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Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs

  • Featured
    Autoblog editors come clean about their controversial automotive beliefs
  • By The Numbers
    July 2014: Hot Hot Heat Edition
  • Breaking
    Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to bow at Woodward Dream Cruise?
  • Video
    BMW's new Driftmob video shows the M235i like you've never seen it before
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Dashcam video of Taiwan's gas-triggered street explosions hits the web

Posted Aug 1st 2014 8:02PM

Taiwan Gas Main Explosion

Dashcam video has brought us some fantastic images over the years, but it recorded true tragedy overnight on July 31 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. A gas main explosion in the city was responsible for at least 25 deaths and over 250 injuries, according to The Wall Street Journal. The cause of the horrific event is still under investigation. However, people in the area reported smelling gas beforehand.

The mix of dashcam, surveillance, cell phone and drone video shows several portions of this tragedy and its aftermath. Flames shot up several feet into the sky and explosions rocked the area. Now, as far as you can see, the road has been blown apart with huge chunks of asphalt and overturned cars littering the area. We extend our condolences to anyone affected by this disaster.

News Source: The Wall Street Journal - sub. req., Compilation Nation via YouTube

What you missed on 8.1.14

Posted Aug 1st 2014 7:30PM

Daily U-Turn

By The Numbers: July 2014

It's summertime and the car buying comes easy. This month's By The Numbers report shows bullish sales from GM in spite of the continued recall madness, and Toyota overtaking Ford in the US sales race for the very first time this year.



Guys more open to Google Car than ladies

A new survey about the openness of the public to the charms of autonomous vehicles, finds some interesting gaps in the data provided by each gender. The tenor of public opinion about self-driving cars might be looking up, but if these results hold water Americans aren't exactly ready to jump behind the wheel and let the bots do the driving just yet. Once more around the block, Jeeves.



Charger Hellcat could debut at Dream Cruise

What has 707 horsepower, four doors, an insatiable appetite for gasoline and a vendetta against rear tires? If you answered "Dodge Charger Hellcat" you win a cookie. The SRT boys haven't confirmed it yet, but all indications point towards Dodge making a muscle-sedan splash at the Woodward Dream Cruise this year, bringing along the supercharged-Hemi version of its Charger sedan. Hold your breath and look for rubber smoke.


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Gen Y car shoppers overtake Gen X buyers, still trail boomers

Posted Aug 1st 2014 7:00PM

LA Car Dealers

Generation Y has overtaken Generation X among car shoppers, according to a new report on US retail vehicle sales from J.D. Power.

Through 2014, Generation Y, or those born between 1977 and 1994, make up 26 percent of new retail sales compared to 24 percent of Gen X, or those born between 1965 and 1976. For full-year sales, we need to look back to 2013, where Gen X maintained its 24-percent share to Gen Y's 23-percent stake.

Of course, the large, powerful Baby Boomer generation (1946 to 1964) is still dominant, retaining 38 percent of sales through 2014, which is actually down from its 2013 total of 39 percent.

Meanwhile, Gen X, which has the disadvantage of representing a mere 12-year span compared to Gen Y's 18-year spread, will continue to see its influence decline relative to the youths. Sales are expected to grow a mere six percent for X, compared to 16 percent for Y.

Scroll down for the full press release on the study from J.D. Power.

News Source: J.D. Power

Image Credit: Damian Dovarganes / AP

Limited-edition Volvo S60 Polestar priced at $59,300*, V60 at $60,900*

Posted Aug 1st 2014 6:15PM

2015 Volvo V60 and S60 Polestar

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar BrochureYou saw their US reveal at this year's Chicago Auto Show and read our driving impressions from Sweden. Now, if you act fast, you can actually own one of the very limited 2015.5 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar models coming to the United States. The order page for these slick Swedes is now online, but the slots are filling up about as quickly as these cars accelerate.

Volvo plans to build a combined 750 of these Polestar models for the world, but the US is being allocated just 120 of them. Prices start at $59,300 for the S60 or $60,900 for the V60 (*plus a $925 destination charge). The only option is color – either Black Sapphire or Rebel Blue. If rarity is playing a part in your decision, you might want to pick the S60. According to the reservation site, only 20 of the sedans in each color are making it over here; the rest are V60s.

As the top versions of their respective models, both Polestars are packed with features. They share a turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine rated at 345 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. Acceleration to 60 miles per hour is claimed to take 4.7 seconds for the S60 or a tenth more for the V60 with a top speed of 155 mph. They are about more than just a hotter engine, though, with Öhlins shocks, six-piston brake calipers and 20-inch Polestar wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Check out the gallery for the full, official specs, and get to the order page soon, if you decide you need one of these limited Swedish sportsters.

News Source: Volvo

Here's why our Lexus NX is uglier than the rest of the world's

Posted Aug 1st 2014 5:30PM

2015 Lexus NX 300h

Take a good look at the image above. That's the US-market Lexus NX 300h, and it looks, well... distinctive. Although the entire NX crossover sports styling that could certainly be described as controversial, it's the front end of the 'ute that seems to draw most of the ire, befitted as it is with Lexus' so-called spindle grill.

Now, take a look at the pair of images just below. The one on the left is from the States (the same model seen above), while the one on the right comes from Europe. Notice a difference? The lower front fascia of the European Lexus NX dips down much lower than the one from the US, and it looks much more refined because of it.

2015 Lexus NX 200t from the US2015 Lexus NX 200t from Europe

Why the disparity between the two designs? According to Top Gear Philippines, the reason why the US gets the more pointy proboscis is because of its classification as a light truck. It seems trucks are required to have some sort of concession to the car's approach angle – in other words, a truck should be able to clear an obstacle that a car might hit. Why does Lexus care if the NX is a car or truck? Well, that has to do with how fuel economy is reported, as trucks are given less-stringent requirements for Corporate Average Fuel Economy purposes.

We wish this weren't the case – the Lexus NX looks much better with its lower fascia in place. As it stands, though, you can still opt for the F Sport package on either the turbocharged NX 200t or hybrid NX 300h, which replaces the front end of the NX with a much more menacing, if not necessarily more attractive, fascia, along with other more overtly sporty finishing touches. Take a look at the 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport in our image gallery below, and tell us which version of the CUV you prefer.

News Source: Top Gear Philippines via Carscoops

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL

2015 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year long list revealed

Posted Aug 1st 2014 4:59PM

North American Car of the Year award - closeup

This is the first time we can recall the eligible nominees in the truck/utility segment outnumbering the number of qualifying cars.

'Back to school' ads are are spooling up on TVs and in newspapers everywhere, and the auto industry's model picture is pretty clear for 2015, which means it's time for a new North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year long list.

For 2015, the jury will consider some 28 entrants in the car category, and 29 models are in contention for the truck/utility award, a category that includes crossover vehicles. This year's list is as long and varied as the industry itself, with everything from inexpensive subcompacts like the Honda Fit to exotically styled, constructed and powered dream cars like the BMW i8 up for consideration. It's also a truck/utility-heavy year, with utility players like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Colorado commingling with tiny luxury CUVs like the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. This is the first time we can recall the eligible nominees in the truck/utility segment outnumbering the number of qualifying cars. While we're not ready to call it a bellwether moment, it seems like both a reflection of industry trends and also an acknowledgment that companies like General Motors are renewing a lot of closely related product families this year (e.g. GM's full-size GMT K2UC/G SUVs).

A number of car companies have multiple nominees, including GM (one car, eight trucks/utilities), Ford (one car, seven trucks/utilities), BMW (four cars, one utility), Hyundai/Kia (three cars, two utilities) and Toyota (one car, three utilities).

Last year, the cut crystal awards went to the Chevy Corvette Stingray and Silverado in a rare brand sweep.

It's important to note that this long list is a preliminary roundup of new or substantially refreshed vehicles, and at this early stage in the process, the jurors, like the rest of the automotive media, haven't necessarily had a chance to see and drive everything on the list. As we've noted previously, the long list is designed to show which vehicles are eligible for consideration, and as such, it's a fluid one – some nominees may fall of the list if they aren't made available to the jury within the consideration period, and other vehicles not shown on this list may yet be added.

For 2015, the independent jury (NACTOY is not affiliated with any publication, show or automaker, and funding comes from dues paid by the jurors themselves) has been expanded by 10 slots to 60 jurors. The expansion comes in acknowledgement of the industry's growing number of important publications in print, online and broadcast journalism.

The jury has a lot of work ahead of it: this autumn, after jurors have driven the nominees, an initial round of voting will be held, and the resulting "short list" of a dozen or so vehicles will trigger a further period of assessment followed by another vote that will result in three finalists for each category. A final round of voting will commence, and the winners will be announced at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

Check out both lists of nominees by scrolling below, then have your say on who you think should win in Comments.

*Full Disclosure: Author is a NACTOY jury member.

Hyundai recalls over 419k vehicles in three campaigns

Posted Aug 1st 2014 4:29PM

Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai VeracruzGeneral Motors is the undisputed king of recalls for 2014. No one is going to contest this point. The American company is far from the only one with vehicles that need fixing, though, as Hyundai has announced another recall totaling 419,000 vehicles in three separate campaigns.

The majority of the vehicles affected come from the Santa Fe family, where 225,000 of the model year 2001 to 2006 CUVs will need their front springs replaced. It seems that the early Santa Fe's coils can rust and crack when subjected to frosty temperatures and the road salt that so often accompanies them. Should they fracture, it's possible that a crash would be the end result.

As this is an issue linked to road salt, only Santa Fes sold in 20 states – from Maine to Iowa and Wisconsin to West Virginia – are affected. Vehicles sold in Washington, D.C. are also covered in the recall.

Meanwhile, the Sonata sedan is getting dinged with another recall, the nameplate's third in less than three weeks. This time, the 2011 model is at fault, with 133,075 vehicles that could be leaking brake fluid, thanks to a bad seal between brake hose and the brake-line fitting.

Finally, the Veracruz is facing a recall, with 61,122 of the SUVs suffering from potential alternator failure. This issue is caused by a bad valve cover gasket in the front cylinder bank, which could cause oil to leak on the alternator causing the vehicle to stall or refuse to start.

None of these issues have lead to any crashes or injuries, although the Santa Fe's spring issue has resulted in 1,200 warranty claims and 90 cases of the spring contacting the tire, according to the Associated Press. As is usually the case, repairs on each vehicle will be conducted free of charge, while Hyundai plans to have notified owners of all affected cars and SUVs by the end of September.

Scroll down for the trio of bulletins from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Related Gallery2011 Hyundai Sonata
2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata2011 Hyundai Sonata

News Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Image Credit: Hyundai

July 2014: Hot Hot Heat Edition

Posted Aug 1st 2014 4:00PM



We'd like to take this moment to give Chrysler, in particular, a shout-out for the month of July, 2014. Not only was it the brand's best July since 2005, it also marks the 52nd straight month that the automaker improved sales over the same month a year prior. The Pentastar has special reason to be proud of its Jeep brand, which has remained very near the top of our sales charts in sales percentage growth all year.

While we're on the subject of positive streaks, our second shout-out for the month goes to Subaru, which recorded the best month of sales in company history. The only real dog of the month in the Subaru kennel was the Tribeca, with just 43 of them sold last month; sales were led last month, as has been the case for as long as we can recall, by the Forester, followed by the Outback. In other news, Toyota/Lexus surged past Ford/Lincoln last month to climb into second place in overall sales.

It wasn't a great month for all automakers, though. Jaguar sales were down again, though the automaker itself was propped up by its corporate sibling, Land Rover; Honda and Acura combined to post a sales decline of nearly four percent for the month; Cadillac stood as the only brand in GM's portfolio to post a sales decline – though it's certainly worth noting that GM sales were again up overall in spite of its massive spate of recalls this year – and it would have looked even worse for Caddy if not for the boost it got from its new Escalade. But the biggest loser of July, 2014, again looks to be Volkswagen. While the GTI posted a nice increase in sales, nothing else looked very positive for VW last month, leading to a sales decline of nearly 15 percent. Hey, at least the German automaker managed to sell a single, solitary and awfully lonely Routan last month...

The SAAR, or seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales, is once again forecast at well over 16 million for the full year. Analysts and automakers vary on their estimates, with some projections closer to 17 million units than 16 million. We'll keep tracking that information as the year progresses.

If you just can't get enough monthly sales data, feel free to peruse past sales recaps by checking out our By The Numbers category here.

Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo gets teaser trailer before Pebble Beach debut

Posted Aug 1st 2014 3:15PM



Lamborghini first tipped us to the coming arrival of its race-ready Huracán Super Trofeo, with this dark-and-camouflaged teaser image a few weeks back. Slated to replace the venerable Gallardo Super Trofeo in the brand's one-make series, the Huracán flavored for racing duty should result in a faster field.

However, before the new Super Trofeo car debuts on host circuits for the North American, European and Asian iterations of the series, it'll get a share of the spotlight at Pebble Beach. Lamborghini is scheduled to pull the wrapper off its new racecar at The Quail on August 15 – an event we're sure to be in attendance for.

Until then, we can offer up one more pulse-pounding teaser of the new Huracán, in the form of a new official video. The Super Trofeo Lamborghini is still wearing its under cover uniform in this bit, and the camera darts from focus to blur with irritating regularity, but you'll get the idea.

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to bow at Woodward Dream Cruise?

CEO Appears On Detroit Radio And Teases Performance Reveal

Posted Aug 1st 2014 2:31PM

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T

This morning, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis made an appearance on a popular Detroit morning radio show, Dave & Chuck The Freak on WRIF 101, to talk up the company's Woodward Dream Cruise display later this month. During the interview, Kuniskis gave the hosts an intriguing exclusive that has us thinking that a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat reveal is just around the corner.

While he stopped short of confirming specifics, Kuniskis told the live radio audience:

"I'm going to break something here that we haven't told anybody yet ... We have a very significant performance announcement coming on Tuesday of Dream Cruise ... And then the car that that performance is associated with will also be on site Saturday, so the first time anyone gets to see it will be here in Detroit at Dream Cruise. We'll announce it Tuesday, then come down Saturday and you can see the car.

All of this happened, incidentally, as Kuniskis was about to get into the passenger seat of a 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat with one of the show's radio personalities for a quick drive of the 707-horsepower coupe.

Given all of this, it certainly sounds like the Charger SRT Hellcat (or at the very least, another performance model or technology), will be announced on Tuesday, August 12, and then the car will be shown for the first time on Saturday, August 16 at Dodge's Woodward Dream Cruise display. Of course, with no more specifics to go on, the reveal could be absolutely anything, right down to a new Mopar striping package for the Dodge Dart. That said, we're thinking Hellcat, especially as prototypes of the supercharged four-door have been spotted prowling area streets for some time now.

We'll know soon, but for now, we can hardly wait.

Related Gallery2015 Dodge Charger R/T
2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T2015 Dodge Charger R/T

News Source: Dave And Chuck The Freak Podcast via iTunes

Fiat shareholders green-light Chrysler merger, end of an Italian era

Posted Aug 1st 2014 2:03PM

ITALY FIAT

Fiat has just taken a major step away from its Italian heritage, as shareholders officially approved the company's merger with Chrysler. That move will lead to the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, a Dutch company based in Great Britain and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, according to Automotive News Europe.

The company captured the two-thirds majority at a special shareholders meeting, although there are still a few situations that could defeat the movement. According to ANE, roughly eight percent of shareholders opposed the merger, which is a group large enough to defeat the plan, should they all exercise their exit rights outlined in the merger conditions.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chairman John Elkann (pictured above, right, with CEO Sergio Marchionne and Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo), the great-great-grandson of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli, reaffirmed his family's commitment to the company beyond the merger. Exor, the Agnelli family's holding company, still maintains a 30-percent stake in Fiat.

"I want to confirm today my own and my family's commitment to continue to support Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, even more so now that there are big opportunities on the horizon," Elkann told shareholders, according to ANE.

FCA will set up temporary offices in Slough, England, roughly 20 miles outside of London. Its offices in the UK's capital, meanwhile, should be open by the end of 2014. Despite the shift to the UK, FCA will still maintain IT and administration functions in Fiat's traditional home, Turin. Italy will also continue to play a major role in vehicle production, with the upcoming Jeep Renegade slated for production there, as well as new vehicles from Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

News Source: Automotive News Europe - sub. req.

Image Credit: Alberto Ramella / AP

Women more skeptical about autonomous cars than men, research says

Females Surveyed Also Have Greater Safety Concerns

Posted Aug 1st 2014 1:14PM

google autonomous car

Drivers are intrigued by the benefits of self-driving cars, but they remain concerned about the safety and cost such vehicles could introduce into the marketplace, according to a study published by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in late July.

56 percent of respondents said they viewed self-driving cars in a positive manner.

In the United States, 56 percent of responders said they viewed self-driving cars in a positive manner, though 27 percent had neutral feelings and 16 percent looked at the technology as a negative thing.

There's also a slight gender gap toward embracing autonomous cars, as 59 percent of men had a positive view of them, while 54 percent of women did. Though the numbers are close, researchers found women consistently responded with less enthusiasm about the technology and registered more concerns over its safety.

Still, both genders are interested, and more than two-thirds of all survey-takers believe self-driving cars could lead to fewer and less severe crashes; 70 percent thought the technology could improve fuel economy. The study also found nearly half of Americans believe it would ease traffic congestion and make for shorter travel times.

Despite the potential benefits, motorists worry about legal liability, having their locations tracked, sharing the roads with other self-driving cars and the potential that weather conditions could interfere with the car's ability to operate itself.

Additionally, 73 percent of Americans were concerned self-driving cars might not perform as well as human drivers.

73 percent of Americans were concerned self-driving cars might not perform as well as human drivers..

"It cuts both ways," researcher Brandon Schoettle said. "They're optimistic about the benefits, but concerned about using all of these [autonomous] things."

That's underscored by the finding that 36 percent of responders would continue to watch the road while riding in a self-driving car, and 23 percent wouldn't even ride in one. The most-popular activity for motorists would be reading (11 percent) or texting/talking on the phone (10 percent).

More than half of responders also said they wouldn't pay more for an autonomous car, and only a quarter said they would be willing to pay at least $2,000 for the technology.

The study also looked at the views of motorists in the United Kingdom and Australia, and the findings were similar to Americans' response, though US drivers expressed greater skepticism about the technology.

Self-driving cars mirror other technologies, Schoettle said, as many early adopters and tech-savvy consumers have expressed interest in it, while the public at large remains more reserved.

"The initial response with most people is quite muted," he said. "There's a kind of curiosity that we saw when we talked about the benefits and the concerns."

The study comes as several states have approved testing of autonomous cars on public roads, with California being the latest to green-light it earlier this year. Google also has announced plans to build 100 prototypes of its self-driving car, with plans to begin a pilot program in the next few years.

Image Credit: Google

Renault R.S. 01 says hello before debut in Moscow

Posted Aug 1st 2014 12:30PM

Renault Sport RS 01

What does the "RS" in the Renault Clio RS and Megane RS mean? Well, unlike Audi and Porsche, it doesn't stand for Renn Sport. No, it's actually a signifier that said hot hatch has been breathed upon by Renault Sport, the French manufacturer's answer to Volkswagen's R models, Ford's ST hatches and Opel/Vauxhalls's OPC and VXR lines. Its production of forbidden fruit aside, Renault Sport has another project on the burner – the RS 01.

Formerly known as the Renault Sport Trophy, the RS 01 is a 500-horsepower racer that's underpinned by a Dallara carbon-monocoque chassis. Its power is sent to a dedicated set of Michelin slicks through a Sadev seven-speed sequential trans, while the curb weight hovers around 2,500 pounds. A road car, this is not.

And now, we have our very first look at it. As teaser videos go, this 30-second spot from Renault is particularly juicy, giving us an excellent look at the new RS 01 and it's almost prototype-like shape.

Scroll down for the full video and a very short press release, and then keep your eyes on this space, as Renault will officially unveil the RS 01 on August 27 at the Moscow Motor Show.

News Source: renaultsport via YouTube

How the 'unpretentious beauty' of 'flyover states' will influence your next car color

Posted Aug 1st 2014 11:45AM

Ford Focus ST

BASF 2018 Color ExamplesChemical giant BASF is getting mighty philosophical in its 2014 report Under the Radar, predicting the popular automotive colors of the 2018 model year. The company believes that the US is embracing "the unpretentious beauty of the 'flyover states," and the country is also returning to normalcy after the hard recessions. "Noting many political, societal and technological references, we realized that the 'flyover states' and the Rust Belt regions are becoming increasingly productive in our post-Recession era," said Paul Czornij, Technical Manager for the BASF Color Excellence group in the study.

Whether you think its fair to lump people from Billings, MT, and Akron, OH together into a homogenous group as flyover states, you still have to love some of the names of the colors BASF anticipates becoming popular (examples right). La Garra Charrua is a prairie-inspired blue. Haymaker is a light, burnt orange type of color, which is rather similar to what Ford already offers on the Focus ST. Fitted Green is a light green. Gray Elevator is a darker shade, and finally Take 10,000 is a brown with some sparkle to it.

Autoblog interviewed Czornij earlier this year. Four years ago, he predicted earthy colors like deep orangish reds would make a comeback, and they showed up on a variety of models, at least for show cars. At the time, he also predicted that the leaks from Edward Snowden would cause Americans' to choose colors with trustworthy connotations like blues and greens. Previous years' studies also anticipated the rise of greens and browns. These forecasts are still somewhat reflected in the 2014 report. Scroll down to read more about BASF's automotive prophesies.

News Source: BASF

Image Credit: Ford, BASF

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