August 29, 2008

Video Clip Friday: All-new 2010 Audi RS6

Last weekend, Audi released the first official images of the new RS6 sedan, shortly before the car makes its debut at the Paris Motor Show in October. For this week's video clip, we're set to offer you a glimpse of Neckarsulm's newest ├╝berlimousine.

Audi's RS models have a long history with force-fed motors; this generation is no exception.Both the RS6 sedan and wagon will be powered by a 5-liter twin-turbocharged V-10 producing 580 horespower and 480 pound-feet of torque.

Mated to a six-speed automatic with manual shift control and Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, the RS6 will fling itself to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds. For US-bound models, top speed is limited to 155 mph. European customers will have the option of having the factory limiter raised to 175 mph.

But no matter the terminal velocity, the newest RS6 continues in the tradition set by its forebears; exceptional speed and handling matched only by style and versatility.

Lastly, a brief programming note: Since we're coming up on the Labor Day holiday here in the States, NMM will be making a three-day weekend of it. See you all Tuesday.

[Source - Audi AG via WCF]

August 28, 2008

VIDEO: Mitsubishi CEO discusses plans for i-MiEV electric car

When current president Osamu Masuko took the helm of Mitsubishi Motor Corporation, the company had very nearly run aground.

In the 18 months prior to Masuko-san's arrival, the company had become embroiled in scandal over their efforts to cover up vehicle defects amidst voluntary recalls. A financing program designed to lure young buyers to the brand had backfired and DaimerChrysler — then the majority shareholder — dumped their shares, backing out of a $4 billion bailout package in the process.

Three years on, Masuko has lead the company back to solvency. MMC is on course for a record sales year in Russia, capitalizing on the emerging SUV market with the new Pajero Sport, which premiered at the Moscow Motor Show this week.

As NMM reported last month, Mitsubishi is aiming to be the first Japanese car maker to mass-produce an electric vehicle with the launch of the i-MiEV electric car in Japan in 2009. Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Masuko said that while an exact start date for US sales hasn't been set, the i-MiEV will begin production in left-hand-drive by 2010.

Masuko offered more details on the forthcoming EV as well. On a single seven-hour 110-volt charge, the car will travel about 100 miles. Price is still up in the air; for the Japanese market, the car will likely sell for 3 million yen (about $27,600), including a government subsidy. As the economies of scale begin to take hold, the company expects the price to drop to about 2 million to 2.5 million yen.

For the full scoop, check out the video below:

[Source & Video Credit -]

August 27, 2008

Hyundai Genesis aces NHTSA crash tests

Ten years ago, the thought than Hyundai would produce a luxury car on an equal footing with the Japanese would've been deemed ludicrous.

At the time, the Korean automaker had just passed it's tenth year of sales on US shores. While competitive on price, product quality and level of execution continued to lag behind their Japanese rivals.

But what a difference a decade makes.

In the coming weeks, Hyundai will launch the Genesis, their first bona fide luxury sedan. Powered at the rear wheels by the company's first V-8 — a 375 horsepower, DOHC 32-valve motor with variable valve timing — Hyundai hopes to sell 50,000 units per year, once the coupe joins the model lineup early next year.

Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Hyundai Genesis a five-star test ratings for front and side-impact crashes -- the highest rankings possible in the New Car Assessment Program.

"Genesis was engineered with a lightweight but strong body shell, featuring ultrahigh-tensile steel, laser welding and advanced adhesive bonding," said John Krafcik, vice president of strategic planning and product development at Hyundai Motor America.

"Add eight airbags and electronic active head restraints, and you can see the focus we placed on designing Genesis for occupant safety," Krafcik said in a statement.

We will have more on the Genesis coupe as its launch date nears in early 2009.
In addition to the V-8 shared with it's sedan sibling, the Genesis coupe will likely offer a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, possibly with direct fuel injection.

Stay tuned.

Image Credit: Hyundai
[Source - AN]

August 26, 2008

Lexus LS460 AWD debuts this week at Moscow Motor Show

For the snow-bound plutocrat seeking all-wheel-drive in a full-size sedan, the Audi A8 has long owned the market.

Acura has mounted their own challenge with the RL sedan, but the lack of a V-8 engine has seemed to continually blunt sales, even as gas prices continue to climb.

Lexus has also chipped away at Audi's sales with the LS 600hL hybrid sedan, but the six-figure price tag and limited production has kept the car out of mainstream competition.

It makes sense, then, that Lexus has chosen the motor show in the snowiest of climes to come out swinging with a viable competitor.

The Lexus LS460 AWD - which will debut at the Moscow Motor Show this week - will be the first all-wheel-drive Lexus sedan to be sold in quantities sufficient to challenge Audi's dominance.

The new model's all-wheel-drive system uses the same compact Torsen limited-slip center differential used on the LS600hL, but retains the 381-horsepower 4.6 liter V-8 and silken eight-speed automatic transmission used on its rear-wheel-drive sibling.

Under normal conditions, the center differential distributes 60 percent of the engine's torque to the rear
wheels. Yet the system can can react in mere hundredths of a second, redirecting as much as 70 percent of engine torque to either the front or rear wheels.

European sales of the LS460 AWD will begin in December, with the new model coming to US shores next year as a 2010 model.

[Source: Toyota]

August 25, 2008

VW to invest in Puebla plant, expand US supplier contracts

Otto Lindner, CEO of Volkswagen Mexico, announced today that Volkswagen AG will expand production at the company's plant in Puebla, Mexico, partly in preparation for an as-yet unnamed new compact sedan for the global market.

In an interview with Automotive News last week, Otto Lindner said that production of the compact will start in 2010. "We can't say what it will be, but it will be a world car, with the exception of China," he said.

Currently, the plant produces both the current and previous generation Jetta sedan and wagon, as well as the coupe and convertible versions of the New Beetle. The United States and Canada are the primary exports markets for cars produced at Puebla. 40 percent of current- generation Jetta wagon production is exported to European markets.

Puebla to set all-time production record in 2008
In recent years, the Puebla plant has been operating at max capacity. The factory in set to build 450,000 cars this year and they will set a company record in the process.

Lindner said the expansion program will boost production output to 550,000 cars by 2011.

Volkswagen AG will build a new 65,000 square-foot stamping shop, a new 265,000 square-foot body shop and a new 85,000 square-foot logistics facility on the northern edge of the Puebla complex. The automaker also is extending the 117,000 square-foot paint shop by 70,000 square feet and adding 104,000 square feet to the 301,000 square-foot assembly shop.

VW to strengthen ties with US, Canadian suppliers
Along with the investment in Puebla plant, the automaker said it will also buy more parts assembled within Canada and the United States in an effort to combat fluctuating and often unfavorable exchange rates.

Currently, 60 percent of the parts used at Puebla are provided by suppliers based in Mexico. By 2011, the company plans for 90 percent of parts to come from suppliers within Mexico, Canada and and the United States, Lindner said.

[Source - AN ]

August 22, 2008

VIDEO: Pebble Beach Auction - 2009 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport

Jumping from the sublimely capable to the ridiculously unobtainable, we wrap up this week with a clip from last weekend's auction at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

This year, the much-anticipated targa version of Bugatti's Veyron hypercar stole the headlines.

Self-evidently, a removable polycarbonate and carbon fiber roof panel replaces the fixed roof. And while the top speed has dropped to a dawdling, languid 224 miles per hour, the exclusivity of al-fresco motoring in chassis number one pushed the opening bid to $1.7 million.

And far, far beyond by the time the gavel fell.

At a time when many are struggling to make ends meet, it may seem a little disingenuous to waste time watching plutocrats bid for the newest, biggest toy. Ignoring the car's function as a monument to net worth, the Veyron remains a technical marvel. Bugatti's blend of titanic power and consummate luxury may be a ludicrous spectacle, but as automotive art it stands alone.

August 21, 2008

Charting the Changes: 2009 Honda Fit

* Budget minded, yet well equipped: Pricing starts at $14,550 with A/C, AM/FM/CD stereo, power windows and locks standard.

* Class-leading fuel economy:
Up to 35 miles per gallon highway with the 5-speed automatic transmission.

* New tech options:
GPS navigation & VSA stability control debut this year.

As we reported yesterday, the all-new 2009 Fit is coming to the US market a month early to keep pace with blockbuster sales.

As promised, here's the low-down on what's new and improved.

* More power, better fuel economy, nimble handling:
First, to the engine room. The 1.7-litre SOHC inline-four returns year, this time with i-VTEC control for added power and efficiency. The new engine produces 117 horsepower at 6600 rpm and 106 lb-ft. of torque at 4800 rpm and can be mated to a 5-speed manual or optional automatic transmission, which on the Fit Sport, features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual gear control.

Surprisingly enough, the base Fit with an automatic transmission walks away with the MPG crown this time, besting the 5-speed manual in the EPA tests by one mpg in the city and two on the highway. The Fit Sport with either a manual or the optional automatic transmission achieve an EPA city/highway fuel economy rating of 27 and 33 miles per gallon.

In addition to being a fuel-miser, the Fit has set records for being exceptionally nimble. The new Fit continues that tradition, with front MacPherson struts and a torsion beam rear suspension -- both tuned to provide a sporty, rewarding driving experience.

As for rolling stock, the base model is shod with 75/65 R15 tires on steel wheels. The Fit Sport receives 185/55 R16 tires on aluminum alloys. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution come standard; all models use 10.3-inch ventilated discs in front and 7.9-inch drums in the rear.

* All-new exterior; progressive, feature-rich interior:
It's a clean-sheet redesign this time round, but the Fit has grown imperceptibly longer and wider. Length is up to 161 inches, with nearly 91 cubic feet of passenger volume and 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat up. As with the outgoing model, the Fit retains the Magic Seat system, which features multiple seating and cargo-carrying configurations:

* Tall object mode: the seat bottom folds upward to reveal the flat floor underneath.

* Long object mode: the rear passenger seat back and front seat both fold flat to fit six-foot long items. (Finish carpenters rejoice?)

* Utility mode: Driver & passenger ride in comfort while the fold-flat rear seat yields 57 cubic feet of space.

And there's more to fill that big interior than just air, crown moldings and people.

The Fit comes loaded with air conditioning, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA playback, Radio Data System (RDS) and an auxiliary audio input jack. Power windows, power mirrors and power door locks also come standard.

The Fit Sport adds alloy wheels, an underbody aero kit, rear spoiler, fog lights, a security system with keyless entry and cruise control. The Fit Sport also steps up to a six speaker stereo with a five-mode equalizer and a USB-Audio Interface for easy MP3 player integration.

* Optional GPS navigation, stability control debut:
GPS navigation makes its Fit debut as well. Offered only on the Fit Sport, the DVD-based system features voice recognition, a 6.5-inch color screen and more than 7 million points of interest. Honda's VSA electronic stability control is also included on navigation-equipped models.

Rounding out the safety side of things, dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, dual front-side airbags with passenger-side and side-curtain airbags are standard equipment on all models.

* Damn-near unbelievable value for money:
All of the above comes in at class-leading prices. A fully loaded Fit Sport with navigation carries an MSRP under $19,000, a stunning feat given the level of technology, economy and precision handling the FIt has come to symbolize.

The rest of the range prices out as follows:

* Final Thoughts:
Soaring demand for the 2008 Fit ultimately exceeded Honda's ability to keep pace. By improving on the previous model's strengths and expanding its appeal with new options, the 2009 model will almost certainly keep the blockbuster sales records going.

[Source: Honda]

August 20, 2008

Riding a tidal wave of sales, Honda's 2009 Fit comes to US shores a month early

It's no secret that small cars have enjoyed strong sales this year.

In an otherwise gloomy market, Honda has done so well with their Fit 5-door compact hatchback, the new model will hit US dealer showrooms by the end of the month, over 30 days ahead of schedule.

"We basically increased supply as much as we could to meet demand, and we were still going to be sold out of the 2008 model," Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in an interview with Automotive News. "We had to do something so that our dealers would not be without the small cars that buyers are seeking."

By all accounts, the outgoing model has been a runaway success. Sales of the nimble, versatile compact are up 73 percent from a year ago. More than 52,000 Fits have sold between January and August this year. And in July — the strongest month to date — over 12,200 units left dealer lots.

By comparison, the company's Acura division sold 12,800 units -- of all models combined.

Honda plans to ship 80,000 and 90,000 units of the 2009 model to the United States during the next 12 months. The second-generation Fit has been in production for over a year in overseas markets and is currently made in five plants around the world.

The Suzuka, Japan factory is the only one currently shipping Fits to the United States. Martin said Honda will consider increasing production at the Suzuka plant or increase US-bound production to one of its other plants if demand continues to rise.

The base sticker of the 2009 Fit, including destination, will be $15,220. Honda raised the price on the new model by $600 from the 2008 model.

The Fit will get up to 35 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city; we'll chart the changes in greater detail tomorrow.

[Source: AN - Sub. Req'd]

August 19, 2008

'09 Civic range debuts with new trim levels, aesthetic tweaks and tech packages

After a series of brochure scans leaked to the Web yesterday, Honda has quelled the rumor mill by laying all their cards on the table.

In a nutshell, all Civic models receive a host of minor styling tweaks; a new front bumper, headlights and grille as well as revised taillights. On sedan models, a small chromed strip on the trunk now flanks the Honda badge.

It's a classic case of not messing with a good thing and as a result only the eagle-eyed will spot the changes at distance. Which is no slight; the futuristic design has sold well.

The big news for '09 comes in the form of new technology packages and trim levels.

Models equipped with the factory navigation system will now also include Bluetooth hands-free cellphone integration. Civic EX, EX-L, Hybrid and Si models will also receive a standard USB-Audio port that allows easy MP3 player integration with the factory stereo. EX-L and Hybrid models will also receive Honda's VSA electronic stability control system as standard equipment.

A leather trimmed interior with heated front seats and side mirrors will also be offered for the Civic Hybrid starting next year. Across the range, new upholstery patterns on seats, door linings and armrests have all been updated to further enhance the interior's look and feel.

Rounding out the changes, two new model trims join the lineup for 2009. At the top of the range, the Civic LX-S Sedan debuts with alloy wheels, sport-trimmed black cloth seats with synthetic suede bolsters, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear deck spoiler and a chrome exhaust finisher. The Civic DX Value Package (DX-VP) sedan builds on the Civic DX standard features by adding air conditioning and a factory stereo.

As expected, drivetrains remain unchanged across the board. The DX, DX-VP, LX, EX and EX-L soldier on with a 140-horsepower 1.8 liter iVTEC inline-four with either a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The Si sedan and coupe continue with their 197-horsepower 2.0 liter iVTEC fours mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

The Civc Hybrid is powered by a 120-horsepower 1.3-liter i-VTEC inline-four with Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) gasoline-electric hybrid technology to enhance both fuel economy and performance, and is equipped with a continuously variable transmission.

Lastly, the Civic GX is powered by a dedicated natural gas version of the Civic's 1.8-liter i-VTEC engine - and is equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission. Both Civic Hybrid and Civic GX are classified as Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (AT-PZEV) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The Civic GX is classified by the EPA as an Inherently Low Emissions Vehicle (ILEV).

[Source: Honda]

August 18, 2008

Lithe VW Passat CC lineup, pricing announced; sales to begin Q4 2008

Inspired by the sensuous lines and stately presence of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-series four door coupe, German automaker Volkswagen will bring the same dynamic design flair to the masses this fall under the aegis of the Passat CC moniker.

At Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last weekend, Volkswagen unveiled a special edition of their newest addition to the U.S. lineup.

Dubbed the Passat CC Gold Coast Edition, the car featured a 3.6 liter V-six gasoline engine with FSI direct injection, the company's DSG dual-clutch six-speed transmission and subtle aerodynamic revisions, lending the car a sporty, yet restrained presence. 19 inch propeller style alloy wheels and a unique paint hue — co-developed with DuPont and consisting of a mix of gold, brown and silver tones — completes the exterior package.

Inside, four ergonomically sculpted seats wrapped in warm brown leather with bronze piping, are set against dark brown interior panels with matching leather highlights. The balance of the interior arrives unchanged from the CC's sedan stablemate , yet with the new color palette and sweeping expanses of glass, the effect is anything but staid.

Taken in sum, the Passat CC is an alluring and refreshing design that brings the sleek essence of plutocrat CLS-class coupes to a new, more attainable price point, all while retaining enough visual DNA to remain a part of the Volkswagen brand.

Despite the dramatic visuals, the timing of VW's newest product comes at a turbulent time for automakers. Today's pricing announcement builds on last month's news that the company would commence construction on a $1 billion dollar plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a part of the company's long term plans to bump Toyota from their slot as the world's second most prolific automaker. It would appear then, that confidence remains high.

Yet Volkswagen is keenly aware of the icy reception Americans bestowed upon the $70,000 Volkswagen Phaeton four years ago this spring. Despite reviews that praised the car for its combination of power and understated grace, buyers rejected the notion of paying a premium price for a premium sedan spoiled by a plebeian badge.

Price, therefore will pay a key role in ensuring the Passat CC's success. The base model CC 2.0T will sell for less than $27,000. Equipped with a 200-horsepower 2.0 liter turbocharged inline-four and a six-speed manual transmission, the base model will be joined by the 280-horsepower CC 3.6 which also borrows its drivetrain from its Passat sedan cousin.

European markets will also receive a 1.8 liter, 160-horsepower model (for markets where road tax is based on engine size) and two diesel variants developing 140 and 170 horsepower respectively.

In a release accompanying the pricing announcement, company marketing chief Detlef Wittig said that the company expects 60 percent of CC sales will come from the U.S. market. In total, production of the CC is expected to top 300,000 units over the next seven years.

Upon initial review, those figures seem timid. The Passat CC combines sleek styling and proven mechanicals at a price heretofore unseen. If there's an automotive iPod marketing theme to be found — a gotta have it product with wheels — the Passat CC has the chutzpah to tap it.

August 15, 2008

VIDEO: 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche's preeminent sports coupe has emerged for 2009 with a new repertoire of technological innovation.

In addition to a raft of subtle aesthetic changes, the big news for 2009 is the introduction of the Porsche Doppel Kupplung , the company's first dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Featuring seven forward speeds and shift times comparable to similar offerings from Ferrari and Lamborghini, Porsche has now entered the realm of world beating sports cars that won't beat up their owners with a heavy clutch pedal.

On the all wheel drive Carrera 4S models, the PDK transmission is paired with an all-new electronically controlled center differential which uses clutches instead of a viscous coupling for greater control over power distribution between the front and rear wheels. Under the aegis of Porsche Traction Management, the new system reduces front wheel power during sharp cornering maneuvers, providing additional cornering grip while the integrated stability control keep the rear wheels firmly planted to the asphalt.

Rounding out the drivetrain revisions, direct fuel injection also makes its debut with the 2009 Carrera range. resulting in more power and improved fuel economy. For the Carrera and Carrera 4, output of the 3.6-liter flat-six rises by 20 horsepower to 345 and when paired with the PDK transmission, EPA combined fuel economy rises from 20 to 23.3 miles per gallon. On the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S, its 3.8 liter flat-six gains 30 additional horsepower for a total of 385; EPA combined fuel economy also rises from 19 to 22 miles per gallon.

Viewed in total, the new 911 Carrera presents more than just an incremental evolution in exterior design. Instead, Porsche has once again applied new technologies and refined them to embolden the 911's future.

In keeping with tradition, we've included a clip from Porsche's latest promotional video.

August 14, 2008

Pardon the interruption...

Instant online publishing is a modern miracle. As such, it is susceptible to modern problems.
With a temperamental modem shutting off at will, the allegorical presses have come to a creaking halt.
A new modem will be installed tomorrow and soon, we'll be back in business.

August 13, 2008

SoCal Edison, Mitsubishi to collaborate next summer on electric vehicle fleet test

In a research effort to gauge the impact of electric vehicles upon the power grid, power company Southern California Edison will partner with Mitsubishi, which will provide prototypes of their i-MIEV electric vehicle.

“Southern California Edison has more than 20 years and 16 million EV miles of experience operating the nation’s largest private fleet of electric vehicles,” said Edward Kjaer, SCE’s director of electric transportation in announcement last week. “This new EV collaboration with Mitsubishi complements SCE’s existing work on plug-in hybrids and next-generation advanced batteries and their effective connection and control by Edison’s next-generation meters.”

The partnership with Mitsubishi comes at a time when the Japanese auto maker is preparing to launch its first electric car. Expected to launch in the Japanese market next year, the i-MIEV will cost roughly ¥4 million (approximately $37,496); government subsidies may reduce the price to around ¥3 million.

Mitsubishi originally planned to delay sales until after the SCE fleet test was complete. The company cited favorable market conditions and rising fuel prices as the reason for starting sales a year ahead of schedule.

The i-MIEV will feature a 63 horsepower electric motor powered by 330-volt lithium-ion batteries. The car will run for roughly 100 miles on a single charge and can be recharged off of a 110-volt outlet in about seven hours. A ‘quick-charge’ pack is also in development; the goal is to charge the car's battery to about 80 percent in under 35 minutes.

Mitsubishi hopes to sell up to 2,000 units in Japan in the first year on the way to nearly 10,000 units by 2011.

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi Motors USA

August 12, 2008

Paolo Pininfarina named CEO, restructuring plan to continue

In the wake of last week's accident which took the life of CEO Andrea Pininfarina, the future of the eponymous Italian design firm was in doubt.

Today, the company announced that Paolo Pininfarina has been chosen to succeed his brother as CEO.
Pininfarina reiterated that the restructuring plan set in motion by Andrea will continue.

The design firm expects to raise nearly 100 million euros this year by selling additional shares of common stock to the company's major shareholders -- among them, Tata Motors of India.

The founding family (of the same name) also aims to reduce its stake to about 30 percent from 55 percent by means of a capital increase that will allow a select group of investors to become shareholders.

Proceeds from the sale of stock will go toward a joint venture with Bollore, a French thermoplastics supplier. Together, the two companies plan to produce an electric powered city car by 2013; the project is considered by many to be pivotal to Pininfarina's revival.

Photo Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images
[Source: AN via Reuters]

August 11, 2008

Tesla sets new record CAFE rating: 244 mpg

With the run-up in gas prices earlier this year, fuel economy became the top concern for buyers. In the latest report by the Department of Energy, the average fuel economy for all cars and trucks sold this year will rise by two-tenths of a mile per gallon to 26.8 mpg.

But an astounding number was buried in this otherwise banal report.

Tesla Motors of San Carlos, California — best known for their electric roadster — received a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rating of 244 mpg. The current federal standard for CAFE is 27.5 mpg.

The new record high rating raises debate over whether the current formula fairly reflects the environmental impact of an electric vehicle compared to one powered by gasoline.

At the heart of the issue is where and how the electricity is generated.

California owners could feasibly recharge future electric vehicles by solar power alone, drivers in less sunny climes would have to rely on power from the grid. There's a major environmental difference between a kilowatt of solar power versus one generated by burning coal.

But in the short term, the high CAFE rating will mean cold cash for Tesla. When CAFE credit trading begins, the automaker will have a large annual surplus to sell.


August 8, 2008

VIDEO: Jay Leno on the Nissan GT-R

With 480 horsepower courtesy of a 3.8 liter twin turbocharged V-6 and an all-wheel-drive system so advanced it's nearly self-aware, the Nissan GT-R a devilishly tempting prospect.

For our Friday video clip , we join Jay Leno & John Weiner as they go under the hood and hit the road with Nissan's new world-beater.

August 7, 2008

Pininfarina CEO killed in motorcycle accident

Andrea Pininfarina, CEO of Pininfarina SpA— the auto design house that crafted the Alfa Romeo Spider, GTV and the Ferrari F355 — was killed today in a traffic accident. He was 51.

Pininfarina died instantly in the collision between his Vespa and a Ford Festiva at about 8:15 a.m in Trofarello near the northern city of Torino, according to local authorities. As of this time, the company has yet to comment.

Pininfarina's death comes at a turbulent time for the iconic carrozeria; he had recently been leading the company's restructuring efforts. The company — founded in 1930 by Andrea's grandfather Battista — has posted losses for four years as incoming work has slowed and production costs have soared.

Bloomberg reported this morning that as part of their turnaround strategy, the company was planning to sell 100 million euros of new shares to its largest investors. Those plans are rumored to be on hold and speculation grows that the company may be sold altogether.

Pininfarina is survived by his wife Cristina Pellion di Persano and three children.


August 6, 2008

Nissan unveils hybrid Infiniti prototype

Nearly a year and a half after the introduction of the Altima Hybrid, Nissan unveiled two new prototypes that indicate the future of the company's low and zero-emission vehicles.

A version of the Infiniti G37 sedan was presented, showcasing a parallel gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain.

In addition to the award-winning VQ-series 3.7 liter V-6, the prototype hybrid uses a pair of electric motors. Both motors are equipped with computer controlled clutches. By combining or alternating power from one or both sources, the hybrid Infiniti can run solely on electric power at low speeds and merge both gasoline and electric power for improved acceleration.

Of importance to enthusiast drivers, the Nissan drivetrain merges electric and gasoline power before it is routed through the transmission. Unlike Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive which relies on a planetary gearbox to divy up the work between the electric and gas motors, Nissan's system can be equipped with either an conventional automatic or manual gearbox.

When the Infiniti hybrid will hit the streets is still anyone's guess, but today's announcement proves indisputably that Nissan will continue to invest in hybrid automobiles.


August 5, 2008

EDITORIAL: Will this be Chrysler's last dance?

Sales figures are in for the first half of the year and suffice to say, 2008 is shaping up to be the worst year for US auto sales in nearly two decades.

Judging by the headlines, Chrysler seems to be most at risk of running aground in the turbulent economic tide. Sales at the Pentastar brand are down 23 percent from a year ago, despite a blitz of sales incentives geared toward consumers spooked by soaring gas prices.

Chrysler's leasing arm has shut down and Chase — one of the nation's largest underwriters of auto loans — has followed suit, refusing to cover loans for Chrysler products. Analysts have responded with muted skepticism, noting that any benefit from fewer loan delinquencies will be offset by slower sales.

So the fundamental question remains. In a market that couldn't be more hostile, is Cerberus Capital Management willing to invest in Chrysler for the long haul? Or are they angling to sell the brand for scrap value?

In many ways, it's an impossible question to answer without having all the facts.
But as one reads between the lines, the outlook grows bleak.

Despite loudly trumpeting gross earnings of $1.1 billion in the first half of 2008, CCM did not disclose their net income for the same period, nor are they obligated to. Daimler AG, which owns the remaining 19.9 percent of Chrysler, provides some insight into the real health of the company.

In their own quarterly report released last month, Daimler noted that Chrysler lost about $500 million in the first quarter of 2008. JPMorgan auto analyst Himanshu Patel estimated that Chrysler will burn through nearly $4 billion by years end.

Adding to the gloomy forecast. Chrysler renewed only $24 billion of its $30 billion credit line for the next 12 months. With reduced access to credit, the company's ability to purchase from suppliers and provide loans to dealers will suffer.

In the absence of good news, silence speaks louder than words. With every day that passes without full disclosure of their assets and liabilities, Chrysler draws closer to the day where their credit will no longer be accepted.

When suppliers demand payment in full for wheels, dashboards, computers and belts, the end will be swift and merciless. With no parts to build cars, dealers will stop placing orders. Within weeks, the money dries up and it's all over.

In the second half of 2008, Chrysler will face an intense and exceptionally brutal fight for its life. Compared to their Japanese competitors (who are still having a rough time of it), the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands are ill equipped to sell on fuel economy.

Their corporate average fuel economy of 28.6 miles-per-gallon is weighed down by an abundance of SUVs, luxury sedans and light trucks. By comparison, Honda's average fuel economy topped the list last year at 33.7 miles per gallon.

Honda's class leading economy is in part buoyed by the success of the 45 mile-per-gallon Civic Hybrid. Chrysler has no direct competitor, nor the funds to build one.

In short, Chrysler needs a miracle in a market never known for charity. Or, for that matter, patience.

[Sources: AP,, Chicago Tribune]

August 4, 2008

VIDEO: X-Games 14 rally wrapup

ESPN's 14th annual X-Game tournament wrapped up yesterday and there's no better time to indulge in a bit of rally car goodness. Crank up the speakers and enjoy the final duel between Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana.

We'll be back tomorrow with a bit more insight on Chrysler's financial outlook.

August 1, 2008

Indolent pedestrians rejoice! Toyota Winglet scooter to rival Segway

Toyota has moved society one step closer to complete indolence with the introduction of the Winglet electric scooter concept.

Smaller, lighter and (likely) much cheaper than the Segway, the 22 pound two-wheeler promises to whisk us about in footstep-free nirvana. It won't be long till our shoes — if not our legs — become redundant.
Or atrophied.

(Source: Reuters)