Fiat is at it yet again. Just a few weeks ago, we complained about the fact that Fiat keeps on reusing the “500” name in the U.S., and once again we are apparently in for more 500s. Just like government documents spoiled the surprise that Fiat’s subsidiary company, Chrysler , was planning a revival of the Barracuda nameplate, government documents are now spoiling the fun for Fiat itself.
Documents leaked from the NHTSA and CARB are showing two models under the 500 umbrella that currently do not exist. One of those vehicles is the 500T, and “T” in this instance obviously means turbocharged. The other, and less newsworthy, is a 500 Abarth Convertible.
For those that know Fiats, you are likely wondering what’s going on, as there is already a turbocharged 500, it’s the 500 Abarth , which has a 160-horsepower Multi-Air 1.4-liter engine. What all of us experts – or so we like to call ourselves – agree upon is that this new 500T will likely feature a slightly detuned version of the Abarth’s 1.4-liter engine, ranging somewhere in the 130 to 140 horsepower range.
What Fiat would be doing with this is trying to target buyers that want a higher performance 500, but don’t want to fork out the $22,000 that it costs to get into an Abarth. If the 500T hits 130 horsepower, that would be 29 horsepower greater than the standard engine and likely enough to satisfy the hunger for a little more performance.
Using reasonable estimations, we would assume that the Fiat 500T would have an MSRP in the $20,000 range, as to keep it less than the Abarth, but slightly more than the 500 Lounge (the top trim level before the Abarth). That would position it just under the base MINI Cooper ($20,200) and well below the MINI Cooper S ($23,800).
Given these two models pan out, and the 500X that Fiat teased us with earlier comes to be, this would put the 500 at a whopping seven models. It’s starting to get a little ridiculous, Fiat.
There are a lot of new car scams in the world and most of them are initiated by the new car dealer, not the buyer. A group of buyers flipped the script on several Los Angeles dealerships, by using fake identities to purchase 20 cars and were shipping them to Hong Kong and Vietnam to sell them for two to three times their U.S. value.
The one that got these fraudsters busted was the Ferrari 458 Italia , as Ferrari fitted the supercar with a GPS system as standard, which Ferrari used to track the car once they found out they were defrauded. This led U.S. Customs and the California highway Patrol to conduct a full investigation and find the cars on a ship that had already pulled away from the port.
Needless to say, that ship was forced to come back and all but four of the cars were recovered. The four non-recovered cars are due to be shipped back by Vietnamese Customs.
According to the report, had the fraudsters not gone after the Ferrari, chances are they would have gotten away with this scam and made a ton of money in the process. The total amount of the vehicles seized by U.S. customs is estimated at $1.5 million, which would have pulled in around $3 million in Hong Kong and Vietnam.
We are still trying to figure out what in the world a Toyota Tundra was doing in the mix with all of these high-end luxury cars. We also wonder which thief drew the short straw and was stuck going to the Toyota dealership to pick this thing up?
BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Meritor Defense have been working on a military project dubbed the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program in an attempt to manufacture a lightweight vehicle that the U.S. armed forces can use anywhere in the world. This project had yet to be officially proposed, as its equipment was still in the developmental phase, but as of today, testing is over and the proposal is to be submitted.
You may be wondering “what does this have to do with production cars?” The driving force of this new military device, which is ultimately the replacement for the Humvee, is shared with one of the best-selling pickups of all time, the Ford F-Series SuperDuty . Yup, this large-caliber-gun-toting machine will come fitted with Ford’s now famous 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine.
The exact specifics of the engine have not been released, so we are not certain if this will be the same 6.7-liter you would see under the hood of a 2012 F-250 SuperDuty . Unfortunately, that will likely never be known, but we do know that the Power Stroke engine is up to the task, pumping out an impressive 400 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 800 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm.
This will likely end up similar to the Allison military transmissions vs. civilian models deal. The Power Stroke’s basic technology will remain the same, but the engine will be highly modified for combat usage. If the military accepts this design as one of the three it will select, this could mean that the Power Stroke could see much advancement in upcoming years, as the military tinkers with the engine and Ford mimics the modifications. This also means that we are in for a slew of “Ford’s so good, we power military vehicles” styles of commercials, oh boy.
On a semi-ironic aside to this announcement, Ford was once a part of the JLTV program, but dropped out earlier. We guess there are no hard feelings between Ford and BAE.
Apparently, even a crime fighter like Batman isn’t above the law, especially when it comes to having no tags on his Batmobile...err...Lamborghini .
As it turns out, Batman was cruising around in Maryland when he was pulled over by the Montgomery County Police Department because the car didn’t have any plates on it. While we understand the Caped Crusader doesn’t want people checking on his DMV records, it might still have been a good idea to abide by the law. Otherwise, you’re pretty much attracting police cars to your Lamborghini the same way you do to the Bat signal.
The photo comes courtesy of the Montgomery Country Police Department’s Twitter page and to their credit, they seemed to get a kick out of Batman’s folly more than anything else.
Let’s hope that the Dark Knight learns his lesson the next time he goes out in full garb and hammer. After all, he wouldn’t want more bad press now that his newest movie is coming out in a few months, right?
Let this serve as a warning to anybody who thinks they can get away with trademark infringement, especially when it comes to building replica models of classic vehicles.
Over in Germany, a replica Mercedes 300 SL was confiscated by customs officials after learning that it was built without the consent of Daimler. Considering that the German company has already stamped the trademark for the model and is considered as a "work of applied art," any and all replica models of the classic Mercedes would be in violation of Daimler’s trademark on the car.
So what exactly happened to the seized replica 300 SL? In order to send a clear and stern message to anybody looking to build their own 300 SL, German authorities set out and destroyed it.
The first thing they did was to separate the chassis from the body with the Mercedes-Benz used-parts center taking care of destroying the body on behalf of Daimler AG courtesy of two presses, each applying over 30 tons of pressure. Seeing as the replica had a fiberglass body, it wasn’t hard for the presses to smash the body into bits and pieces.
And to add insult to the car’s shameful end, the body was officially documented with a signed and stamped ’confirmation of scrappage,’ which is pretty much like a scarlet letter in its own right.
China’s political party has been under fire recently with news of Bo Xilai getting the old heave ho after trying to remove the police chief from his position during a corruption investigation involving Xilai’s family. The internet with bezerk with the news and social media just hasn’t been the same in Asia. In fact, transfer of power in the Communist party is scheduled to be done in Fall 2012 and government officials are worried that this uproar will rock the boat way too much to do so.
Now, another incident has sparked the Chinese population’s interest in political unbalance. Early Sunday morning, a man was driving his Ferrari 458 at high speeds when he crashed in Beijing, splitting his car in two. The man died and the two women in the vehicle were severely injured. So far, this amounts to another tragic accident involving a superior sports car, but people in China are taking it even more seriously. Turns out, the internet went abuzz with rumors that the driver of the vehicle was a son of a senior communist party official, adding even more concern over the faltering balance in government. A story in the New York Times takes it a bit further by stating that Bo Xilai’s son, Guagua, actually drives a red Ferrari.
Blogs, websites, and search engines were being so heavily crowded with intrigue that any and all information surrounding the crash was removed from the internet altogether, as was the capability of searching for anything Ferrari-related.
A son of a political official driving a Ferrari raises a few question on its own. Some may wonder how a civil servant could afford to buy his son such a pricey sports car, while others may just get angry at the fact that government officials can afford these types of luxuries when others are stricken with poverty. When you throw in the minor detail that the son of an official who was being investigated for corruption drives a car like the one in question, then all hell is bound to break loose.
We’ll stay on top of the story and relay any details as soon as we get them.
Supercars are a luxury that only a few people in the world can afford. But the flip side to enjoying these exotics is the astronomical amount of taxes you have to pay to afford such fine things in life.
Over in Italy, the country’s official tax police, the Guardia di Finanza, is beginning to crack down on tax evaders, particularly individuals that own super cars but fail to pay the requisite tax dollars commensurate to the price of their lavish vehicles.
In a report filed by Bloomberg, the Guardia di Finanza began the sting operation late last year at the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where the agency managed to flog 251 super cars, including Ferraris and Lamborghinis , to check whether the owners declared their proper income and were paying due taxes for the kind of posh lifestyle they were living.
Since the first sting operation was done late last year, the Guardia di Finanza has done similar check-ups in a number of other Italian towns, including Rome, Milan, Portofino, and Florence. This crack-down has forced a lot of super car owners who may be guilty of tax evasion to sell their exotics at bargain bin prices in hopes of not getting caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar.
Italian officials have pegged an amount of €120 billion being lost as a result of tax evasion - that’s $160 billion in our currency! - prompting the government to step in and reign in all the guilty parties who enjoy the spoils of their fortune without paying the requisite taxes that come along with it.
Let’s face it: if you’re somebody who claims to make, say, €40,000 a year, yet you drive a Ferrari that costs five to six times that amount, then there’s a very big discrepancy there. The lesson, as always, is that if you want to enjoy the luxury of owning a supercar, you better be on the up-and-up when it comes to facing the tax police.
Let us know what you think of the Guardia di Finanza’s sting operation in the comments section below. Will that kind of thing fly over in the States?
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is a very ambitious man. So ambitious, in fact, that he wants to trade in his Ferrari presidency for another of its kind, albeit on a much larger scale.
In an open letter he sent to Italiafutura, a liberal-centrist think-tank that he himself formed in 2009, Montezemolo finally pulled the cat out of the bag, declaring his intention to run for the highest seat in all of Italy in 2013.
In the letter, Montezemolo wrote: "Italiafutura, with its 40,000 members will be actively engaged in 2012 to try and change politics in Italy. The Second Republic has failed. When the Italian voters return to the polls, they must be offered a whole series of new ideas and new leaders in the elections, so that they can turn their backs on what has been a period of total failure in Italian politics."
It’s no secret that Italian politics have, in fact, been a complete mess in the past couple of years, punctuated by the blackest of black eyes when former president, Silvio Berlusconni, resigned amid growing accusations of being involved in numerous scandals that completely undermined his position as the Italian president.
We don’t know the schematics on the political climate in Italy, but considering that Montezemolo has made his intentions clear of seeking the highest seat in the land, we’d venture a guess that it’s a lot more complicated than what we think.
Porsche can’t seem to shake the lemons off it’s model tree. Once again the Stuttgart manufacturer has been forced to issue a recall, this time centering on 235 2011-2012 models which may have had defective seat belts installed. According to Inside Line, the models that are affected include the 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera 4, 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS , 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS , 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, 2011 Porsche 911 Speedster , 2012 Porsche 911 Targa 4 , 2012 Porsche 911 Targa 4S , 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo , 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo S , 2012 Porsche Boxster S , 2012 Porsche Cayman , 2012 Porsche Cayman R , and 2012Porsche Cayman S . The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration points out that these defective seat belts are centered on the mounting holes in the seat belt anchor plates fitted to the vehicle being too small. If the hole diameter is too small, the anchor plate may not be able to rotate about the fastening bolt as designed. Should this occur, the seat belt may not be routed optimally around the occupant, or may potentially loosen at some point in the future increasing the risk of injury during a crash. Although this problem is serious, it is noted by the NHTSA that no deaths or injuries have resulted from these defective seat belts. Porsche also says this defect stems from a "manufacturing issue" at their seat belt supplier.
We don’t think this will affect Porsche at all. We still look at Porsche cars as the one of the finest sports car manufacturers in the world.
Usually unflappable German engineering has taken a hit today. BMW has announced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated an investigation that centers on 120,000 2002-2008 7-Series models, ranging from the 730d to the 760li. This investigation began after a 2006 7-Series experienced an incident in which, after being placed in park, did not fully engage the park gear and proceeded to roll a short distance. This gearbox is designed to automatically shift into park, for example, when the vehicle is turned off.
If this pending investigation makes you nervous, keep in mind that the NHTSA has said that a) "thus far, no cause has been identified for any of the rollaway incidents" and b) it is not a full scale recall, just a preliminary investigation.
You may ask us, would we still buy one? Well, we have nothing but praise for the 7 series. We find it to be truly staggering, leaving us to shake our head in disbelief that a car the size of the state of Kansas can be made this fun to drive. This potential gearbox glitch does not affect our view of the Roundel and we continue to look reverently upon each model. This full size luxury sedan did not disappoint us and it won’t let you down either.