January 2010 Archives

Toyota Planning New G's Performance Division

At the Tokyo Auto Salon, Toyota showed off a range of future and current models in sportier clothes and with performance enhancements as well. These cars wore a G's logo with the words "Toyota G Sports" written underneath. The most notable car at the show was the FT-86 G Sports Concept.

The G's division is a new division for Toyota that is similar pother OEM tuner divisions like Mercedes' AMG and BMW's M. The new division will start showing up in mid-2010 and will consist of complete conversions of Toyota's existing products. The main difference that Toyota's division will have compared to AMG and BMW's M is that customers will have more freedom to choose the level of tweaks to their vehicles.

VW also announced plans this week to create a new sport division, dubbed R GmbH.

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept Gets the Green Light

A senior BMW authority out of Munich recently told Inside Line that the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics plug-in pure hybrid 2+2 concept car is a go.

The concept that was unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show is powered by a 163-hp 1.5L 3-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and two electric-motors for a total 356-horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. The reaction to the concept has been off the charts since it was unveiled. Currently BMW engineers are working on the hybrid system to make it more thrilling to drive. The production model should be faster than the 4.8 sec 0-62 mph time.

BMW is currently debating on how many will be built, but it should range between 5,000-10,000 units.

Honda Recalls 646,000 Fit/ Jazz Cars

Not quite as big or as scary as Toyota's recent recall, but still significant, Honda has announced a recall of 646,000 Honda Fit/ Jazz cars to fix a faulty window switch.

The recall involves a defective master switch, which could cause water to enter the window switch, which can lead to a fire. The recall comes after a child died when fire broke out in a car last year.

Honda is recalling 140,000 Fits in the U.S. and also includes vehicles in North America, South America, Europe, South Africa and Asia, but not Japan.

Geneva 10' Preview: Alfa Romeo Based Pininfarina Concept

Pininfarina has released a teaser sketch of a new Alfa Romeo based spider convertible concept that will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. The two-seater is meant to commemorate Pininfarina's 80th anniversary and at the same time a homage to the Alfa Romeo 100th birthday.

This is reportedly the first of three concepts that Alfa Romeo commissioned for the show.

2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is Starts at $61,925

BMW has announced the pricing for the 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is, which is the most powerful Z4 currently available and it starts at $61,925.

The Z4 sDrive35is is powered by BMW's twin-turbocharged six-cylinder with 335 hp and 332 lb-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a 7-speed Double-Clutch automatic transmission. The Z4 sDrive35is is capable of reaching 0-60 in 4.7 seconds and n electronically controlled top speed of 155 mph.

In addition to the upgrades under the hood the Z4 sDrive35is also gets M Sport upgrades such as M Aerodynamics and adaptive M Suspension. The M Suspension lowers the car 10 millimeters.

If this is too much for you the lesser powered Z4 sDrive35i starts at $52,775.

New Entry Level Porsche Sorta Confirmed by VW Chairman

Martin Winterkorn, VW Group chairman gave Autocar the first official confirmation that Porsche is considering a new entry-level model.

"The Porsche model range is firmly based on the 911, Boxster, Cayenne and Cayman, and it will stay that way. We are also investigating opportunities for a smaller sports car and a smaller SUV - but I cannot say more at the moment."

Winterkorn went on to state that Porsche does not "waste our effort." So it's very likely that Porsche will introduce a new smaller sports car and SUV. Some insiders are referring to the new model as the 356. Although it will be smaller than the current Boxster, it will not be a bargain basement model with a cheap price. According to Autocar if it is given the green might it will have a price tag around £33,000.

The 356 is expected to be based on the same platform that Audi is currently developing for the new R4 mid-engined sports car and the VW Bluesport concept. The Audi R4 is expected to be introduced in the summer of 2011, but the Porsche version, which will be significantly different wouldn't be released until late 2012.

If this is all true, the Boxster and Cayman models are expected to move upmarket to make room for the new smaller sports coupe.

BMW is slowly announcing the updates to its range for the 2011 model year. The announcements have already been made for the 1, 3 and 5 Series models. Now it the X6 is next. The 2011 X6 is going to be powered by the new N55 twin-scroll single-turbo six-cylinder engine mated to an also new eight-speed automatic transmission. In the X6 xDrive35i the engine puts out 306 horsepower. The V8 powered xDrive50i is still powered by the same 4.4L V8. The xDrive35i is capable of reaching 0-62 mph in 6.7 seconds, while the xDrive50i does it in 5.4. Fuel efficiency should improve on both models thanks to the new eight-speed automatic.

The updated X6 is expected in Europe in April, with US deliveries sometime after that.

Toyota Recalls Another 1.1 Million Vehicles

Toyota has announced that it is including another 1.1 million vehicles connected to pedal entrapment problems. Tuesday, Toyota announced that it would suspend sales of eight of its models that account for 60 percent of its sales until a solution was found.

The vehicles added to the list are:

2008-2010 Highlander
2009-2010 Corolla
2009-2010 Venza
2009-2010 Matrix
2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe

This announcement brings the total to 5.35 million vehicles being recalled due to this issue.

VW to Launch New R Performance Division

During a drive event in the Austrian Alps a VW spokesperson revealed that VW is going to launch a new performance division, R GmbH.

Inside Line was told "BMW has its M, Mercedes has AMG, and our sibling Audi has Quattro. This new R division will be our Quattro." R GmbH is an expanded version of the Europe-market VW Individual, which offers aftermarket items for VW owners to make their cars sportier.

The CC R-Line was recently shown at the Detroit Auto Show to gauge interest, but it's not known if it will be offered in North America. Eventually a R version of every vehicle in VW's showroom will be available. The 266-hp Golf R is rumored to be heading to the US in early 2011.

Carlsson to Premier 753 Horsepower C25 Super-GT in Geneva

Carlsson has announced plans to unveil the 753 horsepower C25 Super-GT at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The C 25 Super-GT is a heavily revised version of the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series. The 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 puts out an insane 753-hp and 848 lb-ft.of torque. According to Carlsson the engine could technically put out as much as 996 lb-ft, but they had to electronically limit it. Thanks to all that power the C25 reaches 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds and a 219 mph top speed.

If all that sounds great to you and you can actually afford it, the chances of you actually getting it are pretty much not going to happen. Carlsson is building 25 units, with only one unit per country. Yes that means that only one lucky and very rich buyer will be able to buy it in the US. Hope you know him...

Saab 9-5 Coming Next Quarter

Now that Saab has been officially saved we can look forward to the introduction of the all-new 9-5 and 9-4X crossover.

"I'm happy for Saab employees and Saab customers all over the world," said John Smith, GM vice president, global planning and alliances.

The 9-5 is going to enter production in April with US sales starting shortly after that. According to Smith the 9-4X, which is based on the same platform as the Cadillac SRX will also enter production soon.

The deal that was announced yesterday netted GM $74 million in cash from new parent Spyker and about $326 million worth of preferred stock. The preferred shares are not redeemable until after 2013. Part of the deal also involves GM producing powertrains and other support for the Saab vehicles.

According to Autocar the next-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is set to gain a plug-in hybrid system in place of the turbocharged setup it currently uses. The Evo XI will use the same platform as the PX-MiEV plug-in hybrid concept.

A plug-in hybrid Evo means that the car will be powered by a 2.0L naturally-aspirated engine mated to an electric motor with lithium-ion batteries. The electric motor will power the front wheels, while the gas engine will send its power to the rear. The car will give drivers the option of driving in electric only mode for short distances.

A Mitsubishi insider told Autocar, "The new electric motor will in effect work like a turbo, only smoother, so there's no need to worry about power delivery."

Honda to Unveil Next Odyssey Minivan in Concept Form in Chicago

Honda has announced that the we will get a preview of the fourth generation Honda Odyssey at the Chicago Auto Show next month. The current Odyssey was the best selling minivan in 2008 and 2009.

Honda claims that the next Odyssey will "further enhance its hallmark qualities of innovation, quality, safety and fun-to-drive character while increasing its overall efficiency."

The fourth generation 2011 Odyssey will likely be introduced by the end of the year.

(2010 model pictured here)

Geely Could Buy Volvo for as Much as $1.8 Billion

It looks like GM has finally come to an agreement with Spyker to purchase Saab, but don't forget about Volvo. Ford is still currently finalizing a deal wtih China's Geely to buy Volvo. According to the latest rumors the deal could be worth as much as $1.8 billion or as little as $1.6. In 1999 Ford purchased Volvo for $6.45 billion.

Late last year, Ford announced that it had achieved an accord with Geely Holding Group, but the deal is still subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2010.

Part of the plan involves Geely building a Volvo factory in China. Analysts predict that the Volvo XC60 crossover will be the first model produced in China.

Toyota has officially halted sales of eight models due to the ongoing problems with unattended acceleration. At the end of last year Toyota recalled almost four million vehicles due a problem with floormats getting trapped under the accelerator pedals, which also caused unintended acceleration, leading to vehicle crashes and fatalities. It looks like these two issues are apparently unrelated.

Toyota has stopped selling the:

2009-2010 RAV4,
2009-2010 Corolla,
2009-2010 Matrix,
2005-2010 Avalon,
Certain 2007-2010 Camry,
2010 Highlander,
2007-2010 Tundra,
2008-2010 Sequoia

No Lexus or Scion models are included in this announcement. DUe to the sales suspension Toyota is also expected to stop production lines where the effected vehicles are produced during the week of February 1st.

"Helping ensure the safety of our customers and restoring confidence in Toyota are very important to our company," said Group Vice President and Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter. "This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized. We're making every effort to address this situation for our customers as quickly as possible."

Saab Saved! GM Reaches a Deal to Sell the Brand to Spyker

After so much back and forth, GM has officially announced that the automaker has reached an agreement with Spyker concerning the sale of Saab Automobile AB.

"Today's announcement is great news for Saab employees, dealers and suppliers, great news for millions of Saab customers and fans worldwide, and great news for GM," said John Smith, GM vice president for corporate planning and alliances. "General Motors, Spyker Cars, and the Swedish government worked very hard and creatively for a deal that would secure a sustainable future for this unique and iconic brand, and we're all happy for the positive outcome."

Part of the new agreement is that Spyker will form a new company, Saab Spyker Automobiles. GM hasn't announced all the details of the agreement, but its been released that GM will get $74 million in cash while the European Investment Bank will provide a 400 million euro loan ($566 million). GM will retain preferred shares worth about $326 million in Saab.

Spyker's chairman, Vladimir Antonov, has also agreed to step down as part of the agreement.

Toyota Expects its Sales to Rise 6 Percent in 2010

Toyota expects its sales to grow six percent in 2010 as the auto industry recovers from its worst ever downturn. Toyota is forecasting sales of 8.27 million vehicles in 2010, which is still down from the record 9.37 million units it sold in 2007.

"All in all, it's probably an achievable target," said Christopher Richter, auto analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.

Excluding sales of Daihatsu and Hino, Toyota expects its worldwide sales to total 7.4 million, up 6 percent. Toyota expects sales in Japan to increase by 9 percent to 1.5 million vehicles, largely due to Japan's own "Cash for Clunkers" program that has been extended six months to the end of September. Sales in the US and China are also expected to rise this year.

Lamborghini Switches Focus from Horsepower to Losing Weight

It looks like Lamborghini is satisfied with current horsepower ratings of its supercars and going forward the automaker is going to focus on reducing weight.

"It has come to the point where acceleration equals consumption," said Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of the Italian automaker. "More consumption means increased CO2 emissions."

According to Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini's R&D chief, stated that once a vehicle reaches a top speed of 211 mph there is a declining rate of return for each additional horsepower needed to push the car faster. Additionally there are very few places in the world that a driver would be able to drive a car over 200 mph, so Lamborghini is going to shift its focus to acceleration instead of top speed. The most effective way to improve acceleration is to reduce weight.

"The weight-to-power ratio will be the key factor," Reggiani said. "We will use composite materials in the right place, when it also has the right cost, stiffness and mechanical characteristics."

The updated version of the Murcielago LP670-4 SV now has 30 more horsepower for a total of 670, a 0-62 mph time of 3.2 seconds and is 220 pounds lighter.

"No one can really tell 30 horsepower was added, but everyone can feel how much lighter the car is," Reggiani said.

Ford's Chicago Plant to Add 1,200 Jobs to Build the 2011 Explorer

Ford is expected to add 1,200 jobs at its plant in Chicago that will start building the new Explorer by the end of the year. Currently the Explorer is being built at Ford's Louisville, Ky plant.

The Chicago plant has been underutilized the past year, but by shifting the Explorer production will likely add a second shift. Currently the factory employs 1,400 workers. Currently the plant produces the Taurus.

The next-gen Explorer is expected to be smaller and more fuel-efficient as it switches to a unibody platform. The final styling is expected to be based on the Ford Explorer America concept that was unveiled in 2008.

VW Passat CC Now Seats Five

VW has announced that the Passat CC will be available as a five passenger model in Europe. Since it launched the Passat CC, known as just the VW CC in the US has strictly been a four-seater. A new three place, rear bench is now optional. VW hasn't announced if the CC will get this option in the US.

The new rear bench fulfils all necessary safety aspects with its third head restraint and three-point seat belt at the centre position," Volkswagen said in a statement. "In addition, the folding backrest is asymmetrically split, so that even larger objects can be transported effortlessly. The 3-seat rear bench system is available as an option for 100 euros."

Fiat to Merge Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Abarth Brands

According to the latest reports, Fiat is going to merge the Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Abarth brands under one sport sub brand. Abarth and Maserati CEO Harald Wester has been appointed by Fiat as CEO of Alfa Romeo and will now head the three brands. Wester's new role will be to identify synergies between the three brands.

Currently his greatest challenge is going to be to fix Alfa Romeo. Fiat is currently undergoing a strategic review of Alfa Romeo. There are two options that Fiat could take, one is to freeze all development of new models and just focus on selling the MiTo and upcoming Giulietta; the other option is to share platforms with Chrysler for the 159 and 166 replacements.

At the Detroit motor show, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne told Autocar that several options were still available for Alfa.

"Alfa has been underperforming for a long time," he said. "It has been the most difficult part of Fiat's recovery, even though on paper it looks so attractive. The marque isn't for sale, or anything like that.

"It's our problem. But we do have to rethink our objectives and be realistic with ourselves before we do anything else.

"First, I want to see how well we do launching the Giulietta. From the technical point of view it's a huge step forward, but I want to see how it fares. And I want to see how we can take advantage of that through the company."

2011 Volvo C70 Starts at $39,950, but Gets more Standard Stuff

Volvo has released the pricing for the refreshed 2011 Volvo C70. The Volvo C70 hasn't been a huge hit for Volvo, so the 2011 model is getting a facelift and more standard features to hopefully entice more buyers.

The 2011 C70 gets a revised face that looks similar to the XC60 and new C30. The pricing starts at $39,950 and includes standard features like an automatic 5-speed transmission, SIRIUS satellite radio and luxurious Sovereign Hide leather upholstery.

The 2011 C70 is powered by a 227 horsepower turbocharged five-cylinder engine.

The Ford Mustang got all-new engines for the 2011 model year and next up for Ford's ponycar is the 2014 model year. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Mustang and according to Motor Trend, Ford aims to have an all-new pony car to celebrate it.

The big challenge facing Ford's product planners is how are they going to build the next Mustang. CEO Alan Mulally's "One Ford" theme insists that vehicles cannot be built unique to one country. Ford's original plan was for the Mustang to be apart of the global rear wheel drive platform which would have also been the basis for the next generation Australian Ford Falcon, and possibly a new flagship sedan for Lincoln. But the next-generation Falcon isn't going to happen due to slow sales.

Either way a source insists that the next Mustang will have an independent rear suspension. Ford's planners are apparently looking at three different possibilities for the next Mustang: an evolution of the current model with a continued focus on the 412-hp 5.0L V8 as the halo engine; an M3-style car with a turbocharged V6 for markets outside the US, like Europe; or to transform the Mustang into ultra-high performance coupe like the Nissan GT-R.

Kia Ray Plug-In Hybrid Concept to be Unveiled in Chicago

Kia has released a teaser image of the Ray plug-in hybrid concept that will be unveiled next month at the Chicago Auto Show.

"Styled by the team at Kia Design Centre America, the Kia Ray project was undertaken to demonstrate how Kia's evolving design direction would be applied in the packaging of a plug-in hybrid vehicle," Kia said in a statement. 'The actual car will form the centre-piece of the Kia Motors America display at Chicago and the vehicle will contribute to Kia's on-going development of alternative-fuel vehicles."

2011 Buick Regal Starts at $26,995

GM has announced the pricing for the 2011 Buick Regal. The 2011 Buick Regal is going to start at $26,995 for the Regal CXL that is powered by the 182-hp 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine. The CXL will be the only trim offered for the 2011 model year with others going to be added for 2012. The Regal's CXL turbo model will start at $29,495 and is powered by a turbocharged 220-hp 2.0L engine. The turbo model will be available late-summer 2010. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic. The 2.4L gets 30 mpg on the highway, while the 2.0L gets 29 mpg.

"The Regal is the next chapter in Buick's transformation and we're excited to bring this Buick sport sedan to market," said Craig Bierley, Buick Marketing Director. "The dynamic driving experience and intuitive, personal technologies offer customers a premium sport sedan for great value."

Audi Halts A3 Production Due to Low Demand

Audi is going to halt production in February of the A3 at its plant in Ingolstadt, Germany, due to slow sales. Audi claims that demand has slowed since the car has been on the market since 2004. The US is set to get a sedan version of the A3 this fall that will sell alongside the Sportback.

2011 BMW 335is Photos Leaked

BMW has changes in store for the 2011 3 Series Coupe and Convertible. The changes to the 328i and 335i have already been announced with the 335i getting a new single turbocharged inline-six compared to this years twin-turbocharged engine. For those of you who still want the twin-turbocharged engine, BMW is going to offer the 335is.

The 335is has yet to be announced, but of course lots of info and now photos have leaked. The twin-turbocharged 335is is expected to put out about 322 horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque. The engine can be mated to either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The 335is, which is only available as the coupe or convertible gets the M-Sport Appearance package, a blacked-out grille, darkened mirrors and a revised suspension.

The official details are expected soon.

2011 MINI Countryman US-Spec Details Revealed

Earlier today, BMW released the official European specs for the 2011 MINI Countryman and now we have the US-spec details for MINI's new crossover.

The MINI Countryman is set to go on sale in Europe by the end of 2010, but the US won't get it until early 2011. In the US it will be powered by either a 120-hp 1.6L or a turbocharged 1.6L with at least 180 horsepower. The turbocharged MINI Cooper S Countryman will reach 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds while it takes the MINI Cooper Countryman 10.5 seconds. Both models can be mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Mini's ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is only available on the MINI Cooper S Countryman.

Maserati Prices the 2010 GranTurismo Convertible at $135,800

Maserati North America has released the pricing for the 2010 GranTurismo Convertible aka GranCabrio. It may be freezing in most parts of the country right now, but once summer hits you'll have one hot car.

The 2010 GranTurismo Convertible starts at $135,800 and is powered by a 433 horsepower 4.7 liter V8 engine mated to a six-speed adaptive automatic transmission with standard paddle shifters. It features a triple insulated top, which maintains the same roofline as the coupe. The top is available in six different colors and retracts in 24 seconds.

2011 MINI Countryman Officially Unveiled

Yesterday the first official photos of MINI's new crossover, the Countryman leaked onto the web and now the automaker has responded with a full release.

In Europe the MINI Countryman will be available with a choice of three gas and two diesel engines ranging from 90-hp to the turbocharged 184-hp Cooper S Countryman. MINI's permanent ALL4 all-wheel drive system is optional.

It's not known if MINI's crossover will retain the same name when it is officially unveiled in the US.

Geneva 10' Preview: Redesigned 2011 Mazda5 Debuts

Mazda has officially unveiled the redesigned 2011 Mazda5, which will have its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The 2011 Mazda5 gets Mazda's dynamic and elegant Nagare design treatment with a front end that looks similar to the Mazda3. In Europe the Mazda5 will emit 15 percent less CO2 than the current model thanks to Mazda's "i-stop" idling stop system, a direct injection gasoline engine and other technologies. Mazda also claims that it now has a sportier and smoother ride than the current generation. The Mazda5 can be powered by either a 1.8L gasoline engine or a 2.0L direct-injection gasoline engine.

The 2011 Mazda5 will go on sale this fall in Europe, it hasn't been announced when the US will receive it.

It's quite obvious after its unveiling at the Detroit Auto Show this month, the media is largely disappointed with the Honda CR-Z. Ever since the concept was unveiled many of us saw it as a spiritual successor the much loved CR-X. It brought back so many fond memories of my old 88' yellow CR-X Si. Well the fact that even with a hybrid powertrain it only manages to put out 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft. of torque left many of us wanting more. The fact that it only manages to get a combined rating of 37 mpg made it even worse. Well now there is a video with one of the engineers that worked on the CR-Z explaining what the inspiration was behind the car.

Some quotes:
-"The basic concept of this car is fun-to-drive."
-"During the development of the CR-Z we have driven many cars and have also bought several cars for comparison and benchmarking - the Mini, the Scirocco, but also a Lotus
-"set the body stiffness at a similar level to that of a Civic Type R."

The media has yet to get behind the wheel of the CR-Z, so it's not yet known if it will actually be "fun-to-drive." The only thing going for it now is the available six-speed manual transmission.

MINI Countryman Official Photos Leaked

MINI has yet to unveil the upcoming Countryman crossover, but the first three official photos have leaked online today.

Pictured here is the first official look at MINI's biggest model. It features five doors and all-wheel-drive, a first for the brand. The overall styling is pretty much what was expected, but not as tall as the Beachcomber concept. Inside the styling is very close to the rest of the MINI lineup.

The MINI Countryman is expected to have its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March and will be on sale later this year.

The 2011 BMW 335i is getting a new single turbo engine compared to the current twin-turbo inline six. Unlike the 335i, the 135i is keeping its twin-turbo engine, but now has an available 7-speed dual clutch transmission.

The 3.0L inline-six now puts out 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque thanks to High Precision Injection and fully variable VALVETRONIC valve management. New for 2010 is the available 7-speed dual clutch transmission that helps the 135i reach 0-60 mph in 5 seconds compared to 5.1 seconds with the six-speed manual. The heavier 135i convertible reaches 0-60 in 5.3 seconds with the dual clutch transmission.

Sales will begin in March 2010.

Geneva 10' Preview: 2011 Mitsubishi ASX Crossover Premieres

Mitsubishi is going to premiere the ASX compact crossover at the Geneva Motor Show in March. The ASX is the European version of the RVR that is set to go on sale in Japan next month.

The small crossover seats five and is going to be powered by a 1.8L turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine with "Automatic Stop & Go" technology.

There's no word yet on when we will eventually get this in the US.

Shelby Unveils the 500-HP 2011 Shelby GT350

To coincide with the 45th anniversary of the 1965 Shelby GT350, Shelby American has unveiled the 2011 Shelby GT350. The 2011 Shelby GT350 builds on the 2011 Mustang GT, which means it is powered by the same 5.0L V8 fitted with a Ford Racing supsercharger that bumps the power up to 500 horsepower.

In addition to the supercharger under the hood the Shelby GT350 gets an upgraded suspension with new Ford Racing springs, struts, sway bars and adjustable caster/camber plates. The GT350 also gets a Baer brake system, Borla exhaust system and 19-inch Cragar wheels. The car also receives a new front fascia, tail light trim, front splitter, rear deck lid filler panel and rear fascia.

The Shelby GT350 is a post title program, which means that buyers buy the Mustang GT from a local dealer and then it is turned into the Shelby GT350 by the Shelby American Team. The price of the conversion is $33,995, which does not include the price of the base car. So expect to pay in the low $60K range once it's all done.

There has been so much hype for years now about GM's upcoming Chevy Volt and it's surprising that the plug-in hybrid is finally going to be on sale by the end of the year. The big question now remains, how much will it cost? Well GM's CEO, Ed Whitacre recently spoke to Lyle Dennis at GM-Volt.com, in which he stated that the Volt will be in the low $30s and be profitable.

When asked about the Volt's pricing, Whitacre simply stated,"We're not in business to lose money," he said. "We did enough of that already."

The Volt "is going to sell in the low 30s," said Whitacre. "We'll get a margin on that."

Well that announcement still doesn't completely answer the question, since it's not known if that is before or after the $7,500 federal tax credit. Early on during the Volt's development, GM's Bob Lutz set a goal of the Volt starting under $30,000, but eventually that target price moved higher. Recent media speculation priced the car as high as $40,000. We'll have to wait for the official word from GM.

Ford has announced the changes to the 2011 Mustang and Mustang GT, but has yet to release the pricing for the now more powerful pony car. Well The Mustang Source has posted a leaked PDF of the basic pricing for the new Mustang. If the PDF is correct the base 305-hp Mustang is going to start at $22,145 and the 412-hp Mustang GT will start at $29,645. The base Mustang convertible is going to start at $27,995, while the Mustang GT convertible will start at $34,645.

Honda Releases Official HSV-10 GT Photos and Specs

Honda has officially released photos and specs for the HSV-10 GT race car that will compete in the in the GT500 class of the 2010 Super GT Series. The "HSV" stands for Honda Sports Velocity.

The race car is powered by a 496 horsepower 3.4L V8 with 289 lb-ft. of torque.

Ford's F-150 Will Likely Replace the Ranger in the US

We haven't heard much about the Ford Ranger lately, but according to the latest reports, Ford is still planning on ending production of the US-built Ranger next year. The Ranger was the second best selling compact pickup selling over 55k units, while the Tacoma sold 111,824 last year.

Even though the Ranger sold 55,600 units last year, Ford is still moving forward with the Ranger's death and the larger F-150 could be its replacement as Ford plans more fuel-efficient powertrains for the F-150.

"Today, a lot of customers who buy Rangers are the people who use it as a commuter vehicle," Derek Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of product development, told PickupTrucks.com last week at the North American International Auto Show. "But with the new Ford Fiesta and Focus coming into the lineup, those kinds of customers will have other alternatives to the Ranger."

"We're going to continue to make the F-Series significantly more fuel efficient while still providing the level of capability that the F-150 provides today," Kuzak said. "There will be no compromise for better fuel efficiency. The vast majority of Ranger buyers are not using the full capability of the truck. We have to compare those customers choosing a very affordable and fuel-efficient F-150."

The F-150 is expected to get Ford's new 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost, which is supposed to be as powerful as a V8 with the efficiency of a V6 engine. The 3.7L V6 from the Mustang and Lincoln MKX is also expected to be offered. A four-cylinder EcoBoost is also reportedly in the works for the F-150.

Although the Ranger is slated to be discontinued next year, there is still a chance that the new global Ranger, code-named T6, could be offered here.

"It's no secret we have a new Ranger coming globally. We're working on one for all the other markets in the world," Kuzak said. "The difference is that all of those other markets only have a Ranger. They don't have an F-150 above it.

Scion May Add a Small Pickup to its Lineup

Toyota's Scion division is reportedly studying the idea of adding small compact pickup to its lineup. Scion's General Manager Jack Hollis told Ward's Auto, Trucks are "not off the table," Hollis says in an interview at the 2010 North American International Auto Show here. "If I said, 'off the table,' I'd like to take that back."

"Toyota has such a strong heritage of doing a very good job with youth and with trucks, when you look at (the Toyota) Tacoma - I'm not trying to be too cocky, but we pretty much have owned that segment for a long time. We have to find a niche. I think there is room for it."

The main issue with introducing a new smaller truck to the Scion brand is what it might do to Toyota's Tacoma sales. The Tacoma is the sales leader in the compact truck market, selling 111,824 units, while the runner up, the Ford Ranger only sold 55,600. Scion feels that today's compact trucks have increased in size compared to the earlier models, so there may be room for a smaller pickup.

If Scion does decide to add a small pickup, it would be interesting to see what it would look like. Maybe a modified version of the Hako concept from the 2008 New York Auto Show? In the meantime Scion is set to unveil a new model at this year's New York Auto Show that will hopefully help it regain some of its sales that the brand has lost in the last few years.

2011 Ford Mustang GT to Pace Daytona 500

The 2011 Ford Mustang GT is set to pace the 2010 Daytona 500 on February 14th. The 2011 Mustang GT sees the return of a 5.0L V8 under the hood and now puts out 412 horsepower. The Mustang GT that will pace the the field will be a one of a kind Mustang.

The 2011 Mustang GT pace car will be painted in a special Daytona 500 Race Red paint scheme with Blue/White Lemans stripes. It also gets a Ford Racing suspension, strut tower brace, mufflers, unique painted wheels and special interior treatment including lighted sill plates. The Mustang will also be an actual production car with an early VIN and will be offered for auction at the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction on Saturday January 23rd. All Proceeds over MSRP will go to help cure childhood diabetes through a donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

This marks the first time in 40 years that a Ford vehicle has paced the Daytona 500. The last time was the 1970 Torino GT convertible.

2011 Kia Sportage Images Leaked

The first images of the 2011 Kia Sportage have leaked thanks to the European patent office. Note that these images may be depicting an almost production ready model, since there are a few elements of the model depicted here that look very concept like.

Either way the 2011 Kia Sportage is going to ditch its current, blah styling for an exterior that is very similar to the larger Sorento. Underneath that much improved exterior is the same platform that also is the basis for the Hyundai Tucson. Kia has yet to release any specs about the 2011 Sportage, but we can expect them to mirror those of the recently introduced Tucson.

It's expected that Kia will officially unveil the all-new Sportage at the New York Auto show this April.

BMW has officially released the details and photos of the refreshed 3 Series coupe and convertible.

As we await the next 3 Series sedan that is expected to be unveiled some time next year, we can enjoy a refreshed 3 Series coupe and convertible. The coupe and convertible get a refreshed face for the 2011 model year. This includes slightly tweaked headlights, a larger grille and a revised lower fascia. The rear end gets slightly revised taillights.

Under the hood the 335i gets a new turbo engine with only one turbo compared to the current twin-turbo setup. The new engine is supposed to have less turbo lag than the current twin-turbo inline six. According to BMW the new engine puts out the same 300 horsepower, but is more responsive and efficient.

The 2011 BMW 3 Series coupe and convertible will go on sale this spring.

Toyota FT-86 G Sports Concept Debuts at the Tokyo Auto Salon

Tokyo's version of SEMA, the Tokyo Auto Salon is taking place right now and this year Toyota is showing off the FT_86 G Sports Concept, which basically is a modified version of its upcoming RWD coupe.

Besides the modifications to the exterior Toyota didn't release any official specs for the coupe.

Make sure you also check out the video of the FT-86 G Sports Concept.

2010 MINI Cooper and Clubman Models Get Power Upgrades

The 2010 MINI Cooper, Cooper S and Clubman models are getting a slight boost in power for the new year. Starting with the base Cooper and Clubman models, it now puts out 3 more horsepower from the 1.6L than last year, not really a big deal I guess. The Cooper S and Clubman S models now put out 9 more horsepower from the turbocharger 1.6L. The S models equipped with the manual transmission get a new self-adjusting clutch with carbon coated linings, which supposedly improves pedal feel and service costs.

The 2010 MINI models will be arriving this March.

Chrysler is planning on using Fiat's C-segment platform as the basis for future Jeep models.

The same platform is currently used by the Alfa Romeo Milano. The platform is ideal since it is available in two different lengths and can accommodate a four-wheel-drive system. According to Autocar, Jeep plans to use the platform for upcoming entry-level models developing them as urban city cars with off-road capabilities.

If this report is true Fiat and Chrysler are also planning on building a production line in the US for the Fiat platform.

2011 Infiniti G25 Will Not Get a Turbocharged V6

A few days ago it was reported that Infiniti is going to release a 2.5L powered G25 for the 2011 model year. At the time it was speculated that the engine would be a turbocharged version, but upon further research from the guys over at Inside Line, the G25 will not get a turbocharged engine. Instead the 2011 G25 will be powered by the same naturally aspirated 2.5-liter V6 Nissan uses in the Japan-market Skyline 250GT.

In Japan the 2.5L puts out 210 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque. Those numbers put it right in the middle of the lesser powered Lexus IS 250 and the BMW 328i, which has 230 horsepower.

At launch the G25 will only be available as a sedan although if sales are strong enough the coupe and convertible could also eventually be offered with the 2.5L.

Lutz Talks About a Four-Door Corvette Based on the Holden Commodore

GM's Bob Lutz is constantly quoted in the media about possible future GM products. This time he is being quoted discussing Chevy's interest in the next generation Holden Commodore as a premium Chevy sedan in the US.

"If we can pull that off and we have the next generation Commodore in as a police vehicle then we want to take a look at reintroducing a civil version as a high-end Chevrolet. Because when you get down to it the thrill of high performance driving is unmatched by anything that doesn't have rear-wheel drive, bags of torque and a nice transmission. So there's a possibility of a premium Chevrolet sedan that would be sold in limited numbers. Think of it as a kind of four-door Corvette."

You may recall that GM recently unveiled the Chevrolet Caprice PPV as a law enforcement-only model and ever since there has been enthusiast demand for a civilian version, especially now since the G8 is dead. Of course all this could mean nothing...so here's hoping...

GM Bets Big on its Full-Size Trucks

Trucks produce large profits for automakers, especially the Detroit automakers. The truck market has been badly hurt with the economic downturn, especially since the housing market is dead. But it will come back, which explains why GM is going to spend $1 billon bucks on redesigning its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Whitacre recently approved the project. GM is betting big that the full-size truck market will eventually come back strong. The Chevy SIlverado and GMC Sierra are currently the oldest trucks out of the Detroit automakers, even though they were redone in 2006.

The current plan would bring GM's new trucks to market between 2012 and 2013.

Audi is Hoping to Sell 80,000 Units of the A1 in its First Year

Audi has released several teasers of the upcoming A1. Photos have also surfaced of Justin Timberlake filming a commercial with the small car. Well Audi has now released a video of new video with Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management for Marketing and Sales at Audi AG speaking about the new vehicle and how the automaker expects to sell 80,000 units in its first year.

"The subcompact segment is forecast to grow in Europe by the year 2015 - in Germany alone growth of 30 percent is anticipated. We're currently expecting to sell 80,000 units of the A1 in its first full year," said Schwarzenbauer. "People who for practical reasons choose a small car want not only the basic functions, but an exciting design and the latest technology as well. With the A1, we're giving these customers what they want by launching the first premium car in the subcompact segment."

The Audi A1 will officially debut at the Geneva Motor Show this March. Audi still has not announced if the A1 will be offered in the US.

This year's Superbowl is right around the corner, which means the usual hype about the commercials is beginning and the advertiser list is starting to trickle out. It looks like out of the the three Detroit automakers, only one is advertising this year. It's a little surprising that it's going to be Chrysler, considering their current financial situation and standing in the marketplace.

"What better way to illustrate to our customers that we are still here than to air on the Superbowl, which is not only watched for the game, but also for the advertising spots," said Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna C. Gutierrez.

The Dodge Charger will be the focus of the high price commercial. CBS has identified Honda, Audi, VW, Hyundai and Kia as being the other advertisers during the broadcast.

Jeep Wrangler Will Not Get a Diesel in North America

The Jeep Wrangler is not set to get a diesel engine in North America in 2011.

"We have no plans at the moment for diesel Jeeps in North America, although one of the things I've learned in this business is to never say never," said Michael Manley, president and chief executive officer of the Jeep brand. "I wouldn't rule it out, but specifically on Nov. 4, we were commenting on diesel in Europe."

Instead of getting a new diesel engine, the Wranger is expected to get Chrysler's new Pentastar V6 engine when it gets a refresh next summer.

The Jeep Wrangler is expected to get interior improvements this summer.

Chrysler May Kill the Sebring Name for its Midsize Replacement

Let's be honest, the current Chrysler Sebring has been a failure since it launched. It's styling was questionable and it was behind the competition from the start. So it's not a surprise that the revived Chrysler may not use the Sebring name for its replacement that is coming late next year.

According to CEO Sergio Marchionne, when the new sedan launches next year "You'll see a completely different animal." Marchionne promises. "Actually, we were having a discussion about what name this animal should have."

Let's just hope that whatever the name is, it's attached to a sedan that we actually won't hate!

Nissan Murano Convertible is Still on for 2011

When the rumors started circulating last year many of were shocked that Nissan was actually contemplating introducing a drop-top version of its Murano crossover. Inside Line originally reported Nissan's plans to produce the convertible Murano and this week they got confirmation from an inside source that the project is still on. According to a source at the Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan Murano convertible will be a two-door with a soft-top. It is expected to be released by the end of the year as a 2011 model.

Chevy Debuts the Camaro Synergy Special Edition

Chevy has unveiled the Camaro Synergy Special Edition, which will only be in production from February until May of this year.

The Chevy Camaro Synergy Special Edition starts at $26,790 and is based on the Camaro 1LT, which is powered by the 304-hp 3.6L V6. The Camaro Synergy Special Edition is available with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission and comes standard with Cyber Grey Rally Stripes on the hood and trunk, a rear spoiler and 19-inch wheels. The green theme continues on the inside with with Synergy Green instrument panel and door inserts. Synergy Green stitching also accents the Jet Black cloth seats, steering wheel, shift knob and center console.

"Synergy Green continues a long tradition of dramatic Camaro colors," says Camaro historian Scott Settlemire. "Some of the most sought-after Camaros are first generation cars - those from 1967 to 1969 - in Hugger Orange, Daytona Yellow, and Rallye Green."

Official details have surfaced regarding the upcoming BMW 335is. Just in case you thought the 335i needed more power, but can't quite afford the M3, BMW is set to launch the 335is coupe and cabriolet with 322 horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque from the twin-turbo inline-six.

In addition to more power under the hood the 335is is available with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission. The exterior features the M Sport package and 18" wheels.

The 335is cabriolet is expected to enter production in March with the coupe following in May. It's not known if BMW is planning a sedan version as well.

The 3 Series coupe is also expected to get a facelift for the 2011 model year.

(BMW 335i Coupe shown above)

Honda has issued a recall of the 2006-2007 Honda Ridgeline due to an issue with the wiring harness connector for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning blower motor. The blower motor is located under the passenger's side of the instrument panel and is accessible to kicking from the front passenger. Kicking the system can cause the connector terminal to overheat, which can cause a short circuit or a fire.

Honda dealers have been instructed to inspect the affected vehicles and install a protective cover over the system.

Honda CEO Announces that Acura Will Get Hybrid Models


At the Detroit Auto Show, Honda's CEO Takanobu Ito announced that the automaker is working on hybrid models for the Acura brand.

Ito gave no other details about what models will get the hybrid powertrain, but its probably safe to assume that the TSX and TL will. It's also not known if the hybrid powertrain that the Acura models will receive will be similar to the system currently used in the Civic, Insight and CR-Z hybrids. Honda announced last year that the automaker is working on a new hybrid system for larger vehicles, but it's not known if it will be another mild hybrid setup.

Alfa Romeo US Launch Delayed


One of the more exciting things about the Fiat/ Chrysler tie up has been the possibility that Alfa Romeo would make a return to the US. Well it looks like we may have to wait a bit longer. Fiat/ Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne recently stated at the Detroit Auto Show that Alfa Romeo must prove that it has "a right to exist as a separate brand" before it is expanded beyond Europe. The original plans were to launch Alfa Romeo in the US in 2010, but according to Marchionne if Alfa doesn't make a good business case for it, it't not going to happen...

Nissan Juke Crossover Reportedly Headed to the US this Fall


Last week Nissan released a single teaser photo of the upcoming Nissan Juke crossover that is going to be officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this March. At the time it was expected that the small crossover would only be offered in Europe, but new reports are claiming that it is expected to come to the US as well.

In a meeting with reporters at the Detroit Auto Show, Nissan confirmed that there will be eight new models released within the next year and one of them is the Nissan Juke. Nissan didn't give any further details about the crossover other than saying that more details will be provided next month, most likely at the Chicago Auto Show.

In addition to the Nissan Juke, Nissan is also going to release the Nissan NV 2500, a full-size commercial van, a new Quest minivan, the electric Leaf, the new Inifiniti M37and M56, an unnamed new Infiniti , the Infiniti QX56 SUV and the fortieth anniversary 370Z model.

2011 Infiniti G25 to be Powered by a Turbocharged 2.5L


Although Infiniti didn't officially announce any details about the 2011 G sedan in Detroit, the guys over at Inside Line have learned that Infiniti is going to release a G25 sedan for the 2011 model year.

The 2011 G25 sedan will get a turbocharged 2.5L V6, the same V6 that Nissan uses in the Japan-market Skyline 250GT. The new entry-level G25 will initially only be launched in the sedan body style and will be sold alongside the G37 sedan. in Japan the naturally-aspirated 2.5L V6 puts out 210 horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque and the turbocharged version puts out 280 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.

Detroit 2010: Audi A8 Hybrid Coming to Geneva


BMW and Mercedes-Benz have both unveiled hybrid versions of their flagship sedans and Audi is next. Audi is set to unveil the A8 Hybrid at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

Audi announced its plans at the Detroit Auto Show yesterday. Audi also included that it sees hybrids as the next step to fully electric vehicles and that it has no plans for a mild hybrid. The A8 Hybrid will be a full hybrid. Audi is also going to release a Q5 hybrid this fall. The A8 hybrid is expected to appear shortly after the Q5's launch.

GM Introduces the Chevy New Sail in China


Most of the news this week is coming out of Detroit, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a few things going on in the rest of the world. GM has unveiled the Chevy New Sail in China, which was developed by Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), both GM-SAIC joint ventures. The New Sail will be sold in China and other emerging markets.

The Chevy New Sail will be offered in five variants with the base model priced around RMB 60,000 (US$8,800).

"Our mission has always been to enable more individuals and families to realize their dream of owning a car," said Kevin Wale, President and Managing Director of the GM China Group. "With the New Sail, we are setting a new standard for the lower-end small car segment while fully living up to the global standards of Chevrolet, one of the world's leading vehicle brands. The fact that the New Sail will be exported is a testament to the capabilities of our product development organization in China."

The New Sail is available with the choice of 1.2-liter S-TEC II and 1.4-liter S-TEC III engines.

So it's be widely known for a while that GM has been planning on replacing the Cadillac STS and DTS sedans with one flagship model for the brand. Well GM has just unveiled the Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept, which is supposed to be a preview of what we can expect from Cadillac's upcoming flagship sedan, the 2012 Cadillac XTS.

The Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept showcases the progression of the Cadillac Art and Science philosophy with exterior styling that is similar to the CTS and SRX models.

"The XTS Platinum concept is the next expression of Cadillac's Art and Science execution philosophy, reflecting our drive to deliver the latest innovations in the most artful manner," said Bryan Nesbitt, Cadillac general manager. "We envisioned this concept as an automotive personal headquarters, using advanced technology to enable new levels of connectivity and luxury."

The concept uses Cadillac's 3.6L V-6 Direct Injection gas engine, paired with a plug-in hybrid system. The combined output of the V6 and electric motor yields 350-horsepower and 295-pound-feet of torque. The concept can be recharged at any standard external electrical outlet and takes about five hours to recharge. The system in the XTS Platinum Concept is not the same design as the one in the Chevy Volt, since the Volt's engine's main job is to recharge the battery.

Ford has officially unveiled the refreshed 2011 Lincoln MKX. The 2011 MKX benefits from a refreshed exterior with a new front fascia that now includes Lincoln's new signature grille. Out back there are new taillights and exhaust tips.

The most noteworthy changes to the 2011 MKX lie beneath the hood and in the interior. First the new MKX gets new engine, a 3.7L V6 that puts out 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque. Even though horsepower has been increased 15 percent over the 2010 model, the MKX gets 25 mpg on the highway and runs on regular fuel. To improve its handling the revised MKX gets retuned springs, shocks and stabilizer bars.

Inside the 2011 MKX gets Ford's recently announced MyLincoln Touch driver connect technology. MyLincoln comes standard on the 2011 Lincoln MKX.

"With its combination of style, performance and uncompromising luxury, the Lincoln MKX has brought new customers into the Lincoln showroom in a way that very few products have before," said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development. "Lincoln customers tell us they care most about style and technology, and the new Lincoln MKX meets these needs perfectly. The new MyLincoln Touch technology will change the way customers interact with their vehicles while its new design language gives the vehicle a distinctive and stylish silhouette we know customers will love."

2011 BMW 740i Starts at $71,025

BMW announced the pricing for the 2011 BMW 740i today. The 740i marks the return of a six-cylinder 7 Series and starts at $71,025.

The 2011 740i is powered by BMW's twin-turbocharged in-line six and puts out 315 horsepower. The long wheelbase 740Li starts at $75,425.

The 740i and 740iL will be available this spring.

Hyundai has unveiled the changes to the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe. The 2011 Santa Fe benefits from a refreshed exterior and two new engines.

The styling of the new Santa Fe gets tweaks that bring it more in line with the styling of the new Tucson and Sonata models. Under the hood last year's engines have been replaced by a 175-hp 2.4L four-cylinder, that is also in the Tucson and a 3.5L V6 with 276 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to six-speed transmissions with the four-cylinder being available with a manual.

Detroit 2010: 2011 Honda CR-Z Officially Unveiled


Honda has officially unveiled the 2011 Honda CR-Z at the Detroit Auto Show. We've seen several leaked photos and brochures of the production version of the CR-Z, so today's unveiling wasn't much of a surprise. As expected the CR-Z finally brings some much needed "sport" to the hybrid segment, but to some the final result may be a little disappointing.

The Honda CR-Z is launching with a 1.5L 4-cyl mated to an electric motor, which together only put out 122 horsepower on tap and just 128 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers don't really make the hybrid seem all that sporty. At least the availability of a six-speed manual may make it a little more enjoyable to drive than the optional CVT. When equipped with the CVT the CR-Z gets 36 city/38 highway miles per gallon. With the manual it only gets 31/37.

Although on paper it doesn't seem like the CR-Z will be that sporty, but lets hope it drives well.

The 2011 CR-Z will be available this summer.

Toyota's big unveiling for the Detroit Auto Show this year is the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept.

The CH in FT-CH stands for compact hybrid and is meant to show that Toyota is working on new hybrid models offering a wider variety for customers. Compared to the Prius, the FT-CH is 22 inches shorter. The FT-CH is also lighter and more fuel efficient than the Prius.The concept also specifically targets a lower price point than Prius.

This concept is only the first of others that are being considered in the future as Toyota continues to develop a Prius family "marketing strategy" for North America.

Chevy Spark Confirmed for the US in Early 2012


In addition to the new Aveo and Cruze, GM has announced that the small Chevy Spark will also be joining the Chevy lineup in the US.

The five-door Chevrolet Spark will go on sale in early 2012. Other than that GM has not announced any other details about the small car.

The Detroit Auto Show is just getting started this morning and it has just been announced that Ford has received both of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards for 2010.

The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Ford Transit Connect take home the awards. This is only the third time in 17 years that an automaker has taken home both of the awards. The last time this happened was in 2006 when Honda received the awards for the Civic and Ridgeline.

VW is set to debut the New Compact Coupe Concept at the Detroit Auto Show. The concept that looks pretty close to production ready is about the same size as the current Jetta although it has a longer wheelbase and the overall height is a little shorter.

The concept is powered by a 1.4-liter TSI inline-four with 148 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque that is also mated to a 20-kilowatt electric motor that sits between the engine and the 7-speed DSG transmission. The electric motor has the capability of propeling the vehicle on its own and is powered by a lithium-ion battery. VW estimates that the concept is capable of getting 45 miles to the gallon.

The fact that this concept looks very production ready may mean that this could be a hint at a new coupe for VW. There have been rumors that VW is going to release a new Jetta coupe. This concept could also be a hint of what we can expect from the next Jetta...

Ford has officially unveiled the next-generation Ford Focus which is going to be the same model on both sides of the Atlantic...finally!

The all-new Focus will start production at the end of 2010 simultaneously in Europe and North America and go on sale in early 2011, as a 2012 model. When the Focus was originally launched in 1998 and the US a year later the model was basically the same in North America and Europe, but in 2004 Europeans got a second generation Focus, while those of us on this side of the Atlantic had to make due with the original model with mild facelifts. The current Focus we have is still based on that original model and for years we've been begging Ford to bring the Europen model to North America. Well now our wishes have been granted. The next-generation Ford Focus is going to once again be a true global vehicle that adopts Ford's European "Kinetic" design language.

The new Ford Focus is a clear demonstration that our ONE Ford strategy is providing global consumers with great products that harness the best of Ford Motor Company," said Alan Mulally, Ford's president and CEO.

"The efficiencies generated by our new global C-car platform will enable us to provide Ford Focus customers with an affordable product offering quality, fuel efficiency, safety and technology beyond their expectations," he added.

The next-generation Focus spearheads Ford's new generation of global C-cars, which are all based on the same platform and will eventually produce up to 10 different models. Ford expects 2 million units of annual production by 2012.

When the new Focus debuts it will launch with Ford's EcoBoos four-cylinder turbocharged direct injection engines including the 1.6L in Europe and a 2.0L in North America. The 2.0L unit uses DI and Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT) technology and puts out 20 more horsepower (est 155 hp and 145 lb-ft.) than the current 2.0L Duratec four-cyl and gets up to 10 percent better fuel economy. The 2.0L is mated to a six-speed manual or Ford's dual-clutch PowerShift automatic transmission.

Both the four-door sedan and five-door hatchback Focus will be offered in North America.

At this year's Detroit Auto Show, GM is going to unveil the smallest GMC ever, the Granite Concept.

"Granite was conceived as a new type of vehicle from GMC - one that could stretch people's ideas of what a GMC can be," said Lisa Hutchinson, product marketing director for GMC. "We call it an 'urban utility vehicle' and our goal was redefining what the GMC name could mean to a new generation of customers looking for both bold design and functionality."

The Granite is a full two inches shorter than the GMC Terrain and is aimed at young professionals. The concept is powered by GM's new turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed transmission. In the Chevy Cruze the engine puts out138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque. The Granite concept features a four-door design with suicide doors. Since the concept doesn't have a B-pillar there is easier access to the passenger area.

GM hasn't announced if the Granite concept is destined for production.

2010 is going to be a big year for Ford with the introduction of nine new engines and six new transmissions, which is part of a five year plan to overhaul its entire global powertrain portfolio, which totals 60 new powertrains.

Ford began working on the new engines and transmissions in 2008 and the push continues through 2013.

"Ford is delivering on our commitment to lower emissions, improve fuel economy and deliver the highest quality powertrains in the industry," said Barb Samardzich, Ford vice president, Powertrain Engineering. "We are making this happen with one of the most ambitious powertrain upgrades ever undertaken by Ford. By the end of 2010, nearly all of Ford's North American engines will have been upgraded or replaced since 2008."

In 2010 Ford is going to introduce new engines in the Fiesta, Mustang, F-150 and Super Duty. The all-new 2012 Focus will be powered by an all-new normally aspirated 2.0-liter direct fuel injection engine.

Lutz Confirms that GM will Build the Cadillac Converj


Today GM's Bob Lutz officially announced at the conference of the Society of Automotive Analysts that GM is going to build the Cadillac Converj extended-range electric vehicle. Teh Cadillac Converj will officially be the second plug-in extended-range electric vehicle that GM is going to introduce.

The Converj Concept was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show last year and was based on the same powertrain that is going to power the upcoming Chevy Volt. According to Lutz, GM has just started developement on the Converj and it is at least a few years away.

The Cadillac Converj is cleared for production," Lutz said. He wouldn't commit to a production date. "You'll see it when you see it. It won't be next year or the year after that."

Geneva 10' Preview: Peugeot SR1 Concept Unveiled


Here's another reason we wish that Peugeot would return to the US, Peugeot has unveiled the SR1 Concept ahead of its official debut in Geneva in March.

The SR1 Concept provides a hint of the future Peugeot design language, but that means it's doubtful that this concept will see production. The concept is powered by Peugeot's HYbrid4 technology, which in this case couples a 1.6-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that powers the front wheels with an electric motor that sends its power to the rear. The combination puts out 313 horsepower. The HYbrid4 technology will eventually be offered on other Peugeot models.

Expect more details from the show in March.

SMS Supercars Unveils the 2010 SMS Camaro 620 and 620X


At the Detroit Auto Show in a few days Steve Saleen's company, SMS Supercars is going to unveil the 2010 SMS 620 Camaro, which follows the introduction of the SMS 460/460X Mustang and the SMS 570x Challenger.

Chief Creative Officer of SMS, Phil Frank notes, "We have incorporated our well-known functional SMS Red Butterfly™ Dual Side Induction Hood as well as our race-proven aerodynamics in this third vehicle in our SMS Signature Series. The SMS 620 Camaro is a dramatic and iconic visual statement that very clearly bears the SMS design DNA."

The SMS 620 Camaro is powered by the same 6.2L engine in the Camaro SS, but its power has been bumped up to 575-hp and 600 lb-ft. of torque. It reaches 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds. If that's still not fast enough for you the SMS 620X Camaro is also powered by the 6.2L V8, but puts out 715-hp and 700 lb-ft. of torque. The SMS 620X Camaro reaches 0-60 mph in 4 seconds. Both engines feature the SMS 296™ Supercharger and can be mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

In addition to the upgrades under the hood the 620X will feature options such as Magneto-Rheological Semi-Active Dampers and Torvec Isotorque Differential and 21″ rear wheels. Both models also get new SMS 16″ 8-piston front and 14″ 6-piston rear brakes.

BMW has announced the 2011 BMW Alpina B7, which will be the most "dynamic" 7 Series available.

The Alpina B7 features the same 4.4L V8 as the 750i, but it's power has been bumped up from 400 to a nice 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. of torque. The V8 is mated to a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission. The Alpina B7 reaches 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and the top speed is electronically-governed at 174 mph.

The 2011 Alpina B7 will officially debut at the Chicago Auto Show next month.

Toyota's popular Prius became the top-selling vehicle in Japan last year. It was the first time a hybrid model has held the top spot. Toyota sold 208,876 units in Japan last year, which is almost three times more than were sold in 2008. Hybrid sales account for 10 percent of the market in Japan. According to Green Car Congress hybrids only account for 2.8 percent of new vehicle sales in the US.

The Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris came in second and third. Honda's Insight hybrid only moved 93,283 units bringing it in at fifth place.

Jeep is going to unveil three new limited edition models at the Detroit Auto Show next week: the Liberty Renegade, Wrangler Islander and Wrangler Mountain.

The Liberty Renegade will be positioned between the Liberty Sport and Limited models. It features painted Mineral Gray Keystone 16-inch wheels; dark neutral metallic wheel flares, lower side sills, front and rear fascia. Inside there are new seats, driftwood accent bezels and a leather-wrapped center console. The Liberty Renegade is powered by the same 3.7L V6 that powers all Liberty models mated to Jeep's Selec-Trac II active four-wheel-drive system.

The Wrangler Islander package returns after 20 years and with an optional Surf Blue Pearl Coat and an Islander "Tiki Bob" decal on the hood. It also includes blackside steps and Moab 17-inch wheels with 32-inch tires. Inside the Islander's seats are Dark Gray with Surf Blue inserts. The Islander package costs $1,120.

The Wrangler Mountain package is based on the Wrangler Sport S package. It features a "Mountain" decal on the hood, painted high-gloss Mineral Gray 17-inch Moab wheels, grille and bumper appliqués; tubular side steps; 32-inch tires; black tail lamp guards; and a fuel-filler door from Mopar. Inside the seats are embroidered with a "Mountain" logo. The Mountain package costs $1,820.

GM has unveiled the Chevy Aveo RS Concept ahead of its official unveiling at the Detroit Auto Show next week. Let's just say it as it is...this concept is so much better than the current bargain basement Aveo. The Aveo RS Concept is our first hint of what to expect from the next Aveo, which should arrive in a year or so.

Small cars have finally become important in the US following the success of the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. By the end of the year, Ford's much acclaimed Fiesta will also be roaming US streets, so it's nice to see that GM is finally getting serious about the segment as well. The Aveo RS Concept ditches the boring econocar looks of the current Aveo for something that is much more aggressive with a wider stance and styling reminiscent of the Chevy Spark. Inside the concept gets an interior that is similar to that of the new Chevy Cruze and Equinox.

The Aveo RS Concept also finally has something decent under the hood since it is powered by the same turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque as the larger Cruze. GM hasn't officially announced if there will be an RS version of the next Aveo, but it would be nice.

Geneva 10' Preview: Nissan Juke Crossover Teased


Last year Nissan unveiled the interesting Qazana concept at the Geneva Motor Show and now the automaker has released the first teaser image of the Juke Crossover, which has the same basic form of last year's concept.

Nissan is going to unveil the Juke crossover at this year's Geneva Motor Show in March, with sales starting in October. The Juke will fit between the Note compact family car and the Qashqai crossover in Nissan's lineup. It will be manufactured alongside the Qashqai, Qashqai+2 and Note at Nissan's state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Sunderland, Great Britain. It's unlikely that the Juke will be offered in the US.

Expect more details next month.

Corvette Sales Hit Their Lowest Level Last Year Since 1961


2009 is officially over and although many models experienced sales declines, some were worse than others. The Chevy Corvette had its worst year since 1961, with only 13,934 Corvettes sold.

According to Edmunds, 2009 was the worst sales year for the Corvette in 19 years when only 17,472 units were sold in 1991. And according to Auto Observer's Bill Visnic, who did an informal survey of Corvette Black Book data, sales in 2009 haven't been this low since 1961. 2006 and 2007 were great years for the Corvette with 36,518 and 33,685 units sold, respectively.

MyFord Touch Brings a Whole New Interior Experience


Ford as introduced a new smarter, safer, simpler system to connect drivers with in-car technologies, dubbed MyFord. Building on its successful SYNC system Ford has combined a variety of technologies into one powerful, intuitive connected driver experience.

"MyFord delivers a premium interior experience that will help consumers fall in love with their vehicles again," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. "It integrates all our signature features so customers will know exactly what they're going to get in any Ford vehicle they may find themselves driving, no matter where they are in the world."

The MyFord Touch system does away with the buttons and knobs that we've become accustomed to in today's car interiors. Instead they have been replaced by dual 4.2-inch LCD screens in front of the driver, five-way button steering wheel controls and an 8-inch touch screen all controlled by a simplified SYNC.

The MyFord system will initially launch this year in the 2011 Ford Edge and globally with the introduction of the 2012 Focus. The MyLincoln Touch system will will be standard equipment on new Lincolns beginning with 2011 Lincoln MKX.

Ford F-Series Maintains its Best-Selling Crown for 33 Years


Ford has announced that the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling truck for 33 straight years, outselling its nearest rival by 97,000 units, largest margin in three years. Sales in 2009 totaled units 413,625, outselling its nearest rival by more than 97,000 units, the largest margin in three years. In addition the F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in the US for the past 28 years.

This spring, Ford is going to introduce a new F-Series Super Duty that will be powered by a new "Scorpion" 6.7L Power-Stroke V8 or an also new 6.2L gas powered V8 .

Just in case you haven't heard the news, the Buick Regal is back. The 2011 Buick Regal is basically a Buick version of the Opel Insignia sold in Europe. Ever since GM officially announced the introduction of the Regal, enthusiasts have been waiting eagerly to hear if GM is planning a high-performance version based on the Opel Insignia OPC. Well GM has unveiled the Regal GS Concept, which is somewhat based on the Insignia OPC.

The Regal is only going to be sold with four-cylinder engines, so that means even the high-performance version isn't going to get the 325-horsepower turbocharged V6 from the Insignia OPC. Instead the Regal GS is powered by a higher output version of the 2.0-liter direct-injected EcoTec four-cylinder that has been in other GM models. The engine puts out 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque. The engine is also mated to a six-speed manual transmission and an adaptive all-wheel-drive system.

As of right now GM is not announcing if this car will be produced, but it is very likely.

GM has released teasers of a new GMC concept dubbed the GMC Urban Utility Concept. The concept was previously mentioned as the GMC Granite, which is based on the Chevrolet Orlando.

"We've designed a new breed of truck that's as efficient as it is chic, innovative as it is functional," says Frank Saucedo. "Our goal was to create the next generation of urban mobility, fusing a flexible, functional social space with an urban-box design that's equally at home at the cabin or the club."

Think of the concept as GMC's as a Kia Soul, Nissan Cube and Scion xB competitor. Either way the concept hints at a new direction that GMC may eventually enter. Would you buy it?

GM and OnStar Launch New Mobile App for Chevy Volt


GM and OnStar have announced the introduction of a new smartphone application that will allow Chevy Volt owners 24/7 connection and control of vehicle functions and OnStar features remotely.

The mobile application allows drivers to communicate with their Volt via there Droid by Motorola, Apple iPhone and Blackberry Storm smartphones. Some features of the application are that it displays charge status, provides flexibility to "Charge Now" or schedule charge timing, displays percentage of battery charge level, sends text or email notifications for charge reminders, displays miles per gallon, electric only miles, and odometer readings and you can remotely start the vehicle to pre-condition the interior temperature.

"The Chevrolet Volt ushers in a new era of automotive technology and calls for a new level of connectivity and control," said Walt Dorfstatter, president, OnStar. "Nearly 6 million vehicles on the road today use OnStar to stay connected, and our new smartphone app will make that even easier for Volt drivers."

The OnStar Mobile Application will be available for Volt owners when the vehicle is released later this year.

Nissan Goes it Alone with the Next Titan Pickup


Before Chrysler declared bankruptcy and Fiat stepped in to hopefully save the barely surviving automaker, Nissan and Chrysler announced a partnership that would yield a new truck that would replace the current Nissan Titan. Well now that, that deal is off Nissan has stated that it remains committed to the full size truck market.

"We 're pretty much going it alone," says Nissan spokesman Scott Vazin. Vazin didn't state when we can expect to see a new Titan, but it is expected soon. It can't come soon enough since Nissan only sold 16,894 Titans in the first eleven months of this year compared to the best-selling Ford F-Series, which sold 365,416 units over the same period.

Ford Mustang Outsells the Chevy Camaro in 2009


So it looked like the Chevy Camaro was set to outsell the Mustang this year with a strong month over month showing in the latter part of this year, but the final numbers are in and the Mustang holds onto its title.

Ford sold 66,623 Mustangs, while Chevy sold 61,618 Camaros. Of course the Camaro didn't go on sale until April 2009, which gave the Mustang a slight head start. But the fact that the Mustang is getting two new engines this year, a 305-hp V6 and 412-hp 5.0L V8 means that this race probably won't be as close this year.

Just as Honda has unveiled the New Small Concept, Toyota has unveiled its own small vehicle for the emerging markets, the Etios Concept.

The Etios concept, which is expected to be in production by the end of the year will be offered in both sedan and hatchback body styles when it is introduced in India. The small car can be powered by either a 1.2L or 1.5L DOHC gasoline engine, a diesel has been put on hold.

The concept you see here is 90 percent ready for production. In addition to sales in India, the Etios will also be offered in Russia and South America.

Auto Expo 2010: Honda New Small Concept Unveiled


Honda has unveiled the New Small Concept at the Auto Expo 2010 in New Delhi.

The New Small Concept is a five-door, five-passenger vehicle designed for emerging markets. Honda expects to introduce a new model based on the concept in 2011 in India and Thailand. It's doubtful that this vehicle would ever be offered in the U.S. or Europe.

Nissan Quest Dropped for 2010, New Minivan on the Way


Nissan has confirmed that there will not be a 2010 Quest minivan. Nissan apparently needed production space at its Canton, Mississippi where the Titan, Armada, and the Infiniti QX56 are also produced. The Titan and Armada will continue to be produced at the Canton plant, but production of the next Quest and Infiniti QX56 will shift to Japan to make room for a new commercial vehicle.

Nissan isn't abandoning the minivan segment, so you can expect a new Quest in a year or two.

Detroit 10' Preview: 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe Unveiled


GM is set to unveil the V-Series performance of the 2011 CTS coupe at the Detroit Auto Show next week and here's our first look at what we can expect. The 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe combines the shell of the coupe with the 556-hp 6.2L V-8, which can be mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.

"The CTS-V Coupe marries our most potent and sophisticated technology with our most dramatic production design," said Bryan Nesbitt, Cadillac general manager. "This combination of visual and technical attributes is designed to create a very compelling choice for luxury sports car consumers."

Production of the 2011 CTS-V Coupe begins this summer.

Saab Aero X Could be Produced if Spyker Buys Saab


As we all wait for GM to finally decide if there is going to be a deal with Spyker concerning the fate of Saab, Spyker has revealed some of its plans for the brand if it does indeed acquire it.

Spyker's boss, Victor Muller recently revealed to AOL that if Spyker does acquire Saab it plans to rebuild the brand around the new 9-5, the 9-4X crossover and the 9-3. The new 9-5 would be released first, in the next few months followed by the introduction of the 9-4X crossover later this year or in 2011.

Regarding the Aero X concept car, Muller stated, "I love that car, and it deserves to be built. It's got true 'Saabishness' in it. It's one of the best designs of the past five years."

We'll have to wait and see what happens. GM has officially extended the deadline for a deal for Saab to January 7th.

2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe to Take on the BMW 1 Series


With the death of the CLK, Mercedes-Benz is missing a smaller entry level coupe in its lineup. The E-Class coupe is nice, but definitely not cheap with a starting price north of $48K. Mercedes is reportedly working on a new C-Class coupe which will be launched for the 2011 model year.

According to Inside Line, Mercedes is targeting the BMW 1 Series, which has proven that there is a market for a small rear-wheel-drive coupe. Of course the 3 Series is also going to be one of the C-Class coupe's competitors. The C-Class coupe is expected to be powered by a new generation of DOHC V6 engines. A 3.5L V6 and a smaller V6 with twin-turbochargers are expected. An AMG version is also expected, which will be powered by a turbocharged 5.5L V8.

Porsche is currently working on the replacement for the Boxster, which is expected to be released late next year as a 2012 model and according to the latest reports Porsche could be working on a special fuel-efficient model.

There have been rumors that Porsche has been thinking about a lightweight, turbocharged four-cylinder for the 2012 Boxster, but model line director, Hans-Jurgen Wohler, recently revealed to Autocar that a three-cylinder is also possible. Using a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine in the next Boxster would help Porsche lower its fleet emissions due to the new higher standards in the US and Europe.

"A Boxster with a four-cylinder engine, or maybe even a three-cylinder turbo, could produce between 180 and 200 horsepower," said Wohler. "Given the Boxster's history--that it started with a 200 horsepower, 2.5-litre engine--I think this is possibly something that customers could accept.

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