Category Archive:

Will Racing Success Bring Diesel Technology Forward?

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As concern regarding fossil fuels and dependence on specific suppliers mounts worldwide, answers to alternative fuel solutions remain largely elusive for the mainstream. Ethanol, hydrogen, and other fuels are not as easily accepted as one might expect.
Even diesel power has not been widely accepted in the United States. And, while there are numerous reasons why diesel power has historically been viewed differently in the U.S., today, there are several reasons why many Americans are taking a second look at diesel power.

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Audi Commits Racing Fortunes to Diesel
There are several key reasons to consider diesel power, including advantages of fuel consumption, emissions, and the overall performance of modern diesel engines. To underscore these benefits, Audi embarked on a challenging mission at the turn of the (21st) century. The German car maker decided to create a LeMans racer powered by a fuel-efficient diesel engine. The goal, to win over Ferrari, Porsche, Ford, and scores of other manufacturers. The result: win after win.


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Priceline Survey Says Car Renters Want Hybrids

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Based on the results of a priceline.com Internet survey, about 47% of people renting a car through priceline.com would consider renting a hybrid vehicle if it were offered by the rental agency. They would be willing to pay varying prices – from zero to $9 per day extra. Interestingly, 53% were not interested at all.
New Priceline.com Survey Finds Almost Three-Quarters Of Travelers Want To See Hybrid Vehicles Added To Rental Car Fleets
48% would be willing to pay more for a “green” rental car
In recognition of Earth Day (Sunday, April 22), priceline.com® conducted a new survey of its rental car customers. The company found that an overwhelming majority (72%) of travelers want rental car companies to offer economical, environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles powered by both gasoline and electricity. A similar majority (71%) of the 764 priceline.com customers who answered the survey said they would rent a hybrid and almost half (48%) said they would be willing to pay a premium for their “green” rental.
While hybrid vehicles are generally not available through most rental car companies or through priceline.com, most of the priceline.com customers surveyed (39%) said they would be willing to pay up to $1 to $3 more a day to rent a hybrid. That would represent an increase of up to 11% over the average weekend published-price for a mid-size car on priceline.com ($26 a day) and up to 17% over the average successful offer price for a Name Your Own Price® mid-size car on priceline.com ($17 a day).*
Eight percent of the priceline.com customers said they would be willing to pay up to $4 to $6 more a day for a hybrid. That would represent an increase of up to 23% over the average weekend published-price for a mid-size car on priceline.com and up to 35% over the average successful offer price for a Name Your Own Price mid-size car on priceline.com.*
One percent of customers said they would be willing to pay up to $7 to $10 a day more. No one was willing to pay more than $10 a day extra, while 53% of customers said they were not willing to pay any premium to rent a hybrid.
The already high and rising price of gasoline was another theme that turned up frequently in the new priceline.com survey:
— If gasoline reaches $3 a gallon, almost half (47%) of the priceline.com customers said they would change their rental car preferences and opt for smaller, more fuel-efficient car types.
— 55% of customers prefer to rent more fuel-efficient cars such as mid-size (example: Pontiac Grand Am), compact (example: Ford Focus) or economy (example: Chevrolet Aveo).
— 96% of customers say they fill up their rental cars themselves before turning them in, rather than pay refill fees. 52% said they spend time looking for the cheapest gas in an area before filling up prior to return.


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2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee: New York Auto Show

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New Look, More Features, and New Engine Improve Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee, introduced in its current form for the 2005 model year, gets a new look and updated features for 2008. The new face was formally introduced at the New York Auto Show and goes on sale in fall 2007. Here are the basics.

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If you didn’t like the Grand Cherokee’s look before this change, you aren’t likely to notice or care much about the new nose. If you did like the Grand Cherokee already, you may appreciate the subtly revised look. If you’re looking for some new family-friendly features, you’re likely to appreciate the new SIRIUS Backseat TV and MyGig options. Choosing to do little more on the outside than tweak an already good-looking SUV, Jeep focused on adding features and upgrading the 4.7L V8. While these changes aren’t likely to light a big fire under the Grand Cherokee’s sales line, they can make the vehicle more satisfying for those choosing the new features.


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It's Finally Here: Satellite TV for the Car

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Having Trouble Getting Your Couch Potato in the Car? Chrysler and SIRIUS Offer a Solution
As you may have noticed from our Detroit auto show coverage, Chrysler’s latest minivans, the Town and Country and Dodge Caravan (click for story and podcast), arrive this fall with several new features for making life on the road more pleasant and easier for the whole family. Today, Chrysler announced the latest development for family-friendly road trips: SIRIUS Backseat TV. Chrysler’s George Murphy and Frank Klegon announced the new feature in New York, with a helping hand from SpongeBob SquarePants and some local kids. At first, SIRIUS Backseat TV will offer three channels, well chosen for families and include Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, and the Cartoon Network. (One more channel is needed: ESPN, for Dads to watch while waiting for the beloved family to just get done shopping already! Or even better, for tailgating before the big game.)

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SIRIUS Backseat TV uses an in-vehicle satellite video receiver and two roof-mounted antennas, and will complement the upcoming minivans dual-DVD rear-entertainment package nicely. It’s already set up so that second and third rows can watch different media, and the addition of TV to the mix only increases options.
SIRIUS Backseat TV will be a $470 option and requires opting for the rear-seat entertainment package and SIRIUS satellite radio. That $470 includes the first year’s subscription, but requires a subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio. Based on pricing for the single-DVD rear-entertainment systems for the 2008 Dodge Avenger and 2007MY minivans, it looks as though buyers might be able to get the SIRIUS Backseat TV and dual-DVD system for well under $2000. After the first year, SIRIUS Backseat TV costs $7 a month (after the first year) on top of the SIRIUS radio’s $12.95 month fee.
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Who Else Gets SIRIUS TV?
Initially, this system will only be available on Chrysler Group products, but the minivans won’t be the only ones having the fun. The 2008MY Chrysler 300, Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, and Dodge Charger and Magnum will also offer the feature. What hasn’t been indicated yet, though, is when SIRIUS will add TV stations, nor when TiVo or other DVR will be added to the whole shebang.


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VehicleVoice#64 – Ford and Microsoft Team Up to Bring You Sync

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When Ford announced earlier this year that it had gotten beyond its embarrassing lack of wireless connectivity with a partnership with Microsoft, the usual jokes abounded. “Oh no!” so many automotive journalists moaned. “Now even my car’s going to get viruses.” I myself thought this would replace carjackers with carhackers. I’ll admit, I was one of the many who thought Ford and Microsoft, and their new hands-free, voice-activated initiative called Sync, had a better chance of being a bust, than a breakthrough. Then I got a closeup look at Sync at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
It’s user interface or UI, is sophisticated and intuitive, and pretty enough to remind me of Microsoft’s media center from some years ago. Sync’s integration seems to have taken everything into account, including multiple users, and the ability to sync with all popular media players.
Ford and Microsoft hosted a tent outside of the huge CES halls where David Barrett sat down in a brand new Lincoln MKX to chat with Microsoft’s Velle Kolde about Sync.
New Vehicles and Concepts –
Sync
Show Runtime – 9:53


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XM Radio and Sirius to Merge into One Satellite Company

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On Monday, February 19, 2007 XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio made the long expected announcement that they were merging. While this is not yet a done deal because of potential regulatory hurdles it is good news for folks who have become addicted to satellite radio.

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In the Future – No Decision Needed Between XM/Sirius
The biggest benefit we can see is that you will be able to buy any car and have the “right” satellite service in the car. For example, having been an XM Radio subscriber for two years I switched from my XM equipped Infiniti and leased a Volvo XC90. Volvo, being part of Ford, has an exclusive agreement with Sirius. So, even if Volvo had been offering a satellite radio installation in the XC90 (which in 2006 they were not! Dark ages!), I would have been forced to get Sirius.
What did I do? Well, XM offered me a Delphi Roadie at a ridiculously low price and it has been crudely mounted in the Volvo since then. Poor and spotty reception, but at least I have satellite.
Merger Recognizes Competition from Many Fronts
This merger is recognition that there is not room for two satellite radio providers in the USA. The subscriber base for XM and Sirius combined is under 15,000,000. Of course, for companies that began offering service just a few years ago, this may not be too bad but it’s not good enough for sustainable growth. Satellite radio is duking it out with iPod integration in cars, in-vehicle hard drives, high definition radio, traditional AM/FM. Competition is fierce and this merger will help satellite radio survive.


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VehicleVoice#57 – BMWs – from the new Ms to the Hydrogen 7

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BMW was one of the more fascinating exhibitors at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this month, mainly because of it’s schizophrenic display. In one section, lined up in all their Teutonic beauty, were the M models. Few cars go faster and with more muscular style than BMW’s Motorsport line. And in another section of the booth, BMW’s breakthrough Hydrogen 7 – truly a great advancement in alternative drivetrains. So, in one moment, you’re looking at nothing but raw speed – MPG be damned – and the next, you’re contemplating hydrogen fuel stations and water vapor emissions. Only BMW could make both ends of the spectrum look so good.
In this podcast, David Barrett starts things off with another exclusive interview – this one with Alternative Fuel Expert Daniel Kammerer. And he ends things walking along BMW’s “M Row” where he gives you a look at the new M Coupe, the insanely horse-powered M5, and the two new M6s – the convertible and the coupe.

Show Runtime – 7:49


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Ford/Microsoft SYNC™

Ford and Microsoft have announced that they are teaming up to launch an American market exclusive in-vehicle interface that will sync cell phones and iPods. Gosh, this means that Ford will finally get Bluetooth!
Microsoft brought AutoPacific up to date on Microsoft Auto at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2004. Then they would only announce that they had inked an agreement with Fiat and were working on agreements with several American automakers. Ford was the first to announce and gets a year head start for being first.
Ford Moves From Technology Laggard to … Uh, Catching Up
A company that has too often been a late adopter of automotive electronics technology joined with Microsoft in a system that Microsoft has been years in developing. First seen on Fiats, the Microsoft system will be an exclusive for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury through the 2008 calendar year. Twelve Ford products will receive Sync™.

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Ford Sync™, powered by Microsoft Auto software, is a fully integrated, voice-activated in-car communications and entertainment system to sync mobile phones and digital music players to the car.
Users can access their mobile phone or digital music player – including genre, album, artist and song title – via voice commands.
Names and numbers in a mobile phone’s address book are wirelessly and automatically transferred to the vehicle.
Sync™ can host nearly any digital media player, including the Apple iPod®, Microsoft Zune (of course) and most USB storage devices.
Ford’s Press Release can be found below the fold.


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Ford Hints at Future Features

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AutoPaciific’s Future Attributes Demand Study – An Industry Blble
One of AutoPacific’s specialties is Future Attribute Demand. Each year, AutoPacific surveys thousands of new car and truck buyers to determine what features they want on their next vehicle. AutoPacific then publishes a report called the Future Attribute Demand Study (FADS). FADS is used by the industry to help guide their decisions in which features to offer on their upcoming cars and trucks.
In addition to FADS, automakers also conduct their own research and use this information to determine where their design and engineering resources for advanced features should be expended.
Ford Features Cadence Will Bring Needed New Technologies to Ford’s Products
Ford has given us a glimpse of the cadence of future features that American car buyers can expect to see from the Company in the coming years. In Ford’s case, they conducted the research and have been closely evaluating what their competition is doing. Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s new head of worldwide product development, states that, “Ford will offer a new feature when it appears that two of our major competitors have offered or appear to be ready to offer it.”
In the past Ford has hesitated, often too long, in introducing new features that consumers want. When their internal analysis determined that a new feature might not achieve immediate acceptance and result in incremental sales volume, the Company hesitated. Now, that will change. Competitors, in addition to internal studies, will help guide Ford’s features.
So, what new features can we expect from the Dearborn car company?
First, their research shows a strong demand for capless fuel filling. Beginning in 2008, some Ford cars will begin offering capless fuel filling. In this system, behind the fuel filler door is a system that allows the fuel filler nozzle to be inserted without unscrewing a cap.
Ford also will be offering audio systems from Sony and THX surround sound audio on Lincolns. Ford is teaming up with Microsoft in a broadbased vehicle communications, information and entertainment system that will finally give Ford vehicles Bluetooth capability. Up to now, Bluetooth has been an accessory at the Blue Oval.
Lighting is also getting attention. Ford will begin to use interior ambient lighting for things like door handles and cupholders. Even door sill scuff plates on some vehicles will be lighted.
A really cool feature is light through paint. Using this technology rear high mounted brake lights can look like they are bodycolor. Ford’s signature keyless entry system buttons can be muted using bodycolor light through paint.
On the safety side, Ford will begin offering some technologies that has been available elsewhere for some time now: blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation systems.
Will Ford’s Fast Follower Strategy be Fast Enough?
It appears that Ford’s strategy is to be a “fast follower” in technology and not a technology leader. This is OK, as long as they follow fast enough. Having Fords without Bluetooth, iPod integration, playlist management, adaptive cruise, etc puts them well behind their competition. In today’s rapidly moving world, this is competitively unacceptable.


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Will you Bluetooth in 2007?

Many technologies that apply to the cars and trucks we drive originate from auto racing – seat belts, rear view mirrors, and so on. One technology that has huge implications for every car, truck, SUV and Crossover doesn’t come from the world of motorsport. It comes from the tech sector. It’s called Bluetooth and for anyone who hasn’t learned about it, now is the time.
Bluetooth originated as a wireless method of syncing personal computers with other devices, such as a hand-held PDA or a printer. Its early uses were not all that successful. Toshiba put tremendous effort into Bluetooth in the late 1990s, but never utilized it in a manner that drew public acceptance.

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