Ralph Kalal
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GM Posts $3.3 Billion Loss

GM Posts $3.3 Billion Loss

GM Posts $3.3 Billion Loss

Ford may have surprised with a profit in the first quarter of this year, but at General Motors it was more of the same: losses in U.S. operations that overshadowed and overwhelmed profits elsewhere.

GM lost $3.3 billion in the first three months of this year, largely due to softening U.S. sales, particularly in the light truck and full-size SUV segments which GM dominates.

GM’s chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner attempted to put a positive spin on the results, issuing a statement which said that "[w]e continue to leverage our global product portfolio to take advantage of tremendous growth in key emerging markets, while at the same time taking the appropriate actions to deal with the challenging economic conditions in the U.S."

While that statement is, on its face, accurate and literally true, the reality isn’t nearly as rosy as Wagoner would have us believe.

(more after jump)

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Did Cerberus Overpay for Chrysler?

Did Cerberus Overpay for Chrysler?

Did Cerberus Overpay for Chrysler?

In the original version of the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair,” the lead character, played by Steve McQueen sells a building to a group of investors. After the deal is done and the documents signed, one of the buyers says, “Aren’t you going to wish us luck, Mr. Crown.” To which Crown replies, “You overpaid.”

That seems to be the thrust of the earnings report filed yesterday by Daimler, A.G. which still retains a 20% interest in Chrysler and sold the balance of its holdings to Cerberus last year. The report covers the Chrysler earnings for 2007, covering the period up to the sale of Chrysler to Cerberus.

And it ain’t pretty. But it does offer a remarkable glimpse of the thinking behind the Chrysler sale to Cerberus Capital, and the relative bargaining acumen of the players.

According to the report, in the last five months of 2007, Chrysler lost a stunning $6.8 billion dollars.

(more after jump)

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Ghosn Keeps Distance from Chrysler

Ghosn Keeps Distance from Chrysler

Ghosn Keeps Distance from Chrysler

Carlos Ghosn has long been seeking an “alliance” with a North American auto manufacturer, striking out at General Motors (when he had corporate vulture Kirk Kerkorian trying to push the idea on the GM management), but still on the prowl. Having struck several joint venture deals recently with the new Chrysler, rumors have abounded that Chrysler might finally make Ghosn’s dream come true.

But, Ghosn says that Chrysler isn’t interested in being the alliance partner with Renault or its Japanese partner, Nissan. He said that Renault and, particularly, Nissan would continue to enter into such joint venture deals with Chrysler and with other auto manufacturers, as well.

But, Chrysler is not the alliance partner for which Ghosn has been searching. "I don’t think the opportunity is there today," he said. "We are not in a hurry." He also ruled out collaborating on purchasing, pointing out that this requires a basic commonality of platforms which the companies neither now have nor contemplate having in the future.

(more after the jump)

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Baby Buick?

Baby Buick?

Baby Buick?

Buick may introduce a small car to the United States market in the Corolla size class, an extension of the the Buick Excelle marketed in China (pictured here). That, at least, is the report at AutoWeek.

Though small in size, the vehicle would be upmarket in price, employing rear wheel drive and the Alpha platform currently being designed in Germany. It would, however, be produced in North America.

The move is said to be a response to the corporate average fuel economy standards adopted this past year by Congress.

Whether this move is wise is debatable, and probably is being debated as this is written within General Motors. Buick sales have dropped dramatically as the line-up lost lower-priced cars, such as the Skylark. However, the traditional attributes of the Buick brand, a certain middle-class luxury, have not been successfully transplanted in the past to smaller Buicks. On the other hand, the loss of lower priced models has savaged Buick sales. But, selling a lower priced Buick risks not only diminishing the stature of the brand, but competing with Chevrolet’s offerings.

(more after the jump)

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Ashley Force Becomes First Woman to Win in NHRA Funny Car

Ashley Force Becomes First Woman to Win in NHRA Funny Car

Ashley Force Becomes First Woman to Win in NHRA Funny Car

It has been overlooked in some circles, but there was another driver to score the first win for a woman this week-end, and she did it in the most dramatic style possible.

In the 1970’s and ‘80’s, Shirley “Cha-Cha” Muldowney regularly defeated the top competitors in the National Hot Rod Association’s premier series, “top fuel,” winning the overall title in 1977, 1980, and 1982. But, since then, the NHRA has been devoid of a truly top tier female driver.

Until now.

This past weekend, Ashley Force drove into the record books, becoming the first woman to win a national NHRA funny car national event, taking home the trophy at the Summit Racing Equiptment NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Georgia.

The drama of the last race couldn’t have been greater.

(more after jump)

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Aged Vulture Goes for Ford

Aged Vulture Goes for Ford

Aged Vulture Goes for Ford

Kirk Kerkorian. Perhaps he’ll go down as the billionaire that can’t quite catch on that a few billion is pocket change in the car business.

Kerkorian is offering 8.50 a share for Ford stock. In all, he wants to buy 20 million Ford shares, accumulating more than 5% of Ford’s outstanding publicly held common stock.

Kerkorian, who is 980 and is well known as a market vulture, has been pulling stunts like this for over three decades.

But he’s been a remarkably bumbling one, the only real accomplishment of his career being the dismembering of MGM over twenty years ago, a move which made him a pile, destroyed MGM, and ended up being paid for by the other shareholders of that company.

In the last several years, though, he’s targeted car companies.

(more after jump)

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GM Slashing Truck Production

GM Slashing Truck Production

GM Slashing Truck Production

General Motors announced Monday that it is slashing production at its plants producing pick-ups and full size SUVs. A full shift will be eliminated at the Janesville, Wisconsin SUV production facility, and at the plants producing the full-size pick-ups: Pontiac and Flint, Michigan, and Oshawa, Ontario. According to GM, the decision is a reflection of decreased demand for the vehicles.

This will eliminate 88,000 pick-ups and 50,000 full size SUVs from the planned annual production of these vehicles.

The vehicle lines affected are the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra and the heavy duty versions of both. Despite the cutbacks, GM still has 63% of the market in full-size SUVs and approximately 40 percent of the full-size pickup truck market.

(more after the jump)

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Toyota Warns About Scam

Toyota Warns About Scam

Toyota Warns About Scam

Toyota has issued a warning to its customers, informing them that con artists have been using the Toyota name in efforts to get some Toyota customers to give up financial information.

According to Toyota, the scams include a forged Toyota check.

Here’s the scoop, directly from Toytoa’s blog:

“It’s come to our attention that there have been several efforts to scam people out of financial information through the use of correspondence on a falsified Toyota letterhead, and accompanied by a forged Toyota check.

(more after jump)

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Cadillac CTS Wagon Spied – Convertible Next?

Cadillac CTS Wagon Spied – Convertible Next?

Cadillac CTS Wagon Spied – Convertible Next?
Cadillac CTS Wagon Spied – Convertible Next?
Cadillac CTS Wagon Spied – Convertible Next?
Cadillac CTS Wagon Spied – Convertible Next?

As recently as the Detroit Auto Show in February, a top Cadillac design official specifically denied that Cadillac was considering a wagon version of the CTS. With the next generation SRX on display at the show in concept car form – the Provoq – this executive flat-out said that Cadillac did not want to risk cutting into its sales with a CTS wagon.

Seems that statement is inoperative. Exactly the vehicle this executive denied was being considered is, in fact, very much alive and driving, at least according to information posted at AutoBlog and spy shots captured by the famous team of Doane and Priddy.

The fact is that a poorly disguised CTS wagon is circulating, with only the back and very front of the vehicle hidden by shrouding.

(more after jump)

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GM Announces Pilot Ethanol Plant as Criticism of Ethanol Fuels Mounts

GM Announces Pilot Ethanol Plant as Criticism of Ethanol Fuels Mounts

GM Announces Pilot Ethanol Plant as Criticism of Ethanol Fuels Mounts

The push for ethanol based fuels has begun to derail, as it comes under increasing public and political criticism as the cause of rising food prices and third-world food shortages. A widely circulated editorial in the Wall Street Journal has pointed out that fully 30% of the United States grain crop is now going to ethanol production and many critics are blaming ethanol for both rising food prices and food shortages which have caused recent riots in third-world countries.

Gasoline is beginning to look better as a fuel. At least, automobiles fueled by petrochemcials don’t compete with the food chain for humans.

General Motors, while steadfastly denying that ethanol contributes to higher food prices – a position increasingly hard to justify – has been pioneering an alternative: cellosic ethanol. The idea is that ethanol can be refined from stuff you’d never dream of eating, including garbage and old tires. To that end, it announced a venture with a start-up company called Coskata at the Detroit Auto Show this past February to pursue that goal.

Now, GM and Coskata have announced that they will be building a pilot plant to produce cellulosic ethanol, locating it in Madison, Pennsylvania. Building that plant is on schedule with the timetable GM has previously announced, one which envisions rapidly moving from pilot production to large-scale production.

(more after jump)

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Chrysler Cuts Interest Rate – Introduces Program for “Credit Challenged Customers”

Chrysler Cuts Interest Rate – Introduces Program for “Credit Challenged Customers”

Chrysler Cuts Interest Rate – Introduces Program for “Credit Challenged Customers”

The more things change at Chrysler, the more they stay the same.

"Our credit-challenged customers are always trying to find a car. They’re on the doorstep every day wanting to buy a vehicle and trying like heck. So we’re trying like heck to get them bought." That’s from Steven Landry, Chrysler executive vice president for North American sales. "In the marketplace today, monthly payment is the most critical part for the customer that comes into the showroom. Their monthly payment is what’s going to drive their purchase. A lot of times we’re working internally at providing tools with Chrysler Financial to make the risk portfolio of customers be better and make that customer viable."

To accomplish that, Chrysler has lowered their interest rate on new car loans to people with poorer credit ratings. So-called “B Tier” credit customers will now get rates at 6.9%, rather than the previous 12%. That ranking equates to a credit score of 620 to 680.

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New Ferrari Dino Spied Testing at Fiorano

New Ferrari Dino Spied Testing at Fiorano

New Ferrari Dino Spied Testing at Fiorano

Or, at least that’s the prevailing opinion. This mule was circling the Fiorano test track, Ferrari’s home base proving ground, doing hot laps.

The car, the existence of which Ferrari adamantly and unequivocally denied for months, is internally designated as the F149, but is thought to be named ether the Dino or GT California when it hits the market. It is expected to be a four seater with a retractable top, and is expected to use a 4.7 liter V-8 shared with certain Maserati models. Indeed, rumor has it that the new Ferrari may actually be assembled by Maserati. Both names are properties of Fiat.

Ferrari is expected to unveil the car at the Paris Auto Show this fall.

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Ford Makes Money! Toyota Overtakes GM – Maybe.

Ford Makes Money! Toyota Overtakes GM – Maybe.

Ford Makes Money! Toyota Overtakes GM – Maybe.

In the first three months of 2007, Ford lost almost $300 million. In the same period this year, Ford turned a $100 million profit. Figure that they’re celebrating in Dearborn.

Meantime, Toyota claims to have beaten General Motors in worldwide sales in the first three months of the year. GM, however, has yawned. In effect, GM says it’s not the horse that’s ahead at the first turn that wins the race. It is the one that’s ahead at the wire. GM is expecting to win for the year.

The Ford money came from foreign operations, as it has in the past. What made the difference, though, was the United States. Ford has done a lot to stem the hemorrhage of money in the United States. So, domestic operations didn’t wipe out the foreign profits. Losses in the States were trimmed to $45 million, from last year’s first quarter loss of $618 million.

This was all done with overall lower revenue than the previous year, and without counting any money from the sale of the Land Rover and Jaguar units.

(more after jump)

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Stewart to Bolt from Gibbs Team for Haas CNC

Stewart to Bolt from Gibbs Team for Haas CNC

Stewart to Bolt from Gibbs Team for Haas CNC

SI.com is reporting that former NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart wants to leave Joe Gibbs Racing, the team that originally brought Stewart to NASCAR from Indy cars. According to the website, the deal is almost complete and will allow Stewart to drive next season for Haas CNC.

Hass’s spokesperson issued a statement asserting that there had been no contact between the team and Stewart, but no one is believing it. Stewart’s PR man simply stated that the current contract with Gibbs runs through the end of 2009. According to Stewart’s spokesperson, the Gibbs Racing team would like to renew Stewart’s contract.

Nonetheless, inside sources are portrayed by SI.com as “adamant” that Stewart is leaving and that the final details are all that remain to be worked out.

(more after jump)

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Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay

Barbara Hutton’s Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay

Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay
Barbara Hutton's Rolls-Royce for Sale: $1.1 Million on eBay

At one time, Barbara Hutton combined two of the most remarkable feminine traits in one person: one of the most glamorous women of the 1930’s, she was also the richest of the time.

The money came from daddy. She inherited the fortune he had made by building the chain of Woolworth’s “five and dime” stores. She had multiple husbands – seven, to be precise, including Cary Grant - consorted with only the most glamorous people, and lived a life of incredible wealth.

Naturally, she had a Rolls-Royce. More accurately, her husband had a rolls-Royce. A 1933 Phantom II “drophead coupe,” to be precise. Only one other like it was ever built and it is the only one known still to exist. Ms. Hutton bought it for her husband, Russian Prince Alexis Mdivani. (This was, of course, long after Russian Princes were somewhat obsolete, the Revolution having displaced them about twenty years before.)

The marriage to the Russian Prince didn’t last very long. (None of Ms. Hutton’s marriages lasted very long, but this one may have set the record, as it was over in a year.) But, the Prince ended up with the car following the divorce. Unfortunately, shortly after the divorce, the Prince was killed while driving the car in France.

(more after the jump)

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No New “iDrive” for New BMW 3 Series

No New “iDrive” for New BMW 3 Series

No New “iDrive” for New BMW 3 Series

The word had been out that the freshened 3 Series from BMW, due in 2009, would be getting the updated and improved version of the iDrive system, the multifunction system that has maddened BMW owners in its previous incarnations, been copied by other manufacturers, and been a constant source of criticism by automotive journalists.

Various sources, including BMW Blog, had reported last week that the new version of iDrive, reportedly currently under testing, would be part of the new 3 Series.

But, BMW Blog now says that they were misinformed, or at least that they are now better informed. BMW sources have told BMW Blog that there’s zero chance if the new iDrive showing up in the facelifted 3 Series.

Instead, the new iDrive goes into the 5 Series.

So, all you’ve got to do if you want it is spend more money.

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Will GM Become the Hybrid King?

Will GM Become the Hybrid King?

Will GM Become the Hybrid King?

Some observers think so. In fact, some industry analysts say that GM will be selling as many as 300,000 hybrids a year in the near future, according to CNN.

But that’s not the story right now. Right now, though GM has more hybrid models than any manufacturer other than Toyota, the total of General Motors hybrid sales during the first three months of 2008 was . . .

843.

That’s a remarkable contrast to the hype GM has given its hybrid models, concentrated in the manufacturer’s SUV and light truck lines, in the last year or so. Of the 843, a figure compiled by industry journal Automotive News, 655 were full-size SUVs.

Nonetheless, some industry analysts believe that GM will produce as many as 50,000 hybrids this year.

(more after the jump)

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Customers are Willingly Paying More for the Malibu than Camry

Customers are Willingly Paying More for the Malibu than Camry

Customers are Willingly Paying More for the Malibu than Camry

It’s turning the tables on Toyota: according to General Motors, the average selling price for a 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, $20,954, is more than the average selling price for a 2008 Toyota Camry.

In fact, it’s $200 more.

The claim was made by Ed Peper, the general manager of Chevrolet. The price to which he was referring is the “transaction price,” which is the actual sales price, after taking into account any manufacturer discounts and incentives, as well as any discounts made by the dealer in the selling price.

Further glory is coming from “conquest” sales – sales to owners trading in a non-GM brand. Fully 38% of Malibu sales are to owners trading in a non-GM brand vehicle. Most commonly, the trade is a Camry.

(more after jump)

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Maybe They Should Name it the Pontiac “10,000.”

Maybe They Should Name it the Pontiac “10,000.”

Maybe They Should Name it the Pontiac “10,000.”
Maybe They Should Name it the Pontiac “10,000.”
Maybe They Should Name it the Pontiac “10,000.”
Maybe They Should Name it the Pontiac “10,000.”

In the dim and distant past of Pontiac, they produced a model named the Pontiac 6000. So, why not just throw in the towel and name the new “ute” based Pontiac G8 “sport truck” the “10,000?”

That would save Pontiac the trouble of sifting through the 10,000 names that have been submitted to it as proposed names for the new truck.

You may recall that when Pontiac unveiled the American “ute” at the New York Auto Show they informed the world that they were going to have a contest to name the new model. Well, the public has responded. Were Pontiac to sell as many of the “ute” as it’s had nominations for its name, they’d be quite happy, one suspects.

As it is, however, Pontiac is now faced with sorting through the massive number of names, a task apparently given to the marketing division. The final say, they say, goes to the marketing department.

Maybe. But, we think that it’s a bit more complex than that.

(more after the jump)

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History Repeats: Hybrids Target of Legislation

History Repeats: Hybrids Target of Legislation

History Repeats: Hybrids Target of Legislation

When it was new, the motorcar was the target of politicians seeking the limelight. Some things, though, never change.

Reminiscent of the law that required an automobile to be preceded by a walking man waving a red flag to warn the horses, Reps. Edolphus Towns and Cliff Stearns, Democrat and Republican respectively, have introduced legislation in Congress that would target hybrids and electrically powered cars. The problem, you see, is that they’re too quiet.

So, automobiles – long the target of legislators claiming that mufflers are too loud – should no longer seek not to disturb. Gone will be the day when Rolls-Royce could proudly claim that “at 60 mph, the loudest sound you hear is the ticking of the clock.”

To the contrary, according to the Congressmen, “[t]he beneficial trend toward more environmentally friendly cars has had the unintended effect of placing the blind and other pedestrians in danger.”

(more after the jump)

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Ol' Shel Returns to His Roots: Food

Ol’ Shel Returns to His Roots: Food

Ol' Shel Returns to His Roots: Food
Ol' Shel Returns to His Roots: Food
Ol' Shel Returns to His Roots: Food
Ol' Shel Returns to His Roots: Food

When you think of Carroll Shelby, you just naturally think of food.

After all, Carroll Shelby was once a chicken farmer. No where near as successful in that venture as in later ventures, such as driving and then building race cars, Shelby later became famous for chili. His homemade recipe became so popular that he marketed it, later selling it to a conglomerate that still sells Carroll Shelby chili mix at most quality grocery stores.

Now Shelby’s gone back to food – with his “Shelby Corner Café” in Las Vegas. It’s located with his other enterprises at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s not fancy, but the decoration has one unmistakable theme: Shelby’s.

(more after the jump)

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Can Nissan Rescue Chrysler?

Can Nissan Rescue Chrysler?

Can Nissan Rescue Chrysler?

The deal which Nissan and Chrysler cut last week – one in which Chrysler will undertake to build Nissan’s next pick-up truck to Nissan’s designs and Nissan will build a small car for Chrysler to Chrysler’s design is leading to rampant speculation that the futures of the two companies may become even more intertwined.

Chrysler has been desperately searching for a way to find foreign sales, rightly viewing emerging markets as the future of the auto industry. Unfortunately for it, it has virtually no presence in any of these markets.

Chrysler has also been desperate to get a small car on the market in the United States, seeing that market as one that will have the highest rate of growth in production and profits, as energy prices rise.

Nissan appears to be the solution to both problems.

(more after jump)

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GM Can't Shed Labor Trouble

GM Can’t Shed Labor Trouble

GM Can't Shed Labor Trouble

After decades of being the UAW’s toy, General Motors top management must have thought they’d finally rid themselves of the routine blackmail the United Auto Workers have played on the company since the late 1960’s. At vast expense – perhaps fatal expense – the company paid billions and billions to shed workers and accumulated liabilities, culminating in the VEBA deal that was part of the contract reached only months ago with the unionized work force.

But, no. All GM did was shift the suicidal attack of the United Auto Workers to a different front: the suppliers.

Bent on organized self-destruction, the United Auto Workers is now challenging GM indirectly, through attacks on its suppliers and attacks on its individual plants.

The main front in the UAW’s battle is a company called American Axle. The union has struck that company because it has had the temerity to suggest that the UAW should cut about the same deal with them that it did with GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

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Buick USA Needs Invicta – Now!

Buick USA Needs Invicta – Now!

Buick USA Needs Invicta – Now!

It’s a show car, previewed this week in China, another product of the same design studio collaboration, centered in China that stunned the world with the concept Buick Riviera and, thereby, put General Motors’ Chinese operations firmly in the automotive spotlight.

But, the time for Buick concepts has passed. Buick needs new products, now. If the next generation LaCrosse proves to be a duplicate in appearance of the Invicta, it may save Buick. If not, . . .

A recent Automotive News article painted a grim picture of Buick.

In March, Buick sales were off 24.1% from the year earlier levels, about 12,000 vehicles.

To put this in perspective, AN focused on the Chicago zone: Northeastern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana, with a population of more than 10 million, long one of the strongest Buick markets. Once, sales of 150 vehicles a month per dealer were typical.

In March, the almost sixty Buick dealers in that zone averaged sales of seven new cars per dealer.

How did things get that bad?

(more after the jump)

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Hey, Buick: Name It “Invicta!”

Hey, Buick: Name It “Invicta!”

Hey, Buick: Name It “Invicta!”
Hey, Buick: Name It “Invicta!”
Hey, Buick: Name It “Invicta!”
Hey, Buick: Name It “Invicta!”

Reportedly, the “Invicta” concept car to be displayed in a few days in China is the LaCrosse replacement.

Let us hope that the production car is actually named “Invicta,” not LaCrosse, and deserves the name.

“Invicta” is a name from the past, from both Buick’s heyday and the classic auto era in Great Britain.

LaCrosse is a rather dumpy city in Northern Wisconsin.

Buick has used the “Invicta” name before. From 1959 to 1963, to be precise.

(more, for the history afficianado, after the jump)

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Latest Baby Rolls Photos

Latest Baby Rolls Photos

Latest Baby Rolls Photos
Latest Baby Rolls Photos
Latest Baby Rolls Photos
Latest Baby Rolls Photos
Latest Baby Rolls Photos
Latest Baby Rolls Photos

It was caught on the streets of Munich, in camouflage that still clearly reveals the shape and features of the upcoming model. Codenamed the “RR4,” this is the upcoming Bentley competitor from Rolls-Royce, the latest salvo by BMW in the luxury market.

The expected price, when introduced, will be about $250,000 to $280,000, which positions it below the $345,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Rumor has it that the new RR4 will be based on the next generation BMW 7 Series platform and feature a twin-turbo V8 derived from the one planned for the future BMW X6.

In profile, the RR4 seems less brick-like that the Phantom, and bears a resemblance to the softer lines of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur against which it will be direct competition.

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Max: You've Got to Come Clean About the Nazi Thing

Max: You’ve Got to Come Clean About the Nazi Thing

Max: You've Got to Come Clean About the Nazi Thing

Yesterday, Max Mosley found a friend.

It was only one friend,

But it was a powerful friend: the representative to the FIA of the United Arab Emirates.

Nonetheless, it may be the biggest problem the FIA’s president has had, to date.

You see, the endorsement of the UAE makes it no longer possible to ignore the element which Mosley most needs ignored:

Anti-Semitism.

(more after the jump)

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The “New Chrysler”: 61¢ on the Dollar

The “New Chrysler”: 61¢ on the Dollar

The “New Chrysler”: 61¢ on the Dollar

That was the price accepted by at least one of the banks that loaned money to finance the purchase of Chrysler by Cerberus Capital.

According to reports filed earlier today, at least one of the banks holding Chrysler paper – the consortium that financed the buyout included Bear, Stearns, J. P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, CitiBank, and Morgan Stanley – has unloaded some of its Chrysler debt at $0.61 per $1.00 of loaned amount.

At least two of the consortium – Bear, Stearns and CitiGroup – have run into severe liquidity problems since making the loans, with Bear, Stearns having recently been acquired by J. P. Morgan at a fire-sale price.

Published reports did not disclose the identity of the purchaser(s) of the Chrysler debt.

(more after jump)

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Is it Time to Buy Ford? (Part One)

Is it Time to Buy Ford? (Part One)

Is it Time to Buy Ford? (Part One)

No, this isn’t a reference to Ford’s new ad campaign, in which they encourage prospective customers to try a new Ford.

It’s all about buying stock in the company, not rolling stock.

It seems that one financial journal – Barron’s magazine – thinks the price of Ford stock could double and that it’s a seldom-seen buying opportunity.

So, here’s an investment strategy that just might offset the cost of putting gas (or diesel) in that F-150 you just bought. Take the rebate and stick it into Ford stock.

Here’s the reasoning, according to Barron’s, as reported by Reuters:

First, Ford common stock is currently trading at $6.49 a share, which is close to the lowest price at which the stock has traded in the past twenty-five years.

(more after the jump)

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Porsche at War With German Province – Still

Porsche at War With German Province – Still

Porsche at War With German Province – Still

Porsche’s plans for Volkswagen continue to run into government roadblocks in Germany, to the ongoing detriment of all concerned.

Porsche owns over 30% of the outstanding Porsche stock and is poised to take a majority interest in the company with 51% of its shares. Earlier this year, Porsche successfully fought a legal battle that resulted in a German law which limited it to exercising no more than 20% of its shares, regardless of actual ownership. The German law was declared illegal under European Union rules.

Now, however, the Detroit News reports that the German province of Lower Saxony, which is the second largest shareholder in VW and holds 20.1 percent of the outstanding shares is asserting a German law that, in effect, allows any shareholder with more than 20% of outstanding shares to veto almost anything the company tries to do.

(more after the jump)

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Bargain Rolls-Royce Phantom?

Bargain Rolls-Royce Phantom?

Bargain Rolls-Royce Phantom?

You’ve seen those ads for selling “government surplus,” or auctioning off “seized property.”

And you’ve taken them with more than a grain of salt. Rightly.

But, just to keep you up to date, sometimes something interesting does come up for sale at one of those government auctions.

Like a 2004 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Auctioned by the United States Department of Treasury at a seized property auction in Miami last Wednesday.

(more after jump)

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Toyota – The Recall Class Act?

Toyota – The Recall Class Act?

Toyota – The Recall Class Act?

This time it’s the Toyota Matrix. The headlines say that 660,000 Toyotas are being recalled.

Over at GM, they must be smiling.

Not because of Toyota’s problem.

But because those headlines don’t include the word “Pontiac."

You, see – that 660,000 figure also includes the Pontiac Vibe.

The Matrix and Vibe are being recalled because of defects in the power windows of 2003 – 2004 model year vehicles which have lead to the windows cracking and even, reportedly, in some instances exploding. There have been 500 complaints and a few reported injuries.

But, Toyota may be showing its true colors with the way it’s handling recall issues.

With some level of class.

(more after the jump)

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How to Make a Quick Buck on a Used Toyota Tacoma – Maybe

How to Make a Quick Buck on a Used Toyota Tacoma – Maybe

How to Make a Quick Buck on a Used Toyota Tacoma – Maybe

If you own a Toyota Tacoma, this may be the best chance you’ll ever get to unload it.

On Toyota.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Toyota is offering to buy back Tacoma pick-up trucks from model years 1995 to 2000, at a price which is 150% of the Kelley bluebook “excellent” condition value, regardless of actual condition.

The program, which is called a “Customer Support Program” by Toyota, is the result of repeated reports of premature frame rust on the target Tacoma trucks.

However, only some trucks will qualify for the buy-back.

(more after jump)

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Jim Press: You Have the Right to Remain Silent – Maybe You Should

Jim Press: You Have the Right to Remain Silent – Maybe You Should

Jim Press: You Have the Right to Remain Silent – Maybe You Should

Say what you will about Bob Lutz calling “global warming” a pile of something. He didn’t get caught lying. No one doubts he was telling the truth, at least as he sees it.

But, Chrysler’s president, Jim Press, has been caught.

Big time. As in under oath. Perjury, it seems.

Though both Chrysler and Toyota have tried to paper it over, her’s what Press old Business Week magazine – and they are sticking solidly that these are Press’ exact words:

Press (pictured here introducting the Toyota Tundra) said that the Japanese government “paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Prius.”

If that’s the case, Press committed perjury before the United States Congress barely more than a year ago.

Automotive News has just published a piece in which they quote Press’ testimony from March 14, 2007 – while he was still Toyota’s head of its U.S. operations and a member of the parent company’s board of directors.

What he said then isn’t even close to what he said last week.

(more after the jump)

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Wanna Know Where to Buy Your Next Rolls-Royce?

Wanna Know Where to Buy Your Next Rolls-Royce?

Wanna Know Where to Buy Your Next Rolls-Royce?
Wanna Know Where to Buy Your Next Rolls-Royce?
Wanna Know Where to Buy Your Next Rolls-Royce?
Wanna Know Where to Buy Your Next Rolls-Royce?

We know that there is always a lot of relatively useless information on automotive blogs. You know: the latest rumor about an eleven cylinder hybrid electric BMW go kart. Stuff like that. It’s fun,
but, at some point, we’ve all got to live our lives and sometimes it’s nice just to have some practical information.

So, today, we offer some practical information: advice on where to buy that next Rolls-Royce.

It turns out that it’s all about volume.

In the Rolls-Royce world, being the “volume” dealer has its benefits.

You’re got inventory. But, suppose a customer comes in the door and he wants a model so hot that you don’t have it in stock – and he wants it tomorrow.

No problem. A call to the factory is all it takes.

The car is on a charter jet direct from the factory.

(more after the jump)

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The New York Times Seinfeld Mystery

The New York Times Seinfeld Mystery

The New York Times Seinfeld Mystery
The New York Times Seinfeld Mystery
The New York Times Seinfeld Mystery
The New York Times Seinfeld Mystery

Give it to the New York Times. They’ve manage to ignore Hillary’s tax return questions for a decade, but they’re right there with the biggest mystery of our day:

What was Jerry Seinfeld driving when he wrecked two weeks ago.

The Times has devoted large space to the issue: Is it a Fiat or a Ferrari?

Here’s how the Journal of the politically weird got to this point:

Jerry Seinfeld was driving some sort of Italian antique about two weeks ago when he went into the ditch. This resulted in the police being called to report the accident. They, being individuals with some level of discretion, neither saw a reason to make a big deal out of a one car accident involving an old car nor to question Seinfeld’s explanation: the brakes failed.

But, enter the New York Times, the publication that prints everything it hopes people will believe.

(more after the jump)

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Rumors that Mercedes Set to Acquire Daimler: Be Skeptical

Rumors that Mercedes Set to Acquire Daimler: Be Skeptical

Rumors that Mercedes Set to Acquire Daimler: Be Skeptical

When you are asked by someone that owns part of your company to help with his or her hobby, you probably don’t feel inclined to say no.

That’s the position of Daimler, AG in dealing with Aston Martin, which is owned in substantial part by the investment arm of Kuwait. Kuwait also happens to own seven percent of the stock of Daimler, AG.

The hot rumor circulating this week-end has Mercedes-Benz – that would actually be Daimler – buying Aston-Martin, or at least a big stake in it. AutoBlog even purports to specify particulars of the deal: in exchange for Daimler buying a stake in Aston, the Kuwaiti Investment Authority would receive a seven percent interest in Daimler. (So, would that be another “seven percent”? Or is it possible that the AutoBlog j is confusing this with the seven percent in Daimler that Kuwait already owns?)

Aston is the manufacturer of 7,000 cars a year. If it reaches its goal, it’s going to build 9,000 per year.

Daimler built 39,000 buses last year. In other words, just counting buses, Daimler’s production was four times that of Aston. Daimler sold 1.28 million automobiles last year.

Aston isn’t worth seven percent of Daimler. Not even close.

(more after the jump)

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Pressure Mounts to Bounce Mosley

Pressure Mounts to Bounce Mosley

Pressure Mounts to Bounce Mosley

Pressure on Max Mosley to resign as president of the FIA mounted during the week-end, building on the decision by the royal prince of Bahrain, Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, earlier in the week to uninvited Mosley from this week-end’s Formula One race in that country.

Three time world champion and Formula One elder, Sir Jackie Stewart - pictured here - told the press in Bahrain (where he is a guest of the crown prince) that it was time for Mosley to go.

Referring to the crown prince’s actions, Stewart said: "I think that policy will be picked up, whether it is in Spain, where King Juan Carlos will almost certainly be in attendance at their grand prix in two weeks’ time, or in other countries on other continents where the culture, religion or moral standing would not allow Mosley’s presence.
His position is clearly untenable. He has to step down."

(more after the jump)

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Smart Fortwo Scores Poorly on NHTSA Front Crash Test

Smart Fortwo Scores Poorly on NHTSA Front Crash Test

Smart Fortwo Scores Poorly on NHTSA Front Crash Test

Poor crash test numbers might seem to be expected with a vehicle as tiny as the Smart Fortwo, but Daimler – its manufacturer – has consistently claimed the Smart was designed to get a four star safety rating on crash tests.

However, in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, as reported in the Detroit Free Press, the Smart’s front crash test rating was not four stars, nor five stars – the best possible rating.

It was three stars.

That’s one of the lowest ratings of any passenger vehicle on sale in America and a rating which equates to a 21% to 35% probability of serious injury in the test standard 35 mph collision. (Technically, the rating was four stars for the driver and three for the passenger.)

(more after the jump)

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Unreal: Max Wants a Meeting of the FIA – His “Privacy” Has Been Invaded

Unreal: Max Wants a Meeting of the FIA – His “Privacy” Has Been Invaded

Unreal: Max Wants a Meeting of the FIA – His “Privacy” Has Been Invaded

According to Autoweek.com, FIA president Max Mosley has called for a meeting of the FIA general assembly in extraordinary session.

Why? "The full membership of the FIA will be invited to attend the meeting at which the widespread publicity following an apparently illegal invasion of the FIA president’s privacy will be discussed. It is anticipated that the meeting will take place in Paris. It will be held on the earliest practicable date. No further comments will be made by the FIA regarding the matter at this stage," according to the statement issued by the FIA. The FIA also stated that Mosley is preparing legal proceedings against the News of the World, the British tabloid which reported Mosley’s involvement with prostitutes and posted a video of his performance on their website.

Here’s the way AutoWeek reports the nature of the video and the response of Mercedes-Benz and BMW in a joint statement issued earlier today:

“The video appeared to show Mosley engaged in sex acts with five prostitutes while role playing as concentration camp prisoners and guards. Mosley denied there was any Nazi connotation to his actions, but German manufacturers BMW and Mercedes-Benz issued a joint statement expressing their disgust with the situation.

(more after the jump)

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BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word

BMW Billboard – Big Isn’t the Word

BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word
BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word
BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word
BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word
BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word
BMW Billboard – Big Isn't the Word

Any doubt that Russia is a premiere market for expensive German cars should be eliminated by this billboard, erected in Moscow by BMW.

It totals 65,000 square feet in size. Those are real cars hanging on the face of the billboard.

The billboard promotes the M series of BMW automobiles.

(more pictures after the jump)

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Mosley Sex Scandal: Is He On His Way Out at FIA?

Mosley Sex Scandal: Is He On His Way Out at FIA?

Mosley Sex Scandal: Is He On His Way Out at FIA?

It looks as though Max Mosley’s days as president of the FIA, the sanctioning body for Formula One and other world-wide forms of motorsport, are numbered. On Wednesday, four of the major Formula One teams – Honda, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW – issued statements overtly condemning Mosley and encouraging the FIA to take prompt action against him.

Over the week-end, the British tabloid “News of the World” revealed that Mosley had been involved with a British prostitution ring, engaging in sadomasochistic acts. The tabloid posted a video on its website which purports to show Mosley being greeted by five prostitutes, and then engaging in Nazi role playing during sex acts.

According to the newspaper, the video images were recorded this past Friday. Mosley’s father, Oswald, founded a British pro-Nazi group in the years prior to World War Two.

(more after the jump)

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I Can Buy A Corvette for That!!!!!!

I Can Buy A Corvette for That!!!!!!

I Can Buy A Corvette for That!!!!!!

$48,000.

That’s the price that TopSpeed.com reported, earlier today, will be the possible list for the Chevy Volt at its introduction.

That’s above the sticker for a moderately well-equipped C6 Corvette. Hell, it’s above what you’ve gotta pay for a Cadillac DTS or a V-6 CTS or STS.

About two weeks ago, when Bob Lutz was talking to the Volt acolytes at the New York Auto Show and told the assembled multitude that GM would lose money on every one of them, we put up a post suggesting that GM ought to actually give it up if it couldn’t make a profit on the thing. The basic premise was that GM was reinventing the Corvair. The post was sufficiently brazen to suggest that Lutz answer the questions posed. He, after all, choses to use the FastLane.com blog when it suits his purposes.

(more after the jump)

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Did the Japanese Government Fund the Toyota Prius?

Did the Japanese Government Fund the Toyota Prius?

Did the Japanese Government Fund the Toyota Prius?

Toyota, rather adamantly says “no.” At least, that word is used in their statement.

But someone who should know says, equally adamantly, “yes.”

That someone is none other than James Press (pictured), now the vice-chairman and president of Chrysler. But, before that job, he spent 37 years at Toyota, and ended up running their United States operations and sitting on the Japanese car maker’s board of directors.

According to comments made by Press to Business Week magazine, the Prius development costs were paid for by the Japanese government, in their entirety. Press is quoted by BW as saying, “The Japanese government paid for 100 percent of the development of the battery and hybrid system that went into the Toyota Pirus.”

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Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)

Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)

Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)
Name it the Pontiac “Grand Prix Express.” (Or, How About “El Catalina?)

A new Pontiac G8 “ute,” a sport truck yet to be named that’s an updated version of the classic Chevy El Camino, will go on sale in the fall. GM’s holding a contest to come up with the official name.

Perhaps they should use the one they already used, back in 1966.

You see, the G8 sport truck isn’t a new idea from Pontiac. It’s an old one. It’s actually an idea recycled from the sixties, from the days when the late John DeLorean was the General Manager of Pontiac.

You see, Pontiac built an El Camino version of the Grand Prix in 1966. It was called the “Grand Prix Express.”

(more after the jump)

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One Born Every Minute, Part Two

One Born Every Minute, Part Two

One Born Every Minute, Part Two

It’s not just at Barrett-Jackson that putting an ordinary car on the block can command an extraordinary price with a tape and trim package. Some seem to think just having a passing association with a celebrity is enough.

Buick has been sponsoring golf tournaments for years. It supplies new cars for the players, then peddles them through dealers afterward at reduced prices.

But, maybe it might want to rethink that, at least if the latest eBay offering goes for its “buy it now” price.

The object in question is a Buick Enclave. It was used by Tiger Woods as his courtesy car during last year’s Target World Challenge golf tournament, then offered by EA Sports as the first price in an online contest.

Now, the winner has it on eBay. “Buy it now” price? $100,000.

(more after the jump)

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Barnum was Right: Pair of Mustangs Go for 300K at Barrett-Jackson

Barnum was Right: Pair of Mustangs Go for 300K at Barrett-Jackson

Barnum was Right: Pair of Mustangs Go for 300K at Barrett-Jackson
Barnum was Right: Pair of Mustangs Go for 300K at Barrett-Jackson
Barnum was Right: Pair of Mustangs Go for 300K at Barrett-Jackson
Barnum was Right: Pair of Mustangs Go for 300K at Barrett-Jackson


It was P. T. Barnu who built a fortune on the proposition that “[t]here’s a sucker born every minute.

A man whose mother apparently gave birth as the minute hand reached twelve paid $300,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Palm Beach for a pair of “KITTt” Mustangs.

KITT, in case you’ve missed it, is the car that was the soul of the television show “Knight Rider,” long ago. The real KITT was a Pontiac. Though they’ve been offered on eBay, the real KITT cars have, so far, gone unsold at their asking prices, which have been less than was paid for the imitations.

(more after the jump)

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The Hot Ticket at “Midnite Auto Supply”

The Hot Ticket at “Midnite Auto Supply”

The Hot Ticket at “Midnite Auto Supply”
The Hot Ticket at “Midnite Auto Supply”
The Hot Ticket at “Midnite Auto Supply”
The Hot Ticket at “Midnite Auto Supply”

It’s the catalytic converter on your car, and it’s worth about $200 at some unscrupulous scrap yards.

Which is making for unpleasant surprises for owners of SUVs and trucks.

You see, those cars sit high enough above the ground that a bandit with a battery powered saw can slide under the car and rapidly appropriate the platinum based catalytic converter found in the exhaust system of every domestic and foreign vehicle. The precious metals in the converter are part of the vehicle’s emission reduction system. Replacing a catalytic converter – a “cat” - is going to cost the unfortunate vehicle owner, or the insurance company, about $1,000.

(more after jump)

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Roush Claims Toyota Team Stole Part

Roush Claims Toyota Team Stole Part

Roush Claims Toyota Team Stole Part

Jack Roush, the top Ford team owner in the NASCAR Sprint Series, claims that a Toyota team stole a swaybar from his team last year.

Stories have been bubbling on the internet since Toyota returned a part following a tear-down of vehicles after the most recent Sprint Cup race. A Toyota official described the part as a spring, but Rousch says it was actually an anti-sway bar.

According to SportingNews.com, the swaybar had been stored below a toolbox adjacent to the area allocated to one of the Toyota teams. Reports of the tear-down have suggested that it was Michael Waltrip’s team, but no one has officially specified which Toyota team is involved.

Roush had this to say: "The ... nondescript Toyota team, went behind my toolbox and took my bar out of my inventory and put it in their inventory and took it home with them. That is a fact. It has not been refuted and it has been discussed with the team involved."

(more after jump)

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Will BMW Shift to Smaller, Turbocharged Engines in the “M” Series?

Will BMW Shift to Smaller, Turbocharged Engines in the “M” Series?

Will BMW Shift to Smaller, Turbocharged Engines in the “M” Series?

According to a reliable source, they’re thinking about it.

The reliable source is none other than Norbert Reithofer, the boss at BMW, who was interviewed in the German car magazine, Auto Motor und Sport. Reithofer said that BMW is looking at the possibility of eliminating the current V-8 diesel engine, replacing it with a straight six with twin turbos, and is also looking at employing a similar approach to the M models: fewer cylinders, but with turbocharging.

The concept of reducing engine size while employing turbocharging to maintain power centers on improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. Like other luxury and performance oriented car makers, BMW is facing increasingly stringent government regulations, in Europe and the United States. However, maintaining its performance image does not allow it to compromise what has been its self-defined brand image.

(more after the jump)

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Bond Stays with Aston-Martin – But Should He?

Bond Stays with Aston-Martin – But Should He?

Bond Stays with Aston-Martin – But Should He?

This fall will bring another new James Bond movie and – as with the last one – it will star Daniel Craig as Bond and a DBS as Bond’s car. In various press releases, Aston-Martin is trumpeting the selection for all who care to listen.

But, is an Aston-Martin truly the proper car for Bond, today?

No, Bond should be driving a Bentley.

There is, of course, tradition behind having Bond in a Bentley. In the Ian Fleming novels, the only car James Bond actually owns is, in fact, a Bentley. It is only after the Bentley is destroyed in the line of duty that Q provides Bond with an Aston-Martin.

So, properly understood, the legendary DB7 of “Goldfinger” fame was really only a “loaner.” It was not the car that reflected Bond’s personal tastes. It was what was available from the, if you will, motor pool.

(more after the jump)

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Only for Europe: the Corvette “Competition”

Only for Europe: the Corvette “Competition”

Only for Europe: the Corvette “Competition”

General Motors Europe is introducing a second special edition Corvette which will be limited to European distribution only. This one is the Corvette “Competition,” and it is said to commemorate Corvette’s success in the American LeMans Series GT1 class.

Standard equipment includes the 6.3 liter LS3 V-8 with a six speed transmission. Appearance has not been neglected: the car comes with dark grey alloy wheels, a honeycomb grill and the back spoiler from the Z06.

Previously, GM Europe had introduced a limited production “Victory Edition” Corvette to the European market. That vehicle, however, was more akin to the base level C6 with upgrades, while the “Competition” seems more similar to the Z06 version of the car.

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Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab: What Joining the Brands Says About Saab's Future

Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab: What Joining the Brands Says About Saab’s Future

Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab: What Joining the Brands Says About Saab's Future

Saab is the brand GM bought because Ford had already bought Volvo.

Saab had a loyal following of customers who liked having to turn the key in the ignition located on the floor, but then General Motors neutered the car by placing the Saab nameplate on vehicles which weren’t real Saabs. That alienated the true believers. The rest of the world wasn’t interested because Saabs were, after all, weird.

Saab has, consequently, been a brand without a purpose, in that respect much like Saturn.

General Motors now proposes to saddle Cadillac dealers with the Saab brand.

And those dealers may end up being lucky, in the process.

(more after the jump)

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Was Ford's Sale of Jaguar and Land Rover a Good Deal or a Great Deal?

Was Ford’s Sale of Jaguar and Land Rover a Good Deal or a Great Deal?

Was Ford's Sale of Jaguar and Land Rover a Good Deal or a Great Deal?

Selling Jaguar and Land Rover has a bonus for the Ford Motor Company beyond the $2.3 billion it will deposit into the bank.

The sale also dumps some really dismal fuel economy numbers, making it just that much easier for Ford to comply with the new federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules. It also frees up some cash that Ford can use to try to preserve market share. Perhaps most importantly, though, it ends the money pit that the Ford family created when they let Jacques Nasser run the company.

Indeed, even though Ford received far less from Tata for the brands than it had originally paid, let alone what it had invested in Jaguar and Land Rover, in the end the deal might actually turn out to be a sweet deal for Dearborn.

(more after the jump)

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General Motors Reaches Dex-Cool Settlement

General Motors Reaches Dex-Cool Settlement

General Motors Reaches Dex-Cool Settlement

General Motors has reached settlement in a class action lawsuit stemming from alleged defects in Dex-Cool, the GM developed coolant used in GM vehicles since the mid-1990’s. Under the terms of the settlement, those who owned certain V-6 powered GM vehicles may be eligible for payments as large as $800 each.

The settlement applies to as many as 35 million customers and is considered one of the largest products liability lawsuits against any automaker.

Dex-Cool was blamed for cooling system failures, including leaks and clogged radiators.

(more after the jump)

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Could it be that Bob Nardelli is Right?

Could it be that Bob Nardelli is Right?

Could it be that Bob Nardelli is Right?

The hot question is what’s going on with “Project D?”

The man who was heading Chrysler’s most important product development project has quit the company – only two months after getting promoted to the job.

Chrysler claims there’s no acrimony, but that’s neither the version reported by the Wall Street Journal nor what the circumstantial evidence suggests:

The Journal says that the departure of Michael Donoughe, who held the position of vice-president and was in charge of Project D, which is the development of a new mid-size platform to replace the current Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring, was the result of conflicts with top-level Chrysler management.

At Chrysler, that phrase is a euphemism for Bob Nardelli.

(more after the jump)

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Sirius and XM Merger Approved

Sirius and XM Merger Approved

Sirius and XM Merger Approved

The Justice Department has approved the proposed merger of the two satellite radio companies, Sirius and XM. Each had had adherents among the major auto manufacturers, but neither had made money.

So, they decided to combine.

But, at least originally, the archaic Justice Department, the same entity that has managed to be behind the times on every anti-trust event since it once threatened to break apart General Motors as a monopoly, just as the imported brands began to prove that GM was far from a monopoly, threatened to intervene to block the combination.

Now, they’ve decided not to try.

(more after the jump)

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Maybach Healthy, says Dr. Z

Maybach Healthy, says Dr. Z

Maybach Healthy, says Dr. Z

You remember Dieter Zetsche. He’s currently top dog at Mercedes-Benz, which makes him the boss at Maybach, too. But, he was also formerly the head of Chrysler, back when it was part of DaimlerChrysler.

He is telling the press that Maybach’s demise is not imminent, that it actually produced about 400 cars last year, not the 146 widely reported in recent news stories, and that 156 of them were delivered in the United States.

He says that Daimler has made enough profit in the past six years to keep it going into the future.

Of course, this is the same guy who ran Chrysler for five years, was promoted to the top spot at DaimlerChrysler and proclaimed – only a year ago – that he had “total confidence in the success” of Chrysler’s recovery plan,

(more after the jump)

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Ford to Build New RWD Platform

Ford to Build New RWD Platform

Ford to Build New RWD Platform

General Motors apparently is struggling with ways to increase the fuel economy of its Zeta platform, the rwd basis for the upcoming Camaro and rumored new cars from Cadillac and Buick, and appears to regret having decided to proceed with that program. At the North American International Auto Show, GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz told TopSpeed.com that GM sees rwd as creating a 2 mpg penalty over front wheel drive.

But, the folks at Ford appear unfazed by the idea that rwd has no future. According to the Detroit News, they’re proceeding with plans to develop a new rear wheel drive platform, one that will be the basis for the next generation Mustang and for new sedan models for both Ford and Lincoln.

Estimated time to the showrooms is four years, and the same platform will underlie the next generation Falcon in Australia.

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Ferrari DNFs Tied to McLaren?

Ferrari DNFs Tied to McLaren?

Ferrari DNFs Tied to McLaren?
Ferrari DNFs Tied to McLaren?
Ferrari DNFs Tied to McLaren?
Ferrari DNFs Tied to McLaren?

At the Australian Grand Prix, the unthinkable happened. Both of the Ferrari team cars, that driven by Kimi Raikkonen and that of Felipe Massa, failed to finish.

At the time, both DNFs were attributed to unspecified “engine failure.”

It now develops that the “engine failure” was really a failure of the electronic control unit, the “ECU,” the computer that controls engine functioning.

It’s made by McLaren.

The ECU is a standardized part, specified by the FIA and, thereby, supplied to all the Formula One teams by the same supplier. This year, apparently, a subdivision of McLaren is that sole supplier, having won the contract to supply all teams through 2010.

(more after the jump)

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Will the Pontiac G8 Ute (Sport Truck) Bomb in the Showroom?

Will the Pontiac G8 Ute (Sport Truck) Bomb in the Showroom?

Will the Pontiac G8 Ute (Sport Truck) Bomb in the Showroom?

Amid the hoopla of the New York Auto Show and GM’s preview of the upcoming Pontiac version of the Holden ute produced in Australia – what we’d call the El Camino of today – comes a dissenting opinion, presented by one Peter M. DeLorenzo, the voice of AutoExtremist.com.

DeLorenzo thinks the things going to bomb.

DeLorenzo’s opinions are never equivocal, though his crystal ball sometimes needs Windex. After all, it was Lorenzo who said that the next Corvette was a sure thing for 2012 and would be mid-engine.

On the ute, his point is that the sport truck doesn’t fit into either the Pontiac line-up or the professed image of Pontiac for, as Bob Lutz put it in New York, “seductive performance.”

In fact, DeLorenzo doesn’t believe there’s any market for such a truck, under any nameplate. And then he asks why Pontiac doesn’t, instead, seek to exploit those of its model names that still have meaning, such as GTO and Trans-Am.

(more after the jump)

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Is GM Raising or Lowering Prices?

Is GM Raising or Lowering Prices?

Is GM Raising or Lowering Prices?

Apparently, it’s both. Or, maybe it depends on whom you ask.

Yesterday, Mark LaNeve (pictured), GM’s top sales executive in North America, told the press at the New York Auto Show that GM would be “aggressive” in using incentives to keep sales volume at projected levels.

But, today the audience is different, the speaker is different, and the message is different.

But the word “aggressive” is the same.

Tom Henderson, GM’s Chief Financial Officer, today told a conference call of stock market analysts that GM may raise prices on some vehicles.

(more after the jump)

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Todt Leaves Ferrari – FIA Next?

Todt Leaves Ferrari – FIA Next?

Todt Leaves Ferrari – FIA Next?

Jean Todt has officially left Ferrari, where he served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, having been promoted to that position after being head of the Formula One race team. Todt’s resignation was officially announced at a Ferrari shareholder meeting in Italy yesterday. Todt remains on the Ferrari board of directors.

Speculation is now circulating that Todt’s next stop may be as head of the FIA, the international sanctioning body for Formula One and other classes of racing. Todt ran the Ferrari racing operation for over a decade and a half and is a close friend of FIA president Max Moseley. Moseley’s term as FIA president expires in 2009 and he is not expected to seek another term in that position.

It is not clear how such a move would be received in other quarters, but it is believed by some observers that Todt would have Moseley’s backing, were Todt to seek the office.

(more after jump)

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What's the meaning of a Four Banger Camaro?

What’s the meaning of a Four Banger Camaro?

What's the meaning of a Four Banger Camaro?

As posted earlier, Bob Lutz says General Motors is thinking about a four in the Camaro. Were they to do it, that would mean GM offered the Camaro with a V-8, a V-6, and a four.

What might they really be thinking? Is it the stalking horse for a third-generation hybrid powertrain in the Camaro?

The four is, currently the performance option in the Solstice, is ostensibly a response to rising fuel economy standards. Turbocharged, with a 2.0 liter displacement developing 260 hp, it would be remarkably close to the expected power output of the Camaro V-6. That engine is expected to be a detuned version of the current direct-injection Cadillac CTS engine and, of course, the V-8 is the LS family engine now available in the Pontiac G8 and used in the Chevrolet truck line, as well as being the basis for the Corvette engine.

Lutz, speaking at the New York Auto Show, says that Chevy isn’t going to be competing with the Camaro on price, pointing out that the Camaro has a better quality interior and that “we have a very sophisticated suspension system.” What he means by that is that the Camaro features a fully independent suspension, while the Mustang uses a live rear axle.

(more after the jump)

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Holden Concept 60 – New or Redo?

Holden Concept 60 – New or Redo?

Holden Concept 60 – New or Redo?
Holden Concept 60 – New or Redo?
Holden Concept 60 – New or Redo?
Holden Concept 60 – New or Redo?

To commemorate its sixtieth anniversary, Holden is showing off a two-door concept car that’s getting rave reviews. The Detroit Free Press was so impressed, it led the story by saying, “Where do they find the time? General Motors Australian unit just revealed yet another eye-catching vehicle from the global family of rear-wheel-drive cars developed in the automaker’s Melbourne engineering center.”

Well, maybe.

But, then again, maybe not.

The sharp-eyed, which includes the observant folks at Motor Authority and Motor Trend, have noted that the new Holden Coupe 60 looks remarkably like a Zeta platform based Pontiac GTO proposal originally floated in drawing form several years ago.

The Holden concept features the same roofline, same side coves and the same wheel placement as the GTO drawings.

It is, in short, the same design.

(more after the jump)

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The Boss' 1933 Lincoln KB V-12 – Coming to a Theatre Near You!

The Boss’ 1933 Lincoln KB V-12 – Coming to a Theatre Near You!

The Boss' 1933 Lincoln KB V-12 – Coming to a Theatre Near You!

Frank Nitti. John Dillinger. Captain Jack Sparrow.

And the one thing the all have in common: a certain 7 passenger Lincoln, one of only 110 KB Lincolns equipped with a V-12 engine, a 1933 Lincoln, black as befits a car of such dignity.

It was Frank Nitti’s car. Now, it’s going to be a star in a movie about John Dillinger. The other stars include Johnny Depp.

The movie is filming right now, which is occasioning a new day for Nitti’s Lincoln.

Frank Nitti controlled organized crime in Chicago, back in the day when organized crime controlled Chicago. He had worked his way up through the Capone organization to become number two. When Capone was sent to prison, Nitti took over.

(more after the jump)

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Chrysler to put Web in the Car – Gimmick or Breakthrough?

Chrysler to put Web in the Car – Gimmick or Breakthrough?

Chrysler to put Web in the Car – Gimmick or Breakthrough?

Chrysler plans to be the first car manufacturer to offer internet access inside the car, initially as a dealer-installed add-on, then as a factory installed option.

“We want to make the radio itself a WiFi port,” according to Chrysler product development boss, Frank Klegon, speaking at the New York auto show and quoted by the Washington Post.

This is, apparently, what passes for “product development” at the new Chrysler.

By this point, it might seem that automakers should have gotten the message: customers do not want their cars to be their cellular telephones, or their navigation system, or even their web browser.

They want their cars to be cars.

(more after jump)

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GM's Lutz: Volt's a Money Loser (and, Bob, answer a question, please)

GM’s Lutz: Volt’s a Money Loser (and, Bob, answer a question, please)

GM's Lutz: Volt's a Money Loser (and, Bob, answer a question, please)

“We won’t make a dime on this car for years, and the board is OK with that.”

That’s the prognosis for the Chevy Volt,

from none other than its godfather, GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz.

Addressing a group of Chevy Volt enthusiasts invited by General Motors to the New York Auto Show, Lutz told the group that the company expects to lose money on the Chevrolet Volt, that the company made a mistake by failing to bring a hybrid to market when it had the technology to do so, and that it won’t make that mistake again.

Lutz said that GM could have brought a hybrid to market a decade ago, but didn’t because it believed that it would have lost $250 million a year on a hybrid. He said that decision has cost the company billions in lost sales.

So, to make up for that, apparently GM is prepared to lose millions on the Volt.

At some point, however, General Motors must start making a profit.

(more after the jump)

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William Crapo Durant

William Crapo Durant

William Crapo Durant

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the death of William Crapo Durant. This week, as well, General Motors stock reached the lowest price on the stock exchange in its recent history.

William “Billy” Crapo – that’s his mother’s family name, properly pronounced as though there were a “y” after the “a,” as in Cray computers - Durant created General Motors. Twice.

And he lost it, twice.

Durant is perhaps the most colorful forgotten figure in modern American history, certainly one of the most dynamic in business history

(more after the jump)

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Tundra Tanking?

Tundra Tanking?

Tundra Tanking?

Call it the miscalculation of the decade, at least so far: the Toyota Tundra.

The first note of taps for the Tundra was sung last week.

Toyota is cutting production of the Tundra. According to the Wall Street Journal, they may even pull production of the light truck from the Princeton, Alabama plant that Toyota built expressly for the Tundra and consolidate it with Tundra production in San Antonio, Texas.

Build a state-of-the art new plant to build a new truck. Within two years of introducing it, the nation’s premier financial newspaper says you may pull the entire show out of the plant designed for the product.

It’s ironic. The problem actually turns out to be that GM has too many dealers.

In trucks, turns out that’s not so bad.

(more after the jump)

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Prius Overhyped? BMW 5 Series Diesel Gets Better Mileage

Prius Overhyped? BMW 5 Series Diesel Gets Better Mileage

Prius Overhyped? BMW 5 Series Diesel Gets Better Mileage

What is the attraction of the Toyota Prius, if not its superior fuel economy?

The British newspaper The Times decided to find out whether the hybrid Prius was, in reality, superior in fuel economy to a more conventional car.

The answer: no.

Indeed, the newspaper headlined the story thus, “Toyota Prius Proves a Gas Guzzler in a Race with the BWM 520d.”

(more after jump)

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General Motors is Serious About Shrinking Dealer Ranks

General Motors is Serious About Shrinking Dealer Ranks

General Motors is Serious About Shrinking Dealer Ranks

My old boss’s dealership closed last Thursday. A Chevy store, he had planned on selling it to another General Motors dealer in the same state. Instead, GM exercised its “right of first refusal,” a legal term meaning it has dibs to buy at the sale price, to buy the dealership and close it.

One less Chevy store in the area – exactly what General Motors says it wants to accomplish.

Last week, as well a Rhode Island dealer announced that it was surrendering its Cadillac and Pontiac franchise back to General Motors. That dealer isn’t going out of business – it will continue as a Honda dealer – but it almost half a century long relationship with GM.

In each instance, there is one very distinguishing characteristic:

(more after jump)

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Aston Martin Cuts Deal with Mercedes

Aston Martin Cuts Deal with Mercedes

Aston Martin Cuts Deal with Mercedes

It’s been rumored for over a month, but Forbes magazine and Thompson Financial are now reporting that Mercedes-Benz will be cooperating with Aston-Martin. The report, which is not attributed to source, originated in the German magazine Der Spiegel.

According to the report, the cooperation will center on engines and may ultimately extend to platform development and sharing. Currently, Aston-Martin sources engines from its old owner, Ford. That contract, however, may be affected by the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover, for whom Ford is also the engine supplier, to Indian conglomerate Tata.

It is also believed that Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, may be interested in a minority equity stake in Aston-Martin, though it is also said that the current Aston owners do not wish to sell the entire company.

(more after jump)

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Panic Time at Chrysler – Mandatory “Vacations” for All

Panic Time at Chrysler – Mandatory “Vacations” for All

Panic Time at Chrysler – Mandatory “Vacations” for All

The New York Times, fresh of the exposure, er . . ., disclosure of former New York Governor Spitzer’s maledictions, has disclosed the latest reason to believe that Chrysler is down to counting the remaining pennies in the jar:

The mandatory “vacation.”

You may figure that when you work for a company, you get to pick the time of your vacation.

But not at Bob Nardelli’s Chrysler.

Chrysler, according to the Times, has informed all of its employees in “non-critical” positions that they’re going to take a two-week lay-off in the middle of July. The lay-off extends to hourly and salaried employees and, further, the employees are required to take it as vacation time.

(more after the jump)

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Panic Time at Chrysler – Closing the Pacifica Studio

Panic Time at Chrysler – Closing the Pacifica Studio

Panic Time at Chrysler – Closing the Pacifica Studio

With one week’s notice, Chrysler has informed employees at its Pacifica Design Center, located in Carlsbad, California, that the studio will be closed and its functions merged with those of the other Chrysler design center, in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Thus, Chrysler pulls the plug on the first California design studio opened by a major United States auto manufacturer. Currently, Audi and Volkswagen, Daimler, Toyota, Honda, Volvo, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Acura have design studios in California, as well as Ford and General Motors. The studio was opened in 1983 and employed twenty people.

The center has been the entity that created most of the advanced concept cars for Chrysler in past years, including the Dodge Hornet and Chrysler Portofino (pictured).

(more after the jump)

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Volt Launch in 2010? Barely Noticeable. If at All.

Volt Launch in 2010? Barely Noticeable. If at All.

Volt Launch in 2010? Barely Noticeable. If at All.
Volt Launch in 2010? Barely Noticeable. If at All.
Volt Launch in 2010? Barely Noticeable. If at All.
Volt Launch in 2010? Barely Noticeable. If at All.

Despite repeated promises from General Motors product boss Bob Lutz, the notion that the Chevrolet Volt will be launched in 2010 is mostly a promise to be unmet. General Motors had been talking about selling 60,000 vehicles a year.

Now, they’re trimming that to 10,000 – or less – at start-up. In only five cities.

Of course, they have an excuse. It being GM, they always have an excuse. This time, it’s the need to train dealership mechanics in the new technology and give dealers the time to acquire the new equipment which will be necessary to service these vehicles. According to GM Vice-President of Planning and Research, at its introduction the Volt may be available in as little as five United States cities, and no where else. About more wide distribution, Burns said, “You’d have to set up the service parts in all of those dealerships and train all of those dealers to service the vehicles.”

Burns referred to the 2010 target launch date for the Volt as a “challenge.”

(more after jump)

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Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)

Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)

Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)
Amelia Island Cars – the Auction (is the market down?)

There were, of course, headliners at this year’s RM Auction at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance: the big buck classics. The softening that some say has hit the collector car market hasn’t touched the huge dollar cars, at least not yet. At Amelia, the cream of the collector car crop exceeded or met preauction price estimates.

Two Duesenbergs and Edsel Ford’s tailor-made hot rod - see yesterday’s post - all broke the million dollar barrier. At $2,650,000, a Murphy bodied Duesenberg exceeded the top preauction estimate by $650,000. The other Duesenberg, a 1929 LeBaron-bodied berline, 210,000 brought $10,000 above the preauction estimate at a sale price of $1,210,000. A 1931 Bentley 8 liter “Open Tourer” with bodywork by Harrison brought $2,200,000. RM had declined to make a preauction estimate on either the Bentley or the Edsel Ford special.

Even a notch down in price, the truly rare classics held their value.

(more after the jump)

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Zagato Cadillac Eldorado

Zagato Cadillac Eldorado

Zagato Cadillac Eldorado
Zagato Cadillac Eldorado
Zagato Cadillac Eldorado
Zagato Cadillac Eldorado

It’s for sale, in Brussels, Belgium. Though AutoBlog reports that the car was originally designed to the specifications of Luigi Chinetti, at one time Ferrari’s importer to the United States, it actually has a more interesting history.

In fact, this car was something of a joint project of General Motors and Chinetti, originally envisioned as a super-luxury vehicle that could compete with expensive grand touring vehicles being imported into the United States. The project started in 1968, with GM providing the powertrain, Chinetti the engineering, and Zagato assigned to provide the bodywork. In the following year, however, GM pulled out of the project due to delays in meeting project deadlines.

(more after jump)

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The Next Real Cadillac

The Next Real Cadillac

The Next Real Cadillac

When General Motors invites you to an event, they feed you. They take you to classy restaurants, and they pick up the tab. And there is always a GM executive there, to pull out the credit card at the end and tease you into believing that you’re getting inside information in the meantime.

At Amelia Island, the official host with the credit card was from Cadillac. (No, the photo accompanying this article has nothing to do with the car. It’s the view from the room at the Ritz. Off the balcony. I wanted you to understand the level of journalistic sacrifice involved in reporrting on these events.)

But, we digress.

General Motors – along with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Bugatti – is an official sponsor of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. And, even though they no longer sell a model labeled the “Concours,” they still consider Cadillac their premium brand.

So, GM had the juice to park the CTS next to the Veyron on the circular drive in front of the hotel.

Now, we need to level with one another, so that I’ve made full disclosure.

(more after the jump)

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Amelia Island – The Cars and the Money

Amelia Island – The Cars and the Money

Amelia Island – The Cars and the Money

Cars – expensive cars - line the circular driveway leading up to the front portico as you arrive at the Ritz. Reflexively, you think to yourself that there must be a million dollars of cars right on that driveway, exposing in your thought just how little you comprehend about cars like this. One car alone parked on that driveway – a Bugatti Veyron – goes for $1.2 million. A few spaces beyond are two Rolls-Royce “drophead coupes” and they sticker out at $350,000 each, more than either of the two Phantoms parked next to them, or the Bentley Arnage and Flying Spurs parked next to the Veyron.

And that’s only one side of the driveway.

The next day, Saturday, they will hold the RM Auction behind the hotel and, in anticipation of the event, RM has set up a display in the center of the hotel lobby: the arrestingly red 1934 Ford Continental Speedster designed by Robert Gregorie to the specifications of Edsel Ford. Seats for two, cycle fenders, mostly hood, low and long. It’s parked in the lobby. It is the start of the auction – so unique that RM had declined even to predict a sale price.

(more after the jump)

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Robbie Gordon Wins in NASCAR!!

Robbie Gordon Wins in NASCAR!!

Robbie Gordon Wins in NASCAR!!

OK, he didn’t win an actual race. But he won something even more unlikely – an appeal of penalties imposed by NASCAR for a rules infraction.

Gordon was penalized for using an improper nose on his Dodge at the Daytona 500. NASCAR spotted it, so it didn’t get on the track. But they docked Gordon 100 owner points, 100 driver points, suspended his crew chief for six races and fined the crew chief $100,000.

Gordon appealed, arguing that it wasn’t his fault – it was Dodge’s fault. They sent out the part and told his team that it had been approved. It hadn’t been. It was a screw-up at the Dodge end, at the warehouse.

(more after the jump)

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Was the C6 Corvette a Mistake?

Was the C6 Corvette a Mistake?

Was the C6 Corvette a Mistake?

It sure looks that way.

Dubbed the C 5½ by some when it was introduced, the C6 Corvette came across as highly derivative of the previous model – and not all that good-looking, either. Those who had groaned when learning that the C6 design had been assigned to the stylist responsible for the Pontiac Aztek seemed to have been vindicated when the ungainly proportions of the C6 were revealed. And, though the Z06 version somehow looks better, the base C6 is still a plug ugly car.

And it ain’t selling, either.

(more after the jump)

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Volkswagen To Produce Lawn Mower

Volkswagen To Produce Lawn Mower

Volkswagen To Produce Lawn Mower

OK. That’s not exactly the way the VW CEO, Martin Winterkorn, put it. Speaking at the Geneva Auto Show, what he actually said is that the company will introduce a one-liter auto no later than 2010, featuring a one cylinder engine displacing 300 ccs.

That actually means it has less displacement than my garden tractor, a two-cylinder number sold by my friendly Sears store with an engine built by those folks from Milwaukee, Briggs and Stratton.

And, between that mower and a VW with the displacement of a soda bottle, I somehow think I’d rather have the garden tractor.

One liter is about 60 cubic inches.

(more after the jump)

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Car Sales Plummet: Time to Buy? (Or lease?)

Car Sales Plummet: Time to Buy? (Or lease?)

Car Sales Plummet: Time to Buy? (Or lease?)

Merely a month ago, at the North American International Automobile Show, the party line from General Motors, from it’s boss, Rick Wagoner, on down was that new cars sales in 2008 would match those of 2007.

That prediction didn’t seem credible at the time – but, one can understand car company executives not having an interest in downplaying the sales forecast. That could end up being a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But, there’s no longer room for such optimism.

(more after the jump)

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.com Goes to the Amelia Island Concours

.com Goes to the Amelia Island Concours

.com Goes to the Amelia Island Concours
.com Goes to the Amelia Island Concours
.com Goes to the Amelia Island Concours
.com Goes to the Amelia Island Concours

This week-end brings one of the premier concours d’elegance events to one of the most idyllic settings of any concours: the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance at the Ritz-Carleton resort, located on a barrier island off the coast of Northeast Florida.

And, TopSpeed.com – thanks to an invitation extended by General Motors – will be there. Ed Welburn, GM’s director of design – the guy that sits in Harley Earl’s magnificent office – will be there, too. He’s one of the judges.

Only two other events can be compared to the Amelia Island Concours: Pebble Beach, held on the golf course of the same name in California, and Meadow Brook, held at the historic Dodge mansion near Detroit.

No concours, however, exceeds the elegance and style of Amelia Island, from the luxurious setting on the grounds of one of the most lavish resort hotels in America to the selection of cars exhibited, by invitation only.

(more after the jump)

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GM Announces Revolutionary Lithium Ion Hybrid for 2010

GM Announces Revolutionary Lithium Ion Hybrid for 2010

GM Announces Revolutionary Lithium Ion Hybrid for 2010

Take that, Toyota – and Daimler.

Consider this: a hybrid that provides performance, not just economy. A hybrid that, used in conjunction with a turbocharger, turns a four cylinder engine into the equivalent of a V-6 in power and performance, but beats the four in economy.

That’s what Rick Wagoner is announcing as this is written – giving the speech at the Geneva Auto Show that we got on background last week.

GM says it is serious about lithium ion hybrids – and is going to put 100,000 of them on the street – minimum – beginning in 2010.

(more after the jump)

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Chrysler to Go 100% Hybrid

Chrysler to Go 100% Hybrid

Chrysler to Go 100% Hybrid

That, according to Popular Mechanics magazine, is what Chrysler President Jim Press, formerly of Toyota, told a recent seminar. Press, however, did not say when Chrysler anticipated meeting that goal.

There’s a reason for being vague about the timetable. Though Chrysler undoubtedly hopes that hybrid powertrains will help it to meet the 2020 CAFE fuel economy standards, Chrysler has done little independent hybrid research and development. The hybrid development in which it has been involved has been part of the joint venture also involving General Motors and BMW, a project focused on the two-mode hybrid currently offered by GM in the Tahoe and upcoming on the light trucks offered by both GM and Dodge.

(more after the jump)

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Acura TL Recalled

Acura TL Recalled

Acura TL Recalled

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a recall for the Acura TL sedan – two recalls, actually.

273,000 of the 2004 – 2008 model of the TL are being recalled because high engine temperatures can damage the power steering hose, causing a fluid leak onto the catalytic converter. The defect is considered a fire hazard, though no fires have been reported to date.

Another 129,600 TLs from model years 2004 and 2005 are being recalled to replace a defective circuit breaker in the windshield wiper motor, apparently considered a safety defect.

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Ron Dennis to Quit McLaren This Week

Ron Dennis to Quit McLaren This Week

Ron Dennis to Quit McLaren This Week

That’s the report from the TimesOnLine.com, the internet version of London’s Sunday Times, one of the most prominent newspapers in Great Britain.

The report comes only days after a Spanish newspaper reported that Mercedes-Benz, one of the largest shareholders in McLaren, was forcing Dennis – who is one of the founders of Team McLaren and the team manager – to leave the company. The report also follows less than a week after British and Italian police raided both Dennis’ residences and McLaren’s offices seeking evidence linking Dennis and other McLaren officers to last year’s thefts of Ferrari team secrets.

(more after the jump)

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Mercedes Says it Will Have Lithium Ion Battery Hybrid in 2009 (but stay tuned . . .)

Mercedes Says it Will Have Lithium Ion Battery Hybrid in 2009 (but stay tuned . . .)

Mercedes Says it Will Have Lithium Ion Battery Hybrid in 2009 (but stay tuned . . .)

On the heels of an announcement by Daimler that it will introduce a hybrid version of the S Class in the middle of 2009 which uses a lithium ion battery, come rumors – reported in the Wall Street Journal – that General Motors has similar plans.

Daimler claims that the upcoming Mercedes-Benz will be the first lithium ion hybrid marketed by an automobile manufacturer. The vehicle will first be introduced in Europe, with United States sales following in the fall of 2009.

Meantime, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that General Motors also will have a big announcement next week about lithium ion technology.

(more after the jump)

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Camo Cadillac CTS Coupe Seen Road Testing

Camo Cadillac CTS Coupe Seen Road Testing

Camo Cadillac CTS Coupe Seen Road Testing
Camo Cadillac CTS Coupe Seen Road Testing
Camo Cadillac CTS Coupe Seen Road Testing
Camo Cadillac CTS Coupe Seen Road Testing

Though it was wearing black padding over the rear quarter panels, trunk, rear bumper and fascia, it was clearly a production version of the Cadillac CTS Coupe Concept premiered to rave reviews at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year.

Visually, the production car carries over the center-mounted split rear exhaust from the concept car, as well as the skeg line along the lower part of the car, at the bottom of the doors and on the rocker panel area. The car also appears to wear rear parking sensors and have the same sharply slanted roofline of the concept car. So, at least from what can be seen, it appears that Cadillac is being true to the concept car in the production version.

General Motors hasn’t hinted at a production timetable. But, the original CTS sedan premiered as a concept car at the NAIAS the year prior to introduction of the production version. If Cadillac follows a similar timetable for the coupe, it will be a 2009 model.

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Ford Recall News

Ford Recall News

Ford Recall News

2005 through 2008 Mustangs are the latest Fords to be recalled, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also admonishing owners of other Fords to return their cars to dealers for a redo of an earlier recall.

The Mustangs are being recalled to reprogram the airbag control module. According to the NHTSA, small stature women who have the seat fully forward and are, additionally, so foolish that they’re not wearing a seatbelt have “increased potential for a neck injury.” A total of 434,593 Mustangs are being recalled.

Meantime, NHTSA is after 4.6 million Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln owners who have, so far, ignored an earlier recall to fix a fire hazard resulting from a potentially faulty cruise control switch. 5 million Ford owners have responded to the campaign, barely above 50%. The vehicles involved are certain 1992 through 2004 models.

Although the size of the recall means that some dealers may not presently have the required parts in stock, dealers will disconnect the potentially faulty switch – usually on the spot, if the owner simply drives the car into the service department – until the part can be replaced.

The complete list is after the jump.

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FX Hint

FX Hint

FX Hint
FX Hint
FX Hint
FX Hint

It’s not the entire car, of course, but it’s a hint: a Long Island Infiniti dealer has posted this shot of the headlamp treatment of the upcoming Infiniti FX CUV on an Infiniti forum.

This isn’t a complete rework of the FX, which is sold in FX35 and FX45 versions. Rather, it’s a facelift – new in the front and back. Judging by spy shots, the rear end gets a mild rework of the tail lamps, but otherwise the car remains much the same as the present model.

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Nissan Still Wants American Partner

Nissan Still Wants American Partner

Nissan Still Wants American Partner

That’s the word from Carlos Ghosn, and he ought to know – he’s the CEO of both Nissan and Renault. But, he says, the company is not currently in talks with any American manufacturers about any form of alliance with Nissan. That according to FoxBusiness.com.

Ghosn earlier romanced General Motors, at a time when greenmailer Kirk Kerkorian was attempting to bail out his investment in GM stock by arranging a splashy stunt that would raise the stock price. GM wasn’t interested. Nissan has also cut a deal with Chrysler to build Nissan designed cars in Mexico and sell them in South America.

(more after the jump)

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More Details on IRL – Champ Car Merger

More Details on IRL – Champ Car Merger

More Details on IRL – Champ Car Merger

At a press conference yesterday, Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George and Champ Car owners Kevin Kalkhoven provided a few more details about the merged league.

First, it’s not really a merger. IRL gets Champ Car’s trademarks and is, in essence, acquiring the company.

Second, the Champ Car races at Edmonton, Alberta and Surfer’s Paradise in Australia will be added to the IRL schedule.

Third, there will be at least one race week-end with two races, using two different chassis: the April 18-20 week-end will see both the Long Beach race using the Panoz chassis formerly used by Champ Car and the Motegi, Japan race using the IRL’s Dallara chassis with Honda engines. Points and purses for the two races will be identical.

(more after the jump)

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Police Search Ron Dennis's Home, McLaren Offices

Police Search Ron Dennis’s Home, McLaren Offices

Police Search Ron Dennis's Home, McLaren Offices

British newspaper The Telegraph is reporting that British and Italian police yesterday searched homes owned by Ron Dennis, team principal of McLaren and searched McLaren headquarters. A Spanish newspaper yesterday reported that Dennis was being forced out of his role with the team by Mercedes-Benz, which owns a large interest in the team.

Police, according to the report, conducted the searches in the early morning hours looking for documents and computer data linking Dennis to the thefts last year of confidential information from the Ferrari Formula One team. It was reported that computer files were removed by Italian authorities from McLaren headquarters.

(more after the jump)

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The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About

The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn’t Read About

The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About
The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About
The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About
The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About
The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About
The Chicago Auto Show Debut You Didn't Read About

It was big news, though the manufacturer saved it until a day after all of the media had come, ogled the new cars, and left.

By some measures, though, it was the biggest debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

It was the new Navistar LoneStar.

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Boyd Coddington Dead at 63

Boyd Coddington Dead at 63

Boyd Coddington Dead at 63
Boyd Coddington Dead at 63
Boyd Coddington Dead at 63
Boyd Coddington Dead at 63
Boyd Coddington Dead at 63
Boyd Coddington Dead at 63

Boyd Coddington, legendary builder of some of the world’s most beautiful hot rods, has died at the age of 63. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. However, Coddington had been hospitalized last month following a fall.

Coddington raised the building of hot rods to an unparalleled level of beauty. Among his signature works are Chezoom (a gloriously modified ’57 Chevy) and Cadzilla, a sleekly modified ’49 Cadillac.

Coddington won the award for “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” at the Oakland Roadster Show - the ultimate trophy in the world of hot rodding – a record six times.

(more after the jump)

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Racing the Truck at the NASCAR UAW-Dodge 400

Racing the Truck at the NASCAR UAW-Dodge 400

Racing the Truck at the NASCAR UAW-Dodge 400
Racing the Truck at the NASCAR UAW-Dodge 400
Racing the Truck at the NASCAR UAW-Dodge 400
Racing the Truck at the NASCAR UAW-Dodge 400

A certain package delivery company that’s known for having brown trucks has been threatening to “race the truck,” but it turns out that someone else has beaten them to it.

A real race truck will be circling the track during the national anthem at the Sprint Cup UAW-Dodge 400 this coming Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

No, it won’t be one of those dinky NASCAR truck series vehicles.

Think a bit bigger.

As in a Freightliner.

The #77 Century Class S/T Freightliner with driver Mike Ryan at the wheel, to be specific.

(more after the jump)

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Ron Dennis Out at McLaren?

Ron Dennis Out at McLaren?

Ron Dennis Out at McLaren?

That’s what a Spanish newspaper is reporting today. The newspaper, a sports daily called Marca, says Dennis was forced out by Mercedes-Benz and will be replaced by Martin Whitmarsh, who had been the deputy team principal at McLaren.

According to the newspaper, Mercedes acted in response to the espionage scandal last year, a scandal that cost McLaren and Mercedes the Constructor’s Championship, as well as a $100 million fine by the FIA.

(more after the jump)

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