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2010 Euro-Spec Honda Insight Pics Leak Onto Web
Jan06

2010 Euro-Spec Honda Insight Pics Leak Onto Web

By Chris Haak

01.06.2009

Honda plans to reveal the production version of its 2010 Insight hybrid, which was revealed in Paris this past spring in concept form, in Detroit next week.  The intrepid folks at CarScoop, however, managed to snag a treasure trove of press photos of the right hand drive UK-spec (right hand drive) Insight ahead of the production car’s debut.  There’s really none of the exterior left to the imagination, though the interior photos only show the gauges (including the car’s eco-meter, used for tracking your progress as an economical driver).  Now that the photos have proliferated across the Internet, the cat’s out of the bag, and we can feel free to share them.

The production version of the Insight, true to the form of many recent Honda concepts that very closely represented the final production versions (Accord coupe concept of 2007, Pilot concept of 2008), keeps the same basic shape as the Paris-revealed concept, but of course a car that starts at $18,000 doesn’t have all-LED foglamps and headlamps.  The wheels are also smaller, and the grille treatment is less glitzy (and naturally cheaper to build) on the production car.

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Nissan Asks Dealers Not To Display Vehicles at Detroit Show
Jan06

Nissan Asks Dealers Not To Display Vehicles at Detroit Show

By Chris Haak

01.06.2009

In November, Nissan announced that it was pulling out of the 2009 NAIAS in Detroit.  Unlike Chrysler, which had to ask its Detroit-area dealers to chip in to help pay for its participation in this year’s show, area Nissan dealers took the initiative on their own and were planning on holding the Nissan floor space and displaying vehicles from their inventory.  After all, the 700,000 visitors who attend the public portion of the auto show make up a set of pretty decent sales prospects, and the dealers were probably afraid of the old “out of sight, out of mind” thing if Nissan had no presence at all in Detroit.

Now Nissan USA has asked dealers to “please respect their decision to not have a presence at the North American International Auto Show” this year.  This means that the floor space – which is in a fairly prime location, on the main show floor – will go to a former basement-dwelling company such as a Chinese firm that doesn’t even have legal authority to sell cars in the US.

I’m personally disappointed to not have the chance to see a new 370Z or Cube in person, and I’m sure the Detroit-area Nissan dealers are even more disappointed at the prospect of having their prospects walking right past where they wanted to have their vehicles displayed, only to continue on to Toyota or any number of other competitors.

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Lose Your Job? Return Your Hyundai!

By Kevin Miller

01.06.2009

In these bleak economic times with auto sales are at historically low levels, automakers are looking for any available angle to help make a vehicle sale. At the same time, many consumers are postponing big purchases (like cars) and holding on to their money, for fear of losing their jobs. Hyundai has come up with a program to help put prospective buyers’ minds at ease: the Hyundai Assurance Program.

The program, which is the only one of its type in the industry, provides US customers with a complimentary vehicle return for the first year on every new Hyundai that is financed or leased, in the event of involuntary loss of income or other qualifying circumstance. The Hyundai Assurance Program is complimentary to all buyers for one full year, and covers all Hyundai models. In a nutshell, the program offers forgiveness of the loan and up to $7500 protection against being upside-down on the loan.  Basically, if you buy or lease a new Hyundai, and you lose your job within the first twelve months of vehicle ownership, you can return the car to your Hyundai dealership with no negative consequences which would damage your credit score (within the terms of the program, of course).

Hyundai’s program is essentially a private-labeled version of WALKAWAY, an automotive finance protection product which is being offered to Hyundai exclusively by WALKAWAY USA. Since its introduction in Canada in 2000, WALKAWAY coverage has allowed consumers to walk away from over $35 million in automotive-related debt arising from the depreciation of new and used vehicles (negative equity). The collaboration between WALKAWAY and Hyundai should benefit Hyundai by driving more sales and should benefit WALKAWAY by bolstering their bottom line, which has surely been affected by this year’s dramatic decrease in vehicle sales.

This is a clever marketing move on Hyundai’s part, and it will be interesting to see whether it actually increases vehicle sales. Of course, if consumers end up returning vehicles under this program, they’ll need to come up with a new ride, which may financially be tough to do when they are unemployed; though it will be a preferable choice to making several-hundred-dollar-per-month car payments. In any case, the text of Hyundai’s press release is below.

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December Auto Sales Continue The Industry’s Woes

By Chris Haak

01.05.2009

Today, the December 2008 sales results were released, and they continued the pattern that has been set during most of 2008.  They were ugly.

Of the six major makes sold in the US – GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan – each of them saw sales declines of at least 30%.  In poor Chrysler’s case, the drop was a staggering 53% against the December 2007 rate.  Here’s the carnage:

GM:  Down 31%
Ford:  Down 32%
Chrysler:  Down 53%
Toyota:  Down 37%
Honda:  Down 35%
Nissan:  Down 31%

Overall industry sales in December 2008 versus December 2007 were down about 36%, and the industry’s final 2008 results weren’t much better, with industry sales declining by about 19%, which represents the worst new auto sales year since 1992.

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Oregon Proposes Miles-Driven Tax Instead of Gas Tax
Jan05

Oregon Proposes Miles-Driven Tax Instead of Gas Tax

By Chris Haak

01.05.2009

Hearing about this one reminded me of Washington state’s money grab attempts last year, when politicians were frustrated by the decline in gas tax receipts as people (for shame!) drove more efficient vehicles or drove fewer miles and attempted to recoup that lost money – again, only lost because people had changed their behaviors as folks hoped they would, and drove less and/or drove more efficient vehicles – via an excise tax based on the vehicle’s EPA fuel economy ratings.

This time, instead of an excise tax based on fuel economy ratings, Oregon has been testing a GPS-based system that tracks the number of miles driven and would assess taxes based on mileage driven.  This proposed system would then be able to charge, for example, a 45 mpg Toyota Prius the same tax as a 15 mpg Dodge Ram if the vehicles had driven the same distance, whereas with the traditional gas tax, the Ram driver would use three times as much fuel to travel the same distance, and would therefore pay three times as much gas tax.  And what a lovely device to stick upon your dashboard, isn’t it (photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation).

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Girl’s Best Friend
Jan05

Girl’s Best Friend

By Candice Hightower

01.05.2009

The truth can set you free, and don’t I know it. If you’ve ever seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory then you may have met me (in part anyway). I’m the quintessential Violet Beauregard. You know, the grape girl that goes pop. Only my inflation followed by an all out burst fest is usually brought on by holding back. That’s right—your very own preservative. But I figure new year, new pop-free beginnings. So please excuse me while I let a little air out one conscious zip at a time. That said, I’m going to admit what most women won’t: I’m jealous of my best friend. Okay, I didn’t expect to hear a deep sigh of shock (especially the kind heard ‘round the world), but just hear me out.

First things first, BFF and I have been an item since the 7th grade (admittedly the 80s). And true to fashion, she was the initiator. She passed me a discrete note in social studies that read, “Do you want to eat lunch with me?” I responded with an unenthusiastic nod of consent (again, true to fashion) and the rest is history. From middle school and high school to college and real adulthood, we managed to remain best buds even after a failed attempt at being roomies in our early twenties. So what is the source of this friendly envy? She’s a free woman and I’m not. We’re not talking single vs. married or housework vs. house arrest. The reason I’m green all over is simple: just recently she wrote the last and final check paying off her smart little SUV.

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GM Reveals 2010 Cadillac SRX Details Ahead of Detroit Introduction
Jan04

GM Reveals 2010 Cadillac SRX Details Ahead of Detroit Introduction

By Kevin Miller

01.04.2009

GM has released information about the 2010 Cadillac SRX, ahead of the second-generation crossover’s debut next week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The premium-segment crossover, intended to compete in the marketplace with vehicles such as the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, and BWW X3 and X5 gets a completely new design, as well as two engine choices not seen before in the SRX. The crossover seats five, a departure from the outgoing vehicle’s available seating for seven.

The 2010 SRX is a front- or all-wheel drive crossover, available with two high-tech six-cylinder engines. The new SRX breaks from the first-generation vehicle’s tradition of rear- or all-wheel-drive and available 320 HP 4.6 liter Northstar V8. The two six-cylinder engines in the new SRX are  new to Cadillac, and are the smallest-displacement engines the marque offers in North America.

A new, 3.0 liter direct injected V-6 engine good for 260 HP and 221 lb-ft torque is standard. This powerplant is a smaller version of the 3.6 liter direct-injection engine found in the CTS, and it provides five more horsepower than the base engine in the outgoing SRX, with an expected improvement of fuel economy between ten and fifteen percent. An optional 2.8 liter turbocharged V-6 has an output of 300 HP, 295 lb-ft. Each is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The SRX can tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.

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iFordbot – Helping Future Lincoln Owners Pay Less Attention While Driving
Jan04

iFordbot – Helping Future Lincoln Owners Pay Less Attention While Driving

By Kevin Gordon

01.04.2009

Visual of Active Park AssistFord announced that it will be releasing an exclusive new technology called Active Park Assist. According to Ford’s press release, this ability is in response to the ‘often stressful and frustrating task of parallel parking.’ Before we go through the details, I have to wonder. Will it be more stressful for the average Lincoln owner to parallel park, or letting their car take control of the steering when hunting for a parking space on the street? One way or another, it is good to see a U.S. auto manufacturer developing leading automation technology. Active Park Assist will be available in mid-2009 as an available option on the 2010 Lincoln MKS sedan and the new Lincoln MKT crossover.

Ford’s Active Park Assist differs from Lexus’s technology by using ultrasonic-based sensing instead of camera based technology. It also takes advantage of Ford’s new Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) to control the vehicle’s steering. The Ford system relies on the driver to control all throttle modulation and gear selection. In summary, here is the process a driver goes through to use Active Park Assist:

  • The driver turns the system on with a button. This activates the ultrasonic-sensors to look for a possible parking space.
  • The driver is prompted and must accept assistance.
  • The system then takes control of steering, but relies on the driver for gas, brake, and shifting.
  • While in this process, audible and visual cues provide the driver information on distance to other cars and provides instructions.
  • At any point, the driver can take control of the system by grabbing the steering wheel.
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