VIDEO: Maxiumum Bob Lutz answers questions about GM's reliability

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The General's chief product guru, Bob Lutz, responded to questions regarding GM's reliability in the company's FastLane Blog's most recent video Q&A chapter. According to Lutz, who cites comparisons to company "H" and company "T" as being perpetual reliability yardsticks, GM has aimed at making every component throughout the automaker's brands "bulletproof," including the engines, transmissions and every mechanical part imaginable.

The move began about four or five years ago, and despite high ratings in J.D. Power and Associates initial quality reports, Lutz explains that all the money spent was in an effort to "shoot for infinite life," as opposed to what Lutz calls, "100,000-mile bogies."

Lutz goes on to recount his aim of making Buick the American equivalent of Lexus, which was just confirmed with the recent release of J.D. Power and Associates long-term reliability ratings. Buick sat pretty, right next to Lexus. Mission accomplished Bob. Congrats.

[Source: GM FastLane Blog]

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BRABUS punches up the Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI

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BRABUS has announced its D3 S POWER XTRA tuning kit for Mercedes-Benz's new C220 CDI sedan. The Euro-market oil-burner sees a marked improvement in performance after installation, with power jumping from 168 hp/295 lb-ft to 217 horses and a stout 354 lb-ft of torque. On the road, this shaves a full second off the run to 100 km/h (62 mph), which takes 7.8 seconds post-modification. The car's top speed increases to 149 mph, a 6 mph gain. Despite the added performance, emissions remain at the same Euro IV-compliant levels as the factory-stock C220 CDI. Installation can be performed at any Mercedes-Benz dealer's service department. Naturally, BRABUS would love for buyers of the power kit to pony up for additional accessories like the tuner's sport exhaust and bodywork modifications, but they're certainly not required.

Follow the jump for BRABUS' full press release.

[Source: BRABUS]

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U.S. R56 MINI Cooper S owners finally get the JCW treatment

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If you're a U.S. citizen hankering for a factory-tuned R56 MINI Cooper S, you're officially in luck. MotoringFile has received the press release on the new JCW tuning package, and according to our friend Gabe, some dealers already have demo vehicles and you might be able to score a ride in one later this week.

The primary difference between the Euro kit we've reported on before and the kit to be sold Stateside is the exhaust manifold. Apparently, U.S.-spec vehicles are already equipped with the new exhaust plumbing, making the addition to the kit irrelevant.

The kit boosts power to 189 hp and up to 207 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,750 and 4,500 RPM, and while MINI admits that the package equipped on the last generation hatch was cost prohibitive, both with respect to parts and labor, this new kit will come in at $2,100 with only two hours of shop time to install.

The gains in power are provided by a new air filter housing, exhaust and a revised ECU tune, which supposedly provides faster throttle response. On the outside, tuned MINIs also get John Cooper Works badging on the front grille, trunk lid and atop the air filter housing.

After the jump you can scour through all the details, including comparisons in performance times between the stock and JCW-equipped R56.

[Source: MotoringFile]

Continue reading U.S. R56 MINI Cooper S owners finally get the JCW treatment


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Audi developing electronic driving coach to boost fuel economy

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Few factors affect fuel economy more than individual driving style, and anyone who's gotten behind the wheel of a modern vehicle equipped with an onboard computer has inevitably played the consumption game. Audi is taking the concept of an insta-mile-per-gallon gauge to the next level by developing a system that analyzes driver behavior and then tips off drivers on ways to reduce consumption.

The system was presented at the TechDay 2007 seminar in Germany, where Audi sought to draw focus on drivers, fuel usage and emissions reduction. The automaker contends that just by changing the habits of the driver, fuel economy numbers could be boosted by as much as 30-percent, without having to sacrifice "speed and dynamism."

The system also incorporates the vehicle's sat-nav to make route suggestions based on traffic and road conditions, something that should be available in next generation "digital road maps."

[Source: InsideLine]


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Hondata sets four new records at Bonneville

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If you've spent any amount of timing tweaking the B16 in your EK hatch, you're probably all too familiar with Hondata. The firm specializes in providing easy-to-use, plug-and-play components for the world's Acura and Honda owners, and has proved invaluable on at least two past project cars of ours.

The So. Cal.-based tuning firm decided to take to the Bonneville Salt Flats a couple of weeks back and came away with four new class records, all behind the wheel of a heavily modified 2003 Acura RSX. The stock two-liter K20 was built by Prototype Racing and was able to produce 270 naturally aspirated horses running VP Racing fuel, and 390 HP when injected with everyone's favorite go-juice, nitrous oxide.

When the salt settled, the Hondata crew set a one-way speed of 190.1 MPH in the G/FCC class while running the NO2, and 172 MPH in the G/GCC class with the aforementioned racing fuel.

You can follow the jump for Hondata's press release and check out its website for more information on its products.

[Source: Hondata]

Continue reading Hondata sets four new records at Bonneville


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Ferrari's ?400 baseball cap

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Massa, Raikkonen signed cap

For many motorsports aficionados, allegiance to Ferrari transcends the lines of age and social class. Young and old, from the everyman to captains of industry, on race days the differences are tossed out the window and they gather en masse, a sea of red in the stands, as tifosi. Ferrari knows this, and as a result, its strength as a merchandiser is unparalleled in the automotive landscape. Leveraging its iconic logos, rich history and legions of owners and fans, it has created a machine that churns out collectibles and accessories designed to fit almost any budget.

And now, the tifosi have a new bauble to fight over, and it's priced for the deeper-pockets crowd. In honor of the 1-2 podium finish at the Turkish GP for Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari has offered 50 signed baseball caps. Each lid is autographed by both Felipe and Kimi, arrives in a big red Ferrari cardboard box, has a certificate of authenticity, and costs a whopping €400. On the Ferrari Store website, the conversion to USD is helpfully provided. $526.20 (plus VAT) worth of available credit on your plastic of choice is all it'll take. We don't recommend wearing this one to go out and mow the lawn. For that, we suggest the vastly more economical (yet still pricey at $33 USD) un-autographed version.

[Source: Ferrari Store]


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Opel Corsa OPC sets Nordschleife record

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Click image for a gallery of the Opel Corsa OPC

During the same round of the OPC Race Camp that saw the introduction of the Opel Astra OPC Nürburgring Edition, former Opel works driver Manuel Reuter decided to update the official Nordschleife record book. He did this by taking a production-spec Corsa OPC and lapping the course in 8 minutes, 47.99 seconds -- a new record for superminis on The Green Hell.

The Corsa OPC is no stranger to the Nordschleife, as Opel uses the track regularly during the development of its automobiles. The little hot hatchlet is driven by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 192 horsepower. Its peak torque rating of 169 lb-ft can be bumped up an additional fifteen percent thanks to the car's Overboost function. We sit here waiting patiently for the next Corsa revision, so that we can see a Saturn-badged version take on the forthcoming Ford Fiesta/Verve/Whatever when both ultimately arrive Stateside. If the Detroit automakers cooperate, we'll get a Red Line vs. SVT duel, too. (Fingers crossed.)

[Source: GM]

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Porsche flower wheel found in Russia

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According to English Russia, our favorite site of kitschy Russian culture, this unique form of self-imposed vehicular vandalism is all the rage in the former Soviet country. This particular example was caught in Moscow, and appears to be the wheel of a Type 996 Porsche 911 Carbriolet that's overflowing with flora. Hmmm... hippies used to rave about flower power, perhaps the colorful decoration adds a few horsepower.

[Source: English Russia]


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AutoblogGreen for 08.29.07

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ABG drives two of GM's new offerings: the Opel Astra 1.4L Turbo and the 2008 Saab 9-3 Diesel. Japan wants to make fuel from used disposable chopsticks. And so much more from the world of green automobiles:


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New WRC regulations might push Suzuki's SX4 out

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Click the image above for high-res shots of Suzuki's WRC contender.

Suzuki's newest entrant into the WRC may never grace the gravel if changes in car regulations take place earlier than anticipated. Originally, the new vehicle regulations changes were to take effect in 2012 under the World Rallies Commission's "Vision for 2012" plan. That's up in the air, however, as a competing plan targeted at 2009 would make WRC incorporate modified Super 2000 regs that retain turbocharging and 4WD, while still embracing simplified technology. (The standard S2K regs prohibit electronic driving aids in cars.) Using a revised flavor of Super 2000 might be very attractive to the WRC teams, as the simpler tech could potentially lower operating costs.

Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, head of Suzuki Sport, recently sat down with the automaker's senior execs to mull over the possibility of nixing the SX4's planned entry in October's Corsica rally. According to Autoweek, Tajima even questioned the development of a new car at all "when it will be quite useless in two years time."

[Source: Autoweek]


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Pennsylvanian has kept his Model A 78 years

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Last week we told you about Clarence Curtiss, the 84-year-old Connecticut man who's still driving the 1929 Ford he bought in 1938.

We imagine Frank Hartmaier of Pennsylvania enjoyed reading the story since it shared so many elements with his own. Well, except for one key element. The 1929 Model A roadster he can be seen driving today was purchased new on May 16, 1929. That means Hartmaier has owned the same car for 78 years, besting Curtiss by almost a decade.

Hartmaier's car has been out of service only three times in its long history, each time for restoration.

Daniel Strohl of Hemmings Auto Blogs interviewed Hartmaier for Hemmings Classic Car magazine, but the complete story is not yet online. We look forward to reading all about the car's and the owner's long history together.

[Source: Hemmings Auto Blogs]


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Toyota has no intention of meeting with union organizers

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The union talk is stirring again at Toyota's Georgetown, Kentucky plant, but management at the automaker has no intention of meeting with workers trying to unionize. A group of current and former employees at the plant called the Kentucky Workers' Rights Board have drawn up a laundry list of complaints, which include what they perceive to be unjustified firings, the use of too many temporary workers, and job-related injuries.The committee is putting together a recommendation which includes limiting low-paid temps to 90 day terms, and the establishment of a safety committee. Toyota's decision not to meet with the group came after the would-be organizers declared that they would hold a press release after a management meeting. Oops.

For years, there has been a lot of talk about organizing the Georgetown plant, and as of yet, the 7,000 full-time workers have never even voted for or against a union. A push to unionize a Toyota plant couldn't be coming at a worse time, however, as the UAW may have to take big cuts from the Detroit automakers. Since most Toyota workers make roughly the same hourly rate as UAW workers, we don't think the transplant workers will want to vote for a potential pay cut. If Detroit automakers get concessions, however, Toyota could cut worker pay anyway to keep its advantage.

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


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GM says Malibu is best car in class, takes direct aim at competition

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When GM launches the 2008 Malibu this fall, look for it to go directly after the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Mark LaNeve, GM's sales, service, and marketing VP, says GM will be laying out the reasons why it feels the Malibu is better than its competition in the new ad campaign. We hope to see the fur start to fly in the bread-and-butter sedan arena, with response ads upping the ante before being met with another challenge. LaNeve acknowledges that it will be a hard battle to pry backsides out of the Camry or Accord (especially with an all-new version of the latter), but GM's got an excellent car in the new Malibu. The assault on the incumbent evergreen models is already going on over in Saturn stores, where GM's actually placed the competitor's cars in the showroom next to the award winning Aura.

Customer research has told GM that import owners would be persuaded to buy a different brand that is as good or better than their current car, but only actual results will prove the hypothesis. One possible bone of contention is residual value, where the well-burnished reputation of the segment leaders has them holding on to nearly 50 percent of their original sticker after three years, versus about 35 percent for the Malibu. Instead of buying a car based on how much you can get for it in three years, we suggest you buy a car you're happy with, and we see a lot that's encouraging in the new Malibu. Heck, you might even want to keep it after it's paid off -- imagine that! Besides, if the car lives up to the expectations GM is whipping up for it, resale values will rise as word spreads. We can't wait to try one.

[Source: Automotive News]


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We've heard this before: USA Today reports hatches are coming back

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Being the auto-obsessive types that you are, we're sure you can recount endless conversations with potential car buyers about the variety of body styles on the market, and how several of the CUVs and wagons currently available are, at times, far superior to their overblown SUV counterparts. The reasons behind the current boom in hatchbacks and crossovers are obvious: better fuel economy, more car-like handling and ride, all with many of the same attributes of an SUV.

USA Today
ran a piece that details some of the offerings that are either making a splash in the marketplace already, or that are pegged to be winners as the movement away from big 'utes continues. Much of the discussion centers on some of the new high-end crossovers that are currently in the works, specifically the BMW X6 and Infiniti EX35, which offer a bit more luxury over outright utilitarianism.

The real crux of the article is that American consumers have put to rest the moribund offerings of the 70s, like the Ford Pinto and Chevy Vega, and are finally warming up to the sloping rooflines of modern five-door designs.

[Source: USA Today via Winding Road]


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GM to pay dealers $250 extra for every car sold through month's end

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In a bid to slow a loss of sales and market share, GM is reportedly giving dealers $250 cash awards for every vehicle sold through the end of the month. According to an internal memo reported by Bloomberg News today, GM has seen more than a 9 percent drop in domestic sales this year. The $250 is good on any vehicle sold between August 23 and August 31 and it will be up to the dealers to determine how to use it. They can use the money as customer incentives or as spiffs for salesmen. GM already raised incentives and began offering 0% financing on large trucks earlier this month to counter a 22 percent drop in July sales. Production was also reduced at six North American truck plants as a result of the slide. Although the products are getting more competitive than ever, people are apparently still expecting GM to drop its pants offer deep discounts before they'll step into one of its dealerships with checkbook in hand.

[Source: The Detroit News]


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Honk? How 'bout "Move it, Sucka!"?

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It'll cost you about the same as an iPod, but it's so much cooler. Or obnoxious. Mike Kosco dreamed up a way to make his Hummer growl, as well as sing whatever nuggets that could be crammed into 256 megabytes, too. If you're driving around a Hummer with the Incredible Hulk on the hood, you should probably expect verbal abuse. That's just what happened to the San Clemente, California resident at a coffee shop when teenagers gave Kosco a good heckling over his airbrushed mural. Fast forward two years, and the Horntones system made its debut at CES in Las Vegas.

The system consists of a player, and amplifier and a speaker. It costs $250, and it's light years beyond the old musical horns of the late '70s that would play horrid renditions of songs without the gift of polyphony. The player has a control unit that can navigate through your themes and tones and the entire setup looks high quality and well-designed. There's a website where you can custom organize and configure your sounds and songs, and then load the file onto a thumb drive that you then use to transfer the goods to your FX-550 rig. If you've just got to have Rico Suave at the ready, units are available and shipping, and look for Horntones at SEMA.

check the press release after the jump

Continue reading Honk? How 'bout "Move it, Sucka!"?


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Frankfurt Preview: Nissan bringing the Mixim Concept

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click above image to see full gallery

Our cohorts over at Autoblog Spanish surprised us this morning with news that Nissan will be bringing this concept, called the Mixim, to Frankfurt next month. We haven't seen anything official from Nissan yet about the Mixim, but from what our brothers tell us in their native tongue, it is a "vehicle of the future" type concept, meaning there's no shot for production. It appears to be either an all-electric vehicle, or some type of hybrid, The Mixim is a full-on all-electric vehicle powered by a compact lithium-ion battery pack that drives two electric motors, each responsible for their own axle so that the car is technically all-wheel drive.

Clearly a hatchback, the Mixim features front-flipping gullwing doors and a 1+2 seating arrangement. The concept is a little over 12 feet long, almost six feet wide and a bit over four and a half feet tall. It also weighs a mere 2,094 lbs., no doubt to maximize either driving range or fuel efficiency. Finally, the Mixim's also an infotainment powerhouse, with all manner of hardware to keep the driver's attention off the road, including full internet access.

We'll bring you more details, including corrections for whatever got lost in translation above, as soon as we find some official info from Nissan. Meanwhile, check out the pics in our gallery below.

[Source: Autoblog Spanish, Motor Authority]


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