleek, sporty and very modern.

Fast forward to 2009. After five generations of the 626, the name was changed to Mazda6, and its first generation, built from 2002 until 2008, was available in wagon, five-door, and sedan body styles. Now 2009 is the first model year of the second-generation Mazda6, which has been enlarged to compete head-to-head with the most popular vehicles in its segment, namely the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. This time around, the Mazda6 is available only as a traditional four-door sedan in North America.

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GM No Longer Considers Chapter 11 Filing Off The Table
Feb16

GM No Longer Considers Chapter 11 Filing Off The Table

By Chris Haak

02.16.2009

With the economy in the US and globally showing no signs of improvement, and the new-vehicle market showing no signs of life, the cash situation at GM has become even more desperate, if that’s to be imagined.  The company that had previously not even uttered the word ‘bankruptcy’ except to say that it was out of the question and not an option is now making noise that in spite of all of the negatives that go along with declaring bankruptcy, it’s very much on the table unless the company gets more money from the US government, and quickly.

The Treasury Department believes that GM needs at least another $5 billion from the government in order to survive beyond the first quarter of 2009.  So far, the company has received $9.4 billion.  The Wall Street Journal that the usual “people familiar with the situation” indicated that GM is going to present the government with two alternatives – that the government must either commit additional billions to keep the company afloat, or commit additional billions for debtor-in-possession financing because those funds (far more money would be required for that than has already been committed to keep the lights on thus far) would likely be unavailable from anywhere in the still credit-frozen and shell-shocked private sector.

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Chrysler-Nissan Product Sharing Agreement is in Jeopardy
Feb13

Chrysler-Nissan Product Sharing Agreement is in Jeopardy

By Chris Haak

02.13.2009

Chrysler’s much-ballyhooed joint ventures with Nissan, whereby Chrysler would produce a rebodied version of its Dodge Ram pickup in what would become the next-generation Nissan Titan, and Nissan would produce two small car models for Chrysler to be badged as Chryslers or Dodges has hit a snag.  That snag is the global financial meltdown and the way it is having a significant adverse impact on the global automotive industry.  OEMs and suppliers across the globe are encountering enormous struggles regardless of their country of origin and the countries in which they market their vehicles.

Last year, you may recall, the companies actually had two different joint venture announcements.  The first one, from January 2008 and which still appears to be in force today, is that Nissan would produce a rebadged version of its Versa subcompact in Mexico for sale in South America as a Chrysler or Dodge.  The second, more extensive joint venture announcement occurred in April 2008, where Nissan would build an “already designed” small car in Japan for Chrysler – supposedly not a rebadge, but a platform sharing venture.  Many assumed this car to be the production version of the Dodge Hornet small car, but that was never confirmed by either company.  Chrysler, in turn, would then build Nissan Titans that were the same as the Dodge Ram under the skin at its Saltillo, Mexico plant for Nissan.  Chrysler was to pay Nissan for the small cars that Nissan built, and Nissan was to pay Chrysler for the pickups that it built.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec Review
Feb12

2009 Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec Review

By Roger Boylan

02.12.2009

Karl Benz gave the world the automobile in January 1886, earning himself a place in history, not just for putting the first actual combustion-powered car on the road, but also for building, under the name Mercedes-Benz, a monument to automotive ingenuity and elegance.

Actually, the “Mercedes” name didn’t appear on a car until 1901, in which year Emil Jellinek, a temperamental wealthy patron (whose favorite term for the Benz directors was “donkeys”), threatened to walk away if his daughter Mercedes were not honored by having her name applied to the machines in which her Pappi was investing so many of his plentiful Reichsmarks. “The name is both exotic and attractive,” said Jellinek, with bland disingenuousness. (One imagines Mercedes standing by, gazing up in mute adoration.) “It can be easily pronounced and it sounds good.”

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Preview: ECO Motor Company EMC3 Commuter
Feb11

Preview: ECO Motor Company EMC3 Commuter

By Kevin Miller

02.11.2009

Newcastle, Washington, is a suburban enclave about 10 miles southeast of Seattle. Best known for its tony golf club and upscale housing developments, Newcastle is also the home of ECO Motor Company. The upstart company is set to launch its three-wheeled EMC3 Commuter to US customers in April, so I headed to their headquarters for a sit-down with David Joner, the company’s CEO to chat about the upcoming commuter car.

The EMC3 starts at $13,995, is estimated to get 60+ MPG, and looks like nothing else on the road in the US; it is a three-wheeled vehicle with two wheels up front and one in the rear. A 54 HP, 1.0 liter, three-cylinder engine drives the front wheels through either a manual or optional automatic transaxle. There is room for two passengers and two sets of golf clubs in the car’s cabin. The cabin is enclosed by a convertible top.

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Finally Official: 2010 Saab 9-3X
Feb11

Finally Official: 2010 Saab 9-3X

By Kevin Miller

02.11.2009

Rumored for months to be in the pipeline, Saab today issued a press release confirming the existence of the 9-3X. The release indicated the vehicle will premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in March, with its US debut at the New York Auto Show in April. The 9-3X is a new addition to the 9-3 range, and will be available this autumn in North America as a 2010 model year vehicle.

The 9-3X is essentially an all-wheel drive 9-3 SportCombi which has been raised 1.4 inches to handle more-rugged off-road driving conditions. New front and rear bumpers feature dark gray cladding, that is also present on the side sills and the edges of the wheel arches. The cladding is complemented by matte aluminum lower-door décor strips and skid panels. Roof rails, chrome-ringed front fog lamps, and visible, twin round exhaust tailpipes are standard. Newly designed, multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels are intended to communicate the 9-3X’s ability to handle varied road conditions. Inside, the 9-3X builds from the standard 9-3 motif, employing a dark metallic finish to the door trims, glove box and gearshift surround.

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