The Chinese are coming! Well, eventually...

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We've been hearing a lot lately about Chinese cars' impending arrival on our shores. According to what could be cooler heads -- or decoys! (insert maniacal laugh, here) -- that simply isn't the case. At a recent event in Detroit, China's ambassador to the U.S., Zhou Wenzhong, said Chinese carmakers can't even make enough cars for the Chinese, much less fulfill America's production needs.

He was seconded by Zhang Lin, a Chery executive, who said that the company first wished to solidify its operations in emerging markets before attacking exporting to the United States. The Milky Way-sized trade deficit between the U.S. and China was also mentioned as a reason for taking a long term approach to entering the US market.

Of note, though, is that Chery is not one of the five Chinese makers attending the 2008 Detroit Show. One of those companies, China Automotive Group/ZXNA, is headed by Steve Saleen, and we wonder if he got the memo about not being in a rush to begin Stateside operation.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

[via] Autoblog

Heathrow will help you find your car at the airport

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There was an amusement park where I grew up that had a decidedly low-rent way to find your car: Hanna Barbera characters. You were parked in row Fred Flinstone 3, or Huckleberry 5. Parents would have one kid remember the number, and another remember the character. I don't ever remember seeing anyone wandering the lot looking for his car.

That simple device is nowhere near good enough for Heathrow (England) Airport's new $8 billion Terminal 5, opening next March. The terminal by itself is as big as London's Gatwick airport. It also has a 3,800-space short term parking structure tech'ed out with 35 infrared cameras and illuminated floors. When you pull in, it will capture your car's license plate number, then guide you to the nearest spot via arrows that light up on the floor. When you come back, you will put your ticket into a machine, or enter your license plate number, and a map on a 32-inch screen will show you where your car is and how to get there.

Siemens developed the system with a British firm, and it's not only practical, but it is expected to save 397 tons of CO2 per year due to fewer idling and circling cars. That's excellent. At least, it is as long as it works. When it doesn't, what it saves in CO2 you can expect it to replace with a tax on memories, patience, and shoe leather.

[Source: Engadget]

 

[via] Autoblog

MINI-branded restaurant all the rage in Paris

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Years ago, in Sydney, Australia, the MINI Garage -- a dealership -- had a restaurant. Patrons dined in a decidedly upscale garage-ish atmosphere, while (then) brand new and artfully lit MINIs rested on plinths. The restaurant is no more, but the idea lives on, this time in Paris. Groupe Luderic, an events company, paid $1.5 million to renovate an area of the Grand Palais, a museum, in order to create the MINI Palais restaurant. Grand Palais. Mini Palais. Get it?

This is simply more lifestyle marketing which seeks to advertise to you while you actually enjoy yourself -- MINI is a client of Luderic. The restaurant is, though, very discreet about the MINI. There are no MINIs in the restaurant, and references to it don't go far beyond using MINI type in various places. Otherwise there are two Union Jacks, a few posters, and clocks that resemble MINI IP's. And a neon sign above the entrance that reads: MINI Palais. That's it.

Food is -- in keeping with the MINI ethos -- not cheap, but not crazy. However, there are not even any MINI themed items on it. We would have at least thought they could offer a Clubman sandwich. Now, who wants to open a Ford Edge restaurant on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon?

[Source: Ad Age]

 

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Flight of Fancy: Ferrari takes to the sky

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Like their competitors, Ferrari uses advanced aerodynamics to keep their cars on the ground. But what if they flipped their technology upside down to create an aircraft? The result could very well be this, the Piaggio P180 Avanti II.

Beyond the usual correlation between the automotive and aeronautical industries - especially evident in six-figure sportscars and in formula motor racing - the ties between Piaggio Aero and Ferrari run far deeper. Piaggio, which sponsors the Scuderia, is chaired by Enzo's heir and company vice-chairman Piero Ferrari. The aircraft pictured is the one Ferrari uses to shuttle their executives and star drivers around Europe, if not the world, to unveil new cars, win grands prix and cut ribbons on everything from theme parks to retail stores. Interestingly, instead of jet propulsion, the Avanti II uses backwards-mounted turboprops. With a 450 mph top speed, it's the fastest turboprop in the world. It has a 1,800-mile range and 41,000-ft maximum cruising altitude but uses 30% less fuel than a comparable jet.

Of course this isn't the first time the prancing horse has appeared on an aircraft. The logo, legend has it, was emblazoned on the plane of Italian WWI flying ace Count Francesco Baracca, whose mother presented it to Enzo Ferrari after reportedly being impressed by his driving style while racing towards the checkered flag at the Salvio circuit in 1923. Whether the legend is true or not, the plane makes a more suitable canvas for the Ferrari logo than a Segway scooter.

[Source: Piaggio Aero via Luxurylaunches.com]

 

[via] Autoblog

Amateur designer daydreams: the Porsche Carma Concept

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Click the image above for more hi-res shots of the student-designed Porsche Carma Concept

Add it up: four students at the Institut Superieur de Design in France, some complex modeling software, and the desire to come up with a super slippery Porsche. What do you get from that? This: the Porsche Carma Concept. The task was to create a car that cheated the wind in new ways, yet remained a Porsche in design and engine placement.

The body of the car seems to take a lot of cues from a lot of different cars, and frankly doesn't look much like a Porsche above the beltline -- in a Cayenne/Panamera world, what does any more? -- but that's not to say it's not a good looking car. We'd take one.

Aerodynamically, the car has a flat floor with two tunnels running the length of the body. But its most interesting feature might be the 928-esque rear end cap that extends slightly at speed to let air flow into the bodywork, where it passes over an internal spoiler and exits at the rear. Not that we're against those QE2-sized planks adorning some of the faster Porsches these days, but it is a very elegant solution to rear end lift. It will also make the car feel less like overkill when you're just popping down to 7-11 at 25 MPH for some morning coffee. In fact, if it actually works, we won't take one. We'll take three. Check out the video at the Carma Concept site, and be sure to check out hi-res pics of the car below.

[Source: Porsche Carma Concept site via Autoblog NL]

 

[via] Autoblog

SPOILER ALERT: NASCAR Nextel Cup wraps up at Homestead

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Team-mates and title rivals Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Homestead


We'll freely admit that we don't give NASCAR much coverage here at Autoblog. It's the most popular form of motorsport in America by far, but push come to shove, there just aren't any big oval-track racing mavens on our staff. The F1 fans among us couldn't help but take notice when the grand prix drivers started streaming in to stock cars, but beyond that....

[Source: AutoWeek]

Continue reading SPOILER ALERT: NASCAR Nextel Cup wraps up at Homestead

 

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Ghosn says Nissan to unleash 15 new technologies every year from 2009

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In 2000, Nissan spent $1.8 billion. This year it spent $4.4 billion, and is hiring techs, engineers, and scientists to fill a 2,000-person R&D center in Japan. And by spending even more in the coming years on a plan it calls Vision 2015, Nissan plans to re-establish its tech credentials and make driving safer, quicker, cleaner, and more fun in the process.

It will do so by bringing out 15 new technologies every year.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

Continue reading Ghosn says Nissan to unleash 15 new technologies every year from 2009

 

[via] Autoblog

LA 2007: Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive on display

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Click the above picture for high-res image.

All-wheel-drive systems are becoming an increasingly popular feature for large sedans. They allow for more exciting driving dynamics than pure front-wheel-drive, but also provide for increased fair weather traction over pure rear-wheel-drive. Acura revealed their all-wheel drive system dubbed Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) in the 2005 RL. Since then, the system has been adapted to the MDX and RDX vehicles as well. It is a system with a name only a Japanese company could get away with, after all there is a Honda powered Formula 1 team named Super Best Friends. Acura is proud of their technological development. Their 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show booth featured a SH-AWD display front and center. We used the opportunity to snap some pictures of the complex unit in order to illustrate its unique features. Follow the jump to read more.

Continue reading LA 2007: Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive on display

 

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Federal court overturns MPG standards for light trucks

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The federal government has gotten more interested in greenhouse gases, and as a result there has been a lot of tough talk concerning raised CAFE numbers. Much less time has been devoted to reducing CO2, which is the single largest contributor to global warming. Now that the spotlight is shining squarely on emissions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel has thrown out the 2008-2011 CAFE rating for light trucks. The 2008-2011 changes represented the largest jump in fuel economy in the history of CAFE, with MPG going from 22.2 to 24, but with the growing problem of greenhouse gases, that obviously didn't go far enough for the courts.

While better fuel economy and less harmful emissions coming from light trucks would be a welcome sight to all, changing the rules after 2008 trucks are already on the streets sounds a bit ridiculous. It isn't like automakers can easily change course for 2011, since much of the product plans are already set in stone. It has been 19 months since the new CAFE standards were introduced, which makes this seem more like an effort to get automakers to chase their own tails.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

 

[via] Autoblog

Ford adds two doors, trunk to Verve Concept in China

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Click image for photo gallery

The Mazda2 sedan isn't the only new notchback on display at the Guangzhou Motor Show. It's got some company in the form of its Ford-branded cousin, the Verve. Parked onstage along with the 3-door unveiled in Europe earlier this year, the Verve notchback sedan sheds its predecessor's rear hatch and gains two doors and a trunk. The new rear treatment is extremely evocative of the Mondeo, and that's a good thing. In fact, the Verve (in this particular Autoblogger's opinion, at least) is better-looking than the similar Mazda2 4-door that also made its debut today. The Verve trifecta will be completed at the Detroit Auto Show in January, where we'll see the Americanized version in concept form. After looking at the 2008 Ford Focus, we fully expect every cool Ford Europe kinetic design feature to be jettisoned in favor of a ham-handed implementation of the "bold" American-market Gillette Mach 3 cues. Here's hoping we're wrong.

[Source: Ford via EGMCartech]

Gallery: Ford Verve Sedan Concept

Continue reading Ford adds two doors, trunk to Verve Concept in China

 

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More power, less roof: TechArt Turbo Cabriolet

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TechArt's performance modifications to Porsche's already-impressive sports cars might seem akin to adding a third warp nacelle to the starship Enterprise for the pure fun of it, but who are we to argue with the results? The supertuner/niche manufacturer has readied its latest creation for debut at the upcoming Essen Motor Show (think SEMA for European manufacturers). The TechArt Turbo Cabriolet follows the usual formula, offering incremental power upgrades culminating at a ridiculous 630 hp/604 lb-ft. This, while retaining the Turbo's AWD system and offering the added benefit of topless motoring. 911 GT2? What's that?

The added juice comes from new turbos, extensively upgraded intake and exhaust plumbing, and new engine management programming that ties it all together. TechArt also doctors the chassis, allowing the car to be lowered an additional 25mm via the factory PASM setup. Buyers can choose between two aero packages and the usual assortment of wheel/tire/interior upgrades, resulting in a bespoke convertible sports car with a top speed of 214 mph. Montgomery Scott not included.

PR pasted after the jump.

[Source: TechArt]

Continue reading More power, less roof: TechArt Turbo Cabriolet

 

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[via] Autoblog

Mazda2 sedan unveiled in China

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click above image for more high-res pics of the Mazda2 sedan

This week at the 2007 Guangzhou Motor Show in China, Mazda will be unveiling the four-door Mazda2 sedan alongside the rest of its Chinese lineup that includes the Mazda3 and Mazda5. China is the first market in the world to see the four-door sedan version of the Mazda2, which originally debuted in Europe as a three-door hatch. According to the press-release from Mazda, the Mazda2 sedan will be produced in China by Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co., Ltd. at its Nanjing plant. It's unclear, however, when or even if the Mazda2 sedan will be exported for sale in other markets besides China. It could also be that production of the Mazda2 sedan will occur outside of China at the same facilities where the three-door hatch is produced. Mazda also is introducing a five-door hatchback version of the Mazda2 in China. If any of you find yourselves at the 2007 Guangzhou Motor Show this week, takes some pics and let us know.

[Source: Mazda]

Gallery: 2008 Mazda2 Sedan

Continue reading Mazda2 sedan unveiled in China

 

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GT5 Prologue: More tracks, more cars and one bad-ass Ford GT

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If it were a dessert, it would be Death By Chocolate. Since it's Gran Turismo 5, we're going to call it Death By Motorized Magnitude. Word is the full game will come with 900 cars -- or as The Count would say on Sesame Street, "Count dem, 900 cars, ha ha ha!" And one of those cars will be the Ford GT LM edition. Which could really count as five or six cars by itself, it's so bloody tasty.

The GT Prologue Demo will come with a mere 30 cars, but there are some tarmac toasters in there, one of them being the GT LM, as well as a smattering of other really fast but non-race cars. There's also a BMW 135i Coupe, convenient in case you wish to test it out on CG twisties before spending a heap of your very real money on the genuine article. As for tracks, word is that the Prologue could also add either Laguna Seca, Infineon, or (mouth ... watering ... must ... concentrate) the 'Ring. We sign up where?

[Source: GT Channel]

 

[via] Autoblog

In the Autoblog Garage: 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe

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click above image to view high-res gallery of the 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe

A car's design is simply a composite of curves, creases and kinks. A good design will elicit an emotion that urges people to buy the car. The affected just have to have it, often blind to any faults the car may exhibit by the way it makes them feel. The design of the 2008 Ford Focus makes us feel an emotion, too. Unfortunately, it's pity.

We honestly feel bad for the latest iteration of Ford's small car. We fear that its strengths will go largely unnoticed on account of a few bad design choices. Of course, we're speaking of the redesigned front end and those fauxest of faux fender vents. It isn't fair to judge a book by its cover alone, or in this case a car by its design, but a bad first impression is difficult to overcome. Ford has made a lot of improvements to the Focus for 2008, but will anyone notice? Follow the jump to find out.


Live photos Copyright (C)2007 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

Continue reading In the Autoblog Garage: 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe

 

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EXCLUSIVE! AutoblogGreen experiences the Tesla Roadster in its natural habitat

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click above image for a high-res gallery of the Tesla Roadster

Anyone familiar with English B-roads can understand why classic British sports cars evolved the way they did. These roads rarely seem to go in a straight line for more than a few yards at a time and are narrow with little or no runoff area. As a result, cars that came out of Morris Garages and Colin Chapman's shop were generally small, light and extremely nimble. They didn't have a lot of power, but when you follow Chapman's creed of "Add Lightness!", you don't really need a whole lot of power.

Some years after Chapman's death, the engineers at Lotus returned to the company's roots and created a small, lightweight minimalist descendant to the old Seven in the form of the Elise. Fast forward to this decade and a search for a small, quick sportster in the classic British mode, but with no emissions. Since none existed, Martin Eberhard and Elon Musk launched a company to create one, and Tesla Motors was born. AutoblogGreen experienced a short burst in the car on a runway when it debuted this past year, but that's like riding a horse at the petting zoo. You need to bareback that thoroughbred out on the plains to see what it's really like. We still haven't gotten behind the wheel, but are promised some wheel-time right after those old school print guys, which means we'll hopefully get to publish our review before they have a chance to print theirs. But we did get to experience the Roadster in perhaps the best American analog to an English B-road: storming up a California canyon road. For a full, drooling report on the experience, head over to AutoblogGreen and don't forget to check out the in-car video, as well.

[Source: AutoblogGreen]

Gallery: Riding in the Tesla Roadster

 

[via] Autoblog