AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
The Canadian and Ontario governments both gave Toyota $140 million to jump-start its production capabilities, allowing the company to upgrade its factories in the province. Citizens of Ontario can receive up to $8,500 CAD in incentives to switch to electric, as a way for Ontario to ensure that 1 out of 20 cars will be juiced-up by 2020.
The electric RAV4, which can go 160 miles on a full charge, was shown at the LA Auto Show in November, before Toyota had decided on a final site for production. Many believed that it would be built at the old NUMMI plant, alongside Tesla Motors, but it turns out that the Fremont, California site is all Tesla’s. That company will also be supplying electric components to Toyota—a nice return on investment, seeing as Toyota owns 2.9% of the company.
GALLERY: Toyota RAV4 EV
[Source: CBC News]
Lotus has to clear out its hoary old inventory for the future of its “New Era,” and as such, it’s sending the Elise and Exige out of American production with some guaranteed-to-be-rare limited editions.
Production for the Elise and Exige will end August 2011 for America—Lotus cites its difficulty in sourcing Toyota’s 1.8-liter 2ZZ engine as the reason to stop building them. The final cars will be “instantly collectible,” as Lotus cites, and limited to nifty matte-black and color schemes, with supercharged engines and an impressive array of standard features.
The Elise SC Final Edition gets a supercharged 218-hp engine and matte black paint on the hardtop and mirrors. Standard features will be unprecedented for a Lotus: air conditioning, MP3-ready radio, central locking, traction control and iPod connectivity as part of the Touring pack will all be standard, as well as a a limited-slip differential. It will be available in four colors and will start at $57,500.
The Exige gets two special editions: the Exige Matte Black Final Edition gets matte black paint as reflective of its namesake, Alacantara sport seats and body-colored wings and side scoops. The Exige S260 Final Edition, on the other hand, will be available in actual hues—Lotus’s entire Metallic, Lifestyle and Limited palette is available at no extra charge—thus sparing its well-heeled owner of “Lord Vader, your car has arrived” jokes. Both cars get the same 257-hp supercharged engine with a limited-slip differential and Sport/Touring packs standard.
As per any limited edition, production will be kept to comically low examples. The Elise SC will only see 15 examples built, while the Exige Matte Black Final Edition and the Exige 260 will be numbered up to 25 and 30, respectively.
It’s safe to assume that all models have been spoken for, which really leaves this announcement as a tease for budding Lotus fans.
GALLERY: Lotus Final Editions
Tesla teases us some more with the Model S electric sedan: this time, they show us three camouflaged examples running around a test track, as proof that yes, it is capable of moving under its own power.
And pretty quickly, too—the Model S is expected to go from 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds, under fully-electric power that allows it up to 300 miles before recharging. It will accomplish this with five adults and the option for two children facing backwards, like some futuristic Vista Cruiser, and will sell for around $57,000 after federal and state incentives. We know what it looks like, which renders the Palo Alto company’s secrecy moot. But alas, we’ll have to wait until next year to actually look at it up close.
Click the jump to watch the short teaser.
[Source: LA Times]
Fresh from a conference call (on his G6, presumably), Musk just signed a $100 million deal with the Japanese automaker, but has dropped the hint that they could be thinking larger. “We’re in discussions with them for a deal that is an order of magnitude larger than that,” he said. Musk had spent the call informing Toyota about ending their best quarter in the young company’s history, with demand for the Model S and recently-departed Roadster still high.
Toyota, being the world’s largest car company, fortunately has this sort of cash to burn. Hopefully Musk has made a convincing case for the 8-year old Tesla and the electric car of the future.
The mayor of Lithuania’s capital finally had enough with fat-cat capitalist plutocrats parking their luxury cars willy-nilly on the mean streets of Vilnius. So he did what any rational Eastern European politician would do in times of crisis—he crushed one with a tank.
Mayor Arturas Zuokas drove an armored personnel carrier over a Mercedes-Benz W140 S-Class, a model known for its own tank-like toughness. The S-Class was parked in a bicycle lane, and despite the unstoppable-object-meets-immovable-force setup of the stunt, the Benz’s roof caved in rather neatly and sent glass shooting everywhere along the street.
“I wanted to send a clear message that people with big and expensive cars can’t park wherever they feel like and ignore the rights of pedestrians and bike riders,” said Zuokas. “It shows a lack of respect and won’t be tolerated. Of course, you have to have a sense of humour in my line of work and I thought this would be a way of drawing attention to the fact that the city intends to be proactive in its fight against illegal parking.”
The car’s “owner” comes out of the shop to find this bit of rearranged bodywork, while the mayor shakes his hand and merrily rides off on a bicycle. In actuality, the car was bought by the mayor’s office and the entire thing was a setup, lest you think the mayor’s choice of transportation to and from work is a Soviet-era, eight-wheeled BTR-70 бронетранспортер. Afterwards, the car was towed to a scrapyard and junked.
Click the jump to see the whole video. Call the man crazy, but he’s got a point: if only Boston mayor Tom Menino could do the same with a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and a wayward Lexus RX (in beige, of course) blocking traffic on Newbury Street, there could be some true justice in the world. Hazard lights aren’t a free pass to park anywhere, people!
[Source: Daily Mail]
Carroll Shelby (or rather, his well-lubricated PR machine) has responded to the charges of rape and employment hostility raised by former secretary Angelica Smith, labeling the lawsuit “frivolous.”
Shelby claims that Smith was fired not because she went to him with charges of rape (from another employee), but because The Shelbster simply didn’t need a secretary anymore. The company will fight the allegations to the end.
The full statement reads: “Carroll Shelby is disappointed that such wild and fantastical allegations have been made by a former employee. The fact is that her position was no longer required due to Mr. Shelby’s age, health and work schedule. But this apparently disgruntled former employee and her counsel have chosen to turn this into yet another prematurely publicized, frivolous lawsuit against a public figure. Carroll Shelby has full confidence in the judicial system and believes that the truth will come out through the legal process.”
Being the savvy multinational corporation Honda is, it has to take its knocks with some tact. And with its reputation marred by Consumer Reports’ dragging of the 2012 Honda Civic through the muck, it’s no surprise that Honda has issued a statement claiming that they “fundamentally disagree” with the magazine’s review.
Both Honda and Consumer Reports, of course, have valuable reputations in the minds of consumers. And so, “they are definitely finding fault with someone they have shown a lot of love in the past,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for Honda North America.
Mendel picks apart the CR review and finds that “Consumer Reports’ own testing found that Civic’s smooth and efficient powertrain returned “…an impressive 30 mpg overall on regular fuel and 47 mpg on the highway. Only one other compact car the magazine tested did better.” In addition, “as noted in Consumer Reports findings, the Civic excels with a long list of important safety features that are standard on all trim levels.”
Rival publication Motor Trend, “which knows a thing or two about ride and handling,” picked Civic 2nd among eight compact cars in a recent comparison test. This, Mendel says, is proof that the Civic is still a player in the already-competitive small car market. “However, we disagree with Motor Trend as well—we think there is no better compact car than Civic.” Hey now, don’t get greedy!
Lastly, Mendel notes that CR only reviewed one model of the Civic, the LX sedan, while there are six different models across three trim levels. While this could be construed as a fair point, we doubt that some of the Civic’s greater shortcomings could be drastically improved with the ticking of an options box.
Click here to read AutoGuide’s 2012 Honda Civic review or hit the jump to watch the video:
It’s been 40 long years, but like perestroika, the last remnant of Italian-derived Soviet majesty finally comes to an undignified end. In Soviet Russia, production ends you!
The venerable Lada 2107, as it’s known, was already a 4-year old design (from Fiat) when it first entered production in 1970, gleaming and full of hope for the People. “Khrushchev’s Folly,” as it was never called, proved to multiply like the cockroaches that survived the Tsar Bomba—16.8 million were built, or if laid end-to-end away from Earth, enough to propel forth the Soviet Union’s space program.
The famous Lada sold for the low, low price of $7,500 under the names of Riva, 1500, 2101, 2107, and the evocatively-named Classic. Over the years it’s been raced, rallied, fornicated in, breathed upon by Lotus, driven through mud and snow with frightening alacrity, and abandoned in Chernobyl. Like cheap vodka and dubious wristwatches, it was still built in Russia, as well as Egypt, West Germany, and Kazakhstan.
And despite an increase of sales to 136,000 in 2010—spurred on by a “Cars For Clunkers-” type program that substituted clunkers for both parts of the equation—the last Classic strides off its line, Gosudarstvenniy Gimn SSSR blaring from the Red Army Choir. It takes its rightful place among the Volkswagen Beetle (ironically enough, given the Beetle’s original development) as two cars with the longest production runs. Legions of fans around the world (and some in the UK) will miss it. За тех, кто уже не с нами!
The legendary Carroll Shelby is being sued by a receptionist, who claims that she was sexually assaulted by Shelby as well as raped by another employee, then fired.
Angelica Smith was hired by Shelby as his secretary in 2005, but ended up becoming a personal servant—and claims that Shelby sent her out to buy liquor and pornography for him. Shelby “ran a pervasively hostile work environment” that involved groping Smith at his home, and another time when another Shelby employee drugged and raped her in December 2010.
Smith went to Shelby to report him, but ended up getting fired. Now she’s suing both Shelby, who certainly has plenty of lawsuit experience, the Shelby company, as well as the rapist in question for $5 million in damages.
Knowing Shelby, however, he’ll probably find a way to sue her instead.
Teens are going to have to work harder to hide their whereabouts, once GM wraps up a pilot program that lets concerned parents track the location of their precious ones, in real time.
The program is part of the OnStar system, and over 10,000 of its current subscribers have been chosen to take part. Parents can log onto a GM website and view the location of their car on a map, thereby preventing a web of lies and deceit. Alerts can pop up in the form of a text message or an email.
“Our subscribers have asked us for a solution to help them stay connected to their family when they’re on the road,” said Linda Marshall, president of OnStar. “What parent hasn’t asked their teenaged driver to call or send a text when they arrive somewhere, only to not hear from them?”
The program isn’t just limited to helicopter doting parents, too: OnStar suggests that it could be used to track the elderly, cheating husbands, or in less dramatic fashion, those driving long distances or through bad weather.
OnStar is also considering programs that can alert subscribers when a car exceeds the speed limit, or drives further than a set location, or—presumably—when somebody turns on the radio to Howard Stern.
Look for the little green car in this video. No, not that one. See it?
It’s just another day in Bangladesh (according to the comments), one of the many South Asian countries with more notorious drivers than the last 6 Nicholas Cage movies. After the bus knocks over the other one, the little green car ejects itself from the scene of the crime like a wayward booger. It appears to be a tuk-tuk, traveling alongside the bus without enough time to stop its puny self.
We hope nobody was seriously injured, though Mr. Tuk-Tuk Driver may have to wipe down his seat. Click the jump to see the whole video.
Good news for those optioning up a new Ford: its SYNC system is now $100 cheaper, from $395 to $295.
Ford will also roll out SYNC to every one of their cars within the next three years. Currently, it’s only available on higher trim levels, but with the 2012 Explorer and Edge, base models can get SYNC with the cheaper price.
Next year’s 2013 Escape, Taurus, Flex, and Focus will have SYNC available at that price. Ford aims to make SYNC a safety option as well as for listening to obscure Internet radio stations—hands-free capability and 911 Assist aren’t just available to the bourgeoise anymore.
According to a woman in South Carolina, when truck nuts are outlawed, only outlaws will have truck nuts.
The Man is holding 65-year old Virginia Tice down with a $445 fine after she put a pair of dangling truck nuts on the back of her Dodge. She was spotted at a convenience store by the chief of police of Bonneau, South Carolina, a state that defines these plastic dangling bits as “indecent vehicle ornaments.” However, Tice isn’t taking this lying down, as most do with a pair of nuts: she’s taking the matter to court with a jury trial.
“She’s such a sweet lady and she just says ‘I don’t want to pay the fine,’” said police chief Franco Fuda (who sounds like he might come from somewhere overseas, like Maryland). “We’ll let a jury decide whether this is really criminal behavior. I don’t want to take away from the importance of free speech, but it’s really comical.”
This isn’t the first time South Carolina has threatened to take truck nuts from the people’s cold, dead hands. The jury will determine whether Tice has violated obscenity laws, or if Fuda is a freedom-hatin’ Commie hell-bent on taking away one’s God-given right to novelty testicular facsimiles.
Audi beat out BMW and Mercedes-Benz at the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium, running the legendary Spa-Francorchamps course in an R8 LMS.
The V10-engined R8 beat out 57 teams in the GT3 category, leading 22 out of the 24 hours. Audi Sport Team WRT took the lead as well as 4th place in cars #33 and #32, respectively. Its drivers consisted of two DTM champions Mattias Ekström and Timo Scheider, as well as endurance racing veteran Greg Franchi.
By midnight, the top three cars were all Audis. But an hour later, the #99 R8 fielded by Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase and Frank Stippler slid off from a wet patch and retired. Its #98 teammate lost second gear in an accident and spent an hour getting a new transmission, but managed to claw its way back up from 36th to 14th—and with Mike Rockenfeller behind the wheel, it even managed the fastest race lap at 2m 20.286s.
The #32 car driven by Stéphane Ortelli made a spectacular comeback: after qualifying down in 41st, she drove to 2nd place within the first 90 minutes. After a penalty and a suspension swap sent it back to 42nd place, but skilled driving allowed it to finish fourth.
“This is without doubt the most important victory for the Audi R8 LMS and our still relatively young customer racing program,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, the man in charge of Audi’s motorsport program. “After just a few hours we only had one iron still in the fire – but we won with this car. This shows our strong nerves and team spirit because everybody helped to take the win with the only remaining car.”
GM’s CEO Dan Akerson believes that the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle won’t be feasible until at least 2020. Let’s hope GM calls the right prediction this time.
“We’re looking at hydrogen fuel cells, which have no carbon emissions, zero,” said Akerson. “The car is still too expensive and probably won’t be practical until the 2020-plus period, I don’t know. And then there’s the issue of infrastructure.”
This hasn’t been the first time GM’s pulled a Nostradamus on fuel cell vehicles: back in 2002, it claimed that hundreds of thousands of them would be on the road by 2010. By 2006, GM lowered that vague number to 1,000. Last year came and went, and it missed that goal.
GM cited high cost and a lack of hydrogen fueling stations for fudging the thousand-car goal. But it hasn’t stopped speculating on the next generation of fuel cell vehicles that it could build: the car will use half the expensive precious metals, be half the size, and 220 pounds lighter than current fuel cell vehicles, it said in 2009. That same year it said that by 2015 the fuel cell vehicle will be “commercialized,” and by 2022 it will be cost-competitive.
“They’re very expensive now,” said Akerson, “but we’ve, just in the last two years, reduced the price of that technology by $100,000.”
No other car company has brought a fuel cell vehicle to the masses, or intends to by 2015; Honda’s gee-whiz FCX Clarity is only available in California, and only about 200 examples are on the road. GM may have a point—but, just as we never launched a spaceship to Jupiter in 2001 like we did in 2001, speculating on the future with such concrete dates usually ends up, well, looking dated.
[Source: Detroit News]
Something to allow city-dwellers, sports car owners, or high-school principals to sleep easy at night: a new app for iPhones, Droids, and Blackberries will warn you when some @#%! is messing with your car, allowing you to dispense justice as you see fit.
Budding Charles Bronsons can take comfort in knowing that this is the first specific app designed for cars. Developed by Intel, it connects to your car’s existing security system and begins working when that is triggered. It can stream video (placed in and around the car, presumably) to a cloud server through WiFi, directly to your phone, or record it for World’s Wildest Police Videos.
Intel is also checking to see if the app can share data with carmakers, but that level of privacy intrusion may get messy. There’s no word on when the app will be finished, but for anyone who uses faculty parking, hopefully before the school year starts.
Toyota is eager to regain its “world’s largest automaker” title back. So by 2012, if things go according to plan, expect to see a lot more Toyota products on the roads: 8 million, to be specific.
This target is 1 million more than what Toyota will build this year. The company is gunning for this lofty production target in emerging markets like China and India, where sales are booming. To reach this goal, Toyota plans to build new factories in China and Brazil with the capacity to build 170,000 compact cars. It also plans to expand production in India by 50,000 vehicles, as well as expanding at other plants in China and Thailand.
America will get involved, too: a plant in Mississippi will open up in the fall, with a capacity of 150,000 vehicles. And back home in Japan, Toyota will increase daily production by 2-3,000 vehicles, to 15,000 per day. A new compact hybrid will comprise part of that production.
[Source: Nikkei via Morningstar]
Depressed teenagers are more likely to cause accidents than those who aren’t, according to a study from the journal Injury Prevention.
The aptly-named journal found that among already-risky teenage drivers, those who are depressed are more likely to speed and not wear seat belts, which journal authors believed was a translation of self-destructive behaviors (underage drinking, unprotected sex, smoking) into the realm of driving. Those at risk of mental distress are more likely to “engage in dangerous driving activity,” according to the study.
Over one thousand young drivers were surveyed for this report, as conducted by the Center for Accident Research and Road Safety at Australia’s Queensland University. They believe that a psychological survey designed to screen young drivers for signs of depression could prevent them from obtaining driver’s licenses, thereby minimizing the risk of dangerous driving on the roads.
Problem is, the researchers haven’t exactly determined what this “risky behavior” is—plenty of people admit to speeding, after all, and this narrow definition doesn’t include more dangerous and distracting activities such as using a cell phone. The report leans heavily on self-reported behavior and not concrete, clinical analysis, which could skew results. More work is needed to make a conclusion—but either way, Dashboard Confessional is a band, rather than an activity to partake in while driving.
Most automakers have gotten in line with the White House and accepted (even welcomed) the new CAFE regulations. Not Volkswagen. In fact, they criticize the new CAFE standards as being biased towards trucks—which of course, they don’t build.
The proposal “places an unfairly high burden on passenger cars, while allowing special compliance flexibility for heavier light trucks,” according to a statement from Tony Cervone, vice president of communications for Volkswagen America. Furthermore, “the largest trucks carry almost no burden for the 2017-2020 timeframe, and are granted numerous ways to mathematically meet targets in the outlying years without significant real-world gains.”
Long story short, Volkswagen fears that manufacturers will find ways to skirt the CAFE regulations by building larger vehicles and classifying them as trucks, rather than finding ways to improve the mileage of their current lineup. The largest vehicle in VW’s lineup is the Touraeg, which luckily for them counts as one of those larger trucks (along with the Routan minivan, somehow).
VW’s point isn’t new: classifying smaller vehicles as light trucks to cheat efficiency regulations is something every manufacturer is guilty of, and hell, it’s basically what kept GM and Ford alive during those dark days of the early 2000s. But VW finds itself outspoken when raising this matter, as every other major manufacturer has supported the government’s new CAFE standards. Will VW hold its ground?
Love Chevrolet or hate them, you can’t deny that its cars have had a hold on the American consciousness. Corvette, Impala, Camaro, Chevelle, Bel Air—hell, even the Citation—have all come and gone, leaving behind indelible memories and legions of devoted fans.
Well, now Chevy is trying to pick the best of the best, and they’ve enlisted an NCAA-style bracket to help. It’s close to Chevy’s 100th anniversary, see, and Chevrolet is busy trying to think of something worth celebrating. Ok, just kidding! There’s plenty to remember from these last 100 years, including the 1957 Bel Air, the 1962 Impala, any Corvette before 1973, the 1970 Chevelle SS, the 1936 Suburban, and the 1976 Monza Towne Coupe (again, kidding). Even the Volt and new Camaro make it into the standings as potential future classics.
There are 16 cars to choose from at Chevy’s Centennial Experience, and not one of them is named “Vega.” Fans can fill in their brackets at Chevy100.com before the whole shebang ends on November 3rd, Chevy’s 100th birthday. After all, there aren’t many car companies, especially American ones, that can lay claim to a centennial celebration—even if they built the Cavalier for seemingly most of that time.
From the “Too Brilliant To Be True” Files comes this idea: a traffic camera that monitors drivers who obey the speed limit, and rewards them by entering them into a lottery. For cash prizes.
The speed camera lottery photographs the license plates of passing drivers, then either issues them a citation or enters them into a lottery, for a chance to win the money pooled from those citations. The camera was installed in a busy intersection in Germany somewhere, where over 25,000 cars passed by over the course of three days—and the average speed fell, from 32 km/h to a sub-legal 25 km/h, which indicates that it’s working (or people are slowing down to figure out what kind of weird camera they’re driving past).
Alas, it’s all just a competition cooked up by Volkswagen, and will not be coming to a speed trap near you. “Fun can obviously change for the better,” says Volkswagen. Of course, a reward for not breaking the law is always an attractive proposition.
Ford is opening the floor to 2011′s contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers—which always ends in suspense.
Will the UAW walk away in anger? Will they threaten a strike? Will Ford shut down a couple more plants and idle production for months on end? Or will the ghost of Henry Ford send in the Pinkertons? It’s all up in the air, which makes for breathlessly thrilling news. Hey, automotive journalists have to keep themselves entertained somehow.
“We are reflecting upon our proud 70 year history of working together—a history of working with mutual trust and respect to effectively address difficult business challenges,” said John Fleming, vice president of Ford’s labor relations. ”We are committed to negotiating this year with the same transparency and honesty we always have upheld.”
Travis Pastrana might not be high-tailing it to NASCAR according to plan: at the X Games, he landed hard on his right foot, shattering his ankle as well as any chances to start in the Nationwide NASCAR Series on Saturday.
Pastrana was attempting to nail a 720-double-backflip-spin on a dirtbike, but with a late rotation entering the landing, he fell at an angle and threw the entire weight of the bike onto his right foot. He was taken to surgery and hasn’t made an official statement on starting the race, which seems to indicate that he’s out.
Rumors that “friendly” rival Ken Block was seen rubbing his hands in glee, twirling his mustache and muttering, “yes, yes, it’s all gone to plan!” are still unsubstantiated.
Click the jump to see the full stunt.
The year’s only half-over, but Audi is already popping champagne: they’ve just set a company record of 2.5 billion Euros ($3.59 billion) in operating profits.
That’s 652,970 cars moved since January 2011, or 100,000 more than the entire year of 2010. Audi has touted their impressive record-breaking sales figures before, but attaching the word “billion” to it gives it somewhat more resonance. Operating profit increased by a cool billion and change from 2010 to this year, and overall revenue for the first half of 2011 is 21.5 billion, with all the decimals in the right places.
“This success is the result of the significant rise in deliveries, an improved model mix and our continual cost optimization measures,” said Axel Strotbek, an Audi board member.
Audi is banking on the long-wheelbase A6 (popular in Asian markets) and the next Q3 and A6 Avant to sustain their growth.