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2007 Lexus LS Raises the Bar for Safety and Luxury


Standard and Optional Features Should Significantly Reduce Accidents Small and Large
Though not all of the details have been revealed regarding the fourth-generation Lexus LS sedan, at the Detroit auto show Lexus uncovered styling and gave us a peek at some new luxury features. In Geneva, more information on the big car’s safety systems was revealed. Just around the corner, at the New York auto show in April, the LS hybrid will be unveiled. Lexus has also announced that the new LS will be offered in two wheelbase lengths, something new to the Lexus strategy but which entries like the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class long have done (although Mercedes sells only the long wheelbase version of the S-Class in the USA). AutoPacific and Vehicle Voice give you a brief preview of some of the upcoming wow! systems Lexus buyers will soon get to choose from.


Counterpoint – the Devil’s Advocate
After you read the following summary of the technology coming on the 2007 Lexus LS, ask yourself these questions, “Is this technology necessary? Will this technology significantly enhance the driving experience? How expensive will all these wow! systems be? How reliable will they be? Are Lexus engineers answering questions no one is asking?”
In AutoPacific research there appears to be an undercurrent that some drivers are beginning to push back at technology that tries to do too much. “Why do I need that,” one Mercedes driver may ask. A 7-Series driver brags that they have mastered the audio functions of iDrive after owning the car for five months and is looking forward to now learning how to learn the navigation functions. A Mercedes driver complains that the “car is taking over control” and says he’ll buy something different next time. Then, there is the luxury car owner that asks, “Why is a $25,000 car like the Honda Accord never in the shop, but my $70,000 7-Series always there?” Technology needed? Or technology run amok?

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Who Says Electric Cars Are Slow?


When you ask someone to name the most remarkable aspect of an electric car, they typically reply with one of three answers:

  • Electric cars free us from oil
  • Electric cars are expensive
  • Electric cars are slow

Well, what if you were to learn that some of the latest battery-driven sedans, coupes and convertibles were not only electric, but faster than a Corvette or a Porsche? We’re kidding, right?

No, we’re not.


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Let's Talk Cars: Gadget Special Report – Part I


Let’s Talk Cars: Gadget Special Report – Part I

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While the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in the Fall may be like a candy store to car guys, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is its equivalent to electronics geeks – NOT GEEKS – they are our friends! IN fact, at CES automotive electronics is a major, major feature with one building full of displays focusing on car stuff (with the traditional bling, babes and blaring).
With portable DVD players, built-in MP3 capability and surround sound speakers, our cars are quickly becoming rolling entertainment centers. In the first of three special reports from the Consumer Electronics Show, VehicleVoice takes a look at some ground-breaking new multimedia gadgets for your car. Our three featured interviews are with Delphi Electronics, TomTom and Scosche.
Show Rundown
01:19 Delphi’s Automotive Streaming Media: Ken Erickson, Integrated Media Systems, Delphi
09:53 TomTom’s New Portable Navigation System: Anne Louise Hanstad, Vice President of Marketing, TomTom
16:34 Scosche’s Bluetooth Transmitter: Marketing Administrator, Scosche

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Aston Martin Rapide Looks Set for Production

Aston Martin May Beat Porsche Panamera to Market
At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Aston Martin unveiled a concept called Rapide. Within a month or so of the introduction, suppliers confirmed to Automotive News reporters production is being planned for summer 2007. Aston could bring out its new sports car two model years ahead of the Porsche Panamera, due in 2009CY for 2010MY. Reports are that Aston is planning to build 3,000 to 3,500 units annually, compared with the Porsche’s 20,000-unit target. Comparing the Porsche to the Aston Martin is a touch misleading, however, as the Aston is likely to command a transaction price comfortably above the Porsche. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand when the Rapide was unveiled complete with a designer pooch. We’ll take the car, you can have the dog.


The addition of the Aston Martin Rapide will give luxury-minded buyers several four-seat, grand touring entries to choose from by the end of the decade, whether two doors like the BMW 6-Series and Bentley Continental GT or four doors like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, Porsche Panamera, and Aston Martin Rapide. Though not necessarily direct competitors, entries like these similar philosophies, with seductively gorgeous exteriors, pampering and sumptuous interiors, more power than you ever need, and a driving experience tuned for the grand touring side of life as much as the sporting side. These aren’t racing cars barely dressed for the street like a Dodge Viper or Porsche Carrera GT, though they have enough power to win most stoplight challenges.

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Government Study Confirms Large Vehicles are Safer


The January 2006 report issued by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) concludes that larger vehicles are safer than smaller ones. DUH! It took a six page pdf report written by a government contractor from URC Enterprises to summarize crash statistics from 1997 through 2004 to reconfirm the basic equation in physics – F=MA (force equals mass times acceleration).
In a time when more people may be considering smaller cars to offset the skyrocketing cost of fuel, new small B-Segment entries like the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Honda_Fit are being introduced. These cars meet the need for small, fuel efficient transportation and certainly carry impressive safety credentials like crush zones and air bags galore. Even our own VehicleVoice survey research shows that that there is increased consideration for small cars these days. So, what’s the right thing to do?
Well, as the government report confirms, F still equal MA.

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Toyota Juggernaut – Flurry of Intros in ’06


We have all been following the press accounts of Toyota becoming the top producing vehicle manufacturer in the world in 2006 and we have heard statements by Toyota management that Toyota is going to become more aggressive in the future. Historically, Toyota has taken a relatively humble and mild stance to its growing presence worldwide and in the USA particularly, but in 2003 the gloves came off with Toyota Motor Sales USA taking a higher profile. Their pace of advance will quicken substantially in 2006.
VehicleVoice contributor and AutoPacific‘s President George Peterson takes a quick look at Toyota’s 2006 plans.
Toyota Has Guns Blazing in 2006
It looks like the 2007 model year is going to be the year when Toyota really comes in with all guns blazing. I guess that we can’t include the all new RAV4, now moving upmarket and sporting a 3.5L V6 engine as part of the onslaught. It was launched in late 2005 as a 2006 model. The new RAV4 is outstanding and is reported to be the fastest vehicle carrying a Toyota badge today.
During 2006, the 2007 models will be introduced starting with the all new Yaris, major change for the Camry, launch of an all new hybrid Toyota Camry, launch of the all new FJ Cruiser, launch of a truly competitive full size pickup, launch of a new Lexus ES330 and new Lexus LS460.
AutoExtremist Peter DeLorenzo sums it up well in his observations of Toyota, “We’re not only going to tell you what play we’re going to run, we’re going to ram the ball down your throats knowing that there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop us. What can you say about Toyota other than that they continue in their relentless pursuit of world domination, and there appears to be no one capable of standing in their way?”
Lets touch on each of these in order of launch…

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Mobile Electronics Firms Fight to Stay Ahead in ICE


During the past decade, automobile manufacturers have made great strides improving the quality of in-car entertainment, otherwise known as ICE. Today, you can purchase or lease a car, truck or SUV with in-car audio, video, and game connectivity, even including brand names like Harmon-Kardon and JBL.

At first, you might think this new round factory sound and vision might spell doom for third party companies who offer in-car entertainment systems. At this year’s CES in Las Vegas, the mobile electronics industry was putting on its best face relative to ICE, and manufacturers were touting the advantages of “do it yourself” entertainment.

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Mercedes-Benz Introduces a New Clean Diesel System

Bluetec: Has Mercedes Developed a Global Clean Diesel System?
There were several Bluetec-equipped vehicles on DaimlerChrysler company stands at the 2006 North American International Auto Show this January, including a Jeep Grand Cherokee Bluetec, the E320 Bluetec, and the concept Vision GL320 Bluetec. AutoPacific explains a bit about this system and where U.S. consumers might see it in real applications.
The Bluetec system is the result of Mercedes search for a diesel emission-control system that can be applied worldwide, meeting federal and market conditions that vary from country to country. The overall difficulty with diesel is the amount of aftertreatment required to lower emissions to levels required by various governments, and how expensive these processes can be.

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Navigation Systems Go Portable


At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the growth of new electronic gadgets for cars and trucks was hard to miss. Flashy cars, pretty girls, and subwoofers the size of a 1955 Buick were in nearly every aisle. One of the most interesting new product segments to emerge is that of add-on portable navigation.

VehicleVoice decided to investigate these hand-held, 12-volt, talking direction boxes and what we found was very interesting. As our panelist membership probably already knows, in-car navigation is becoming a common option for all kinds of vehicles. Often, these manufacturer-installed devices are price-heavy as well. In some cases, a navigation add-on can cost upwards of $2,000. In other cases, “NAV” is only available in larger “packages” of options, further pushing the price upwards – even to the $7,000 price point (Infinity Technology Package). What surprised us the most was that many of the hand-held nav manufacturers claimed that many of their customers are foregoing their built-in nav systems for new ones that are portable.

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Consumer Panic Subsides With Declining Fuel Prices


Since reaching a peak in September, the price of gasoline in the United States continued to decline through mid-December and drivers are reacting to these moderating fuel prices. The December 2005 Fuel Price Impact Survey conducted by AutoPacific’s ( VehicleVoice ( confirms that many consumers are paying less for gasoline but are still very aware of the long term effects of gasoline priced above $2 per gallon. The Fuel Price Impact Survey is based on the results of a VehicleVoice Internet survey with 1,122 respondents who completed the survey between December 13 and December 19, 2005.

Actual fuel price continue downward since September peak

In the last month the median price respondents say they paid for fuel has declined by about 11¢ per gallon (to $2.22) following a dramatic 50¢ per gallon decrease in November. The median price they expect to pay one year from now has decreased by another 8¢ per gallon to $2.45.
Shift away from SUVs now moderating
Many drivers reconsider the types of vehicles they are driving when fuel prices spike higher. Drivers of sport utility vehicles represent about 25% of the total car market today. In September, when fuel prices peaked, about 27% of SUV drivers indicated they would consider shifting the type of vehicle they drive to something more fuel efficient. The vehicle segments most likely to benefit from this migration are Mid-Size Cars and Small Cars both up 25%. While the data do not show a direct relationship of drivers moving from SUVs to more fuel efficient cars, there is a clear tendency for drivers to consider moving from less fuel-efficient segments to vehicle types that get better gas mileage.
Drivers considering shift to hybrids, but 6-cylinders remain “sweet spot”
About 18% of drivers having vehicles powered by V8 engines say they will shift to more fuel-efficient engines, down from 25% in September. But 27% of drivers of vehicles with gas-sipping 4-cylinder engines also say they will consider changing. The transition for both is towards 6-cylinder engines and hybrids. Hybrid-powered vehicles will be considered by 12% of the respondents, down slightly from the 15% peak in the October survey. This is a reaction to the continuing positive media attention surrounding hybrid-powered vehicles and the public’s perception that hybrids are an answer to higher fuel prices. There is also somewhat more interest in diesel engines, though significantly less than the level of interest in a gas-electric hybrid.
High fuel price still seen as BAD for America!
The culprits identified by the respondents as contributing to high fuel prices remain Big Oil Companies, OPEC, Natural Disasters and Limited Refining Capacity. When asked whether high fuel prices are good or bad for America, 73% say that high fuel prices are “bad for America”, down from 80% in the September survey. In the land where roads have been paved by unlimited cheap gas, attitudes are that conservation stimulated by higher gasoline prices is not the popular way to go. Higher fuel prices might actually encourage conservation, reduce pollution and provide the Middle East with less money to use against American interests, but respondents don’t see it that way, and vote their pocketbook.

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