New V6, all-wheel-drive versions to be unveiled at Geneva.
VW extends 'punch dub' campaign
Point-of-purchase foam knuckles will be available in VW showrooms and, no doubt hoping to strike up a quick viral campaign, the manufacturer has created an online "Punch Dub" game in which players are encouraged to virtually "punch" one another for a weekly prizes of a six-month lease on selected vehicles -- not to mention the grand prize of a CC sedan.
You can check out the game at either www.facebook.com/vw or at vw.com. Check out the original commercial after the jump.
Another possible recall, more deaths added to the defect tally and threats of heavy fines face automaker.
According to the Detroit Free Press, documents showing the how, when, where and why -- but especially the "when" -- of all the recent recall activities are being sought by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Under federal law, manufacturers must notify NHTSA within five days of recognizing an automotive defect, and enact a recall accordingly. If company records show Toyota was slow on the uptake in issuing any of the recent recalls, it could face a fine of up to $16.4 million.
By Dale Jewett
Three employees of electric car maker Tesla died Wednesday when the small plane they were in crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport in Palo Alto, Calif.
Tesla chairman and CEO Elon Musk was not on the plane, according a report at www.foxnews.com. The Web site quoted Musk saying, "This is the worst day in Tesla's history."
The airplane, a twin-engine Cessna 310, apparently hit some power transmission lines near the airport. It crashed in a residential area, sparking several small fires. News reports say the area was shrouded in fog at the time the plane left the airport.
Chrysler to revamp small and midsize models, strategy
According to statements Marchionne has made on several occasions, the answer may be: Sooner than anyone expected.
In Italy last month, Marchionne said that the oft-speculated move of combining the Europe-only Lancia brand with Chrysler may happen by the end of the year.
By Hans Greimel, Automotive News
Conceding that breakneck expansion led to Toyota Motor Corp.'s current recall crisis, president Akio Toyoda outlined reforms meant to get quality back on track, including more active use of the car's so-called black box crash data recorder.
Toyoda, grandson of the carmaker's founder, also indicated he won't sit before Congressional hearings into the quality lapses that have triggered recalls of more than 8.5 million vehicles since last fall.
Yoshimi Inaba, the head of Toyota's U.S. operations, is best suited to testify before the lawmakers because he is most familiar with the local U.S. market, Toyoda said.
“Mr. Inaba and our executives in North America have my highest level of trust, and I am sure they are well equipped to respond,” Toyoda, 53, said a news conference today. “I will focus on internal reform to improve quality and support Inaba from our headquarters.”
America rightly rejects the 2-seat minicar
Now, as Eric Taub recently wrote in The Times’ Wheels blog, sales of the Mercedes-engineered Smart "have plunged off a cliff." The cutesy 2-seater had already suffered a 40 percent sales drop in 2009. Worse, Taub writes, in January “the company sold just 278 Smart cars, down from 864 in December, and an extraordinary 84.3 percent drop from the same month one year earlier, when 1,776 Smarts were sold.”
Now, back to that May 2008 article I refer to earlier. In fact, during that time, Taub and I performed a bicoastal takedown of the Smart in The Times, with me driving the car in New York and Taub doing the same in Los Angeles. Those are two urban markets that you’d expect to be especially friendly to the micro-sized Smart. While the Smart’s cute looks and park-anywhere ability were (and are) selling points, the car’s disappointing mileage -- less than 35 mpg during our testing -- awful transmission, clunky ride, sluggish acceleration and shortage of passenger and storage space made us wonder who, exactly, would buy the thing once the initial media honeymoon was over.
The redesigned Explorer is on its way, though what it looks like is anyone's guess
Ford has kept the look of its next-generation Explorer closely guarded. It's set to launch in January alongside the new Focus compact; the difference is, the Focus was revealed last month, while nothing has been seen of the upcoming Explorer save the Explorer America concept unveiled two years ago -- and Ford said the model has been redesigned since then.
So what do we know? Well, it's been no secret that the upcoming Explorer will be based on a car platform rather than a stiffer truck design.
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Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Raised in Volvos, he has grown to love fast, irresponsible vehicles of all kinds. He is the senior news editor at MSN Autos and also reports for Car and Driver, Road & Track, The Boston Globe and other publications.
In the garage: 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (not his)
Doug Newcomb has covered car technology for over 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and technology.
In the garage: 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, two 1984 Chevrolet Blazers, 2008 Honda CR-V
James Tate learned to drive stick at age 13 in a 1988 Land Cruiser - in La Paz, Bolivia. He's since been a mechanic, on a pit crew and has wrenched on every car he's owned since his first 1989 Honda CRX Si (and won't stop until the car is a 1973 Porsche 911 RS). His work has appeared in Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Automobile and others.
In the garage: 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera, 1988 BMW M5