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Behind the scenes of Lotus' spectacular truck-over-F1 jump

Posted Nov 24th 2014 4:59PM

One flew over the coocoo's nest

A Lotus F1 car and the truck in which it's transported may both be powered by Renault and share a common JPS livery, but as far as size and performance are concerned, they're at opposite ends of the spectrum. So if you had to jump one over the other, you'd think it'd be a no-brainer to skip the single-seater over the tractor-trailer. Right? Well that may be the more logical conclusion, but it's not the way the Lotus team and its technology partner EMC decided to go for this latest promo. Instead they jumped the semi over the grand prix car.

The stunt was obviously geared towards publicity, but while they were at it, they set a Guinness World Record for the longest truck jump at 83 feet, 7 inches. The previous record, according to Guinness, stood at 50 feet, 6 inches, and was set on MTV's Nitro Circus on November 17, 2008, by Gregg Godfrey at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Salt Lake City. That record stood for six years, but (as best we can tell) was set without the trailer attached, or the F1 car tracking underneath - which only makes this latest stunt that much more impressive.

You may have seen the promo clip circulating the interwebs late last week, but we've included a making-of video below as well to show how the stunt team managed to pull it all off.

News Source: EMC via YouTube (1), (2)

Parts shortage could mean airbag inflator replacement takes two years

Posted Nov 24th 2014 4:28PM

US-TRANSPORTATION-TAKATA

Drivers in the US might be stuck with quite a wait to get their vehicles repaired under the Takata airbag inflator recall. As things stand now, the Japanese supplier could need as long as two years to produce enough replacement parts to service every affected model in America. If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is successful in making the campaign nationwide, then that timeline could grow even longer.

Mounting government pressure, including a recent Senate hearing (pictured above), is attempting to push a solution. Takata is currently building about 300,000 replacement inflators a month at its Monclova, Mexico, factory, and the company plans to boost that to around 450,000 by January, according to Automotive News. The business is also moving some production to Freiburg, Germany.

Because Takata isn't the only player in the world producing airbags, it might seem that the affected automakers could simply switch companies. However, that likely isn't going to work either. "We have been advised by suppliers that the development and production of a replacement inflator for a particular model by a supplier other than Takata could take a minimum of one year, and could take longer," said Dino Triantafyllos, Toyota chief quality officer in North America to Automotive News.

Actually getting people to bring their vehicle to dealers for the recall is an issue, as well. It only takes about an hour to switch out inflators. However, despite national publicity, documents submitted to NHTSA from eight of the affected automakers indicate only 437,936 vehicles are fixed out of a pool of about 7.5 million, according to Automotive News. With models going back as far as 2000 potentially needing the new parts, tracking down the current owner can be difficult. Just look at the similar problems Jeep is facing over its campaign to protect fuel tanks on older SUVs.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req.

Image Credit: Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

Cadillac's de Nysschen takes aim at Porsche 911, Cayenne

Posted Nov 24th 2014 3:45PM

2009 Cadillac XLR

Johan de Nysschen has big plans for Cadillac. He's moved the brand from Detroit to New York, revamped its model nomenclature, and planning a raft of new models for the near future – including a $250,000 luxury sedan to take on the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. But the veteran executive of luxury automakers has some more performance-oriented machinery in mind, too.

Speaking with Car and Driver at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week, de Nysschen suggested Cadillac could be ready to launch a flagship sports car sometime in the next decade. The halo model would take aim at the Porsche 911 and do for Cadillac what Audi did with the R8, Mercedes is doing with the AMG GT and Acura once did (and is aiming to do again) with the NSX.

Just what form it would take remains a big unknown, but de Nysschen indicated that the brand would need to be built up further before the sports car would be launched, lest it emerge too detached from Cadillac's image. The last time Cadillac delved into that territory was with the Corvette-based XLR, of which it sold only 15,000 or so examples – far below initial targets.

The 911 rival isn't the only performance model de Nysschen has in mind, however. He plans to further expand the V series into a more substantial sub-brand to include a crossover to take on the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5 M and all those many AMG-tuned Mercedes utilities.

The idea of an entry-level model to slot in below the ATS was mooted as well. A range of diesel engines are slated to help Cadillac break into overseas markets in similar fashion to how Maserati has expanded its market reach with oil-burning versions of the Ghibli and Quattroporte. And we wouldn't be surprised to see Cadillac get in on a new flagship SUV being launched by Opel in Europe, either.

News Source: Car and Driver

Fiat looks to retire 'Fix It Again, Tony' by knocking Honda

Posted Nov 24th 2014 2:59PM

Fiat Fix It Ad

Ask Americans what Fiat stands for, and the odds are pretty low that you'll hear, "Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino" to be the answer. The more far likely response is "Fix It Again, Tony." The ignominious moniker comes from the brand's stint selling often unreliable models in the US in the '60s and '70s, and it remains in some minds today. However, Fiat thinks the time is right to challenge the old stereotype, and it's doing just that with a new commercial for the forthcoming 500X compact crossover, while taking some shots at Honda, as well.

In the ad, a guy just wants his Civic repaired, but two heavily accented, Italian mechanics berate his Honda for not being sexy. The boss of the shop eventually promises, "We fix it," and the customer goes inside to enjoy an espresso. At no point is the infamous, "Fix it again, Tony," ever actually uttered, but it's strongly suggested with a sign for Tony's Fix It Shop prominently displayed in several shots.

In an interview with Automotive News, Fiat global brand boss Olivier Francois explained the idea behind the commercial. It "features a skeleton in the closet, the elephant in the room. His name was Tony, and he had to go," Francois said to AN.

The 500X goes on sale in the first half of 2015 in the US and shares a platform with the Jeep Renegade. The CUV is offered with either a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, or a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower.

The commercial certainly shows courage to take on the Fiat's old stereotype, but the brand has more to beat than just perception. The company came in dead last by a large margin in JD Power's 2014 Initial Quality Study, and it was also at the bottom of Consumer Reports' 2015 Predicted Reliability report. Scroll down to watch the ad for Fiat's attempt to challenge the legacy of Tony.

Kia Sorento bares its claws for X-Men special edition

Posted Nov 24th 2014 2:15PM

Kia Sorento X-Men Edition

We all know what Batman drives. Chrysler even postulated at what Superman would drive with its special Ram Power Wagon. But what would the X-Men drive? According to Kia, the Sorento you see here.

Unveiled to promote the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, this special Sorento has been done up in a unique livery inspired by one of Marvel's superheroes. Just which one, Kia's not saying, inviting fans to vote on its Facebook page – but unless those claws on the front are magnetized, we're pretty sure you can guess.

The special Kia Sorento will be displayed at the Australian Open, which Kia is also sponsoring, and will be followed by a video of tennis star Rafael Nadal teaming up with the team of mutants and jumping in the Sorento to take on a patrol of Sentinels.

This isn't the first time, of course, that we've seen Kia take inspiration from comic-book superheroes, but its previous collaborations – highlighted by a quintet of show cars unveiled at SEMA two years ago – were with rival DC's Justice League.
Related GalleryKia Sorento X-Men Edition
Kia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men EditionKia Sorento X-Men Edition

News Source: Kia

Race Recap: Abu Dhabi GP is reversals, luck, leanness and last dances

Posted Nov 24th 2014 1:32PM

Graphic for the 2014 Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.

We weren't sure if Alter Ego Nico Rosberg, the one who flew into Brazil and showed Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Lewis Hamilton that he knew also knew how to grab an entire race weekend by the scruff of the neck, arrived in Abu Dhabi. In both Friday practice sessions Hamilton showed Rosberg the way.

Then on Saturday, Alter Ego Rosberg took over, taking the last Free Practice session and then pole position by a whopping four-tenths of a second over Hamilton. Thanks to the gimmicky and soon-to-be-obliterated spectre of double points, if Rosberg won the race and Hamilton finished lower than second, the World Championship would remain in German hands.

Behind Hamilton came the Williams duo, again, with Valtteri Bottas ahead of Felipe Massa. Daniil Kvyat did swell to put his Toro Rosso in fifth, Jenson Button was just as swell getting his McLaren into sixth. Kimi Räikkönen outqualified his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso for the third time this year, the pair taking seventh and eighth on the grid. Kevin Magnussen lined the second McLaren up in ninth, Jean-Eric Vergne making the top ten for Toro Rosso in his last race for the team. To be clear, that was the final grid for race: Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel had both qualified in the top ten but were sent to the back of the grid when their Infiniti Red Bull Racing front wings were deemed illegal. They'd start from the pit lane, which was still ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, who took so many penalties for new engine components that he started the race in Turkey.

At lights-out on Sunday, well, it was pretty much lights out.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 AP / AFP | Getty Images, AOL

Editors' Choice: Top Five 2014 LA Auto Show Debuts

In Which We Pick Our Favorites From Los Angeles

Posted Nov 24th 2014 12:45PM

2014 LA Auto Show

It's often easy to jump to conclusions about what will absolutely steal the show at an automotive expo. Something ultra-sexy, fast, and exotic? Safe bet. A brown, Swedish shooting brake? Sounds like a winner to us. But sometimes, when the votes are tallied, we even surprise ourselves. And that's exactly what happened with this round of editors' picks for what we liked best at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Oh sure, you'll see those fast, powerful, concepty machines in the list of our favorites. We aren't going to rock the boat too much here, and the final vote tally was seriously close, as you'll see. But rather than cast our first-place vote to something outrageous and fantastical, we went for something that checks all the right boxes and is actually a production vehicle. Rather than spoil the results for you, though, we invite you to scroll down and check out the full roster.

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Steven J. Ewing, Drew Phillips / AOL

2015 Volkswagen Golf R [w/video]

Grip It And Rip It

Posted Nov 24th 2014 11:59AM

2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Volkswagen hired a photographer to come shoot the handful of journalists that it brought to drive the 2015 Golf R at Buttonwillow Raceway north of Los Angeles. This fact, though unremarkable in and of itself, was something I hadn't noticed until I was well into my track time – probably ten laps deep on a day that would see me run twice that number. In any event, I noticed the intrepid shooter as he was sprinting from one side of the track to the other somewhere before Turn 2, while I was barreling down the main straightaway, still looking through Turn 1.

In the roughly two-mile configuration of the track that I drove, Buttonwillow is a big, wide-open circuit, largely flat and with excellent overall visibility. On that layout, and just hours into my Golf R experience, I'd already become confident in endeavoring to push the limits of VW's latest blistering hatch. In fact, the easy nature of driving the thing quickly had me overestimating my pace. So when I saw the photog sprint across the tarmac I instinctively slowed way too much, way too early for Turn 1.

Looking back at the incident after I'd pitted for the session, I laughed at myself, knowing I'd have had to be driving almost double my actual speed to put the camera guy in any real danger of being hit. But the experience crystallized what my full test of the R bore out: this is a car that makes you feel much faster than you otherwise would, at least in a competition setting.

The 2015 Golf R is an über hatch that will flatter those hyper-enthusiasts passionate enough to splash out on its steep price tag, but without threatening sales of core models like the GTI and its ilk. That's a good thing for the VW fanboys, to be sure, and, I'd argue, a great thing for the strength of the German brand overall.

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 2.0L I4
Power:
292 HP / 280 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Base Price:
$36,595

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

2018 Jeep Wrangler to get 8-speed auto

Posted Nov 24th 2014 11:30AM

2014 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler

Remember when the Jeep Wrangler had a three-speed automatic? That wasn't that long ago – as recent as the 2007 redesign – but Chrysler is keen to leave those days behind on the dusty trail. The current model ushered in a four-speed, then a five-speed, but the latest intel indicates that an eight-speed automatic is in the cards.

According to a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and cited by Automotive News, Jeep plans on fitting its eight-speed automatic transmission to the next-generation Wrangler. Chrysler already uses the ZF-sourced slushbox on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ram 1500, Chrysler 300, and versions of the Dodge Challenger, Charger and Durango. But according to the SEC filing, the Auburn Hills automaker intends "to use this transmission in all of our rear-wheel-drive vehicles, except for heavy-duty versions of the Ram pick-up truck and the SRT Viper."

AN says that Chrysler wanted to slot the transmission straight into the current Wrangler, but it wouldn't fit. Between the transmission and shift to aluminum construction, the next-generation Wrangler promises to deliver a significant reduction in fuel consumption. In correspondence with Autoblog, however, company spokesmen declined to comment on the eight-speed's suitability towards either the current Wrangler or the upcoming one.

Lexus nixes RC convertible in favor of LS-based 3-row crossover [w/poll]

Posted Nov 24th 2014 11:01AM

Lexus LF-C2 Concept

When Lexus unveiled the LF-C2 concept at the LA Auto Show last week, it did two things: it previewed the direction in which the Japanese luxury automaker's design department was looking for the immediate future, and it previewed a cabrio version of the RC coupe (to replace the IS Convertible) on the other. But the latter, according to new reports, was ruled out before the concept ever took the stage.

Although the prospect of a convertible version was engineered right into the RC coupe's chassis, Motor Trend reports that plans to put such a vehicle into production were met with hostility by Lexus dealers, who were offered a two-door convertible instead of the three-row crossover they've been lobbying for.

As a result – and with a finite amount of development bucks on hand – Lexus is reportedly listening to its dealers, axing the RC Convertible program and proceeding instead with a seven-seat crossover. Plans to stretch the RX were reportedly ruled out, so Toyota is reportedly proceeding instead with a new model to be based on the LS sedan. The new model would take aim at the likes of the Mercedes GL, Audi Q7 and Infiniti QX60 when it arrives in three years as a 2018 model.

It's not the first time we've seen Toyota listen to dealers asking for a high-end people-mover: Earlier this year, dealers in Japan asked the automaker for a luxed-out minivan, prompting it to build the Esquire van just for the Japanese Domestic Market.

Should Lexus make an RC Convertible or a three-row crossover?

Related GalleryLexus LF-C2 Concept
Lexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 ConceptLexus LF-C2 Concept

News Source: Motor Trend

Mercedes-AMG planning more hardcore A45 hot hatch

Posted Nov 24th 2014 10:15AM

Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG

The launch of the A45 AMG marked Mercedes-Benz's first real assault on the premium hot hatch segment. And with 355 horsepower from a 2.0-liter turbo four, it is indeed hot. But the latest word has it that Mercedes-AMG is planning an even hotter version.

Speaking with Auto Express at the LA Auto Show last week, AMG boss Tobias Moers indicated that his department was toying with the idea of a more hardcore version of the A45. In what Moers referred to as a "street fighter," the A45's engine would be tuned to produce even more power, the cabin stripped out and the rolling stock, brakes and aero upgraded for more serious performance.

Think of it, then, as something of a Black Series approach, only it's not expected to carry that name, which has historically been reserved specifically for two-door models. Given AMG's current list of priorities and limited manpower, though, Moers suggests it will be several years – likely towards the end of the model's life cycle – before it may prepare such a model, following a similar formula to the Mini JCW GP and Renaultsport Mégane R26.R. Here's hoping an American version based on the CLA could also be in the cards.

News Source: Auto Express

20 Japanese auto supplier execs on the lam from US authorities?

Posted Nov 24th 2014 9:34AM

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Antitrust Law Enforcement Action

The US Department of Justice has been on a campaign over the past few years to crack down on price fixing in the auto industry, especially from Japanese parts suppliers. In the agency's most recent count, it has indicted 46 people with 26 guilty pleas and raised over $2.4 billion in fines from 31 companies, including nine at once in 2013. Unfortunately, about 20 of these men remain fugitives from the DoJ and catching them might be very difficult.

As a perfect illustration of the problem, the DoJ indicted Hiroya Hirose from NSK Ltd. and Masakazu Iwami from Jtekt Corporation on November 13 for alleged price fixing against Toyota. Both men face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if found guilty in the US. However, neither of them may ever set foot behind bars, let alone even make it to US soil to stand trial. According to an investigation by Automotive News, Hirose is still employed at NSK in Japan and is the section head of one of its automotive units. This is despite being a fugitive in the eyes of US law enforcement. Although, this is among the most brazen examples. When contacted by AN, some of the other companies said the indicted executives no longer worked there.

The conundrum facing the DoJ is how to get the men extradited here to actually be tried. According to Automotive News, a conviction for price fixing in Japan carries no jail time. The feds can't just send bounty hunters across the Pacific to round these execs up, either. Bringing them over requires consent by the Japanese government, and it's loath to ship citizens to a foreign country to face a much harsher penalty.

There doesn't appear to be a great solution to getting these men to the US, but the DoJ still has plenty of work to do against the price fixing of automotive parts. One recent report claimed that the problem goes well beyond just Japan. Even if the agency can't get these men, there are other targets to go after.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req., US Department of Justice

Image Credit: Kris Connor / Getty Images

Ferrari replaces F1 boss with Marlboro exec

Posted Nov 24th 2014 8:45AM

F1 Ferrari Team Principal

Ferrari just finished its worst Formula One season in decades, and if you're thinking heads are going to roll, you're right. In fact they already have, as team principal Stefano Domenicali was dismissed earlier this year and longtime chairman Luca di Montezemolo was axed just two months ago. Now Maranello has announced a new team principal, yet again.

Instead of promoting from within, however, this time Ferrari has called in an outside executive – albeit one with whom it is intimately familiar. His name is Maurizio Arrivabene, and he's served as a senior executive at tobacco giant Philip Morris International, managing (among other areas) the Marlboro brand's sponsorship of the Scuderia. In that capacity he's been sitting on the FIA's Formula One Commission as the sponsors' representative since 2010, giving him a familiarity with how the series is run.

In his new capacity as Managing Director of the Gestione Sportiva and Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, Arrivabene replaces Marco Mattiacci, who was called up to the post from his previous position as head of the North American office just eight months ago. Back then Mattiacci replaced a similarly under-performing Domenicali. The change may very well have come at the behest (if not insistence) of Philip Morris, which remains the team's main sponsor and is undoubtedly displeased with Ferrari's performance lately. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, Marlboro similarly brokered the deal that put Ron Dennis in charge of McLaren in the early 1980s.

Mattiacci's swift replacement comes at the end of a disastrous season for the Scuderia. Following yesterday's season finale in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari finished fourth in the constructors' standings behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams. The last time it finished the championship in such poor shape was in 2010 when Felipe Massa was injured and the team scrambled to find a replacement. But even then it managed to win at least one race and land on the podium another five times. Fernando Alonso finished on the podium only twice this season while Kimi Raikkonen struggled further back. This year marked the first time Ferrari failed to win a grand prix since 1993, and even then Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger managed more podiums than the team scored this season.

News Source: Ferrari

Image Credit: Luca Bruno/AP

Force India confirms Sergio Perez in multi-year contract

Posted Nov 24th 2014 8:00AM

Sergio Perez

The last few seats are being taken in the grand game of musical chairs that ensues at the end of any Formula One season. The latest announcement comes from Force India, which has confirmed that it's keeping Sergio Perez in place not just for next season, but for the next several years.

This weekend in Abu Dhabi, Perez completed his fourth season in Formula One. After success in British Formula Three and GP2, the Mexican driver debuted with Sauber in 2011, switched to McLaren in 2013 and to Force India for the season now drawing to a close – notably landing on the podium in Bahrain.

That was only the second podium finish the team has ever seen, following Giancarlo Fisichella's second-place finish at Spa in 2009. The team now sits sixth in the standings, tying its position last year and in 2011. The high point for the team came when it was still known as Jordan Grand Prix, finishing the 1999 championship in third place on the back of two checkered flags and four more podiums claimed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen (while his World Champion teammate, Damon Hill, languished in his final season on the grid).

Perez will partner once again with Nico Hulkenberg next season. The announcement leaves only the future of Caterham, one seat at Toro Rosso and the decision from McLaren on Fernando Alonso's wingman still left open as this season draws to a close.

News Source: Force India

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