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Weekly Recap: Tesla's sales ban fortified in Michigan as franchise laws draw fire

Plus: More Tesla, Airbags Explode Into Controversy, And Chevy Testers Rock Out With An '80s Camaro

Posted Oct 25th 2014 11:01AM

2013 Tesla Model S

"Tesla's quest to own its stores has brought to light issues that have long faced the industry." – Adam Jones

Tesla's fight to challenge dealer franchise laws moved to the home state of the American auto industry this week, as the governor of Michigan signed a controversial bill that excludes Tesla from selling its electric cars directly to consumers.

Experts agree it was probably already illegal for Tesla to sell cars in Michigan, as the state's franchise laws require that cars be sold through dealerships. But, the legislation closed a gap in the law that Tesla might have been able to exploit.

Ironically, the bill sailed through both houses of the state legislature with little fanfare this year, as voters and officials have been preoccupied with midterm elections. It's not even a new law: just an amendment to an existing rule that touches on a number of issues, including transaction fees charged by dealers to consumers during the sale process.

The controversy seemingly exploded overnight, as a last-minute change in the language of the bill – which appeared aimed at Tesla – strengthened Michigan's franchise laws. It wasn't until the bill was already on the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder that most of the public was even aware of it, or of the implications of the 11th hour changes.

Not surprisingly, Tesla was peeved.
Related GalleryTesla
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Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, KGP Photography

UberTaxi now operating in Seoul using licensed cab drivers

Posted Oct 25th 2014 8:58AM

South Korea Taxi Driver Protest

In countries across the globe, ride-hiring app Uber has faced criticism from taxi drivers, who claim the service is unfair, citing the way its (unregistered) drivers can be hired, eliminating the need to stand on a corner hailing. In the South Korean capital of Seoul, though, Uber and the taxi drivers are living harmoniously, thanks to a new service.

Called UberTaxi, the app has signed up a number of official, registered cab drivers who can be hired from a smartphone. Drivers won't be paid a commission, according to The Wall Street Journal, although they'll receive a $1.90 subsidy for each fare they handle that's been ordered by the app.

While the new pairing is a positive sign for Uber, the app's core service, the low-cost UberX, remains illegal in South Korea. WSJ also reports that the country is taking aim at the premium UberBlack livery service, and is even going so far as to develop an app that would give taxi drivers the same capabilities without using the ride-hiring service.

News Source: Wall Street Journal

Image Credit: Ahn Young-joon / AP

Nissan GT-R goes on Rockies Alberta adventure with Epic Drives

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:59PM

Nissan GT-R Epic Drive

Years after its original debut, the Nissan GT-R remains a much-feared, well-regarded entry in the sports car landscape. Sure, many of its original competitors are onto new generations these days, but Nissan has continually improved the GT-R, giving it meaningful tweaks almost every year since it came to the US market for 2009. Reviewers also just seem to keep finding things to praise about the all-wheel drive, turbocharged coupe. In this episode of Epic Drives, the GT-R proves that in addition to being a quite pleasant road trip companion around the province of Alberta, Canada, in a pinch it can go off-road to herd some horses, too.

At its heart, Epic Drives amounts to half travelogue and half driving review. So in between snaking the GT-R through some picturesque roads, host Arthur St. Antoine takes a tour of Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. If you're in the mood to take a drive in the Nissan through a landscape that blends the looks of a prairie, the Alps and fjords, then have a seat and check this video out.

News Source: Motor Trend Channel via YouTube

Image Credit: Related images copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL

What you missed on 10.24.14

Posted Oct 24th 2014 7:32PM

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Dodge Challenger2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

The goodness of the 2015 Dodge Challenger isn't just limited to that 707-horsepower Hellcat model. As associate editor Brandon Turkus explains, there's plenty to love about the Challenger R/T with its Scat Pack kit, complete with a 6.4-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and more poise than ever before. Read all about it in today's Quick Spin.




Dodge Viper SEMA ConceptFiat-Chrysler SEMA lineup revealed

The annual aftermarket-fest that is SEMA is right around the corner, and today, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles showed us its entire hand. The custom cars, created by the Mopar division, touch on everything from the smallest Fiat 500 and Dodge Dart to super-powerful machines like the Challenger and Viper. Have a look here, to see what's in store for SEMA.




Jason VinesDid Ford bug its former PR chief's car and phone?

The Ford Explorer Firestone tire recall of 2001 was huge news. And in a new report from The Detroit News, Ford's then-head of communications, Jason Vines, is accusing the Blue Oval of bugging his car and company phone during that time. The News received an advanced copy of Vines' upcoming book, which sheds some light on this allegation, and you can read a preview of this whole situation, here.




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Berkeley findings says motorcycle lane-splitting safer than ever [w/video, poll]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 6:59PM

Motorcycle Commuter Safety

The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

In some parts of the US, the concept of a motorcycle buzzing between lanes of slower traffic is a foreign concept, but it's an accepted practice in others. Each year since 2012, The Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, conducts a study to check acceptance and safety of lane-splitting in the state, where the act is legal. The latest study seems to indicate that riders are better off splitting lanes than ever before.

Among California motorcyclists, lane-splitting is becoming increasingly accepted. In the study, 80.6 percent of riders report doing it on freeways, about the same as before. However, of them, 37.3 percent of them say it happens "Always" compared to 30.9 percent in 2012.

On non-freeways, 71.4 of riders split lanes, up 10.3 percent from 2013. Of them 32.9 percent say it happens "Always," up 7.6 percent from a year ago. Furthermore, 62.1 percent of people split on both types of roads, up 7.5 percent form 2013.

With more people splitting lanes, the question of its impact on safety arises, and the study indicates that the act is getting less dangerous, too. The UC Berkeley study shows 4.7 percent of riders on freeways were hit by a vehicle while lane-splitting in 2014, down from 8.6 percent in 2013 and 11.8 percent in 2012. Non-freeways have seen a similar decline to just 2.0 percent in 2014 compared to 7.4 percent last year and 8.3 percent in 2012. Motorcyclists saying they nearly hit a car or had one try to block them are both lower this year, as well. Drivers are seemingly also finding the practice more acceptable, too.

This year's study includes info from 1,660 respondents, including 951 drivers and 709 motorcycle riders, and it paints a fairly positive picture about the safety of lane-splitting. The entire 51-page study can be read here in PDF format, and scroll down for a report about the study from CBS News.

What do you think of lane-splitting? Vote in our poll below, then have your say in Comments.

Do you think motorcycle lane-splitting is safe?

News Source: California Office of Traffic Safety, CBS This Morning via YouTube

Image Credit: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee / MCT / Getty Images

Artist Peter Max's Corvette collection headed to auction [w/video]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 6:29PM

Peter Max - A Retrospective - 1960-2014

Sometimes, the stories that lead to cars turning up at auction are as interesting as the vehicles themselves. That's absolutely the case with the Peter Max (pictured above) collection of vintage Chevrolet Corvette models that are scheduled to cross the block in the spring of 2016.

Max is perhaps best known as a '60s pop artist who mixed vibrant colors with iconic imagery. However, classic car fans around New York City might know him better for storing a collection of 36 vintage 'Vettes in public parking garages for decades. The assortment is pretty special because it consists of one example of every model year from the original 1953 up until 1989, according to The New York Times.

Unfortunately, New York parking garages aren't really known for their cleanliness, and photos show the artist's Chevrolet collection neglected, caked in dirt and dust. After moving the collection around between several locations in the past few years, Max finally brokered a deal to sell them all off for an undisclosed price earlier this summer.

The collection's new owners are rehabbing the cars in preparation for selling them off. They're hoping to keep them all together as a set, but they're also apparently ready to let them go individually if that doesn't work, a move that will likely build buzz around these cars as they move toward the auction block.

The most bizarre part about these Corvettes is how Max acquired them. Without spoiling too much, it involves a 1989 contest from the cable music channel VH1. Scroll below to watch a video about this fascinating collection, then go read the whole story over at The New York Times.

News Source: The New York Times

Image Credit: Barry Brecheisen / Invision / AP

Porsche working on turbo V12 for Putin limo project?

Posted Oct 24th 2014 5:44PM

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ex

Porsche is best known for building very well-regarded sports cars and better-selling utility vehicles. Come to the company with a big enough bag of cash, though, and the Porsche Engineering division can create just about anything. The group's past projects include working with Harley-Davidson, Mercedes-Benz and corporate cousin Audi, but if rumors prove true, then its latest partner might be the last one you'd expect.

Russian website Wroom reports that Porsche Engineering is building the engine for the Project Cortege government limousine project for Russian president Vladimir Putin. The mill is supposedly a turbocharged V12 displacing between 6.0- and 6.6-liters and making around 800 horsepower. When complete, it will reportedly be built by ZMZ with Russian-sourced parts.

The limo is expected to debut in 2017, according to Wroom, but it's just the beginning of Putin's grandiose plans, which also goes by the name of the Motorcade Project. The same platform is also meant to underpin several vehicles for use by the government, including an SUV, a small bus and a sedan. All of them would reportedly have a longitudinally mounted engine and all-wheel drive.

The Porsche link to Project Cortege isn't entirely new. Russian media snapped a picture of a model of one design a few months back, and that vehicle reportedly had some engineering input from the German company. The work on the limo was estimated to have cost the government between $150 million and $400 million, even at that stage.

However, it might be safe to take the apparent success of this whole scheme with a grain of sale. Putin's project has been in the works for several years. Initially, ZiL created the ZiL-4112P as a new government limousine, but the Russian premier reportedly was unhappy with it. Since then, it's been back to the drawing board.

News Source: Wroom via WorldCarFans

Image Credit: Viktor Drachev / AFP / Getty Images

Yamaha R3 entry-level sportbike gets endorsement from Colin Edwards

Posted Oct 24th 2014 5:00PM

Colin Edwards advertises the Yamaha R3

Yamaha is already known for making some very well-liked sportbikes with models like the R6 and R1. For 2015, it has one more to add with the YZF-R3, and this cycle is the smallest in the family yet. To build some hype for this little motorcycle, Yamaha grabbed former MotoGP and Superbike racer Colin Edwards to make a somewhat humorous, if cheesy, video.

The YZF-R3 is supposed to take the DNA of its bigger brothers and shrink it down to a more petite size. Power is provided by a water-cooled, inline, two-cylinder engine with 320cc of displacement. It does have features like dual overhead cams and fuel injection, though.

With those specs, the R3 is basically meant for beginner riders, but it should be pretty nimble, too. And with prices starting at $4,990 in the US, it's a fairly inexpensive way to get into the hobby. Yamaha thinks it can sell around 6,000 of them in North America for the 2015 model year.

The R3 is supposed to his the US market in March. Check out Edwards' video above, and if you just want to see the motorcycle action, skip about 1:40 into the clip. Scroll down to read both announcements.

News Source: Yamaha, Yamaha Motor USA via YouTube

Ford Q3 pretax profits drop to $1.18B

Posted Oct 24th 2014 4:28PM

Ford Investigation

Following positive third quarter financial results recently from General Motors, rival Ford took a tumble in Q3. The automaker posted pre-tax profits of $1.18 billion, compared to about $2.59 billion in Q3 2013, a drop of around 54 percent. Net income also suffered with $835 million made in the quarter, versus $1.272 billion last year, a decline of about 34 percent. The Blue Oval blamed the gloomy figures on three reasons in its release: "lower volume, higher warranty costs and adverse balance sheet exchange effects."

There were problems of one kind or another in practically every region. North America experienced higher warranty costs than expected, partially due to recalls. The sales volume for the quarter was 665,000 units, versus 725,000 in Q3 2013, and pre-tax results amounted to $1.41 billion versus $2.296 billion last year.

South America and Europe both posted worse pre-tax results than last year. On the bright side, European volume was up slightly to 321,000 vehicles, from 303,000 in Q3 2013. The Middle East and Africa also lost $15 million, but that was an improvement compared to the $25 million loss previously experienced in this region.

The Asia Pacific region was also a mixed bag. Volume increased to 346,000 units, but pre-tax financials were $44 million, compared $116 million last year. According to Ford's release, the reason for the change is that the company is opening five factories there in the next nine months and launching Lincoln in China.

Ford was optimistic about future growth, though. It said that one of the reasons for falling volume was changing dealer stock in preparation of new models. In 2015, those updates should start being reflected on he balance sheet with "all five Automotive regions improving on 2014 results," according to the Blue Oval's release. Ford's results can be viewed in total as a PDF, here.

News Source: Ford

Image Credit: Bill Sikes / AP Photo

2015 Honda CR-V performs poorly in Swedish AWD test [w/video]

Posted Oct 24th 2014 3:45PM

Honda CR-V all-wheel drive test

Swedish auto magazine Teknikens Värld has never been afraid to call out automakers when a vehicle fails one of its battery of examinations. Its famous Moose Test recently caught the Porsche Macan out, and a few years ago, there was a protracted argument between Teknikens Värld and Jeep over the performance of a Grand Cherokee in that evaluation.

This time, the 2015 Honda CR-V is raising the magazine's hackles, but it has nothing to do with avoiding a giant mammal. Snow is obviously an issue in Sweden, and Teknikens Värld has a test that challenges all-wheel drive systems in low-traction settings. On a slanted surface, the Swedes put the vehicles' front wheels on rollers with no traction and demands the rears accelerate away. The Honda couldn't do it. Teknikens Värld claims that it initially found the same result last year from the European CR-V, but Honda Sweden put out a software upgrade correcting the behavior in the test. This year, the CUV went back to failing.

While that's the magazine's side, Honda Sweden doesn't see the test as fair. In a statement to Teknikens Värld, the company explains the way the CUV's all-wheel drive system works. It also claims that the test isn't simulating a realistic situation. "In real conditions, regardless of the surface, there is a certain amount of friction always available for both front and rear wheels," the announcement says. "A scenario like the roll test with such a high difference in grip between the front and the rear wheels is highly unlikely."

Teknikens Värld, for its part, counters that the test was approved by Honda last year. Scroll down to watch the evaluation for yourself and read the magazine's announcement of the results. Let us know in Comments whether you think this is a fair way to assess all-wheel drive systems.

News Source: Teknikens Varld via YouTube

Image Credit: Teknikens Varld

Ferrari Testarossa featured in retrospective by owner Harry Metcalfe

Posted Oct 24th 2014 3:00PM

Harry's Garage 1987 Ferrari Testarossa

Harry Metcalfe, of Evo fame, got our attention earlier this week with a review of the 1954 Series I Land Rover. Today, he's gone a bit more... '80s.

Yes, this is a 1987 Ferrari Testarossa, one of the most vulgar cars from a decade synonymous with vulgar design. While your author might not be keen on its square rear end and cheese-grater doors and fenders, Metcalfe seems to like it quite a bit, giving a detailed walkthrough of his Rosso Corsa subject. That walkthrough includes some time on a subject we can certainly get behind – the TR's flat-12 engine.

Take a look at the latest from Harry's Garage.

News Source: Harry's Garage via YouTube

Toyota sells off Tesla shares, too

Posted Oct 24th 2014 2:15PM

Tesla Toyota

The incredible rise of Tesla's stock price has done little to now stop two major shareholders from ditching their stake in the American EV manufacturer. First, Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, ditched its four-percent stake, and less than a week later, Toyota is doing the same thing, selling off an undisclosed bit of its Tesla investment.

The move comes as Toyota winds down sales of the RAV4 EV, which gets its batteries and electric motor from Tesla at the company's Fremont, CA factory.

"We have a good relationship with Tesla, and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects," Toyota spokesperson Kayo Doi told Bloomberg via email.

According to Bloomberg, Toyota maintained a 2.4-percent stake as recently as March 31, making it the tenth-largest of Tesla's investors. As the Japanese shed an undisclosed percentage of its shares, though, another automaker might be eyeing the California company.

Value Walk has a speculative story that claims BMW could be looking at tying up with Tesla, based on a reported meeting between execs from the two companies. The fact that the Munich-based company's carbon-fiber expertise fits nicely with the Palo Alto company's EV knowhow is apparently the driving force behind this speculation. But as usual, take this with a grain of salt.

News Source: Bloomberg, Value Walk

Image Credit: Paul Sakuma / AP

Fiat-Chrysler shows its SEMA lineup

Posted Oct 24th 2014 1:29PM

Dodge Challenger T/A Concept SEMA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles already previewed its 2014 SEMA show lineup with some slick renders. Now, the automaker has finally showed us the actual cars, and among the group there are definitely some that stand out more than others.

Dodge is really showing off its muscle at this year's show with four concepts that all pump up the power of the brand's models. Perhaps most interesting among them is the Challenger T/A Concept (pictured above) in striking Sublime Green and matte black. It's meant to resemble the classic Trans Am racer from the '70s. Under the hood is a 6.4-liter V8, and to fit the vintage style there's a pistol-grip gearshift inside.

The Charger R/T also gets some attention with the Mopar concept that shows off what FCA's aftermarket performance arm can do. Mods include an updated body kit, cold-air intake for the 5.7-liter V8 and a coil-over suspension kit. Beyond that, the Dart R/T Concept looks a lot meaner with a black hood with duct work that leads straight to the air intake. The rest of the compact sedan is dolled up in O-So-Orange paint and is fitted with upgrades to improve handling like a coil-over suspension and big brake kit from the Mopar catalog.

Dodge Viper ACR ConceptThe last Dodge is the track-focused Viper ACR Concept with a radical body kit that the company claims is wind tunnel-tested to produce more downforce. It also packs 15.4-inch carbon ceramic brakes with six-piston calipers. The interior is mostly stripped out to save weight, with some parts replaced with carbon fiber pieces.

Jeep also has five concepts on display, but three of them are from this year's Easter Jeep Safari. The Renegade Riptide and Frostbite are two new takes of the upcoming compact crossover with a focus on surfing and skiing, respectively. If that doesn't to it for you, the Wrangler MOJO, Maximum Performance and Cherokee Dakar are all going to be on display, as well.

Not to be outdone, the rest of the company's other brands have their own concepts, too. Highlights include the Ram 2500 Outdoorsman with a tent in the back for sleeping, and the Fiat 500 Abarth Scorpion with an interesting, two-tone red and white paint job, a cat-back exhaust and leather interior. Unfortunately, the worst of the lot might also be from Fiat with the 500L Custom in dark red and black. It also has an upgraded exhaust and interior, but the look is just a bit underwhelming. (Hard to make that thing look pretty, are we right?)

You can check out all of the concepts in the gallery, and scroll down to read the press release about everything FCA is showing at SEMA.

News Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The Price Is Right plays One Away with Tesla Model S

Contestant Gets Selfish Once Face-To-Face With Luxury EV

Posted Oct 24th 2014 12:45PM

The Price Is Right gives away a Tesla Model S

When it comes to game shows, The Price Is Right is about as mainstream as American TV gets, beaming lust for fancy new prizes into millions of homes every day. Recently, the show held its annual Dream Car Week, which this year included a Tesla Model S along with a Porsche Cayenne, a Land Rover Range Rover Sport, a Maserati Quattroporte and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

The contestant invited to come on down an take a crack at the bright-red Model S was Vanessa Ansoorian, who told host Drew Carey that she had originally promised her brother a car if she won one, but once she saw what it was, she began rethinking her stance. Of course, before being able to drive away with the electric car, she needed to win the game, which in this case was One Away. That means that she got a string of numbers – 6-8-4-1-1 - and needed to move each digit up or down one to find the car's price. Can you get it? We won't give away the right answer, or if she won the car, but we look forward to your guesses in the comments below, where you can also watch the tense video clip.

In 2010, The Price Is Right also offered up a Tesla (in that case, a Roadster) on Earth Day. You can see how that attempt went here.

News Source: TVLubber3 via YouTube

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