Angeles has always been a city of cars, so it’s
no surprise that the annual car show held there would
be an event of grand proportions. Those attending the
show, which takes place from November 16-25, will witness
first-hand as cars are internationally and nationally
unveiled. Many futuristic concept cars will make their
debut, but there are also plenty of cars that will be
hitting the market in the next few months. This gathering
of soon-to-be-available cars means the show is a prime
spot for comparison shopping. The show will also be the
setting for the unveiling of the 2008 Green Car of the
Year. Up for the title are the Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Chevrolet
Tahoe Hybrid, Mazda Tribute Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid
and Saturn Aura Hybrid.
In addition to automobiles, the event will feature many technology and car-related exhibits. For more information, visit www.laautoshow.com.
Cars Making Their Debut at the 2007 LA Auto Show
October 23, 2007
California drivers who crave luxury but don't want to sacrifice fuel mileage can now lease a Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec diesel sedan. The BlueTec diesel engine emissions are as clean as those of gasoline-fueled cars, yet they deliver superior fuel economy, traveling nearly 700 miles on one tank. The two-year, 24,000-mile lease plan is the first step in the process of initiating lease programs across the country for consumers seeking diesel automobiles. In 2008, Mercedes-Benz plans to offer updated diesel technology for the E, GL, M, and R-class models.
October 10, 2007
Drivers who require adaptive mobility equipment have the option of driving a European sport sedan now that Saab has joined the General Motors Mobility Program. Disabled customers can purchase or lease a new 2007 or 2008 Saab vehicle and receive reimbursement up to $1,000 on aftermarket mobility equipment. Customers who require mobility aids also qualify for two additional years of standard OnStar service. OnStar is also available with TTY (teletypewriter) capability to better assist the hearing or speech impaired.
Vectrix is offering another way to avoid paying three dollars a gallon for gas with the introduction of their electric scooter. The 460-pound device is powered by a nickel-metal-hydride battery that can be fully charged in two hours when plugged into any three-pronged outlet. A fully-charged battery will propel you approximately 65 miles and can accelerate the Vectrix to a top speed of 62 mph. The battery is designed to last ten years. Other design features include a sealed, maintenance-free gearbox and regenerative braking to help maintain its charge. The Vectrix scooter was launched in Italy early this year and is now available in the San Francisco area. For more information, visit www.vectrix.com.
September 11, 2007
The nearly nine-foot long and five-foot tall smart fortwo goes on sale in the United States in January 2008 with a base MSRP of $11,590. The Mercedes Car Group product will be imported by smart USA Distributor LLC which is a subsidiary of the Penske Automotive Group. Trim levels for the diminutive, two-seat commuter car will be named pure, passion and passion cabrio, the latter for the convertible model. Entry-level buyers may appreciate the maneuverability and expected 40-plus mpg fuel mileage from the 1.0 liter, three-cylinder engine but they’ll have to ante up to the passion if they want a stereo as standard equipment. Chief competition to the smart cars will be the Chevy Aveo and Toyota Yaris that offer more room and features (yes, including a radio) at a lower sticker price.
August 17, 2007
The hydrogen-powered Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 has raised the bar for production-based fuel cell race cars to come. On August 15, the only existing car of its kind tripped the timing lights at 207.297 mph. The Fusion reached this speed at the end of a five-mile long course at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The team’s sister car, “Buckeye Bullet,” is a purpose-built land speed fuel cell streamliner that was timed at 201.636 mph. This time meant the team had achieved its goal of having both cars surpass 200 mph. For decades, hot-rodders and manufacturers seeking every last mile-per-hour from their creations have flocked to the annual Bonneville Speed Week. “What we’ve accomplished is nothing short of an industry first," said Matt Zuehlk, lead engineer on the project. "No other automaker in the world has come close." The Ford Fusion Hydrogen 999 was driven by Rick Byrnes, a veteran Bonneville racer and retired Ford Powertrain component design engineer. The project is a partnership between Ford, The Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research, Ballard Power Systems and Roush Racing.
August 10, 2007
Not satisfied with having been at the forefront of the modern luxury SUV trend, and because of intense competition, the market planners in Stuttgart decided that the three-pointed star brand needed another model in their lineup. The GLK, to be built in Germany, will be a scaled down version of its larger American-made cousin, the Mercedes-Benz GL450. It will boast a sporty design and will go after the likes of the BMW X3 in the small luxury SUV segment. We recently had a chance to see and touch a model of what the 2010 vehicle will be like; but the preview was under super-tight security—even the spy cam could not make it in the presentation garage. It wants to be small yet masculine, with 20-inch alloy wheels, and make a bold statement. in our words, we liked what we saw. In designer Volker Hellwig’s words, “It is wider and not so high, the rugged exterior form is brought into the interior to constitute a sharp design.” There will most likely be an array of versions with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and engines ranging from an entry diesel to a V8 via a V6.
Automotive X Prize to Influence 100 mpg Vehicle Production
Chevy Announces Malibu Hybrid for 2008
The Chevy Malibu is all-new for 2008, and with it comes a hybrid model, which made its world debut at the recent MLB All-Star game. Though partially powered by electricity, the Malibu Hybrid is rated only two miles per gallon better than its gasoline-powered counterpart, and delivers an estimated 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The hybrid system is adapted to the 2.4 liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine and saves fuel by shutting off when stopped and cutting fuel delivery upon deceleration. The system also features regenerative braking to help charge the battery, and only re-charges the battery when driving conditions are the most efficient. Though slightly larger, the newest Malibu is likely to compete with the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid. While GM finally has a hybrid product that can be considered competition for imports, one has to ask: with only a two mpg improvement over its gasoline sibling, could those development resources have been better utilized?
July 13, 2007
Design by Request
The American-owned, Swedish safety-minded car company has something new to present to auto enthusiasts: the Volvo C30. In fact, it was auto enthusiasts themselves who were the driving force behind the creation of the all-new, elaborately-designed city car. After considerable market research, engineers assembled ideas from concepts and demands from the people. The result is a four-passenger car with a sexy and sporty exterior design, plenty of acceleration, a serious sound system and a bunch of high-tech and custom features; the perfect car for today’s metrosexual dudes. We had a chance to preview-drive the C30 and liked very much what the package had to offer. Although the coupe won’t will be available in showrooms until October 2007, you can get a peek during the multi-city tour. The C30 will be visiting the following cities: Los Angeles August 18-26, New York September 1-9, Miami September 15-23, Chicago September 29-October 7, and will end its tour in the Orange County/San Diego area October 13-21.
July 3, 2007
Volvo was honored by the British Insurance Car Security Awards in late June with the Innovation Award, a prize given out for a car system or feature that actively prevents vehicle crime. The item being lauded is Volvo’s new PCC, a highly advanced handheld personal car security system. The pocket-sized device allows drivers to check the status of their vehicle, from whether or not the car is currently locked to ascertaining if an intruder has entered the vehicle. While alerting its owner to a thief’s presence sounds like something only the Love Bug would be capable of, Volvo’s PCC utilizes a state-of-the-art heartbeat sensor to detect any unwelcome visitors. In addition, the handy device provides keyless entry and keyless driving capabilities. The futuristic safety feature is currently available as an add-on to the S80, V70 and XC70 models for $495.
June 19, 2007
Surf and Turf
James Bond wannabes,
your car has arrived! Gibbs Technologies has announced
that it will bring two amphibious vehicles to the
U.S. market just in time for boating season in 2009.
The U.K.-based company plans to build the Aquada
and Quadski in the U.S.—though a production
site has yet to be chosen—by late 2008. Sir
Richard Branson drove/captained an Aquada across
the English Channel in 2004, setting a new world
record of less than two hours in the process. The
Miata-esque Aquada is powered by a 176-horsepower
V6 engine and has been tested at 110 mph on the road
and over 30 mph on the water. When you are ready
to go for a dip, simply push one button on the instrument
panel, drive in and the wheels automatically retract
up into the hull. Steering and throttle controls
are no different than driving. ATV enthusiasts will
love the Quadski, which converts to a jet-ski-like
watercraft and can achieve 50 mph on the road or
on the waves.
Image courtesy of Gibbs Technologies
The Bronx Is Up and the Battery's…Got an Eight-Year Warranty
New York City, which has been testing hybrid taxicabs for the last 18 months, will soon start converting its entire fleet of 13,000 heavily relied-on vehicles. Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to cut carbon emissions, as reported in Reuters, calls for all Big Apple cabs to be hybrids by 2012—with the first 1,000 vehicles undergoing conversion by October 2008. Bloomberg claims the exchange will be the equivalent of taking 30,000 fume-belching autos off the streets. The city’s green buses have already paved the way with vehicles that, according to the New York Transit Authority, translate to 400 million fewer pounds of soot, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and other toxic substances annually released into the air.
June 5, 2007
Special Edition Mustang Fights Breast Cancer
Ford has added yet another special edition to the Mustang corral with the 2008 Warriors in Pink package. This model will be limited to 2,500 units and built in support of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure campaign. Deliveries to dealerships begin in the summer. The Warriors in Pink Package is available on V6 models (coupe or convertible) in black, performance white or metallic silver and includes the Premium Array Package. The special edition includes a pink ribbon and Pony fender badge and pink Mustang rocker tape striping. Interior appointments include pink stitching on the charcoal leather seats and aluminum-spoke steering wheel, while charcoal floormats receive a pink ribbon with contrast stitching. Ford's goal is to donate more than half a million dollars through these sales and other fundraising efforts. For ladies looking for accessories to match their new Mustang, a line of Warriors in Pink gear is available at www.fordcares.com.
May 22, 2007
If you know the words to Barney songs better than your kids do, it’s time for a little more variety in the entertainment lineup for the trip to grandma’s house. Chrysler is happy to help by exclusively offering factory-installed Sirius Backseat Satellite TV in some of their models for 2008. Similar to the radio system, satellite television uses a special video receiver and antennae and will display on the second- and third-row screens for the rear-seat entertainment system. Satellite radio is operational while satellite TV is playing, and the service will begin by offering three channels of children’s entertainment; the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. When the vehicle is in Park, video will display on the front multi-media screen so Mom and Dad can catch up on SpongeBob. Sirius Satellite TV will launch with the introduction of the all-new Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans and will be available later on the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum, Jeep Commander and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The $470 price tag includes the first year of service when packaged with Chrysler Group’s Rear Seat Entertainment System and Sirius Satellite Radio. After the first year, Sirius Backseat TV is available for $7 per month when packaged with Sirius Satellite Radio ($12.95 per month). Expect the programming lineup to expand for tailgating football and NASCAR fans who don’t want to miss the pre-game.
Looking for a few more channels? Check out TracVision Mobile Satellite System.
May 8, 2007
Ford Goes Green on the Inside
Inspired by San Francisco’s recent decision to ban the use of plastic bags in order to promote recycling, save 450,000 gallons of oil per year and eliminate 1,400 tons of trash, Ford is now implementing a similar initiative in their manufacturing process. Two Ford models, the 2008 Ford Escape and the Ford Escape Hybrid, will be sporting interiors made with 100 percent recycled materials. The post-industrial polyester seat covering, provided by InterfaceFABRIC, Inc., is expected to save 600,000 gallons of water, 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents, and more than 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Coupled with the already fuel-efficient Escape engine, Ford is making it easier than ever for consumers to do their part to save the world. To learn more about Ford’s commitment to the environment, or to check out the Escape, visit them at www.ford.com.
May 1, 2007
Reinventing the Wheel
D’Vinci Forgiato has created the perfect add-on for automotive exhibitionists: the see-through wheel. The glass-like surface replaces the typical rim, allowing proud car owners to showcase their brakes and suspension. The look of glass is created by using thick slabs of clear polycarbonate which are then coated in a scratch-resistant coating and treated by a technique that the company brags is usually only known by “master diamond setters.” The mysterious technique, known as “bezel setting,” involves placing an oversized object into its setting and using pressure to keep it in place. While the flashy rims will surely be lusted after by many, only a select few will be able to afford them. Available in 20-inch and 22-inch, a set of four will cost you twenty grand. For more information or to order a set, visit www.forgiato.com.
April 17, 2007
GM has developed a concept Hummer that even environmentalists can love. Unlike its monstrous, fuel-guzzling brother vehicles of today, the “Hummer O2” actually benefits the environment. Created as a response to the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show’s Design challenge, the “Hummer O2” is made entirely from recycled materials and was designed to appeal to a “Southern California outdoor enthusiast.” Packed with fantastical eco-friendly details, the most innovative feature of the concept is a phototropic shell that, aided by algae-filled door panels, produces pure oxygen. The green vehicle— which is actually green in color— is propelled by hydraulic motors in each wheel that are powered by self-contained fuel cells and a hydrogen tank in the center of the vehicle. Despite looking like a child’s toy, the O2 is designed to handle rugged terrain with ease without sacrificing the safety of its passengers. It’s ironic that a vehicle first designed to wage war can now help the flowers grow.
Fans of the prancing horse will be delighted to learn that the second Ferrari Store in the United States has opened in Los Angeles’ Beverly Center, complete with a huge window display of Ferrari’s single-seater Scuderia Formula 1 car memorialized on faux-asphalt. Visitors can browse through fan and vintage memorabilia, the children’s section, or the ultra-exclusive luxury section. Those who wish to take a break from wandering around the museum-like store can kick their feet up in the posh customer lounge, stocked with plenty of leather seating, and view clips of Ferrari’s most memorable moments on an LCD screen. With price points ranging from $3 for a notepad to $13,000 for the front end of a Ferrari Dino, there’s something for everyone. For those that can’t make it to the Los Angeles store or one of the fourteen other locations worldwide (the other U.S. store is in the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas), Ferrari merchandise is available on the web at www.ferraristore.com.
March 20, 2007
Proud Porsche owners have a new way of making the flashy vehicles their own: personalized nameplates. Created by Dutch company Name Your Porsche, the nameplates (in Porsche’s font) are cut from a single sheet of aluminum and finished by hand, then attached with a 3M bonding agent sure to keep your personalized stamp on through even the most vigorous of carwashes. Fans of the process are plastering the back of their costly cars with their names, the car’s nickname, their significant other’s name, or cheeky phrases like “eat my dust.” The possibilities are endless, and the rarely shy Porsche crowd is happy to explore them. Commitmentphobes will be glad to learn that in the event of the car’s sale (or romantic disentanglement) stamps are easily removed. A five letter nameplate will cost you about $450, with extra letters costing $60 apiece. To learn more, visit www.nameyourporsche.com.
March 6, 2007
A Diesel SUV with Muscle
Audi has recently released the Q7 4.2 TDI, claiming the title of most powerful Diesel SUV on the market today with its impressive 326 bhp and 561 ft.-lbs of torque. Its eight-cylinder engine with common rail fuel injection and Piezo injectors simulates the feel of driving a sports car, with an acceleration of zero to 62 mph in a mere 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 145 mph. In addition to being a powerhouse, the 4.2 TDI is also economic, boasting an average fuel consumption of only 11.1 liters of diesel per every 100 kilometers. In the interest of keeping drivers from getting carried away by their powerful new SUVs, Audi has introduced its newest safety program, Audi Lane Assist, in the 4.2 TDI. If the driver’s speed reaches 40 mph or above and the driver attempts to change lanes without signaling, ALA makes the steering wheel vibrate in warning. Expected in showrooms early this summer, the model is unfortunately not yet scheduled for sale in North America.
February 20, 2007
Cross the Million Mile Line, Get a New Saab for Free
When insurance salesman Peter Gilbert announced that he had driven over a million miles in his 1989 Edwardian Gray Saab 900 SPG, Saab responded by offering him a brand new vehicle, free of charge. Gilbert, whose Saab had survived both the miles and multiple collisions with deer with its original engine and turbo, was thrilled to receive his new Saab 9-5 Aero. As a gesture of faith in the endurance of his product, the offer made by Saab GM Jay Spenchian has now been extended to the entire country for the remainder of 2007. Any U.S. customer who can prove original ownership of a Saab that has covered one million road miles and remains in running condition will be similarly presented with their grand reward, the 2007 Saab 9-5 Aero.
February 7, 2007
Robot Parking Saves Space and Time
Tired of looking for a parking spot? Now there’s a more advanced solution than tossing your keys to a young man in a maroon vest. One parking garage in New York City’s Chinatown is putting to use a technology that has already had success in other parts of the world: the new robotic parking garage developed by Automotion Parking Systems.
People simply drive onto what is essentially a trap door and exit their car. The vehicle is then lowered into what looks like a car warehouse, where a robotic steel pallet moves it into an open “shelf.” The pallet even rotates so that the car faces outward when returned to its owner. An elaborate array of lasers and motion detectors make sure that the vehicle will fit, that it is placed on the pallet properly and that all passengers have exited safely (the system can handle vehicles as big as mid-size SUVs). The main attraction to robotic garage (for building owners) is that it requires dramatically less space—the Chinatown apartment building’s basement, which would normally be able to hold only 24 cars, can now squeeze in 67 vehicles.
In eleven years of constructing similar garages, Automotion (known elsewhere in the world as Stolzer Parkhaus) has only had one vehicle damaged and even the minor problem that caused it has since been corrected. The Chinatown garage is on the small side, with 900- and 1,200-space systems being built in the United Arab Emirates. A 229-spot garage is being installed at the Hollywood Grande Resort in Florida.
To see a video of the robotic garage in action, click here.
All-New Benz C-Class a Chip Off the Old S-Class Block
The Detroit Auto Show may be over, but carmakers are still rolling out new models. For those who love the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class but can’t pony up the needed 90 or so grand, look no further than the all-new C-Class. Benz’s entry-level model (in the United States anyway) has received a complete redesign, replacing a car that has been Mercedes’ best-selling vehicle with 1.4 million units sold worldwide since it debuted in 2000. Most noticeable in this re-do is an exterior design that looks more grown up and elegant, with the front end and exaggerated fenders clearly inspired by the much larger S-Class. The C-Class essentially gives the impression of being a “shrunken” version of the Benz flagship, much like the Volvo S40 and S80.
Aside from styling, the body has also grown in all directions, with an emphasis placed on greater interior space. The new dashboard and control layouts are simple-looking (slightly resembling a Renault or Opel design), with an optional version of the S-Class’ COMAND navigation system that features a pop-up LCD screen and iDrive-like controller. Buttons for climate control and the stereo thankfully remain with navigation. Like the outgoing C-Class, the new generation will be offered with a pair of V6 engines, but they have been upgraded to 231 horsepower in the C300 and 272 horsepower in the C350. A six-speed manual is standard on the C300, while the C350 comes only with the seven-speed automatic that is optional on the lesser-powered model. Many of the state-of-the-art safety systems found on the S-Class will also trickle down to the entry-level model like Neck Pro whiplash protection and the optional Pre-Safe system. The 2008 C-Class will debut in the United States later this summer.
January 8, 2007
Honda Accord Coupe Concept
There's arguably no bigger stage in the world for new production and concept cars than Detroit's North American International Auto Show. Each year, car companies show what will be coming soon to a dealership near you and with their concepts, provide a snap shot of what could be in your garage in the years to come.
While the Los Angeles auto show had a clear emphasis on alternative fuel vehicles, Detroit seems to be showing the opposite with a full array of high-performance vehicles. Click here for our full coverage of the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.
American Minivans Becoming a Dying Breed
American minivans are becoming an endangered species. Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are increasingly turning to fleet sales to sell their mom-mobiles, as regular customers turn to crossover SUVs or import models like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. According to the Automotive News Data Center, corporate customers and rental companies accounted for more than 60 percent of Ford Freestar and Chevrolet Uplander sales, while 42 percent of Dodge Caravans and Grand Caravans went into fleets. The Odyssey on the other hand, only sells 1 percent to fleet sales and, along with the Sienna, has enjoyed relatively stable sales while the rest of the market drops off. Through the first ten months of 2006, sales were down 12.7 percent from the same period in 2005. Since 2001, sales have dropped by almost 300,000 units.
Many blame aging designs and a lack of ingenuity for the decline in the Detroit 3’s minivans, but according to Ford analysts, “catching up” to the Japanese models is impractical because of dwindling profits and a diminished reputation. Instead, GM and Ford have decided to escape the minivan market altogether by 2010, turning to crossovers and new, alternative designs like Ford’s Fairlane concept. Chrysler, however, is sticking with the market it created and will unveil a re-engineered and restyled Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country at the Detroit auto show.
Check back next week for our coverage of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Updated: (09/07/12 NW)