Monthly Archives: August 2014

Subaru Shows Off Their New WRX

 Subaru wants to penetrate the market with their all new WRX.  Subaru hopes the redesigned WRX line will capture a wider customer base with better fuel economy and safety features after spinning off the nameplate from its Impreza stablemate.

The longer, roomier and sportier looking WRX went on sale in the U.S. in the spring and was released in Japan on Monday.

The performance car, long a staple of the rally circuits, already has a dedicated motor-fan following. But Subaru wants to cast a wider net with better fuel consumption and safety features, Takeshi Tachimori, executive vice president in charge of global marketing, said at the car’s home market debut.

“So far, the WRX was a very narrow, polarizing category, but we want to make it appeal to a wider customer base,” he said.

That’s one reason Subaru brand parent Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd., decided to make the WRX and tuner STI variant a standalone entry after long offering it as a sub-brand of the Impreza.

That, and the goal of strengthening Subaru’s sporty lineup.

The Japan and U.S. versions of the base WRX chug less gasoline thanks to a new 2.0-liter direct-injection engine mated to a continuously variable transmission or 6-speed manual.

And both variants get a more rigid bodies and chassis set-ups, replete with more use of high-tensile steel plating, to enhance control and crash-worthiness. It gets the same reinforced frame structure used in other models that passed the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test.

The Japan spec car also offers the latest version of Subaru’s trademark Eyesight camera-actuated pre-crash safety system, which delivers automatic braking and active lane keep assist.  With all of these new features, Subaru is trying to up their game and reach all new markets.

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GM Announces New Sedan From Cadillac

 “It’s time for a change.” General Motors global product chief Mark Reuss said that a large luxury sedan being developed for Cadillac will “define its brand” and is a prerequisite to competing against rivals BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.

“If we’re a serious luxury carmaker, it’s really important to us,” Reuss said at an event here Tuesday.

“This is a car that Cadillac needs, that will define its brand in terms of innovation and excellence,” Reuss told reporters. “That’s the mission.”

Cadillac’s chief engineer, Dave Leone, told Bloomberg last week that the rear-wheel drive sedan would arrive sometime in late 2015. It was the first time a GM official has publicly given a timeframe for the long-rumored sedan, codenamed LTS for now.

Reuss declined to discuss specifics but said Cadillac’s entry in the large luxury sedan segment “has got to be a symbol of excellence.”

Engineering mules of the sedan have been spotted recently being put through the paces at GM’s proving ground in Milford, Mich. It’s expected to ride on a new rwd platform and compete against the Mercedes-Benz S class, BMW 7 series and Audi A8.

Reuss downplayed Cadillac’s sluggish U.S. sales, which have fallen 2 percent this year through July, vs. 6 percent for the luxury market and 5 percent for all light vehicle.  Will Cadillac be able to bounce back from this  rapid decline?

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GM is Encouraged to Settle in Lawsuit

GM is currently in a lawsuit due to their massive recall.  A federal judge told lawyers on Monday he’ll encourage settlements in lawsuits brought on behalf of nearly 1,000 plaintiffs against General Motors for defective ignition switches.

U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman told dozens of lawyers at a hearing that he’ll be careful not to interfere with the work of a bankruptcy judge who is deciding if the Detroit-based automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy protects it from economic damages claims.

Furman said he wanted to be “sensitive about stepping on the toes” of the bankruptcy judge but planned to advance the litigation as much as possible nonetheless.

He made introductory remarks at an initial hearing after he was chosen to preside over more than 100 lawsuits that were consolidated in New York because of their common attributes. He said he planned “to encourage settlement as much as possible” once any potential payouts were better defined after rulings by the bankruptcy court.

Lawsuits were filed after General Motors Co. in February began recalling 2.6 million of the cars, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions. GM has acknowledged knowing that the switches in its small cars had problems since at least 2001. Federal law requires automakers to report safety defects to the government within five days of discovering them.

The ignition switches, when jostled, can shut off the engine, cutting power steering and brakes and potentially causing drivers to lose control. The problem also can disable air bags.

GM says at least 13 people have died in 54 crashes linked to the problem, while lawyers suing the company say the death toll is more than 60.

In May, federal safety regulators ordered General Motors to pay a record $35 million fine for failing to disclose the ignition switch defect in millions of cars for more than a decade.

GM attorney Richard C. Godfrey told Furman that 983 plaintiffs had filed 109 lawsuits, with about a dozen of the lawsuits making personal-injury claims while the rest were solely for economic losses.

Owners of the 2.6 million small cars that were recalled are eligible for compensation from a fund being administered by compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg on GM’s behalf. Feinberg, who handled claims for the BP Gulf Oil Spill and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has said GM has placed no limit on the amount of money he can spend to compensate anyone who was injured or killed.    How GM handles this may be the industry standard, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

 

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Why Are Lamborghini’s so Iconic? It’s The Doors

Lamborghini’s are all over the world but finding a good Lamborghini Countach in British Columbia isn’t easy. Even in supercar-crazy Vancouver there’s maybe a half-dozen total, and most for-sale examples are in the southern U.S, says Jeff Dow.  With so few available, when Dow found a red ’84 up for grabs in Calgary seven years ago, he had to have it.

“For me, it was the first car that fit the definition of ‘exotic,’” he says. Wherever Dow drives, people comment on it—and smile when its ‘scissor doors’ flip up. “When it came out, I don’t think any other car had anything besides regular doors, other than maybe the ‘gullwing’ and the Kaiser-Darrin,” Dow says.

“Not only was the Countach a big wedge with a huge V12 engine right behind your ear, but on top of that, you flip the latch and the door scissors up. It’s a defining feature.”

The scissor doors: then

In October 1968 stylist Marcello Gandini of design studio Bertone introduced the world to a new way to open car doors: upward and forward.

His Tipo 33 Carabo stole the spotlight at the Paris Motor Show that year with its scissor-style doors, which Gandini incorporated to help clear the wide door sills of the Alfa Romeo racecar the Carabo concept car was based on.

When shortly after he was tapped by Lamborghini to work on Project 112, the Countach LP500 prototype, Gandini again went with scissor doors to work around that car’s space-frame-style chassis.

They helped make the car a hit at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show, but posed some problems during development.

The opening mechanism was simple enough: a single gas strut forced the doors to swing upward just more than 45 degrees to open 80 inches. But by autumn 1973, engineers gave up on trying to build a traditional two-piece side window into the door – they found it kept shattering – and went with a three-piece configuration instead.

The production LP400 bowed in 1974, and looked largely liked the prototype (though the NACA-style ducts in the doors were now painted black). Almost immediately the unique design of the doors made for some interesting owner experiences.

“It took a while to figure out the easiest way to get in and out,” explains Dow. “Personally I just slide in backwards, put my ass in the seat, then swing my legs in, and vice-versa getting out.”

The car’s poor rearward visibility, combined with those wide door sills, also led many drivers to try a new way of reversing into a parking spot: by opening the door, sitting on the sill, and looking backward over the top of the car’s rear.

By the time its successor, the Diablo, came out in 1990, the Countach and its scissor doors were already an icon. Including the scissor doors on the new offering cemented their status as a trademark Lamborghini design feature, and helped ensure that from then on they would widely be known as “Lambo doors.”

The Diablo’s one-piece, electrically powered side windows were a major improvement, and the door opening was slightly larger, too. In 2001, when the Murcielago debuted, it, too, featured scissor doors that opened even wider, as well as a 25-mm lower door sill.

The scissor doors: now

Though they’re universally referred to as “Lambo doors,” today you can find aftermarket-fitted scissor doors on everything from Plymouth Prowlers to Volvo station wagons to Geo Metro hatchbacks.

Several supercar rivals have adopted similar “vertical lift system” or “jack-knife” doors, too, but still nobody does it like Lamborghini.

“For us, the [scissor] door is something very important, very unique; in other cars, it works in a different way. We have a tradition with it,” says Filippo Perini, Lamborghini’s chief of design since 2004.

On the brand’s new Aventador, the doors open not just upward, but also outward slightly, to allow them to better seal shut, reducing road noise. Outside of engineering that change, the doors posed almost no design problems—almost.

“The only problem you face designing a car with doors like this is it is immediately compared to the Countach, and that does not make us comfortable as designers, because we have to do something better,” Perini chuckles.

“We are not allowed to do just a beautiful design—we have to do iconic design.”

The Aventador’s sharp creases and planar surfaces were very much inspired by modern stealth fighter aircraft, Perini says, and the doors fit that theme as well since they flip forward like a jet canopy.  What will the next generation Lamborghini’s look like?

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