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Honda Cancels V10 NSX Supercar, Cuts Outlook, Tightens Belt
Dec17

Honda Cancels V10 NSX Supercar, Cuts Outlook, Tightens Belt

By Chris Haak

12.17.2008

Honda President Takeo Fukui has undertaken several dramatic actions today as Honda begins to feel the effects of the global recession and the terrible new car market.  Fukui has cut operating profit forecasts again, saying they will fall 81.1% – less than two months after saying they will fall 67.3%.  Further, in a move to be mourned by gearheads everywhere, Fukui canceled the NSX supercar program, which was tantalizingly close to being production ready, having already run several hot laps around the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

The news conference at which Honda made these and other announcements was hastily moved up two days ahead of its originally scheduled time because of the urgency of the situation.  Part of Honda’s problem is that the value of the yen has climbed 18% against the US dollar since August – hurting margins on exports from Japan to the US that Honda depends on – while sales in the US also collapsed outright.

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Memory Lanes: The Route Suisse
Dec16

Memory Lanes: The Route Suisse

By Roger Boylan

12.16.2008

National Highway 1 spans Switzerland from the French border near Geneva to St. Margrethen on the Austrian border, a distance of some 350 kms (220 mi.). Known in the French-speaking regions as La Route Suisse, the Swiss Road, and as Schweizerstrasse in German-speaking parts, it departs from Bardonnex, in Geneva’s southern suburbs, snakes along the north shore of Lake Geneva to Lausanne and Bern and thence through the heartland of the Bernese Oberland and Aarau and on toward the Austrian Alps and the neo-Ruritanian principality of Liechtenstein.

Along the way the road offers some of the most magnificent views in the world, of vineyards, and lakes, and snow-capped mountains, and ancient castles, as well as some of the most mundane, of precision-machinery factories and fruit canneries and software plants and all the industrial muscle of modern Switzerland.

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NASCAR Truck Series Should Run Diesel
Dec16

NASCAR Truck Series Should Run Diesel

By David Surace

12.16.2008

With all the hubbub about Detroit automakers’ last desperate clutches at an increasingly slippery bailout package, it might be easy to forget about an industry that is well within the blast radius of any auto industry collapse: NASCAR.

Within the folds of , for instance, I’m starting to detect an acute sense of and at the of Southeastern Republican politicians, whose voting base–frequent Detroit auto owners, by the way–is the one to which NASCAR predominantly caters. Without GM, Chrysler and Ford, NASCAR would be nothing but a Toyota spec racing series, if . Whether you like NASCAR or not, that is a sad state of affairs.

Anyway, according to the feelings of some conservatives, perhaps the lesser of two evils would be to allow those companies to die a glorious and bloody death on the pristine plains of the free market, thereby officially closing the book on their past sins, rather than to be castrated slowly by the greedy hands of a Democrat-controlled government. Why, they’ll be forced to make “green” vehicles, little tweet-tweet hybrids with huge, bulbous “faces” to keep jaywalkers from getting bruised while carrying their soy lattes to the Haight-Ashbury Human Be-In, don’t you just know it.

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Volvo Reveals 2011 S60 Concept In Advance of NAIAS Debut
Dec16

Volvo Reveals 2011 S60 Concept In Advance of NAIAS Debut

By Chris Haak

12.16.2008

Volvo has released photos of a thinly-disguised concept version of its S60 sedan that it will reveal in the flesh at next month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and it completely throws away the box that has defined Volvo’s styling for most of the past few decades.  Like the XC60 Concept shown a few years ago that was very similar to the production Volvo XC60, the S60 that hits the market in late 2010 will likely be very similar to this concept car, but of course toned down for reality.  It’s likely that the production S60 will be shown later in the upcoming auto show season as well.

The car has an aggressive stance, with large wheels, a Coke bottle shape, a low and sloping roofline (nearly coupe-like, in fact) and some weird back doors.  The doors have handles in the front of the door instead of in the rear, but aren’t “suicide doors;” instead, they swing outward on long hinges connected to the front of the doors.  Think of them as opening similar to the way a minivan’s doors do, but with a swing-out action instead of sliding on a track.  The result is open and easy entry into the cabin, but also something that almost certainly won’t make production, as it’s very difficult to have robust side impact protection with no B-pillar.

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Autobytel Sustains Huge Loss, Gets New CEO, Cuts More Employees

Internet auto innovator falls on hard times

By Brendan Moore

12.16.2008

Along with getting a new CEO, internet auto pioneer Autobytel is reeling from a record loss so far in 2008, and has laid off 115 employees in its efforts to cut costs.

The new CEO is 51 year-old Jeffrey Coats, a board member at Autobytel the last 12 years. The CEO job has been somewhat of a revolving door at Autobytel as Coats replaces Jim Riesenbach, who became CEO in 2006. Riesenbach replaced Rick Post earlier, who had taken the job at the end of 2004. The reason for the short stays is the dismal financial performance of Autobytel.

After losing $6.3 million in 2005, Autobytel lost even more in 2006, notching a $31.5 million loss in 2006. The company then announced they were in the process of launching a new auto community website in third quarter 2007 named MyRide.com, which they stated would eventually become the focus of the company’s efforts to turn itself around.

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Chrysler’s Lou Rhodes Divulges Electric Car Plans to CNNMoney
Dec15

Chrysler’s Lou Rhodes Divulges Electric Car Plans to CNNMoney

By Chris Haak

12.15.2008

CNNMoney scored an exclusive , Chrysler’s vice president for advanced vehicle engineering and president of Chrysler’s ENVI subsidiary, which was the team that rolled out the three environmentally-friendly electric vehicle concepts at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  The article shed some heretofore specific information about Chrysler’s short- and medium-term plans for selling electric vehicles.

Chrysler surprised many of us a few weeks ago when it showcased three electric vehicles – a minivan, a Jeep Wrangler, and a Lotus Europa-based sports car – and said that it would put at least one of the three into production.  Also interesting was that the Jeep and minivan were plug-in EVs like the Chevy Volt will be, and match the Volt’s 40-mile electric-only range, but in a far heavier package with far less sophisticated aerodynamics (or, in the case of the Jeep, an utter lack of aerodynamics).  According to Rhodes, Chrysler accomplishes this by using larger battery packs than the Volt does (27 KWh in the Jeep, versus 16 KWh in the Volt, for example).

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Ford Sales Strong – In Europe
Dec15

Ford Sales Strong – In Europe

By Jason Lu

12.15.2008

Phrases like “strong start” and “strong sales” seem to be a little out of place with current economic times, but not for Ford, Ford of Europe that is.

Despite overall weaker sales, Ford reported an increase in market share by 0.5 percentage points and now holds 8.8 percent market share in its 19 European markets. Not only is it outperforming most of the industry, Ford has now “firmly established [itself] as the No. 2 brand in Europe’s main 19 markets behind only Volkswagen.”

Driving the good news is Ford’s latest global Fiesta, which achieved strong sales in Europe during its first two months on sale. Over 42,200 Fiestas have made its way from the production line to happy garages, which looks promising to Ford.

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Toyota Shelves Plans for US Prius Production
Dec15

Toyota Shelves Plans for US Prius Production

By Chris Haak
With Reporting by Jason Lu

12.15.2008

Toyota is now changing plans for its under-construction assembly plant in Tupelo, Mississippi again.  As we reported this past July, Toyota had originally intended to build Highlander crossovers there, but with the price of oil going through the roof, the SUV market cratered.  No problem, said Toyota – we’ll build the Prius there instead.  In July, with gas at $4 per gallon, Toyota couldn’t build enough Priuses to come close to demand for fuel efficient transportation, and before the tooling and equipment for the interior of the plant had been ordered.

With Prius sales also taking a dive, and Toyota suddenly finding itself with a nearly-completed plant but no need for it (the plant is 90% complete), it has decided to put the plans for Prius assembly on hold indefinitely.  According to Toyota, the current plan is to build the Prius in the plant eventually, but perhaps not for a while.  The plan is to complete the rest of the plant’s construction and then, when the need for the plant is imminent, order the equipment that turn a nice, empty building into a vehicle assembly plant.

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