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It's Official: Chevrolet Camaro Returns

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As had been widely anticipated, today at a series of annual management briefings in Traverse City, Michigan, GM head Rick Wagoner announced that the Camaro returns to Chevrolet dealerships in late 2008. He also promised that it will look nearly identical to the concept, which wowed Camaro enthusiasts at its reveal at the 2006 Detroit auto show this past January. Of course the Camaro enthusiasts were strategically planted by Chevrolet at the auto show stand… but that’s alright. It was a hoot!

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Camaro sales will start the first quarter of 2009, with production in late 2008. That should give plenty of time for all you Camaro enthusiasts to start saving and preparing for your next car.
The Camaro will retain its rear-wheel-drive traditional configuration and be offered with V6 and V8 engines, with both manual and automatic transmissions on hand. The “fuel economy” engine will be the V6 – with 275-horsepower no less.
Dodge Challenger – Low Investment Coupe from Chrysler’s RWD Platform
The other pony car concept from this year’s Detroit show, the Dodge Challenger, was confirmed forproduction in June. (Click here for our story.) Dodge will beat Chevy to market by a few months, having promised sales in late 2008.
Market May Be Thinner Than Expected if Mustang Can Keep on the Pressure
Timing of Challenger and Camaro give the latest version of the Mustang four to five years’ head start. Given the freshening of the Mustang at about the same time as the Challenger and Camaro introductions, plus the plethora of Mustang special models over the years, Ford may have done a pretty good job siphoning off prospective buyers for the General Motors and Chrysler pony cars.


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GM's New Trucks

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We Catch the Summer Reveal of All-New Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra
GM’s leader Rick Wagoner took some time from his work on the turnaround project and the ongoing Renault-Nissan tie-up evaluation to introduce new products critical to GM’s future profitability and success. VehicleVoice contributors Jim Hossack and Stephanie Brinley, from AutoPacific‘s Market Research and Industry Analysis offices, were on hand for a first look. Brinley helps with the overview, while long-time full-size truck owner Hossack tells us what’s missing.

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The current full-size Chevrolet Silverado (image here) and GMC Sierra, developed under GM’s GMT800 program and first introduced for 1999MY, launched to strong reviews and well-deserved praise. Sales increased throughout the lifecycle and combined they outsold their rivals. Even in 2005, GM outsold the Ford F-series by about 80,000 units, according to AutoPacific’s Sales Forecast Service.
The GMT900 pickups offer significant improvements to body, chassis, and powertrain. GM developed them with the eye to improving on every level an already successful truck. We saw them in pre-production form, but didn’t get the chance to drive them. Based on our first look, the trucks will arrive boasting a best-in-class standing. The 1500 series gets to showrooms in November 2006. Heavy-duty (2500 and 3500) models arrive during the first quarter of 2007. Unlike the previous generation, which rolled out over two years, all versions of the GMT900 trucks roll out in five months.
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The Good Stuff
On a bright, hot August morning, dozens of Silverado and Sierras drove up in front of us at the GM Milford, Michigan, proving grounds. Showing off their versatility and working natures, the display trucks towed boats and equipment, hauled hay and horse trailers. The message was clear: Choice and capability. Whatever you need these trucks to do, they can do it. Whatever form you need, they have it. Short beds, medium beds, long beds, crew cabs, regular cabs, extended cabs with a cool new 170-degree opening rear door, all are available from the GM trucks. It was a dizzying array, but all these options keep loyal buyers happy and to prove that GM is dedicated to full-size pickups.
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Let's Talk Cars: Ford's New Sales Incentive, and Why the Ford Thunderbird Never Made it Big

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Welcome to “Let’s Talk Cars”

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The summer sales slump for American Car manufacturers continues, and Ford is the latest company to come up with a new way to get buyers into showrooms. VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett and AutoPacific Senior Consultant Jim Hassock, sit down for another of their weekly chats and discuss whether Ford will see any traction with their new extended powertrain waranty.
AutoPacific Founder and President George Peterson tells the tale of his wife’s turquoise blue Ford Thunderbird, oh so beautiful and oh so dumb.
Plus we touch on the efffect fuel prices have on new vehicle purchases, the new continuously variable transmissions, and where the latest trend toward rear wheel drive sedans is going.
Show Rundown
00:53 Ford’s new extended powertrain warranty – VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett and AutoPacific Vice President and Senior Consultant, Jim Hossack
12:15 Continuously Variable Transmissions – VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett and AutoPacific Vice President and Senior Consultant, Jim Hossack
15:20 2002 Ford Thunderbird – Beautiful, but Dumb – AutoPacific President and Founder George Peterson


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Dodge Approves Challenger

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As if There Would Have Been Any Other Answer…
In the biggest non-surprise of the year, Dodge made it official: The Challenger concept will spawn a Challenger production coupe. The Challenger will go on sale in 2008, within two years of the concept’s introduction, as a 2008 model-year vehicle. The announcement was made in conjunction with the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in Daytona, where the Dodge Charger is a competitor.

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Though the name was used a few times on non-muscle cars, the Challenger that is being revived had a five-year run (1970-1974) and saw sales about 188,600 units, coupe and convertible. Which begs the question: When is the convertible coming?
Chevrolet is expected to also follow its 2006 North American International Auto Show concept Camaro with a production version as well. But Dodge looks to be in position to get Challenger to market before Camaro, which could be huge in the image game. No one wants to be last.
All in all, Challenger has a solid platform to launch from and a nice set of powertrains to choose from, being based on Dodge Charger/Magnum and Chrysler 300, though a 500HP SRT Challenger would be helpful. Response to the concept car has been strong enough to get the green light. In 2008, we’ll find out if the enthusiasm translates to real-world purchases.
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(VehicleVoice and AutoPacific brought you news of the Challenger and Camaro back at auto show time; click here and here to revisit those stories.)


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Ford Focus Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Compact Cars:

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The Ford Focus is the Ideal Compact Car among seventeen other contenders. Focus’ victory comes from solid results across the eleven measurement categories. It did not win every category outright but its strength was derived from its overall numbers. The Focus’ Ideal Compact Car win comes from solid results for exterior size, visibility, cargo space, power and acceleration. Again, it was not number one in every category, but clearly there is strength in numbers.


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Mercury Milan* Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Mid-Size Cars:

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The all-new Mercury Milan is a clear winner among Mid-Size Car competition. Milan, the Ideal Mid-Size Car, achieves its category leading performance with near ideal ratings for exterior size, interior storage, power and acceleration, right down to the ideal size of the wheels and tires. *The Mercury Milan also topped its category in AutoPacific’s 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
The Milan is a suburban cruiser and commuter car. Not a sport sedan, Milan is best suited for tooling around town in quiet comfort. Milan shows good attention to detail especially in package-related areas like ingress/egress, ergonomics and visibility. While Milan’s owners give its powertrain near ideal ratings, I’d love to drive one with the 50 extra horsepower the 2007 Lincoln MKZ (nee Lincoln Zephyr) is going to get from its new 3.5L V6 engine.


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Mercury Montego Wins AutoPacific 2006 Ideal Vehicle Award for Large Car/Luxury Car – Also Top-Ranked Ideal Vehicle:

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Wow! What a showing in AutoPacific’s inaugural Ideal Vehicle Awards! The 2006 Mercury Montego is thte top ranked vehicle, top ranked car and top ranked Large Car/Luxury Car. In addition to Montego’s top place finish, Ford Motor Company swept the first three places in the awards with the Ford Crown Victoria finishing second and the Ford Five Hundred finishing third. Since all three are in the same product category, only top-rated Montego could win its category award.
Introduced in 2005 as Mercury’s version of the Ford Five Hundred, the 2006 Mercury Montego wins the Ideal Large Car/Luxury Car. Montego owners did not want to change much about their Montego. Owners of the Mercury Montego rated their cargo space and how easily they could get in and out as near ideal. These are attributes big car owners value. The Mercury Montego is the highest ranked individual vehicle with a score of 967 out of 1100, proving that Mercury understands the Montego’s priorities and preferences.


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AutoPacific's 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards Announced

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An “ideal” is defined as an excellent or perfect example. In the first Ideal Vehicle Awards, announced today by automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, owners rate their new 2006 model year cars and trucks by how closely they come to their ideal. The cars or trucks that owners would change the least are the most ideal.
Those carmakers that best understand their customers and create the vehicle their core buyer group desires has come closest to the ideal.
The top-rated vehicle and top-rated car is the Mercury Montego in the Large Car/Luxury Car category. In fact, Ford Motor Company sweeps the first three positions overall with the Ford Crown Victoria and Ford Five Hundred in second and third place. The top-rated truck is the Honda Odyssey Minivan.
The top-rated brand overall is Hyundai out-pointing Mercury and Lincoln for the most ideal vehicle honors.
Ford Motor Company and American Honda have three segment winners apiece. BMW and Hyundai have two each.
Of the sixteen Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) categories, Japanese brands have seven segment winners, American brands have four, European brands have three and Korean brands have two winners.
The top-rated product segment is Large Car/Luxury Car confirming that Americans continue to value large, comfortable cars suitable for suburban and highway cruising.
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Vehicle brand: Hyundai
Top-rated 2006 Ideal Product Segment: Large Car/Luxury Car
Top rated 2006 Ideal Vehicles by segment:
PASSENGER CARS:
Premium Luxury Car: Lexus LS
Entry Luxury Car: BMW 3-Series
Large Car/Luxury Car: Mercury Montego
Premium Mid-Size Car: Hyundai Sonata
Mid-Size Car: Mercury Milan
Image Compact Car: Toyota Prius
Compact Car: Ford Focus
Sports Car: Porsche 911
Sporty Car: Acura RSX
SUT, SUV, and MINIVAN:
Sport Utility Truck: Honda Ridgeline
Luxury Sport Utility: BMW X5
Large Sport Utility: GMC Yukon
Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility: Nissan Murano
Mid-Size Sport Utility: Hyundai Santa Fe
Compact Sport Utility: Subaru Forester
Minivan: Honda Odyssey
In addition to identifying segment winners, IVA also establishes numerical ideal vehicle ratings for virtually every passenger car and light truck (except pickups) in the United States market. This results from calculating owner input across 11 specific areas related to a vehicle’s exterior size, passenger roominess, cargo space, driver’s seat comfort, drivers seat visibility, interior technology, power, ease of getting in and out, interior storage compartments and tires and wheels. The 2006 ratings reflect input from buyers and lessees of new vehicles acquired September 2005 through January 2006. Pickup trucks are not incorporated because of numerous body styles included within each pickup line.


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Chevrolet Silverado Wins AutoPacific 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Heavy-Duty Pickup Trucks

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The Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty wins the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award among Heavy Duty Large Pickups.

A workhorse near the end of its run, the Silverado HD nosed out Dodge Ram Heavy Duty and Ford F-Series Super Duty entries. Much of its win has to be credited to its up-graded Duramax diesel for the 2006 model year.


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500HP for Ford Shelby GT500

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Ford Announces Official Certification
Though when the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang was introduced at the 2006 Detroit auto show, Ford only promised 475HP from the supercharged V8. Now that final certification testing is complete, the announcement has been made: 500HP and 480 lb-ft of torque for the 2007 GT500, which easily makes it the fastest factory-built Mustang ever. If you’re a Mustang fan, this is the car you want.

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The 500HP comes from a 5.4L DOHC 32v V8 that borrows from the Ford GT supercar engine. The V8 has an iron block and aluminum heads, with a cast iron exhaust manifold and forged steel crankshaft. GT borrowed parts include four-valve cylinder heads, piston rings, and bearings. The power is boosted with a Roots-type supercharger with 9 psi boost. The engine is being built at Ford’s Romeo, Michigan, plant. The full 500HP peaks at 6000 rpm, with the full torque available at 4500 rpm.
“With 500HP and the Shelby name, this car is an instant legend,” noted Hau Thai-Tang, director, Advanced Product Creation & SVT programs. “This is the most powerful, most capable Mustang ever.”
Given that someone already paid $600,000 for the rights to buy the first unit at a charity auction, this car is certainly launching to lofty expectations. (That is $600,000 for the chance to buy the first car, which does not indicate it actually includes the cost of the car.) Pricing will be announced closer to launch. The charity? Carroll Shelby’s Children’s Foundation, of course.
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