Ford And Microsoft Are Hohm-ies

The car above is the Ford Focus Electric. Ford and Microsoft say it will be the first of many vehicles to use Microsoft's new technology, Hohm.

The news release begins thus:

Imagine a future where your garage is smart enough to tell your car when the least expensive time is to charge your plug-in electric vehicle. Where, based on settings that you can adjust from a laptop or smartphone, you could optimize the energy efficiency of your home appliances, lights, air conditioning or heating and, maybe most importantly, your car.

If that's intriguing to you, you can read the entire news release here.

If it's slightly troubling, you can read what Bob Lutz said this morning here.

Lutz: Americans Won't Be Driving In 30 Years

General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, an auto show floor and reporters are always a recipe for a good quote. But this is one we could have gone forever without hearing.

"Maximum Bob" told reporters at the New York International Auto Show today that Americans won't be driving themselves 30 years from now...the cars will do it for them. Read it yourself at The Detroit News.

Mazda 6 Diesel: 43 MPG Highway?

Mazda's CEO is telling The Detroit News that its new diesel engine will get hybrid-like numbers "without any electrification." 

As in 43 MPG highway in the 2012 Mazda 6.

Full story here.

2011 Chevrolet Volt: First One Built

The first "manufacturing validation" example of the Chevrolet Volt electric car went down the assembly line earlier this week.

The Detroit News reports that several hundred more will be built for evaluation and testing before production of for-sale cars begins this fall.

2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible Unveiled At NY Auto Show

More pulse-quickening stuff from the New York International Auto Show as Bentley showcases the 2011 Continental Supersports Convertible.

The juicy details: Twin-turbo W12 with 621 horsepower that can run on both gasoline and E85 bioethanol.

0-60: 3.9 seconds.

0-100: 9.6 seconds.

Top speed: 202 mph.  It's 198 pounds lighter than the Continental GTC Speed model.


And the Supersports Convertible features a "unique, driver-focused cabin".

For you? $280,400.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon Unveiled At New York Auto Show

An oxymoron died today.

The one that pairs "station wagon" with "lust".

Behold the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon.

556 horsepower from a 6.2-liter V8.

Six speed transmission. Manual or automatic, you pick.

Magnetic ride control, Brembo brakes, dual 3-inch exhausts.


And that's where you get to sit. Perforated sueded 14-way adjustable microfiber seats, a Bose 5.1 surround system with a 40 gig hard drive....

Full details in the official GM Media release here.

Toyota, Police Investigating New Unintended Acceleration Claim

76 year old Myrna Marseille of Wisconsin was parking her 2009 Toyota Camry at the local YMCA when she says it accelerated suddenly...into the Y's wall.

Toyota tells WISN-TV it's investigating. Potentially helpful...the Sheboygan Falls Police Department is right across the parking lot from the Y....and has security cameras that may have caught the entire event.


Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Review

Ignorance is bliss.

During my week in the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT, I was won over...the user-friendliness, utility and ease of driving erased misgivings I had about the materials inside being a cut or so below that of a Honda Odyssey.

It was delivered without a window sticker, so I checked the Dodge website. Base price $27,825. Reasonable, bordering on a bargain.

I knew it was loaded...but I didn't realize how loaded until I asked for a copy of the sticker. This minivan had more than $13,000 in options...jacking the bottom line all the way up to $41,385. No longer reasonable nor a bargain.

So what could I live without if I were playing with my own money?

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Build In May, Sell In July

The product drought is coming to an end for Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealers. The 2011 Grand Cherokee begins production in May and should begin arriving in showrooms by July.

2011 Nissan Juke

The smaller-than-a-Rogue Nissan Juke crossover got its official auto show introduction in Geneva a few weeks ago, but Nissan put on on display in New York Tuesday night ahead of the Wednesday opening of the New York International Auto Show.

Automotive News was there.

Nissan Leaf Orders Begin April 20; Price $25,280 With Tax Credit

Nissan says it will begin taking North American orders for its electric vehicle, the Leaf, on April 20.

The New York Times reports the sticker will be $32,780, but a federal tax credit gets it down to $25,280...which pretty well puts it head-to-head with the Toyota Prius.

There's also a $2,000 charger, but a federal tax credit will reimburse half of that cost.

100 MPH+ In An Oldsmobile Bravada. Shots Fired. Just Another Day In L.A.

The CHP spots an Oldsmobile Bravada on I-15 near Cajon Pass, runs the plate and finds out the car is wanted in connection with an attempted murder in Indiana. And the chase is on...all the way to Universal Studios....with gunfire in stopped traffic...innocent motorists mere feet away.
Full story from the Los Angeles Times (with different video from KTLA).

CHP Officer On Mulholland: "Go Ahead, Make My Day." Motorcyclist Obliges.

Really kinda speaks for itself, doesn't it?

NASA To Help Investigate Unintended Acceleration

Gee, maybe it is rocket science.

Despite decades of experience and data indicating that the vast majority of unintended acceleration incidents fully investigated end up being cases of drivers standing on the gas instead of the brake, the Obama administration has decided to launch not one, but two investigations...one by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the help of The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the other by The National Academy of Sciences...to get to the bottom of the unintended acceleration incidents that have been plaguing Toyota and other manufacturers.

How long? 15 months.

How much? $3 million.


NSFW (Not Safe For Work) Safe Driving Promos

If you told me the above was a documentary about what's behind a lot of sudden acceleration claims from Toyota Prius drivers, I wouldn't argue.

But it's actually one of several safe driving spots from Australia, targeting young, distracted drivers and being just a bit rude to cut through the clutter. See the rest here.

Lincoln Hybrid MKZ Unveil At NYC Auto Show

Lexus is rolling out the hybrids, so why not Lincoln? Expect an announcement this week at the New York Auto Show that there will be a 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Not that big a stretch, really...given that the MKZ is a derivative of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, both of which have hybrid models. We loved the Milan Hybrid...but will the MKZ be different enough to justify the Lincoln price tag?

The Detroit News talked to at least one analyst who isn't so sure. Story here.

Mazda To License Prius Hybrid Technology From Toyota

You'll see Mazda hybrids on the street in 2013, but there'll be Toyota technology helping to power the new Mazda Sky engine.

Carbon Motors: All We Need Is Cash

A week ago, BMW was telling us that it had landed a big deal with Carbon Motors to supply its purpose-built police cruiser, the E7, with six-cylinder diesel engines.

Today, Carbon Motors says it's all good...if the U.S. government loans it $310 million.

Story from Automotive News here.

China's Geely To "Liberate" Volvo

It's a done deal. Volvo is now the property of Chinese automaker Geely, whose founder says Volvo is a "tiger" that needs to be "liberated".

Part of that "liberation" is wider distribution, and the production of 300,000 units a year in a Chinese factory.


Toyota Death Toll: 102

The Los Angeles Times says its review of public records indicates 102 people have been killed in Toyota vehicle accidents linked to unintended acceleration.

Two things to remember when reading the piece: One, that the number of reports increases when a problem is reported and many of those reports are later found to be unrelated to the problem. And two, that in the vast majority of cases fully investigated where a cause can be found, unintended acceleration incidents end up being a case of drivers standing on the gas pedal when they believe (and have reported, if they survived) they were standing on the brake.

Full story from the Times here.


Hitman Challenger UPDATE: The Real Deal Revealed (updated 5:50 PM)

The mystery (well, at least part of it) of "Hitman" and the $29,100 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 auction is over.

Brad Davis at Glenn E. Thomas Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep confirms that the dealership did honor the $29,100 auction as Hitman said...but for a different car of arguably higher value. 

Jonny Lieberman at Autoblog got it right...Hitman (real first name Alex) went home in a new 2010 Challenger SRT-8 instead of the 2009 with 500 miles on the odometer.  Davis tells me the '09 was sold to another client last week while the auction was in dispute.

Hitman was offered his pick of three 2010 Challenger SRT-8s and chose a black one. The '09 was blue.

Hitman also gets $2,000 worth of Mopar accessories of his choosing.

All this leaves his cheering section at the ChallengerTalk Forums wondering why "Hitman"s been so uncommunicative since taking delivery of the car on Saturday. If anything, he won bigger. A poster who says he talked to "Hitman" says he's under legal constraints about what he can discuss...but if so, why was Brad Davis so willing to divulge details?

Dunno. Tirekicker only pawn in game of life.

If you want more, there's still a fair amount of head-scratching going on at the ChallengerTalk forums, where the auction thread, started by "Hitman" on March 13, just had its 400,000th page view today. Pick it up from where we broke the story this afternoon here.

Consumer Reports Demonstrates Stopping Distance Difference With Brake Override

Brake override cuts the gas when you apply a certain amount of pressure on the brake. There's a push to make it mandatory, thinking that it will help end cases of unintended acceleration. Never mind that most of those cases thus far have shown that the drivers weren't on the brake at all, but instead standing on the gas pedal.

Well, Consumer Reports says whether your acceleration is unintended or not, brake override cuts the stopping distance of your car...which is a good thing.

And, because they know we worry...CR also says brake override won't affect "enthusiast driving".

Challenger SRT-8 Auction Watch: The Hitman Cometh, Leaveth Questions

Well, last night at 9:47PM PDT, "Hitman" surfaced on the forum, acknowledging, but not answering any of the questions:

A lot of questions and rumors definitely coming to light after this whole experience from different sources that are making claims. Many requests to post pictures and give an explanation of how it went down in the end.

Plan of posting pics and all that good stuff after I work on getting a couple of coats of wax and the right shine. It's only been a few days of driving it around and trying to do the proper break period as it has been suggested.

Been on the board every night reading everyone's posts in this thread and jumping around the ChallengerTalk.com board, learning more about the SRT8 and looking at what the proud owners have done to personalize theirs. This board has a lot to offer and maybe I will learn a few things along the way as well.

The ChallengerTalk forum members who rallied around "Hitman" when it appeared Glenn E. Thomas Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep of Signal Hill, California was going to refuse to give him the car (at first claiming a glitch erased their $42,000+ reserve...which eBay said didn't and couldn't happen) also cheered at "Hitman"'s posting early Sunday morning that "the dealership honored the $29.1K auction", along with this photo:

But now, as we reported, a lot of them are beginning to doubt the whole story...whether "Hitman" got the car in the auction....whether he got it for $29,100....whether he got a different car (fueled by a Jonny Lieberman piece on Autoblog which reported that the delership "did better than the right thing, selling Alex a 2010 Challenger SRT8 rather than the 250-mile car he won in the auction"---Jonny got the mileage wrong, it had 500)....whether he got any car, or whether "Hitman" is in fact the person who won that auction (eBay generates anonymous bidder IDs). 

And there are questions raised by the eBay bidding record for the auction, which shows the winning bid was $9,000 higher than the leading bid at the time...several hours before the end of the auction.

Does "Hitman's" post last night make ChallengerTalk members happy now? Not a chance. Just one response:

Sorry, I am really on the edge of calling BS here. (And I know I am an outsider, but still...)

You can take the time to post this dribble, but can not take the time to tell us what went down and what exactly you ended up buying? Also, a brand new car does not need to be waxed to shine.
Forget the pics, just tell the story.

Follow along, beginning with "Hitman's" post last night, here.

By the way, we checked...the SRT-8 in the auction is not in the dealership's online inventory as of this morning.

The Scarlet Sticker: New Jersey Teens Branded By License Plate Sticker

Imagine the Springsteen lyrics if they'd come up with this idea in the 70s:  New Jersey is requiring drivers under 21 to affix a red sticker to the upper left corner of their license plates. They'll pay $4 for the decal, a $100 fine if they remove it, and police will be able to use the sticker as probable cause for pulling over drivers for teen-specific offenses like curfew violations.

2011 Mustang V6: More HP Than Camaro Six, Cheaper Too

The legendary pony car battles of the 1960s usually centered around the most powerful V8 versions.

Things change in 40 years. The 2011 Mustang V6 hits showroom floors next month with 305 horsepower...exactly one more than the Chevrolet Camaro six.

Not enough to move your needle? Ford figured. So they're pricing the 'Stang six at $22,925...$535 below the Camaro's base price.

Don't expect this to stand, though...GM's already reportedly at work on bumping up the output of their six-cylinder engine, and we could see a price war here as well.


Steve McQueen's 80th Birthday

If he were alive, he'd be 80 today. So let's celebrate by watching the ultimate Steve McQueen car moment: the chase scene from Bullitt.

For more on McQueen, the movie and the last-gen Ford Mustang Bullitt, go here.

GM To Re-Calibrate Cadillac SRX Turbo Engine After Press Fleet Vehicle Dies On Regular Gas

We've all been there...the owner's manual says 91 octane minimum, but accidentally or to save a few bucks, we pump in some regular gas.

What's the worst that could happen?

Where's 'Hitman" And His Car? (Updated 12:36 PM MST)

The ChallengerTalk Forums have been on a rollercoaster ride the past week: Outrage over a member named "Hitman" being denied the keys to a 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 after a $29,100 winning bid on eBay was disputed by Southern California dealer Glenn E. Thomas Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep....support for "Hitman" when it was announced that he and the dealer were going to sit down face to face last Friday after eBay announced there was no technical glitch, as the dealer had claimed.....and celebration when, just after 7:00 AM PST Sunday morning, "Hitman" posted the news that the dealership "honored the $29.1K auction", along with a photo that showed a key with a Glenn E. Thomas fob atop a Challenger brochure and a handwritten note reading "YES!"

One more post, three hours later...saying he was going to take it easy, read the owner's manual...and since then...silence. At least from "Hitman".  No more posts, no more photos.

From members of the forums? Well, a growing number of posters are questioning whether things are as they seem.  They don't really know "Hitman" (he'd only made two posts on the forum prior to starting the thread about his having won the auction on March 13).

An examination of the bidding record for the auction raises some questions, too. 15 bids were made for the SRT-8, by only 5 bidders.

March 12, a single bidder made 10 bids, ranging from $22,000 to $29,000, with no competing bids in between, in a four and a half hour period. These appear to be automatic bids.

And then comes "Hitman" (or so we're told, since eBay keeps actual bidder IDs confidential by assigning an anonymous bidder name)...who makes his one and only bid of $29,100.

But unless there's a glitch with eBay time stamps, that's weird, too...because the $29,100 bid is shown as having been made at 08:54:13 PST...and the 10-bid streak described above didn't start until 11:00:25 PST...more than two hours later. Which means "Hitman" chose $29,100 as his bid when the standing high bid was $20,100.

A last-moment hail-mary to shut out the competition? Maybe. Except "Hitman"'s winning bid was more than five hours before the auction closed. And eBay says automatic bidders' maximum bids are kept confidential from other bidders.

Open up "Hitman"'s bidding history and you'll find he's no power bidder. He's been involved in exactly four eBay auctions...and the Challenger SRT-8 is the only one where he had the winning bid.

Hey, it could be that "Hitman" is just out enjoying the SRT-8...but his friends in the Challenger community are beginning to wonder if they've been had.

Why GM Killed The Cadillac Converj

Despite the unveiling of the EN-V, there are people inside General Motors who envision a world where utter desirability and envirnomental responsibility aren't polar opposites. Case in point: The Cadillac Converj, the sensation of the 2009 North American International Auto Show.

But the Converj is a no-go now, and Motor Trend's Todd Lassa's got the reasons why.

GM EN-V Unlikely To Produce Envy Among Enthusiasts

General Motors says that by 2030, urban areas will be home to more than 60% of the world's then 8-billion people. Public transport will have trouble keeping up, GM says, so....

Behold the EN-V, short for Electronic Networked-Vehicle. Seats two, electric powered, 25 mile range and with interactivity that will allow the car to consult GPS, select the best route and take it from there. The design? Evolved from Segway's P.U.M.A prototype.  It's a partnership with SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp) Group.

The EN-V will be on display at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai from May 1 through October 31. Full details in the GM news release here.

UPDATE: Daimler AG To Pay $185 Million To Settle Bribery Charges

Well, that didn't take long. Less than 24 hours after word that the United States Department of Justice had filed bribery charges against Daimler AG, the makers of Mercedes-Benz, comes news that Daimler will settle with the feds by paying $185 million.


Jalopnik Calls BS On CNN's TSB

One of the best things about new media is that we acknowledge the existence and work of others in the same field and help it reach a wider audience. In radio and TV, where I began my career (and still work), the "other guys" are never mentioned, unless it's in connection with videotape of one of their reporters and a barnyard animal dressed in the outfit on page 38 of the Victoria's Secret catalog.

I've been a Jalopnik reader and fan for a lot of years (the Samuel L. Jackson Maybach piece still has me laughing three-plus years later)...reporting like Matt Hardigree's reinforces that.

Consultants Say Toyota's Looking In The Wrong Places For Electronic Interference

Three British consultants meeting with U.S. investigators tomorrow say Toyota's never found evidence of electronic interference in acceleration because they don't know where to look and it's very difficult to detect.

Full story from Automotive News.

Bribery Charges Filed Against Daimler AG

The United States Justice Department has filed charges against Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, alleging a "long-standing practice of paying bribes to foreign officials."

The feds say at least 22 countries were involved over a ten-year span and hundreds of payments to foreign officials worth tens of millions of dollars.

Toyota Will Replace Accelerator Pedals For Customers Who Complain About Repaired Originals

The squeaky gas pedal gets the grease...or something like that.

Anyway, The New York Times has a memo from Toyota to its dealers telling them to replace accelerator pedals only if customers complain about the metal bar repair Toyota recommends.

“Accelerator pedal replacement is based on specific customer request only,” said the memo, which was addressed to dealers, service managers and parts managers. “Dealers are not to solicit pedal replacement.”

Full story from The New York Times.

Bodaciously Hot Tatas: Up In Flames In A Nano-Second

While we here in the States deal with people standing on the wrong pedal and who don't know that neutral is the best gear for stopping an allegedly runaway car while trying to balance it against documents suggesting there may be a problem beyond those causes,  things in India are much simpler, and easier to prove.

The cars are actually in flames.

According to Indian Autos Blog, the world's least expensive car, the Tata Nano, has had four fire incidents recently...and they're reporting that Tata has ordered an investigation.

80% Of BMW 1-Series Owners Think It's Front-Wheel Drive (Note to 1-Series Owners: It's Not)

The word last week that BMW's future would include front-wheel drive vehicles induced near apoplexy in the automotive journalist community. "Is nothing sacred?", they cried.

Well, there are drivers and there are operators of motor vehicles and the truth is that even enthusiast brands have far more of the latter than the former for customers.

Study: New Airbags Less Protection For Belted Drivers Than Old Airbags

Most interesting: Passengers, belted or unbelted, do better with the new bags...as do unbelted drivers.

CNN: 2002 Technical Service Bulletin Suggests Toyota Knew Of Electronic Acceleration Surges

The TSB from eight years ago was provided by attorneys for plainiffs in class action suits. They say it proves Toyota knew it had a problem, and knew it wasn't floor mats, at the beginning of the last decade.

Toyota calls them "baseless allegations" and "unfounded claims".

Around The World In 6 And A Half Months: Tesla Odyssey of Pioneers

Electric car maker Tesla Motors and watchmaker TAG Heuer are partnering for an around-the-world trip in the one of a kind TAG Heuer Edition Roadster you see above.

Launching from Basel, Switzerland this week, the plan is 27,000 miles, 15 cities, 150 towns and three continents, wrapping up in Paris, France on October 4.

Follow along on the Odyssey of Pioneers website,  Facebook or Twitter .

Mitsubishi To Triple Electric Car Output; Sell i-MiEV In U.S. In 2011

Mitsubishi says it plans to triple its electric car output over the next three years, and will sell the i-MiEV, currently on sale in Japan, here in the U.S. in 2011.

A seven-hour charge is good for up to 100 miles in the i-MiEV, according to Mitsu, but even they admit that it's a pricey vehicle...it costs double what a Prius does in Japan...the equivalent of $51,000 in today's American dollars.

Full story from AP and The Detroit News here.

Chryslancia! The Plan Revealed

It worked for Saturn and Opel and Pontiac and Vauxhall...oh....wait.

Well, Fiat's got nothing else, so look for Chrysler and Lancia to share gene pools, but not sales markets.

Good News For The Dealer Dudes

One minute you're an outcast, the next, you're Mark Reuss' BFF.

Automotive News reports the GM North America president has been letting reinstated GM dealerships know by Facebook...using phrases like "Trust me dude you guys are in!"

Full story here.


Unanimous: Harrison, NY PD Agrees: Driver Error, Not Unintended Acceleration

The one on the right is the gas pedal. The one on the left is the brake pedal. The chief of the Harrison, New York Police Department says, yep...the 55 year old woman who crashed her Toyota Prius hybrid into a stone wall two weeks ago...the one he said couldn't have been driver error at the time.....was, well, driver error, the most common cause of fully investigated unintended acceleration incidents.

Captain Anthony Marracccini says his department's investigation confirms what Toyota and the NHTSA's found...that the throttle was wide-open at the time of impact...with no sign of any application of the brake.

AP story via The Detroit News here. Conversations among Prius drivers on the PriusChat forums.

Bentley Mulsanne Paint: This Ain't MAACO

When the sticker starts at about $300,000 and you're offering 115 different paint colors, you tend to obsess. Here's a video from Bentley that shows why it takes 86 hours to paint a Mulsanne:

Cadillac Recalling 2003-2007 CTS In 20 States And D.C.

The problem? Front brake hose assemblies that can corrode and rupture.

The recall notice? Here.

Subaru Recalls 2010 Tribeca: Doors Could Come Open When Raising Or Lowering Window

The NHTSA says Subaru is recalling a six-month run of 2010 Tribecas, built between September 4, 2009 and March 8, 2010, because of an improperly placed cable. It can catch in the door glass regulator and when you go to roll up or roll down the window, the driver or front passenger door could unlatch and come open "creating a risk that an occupant could be ejected as well as a risk that the driver may become distracted, leading to a crash."

Full recall notice here.

VIDEO: Audi Explains A7 Four-Door Hatchback As A "New Class" Of Car

Well, we'll give it this...it's a heck of a lot prettier than the upcoming BMW 3-series four-door fastback.

Harrison, NY Police To Announce "Runaway Prius" Findings This Afternoon

But instead of saying..."yeah...what the feds say....", the Harrison PD plans to announce their own findings this afternoon. It should be interesting, given that the police chief started by ruling out driver error at the scene two weeks ago, then amended his position to a definite maybe last week, before the NHTSA announced the results of its investigation.

The PriusChat forums are talking about it here.

Lexus CT200h Premium Compact Hybrid A Go

Last month, the Geneva Auto Show, next year, your dealer's showroom.

It will be Lexus' second compact hybrid. Read our take on the HS250h here, and Prius owners are talking about the video above and the car in it on the PriusChat forums, and there's a second thread about it as well.

GM Sues Corvette Replica Maker

GM's not thrilled that you can buy a $90,000 replica of the '63 Corvette Grand Sport, of which five were built. So they're suing Mongoose Motorsports, the replica maker.

Full story from The Detroit News.

2013 BMW 3-Series To Include Blind-Spot Special

If you're among those who find the recent outbreak of four-door fastbacks (BMW X6, Honda Accord Crosstour, Acura ZDX) disconcerting from an aesthetic and practical point of view, get set for a long ride.

BMW Diesel 6 To Power Carbon Motors' Police Car

Just ten days after Ford took the wraps off its new Taurus-based police vehicle, Carbon Motors, which says it will make only one car...the E7, and only for the police market, beginning in 2012, now says it'll be powered by a BMW diesel 6-cylinder engine.  Carbon will also be fighting Chevrolet's revived Caprice police cruiser.   Details from NASDAQ here.

Chrysler/Fiat To Build Electric 500 In 2012

Seems like a natural...Chrysler/Fiat says it will build an electric version of the 500 minicar in 2012.  Full details on that, plus a fleet of electric Ram pickups, from The Detroit Free Press, here.