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.
Not long after 9/11, the California DMV started selling memorial license plates under the promise that the proceeds would go toward scholarships for children of the victims, or anti-terrorist initiatives, but the money isn’t making it home.
Venerable pro drift racer Rhys Millen got his first chance of the year to work toward becoming the next Formula DRIFT champion but came in second place.
Electric cars may have arrived, but the search for the perfect alternative fuel is still in progress. There are still a few major issues that keep battery powered vehicles from replacing the internal combustion engine.
April has been designated as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and it’s no surprise with all the news surrounding distracting elements in our vehicles.
German automaker Mercedes-Benz has already jumped on board with its driving academy offering free safety seminars in the state of California. Now the California Office of Traffic Safety is creating seven anti-distracted driving ads and the first one has hit the Web, featuring none other than zombies.
We’re not really sure what effect this ad is supposed to have on us. Are zombies coming to stop us from being distracted while driving? Are we going to all become zombies if we text and drive? Is the State of California saying we’re just zombies texting and driving? Oh no, now we’re just more confused.
Watch the first of seven anti-distracted driving ads from the California Office of Traffic Safety after the break.
Potential customers are no good to an automaker if they’re dead so Mercedes-Benz is taking steps to help improve the chances that teens practice safe driving in the spirit of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
“Teens are now faced with more distractions behind the wheel, compared to previous generations of new drivers,” said Marc Hemsworth, senior driving coach at Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy and former LAPD officer and chief driving instructor. “Reinforcing the dangers of distracted driving and being a good role model are a few ways parents can help improve driver safety for their teens and everyone on the road.”
Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, a California State certified driving school, will kick off the awareness month by offering free programs including a distracted driving demo, Parent and Teen Workshops and driving assessments.
The seminars begin April 2 and will be held at Calabasas High School in Calabasas, Calif. and mark the third year that April has been designated with the awareness campaign.
Distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is more likely among teens over any other age group. Additionally, in the first half of 2011, the number of teen driving deaths increased by 11 percent after an eight-year consecutive decline.
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, as the name would suggest, is observed throughout the country, but California runs an additional “Teen Safe Driving Week,” which begins this Sunday.
There’s always two sides to a story, and earlier we reported about how a Nissan dealership sold a $62,130 Murano Crosscabriolet to a man suffering from dementia. Now North Bay Nissan, the dealership in question, has agreed to take back the vehicle while explaining their side of the story.
Ed Dowdall suffers from Lewy Body Dementia and currently lives in a care facility in San Francisco, California. According to his doctor, Dowdall suffers from “markedly impaired judgment, lack of impulse control, aggressive and compulsive behavior, and an almost total lack of insight into his condition.”
Greg Dexter on the other hand, owner of North Bay Nissan, claims that Dowdall gave every indication of having a sound mind when he purchased the vehicle back in December. Of course we wouldn’t expect the owner of the dealership to say otherwise, but whether it’s an admission of guilt or just wanting all the negative press to go away, Dexter has agreed to take back the Murano, relinquishing the $923 a month car payment. Dexter however did not make a firm statement on whether or not the down payment would be fully refunded.
Dowdall’s attorney, Michael Baddeley has said that both parties reached a mutual agreement on the fiasco and confirmed that the sale has been rescinded. The dealership’s story however is that Dowdall was a returning customer, having purchased his Altima Hybrid there back in 2008. He originally visited the dealership in November inquiring about the Murano before purchasing it the following month.
Two phone messages were played that Dowdall had left the salesman after purchasing the car, sounding coherent and happy about the purchase. There were also notes during the sale that Dowdall was on the phone with family members during the sales process including Amy Dowdall – his separated wife – and her brother-in-law Mike Dowdall. Both Amy and Mike claim that they were at the Petaluma Police Department during the purchase to report that Ed attempted to kill Amy the night before.
“I knew the car should have gone back that day, but Mike talked me into keeping it until (my husband) went to the home because it would have been upsetting for him,” Amy Dowdall said.
Clearly this is a case of he-said, she-said, but we’re glad the matter has been resolved. We personally think Mr. Ed Dowdall really wanted the Murano CrossCabriolet and of course the dealership had no gripes selling it to him. But whether or not he was ethically taken advantage of, well that’s up to you.
[Source: Press Democrat]
Most of the time, bringing a new car home is an exciting occasion. It was quite the opposite for one California woman when her 70-year-old husband with dementia pulled up in a new Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.
Ed Dowdall, who is legally separated from his wife Amy, lives in a constant-care facility but back in December when the incident occurred, he lived with his brother. Dowdall left during a discussion about where he would be moved for more constant care and drove to North Bay Nissan in Petaluma, California. Upon arrival, he proceeded to trade his Nissan Altima Hybrid for a Murano CrossCabriolet.
When Dowdall pulled up in the driveway, his wife informed the salesman of his condition and that he was in no position to buy the car, let alone licensed to drive it. Despite that, the sale went through — apparently because Wells Fargo, the lender, had already closed. Wells Fargo denied this.
Options included, Dowdall spent $62,130 on the car. He also apparently paid for about $10,000 worth of dealer add-ons.
His wife, who has power of attorney over him, is trying to have the sale reversed because she can’t afford the $923-per-month payments and is also trying to prove elder abuse in the case.
GALLERY: Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
[Source: Press Democrat]
A California judge tentatively approved a settlement that would award between $100 and $200 to Honda Civic hybrid owners who joined the suit filed because of inflated gas milage claims by the Japanese automaker. The decisions also credits those owners with a voucher toward purchasing a new Honda.
Judge Timothy Taylor did not, however, agree with the claims by members of the suit who believed they should receive more money in light of Peters’ $9,867 judgment. Instead, he said settlements are about compromise.
“No doubt plaintiffs would have loved to have gotten more; certainly their counsel had every incentive to get as much as possible. … Honda undoubtedly has many arrows left in its quiver, and certainly would have preferred to pay nothing,” he wrote.
The settlement is for owners of Honda Civic hybrids spanning the 2003-09 model years and includes $8 million in plaintiff attorney fees, which is stirring controversy among some of the Civic owners who feel shorted.
As for Peters, Honda vowed to appeal the the small claims decision that landed in her favor, though news has yet to surface on progress in the case.
[Source: Detroit News]
Each year, the city of Long Beach, California gets transformed into a motorsports-themed environment to make way for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. To kick off the festivities annually is the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and this year’s lineup of drivers has just been announced.
The celebrities that will be piloting Scion tCs through the streets of downtown Long Beach this year include Jillian Barberie Reynolds, Adrien Brody, Adam Carolla, Kate del Castillo, Eddie Cibrian, Kim Coates, Eileen Davidson, Hill Harper, Brody Jenner, Scott Porter, Bill Rancic, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and host of Top Gear USA Rutledge Wood. The mix of actors, actresses, tv personalities, and more will race through the 10-lap, 1.97-mile street circuit on April 14th.
This year’s pros will include Scion drifter, Fredric Aasbø, former USAC National Midget champion and 2012 driver of Toyota-powered USAC teams, Bryan Clauson, and Grammy award-winning record producer and owner of Rebel Rock Racing, Jim Jonsin. Lastly, joining the field are charity auction winners Doug Fregin (co-founder of Research in Motion) and nightclub owner Jerry Westlund. Each year, Toyota also dedicates a spot for a Southern California Toyota dealer employee and this year that will be Biff Gordon, general manager of Quality Toyota in Corona.
Each participant will have $5,000 donated to Racing for Kids on behalf of Toyota and another $5,000 will go to the winning racer’s charity of choice. A $15,000 donation will also be made in conjunction with the 15th-annual “People Pole Award” sponsored by People magazine.
Honda is currently the only automaker offering CNG vehicles in the United States. Although it is nice to own an exclusive niche in the vast automotive market, it does have its limitations.
Compressed natural gas stations are uncommon in North America and Honda hopes to change this by installing pumps at its dealers as it pushes plans to double the sales volume of its CNG vehicles to between 4,000 and 5,000 units. Honda is involved in negotiations with California, the biggest CNG market within the U.S., as it hopes to place CNG pumps at two or more Honda dealerships later this year.
According to U.S. vice president for Environmental Business Development Steve Center, “If the [Honda] dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer. It’s not our place to create infrastructure, but it’s a chicken-and-egg situation and we’re going to have to nurse that egg along.”
Of course, the strategy for these stations are still in a beta phase. Through this project, Honda expects a better understanding of CNG station costs, the volume of vehicles a CNG station can serve, and how many facilities may be established. Honda will work with the dealers to gain the necessary permits, provide financing, and will apply for public incentives as well. Steve Center said, “Something like this helps fill in holes. We want to select a couple of test cases and walk through it.”
Earning the title as the 2012 Green Car of the Year at November’s LA Auto Show, the Honda Civic Natural Gas sedan is priced at $26,155, a $2,100 premium over the Civic hybrid. The Civic Natural Gas is capable of attaining an equivalent 31 mpg and can hold 8 gallons of compressed gas. What’s more, based on findings by the Energy Department, the average cost of CNG per gallon is approximately 65% that of a gallon of regular gasoline. Finally, one of the major perks of owning a CNG Civic is the privilege to use HOV lanes without passengers.
GALLERY: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas
California seems to be the next in line to legislate standards for autonomous vehicles after California Sen. Alex Padilla took a ride to the state capital to introduce a new bill.
He took that ride in one of Google’s autonomous Toyota Prius fleet vehicles and seemed wowed by the trip.
“It was pretty amazing when Google’s vehicle went into self-driving mode,” he said. “The drive was smooth and safe. It worked flawlessly,” he said to Autopia.
The bill wouldn’t specifically legalize self-driving cars, which already have a presence on California roads among other states. Instead, it would follow in Nevada’s footsteps to establish regulations and standards to tell law enforcement how to treat this technology.
The senator sees opportunity for California as a home for autonomous car development and as such, seems enthusiastic to put the framework in place to encourage such progress.
“California is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in this field,” he said.
Several projects have already, or are currently taking place in California to develop autonomous cars, including Google’s fleet which claims more than 200,000 total miles of autonomous driving between the vehicles. In 2010 Volkswagen worked with Stanford University to develop an Audi TTS capable of climbing Pike’s Peak driverless, home of the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb.
Padilla’s bill is specifically targeted at fully autonomous cars, meaning vehicles that self-park or feature adaptive cruise control won’t be affected.
Fisker Automotive announced today that former Chrysler head Tom LaSorda will replace the company’s namesake, Henrik Fisker, as the new CEO.
Fisker first called LaSorda to join the team as an observer and to assess the company as a whole. After two months of evaluation,He asked LaSorda to become CEO. Fisker meanwhile announced his intent to “build the brand globally” and make it his personal task to push sales in foreign countries. In lieu of his previous position, Fisker named himself the company’s executive chairman.
LaSorda seems like a safe choice to further the brand: As a 32-year veteran of the automotive industry, he knows a thing or two about running car companies. “I am delighted to be assuming such a central role at this exciting time in Fisker Automotive’s history,” LaSorda said.
With financial troubles recently plaguing the company, Fisker might need a boost to keep afloat. The company also announced this morning that the Fisker Surf, which is a hatchback Karma, will debut at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, and be ready for delivery by early 2013 at the latest.
While the company’s future is unclear, it seems that the California start up is doing everything in its power to keep from failing.
Toyota confirmed today that the 2012 Prius Plug-In has been approved for the State of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP).
The CVRP is a consumer incentive made available in addition to the $2,500 Federal Tax credit for qualified vehicles. The 2012 Prius Plug-In has started to arrive at dealerships, and will also be eligible for the State of California’s HOV lane sticker.
The Prius Plug-In will be eligible for a $1,500 rebate that will be given to consumers on a first come, first serve basis. That rebate will be available to anyone who purchases or leases a Prius Plug-In for 36 months or longer.
The Prius Plug-In features a new Lithium-ion battery, boosting overall fuel economy and offers convenient charging times of only 2.5 to 3 hours using a standard 120-volt outlet, or 1.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet. The Plug-In also comes in an “Advanced” model which adds additional standard features of Premium HDD Navigation with Entune, Plug-In Hybrid Applications through a smartphone, Head-up Display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and more.
The base MSRP for the Prius Plug-In Hybrid is $32,000 while the Advanced has an MSRP of $39,525. Both models are eligible for up to $4,000 in government-supported incentives – $2,500 federal tax credit and $1,500 CVRP.
A national rollout of Prius Plug-in is planned for 2013. At launch, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid will be available in the following 14 states:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- New York
- New Jersey
There were probably a few times in college when you and your friends really wished someone had a car you could use for a little while.
Maybe you needed to get groceries, or beer, or just a healthy distance from dorm rooms and campus nonsense. Whatever the need, California-based company Wheelz Inc. is trying to address it by linking students who have cars, and don’t always need them, with campus members who need short-term wheels.
Wheelz Inc., uses the idea of peer-to-peer car sharing to offer students a specifically-targeted platform for getting a car when they need one. The company received a major boost when Zipcar, the industry leader in car sharing, invested $13.7 million in their project.
“One of the reasons we’re excited to partner with Zipcar is that they bring a decade of operational experience,” Wheelz CEO Jeff Miller said.
That operational experience, according to Miller, will play a key role in helping Wheelz grow as a business in the future. Currently, anyone associated with Stanford, UC Berkeley, USC and UCLA are able to participate in the program. Students, administrators, teachers and anyone with a “.edu” email address from a participating campus may participate.
Peters, a former LA attorney, believed that Honda negligently misled Civic Hybrid owners with fuel economy claims of 50 miles per gallon (the best mileage she claims she ever achieved was 42 mpg and following a software update, this dropped to around 30 mpg). When she got wind, that, in terms of a settlement for the issue, Honda was prepared to pay around $100 in rebate coupons towards the purchase of a new vehicle for Civic Hybrid customers, while it’s trial lawyers earned some $8.5 million, she filed suit.
Given her background, Peters chose to take the case to Small Claims Court, knowing full well that under California law, Honda would be unable to bring in a team of highly paid lawyers to defend its position.
Now, we’ve heard that Peters successfully won her court case and has been awarded damages of $9,867.19 (the maximum amount allowed in small claims court is $10,000). The outcome of this case could have a major impact on class action suits and cases handled through Small Claims Court, since it illustrates that well-informed plaintiffs have every chance of being vindicated in their disputes against large corporations.
However, despite winning her case, there are those who believe Peters might have a hard time collecting the money; Honda says it disagrees with the ruling that it negligently misled Peters over fuel economy claims and is now taking the case to the LA County Superior Court, where its highly paid legal team are permitted to challenge the Small Claims verdict.
Nonetheless, Peters says she isn’t done and wants other Civic Hybrid owners to file similar claims to her own, believing that, by facing multiple Small Claims suits in the state of California, Honda will have a multi-front legal battle on its hands, rendering it difficult if not impossible to mount a successful counter attack. Peters also says she’ll reactivate her state law license so she can represent other Civic Hybrid owners in court.
[Source: LA Times]
Coming to grips with the taxing nature EVs can have on a residential power grid is causing some car companies to explore products more akin to the housing market than the auto industry.
BMW is the latest company to announce special plans and research designed to counteract that burden by rethinking how homes use electricity. The German automaker expects to have a demo home as part of their Mountain View, Calif. technology office, completed by the end of March.
The home is designed to efficiently charge their EV, the ActiveE, which is a variation on their 1-Series while maintaining flexible power consumption to compensate for increased consumption during charging times.
Toyota introduced something similar in October, 2010 called the Toyota Smart Center, which they said would be commercially available in 2015… Do you love your Camry enough to let the same person style both your car and home? In Japan, Nissan built a demo house called Kan-kan-kyo for the same purpose.
As for BMW, they’ve paired up with Tendril, an energy management company that is helping provide data to fully examine how an EV changes household power consumption.
“We’re keen to understand how utilities will gain benefit from a program like this,” Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck said to the New York Times. “The car guys don’t want to have 3,000 relationships with all the different utilities.”
Tuck also said that even a small number of EVs charging at once could actually create demand peaks. While we’re still a long way off from having electric vehicles in every driveway, or even more than a handful per city, it could feasibly create a problem.
The auto industry is not known for sharing ideas between competitors, in fact that behavior routinely rips contracts between car companies to shreds, but keep your eye out for some serious copy cat strategy down the road.
Chevrolet is offering Volt owners a service via their OnStar system and a smartphone app that will show sources of renewable energy. That sort of power is at its peak availability during otherwise off-peak hours, encouraging Volt owners to charge off-peak.
Perhaps a similar service will be available in the future from other companies as well. For now, there are only 700 BMW ActiveEs available by lease, so it seems unlikely that they will actually market streamlined home services any time soon.
GALLERY: BMW ActiveE
[Source: New York Times]
Audi knows a thing or two about thumbing their nose at the world. The question is if people generally take it in stride or take offense.
Their latest advertising escapade (shown above) is probably one of the more unabashed examples of their cocksure style. A Chicago area Audi dealership sold an R8 GT and decided that moving a single unit was justification to rent a billboard warning other motorists of the possible predator in their rear view mirrors.
Car ads in general have a tendency to play up stereotypes and pander to particular crowds, but what does it say about Audi customers if that rule holds true? Consider this: Volkswagen, their parent company, recently had to pull a TV ad in Canada for their Passat because of complaints that the spot portrayed women in a bad light. Decide for yourself, but realize at the same time that the company, and in some senses the message may be similar.
Truth is, nobody gets hurt when a smug billboard goes up, and Audi does this a lot. Another R8 billboard sported the slogan “stay in school.” Another, perhaps more clever example was an Audi A4 ad in California that read “your move, BMW.” To the right of the Audi poster, BMW ran a response, saying “checkmate.”
One way or another, we’re happy to sit back and watch car companies one-up each other like kids playing chicken at recess.
Insurance.com has published a report on DUI citations in the nation’s largest US cities with California playing home to three of the top five. San Diego and Los Angeles topped the list at first and second respectively, while Indianapolis, Jacksonville (Florida) and San Francisco rounded off the top five.
It’s worth mentioning though that these cities with a high-percentage of DUI citations doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more drinking and driving occurring. It could also mean that there’s less public transportation or a police force that’s good at doing their job – or really the more densely populated a city is, the more people there are to do stupid things.
Nationwide in 2010, there were 1.4 million DUI arrests according to the FBI. This is also the second year in a row that San Diego has topped the list in the study.
Despite the study supposedly listing the top 20 cities, the website only publishes 19 – see it after the break.
It’s sales are but a drop in the bucket for Honda, but the Civic GX, recently renamed the NG, might have a chance to grow its market share thanks to efforts by Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to expand U.S. infrastructure for natural gas vehicles.
The fact is, there is so much natural gas available in the U.S. that it’s actually being sold off as an export. Part of the reason is because currently Americans account for 112,000 or less than 1 percent of the world total of natural gas burning vehicles. Most of those are 18-wheel big rigs or fleet vehicles, but the Civic GX accounts for 13,000 since appearing on the American market 13 years ago.
It isn’t hard to understand why there are so few sold: of the roughly 180,000 gas stations across the U.S., there are roughly 1000 that offer natural gas. That means no road trips, no fooling around with the refuel light and little forgiveness if you happen to run the tank dry.
Despite all that, the compressed natural gas (CNG) Civic won the 2012 Green Car of the Year Award, beating out a host of cars including the Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus Electric and Prius V. It also snagged a guaranteed spot until 2015 in California’s coveted HOV lane sticker club, meaning owners may drive solo and skip through ridiculous Californian highway congestion – something that’s sure to make it a popular choice in SoCal.
The Honda won these accolades despite having comparatively poor milage with 27-mpg city, 38-mpg highway and a 31-mpg average, probably because it costs about 30 percent less to fuel them according to Honda. Natural gas costs about $1 to $2 less per gallon-equivalent.
Truthfully, the Civic has nothing to do with Clean Energy Fuels Corp.’s plans for expansion. They’re more more motivated by the crazy fuel volume transport vehicles consumer every year. Rich Kolodziej, president of the trade association NGV America, broke the numbers down in an interview with the Detroit News. If a driver gets an average of 25 mpg and drives 12,000 miles a year, that driver needs about 480 gallons per year. An average truck driver can travel 120,000 miles in a year getting only six miles-per-gallon needs 20,000 gallons of fuel, or as much as almost 42 normal drivers.
Given that there is a surplus of natural gas in the U.S. and that it’s significantly cheaper, installing that infrastructure makes sense. The special few who drive the Civic GX or NG will likely enjoy the benefit of having access to many more fueling stations.
[Source: Detroit News]
Rifling through boxes at an estate sale paid off for Bobby Goins after he recently found a 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Ghia Cabriolet tucked away and forgotten.
The car, which was barely visible except the emblem, had been sitting in a garage for 40 years. Pickers find forgotten cars frequently, but unless it’s really notable they don’t make it to the media. Last September we brought you a story about a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing being found in California, but this latest find beats the Benz.
According to information from FerrariChat.com, Goins only knew it was a Ferrari, but had no idea what model it was or its value. He soon found out exactly what he had, but there was one catch: it had a Corvette engine. The could have compromised the value from a restoration perspective, but against all odds, the original engine was located in Wisconsin.
Though the amount he paid for the car wasn’t disclosed, Goins sold the car for $150,000 to someone who plans to fully restore it and set it on display at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
How often do you change the oil in your car? Every 3,000 miles? 5,000? 7,000? You may be changing your oil more than you need to, and California is setting out to change that.
It’s a common misconception that you should change your oil every 3,000 miles, which wastes millions of gallons of oil every year. That’s why California is launching the “Check Your Number” campaign that urges drivers to hold off changing their oil so often.
About 50 percent of California drivers change their oil at the 3,000 mile mark. The truth is, with all the improvements in oils, friction proofing and car engines, you should be changing your oil at about every 7,500 to 10,000 miles. California officials say that by waiting longer between oil changes, the state will be able to save about 10 million gallons of oil a year. As well as being good for the environment, you won’t hurt the longevity or reliability of your vehicle by holding off a bit longer and you’ll save some extra cash.
If you’re a resident of California, you can check the suggested motor-oil change interval number at checkyournumber.org.
[Source: Los Angeles Times]