Ford Fusion Hybrid Wins Break-Even Contest

Here's the deal with hybrids. You pay a few thousand dollars more than you would for the gasoline-only equivalent of that car and you get a few miles per gallon more. How long before those gas savings pay for the extra cost of the hybrid version?

That depends on the car. The Ford Fusion Hybrid is the best bet, according to The San Francisco Chronicle...with the next best taking more than twice as long to put you in the black. But that's the nearly identical 
(and not significantly higher priced) Mercury Milan Hybrid. 

U.S. Treasury: GM Repaid Loans Properly Through Escrow Account

After an accusation by Senator Charles Grassley that GM repaid its federal loans with federal funds, in effect running a shell game, the U.S. Treasury says not so.

V-O-L-V-O....V-O-L-V-O...My Volvo

I love the 80s-era Volvo 240.

I don't love rap.

But.....this is pretty good. And very refreshing after the parade of Bentleys and Lambos in rap videos.

His name is Grynch.

(WARNING: Explicit lyrics. Hey, it's rap)

Toyota Recalls 50,000 Seven-Year Old Sequioas For Unintended DE-Celeration

You just can't make this stuff up, folks. Toyota's rounding up 2003 model year Sequoias because the traction control system is defective and can cause the vehicles to slow down suddenly, without lighting the brake lights, which...yeah, can cause rear-end accidents.

Shreveport Camry Driver Plows Into Auto Parts Store; Claims Unintended Acceleration


Have you read the current Memo From Michael?  It'll be a while before NHTSA gets back to us on this one.

I wonder if Vegas takes bets on this sort of thing.

Tulsa Sorta Unintended Acceleration In Reverse: Thank God It Was A Mercedes

I mean, can you imagine if it had been a Toyota?

Big props to the 67 year old driver, too...who admitted that his "foot got caught on the gas pedal". Not sure how that happens, but at least he 'fessed up that it was his problem and not a phenomenon caused by floor mats, electronic gremlins or Satan.

Lexus Resumes GX 460 Sales

After 15 days off the market, you can buy a Lexus GX 460 again.

Toyota suspended sales of the SUV after Consumer Reports branded it a "safety risk" for an electronic stability program that intervened too late in emergency maneuvers. Toyota replicated the problem, and came up with a software fix


eBay Pulls Kevorkian Bus From Auction; Kruse Steps In

Never mind.

eBay has pulled the auction saying it "does not allow the sale of items closely associated with notorious murderers within the last 100 years."

Kruse Auctions has no such policy, apparently...The Dub of Death will cross the block next month.

Details from The Detroit News.

Feds Probe October '09 Toyota Crash That Killed Four

Six months after a 2-car crash that killed four (including a Harvard professor), the NHTSA says it's launching an investigation.

The reason? The car that caused the crash by swerving into oncoming traffic was a Toyota Highlander. And while local authorities say they were unable to pinpoint the cause, the Feds say they want to see if a sticking gas pedal might be involved.


Lock Up Your 19 Year Old Accords! The Top 10 Most Stolen Cars In California

There's probably at least one of every kind of desirable vehicle on a street or in a garage somewhere in the Golden State.

But what do thieves steal most? The answers may surprise you. From The Los Angeles Times.

Global Rental Domination: Hertz Buys Dollar-Thrifty

Hertz is dropping some significant change to acquire the competition...$1.17 Billion for Dollar-Thrifty.

Dollar was founded in 1965...Thrifty in 1958. They merged under then-owner Chrysler in 1990.

Full details of the deal at USA Today.

eBay Auctioning Purported Kevorkian Bus

How's this for a used car sales pitch: " Only driven by a little old man on his way to kill people".

Yep...just in time to cash in on the HBO movie "You Don't Know Jack" starring Al Pacino, a 1968 VW Bus purported to be the one owned by Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who assisted in more than 100 suicides before being sent to prison for 8 years, is up for bid on eBay.

From the auction description:

The vehicle drove in under it's own power but the engine had a rod knock. The vehicle most likely is not roadworthy and if anyone were to try to use this as a vehicle used on the road, it would have to be brought up to current standards. We are telling you that this bus is absolutely not safe to drive. All safety systems on the vehicle would have to be completely overhauled. Although the vehicle may actually move and stop under its own power, it's not being sold as a drivable bus.

Vehicle is in substantially "as used" condition with the exception that it does not have the original steering wheel. VIN numbers etc. etc. match the title. All paperwork is proper and signed with Jack's signature.

Want in? The auction ends Thursday (4/29) at 12:01:02 PDT. Go here.


The New SAAB 9-5: $50,000

Optimism is alive and well in Royal Oak, Michigan, where this week SAAB (under new ownership) had a grand opening for its North American headquarters and announced that the new 9-5 will launch with a turbocharged V-6 and a price tag of $49,900. It won't be until 2011 that the 2-liter model with a price tag expected to be "under $40,000" will debut.

Cell Phone Charger Hazard

I got this e-mail from a friend this week...forwarding the story of a 2007 Suburban owner who left his iPhone charger plugged into the power outlet (cigarette lighter for those of you over 40):

As some of you may know, we had a pretty scary incident recently. Attached are pictures of what remains of our 2007 Suburban. We are all okay but I wanted to warn everyone not to make the same mistake I did.

This fire resulted from leaving an Iphone charger/docking station plugged into the car outlet. It overheated and started a fire, while parked in our garage. PLEASE unplug anything you have in your car outlets once you turn off your car!

We were VERY fortunate that we accidentally found the fire, at 11pm, before going to bed and before it spread to the house. Feel free to pass this along to anyone you want. Better safe than sorry.

Good rule of thumb...if you're not using it, unplug it.


TireKicker Time Machine: 1980 Honda Accord LX

Say hello to the car that changed the world. It looks unassuming and frankly very small now, but from 1976 through 1981, this was the Accord that showed that Japan in general and Honda in particular was deadly serious about making very good small cars.


Five years after exploding Ford Pintos and imploding Chevy Vegas, the idea of a small car built to a standard and not to a price was an appealing one to American drivers. The first-gen Accord was jewel-like. And the demand was huge. Dealers were charging $1,000 over sticker price...and getting it.

VIDEO: Lexus GX 460 Stability Issue: Before and After Proposed Fix

If video isn't visible, click the headline above.

Yep...Toyota was able to replicate the sideways slide that prompted Consumer Reports to label the GX 460 a safety risk last week. And their engineers formulated a software update to prompt the stability control to step in sooner.

Toyota Japan issued a news release with a lot more in the way of hard facts:

The Internet Speed Trap Database

Traveling into unfamiliar territory and wondering just what trees the local radar-equipped gendarmes are hiding behind?

There's an app for that...well, at least a website.

It's called the National Speed Trap Exchange. Go here.

Worst Parking Job Ever. Here Comes The Judge.


Six months and a few hundred thousand pageviews later, the authorities have sentenced the woman seen in the video above parking her car on....well, two other cars.

Tripta Kaushal was arrested on the evidence of that video back in October. But the wheels of justice turn more deliberately than those of her SUV, so it's only this week that the judge brought the hammer down.

A $500 fine for leaving the scene and failing to report the accident, restitution to the owners of the two cars she damaged, six months probation and she's not allowed to drive between 7PM and 7AM.

Do we really think low light was the issue here?

And yes, she's driving a BMW X5. Now, just imagine what the media would have said about the video if it had been a Toyota.

GM Unveils Chevy Volt MPV5 Crossover At Beijing Auto Show

Chevy's getting this PR momentum thing down cold. Just days after WXYZ-TV in Detroit spotted one of the first pre-production sedan models of the electric Chevy Volt parked on the street, the wraps have come off a crossover Volt.

Full details, including more pix and the GM press release at Autoblog Green.

Airbags In Your Checked Airline Luggage...No, It's Not Okay.

As anyone who's blown an airbag knows, replacing them is expensive. Apparently more so in Europe, because, according to the TSA Blog from the folks at the Transportation Security Administration, a  lot of Europeans are flying over here, buying the new bag, putting it in their checked luggage and flying home.

Trouble is that airbag actuators are on the list of hazardous materials prohibited from transport aboard passenger aircraft.

Namely...it's an explosive that blows the bag (similar to a solid rocket booster, the TSA Blog tells us). 

Not safe in the cargo hold of an airliner...any sensible person can see that. But inches away from your face and chest? There's another agency of the government that has made that mandatory for the past 18 years.

Senator: GM Repaid Federal Loans With Federal Funds

Ed Whitacre may be really happy about General Motors paying off its federal loans ahead of schedule, but Iowa Senator Charles Grassley (can we call him 5.6 Billion Buck Chuck?) is not impressed.

The senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee is calling BS on GM...alleging a shell game in which GM used TARP funds instead of its own earnings to pay back Uncle Sam.

GM and the Treasury Department are denying it. Full story at Automotive News

In fact, Whitacre says when it's all said and done, the US will get back its entire $50 billion investment in GM and may even make a profit. Details at The Detroit Free Press.

Fiat By Chrysler, Chrysler By Fiat

The five-year plan is coming into clearer focus and it looks....confusing.

Fiat's going to build a mid-size sedan in Italy. It will be sold mainly in America, replacing the Sebring. They'll also build a new compact Chrysler for the USA over there.

Meantime, Chrysler might build not one, but two SUVs for Alfa Romeo on American soil.

Street Sign Fails To Yield To Heather Locklear, Police Say

Police have ticketed actress Heather Locklear for a weekend accident in which a car hit a street sign near her Thousand Oaks, California home.

A neighbor reported the crash 16 hours after hearing it, but police say a surveillance camera shows Locklear's car passing by at the time and debris at the scene has been tied to her vehicle.

Poll: American Cars Better Than Imports

Bumper stickers like the one above were very common in the 70s and 80s, when American cars were in their long slide beyond mediocrity to craptasticness and Toyota and Honda were cementing their reputation as bulletproof transportation.

Well, the tables appear to be turning.  A new Associated Press poll shows more Americans believe American cars are better than Japanese cars, 38 to 33 percent.

Alfa Comes Back To The USA

Alfistis rejoice! After a decades-long absence, Alfa Romeo is coming back to America, thanks to the Fiat/Chrysler deal.

The product hits showrooms in 2012 and there's a lot of platform sharing with Chrysler.

Full details from Automotive News (free registration required).


Chevrolet Camaro RS Review

The wait between thinly disguised show car and production Camaro was so long that a lot of people were predicting the real thing would be a dud...that the public would be bored silly before the first one was sold.

Boy, were they wrong.

No, it's not going to be 1967 all over again, when 220,000 Camaros rolled out of showrooms and into driveways across America...100,000 is probably more like it. But in this day and age, that's an impressive number for a limited-use vehicle (have you tried the back seat?) with two more or less equally attractive direct competitors.

TireKicker Time Machine: 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

(UPDATE:  Sharp-eyed TireKicker reader Paul Duca spotted the clues that this is in fact a newer Caprice. We've been able to narrow it down to 1982, '83, '84 or '85. Hit the comments section if you can help us pinpoint it to a single year. We'll change the headline and tags once we've got the right vintage)

It wasn't that long ago that you couldn't drive a city block without seeing three of these.

Oh, wait...it was that long ago. 32 model years since this '78 Chevrolet Caprice Classic rolled off the showroom floor...20 model years since its clean, classic lines were replaced by the dumpy upside-down bathtub models that themselves are becoming (mercifully) scarce.


Hard to believe it now, but this was the downsized full-size Chevrolet...and GM was thought to be taking a big risk when it introduced this body style in the fall of 1976 as a '77 model. 637 pounds lighter than the previous generation, 10 inches shorter and 4 inches narrower.

What nobody realized until they saw the new one was just how badly the Caprice needed a diet. The big Chevy had been packing on the pounds since 1971 (kinda like Elvis at the time).

The new Caprice rapidly became its own benchmark.

OMG: Ford Says Fiesta SYNC Will Run Twitter

Just what entry level drivers should be doing...Tweeting at the wheel. But Ford says SYNC will make it safe.


In Space, Someone Can Watch You Speed

The UK is testing satellites that can monitor speed and snap license plates from orbit.



Dodge Challenger SE Review

So you want a Dodge Challenger, but can't swing either the price or insurance or gas for the Hemi-powered R/T or SRT-8?

$750 buys you the cosmetics that will make your six-cylinder SE look pretty darn good.

It's called the Rallye Group. 18" aluminum wheels, a bright fuel filler door, dual stripes, a carbon-fiber looking bezel on the instrument panel and a body-colored rear spoiler.


Our tester was just as you see above...bright silver metallic with black stripes. It actually got more admiring looks than the last red Challenger that came through...possibly because those are seen so often.

Best part of the deal is the SE's base price of $22,735. Second best is the gas mileage: 17 city/25 highway.

Nissan Leaf Electric Car Reservations Start Tomorrow

Want the new Nissan Leaf? You need to register like...oh, now. And then stand by for a priority reservation tomorrow. Oh, and have money ($99) ready.

Full details in the Nissan press release.

GM To Repay Loans Early

General Motors is expected to announce tomorrow that it is repaying $5.8 billion in loans to the U.S. and Canadian governments early. The deadline is in June.

This could pave the way to an Inital Public Offering (IPO) of stock in the "new" GM and the U.S. government getting out of the car business.

TireKicker Time Machine: 1966 VW Type II Transporter

Some vehicles just produce an involuntary smile whenever I see them...the VW Type II Transporter (or Bus) is pretty close to the top of that list.

Sure, they were noisy and slow (and one stranded me and a group of other 12 year olds on a 100-degree afternoon for several hours)...but finding one in either unmolested or reasonably restored condition is a real treat.

Truth is, you don't see many of these as anything other than basket cases or hippie van re-creations (and occasionally both)...so something that looks like it's still 1966 is a wonderful thing.

The tip-off that it's a 66?  There are only two clues. Can you spot them? Hit "comments" if you think you know.

Needing a few spares for your camper or beetle? Access a wide range of VW parts online at www.worldcarparts.co.uk

Report: Lexus GX 460 Recall Imminent

Here's how stacked the deck is against Toyota. When it does respond, and respond quickly, the Feds leak it so they can say it first.

A "NHTSA official...who declined to be identified" says Toyota is about to issue a recall for the Lexus GX 460 after replicating the same stability issues that caused Consumer Reports to brand it a "safety risk" last week.

Full story from Automotive News.

UPDATE: Toyota, having no choice, has made it official. Details here.

VIDEO: Motorcyclist Tapes His Own Traffic Stop...At Gunpoint


Imagine being cut off by a plain-looking sedan and having a guy dressed in street clothes get out and approach you with a gun in his hand.

It happened in Maryland. Turns out the guy with the gun was a state trooper. Fortunately, Anthony Graber had a helmet cam and taped the whole thing.

Also unfortunately, because he's being charged with violating a state law against taping a conversation with another without their consent.

This is going to be one interesting court case.

Toyota Agrees To Pay $16.4 Million Fine To U.S. Government

Toyota has agreed to pay a record civil fine of $16.4 million levied by the U.S. Government, which says Toyota "knowingly hid a dangerous defect".

The trouble for Toyota isn't so much the money (2% of its projected net income this year) as the precedent it sets for possible future fines and lawsuits.

Full story from Automotive News (free registration required).


Audi A4 Review

When you make a nearly perfect car, you take a big risk with any revisions.

That's the position Audi was in when it updated the A4 this year.

By and large, they did okay.


Styling changes are so subtle that you almost have to park an '09 and a '10 next to each other to see them.

One place where I think they missed it was the new taillamp design. I can't put my finger on it, but it reminds me of a car from years back...and it's not a good memory.


TireKicker Time Machine: 1971 Chevrolet El Camino

Now here's a genuine survivor....a 1971 Chevy El Camino that hasn't been jacked up, painted metallic whatever or any other attempts to make it look "bad".


In fact, these delicate paint accents, hand-done and signed by the artist, are the only appearance mods to this 39-year old El Camino. And from the looks of them, they were probably done in the 1970s.

Top Gear Gets Volcano Exclusive

Nobody will be shooting car shows on the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano anytime soon.

Actually, no one had before...until last week, when James May and Top Gear did exactly that and got out just in time.

Acura ZDX Review (UPDATED 4/16/10 5:40 PM PST With Recall Information)

Fastbacks are an acquired taste...and even then, there's an element of scale that seems to work best. Smaller being better. The 1965 Mustang worked. The much larger 1965 Rambler Marlin, to my way of thinking, didn't. 

While BMW's supposedly adding a fastback to the 3-series in 2013, the current crop of fastbacks are larger cars...four-doors at that...and, well...I think I've made myself clear.


Acura would like us to think that the ZDX breaks new ground between sedan and crossover. That's a pretty slim territory, and a station wagon is what would fill it. One based on the outstanding 2010 TL-SH AWD sedan (review coming soon...I liked it much more than the supposedly identical 2009 and we'll explore why) would be perfect. It would carry more, have better rear and side visibility and handle better than the awkwardly proportioned and heavier ZDX.

Toyota Recalls 870,000 Sienna Minivans Spanning 13 Model Years

The recall is in effect in 20 states and Canada. The problem is corrosion of cables that hold the spare tire in place...likely from road salt.

Full story from Automotive News (free registration required).

Wisconsin Camry Crash Driver Error (UPDATED 5:25 PM PDT With Surveillance Video Link)

76 year old Myrna Marseille swore she was standing on the brake pedal of her 2009 Toyota Camry when it crashed into the Sheboygan Falls YMCA on March 29.


The Sheboygan Falls Police Department and the Wisconsin State Patrol held a news conference this morning in which they announced the results of their investigation: Driver error. Myrna was on the gas, not the brake, and the brakes were found to be in perfect working order.

Witnesses who Myrna said told her they saw brake lights? Well, they did...but surveillance video (click here to watch it from WISN-TV) from two cameras (the Y and the Sheboygan Falls PD share a common parking lot) shows they came on after the car hit the building. And the police say those witnesses told them that's when they saw them.

The video indicates the car moved at the same constant speed (estimated by police at 10-15 miles per hour) across the parking lot, into the parking space, over the berm and into the building.

Police Chief Steven Riffel says NHTSA (whose report won't be ready for four months) has told him there was nothing in the vehicle diagnostics to contradict the conclusion of driver error.

No decision yet on whether Myrna will be cited.

Full story including a link to the complete video replay of the news conference from The Sheboygan Press.

April Is Drunk Teen In A Cop Car Month

It's a coast-to-coast celebration...last week in Florida, and this time around, Oregon.

The Florida mug shot wins, but the suspect names...well, Nikita Efimov just sounds a lot more mysterious than Tasha Lee Cantrell.