Auto News for March 31

  Tesla will garner a lot of the headlines today as it unveils its lower priced offering – the Model 3 – that already has some fans camping out at showrooms to place a deposit. The Model 3 is expected to carry a price tag of $35,000, or substantially less than other Teslas as the company tries for a bigger share of the mass market. The 3 is not expected to be delivered to customers until late next year. It is expected to be about the size of the BMW 3-series.

 If there seemed to be more cars than usual on the road during your summer vacation last year, you were right! The Federal Highway Administration reports that motorists drove 3.14 trillion miles in 2015, and that is a record. Low gas prices are thought to be a major factor.

 A Manhattan jury has found that GM’s faulty ignition switch was not the cause of a crash on a New Orleans bridge in 2014. The panel ruled the fender bender was caused by a rare ice storm that hit the area. This marks the second consecutive case of its kind won by GM.

 Kia’s all new 2016 Optima has received the highest possible crashworthiness rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Top Safety Pick Plus rating was given to the car when equipped with optional front crash prevention.




Auto News for March 30

  The Federal Trade Commission is the latest to sue Volkswagen saying it deceived consumers with its ad campaign that promoted “clean diesel” vehicles that were fitted with an illegal emission default devise. The FTC is seeking a court order requiring VW to compensate consumers who bought or leased the affected vehicles from late 2009 and late 2015. Further, FTC is asking for an injunction to prevent VW from engaging in this type of conduct again. The complaint was filed in the U.S. district Court in California. A German news agency said VW may suspend dividend payouts as it copes with the costs of the diesel emissions matter.

 The Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car out of 31 evaluated to earn a good rating for its headlights, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The best available headlights on 11 cars earned an acceptable rating, nine reached a marginal score while 10 were rated as poor. “If you’re having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. Government standards for headlights, based on lab tests, allow a huge variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide, the IIHS said. No new lighting technology was appraised as better than existing equipment for a wide variety of reasons. The insurance industry group study was based primarily on how much illumination the lights produced without excessive glare for oncoming motorists. In the case of the Prius v with LED lights and high-beam assist, IIHS said it should give a driver traveling straight at 70 mph enough time to identify an obstacle and safely brake to a stop.

 GM is recalling nearly 6,300 Chevy Caprice police cars from model years 2014-16 to fix a corrosion problem that could result in loss of the power steering system. GM said no crashes or injuries have been reported.

Kila two million


 Kia celebrated the roll off of its two millionth vehicle at the assembly plant in West Point, Georgia. It was a white 2016 Sorento SXL. More than forty percent of all Kia vehicles sold in the U.S. are produced here.



Auto News for March 29

  March new vehicle retail sales are expected to be 2 percent lower than a year ago when calculated on a selling-day-adjusted basis, the first time there has been a year-over-year decline in sales since August 2010, according to a forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. Yet one LMC official said auto sales are not  peaking and the outlook for the year remains robust, even with some “retail softness and noise” in March.

 Yet when measured by total sales, things look better according to Kelley Blue Book. It projects new vehicle sales will increase by 8 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.66 million units in March. “The industry continues to maintain its momentum in March as we expect the highest volume of any month in more than 10 years,” said Tim Fleming, a Blue Book analyst. “However, we continue to follow indicators that demand for new cars is weakening, while there is increased incentive spending and an increasing share of fleet sales.” Incentive spending in the full size truck market topped $4,000 average per unit year-to-date, and KBB said that is “a number that we are watching this year.”

 We will get the official word on sales in early April.

 Automotive News Europe reports that Porsche will unveil a lighter and more frugal Panamera at this year’s Paris Auto Show. It will use a lighter platform that could also find its way to models from Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini. ANE said the lighter Panamera may arrive here in the U.S. in 2017.



Auto News for March 28

  Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, San Jose and Honolulu have the worst rush hour traffic congestion in the nation, according to the latest annual survey from TomTom. For Southern California drivers traffic jams added up to 164 hours of extra travel time per year, or almost a full week stuck in their cars. Rounding out the top ten were Miami, Washington, D.C., Portland Oregon and Chicago.

 Car sales will increase 23.5 percent this month compared to February 2016, and will ring in 7.3 percent higher over March 2015, according to It said first quarter sales “sets us up for another potentially record-breaking year, especially as we begin to approach the popular summer driving season.” Fiat Chrysler sales expected to increase 13.4 percent from a year earlier, with Ford up 9 percent and GM increasing 1.8 percent, according to the Edmunds forecasters.

Rolls-Royce Dawn. Western Cape, South Africa. Photo: James Lipman

 The Rolls-Royce Dawn has been named Luxury Car of the Year by Top Gear magazine. In addition to its many luxury features and trim the car is powered by a 6.6-liter twin-turbocharged V12. It is not for those who hold losing numbers in the Powerball.

 Imagine a house filled with 30,000 cars! Model cars that is, but not in all cases. When church usher Dennis Erickson died he left his home and all of his belongings to the Celebration Church in Lakeville, Minnesota. When a church official entered the home she found model cars and trucks in every room on shelves from floor to ceiling. “It was breathtaking when I walked in,” said Lisa Lunstrom.  And there were four full sized cars as well, a Model T Ford, a 1959 Edsel, a 1966 Rambler and a 1977 Pontiac Bonneville. That last one was bequeathed to a friend of the deceased. The church is still figuring out what to do with all the models that could be worth six figures. Until the discovery few knew of the big collection because Erickson was a bachelor. Proceeds from the eventual sale will go toward the church’s youth facilities.

 Motor Trend is reporting there could be a second generation of the newly named Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ. It quotes Motoring magazine who got it from a Fuji Heavy Industries official, that being a parent of Suby. He seemed to pour cold water on the possibility of more power in the future sports car, something owners have requested. If those plans hold, and backers can get approval from the bean counters, the car would appear in three years or so. 

 Erie Insurance says data it has studied indicates that people are taking smart phone pictures of the passing scenery and posting them on line. No problem there, expect the insurance company said they are probably doing all that while driving. Fifty-five percent of the posts came from men and 45 percent from women. “The statistics about the dangers of distracted driving are alarming,” said Doug Smith, an Erie Insurance executive. “So while it’s understandable to want to share a picturesque sky with your social media followers—imagine if it were the last one. It’s just not worth it. We hope our analysis helps drive that point home.”


A Saturday Special – Cars That Will Mess With Your mind!


By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Okay, this is not a car that could drive down the street, but you can’t tell me that you would turn down a chance to drive one around a track.

 It is a completely redesigned Audi R18 that will compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 hour. Power output is set at 1,000 horsepower delivered by a V6 TDI engine and hybrid powertrain that will also deliver ten percent less fuel consumption than the previous model. When you’re in a 24 hour race that is very important.

 How does this relate to the future Audis? It does because many of the energy and weight saving measures in the R18 will be adapted to street ready cars.    

 “For Audi, production relevance has been a core topic of all racing programs for 35 years,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport. And, if I may add, it may also ensure that the more energy efficient vehicles of the future may not be dull. Lastly, it is just a breathtaking design.


 Much closer to your driveway is the striking Audi R8 Spyder convertible with the V10 engine that will scare the h— of your non-car enthusiast friends. Think 540 horsepower from the 5.2-liter engine with 398 lb-ft of torque, a top speed of 197.6 mph and just 3.6 seconds from 0-62. A seven speed dual clutch transmission is standard, that can in “extreme cases” deliver up to 100 percent of that power to the front or rear wheels. And you can bet on extraordinary handling as surely as your IRS refund coming in later than you expected. To sum up, how about this quote? “With its spontaneous throttle response, quick revving up and inimitable sound, the 5.2 FSI naturally aspirated engine in the new Audi R8 Spyder delivers undiluted emotion,” said Dr. –Ing Stefan Knirsch, of Audi’s Technical Development team. I have driven past models with the V10, and it’s a drive that will be long remembered. So will yours.

Acura NSX GT3 Race Car


 Unveiled at the New York show was the Acura NSX GT3 that will campaign in North American competition starting in 2017. It features, of course, custom bodywork and aero components that include a large deck wing spoiler. It will be powered by a 3.5-liter, twin turbocharged V6 using the same design specs as the production model and paired with a 6-speed sequential shift racing gearbox. It is currently undergoing testing and is slated for homologation as an FIA GT3 class racer this fall. And, it’s darn good looking!

 At this stage you are probably asking about a fun car that everyday men and women can afford. Well, I have a great answer for you!


 Mazda dealers should be drooling over the just announced Miata MX-5 RF hardtop Targa. If they can’t sell every one they get, they can’t sell anything.

 Unlike the previous generation MX-5 hardtop convertible, this one brought forth new styling with lines that visually extend the roof into the rear of the car. Some have already compared the look to the much more expensive McLaren 650S. And when you have a car at this expected price range being compared to one that is in the upper echelons, you have done some good work.

 Push a button on a warm day and the rear buttresses lift allowing the split folding Targa style roof panels to enter the space behind the rear seats, along with the rear glass. One that is completed, the buttresses return to their position. Mazda said the entire operation takes about 12 seconds and the roof can be raised or lowered at speeds of 6 mph or less.

 An acrylic windbreak helps prevent turbulent air buffeting back into the cabin.

 Because of the way the moveable roof parts are stored to the rear of the seats, trunk space remains the same as the fabric topped convertible.

 The RF is millimeters taller than the convertible, and the suspension and power steering assist have been tweaked a bit. There is also a sound absorbing headliner on the front and middle roof panels that Mazda claims results in a “significantly quieter ride when the roof is closed.”

 A nifty touch – A 4.6 inch color TFT LCD screen inside displays an animation of the roof when it is opening or closing.

 Beyond that, that car is the same as the soft top MX-5. It will be sold here in the states with the same 2.0-liter four with 155 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm with 148 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm. A six speed stick or a six speed automatic will be the customer’s choice.

 And there is demand. Mazda claims that the retractable hard top model accounted for more than half of all MX-5 third generation sales, popular with those who wanted all season comfort and utility.

 Thus far there is no word on price for the RF. Mazda will start taking orders this summer and the first cars should arrive on these shores in early 2017.

 For those who love sports car and live in climates with shorter summers, this should be a dream come true.


Auto News for March 25 – A Super Car From Camaro & an Engine Coffee Table.

Chevy Camarocq5dam.web.1280.1280

Press days at the New York auto show closed with the scalding hot Camaro ZL1 convertible with a new supercharged 6.2-liter V8 estimated at 640 horsepower and 640- lb-ft of torque. It will be sold with either, and get this, a six speed manual gearbox or an all-new 10 speed automatic. It also gets a Magnetic ride suspension and electronic limited-slip differential. There is a new hood with a carbon fiber insert and heat extractor that pulls hot air from the engine compartment. Additional changes include a larger front splitter, unique rockers, a wing-style rear spoiler and wider front fenders – all tuned to improve aerodynamics. Recaro seats are standard equipment along with a flat-bottom steering wheel and suede shift knob.  The ZL1 convertible will go on sale in early 2017. Chevy did not release any performance figures or prices at but there are 11 heat exchangers.

engine coffee table

 Here is something a little different for your living room or book shelves. A book called, “How to Build Your Own Engine Coffee Table” by Gergely Bajzath. “Whether in your living room, workshop, den, man cave or girl shed, an engine coffee table is a great talking point, and is almost guaranteed to become the main topic of conversation when friends meet,” said the publishers. The book will tell you the best engines to use and how to fit a glass top for a serviceable table. To state the obvious, the publisher noted “very possibly the first look on engine tables ever printed.” You can order the book at

 Meanwhile, Jaguar’s XF has been named Top Gear’s Sedan Car of the Year. It praised the Jag’s stiff, lightweight aluminum intensive construction, comfortable ride and impressive performance.

 McLaren was named Top Gear’s manufacturer of the year in recognition of the brand’s rapid growth and global success “both achieved in so short a time.” McLaren has introduced five new models and set another sales record of late.

 And saying, “You don’t always need to spend big money to have a huge amount of fun,” Top Gear named the Ford Focus RS at its Car of the Year. It topped “serious” competition from Porsche and Ferrari – but the final voting was unanimous in favor of the Ford.

 Volkswagen has been given until April 21 to come up with a fix in the diesel emissions case or face the possibility of a trial this summer. The decision came from Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco. Justice Department and VW lawyers told the judge that progress is being made in settlement talks but some issues remain to be solved. Justice has sued VW for up to $46 billion for violating environmental laws.



World Car of the Year Winners Announced – The Complete List



                          A Big Win for Mazda

By Ron Amadon

One of the most affordable fun cars you can drive has cleaned up at the World Car Awards announced this morning at the New York Auto Show, as the Mazda MX-5 Miata took home the top honor, as World Car of the Year.

The Miata was also named World Car Design of the Year.

Other runners up for World Car of the Year were the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. Nominated as top design of the year were the Jaguar XE and the Mazda CX-3.

Toyota’s hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai was named Green Car of the Year over the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius.

The World Luxury Car of the Year was the BMW 7 Series. Runners up here were the Audi Q7 and Volvo VC90.

And the Performance Car of the Year award went to the Audi R8, beating out the Honda Civic Type R and the Mercedes Benz AMG C63 coupe.