Monday, April 30, 2007

Godzilla Versus Bambi:

Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 6.7-liter Cummins Against Smart Fortwo 0.8-liter CDI Brabus Nightrun Coupe

By: Mike Levine Posted: 04-22-07 23:45 PT© 2007

"While attending last week’s Clean Diesel Technology Tour in Sacramento, California, we played with two very different breeds of vehicle from the species ‘Petroleo combustus waytbetterthanaprius’, Latin for clean burning diesels. The Cummins diesel powered Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab 4x4 and Brabus buffed Smart Fortwo CDI are as different from each other as a Great Dane is from a Chihuahua but they’re distant cousins in DaimlerChrysler’s extended family and virtually identical when it comes to the compression burning genes in their stop-and-go DNA."

Read full article here.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Designed by Michael Goretzky (involved in the development of Daimler Chrysler's smart automobile), the go-one³ is both a new type of vehicle and a new way of life. For the first time, conservation, frugality and fitness are combined in a way that is actually provocative, engaging and fun! The go-one³ is more than an enclosed bicycle [actually tricycle], it's a "Human Powered Vehicle" [HPV], complete with headlight, back light and turn signals. As an option, the velomobile can be fitted with a 350 Watt electric assist motor.
Why settle for a mundane, 3,000 lb behemoth car or truck (even if it has an electric or hybrid power plant)? What other vehicle can you "recharge" with a sports drink and a power bar? The go-one³ is the next-generation vehicle that you can own and enjoy today while not worrying about where you are going to refuel; slaving after the mass transit schedule; paying for gas and insurance; or, spending a fortune on maintenance and tune-ups. The go-one³ is virtually limitless!

Go here for more.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Company says timing is right for small car

San Jose Mercury News
SAN JOSE, CALIF. - Carlos Ramirez has owned some classic cars, like a ’57 Thunderbird or a ’34 Ford Coupe with a rumble seat, but his current obsession might be his favorite.“I wouldn’t accept a Ferrari if somebody said, ‘Let’s trade,’” Ramirez said. His pride and joy, imported from Europe to Mexico and now at his Campbell, Calif., home, is a Smart Fortwo. The tiny two-seater goes on sale in the United States early in 2008. Early word-of-mouth praise comes from international travelers who have seen or driven the miniature cars — two fit in an average parking space. They have been on sale in Europe since 1998, in Mexico since 2003 and in Canada since 2004. Smarts are now sold in 36 countries, and the company says it has sold 750,000 of them in the past decade. Officials with Smart, a division of Mercedes-Benz, which is part of DaimlerChrysler, have hesitated to bring the car here — until now. “It’s the right car in the right place at the right time,” Dave Schembri, president of Smart USA, said in a recent telephone interview. (The company puts its brand name, smart, and its models, such as the fortwo, in lowercase, to emphasize its difference.)

Go here to read Schembri's reasons why he thinks the US market is ready for the smart car.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Development costs give ambitious projects a bumpy ride

By John Griffiths
The ability of specialist car projects to swallow bigger-than-budgeted development costs explains why individual financiers and investment houses have learnt to treat funding approaches with hypercritical scepticism, writes John Griffiths.
One of the most ambitious such private ventures for years is Project Kimber. Led by David James, the company turnround specialist, its business plan is to produce a heavily restyled version of DaimlerChrysler's little Smart roadster and coupé two-seaters at a rate of 7,500 cars a year in Wales; and to revive the century-old AC name as the brand under which to market it.
Mr James and his cohorts have reached agreement in principle with DaimlerChrysler to acquire the intellectual property rights to the car and the plant and equipment to build it. The cars should be much cheaper to bring to market than almost any other such project because they were years under development at a cost far beyond the reach of specialist carmakers and tens of thousands have already been sold.
Read more here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Suzuki Makes a Splash at 2007 Shanghai Auto Show

Wednesday April 25, 2007 12:48 PM PDT - By: Michael Kwan
Little cars are gaining in popularity because gas prices are soaring through the roof. I can't go a couple of blocks without encountering a Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit. Suzuki already has several small cars in its lineup like the SX4, but the Splash concept car really takes the cake. It's ridiculously economical with its 1.2L four-cylinder DOHC engine, four-speed automatic transmission, and toy-like appearance. There are certain elements that I can see in common with the Nissan Versa and others with the Smart ForTwo, but overall, my impression of the Splash is that it's pretty darn ugly. The only splash that it makes with me is the pile of vomit on the ground, but hey, that's just my personal preference. I'm not a fan of the barely-there side mirrors and the overly-tall tail lights.I can't say for certain, but I suspect that a kei car like this will not make it into North America. It might do well in Japan though.

View source.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Small Cars, Small Profits

Will Americans embrace the microcar trend?
By RICK KRANZ AUTOMOTIVE NEWS AutoWeek Updated: 04/23/07, 1:17 pm et
Automakers appear to be preparing for the possibility that rising gasoline prices will send long lines of customers to U.S. dealerships to buy tiny fuel-sipping cars such as the Mini Cooper.Several companies are moving into the segment. DaimlerChrysler's Smart ForTwo will arrive in the United States in 2008, and General Motors this month showed a trio of small Chevrolet concepts at the New York auto show. But an industry consulting company predicts that U.S. buyers will shun cars that are smaller than subcompacts such as the Chevrolet Aveo, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. CSM Worldwide in Northville, Mich., calls such vehicles "microcars," defining them as vehicles less than 150 inches long.CSM predicts buyers will sacrifice a few miles per gallon to buy slightly larger, slightly more expensive cars.The bottom line: CSM forecasts that microcars will make barely a ripple in the U.S. market. Fewer than 100,000 microcars will be sold annually through 2013, according to CSM's seven-year forecast.

Read full story here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fiat and Cappellini offer special edition 500 ahead of launch

By Noah Joseph
"Most special editions are offered to help manufacturers clear out the last run of an outgoing model before the replacement arrives. The smallest cars on the market, though, seem to have it backwards. When Smart introduced its new ForTwo city car, the special edition came not on the outgoing model, but on the incoming one. Now Fiat has revealed that, in advance of the introduction of the highly-anticipated 500, it will be offering a limited edition of its own."

Read full article here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

'Miracle' no one hurt by runaway car

SMART car rolled away in Marks and Spencer’s car park and came to rest against a parked BMW
THE owner of a Smart car, along with passers-by, was baffled by how it had managed to roll down a hill and crash into a BMW - with the handbrake still on. Stephanie Aptaker left the red and black Forfour in the car park behind Marks and Spencer, in Muswell Hill, while she went in to do her shopping. When she came out she was horrified to see that it was no longer where she left it and it had rolled forward into an empty silver BMW parked in front. Both car owners - although annoyed and bewildered - were relieved the car had not run out of control down the steep hill and injured someone. Ms Aptaker, 59, a solicitor, of Hampstead Garden Suburb, had bought the car just two weeks before. She said: "It's not a brand new car." My ticket is from 10.17am. I went in and did my shopping in M&S and I came out of the door. I thought I was seeing things. How could I have parked at such a ridiculous angle? And then I got down and saw what had happened. It had hit the other car. God forbid - the car's rolling, there are plenty of little children around. It's a miracle no one was hurt. In the end it is just bits of metal."Ms Aptaker said the car's handbrake was on. The BMW it smashed into arrived half an hour after she had parked her car, pay and display tickets showed. The driver of the other car said: "All jokes apart, if that hadn't been there it could have been worse.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hybrids and Small Cars Staging a Comeback

Toyota, Ford, DaimlerChrysler Hyundai Ante Up; Sour Grapes from GM

By Joe Benton ConsumerAffairs.Com April 5, 2007

Hybrids and other small cars are staging a renewed assault on America's shores as consumers come to the realization that high gas prices are here to stay.
New Toyota Priuses are jamming dealer lots as the Japanese automaker's supply catches up with demand but sales are inching up as well, along with the price of gas. Ford, meanwhile, is working on a plug-in hybrid as DaimlerChrysler looks farther down the road with the Smart ForTwo minicar and Hyundai pins its hopes on diesels.
And GM? Out of synch with just about everyone else, it's complaining about proposals to increase fuel mileage.
It's been a long time coming but hybrids and smaller cars are carving out a growing market share.
California and the Washington, D.C. are the two hottest Prius markets in the country and there are ample supplies of the little car available. Hundreds of the cars languish in Washington-area dealerships poised to take advantage of the next sudden rise in gasoline prices.

Read full story here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour 14 Feb - 28 Mar, 2007

It's taken us a week to recover from our six week Down Under Tour.
I'd just gotten used to: the 30 C weather; March being autumn; not paying sales tax; looking the other way when crossing the road; and no coins less than 10 cents, when it was time to come home.

We spotted a few smart forfours & fortwos (and just one roadster) in cities like Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney, where they were generally promotion cars like the one pictured here. I recall just one fortwo in Hong Kong, where it seems there are more taxis than private vehicles on the road.

Future car may come from farm, not factory

Projects looking at plants, vegetables for manufacturing

If a “biocar” project comes to fruition, your car could include parts made from soybeans, top, and canola oil.
You’ve heard about driving with vegetable fuel, but how about driving in a vegetable?
If the new “biocar” project goes smoothly, in less than four years you could be sliding into your new car seat made out of canola oil, checking the speedometer on a dashboard made out of wheat and pulling shut the door manufactured, in part, from soybeans.
“We’d like to replace the plastic in cars with plastic made from plants and reusable material. The idea is to reduce the waste,” said Larry Erickson, associate professor of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph, one of 24 researchers on the project.
“You may not even notice it. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting on seats made from soy or canola oil, parts of your dashboard have a nice wood look to them because they’ve incorporated wheat-straw in with plastic,” he said yesterday, after the Ontario government announced a $6-million boost to the project.
Besides giving a stranded driver something to nibble on, potential environmental benefits are enormous: The plants would replace petrochemicals currently used to make plastic. The resulting parts would also weigh less, making the vehicles more fuel-efficient, explained University of Toronto forestry and chemical engineering professor Mohini Sain, project leader.
Bioplastics are, on average, 10 per cent lighter than conventional plastics. And every kilogram skimmed from a one-tonne vehicle saves seven to nine litres of fuel each year, he said. Multiply that by the seven million light-duty registered vehicles that crammed the roads across the province in 2005, and “you are looking at 50,000 barrels of oil,” said Sain.
The project is in its infancy. But over the next four years, researchers from the universities of Toronto, Guelph, Waterloo and Windsor will look at crops on a molecular level for their ability to make a durable plastic.
The fatty acids from vegetable, soy or canola oil, for instance, can be converted into polyethylene foam used in car seats. Using a bacteria, corn starch can be made into a biodegradable plastic for instrument panels and doors. The fibre from corn stalks can be used as a reinforcement agent, like fibreglass.
The news comes as relief to both farmers and the auto sector, which has contributed $6 million to the project, Sain said.
“Ontario is losing competitiveness in the automotive and forestry sectors and agriculture is struggling. They need some S.O.S,” said Sain. “This one idea can bring all three together.”
Environmentalists are holding their applause. If the energy required to grow the crops is more than the amount saved — often a criticism of biofuel made from corn — then there is no benefit, said Mark Winfield of the Pembina Institute.
Source: Torstar News Service