Driver's News: Sept. 3, 2001

September 3, 2001

In an eleventh-hour maneuver, Bridgestone/Firestone has settled with the Texas family suing the tiremaker for faulty manufacturing and tread-separation issues resulting in rollovers when mounted on Ford Explorer SUVs. The case was considered precedent-setting because it is the first of more than 500 lawsuits against Ford and Firestone to go to trial and a jury. (If such a trial were heard and decided by a jury, that jury could be empowered to assess blame between Firestone and Ford, thus deciding who was to blame and how much.) But the Texas trial never got that far: While in its fourth day of deliberation on Friday, the jury was called back into the courtroom by District Judge Filemon Vela who announced that a settlement had been reached. Ford has already settled with the family, agreeing to pay $6 million. Firestone has settled more than 150 of the cases against it out of court, but the company still has about 400 lawsuits pending.
TX Family Settles with Firestone by Jim Burt (8/26/2001)
TCC's award-winning Firestone coverage


The word on the street is that General Motors is toying seriously with idea of building a Chevrolet Corvette to compete with the elite European supercars. The super-Corvette’s estimated $100,000 price tag and significant bump in horsepower would make it the most expensive production car in America (if you don’t count the $395,000 Saleen S7). Currently, the flagship ‘Vette, the Z06, lists for around $45,000 and tops out at 385 horsepower. The SuperVette would be a showcase of GM materials and engine technology, designed to run with the best that Porsche, BMW and Ferrari have to offer, at a relatively bargain price when compared to those lofty European makes. Such a marketing move has a clean logic to it, considering GM’s efforts to expand itself as an international automaker and the emerging climate for exclusive supercars in Europe, Japan and the U.S.
Preview: 2002 Corvette Z06 by Marty Padgett (6/20/2001)

According to the results of a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a significant majority of front-seat occupants—73%—use their seatbelts. This percentage is an all-time high for seatbelt wearing in the United States, and suggests that Americans are paying more active attention to their safety than ever. "In many situations, the most crashworthy vehicle in the world is not going to help you unless you take the personal responsibility to help the vehicle help you," advises NHTSA chief Jeffrey Runge.

And in a related story, the National Safety Council has released a report that says the number of deaths caused by airbags has been cut in half since 1996, even while the number of vehicles on the road equipped with airbags has tripled. Back in 1996, according to the NSC report, airbags were to blame in 35 deaths. Last year, however, that number dropped to 18. More significantly, the drop in children’s deaths related to airbag deployment was even steeper: 25 in 1996 versus just six in 2000. The executive director of the NSC’s Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign praised parents for increasing their awareness on child safety in automobiles. "Clearly the message has gotten through to the public that children 12 and under should be restrained in the back seat," he said. 

A survey just released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that under-inflation of tires on passenger vehicles is rampant in the U.S. Prompted by the Bush Administration’s emphasis on transportation safety, the study concluded that 27% of the cars and 32% of the passenger trucks, vans and SUVs are being driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tire. Driving on under-inflated tires significantly increases the chances of premature tire failure, tread separation and blowouts. Not only that, but a tire that’s low on air makes the engine work harder and use up more fuel. The problem is so severe that a rule being drafted by NHTSA will require all vehicles manufactured after November 2003 to be equipped with a tire-pressure-monitoring system that warns drivers of low tire pressure.
NHTSA: Tires Under Pressure by Marty Padgett (9/3/2001)

The latest J.D. Power and Associates consumer-satisfaction survey is a timely tale of tires. Michelin tires took top honors for the fourth straight year in the cars and minivans category, while Dunlop pulled off a first-time-ever top ranking for pickup, sport-utility vehicle and full-size van tires. Legally embroiled Firestone lost significant ground in both categories, slipping to a below-average ranking in each. Pirelli enjoyed a huge leap in status as the most improved passenger-car tiremaker, while Uniroyal secured the most-improved spot in light-truck tires.
TCC's award-winning Firestone coverage

The Chrysler Group is slashing prices an average of just under one percent in an effort to regain lost market. George Murphy, the Chrysler Group's vice president of marketing, said the price cuts would not substitute for rebates and other incentives. The incentives won't go away but the lower prices will help Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep attract web browsers, who are hunting for lowest sticker price. The same strategy has already helped the Chrysler Group boost minivan sales, Murphy said. The new pricing strategy also encompasses even deeper cuts on some vehicles such as the Chrysler 300M and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Prices on the 300M are coming down $1,200 on average and prices on the Grand Cherokee will drop $2,000 to make it more competitive with the Ford Explorer.
2002 Jeep Liberty Limited by Marc Stengel (7/30/2001) 

Hoping to make a dent in the midsize market and draw buyers "before they become Camry and Accord loyalists," Nissan will launch the new, larger and significantly upgraded Altima sedan at a base price of $16,349. That’s $334 over the outgoing model, revealed Jed Connelly, Nissan senior vice president of sales and marketing, during an appearance in Detroit. The automaker hopes to sell as many as 190,000 of the new sedans a year, the capacity of its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, though Connelly admitted the sluggish economy could be an obstacle. In a conversation with, Nissan VP Jack Collins added that Nissan "has plans" for the Altima’s new platform, which is "capable" of serving a variety of non-traditional products. In other words, industry sources suggest, that could include some new crossover models due to market closer to mid-decade.
Preview: 2002 Nissan Altima by Bob Storck (8/6/2001) 

Acura has performance on its mind for the 2002 model year. In addition to the recently introduced RSX coupe replacement for the Integra, the company has a hotted-up Type-S version RSX close on the way boasting 200-horsepower and a 6-speed manual transmission. Even the stylish but more sedate TL sedan is getting the “Type-S” treatment next year. That means more power—260 horsepower from its 3.2-liter V-6, courtesy of this year’s CL Type-S coupe—plus a stiffer suspension and special alloy wheels. The ultra-Acura, the aluminum-bodied NSX sports car, will remain as is mechanically with its VTEC-inspired 3.0-liter V-6 still producing 290-hp, but its exterior gets a facelift and new taillight treatment for the new year. The flagship Acura RL and sporty CL models soldier on largely unchanged from 2001.
2002 Acura RSX by John Pearley Huffman (6/25/2001)


Although most of us will be standing at the sidelines when it comes to driving the latest offerings from Aston Martin, the company’s 2002 lineup is nothing if not fascinating to read about. The new model year will see the luxury carmaker’s roster double from one model to two—the DB7 and the Vanquish. All-new for 2002, the Vanquish is a 460-horsepower 6.0-liter V-12 engine wrapped in an aluminum and carbon-fiber shape that rings in with both classic and contemporary accents. Even by conservative estimates, the Vanquish will vanquish a 0-60 sprint in under five seconds. With the "base" DB7 (with a supercharged in-line six) dropped, the DB7 Vantage (coupe) and DB7 Volante (convertible)—both powered by a 420-hp 5.9-liter V-12—will live on as two of the most beautiful cars in the world.
Preview: Aston Martin V12 Vanquish by TCC Team (10/16/2000)


After three cinematic stints driving BMW automobiles, Pierce Brosnan—a.k.a. James Bond, Agent 007—is returning to his British roots. For the 20th Bond film—as yet unnamed, but said to be using Beyond the Ice as its working title—007 will be doing battle with evil while piloting an Aston Martin Vanquish, thus returning to Bond’s historic marque of record as written by his creator, novelist Ian Fleming. After the BMW Z3 roadster from Goldeneye, the 5-Series sedan in Tomorrow Never Dies, and the Z8 super-roadster in The World Is Not Enough, it will be nice to see 007 back behind the wheel of a proper British supercar, especially one with a 6.0-liter V-12 and 460 horsepower. BMW was reportedly shaken by the announcement, but not stirred to comment.
Preview: Aston Martin V12 Vanquish by TCC Team (10/16/2000)


Motorola and Ford have announced that Motorola will be the exclusive provider of the new Lincoln Vehicle Communications System (VCS) available in 2002 Lincoln models. VCS is an in-car communications and telematics system that seamlessly integrates a portable, docking Motorola Timeport, voice-recognition technology, and satellite-based route guidance, roadside assistance, emergency assistance and crash notification. When docked in its cradle, the phone connects with the Lincoln’s electronics and audio system, and can be used to make hands-free social/business calls or to subscription-based assistance and information services. VCS will be available as an option on 2002 Lincoln LS, Town Car and Continental models.
Telematics: Drivin' and Spying? by Frank Bohanan (1/28/2001)
The Digital Car by Eric Peters (11/20/2000)


In the interest of multi-layered marketing and brand awareness, Ford Motor Company is starting a magazine for its sport-utility vehicle customers. No Boundaries magazine will be published quarterly, beginning next month. It will serve as an extension and a reinforcement of Ford’s "No Boundaries" advertising campaign, with a strong SUV-as-a-lifestyle message. The company predicts an initial distribution, er, circulation of 100,000 copies.
Ford Video Library (7/20/2001)
WJR Auto Report: '02 Explorer by TCC Team (4/9/2001)

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