Saturday, December 13, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Such as the BMW 3 Series, Honda Accord and Chevrolet Corvette being on the list again -- at least 15 times for each one in the 27 years the magazine has been issuing its 10Best list. Here they are, in alphabetical order --
- BMW 3-Series/M3
- Cadillac CTS (red car, top right)
- Chevrolet Corvette
- Honda Accord
- Honda Fit
- Infiniti G37
- Jaguar XF (white car, top left)
- Mazda MX-5
- Porsche Boxster/Cayman
- Volkswagen GTI
Despite the current headlines about potential bankruptcy, General Motors is the only American manufacturer to make the 10Best rankings, with two vehicles on the list -- the Cadillac CTS luxury sports sedan and the iconic Chevrolet Corvette, which continues its reign in the sports car category, selected for a 15th time.
First timers include the Infiniti G37 performance sports sedan, which underwent extensive changes to enhance its performance and handling, and the Jaguar XF, hailed by many for its modern styling and beautiful lines that distinguish it in its category. The Honda Fit that made the list this year is a redesigned version of the car that had been selected to the list twice before.
Other great drives which seem to have reserved parking on this list include the Honda Accord, recognized for a record 23rd time, and the BMW 3-Series, making its appearance on the Car and Driver list for a record 18 consecutive years. The Porsche Boxster roadster and its sibling Cayman coupe, and the Mazda MX-5 are on the 10Best list for the tenth year each. Rounding out the winners is the Volkswagen GTI, honored for the fourth time.
A winners are chosen by a panel of 19 Car and Driver editors who rate the cars on performance, driving satisfaction and value. The vehicles must be available in the United States and must cost less than $71,000. The list -- and more information about each model -- appears in the January 2009 issue, on newsstands in December.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Here are five reasons you should not speed…
Save lives - Slowing down increases the likelihood you and your passengers will survive a crash. Each 1 percent decrease in travel speed reduces injury crashes by about 2%, serious injury crashes by about 3% and fatal crashes by about 4%.
Save money - Speeding reduces fuel efficiency, causing you to buy gas more often. The Department of Energy estimates that, as a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph above 60 mph you drive is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.
Save the environment - According to Ford Motor Company, driving a vehicle at 65 mph consumes about 15% more fuel than driving the same vehicle at 55 mph. More fuel consumed means more CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Save yourself a ticket - Highway safety agencies and law enforcement crack down on speeders, especially during holidays. Obey the sign or pay the fine!
Save your license - A speeding ticket could lead to points on your driving record. Too many points and you could lose your license and your insurance premiums could go up.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There also is an all-new 'regular' gas-powered Ford Fusion and its sibling Mercury Milan. Both offer Ford's all-new Duratec 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is expected to deliver at least 3 mpg better on the highway than the Honda Accord and 2 mpg better than the Toyota Camry.
All of the gas engine choices have six-speed transmissions, for up to a 10 percent fuel economy improvement.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The 2009 Zero X is priced at $7750, with an introductory price of $7450 through December 31, 2008. Orders received by the end of November will ship by year end -- perhaps even in enough time to put a red ribbon on it for Christmas. Right now, the only way to purchase the Zero is through the company website.
An environmentally friendly, green motorcycle. What will they think of next!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Miller has been a dominant force in off-road racing for two decades, including several wins in the Trophy Truck category of both the Baja 1000 and the Baja 500. Arciero won the grueling 1000, a 600 mile-plus race, in 2004. Currently, he is a VW factory driver and was instrumental in the inaugural season of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Series, where he coached and mentored a group of thirty up and coming talented young drivers on what it takes to succeed in the world of professional motorsports.
A few years ago, I helped out in a so-called 'chase' car, which provides support for drivers, in the Baja 500, and let me tell you, this is no Sunday drive to grandma's house. We drove over blistering hot dry lake beds, bumped across severely rutted unpaved tracks, and hairpin turns on paved mountainous roads. And I was in a production-model vehicle, with comfortable seats and shock absorbers -- not like the specially adapted racing models these guys are driving.
The VW Touareg TDI is riding on BFGoodrich Tires. Other sponsors include Red Bull, , Dow Automotive, Oakley eyewear, KMC Wheels and Fox Shocks.
The 2008SCOREBaja1000 web site goes live on Nov. 19, 2008 with a countdown clock. Race tracking will begin at 6 a.m. PT/ 9 a.m. ET on Nov. 21.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Nine of Southern California’s automotive design studios have been busy predicting how auto racing will change by the year 2025. Their designs are part of the fifth annual Los Angeles Auto Show’s Design Challenge. Here's what the designers and engineers have come up with -- in alphabetical order --
Audi -- (photo right) The Audi R25 incorporates innovative features such as high-velocity banks and tunnels, which allow cars to race “inverted” and the opportunity to pass anywhere with aerodynamic racecars.
BMW -- The BMW Hydrogen Powered Salt Flat Racer reuses existing, ordinary materials such as old oil barrels and BBQ lids, and 'employs' goldfish as “co-pilots” to ensure that the vehicle is running clean emissions. This is a sustainable vehicle -- how it's built, and the fuel that propels it.
General Motors -- The GM Chaparral Volt collects and generates its own energy from three different clean, renewable and abundant California resources: Earth, Wind and Fire. The futuristic Volt creates what GM is describing as entirely new category of racing - the eco-triathlon.
Honda -- The Great Race 2025’s sonar/echolocation sensors can detect changes in speed, terrain, and altitude. That allows the vehicle to switch to any configuration to circumnavigate the globe in 24 hours on land, by sea or by air. Another triathlon -- it drives, it sails, it flies.
Mazda -- The MAZDA KAAN is an electric race car with a patented electronic tire system to reach 250 mph with no harmful emissions.
Mitsubishi -- The MMR25 is a multi-terrain vehicle with omni-directional wheels with eight independently-controlled motors. This allows for what Mitsu is calling “8 x 4” wheel drive, and it means you can drive the car forwards even while it's pointed backwards or sideways. Now, if they could design something that can get me sideways while pointed forwards, I could get in and out of a tight NYC parking space a lot easier.
Mercedes-Benz -- (photo middle) The Formula Zero Racer incorporates Formula One speed with the track dynamics of the bobsled or luge, and the grace and efficiency of yacht racing. So there.
Toyota -- The Le Mans Racer is the ultimate race car that never needs to stop. It is powered by highly efficient hydrogen fuel cell electric motors, and each of its body panels is embedded with photovoltaic panels that supply electricity when extra energy is needed. The world's first hydrogen-solar vehicle! It doesn't get more green. Even the Prius needs gas occasionally. This could solve the world's energy crisis.
Volkswagen -- (photo left) In the Bio Runner, the driver is positioned inside a protective cage on a motorcycle-like saddle, with controls attached to the hands and feet. The controls manipulate all wheels via synthetic muscle-based suspension which offers unparalleled control and traction. Sounds like fun to drive.
And which of these futuristic designs is the best? The competition winner is being announced at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 20, 2008. I'll be there.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Age 40 -- multi-tasking becomes more challenging, such as concentrating at the same time on the navigation system and the traffic in front of you. Also, recovery from glare is reduced, which affects your comfort level driving at night.
Age 60 -- muscle strength and range of motion decrease by as much as 25 percent. That affects your ability to get in and out of the vehicle, and how easily and far you can turn around in the driver seat to check conditions in the blind spot.
- four-door vehicles, since doors are lighter and easier to open than two-door coupes.
- performance sports models usually have seats with more heavily padded side and thigh bolsters, which are more difficult to get into and out of than vehicles with flatter seats,
- heated seats with lumbar support are great for anybody at any age with back pain,
- for drivers with reduced leg strength or mobility, a higher SUV can be easier to get in and out of than a sedan, since its higher seat reduces bending. Or, you might do better with a vehicle with a lower door, such as a minivan,
- keyless entry and keyless ignition are more than convenient – they prevent the difficulty or pain caused by having to turn a key. Also, a thick steering wheel requires less hand and wrist strength to grip and handle to make turns. And this turns out to be a smart feature also for younger drivers who make long, daily commutes.
- power mirrors and seats are easier to adjust for drivers with limited strength or arthritis,
- power trunk or tailgate closers are as helpful to mature drivers with limited arm strength as they are to younger drivers juggling squirming toddlers.
- dashboard design is important, too. Large, clear, easy-to-read numbers on the speedometer and odometer are important, especially to drivers wearing bifocals. Larger audio and climate controls with buttons are easier to manipulate than knobs, especially for drivers with vision affected by glaucoma or cataracts, or whose “fine motor skills” are diminishing.
- a navigation system that is relatively uncomplicated also reduces distraction.
- large, wide angle side mirrors and rear-view mirrors help compensate for limited range of motion or difficulties twisting to check for blind spots while merging or backing up.
- a rear camera to aid with backing up is a helpful option to consider, as are radar-based systems that assist with parking and maintaining distance from the vehicle in front on the highway – what’s known as collision avoidance systems.
Vehicles with Smart Features for Mature Drivers come in all price ranges. More about those down the road in a future posting.
Friday, November 7, 2008
It's not too early to start thinking about a gift for the favorite car enthusiast in your life -- even if that's yourself. Great cars are beautiful -- especially classic drives from the past. All bold, sculptured flashing chrome and graceful curves of metal -- subjects for fine art photography.
The online art marketplace DiscoveredArtists.com is offering a selection of automotive and motorcycle prints and originals, starting at under $100. Like the image shown here, called, simply, Blue Car. Well, to me it looks turquoise, which was a color popular in the 50s for Chevys and Fords, like the classic '55 Chevy Bel Aire this just might be a close-up of.
Automotive art typically falls into a few categories --
- So-called beauty shots that usually are very close-up, focusing on a single feature such as a beautiful hood ornament or such into a striking tight,
- Detailed fine art photographs that show every nuance of the car's design,
- Nostalgia artworks that set a mood or capture a feeling, such as the freedom of the open road before nagivation systems that speak,
Some of these art pieces are photos, either straightforward and some digitally enhanced. Others are paintings. All are interesting.
Take a look.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people in the U.S. So, the question is -- how safe a driver is your teenager? Could he or she be a better, safer driver? And how can you help your teen drive more sensibly and safely?
Congress has designated October 19-25 as National Teen Driver Safety Week, a good time to think about the causes and solutions to teen accidents and car crashes.
There's an excellent program called Driving Skills for Life with advice for parents, teens and teachers, too. It is sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and the Governor's Highway Safety Association. The website has such obvious advice as slow down, don't drink and drive, and also a collection of videos by celebrities including some famous NASCAR racers, on how to drive more safely.
It's a great website for you and your teen to surf together -- especially the 3D driving challenge. No, it's not an animated video game -- it's more like a test on which rules of the road you remember from your own driving test way back whenever you took it. Call it a digital video car coach and driving coach.
Rules on teen driving vary from state to state -- so check Governor's Highway Safety Association website to find out what the rules are where you live.
Safe drives are great drives.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
- A high-performance, high-efficiency heating and cooling system;
- Innovative sun-tracking skylights that make the most of natural daylight and help reduce use of lights inside
- A cool-roof system to lower the overall heat that comes off large buildings
- Landscaping that requires a minimal amount of water
- Low-flow faucets and toilets and waterless urinals to conserve water
- A cistern system to collect and store rainwater and air conditioning
condensation for irrigation and for washing cars
- High-speed glass service bay doors to reduce heat and cold loss from
service areas at the same time they provide additional light to the interior
- Recycled materials used in tile, carpeting, wood paneling and cubicles
- A full-service cafe as well as a fuel facility on-site so employees and customers won't
have to drive to get something to fill their bellies or their tanks.
Another feature of the dealership is a display that shows the building's energy use over the last half hour or so. It's the same kind of energy panel drivers of Toyota hybrid cars know well.
The dealership has applied for and expects to be awarded a Gold LEED certification in the next few weeks. Just so you know -- LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a voluntary program designed to promote and validate environmental leadership in the building industry. It's tough to get LEED certification -- there's an extensive application and review process, and you have to re-certify regularly to keep your eco-friendly status. As far as LEED certification is concerned -- you can honestly say (apologies to Kermit) it's not easy being green!
Pat Lobb Toyota in McKinney, Texas was the first dealership to earn LEED certification in 2006. Besides Mark Miller Toyota, five other Toyota dealerships in the country are built and either have received or are in the process of being reviewed for LEED certification. Three additional dealerships seeking LEED certification are under construction with several more in the design and planning stages.
So thank you, Toyota, for making great green drives and great green car dealerships, too.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
- Watch your speed. Your car creates the most pollution when driving at less than 15mph, and pollution decreases up to 60mph. After that, it increases again.
- Take roof-racks off when you don't need them, since they create wind drag. Ditto driving with the windows open -- also creates drag that reduces fuel efficiency.
- Take the junk out of the trunk -- remove unneccessary items from the car, such as tool boxes, golf clubs and bicycles to reduce weight.
- Remember your RPMs -- Keeping the engine speed between 1,200 and 3,000 rpm will help improve fuel efficiency of whatever you are driving.
- Keep your distance from the car in front. Sharp braking wastes fuel.
- Maintain your car properly. Have the engine tuned, change air filters and keep the tires properly inflated to reduce friction.
- Consolidate your trips --if you are picking up the kics from school, do the shopping on the way, in the same trip.
Some other things to remember --
- When you turn on something electric in the car, it increases fuel consumption. There is only one source of energy in the car, and that's the fuel tank. Don't over-use some electric features, such as the rear-window heater, or even the heated seats that make nice to your lower back pain.
- Keep the inside of your car windows squeaky clean. This stops the windows misting up, so that you don't need to use the rear-window heater or the air conditioning to dehumidify the car.
- If you've got a garage, use it -- that's because if it takes you 10 minutes to warm up your car in cold weather, it's costing you around ten cents a minute.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
1. 2009 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 GT
The top wagon pick is for its fun and sporty styling, spacious interior -- enough to haul friends, family, groceries and golf clubs in one shot -- and a racy turbocharged inline 4-cyl that generates 263 hp under the hood. The MAZDASPEED3 GT -- pictured here -- easily jumps off the line as hip and practical. And, it's a best buy at under $25K competition.
If you're looking for a new station wagon that will run forever and gets great gas mileage, this is the model for you. The TDI in the name indicates it's a diesel. This one gets impressive EPA estimates in the 29 City/40 Highway range). And the SportWagen name tells you this model will give you traditional German performance and handling. NADAguides.com also was impressed with its top-notch interior, and its sub-$25K price tag, which only seals the deal.
When they say engineered from jets, they mean it. The 2009 Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi Wagon has a 280 hp 2.0L turbocharged V6 and optional AWD. In this category, people might opt for a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes badge, but they'd be missing out on something special, according to NADAguides.com, which calls this a great looking wagon with a laundry list of standard equipment.
4. 2009 BMW 5-Series Sport Wagon 535xi
Handling and performance make it hard to believe this eager Beemer is a wagon, but it is and, according to the editors at NADAguides.com, "every bit what a BMW should be." The AWD-equipped, 300 hp-enabled, twin turbo-charged inline 6-cylinder-powered luxury car offers more than 58 cubic feet of space when the back seats are folded -- larger than some mid-sized SUVs.
5. 2009 Mercedes-Benz E Class 6.3L AMG Wagon
Rounding out the top five is this wagon, priced at $86,000 plus, thanks to its AMG heritage. Steep, for sure, but what you get is thrill-a-minute driving performance with beautiful styling thrown in. A sports wagon, for sure, with a 507 hp 6.3L V8 that generates 465 lb-ft of torque, as well as a 7 paddle-shifted automatic transmission, a sport suspension for improved handling and optional seating for seven. Make sure they are all buckled in, and then floor it.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Here are some of the ways --
The Model T officially ushered in the age of the "horseless carriage", and a burst of technical innovations that jump-started the aumotibile industry. More than 15 million Model T's were produced, including the 1924 Tourer pictured here. By 1921, the Model T accounted for an astounding 56% of the world's automobile production, and since it was manufactured in several countries and had dealerships in six continents, you could call the Model T the world's first global car.
Henry Ford essentially invented the assembly line to produce the Model T, and that manufacturing efficiency lowered the price of a car enough that most people could afford. In 1908, the first Model T cost $825. By 1925, it sold for only $260.
The Model T is responsible for establishing a minimum wage and the eight-hour work day. The factory work also gave jobs to people who usually could not find work, such as immigrants, women, minorities and people with disabilities, and helped create a middle-class.
Model T owners were able to personalize their vehicles with accessories. Now, that is called the aftermarket supplier industry, and it's a $38 Billion industry. So any time you see a car with custom hubcaps or pin-striping, or a dealer-installed audio system, you can thank the Model T, which started the customization trend.
By 1925, Ford was building its first factory-produced domestic pickup truck - the Ford Model T Runabout - with a pickup body. There also was a heavier-duty, one-ton-rated Model TT pickup that is a grand-daddy of today's F-Series Super Duty.
The Tin Lizzie had a top speed of 40-45 mph, from a front-mounted, 2.9-liter, four-cylinder, engine, and it was the best-selling vehicle ever, until 1972 when the VW Beetle finally surpassed it. More than 20 years later in 1999, a panel of 126 automotive experts from 32 countries still chose the Model T as the most influential car of the 20th century.
So Happy 100th Birthday Ford Model T.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
GEM vehicles have been driven a combined 200 million miles and prevented more than 150 tons of pollutants from reaching the air, while saving 10 million gallons of gasoline.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
'Quantum of Solace' opens in the UK and France on October 31st, then elsewhere November 7th.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Take Volvo. Garbage trucks aren't necessarily newsworthy, but Volvos's first hybrid refuse truck most definitely is. The truck division of the Swedish carmaker is taking an important step towards commercial use of hybrid technology for heavy vehicles by launching two hybrid refuse trucks that are being tested in regular daily operations, on refuse collection runs in the cities of Renova and Ragn-Sells.
What do you know -- a green garbage truck. What will they think of next!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Look at them quick, before they are sold. Three vehicles from Oprah's private collection are being auctioned by Gooding & Company, to benefit the Leadership Academy for Girls, her school in South Africa. Being auctioned are:
- Her 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing -- pictured here. It was owned originally owned by the DuPont family. This is the sexy icon sports car that everybody wants, including me.
- A 1988 Rolls-Royce Corniche II Convertible, which was a gift to Oprah from her long-time friend, actor John Travolta. Since he's also a pilot, and even though Rolls-Royce makes jet engines, maybe the Corniche just isn't fast enough for him.
- There's also a 1997 Aston Martin DB7 Volante, like the ones James Bond drives in the movies.
It's not just Oprah's cars on the auction block. There's a collection vintage Bugattis, owned by Dr. Peter and Susan Williamson, which is generally regarded to be the world's finest collection of these legendary sports cars and racecars. There's a dozen of them on the auction block, expected to bring in $15 million. Do the math -- that's more than one million dollars per car. Most of the proceeds will benefit the Dartmouth Medical School. The annual Pebble Beach event raises some $10 million for charity.
Some 100 other cars are on the auction block, too. They include --
- the legendary 1959 Ferrari 250 GT ‘California’ Spider
- the acclaimed 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8C 2400 Super-Charged Grand Sport
- a rare 1938 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Alfa Romeo 6C
- the original 1914 Stutz Series E Bearcat
Oh, I wish I had the money and a garage big enough to hold these vintage, classic beauties. Great drives, each and every one.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Vehicles included models running on hydrogen fuel cells only, hydrogen-electric hybrids, and BMW's liquid hydrogen and gas bi-fuel model, a combo of sedans and SUVs. The collection also includes a combo of gas-powered production models retro-fitted to hydrogen, and prototypes designed from the ground up to be non-gasoline powered. BTW -- the initials FCEV mean it's a fuel cell/ elecrtic. From these manufacturers --
- BMW 7 Series Hydrogen
- Mercedes-Benz F-Cell
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Honda FCX Clarity
- Hyundai Tucson FCEV
- Kia Sportage EX FCEV
- Volkswagen Hy-Motion Tiguan FCEV
- Nissan X-Trail FCV
Sunday, August 10, 2008
There are only two organizations in the United States which can issue a proper, legal IDP to drivers holding a license issued by one of the 50 US states. One is the AAA, the other is the American Automobile Touring Alliance. That's it. Just those two. Anybody else offering to sell you an international driver permit is a scam and a fraud, and if you're stopped by a foreign police officer with one of these make-believe permits, you could spend the rest of your vacation in a foreign jail.
Authentic IDPs and Inter-American Driving Permits (IADPs) are official translations of a motorist’s driver’s license, for use when driving in another country. Anyone 18 years or older who presents a valid U.S. driver’s license can get one on at any of the more than 1,100 AAA offices around the country, or by mail following instructions on the AAA website.
An IDP costs just $15 from AAA, $20 from AATA. Anybody charging you more than that should throw up red flags -- it's a tip-off to a rip-off. Some of these scammers are charging hundreds of dollars. One website I checked promises your application will be processed within 12 hours. Terrific. If you go to an AAA office with the proper documents, your legal, $15 application will be issued on the spot, in under one hour.
Plus, you can be sure the AAA won't sell your driver's license information to other scammers who are in the business of identify theft, and cause you years of financial grief.
These on-line permit scams are nothing new. They're just easier now thanks to the internet. The US Federal Trade Commission has been warning us about these scams, and telling the fraudulent marketers their conduct won’t be tolerated.
Drive safe. Drive legal.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
Who is the greenest of them all? Toyota Prius? Honda Civic Hybrid? Smart for Two? Those are the top three great green drives for 2008 according to Kelley Blue Book, also known as KBB.
The ratings are based on lots more than just fuel efficiency, though. Also comfort, and an important thing called performance, which includes how much oomph they have to keep up with traffic on a steep incline, or corner without feeling like you'll tilt over. And price -- the Honda Fit, pictured here, is just $15,000.
But there are lots more eco-friendly, fuel efficient cars in the great green drives garage. And while the list is dominated by hybrids, there's also a couple of small gas-powered cars, and even one diesel, the new super-clean Mercedes-Benz BLUETEC. Drum roll please --
- Nissan Altima Hybrid - 34 mpg (35 city, 33 highway)
- Mini Cooper - 32 mpg (28 city, 37 highway)
- Ford Escape Hybrid - 32 mpg (34 city, 30 highway)
- Honda Fit - 31 mpg (28 city, 34 highway)
- Mercedes-Benz E320 BLUETEC - 26 mpg (23 city/32 hwy)
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid - 26 mpg (27 city, 25 highway)
- Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid - 21 mpg (21 city, 22 highway)
This list includes a little of everything when it comes to type -- sedans, SUVs and hatchbacks -- certainly something for everybody in this list of great green drives.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The moments after a road accident – whether or not it was your fault – are a stressful blur, and not the time to be searching frantically for a pen and paper to write down all those important accident details. Let alone to try to remember exactly what information you need to collect from the other guy for your insurance claim, for the police, or both.
DocuDent is a handy kit that contains everything you need, inside a zippered pouch about the size of your overnight toiletry kit. Think of it as an auto-accident kit.
Instead of toothpaste, this handy kit contains the following --
- An accident report form that includes spaces for the names and addresses of passengers or witnesses,
- A pen to write it all down with,
- A whistle, just in case,
- Band-Aids, just in case,
- A disposable film camera with flash to take photos of the accident site, more dependable than a cell phone camera that has no flash,
- A gadget the size of your MP3 player that is a combination measuring tape and flashlight.
DocuDent also includes a handy pocket guide that suggests what photographs to take, and what you should not say to the other guy.
If you have a loved one heading off to college this fall, this is a great gear idea for the glove compartment. Consider it a $20 insurance policy.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
An estimated 250,000 vehicles were damaged by Hurricane Katrina -- and about half of them wound up back on the market. So, it is likely many of the cars still drying out from June's river flooding also will be found soon as bargains on auctions and on-line. Ditto any vehicles that will be damaged by this year's hurricane season, just now beginning.
Don't get soaked by buying a soaked car. Simply, they are dangerous -- too dangerous to own and drive. Today's cars have more computer circuitry than the original NASA rockets, and dried out circuitry rarely works the way the engineers intended. Just ask anybody who has ever knocked over the morning coffee or evening martini onto a computer keyboard, or even a cellphone. Water and computers -- not a good combination.
Ditto, water can permanently damage airbag and anti-lock brake systems. Even after the water has dried, and the smell of rotting fish or rotting garbage has aired out of the upholstery and carpeting.
So how do you avoid buying a flood-damaged vehicle? Don't think that because you live in a 'dry' state that you are safe. The creeps and con artists who re-sell flood damaged cars move them to a different part of the country, even out of the country. Here's what to look for:
- Check the trunk, glove compartment, the dashboard and below the seats for signs of water damage such as silt, mud or rust. Examine upholstery and carpeting closely; if it doesn't match the interior or fits loosely, it may have been replaced. Discolored, faded or stained materials could indicate water damage.
- Turn the ignition key to make sure accessory and warning lights and gauges come on and work properly. Ditto airbag and ABS lights.
- Test all the lights, both interior and exterior, plus windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner. And check them several times to make sure they work.
- Flex some of the wires beneath the dashboard. Wet wires often become brittle upon drying and may crack.
- Take a deep breath and smell for musty odors from mildew.
- Go to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. Always get vehicles checked BEFORE handing over any money.
This may be the most important tip of all -- Ask to see a detailed vehicle history report. CARFAX Vehicle History Reports can reveal many hidden problems from a vehicle's past, including flood titles and will indicate if a vehicle has been titled/registered in at-risk areas during flood and hurricane seasons. If the seller does not offer a report, use the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) available on the dashboard to check the car's history at carfax.com.
And remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
So the company will start building the Prius in the U.S. beginning in 2010, at a brand new factory now under construction in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
A Prius with a Southern accent! Fabulous.
Toyota, by the way, was the first foreign automaker to build a factory in the United States. That was more than 20 years ago. Now, the company has multiple factories and parts plants in the US and more in Canada. It's an investment worth more than $21 Billion, and employs more than 43,000 workers on the assembly line, as well as research and development, design, sales and financial services.
The Camry Hybrid already is built in the US, in Kentucky. Toyota also is switching its plant in Princeton, Indiana, from producing the full-size Tundra pick-up to produce the Highlander mid-size SUV instead. The Tudra will continue to be built at the Toyota factory in San Antonio. The engines for the Tundra and the super-size Sequoia SUV are made in Huntsville, Alabama, and although Toyota is stopping production on those large, gas guzzler models -- until sales pick up again -- the company says those workers will "continue to be provided work", whatever that means.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Check your tires -- Experts estimate that U.S. drivers waste nearly 3 Billion gallons of gas each year by driving on tires that are not inflated properly. If yours are under-inflated by 5-8 PSI, you are losing a couple of miles per gallon. Depending on how much you drive, that can add up to wasting enough gas this year to pay for a week's worth of groceries to feed your family. Always check your tires when they are cold, since driving even a short distance to the gas station can change the reading.
Step on the brake and gas gently -- Jack-rabbit starts and slam-dunk stops waste gas, so be more gentle with that gas pedal. div>
Lighten the load -- Get the junk out of the trunk. Every extra pound you carry around reduces how many miles you can squeeze out of that lemon you used to love.
Monday, June 30, 2008
To combat this, the Governors Highway Safety Association is funding extra enforcement efforts focusing on such safety issues as seat belt use, speeding, drunk driving, and an activity not enough drivers think is dangerous -- driving with one hand while holding a cellphone in the other. Talking while holding a cellphone is dangerous enough, but it is simply incoprehensible anybody is idiotic enough to take their eyes off the road long enough to either to dial or text message. But they do. And those people are beyond dumb. They are flat out dangerous.
Friday, June 27, 2008
The image, BTW, is the 2008 Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car. Now that's a great drive!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The annual Concept Car of the Year Awards recognize vehicles most likely to shape the future of the automobile industry. The Saab was voted the best of 40 concept cars and 12 production preview vehicles that debuted during the 2008 auto show season, which includes the Los Angeles Auto Show, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the New York Auto.
The 9-X BioHybrid is a vivid vision of what a future compact car from Saab could look like. It is designed to reflect the priorities of youthful customers who seek progressive looks, responsible performance and high-tech communications, all in a sporty, fun-to-drive package.
It's a sleek design, with ‘turbine’ wheels placed at all four corners. Minimal bodywork overhangs add to its sleek shape and reduce aerodynamic drag, too. The Saab designers know something about aero-dynamic. They design and build airplanes, too.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Mexico is such an attractive place for a road trip that there are more than 80 million vehicle border crossings each year. That number could increase this year because a great drive south-of-the-border is an affordable travel alternative to Europe.
Here are five top tips to keep you and your car safe from GMAC Insurance --
1. Have the proper insurance. In most instances, your U.S. auto insurance policy will not be valid in an accident in Mexico, so you should buy Mexico auto insurance. Check with your insurance company to see if it offers a pre-approved policy for Mexico, or special add-ons to
cover you within a certain mileage from the border.
2. Know the law. In Mexico, a car accident is seen as a criminal offense, and until it is determined who is at fault and whether a penalty can be paid, you could be detained in jail. Check with your insurance company to make sure they will cover bail costs, so you stay in jail longer than absolutely necessary.
3. Stay With Your Car. Mexican law states that a car must be driven by the vehicle owner, or the owner must be in the vehicle. If the owner is not present, the car will be seized by customs and not returned under any circumstances. If your name is on the title, stay with the vehicle at all times.
4. Plan Ahead. Know how long you will be in the country in advance. Give yourself extra leeway in the event an accident occurs and an extended stay is unavoidable. In addition, register with the embassy, so they are aware of your presence and your whereabouts.
5. Study Up. Read your new auto insurance policy carefully, especially the part about your responsibilities in case of an accident or loss. Keep a copy of the policy in the vehicle at all times, and always carry your driver's license, as well - it's valid in Mexico.
These tips can help you avoid a mountain of headaches, from paperwork to jail time to enormous fines and other costs.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
- Evelyn Kanter
- A former consumer reporter for ABC TV News and CBS Radio News, I've been writing about the environment, travel, automotive and business for more than two decades. My articles have appeared in The New York Times, Associated Press, Travel & Leisure and other major publications. I've written two travel guidebooks to New York's Hudson Valley and edited or contributed to a dozen other guidebooks, including for Michelin and Fodor's. Find more info, including recent articles, at www.evelynkanter.com.
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