Category Archive:

LA Auto Show – Maserati MC-12

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Maserati Teases Auto Press With MC-12
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers dutifully attended the Maserati press conference, but you get the feeling that Maserati executives felt compelled to have a press conference at the 2006 (2006.5?) Los Angeles Auto Show. With a full 30% of Maserati’s US Sales coming from California, we would have expected more
While little news was shared, the press did have the opportunity to view a street version of the MC-12. The vehicle $1.5 million vehicle was provided by the Riverside Automotive Museum, which gives you the sense that it is more of a “piece” than a machine. US sales of 14 units are testament to its rarity… in fact, is it a real car?
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LA Auto Show – Acura Advanced Sedan Concept

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Honda‘s design facility in Torrance, California, has developed much of Acura‘s current lineup, including the TL, MDX, and RDX. And as Acura moves forward to become a global brand instead of only a North American one, Honda opens an Acura advance design studio in Pasadena, California, in 2007. It was that team that brought us the Advanced Sedan Concept at this November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and the studio that will be responsible for Acura’s future design. The Advanced Sedan Concept is the first look at some of the studio’s thinking.
ASC: A Controversial and Amateurish Cartoon of an Acura Flagship
The Advanced Sedan Concept is a possible direction for “the biggest and baddest luxury/performance sedan we could possibly” build, according to head of the new Advanced Design Studio Dave Marek. No specifications were given for this pure design study, which did not have a finished interior or running gear, but its proportions indicated a possible front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As a dream of a car that maybe twelve years from now could rival Bentley or Maybach for presence as well as performance, a rear-drive orientation is the one expected by those buyers.

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Though the most controversial design execution at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Acura ASC lacks maturity needed for a range-topping flagship. Even though it hints at an urgently needed rear-wheel-drive V8-powered platform that could propel Acura into the top tier of luxury brands along with Lexus and Infiniti, the design cues are amateurish at best. The grille is almost cartoonish. Perhaps Acura designers have overcompensated for past milquetoast efforts here.
In fact, this concept could be qualified to appear in the VehicleVoice “What Were They Thinking?” category.
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LA Auto Show – 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe – Reveal

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The introduction of a new coupe is usually a controversial affair. We struggled whether to include the new 2008 Altima Coupe in the VehicleVoice “What Were They Thinking?” category and here is why…

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1. Coupes are a struggling bodystyle.
Coupe sales have been deteriorating for years and only when there are really significant new entries does the sales in the segment spike. Mustang is the big dog and even though the Altima Coupe is officially a “Premium Mid-Size Coupe” sales will not be robust.
2. Altima Coupe is a me too. Maybe Nissan has extra investment dollars in the kitty that they can spin off a highly differentiated bodystyle off the Altima. No big deal. Not too expensive. But the Altima Coupe follows the Honda Accord Coupe and the Toyota Camry Solara Coupe and Convertible. In the future we can also expect a coupe from the Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan.
So, not much original thinking here.
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3. Coupes are package-challenged sedans. Once upon a time General Motors decided that a coupe should have a shorter wheelbase than a sedan. Looks sportier, you see. (Note the Pontiac G6 sedan and coupe have identical wheelbases). So, the Altima Coupe has worse ingress/egress, worse visibility and worse headroom. What’s good about that. Well, I guess you can argue that it looks sexier.
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4. Coupes are ego cars for management. Think about it. Auto designers always are the most proud of the coupes and sporty cars they have designed than of great sedans. More sex appeal. “Let’s design a car that a young guy would really like to buy. He doesn’t care if he can get into it, or out of it, or can see out of it. He just cares about style.” Car company management lusts to have the development of a successful coupe on their resume.
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With that anti-coupe flailing around, assuming that a coupe is OK, the 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe is a worthy competitor. The style behind the B-Pillar is what counts and Altima’s stylists have done an outstanding job. The resulting style has familiar Nissan coupe cues found on the Z-Car and the Infiniti G35. If they had to do it, this is a good job.
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2007 Ford Expedition Falls Short In Several Areas

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As a completely biased Expedition driver, I feel it is important to comment on some of the design features on the new 2007 Ford Expedition that fall short. In fact, these are designs that fall into the category of “What Were They Thinking?”.

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Four Expeditions Over the Years
First a little history. I have had four Expeditions since 1997 – 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003. Each was on a two-year lease and performed great. All were 4x2s – two-wheel drive. Don’t need 4×4 in California. The first three Expeditions were the from the initial platform and the 2003 was all new with independent rear suspension and the power fold flat third row seat. In the first three, the first thing I did was remove the third row seat and stow it in the garage. The 2003 (and current) solution is so slick that every Mid-Size and Large SUV should adopt it.
Why didn’t I get a fifth Expedition? Well, even though I thought the Expeditions were exactly what I needed, I couldn’t bring myself to get another (or even a Lincoln Navigator). So, I leased a CAR and missed my SUV for the two years I had it.
2007 Expedition Limited 4×4 = $39,925 base MSRP
Ford was good enough to give us a 2007 Expedition Limited. This is the model with the body color grille and chrome wheels. The MSRP is $48,485 equipped with moonroof, reverse sensing system, navigation system, satellite ratio, power liftgate, rear entertainment system and load leveling suspension. So, what’s not to like? Here you have the ultimate Expedition with all the boxes checked. Should be perfect.


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Crystal Cove Concours Kaput – Goodbye Croissant Derelicts!

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Today marks the final Saturday morning Crystal Cove mini concours in Newport Beach. Starting at 0700 each Saturday morning for years, Crystal Cove has become the spot for car owners and enthusiasts to gather over coffee and donuts on Saturdays. Unlike Donut Derelicts up Pacific Coast Highway that has a hot rod flavor, Crystal Cove had a exotic car flavor even though there were a few hot rods and classics thrown in. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents and many local auto industry folks were on hand to bid farewell.

Irvine Company Crushes Crystal Cove Car Event

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Seen here is Barry Meguiar of Meguiar Waxes and Freeman Thomas of Ford. Meguiar is explaining what has gone on concerning the weekly Crystal Cove event. He describes typical Irvine Company “gestapo tactics” in shutting down the event. An approach to local upscale mall – Fashion Island – led Irvine Company to warn the retailers there not to discuss holding the event at Fashion Island.
What were the reasons for kicking the event out? Apparently there was too much traffic congestion. The Newport Beach Police said traffic was not a particular problem. The cars were too high performance and unsafe at speed. Newport Beach Police said that they had not given out an extraordinary number of tickets before, during or after the event for the years it has been held. And finally, the local residents complained of noise and congestion. Heck, the local residents were some of primary participants.
The event was over each Saturday at 9AM a full hour before the retail stores in the upscale Crystal Cove strip mall where there is a Starbucks, nice pastry shop and Trader Joes. The Starbucks and pastry shop will sorely miss the Saturday morning crowds – business they wouldn’t get otherwise.
Ford to the Rescue
Ford circulated flyers at the final Crystal Cove event and opened their Premier Automotive Group and Mazda Campus to the Crystal Cove enthusiasts. PAG and Mazda is adjacent to the Irvine Spectrum – another upscale shopping area, but without the oceanside ambiance of Crystal Cove. The Ford venue promises to be more spacious and more inviting… but I think it is on Irvine land as well.


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Lincoln Resurrects Town Car – For Awhile

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As part of Ford’s semi-annual Way Forward plan, Ford announced that they will not cancel the venerable Lincoln Town Car after all. They made the sensible decision to move the Town Car from its decades-old home of Wixom, Michigan to the Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis Plant in St. Thomas, Ontario.

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You can see what we at VehicleVoice think/thought of Ford’s plans for Lincoln in our Lincoln commits suicide blog of August 24, 2006.
Keeping the Town Car around helps Ford’s revenue picture, keeps the livery business happy and increases the utilization of the St. Thomas plant (where Ford just dropped one of two shifts). Apparently, the transition from Wixom to St. Thomas is not as easy as many believed. There will have to be some substantial changes to the cars to accommodate all three on the same line.


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Cadillac CTS – Speedometer Challenges

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OK, from a product planner’s perspective, VehicleVocie can figure out how this happened with the Cadillac CTS speedo in Britain, but it’s hard to believe for a car that has a claimed top speed of 145MPH from its 3.6L 257HP V6.

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Didn’t feel like the V6 would go 260 MPH!
What are your thoughts?


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Lincoln Commits Suicide – Brand R.I.P.

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Ford has all but guaranteed the demise of its luxury Lincoln brand through a series of strategy, marketing and product blunders not recently seen in the American car industry. In effect, Ford has forced Lincoln’s suicide. While we would like to write the epitaph now, Lincoln’s death seems like a long, slow, painful trauma that will provide fodder for the business press for the next decade. VehicleVoice counts the various ways Lincoln has been killing itself over the past couple of years.
Working backward:

Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Stomach by Cancelling V8 engine on 2009 Lincoln MKS (pronounced Em Kay Ess, not Mark S):
This guarantees Lincoln will no longer be a luxury brand but a premium brand like Acura or Buick. Maybe the MKS will be an OK car, but with AWD and only a 260-plus horsepower V6 it can, at best, be an “almost-Acura-RL” which is off-concept at best. Even rumors of a range topping Twin-Turbo V6 with well over 300 horsepower will not offset the lack of the needed V8.
Lincoln Shoots Itself in the Shoulder by Cancelling the Lincoln Town Car: The Lincoln Town Car has not pretended to be at the top of the luxury car heap for decades, but with few improvements over the years, Town Car devolved into the Executive Car loved by livery buyers. Few Town Car sales were for personal use. So Ford allowed the Town Car to deteriorate from any Luxury Car pretenses it may have had, and become a luxurious black taxi driven by cabbies with ties. Just think what Ford could have achieved if they had implemented a major major change on the rear wheel drive Panther platform. New Town Car, New Grand Marquis, New Crown Vic… all built in Canada. Now, put in the 300HP 4.6L V8 and you could have a something to talk about


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Tiguan: Volkswagen Small SUV

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Just how do you pronounce a fake word?
It seems that after more than 100 years of building automobiles, the industry gets ever-more clever (or desperate) to find names for the proliferation of new models. And while an excellent product can overcome a bad name, a difficult or unfamiliar name can make getting the message across to potential new buyers more difficult. The latest new name announcement has come from Volkswagen. The name Tiguan will be proudly worn on an upcoming small SUV due to be found at VW dealers worldwide in 2008.

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Looking to readers of the German magazine AutoBild to help make the final decision, the upcoming small SUV from VW will be called Tiguan. This is, according to a press release from VW, a name made up by VW Marketing and that will be associated with travel, adventure, and excitement.
Maybe Tiguan Sounds Good in German
We’re not sure it sounds exotic as VW claims and wish VW would have included a pronunciation key with the release. Maybe it sounds great in German, but how does it sound in English? We also wonder how exotic this name will sound being slaughtered by people all over the world making their best guess. Touareg required educating buyers and potential buyers on how to say it, but at least Touareg is an actual word.
More than 350,000 readers weighed in on the name choice, and VW reports that Tiguan received a clear majority of the votes. The names that lost were Nanuk, Namib, Rockton, and Samun. While Nanuk is a variation of the Inuit name for a polar bear (first spelled nanuq and nanook), Namib is a real word (a desert in Namibia), and there is at least one U.S. city named Rockton, Tiguan and Samun are made-up words. Though the readers polled presumably would claim German as their first language and may disagree, to us Tiguan looks the most difficult of the choices to pronounce. At one point, it was said that VW was considering calling this the Beduin. Here at AutoPacific and VehicleVoice, we’re of the opinion that Beduin is far better than any of the five options.
And how excited can you be about a car that you have to teach all your friends how to say? Buyers will get to make that choice in a few years, but what do you think?
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The look of the small SUV was previewed at the 2006 Geneva auto show, in the Concept A.


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BMW M6 Cabriolet – A Softtop Convertible?

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In spring 2006, BMW‘s M6 coupe finally went on sale in the States. It was formally introduced at the Los Angeles auto show (click for our coverage from January). Just yesterday, BMW released the photos of the M6 Cabrio (perhaps in part because someone had already leaked them). Whatever the strategy behind their release, VehicleVoice is ready to bring them to your attention. As of this writing, BMW USA had not added the M6 convertible to their web site, but a terrific, though broadband-intensive, overview can be found on BMW’s international consumer website.
COUNTERPOINT
Yeah, we love the way the cabrio looks with the top down, but BMW’s rationale eschewing a retractable hardtop for a softtop just does not hold water. Every, and I mean EVERY, modern cabriolet should have a retractable hardtop. This improves creature comforts and yields two cars – a coupe and cabriolet – for a slight premium price over a single coupe or cab. Additionally, I read about the 279 suspension settings available… this means that there is every setting available EXCEPT GOOD. I’ll spend my money on something much less complicated.
Writing ten months later in April 2007 we note with some satisfaction that the BMW 3-Series Cabriolet has now become a retractable hardtop. Great move.
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Aside from the coupe’s carbon-fibre roof versus the Cabrio’s soft top, there are no significant differences between the M6 coupe and convertible. Both get the 500HP 5.5L V10 and seven-speed sequential manual gearbox introduced in the latest M5. The M6 convertible even offers the same lightweight nineteen-inch wheels as the coupe. Convertible buyers do not have to give up the DriveLogic program and its three engine output programs, the M Drive system that helps manage the possible 279 DriveLogic and suspension settings, the M Differential lock, the new-generation Dynamic Stability Control, the Electronic Damper Control, or the a hill detection that adjusts the transmission’s up- and downshifts when on hills or steep grades.
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Exterior cues warning you the M6 Cabrio is about to (or just did) overtake you are just as subtle as those on the coupe, including a larger front air intake, the new rear diffuser surrounding the four exhaust pipes, sculpted side sills, M-style mirrors, the M logo in the ornamental side slats, and the M6 badge on the decklid.
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