Category Archives: Automobile News

Danica Patrick Suffers Second Wreck

Danica Patrick stunned fans and foes alike with a stellar run at the Daytona 500. But the past week has not been kind to the still up-and-coming racer as she suffered a duo of crashes, the most recent at Talladega caused by her own teammate, Kyle Larson.

Before her near race-ending wreck at Talladega, Patrick spun-out in Phoenix, crashing into the wall and popping the hood on her racer.

It’s still early enough in the season for Patrick to make a comeback, but so far luck just hasn’t been with her after Daytona.

Here’s a highlight from her Phoenix wreck:

Unlicensed Tow Truck Driver Wreaks Havoc In New York

As if it isn’t hard enough to find a place to park, an unscrupulous independent tow truck drive in Floral Park, New York, has been busted for illegally towing vehicles which were legally parked.

Police say Christopher Capurso, 22, would cruise around Long Island putting up his own “Tow Away Zone” signs at local businesses, then start towing vehicles parked in those zones. He did this without the permission of business owners, and without telling them what he was doing.

The signs had Capurso’s phone number so vehicle owners who returned to find their vehicles missing would call direct to him. Of course he demanded $200 cash only, which meant there was no record of the transaction having taken place. Police know of at least seven vehicles towed in this fashion, parked at a local dry cleaner, a church and a gym, but they fear even more people were victims.

For future reference, if your vehicle is towed be certain you verify with the business owner which towing service they use, and make certain you receive a receipt. Of course the best advice is to be certain you do not park in a “Tow Away Zone” in the first. And if you know it wasn’t a tow away zone when you parked there, before you call the towing service, better call the police, just in case.

Fisker Automotive Failing In Many Ways

In what is just the latest inability of Fisker Automotive to stay in business, the company announced today it was laying off three-quarters of its workforce. At one time the company had 600 people building cars but most of those had already been sent packing when the company they had been relying on for their battery tech, A123 Systems Inc., went into bankruptcy protection last year.

Since then Fisker has tried to restructure and cut back on expenses (including a reduction in their labor force) but they have been unable to produce a single vehicle. And sales of what vehicles they had produced, the $100,000 Fisker Karma have been tepid. That wasn’t helped by poor reviews of the automobile which included questions about its reliability.

Fisker has been touting a much improved, slightly more modestly priced vehicle they are naming the Atlantic coupe. But that vehicle has not yet been produced, and if something fantastic doesn’t happen soon it seems unlikely Fisker will ever get it off the production line.

The co-founder of Fisker Automotive, Henrik Fisker, left the company recently because he didn’t like the business decisions being made there, decisions being made by the CEO Tony Posawatz, brought on board from General Motors where he was chief of the electric car division. Posawatz has said he hopes to find either a buyer for Fisker or a company which will partner with them, but so far, no takers.

At one time, the height of the electric car resurgence, Fisker was considered a wonderkind of the automotive world, but now, it looks as if what some had hoped would be its greatest contribution to the world will not come to fruition.

EPA Demands Cleaner Standards For Automakers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new set of emissions rules which they believe will positively impact the quality of air in the nation and lead to a reduction in the number of asthma cases among children.

Opponents of the plan say the new regulations will cause gasoline prices to increase as much as 9 cents per gallon in some areas and be a hardship on refineries at a time when they are still recovering from the Global Recession.

However, the Office of Management and Budget has been studying the proposed rule changes for more than a year and they say the benefits far outweigh the negatives. They also say the rules changes will only cause an increase in the price of gasoline of about a penny nationwide. And they say the improvements will have concrete benefits when it comes to the state of health in the nation, including reducing health care costs by approximately $23 billion and preventing more than 2,000 cases of premature death.

It also helps that the proposed changes in emissions rules are being fully and whole heartedly endorsed and supported by automobile manufacturers, state regulators and environmentalists who say it long past time that the United States address growing emissions problems.

The Wall Street Journal reports the EPA has estimated that once the new rules are in place they will “cut smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent and reduce soot by 70 percent.” That’s a huge reduction, especially when you consider the United States spent more than a decade completely ignoring the emissions issue while it waged war half a world away on two fronts.

Consumer Reports ‘Best New Cars’

Consumers reports has released it’s list of the best new cars for 2013, and you’ll be forgiven for yawning at the fact a Honda sits at the top of the list. Specifically, the 2013 Honda Accord.

Honda vehicles repeatedly make ‘best’ lists from a multitude of motor vehicle organizations. And for good reason. Honda vehicles are known to retain their value longer than just about any other vehicle. This has a great deal to do with their quality manufacturing process; Honda vehicles simply don’t break down as often as similar vehicles.

It doesn’t hurt that Honda vehicles also perform well. These vehicles, by and large, not only start out performing well, but continue to perform well throughout their lives. Mileage is among the highest in class, and this is another factor in their popularity.

Honda vehicles also boast some of the best features in the automobile industry including a wealth of safety features and some of the best auto-tech available in modern day vehicles.

Now, it is certainly worth mentioning that all these features, the high resale value and the general quality of the Honda vehicle line mean that consumers will likely pay a premium to drive one. Because a Honda holds its resale value so well, even if a consumer chooses to buy a used Honda they are still likely to pay much more for it than if they choose a different make and model.

If consumers are looking for good quality in a more reasonably priced vehicle, Consumer Reports recommends they visit their local Hyundai lot. The Hyundai Elantra was chosen by Consumer Reports as the ‘Best Budget Car’. Hyundai quality has greatly improved in the past decade and the variety of vehicles they build mean consumers have a wide assortment of vehicles sizes and specifications available. Since they don’t quite have the same resale value of Honda, and are not nearly as popular as Honda, for consumers looking to buy a more reasonably priced vehicle which still offers high quality would do well to look at Hyundai.

Rabbits Wreak Havoc In Denver

Turns out, hungry bunnies like to eat electrical wiring. At least, they do in Denver, specifically the rabbits living near the Denver International Airport. Their victims are vehicles parked at the airport while their owners travel the world for business or pleasure.

Unfortunately for the bunnies, not only is electrical wiring not healthy (what, didn’t their mothers teach them to eat carrots?) but officials at Denver International Airport have decided the bunnies must go before more serious damage is done.

So far only three vehicle owners have reported damage as a result of the rabbit incursion. Considering there were more than 4 million different parking transactions at Denver International Airport last year, the rabbits clearly aren’t getting around as much as you might expect if you watch a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons. But as far as DIA is concerned, three is clearly too many.

Denver International Airport officials have launched an all-out war against the rabbits which includes capturing and relocating the furry critters. So far this year the plan is to remove 100 of bunnies a month from the area, likely to be relocated some place where parked cars are not on the menu. They have also asked parking companies to install special fencing and barriers which will help make it more difficult for the bunnies to gain access to parked cars.

The DIA is also offering some free suggestions to people who park there and want to protect their vehicles from the rabbits. Specifically, what is being recommended is urine. Not just any urine, but the urine of an animal which is the rabbit’s natural predator, like a coyote or a fox. Believe it or not, animal urine is readily available at hunting stores.

So if you’re planning a trip out of Denver International Airport any time soon you might want to make a quick stop on your way to the parking area. Just try not to sniff the bottle for authenticity.

Ford Bets $1 Billion On Lincoln

Lincoln posted their worst sales in 32-months this past January, but Ford still believes the market is ripe for the picking and is investing $1 billion to turn the Lincoln luxury brand around and get those sales going in the other direction.

However, it is fair to expect some hiccups along the way and Ford is already dealing with its first batch. For instance, Ford says a lack of inventory available for its Lincoln MKZ model was responsible for the decline in sales last month. According to Ford the MKZ has more pre-orders than any vehicle in the company’s history. Demand is there, they say, but the supply has not been able to keep pace.

To help counter this they have begun shipping Lincoln MKZ models from their factory in Mexico to a plan in Michigan where they will inspect the vehicles to maintain quality.

The idea is sound: vehicles built in Mexico do not always meet the same standards as vehicles built north of the border. Ford knows this so they have taken steps to ensure that quality is paramount in their Lincoln brand. Without the level of quality luxury buyers have come to expect in a Lincoln having an abundance of vehicles available for them to buy is not going to help spur sales.

Luxury automobile buyers expect to pay more for their vehicles because the vehicles are higher quality. This quality then becomes the moniker of a “luxury” automobile. If the quality is not there, the buyers won’t be either. By making a commitment to maintaining their quality, but also making certain the supply is there for buyers, Ford is committing itself to keeping Lincoln alive without watering down the quality customers have come to expect.

‘Greenest’ Car of 2013

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy the ‘greenest’ car of 2013 is the downsized Toyota Prius C. To be fair, the Honda Fit EV scored a very close second.

Both cars were rated based on their environmental impact (or lack thereof) using fuel economy and emissions data obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency. The council makes this list every year, and every year a different set of cars get the tag of having the “Right Stuff” or the “Green Stuff”.

Only cars which are being mass produced are considered for the list. This is so consumers can actually use the list to make their next new car purchase, if they so desire it. The idea is to rank the vehicles so it shows not just how environmentally sound they are but also how effective they are as a mode of transportation.

Consumers have expressed a very real desire for alternative fuel powered vehicles, but they are also showing that they are confused about just how ‘green’ these vehicles are and how they compare. They also have concerns about how reliable these vehicles are and whether or not, if they buy one, they will be able to find service for it if/when they need it.

As time goes by and vehicles such as the Toyota Prius return year after year and continue to boast improvements with each new model, consumers are slowly beginning to realize that these vehicles are here to stay and getting better all the time. If these vehicles continue to improve, and continue to build on their reputations as being reliable, better, alternatives to fossil fueled vehicles then it seems likely they will eventually win over more and more of the consumer automobile buying public.

Mazda Racing On Chicken Guts

The 2013 Rolex 24-Hour race in Daytona Beach might become famous for its fried chicken–no wait, we read that wrong. Actually, what just might make the Rolex 24-Hour Race famous is the fuel which will be powering the new Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D clean diesel race car: chicken fat.

The fuel is actually waste material from Tyson chicken plants, stuff that would have ended up in a landfill if not bought and used by Mazda in their race car. This is hardly the first time Mazda has sought to turn the spotlight on alternative fuel vehicles. They have a reputation for doing extreme engineering when it comes to alternative fuel powered race cars. Mazda was among the first to put a diesel powered race car on the track, and now they will become the first to put one on the track that runs on leftover chicken.

The idea is sound, and since we have an industrial food complex producing an abundance of waste, it’s renewable. Will we all one day be driving cars powered by chicken fat? Probably not. We don’t foresee the day when we pull into the local Kentucky Fried Chicken to fill our fuel tanks, but are big fans of alternative fuel for our vehicles. Assuming of course we can maintain the performance and reliability we have come to expect from our automobile.

The Rolex 24-Hour race is a grueling, punishing, event which pushes the drivers, engineers and vehicles to their extreme limit. It’s not enough to “go fast and turn left” when you are racing for 24-hours. Your car has to be able to endure maximum speed, hour after hour, for an entire day. During the day temperatures get hot, the track gets hot and the engines get hotter than Hades. At night the temperature drops significantly, and the chill can cause problems all its own.

If Mazda is able to pull off a win, or even just make it to the end of the race, it will not only be a win for their company, but also a win for alternative fueled vehicles.

Electric Cars Here To Stay Or Passing Fad?

According to a new study by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, American new car buyers simply aren’t interested in electric cars, whether hybrid or plug-in. The new study does seem indicate that new car buyers in certain cities are embracing electric cars. Places like Chicago, Boston and San Francisco are showing strong growth in electric car purchases, but this is not enough to sustain the entire industry, the study says.

Given that electric automobile sales across the board have been steadily growing does not seem to influence the authors of this new study. They say that President Barack Obama’s plan to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 is misguided at best.

However, it is important to note that the data for the just released study was collected in autumn of 2011, long before the most current fleet of hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles, with increased reliability and extended range hit the market. It was also before the new hybrid-electric Chevy Volt, with a range of nearly 400 miles hit the market.

Their study was also conducted long before the current crop of more than 11,000 electric charging stations were installed around the country. Cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Indianapolis have embraced electric vehicle technology and have begun installing hundreds of new electric charging stations around their downtown areas. Tesla Automotive has already begun installing a massive nationwide network which allow owners of their plug-in electric Tesla Model S vehicles to criss-cross the country without the need to rush home and recharge.

The Indiana University report data was also collected before Consumer Reports determined that electric vehicles have nearly the same depreciation rate as their fossil-fuel only cousins and began rating electric as higher value vehicles both for their reliability and quality craftsmanship.

Based on all the recent reports showing electric vehicle technology has so far surpassed gasoline technology and expectations, it seems way too early, and indeed shortsighted, to base a study on data collected before a new technology had hardly had a chance to begin.