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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton to drive each others' cars

Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton to drive each others' cars

Tony Stewart has been fast in every discipline he's driven in. Now, we'll get a chance to see how fast he is in a Formula 1 car.
Stewart, the two-time Sprint Cup champion who has won the USAC Triple Crown and the IndyCar Series title will switch cars with 2008 Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton at an exhibition at Watkins Glen this summer.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon did something similar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2003, when Montoya was in the Formula 1 Series. Hamilton currently drives for McLaren Mercedes and McLaren has partnered with NASCAR to develop the implementation of fuel injection in the Sprint Cup Series.
This swap was arranged by Mobil 1, which sponsors both drivers. Both race teams will accompany the drivers to Watkins Glen and tune the cars. Hopefully each will take some laps in their own cars before the switch so that we can compare lap times. (We'll let you insert your own joke about Stewart fitting into Hamilton's car here)
No, that 2003 switch wasn't the impetus for Montoya's eventual switch to NASCAR, so don't expect Hamilton to be driving a third car for Stewart-Haas anytime soon. Of course, no one thought at the time that Montoya would eventually be in the Cup Series. (And no one thought that Kyle Busch would actually be driving for the never-existent USF1 team in 2011 either)

Friday, February 25, 2011

FIRST LOOK: ‘Toy Story’ "Hawaiian Vacation & Cars"

FIRST LOOK: ‘Toy Story’ "Hawaiian Vacation"

A couple of newly released images give us our first look at the ‘Toy Story’ short ‘Hawaiian Vacation’ which will play before ‘Cars 2′ this summer. Find out what the toys are up to this time.

Toy Story 3 Hawaiian Vacation Images

Thought you’d seen the last of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang of famous toys? Think again. No this is not news that a Toy Story 4 is on the way (as of last November there areno plans for a fourth film) but rather our first look at the upcoming Toy Story short that will play before Pixar’s next film, Cars 2, this summer.

We found out just before Christmas that the first of many planned Toy Story shorts wouldfocus on fan-favorites Ken and Barbie (as seen together in Toy Story 3) as they plan a trip to Hawaii. Disney animator Floyd Norman previously used the words “Ken and Barbie want to go to Hawaii” to describe the premise of the short, the key words being “want to” which hints that their trip doesn’t go as planned.

Entertainment Weekly has a couple of new images which give us our first look at the short and it indeed contains Hawaii references. However, EW‘s blurb under one of the images reveals that Ken and Barbie mess up the plans but Woody and the rest of the gang are their to help as they, “re-create a romantic getaway in the toy box.”

The short will be six minutes long and is entitled “Hawaiian Vacation.” Check out the two images below:
Toy Story short Hawaiian Vacation image1

Toy Story short Hawaiian Vacation image2

So far, we only have the two images to go on but just looking at them makes it hard to wait – even if Hawaiian Vacation is only a short. Just like the animation wizards at Pixar, our favorite animated toys really do seem to have a creative imagination, “As toys who get played with all the time, they have a pretty good imagination… When it’s time for a little playacting, they’re good at it,” director Gary Rydstrom said of the short (he also directed the Pixar short “Lifted” which played before Ratatouille).

Hawaiian Vacation will feature “old favorites” which (unless they’re merely referring to Woody and the gang) might hint at the possible return of some of the characters found in the first two Toy Story movies – ones Pixar decided not to include in Toy Story 3 (possibly Bo Peep and Etch). Although they only have six minutes to play with this time around, I would love it if the folks at Pixar found a way to fit in those characters – an encore chance to make Toy Story fans smile.
You can check out the Toy Story short “Hawaiian Vacation” this summer when it precedesCars 2 on June 24th, 2011. In the meantime what do you make of the images?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gucci Collaborates With Fiat and Aquariva to Launch Cars and Boats

Gucci Collaborates With Fiat and Aquariva to Launch Cars and Boats

In two separate stories today, WWD discusses Gucci's foray into transportation—vehicles, that is. The luxury fashion house has partnered with Italian car companyFiat and speedboat manufacturer Aquariva to produce two co-branded products: the Fiat 500 by Gucci and the Aquariva Gucci speedboat, which debuted at Cannes last fall and is now available for purchase, priced upwards of $750,000.
The Fiat, however, will be far more affordable. Available in black or white, the car's interiors will be a leather-and-fabric melange of classic Gucci colorways and motifs. "Prices are still being determined," reports WWD, but a basic 500 runs about $19,000.
“At a time when real brand values are being placed at the center of consumer purchasing decisions, both Gucci and Fiat have the potential to capitalize on a set of shared values: iconic Italian brands, heritage, Italian design, quality, innovation and style,” Gucci president and CEO Patrizio di Marco told WWD. “This is a car that is part of Italian life.”
As for the $750k boat, it boasts a 380-horsepower engine, mahogany-and-Gucci interiors. "Seats are upholstered with the label's trademark Guccissima print," reports WWD and the boat's front line will be detailed in the company's signature red-and-green web.
Both the Fiat and the Aquariva collaborations will spawn a full line of Gucci accessories—from driving gloves to duffel bags, towels, and flip-flops. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Buick Features Loyalty Cash, Lease Deals in February

Buick Features Loyalty Cash, Lease Deals in February

Buick is featuring incentives for returning customers in February. On top of its 0 percent financing deals, low auto loan rates and discounted leases, Buick is offering loyalty cash for owners who decide to buy or lease a new Buick vehicle again.

Buick's 0 percent auto loan rates are available on the 2010 Lucerne and Enclave in February for 60 months. The 2011 Enclave also has interest-free financing for five years. Low car loan rates are available on new 2011 Buick vehicles this month. The 2011 Buick Regal and LaCrosse have 2.9 percent financing for 60 months, while the 2011 Lucerne is 1.9 percent for 60 months.

2011 Buick Regal
The 2011 Buick Regal can be leased for $249 a month in February.

Buick has three lease deals in February. Shoppers can take advantage of a $249 monthly lease payment on the Regal this month. The Regal's lease is for 39 months with $2,079 due at signing. The 2011 LaCrosse is $309 a month for 39 months with $2,104 at signing, while the 2011 Enclave is $399 a month for 39 months with $2,459 at signing.

Buick is also offering $1,000 in owner loyalty cash on top of its February incentives. Owners must provide proof of current ownership or lease of a 1999 or newer model year Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer or Oldsmobile vehicle. You're not required to trade in the vehicle to receive the $1,000. The loyalty cash is good on any new 2010 and 2011 Buick vehicle.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hands off Alfa Romeo

Hands off Alfa Romeo

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fiat will not consider selling its Alfa Romeo brand to Volkswagen AG, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said Friday.

VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech has indicated an interest in buying Alfa from Fiat Group. But Marchionne said: "As long as I am CEO of Chrysler and Fiat, Mr. Piech will never have Alfa Romeo. It's hands-off. I told him. I will call him and I will email him."

Marchionne said Piech should concentrate on fixing Seat, VW's struggling Spain-based subsidiary. " I'm not the one who bought Seat. He's the one who bought it. I don't know if he can [fix it], but he needs to try."

Marchionne was speaking at a JD Power automotive conference here.

At the Detroit auto show last month, Fiat executives said Alfa plans to relaunch the brand in the United States in late 2012. “We would not sell Alfa even if we were offered tons of money,” Fiat Chairman John Elkann told reporters at the show.

Piech said last March that VW is interested in Alfa, but is in no hurry to buy it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

9 Things To Know Before Buying an Electric Car

9 Things To Know Before Buying an Electric Car

1. There Are Two Kinds of Electric Cars

The buzz in 2011 is about all the new electric cars on the road, led by the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf. But because these are new products to the U.S. market, asked Nick Chambers, who has written about next-generation automobiles for the New York Times, Popular Mechanics and others, to cut through the hype and offer some practical electric car buying tips. He came up with these nine things you should know about electric cars before making a purchase:

Turbocharger? What's that? In this new world of plug-ins there are really only two types: all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids. 

All-electric cars are solely powered by large batteries charged from the grid; when they run out of juice they can't move anymore. The Nissan Leaf (left) is an example of an all-electric car.

Plug-in hybrids have a shorter all-electric driving range using a smaller battery pack. After the battery pack is drained, they can either revert to being a normal fuel-fed hybrid, or they can use fuel to run a generator and recharge the batteries on the fly. The Chevy Volt (right) is an example of a plug-in hybrid.

2. There Are Lucrative Federal and State Incentives to Buy Them

Although the sticker prices for electric cars tend to be higher than similarly-sized and -equipped conventional cars, federal and state governments think they are worth subsidizing and have offered some seriously chunky incentives for you to buy one.

All U.S. taxpayers are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit -- but only if you have a one-year tax liability that exceeds that amount. If you don't have that much tax liability, don't fret, you can lease the car from the manufacturer and use the entire $7,500 to pay down the lease right off the bat. As a result, Nissan and Chevy -- the two electric vehicle manufacturers first out of the gate with mass-market offerings -- both have relatively affordable $350 per month lease deals. The federal tax credit will remain in effect for a given EV (electric vehicle) manufacturer until it sells more than 200,000 EVs.

In addition to the federal incentives, many states have sweetened the kitty with their own. For example California has a $5,000 credit, Oregon has a $1,500 one and the State of Washington waves its usual 6.5% sales tax charge. Some states also provide special parking and carpool lane privileges. Nissan's LEAF website has a handy tool to help you figure out what incentives are available where you live. 
3. There Are Three Ways to Charge Them

Although the engineers will tell you this is a complicated point of discussion, what it really boils down to is that electric car manufacturers in the U.S. can provide three "levels" of charging support for their vehicles.

Level 1 charging happens off of a standard three-prong household outlet. Every electric car comes with a cable that supports this type of charging, but it's slow -- only adding about 5 miles of driving range for every hour of charging.

Level 2 charging uses special wall- or pedestal-mounted equipment unique to electric cars. Even so, it is essentially like charging from a standard household dryer outlet. Level 2 charging is faster than Level 1, adding about 15-30 miles of driving range per hour of charging, depending on the vehicle.

DC fast charging uses industrially-rated, gas pump-sized stations to dump electrons into your car's battery like a firehose. Only some cars support this type of charging, and it's usually an option that costs extra. DC fast charging can add about 80 miles of driving range in a half hour of charging.
4. It's Easy To Install a Home Charging Station, But It Costs Extra (Don't Worry, There Are Incentives)

Although every electric car comes with support for Level 1 charging, most people will want to install their own Level 2 charging station at home so that they can fill up their car's battery overnight -- but it's by no means a free endeavor.

Level 2 home charging stations will cost between $1,500 and $2,500 to install, depending on the manufacturer and the equipment chosen. If you have special circumstances, such as a long wiring run, the costs can be considerably more. Sounds like a lot, no? The federal government, again, has a pocketful of cash it's ready to dole out, providing a tax credit of 30% of the cost of purchase and installation, up to $1,000. 
5. Public Charging Stations Are Coming, But The Rollout Will Be Slow and Sporadic

So you've got your spiffy new electric car, and you coughed up the dough for your own home charging station. If you're like 80% of Americans, that's likely good enough for most of your driving needs -- you'll get to the work and back, and have enough to run typical errands. But what about if you want the same freedom that a gas tank and a filling station ever few miles offers? That's where public charging comes in, providing you the ability to extend your electric car's all-electric range substantially. (The Wattstation, at right, is an example of a public Level 2 charger.)

There is currently a huge push from the EV Project -- a $250 million joint federal-private program -- to install nearly 15,000 public Level 2 charging stations in a handful of early deployment regions around the United States over the course of 2011. This includes areas of Oregon, California, Washington, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and Washington, D.C. If you live in one of those regions you will have a relatively robust public charging infrastructure quickly. If you don't, you may have to wait a while unless your community is charging ahead without federal support.
6. All-Electric Cars Are for Daily Driving, Not Cross-Country Road Trips

If you buy a plug-in hybrid, you can ignore this because they are capable of taking long-distance trips. However, most of the initial crop of all-electric cars have a range of around 100 miles on a full charge. Some have up to 200 miles, but are quite a bit more expensive. If you have public charging where you live, or you return home and plug-in during the day, you can drive your EV more than 100 miles. Even so, you're not going to be taking them on long trips. Most people who buy an all-electric car will have a second car available for the occasional long trip.
7. You'll Spend Less On Maintenance, But... (Yes, There's a "But")

All-electric cars ditch the thousands of moving parts of a combustion engine and associated transmission for a handful of moving parts in an electric motor. They also have no emissions equipment. As a result you will have very few maintenance costs -- no more oil or transmission fluid changes or catastrophic mechanical repairs. And, although plug-in hybrids still have an engine and emissions equipment, they will need far less maintenance than a typical gasoline engine because they will operate as an electric car much of the time.

Even so, EVs have large, expensive batteries that may need to be replaced after 7-10 years. However, in this first crop of electric cars the manufacturers have provided long battery warranties. In the case of both the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt, that warranty is 8 years or 100,000 miles. The average new car buyer owns the car for six years.) In 8 years the price of batteries will likely come down substantially.
8. All-Electric Cars May Not Have Tailpipe Emissions, But They Aren't Emissions Free
Sure, we've all heard the "zero emissions" claim, and some of us have seen it plastered on the side of a Nissan LEAF -- but it's not entirely true. About half of the U.S.'s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, so many drivers are filling up on a dirty fossil fuel - it's just burned a few miles down the road, rather than under your hood. Depending on where you live, this ratio might be more or less -- and in places like California or Washington, a large proportion of that electricity comes from natural gas and renewable energy sources, like wind, solar or hydro power. 

Even if your electric car is powered by 50% coal there are several studies that conclusively show it will pollute less than the average diesel or gas car, such asthis one from the Electric Power Research Institute.
9. Electric Cars Are Really Cheap to Operate, But Expect Higher Utility Bills
Given the average cost of electricity in the United States of about 12 cents per kilowatt hour, you can drive an EV for around three to four cents per mile. At $3.20 per gallon, a 30 mpg gas car costs about eleven cents per mile to drive -- plus regular and unexpected maintenance that you likely won't have in an EV. If you drive your EV 50 miles every day, you can expect your electricity bill to increase by half.