Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Toyota Halts Sales of Several Models

Toyota is suspending U.S. sales of the 2009-2010 RAV4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2009-2010 Matrix hatchback, the 2005-2010 Avalon large sedan, the 2010 Highlander crossover, the 2007-2010 Tundra pickup and the 2008-2010 Sequoia large SUV.
The automaker made the move after finding that defective accelerator pedals might be a widespread problem throughout many of those models. Apparently, the pedals can stick and cause involuntary acceleration.
Toyota issued a recall of the models last week, totaling 2.3 million vehicles.
The company also said it is halting production at six North American vehicle plants starting next week, with no date announced for resumption.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Saab Appears to be Near Acquisition by Dutch Company

A person briefed on the matter says General Motors Co. is close to a deal to sell its Swedish Saab brand to Dutch luxury automaker Spyker Cars NV, the Associated Press reports. The person doesn't want to be identified because the deal has yet to be signed.

Trading of Spyker shares has been suspended in Amsterdam in anticipation of a press release announcing the deal. A Dutch regulator says it stopped Spyker trading "pending a press statement" by the company.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Toyota Issues Recall

Toyota said Thursday it is recalling 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix accelerator pedals that can become stuck, the latest in a string of quality problems that have bedeviled the Japanese automaker.

The recall affects the 2009-2010 RAV4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2009-2010 Matrix, the 2005-2010 Avalon, the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2010 Highlander, the 2007-2010 Tundra and the 2008-2010 Sequoia.

The latest move comes just months after Toyota Motor Corp. recalled 4.2 million vehicles over concerns that accelerator pedals could become lodged under floor mats, causing sudden acceleration. That problem was blamed for several crashes, including an accident involving a Lexus that accelerated to more than 120 mph before crashing in San Diego, killing four people.

But Toyota said this recall is due to problems with the actual gas pedal mechanism, causing the accelerator to become stuck regardless of whether the vehicle contains a floor mat. Toyota said in certain rare cases, the gas pedal mechanism wears down, causing the accelerator to become harder to press, slower to return or, in some cases, stuck.

In a letter to federal safety officials dated Thursday, Toyota said the problem appeared to be related to the potential build-up of condensation on sliding surfaces in the accelerator system that helps drivers push down or release the gas pedal.

Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said the automaker does not yet have a solution to the latest problem but is working to develop one.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that the problem is "a serious safety issue and we are pleased Toyota is taking immediate action to address it."

The safety stumbles have dinged Toyota's reputation in the U.S. as a builder of dependable, high-quality cars. Last year's recall was the sixth-largest ever in the United States.

--Associated Press

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Please Help Earthquake Relief Efforts

Estimates say that up to 3 million people may have been affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Here are some organizations specifically helping relief efforts.
How you can help:

International Medical CorpsDirect Relief InternationalWorld VisionInternational Relief TeamsYĆ©le HaitiAmerican Red CrossOperation USACARECatholic Relief ServicesWorld Food ProgrammeWorld ConcernSave the Children
UNICEF USAMercy CorpsOperation Blessing InternationalShelterboxAmericaresOperation USADoctors Without BordersMedical Teams InternationalThe International Committee of the Red CrossThe Salvation ArmyMore ways to help victims of NATURAL DISASTERS

Nissan Frontier: For a Small Truck, It Sure is Grown Up

Remember when the Nissan Frontier was a cute little truck?

Well, it's all grown up now, and you wouldn't so much call it cute as you would ... rugged.

Nissan now puts the Frontier on the same frame as its mammoth Titan pickup. And even on the interior, our tester, which was a Crew Cab, looked and felt like a full-size truck.

But, just to distinguish it from the Titan, Nissan gives the Frontier a four-cylinder engine in addition to the six-cylinder that our tester had.

From a design standpoint, the Frontier deserves its props. It's a sporty-looking truck that seems to take design cues from SUVs and even cars.

The wheel wells, for instance, flare nicely to give it a husky, tough look. But the chrome-bar grille lends some class and the front end's sloping lines suggest sleekness that you don't see in many trucks.

The interior isn't fancy, but rather functional, as one would expect from a pickup.

Under the hood, the V-6 engine in the tester makes a hearty 261 horsepower, and feels very much like a V-8 when you drive it. It also, unfortunately, has V-8-like numbers at the gas pump; 14 mpg city, 19 highway.

If you don't need extra power for towing or hauling, stick with the four-cylinder, which delivers 152 horsepower and gets 19 mpg city, 23 highway.

But if you need to tow, go with the 4.0-liter V-6, which has a towing capacity of 6,500 pounds. That engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

The Frontier comes with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Competitors to the Frontier include the Toyota Tacoma, Dodge Dakota and the venerable Ford Ranger.

The Frontier ranges in price from around $17,540 to almost $30,000.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cadillac SRX Looks Better, Is Better

Cadillac has completely redesigned its SRX crossover for the 2010 model year, and the result is a smaller, better-looking vehicle that is a worthy competitor among luxury crossovers.
The SRX is now in its second generation. The first was a rear-wheel drive model, while the new one has front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive being optional.
Another key difference in the new model is the seating configuration. The previous model came with a third row of seating, but now there are two, which provides greater cargo space in the rear.
The V-8 engine from the previous model is gone, replaced by a pair of V-6s; a 3.0-liter direct-injection which makes 260 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of torque and a 2.8-liter turbocharged power plant that makes 300 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet.Both engines are linked to a six-speed automatic transmission.
General Motors says the new engines offer the same level of performance of the previous ones but with improved fuel economy and lower emissions.The base engine gets 18 mpg city and 25 highway with front-wheel drive and 17 and 22 with all-wheel drive.
Cadillac says the all-wheel-drive system enhances stability and handling on different types of surfaces, including wet pavement or winding roads, and bolsters safety.
The SRX has a towing capacity of 2,500 pounds, or 3,500 pounds with the optional towing package.
The most striking thing about the new SRX is its appearance.
I used to thing the prior model was one of the least attractive vehicles on the market. Its boxiness and bloated look was not at all suited to Cadillac's overall design language.
Now, however, the SRX looks like a legitimate Cadillac.
The bold design highlights the performance aspects of the SRX, and the style more clearly defines luxury.
Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, while 20-inch wheels are optional. There are chrome front fender vents that include side-marker lights, and there is an integrated spoiler on the rear edge of the roof.
On the interior, there are hand-stitched covers on the instrument panel. A center instrument-panel stack holds the climate and audio-system controls. The optional navigation system has a screen that pops up from the top of the dash.Among other special features are headlights that turn slightly in the direction the vehicle is turning, a power rear tailgate with adjustable height setting, a hard-disc drive for audio storage and dual screens for the rear-seat entertainment system.Bluetooth is standard, along with GM's OnStar system, which offers turn-by-turn navigation for those who don't take the navigation system.Among standard safety features are a body structure and chassis designed to absorb crash energy, electronic stability control with traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows, front seat-mounted side air bags, front safety belts with dual pretensioners and load limiters, rollover mitigation sensors and trailer stability assist.The base price starts at $33,330 and ranges as high as $47,540.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

China a Burgeoning Market for GM

Chinese consumers bought more automobiles last year than Americans did for the first time. A top executive at General Motors thinks that it won't be long before it too will sell more cars in China than in its home market.

In fact, Tim Lee, GM's Shanghai-based president of international operations, said at the auto industry's key trade show Tuesday that this day could come sooner rather than later.

"We did very very well," Lee said about the company's sales in China in 2009. "We don't intend to stop with what we've done. We intend to grow."

GM sold about 1.83 million vehicles in China last year and 2.07 million cars and trucks in the U.S. But GM, already the leader in China with 13.4% of the market, is still gaining share. GM's market share was 11.3% in 2008.

By way of comparison, GM has steadily lost market share for several decades in the U.S., falling to 19.9% in 2009.

It would not be unique for GM to sell more cars outside of its home market. Japanese automakers Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC) both have sold more vehicles in the United States than in Japan for years now. And while U.S. is still GM's single largest market, international sales have topped domestic sales for a number of years.

Even if sales rebound in the U.S. this year, China is still a far more dynamic market for GM to focus on for the long-term. A robust pace of economic growth is creating new drivers and helping to expand the network of roads every day. Then there's the fact that China's population is significantly greater than America's.

Still, for GM to sell more in China than in the United States would be a startling development -- especially considering how far apart sales in the two countries stood only five years ago.

In 2004, GM sold fewer than 500,000 vehicles in China and 4.6 million in the U.S. While Lee wouldn't predict when GM's China sales would beat out sales in the U.S., he said there is a friendly race within the company to see which market winds up on top of GM's total sales. To top of page

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fusion Hybrid is a Winner in Detroit

Ford Motor Co. has won the 2010 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid midsize sedan took the car of the year award, while the Ford Transit Connect captured the truck of the year at the Detroit auto show on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Forty-nine auto journalists made the picks. Finalists for the car award included the Buick LaCrosse and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Chevrolet Equinox and Subaru Outback were finalists for the truck award.

The awards, given annually by journalists who test cars throughout the year, are often used by automakers in advertising. Vehicles are judged on innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value.

The awards were presented Monday morning on the first day of media previews for the show.

Last year's winners were the Hyundai Genesis luxury sedan and theFord F-150 pickup.

Friday, January 8, 2010

VW GTI Brings the Heat in the Hatchback Category

The 2010 Volkswagen GTI remains one of the the sportiest small hatchbacks on the market today.

But along with that sporty little package, you also get pretty good fuel economy and even a dash of practicality.

Starting on the inside, you get a dashboard layout that upholds VW's reputation for building neatly arranged consoles full of quality materials.

The touch-screen interface for the stereo is standard, even without the optional navigation system, and you get an iPod portal as well.

The climate controls are high-end, easy to use and well-placed.

The back seating area is spacious for such a small car, able to accommodate fully grown humans.

VW says the trunk is 15.3 cubic feet, which again is pretty good for a car this size, and it surely can hold a nice collection of everyday items that you might be toting (grocery bags, briefcases, gym bags).

But it's on the road where you can really let the GTI show its chops.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine makes a stout 200 horsepower and is linked to either a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox.

Fuel economy, according to EPA, is 21-24 mpg city, 31-32 mpg highway.

When you are on a fun, twisty road, the GTI lets you enjoy yourself to the max, with its ability to take corners aggressively.

The GTI is a front-wheel-drive machine that drives like a rear-wheeler.

But this also isn't one of those small cars that is fun when you are in performance mode, but harsh when you're doing your everyday driving.

Rather, it has excellent manners, giving you a nice smooth ride when you're headed to the mall or the post office.

Safety features are abundant, such as six airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes and optional rear-side airbags.

VW says that one new feature for this model year is the electronic limited-slip differential, which aids in traction when you are coming out of a curve (and contributes to that rear-wheel-drive feeling).

Not only is this a nice touch for performance, it's also good for safety.

Pricing for the GTI is reasonable, especially at the lower ends, with stickers ranging from about $24,000 to almost $32,700 for a fully loaded four-door.

Plus, you get three years or 36,000 miles of free maintenance.

That should ease the minds of those who are leery of VW's reliability ratings, which in the past left something to be desired but have improved in recent years.

The GTI's package of sportiness, fuel economy and practicality make for a nice entry in the small-car market.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hot Rod TV is Coming Back

HOT ROD TV, the on-air version of one of the nation’s most widely read and iconic automotive magazines, HOT ROD, has reached an agreement with SPEED to produce another season of its popular television show. Up to 13 new episodes are set to appear on the network starting in April of 2010, as it will continue to be an important part of SPEED’s Saturday morning Castrol Engine Block lineup.


The show, a creation of Bud Brutsman (BCII Productions) whom also produced successful series like Livin’ the Low Life, Payback, Overhaulin’ and Rides, covers a wide variety of topics, cars and personalities that make up the long-standing and often iconic ‘hot rod culture.’ The television show brings to life some of the magazine’s culture, going behind the scenes section-by-section of a big restoration, eyeing pieces of rolling art at the local ‘cruise in’ or talking to the many people that play an important part in keeping one of America’s longest standing automotive traditions alive.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What a Year for the Four Rings

Audi today reported December U.S. sales of 9,030 luxury performance cars and SUVs, a result that ensured Audi will show the biggest 2009 U.S. market share gain of any imported luxury car brand.