Driver's News: 10/15/01

October 15, 2001

WILL GAS PRICES STAY STABLE?
Analysts are predicting steady oil prices even in the wake of the U.S. counterattacks in the Middle East, according to the Reuters news service. While past crises and strikes in the region have caused spikes, the price of oil has plunged in recent weeks and is not expected to rise significantly. The same analysts cite Afghanistan’s relative distance from the strategic Gulf region, as well as the promise of countries such as Saudi Arabia and other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members to keep production running normally, which should mean oil will stay around last Friday’s $22 a barrel.
TCC Tip: Sipping Fuel by Marty Padgett (10/1/2001)

 

CLASS-ACTION FOR FIRESTONE DELAYED
A ruling on the possible pooling of Firestone lawsuits into a class action has been delayed. U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Thursday moved to postpone a hearing on amassing hundreds of claims against Firestone tires and Ford Explorers until Nov. 16, which will give her more time to consider information submitted by the attorneys gunning for class-action status. The case, which those attorneys are trying to have heard in Indianapolis, would group more than 250 individual lawsuits against Ford and Firestone and apply the resulting verdict to all. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a preliminary ruling, found that the fault in more than 271 deaths and 800 injuries lie within a faulty Firestone design and build process, and not with the Explorer’s suspension design or recommended tire-inflation pressures.
Audio: Firestone Ends, Finally? by TCC Team (10/10/2001)

 

INSIGHT TOPS FUEL CHARTS AGAIN
America’s most fuel-efficient new vehicle is once again the Honda Insight. For the third year in a row, the 64-mpg Insight retained the top honors on the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency’s co-issued report on fuel economy. The manual-transmission Insight kept a wide lead over the other hybrid-powertrain entry, the Toyota Prius, which clinched third place with its 48-mpg rating. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told reporters that manufacturers are "beginning to recognize the trend and they are looking for more efficient vehicles” — obviously speaking before she consulted with the ultra-luxury makes. Among those high-end vehicles, the new Lamborghini Murcielago charted at the top of the “worst” ratings at 10 mpg, followed by the Ferrari 360 Modena and Bentley Azure at 13 mpg. Overall fuel mileage last year averaged 20.4 mpg, a hair below the 2000 model year and the lowest since 1980.
Experts Say Raise CAFE by TCC Team (8/6/2001)

 

FUEL ECONOMY BEST AND WORST ( 2002 MODEL YEAR):

BEST

 

WORST

 

Honda Insight         

64   

Lamborghini Murcielago  

10

Toyota Prius*          

48  

Ferrari 360            

13

Volkswagen Jetta Wagon 

45  

Bentley Azure*         

13

Volkswagen Jetta       

45 

Bentley Continental SC*

13

Volkswagen Golf        

45 

Bentley Continental T* 

13

Volkswagen New Beetle  

45  

Rolls Royce Corniche*  

13

Honda Civic HX         

39  

Bentley Continental R* 

13

Toyota Echo            

37  

Bentley Arnage*        

13

Toyota Corolla         

36  

Bentley Arnage LWB*    

13

Honda Civic            

36 

Ford F150*             

13

Chevrolet Prizm        

35 

Dodge Dakota*          

13

Mitsubishi Mirage      

35 

Dodge Ram 1500*        

13

*automatic transmission

 

 

SUV ROLLOVERS: AZTEK BEST, EXPLORER COMPETITIVE
The latest SUV rollover ratings count the Pontiac Aztek and Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer among their winners. The much-lambasted Aztek received four stars for rollover safety, the highest rating of any SUV thus far in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) new test. The Explorer/Mountaineer, vindicated last week in a way by NHTSA’s decision in the Firestone recall — the agency asserted in a preliminary ruling that Firestone tires, not the sport-utes, were responsible for rollover accidents that claimed 271 lives — were judged to be on par with other SUVs in rollover safety, earning three stars for rollover resistance. However, the two-door Explorer Sport received two stars; it’s based on a shorter, older platform unlike that of the 2002 Explorer four-door.
Recall, Rollover and Safety Info by TCC Team (10/8/2001)

 

GM DROPS PRICES ON 2002 AZTEK
GM is reducing the starting prices of the revamped 2002 Pontiac Aztek sport-utility by as much as 6.8 percent. The Aztek, which has been reviled for its ugly exterior, has sold poorly since it was released in July 2000. General Motors thought it could sell 75,000 units annually. But for the 2001 calendar year, sales have reached just 22,018. The revamped 2002 model is scheduled to hit showrooms in December. The lowest-priced Aztek will start at $19,995, down $1,450 from the current model. The all-wheel-drive version will be reduced 4 percent, to $22,995. The 2002 Aztek's exterior has been given a facelift that removed ridges from the side body panels and de-emphasizes the thick black plastic cladding. To the Aztek’s credit, once buyers get past the exterior, they generally love their vehicles; the Aztek was named the year’s top entry-level sport-utility in a J.D. Power & Associates survey.

 

VUE FROM THE STICKER: $16,835
Saturn’s first sport-utility vehicle, enduring its short-lead press drives this week, will be priced starting at $16,835, the company said in a press release on Wednesday. Base models offer a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive and a manual transmission; upmarket models add a continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and a V-6 engine. The new plastic-bodied SUV will begin production in November in Spring Hill, Tenn.

2002 Saturn VUE Base Prices

2.2L four-cylinder, front-drive manual          $16,835
2.2L four-cylinder, front-drive VTi*              $17,775
2.2 L four-cylinder, all-wheel-drive VTi*          $19,370
3.0L V-6, all-wheel drive, automatic          $23,085
*Variable transmission
Cargirl: The VUE from Saturn by Lesley Hazleton (1/19/2001)

 

SATURN DUBS NEXT COMPACT “ION”
As TheCarConnection.com reported last week, the next compact sedan and coupe from the Saturn division will be called ION. The ION compacts are to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2002 as 2003 models. The sedan will make its debut before the coupe, and both will be larger out and inside, with new powertrains, GM officials said on Monday. Why the new nomenclature? Jill Lajdziak, vice president of Saturn sales, service and marketing, says that "consumers associate the name with concepts such as energy, movement and smart engineering,” and that the name will signify the cars will be more than makeovers of the current eleven-year-old cars. The ION will be the first vehicle to be spawned by GM’s global Delta platform, a small-car chassis that will also spin off a new Saab 9-3, several Pontiacs and Chevrolets, even some Alfa Romeos.
Spy Shots: '03 Saturn S-Series by Brenda Priddy (10/1/2001)

 

USED-CAR DEALERS INSPIRE NOBEL
A theory called asymmetric information — one that explains how used-car dealers hold an edge over consumers and therefore inspire loathing — has vaulted three American economists into the ranks of Nobel Laureates. George Akerlof, professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, will share the 2001 economics prize with Michael Spence of Harvard and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University for their explanations of how markets work when one side knows more than the other, and how this “asymmetric information” can lead to the development of adverse markets — such as one where bad used-car dealers crowd out the good ones.

 

ANTHRAX SCARE HITS AUTO MAGAZINE
The headquarters of AMI Auto World magazine were among those affected by the discovery of anthrax in Delray Beach, Fla., according to Automotive News. Auto World, a magazine started in Mississippi by former Car and Driver editor and publisher William Jeanes, is now located in south Florida along with AMI’s other publications, including the National Enquirer. The company’s headquarters were quarantined late Sunday when a photo editor was discovered to have anthrax; the worker later died, and two more employees have tested positive for the bacteria. Along with Auto World’s four employees, Toyota regional PR representative Bill Ussery, who had attended a meeting in the building, also expected to be tested for the bacteria.

 

EMISSIONS MATTERS IN BIBENDUM CHALLENGE
Drivers are gearing up for a race, slated for October 26-29, where exhaust counts as much as speed. The Michelin Challenge Bibendum is a competition designed to demonstrate real-world development and progress of automotive environmental technology. Things like acceleration, top speed, handling, braking, and fuel efficiency are critical for the race as is low or no emissions. The race will be run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with anything from diesels to electrics to hybrids. Bibendum, by the way, is that roly-poly guy in the Michelin commercials. –Bob Storck
DC, Ford Boost Ballard Share by TCC Team (10/8/2001)

 

ACDELCO CONTEST TAKES WINNERS TO LE MANS
ACDelco's Drive to Victory Sweepstakes offers over $50,000 worth of prizes including a trip to Paris to watch the world famous Le Mans auto endurance race and a two-year lease on a new Cadillac. Sweepstakes entry forms are available at independent service centers that feature and install ACDelco parts or via their Web site atwww.acdelco.com. No purchase is necessary. The sweepstakes promotion runs through Nov. 30, 2001. The Grand-Prize is a five-day, four-night trip for two in June 2002 to experience the thrills of the 24 Hours at Le Mans race. The prize includes airfare to Paris, hotel accommodations and transportation and tickets to the race. First Prize is a two-year lease on a Cadillac Seville. -Bob Storck

 

MOTOR TREND EDITOR RESIGNS
C. Van Tune, the editor of enthusiast magazine Motor Trend, resigned yesterday, reportedly during the magazine’s press conference announcing that the GMC Envoy was its 2002 Truck of the Year. Van Tune, in a private e-mail, later announced that he would be going to work for High Impact TV, a television production company in Southern California, and would continue his appearances on other shows such as NBC’s Today. In his wake, Primedia has announced that David E. Davis Jr., former Car and Driver editor and founder of Automobile magazine, would preside as acting editor-in-chief until a replacement could be named.

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