Wednesday

GM's New $7,000 Car - But You Can't Buy it

GM is building a new four door sedan aimed at the middle class. But it's not for everyone. In fact, you can't even buy it in the United States.

If yo live in China, you can buy the new Baojun 630, a $7,000 four door sedan set to go on sale early next year, in partnership with SAIC, General Motors' Chinese affiliate. And to get into bed even tighter with its US partner, SAID bought up slightly less than one percent of the new GM stock that was released last week. That may not seem like much, but only a handful of people or companies bought enough stock to get near the one percent mark of the new GM stock.

It's the latest effort by the Chinese central government to push auto use into its mainland areas. In fact, GM already has a factory in Shanghai which produces Buick cars. There are plans for 100 new Baojun dealers during the coming half year - if the auto industry isn't thriving in the US, it certainly seems to be doing well in China.

Is the Chinese market small potatoes? Hardly. Last year GM sold more than 2 million vehicles in a single year in China. Still, the new $7,000 car was designed in Korea at GM's facilities there, so GM is spreading the work around.

It all makes you wonder how come we can't get a $7,000 car out of GM here in the US?

Sunday

Toyota: Where's there's smoke, there's fire

The Toyota cases just keep on going - like that rabbit with the battery - it just doesn't quit.

In the latest round, Toyota filed papers in federal court in California asking the court to basically throw out the cases, denying that there was any real defect at all which could cause the runaway accelerator defect that the cases are based on. Toyota argued that any economic loss was speculative.

Attorneys for the consumers appear to have defeated the motion, with a "tentative" 63 page ruling from the federal court that it will reject most of the arguments Toyota is making.

As many of us may recall our parents saying when we were much younger, where there's smoke, there's fire.

The cases are grouped into two types, those with purely economic loss because the cars are allegedly worth less due to their defect history, and those where a death or injury is claimed to have resulted. All in all, Toyota recalled more than 15 million vehicles this last year for a variety of problems the company is struggling with, including over 10 million for unintended acceleration issues.

Meanwhile, the case goes on, owners still wonder and worry, and both the existence and the exact case of the defect still is being debated.

Wednesday

When Being Smart May Not Be So Smart


The Smart cars have been all the rage in Europe for several years now and they are turning lots of heads and getting raves in the US too. But there's one aspect being ignored. Safety and smallness just don't mix.

When most of us were growing up, many parents would make sure that the first car their new-driver-child received was big and bulky. There was a reason for that.

All that engine up front, and the big trunk in back, made sure there was lots of "crush" space in the event of an accident. So what happens when you're in a Smart car? Well, it may not be too good for the drive. Here's a photo of an accident near New Orleans involving two trucks and a Smart car that got sandwiched at less than 10 mph. Bad news.

So, you save some gas, but you take a huge risk. See that little gray blob between the two trucks? That used to be a car.

There's a reason my first car was a big old Ford, folks. Maybe your child's should be too.

Thursday

The Chevy Volt pales next to the Canadian Urbee hybrid


Chevrolet has gotten some good press over its Volt "near hybrid" that is coming out soon, but it promises to be left in the mpg dust by other contenders who set their sights higher. Take the Canadian Urbee.

The electric-gas hybrid from Kor Ecologic is aiming at 200 mpg highway and 100 mpg city driving. That's an achievement.

In addition to its startling good looks, it will cost ten times less to drive an Urbee than it will your average SUV and seats two. One production key will be its ability to store (and then use) the amount of solar and wind energy collectible on a one car garage in one day. You might never actually dip into the gas fuel tank. Oh, and it can run on ethanol too.

The futuristic car just finished its display at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and is running in the 2010 X Prize Competition, which promises a big cash prize to the first production-capable car to prove it can get 100 mpg.

A fascinating aspect will be the body construction, which plans to be a "3-D" printing process where the body components are printed via layers of material on top of each other until the finished part appears. The process is already being used by Boeing for some airplane parts, but the Urbee makers intend to make the whole body this way. Such innovation at the absolute edge of the envelop sometimes works and sometimes doesn't, so we'll have to wait and see.

But for looks, it's certainly remarkable. Like the Aptera, there just isn't anything like it. I'd take either one of them for a drive today, if I could only find one on the road or at a dealership. So far, that continues to be the problem.

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