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Archive for August, 2012

2012 Hyundai Genesis Coupe: Big and Sexy

But does the driving experience live up to the exotic looks?

by on Aug.30, 2012

The 2013 Hyundai Genesis has more power and more style.

There’s a lot to like about a powerful, somewhat rare, exotic-looking rear-wheel drive sports coupe. And did we mention that it’s relatively affordable?

It seems odd that Hyundai gave the coupe the same name as the four-door with which it shares a platform, the Genesis sedan. What all the other good names were taken?

But starting at just $24,250 with destination, the Genesis Coupe is a surprising value.

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The coupe comes standard with the same 274-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo that makes the Hyundai Sonata a scream. The base engine is up 64 horsepower compared to last year’s model, and 74 more than the vaunted Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S. The test car had the optional 3.8-liter V-6 with 348 horsepower, up 42 horses compared to the 2012 model, mostly thanks to the addition of direct injection.

It’s too bad the V-6 sounds like a vacuum cleaner that ate a bag full of marbles. It’s not smooth, it seems as though it makes a lot of unrefined induction sound and the exhaust is boomy, not lusty.


How Automakers Will Get to 54.5 MPG

Battery cars are only part of the answer.

by on Aug.29, 2012

At 47 mpg, the new Ford C-Max will be one of the market's most efficient vehicles. But it still has a long way to go to meet the new 54.5 mpg CAFE standard formalized this week.

When Ford launches its new C-Max hybrid microvan later this year it will deliver a solid 47 mpg in the EPA’s combined city/highway test, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. Yet that’s still about 15% short of the target the White House has set for the auto industry with the new mileage standards that will be phased in between now and 2025.

Most major automakers signed onto the compromise regulations announced last year and officially released on Tuesday. But most echo John Krafcik, the CEO of Hyundai Motor America, who admits “We don’t yet know how we’ll get there.”

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Electrification will almost certainly play a role, in some form or another.  But don’t expect to see America switch to battery cars, most industry analysts contend.  The technology will likely remain too limited and too expensive over the next dozen years – and the infrastructure just won’t be there, contends Jim Hall, of 2953 Analytics.


Who Are America’s Worst (and Best) Drivers?

Hint: think political and highway gridlock.

by on Aug.29, 2012

Drivers in D.C. are far more likely than most to have a crash, according to an Allstate study.

Are you a good driver?  A new study by Ford Motor Co. suggests 99% of Americans will answer, “Yes.”  It’s always the other driver.

But where does the other guy live? That’s what Allstate set out to find and, as one of the nation’s oldest and largest automotive insurance companies, it has the data to deliver an answer.  Of course, there are any number of ways to define “worst.”  But Allstate didn’t look at rudest, most aggressive or even those with the most points on individual driving records.  It focused on where motorists had the most collisions.

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And there, the data pointed to the same town that also seems to have the worst gridlock in its core business – of government – Washington, D.C.

On the positive side, the new study found the best drivers are based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  In fact, that’s the fifth time in the eight-year history of the “Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report” that Sioux Falls set the lead.


“Everything is on the Table,” Says Chrysler’s Marchionne

Dart sales post 300% month-over-month growth.

by on Aug.29, 2012

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and Dodge brand boss Reid Bigland with a Dodge Dart.

“Everything is on the table,” says Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The Italian-born, Canadian-educated executive could have been referring to any number of topics as he met with reporters this week at Chrysler’s massive proving grounds in Chelsea, Michigan.  The wide-ranging discussion covered everything from the auto industry’s slump in Europe to the unexpectedly strong sales of the maker’s new Dodge Dart sedan.

But the most immediate subject was fuel economy, the White House issuing long-awaited guidelines that will bump the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard to 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025.

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Chrysler was one of 13 major manufacturers that agreed to support the proposal, albeit reluctantly.  But now that the rules were in place, Marchionne acknowledged it won’t be easy getting there.  To the average American, 2025 is a long way away.  In the automotive world, it’s barely two product cycles.  And getting to 54.5 mpg by then “will significantly change the way this industry operates,” Marchionne stressed.


Mazda6 Makes Moscow Move

Zoom, zoom? Da.

by on Aug.29, 2012

The 2013 Mazda6 zoom-zooms into Moscow.

The long-awaited new Mazda6 has made its debut – in Moscow.  The Japanese automaker turned to the annual Russian car show to reveal the new sedan, the latest in its line-up to migrate to Mazda’s new SkyActiv technology.

The new 2013 Mazda6 will be entering a crowded field, what with makers including Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and Nissan all updating their own midsize entries.  Mazda is hoping to stand out from the crowd by delivering a sedan that is bigger, roomier, more stylish – and notably more fuel-efficient – than the model it replaces.

Among the most distinctive new technologies introduced on the 2013 Mazda6, the sedan will use an ultracapacitor, rather than a battery, to help recapture energy that would normally be lost during braking or coasting.

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The look of the new model is likely to be one of the big draws, however, styling chief Akira Tamatani proclaiming, “We have created a design in which the wild and dynamic expressions of motion artistically realize a powerful presence.”


Ford Betting Safety Will Sell New Fusion

New poll says “safety does sell.”

by on Aug.29, 2012

Ford is betting that an array of advanced safety gear will help sell the 2013 Fusion sedan.

“Safety doesn’t sell.”  Or so went the conventional wisdom that followed the failure of Ford’s effort, in 1957, to introduce what was, for that era, a raft of breakthrough safety gear.

This time, the maker is a little more confident that safety really does attract buyers – something that was underscored by a new survey it conducted showing that the latest alert and assist systems could provide a market advantage for the all-new Fusion debuting later this year.

Drivers are well aware their limitations, according to a new survey done for Ford by an independent polling firm and involving a sample of more than 2,000 drivers from across the U.S. The pollster found nearly 50% of those contacted have fallen asleep while driving or know someone who has; nearly six in 10 blame blind spots for accidents or near collisions and nearly four in 10 of those surveyed fear parallel parking.

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“We found the drivers we talked to were definitely inclined toward features that provided real practical benefits by alerting them to potentially hazardous situations they may have missed,” according to Billy Mann, managing director of Penn Schoen Berland, which did survey for Ford.


White House Locks Down 54.5 MPG Fuel Economy Standard

“Single most important step” to reduce dependence on foreign oil, says President.

by on Aug.28, 2012

The new mileage standards appear to have solid public support -- especially as gas prices resume their upwards surge.

Bouncing back from an unexpected delay, the Obama Administration today formalized a more than 50% increase in federal automotive fuel economy standards.

Even with automakers struggling to meet the 2016 Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, target of 35.5 miles per gallon, the industry will now face a 54.5 mpg goal for 2025.  That figure is the result of extensive debate between industry, environmentalists and government regulators.

But there had been questions raised, earlier this month, when the White House unexpectedly delayed the release of the official rules.  The 2025 CAFE proposal, like much of Pres. Barack Obama’s energy policy, had come under fire from a Republican party set to formalize Mitt Romney as its presidential nominee this week.

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“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” the President declared in a statement accompany the release of the new mileage regulations.


First Drive: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

Finally, a real challenger to Prius?

by on Aug.28, 2012

Ford hopes the distinctively designed C-Max Hybrid can challenge the dominance of the Toyota Prius.

Toyota has ruled the hybrid segment since the original Prius rolled onto the U.S. market a dozen years ago — and up until now Ford Motor Co. has trailed a distant second with its well-regarded Escape Hybrid.

But Ford is changing gears, having retired the gas-electric version of the Escape in favor of a new version of the updated crossover now powered by the maker’s well-received EcoBoost drivetrain. That doesn’t mean Ford is walking away from the battery-car market.  Far from it.  If anything, it is rolling out an assortment of hybrids and even more advanced vehicles that, it hopes, will gives the Detroit maker a chance to challenge Toyota’s perceived leadership in green automotive technology.

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Key to Ford’s bid to reduce Toyota’s dominance is the 2013 C-MAX hybrid, which comes with a five-door body style popular in Europe — and a completely new hybrid powertrain under the hood.  The C-Max is being positioned as a direct challenge to Prius and will be Ford’s first model line offered only with hybrid or plug-in hybrid power.


Rare Battery-Powered Rolls-Royce is Child’s Play

Auction house offering one of 25 hand-built battery cars.

by on Aug.28, 2012

One of just 25 battery-powered Rolls-Royce toys produced in 1988.

Earlier this year, Rolls-Royce officials pulled the plug on the 102 EX project, a prototype battery-powered version of the maker’s big Phantom sedan.  But a couple decades back, 25 electric Rolls were produced.

Not that you’re likely to see them on the road.  The nearly 5-foot-long, hand-built battery cars were toys, commissioned by the Holland Group of Companies of Kent, England, and meant to celebrate the dealer group’s 25th anniversary serving Rolls-Royce.

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“They gave the commission to The Little Car Company who specialised in building specialist miniature cars for the wealthy,” notes Antiques of Sussex, a British auction house that has acquired one of the exclusive toys and plans to put it on the block.


Lincoln Heading to China

Ford takes first step towards going global.

by on Aug.28, 2012

CEO Alan Mulally is targeting big growth in China for both the Ford and Lincoln brands.

Hoping to give its long-troubled luxury brand some new momentum – and much-needed economy of scale – Ford Motor Co. will launch Lincoln into the Chinese market in 2014.

The announcement – which confirms a report on earlier this month – will come as a critical step for Lincoln, once one of the most powerful luxury nameplates.  Even though the century-old Lincoln has never been sold in China, Ford research suggests it has significant potential in what is rapidly coming to rival the U.S. as the world’s largest high-line automotive market.

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“Lincoln’s introduction to China represents a significant step forward in Ford’s aggressive growth strategy for the country,” Dave Schoch, Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China, said during an event at a converted temple in Beijing.