Friday, October 29, 2010

Be Safe and Have Fun This Halloween

It's Halloween weekend, which means trick-or-treating.
So, with all those little ghosts and goblins walking around, it will be especially important for motorists to drive carefully.
Please slow down and keep your eyes focused on the road, especially in residential neighborhoods.
And parents, please make sure the youngsters are dressed with safety in mind -- using reflective tape is a good idea.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

AutoTrader Buying Kelley Blue Book

Atlanta-based announced that it will acquire Kelley Blue Book, one of the most popular sources for automotive information. 
Financial terms of the deal were not released, but news reports cited by placed the value of KBB at more than $500 million.
AutoTrader's purchase also includes KBB sister companies CDMdata and CDM Dealer Services.
Kelley Blue Book will continue to be headquartered in Irvine, Calif., and operate as a subsidiary of AutoTrader.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. 
" is excited about becoming the new owner of Kelley Blue Book because we believe the company has a great future," said President and CEO Chip Perry in a news release. "Kelley Blue Book has a wonderful history as an iconic brand and trusted provider of vehicle information to generations of car buyers and sellers, and as we look into the future we believe together we can bring a host of new technologies and tools to market that will significantly improve the car shopping process for consumers, and help auto dealers and manufacturers better capitalize on the fundamental efficiency advantages of the Internet."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reliability Ratings Favorable to Honda, Toyota, Ford

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports has released its list of most reliable car brands and, not surprisingly, Honda and Toyota are still the leaders.
Ford led the way among American brands, with 90 percent of Ford and Lincoln models scoring at least average reliability ratings.
General Motors has taken a some impressive steps forward, with 69 percent of its models scoring average or higher.
Cadillac jumped seven spots above its ranking last year, Chevy posted an 83 percent average or higher rating.
Chrysler continued to be the laggard among U.S. brands, with CR saying the only vehicle it recommends from the brand is the Dodge Ram 1500 four-wheel drive.
Every model from Honda, Acura, Hyundai, Toyota, Scion and Infiniti scored at least average ratings.
Ford's outstanding models, the Fusion sedan, Flex EcoBoost crossover and MKT sport ute rated above average.
CR said Mercedes-Benz vehicles were least reliable in three categories, and six of its 13 models were below average.
This luxury brand has had a track record of making lousy vehicles, when it comes to quality, for quite some  time, but inexplicably remains arrogant in its approach to dealing with this issue.
Mercedes has clearly established itself as a brand to avoid at all costs.
Don't buy one, period.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Toyota Recalling 1.5 Million Vehicles

Toyota said it is recalling 1.53 million vehicles, including Avalons and models from its Lexus luxury brand, mostly in the U.S. and Japan, because of problems with brake fluid and fuel pumps.

The recall will affect nearly 740,000 cars in the U.S. and 599,000 in Japan, Toyota said, with the remainder being in Europe and other markets.
Toyota has had to recall more than 10 million cars and trucks worldwide over the past year for numerous issues, including faulty gas pedals, floor mats that can trap accelerators and brake defects in its Prius hybrid. In August, Toyota recalled 1.33 million Corolla sedans and Matrix hatchbacks in the U.S. and Canada because of a problem with engines stalling.
Toyota said most vehicles this time need to be fixed for a problem with the brake master cylinder, which could lead to weaker braking power.
The models affected by the latest recall include the 2005 and 2006 Avalon, 2004 through 2006 non-hybrid Highlander and Lexus RX330, and 2006 Lexus GS300, IS250, and IS350 vehicles, the company said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ford Makes its Edge Even Sharper

Ford doesn't bill its Edge crossover vehicle as a luxury model, but when you get this vehicle all decked out in its nicest trim levels, it most certainly is luxurious.

The 2011 Edge has received a refreshed look on the outside, has an upscale look inside, offers superb technology and more power. 

To top that off, when you get behind the wheel you'll experience wonderful driving performance.

The Edge has been well received by consumers since it first appeared on the market a few years ago. But Ford apparently did not want to rest on its laurels, choosing to give the crossover a more, well, edgier look for the 2011 model year.

That move has proven to be a success so far. The bolder, sharper look, along with the horizontal-bar grille that is being used on more and more Ford products, are winning rave reviews from critics who have seen the new Edge.

To wit, a motorist on Interstate 75 sped up to catch up with us to give us a big thumbs up as we rolled along in the Edge.
Ford says the new model also has a new sloping bumper and sleeker headlights, along with standard 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Ford also chose to bolster the Edge's power, bringing in three new engines.

The standard power plant is the 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 285 horsepower, a gain of 20 ponies over the predecessor.
There is also a 3.7-liter that makes 305 horsepower. 
Both engines are tied to a six-speed automatic transmission. 
Front-wheel drive is standard, with an option of all-wheel.
Ford has shown an impressive commitment to raising fuel economy in recent years, and as such is preparing to offer a four-cylinder engine that will have its EcoBoost fuel-saving technology, which also provides ample power. 

The 3.5-liter is rated at 18 mpg city, 26 highway by EPA, and the 3.7-liter gets 17 and 23.

The Edge comes in four trim levels: SE, SEL, Limited and Sport.

The interior of the test model, which was a Sport, was gorgeous. The quality of the materials, the lighting and the modern look positioned this vehicle squarely in the luxury category.

Ford has installed its MyFord Touch information and entertainment system in the Edge. Ford says the user interface is modeled after today's smartphones, and you'll pick up on that. 
However, don't be surprised if it takes you a little while to get used to how MyFord Touch works. It's not that you have to be a technical engineer, but it's a bit different from other systems you might encounter in other cars.

Also included is Ford's Sync system, which lets you connect with your Bluetooth and MP3 player. 

Our only real nitpicky complaint about the Edge was the turn signal. It was one of those that you sometimes find in European models where you can never really tell if it's on or off.
Hopefully Ford can adjust this.

As far as convenience, which is what many crossover drivers want, fear not. This vehicle has nearly 69 cubic feet of cargo space, Ford says.
Plus you can fold down the rear seat very quickly, with the push of a button. 
Convenience options include rain-sensing wipers and a power liftgate.
Other optional amenities include the 22-inch polished wheels and the panoramic sunroof.  
For safety, the optional blind spot warning system, backup camera and collision warning system are good features to help prevent accidents.

The Edge ranges in price from just under $28,000 to around $40,000.

With this kind of style, performance and utility, the Edge is a most worthy competitor, indeed, in the crossover market.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Celebrate the Return of the Ford Fiesta

Ford has not sold its Fiesta subcompact car in the United States since 1980, despite the fact that it's the No. 1 seller in Europe.
But thankfully for us Yanks, the Ford returns this fine little model to our shores with the 2011 Fiesta.
The new Fiesta offers great styling, wonderful convenience features and superb fuel economy.
You can choose between a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and for body styling choose from a sedan or hatchback. 
There are three trim levels on the sedan: S, SE or SEL, and two on the hatchback, the SE or SES.
The Fiesta is positioned below the Focus, and therefore is Ford’s entry-level sedan.

It is competing in a market space that is becoming more popular as people realize the need for fuel efficiency and seek inexpensive vehicles. The Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Honda Fit are among the leaders in this group.

Both Fiesta models have a 1.6-liter, 119-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The 2011 Fiesta gets great fuel economy with 29-30 mpg in the city and 28-40 mpg on the highway.

The design of the Fiesta, which Ford refers to as kinetic, is very sharp. Take note of the the sleek predator’s-eye headlamps and the three-bar grille up front and the rear spoiler, and you'll notice that the Fiesta looks athletic and aggressive.  

The interior has equally attractive styling and good features.

  The V-shaped center console has a multifunction LCD display screen that controls Ford’s SYNC communications system.  SYNC lets you integrate your MP3 player and Bluetooth hands-free calling, and gives traffic and directions information.  Ford says power mirrors and a four-speaker stereo with USB port and auxiliary input jack are standard on the S trim, while power locks, doors and a CD player are standard in the SE. 
 The SEL trim is comprised of SYNC, a premium sound system, 16-inch wheels and LED parking lights. 
 The hatchback has the boasts the same trim-specific features and also features a rear wiper. 

One drawback is that this really does feel like a subcompact when you are inside. So larger drivers and passengers might be a bit cramped, especially on long trips.  

The Fiesta's impressive list of options includes heated leather seating, multicolored ambient lighting, cruise control, keypad keyless entry, push-button engine start and metallic door sill plates and shift knob.

Ford has packed plenty of safety features on the Fiesta. Dual-stage front airbags, curtain airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front seats and a driver’s knee airbag provide plenty of impact protection.  Electronic stability and traction control, and the available Hill Start Assist systems bolster the safety.

The Fiesta ranges in price from around $13,300 to just about $17,200.

That's a very good deal.
And Ford, by bringing back the Fiesta, has given car shoppers something to celebrate.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Infiniti Racing Ahead in the Global Marketplace

Infiniti continues to grow as a global luxury brand.

The Japanese company, which recently displayed its product lineup for 2011 for automotive journalists, says its worldwide sales are up 30 percent this year.

The company recently opened a dealership in London's Piccadilly and says it has launched in 16 European markets.

More than 80 percent of Infiniti's product line is new or substantially refreshed since January.

So what's fueling this success?

To borrow a famous phrase from the world of politics, it's the vehicles, stupid.

Vehicles like the QX large SUV. The all new version of this family hauler went on sale in June, with sales gaining 121 percent versus the previous model since the launch.

Another hot model is the M sedan. Sales of the newest version, which went on sale in March, are up 92 percent since it launched.

And be on the lookout for the coming G25 sedan. This model will have a smaller engine than the G37, which Infiniti says some customers have asked for. And it gives the company a presence in the entry-level luxury market to compete against the likes of the BMW 3 Series.

If it's green you're into, stay tuned for the M Hybrid for model year 2012, and the EV electric vehicle.

Infiniti is truly delivering in nearly all segments of the luxury market.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles Event Coming to Atlanta

Clean Cities Atlanta will hold a National Alternative Fuel Vehicles Day Odyssey on Friday, Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. at Georgia Tech's Kessler Campanile, 355 Ferst Drive, Atlanta.
The expo, free and open to the public, will feature displays of alternative fuel vehicles, the latest in fleet technology, student projects and more. 
 Clean Cities Atlanta is a government-industry partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The group says the expo is part of a nationwide effort to reduce America’s consumption of foreign oil. 
Don Francis, executive director of Clean Cities Atlanta, said in a news release that this event will showcase how much fuel can be saved through advancing technology, and will offer information on programs such as tax credits and other incentives that can make switching to the newer technology less expensive.
“Far too many people are unaware of recent advances, and business owners will be surprised by how much a switch to alternative fuel can save over time in their operations budget,” Francis said. “The Odyssey will include a wealth of good ideas, innovation and food for thought.”
Clean Cities Atlanta said an electric car and two of Atlanta Gas Light’s fleet CNG vehicles will be among the displays.  The event will also feature Georgia Tech’s student teams competing for national honors in design for building alternative-fuel cars.
Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR team will be present with its entry in the national auto engineering competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors, and managed by Argonne National Laboratory. 
“We are pleased to be part of this event to showcase our vehicle that has doubled mileage, decreased net impact on the environment and increased our national energy security,” said Ryan Melsert, Georgia Tech’s EcoCAR team leader, in a news release. “We’re happy to show how the Georgia Tech community can help solve the environmental and national security issues facing the country.”
The Solar Jackets team, which is competing in the American Solar Challenge, also will have its Solar-Assisted Electric Vehicle on display. The car is a converted 2001 Audi that runs as a plug-in electric vehicle  assisted by an array of solar cells on its roof and hood. The team is now at work on a fully solar-powered vehicle that will compete in global endurance events.

For more information, visit

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is Sensational Luxury, Sensible Fuel Economy

The luxury sedan market is a supercompetitive one these days, but one competitor that is frequently overlooked has created a monster entry.

Lincoln, with its 2011 MKZ Hybrid, can lay claim to making the most fuel-efficient luxury hybrid in the U.S. market.  

If that's not impressive enough for you, consider that the MKZ Hybrid is also the first front-wheel drive midsize sedan available as a hybrid from any luxury brand. 

The MKZ Hybrid, similar to sister brand Ford's Fusion Hybrid, has a four-cylinder, 2.5-liter engine linked to an electric motor.
That combination brings you 191 horsepower.
You will notice the power when you go to merge onto a crowded freeway. It is far more than adequate, and actually quite impressive -- refined strength, not raw.

But where you'll really love the MKZ Hybrid is at the gas pump. 
EPA ratings are 41 mpg city, 36 highway.

That's right, 41 and 36, and the MKZ is no little econobox. This is a legitimate midsize sedan putting up those kinds of numbers.


Another amazing fact: Lincoln says the MKZ Hybrid can cruise up to 47 mph just on electricity -- no gas.

We tried this and found it to be slightly inaccurate; we took it up to 49 mph solely on electricity (going down a hill, mind you).

So you could say the MKZ Hybrid is better than advertised.

Lincoln also says this car can go more than 700 miles on a tank of gas. We traveled about 400 miles and used just slightly over half a tank. 

It's kind of fun to track how well you are doing on fuel economy using the SmartGauge's EcoGuide. You'll see little charts and numbers that let you know you are driving lean and green.

The MKZ Hybrid also includes the  SYNC telematics system found in many Ford products, allowing you to verbally control your music selections and use your Bluetooth for phone communication. 

For your pleasure, the MKZ Hybrid offers the THX II audio system with 5.1 surround sound with 14 speakers and 600 watts of power.  Also optional is a voice-activated Navigation System with SIRIUS Travel Link that gives a 3-D view of locations, traffic rerouting and a 10GB jukebox that stores up to 2,300 songs via an 8-inch touch screen.  Lincoln says the MKZ Hybrid boasts  more luxury features like 10-way power seats with memory, power moonroof and 18-inch polished aluminum wheels.

Safety technology on the MKZ Hybrid is impressive. There are front seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags for both rows, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, AdvanceTrac ESC (electronic stability control) with brake actuated traction control  -- all standard.  The Blind Spot Information System alerts you to vehicles in areas to your rear and side that are hard to see. And one of our favorite features was the Cross Traffic Alert, which lets you know when traffic is coming as you are backing out of a parking spot.

The MKZ Hybrid's price tag is very respectable, ranging from around $34,000 to right around $38,000.

When it comes to great luxury styling and superb hybrid technology, the Lincoln MKZ is virtually unmatched.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Voter Registration Deadline is Near

Attention, Georgia residents: you must be registered to vote by Monday, Oct. 4 in order to participate in elections on Nov. 2.

To register in Georgia, you must: be a U.S. citizen, be a legal resident of Georgia and the county in which you wish to vote, be 18 years of age or older on Election Day and not be judicially ruled to be incompetent.

If you are already a registered voter, remember that you may participate in early voting.