Ariel Atom builders heart the environment, change new supercar from V12 to all-electric

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If we're honest, most decisions in the business world, especially in the auto industry, aren't made for altruistic reasons. Money is the name of the game, and as the environment is becoming a much talked about issue around the dinner table, many automakers are realizing that it's in their best interest, financially speaking, to develop greener vehicles.

Craig Bramscher, the CEO of Brammo Motorsports, which builds the Ariel Atom in the U.S., seems to have changed the course of his company's direction based on the revelation that it could be making less of an impact on the environment. Brammo had been developing a new supercar called the Rogue GT that was to be powered by a V12 engine swilling gasoline like there was no tomorrow. Since Bramscher has realized there is a tomorrow, however, he's changed the product plan to make the supercar all-electric and renamed it the Enertia GT. This could be the beginning of a lineup of EV vehicles from Brammo, as it just unveiled an all-electric motorcycle last week called the Enertia. While the Enertia GT is likely to have a lower top speed than the Rogue GT due to the switch, acceleration is expected to improve. There's no word on what type of batteries the car will use or how far it will go on a charge, either.

While one could certainly question Bramscher's motivation for going green (one might argue you can attract more attention with an electric supercar than it could with one powered by a V12 engine), it appears the CEO just grew a soft spot for Mother Earth and is changing his dirty ways.

[Source: Winding Road]

 

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Geely looking to produce 2 million vehicles/year by 2015

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Geely is looking to greatly expand production of its inexpensive vehicles with ambitious goals of selling one million units per year by 2010 and two million units by 2015. The Chinese automaker has purchased four existing plants and is building a fifth plant to help towards its lofty goal, and there are 15 new products in their pipeline. Geely would like to expand into the US, where its rock-bottom prices would be welcomed, but rip-off styling and poor safety records wouldn't. The Chinese automaker also wants to move upmarket, which should be easy with $4,000 cars, and is investing heavily in R&D. Two million vehicles is a lot of metal, and eight years isn't a lot of time, though.

[Source: Auto News - sub. req'd]

 

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Chrysler takes full control of Brazilian Tritec engine plant

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Chrysler has taken full ownership of the Tritec joint-venture engine plant it operated in Brazil with BMW. The 1.4L and 1.6L engines were used in the first generation of the BMW-built MINI and overseas-market versions of the Dodge Neon and Chrysler PT Cruiser. BMW replaced the unloved engines in the new MINI with a unit developed with Peugeot, while Chrysler is now using its new global four-cylinder engines developed and shared with Mitsubishi and Hyundai.

Chrysler now has to decide what to do with the plant. It will probably be sold off, with both Russia's AutoVaz and China's Lifan reportedly interested.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

 

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Fool your friends with Hyundai-powered custom "Ferrari"

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The lengths people will go to to turn a somewhat ordinary vehicle into something that pretends to be so much more always amazes us. Ferrari seems to be a favorite marque for many to emulate, in fact. Whether it's the simplest Scuderia shields on the fenders, or a full-on Fiero or MR2 rebody, it seems like a lot of folks really wish they had a prancing horse in their garage instead of a Hyundai.

Today's example comes via craiglist, and it's a bit different. What you see above is apparently a real Ferrari... body. It's genuine Maranello aluminum stretched around a custom frame, with some real Ferrari bits here and there, all powered by a Hyundai Tiburon V6. Done up in Ponzi Blue, this shark has 44,000 miles on the clock and looks halfway decent in the two pixelated pics provided. If this sounds like your kind of thing, the going price is "just" $37,500.

[Source: craigslist]

 

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StreetWriter van gets the last word

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OK, this is kind of cool, but kind of scary at the same time. Built by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, this spray-painting van is an ink-jet printer for the road. Pretty cool idea, but what would you actually do with it? Well, the IAA's stated mission, according to CNET, is "to study the forces and structures which affect self-determination and to provide technologies which extend the autonomy of human activists." That basically boils down to this being a graffiti truck, and that's effin sweet.

The so-called StreetWriter uses a "computer-controlled industrial spray painting unit" in an extended-length cargo van. The printings are probably best read from above, but even those on the ground will get the message. At right is a view of the inside of the van.

[Source: CNET via Engadget]

 

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Scion xD gets stickered at $14,550*

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Don't forget about the destination charges! Those are an additional $620.

click on the above image to view more pics of the 2008 Scion xD

Scion has come out today and priced its new entry-level xD with an MSRP of $14,550 for one with a manual tranny and $15,350 for one with an automatic. The base MSRP of the outgoing xA is $12,780, so anyone interested in getting into a Scion as cheaply as possible better do so now, because the entry fee will be going up by $1,770 as soon as the new xD arrives. To be fair, the xD looks to be a significantly better car than the anemic xA. Whereas the xA came with a 103-hp (revised 2006 SAE number) 1.5L motor, the xD gets a four-cylinder with .3L more displacement, 25 more horsepower and variable valve timing. With a manual, the new engine will return 27 mpg city/33 mpg highway, which is average though not exceptional fuel economy for a car this size.

Read all the marketing mumbo jumbo on the new xD in the press release after the jump. Pricing can be found in the second last to paragraph, though no options were priced with the car at this time. You can also revisit the xD's debut in Chicago last February by flipping through the gallery below.

[Source: Toyota]

Gallery: 2008 Scion xD

Continue reading Scion xD gets stickered at $14,550*

 

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U of M Economics professor tackles tough question of UAW wages

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A tip sent us to the blog of Dr. Mark J. Perry, professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan, who points out that hourly union workers at the Big 3 make on average 57.6% more in a year than a university professor with a Ph.D. Using figures from the automakers themselves, Dr. Perry tells us that a union worker at Ford makes $141,020/year including wages and benefits. A worker at General Motors makes $146,520/year and one at Chrysler earns $151,720/year. According to another report he cites, the average annual salary for a college professor in 2006 was $92,973, which happens to be close to the $96,000/year a Honda, Nissan or Toyota worker makes in the U.S.

Why trot out all these numbers? It's clear that upcoming negotiations between the Big 3 and UAW will likely yield concessions in both wages and healthcare costs. They have to if the U.S. auto industry is to survive. Dr. Perry references those who say the concessions must be "transformational", and to illustrate what that means, he suggests that Union workers would have to accept a wage equal to that of a college professor with a Ph.D.

We get that union auto workers are overpaid, we really do. Dr. Perry, however, seems to imply that there's something inherently wrong with a Ph.D professor making less than a high-school educated auto worker. The wage of a union auto worker, however, should come down because it's artificially high, not because the social order of education dictates that those with Ph.Ds should earn more than those who only finished high school. But hey, maybe we're being too sensitive.

[Source: Carpe Diem]

 

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Daimler's new name to be picked on Oct. 4

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With the sale of Chrysler nearly complete, the folks in Stuttgart are looking for a new name to represent the automaker formerly known as Daimler Chrysler. Company executives would like to call the company Daimler AG, but others want the company name to once again include both 'Daimler' and 'Benz' to reflect both of the company's original founders, Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz. CEO Dieter Zetsche has instead proposed changing the name of all manufacturing plants from Daimler to Mercedes as a compromise. We'd like to point out that none of luxury cars the company produces is called Daimler anyway, so why hold on to that part of the name? In any case, the final name will be decided at the October 4 shareholder meeting in Berlin.

[Source: Auto News - sub. req'd]

 

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Rumormill: Disney/Pixar planning second lap for Cars

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Our sister site Cinematical reports that a sequel to Disney/Pixar's Cars is apparently in the works, and could arrive as early as Summer 2009. If that's the case, we should expect to see a trailer for Cars 2 attached to next summer's Pixar entry, Wall-E. The rumor really built up steam when Paul Newman made comments to reporters about a possible sequel at the Indy 500. Our friends at Cinematical seem to be disappointed that Lightning McQueen and friends appear to be getting a sequel, as it's not one of their fave Pixar flicks. They also wonder why Cars could get another go-round when its box-office grosses were low compared to the great Pixar successes. We think it's merchandising, where Cars appears to be quite the juggernaut, what with the toys, video games, bed sheets, etc. that continue to appear in stores everywhere. Anyway, you won't hear a peep of complaining from us. Cars was one of our favorites last summer, as the talking rides were very cool, and there were plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle references in there to make any pistonhead a happy camper. Seriously, any movie where Richard Petty voices an animated Plymouth Superbird sporting the #43 that's named "The King" is A-OK in our book. Sequel? Bring it on.

[Source: Cinematical]

 

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Florida may become 12th state to adopt CARB standards

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As the nation's fourth-largest state, Florida is about to take a big step forward in the war against car emissions, which might be a tipping point for the whole nation. It looks like Gov. Charlie Crist is about to join the CARB crowd and add his state to the list of those with limits on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Although we are waiting for the official announcement to confirm this news, a few moves by the governor's office seem to indicate that this is indeed the direction he will be taking his state. Florida would be the twelfth state on the list to adopt the CO2 limits set by the California Air Resources Board.

The CARB limits call for a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2016. Automakers have fought these California limits as being illegal. They claim only the federal government can regulate fuel economy and think this is essentially the same thing. Considering its size and struggle with pollution in the past, the federal government allowed California to set its own emissions standards, and other states have been given the choice to adopt federal emissions standards or adopt the stricter ones set by CARB. It makes it tough for manufacturers to keep up when there isn't one set of federal rules, but California, for one, thinks moving on their own is the only way to get things to change.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req.]

 

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Complete info, pics on the Mercedes M-Class "Edition 10"

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Click image for photo gallery

Mercedes has followed-up its live press conference shots of the M-Class "Edition10" SUV with complete details and the additional photos we'd been expecting to see. In a nutshell, here's the rundown on the M-Class Edition 10.

Five "Edition 10"models (market availability varies):
  • ML 420 CDI 4MATIC
  • ML 280 CDI
  • ML 320 CDI
  • ML 350
  • ML 500
"Edition 10" package includes:
  • 20" alloys in silver or "chrome shadow" finish
  • Darkened housings for headlamps and foglamps
  • Titanium-look radiator grille and front bumper guard
  • Tnted taillamp clusters
  • Titanium-look rear bumper guard
  • Squared twin-tip dual exhaust outlets
  • Blue-tinted glass
  • Assorted chrome trim elements
  • Edition 10 badging
  • Two-tone beige and black interior
  • Edition 10 floormats
Follow the jump for the total breakdown in the Mercedes-issued press release, and check out more shots of the car in the gallery below.

[Source: Mercedes-Benz]

Continue reading Complete info, pics on the Mercedes M-Class "Edition 10"

 

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Can you really open a locked car door with a tennis ball?

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You may remember a video that we showed on Autoblog where someone poked a hole in a tennis ball, lined up the hole in the ball with the key-hole of a car, pressed really hard, and the door unlocked. After reading your comments from that post, we decided that it was definitely worth testing to see if this tennis ball technique works for ourselves. One of the commentors from the last post on this subject used pressurized air to try to unlock four different doors to no avail, and another used a plunger (we wish we had video of that) but nobody tried a tennis ball like the video in question.

Hit the jump to see what happened when we tested the "use a tennis ball to unlock your car" trick. We tried it on four different vehicles, and we used two tennis balls, each with a different-sized hole in it to verify our findings. Check it out, and if you have a tennis ball and a screwdriver lying around the house, try it yourself and let us know in the comments if you got the same result we did. We're guessing you probably will.

Continue reading Can you really open a locked car door with a tennis ball?

 

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Video: Lexus LF-A on the Nurburgring

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Lexus' upcoming LF-A supercar has been spotted scorching up the pavement at Germany's Nurburgring, the place to be for any respectable prototype these days. This latest video captures the car doing some intense laps of the notorious circuit and reveals the sound of the car's new 5.0L V10 engine.

There have been rumblings that LF-A could be a little "soft", but the sound emanating from its triple stacked tailpipes has a shriek that reminds us of a V10 Formula One car. With an estimated 500hp on tap from its front-mid-engined powerplant, as well as a rear-mounted transaxle, we have no reason to doubt the LF-A will come close to a top speed of 200mph.

Though we get a glimpse of the basic shape of the car in this vid, heavy camo gear still shrouds some of the finer details. All should be revealed soon when officials take off the wraps at October's Tokyo Motor Show, where details about a hybrid version may also be released.

[Source: The Passionate Pursuit]

Continue reading Video: Lexus LF-A on the Nurburgring

 

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Porsche GT2 brochure leaked with official specs, pics

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Click the image above for the full 35-page brochure.

We've endlessly covered the impending arrival of Porsche's newest 911 variant, the GT2. Powered by the same force-fed 3.6-liter flat six as the Turbo, yet only sending power to the rear wheels, it's destined to be one of the greatest tarmac toys of this decade. And the cat is unofficially out of the bag.

Some enterprising web-geek was able to download a scan of the GT2 brochure and aside from all the glossy photos; the real dirt is on the second-to-last page - specs.

We'll keep it brief so you can ogle it yourself, but the GT2 is producing 530 HP at 6,500 RPM, and 505 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,200 - 4.500 RPM. A six-speed manual transmission sends power to the wheels, and allows the GT2 to run to 60 in 3.6 seconds, to 100 in 7.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 204 MPH. The curb weight is 3,175 pounds. "Respect required," indeed.

Check the gallery below for the rest of the details, and the flowery Porsche prose.

Top tip Brad and thanks for the leaked pages Maciej!

 

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AutoblogGreen for 07.13.07

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Sure, Zap's Lotus-designed cars look sweet on paper, but where's the physical proof that the company is not just playing an elaborate shell game? We take an in-depth look at how Zap wants you to believe in their electric cars.

On a much lighter note: Let's say it's the first date. Do she want you to show up in a Prius or a Hummer? This video will make you shudder.

 

[via] Autoblog

Immobilizers to be made mandatory in Canada

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As of September 1st, all new cars, vans, light trucks and SUVs sold in Canada will have to be fitted with anti-theft electronic immobilizers as mandated by Transport Canada. Most carmakers have announced plans to equip their 2008 model vehicles in Canada with immobilizers as standard equipment, and the move has been widely applauded by Insurance Bureau of Canada as it will undoubtedly reduce vehicle thefts.

The electronic device is designed to arm itself automatically when the ignition is switched off to prevent any would be Canuck car thieves from starting the car without the proper keys. It works by cutting off three vital contacts, the starter, ignition and fuel.

A study has found that of the top ten most stolen cars in Canada last year, none were equipped with an approved immobilizer. In fact, the first car equipped with an immobilizer comes in at number 28 on the list.

[Source: AutoNorth.ca]

 

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Scoop! Ford Falcon Orion sans camo!

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UPDATE: More and better renderings can be found here.

Our desire for Australia's Fords and Holdens continues unabated, and the Courier and Mail has managed to snag shots of the new Falcon in the buff, further stoking our flame. While American sedans went all mamby-pamby (what could be more milquetoast than our family sedans?), Australia's cars have retained and distilled a certain kick of style and fun. The 2008 Falcon isn't set to arrive for a few more months, and Ford has staked $500 million on the new revision of the platform. The new look is instant badass. We love the blacked out portions under the headlamps -- it's as if this car's spent time in KISS. The greenhouse has a euro-flair to it, especially the kick at the base of the C pillar. The shape is muscular in the same way the Commodore VE is - not that there's anything wrong with that. Underneath this Australian institution, the suspension system retains its baked-in goodness from the outgoing BF Falcon, and the six- and eight -cylinder engines also carry over. We're sure the V8 versions will have a basso-profundo rumble capable of putting Peter Criss to shame.

Ford could do well with this car in the US; at least it would raise eyebrows in the way their current lineup can't. We're sure they're looking at it, seeing the anticipation build around the G8, née Commodore. Every internet blowhard will make statements like "Yes! bring it over! I'll buy one!", while in reality, the sales could disappoint once the initial novelty has worn off. While we enthusiasts have a thing for RWD sedans with V8s and capable chassis, Ma and Pa Camry find compromises where we find joy. The G8 is more of a niche model than if they'd turned the VE into the Malibu - and that's where we see potential for Ford in the US with the Orion. If it does stand any chance of coming here, make it the Fairlane, make the hot one the Fairlane 500, and promote the beejeezus out of it. Most importantly, make it good. Hey, Mulally did promise a convergence of global platforms, right?

Thanks for the tip, Andrew!

[Source: news.com.au]

 

[via] Autoblog

V2V communication as a safety feature

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Vauxhall's latest safety idea turns the highways and byways into a life-sized feedback loop by allowing vehicles to communicate with each other. We're not talking about the type of communication we humans do in our cars - behavior like pointing out the state bird - think more like WiFi. There are some real safety gains to be had with the system, inventively named Vehicle-to-Vehicle. Using GPS-based technology, along with some type of wireless communication facility, V2V can warn you of potential danger by alerting you to the presence of cars in your blind spots or around a bend, and it can also use data such as speed, direction, and acceleration to determine whether or not you're gonna smack that Scimitar in front of you. Driver alerts can be visual, auditory, or via a Magic Fingers(R) seat cushion. If you ignore your playfully jiggly seat cushion, the car can even apply its own brakes. This sounds kind of like the funk-tastic Carhood, but with real development dollars behind it.

[Source: Auto Express]

 

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Inspirational Vehicle II: Big Si's Lotus Esprit

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Last August, we brought you the story we dubbed Inspirational Vehicle: Mark's 7, in which a group of enthusiasts, and forum members rallied together to complete an RX-7 build for one of their friends stricken with ALS, whose condition prevented him from seeing his project through to its completion. If you missed it the first time around, check it out here. It's a great story of friends helping another friend. Sadly, we must also report that Mark, the man all those good folks rallied around, passed away in January of this year. Our belated condolences to his family and friends.

Today's feel-good story is very similar, only it took place across the Atlantic in the UK, where one Simon Pritchard was in the midst of restoring a Turbo Esprit when a series of mini-strokes put him in the hospital and his resto project in limbo. During the course of the restoration, he had joined the Lotus Esprit Forum to chat with other owners and get advice on his project car. "Big Si" (that's his handle and nickname), made some good friends there, and when he fell ill, they stepped up. Led by Andy Betts, who runs the Esprit forum, his comrades got together and secretly pooled money and time to complete the car. Even Lotus got in on the act, and the red beauty you see above is the final result. It took the gang of volunteers just 5 weeks to complete the project that was expected to take 18 months. Fast forward to a Lotus track day at Castle Combe, where Simon and friends were in attendance. Simon thought his car was tucked away in a buddy's garage having the engine worked on. He realized that wasn't the case when his car, resplendent in its newfound glory, pulled up right before his eyes. We extend a tip of the cap to everyone involved. For full details, you can read this BBC story and check out the private"Plan 'Bigsi'" section at the Lotus Esprit Forum that got it all rolling. Simon's mates recorded the big reveal when it happened, and we've embedded that footage after the jump. The thread that specifically covers the handover at Castle Combe can be found here. Well done, guys!

Thanks to all who sent tips.

[Sources: BBC, Lotus Esprit Forum]

Continue reading Inspirational Vehicle II: Big Si's Lotus Esprit

 

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2008 Chevy HHR SS brochure leaked!

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2008 Chevy HHR SS
Click image for enlargement and one additional scan

Yesterday saw the posting of the complete Porsche 911 GT2 Brochure on the web, making the automaker's official introduction og the car a formality. Today over at ChevyHHR.net, one of the forum members posted a brochure scan showing the 2008 Chevy HHR SS in its full glory for the first time. The topic of the HHR SS has been somewhat controversial, with some readers (and Autobloggers, for that matter) expressing concern that it's going to represent a further dilution of the SS moniker. Back in January at the Detroit Auto Show, however, we were assured by Chevy general manager Ed Peper that the Bowtie division would only apply "SS" to truly worthy vehicles going forward (hence the appearance of the 3.6 V6-powered Equinox Sport and not Equinox SS).

Follow the jump for more. Thanks to Josh for the tip!

[Source: ChevyHHR.net]

Continue reading 2008 Chevy HHR SS brochure leaked!

 

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More info on GM's diesel plans in the U.S.

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Diesel engines in passenger cars are making a US comeback, with companies like Honda and VW developing new diesels that meet stringent clean air standards. GM has decided to get in the diesel act as well, and blogger Bob waited until the last minute to discuss diesel plans on his video blog on Fastlane. Before spilling the beans on the General's future oil-burning motors, Mr. Lutz first listed several reasons why diesel engines are becoming increasingly less feasible due to tough Tier 5 Bin 2 emissions and escalating technology costs. He then explained how direct injection and Homogeneous Stratified Charge (compression ignition) would all but close the fuel efficiency gap between gas and diesel powerplants.

At the very end of the video blog, Mr. Lutz stated that GM was working on a diesel V6 for crossovers and passanger cars and a 4.5L V8 for SUVs and light trucks. We say bring on the fancy new emissions and fuel-saving technology, so the market can determine which technology was best. Check out blogger Bob's diesel lesson after the jump.

[Source: Auto News (subscription req'd)]

Continue reading More info on GM's diesel plans in the U.S.

 

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Autoblog Q&A: Peter Horbury on the 2007 Ford concepts

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During the Ford concept car ride at the Dearborn Development Center, Executive Director of Design for the Americas Peter Horbury was on hand to discuss Ford's design direction. Autoblog got to chat with the man who helped reinvent Volvo about what the design team was trying to achieve with this year's concepts.

Autoblog: We've got the three concepts from this year here today. Why don't you give us a little bit of an overview of what the design direction is with these vehicles and what you're trying to achieve this year.

Peter Horbury: Well obviously, three quite different vehicles, but I suppose one common thread is that they're all American in some way. The Airstream being the combined effort between two iconic brands of America, one that put America on the road and one that let them stay there, and the Airstream is sort of just looking back to those famous days when - pioneering days, and I think they very well matched brands that gave us a very successful concept. We got an inspiration from elsewhere, as well. If you look inside, the movie 2001 was very much inspirational in the design of the interior.

On the MKR here we have what will be the look of Lincoln in the future, and all the design cues on that are taken from various Lincolns in history but presented in a very modern way, it's not a retro design, but it reflects historic Lincolns from the 40s, 50s and the 60s, so that really was to show the direction of Lincoln design, for the next few vehicles anyway. On the Interceptor of course that really again American and it was a representation of the iconic sedans of the 60s, Ford Galaxie in particular, that's not repeating the design but just enough of the design cues from those cars of those days in a very modern representation. So it's America on the road from the Ford Motor Company and with the Lincoln showing the future of Lincoln.

Continue reading what Peter had to say about about the concepts after the jump.




Continue reading Autoblog Q&A: Peter Horbury on the 2007 Ford concepts

 

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