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.
Alfa Romeo's Triumphant Return
One of the most anxiously anticipated vehicles of the past few years is Alfa Romeo’s sultry new 4C sports car. Since the first concept version bowed in 2011 this product has seemingly whipped all of automotive journalism into a froth that’s stiffer than the peaks of a baked meringue. This much-hyped and oft-delayed product is set to launch this fall and we had a brief opportunity to sample it.
It might be time to start saying “buh-bye” to Italian automotive design house Bertone.
Profiling isn’t something you would necessarily picture happening to the sort of person who drives a Ferrari, but in Italy that is quickly becoming the case.
It used to be that wealthy Italians would often purchase exotic sports cars — often of the variety made in their home country, though that’s becoming less likely as the Italian government cracks down on tax fraud.
Tease up those bangs, put on your neon legwarmers, throw in a couple extra shoulder pads and get ready for the ‘80s-inspired MINI Ray.
Before you get too excited, the new MINI is only available in Italy. Targeted at the young and hip, the RAY makes a bold statement with vibrant neon colors. We find it funny that the demographic targeted was too young to appreciate the tackiness this decade was famous for the first time around. But hey, who can resist day-glo shades of Alien Green, Lemon Yellow, Flash White, Energy Pink, Vitamin Orange and Shocking Blue? It’s not like the whole car is painted florescent – you’ll find accents on the mirrors, hubcaps, hood and even the MINI badge on the front grill.
The MINI Ray will be hitting dealerships at the beginning of May when Italian hipsters can look forward to a Summer spent cruising the Italian countryside blaring your old Duran Duran cassette tapes, through an iPod of course.
GALLERY: MINI Ray
Even though Italy’s Nardo test track isn’t as famous as Germany’s Nurburgring, it is still an incredible place to test out the limits of a car. Porsche Engineering has announced it will be taking over responsibility of the impressive track starting in May.
Porsche announced the news today, stating that they will be further optimizing the Nardo’s facilities.
CEO of Porsche Engineering, Malte Radmann said, “with its rich array of facilities, from dynamic surfaces to acoustic and off-road sections coupled with the numerous workshops, our clients can continue to make extensive use of Nardò for their vehicle trials in the future as well.”
The Nardo test track features a 7.7 mile oval circuit and 3.9 mile handling circuit, which can be used to test a wide variety of driving and racing conditions. It also holds the distinction of being large enough to be seen from space (image below).
Located at the actual birthplace and childhood home of Enzo Ferrari, an all-new Ferrari museum recently opened called Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena, Italy.
Unlike the Ferrari museum in Maranello however, Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari puts a focus on celebrating Enzo Ferrari’s life in addition to the exotic automobiles Ferrari produces.
Originally designed by architect Jan Kaplický, the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari project went to the capable hands of Andrea Morgante when Kaplický tragically passed away. Morgante, Kaplický’s protege, continued the project in the vision that he believes his mentor would have, but emphasized that they wanted the museum “to be more of an art gallery than a place dedicated to hard-core motoring.”
The museum is built on the same European home that Enzo Ferrari sold to finance his dreams of building exotic automobiles. A group of investors were able to convince the owners to convert it to a museum that now showcases much of Enzo’s life as both driver and builder. Some of the things visitors will be able to see include Enzo’s trademark dark sunglasses, his birth certificate, and a violet pen he used to sign contracts.
Though that may not sound overly exciting to some, there is also an exhibition center that was designed to “resemble a piece of a Ferrari.” In there will be exhibits showcasing a mix of automobiles that will change from time to time. The first exhibit is titled “The Origins of the Myth” and has a mix of Ferraris, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, and Fiats that Enzo Ferrari raced and built.
Visitors to the museum will also be able to stop at a documentation center, an education center, a conference room, a book shop, and a cafeteria. The museum will also be available for conferences, launches, and cultural events.
GALLERY: Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari
[Source: Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari]
As the indebted Eurozone nation Italy struggles to stay afloat, the country finds many of its wealthier citizens evading taxes and refusing to do their part.
As a result, Italy’s Polizia launched a major operation across Milan in late January, setting roadblocks to halt high-end luxury vehicle drivers. When drivers hand over license and registration, their personal information will be passed on to the national tax agency to determine whether the owner of the car has declared accurate income and if the proper amount of income taxes has been paid.
Targeting tax evaders by profiling luxury vehicles is nothing new. A year ago, Italian authorities applied the same logic to luxury yacht owners in Italy’s harbors.
So far, traffic checkpoints sweeping for tax evaders have been posted in locations including one right across the street from Milan’s famed Corso Como, another at the Cortina d’Ampezzo luxury ski resort, the Italian Riviera’s Portofino, and cities Rome and Florence.
A wealthy entrepreneur of Italy, Andrea refused to give his last name to prevent giving off any further attention to Italy’s tax agency. When asked about his Land-Rover Range Rover, Andrea said, “I’ve been stopped three times in the last few weeks by authorities because I’m driving a luxury SUV. It seems like McCarthy era in America. You’re guilty by suspicion.” Due to excessive harassment from the police, Andrea plans to sell the Range Rover he bought last May. Expecting to receive 40,000 euros at best for a car he bought for more than 100,000 euros, Andrea explains, “Dealers are full of luxury cars. No one wants to buy them now.”
Not only are luxury car owners targeted on the street day to day, but luxury goods tax hikes discouraged premium car ownership as well. An owner of a 316,000 euro Lamborghini Aventador would now have to pay about 8,400 euros in taxes a year for the Italian exotic, an amount that’s almost 500 percent higher than tax charges from the past.
General Manager of Jaguar Italy Marco Santucci said that orders for Jaguar vehicles have “decreased substantially” in the final months of 2011. Demand for the Italian Icons Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini have nosedived by 53 percent in January. Maserati CEO Harald Wester expresses his disappointment, “It’s hard to imagine that any other European country having luxury car producers contributing significantly to employment would have introduced a tax.” On the other hand, Ferrari and owner Fiat are less perturbed. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne commented that “Italy isn’t a concern for Ferrari as it sells its cars abroad.”
According to ANFIA (Associazione Nazionale Fra Industrie Automobilistiche), the association of Italian automakers, January only netted 66 supercars sold. Italian dealer association Federauto added that new taxes and general national prejudice caused prices for exotic cars to fall by 20 percent. Head of Federatuo Filippo Pavan Bernacchi said, “Extra taxes and fiscal raids are hurting the demand for supercars and killing the second-hand market.”
Despite the displeasure of its citizens, Italy’s raids are working. At the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, 251 luxury vehicles were stopped, including Ferari and Lamborghini supercars. Of the lot, 42 luxury car owners had declared an income of 30,000 euros or less for 2010 and 2009. What’s more 19 luxury vehicles belonged to businesses that posted a loss in the previous year. In Florence, a builder was discovered to have no tax record at all, while his wife received social assistance.
Tax evasion is estimated to cost Italy about 120 billion euros in lost revenues each year and it is unclear whether stopping luxury car owners at checkpoints could really fix Italy’s debt. However, our wealthy readers should note the 20 percent price drop in Italy’s premium car market. Not only is there a bargain to be found, but customers will be lending a hand to Italy’s local business.
If you had twelve children every year, would you love them all the same? It might be hard to keep track, but as is true with any parent, seeing one of your babies hurt would be tragic.
While it’s a bit much to think of cars as children, and some people do, the Pagani Zonda is a rarity in the luxury supercar market because the company only produced one every month starting in 1999 and stopped production last year. That is enough to tug on enthusiast heart strings and evoke a passionate response when one of these rare birds gets its wings clipped.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what seems to have happened in Hong Kong. Pictures started floating around a forum, showcasing a wrecked Zonda in the middle of an intersection. There aren’t many other details to report on the wreck, but it’s clear from the picture that the car was on a tight city street. You can see that the driver hit a pole, but beyond that it’s tough to speculate on the incident. Click here to see the forum for yourself.
GALLERY: Pagani Zonda F Roadster
Fiat‘s iconic assembly plant on the Island of Sicily closed on November 24th and has been taken over by an investor.
The plant, which opened in 1970 and manufactured primarily Fiat 500s was sold for a token single euro. Massimo Di Risio, one of Italy’s largest car dealers, is that investor. He plans to re-open the plant as early as late next year to assemble four Chery models.
Thus far, his efforts to rebadge the Chinese vehicles under his DR brand have been unsuccessful, but he hopes that taking the plant over will help change that.
His goal, despite financial problems caused by the initial failure of his rebadged Chery project, is to produce 65,000 cars per year. Di Risio currently owns an assembly plant north of Naples where he manufactures the DR5 (Chery Tiggos), the DR1 (Chery M1) and the DR2 (Chery A1) that will now come from his new plant.
[Source: Left Lane News]
The two have been working together since 2003 when Suzuki started offering a Fiat-sourced 2.0-liter diesel in their Sedici/SX4 duo. That partnership flew in the face of another deal between Suzuki and Volkswagen that has since imploded.
Recently rising gas prices in India, where Maruti-Suzuki has a commanding grasp of the auto market, have meant that demand for diesels is outstripping supply. Consequently, a new deal between Suzuki and Fiat will ramp up production from the previous 280,000 Swifts per year to 380,000.
The Swift is the best-selling car in India, and will likely take an even bigger share in January when the increased production will take effect. The diesel version is so popular that Maruti-Suzuki actually raised the price to encourage consumers to opt for the less popular gasoline powered version.
[Source: Left Lane News]
Italy is one of the most beautiful and scenic countries in the world and when paired up with one of the most exotic creations from the country, you’re guaranteed to have a breathtaking video. Highlighting Ferrari‘s new 458 Spider, the red drop-top beauty races through the Amalfi Coast, at Reggia di Caserta and other picturesque locations throughout the Basilicata region.
While for most of us having the opportunity to drive a 458 Spider is good enough, being able to pilot its 562-hp, 4.5L V8 along the Mediterranean Sea is probably towards the top of our bucket list. So sit back, hit play and listen to the sonorous note of the Spider’s exhaust that has been tuned to sound even better with the roof open. No arguments from us.
Check out the video after the break.
In 2010, the world’s vehicle population hit one billion which works out to be roughly one car for every seven people. Reports conclude that China fueled half of the global growth, as it passed Japan for the world’s second largest vehicle population, with 28 million cars on the road.
India’s vehicle population has increased by nearly nine percent, pushing its total to 21 million cars on the road. The United States is still the country of cars, despite a lingering downturn in vehicle sales. The total vehicle population of 240 million cars, works out to be one car for every 1.2 persons.
[Source: Inside Line]
Ferrari will offer a special winter driving course in Aspen, Colorado, with the goal of elevating driver skill and enhancing appreciation for the all-season FF GT, which hits dealerships this fall.
The program stems from the “Pilota on Ice” program recently offered in Italy, and the all-new and all-wheel drive FF will be the star of the program. Sessions will begin in January, and will run for 6-7 weeks, exclusively for Ferrari owners. The program will allow owners to experience the FF’s AWD system in snow and icey conditions. The 4RM all-wheel drive system was designed to retain the sporty dynamic driving characteristics of a traditional Ferrari, in low grip situations. Aspen offers a beautiful setting to test out the vehicle on a custom-made snow and ice course, where the FF truly comes to life.
More information on the winter driving program will become available in late summer.
[Source: Team Speed]
American consumers buying the Fiat 500 are choosing pricier packages and customized options. The mid level Sport ($17,500) model accounts for almost half of the model’s sales in the first five months of the Italian brand in the U.S.
The top level Lounge ($19,500) model represents 20 percent of sales which features bigger wheels, leather seats, satellite radio and a glass roof. ”A lot of what we’re seeing is customers really want to build their car,” said Laura Soave, head of the Fiat brand in North America. ”Customers are willing to wait the six to eight weeks to get the one they want.”
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both Fiat and Chrysler, aims to merge both automakers to reduce costs and generate over $142 billion by 2014. Chrysler predicts selling more than 50,000 500′s annually in the US. Fiat has delivered 7,982 500′s in the US since March and has sold 3,038 units in July. Fiat will open 130 initial dealerships and hopes to attain its sales target by 2011. The 500 is built in Chrysler’s factory near Mexico City.
[Source: Automotive News]
Click here to read AutoGuide’s 2012 Fiat 500 Review and discuss this story at Fait500Owners.com
Fiat has asked Chrysler to boost Freemont output after European demand soars for the rebadged Dodge Journey. Last June, with the Freemonts introduction, Fiat hoped to sell 13,000 of the minivans this year, however the automaker has already collected 15,700 orders. Fiat planned to sell 33,000 Freemonts in 2012 and as a result, Fiat was promised 3,000 Freemonts a month from Chryslers plant in Toluca, Mexico. With the high demand for the minivan, Chrysler boosted production to 4,067 units in June.
The European version of the minivan differs from its American counterpart with different front and rear styling, suspension tweaks and a Fiat’s MultiJet 2 diesel engine, not offered by Dodge.
[Source: Automotive News]
This very special 1957 four-cylinder Ferrari 500 is one of the latest additions to the RM Auctions docket at the upcoming Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este where the car is expected to fetch between $3.5 to $4.5 million.
This Ferrari 500 TRC (Testa Rossa Type-C) Spider was the first Ferrari to bear the Testa Rossa name for its red valve covers. Only 19 TRC’s were built and this particular example – chassis number 0670 MDTR – was the sixth vehicle made. These TRC Ferraris, are more rare than the more powerful 12-cylinder 250 TR as well as the infamous 250 GTO which are notorious for selling into the multi millions.
An Italian bus driver has been fired from his job for being too popular. In the video you can see that he is using two cell phones while steering with his elbows. Talk about being a serious multitasker.
While battling the traffic in downtown Rome, the driver attempts to set up his email on a smartphone while speaking to customer service on his second phone. Not only that, but he was driving a busload of passengers.
The company that owns the bus service has suspended the driver pending a full investigation. You’d think all people would know by now that you are being taped wherever you are.
Check out the video after the jump!
Famed Mercedes-Benz tuner Brabus, has continued to expand their Smart ForTwo portfolio, this time with a modified cabrio. Called the Brabus La Bleue, the modified Smart ForTwo will be available only in Italy with a limited production of just 60 units.
On the outside, the special edition vehicle will sport a dark blue metallic paint that is contrasted by Brabus’ Monoblock VII six-twin-spoke wheels in a classy silver finish. The wheel setup is staggered with a 16-inch sizing up front and 17-inch sizing in the rear.
In true Brabus fashion, the interior receives a luxurious treatment of soft beige leather with contrasting blue stitching of Brabus’ logo. The La Bleue comes with Brabus’ tuned Smart ForTwo powerplant, that sports 102-hp.
GALLERY: Brabus Smart ForTwo Cabrio La Bleue
To celebrate Italy’s 150 years of unity, Lamborghini has decided to release a special edition Gallardo sporting the Tricolore name. Nothing is too extravagant on the limited edition Gallardo, just simply Lamborghini’s tribute to its home country by accenting the otherwise white Gallardo with three stripes representing the colors of the Italian flag.
In addition to the green, white and red stripe, the Gallardo Tricolore will also feature carbon fiber mirror caps. On the inside, the Italian tribute continues with the three-color accent on the driver seat.
No other details were revealed by Lamborghini, but it’ll probably be safe to assume that it’ll sport the 560-hp V10 powerplant that can be seen in their Bicolore variant. And if we had to guess, they’ll probably produce 150 of these bad boys.