Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 5-4-15

Handsome, Highly-
regarded Ed Shane
June 26, 1945-March 21, 2015
…and we’re back.

If you missed this column last week, both Harold Gunn and I were attending to the passages of people very close to us. Harold posted to his Facebook page,
I have lost my amazing Mom. She had 92 great years and one crappy month. She's now with Dad. I was blessed to have parents that allowed me to become me.

The man I credit for giving me my start in the Radio business, Ed Shane, lost his battle with colon cancer in March, and a memorial service was held last Sunday at the Redneck Country Club.  Ed was an under-sung Radio legend, but those who knew him best knew his true worth.
He will be sorely missed.

“American Pharoah” won the 141st running of the 2015 Kentucky Derby on Saturday (5/2). Fiat-Chrysler America took advantage of the higher than normal TV viewership of the event to debut a new series of TV commercials themed, “Courage is Already Inside.”
Tiana Falls
The :60-second commercial features vignettes of such accomplished women as avid outdoorsman Eva Shockey, the first woman in 30 years to make the cover of Field and Stream magazine.   

American Thoroughbred horse racing jockey, Rosie Napravnik, two-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks, and country music artist, Miranda Lambert, the Academy of Country Music Awards most-awarded female vocalist, and professional arenacross/motorcross racer, Tiana Falls, are also seen in the spot.

The love affair between Mazda’s MX-5 Miata and Microsoft’s X-box gamers continues, and who can blame them? The companies have announced the third (and final) contest in Microsoft’s ForzaHorzon 2, as they integrate fans into the launch of the new, 2016 MX-5.   

The photo-sharing competition runs through May 26, seeking provocative images of the 2016 or 1994 Miata’s. Grand prizes include a home theater system, an X-Box One, and X-box gift cards.
(What? No one’s giving away a new Miata??)

Mazda MX-5 Line Manager, Rod McLaughlin, visited the Radio show this week and announced the special pre-sale order-taking for thefirst one-thousand 2016 Miata’s. The cars will be special edition models, with unique paint/interior color combinations.
Mazda set a 20-year sales record in April, with 24,123 vehicles sold.
Year-over-year sales are up 7.5%.

Honda is revealing its “Super Speedway” aero kit of aerodynamic upgrades and components Honda’s teams will use at this year’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The Honda Super Speedway Aero Kit includes a variety of individual aerodynamic components fitted to the existing Honda-powered Dallara Indy car chassis.  All are intended to give Honda’s six Indy car the ability to maximize performance during the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

Lots of computer crunching went into the development of the aero kits, including Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology. Honda then validated the designs using Driver-In-Loop (DIL) Simulators, which allowed aerodynamic tweaking prior to the creation of full-size components.

Honda’s Indy car aero kits made their public on-track debut during an Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday (May 3.) Official practice for the Indianapolis 500 opens on Monday, May 11, with the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 scheduled for Sunday, May 24.

Chevrolet’s new 2016 Corvette Z06 C7.R Edition is now available in your choice of colors—so long as you like yellow or black.
This is the real deal: A street-legal version of Corvette Racing’s C7 racecars. Chevrolet is going to build only 500 of these beasts, and all of them will include the Z07 performance package—including a specially-serialized VIN.

Don’t you just hate it when you roll up in your new, low-slung mega-money road chariot, pull up to the parking spot, and grind the nose spoiler on that concrete parking stop?? The ZO6 will have a front “curb-view” parking camera.
At least you’ll see it coming.

Over 100,000 served...
Another notable milestone for Ford Motor Company was reached in April. The company built its 100,000th police interceptor at its Troy Design and Manufacturing facility. This is where Ford’s basic vehicles are “upfitted” to include all the goodies cop cars have that yours and mine do not—beefier suspensions, hotter engines, and upgraded electrical and cooling systems. And lights. Lots of lights.

Ford says the Troy plant has the flexibility to crank out up to 1,200 of the special vehicles weekly. It takes about 5.5-hours to completely upfit a vehicle, including the special vehicle marking wraps.

Who bought Police Interceptor number 100,000?
The Chicago Police Department will place the vehicle into its fleet later this year.

Ford has a 55 percent market share nationally. 

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 4-20-15

I finally got around to seeing “Furious-7,” the latest in the series of heavy-metal car chase thrillers. The movie lives up to the hype. It also ends with a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker, who was killed in a non-related car crash before filming had wrapped. I think I must’ve gotten popcorn salt in my eye, or something. 

In past episodes of the franchise, there was always a teaser at the end of the closing credits letting you know what was in store in the next edition. No such footage was included at the end of “7.”

The Wall Street Journal reports filmmakers destroyed 230 cars in the production of “Furious-7.”
That's nothing.

TV Producers ran through 300 Dodge Chargers filming seasons of “The Dukes of Hazard,” many of which were recycled into set pieces (no longer running) for additional scenes of the show.
Just some good ol’ boys…

Japanese engines in Alabama; American engines in Mexico: Oh, my!
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama is celebrating new production at its automated engine assembly plant in Lincoln, AL. The upgraded facility will manufacture 1,500 V-6 engines a day for Honda’s Odyssey, Pilot and Acura MDX luxury SUV’s.
Meanwhile in Chihuahua and Guanajuato, Mexico, Ford Motor Company is investing $2.5-Billion in new engine and transmission plants. The projects are part of the One Ford global competitiveness program. Ford is marking it’s 90th year of production in Mexico this year.

Viper. You know you want one. And now, Dodge will let you custom design your next Viper sports car online with the Viper GTC Customizer.

There are more than 25-Million unique combination possibilities for the ultra sports car. Dodge will send you a 1:18 scale replica of your customized car upon completion of your order. You know, just to whet your appetite before it’s delivered. The 2015 Custom Viper GTC can be yours for under $95,000…by about $5.
MSRP is $94,995. But who’s counting?

General Motors is upping the ante in the drop-top market by offering Buick’s first new convertible in North America in 25-years. 

The 2016 Cascada (rhymes with “cicada”) will feature a 2+2 configuration in a rigid-body structure. The soft-top coupe will be powered by a 1.6-liter 200-hp turbocharged engine driving the front wheels. Buick designed the Cascada from the ground-up as a convertible; this is no chopped coupe cousin from one of the other assembly lines!

The convertible top can be raised or lowered electrically in about 17-seconds…at speeds up to 31-mph. After that, it becomes a handy speed brake. Not.

GM is sensitive to leaks about the Cascada. Seriously.
See how they test each convertible before it leaves the plant.

How do you market your next, new introduction to the small SUV market? Hire a band. FCA and Jeep are teaming up with X Ambassadors to sing the praises of the new 2015 Jeep Renegade

The group taped a snappy :60-second ditty about topics and themes that resonate with the Renegade crowd. You know, things like adventure, exploration, rebels and skinny-dipping. All of those things are appealing to me, but who wants to watch a Gen-X’er cavorting about? X Ambassadors and Alex Da Kid are featured in the video short.  

In space, no one can hear you scream. But they can see large-font messages from the International Space Station
The 13-year old daughter of ISS Astronaut Terry Virts, Stephanie, was the impetus behind Hyundai’s epic love note in the sand. The feat was accomplished on a dry lake bed back in January. 

The car company not only got the message through, it also set a new Guiness World’s Record for the Largest Tire Track Message, carved by a team of stunt drivers piloting 11 Hyundai Genesis sedans. I don't know what Hyundai's market budget is for the rest of the year, but they could stop spending dollars now--they're never going to top this one!
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 4-13-15

Those acid trips of the '60's could be coming back to haunt you.
Or you may be just viewing the world through Mini's newest innovation, "MINI Augmented Vision," which is being debuted at the 2015 Shanghai Autoshow. At a first glance, however, I must admit I thought I was trippin'.

The concept is described as "intelligent connectivity" between some pretty snappy eyewear and the next-generation of Mini automobiles.

Dr. Jörg Preißinger, project-manager MINI Augmented Vision, BMW Group research and technology, says the company has been working with several Qualcomm divisions on the project. "We have created an interlinked system and Augmented Reality eyewear with a characteristic MINI design that revolutionise the experience both in and outside the vehicle," the good Doctor says.

So where did the psychedelic dog on the surfboard come from? Using see-through technology, the AR Eyewear shows relevant information in your direct field of vision, but without concealing other road users. The main idea is increasing safety and comfort while driving. 

Among the nifty things the system will let you do:
  • Create destination entry for navigation and transfer to vehicle.
Huh?  Select destination points when outside the vehicle, then transferring them to the vehicle. Sort of like programming your GPS by remote control.
  • First Mile/Last Mile: Navigation display from the current location to the vehicle or from the vehicle to the final destination. 
  • Heads-up display functions: Display of speed, speed limits etc. in the eyewear, so the information is your primary field of view, with data always shown in same place above steering wheel to make sure that no road users are concealed from sight. This is like wearing a Corvette heads up display on your head.
  • Contact-analogue navigation and points of interest: Reality is enhanced by contact-analogue navigation arrows “on” the road, as well as display of points of interest along the route, such as open parking spaces.  
  • CMessaging: A small icon is shown in the eyewear when a message is received. The SMS/message can then be read out by the car while driving for safety.
  • X-Ray View / transparent vehicle parts: A virtual view through parts of the vehicle (such as A-pillars and doors) serves to render external areas or objects concealed by the car visible. You might want to disable this on a first-date.
  • Augmented Parking: This facilitates parking by projecting the images from a camera housed in the (farside) mirror into the eyewear. In this way, the distance from the curb can be clearly and easily ascertained.
I think that's all well and good.
But do you think they could include a prompt to let you know when your turn signal is left on, say, for the past 5-miles?

Toyota continues its teaser campaign with glimpses of its new stable of products with this fetching photo of the new Lexus ES luxury sedan. The latest Lexus will make its global debut at Auto Shanghai 2015 on April 20.

The new Lexus ES maintains its classical elegance "while conveying a more dynamic experience and luxurious craftsmanship," so saith the release.


After a protracted period of ugly-ducklingness, the new 2016 Honda Pilot has achieved puberty and grown some sensual curves. The third generation Pilot will go on sale this summer, and Honda says it's ready to take the mid-size SUV segment by storm.

A beefier 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC Earth Dreams Technology engine will produce 280-horsepower, and be mated to new 6- and 9-speed transmissions. The 2016 edition also gets a new Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD System--including a selectable Intelligent Management system featuring four modes.

The 2016 Pilot is available in a new top-of-the-line Elite trim that will include a panoramic glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, second-row heated captain's chairs, and LED headlights, in addition to a long list of standard features throughout the Pilot trim range.

In an answer to many prayers, Honda finally has produced a Civic SI model with wings.

Honda Aircraft Company's HondaJet will begin a world tour in late April with the advanced light jet making its first appearances in Japan and Europe. The HondaJet will travel more than 26,000 nautical miles during the tour and stop in 13 countries along its flight route. I have no idea what that carbon footprint will look like, but I'd sure like a ticket to ride.

"The HondaJet world tour is a tribute to Honda's challenging spirit to bring something truly innovative to business aviation," said Honda Aircraft Company President and CEO Michimasa Fujino. The HondaJet is currently offered for sale in North America and Europe through the HondaJet dealer network.  

Speaking of sweet dreams, if you've been coveting the new 2016 Nissan 370Z line-up, and were wondering how much the Coupe, NISMO or  Roadster might set you back, Nissan has released its new pricing grid for the sinfully fast cars. 

There are eight Coupes, four NISMO's and five Roadster configurations...aaand they'll all cost the same this year as last year.  You can't blame inflation on the price of a Z-car.

The starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (M.S.R.P.) for the 370Z Coupe with manual transmission is $29,990, while the 2016 370Z NISMO has a starting MSRP of $41,990 USD with a manual transmission. The 2016 370Z Roadster starts at $41,820 USD.

Complete details on all 2016 370Z models are available here. All prices plus
$825 Destination and Handling ...but I'd do it for half.

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