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2008 Automobile News

December 15, 2008

Rare Aerocar For Sale

A side view of the original 1956 Aerocar No. 2 (N103D)

New hybrid automobiles are hitting the marketplace in increasing numbers, ranging from the practical Toyota Prius to the luxurious Lexus GS 450h. While these hybrids may save on gasoline, they won't be able to lift you out of jammed traffic like the Aerocar, a decidedly different type of hybrid because of its aptitude for flight. Only six of these flying cars were ever built, and one of them is now on sale at eBay for $3.5 million. The completely original 1956 Aerocar No. 2 (N103D), which has not flown since 1977, is up for sale as a part of a divorce settlement by its owners Marilyn and Carl Felling of Grand Junction, Colorado. This retro red and black automobile/airplane, designed by engineer Moulton Taylor, features detachable wings and can reach speeds of up to 60 mph on the highway and 100 mph in the air. No word yet on its gas mileage.

For more information, visit www.aerocarforsale.com


November 21, 2008

Lotus Unveils Its Evora at the Los Angeles Auto Show

A three-quarter front view of a silver 2010 Lotus Evora on display at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show

The Lotus Evora, the first new model from the British automaker in more than a decade, made its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 20. Built with a sturdy yet lightweight aluminum frame, the Evora weighs in at about 2,976 pounds, allowing the racer an impressive fuel economy of 30 mpg on the highway. This four-passenger sport coupe contains a 3.5-liter V6 engine from Toyota and utilizes hydraulically assisted power steering, vented and cross-drilled disc brakes, and a forged aluminum wishbone suspension. Inside the car are leather seats and accessories, including a touch-screen multi-media system with satellite navigation. Lotus says that each car will be handcrafted in the United Kingdom, and that only about 2,000 Evoras will be produced each year. The car is expected to be available in the United States in 2009, where it will compete with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari.

For more information, visit www.lotuscars.com


November 7, 2008

Porsche to Introduce a Hybrid SUV

A side view of a Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

Porsche, which is honoring the past with its soon-to-be-completed museum in Stuttgart, Germany, is also looking to the future, to 2010, when the company hopes to introduce a hybrid version of its popular Cayenne model. Having partnered with Volkswagen and Audi to develop the hybrid technology, this environmentally friendly luxury SUV will feature electro-hydraulic power steering as well as an electric motor between its 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Controlling the vehicle’s powertrain will be the Hybrid Manager, a powerful central computer capable of 20,000 data parameters (conventional engines only require 6,000 data parameters in comparison). The hybrid will carry a 240-cell, 288-volt battery in the spare wheel compartment and get between 24-26 mpg, a quarter-percent improvement in fuel economy over the standard base model. Porsche plans to introduce similar technology in a version of its upcoming Panamera model.

For more information, visit www.porsche.com


October 22, 2008

Mini Goes Electric

A three-quarter front view of a Mini E

BMW recently announced that during 2009 it will offer one-year leases on 500 of its new Mini E vehicles to select applicants living in Southern California, New York and New Jersey. The Mini E, a full-electric drive model based on the current Mini hatchback, will be on display at next month’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that takes up the space that normally would be a backseat, the two-seater car will have a range of approximately 150 miles and an electronically limited top speed of 95 mph. While the Mini E can plug into any standard outlet to recharge, each lessee will get a high-amperage wallbox that will charge the car in just two-and-a-half hours. All the vehicles in the pilot program will display the same silver paint with large yellow power plug logos.

For more information, visit www.miniusa.com


October 7, 2008

GM Gears Up for Chevy Volt and Cruze Production

A view of the 1.4-liter I-4 Range Extender engine for the 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Even though Chevrolet’s Cruze and Volt models aren’t scheduled for production until 2010, General Motors is gearing up now with a $370-million investment. The Detroit-based automaker recently announced that it will build a new powertrain manufacturing facility in Flint, Michigan, in order to double the company’s production of small four-cylinder engines. Two engines in particular will be produced at the 552,000-square-foot plant: a 1.4-liter turbo engine for the Cruze and a 1.4-liter naturally aspirated engine for the Volt. Like GM’s alternative fuel vehicles, the new facility will be boast an eco-friendly and efficient design, including approximately 300 flexible workstations that allow for the assembly of the company’s four-cylinder engine families without retooling. Construction for the plant is expected to be completed in 2010.

For more information, visit www.gm.com.


September 18, 2008

Hybrid Cars Hit the Racetrack

Peugeot's 908 HDi FAP Hy

While Peugeot didn’t win the European Le Mans championship, the company did cause a stir at the last round of the series by showing off its 908 HDi FAP Hy—a diesel-electric hybrid racecar. The French automaker’s concept vehicle boasts a V12 diesel engine with an 80-horsepower gear-driven motor, as well as a kinetic recovery system in the brakes that helps save energy. Extra energy is stored in ten lithium ion battery packs in the car, and can be used to improve the diesel fuel economy by three to five percent or serve as a power boost in order to pass a competitor. Peugeot plans to race a version of this hybrid in next year’s Le Mans series.

For more information, visit www.peugeot.com.


September 3, 2008

Volkswagen Claims Third Place in Global Sales

A three-quarter front view of a yellow 2007 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Fahrenheit

Volkswagen AG, which includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, recently announced that it had edged out Ford Motor Co. to become the third largest automaker in the world by vehicle sales. The German car company reported that during the first half of 2008 its wholesales (including those to dealers) of 3.31 million vehicles surpassed Ford’s wholesales of 3.22 million vehicles. Throughout the same period, Volkswagen’s sales increased by 7.2 percent, while Ford’s declined 3.4 percent. Contending for this year’s number one and two spots by way of global sales are Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp., respectively. During the first six months of 2008, Toyota took the lead by selling 4.82 million vehicles, approximately 280,000 more than General Motors, the world’s largest automaker for the past 77 years.

For more information, visit www.vw.com


August 18, 2008

Nissan Unveils New Prototypes

Nissan Motor Company's two new alternative-fuel vehicle prototypes, a hybrid-electric car and an all-electric car

Nissan Motor Company recently exhibited two new alternative-fuel vehicle prototypes, a hybrid-electric car (pictured left) and an all-electric car (pictured right), at a press event near its headquarters in Tokyo. The Japanese automaker hopes to sell the all-electric vehicle in the United States and Japan by 2010, and throughout the world by 2012. As a part of their efforts to beat out competitors like Honda and Toyota in the green technology race, Nissan’s new prototypes both contain lithium-ion batteries, which are twice as powerful as the more conventional nickel-metal hydride batteries. The production model of the electric automobile will have a front-wheel drive layout, use an 80-kilowatt motor and inverter, and sport a unique body style.

For more information, visit www.nissanusa.com


August 4, 2008

Volvo Plans to Injury-Proof Cars by 2020

A crash test of Volvo's XC60 model at their testing facility

While other automakers pour their resources into creating increasingly fuel-efficient vehicles, Volvo has set up a different goal: creating injury-proof cars by 2020. Each year, motor vehicle accidents are responsible for millions of deaths and injuries worldwide. The Ford-owned Swedish carmaker, along with other manufacturers, plans to borrow principles from aviation to create a matrix of systems that interact to prevent crashes long before they happen. Volvo already offers special safety features on its vehicles such as ignitions that will not start for an intoxicated driver and sensors to sound an alarm for a sleepy driver. Other features include tightening seat belts and priming airbags before an impact. The planned injury-proof automobiles of the future will sport an assortment of radar, sonar and other sensors to extend the car’s bumper zone for feedback. In the event of an imminent crash, the safety system would commandeer the braking and steering.

For more information, visit www.volvocars.com.


July 14, 2008

Street Art

Artist Man One paints an original work of art on a Ford Flex roof panel
Artist Man One paints an original work of art on a Ford Flex roof panel.

Putting a new spin on the term “painting the car,” Ford has commissioned artists from coast to coast to create original urban art using full-size, sheet metal stampings of the Ford Flex roof panels as their canvas. Visitors to the Chicago Auto Show in February and the New York International Auto Show in March saw street artist and commercial illustrator Tristan Eaton use the Flex’s White Suede roof option to create six “Cool Lid” art pieces.  New Yorkers also got to see similar works by graffiti artist Sket One.  Their one-of-a-kind paintings were displayed in Los Angeles, where muralist and graffiti artist Man One created three new “Cool Lids.” The promotion builds on the concept that the Ford Flex is a highly adaptable crossover vehicle that can be customized through a range of factory options including nine paint colors, two-tone roof, a multi-panel Vista roof and many other personalized choices. The lids may be auctioned off by Ford in the future, but if you want your own highly-customized lid, you’ll have to hire an artist or pick up the palette yourself.


June 25, 2008

Environmentally Friendly Roadster

A side view of a Morgan LIFEcar

Featured at the Geneva International Motor Show last March, the Morgan LIFEcar (Lightweight Fuel Efficient Car) is among the latest concept vehicles sporting hydrogen fuel cell designs. Morgan Motor Company, a British automaker known for their traditionally styled cars, and RiverSimple, a company that helps develop environmentally friendly transportation, collaborated to create this green, retro-modern roadster. A small fuel cell in the LIFEcar powers four independent electric wheel motors, and an enhanced regenerative braking system boosts energy efficiency by storing power in ultracapacitors. The sports coupe has a top speed potential of 80-85 mph and can accelerate from 0-62 mph in under seven seconds. To help achieve this, Morgan Motor Company used lightweight materials and eliminated extra equipment (like a stereo system) to reduce overall weight. The high-performance vehicle, which emits only water as a byproduct, weighs 1,550 pounds and has a 250-mile range.

For more information, visit www.morgan-motor.co.uk.


May 23, 2008

Smart to be Safe

A three-quarter front view of a silver 2008 smart fortwo passion coupe

Not only does the smart fortwo coupe get great mileage at an average of 37 mpg, it will keep you safe, too. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated the ultra-compact as “good”—the IIHS’s top rating—for front and side-impact crash tests. Seat and head restraints for the smart received the second highest rating, “acceptable,” for protection against whiplash in rear impacts. Institute president Adrian Lund commented, “All things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better. But among the smallest cars, the engineers of the smart did their homework and designed a high level of safety into a very small package.” The IIHS’s results are based on data and video gathered from tests simulating a 40 mph front offset crash, 30 mph side impact, and 20 mph rear-end collision.

For more information, visit www.smartusa.com.


May 15, 2008

Racing Clean

Volkswagen Jetta TDI racecar

Volkswagen, promoting its diesel technology and Jetta TDI, launched a six-race series at the Virginia International Raceway from April 25-27. Like the first race in Virginia, thirty drivers will compete in each of the remaining races with equally prepared Volkswagen Jettas powered by 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engines that meet emissions requirements in all 50 states. VW has partnered with Carbonfund.org to certify each race as carbon-free. Modifications to the Jettas include racing safety equipment, high-performance brakes and suspension, and a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

You can catch the rest of this year's races at the following venues:

May 17-18 Mosport International Raceway
Aug. 14-17 Lime Rock Park
Sept. 19-20 Iowa Speedway
Sept. 27-28 New Jersey Motorsports Park
Oct. 1-3 Road Atlanta

For more information, visit media.vw.com.


May 5, 2008

Tesla Motors Opens Los Angeles Showroom

A front view of a dark blue 2008 Tesla Roadster on display at Tesla Motor's Los Angeles dealership

The long-awaited Tesla electric sports car is now on sale, but you may have to wait a lot longer to get one. This week marks the opening of the first Tesla dealership in Los Angeles, but you can’t just walk into the beautiful factory-owned showroom and drive off in the lithium-ion battery-powered car. The 2008 models, which can go up to 225 miles on a single charge and reach 125 mph, are sold out, and the wait for the 2009 model now stands at 15 months despite its $109,000 price tag. Owners of the car are rumored to include Governor Schwarzenegger and Jay Leno, although Jenny McCarthy, Jenna Elfman, and Quincy Jones attended the opening night party catered by Akasha. "There is great enthusiasm about the program, and we are now working on a prototype for a four-passenger sedan," says Elon Musk, founder and Chairman of Tesla Motors. More dealerships are planned for Menlo Park, Calif., Chicago, Seattle and Miami.

For more information, visit www.teslamotors.com.


April 18, 2008

General Motors Expands OnStar's Turn-by-Turn Navigation Options

OnStar's Turn-by-Turn navigation system

To help reduce the legions of frustrated drivers on the road clamoring for cell phones and road maps, General Motors is expanding the capabilities of its onboard Turn-by-Turn navigation service through OnStar. Currently, to use the Turn-by-Turn service, motorists must park in order to input their destination. Now, with OnStar’s Destination Download service, drivers can contact an OnStar Advisor and have directions downloaded into the car’s navigation console remotely. The other new service is OnStar eNav, which allows drivers to plan a route at MapQuest.com and download the directions in the vehicle later. Most of GM’s 2009 vehicles with the Turn-by-Turn service will include these features as well. OnStar eNav will be available retroactively to any current Turn-by-Turn capable GM vehicle.

For more information, visit www.gm.com.


April 11, 2008

Ford to Build More Mustang Shelby GT500KRs

2008 40th Anniversary Mustang Shelby GT500KR

In addition to the 1,000 models of the 2008 40th Anniversary Edition Shelby GT500KR “King of the Road” Mustangs, Ford announced that it will offer to sell another 746 units for the 2009 model year. Of these, 571 will be offered in the U.S. market, creating a total that equals the number of original GT500KRs built in 1968. These 540-horsepower beasts have 5.4-liter V8 engines and Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmissions. The cars will be available at select Ford dealerships this spring, retailing at a heart-stopping $80,155 per car.

For more information, visit www.ford.com.


March 28, 2008

India Gearing Up in the Luxury Car Market

Jaguar Super V8

Ford Motor Company agreed to sell its Jaguar and Land Rover brands to Tata Motors for $2.3 billion. Under the agreement, which was announced on March 26, Ford will contribute $600,000 to shore up pension plans. Ford will also continue to provide Jaguar and Land Rover with engines, transmissions and powertrains, as well as engineering, accounting and development support. Ford bought Jaguar for $2.38 billion in 1989, and later acquired Land Rover for $3 billion in 2000. While Land Rover proved itself profitable, Jaguar has not. During the last two years, Ford lost $15.3 billion overall. Tata Motors, based in India, will add the two luxury marques to an automobile lineup that includes the super-cheap Nano, a $2,500 hatchback. No changes are expected for Jaguar or Land Rover’s 16,000 workers. Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, said that his company would be careful to preserve the heritage of its newly acquired marques. The deal must undergo regulatory scrutiny and is expected to be finalized by mid-2008.

For more information, visit www.tatamotors.com.


February 20, 2008

Rinspeed Introduces an Eco-friendly Submersible Convertible

Rinspeed's underwater-friendly sQuba

We were supposed to have flying automobiles by the year 2000, but it’s been seven years since the turn of the millennium and they still don’t exist. However, thanks to Swiss specialty automaker Rinspeed, we do have a car that drives underwater. Inspired by James Bond’s Lotus in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, Rinspeed redesigned a Lotus Exige for aquatic driving. The entire drivetrain of the car was replaced with three electric motors powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. As a result, the sQuba produces no emissions. Two motors provide underwater propulsion while the third is reserved for driving on land. Rotating louvers operate the water intakes to feed the water jet drives. Unlike James Bond, you’re likely to ruin your tuxedo, as the sQuba sports an open-top design. This feature serves to decrease buoyancy while providing an easy escape for occupants in the vehicle. An integrated air-tank in the car provides breathing air through scuba masks. When emerging from the water by a beachside resort bar, be sure to order your martini shaken, not stirred.

For more information, visit www.rinspeed.com.


February 7, 2008

Mercedes-Benz Announces a New SL

Mercedes-Benz 2009 SL

The upcoming 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL models receive a facelift, possibly in keeping up with much of their clientele. The new design features an updated grille and headlamps, gill-type heat extractors behind the front wheels and twin powerdomes in the hood that emulate those from the early Gullwing models. One new interior feature is the Airscarf, which is essentially a mini-heater built into the head restraints. This new feature should allow SL owners to enjoy comfortable top-down motoring in cooler weather. The new SL model will be unveiled to the public at the Geneva Auto Show in March.

For more information, visit www.mbusa.com.


January 22, 2008

Green is the Theme at the North American International Auto Show
Cadillac joins the "green" movement with their Escalade Hybrid

Concept and production vehicles boasted green themes at this year’s North American International Auto Show held in Detroit. Audi demonstrated economical performance by fitting a 12-cylinder diesel engine into its R8 supercar. The powertrain boasts 500 horsepower and nearly 740 lb-ft of torque along with clean diesel technology for responsible fuel mileage and emissions. General Motors announced production of the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid that uses the same two-mode hybrid technology available in the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon and doubles fuel economy in the city cycle. GM also announced a partnership with Coskata, Inc., who has developed a technology that creates ethanol from non-corn resources. The process is extremely cost and energy efficient when compared to corn-based ethanol production. Even Ferrari got into the green act with a bi-fuel decal on one of its cars. Blasphemous, indeed.

For more NAIAS coverage, visit their official site at www.naias.com.


January 8, 2008

Return of the ZR1
Corvette ZR1

Perhaps the worst-kept secret in recent Corvette history is the existence of the super Corvette. Chevrolet has finally made it official, taking the wraps off their newest Corvette—and it's one to take on all challengers. The ZR1 badge returns in 2008 (as a 2009 model) as the most powerful Corvette ever to be produced. Early estimates indicate an output of 620 horsepower from the 6.2 liter supercharged and intercooled LS9 V8 engine. Torque output is expected to be in the neighborhood of 600 lb-ft—enough to shred the 20-inch Michelin rear tires, so buyers should get chummy with their local tire dealers. The ZR1's front body panels, roof and lower rocker panels are unpainted carbon fiber. The engine's intercooler cover will be visible through a window, similar to what Ferrari has done. Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes are designed to handle the massive speed—over 200 mph—the ZR1 is likely to achieve. Approximately 2000 ZR1s will be built through 2011. Pricing has not been announced, but expect this super Corvette to be about $110,000.


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(Updated: 09/07/12 NW)


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