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2009 Detroit Auto Show: Kia Soul’Ster Concept
Jan11

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Kia Soul’Ster Concept

By Kevin Miller

01.11.2009

On stage at the beginning of Kia’s press conference today at NAIAS were two Soul five-doors, the production version which was revealed late last year in Los Angeles. The front end of the Soul shares a family resemblance to the Borrego SUV thanks to a common headlamp shape and detail; creating a family resemblance between vehicles in such disparate segments is no easy feat. Tom Loveless, VP of Sales for Hyundai, announced that the Soul will be on sale starting at $13995, including destination.

The big excitement, however came when Kia introduced the Soul’Ster concept. Touted as “the sunny side of Soul”, the Soul’Ster has fun, cheeky looks in what Kia is calling a category-busting open air vehicle with loads of utility. Based on the production Soul, the Soul’Ster features a removable two-piece canvas roof which is installed and retracted using ’elbow grease’. The Soul’Ster also features four-place seating, with the seats cantilevered off of the center console, giving the appearance that the seats are floating above the floor of the car and allowing for easy storage under the seats. The rear seats also fold flat for increased cargo capacity. The concept features nice-looking, high-tech LED headlamps, tail lamps, and fog lamps, while at the same time offering low-tech solutions like a manually-operated two-piece top and manual cranking windows.

Hinting at the Soul’Ster’s production intents, Kia’s press release states that the car can be had with several powertrain choices. IN the show car is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission, which produces approximately 120 horsepower. For those looking for a little more power, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is available with either the five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, producing approximately 140 horsepower. Fuel economy for both engines is estimated at 30 or more miles per gallon. Other markets might choose the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine producing 124 horsepower or a 1.6-liter turbodiesel.

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2009 Detroit Auto Show:  Lexus Shows 2010 HS250h Hybrid Sedan
Jan11

2009 Detroit Auto Show: Lexus Shows 2010 HS250h Hybrid Sedan

By Chris Haak

01.11.2009

This morning in Detroit, Lexus revealed its HS250h hybrid entry-luxury sedan. The HS is the only Lexus that is available with only a hybrid drivetrain, and the car is front wheel drive and slots in size between the IS and ES models. According to Lexus, not only with the HS be the most fuel-efficient model in the Lexus lineup, but is also expected to top the diminutive smart fortwo in city fuel economy.

The HS features a 187-horsepower 2.4 liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder, in addition to the hybrid drivetrain. Further, the HS is equipped with an exhaust-heat recovery system to speed engine warmup and improve fuel economy.

Ten airbags – more than other cars in its class – are standard, and other safety features include available Lane-keep assist, which utilizes the HS’ electric power steering system to correct lane departures automatically. The HS also includes Lexus’ next-generation telematics service, called Lexus Enform and SafetyConnect. SafetyConnect provides automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator service, and emergency roadside assistance. Lexus Enform offers services similar to GM’s OnStar Service such as the ability to enter destination information via the Internet and send them to the car’s navigation system.

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2009 Detroit Auto Show: General Motors Press Conference Webcast #1

By Kevin Gordon

01.11.2009

The press preview of the North American International Auto Show 2009 has begun. A few of our team members have been sitting in on the manufacturers press conferences. GM has made two of their press conferences available to watch online. The first has just concluded and will be available to view online in the next hour or two. Watch the first GM North American International Auto Show press conference in the embedded video below.

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2009 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) Preview – Production Cars
Jan11

2009 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) Preview – Production Cars

By Chris Haak

01.11.2009

The annual North American International Auto Show (also known as NAIAS or simply, the Detroit Auto Show) kicks off later today with several new production models making their worldwide debut.  Of course, “worldwide debut” doesn’t carry as much weight anymore, since the majority of these vehicles were already released at least in photos -whether officially or via leaks or news organizations ignoring embargoes – over the past few weeks and months.

Nevertheless, it will be a busy show, in spite of being scaled down from previous years, and in spite of the cloud that the poor economy means hanging over everything.  On top of the production cars listed below, there will also be a number of concept vehicles making their worldwide debuts during the next two days, and we’ll be covering the significant concepts as well.

2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed Convertible – The new top of the Bentley Continental lineup makes its debut in the form of the GTC Speed Convertible.  The car features a twin-turbo W12 that produces an even 600 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.  Carbon ceramic brakes are included, as are more aggressive visual cues, larger tires and wheels, and a lowered ride height.  The top speed is 195 miles per hour with the top down and over 200 with the top up.

2010 BMW Z4 Roadster – BMW has already released photos and details of its all-new Z4 roadster.  The former Z4’s extreme “flame surfacing” exterior styling has been toned down, and the result is a fairly attractive, more grown up Z4.  Powertrain choices closely mirror those of the 1- and 3-series lineups, with 3.0 liter six cylinder engines, including the excellent twin turbo 300 horsepower version found in the 335i and 135i.

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Future Uncertain for Saab- But News is Coming on Monday
Jan10

Future Uncertain for Saab- But News is Coming on Monday

By Kevin Miller

01.10.2009

Earlier this week, [sub] that sources familiar with GM’s strategic review of Saab had produced no parties interested in buying the beleagured-yet-iconic Swedish carmaker. The strategic review became necessary when GM accepted federal funds as a bridge loan from the US government in December, as a part of their corporate long-term viability plan submitted to Congress. While Saab was never officially for sale, we’ve all learned in recent months that the term “strategic review” is code for “looking to get rid of”. GM’s Hummer brand has undergone a similar strategic review in recent months, and no buyer was found for the marque.

Without a buyer for Saab, the brand’s future is uncertain. According to a report last month by Danish news source Børsen, Eric Geers, Global Communications Officer for Saab Automobile AB in Sweden, indicated Saab had three months to be sold, else GM may be forced to close the money-losing brand to ensure long term corporate viability.

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Clever Toyota, Silly Price
Jan08

Clever Toyota, Silly Price

By Andy Bannister

01.08.2008

Toyota isn’t exactly renowned for making the most interesting and desirable vehicles in the world, but the Japanese giant’s latest urban small car, just being launched in Europe, looks set to change all that and cause a bit of a stir.

The iQ is tinier than anything on the road apart from the strictly two-seat Smart Fortwo, and deploys some genuinely innovative technology to make the most of space available. It’s cheeky, well equipped, tiny and cheap to run – just the sort of city car needed in these troubled times, you’d think.

The small and practical theme doesn’t extend to the price, however. Toyota is going for the premium buyer tired of the (equally pricey) Smart and attracted to larger models like the Fiat 500 and the Mini. The little 1.0-litre iQ costs around £10,000 in the UK (some $15,000).

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Buick Has Great Vehicles, Now Needs A New Image
Jan08

Buick Has Great Vehicles, Now Needs A New Image

By Kevin Miller

01.08.2009

General Motors has released details and images of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse sedan, ahead of its debut next week in Detroit. The car looks great both inside and out, losing the awkward, gawky looks and parts-bin interior in exchange for an expressive-yet-tasteful exterior and a genuinely good-looking cabin. With the new LaCrosse and its crossover sibling the Enclave, Buick has two vehicles which are stylish and well-appointed. The marque’s third model, Lucerne, lacks the style of its siblings, though it is a comfortable car with luxurious touches.

Last January I wrote a piece contemplating whether the Enclave was cool enough to lure younger buyers to Buick. The article featured a thirty-something mother in suburban Portland, Oregon, who was in the market for a new crossover and in love with the Enclave, but unsure whether she was old enough to buy the car, because of Buick’s image as a retailer of unexciting, uninvolving cars designed for retirees and grandparents. After driving the Enclave and its competition, she decided to buy the Enclave, and has been extremely happy with her choice. While this consumer was able to get over Buick’s unexciting image, plenty of consumers have been unable to do so.

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Pontiac Kicks the G8 ST Sport Truck to the Curb
Jan08

Pontiac Kicks the G8 ST Sport Truck to the Curb

The carnage continues

By Brendan Moore

01.08.2008

You had to know it was coming.

Pontiac is not selling a lot of the G8 sedans, GM is not selling a lot of vehicles, period, and they’re running out of money every month, and the 2010 G8 ST Sport Truck is cancelled.

Surprised?

No, you’re not surprised. I’m not either.

On 12/14/2008, we did an article titled The Future of Pontiac, in which I wrote about GM’s plans to make Pontiac into a “boutique” brand. In that piece, I mentioned the G8 ST.

From that article:

“Pontiac had originally intended to produce a Sport Truck version of the G8, scheduled to have been offered for sale in Fall 2009, which is a modern version of the Chevrolet El Camino, but who knows if that will happen in light of GM’s current financial travails? When this model was announced last year, the national economy and GM’s finances were in much better shape, and even then, I predicted to my colleagues that GM would sell less than 5,000 units a year of the Sport Truck, so I can’t say that I see a bright future for the Sport Truck in the future economic environment.”

Now, let me state unequivocally here that I like the G8 ST. But, just because I like it doesn’t mean that I think everyone else is going to like it, and I couldn’t see much of a market for the vehicle. Whatever appeal the G8 ST would have had in a good market environment went south pretty much once the new-vehicle market tanked in 2008.

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