Auto News for Feb. 20

2014 SRT Viper TA (Time Attack)

Chrysler’s SRT Viper has been named a “Collectable Car of the Future” by the National Automotive History Collection. Members selected it over 19 other new vehicles introduced in 2013. This is the third time Viper has been the recipient of this award.

Tesla posted earnings that topped analysts’ estimates and its shares gained around in after-hours trading on an optimistic future forecast. The electric car maker said it will deliver some 35,000 cars this year, and that is a hefty 55 percent increase over 2013. Tesla is preparing its California plant for the Model X crossover that it expects to start producing later this year.

Ordering something on line and having it delivered to your home is one thing. Having it delivered to your car is something else. And it is what Volvo has demonstrated. Called “roam delivery” it uses “digital keys technology” so owners will be able to designate their car as a drop off point, and allow the delivery person to open and lock the vehicle. Owners, through a smartphone, will be able to determine when the car has been opened and locked, thus confirming the delivery of the goods. This can also be expanded to include food deliveries – talk about lunch to go!!!

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Auto News for Feb. 19

The Wall Street Journal reports that GM is working on an aluminum-bodied pickup truck, one that might appear on the market in four years. It said the General has reached agreement with suppliers as it seeks to both join Ford in aluminum truck construction and address stricter fuel economy standards.

Remember “Joe the Plumber” from the 2008 presidential race? According to the Detroit Free Press he has joined the UAW and started work at the Jeep plant in Toledo.

Maserati will debut the new Ghibli and its 2014 lineup in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

EPA will start work on new fuel economy standards for medium and heavy duty truck that would take effect in early 2016. This would include everything from the big rigs down to delivery trucks. The American Trucking Association, while supporting the goal of improved fuel efficiency, pressed the administration to proceed cautiously with the setting of new standards. It said new technology should not be placed on the markets before it is “fully tested and ready.”

Tesla will report quarterly results after the market closes this afternoon. This has been a lot of crazy speculation in the illegitimate press about what the figures will mean. Pictured is the Tesla Model X.

Tesla Model X

 

Auto News for Feb. 18

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Say hello to the new McLaren – the 650S will debut at the Geneva Auto Show and launch in the spring. Here is what we know thus far: It will be available as a coupe and Spider with an electrically retractable hardtop. A twin-turbo mid-mounted V8 will deliver 641 horsepower and McLaren said it will be faster than the 12C that is hardly a slug. It notes that “at 150 mph downforce levels are increased by 24 percent.” Options will include fixed-back carbon racing seats, an electrically adjustable steering column, rear parking camera and extended carbon fiber throughout the interior. Prices and specifications will likely be announced at the unveiling on March 4.

General Motors is donating $1-million among three Detroit charities in honor of former chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.

And do you remember the Pontiac Chieftain? It was the first car to roll off the production line in 1954 at a GM plant in Arlington, Texas. Now some 60 years later it produces GM’s full-size SUV’s. The Chieftain name later became the Catalina.

There are fresh indications this morning that the European auto sales slump may be easing. Overall sales rose 5.2 percent in January with GM’s Chevy brand posting a nearly 9 percent gain and Ford was up 8.8 percent.

Some bits and pieces:

A 27-member panel will disclose its choice for the Car of the Year in Great Britain on Feb.28th.

Audi is now offering an A3 Sportback in Germany that runs on compressed natural gas.

Scirocco

Volkswagen has announced a new version of its European Scirocco that unfortunately looks like most of the other cars in the VW stable. Some of you might remember when the model was sold here in the U.S. in the ‘70’s. The new one has its coming out party at the Geneva show.

 

 

Auto News for Feb. 17

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This nasty winter has proven to be a big problem not only in this country but in Japan. Toyota, Honda and Suzuki have suspended production at some plants due to the second big snowstorm to strike that country this month. The Detroit News said the bad weather halted parts shipments from suppliers.

In case you missed it, workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga have rejected representation by the United Auto Workers Union. Some state officials said a pro-union vote could affect future incentives for further expansion of the facility. The governor said he was pleased with the vote, while the union called it a “temporary setback.”

It probably was not the kind of publicity that GM wanted when one of its pace cars at the Daytona track caught fire during qualifying runs yesterday. Two people in the car escaped safely. One commentator said it must have been a full moon.

Kelley Blue Book is out this morning with a list of top hybrids and it should bring smiles to those who work for Toyota. It made up three of the top five for the Prius, Camry and Prius V hybrids. Rounding out the list were the Honda Accord Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Out in Kansas, there are three vehicles sitting on top of a pile of snow, something that wasn’t hard to round up this season. An auto dealer wants people to guess the date and time that the snow melts enough to allow all four wheels to touch the ground. The person with the guess closest to the actual date and time wins the used car. The way Old Man Winter has been acting, my guess is the Fourth of July.

And Strategic Vision is out with a long list of what it considers the most loved cars and trucks. Tesla was the most loved car and the Ram 1500 the most loved full size pickup. The Dodge Charger was named the most loved large car and the Nissan Sentra/Dodge Dart the most loved small cars.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – Ford Fiesta Titanium

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2014 Ford Fiesta Titanium

The Weekend Mystery Car

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – The Ruby Red Ford had barely been introduced to the road test driveway when the forecasters were proven correct. They said Maryland would get its worst snowstorm in four years, ninth biggest in history, and it did.

Just over 20 inches of the white stuff hit the fan, cancelling Fiestas everywhere along with just about everything else.

Yet prior to the road test hometown getting more and better snow than they had in Sochi, the Fiesta proved to be a fun set of wheels.

Ford’s subcompact is available as a four door sedan or the tested four door hatchback; in S, SE, and the tested top of the line Titanium trim levels. Step up to the Titanium and you get an improved audio system, backup camera with rear parking sensors, keyless ignition, and leather seats.

Under the hood was a 1.6 liter four rated at 120 hp @ 6,350 rpm and 112 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm. The once buried test car had the six speed automatic, but owners can opt for a five speed manual box. With the automatic, a sprint from stop to 60 took about 10.5 seconds but I can truly say it felt quicker from the driver’s seat.

In a week of errand and interstate running I got a respectable 33 mpg. The EPA rating is 29-39 mpg.

Those seeking greater power can check the turbocharged ST model that ups the horsepower total to 197 with a much improved 214 lb-ft of torque. This is tied only to a six speed manual in a car that has won praise all the way from California to London.

Those seeking additional mpg, can choose the new 1.0-liter three-cylinder that gets an EPA of 32-45 mpg. That little one boasts 123 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. Yes, a single liter three – that is not a typo.

Upgraded materials clearly show up in the interior with excellent fit and finish throughout. I thought the 6.5 inch touchscreen was on the small side when it came to quick glances when the navi system was in use. And with a six foot tall driver and passenger up front, the rear seats are best reserved for small children. Storage space is skimpier than one would find in some of the Fiesta’s competition at 26 cubic feet max compared to, say, the Honda Fit at a more robust 57 cubic feet.

The bucket seats in the test car were simply excellent with just the right amount of bolstering to keep one in place during spirited back road driving and just the right amount of padding to reduce fidgeting on a day long trip.

While the My Ford Touch and Sync system should have been send to the trash dump years ago, the Sony audio system in the tester produced some excellent sounds.

1-14-14 RR stuff & Fiesta 009

Now here is where the Fiesta lives up to its name, and it is the area that counts most for those who love to drive. This little car is just crazy fun to drive.

Responsive steering, admirable suspension tuning, easy to read instruments, a driver centric interior design, and nimble feel make this one of the more fun rides one can experience in this price range. Ford hit it right on the button when it came to the tough task of balancing ride and handling – Not too hot, not too cool – just right.

With navigation, the “Power Shift” six speed automatic, Ruby Red paint, the test car listed for a more than equitable $21,880.

Britain’s Car magazine called it a great supermini, and I would agree.

1-14-14 RR stuff & Fiesta 017

Auto News for Feb. 14

Chevrolet said it will oversee restoration of the Corvettes damaged when a major sinkhole opened up at the museum in Kentucky. “The vehicles at the National Corvette Museum are some of the most significant in automotive history,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of GM Product Development. Once they are recovered, the cars will be shipped to a GM facility in Warren, Michigan where the best restoration approach will be determined. In case you were wondering, the museum is independently owned and supported solely by charitable donations from enthusiasts and is currently accepting donations on its website for its restoration effort. And that is:

http://www.corvettemuseum.org/

Audi City Berlin

Audi has opened a different kind of showroom in Berlin. There visitors can view the entire model lineup in digital form and customize their automobile from several million options and experience it in realistic form on a 1:1 scale on ceiling high powerwalls. They can schedule a test drive or directly place a production order for the vehicle. It is interesting that the next “Audi City” will open in Moscow.

Kelly Blue Book is out with a list of what it considers to be the 12 Best Family Cars of 2014. In alphabetical order they are:

Chevy Impala

Chevy Traverse

Ford Flex

Four Hondas: Accord, CR-V, Odyssey, & Pilot

Three Nissans: Altima, Pathfinder & Rogue

Subaru Forester

Toyota Sienna

“We were surprised at the number of sedans that made the Best Family Cars list this year, said editor Jack R. Nerad. “Once upon a time, before minivans and SUVs, sedans were the primary family car of choice …”

The 2014 Canadian Car of the Year is the Mazda6, the second time it has captured the award. The announcement came at the opening of the auto show in Toronto. Utility Vehicle of the year was the Jeep Cherokee.

Ford will build its new Edge utility vehicle at its plant near Toronto and export it to more than 60 countries.

Goodyear wants us to know that it now has been supplying tires to NASCAR for 60 years. It is one of the longest running supplier relationships.