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Archive for November, 2009

Winterkorn, Pötsch Join Board of Porsche SE Today

VW tightens control as Porsche posts first loss in 14 years.

by on Nov.25, 2009

Still the family jewels after all thee years, or should we say now VW's jewels?

Still the family jewels since 1964, or should we say the 911 range is now VW's jewels?

Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, and Hans Dieter Pötsch, Member of the Board responsible for “Finance and Controlling,” join the Board of Management of Porsche Automobil Holding SE today.

The appointments came as Porsche presented its results for the business year 2008/09, covering operations from August 1, 2008 to July 31, 2009.

During that period, Porsche SE lost (-€4.4) billion before taxes. Net loss was (-€2.52) billion for the 12 months. The loss was Porsche’s first annual deficit since 1994.

The latest moves are part of VW’s ongoing integration of Porsche into its business, after the smaller company failed to gain control of VW with borrowed money during a contentious multi-year takeover bid, which failed earlier this year when Porsche debt reached an unsustainable €10 billion.

The next step in VW’s acquisition is 49.9% ownership by Volkswagen in Porsche AG, which is planned for the end of 2009 at a price of €3.9 billion.

There is also an “Extraordinary General Meeting” of VW AG on December 3, 2009, where VW has proposed a large, some say breathtaking, authorization of up to 135 million shares of preferred stock to finance the balance of the Porsche takeover.

Takeover Views!

Takeover Views!

The Porsche loss was largely the result of writing down the value of options on VW shares acquired during the aborted takeover bid. The previous year’s total was + €8.6 billion, according to Pötsch. Next year could also see a loss he said.


BMW Planning Triple Reveal at LA Auto Show

ActiveHybrid X6 and 7, Vision concept car make N.A. debuts.

by on Nov.25, 2009

The fuel economy of a microcar, the performance of an M-Series model; the 2010 BMW Vision makes its North American debut at the L.A. Motor Show.

The fuel economy of a microcar, the performance of an M-Series model; the Vision makes its North American debut at the L.A. Motor Show.

Showgoers at Los Angeles’ Staples Center will get a good look at three high-efficiency models from BMW, when the 2009 L.A. Auto Show opens, next week.

Though first seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show, in September, it will be the first North American showing of the ActiveHybrid X6, ActiveHybrid 7 and EfficientDynamics concept car, all collectively pointing to the various strategies the German maker will use, in the coming years, to cope with demands for significant increases in fuel economy.

High-Performance News

High-Performance News

The challenge facing the automaker is to maintain its reputation for sporty, dynamic handling, even as it meets tough new mileage and emissions standards here and abroad.  It’s a challenge that will be particularly difficult for luxury makers, who generally produce larger, more powerful products than mainstream manufacturers, and traditionally rely on a scoff-law approach by defying U.S. regulations and buying their way clear by paying fines.


Buick Regal to be Built, Eventually, in Canada

GM makes good on loans from Canadian governments.

by on Nov.25, 2009

Only four cylinder engines and the highest trim level to start.

Only four cylinder engines and the highest trim level to start for the German Regal.

North American production of the all-new 2011 Buick Regal will start at the Oshawa Car Assembly plant beginning in Ontario during the first quarter of 2011.

Until then, a rebadged and recalibrated version of the Opel Insignia will be imported from Rüsselsheim, Germany starting in the second quarter of 2010.

The status of all Opel plants is uncertain today. GM continues to seek financing from European governments and concessions from union members for its loss-making subsidiary after its surprise decision not to sell Opel to Magna earlier this month.

GM maintains that it will keep the German plants open after large cutbacks in the workforce. An Opel plant in Belgium appears to be slated for closing under the latest plan. Almost $5 billion is thought to be required to restructure Opel and GM is only prepared (or able?) to front about 15% of that.

A Buick version of the car is already in production in China since last December, but GM says it has no plans to import Regal from the far east.

That could change quickly if Opel collapses, of course. GM reported a $1.2 billion loss in its latest quarter, the first one since it emerged from bankruptcy this past July. It is unclear if GM can continue to carry Opel for very long without billions of dollars in government assistance. The  private credit markets are unlikely to advance the ailing company any money without the government loan guarantees GM has been seeking.

The Regal is a mid-size sport sedan based on the award-winning Opel Insignia – the 2009 European Car of the Year. Whether such attributes can return potential buyers to North American showrooms where Buick is struggling remains to be seen. Year-to-date, U.S. Buick sales are down 33% in a market that is off 24%.  It is ironic that the brand long associated with Flint, Michigan, is now stronger in China than its home country.

Global View!

Global View!

“The new Regal gives Buick a modern performance sedan and its production here in Oshawa is terrific news for our employees, the CAW, dealers and suppliers,” says Arturo Elias, president, General Motors of Canada.


Renault Debuts Twingo Gordini R.S.

French for pocket rocket is, well, “pocket rocket.” Whatever will L'Académie française pense?

by on Nov.25, 2009

The Gordini has the cues, but will it have the cache'?

The Gordini has some of the requisite styling cues, but will it have the cache'?

Reviving a long neglected name of decades ago, Renault becomes the latest automaker to attempt to cash in on a retro trend with the return of a Gordini model today.

Twingo Gordini R.S. premiered at the L’Atelier Renault on the Champs-Elysées as part of the showroom’s Christmas in Blue exhibition.

This latest addition to the Twingo city car lineup goes on sale in Europe next March, with prices announced in February.

The diminutive A-car uses the same performance and equipment package as the Renault Sport version of the Twingo. This includes a “Sport” chassis with 17-inch wheels; 1.6-liter, 133 horsepower gasoline engine with specially tuned exhaust; front seats with extra lateral support, and blue and black quilted Gordini-badged leather upholstery.

It's been a long, long time.

It's been a long, long time.

Twingo Gordini R.S. has a Malte Blue lacquered metallic finish, and two white racing stripes, as the original Gordini racing cars had. The front and rear bumpers have gloss black details, while the foglamp surrounds, exterior mirror housings and lip spoiler are all in a contrasting white finish.

Gordini Series badging either side refers back to the heyday of the Gordini Cup when the qualifying heats of the different races were known as séries.

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Faites-le Maintenant!

The garb is an update from the from the past when Gordini models used French blue, white stripes and four round headlights as cues, which all contributed to the identity of a series of rally cars over a 20-year period.


Toyota Will Replace Gas Pedals on 3.8 Million Vehicles

Additional steps needed on some to prevent runaway cars.

by on Nov.25, 2009

Toyota will replace the accelerator pedals on 3.8 million cars, including this 2010 Camry, and install brake override systems on many of them in an effort to prevent runaway acceleration.

Toyota will replace the accelerator pedals on millions of cars, including this 2010 Camry, and install brake override systems on many of them to prevent runaway acceleration.

Just weeks after it began advising 3.8 million owners that their cars would be called back due to floor mats that can jam the accelerator, Toyota now says it will also replace gas pedals in vehicles that could experience sudden, uncontrolled acceleration.

The automaker initially said that loose or poorly installed floor mats could become jammed under the accelerator making it difficult to slow the vehicle.  The maker now plans to shorten existing pedals and will install entirely new pedals when they become available next April.

Your Braking News Source!

Your Braking News Source!

“The safety of our owners and the public is our utmost concern and Toyota has and will continue to thoroughly investigate and take appropriate measures to address any defect trends that are identified,” the company said.


Toyota Facing Yet Another Recall

110,000 Tundra pickups cited for excess rust that could cause brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off.

by on Nov.25, 2009

Excessive corrosion could cause brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off on Toyota Tundra pickups sold between 2000 and 2003.

Excessive corrosion could cause brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off on Toyota Tundra pickups sold between 2000 and 2003.

Only weeks after notifying 3.8 million customers that deadly floor mats could cause accelerators to jam wide open, Toyota is set to launch yet another recall.

By comparison, the numbers are more modest, with just 110,000 vehicles involved, but government regulators stepped in when they realized excess rust on Tundra pickups sold during the 2000 through 2003 model-years could lead brakes to fail and spare tires to fall off.

The recall is focused on 20 states, as well as the District of Columbia, where road salts and chemical de-icers are used, during winter months, to clear roadways.  They can cause “excessive corrosion,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Recall Central

Recall Central

That, in turn, can lead to brake system failures or rust away the mounts holding spare tires underneath the vehicle.  If tires break loose, the government said, that could create a road hazard for other vehicles.  The NHTSA is recommending that until repairs can be made, motorists remove spare tires and store them in the vehicle bed.


First Look: 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR

The snake won’t “slither away.”

by on Nov.24, 2009

Track-ready, yes, but the 600-hp 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR is also street legal.

Track-ready, yes, but the 600-hp 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR is also street legal.

Don’t expect the snake to “slither away,” says Dodge Division General Manager Ralph Gilles.  Despite the failed attempt to sell the sport car brand – and the decision to take the Viper out of production, at the end of next year, Gilles promises the storied 2-seater will be back.

For the moment, production will continue through the coming model-year with the introduction of the latest, track-ready version, the 2010 Dodge Viper Viper SRT10, the automaker will formally announce at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show.  And another version, based on an Italian sports car design, seems likely to follow soon afterwards, Gilles, who also serves as Chrysler’s design director, hints.

Burn Rubber...but Not Cash.

Burn Rubber, Not Cash.

A version of the Viper ACR just set a lap record at the challenging Laguna Seca raceway, on California’s Monterey Peninsula, tearing up the 2.238-mile track in just 1:33.915, about 1.1 seconds faster than the previous lap record.


Nissan Leases First Fuel Cell SUV in North America

X-Trail prototype goes to Sacramento Coca-Cola.

by on Nov.24, 2009

Moon shot  technology at about the same cost thus far.

Moon shot technology and "zero emissions" at about the same cost thus far.

Nissan North America today announced the lease of an X-Trail fuel cell vehicle to Sacramento Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

This is Nissan’s first commercial FCV lease in North America, and it’s for one year, with an option for two additional years at an undisclosed rate.

The vehicle is based on the X-Trail sport utility, which is available in Mexico, Japan and Europe. It has a Nissan-developed fuel cell stack, lithium-ion batteries and a high-pressure hydrogen storage cylinder.

Performance is said to be close to that of a similarly sized internal combustion engine-based vehicle. Versions of this generation are capable of speeds in excess of 95 miles per hour, with a cruising range of up to 300 miles, according to Nissan.

Nissan has previously used FCVs in demonstration fleets in Japan and in California through the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP).

No Money Down!!

No Money Down!

“Sacramento already has the beginning of a hydrogen infrastructure in place, and Sacramento Coca-Cola has a track record of utilizing low emissions cars, so the two companies share a green philosophy as well as a common love of things ‘zero’,” said Eric Nozier, vice president, Corporate Planning, NNA.


Hyundai Theta II Engine in Production in Alabama

The revised four-cylinder will power the 2011 Sonata.

by on Nov.24, 2009

Hyundai Theta II 2.4-liter Inline Four

Excellent specific output of 85 horsepower/liter in a naturally aspirated engine.

A revised four-cylinder engine, dubbed Theta II, started production at Hyundai’s Motor Manufacturing of Alabama assembly plant this week. The 2.4-liter gasoline engine adds direct fuel injection and other revisions to the Korean-designed and manufactured Theta engine.

Theta currently is produced in Namyang, Korea at volumes of more than 2 million units annually, with an emphasis on exports.

Theta II adds gasoline direct injection (GDI) and a variable induction system to produce 200 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 186 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm. This results in an increase of 25 horsepower and 18 pound-feet of torque when compared with the older design. More telling, perhaps, is the excellent specific output of 85 horsepower/liter in a naturally aspirated engine.

In the next Sonata, Hyundai claims that the EPA certification now underway will result in a 35 mpg highway rating, which would be the highest in the class.

Direct News Injection!

Direct News Injection!

Hyundai announced late in 2008 that it would lead the industry with the then newly proposed CAFE standards of 35 mg by 2020. It would accomplish this by achieving that efficiency level five years earlier in 2015. The plans put in place then to do this have served the Korean maker well, and, potentially, gives it another marketing advantage besides its 120,000-mile engine warranty.

Since then, of course, CAFE standards have been revised under the Obama Administration to 35.5 mpg by 2016, and most — if not all –automakers are now pursuing the same technologies that Theta II uses.


First Look: 2011 BMW 5-Series Sedan

Said to be more dynamic, less formal.

by on Nov.24, 2009

The look is familiar, but there's an-all midsize sedan coming from Bavaria, the 2011 BMW 5-Series.

Familiar look, but there's a new mid-size sedan coming from Bavaria, the 2011 BMW 5-Series.

The Germans have a way of making the simple sound serious.  Officially, the imposing building in the center of Munich is known as the Forschungs- und Innovations Zentrum FIZ of the Group.  But Klaus Draeger prefers to just call it “the Project House,” as it’s where some of BMW’s most important projects go from concept to customer.

Like the new 5-Series, which the automaker pulled the wraps off this week, during a formal presentation at the Project House, where Draeger, the BMW board member in charge of R&D, keeps his main office.

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News, Reviews and More at

First impressions count, said Draeger, admittedly worried about making sure the new car would win over the sceptical media hordes.  Introduced in 1972, the 5-Series may not be the Bavarian brand’s biggest seller , but along with the ever-popular 3-Series and the new 1-er, “They account for just over half of our profit margin,” conceded the executive.