R.L. Polk hands out awards for loyalty; GM and Toyota clean up

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R.L. Polk & Co. announced the winners of its 11th Automotive Loyalty Awards during the 2007 Automotive News World Congress a week or so ago. Some of the companies and cars that won may surprise you. First off, General Motors won the Overall Manufacturer award... for the seventh consecutive year. While GM's future is looking a little rosier right now, the past seven years were not as kind. Turns out GM faithful didn't care. Next up is the Make, or brand, with the most loyal customers. You'll not be too surprised to hear that Toyota picked up that statue. Then we get to the individual models that have the most loyal customers. You can check out the full list after the jump, but may we just bring to light the fact that the Saturn ION won for be ing the Small Car with the most loyal clientele, as did the Saturn VUE in the Compact SUV category. Also, the Land Rover Ranger Rover is the Prestige SUV with the most loyal customers, despite that brand's reoccuring quality issues. Most of the others winners are what you'd expect to see on such a list: the Toyota Prius, Ford Mustang, Chevy Corvette, Chrysler Town and Country, Ford F-Series, etc. Still, a few of those names caused a double-take.

FYI: According to Polk, "Loyalty is determined when a household that owns a new vehicle returns to market and purchases or leases another new vehicle of the same model or make."

Thanks for the tip, Oliver!

[Source: R.L. Polk]

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Revealed: ING Renault F1 R27 and new title sponsor ING Group

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Click on the image for a gallery of high-res photos of the new Renault R27

For 2007 the Renault Formula 1 team gets a new primary sponsor and returns to the once traditional color scheme of yellow, white and black. Now that tobacco money has been banished from F1 cars, Renault says Au Revoir to long-time patron Mild Seven and Bonjour to Dutch banking and insurance conglomerate ING Group. The team is now officially known as ING Renault F1, which was unveiled recently along with the new R27 that they'll use to chase their third straight drivers and constructors championships, this time, however, without ace driver Fernando Alonso who jumped ship to McLaren for the 2007 season.

As a result of the new rules, for the first time since 2001 Renault is not using an all new engine in 2007. The 2.4L V-8 has ninety percent commonality with the 2006 engine and has been optimized to operate under the new 19,000 rpm rev limit imposed on all engines this year. This year's RS27 engine will also be shared with the Red Bull Racing RB3 in identical specification. A pair of the new R27s began testing at the Jerez track in Spain last week with the goal of achieving as many test miles as possible in the hands of both Giancarlo Fisichella and rookie Heikki Kovalainen prior to the season opener. They've already racked up over 1,200 miles with only minor issues. The full Renault press release is after the jump.

[Source: Renault]

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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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Jaguar adding second supercharger to XF lineup

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click above image to view high-resolution gallery of the Jaguar C-XF Concept

Jaguar is all about tradition, which is one reason why its now the black sheep of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, having never even come close to turning a profit while under Blue Oval ownership. Clearly it's time for a change, as sticking with tried and true traditions has gotten the marque nowhere lately. Just as the XF will be shedding any resemblance to the Jaguar's we've come to know, so to will its engine lineup deviate from the one-supercharger rule. In the past, only the high-performance 'R' version of the S-Type, which will become the XF, had a supercharged engine - a 4.2-liter V8 producing 420 hp. That engine will again be used in the XF, but not in the XF -R. Rather, that blown V8 will merely be the top engine in the standard lineup. Later on, around 2010, Autocar expects a new 'R' version with a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that sports direct injection and will, in our estimation, produce at least 500 horsepower. Jaguar is serious about making the XF competitive, and the XF-R will require at least a half a grand of horsepower to compete with the BMW M5 and the rest of the German super sedans.



[Source: Autocar]

 

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Spy Shots: Toyota Land Cruiser/Lexus LX 570

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Over the past decade or so, Toyota has built up an SUV empire, ranging from the RAV4 to the Sequoia and the FJ Cruiser to the Lexus RX450h, with everything in between. But its flagship sport-ute has been on the market - all but completely untouched - for nine years now. And even for trucks that's a long life-cycle. While the Land Cruiser (and its luxury sister the Lexus LX) still won't be getting the top-to-bottom overhaul it so richly deserves, it is getting what will probably amount to a stop-gap update in 2008.

The biggest change is tipped to come under the hood. In foreign markets the Japanese-produced Land Cruiser is offered with a wide range of engines, but in the United States there's only one powerplant offered in both the Toyota and Lexus versions. That 4.7-liter V8 is expected to be ditched for the new 5.7-liter VVT-I V8 from the new Toyota Tundra pick-up truck, complete with Toyota's new six-speed automatic.

Following random shots here and there, more mules were spotted while testing in southern Europe. It'd be fairly safe to say that the styling won't be a radical departure by any stretch of the imagination, just an update on the theme people have come to recognize as the Land Cruiser. That shouldn't stop Toyota from significantly upgrading the interior, though.

With so many SUVs on offer, we can't imagine Toyota sells that many Land Cruisers worldwide, certainly not in the American market. But like other rugged, iconic SUVs (the Mercedes G-Wagon and Land Rover Defender come to mind), they continue to produce it for those who demand nothing less - and nothing more.

[Source: Truck Trend via eGM CarTech]

 

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Jeep prices the 2007 Grand Cherokee CRD

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We know for sure that in a couple of years the U.S. market will have more diesel options than it's had in a very long time. They'll be powerful, efficient and clean diesels, different in every way from the ones you remember during the Reagan era. DaimlerChrysler is poised to enjoy having the broadest lineup of diesel engines available across its many brands in the coming years, and one of the first that's 50-state legal is the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD, pricing for which was released today. To refresh your memory, the GC CRD's V6 is the same 3.0-liter diesel developed by Mercedes-Benz and used in many of that brand's products. It produces 215 horsepower and a stout 376 ft-lbs. of torque. For comparison's sake, the GC's available 5.7-liter V8 produc es more horsepower at 330, but falls behind the 3.0-liter V6 CRD in torque with 375 ft-lbs. No doubt it will also far behind the CRD engine in fuel economy, which promises 20 city/25 highway for 4x2 models and 20/24 for 4x4 models.

Below you'll find the pricing of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD, with the prices of comparable gas-powered models included, as well. The official press release from Jeep can be found after the jump.

Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD Limited 4x2 $38,475 (including $695 destination)
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x2 $35,425

Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD Limited 4x4 $41,715 (including $695 destination)
Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 $38,015

Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD Overland 4x2 $41,960 (including $695 destination)
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4x2 $39,950

Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD Overland 4x4 $45,395 (including $695 destination)
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4x4 $4 3,385


[Source: Jeep]

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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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2007 Russo & Steele, Scottsdale: The Munster Coach

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Click on the image for a high-res gallery of photos of this car

1923 Ford Munster Coach - #6778

if you don't read through the catalog before arriving at one of these auctions, you can be in for some big surprises. After passing dozens of incredible muscle cars, an equal number of cool race cars, and several European sports cars, the sight of casket handles surrounding an engine lid can be a bit unnerving. Originally built for the Cars of the Stars museum in Buena Park, California, this particular shocker is 1 of 3 Munster Coaches ever built as the conveyance of choice for Herman and the gang. The car was built in the late 1960s on a hand-buil t frame. The body is made up of three separate Model T Fords. After sitting in storage for several years it was given a thorough makeover in early 2000. It was fitted with a new Chevy small block, new brakes and tires and repainted. It's a great car for a museum or car buff.

[Source: Russo and Steele]

 

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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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Fiat and Bertone to jointly produce Punto-based Lancia CC

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What do you get for the automotive conglomerate that already owns almost every Italian marque in the industry? A legendary design house, of course. Fortunately for Fiat, independent coachbuilders like Bertone have been in a lot of financial trouble recently, as evidenced by Pininfarina's recent cuts.

At the Paris show, Bertone displayed the Suagna (pictured), an impressive coupe-cabriolet based on the Fiat Grande Punto platform. Now a rumored joint venture could see the Fiat group establishing a new company with Bertone to produce a car based on the Suagna concept. The reported idea would be for Bertone to supply "industrial assets" (i.e. the facilities) and the staff while Fiat pays for everything else.

[Source: Automotive News via Motor Authority]

Continue reading Fiat and Bertone to jointly produce Punto-based Lancia CC

 

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Seattle dealership rips off disabled man

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So you think that car salesman and dealerships have overcome their oft-deserved reputation for being sleazy? After reading this story, our semi-restored faith in the process of buying a car has been decimated.

Eleven dealership employees at the Huling Brothers dealership in West Seattle took part in an elaborate scam to take advantage of a 60-year old man with obvious mental deficiencies. When the man, soaked in his own urine, entered the dealership and told the car salesman that he had over $100K in cash in his home, the wheels of the scam machine went into full-gear and he left the dealership with an expensive truck . Needless to say, the man winds up with no money and no truck at the end of the story. Check out the details of this sad tale after the jump.

Thanks for the tip, Yvo.

[Source: KOMO TV]

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Ford loses $1b due to counterfeit parts

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In a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, Ford Motor Company is said to be losing about $1 billion per year due to counterfeit parts sales. Ford states that the real cost could be much higher, as it's impossible to determine the potential costs in terms of reduced safety related to these parts.

Ford has a full-time staff that is tasked to pursue the manufacturers and resellers of these parts, but admits that legal action is very difficult to enforce outside of the US and Mexico. Other companies included in the survey included Merck & Co., New Balance, Xerox Corp, and Bendix, all of who experience similar issues with counterfeiting.

Next time you buy those knock-off parts for your ride, take into consideration that you are not only putting your life on the line, but also the countless other drivers on the road around you. Spend a few more bucks and get the right parts, right from the source or else a legitimate substitute.

[Source: MSNBC]

 

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VIDEO: Demolition Derby, Soccer-Mom Style

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"Hell knows no wrath like a woman scorned" goes the old proverb. What about a woman with her car scratched up? This video is a surprisingly entertaining clip from the Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle", where a simple tap of the door, fueled by downright bitchiness, devolves into a full on demolition derby between one woman in an old Tempo and another in a Mustang, all while stunned bystanders look on in amazement. The comically joyous Christmas music in the soundtrack is just the icing on the cake.

Disclaimer: No mothers were harmed during the filming of this segment. Just a couple old Fords. Awesome.

 

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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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Speed and Cocaine don't mix

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When we say that racing drivers are "speed addicts", we're referring to the intoxicating exhilaration of velocity, not the chemical narcotic. Cocaine is another story, as Luca Moro is finding out...the hard way. The 33-year-old Italian GT driver tested positive for cocaine in a routine drug test at the Spa 24 Hours race in Belgium this past year. The driver has the recourse to appeal the revocation, but he's already tested positive twice.

As an international sports governing body, the FIA adheres to the policies and rules of the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA), and cocaine falls squarely in the category of their prohibited substances. The question we'd like to ask is, if cocaine isn't a performance-enhancing drug (like steroids, for example), and motor-racing isn't an athletic sport, what effect does Moro's cocaine use have on his competition?

Do you think the use of drugs should be prohibited in motorsports, or are the two completely unrelated? Leave your opinion in our comments section.

[Source: GrandPrix.com]

 

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RIP: Baron Emmanuel Toulo de Graffenried (1914-2007)

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One of the oldest surviving grand prix racing drivers has left us for the Big Pit-Stop in the Sky. Baron Emmanuel "Toulo" de Graffenried - yes, he was an actual Swiss baron - has died at the ripe old age of 92.

De Graffenried raced before and after the Second World War, achieving notable success and victories in the earliest days of Formula One. In 1948, the Baron won the first British Grand Prix, crowning his numerous podium finishes at races from Monaco to Zandvoort and from Geneva to Interlagos, competing mostly in Alfa Romeo and Maserati racing cars. He stood in for Kirk Douglas in The Racers (1955), and retired from racing at 42 to focus on his garage in Lausanne where he sold Alfas, Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. In the 70's he was back in the paddock as longtime racing sponsor Marlboro's F1 ambassador, its parent company Philip Morris being based in Lausanne.

Toulo was born in Paris in 1914 and grew up in Switzerland, where the de Graffenried family was one of the most prominent families, tracing all the way back to circa 1270. With him dies a simpler, more majestic age of motor racing long since lost to the commercialization and regulation of grand prix racing.

[Source: GrandPrix.com]

 

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Toyota's Jim Press named Auto Industry Exec of the Year

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Jim Press, the president of Toyota Motor North America (TMA), has been announced as the recipient of this year's 2007 Automotive Industry Executive of the Year award, which surprisingly marks the first time (though probably not the last) that a Toyota exec has earned the honor. You may remember last year's recipient was Bill Ford, Jr., who technically no longer holds the position as Ford Motor Company's reigning auto exec. Press, however, is at the reigns of Toyota's North American division, which finished up last year with double-digit sales growth. Many analysts are placing their bets that 2007 will be th e year that Toyota sells more vehicles in the U.S. world than General Motors, which seems entirely likely considering that GM is scaling back production while Toyota is revving up. 2007 also marks the year that Toyota will go head-to-head with its domestic competitors in the full-size pickup segment with the new Tundra pickup (show above with Press). Press also stands out for being the first non-Japanese president of TMA, and few can argue he's done an outstanding job so far. The question remains whether he can keep his ship intact as Toyota's business in the U.S. market scales ever upward. Clearly the automaker's reputation for quality has begun to crack with recalls and service issues beginning to grow in number. Nevertheless, Press will receive his award in April at a fancy shindig in Detroit attended by other OEM execs and industry leaders. Congrats, Jim!

[Source: PR Newswire]

UPDATE: This post has been correctly attributed to John Neff, who wrote the post near the end of a long day. The errors that were present have been corrected.

 

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VIDEO: Lexus IS-F revving it up

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We have voiced our distaste over the tuner styling treatment of the IS-F, the high-performance version of the Lexus IS-Series that debuted earlier this month at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Despite our preference to look away in its preference, our ears perk up at the sound of its 400-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8. We weren't privy to an aural exhibition of the engine while in Detroit covering the show, but thankfully someone with a video camera was present when it appears they were moving the car out of Cobo Hall after the show. T he engine sounds throaty, and it's probably louder than any Lexus engine ever made. The question is whether or not the conservative clientele Lexus is known for will go for an IS with an ostentacious body kit and monster motor.

Thanks for the tip, Vin!

Gallery: Lexus IS-F

 

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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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Spy Shots: 2009 Audi A8

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At first glance, you'll hardly be able to tell a difference between the 2007 Audi A8 and the testing mule you're staring at here. The most obvious differences are the extra-wide fenders flares on the mule. Nevertheless, this is the next iteration of the A8, which will also sport some mechanical upgrades when it debuts in 2009. Audi will be looking to make the A8 lineup a more athletic group of luxury sedans by lowering the car's weight and distributing it better on the Modular Longitudinal Platform it will share with the bulk of Audi's passenger car lineup. We're particularly excited about the possibility of Audi dropping in the 6.0-liter V12 TDI that will first be offered in the Q7 SUV. Inspired by the same engine that propelled Audi's pair of R10 LMP1 racers to victory in the American LeMans Series, this engine produces a beastly 500 hp and 737 ft-lbs. of torque. The V12 will be crazy in the Q7 and Grade-A insane in the lighter A8. You can check out more spy shots of the A8 at the link, but we'll warn you there's not much new to see for now.

Thanks for the tip, Jason!

 

[via] Autoblog

Officially Official: VW unveils Jetta TDI in D.C. and hopes to find oldest-running VW diesel in U.S.

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Today Volkswagen officially introduced the next generation Jetta TDI. The new diesel Jetta features the 2.0-liter BLUETEC diesel four-cylinder we told you about earlier this month, which manages to meet emissions standards in all 50 states without the use of urea injection. Instead it uses a nitrogen oxide storage catalyst controlled by the engine management system, which periodically changes the vehicle's operating mode to treat the nitrogen oxide it's stored up. VW says it reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent. Unfortunately, VW didn't realease any power figures for the Jetta TDI or a price or fuel economy numbers for that matter, though the vehicle's not going to be available all the way until the spring of 2008.

As we've made known, we're excited about diesels making a comeback, and the Jetta TDI is a coup for diesel proponents in the U.S. since it's much less expensive than some of the other early diesel offerings like the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD.

In related news, VW also announced that it's begun a search for the oldest-running and highest-mileage VW diesel in the U.S. As AutoblogGreen points out, it will likely be a diesel Rabbit, as VW has sold the most of those in the U.S. over time, 12,393 in 1977 alone. The engine has to be original and the search will officially begin in March and run through at least August. The owner of the winning vehicle will get to drive a 2007 Touareg TDI for six months, which will no doubt be quite an upgrade.

Check out VW's official press releases for both announcements after the jump.

[Source: Volkswagen, AutoblogGreen]

Continue reading Officially Official: VW unveils Jetta TDI in D.C. and hopes to find oldest-running VW diesel in U.S.

 

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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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Greece gears up for Hellenic Grand Prix bid

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It just doesn't stop - now every country and their neighbor seems to want to host a grand prix, and lucky Bernie Ecclestone gets to decide who gets one and who doesn't. Following recent reports of Singapore, India, Abu Dhabi and Portugal all seeking to bring Formula One to their countries, the latest to join the fray is Greece, where the government has pledged its support to seeking the establishment of a Greek Gr and Prix.

This past Saturday, Greek President Karolos Papoulias signed a directive opening the door for race organizers to solicit funding from the Ministry of Development. The track would be built on a site at Orchomenos on the Greek mainland 75 miles northwest of Athens, earmarked for a racing track since 1992.

Last year Turkey struck a blow to Greek national pride with the Cyprus debacle at the Turkish Grand Prix, and got away with barely a slap on the wrist while being allowed to keep its race. Aside from the obvious boost to tourism that every grand prix hopeful nation seeks, last year's escalation in the Greek-Turkish détente might have added a little extra motivation for the government to finally support the bid and help get the project off the ground.

[Source: GrandPrix.com]

 

[via] Autoblog

Wacky USB remote-controlled car provides minutes of fun

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Around our office, we're always passing small files between the multiple workstations via USB flash drives. Chinese toymaker Marsilli has come up with a fun way for us to amuse ourselves as we pass files back and forth. Their 512MB flash drive that doubles as an RC car comes with its own race track, though the first thing we'd try is zooming these little buggers around from room to room. They're controllable with your cellphone, though we're not sure if it's via Bluetooth or some other scheme. The USB port jutting out the back of the New Beetle is also just about the correct scale to match some of the inane drainage-pipe exhausts we've seen on clapped out rides around town, too. It's t oo bad we don't have an office pet, as we bet these zoomy little cars would do great on smooth surfaces and drive cats and dogs absolutely bonkers. We know we'd giggle like schoolgirls for a good half hour, maybe more. We're not sure where to find these in the US just yet, but we haven't looked terribly hard, either. We've been avoiding actually finding them because they're just what we need, more excuses to be unproductive while we hold out for that dream job of GranTurismo beta tester.

[Source: engadget.com]

 

[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: all-new Citroen C5

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After releasing a slew of new models, French auto group PSA is turning its attention to the C5, Citroen's mainstream family sedan. A test mule was just caught testing on the highway in France, giving a face to the long list of details already known about the upcoming Citroen.

The C5 will be underpinned by an all-new platform with a longer wheelbase than the model it replaces. That means more room for Jacques and Jeanne plus extra luggage space so you can fit in those super-long baguettes. Power comes from a range of engines including Citroen's new 173-hp 2.2-liter HDI and 2.7-liter V6 diesel co-developed with Ford, as well as a whole menu of conventional gasoline engines with a 3-liter V6 leading the charge up the Bastille. The front wheels are driven through a choice of manual, automatic or semi-automatic transmissions while the new car will ride on a cushy new air suspension.

[Source: Auto Express]

Continue reading Spy Shots: all-new Citroen C5

 

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SOTU: Revised energy strategy includes alt-fuel increases and revised CAFE

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President Bush will be addressing his first State of the Union to a Democratic-controlled Congress in about a half hour. At that time, many people in the country will be in a bad mood because their favorite TV show on Tuesday night was just preempted. Many will change the channel to watch something on cable, but some will stay to watch the president speak, and energy is one topic that will surely be discussed.

We already know what he's going to talk about because Joel Kaplan, the White House deputy chief of staff (that would be Josh Lyman's position) told us today. The big, bold move Bush will make on energy tonight will be to call for Americans to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent by 2017. A fine idea for sure, though the new Congress will disagree with President Bush on how to achieve the goal.

The administration basically has a two-pronged strategy. The first is a new mandate proposing we increase the amount of alternative fuels blended into the national fuel supply to 35 billion gallons by 2017. These fuels would now also include biodiesel, methanol, butanol and hydrogen, in addition the politically popular ethanol. The second strategy is to further revise Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards by applying the same revisions to mileage standards used recently on trucks to passenger vehicles. This is where the President and the new Democratic-controlled congress will likely butt heads the most. The Dems simply wan t to raise CAFE standards for passenger vehicles from the current 27.5 miles per gallon, while the administration's sliding scale applies different standards based on a vehicle's footprint or size. It's all very technical and boring, which is what we imagine the SOTU address will be tonight, but we'll watch anyways 'cause the Commander in Chief's gonna talk about cars, and we're always up for some car talk.

Feel free to post your thoughts on the SOTU in the comments, but keep it civil or we'll have to turn the comments off on this post. Thanks.

[Source: AP]

 

[via] Autoblog

AutoblogGreen for 01.24.07

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Big day in DC yesterday, with news of lots of clean diesels and a new plug-in hybrid that runs on hydrogen (the new PHEV Ford Edge with HySeries Drive). Ford also announced it will send 20 E85-capable Escape Hybrids SUVs out for testing this spring. Oh, and the guesses about what energy policy changes would make it into the President's State of the Union speech was big in the news. We put up our first reactions last night, and we'll take an in-depth look at what the speech means for cars, the air and the economy later today.

 

[via] Autoblog

Future speculation on the Audi A1

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Infomotori's commissioned designer has come out with several more images that elaborate on the speculation surrounding Audi's possible release of a premium B/C segment competitor. Such a vehicle will assuredly be dubbed the A1, slotting below the A3, and aimed squarely at other German luxury offerings, as well as the MINI Cooper.

Andrea Rosati takes several cues from Audi's Shooting Brake concept, but manages to utilize more of the lines from the recently released TT and R8. The corporate gaping maw front clip is present and accounted for, as are the seven-spoke wheels pulled straight from the RS4. From there however, the diversions become more apparent, with a much more upright stance that runs counter to Audi's current low slung offerings, as well as narrower headlamps that are pulled back at a more extreme angle to the outsides of the vehicle, starkly contrasting the lights currently employed by the TT.

Although we have normally dispatch most artist's renderings as pure speculation, there were a few trick elements that we'd like to see utilized on future Audis: namely, the angular central exhaust outlet and the Audi-logo-turned-third-brake-light.

Follow the "Read" link for all the renderings, a few pics of the Shooting Brake Concept and some speculation on possible powertrains.

[Source: Infomotori.co.uk]

 

[via] Autoblog