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  Government powers at work

Posted on by Alexander + 13

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?

Source: Bloomberg

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.

The question now is, will he win?

Posted on by Thomas Nelson 2

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.

Source: NHTSA
Posted on by Thomas Nelson 2
BMW 7-Series

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.

Source: NHTSA
Posted on by Kurt 8

Last Monday, we brought you news that the first U.S. bound Pagani Huayra had been delivered to a customer in the United States. Now it seems like Pagani may have jumped the gun in selling cars on U.S. soil, thanks to a requirement that automakers implement advanced airbags beginning with the 2000 model year. In the past, low volume manufacturers such as Lamborghini and Tesla had been granted an exception to the regulation, which lead Pagani to believe they’d be granted the very same exemption. It was a logical assumption, since Pagani’s production is far less than Lamborghini’s, and Pagani lacks the technical support of Lamborghini’s parent, Volkswagen/Audi.

Pagani learned the hard way what happens when you assume. Ignoring Pagani’s low-volume manufacturer status and limited technical resources, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has denied the automaker’s request, which gives Pagani only two choices: either develop the required airbag system for the Huayra before deliveries can begin, or forgo the U.S. market entirely as they did with their Zonda supercar. Pagani estimates that designing an airbag system to meet NHTSA requirements will cost them some about $5.7 million, which surely means that the price of U.S. spec Huayras will be raised to cover development. That doesn’t bode well for buyers who’ve already put money down on Pagani’s latest, since the best they can hope for is a higher purchase price. The alternative, sadly, is that the U.S. again loses out on the opportunity to experience one of the world’s premier supercars.

Source: Bloomberg
Posted on by Kurt 6

To meet upcoming fuel economy requirements, automakers are expected to embrace turbocharging as a cost-effective way to maintain performance and increase fuel efficiency. In 2009, only five percent of vehicles offered for sale in the United States came with turbocharged engines. By 2020, an automotive industry executive expects that number to reach 82 percent, thanks to increasing fuel economy standards agreed to between the EPA, automakers, and the state of California. By 2025, automakers must achieve a Corporate Average Fuel Economy of 54.5 miles per gallon, fleet-wide. Producing smaller displacement, turbocharged engines is a cost-effective way of reducing fuel consumption, while maintaining expected levels of horsepower and performance.

There are a limited number of ways to achieve significantly better fuel economy from today’s cars. Going the hybrid drivetrain route adds expense, weight, and complexity, and using lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, composites, or aluminum usually have a significant increase in cost. Downsizing the engine is a one time-honored method, but American consumers are only willing to sacrifice so much performance in the name of better fuel economy.

Hit the jump for the full story.

Posted on by Alexander + 17

Aspiring presidential candidates are already busy gearing up for the 2012 elections with hopes of becoming the most powerful man in the U.S. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and luckily they have a presidential limo that can withstand the job.

At first glance, the Cadillac One just looks like a modified Cadillac DTS , but General Motors did not actually assign the presidential state car a specific model name. This may be due to the fact that it carries many different components from many different GM models, including Cadillac Escalade headlights, side mirrors, and door handles; Cadillac STS sedan taillights and back up lights; and what looks to be the GMC Topkick commercial truck’s chassis and driveline. GM went through a lot of trouble building the perfect presidential vehicle, but what happens to the car after the base build is what makes it capable of keeping our president utterly and unbelievably safe.

For starters, the car’s chassis has a 5" reinforced steel plate that runs underneath the car in case a bomb finds its way there. Then the entire bodywork is a combination of dual hardness steel, aluminum, titanium, and ceramic which breaks up projectiles upon impact. The doors and gas tank are armour plated, but the gas tank also receives a specially designed foam that prevents it from exploding. The tires are Kevlar reinforced and are shred and puncture resistant. If anyone successfully tears them apart, the steel rims underneath the tires will allow them to get the Cadillac One to safety.

The Cadillac One also has a number of accessories that enable it to solve problems quicker than they come around, including night vision cameras, pump action shotguns, tear gas cannons, and blood. Yes, that’s right. The Cadillac One is equipped with bottles of the president’s blood just in case he gets hurt and needs a blood transfusion. Take that, suckers!

Check back with us soon to find more interesting tidbits as part of our Car Infographics series.

Posted on by Alexander + 9

It’s happened to all of us at some point in time. You’re driving along with the windows down and the wind whipping around, just enjoying your day, or maybe you left your house just a few minutes too late and the boss has been on your case lately about your "tardiness." Either way, those flashing blue and red lights look the same and you spend the next 30 minutes of your time trying to talk yourself out of the ticket and waiting in your car until the police officer finishes whatever they do for the eternity they spend sitting in their cruiser.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathers all kinds of information over a few years to get a good idea of the number of tickets issued and what that translates into when it comes to money. Every year roughly 41,000,000 Americans receive a speeding ticket, translating into one ticket for every second of every day that ticks by, and the average ticket is about $150. Okay Mathematicians, that’s about $6.15 Billion for speeding fines alone. $6.15 Billion. And that doesn’t include the money raked in by insurance companies when those little tickets hit their systems. The average person’s insurance goes up by about $900 for one speeding ticket received in a span of three years.

So, how do we avoid getting speeding tickets? Okay, the only real answer is to not speed, but if you must then you should probably move to a place where the fine is a little tamer than others. In Tennessee and Connecticut, the first violation of speed will only get you a fine of $50, while Pennsylvania will only charge you $42 for your first. The lowest speeding ticket assigned for the first violation is awarded to North Dakota, who only dishes out a $20 ticket.

Live in New York? That’s a whopping $600 fine for your first offense. Utah gets even worse at $750. Want to get a killer speeding ticket for your first offense? Bog down in Illinois, Nevada, or New Hampshire to receive a $1,000 speeding ticket, and that’s only for your first time.

The moral of the story is to be safe and not speed. Of course, if that’s not enough to convince you, then check out more of the specifics in the images provided.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Posted on by Matt McDonald 7

Volvo and Saab have long since been rivals in the automotive industry. Recent years have seen a decline in this competition, but the two still share much in common. After General Motors was finished running Saab into the ground by making re-branded Chevrolets with their nameplate, it was sold off. One of the most unique companies in the world, Spyker , bought Saab and has been running it since 2010.

Earlier today a Swedish newspaper has reported that Volvo in conjunction with the Swedish government were in talks about buying Saab Saab . Volvo spokesman Per-Ake Froberg said, “No such talks have been going on and no such talks are scheduled.” The idea of this merger is rather interesting and has several implications on capital markets.

The De Telegraaf newspaper mentions that the Swedish government would like Volvo to take over Saab because that would mean a greater chance that a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) granted to Saab, which was guaranteed by Sweden, would be repaid. This type of acquisition would also help Saab deal with its cash problem. Spyker Spyker had its 2010 sales fall below forecasts and has therefore struggled to pay suppliers. Sweden has also come to the rescue here by approving financing to help get production on the move once more.

The Swedish government is not the only player in this transaction seeing as China is essentially the owner of Volvo. Geely Geely Automotive Holdings took over the Volvo Volvo brand after its sale from Ford. This acquisition was the largest of any automaker by China. You may also remember the acquisition of the Hummer Hummer brand, but that paled in comparison to this. The Saab CEO, Victor Muller, has said, “the Swedish carmaker is negotiating with a wide range of Chinese car makers about a tie up.” It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out and whether these two monikers can rise from the ashes of their U.S. ownership and become profitable once again.

Source: Reuters

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