Monday, March 30, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News Wk of 3-30-15

2015 Scion Tc 9.0 Limited Edition
I love Houston in the Spring.
New York is a close-second, and the first weekend in April is doubly-attractive in the Big Apple with the opening of the New York International Auto Show.  

Scion is staging an impressive display at this year's show, keyed to the evolution of the youth-oriented brand.

Forget that--I'm in my sixth decade of orbiting the sun, and I still get excited sitting behind the wheel of a Scion FRS.

Toyota is debuting the FRS 1.0 and Scion Tc 9.0 at the show, featuring all kinds of goodies from Toyota Racing Development (TRD). A special, limited-edition, two-tone version Tc sports coupe is also being released, designed in conjunction with Jeremy Lookofsky of Cartel Customs.

Among the goodies included:

  • a unique black and magma exterior
  • an aero kit designed by Cartel Customs
  • a center exhaust
  • a Smart Key with Push Button Start featuring the “Cartel Logo”
  • orange front seat belts
This is not your grandfather's Toyota...but he'd want one!

No Acronym Zone: We all know the difference between DST and CST--it's an hour's worth of sleep, as my part of the country switches from Central Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time.
I will refrain from further comment about that, but refer you to my annual diatribe here.
So what in the world is DTM?

Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters is the German equivalent of NASCAR, which conjures up all kinds of questions: Do they all make right turns in Europe--you know, on the other side of the road? What's the German language sound like with a Southern drawl? "Guten tag, y'all?" Talk about conflicting culture stereotypes!  In an effort to shatter these and other myths about the sport, the DTM has adopted Queen's immortal rock anthem, "We Are the Champions," as it's own for the 2015 racing season.

Returning drivers for the defending Manufacturer's Cup Champion, Audi, are Mattias Ekström, Mike Rockenfeller, and Timo Scheider. Theirs is the only unchanged line-up in the series, and the trio is primed and loaded for the new season. These guys are as passionate about DTM--and Audi--as their American counterparts are about Ford's and Chevy's.

2015 Audi RS5 DTM
"For me as a race driver, the Audi RS 6 is the perfect combination of performance, comfort and dynamics," raves Scheider. "In everyday driving, it is quite simply the Audi model to have. I've been driving it as a company car for a very long time, and am going to order an RS 6 again," he says.

The 2015 Season gets underway in Hockenheim, in the Upper Rhine Valley, the first weekend in May.

Stateside, Audi continues its exposure  with the release of a new "Transporter" film, sans Jason Stratham, in June.
I can't wait.

There are some things that would seem to be a crime against nature:
Daylight Saving Time comes to mind (as I beat a dead horse), and allowing ungainly vehicles onto a race track. The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile was recently allowed to run a couple of laps around the course at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

No words.
The tubesteak on wheels was being paced by Mazda Raceway CEO Gill Campbell in her MX-5. The real news, however, became the viral nature of the resulting photographs and videos. 

"In less than 48 hours, a Facebook posting of the event showing the Wienermobile traversing the world famous Corkscrew turns reached more than 850,000 people, and garnered 7,147 likes, 538 comments and 2,433 shares," boasted a release. Now put that thing back in the garage.

I don't understand it, but I'll tell you about it.
There's a new Smartcar coming.

2015 Smart Car for two
The new-and-improved edition is equipped with a turbocharged, 898-cc 3-cylinder engine, producing 89-hp. Hey, don't laugh--this baby goes zero-to-60mph in 4.8-seconds.

A standard crosswind-assist system is also in place for those situations in which a passing 18-wheeler can create a dangerous effect on the 1,808-lb. two-seater.

Mercedes Benz is offering the 2015 version in three trim lines: Passion, Prime, and Proxy. Hopefully it will come with parking instructions.
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Monday, March 23, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News for Wk of 3-23-15

Lexus will introduce the all-new 2016 RX at the 2015 New York International Auto Show on April 1st. No fooling. 
What it will look like is still up for speculation, but it appears the "floating roof" concept is alive and well. The RX was launched 17-years ago, and the 2016 edition will be the fourth-generation in the line.

Cadillac is announcing a new generation of V-6 engines, led by an exclusive Twin Turbo V-6, "that will be one of the industry’s most advanced six-cylinder gasoline engines," according to a company release. The power plant will be featured in the new CT6 luxury performance sedan, also to be revealed at the end of the month at the New York International Auto Show.

What's in store? 
The 3-L Twin Turbo will produce 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, which works out to about 133-hp per liter. Cadillac predicts the engine will realize a 6% improvement in fuel economy.

Did you know? In 1903, the first production Cadillac motor cars were equipped with a single-cylinder engine--rated at 10 hp. 

Aluminum is not the only high-tech story in the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck. There's now a considerable amount of recycled material being used to build the new trucks.

Ford Motor Company has been collaborating with Unifi for the past three years to bring environmentally responsible, high-performance REPREVE fiber to many Ford vehicles, including the F-150. 

REPREVE is made from 100% recycled materials, including plastic bottles. Ford estimates it will divert more than five million plastic bottles from landfills this year. The seat covers, for example, are made from recycled plastic water bottles.
Now for the bad news.
Those new aluminum bodies on the F-150 are sure pretty, lighter, and help allow for a heavier payload. But--they also are more expensive to repair, according to a test by the folks at
Glad they tried this; I can't afford to.

Everything's bigger in Texas. The State Word is "superlative."
Now we learn that Texas led the nation in diesel powered vehicle registrations for 2014. The Diesel Technology Forum says 893,553 diesel cars, trucks and SUV's were tagged in Texas. 

Admittedly, our higher station population helps bolster those kinds of numbers, but trends in other states indicate diesels are coming more into vogue, despite lower gasoline fuel prices. Numbers crunchers say clean diesel cars and SUVs showed an increase of 13.5 percent in 2014 over 2013, and hybrid cars and SUVS increased by 15.1 percent.  

Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, says "While diesel passenger vehicles currently make up a modest 2.88 percent of the entire U.S. vehicle market, consensus forecasts predict that diesel cars, pickups and SUVs will comprise about seven percent of the market by 2020." Schaeffer says that's just over one million diesel-powered cars and trucks on the road.

Nissan's all-electric LEAF now comes with a paint option that makes the car glow in the dark. The new paint theme is part of a marketing pitch by Nissan to underscore the point that many LEAF drivers are now using solar power to recharge their vehicles at home.  

Near Oss, Netherlands, there is a luminous Smart Highway--which uses the glow-in-the-dark concept to eliminate power-sucking streetlights. So Nissan thought it would be cool to film the glow-in-the-dark car driving down that glow-in-the-dark roadway.
Nissan, coincidentally, reports electric vehicle sales in the Netherlands grew 313% last year.
Dutch treat, indeed.

Finally, now that the Houston Rodeo is over, and SXSW is past, what's a body to do for kicks? Perhaps a bit of Mustang and learn, Grasshopper.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Automotive Reporter/Biz News Wk of 3-16-15

You may find this difficult to believe, but General Motors has sold nearly a half-million of its fifth-generation Camaro coupe. Chevrolet is set to deliver its 500,000th Gen-5 Camaro sometime this month. The newest edition of the popular car went on sale in August 2009, and by 2010 had surpassed the Mustang in car sales, selling well over 80-thousand vehicles a year.2015 is the final production year for the Gen-5 Camaro. One can only guess at how Gen-6 may perform!

While the 2015 Ford Mustang is considered by many the "prettiest" body style yet, some are still hankering for the original pony car of yesteryear. Now you can purchase a newly-built 1964-1/2 Ford Mustang with modern-day upgrades.

The first true replica of the Mustang was revealed over the weekend at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance by Revology Cars, a manufacturer based in Winter Park, Florida. 

The new-and-improved 'Stangs feature modernized powertrains and technology, including an improved suspension system, four-wheel disc brakes, LED headlights and tail lights, and a 5.0-L V-8.

The resurrected Mustang isn't cheap--base price is $119,500 FOB Winter Park, FL. It is available in both convertible and fastback body styles. Revology Cars is accepting orders now for delivery in Spring 2016. 

General Motors is taking notes from Ford's recent success with the Aluminum F-150 pickup truck, and is announcing new alchemy for its Cadillac CT-6. GM will use an "advanced mixed-material approach for the lightweight body structure," which will be aluminum intensive. Cadillac says it will use 13 different materials specifically made for each area of the car to enhance performance, economy and cabin quietness.

Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen says, "We used high-strength aluminum and high-strength steels; lightweight chassis components; we integrate aluminum and steel where it makes sense; we eliminate every gram of mass possible." de Nysschen calls the process "the rocket science of automobile construction and manufacturing today.”

Cadillac in January revealed a series of high-technology material joining techniques that create a new methodology for assembling the CT6. These enabled engineers to design a completely new structure for which 21 patents are pending. Thirteen complex high-pressure die cast components make up the lower structure of the CT6 body, along with aluminum sheets and extrusions. Engineers boast the car's cabin will have "bank vault quiet" in its interior.

While we're talking about building cars, Mazda announced in the past week the start of production for its all-new 2016 MX-5 Miata in Japan. If you're frothing at the mouth to get your hands on one of these, Mazda and Microsoft have come up with a virtual solution for you.  

Beginning March 17, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) is giving Forza Horizon 2 players the exclusive opportunity to drive the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata on Xbox One, months before the physical car goes on sale to the public. Attendees at the SXSW Gaming Expo in Austin over the weekend were treated to two interactive driving simulators preloaded with the 2016 MX-5 software.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra is betting on three areas of innovation that will help shatter the glass ceiling for women in the automotive industry. Barra predicts more dramatic change in the next decade than the car building business has seen in the past 50 years, thanks to women engineers leading the way in some key technological advances: Electrified vehicles, infotainment and software development, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication. She says these are critical to changing the way we drive. 

Mecum Auctions returns to Houston’s NRG Park April 9-11 with 1,000 American muscle cars, Corvettes, classics, hot rods, Resto Mods and more set to cross the auction block. Last year's auction was capped by the historic sale of the 1964 Ford GT40 Prototype for $7 million. This year's event will feature three private collections, including 45 cars offered by Houston’s Charlie Thomas.

Thomas operated more than 40 car dealerships, one of the largest dealership networks in the United States. His most visible activity outside the car business was as the managing partner of the Houston Rockets, which he owned from 1982 through 1993.

Going on the block will be a 1969 Dodge Hemi Daytona (Lot S100) and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird (Lot S105), both featuring the 426-horsepower Hemi V8 engine and four-speed transmission. 

The 1969 Dodge is one of only 20 built combining the dual four-barrel Hemi engine with the Hurst Pistol Grip-shifted heavy-duty four-speed manual transmission, and the 1970 Plymouth is one of only 58 Hemi four-speed versions produced.

Mecum Auctions founder, Dana Mecum, says “Houston and the state of Texas have enormous passion for quality collector cars, and that’s precisely what we’ll have crossing the auction block throughout the three-day event.”

Other featured consignments include a 1932 Duesenberg Model J Phaeton (Lot S92.1) from the Tom Goodlett Estate Collection, a rare factory supercharged F-Code 1957 Ford Thunderbird (Lot S173) from the Charlie Thomas Collection and a 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition with only 13 miles on the odometer (Lot S115.1).

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