The Car Geek: November 2007

The Car Geek

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Retrospection: Acura's Beginning...

Do you know how the maker of Acura CL axle started out in the automotive industry? It isn't an overnight success, you know... gives us a clearer picture…

Acura is an upscale automaker known for offering cars with impressive levels of luxury, features and performance. Generally, Acura cars are not considered as glitzy or as glamorous as the premium European makes. Depending on your viewpoint, this can be a positive or a negative trait, but either way there's no denying the quality of Acura's vehicles, nor their compelling prices and overall value. The company also continually scores well in J.D. Power quality and satisfaction surveys.

The history of Acura is relatively short. Parent company Honda introduced the Acura brand to the U.S. market in 1986 in an effort to create a separate luxury division for its products. At first, it was just a two-car show: the Legend sedan, which was the first true Japanese luxury car sold in America, and the Integra sport coupe and sedan. Though essentially a marketing creation for the North American market (there are still no "Acuras" sold in Europe or Japan, only Hondas), the Acura brand was immediately successful. Consumers liked the features, performance and upscale image of Acura cars, along with the fact that Acuras were backed by Honda's reputation for reliability and low ownership costs. In 1991, Acura introduced its crown jewel: the NSX sports car. The all-aluminum NSX was a true rival to the era's top performers and, in typical Acura fashion, undercut them in terms of price.

For the new millennium, however, Acura was fully dedicated toward revamping its product range.

We should take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. Life has to be better each day and not the other way around.

Don't quit. That's the formula. Otherwise, you'll lose even when you're armed with the best laid plan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prepare For The 2007 New England International Auto Show

We only have one sleep to go before the grand opening of the 2007 New England International Auto Show! This is the only succeeding show hosted by the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The doors are set to open on November 28, at 10:00 AM. The show will feature over 800 new vehicles from 42 exhibition areas. Now I’m excited to see what’s in Honda’s exhibit… could be a hybrid with a Honda Passport brake booster. Or it could be something else.

Anyway, according to, the 2007 New England International Auto Show that is hosted by Amica Insurance and The Boston Globe will be open for public viewers from Wednesday through Sunday, December 2. The show will offer the ideal setting for the possible car buyer to witness all the fresh 2008 models under one big venue.

"The New England International Auto show comes at a perfect time for the consumer who is looking to replace their current vehicle - two weeks after the insurance institute has released improved crash test ratings; and during a period when our Massachusetts dealers have the answer to high fuel prices with the widest variety of vehicles powered by the most number of different power plants in automotive history. Cars, trucks, vans, crossovers, hybrids, electrics - and countless variations of such - will be on display in the best facility we have ever had for our show," says show producer Barbara Pudney.

"In addition to the car displays, there will be features to entertain the entire family, including the Kid Stop Pit Stop, registration to win a 2008 Dodge Caravan, courtesy of the New England Dodge Dealers, autograph sessions with world rally driver Alex Roy, NASCAR Rookie of the Year David Ragan, and former Red Sox ace Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd, plus a motorcycle stunt show, a Harley give-away, and Ultimate Garage contest, and a chance to go to a NASCAR driving school. It really is a family show," added Ms. Pudney.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dodge Challenges Ford, Chevy Police Cars

Police cars have to be fast. They have to be reliable. Ask the police – which car is best for chasing criminals?

With the heightened competition in the police car segment, expect remarkable products. One of the promising police cars on American roads comes from Dodge.

The sporty upstart Dodge Charger is aiming to challenge the Ford Crown Victoria as chief of police cars. Chrysler's full-sized model launched in the previous year is no immediate threat to the Crown Vic or Chevrolet Impala, the market's other major player. But the Charger is increasing traction in a market that sells 75,000 vehicles annually as national tests cite its speed and handling.

"We've been steadily gaining market share and acceptance for the police vehicle since its inception," said Chrysler LLC spokeswoman Shawn Morgan. "We see that trend continuing." It is a small dent in the automotive industry, which expects to sell about 16 million cars this year. But it is an important niche for automakers because it gives them a chance to put their products to the test when life — or at least the law — is on the line, said the International Herald Tribune.

"That vehicle has to accommodate a bunch of requirements — it's an officer's first-aid station, comfort area for accident victims, command post for a crime scene. Next thing you know it's involved in a high-speed run, responding to a heart attack, chasing a criminal," said Lt. David Halliday, who leads the Michigan State Police's annual police vehicle tests that serve as a national standard for law enforcement.

"We really ask (the automakers) to do an enduring duty for the public that's often underestimated," he added.

Automakers do not break out data for sales to law enforcement agencies, but overall sales for the full-sized Charger were 97,833, up 1.5% for the first 10 months of 2007 compared with last year, the report added. According to Autodata Corp, the Crown Victoria's sales were 51,286, down 7.2% during the same period. The Impala's total sales through October were 270,504, up 12.6%.

John Felice, director of North American fleet operations at Ford, said the decline is due to a drop in retail sales, which accounts for a small percentage of the Crown Victoria's sales. He said Ford forecasts flat sales this year for police cars and controls about 80% of the market.

The IHT said the latest round of police vehicle tests on 2008 models found the Charger with the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine had the fastest acceleration, highest top speed and among the shortest braking distances.

"Law enforcement has always liked good performance in a vehicle," Halliday said. "For example, the (5.7-liter) Charger has a top speed of (nearly) 150 mph (241 kph). If you're in the market for a vehicle that has that kind of performance, that kind of vehicle will fit the bill."

Halliday believes the Charger might be garnering attention because it offers a new option in the market, long dominated by Ford and General Motors Corp.'s Chevy division.

"Competition is good for law enforcement," Halliday concluded. "It strengthens the industry in making the vehicles capable across the board for a variety of missions."

It seems like the maker of Dodge seat covers is on the right track and chasing its rivals pretty closely.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It’s Car Shopping Time For Burglars!

While you’re busy shopping for gifts and other items, burglars have their own way of shopping as well… They’ll take all your stuff such as cell phones, groceries and other valuable stuff inside your unattended car. The holidays provide an easy access to burglars to do the thing their good at - and that is stealing of course! They have the skills to open whatever car in sight. Even your Acura car with a secured Acura vent visor can be their easy target!

According to, a vehicle is robbed in Texas with its valuables stolen every 2 1/2 minutes. Apparently, these felonies go up during this season when shopping raises and drivers don't take the required safety measures to secure their valuable items left in their vehicle.

"We know that auto burglars scout mall and other large parking lots, waiting for the opportunity to break into a vehicle. Within seconds, they take your items, your identity, and, oftentimes, your car. Texas drivers need to understand that their careless actions actually help auto burglars and thieves do their job better," says Susan Sampson, the director of the Texas Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA).

The Texas ABTPA provides three essential safety tips to motorists to avoid these crimes all through out the holidays and all year round: Hide your stuff from sight and lock your vehicle and get the keys. Burglars stole almost 100,000 cars in Texas last year. Approximately half of those victims left the keys inside their vehicles.

Judy Razo was one of the victims, and she thought she made the correct safety measures when she made sure to lock her car after parking it on a hectic street.

"I left one of my bags in sight in the back seat and not only did the burglars break my window, they stole my bag, which had my cell phone, money, credit cards and about $3,000 worth of camera equipment," said Razo. "When they took my belongings, they also stole my identity."

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Spy Scandal Pressure Escalates

I can smell politics everywhere I go. It isn’t just in the Congress or the White House. Say Formula One. Sigh. It’s written all over the sport.

Earlier, McLaren Mercedes went on the offensive against Renault. In a concerted attack, the Woking team sought to emphasize that the French team’s possession of its technical secrets is as bad or even worse than McLaren’s possession of Ferrari’s dossier.

A leaked briefing memo from McLaren dubbed “Renault-gate” affair seen by The Times claims that Renault had more than 780 individual drawings, allegedly stolen from McLaren, on their F1 computers that amounted to “the entire technical blueprint of the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars.”

The memo also names what it calls the “Renault seven”, a group of 7 senior figures in the Renault design and technical team who McLaren say discussed the McLaren technical information. Among them is the Renault chief designer, the head of research and development, the head of mechanical design, the head of transmission design and the head of vehicle performance, divulged Times Online.

According to some experts, the leak from McLaren is the team’s attempt to dismiss the stigma in F1 that the illegal transfer of technical information from the Woking team to Renault is of an altogether lesser order of importance than McLaren’s possession of Ferrari secrets.

McLaren’s transgressions resulted in them being meted a £50 million fine by the FIA. What’s more, the team sponsored by the manufacturer of Mercedes 380sl radiator was thrown out of this year’s constructors’ championship and their 2008 car was subjected to long-term scrutiny. Should the same penalties be applied to Renault, watchers in the industry believe that the team would quit Formula One.

The “Renault-gate” affair came to light in September when it emerged that Phil Mackereth, the former McLaren engineer who joined Renault in March 2006, had taken with him several old-style floppy disks containing McLaren technical drawings, the report continued.

McLaren said the 33 files, which offered a complete technical picture of McLaren’s cars in 2006 and 2007, were uploaded on to 11 Renault computers and were discussed by up to 18 Renault personnel.

In their submission to the FIA, McLaren’s solicitors, Baker & McKenzie, has this to say: “It is clear that McLaren’s confidential design information was knowingly, deliberately and widely disseminated and discussed within the Renault F1 design and engineering team, thereby providing them [Renault] with a clear benefit and unfair advantage.”

Max Mosley, the president of the FIA who has never seen McLaren boss Ron Dennis in person, may take a dim view of the team’s decision to leak information from their confidential submission to the WMSC. There are also other powerful F1 voices who do not buy McLaren’s version of this matter.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

GM Recalls 90,000 Cars

We are aware that both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are strict when it comes to safety and security of cars that US auto makers and foreign car brands make. The cars have to pass their standards in order to be secured as a safe commodity in the market.

General Motors had to experience a recall of the car models they made under Chevrolet and Pontiac. The problem does not concern the Nissan hard body but some safety issues on vehicle parts like like timing chains, safety foams and engine components. The 2007 Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, 2001 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra with the 8.1-liter engine, and the 2.2-liter Saturn L-Series line were affected models. 90,000 vehicles had to undergo recall so as to replace these existing car parts problems.

According to GM, Equinox and Torrent vehicles with roof air bags or sunroofs will be given more safe features like they will be adding more foam around the windshields to protect passengers against head injuries in an accident. Affected Saturn models also get a new timing chain which, according to GM, would separate during driving if not replaced. Both Silverado and Sierras also get new crankshaft position sensors.

NHTSA called the owners of these cars to go to the nearest GM dealership to have their cars recalled. The replacements of the faulty car parts are free of charge. This replacement will secure that these drivers are then safe during their drives. The recall of the GM models will begin next month and if you are one among the owners of these brands, call the GM dealership now and ask about the proper thing to do.

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BMW Sauber Eyes Asmer Move

Perhaps, you are also excited to know who’s gonna occupy BMW Sauber’s vacant test driver seat at Formula One. Mind you, he could be Marko Asmer. Remember the name.

BMW Sauber team head honcho Mario Theissen has revealed that Asmer, a British F3 Champion, is a leading contender for BMW's vacant test driver seat. "He would be a potential candidate for a future test drive, one of several I have to say," Theissen told Autosport.

But the German chief explained that aside from the Estonian driver there are a few other candidates. "Obviously I will have a closer look at who emerged from Formula BMW, because I know them from the past years and I want to see how they develop. And then there are a few others," he said.

The Hinwil-based team is in the market for a test driver after Formula One's Contract Recognition Board ruled that the 2007 incumbent Timo Glock could leave BMW. The German driver wanted out of his contract so he could take up a race seat with Toyota, said Sporting Life.

And Theissen confirmed that a few drivers would be handed the opportunity to prove their credentials in testing at Jerez, as the team look for Glock's replacement.

"We might have one, two or maximum three guys in the car at the December test in Jerez, and then we should come to a decision before the end of the year," he added. To note, former Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos has been touted as another worthy choice.

It can be recalled that Thiessen plucked Robert Kubica from the F3 series. Thus, it’s not shocking to know that he will again unearth a youngster of a similar caliber.

The F1 team sponsored by the maker of BMW 533i radiators has consistently flaunted its prowess in the racing arena. With a potential test driver like Asmer, BMW still has a long way to go…


Monday, November 19, 2007

Volkswagen And Passat Cars Recalled In China

We have been receiving reports about recalls going on in China. Just a few weeks ago, the Toyota Motor Corporation had recalls for its Camry cars because of faulty floor mats that extended to its brake pad which can cause car accidents. Now another set of recalls will be given to some Volkswagen and Passat cars.

China's Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile Company Limited which is owned by both Dongfeng Motor Corp and Peugeot Citroen has been recently reported to undergo recalls for cars they made. The particular models are the '206' and there are 5,609 units affected by faulty car parts.

It is not because of Volkswagen radiator trouble but the recall is because of gearbox flaws as China News Agency reported today.

The recall is from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) who said that these affected models were built between Jan 22 and July 5 of 2006. There were no noted injuries or accidents in connection to its failure but to secure future safety, these cars should undergo recall according to AQSIQ.

Letters has been sent to owners of the said model and they were asked to bring their affected cars to any authorized Peugeot dealership within their area. The recalls are free of charge. The faulty gearbox will be replaced with heat exchanger and torque converter.

On other reports, another set of Volkswagen cars were noted to have problems with its equipments. There are around 2,240 Passat GPs manufactured under Shanghai VW and these are now being recalled because of faulty control keys of the luggage compartment that may lead to property losses as AQSIQ reported. These models were said to be made between August 11 and August 24 of 2007.

If you wish to see the details, and The Auto Channel has the complete story on their official websites.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Vehicle Data for New U.S.News Car Rankings Website From Chrome Systems

Chrome Systems, Inc. Are you familiar with this name? If not, let me give you a short description… Chrome Systems Inc. is an industry leader in collecting, enhancing, and distributing best-in-class automotive data like info on the performance exhaust and all other automotive stuff. Got it?

Anyway, according to, Chrome Systems has announced a joint venture with U.S. News Rankings & Reviews to bring out vehicle pricing, fuel economy data, and configuration services for the automotive class of its newest Internet site which you can now visit at This site is designed to sanction consumers to make the mainly informed vehicle buying decisions by presenting standings and meta-reviews. offers consumers with vehicle design, research, and pricing tools, made possible by Chrome.

“Having Chrome information on our website complements our car rankings with the pricing, specifications, and options information that consumers need to find the best vehicle for them," says Chad Smolinski, the Vice President of U.S. News Rankings & Reviews.

"We are extremely pleased to be partnering with U.S.News Rankings & Reviews to deliver comprehensive and accurate vehicle information for the best buying decisions. For over 20 years the automotive industry has depended on Chrome to deliver the most accurate, timely, and detailed vehicle data. We're proud that through this new partnership we can reach more consumers and help them easily and quickly research and build vehicles to meet their lifestyle needs," says Peter Batten, Chrome Systems General Manager.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

GEM Reveals Electric Cars At LA Auto Show

After ten years of being in the car market, GEM is finally celebrating this victory and is still proud to be a producer of electric cars which they will be showing at the forthcoming LA Auto Show. They promise that the units will be more interesting and more revolutionary this time.

We have seen GEM grow from a simple company to be the most reliable source of electric cars and more customers have been looking forward to see more revolutionary cars from them. There are a total of 35,000 GEMs distributed today plus the 14,000 units in California alone. Wait until November 14 to see both Chrysler and GEM at the LA Auto Show. revealed GEM facts & figures:

Affordable: Low cost - low maintenance

  • Inexpensive - Six models that range from $6,795 to $12,495
  • 72-volt battery system powers a range of 30 to 40 miles on a charge
  • GEMs can be recharged in any standard 110-volt outlet

Fuel consumption: Pennies per day

  • In the U.S., the average car trip is between four and six miles on low speed roads.
  • The all-electric GEM vehicles cost only pennies a mile to operate and receive a range from 30 to 40 miles on a charge

Reliable: Excellent performance – over 200 million miles driven

  • 2007 Blue Sky Merit Award from WestStart-CALSTART for improving air quality in California and worldwide
  • Nearly 10 million gallons of gasoline saved
  • Over 150 tons of tailpipe pollutants spared from reaching the air

Models: Six models - Street legal in 40 states - 35 mph or less*

  • Passenger and cargo models - including the new eL XD utility vehicle - hold up to six passengers
  • Assembled in the U.S.A.
  • Greener fleet options for city parks, police departments, sports teams, master planned communities and university campuses

Too bad that they don’t wear Dodge door handle covers but the company assures that the car parts that fill the entire cars are made up of great quality as well.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

'Why Not?’ Says Toyota


Two words that are filled with possibilities.

They can turn a challenge into an opportunity.

An obstacle into an inspiration.

It's a question we ask ourselves at Toyota every day.

Because we're continuously looking for new ways to improve

What we do. By asking tough questions.

Can we make a car that has zero emissions?

Can we improve the economy of a community?

Can we enrich the lives of people around us?

Why not?

That’s the text of an ad campaign launched today by Toyota Motor Corp. The said campaign centers on the question – Why not? It includes print, online and TV ad.

The 3 new print ads will appear in more than 20 magazines, including Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Real Simple, and Architectural Digest, reported CNN News. Each ad focuses on one of the pillars of the campaign. They are the following:

  • Economic impact: focuses on Toyota's new plant in San Antonio, Texas, which directly employs 2,000 people and adds thousands of other new jobs to the area. The headline reads: "Can a pickup give 2,000 people a lift? Why not?"
  • Environmental commitment: discusses Toyota's aspirations for zero emission vehicles and zero waste in its plants. The headline reads: "Can you have an impact by making none at all? Why not?"
  • Social responsibility: features Toyota's Driving Expectations Program, which teaches valuable defensive driving skills to teens and their parents. The headline reads: "Can the most important safety feature in a car be a teen driver? Why not?"

The TV commercial, meanwhile, is directed by an Academy-award winning cinematographer Robert Richardson. He won Academy Awards for cinematography for "The Aviator" and "JFK," and Erich Joiner, who was involved in the iconic "Got Milk?" advertising campaign and won "Best Video of the Year" from MTV for Van Halen's "Right Now."

The theme of the commercial is inspired by the "Earth Art" movement, and features time-lapse photography of the creation of a Prius made from natural elements of the earth. The sculpture is built up and then eventually fades back into nature, leaving a bare field again.

"Since we began corporate advertising, we have focused on educating Americans about Toyota and our growing presence here," said Steve Sturm, group vice president of Toyota Motor North America. "But on our 50th anniversary in America, we have an opportunity to broaden our message and show how the core Toyota values drive everything that we do. People want to learn more about who we are as a company."

The 30 and 60-second TV spots include a voice-over which reads: Can a car company grow in harmony with the environment? Why not? At Toyota, we're not only working toward cars with zero emissions, we're also striving for zero waste in everything else we do. Because the best way to have an impact on the environment is to have as little impact as possible.

The campaign was created in collaboration with advertising agency Dentsu America, Inc. in New York. Commenting on the campaign, Tim Andree, chief executive officer, Dentsu America, said: "Between our prominent placement on NBC Nightly News and a coordinated print, TV and online presence, the media launch of this campaign will be bigger than anything we've ever done for Toyota's corporate advertising. Our strategy is reflective of how our target audience consumes media."

Toyota Canada could ride the hype of the company’s milestones. Let’s just see what will unfold in the coming months.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Keep Your Car In Good Shape

Keeping my cars in good shape gives me the assurance of longevity. So to preclude my self from purchasing new cars too soon, I see to it that my cars are well maintained. Toyota engine, Volkswagen A/C compressor, Porsche suspension and other auto parts, needs regular maintenance.

According to a Consumer Reports survey, with proper care, many cars now can last 200,000 miles or more with few if any major repairs. The annual survey found 6,769 readers with 200,000 miles or more on their vehicles, including 488,000 for a 1994 Ford Ranger pickup.

When comparing the costs of purchasing and keeping a car for 225,000 miles over 15 years to buying and financing an identical model every 5 years, Consumer Reports found savings could be more than the original purchase price, and even greater if the savings are invested.

Purchasing a car with a good track record is pretty much essential, and Consumer Reports, which does not accept advertising and is published by the non-profit Consumers Union, names several Honda, Lexus, and Toyota models as good bets. But the magazine article and a Consumers Union release also emphasize the make-them-last strategy.

Consumer Reports worth-noting information tidbits include:

- Follow the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual (skipping even one oil change can damage the engine and accelerate wear).

- Use only parts and fluids meeting manufacturer specifications (we do, but also shop around for the repair and maintenance shop with the best combination of price and service).

- Check the car yourself from time to time, looking for fraying or cracks in belts and cracks or bulges in hoses.

- Wash the car regularly, not just for looks but also to help preserve the paint and keep the sheet metal below it from rusting.

Humberto Cruz of writes:

Our mantra: Buy only cars we can comfortably pay for with cash, keep up with the maintenance, and follow common-sense steps to make them last. The Volkswagen Beetle, alas, was going strong after more than 130,000 miles before copious rains that flooded our street to knee-deep ruined it beyond repair. Our cars routinely better 100,000 miles, except a Toyota Corolla we donated to charity in 2003 when we realized that, working part-time from home, we did not need two cars.

Along with home ownership costs, buying or leasing more car than you can afford or need can derail your finances. Nancy Howard of Dodgeville, Wis. writes:

Our family has withstood some potentially damaging events because we had lower expenses and higher savings than we would have had if we had bought the bigger house and the new cars throughout the years.

After paying off a car loan, the Howards kept their car a few years while regularly saving an amount equal to the car payments. They were able to make a bigger down payment on the next car and eventually buy one for cash, the report said. True, keeping cars in good shape is financially rewarding.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Range Rover Sport Wins Residual Award!

It wasn’t long before another Ford subsidiary came out victorious with this month’s various awarding events. Just recently, the Ford Mondeo was crowned as the 2007 Scottish Car of the Year! And this time, the Land Rover took center stage to take a crown as well! For the past few days, things are turning sizzling hot like the Isuzu radiator! Whew…

Land Rover North America, a division of Ford Motor Company, recently announced that the 2008 Range Rover Sport earned the Automotive Lease Guide (ALG) Residual Value Award for the Luxury CUV segment. The ALG Residual Value Award evaluates the best models that retained the highest percentage of their purchasing price after three years of leasing. The 2008 Range Rover Sport dominated other competitors in the segment and bagged the trophy.

Acccording to Chris Marchand, the executive vice president of Marketing and Sales, Land Rover North America:

“We understand the importance of residual values in our highly competitive business and are delighted by this recognition.”

Here is the complete list of the winners of the Automotive Lease Guide Residual Value Award along with their respective segments.

  • Compact Car: Mini Cooper
  • Midsize Car: Honda Accord
  • Fullsize Car: Toyota Avalon
  • Sporty Car Volkswagen Eos
  • Near Luxury Car: Infiniti G35/37
  • Luxury Car: BMW 5 Series
  • Luxury Sports Car: BMW 6 Series
  • Minivan: Honda Odyssey
  • CUV Subaru: Tribeca
  • Luxury CUV: Range Rover Range Rover Sport
  • Compact SUV: Jeep Wrangler
  • SUV Toyota: 4Runner
  • Luxury SUV: Lexus GX470
  • Compact Truck: Toyota Tacoma Pickup
  • Fullsize Truck: GMC/Chevy Sierra/Silverado

“The 2008 awards prove once again that compelling design, high quality manufacturing and disciplined pricing and volume programs are essential to achieve the highest residual value,” concluded John Blair, Chief Executive Officer of Automotive Lease Guide.