Nissan not shuttering Leaf EV battery plants, at least not yet By

The big news on the electric vehicle front today is that Nissan is considering slowing down EV battery production in the US and UK and source all of Nissan's big packs come from Japan.

This incredible Mercedes V12 sculpture is built from bone, wood and fossils

We've seen some impressive automotive replicas, but this one definitely takes the prize as the most unique yet.

1967 Toyota 2000GT Solar Electric Vehicle

You may have packed James Bond's cars with plenty of killer tech (get it?), but the 1967 Toyota 2000GT you see above has got it's own bad boy secrets.

Ford Mondeo Titanium X Sport

The Ford Mondeo range of cars offers the best in style, appearance and performance on the roads without compromising on quality or safety.

Corvette Z06 tops Motor Trend list of shortest-stopping vehicles

Any modern performance car worth buying puts just as much emphasis on stopping as it does on going

Monday, December 6, 2010

How The Gas Tax Is Under Threat From Green Vehicles

by Paul Eisenstein

Live in the right part of California and work for the right company and you might be able to buy the new Nissan Leaf for as little as $12,500, as Autoblog has reported, due to the raft of incentives that are available for buyers of the little battery car and other high-mileage, low-emission products.

In recent years, lawmakers have been racing to come up with incentives designed to encourage motorists to migrate to clean, efficient vehicles. It's a clearly noble effort, but one that deserves a closer look in an era of fiscal restraint.

Several states are looking at a more direct form of taxation: a per-mile usage fee on battery-based vehicles.
The feds, and most states offering such incentives, have put caps on their zero-emission incentive programs, and most will vanish by mid-decade. But, ironically, if these programs do what they're intended to, the fiscal impact could be felt for years to come. It turns out that going green could plunge state and federal balance sheets into the red.

The short-term costs are already potentially significant. At the federal level, a $7,500 tax credit could drain billions of dollars a year out of the Treasury if major automakers come even close to their battery car sales targets by mid-decade.

Such cash incentives – along with other perks, such as access to California's HOV lanes – are designed to motivate the move to vehicles like the Leaf and the new Chevrolet Volt. Once momentum starts building, these givebacks can be phased out, proponents contend. But they're missing a big part of the picture.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Renault unveils Sandero Stepway concept in Brazil

by Noah Joseph

If you've ever heard of the Dacia Sandero, it's probably from Clarkson teasing James May about it on Top Gear. The no-nonsense, bare-bones hatchback – sold alternatively as a Renault in markets where its budget subsidiary Dacia doesn't exist – is a favorite of Captain Slow.

In South America, the Sandero also comes as a crossover version called the Stepway, and taller though it is, it's just as decidedly spartan. That didn't stop Renault from drumming up some excitement over the budget range, however, with the show car you see here.

Envisioned as a successor to the current model and closer to a junior Duster, the Sandero Stepway Concept dials up the glitz factor just a touch with a sporty body kit, three-tone paint scheme and enough blue LEDs to light up the trendiest of night clubs. Also, some flower decals... for some reason. The result is something akin to a futuristic cup of cappuccino...

supported by: car rental in France

Monday, November 8, 2010

Umbrella Auto Design tricks out the Nissan GT-R's cockpit

by Noah Joseph

If the Nissan GT-R is going to seriously take on the Porsche 911, it's going to need to do a bit better on the interior fit and finish. Nissan's own people realized that much when they launched the Egoist edition of the new GT-R, but what if you've already got your Godzilla in the driveway? What are you to do then?

Turn to Umbrella Auto Design, that's what. The Seattle-based tuners have announced an aftermarket retrofit for the GT-R's interior that swathes the entire cabin – seats, dashboard, console, instrument binnacle, steering wheel, door panels, shift levers, etc. in luxe and racy black ultra-suede with silver diamond quilting and top-stitch. They've even repainted the plastics in black to match. Looks pretty slick, and they can reportedly carry it out on any GT-R in about three weeks. Check it out in the gallery below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Escort Passport iQ marries GPS with radar detector

by Jeff Glucker

Escort IQ radar screensEscort has released its brand-new Passport iQ automotive accessory. We would call this a radar detector, but it appears to be much more than that. The Passport iQ, in addition to detecting radar and laser, has a built-in GPS unit, Bluetooth connectivity, red light and speed camera notifications, speed limit information and live traffic updates. All of this information is displayed on a five-inch, full-color touchscreen.

The price of the Passport iQ is $649.95, which, assuming it works as advertised, is peanuts compared to a few speeding tickets and a bump in car insurance rates. Escort offers the unit on a trial basis for free, for 30 days. It also comes with a 90-day free trial subscription to Escort's Defender Database, which comes loaded with thousands of speed trap locations.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Latest Craze In Auto Accessories – The Train Horn

If you keep up with the auto industry at all you’ve probably noticed that the mighty train horn is becoming a popular accessory to put on your car or truck. These aftermarket devices are a sure way to get your ride to stand out in a crowd.

This all started by people actually taking horns off of locomotives and putting it on their trucks. These horns were extremely loud but in most cases were also fairly large, cumbersome, and not that nice to look at. So naturally some extremely smart person saw an opportunity and started building them specifically for cars and trucks. These new train horn kits are smaller, typically chrome, and much easier to install.

They are quickly becoming a craze. If you search youtube you’ll find video after video of people showing off their air horns. Often times the video will be of someone driving down a crowded street and just letting a long loud blast that startles everyone within 100 feet. While this is certainly not the most responsible use of a train horn it still kind of funny.

You have a couple options if you’re interested in buying a train horn kit. First you have to decide how much you want to spend. Typically they range anywhere from $299 to $499 but can go all the way up to almost $1500. Next you want to think about just how loud you want your train horn to be. The less expensive kits usually put out around 150dB and can give a 5 second blast while the large kits not only put out more decibels but can sometimes blast for up to 15 seconds. The louder kits are also larger so take that into consideration. You probably won’t be putting the big kit in your Honda civic.

So if you’re interested in learning more about train horn kits get over to where Marc has a great selection you can choose from.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bentley's traveling roadshow shows off heritage piece by piece

by Jonathon Ramsey

A cross-country road trip with enough spare parts to practically build another car? Sounds like something from Paris-to-Peking, but in this case it's actually the Bentley Heritage Roadshow -- and it's here in the U.S. Bentley's putting 1,000 rare items from its Heritage Parts and Accessories division on display, traveling across 8,000 miles of American countryside to do so.

Most of the Bentleys that have ever been built are still running today, and the marque's customers are fascinated with the range of available vintage, hard-to-find parts. Crewe is playing on this and laying it all out for enthusiasts via the traveling show – from owner's manuals to engine blocks. Follow the jump for the press release and have a look at the mobile chop shop in the photo gallery below.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

General Motors mid-size sedans going all four-cylinder

by Damon Lavrinc

Straight from the "No Surprise" department comes word from GMInsideNews that all of General Motors mid-size offerings will come equipped with four-cylinder engines as the only available powerplant.

GM has made it clear for the last few years that a large part of its future product strategy is to downsize its engine line-up in preparation for the new 2015 CAFE standards. The shift has already begun with the introduction of the 2011 Buick Regal, available with either a 182-horsepower direct injected 2.4-liter or a turbocharged 2.0-liter putting out 220 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque.

The next model to go all-four-banger will be the next generation Chevrolet Malibu, slated to arrive late next year and likely packing – to begin with – the same 2.4-liter four. A range of direct injected engines, both naturally aspirated and turbocharged, are in the works, so the General won't be hurting for options, but expect the V6 to stick around for GM's larger offerings, including the next Impala.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Suzuki Kizashi topples 200 mph at Bonneville for new Land Speed Record

by Zach Bowman

The crew from Suzuki and Road & Track officially hold the new Land Speed Record for the Blown Gas Coupe Category. The team wheeled out their modified 2010 Suzuki Kizashi to the Bonneville Salt Flats and managed to average an impressive 203.720 mph across two high-speed runs, besting the previous record by a little less than a second and a half. R&T commissioned legendary engine builder Richard Holdener to rework the engine in the Kizashi before it hit the salt, and as a result, the car wore forged internals and a beefier turbo that shoved a full 16 pounds of boost into the four-cylinder as the Sam Mitani-helmed Suzuki headed down the dry lake bed.

Now that the Kizashi has one record under its belt, Road & Track is planning to try for a second, naturally-aspirated record by unbolting the turbo and going hog wild. Now all we have to wonder is how much it's going to take to convince Suzuki to offer those slick seam-welded steel wheels as an option on the Kizashi Sport. Hit the jump to take a look at a video of the car during its record-setting run, as well as a press release detailing the occasion.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Volkswagen releases initial pics, details on all-new Caddy

by Zach Bowman

It's been nearly six years since Volkswagen took the knife to its workhorse Caddy, but starting next year, buyers can expect a host of changes. The company has just dished the details on its next-generation van before the vehicle gets its official unveiling at the IAA Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show this November. Don't expect anything too wild to crop up design-wise. The Caddy will swipe a few cues from the rest of the VW family up front, and new taillights will pop up as well. VW says that it will also offer roof rails for the first time on the new generation.

Take a peek under the hood, and you're likely to see one of four turbo-diesel engines, all of which are 13 percent more efficient than their predecessors. The range starts with two 1.6-liter mills producing either 75 or 102 horsepower depending on which model you choose, both of which come with start/stop technology. If you click off a little higher up the option sheet, you'll wind up with one of two 2.0-liter engines. Those produce either 110 or 140 horsepower depending on your needs and your budget. Hit the jump for the full press release.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chrysler to set up separate Fiat dealers

by Chris Shunk

When Fiat and Chrysler merged, it was assumed that Fiat and Chrysler-branded products would be sharing a common showroom floor. Well, you know what happens when you assume. The Detroit Bureau reports that when Fiat-badged vehicles arrive Stateside at the end of the year they will be sold in an all-new showroom bereft of any manner of Chrysler product. The news reportedly comes from none other than Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, who adds that a total of 200 Fiat stores will come online in an undetermined time.

While Chrysler dealers are likely a bit upset that they won't have Fiat products to sell in their dealerships, they will reportedly get first dibs to claim one of the 200 stand-alone stores. And those dealerships must be equipped with both sales and service departments as well. The first Fiat to enter the Fiat-exclusive showroom will be the diminutive 500, which has been very well-received overseas. And more product is undoubtedly also on the way, as the 500 alone is not a big enough carrot to warrant buying a new dealership.

Opening 200 new dealerships will not be cheap, as a new full-service dealer can cost $1 million or more. There are also the costs associated with marketing a new brand in the U.S., which will likely cost well over $100 million. Since Fiat vehicles haven't been available here in States in a couple decades, the folks in Turin, Italy will likely have a lot of work to do to spread the word. Those who actually remember the Fiat brand in the U.S. market will likely need the most convincing, as horrible quality woes were a main factor in the brands failure.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

HKS Racing Controller for PS3 just makes sense

by Jonathon Ramsey

A steering-wheel-and-pedal setup for your PS3 starts at around $50, but you'll spend at least double that to get into the good stuff. HKS has teamed with InterWorks on a game controller solution that stays at the $50 mark but could work just as well as a wheel while being a little less intrusive.

The hot-coal red Hipermax III replaces the analog joysticks with a thumb wheel on the left side and throttle and brake buttons on the right side. The wheel has center stripe to aid steering, and the precise inputs of the throttle and brake controls are registered in the digital readout in the center of the controller. For the moment this is PS3-only, and while HKS hasn't released a price, it's pegged to come under $55.

Monday, May 31, 2010

U.S. safety bill could triple cost of automotive black boxes to $5,000

by Zach Bowman

When word first came down that Congress was looking to mandate that all new vehicles to be sold with Event Data Recorders, we knew that the added tech was going to be pricey. According to Automotive News, if legislators have their way, the new automotive black boxes will need to be both fire resistant and waterproof. Add in a significant amount of recording time before and after an accident, and suddenly the price tag per unit could soar up to a lofty $4,000 to $5,000. Currently, the EDRs track about five seconds worth of information just before an accident, though some legislators are pushing for up to 75 seconds of recording pre-crash. Between the fire insulation and added recording time, analysts believe the devices will swell to shoebox size, also creating a new packaging issue for automakers.

And who's going to be shelling out the cash for the indestructible, mammoth recorders? The short answer is the automakers, though you can bet they won't just be soaking up the cost out of the goodness of their hearts. Odds are that $4,000-per-box price tag will be passed right along to consumers if such devices become law, so don't be surprised to see sticker prices climb if the boxes become mandatory in 2015.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

McLaren gives Button and Hamilton extra bling for good luck

by Noah Joseph

We've seen F1 teams pulling all kinds of shtick in an effort to edge out the competition. But embedding diamonds into the helmets and steering wheels? Well, it seemed to work in 2008 for Lewis Hamilton, and he, for one, is hoping it'll work again this year at the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix.

McLaren has partnered with Steinmetz Diamonds to carry off the bedazzling, creating commemorative wreath emblems for both its world champions. The results were unveiled on Wednesday at Steinmetz's villa in Monte Carlo, and both Hamilton and Button will be using them during this weekend's race. Only in Monaco, kids. Details in the press release after the jump.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saab 9-5 Estate leaks out

by Jonny Lieberman

For many moons now, your humble Autoblog crew has been following the new Saab 9-5 around the globe. Not intentionally mind you, but it seems that Saab has been dragging their 9-5 show car out to every show we've covered since before Obama was elected. Which is many, many shows (turns out it's been since Frankfurt). And while we're big boosters of the new 9-5, something's always been... lacking.

That's right, a fifth door. And this totally suspect, but nonetheless quite intriguing, photo seems to indicate exactly that – a Saab 9-5 Estate (also called the 9-5 SportCombi, maybe) – is nigh. That's yet another victory in the eventual, inevitable and ultimately exciting comeback of the once totally dismissed station wagon.

Now it's true, we've covered this territory before. More than once. And back then we felt the same way about the upcoming 9-5 Estate as we do now – it's very, very sexy. Or at least, as sexy as a wagon can be. Which, to us auto journo types, is quite sexy. Regardless, too many a Saab'o'phile, the very essence of the brand is a hatch. Without that fifth (or third) door, a Saab just isn't very Saab like. Therefore this here blurry image, which looks like it was hastily photographed from a presentation or sales brochure, fills Saab boosters with great hope. Go, go Griffin.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Chrysler wraps Auburn Hills HQ in honor of Truck of the Year award

by Zach Bowman

Chrysler has decided to celebrate the Dodge Ram winning the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award by barring employees at its Auburn Hills headquarters from seeing the sun for 120 days. The company has turned its HQ into one big billboard with a 14-story building wrap. The 140-foot tall, 120-foot wide graphic features a massive 2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty atop a pile of rocks.

The company says the wrap is part of a nationwide campaign to get the word out about the Ram's win, and that around 200,000 people will see the display every day as they travel along I-75. The install took a total of three days, and Chrysler says that the truck featured in the wrap is a 100 feet long and 41 feet tall. No word on whether or not those specs will line up with what we can expect from the 2015 pickup. Hit the jump for a look at the press release.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Never blow up your battery with Michelin Smart Jumper Cables

by Sam Abuelsamid

Virtually every driver will, at some point, get that sinking feeling that comes when your car doesn't start. Digging out a set of jumper cables to boost a battery is a rite of passage. Jump-starting a car can be a slightly tricky process, though. The positive and negative terminals of the booster and "boostee" need to be connected properly or the battery can be blown up. Which is, you know, sub-optimal. Over the past decade, a number of devices have come out to help ease the battery-jumping process, including portable booster batteries and even jumper cables that plug into a 12V outlet inside the car. Those plug-in cables will never be connected with reverse polarity, but they might not be able to carry enough current to actually crank your engine.

Enter the Michelin Smart Jumper Cable. Instead of the usual color-coded clamps for your battery's positive and negative terminals, the cables are all Michelin blue. Halfway down the cable is a box of electronic smarts. Just put one clamp on the positive terminal of the battery and the other on any piece of bare metal and the electronics will detect whether you've made a complete circuit and illuminate an LED on the central box. When the second battery is connected, the electronics automatically determine the polarity and switch it as needed. A set of these smart jumper cables runs about $30 to $40.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ford Mustang Lights: Great Deal to Safety

Visibility is one of the most essential part when you are driving, a driver should be able to spot where they are going to elude hitting something or anyone .Car lights are very significant to a driver’s safety because they enhance the visibility on the street and maintain the driver and the passengers safe and sound especially in driving through feebly lighted areas. There are numerous types of lights used in cars specifically in Ford Mustangs; each with its own specific and important function and definite location in the automobile.

The Ford Mustang Headlights is sometimes referred to illumination produced by the lights installed on the front of your Mustang vehicle. The equipped light itself is in principle termed as headlight. Others may say that the term headlight is used to represent both the construction itself and the light formed. Mustang headlights without a doubt improve your line of vision when driving specially during the day. Mustang headlights can deliver the clear view you needed on the road. Mustang headlights are also very important to use whenever it rains or snow because the headlights on your Ford Mustang will absolutely increase your capability to see and contrive your movements during these times and definitely these will make your cars much more noticeable to other vehicles and pedestrians on the roadway.

The Taillight or stop lamp is set up at the back end of the car. It produces a red light when the brake is activated therefore giving warning to the vehicle at the back indicating that your car would stop. This will enable the driver of the preceding car time to slow down. Mustang Tail lights is made up of the tail lamp bezel or tail light frame. Mustang Tail light lens improves the car’s style while adding security to the driver and the passengers. They have wire casing fixed over the lenses for safeguard and an extra hard and fashionable look. Latest Mustang models use lucid bulbs and red reflector.

Safety issues are always raised when buying a car that is why car producers provide their cars with the latest and ground-breaking features that could be positioned on their vehicles to make them dependable and safer. One of this features are the Fog lights. They are set up and mounted on the framework of your Ford Mustang. Fog lights give extra lighting during rough weather specially on rainy and winter season, helping you find the road safely. Mustang fog lights work as a complement to your headlights. Ford Mustangs used halogen bulb as fog lights to produce brighter beams. Fog lights are particularly intended to cut all the way through the fog to give you enhanced visibility. They are set up to harmonize with the stumpy beams of your headlights; collectively they work to maximize your visualization on the road.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Foose/Deere 4020 vs John Deere 620 Orchard

by Alex Nunez

Chip Foose's John Deere 4020 is pretty kickass, but the reality is this: You needn't enlist the services of a famous pro rodder to get a slick-lookin' John Deere tractor. Take, for instance, the John Deere 620 orchard model shown above. Standard-issue 620s have a traditional tractor look to them, but the ones fitted with the additional orchard equipment a streamlined appearance that looks like it's a set of giant-sized moon caps away from making a land speed record run at Bonneville.

In fact, all that extra bodywork has nothing to do with aerodynamics or improved performance; its shielding designed to let the tractor operate in an orchard without the tires causing damage to the the tree branches. So, not only does this 620 look great, it does so for totally functional reasons.

And so, we come to tonight's poll: Which one of these tractors would you rather have? Follow the jump and declare your Deere.

[John Deere 620 image via]

Which tractor would you rather have in your barn?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mini gets Connected in the Countryman, doesn't exactly say how

by Jonathon Ramsey

Mini will be debuting a new system dubbed Mini Connected at the Geneva Motor Show, which the brand describes as a new, exciting innovation in infotainment. However, we have little idea of what Mini Connected actually does beyond using "a newly developed USB interface whose unique functionality allows maximum integration of the iPhone into the in-car audio and infotainment system."

We do know you can get web radio in your Mini now, and there's Mini: Mission Control in which "vehicle-related signals are used to generate constantly changing, situation-dependent messages." Other than that, Mini Connected will be launched as an option on the Countryman. We'll have to wait until Geneva to bring you the rest, but you can make the jump to glean all you can from the press release in the meantime.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Tanner Foust Moving To European Rallycross Championship for 2010

by Jonny Lieberman

Tanner Foust has about the most solid "car guy" curriculum vitae there is. Drift king, stuntman, rally champ, X Games legend, TV star, momentary Top Gear USA host, two-time U.S. representative for the International Race of Champions and of most important/impressive, Autoblog Podcaster. Well friends, let's go ahead and add Rallycross participant to Tanner's already padded resume.

When/Where/Why? Foust will be competing in the 2010 European Rallycross Championship as the sole American representative. Tanner will be traveling to Europe for the first four races before returning to the United States and bringing the races with him. For those unfamiliar with the discipline, rallycross is similar to rally racing, only the cars are typically 50 percent more powerful (600 horsepower as opposed to 400 hp) and the quick stages consist of dirt, jumps and tarmac. Tanner will of course be driving the same 600 hp devil of a Ford Fiesta he took to a bronze medal at last year's X Games.

Says Foust, "I've been watching European-style Rally Cross for years. I love the combination of dirt, pavement, jumps and door-to-door action – it's like a real-life videogame. I'm really excited to be on the leading edge of this discipline as it grows in the U.S. It's been popular in Europe for years – the fans here are going to love it." We're fully in agreement with Tanner on that last bit. When it comes to Rallycross, there's very little not to love. Press release after the jump.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Toyota will now send needed pedal repair components directly to dealers

by Michael Harley

In an effort to stem the flow of potentially defective accelerator pedal parts at the source, Toyota announced earlier this week that replacement pedal components had begun shipping directly to its factories. While the announcement was a welcome step in the right direction towards a long-term resolution, Toyota retail dealers – face-to-face with millions of concerned customers seeking a fix – were understandably angered that the automaker had apparently left them out of the loop.

That changed late Friday, when Toyota announced that gas pedal parts had started shipping directly to the dealers too. Brian Lyons, Toyota company spokesman, said the parts "are on their way to the dealers in preparation for the recall launch." The so-called "recall launch" will be more clearly defined next week when the automaker officially announces how it intends to solve the problems potentially affecting 4.2 million of its vehicles worldwide.

Right now, Toyota's "solution" (reportedly involving shims) is being reviewed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Toyota presented it to NHTSA on Thursday – which must approve it before the automaker moves forward. Even then, Toyota will need to train dealers and mechanics on how to make the repairs and educate vehicle owners on the process.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Using Aftermarket Parts and Its Effect on Your Auto Insurance Premium

Getting involved in a car accident is nasty business, but not as nasty as when your vehicle is uninsured. Having your car covered by the policy of an auto insurance company can help you out greatly with the repair of your car (and of the other party’s car, if that is the case), medical bills, and even legal representation, should it come to that. But with regard to car repairs, there might just be some things you need to know and discuss with your insurer.

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are automotive parts made by a certain vehicle’s manufacturer. Aftermarket parts are essentially non-OEM parts, manufactured by third-party vendors. As part of the process of you shopping around for the ideal insurance company for you, you must determine what an insurer’s policies are regarding the use of OEM and aftermarket parts. There are two reasons for this: First, you might be the type of person who likes to be set apart from the rest of the world, even with the car you drive. You don’t want to be just another owner of the usual BMW or Mercedes Benz, but you’d like your car lowered, looking more aggressive with a new back fin, spoiler, or wing. Chances are, you’ll be using aftermarket parts for these modifications, and your insurance company might not like that and may increase your premium or discontinue coverage entirely when they find out. Hence, you must know what their policies exactly are regarding the use of aftermarket parts.

The other reason you must discuss this issue with your insurer is that they might actually use aftermarket parts themselves for the repair of your vehicle in case of an accident. If you’re the exact opposite of the guy in the previous example, then you’ll want only genuine BMW parts for your BMW, or Mercedes Benz parts for your Mercedes Benz. You want to maintain the quality of your car being 100% the brand that it is, and not some mutt of a vehicle with shoddy attachments on it. And, as this is an existing practice for some, insurers may cheat on you so they can save on money. They may go for well-done repairs with aftermarket parts which may pass for OEM parts in the eyes of the unassuming guy, who will only later on find out about the deception when he decides to trade or sell his car and the real value of his car is revealed by expert inspectors. When your auto insurance company handles the repair of your vehicle, the goal is to have your car returned to its pre-accident condition. But the reason post-repair inspectors now exist is to assess if that goal has actually been achieved. You must be wise yourself to know how to demand that OEM parts alone be used in the repair of your car post-accident. Though you most likely would have to pay much for the use of OEM parts instead of aftermarket ones, there will be no hassle selling or trading your vehicle because its quality has been maintained, and hence its value is not unduly diminished.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

GM wooing current Pontiac owners with free service

by Chris Shunk

When General Motors put Oldsmobile out to pasture, many owners defected from GM brands all-together. In an effort to make sure history doesn't repeat itself with soon to be displaced Pontiac owners, the General is extending an olive branch in the form of a year of free maintenance.

Automotive News reports that GM is offering four years of free service visits – including oil changes and tire rotations – to specific Buick-GMC dealerships for owners of 1999 and newer Pontiac vehicles. Brian Sweeney, general manager of Buick-GMC, told AN that the plan is to "to keep the relationship with the Buick-GMC dealer." Customers will be given specific Buick-GMC dealers to utilize for the free service in order to help the dealers develop a relationship with said customer in hopes that they will use that dealership to purchase future products.

A potential problem with the plan is that Pontiac and Buick/GMC models aren't exactly in the same price range, though (potential) future products like the Buick Excelle and the GMC Granite concept could be priced competitively enough to keep some Pontiac owners in the GM family.

With new service customers on the way, we're sure the Buick-GMC dealers are excited about this program. Many Buick-GMC dealers used to sell Pontiacs as well, so many of the brand's former customers won't even have to go to a new dealer to cash in on the free maintenance.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MyFord Touch proves that the shape of things to come is awesome

by Jonny Lieberman

Ford began its MyFord Touch presentation with a simple question: "People line up for iPhones – why not cars?" What is it about certain pieces of technology that makes them a "must have"? And since the iPhone is really just a merger of two things we already have (a cell phone and PC), is it possible to blend something into a car that will get 'em lining up around the block? Quite obviously, Ford's hoping the answer is yes.

MyFord Touch – and if you buy a Lincoln, MyLincoln Touch – is a piece of driver connect technology like SYNC, only much more advanced. In fact, you can think of MyFord as SYNC 2.0. Or, you could, if not for the fact that there already is a SYNC 2.0. Regardless, in-car technology can do myriad of things these days, and Ford thinks it's found a way to group and display all of a vehicle's functionality in a logical, intuitive and useful way. Sadly, Ford is internally calling this "simplexity," as in making the complex simple. Or, as we wrote in our notes, "barf." Thankfully, the public will know it as MyFord Touch.

Ford wants you to think of MyFord Touch as an electronic Swiss Army knife. Physically speaking, here's what you get: A large, eight-inch touchscreen display in the center stack, two 4.2-inch LCD screens to the right and left of an analog speedometer (the exact same screens you'll find in the Fusion Hybrid) and two steering wheel-mounted five-way button controls. Using Ford's award-winning HMI (human-machine interface) setup, MyFord Touch seeks to allow a driver to control in-car technology through either voice, touch or the wheel-mounted controllers. As Ford termed it, VUI (voice user interface), TUI (touch user interface) and GUI (graphic user interface).

While that might sounds a touch (no pun) complex, it isn't. How's that possible? Grouping. Ford has gone ahead and broken down all of the possible non-driving-related tasks into four groups: Phone, Climate, Navigation and Entertainment. Is Ford 100 percent accurate with their groupings? Like in submarine warfare, close enough. Not only are there the four groups, but Ford also chose a color for each group. That last part is more important than it might first seem and here's why...

As far as the large, eight-inch touchscreen goes, its four corners each contain a button for one of the four groupings. Phone is brown, Navigation is green, Entertainment is purple and Climate is blue. We haven't had a chance to play with MyFord Touch yet, but we understand that the system is quite customizable. Don't like that shade green? Think Climate should be red and not blue? Not a problem.

Returning to the two 4.2-inch LCD screens, the one to the left contains all your usual mileage and fuel information: trip computer, radar cruise control distance indicator, vehicle information and even a tachometer, if you like. In other words, information directly related to operating the car. The screen on the right however, displays information from the four MyFord Touch groupings. The idea is that after a little practice, you will be able to know which group you're looking at simply based on color – you won't have to read anything – and your eyes will spend more time on the road. A noble goal, for certain.

Going with that mantra and/or old Doors song, the five-way thumb controls (up, down, left, right, click) keep your hands on the wheel. The left controller is for the left screen, and (shockingly) the right is for the right one. Of course, even better than using a touchscreen or working wheel buttons is using your own voice. Ford assured us that the voice recognition system shipping with MyFord Touch is much more conversational than the VR system currently shipping with SYNC. Instead of talking your way through a series of menus (SYNC asks you what source you want, for example iPod, then asks you what track or artist), MyFord Touch should just require you say, "Play 'John the Fisherman' by Primus" and be done with it. Emphasis on should.

Here's a couple nifty details, and please keep in mind that we didn't get to play with MyFord Touch – yet (expect a video coming soon from CES). Users will be able to take all of their MyFord Touch settings with them from vehicle to vehicle – just plug in an SD card or flash drive and you're good to go drive another MyFord Touch-equipped car. Your color scheme, your radio presets, your music tags, your seat position – whatever – all go with you. It will even welcome you by name, no matter the car. With the music tags, MyFord and MyLincoln Touch are the first systems that allow you to tag songs on the fly. Ford didn't go into great details on this, but we imagine you could would be able to hear something on the radio, tag it, and then let MyFord Touch search for it. This could be especially cool with the SYNC app that let's you listen to internet radio.

The first vehicle this new system will be available on is the 2011 Lincoln MKX, which will debut at next week's Detroit Auto Show. As such, we'll be looking at MyLincoln Touch as opposed to MyFord. Differences? Not really, but the two come standard with different colors (MyLincoln's are yellow for Communication/Phone, green for Navigation, red for Entertainment and blue for Climate). Shouldn't the colors be identical? Probably, but they are customizable and portable, so it doesn't really matter. After the MKX, look for this technology in the refreshed 2011 Ford Edge and then the all-new 2011 Ford Focus. Eventually, 80 percent of all Fords will be available with MyFord or MyLincoln Touch. Just speculating here, but we wonder if the 20 percent not getting the good stuff is Mercury...

Besides all the little details, the big picture we took away from the MyFord Touch is Ford is seriousness. These people knew going halfway wouldn't be good enough. The screens are beautiful. Before seeing MyFord Touch, we already thought that Ford had the best navigation/entertainment stuff in the industry (SYNC is really, really good – especially with Sirius Travel Link). MyFord Touch brings Ford a generation (or two) beyond the competition. In other words, no one could even compete with Ford's old stuff. How on earth will they manage against MyFord Touch?