Monday, December 27, 2010

Mercedes-Benz Popular C-Class Sedan "Enhanced" For 2012 Model Year

The restyled 2012 C-Class sedan coming in C250, C300 4MATIC and C350 trim levels is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. in the summer of 2011 with the front and rear end "enhanced with a more distinctive design". A total of more than 2,000 new parts distinguish the newest generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class from its predecessor. Five new driver assistance systems ranging from the ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection system through to the Blind Spot Assist are now available in the C-Class lineup. New- generation telematics offer new infotainment and navigation features.

The new V6 gasoline engine in the C350 Sport Sedan features the BlueDIRECT process and now generates 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque (previously 268 hp and 258 lb-ft), while fuel economy has been improved by 5 percent compared with the outgoing C350 model. The four-cylinder engine is new for the U.S. market featuring direct injection and turbocharger with combined fuel economy of 24 mpg, an improvement of nearly 15 percent compared with the 2011 model year C300 due to all-new direct-injection mated to the redesigned seven-speed automatic transmission with the gear ratios optimized for fuel economy.

The C-Class is Mercedes-Benz's highest volume model range with global sales of more than one million units since its launch in March 2007. Since the market introduction of the first C-Class in 1982, known then as the 190, Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 8.5 million vehicles around the world.

2012 BMW 650i Convertible & 2011 1 Series M Coupe Debut At NAIAS

BMW will unveil the new 2012 BMW 650i Convertible and the all-new BMW 1 Series M Coupe with the updated BMW 1 Series Coupe and Convertible in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show in two weeks. The new BMW 650i Convertible is powered by a 400 horsepower 4.4-liter V-8 engine which makes peak torque of 450 lb-ft between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm and is mated to an 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission. The new 650i Convertible will go on sale in the spring of 2011 as a 2012 model for the United States. The current model 650i Convertible starts at $85,550.

The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe has a twin-turbocharged, all-aluminum, 3.0-liter inline-6 engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The 2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe will be available in limited quantities and with a limited range of options at Authorized BMW Centers in Spring, 2011. My guess is that it will cost close to $50,000 as the current model M3 Coupe starts at $58,400. We'll find out January 10th or 11th in Detroit.

The updated 1 Series Coupe and Convertible will go on sale this Spring powered by a 230 horsepower 3.0-liter inline-6 engine that generates 200 lb-ft of torque for the 128i Coupe and Convertible. The 2012 BMW 135i Coupe and Convertible feature BMW’s newest, 3.0-liter inline-6 engine with a single, twin-scroll turbocharger producing 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. The current model 128i sedan starts at $29,450, the 128i Convertible at $34,500, the 135i at $36,350 and 135i Convertible at $40,650.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Toyota Settles With NHTSA For $32.425 Million On Recall Timeliness

Toyota Motor Corporation has reached two settlement agreements with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration related to the timeliness of recalls conducted by the company in 2005 to address potential concerns with steering relay rods and from 2007 to early 2010 to address the potential for pedal entrapment by unsecured, incompatible or improperly installed floor mats. Toyota has agreed to pay $32.425 million as part of these settlements, without admitting to any violation of its obligations under the U.S. Safety Act.

All-new 2011 Chrysler 300 Arrives In First Quarter of 2011

The all-new 2011 Chrysler 300 has an all-new grille featuring the new Chrysler wing badge with added design refinement from its predecessor. Chrysler luxury flagship's windshield has been raked back 3 inches, while rolled-framed doors with thinner pillars improve outward visibility by 15 percent. To take in the sky above, a new dual-pane panoramic sunroof provides Chrysler 300 passengers with twice the outward visibility of a standard sunroof.  The all-new Chrysler 300's interior has substantial upgrades consisting of soft touch materials, premium interior trim, available heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats, and real wood appliques on the instrument panel, doors, center console and steering wheel.

A new instrument cluster features two large gauge faces with sapphire blue illumination and chrome ring accents. Providing a premium and contemporary environment is an all-new sapphire blue LED-illuminated ambient interior lighting. The all-new Chrysler 300 sedans feature the segment's largest standard touchscreen display, a  8.4-inch Uconnect® Touch infotainment center. The 2011 Chrysler 300 arrives in showrooms in the first quarter of 2011.

Again, will a quick glance at the Chrysler 300 force the question, "is that a Bentley?" That was the comment I got a few years when test driving the new 300 at the time when I pulled up to the foyer of the Los Angeles Century Plaza hotel in front of a crowd of doctors attending a medical convention.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2011 North American Car of the Year Awards "Short List"

The General Motors and Nissan each have three models on the "short list" of 14 cars being considered for the 18th annual 2011 North American Car of the Year chosen from the 27 vehicles eligible this year. The list includes two electric vehicles, Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf. There are four European models, four domestic, four from Japan and two are from Korea.

Domestic automakers have won North American Car of the Year nine times. European automakers have won four times, Japanese automakers have won three times. A Korean automaker has won once. Domestic automakers have won North American Truck of the Year 11 times. Japanese automakers have won four times. European automakers have won twice.

2011 North American Car of the Year Short List:
Audi A8, Buick Regal, Chevrolet Cruze, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Sonata/2.0T/Hybrid, Infiniti M37/56, Jaguar XJ, Kia Optima, Mazda Mazda2, Nissan Juke, Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen Jetta, Volvo S60.

North American Truck of the Year Short List:
Dodge Durango, Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Tucson, Infiniti QX56, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Kia Sportage, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Touareg.

A jury of 49 independent automotive journalists evaluated all the new cars introduced this year and chose three that will compete for the top honor, to be announced at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 10, 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2011 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid Priced At $29,995 For Early March

The all-new 2011 Lexus CT 200h hybrid will be priced at $29,120 plus a delivery, processing and handling fee of $875 for a total of $29,995 when it arrives at dealerships in early March with an overall combined fuel economy at 42 mpg. The CT 200h emits approximately 60 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new car, and has EPA-estimated ratings of 43 mpg city and 40 mpg on the highway utilizing regular 87-octane gasoline. Moreover, the CT 200h can be operated in a switchable EV mode which generates zero emissions.

In addition to the EV and Normal drive modes, the CT 200h offers Sport and Eco modes which can help enhance either performance and dynamic ability or driving efficiency, fuel economy and emissions. EV, Eco and Normal drive modes emphasize ride comfort and smooth acceleration. When Sport mode is selected, instrument panel lighting changes from blue to red and the hybrid power indicator is replaced with a tachometer.

Standard features on the CT 200h include SmartAccess with push-button Start/Stop and touch sensors on exterior front-door handles; leather steering wheel; a six-speaker, audio system with a CD player, and Bluetooth® for phone and music streaming capabilities; integrated satellite radio receiver (includes complimentary 90-day trial subscription); USB/iPod® connectivity; 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels; and dual zone automatic climate control.  The CT 200h also incorporates a standard eight-airbag Supplemental Restraint System.

The optional sixth-generation navigation system features a backup camera and Lexus' exclusive Remote Touch controller with user-adjustable haptic feedback.  The controller, similar to a computer mouse, eliminates the need for touch screen controls, allowing the pop-up navigation system screen to be mounted further up the center stack and away from the driver.  This helps the driver benefit with a clear, high-resolution screen, improved site lines and reduced eye movement.     

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November 2010 U.S. Auto Sales Show Big Gains over 2009

The increased sales seem to be coming at the expense of Toyota with sales up just 6 tenths of a percent for 11 months of 2010.

General Motors' four brands reported 168,704 total sales in November, a 20.8 percent increase from the prior year. Year-to-date GM's four brands have sold 1,978,995 vehicles, up 22 percent.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury November sales totaled 147,338, up 24 percent versus year ago. Ford’s year-to-date sales total 1.74 million, up 21 percent over 2009.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. including Lexus and Scion reported November sales of 129,317 units, on a raw volume basis, that's a drop of 3.2 percent compared to the same period last year. Year-to-date Toyota has sold 1,586,107 vehicles, up 6 tenths of a percent over 2009.

American Honda posted November sales of 89,617 vehicles, an increase of 16.1 percent based on the daily selling rate. American Honda year-to-date sales reached 1,100,864, an increase of 5.9 percent versus last year based on the daily selling rate. 
Chrysler Group LLC reported U.S. sales of 74,152, a 17 percent increase compared with sales in November 2009. Year-to-date Chrysler has sold 984,509 vehicles, also a 17 percent gain.

Nissan North America reported November U.S. sales of 71,366, an increase of 26.8 percent. For all of 2010, NNA sales are 814,840, up 17 percent.

Hyundai Motor America announced an all-time record for November sales of 40,723 units, up 45 percent versus 2009. For the year-to-date, Hyundai has already established a new annual sales record with total volume of 493,426, up 23 percent versus the same 11 month period in 2009.

Volkswagen of America reported that November 2010 sales of 20,189 was a 24.2 percent increase over prior year sales and year-to-date sales are 232,963, a 20.7 percent rise over 2009. Audi surpassed the prior November record set in 2006 selling 9,365 vehicles last month, a 37.5 percent increase over November 2009. Year-to-date Audi new sales are 91,083, up 23.6 percent versus 2009 through November. 

Kia Motors America announced record November sales of 26,601 vehicles, a 48.2 percent increase over the same period last year and with one month remaining in 2010, KMA's sales of 325,824 are up 16.8 percent over 2009 and already exceeding its previous full-year sales record set in 2007.

The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported November sales of 22,883 vehicles, an increase of 27.1 percent from the 18,002 vehicles sold in November 2009. Year-to-date, the BMW Group has sold 238,157 vehicles, up 9.3 percent from 2009.

Subaru of America, Inc. continues its record-breaking run with the best November in the company's history with sales of 20,792, a 22 percent increase on November 2009. Subaru's year-to-date sales are 237,126, up 23 percent over 2009 through November and already 10% ahead of the 2009 full year with December sales still to come.

Mercedes-Benz USA reported its highest November sales volume since 2007 with sales of 19,037, an increase of 13.3 percent for the month. On a year-to-date basis, sales increased 19.4 percent to 203,468.

Mazda North American Operations reported sales of 15,304 vehicles in November 2010, an increase of 7.4 percent over the same month last year.  Year-to-date sales through November 2010 stand at 208,087, and are outpacing last year's sales at this time by 9.8 percent.

Mitsubishi Motors sold 4,306 vehicle in November, a 47 percent gain over 2009 and year-to-date is at 50,809, up 2 percent versus 11 months of 2009.

Jaguar Land Rover has sold 4,039, a 22 percent rise while year-to-date sales stand at 40,329, up 21 percent over last year.

American Suzuki sales jumped to 2,332, a 51 percent increase, bringing year-to-date sales to 21,347, a 42 slide from this time in 2009.

This blog will be updated as manufacturers report.  

L.A. Auto Show Video: Ralph Gilles, Pres. & CEO Dodge Brand On Quality

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

L.A. Auto Show: Jaguar C-X75 Electric Supercar Concept

Jaguar's C-X75 range-extended electric supercar concept made its North American Debut at this year's 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. The C-X75, designed to celebrate 75 years of the marque, is a 205 mph four-wheel drive supercar capable of running in purely electric (zero tailpipe emissions) mode for 68 miles on a six-hour domestic plug-in charge. The lightweight micro gas-turbines are also capable of very quickly and efficiently recharging the Lithium-ion batteries, giving the car a theoretical range of 560 miles.

Because each wheel is driven by its own electric motor, the C-X75 is four-wheel drive – with all the traction, grip and safety benefits that entails – without the weight disadvantages of a purely mechanical set-up. Inherent in this drivetrain is the ability to independently vector torque to each wheel across the full speed range. This offers potential benefits in terms of stability and control, creating an infinitely and instantaneously adjustable traction and stability control system.

L.A. Auto Show: Subaru Impreza Design Concept

 Subaru unveiled the Impreza Design Concept at the LA Auto Show, which previews their new "Confidence in Motion" design and brand strategy. The front view previews a new direction for the brand's design, with the hood, grille and headlights designed to project three-dimensional character. The combination of the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated Boxer engine with a Lineartronic™ Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) represents Subaru's next-generation powertrain. A 2.5-liter version of this engine powers the 2011 Forester.

Subaru's advanced driving-assist EyeSight system is installed along the front edge of the roof. The images the camera takes can be viewed on a monitor in the center of the gauge cluster. EyeSight is also networked with the latest in collision-prevention technology. I'm told this concept is expected to become reality.

2012 MAZDA5 Starts At $19,990 In January

The 2012 MAZDA5 compact multi-activity vehicle will have a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $19,990, including destination and delivery. The 2012 MAZDA5 will go on sale at dealers across the U.S. in January 2011.

The 2012 MAZDA5 is powered by a 157 horsepower 2.5-liter MZR I-4 engine and can be paired with either a six-speed manual (Sport models only) or five-speed automatic transmission (standard on Touring and Grand Touring). The 2012 MAZDA5 will be offered in three trim grades: the Sport, the mid-level Touring from $21,990 and the top-of-the-line Grand Touring from $24,670.

Friday, November 19, 2010

L.A. Auto Show: Media Days Wrap

The L.A. Auto Show media days had new debuts for everyone with a strong diverse exhibition of new vehicles with a couple of manufacturers wanting to blow us away.

Mass Introductions
I'm talking about Dodge with six vehicles, their entire line-up, new or face-lifted - Challenger, Charger, Avenger, Durango, Journey and Grand Caravan. The other was Lotus with a debut of five hot sports cars.

Electric vehicle introductions have been a theme of the L.A. Auto Show for years and this year we had the Honda Fit EV, Toyota Rav4 EV, Kia Optima Hybrid, Infinti's M35h, Buick LaCrosse e-assist and Mitsubishi's MiEV.

The show stopper was the all-new Hyundai Elantra sedan starting at $14,830 and loaded with nav and rear camera monitor for under $20,000 - amazing! Another impressive mass market, high volume affordable sedan debut was the 2012 Ford Focus, coming in both 4-door and 5-door models. Chrysler showed off the new 200, replacing the Sebring sedan.

Looking for a convertible? The Chevy Camaro, Volkswagen Eos and Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet debuted this week.

New luxury choices include the Audi A7 hatchback sedan, Range Rover Evoque SUV, Saab 9-4X crossover and the Porsche Cayman R. Also, check out the BMW X3.

If you're looking for a minivan the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Nissan Quest.

The hottest head-turning, eye-popping concept sports cars were from Mazda and Jaguar. Nissan showed the Ellure while Subaru says their concept reveals their design future. Also see the BMW 6-Series Coupe Concept.

The L.A. Auto Show is open today through Sunday Nov. 28th and I'll have more on the new debuts over the next few weeks.

L.A. Auto Show: Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet And Quest Minivan

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, the world’s first AWD crossover convertible was shown in an amazing color at the L.A. Auto Show and will certainly attract a buyer with expressive tastes with serious cash in the wallet with a starting MSRP of $46,390. This Murano is powered by Nissan's 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 producing 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque.It goes on sale early next year.

The 2011 Nissan Quest has a boxy look which is good for maximizing interior space and follows Nissan's "macho" design seen in their other vehicles. Quest standard features include quick release fold-flat 2nd and 3rd row seats, permanent hidden storage and Nissan Intelligent Key™. The 2011 Nissan Quest is offered in four models: S, SV, SL and LE – starting at $27,750.

L.A. Auto Show: Porsche Cayman R

Porsche Cayman R is powered by a 330 horsepower 6-cylinder mid-engine mated to either a manual or PDK 7-speed automatic transmission. The manual starts at $66,300 and the auto at $69,960. It's a poor man's 911 with many rich Porsche features.

L.A. Auto Show: Range Rover Evoque 5-Door

Range Rover Evoque 5-door, the smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover model ever, made its global debut at the LA Auto Show. The Evoque comes with a turbocharged 240 horsepower 2.0-liter Si4 engine. Range Rover Evoque is now available in two body styles, the Coupé and 5-door.Expect to see the Evoque in dealerships next year.

L.A. Auto Show: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

The 2011 Camaro Convertible, starting at $29,150, has a 312 horsepower Direct Injection V6 offering up to 29 MPG highway. The upscale SS has a 426 horsepower 6.2-liter V8 with an EPA-estimated 24 MPG highway. The available automatic transmission version of SS features Active Fuel Management and offers 25 MPG highway while delivering 400 horsepower. The Camaro comes in 4 trim levels: 1LT, 2LT, 1SS and 2SS and arrives in Chevrolet showrooms in February.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

L.A. Auto Show: Volvo's Stefan Jacoby Makes Keynote Speech

The MPG keynote speaker to kick off the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show was Stefan Jacoby who, in August, was picked by Geely to run Volvo Car Corporation because of his success with Volkswagen in China. He attributed his move from President of VW of America to Volvo as liking challenges in the automotive industry believing he's the right man for Volvo's expected growth. In his speech, Jacoby gave a history of Volvo contributions to the auto industry and explained the U.S. sales slide from a 2004 peak of 140,000 vehicles to less than half that this year as a result of the financial crisis and a negative currency environment saying that things can only get better. He cited Volvo's C70 convertible, XC60, C30 and S60 as Consumer Reports' recommended vehicles. Jacoby promised to bring more attractive products from a leaner, better, smarter faster Volvo targeting to take this year's global production of 380,000 to 800,000 by 2020. On the green side, Jacoby says their electric C30 with a 150km range will be in a test fleet in California next week. Volvo will build a factory in China where sales are up 50% this year over 2009. More details on the China plan and Geely's mission for Volvo will be coming in the next few weeks according to Jacoby so stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2012 Volkswagen Eos Hardtop Convertible Coming in Feb. 2011

Volkswagen introduced their all-new "all-season" 2012 Eos hardtop convertible on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show to invited guests and celebrities at their design studio in Santa Monica. The Eos, in addition to being a full convertible, has a fully functional sunroof when the roof is up.

The Eos comes with the 200 horsepower 2.0-liter 4 cylinder16-valve DOHC turbocharged engine delivering highway fuel economy of 31 miles-per-gallon. It's mated to a six-speed automatic dual-clutch system that engages and disengages gears without the need for a clutch pedal. The 2012 Eos hits the U.S. market in February and elsewhere in the Spring of next year and comes with the Carefree Maintenance Program covering the first 36,000 miles of scheduled maintenance at no charge.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mullin Automotive Museum: Bugatti-mania and more

The Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, open to the public on selected Saturdays, has some of the most rare cars on display, including Bugattis, Delages, Delahayes, Hispano Suizas, Talbot-Lagos and Voisins along with vintage racing cars and modern Bugatti prototypes. Peter Mullin took over the space once occupied by Otis Chandler's collection but none of the vehicles here now were part of Chandler's exhibit.
1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, one of only 3 made, sold in May for between $30 million and $40 million to an anonymous buyer making it the highest price ever paid for an automobile. In 1971, this Bugatti was purchased for $59,000 by Dr. Peter Williamson who restored it. It won't be on display very much longer so get there to see it. Visiting the museum is a rich cultural experience and an absolute must for any car connoisseur.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SEMA: Girls

SEMA: Nissan


SEMA: General Motors

SEMA: MazdaSpeed

SEMA: Audi

SEMA: Subaru

SEMA: Ford Fiesta & Police Interceptor

SEMA: Toyota Sienna, Tundra & Prius