General Motors announced today that it will begin selling a small cargo van based on heavily on Nissan’s NV200.
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From a moving van to moving the stars
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 made several important product announcements at a media event in Detroit this morning. Borrowing from its global portfolio, the Dearborn-based automaker is bringing an impressive array of commercial vehicles to the North American market, including a brand-new version of the Transit Connect.
Among the many classic masterpieces set for the upcoming Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas, there will be a retro throwback of a different breed: the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.
More details have been released regarding the full-size 2013 Ford Transit van, which will partially replace the discontinued E-series. In Ford F-150 fashion, the new Transit van will also provide the option of a robust twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine, good for 365-hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque.
The new full-size Ford van will be built upon an especially versatile platform that is designed to manage either a front-, rear-, or all-wheel-drive layout. Ford says that the 3.5-liter V6 will be available in rear-wheel-drive, while a naturally aspirated engine will be used for the all-wheel-drive variant. It is likely that Ford will forgo the front-wheel-drive option in the North American Market.
When compared to its future competitor, Nissan NV, the EcoBoost Ford Transit enjoys a hefty bump in horsepower over its rival’s 317-hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque from a 5.6-liter V8. Despite the smaller displacement and two less cylinders, the EcoBoost Transit is expected to achieve comparable EPA figures to the Nissan NV.
The upcoming Ford Transit is expected to hit the market in 2013, stay tuned for more details in the meant time.
GALLERY: Ford Transit
Dacia has taken quite a different approach in revealing its latest minivan, Lodgy. Rather than traveling the usual auto show circuit and looking pretty on rotating pedestals, a unique, race-prepped Dacia Lodgy has been made to compete in France’s ice rally series, the Trophée Andros, months before any information on the production model is available.
While the race-prepped Dacia Lodgy’s general proportions are likely very similar to the production version, the rally car is built upon a tubular chassis with a profile that sits lower and wider than its production variant. Power comes through a mid-mounted V6 engine good for 355-hp to all four wheels.
Expect the production Dacia Lodgy to debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show. No technical information yet, but a selection of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines will be offered, including the 1.5 dCi. Sources have also claimed that the people mover will offer both five passenger and seven passenger trims.
GALLERY: Dacia Lodgy
[Source: Left Lane News]
Holland hippie community rejoice! As of last month, Volkswagen‘s Dutch operations has debuted the 2012 model Volkswagen Bus. No, it isn’t the Bulli concept we saw earlier at Geneva, but the original Volkswagen Type 2, commonly known as the Bus or Combi.
The popularity and desirability of the classic van isn’t surprising. Current asking prices for the Bus have risen up to ten times the price of its original MSRP 30 years ago. But what’s more surprising is that new Volkswagen Buses are still being manufactured in Brazil. Overall, little has changed since the Type 2 was first introduced in the early 1970s. The exterior panels are identical, and even the door handles and headlights are left unchanged. Its gearbox is an outdated 4-speed transaxle and the Bus still uses drum brakes in the rear.
However, a crucial modification from the original is a 1.4 liter water-cooled inline-4 engine replacing the Type 2′s original air-cooled boxer 4. What’s more, the spare tire mount out in front is actually a radiator in disguise. Also, thanks to demands in the Brazilian market, the new 1.4 liter engine is capable of taking both ethanol and gasoline.
Sold as a camper, the Bus comes fully equipped with a gas stove, a water pump, a mini fridge, and a built-in oven. Seats will be identical to the original but the dashboard receives a modern makeover featuring an updated instrument panel. Additional options that are available include flatscreen TV with a DVD player, but don’t get too crazy. Prices for the 2012 Bus will start at a precious 44,995€ to 55,995€ ($61,000 to $76,000).
Available only in the Netherlands, the 2012 Bus can be registered anywhere in the European Union.
GALLERY: 2012 Volkwagen Bus
[Sources: Left Lane News]
If you thought the risk of buying a flood car after Hurricane Katrina was serious, imagine having your health threatened just from being near the car. That’s exactly what’s been happening in Japan, where unsuspecting consumers are being sold dangerously radioactive cars that belonged to people living in Fukushima and the surrounding area after the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the prefecture’s nuclear power plant in March.
According to harbor authorities, 660 cars have been banned thus far for export because of unsafe radion levels. Rather than destroy the hazardous merchandise, some Japanese car dealers are simply swapping license plates to cover their stock’s origin according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
One re-registered van was found to be emitting 110 microsieverts of radiation an hour— for perspective, the national limit for export to other countries is is 0.3 microsieverts an hour.
An unnamed dealer from the western city of Osaka bought the notorious vehicle at auction and decided to sell it despite the risk because he said he couldn’t afford to take the loss.
“I decontaminated repeatedly after the test and retested the filter of the air conditioner, the wipers and tires, replacing them thoroughly, but the radiation level dropped only to 30 microsieverts per hour,” he said.
[Source: FoxNews.com Autos]
A truck containing a teleprompter and audio gear used by President Barack Obama was stolen in Virginia, prompting questions about security lapses.
The gear, estimated at about $200,000, was parked in a van at a Virginia hotel parking lot ahead of Obama’s visit to the area. The van was said to be carrying audio equipment, podiums and even the Presidential seal, which only Obama is allowed to stand behind. The truck was eventually recovered, but details about the equipment’s status has not been made public.
The truck was said to be unmarked but wearing government tags, and observers are questioning whether this was simply a random vehicle theft that happened to be carrying important cargo, or whether the goods were specifically targeted by thieves.
Two weeks ago, a recall was launched for approximately 20,000 Nissan Altima sedans for a front suspension bolt that may not have been properly tightened during production of the vehicle. Today, another recall was launched regarding an incorrectly assembled air bag control unit in both the 2012 Altima and the 2012 NV work van. The affected vehicles were built during a two week period this year and the recall involves 54 units.
The faulty airbag control unit installations were installed in the Altima between June 15 and 21, 2011, and June 23-28 for the NV. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the unit “will not operate as designed and this issue may cause the air bags not to inflate in a crash … This could increase the risk of injury.”
According to NHTSA, the Japanese automaker will replace the air bag control units free of charge starting on or around August 22.
The Barrett-Jackson auctions are famous for selling rare exotic cars for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Usually the cars that command the highest prices are limited production Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Aston Martin’s.
At the Orange County auction, a 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger sold for $215,600, and a 1964 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III James Young sedan sold for $159,500. However the car of the weekend was a 1963 Volkswagen Samba Microbus that sold for a whopping $217,800.
This particular model was the top-of-the-line first generation bus made for Alpine touring. It has been restored to “much-better-than-new condition”, which helps to explain why it sold for such an obscene amount of money and is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. The exterior is painted Mouse Grey with touches of red trim. The interior features a German mohair headliner, original latches, restored ashtrays and luggage rails, as well as the original radio.
Ford is asking dealers to curtail orders of three shades of red paint, and one hue called “Tuxedo Black” due to difficulties sourcing metallic elements needed for the paint. The element, which is produced by a Japanese supplier, is unable to be produced to due damage resulting from the natural disasters that occurred in the country.
So far, full-size pickups and SUVs are unable to be ordered in Tuxedo Black, while vehicles like the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS will have their supplies of the color restricted. The shades of red will be scaled back on cars like the F-Series Super Duty and Ranger pickups, Focus, Econoline and Lincoln Navigator.
Ford says it is looking to find a replacement for the substance, called Xirallic, which is used to give the paint a metallic finish.
[Source: CNN Money]
In Germany, the Volkswagen Microbus was affectionately known as the “Bulli”, proving that terms of endearment and the German language aren’t always compatible. While Volkswagen had a false start with their Microbus concept in 2001, the same idea is back 10 years later, and it manages to be even more contemporary while still providing Baby Boomers with a hefty shot of nostalgia.
With an 85 kilowatt motor capable of returning 300 kilometers per charge, the Bulli may not be suitable for following Phish across the U.S.A, but its zero emissions drivetrain will definitely resonate with eco-conscious citizens who smell like bong water. VW is said to be investigating more conventional engines as well.
The usual super-modern infotainment systems, including iPad integration, an audio system designed by guitar maker Fender. One throwback is the front bench seat, a feature not seen since the days when kids could afford to buy a new Volkswagen, one that came with an air-cooled engine at that.
Gallery: Volkswagen Bulli
Ford‘s last minivan, the Freestar, left the market in tatters roughly 6 years ago, lagging badly behind the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. For 2011, Ford is back, with a vehicle that couldn’t be more different.
The Ford C-Max ditches the Freestar’s antiquated architecture and inefficient V6 for a pair of 4-cylinders, including a 1.6L Ecoboost version. A dual clutch transmission also makes an appearance, and the overall footprint is much smaller, closer to a Mazda5 than any other van on the market.
Although it’s sold in Europe as the Grand C-Max, this car is likely the smallest vehicle North Americans could stomach. A “5+2″ seating arrangement, similar to the first generation Honda Odyssey, allows for maximum flexibility, while features like MyFordTouch and Park Assist will help vault the C-Max ahead of the Mazda5 in terms of gadgets. Ford quotes a price starting “in the mid-20′s” suggesting a more premium branding strategy rather than the previous method of selling everything from a dirt cheap sub-20k model to a loaded-to-the-gills luxury van.
Also of note is the hands free liftgate, which can be activated by sweeping one’s foot underneath the bumper. A feature like this is sure to appeal to the target demographic far beyond any turbocharged engine or sporty suspension.
Gallery: Ford C-Max
Although Toyota has been hyping their new Prius MPV for months, Ford‘s announcement of not one, but two hybrid minivans is sure to take the wind out of Toyota’s sails (no pun intended).
The C-Max Hybrid and Energi (Ford’s name for the plug-in variant) will be 5-seaters only, and use a lithium-ion battery pack, considered to be the next generation of hybrid battery technology. The car will also be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the first plant that will build electric and gasoline vehicles side by side.
The C-Max Energi will offer a number of interesting advantages; the ability to go 500 miles on a single tank of gas (the longest range for any plug-in), the chance to use HOV lanes with only a single occupant (in states such as California, where this is allowed) and fuel economy that bests the Fusion Hybrids 41/36 mpg rating. Ford also claims that the Energi will exceed the Fusion’s EV-only speed of 47 mph.
Visually, the Hybrid and Energi are distinguished by subtle fender badges, with the Energi’s charging port glowing upon connecting with a charging paddle. The Energi will be on sale in 2012, the same time as the Prius minivan. An interesting battle looks to be shaping up, with Ford’s newly resurgent lineup taking on the name in hybrids.
Gallery: Ford C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi
Few people pay attention to minivans, but an interesting sales war is heating up, with what could be Chrysler’s first major sales victory in their post-bailout era.
Chrysler‘s Town & Country minivan, which just underwent a pretty substantial refresh, is the leading minivan according to sales data, moving 102,495 units through November. The perennial leader, the Honda Odyssey, trailed by about 4500 units, amid a surging minivan market. Toyota’s Sienna is over 10,000 units behind the Chrysler.
It seems unlikely that the Odyssey will prevail, and 2011 is sure to be an interesting year if the upward sales of minivans continues, especially with a predicted rise in gas prices.
[Source: The Detroit News]
Nissan and Mitsubishi announced a new joint venture today, notably involving a minicar project that will see Nissan’s engineering prowess and Mitsubishi’s small car expertise utilized in to give greater market share to both companies in markets outside North America.
The first salvo of products will include a Nissan-built van to be sold as a Mitsubishi in Japan, while Mitsubishi will build a Nissan badged SUV for the Middle East market. The upcoming minicar will compete in a segment that comprises a third of Japanese new car sales, and has increasing demand in many developing markets.
“In the global auto industry, cooperation on specific projects among automakers is becoming increasingly common,” Ghosn said at a press conference announcing the venture.”It is, in fact, a signal of how our industry is evolving to sustain success over the long term, by leveraging size, scale and investments more effectively to create more value.”
[Source: The Detroit News]