Check Your Mirrors
By Chris Haak
TOYOTA’s board of directors has changed its mind and replaced President-in-waiting Akio Toyoda with the newly available Rick Wagoner, formerly of General Motors. Reached for comment, a spokesperson from the company noted that although Toyoda’s grandfather founded the company that bears his name, Mr. Toyoda does not have experience running a global automaker, while Mr. Wagoner has been doing that for the past eight years. There’s no word yet on whether the Japanese prime minister is already planning to fire Wagoner.
CHRYSLER has announced plans to offer a SRT performance version of it’s Chrysler Sebring, as early as next week, and for a very limited time. The performance Sebring will have a V-12 engine under the hood, courtesy of a rush job by the engineering department at the SRT performance division – the Chrysler simply bolted two standard Chrysler V6 engines together, and added twin turbochargers. The new engine puts out a stunning 913 horsepower. The only other modifications other than the engine are very stiff bushings up front. When this reporter asked whether that much power in a stock Sebring might potentially be dangerous, Lee Nardelli Eaton, the Chrysler spokesman at the press conference, replied in the affirmative. Eaton stated, “Here at Chrysler we wanted to go truly retro and build a car that had way too much horsepower for its brakes and suspension. We think we’ve accomplished that and more. If we’re going out of business, we wanted a car like this to be our swan song, and to hell with the government regulations. So what if the car gets only 4 mpg, and so what if it has a potentially fatal problem with frame flex – we’re proud of our vehicles here at Chrysler and feel we can compete with any other automaker out there.”
TATA’s small, cheap Nano – the cheapest new car available anywhere in the world, has set a new Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record for production two-cylinder cars that have three-lug wheels. The Nano’s 26:32.9 ‘Ring time, while not necessarily impressive compared to the Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR’s 7:22.1, nevertheless breaks new ground for economical cars. With an average speed of 29.21 miles per hour over the 12.9-mile circuit. Tata has not released a video of the record-setting lap, so it’s unknown if trickery was involved in the record-setting attempt.
In a dramatic turn of events, Cerberus has extended a tender offer for all of the outstanding shares of Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A. Cerberus spokesman Peter Duda, when reached for comment, said that Cerberus was frustrated with the way Fiat was always throwing a wet blanket on all of the announcements that Chrysler made pertaining to the possible Chrysler-Fiat linkup. Duda also noted that by buying Fiat, Cerberus would be in a position to force Fiat to assume a proportional share of Chrysler’s debt after all.
President Obama has told GM and Chrysler that their participation in NASCAR will end after the close of the current 2009 season, according to Car and Driver. The same article also reports that NASCAR officials have reached out to Hyundai to gauge whether there is any interest in putting Genesis stickers on a Car of Tomorrow and competing in the series. GM and Chrysler are both committed to returning to NASCAR once their federal loans have been paid off. However, until that point, NASCAR will be either a two-make race (Ford and Toyota) or will add a third make in the form of Hyundai. With the warm welcome that Toyota received in 2007, it’s safe to say that these moves won’t make the President a popular guy south of the Mason-Dixon line.
HONDA has developed the latest generation of its VCM cylinder-deactivation system, and it goes even further than the last generation. The previous generation, installed on some Honda V6s, could operate the engine in 3-, 4- or 6-cylinder mode depending upon load and demands placed upon the engine. The new VCM-III allows the engine to run on 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, or 6-cylinder mode, depending upon need. Because of the sporading firing that single-cylinder operation provides, Honda has also dramatically improved engine mounts and interior sound insulation. We attended a media event a few weeks ago where Honda demonstrated the technology, and in spite of the company’s best efforts, the engines often sounded like Briggs & Stratton lawnmowers.
GM and Ford announced a job-protection guarantee program yesterday that’s uncannily similar to the program that Hyundai announced several weeks ago. Unfortunately, in a bit of gallows humor, employees of the two companies are ineligible for the program, so in spite of the fact that their employees are among the most likely folks in the country to not be employed as the Big Three trim jobs at an alarming rate, t
Speaking of employee pricing, Chrysler has announced its latest promotion: Employee Pricing Plus Plus Minus Times. It means that you get to purchase a new Dodge, Chrysler, or Jeep vehicle for the same price that employees pay, plus get a rebate, plus get zero percent financing for up to 84 months, minus any buyers with subprime credit – who can no longer get loans from Chrysler Financial, and buyers also get two times the number of vehicles they’re paying for (a semantic twist on the buy one/get one free offer on leftover 2008 Ram pickups that has been popping up here and there at Dodge dealers around the country).
Finally, Autosavant wishes a Happy April Fool’s Day to all!
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