Bottom up? - Ford rolls out a grass-roots effort

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Ford's trying a multi-pronged approach at raising the public's awareness of their turnaround efforts. Of course the big, glossy, traditional marketing campaigns will lead the way, but the Blue Oval's also beating the streets.

Ford is sending execs across the land to talk with community groups like Lions and Rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, and local news media. Most of the populace is aware that Ford is having some trouble, but they're less aware of how Ford plans to fly out of this stall. Emmissaries are spreading the word about the great Consumer Reports quality results of the Fusion/Milan twins, getting them jazzed about the MKX and Edge, and taking the time to answer locals' questions and let them check out th e cars. The message Ford is trying to send appears to be "we want to stick around, we're working on it." Hopefully, those questions and comments coming back from the audience are being relayed up the chain of command. To really be successful, Ford needs to build cars people want, and what better way to find out what the public has on its mind than to ask?

[Source: Detroit News]

 

[via] Autoblog

VW diesels soon to be a scarce commodity

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Those of you who've been threatening to pick up a new diesel-powered Jetta at your local VW outlet better get on point soon, as the last of the 2006 models are either hitting, or about to hit, dealers in the coming weeks. When the last Jetta TDI rolls off the lot, we won't see another until the spring of 2008.

The yearlong wait is due to the testing and development of VW's new 2-liter, common-rail, high-pressure, fuel-injection setup, which will be available in all 50 states. Until then, the only diesel-powered consumer vehicle will be the Mercedes-Benz E320 diesel lovers in the U.S. will have to drop the coin on the Toureg V10 TDI or the Mercedes-Benz E320, ML 320, GL 320 and R 320.

Although Volkswagen doesn't have a breakdown of how many Jettas come equipped with an oil-burner, most dealers claim that about a quarter of all Jettas sold are of the TDI variety. With an EPA rating of 34/45, that's no surprise, even with the recent decline in gas prices.

When the new Jetta diesel arrives at dealers in 2008, expect a price premium of about $1,000 over its petrol-powered counterpart.

[Source: Automotive News -- Sub. Req.]

 

[via] Autoblog

VIDEO: Hammond's first interview since crash

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Despite the fact that doctors predicted he would be in the hospital for 15 months, Richard Hammond exited the ER after only a couple of weeks following his horrific accident involving a jet car that he lost control of at over 300 mph. Last Friday Hammond gave his first interview on Brit Jonathan Ross's talk show, which we've assembled here for you after the jump. The interview comes in two parts and totals around 15 minutes.

We have no idea who Jonathan Ross is, but apparently Hammond was hankering a trip back to the '70s and the purple and red set of Jonathan Ross hit the spot. In their conversation, Hammond reveals that he can't remember the two weeks following the crash, and that by doctors' orders he's not allowed to drink, at least heavily, for the next two yea rs.

Seeing the Hamster engaging in a conversation, successfully at that, is a bit weird considering the story we've all been following. No one would be surprised if the man arrived on set in a full body cast sipping lunch through a straw, but instead Hammond saunters on stage and shows us all that his trademark wit and humor has recovered fully.

Check out the videos after the jump.

Thanks for the tip, Matt!

For those coming late to the story, check out these...
Related posts:

Continue reading VIDEO: Hammond's first interview since crash

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Chrysler to present restructuring plan in February

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Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda travelled to DaimlerChrysler's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, last Wednesday to present a restructuring plan to the company's management board. The Detroit News reports that the plan will involve job cuts and and the closing of at least two plants in the U.S. The plan will be reviewed by the DCX management board and likely announced in February when the company reveals its performance numbers for 2006, which analysts expect to be billions in the red.

Just like Ford with its Way Forward restructuring plan, Chrysler needs to trim down the production side of its business to meet lower demand for its vehicles that led to a loss of $1.5 billion in Q3 of 2006. In addition to shrinking its productio n capacity, any analyst will tell you that Chrysler also needs more small cars in its lineup, which at the moment is overrun with trucks, minivans and SUVs.

Though the Chrysler Group is still run by Tom LaSorda, many are speculating that Dieter Zetsche wants to bring back his guy pal Wolfgang Bernhard, current head of the Volkswagen brand, to run the stumbling automaker. Other initiatives that are already happening include bringing in executives from Mercedes-Benz to the Chrysler Group reduce the cost of each vehicle it produces by $1,000. Clearly DaimlerChrysler is putting effort into fixing what's broken at the Chrysler Group, though some analysts speculate that the restructuring plan announced in February will be its last attempt before selling off the automaker it had "merged" with back in 1998.

 

[via] Autoblog

Baby Benz B: Coming to America?

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It's no great revelation that Mercedes-Benz has long projected itself as a premium automotive brand in the United States, where the three-pointed star is recognized as a badge of luxury. The American market has also been a driving force in Mercedes' development and marketing of large, gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. The same can't be said for overseas markets, where Mercedes offers small cars (as well as commercial vehicles), and where Benz taxicabs are a common sight.

But according to the latest reports, DaimlerChrysler's approach towards the American market may see a change as the demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars increases. Currently, the C-Class holds up the bottom of the US range for Mercedes; Canadian buyers can buy the B-Class; and overseas the A-Class is offered a notch above the Smart ForTwo.

Having already introduced the B in Canada, bringing it southward into the United States would be a logical move. It's undoubtedly a delicate move for Mercedes as the company tries to gain market share as demands shift, all the while trying to avoid over-diluting the brand.

[Source: Motor Authority]

 

[via] Autoblog

Ford CEO meets with Toyota on potential partnership

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The old saying goes that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Ford has long since resigned itself to the fact that the #2 automaker in the U.S. will soon not be wearing a Blue Oval for a badge. Instead, Toyota is expected to occupy the numero dos position as soon as January, with Ford's market share continuing its slide down into the low teens and Toyota's moving every upward.

Thus, it might not come as a surprise to learn that Ford CEO Alan Mulally and his right hand man Mark Fields made a trip to Japan last Wednesday to sit down and talk with Toyota execs. The report comes from inside a Japanese trade journal called Nikkei Net Insider and claims, "the meeting is considered as a first step in the exploration of a potential partnership."

[Sourc e: Nikkie Net Insider - sub. required via Jalopnik]

Continue reading Ford CEO meets with Toyota on potential partnership

 

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The Autoblog After Christmas Sweepstakes

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Christmas has come and gone, and after a long journey Santa's herd of Porsche Caymans is now parked back in the jolly fat man's climate controlled garage. If you're like us, however, there's always one or two gifts we wanted that didn't find their way into the back of Santa's sleigh, so we're going to give you the chance to complete your family's Christmas with the Autoblog After Christmas Contest. Through the end of the week, we'll be giving away three prizes that we hope will erase your memories of gifts that were never gotten. Our bag of goodies includes a media gift pack with two books for the kids, R is for Race and When Henry Ford Met Santa, as well as something for the adults, a DVD copy of Grand Theft Auto: Tricked Out Edition, Ron Howard's directorial debut. The second prize is a complete set of heirloom quality Automoblox toy cars, and our grand prize is a Fisher Price Power Wheels Jeep Hurricane.

We're kicking off the sweepstakes today with the media pack shown at right, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press and Roger Corman, the self-ascribed Reigning King of Independant Films. and entering is simple. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post telling us the one present you always wanted and never got from St. Nick. We'll accept entries for this first drawing for 24 hours, or until 2:59PM EST on Wednesday, December 26th. At that time we'll randomly select a winner from the entries and announce who it is, as well as give you the details on entering the drawing for our second prize.

Here are the basic rules:
  • You can enter each of the three drawings once, but you can only win one prize
  • You must be 18 years old to enter
  • Winners must be a resident of the continental U.S. (we're working on broadening our reach for future sweepstakes, giveaways and contests)
  • Prizes will be shipped after all drawings are completed.
Check out the complete rules after the jump and good luck!

Continue reading The Autoblog After Christmas Sweepstakes

 

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Mystery JDM car revealed as Honda Crossroad

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UPDATE:
More photos added after jump


The mystery JDM vehicle we showed you traipsing around downtown L.A. a week or so ago has been revealed to be the Honda Crossroad, a utility vehicle that's smaller than a CR-V destined only for the Japenese domestic market. Though we were more than certain the vehicle was a Honda, we and many of you were ready to put money down on it being the new HR-V. Well, it's not the HR-V, but it may actually replace that vehicle in Honda's lineup. Information is still super sketchy, but these pictures prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's not a Ford!

[Source: Hollywood Extra]

Continue reading Mystery JDM car revealed as Honda Crossroad

 

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Mercedes registers CLC-Class name

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Despite the spy shots we see now and then, carmakers often manage to keep a tight lid on some of the projects they're working on, only giving us the occasional glimpse. Their cover is at least partially blown at times when they file for a trademark on a name. Once they've filed, the name is published for opposition, in case a competitor is already using it, giving us a chance to guess at what they might be up to.

Mercedes-Benz, it's been revealed, has filed for a trademark for the name CLC-Class. Based on their formulaic nomenclature, speculation has ensued over what that could be. One possibility bouncing around is a two-door version of the current CLS four-door coupe. Another is a convertible version of the CL, the two-door version of the S-Class sedan. While it'd seem an unlikely name to use for this application, DaimlerChrysler may have taken the name to use should they green-light the Ocean Drive concept (pictured) we'll be seeing in a couple weeks' time in Detroit.

Of course we have to take this all with a large grain of salt, remembering that just because a large company like DCX has filed for a trademark on a name doesn't necessarily mean they'll be using it on a production automobile. Interesting, though, that along with the Class 012 trademark for automobiles, Mercedes has also filed a Class 028 trademark for toy model vehicles on the CLC-Class name.

[Source: Paul Tan]

 

[via] Autoblog

Mitsubishi's Dakar team ready to go

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Mitsibishi Ralliart Dakar Pajero and Delica D:5

The Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Dakar rally team has completed its shakedown sessions and is ready to advance to the pre-race scrutineering and documentation on January 4-5. The race itself kicks off from Lisbon on January 6, and will mark the competition debut of the new Mitsubishi MPR13 rally cars, which are based on the newly-restyled Pajero SUV.

While we love the look of the new gull-winged Pajero rally raider, we're just as enthused to see the first action photos of the team's support car, a rally-prepped Mitsubishi Delica D:5 minivan. We count the Delica D:5 as one of our favorite JDM Vehicles That We Can't Have, and seeing the blocky van in full Repsol/Ralliart livery brings a smile to our faces. The Dakar Rally is a great event and involves a wide variety of vehicles, from bikes to pickups to SUVs to...well...Unimogs. Throw in the new Mitsu minivan and you have a veritable Star Wars cantina of race and support vehicles.

That's a good thing, and we'll try to follow Dakar '07 as closely as possible. (That pesky NAIAS is gonna get in the way for the first few days, though...)

Click here for a gallery of the Repsol/Ralliart Pajero and D elica.

[Source: Ralliart]

 

[via] Autoblog

Video of Lincoln MKR Concept joins embargoed material on the web

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click images to enlarge

This past week has been absolutely crazy with all the embargoes that have been broken. The result has been a flood of concepts meant to be kept secret until their debut in Detroit being introduced to the public way ahead of schedule. The one that's caused the biggest stir so far is the Lincoln MKR Concept, which appears on the cover of Car and Driver's February issue. That issue somehow found its way into the hands of subscribers and on newsstand shelves last Friday, 12/22/06, a full ten days before 1/1/07 when Ford's embargo on the concept was to be lifted.

Now that C&D has broken the embargo, every website across this great internet of ours is releasing all the info it has on the Lincoln MKR Concept. The heavyweight trade journal Automotive News has just posted what it's got, which includes a video that was taken at the Showroom of the Future event a few weeks ago. The video, which requires Windows Media Player, shows you what we saw in person that day, which is a dynamic concept for a brand that's been as boring as can be for years.

The MKR is a rear-wheel drive sedan based on the Mustang's platform that features a twin-turbo V6 generating 415 horsepower on E85 ethanol. The double-wing grille, retro Lincoln taillights and tall beltlines are all going to be part of future Lincoln designs, so study this concept well if you want to know what the Lincoln brand has in store for us.

Click here to watch the video (Warning: should automatically open Windows Media Player) or click the Read link to wind up at the link on Automotive News.

[Source: Automotive News]

 

[via] Autoblog

Ford officially responds to talk of Toyota alliance

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We just received an official statement from Ford regarding the hoopla surrounding Ford CEO Alan Mulally visiting Japan last week with President of the Americas Mark Fields in tow and meeting with executives from Toyota. Here it is.

"We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest. "


That's it. The brief statement does nothing really to quell the speculation that has arisen from the meeting. What, exactly, are the topics of mutual interest that these automakers are discussing? Some say Ford wants access to Toyota's hybrid technology, despite the fact it already pays licensing fees on the Escape Hyrid's drivetrain because of how similar it is to Toyota's Hyb rid Synergy Drive. Of course, any talk of alliances and partnerships brings up the obvious advantage of greater purchasing power and larger economies of scale spread across two companies rather than one.

Regardless, Ford's concise statement on the matter tells us that it was a closed door meeting, and we're not supposed to know what transpired between the two automakers. That's fine. We'll find out soon enough as this industry is the worst at keeping secrets.

 

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No more aluminum for Subaru exteriors

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According to Forbes, Subaru will stop utilizing aluminum exterior body panels on all new and redesigned models, beginning in March of 2007. Subaru claims that over the past two years, the cost of aluminum has more than doubled and as such, it will begin using zinc-coated steel sheets instead.

The models currently using aluminum panels include the Legacy, Forester and Impreza. We know the hood of the Impreza is aluminum, but can't remember what else. All you NASIOC and i-Club boys can refresh our memory in the 'comments.'

[Source: Forbes via Jalopnik]

 

[via] Autoblog

Galleries of the 2007 Peugeot Design Contest entries

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Every year Peugeot holds a design challenge inviting the best and brightest automotive artists to conjure a vehicle for the future. This year's theme is "P.L.E.A.S.E. Innovate", which corresponds to six features the winning entry should exhibit: Pleasurable (to drive), Lively, Efficient, Accessible, Simple, and Ecological. This year there are 30 projects that are in the running and we've assembled them all for your perusal in high-res galleries after the jump. If you like wild concepts that have no respect for reality, then you'll be in heaven below the fold. You can also vote for your favorite concept here.

Since the whole challenge is being sponsored by the XBOX 360, the winning project will not only be on display in ful l scale at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show, it will also be playable in a yet-to-be-named video game for the XBOX 360.

Follow the jump to see high-resolution galleries of each entry.

[Source: Peugeot Concours Design]

Continue reading Galleries of the 2007 Peugeot Design Contest entries

 

[via] Autoblog

AutoblogGreen for 12.27.06

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The NAIAS is coming soon, and you know that means concept cars out the wazoo. On AutoblogGreen yesterday, we featured Toyota's new FT-HS, and later today we'll have more details on Volvo's new XC60. There's never a dull day in the green car world, especially with Ed Begley Jr. running around.

 

[via] Autoblog

Detroit Preview: Rolls-Royce cabriolet

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Rolls-Royce is set to take the wraps off a new convertible at the Detroit Motor Show less than two weeks from now, and have leaked a few photos to get our Spirits of Ecstasy flying. Although the name is not yet officially known, most insiders predict a revival of the Corniche nameplate for this grand cabriolet that picks up where the show-stopping 100EX concept car left off in 2004.

As can be seen from the press photos, some of the highly unique features from the show car have made it into the pre-production version. One of the most intriguing is the classic speedboat-style teak boot-lid under which the power soft-top will stow. The sinister LED headlights have also carried through, as has the stunning brushed-aluminum hood section (as unlikely as it was predicted that it would make it to production). The suicide doors are also there, granting elegant access to the world-class cabin with what looks like ample room, front and back. The trunk also has a unique split opening, one section folding down like a tailgate and another up like a conventional trunk lid.

Aside from the images, which you can check out after the jump, no details were released, but we can reasonably expect it will carry the 6.75-liter V12 and six-speed auto-box from its sister saloon the Phantom.

[Source: Rolls-Royce via AutoWeek.nl]

Continue reading Detroit Preview: Rolls-Royce cabriolet

 

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Not so sweet Sixteen: GM says definitely no $100k+ sedan

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Yeah. We're bummed too. Not surprised, just disappointed. Way back in 2003 when GM rolled this 16-cylinder beauty onto a NAIAS stage, it was easy to believe in a revived Cadillac. The grand Sixteen would be the pinnacle of all American-built cars and would lead the way for U.S. automakers' return to the forefront of vehicle design and engineering.

Automotive News reports that GM looked at the market, and decided the world just wasn't ready for the Cadillac of Cadillacs. So for now, the Escalade will just have to be the, uh, Cadillac of Cadillacs.

[Source: Automotive News (sub req'd)]

 

Autoblog's #5 Most-Read Post of the Year

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We're going to count down to the new year by going back over the top five most-read posts on Autoblog during the course of 2006.

The #5 Most-Read Post of the Year is "Loremo debuts 150 mpg concept car in Geneva".

Posted on February 27th by Stuart Waterman, this post highlighted a Geneva concept that was capable of incredible fuel economy, decent performance and an extremely low operating cost. Unfortunately, we haven't heard much about the Loremo since then.

Over the course of the year this post racked up 173, 612 page views. Click on the Read link below to relive 2/27 and see what all the fuss was about.

 

[via] Autoblog

Chinese government puts brakes on automakers

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Not so long ago, the Chinese government was encouraging automotive manufacturers as a way to stimulate the country's economy. Now, however, the National Development and Reform Commission has hit the brakes with new rules dictating how China's burgeoning automotive industry can expand. "Signs of overcapacity have already appeared, and could worsen," read a statement from the commission.

The commission's rules will dictate minimum sales targets for SUVs, trucks, vans and buses. Foreign automakers looking to invest in China must show a need for increased production capacity by proving it has exceeded 80% of its previous years' capacity.

At first glance it looks like Chinese economic planners are trying to ensure their newly found automotive gold mine doesn't run dry any time soon, leavi ng empty factories and unemployed workers across China. A BizChina report seems to address the issue from another angle. BizChina says the intent is to "curb vicious competition through price cuts." So maybe it's not over capacity China is trying to avoid, but instead cutthroat business practices practiced by its domestic industry.

[Source: Reuters via The Auto Channel, and BizChina]

 

[via] Autoblog

Eulogy for the Pacer - a memorial tribute to organ-donating AMCs

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AMC PacerWhile it is perhaps not terribly far-fetched to think that there are folks who like the Pacer, this just seems like an unhealthy attachement. In the process of keeping his own very fine looking '76 alive, Curt Uhrin felt guilty about just stripping bits off those cars that gave their lives so that his may live on. Guilty enough, in fact, to create a website devoted to keeping their memories alive. Curt took pictures of the junkyard cars as they lay in state and wrote wistful descriptions that make us want to go cuddle their rounded little fenders and restore them to their AMC funk-shack glory daze.

While the Pacer wasn't a bad car, per se, it was really uniquely styled. This was probably the car's most off-putting feature, a s the running gear was pretty solid stuff.. Enough time has passed to make this once hideous car look almost cool. Kind of like E.T. -- so homely it's cute. One thing is for sure, AMC lovers definitely have underdog complexes, and what better underdog to love than one that's not only quirky (all AMCs are quirky), but pug-faced, to boot?

[Source: Hemmings]

 

[via] Autoblog

VIDEO: What are those flying Dutchmen doing to that Ferrari?

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If you're a regular reader here at Autoblog, you'll know that we like aftermarket tuners, and regularly cover some of their finest efforts. Tuners give enthusiasts and buyers a broader range of customizable options than the factory could possibly envision, allowing us to express our individuality and personal taste - or, sometimes, complete lack thereof. But some things you just don't mess with, like a Ferrari. With very few exceptions, messing with the perfection of a Prancing Horse just spells disaster.

This video from Dutch television shows the agonizing step-by-step process of turning the F430, one of the best sports cars ever to grace God's green earth, into a rolling orange abomination that looks more Trick than Treat in its Halloween livery.

It's probably just as well if you can't understand what the narrator and interviewees are saying, because frankly, we don't want to know. Watch at your own risk...not for the faint of heart.

Related post:

 

[via] Autoblog

Toyota responds to talk of Ford alliance

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Well, this should end all those Toyota/Ford merger rumors swirling around. A Toyota spokesman has said company Chairman Fujio Cho did meet with Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Vice President Mark Fields, but it was only a "get-acquainted meeting." According to Automotive News, the spokesman then added: Toyota's top executives constantly meet with counterparts at other automakers. Hmmm. That sounds familiar.

As you may remember, we received an official, but brief, statement from Ford Tuesday. It said, "We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest. "

Coincidence of phrasing? Possibly. Concerted effort to quiet industry speculation? Throw some more coal in the rumor mill, boys!

 

[via] Autoblog

Autoblog Podcast Relaunch Sweepstakes #2: Winner announced!

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We'll be releasing episo de #52 of the Autoblog Podcast later today, but before we do it's time to announce the winner of the Autoblog Podcast Relaunch Sweepstakes #2. Congratulations go out to Brandon F. who will soon receive a 2GB iPod Nano in the mail. Brandon's entry was randomly chosen from 195 submissions, a significant increase over the number of submissions we received for the first sweepstakes.

Later today when we publish episode #52 you'll be able to enter the Autoblog Podcast Relaunch Sweepstakes #3, the prize of which is the mother of all iPod Nanos, the 8GB Black Nano. Entering the contest is simple and free, just listen to the podcast to hear the secret keyword that will be revealed sometime during the show. When you hear it, email the keyword to abresearch at gmail dot com along with your name, age and email address.

Make sure you subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes by clicking here so the next episode is automatically delivered to you when it's released. Click here for the official rules.

 

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BOLD MOVES: THE FUTURE OF FORD A new documentary series. Be part of the transformation as it happens in real-time

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