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Top 10 Automotive Stories of 2012
With a heavy heart the staff of AutoGuide.com say goodbye to 2012, along with its triumphs and tragedies. We await the New Year with open arms, and welcome its promise of a better world.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 was a year of the dragon, and it proved to be the stuff of legend, but thankfully it wasn’t a fire-breather. The Mayans were flat-out wrong; their doomsday prophecy was about as accurate as Bernie Madoff’s promise of a sound investment opportunity.
Still, the year brought other significant stories. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland discovered a subatomic particle consistent with the legendary Higgs boson. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, passed away, and in a brutal political battle Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States.
Of course the automotive industry made its share of headlines throughout the year. Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 stories from the past 12 months.
Ford Motor Company has announced that it is pursuing a number of avenues aimed at easing the financial burden on small businesses and fleet companies, many of which are feeling the pinch of current gas prices.
A big aspect of Ford’s plan will be the introduction of a North American version of the ubiquitous Ford Transit commercial van, designed to supplement the long-running E-Series (née Econoline).
When it begins production at the Kansas City, Miss. assembly plant next year, the Americanized Transit will be offered with Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and also a diesel engine (though the automaker has yet to provide specifics on what this oil burning motor will be).
As a result, Ford says the Transit will achieve around 25 percent better fuel economy than the current E-Series, which is no doubt welcome news to many fleet operators.
In addition, during the Automotive Press Association conference in Detroit this week, Ford’s director of North American fleet, leasing and re-marketing programs, Kevin Koswick, said that the automaker is committed to providing a range of options to help fleets lower their operating costs. Besides introducing more fuel thrifty vehicles like the Transit, that also includes alternative fuel sources such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, pure electric, biodiesel and Compressed Natural Gas (which the current E-Series vans are designed to run on besides gasoline).
Also, in order to enable fleet operators to better keep track of their costs and monitor emissions output, Ford is also introducing a new tool dubbed the “Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Cost Calculator.”
This shows, via information such as the type of vehicle used, the type of driving situations, as well as local traffic conditions and energy sources available in a particular location, a specific map of fleet fuel consumption and emissions output.
The idea is that fleets can make an informed decision as to which type of vehicles they use and for what purpose when it comes to reducing costs and impact on the environment.
The proprietary program, which must be used in conjunction with the support of a Ford representative, enables customized scenarios to be created for fleet customers, using special formulas and variables to determine the actual level of environmental impact and fuel costs of specific vehicles.
Ford has refuted rumors that the E-Series Econoline vans would be discontinued when the Transit hit the market by confirming that they’ll continue producing the E-Series through the better part of the next decade.
The newspaper, USA Today, originally suggested that Ford would drop the E-Series when the European-designed Transit goes on sale in 2013. Ford however confirmed that they’ll continue manufacturing the cutaway vans and motorhome chassis at their Ohio assembly plant but the Transit will replace the passenger and cargo vans.
[Source: Left Lane News]
Ever since drifting hit the mainstream we’ve been treated to some of the craziest drift vehicles, utilizing platforms we’d never imagine going sideways. At the top of the list now though is this BMW M5-powered Ford Transit Van that surprisingly goes sideways with ease. Dubbed the “drift bus”, the project hails from Poland, and to show off what it can do Polish RallyCross Champion Marcin Wicik got behind the wheel while cameras were filming.
The Transit features an E39 M5 (1998-2003) powerplant which in stock trim makes 400-hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Judging by the sound of the beast in the video, some modifications were done to the V8 to bump up the power to a claimed 440-hp. But statistics are irrelevant when you see this thing in action.
Check out a video of the Transit going sideways after the jump:
Because your new washer and dryer combo from Sears just can’t get home fast enough, Ford unveiled a hotted-up version of their Transit van, subtly named the SuperSportVan.
The SSV, unveiled at the (where else?) Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, England, is a short-wheelbase Transit stuffed with a 3.2-liter five-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque, underneath some racing stripes and big white wheels. Inside, the SSV still preserves its plumbing-equipment-hauling capabilities, but with a color navigation screen and LEDs sprinkled liberally throughout.
Ford has a tradition with super-fast Transit vans with the word “Super” in their names—there have been three heavily modified Supervans built since 1971, with the first riding atop a GT40 chassis and the most recent from 1995 featuring 650 horsepower. This one might not be as extreme as those race-chassis’d creations, but it’s a step in the right direction in bringing back vannin’. Hopefully the next Supervan will feature disco balls and an airbrushed mural of wizards.