By Chris Haak
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By Chris Haak
Toyota’s once-stellar reputation has been taking it on the chin in recent months. The company that never closed a factory in the US is finding itself closing the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California because GM pulled out of the joint venture that had been building Pontiac Vibes, Toyota Tacomas, and Toyota Corollas. Consumer Reports no longer automatically recommends new Toyota models because its quality reputation has been damaged. And most recently, the unintended acceleration debacle has really sullied the company’s reputation – the one that took decades of near-flawless execution to create.
Toyota and the NHTSA suspect that the combination of unanchored floor mats and the design of accelerator pedals in certain vehicles could potentially cause the accelerator pedal to stick to the floor, causing rapid acceleration that can’t easily be controlled. What’s more, the pushbutton start feature in many of the affected models does not shut down the engine on the road until the button has been depressed for a few seconds. Folks panicking as their Camry careens down the road aren’t likely to have the presence of mind to remember to hold it for three seconds to kill the motor.
By Andy Bannister
Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation (SAIC) has this week unveiled its new MG6, set to be the cornerstone of the Chinese attempt to resurrect MG as a global car brand.
Needless to say, it’s not a two-seater sports car to replace the antique MG TF roadster, which has been spluttering fitfully off production lines in the company’s factory at Longbridge, England, over the summer.
Dear me, no. It’s actually a Chinese-built five-door hatchback with a vague fusion of recent Japanese-Korean-Malaysian design cues, although it is claimed to have been styled in Britain.
Still, the new model, unveiled at this week’s Guangzhou motor show, does mark the first all-new MG design for aeons. It is pencilled in for possible production in England as well as China by late 2010, since SAIC’s optimistic plans for a full relaunch of the near-dead marque are still very much alive.
By Kevin Miller
Twenty years ago the world was a different place. GM was the world’s largest automaker, the Berlin Wall had just fallen, and Subaru was known for making angular, offbeat small cars available with four-wheel drive and boxer engines. Subaru broke their mold, however, when they introduced their new Legacy in 1989; it was their first car that was large enough and well-enough equipped to compete in the mainstream family sedan segment.
Fast forward to 2009. Subaru showed the new fifth-generation 2010 Legacy in a chrome finish at the Detroit auto show, and they showed a very original 1990 Legacy right along side it. The original Legacy sedan has a place close to my heart, as my identical twin brother owned one in the late 1990s, in which he and I crossed the northern US from Seattle to New Jersey between Christmas and New Year one snowy winter, which cemented in my mind just how capable and robust the Legacy is. With the side-by-side comparison, it was easy to see how far Subaru has come with the Legacy over the course of twenty years in terms of comfort, safety, and appearance.
By Chris Haak
More bad news for a castoff GM brand. First Penske couldn’t find a supplier of rebadged vehicles after Renault’s board gave him the cold shoulder, which had the effect of killing Saturn immediately. Now, word has just come out that Koenigsegg has pulled out of the deal to buy Saab from GM. GM released a statement saying that the company will address the next step it will take regarding Saab next week.
“We’re obviously very disappointed with the decision to pull out of the Saab purchase,” said GM President and CEO, Fritz Henderson. “Many have worked tirelessly over the past several months to create a sustainable plan for the future of Saab by selling the brand.”
And now, unless there is some white knight waiting in the wings (which there does not appear to be), Saab has not just an unsustainable future, but literally no future. GM’s board is scheduled to meet next Tuesday, December 1, and Saab’s future will likely be discussed during the meeting.
By Chris Haak
Few new cars have spawned as many preliminary concept cars, spy photos, rumors, and even buff-book test drives of camoflaged mules than the Lexus LFA have. And now Toyota is trying to take a bite out of the supercar speculation market with an interesting approach.
Rather than outright selling the 150 LFAs destined for the US to customers, Toyota is “leasing” them for two years for US sales only. The company will retain the car’s title for its first two years as the buyer makes payments on the $375,000 sports car in an amount and pace agreed upon by both parties. After two years, assuming the car is paid off (and I doubt that most buyers of $375,000 cars are taking out installment loans), the buyer receives the title.
Elsewhere in the world for the other 350 cars, this arrangement does not exist, and buyers receive the car’s title immediately upon payment. Presumably, that’s because there isn’t such an obnoxious speculation market that would otherwise buy the cars and flip them to eBay, which would have the effect of de-valuing the brand that Lexus has worked very hard to establish. And Lexus has worked particularly hard on the LFA, as you’ll see below in a small refresher:
Editor’s note: Click here for the follow-up to this piece, with photos provided to us directly from Mr. Nabokov.
By Roger Boylan
Two of my lifelong interests come together in the person of Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir: his father’s work (Lolita, Pale Fire, Ada, etc.), and cars. Dmitri is an authority on both, having assisted his father in the translation of the latter’s works from Russian and English into French and Italian (in all of which he is entirely fluent) and having raced cars for a living while, in counterpoint, touring the world as an opera singer–in which guise, singing basso, he debuted (awkward hybrid of a word) in 1961 in Bohème with Luciano Pavarotti. As a racing driver, he participated in most of the major European racing events, including the Mille Miglia, and in 1980, three years after his father’s death, he almost killed himself at the wheel of his rare fiberglass Ferrari 308 GTB on the Lausanne-Sion autoroute in Switzerland (within these parentheses, I add the parenthesis that this road is one of the most beautiful in the world). Most recently, he has been instrumental in letting us, the public, get a look at his father’s last, unfinished novel, The Original of Laura against VN’s express wishes. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve requested a copy from Santa. (I’ve gone back and forth on this whole issue but have finally concluded that Dmitri was right. If VN had really wanted the manuscript–actually, index cards—destroyed, he would have done so himself).
And those dealers go a little crazy…
By Brendan Moore
In a move that has made some dealers howl with anger, General Motors has sent out direct mail pieces to customers of terminated dealers that offer discount certificates of as much as $2000 USD on a new GM vehicle.
The letters were sent to almost a million retail customers and are valid for a 45-day period.
The dealers in question have either already shut down or will cease franchise operations by October, 2010. However, many of these dealers are also involved in the active struggle to convince Congress to force GM to reinstate their terminated dealerships, and view GM’s actions as acting in bad faith. Dealers point to GM’s action as proof that GM has no intention of restoring any of their dealership franchises and considers the outcome of the reinstatement negotiations going on between GM and the dealers, and GM and Congress, as a foregone conclusion – that is, that the decision will be in GM’s favor.
Legislation introduced to restore both GM and Chrysler dealers to pre-bankruptcy status passed the House sometime ago, but is so far going nowhere in the Senate.
The terminated dealers feel that GM is pushing their customers to surviving GM dealers, so that, even if the terminated dealers were to prevail in their fight to regain their franchise, their customers will then be some other GM dealer’s customer.