Consumer Car News: 3/18/02

March 17, 2002
2003 Lincoln Aviator

2003 Lincoln Aviator

Lincoln's new mid-size SUV, the 2003 Aviator, makes its debut at the New York Auto Show later this month — but because it’s going to be in the Vanity Fair Hollywood-themed issue on newsstands this week, Ford’s sent us a shot so you won’t have to actually buy a copy. The Aviator, Ford promises, will have the most flexible seating, roomiest cabin and best towing capability in its class. Based on the current Explorer sport-ute, the Aviator will sport a DOHC four-valve V-8 engine that produces at least 300 horsepower, a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension and available all-wheel drive, according to the minimal press release. It goes on sale this summer.


2002 Mini Cooper S

2002 Mini Cooper S

The first new auto franchise to open in the U.S. in the 21st Century is the BMW-owned and British-built Mini Cooper – going into business March 22 at 70 exclusive new dealerships. The Mini is a retro subcompact not unlike the Austin-descended Chrysler PT Cruiser. It will emerge in two model types – a standard Mini Cooper priced from $16,850 and a revved-up Mini Cooper S at $19,850. Standard equipment includes a six-speaker CD stereo, with luxo options including heated seats and, for $200, a Union Jack painted on the roof. Seeking to enter the entry-level luxo market cautiously, BMW will build them in England at Oxford and will limit U.S. allocations to about 20,000 cars a year. Dealers report thousands of sold orders, with 50,000 inquiries already received on Mini’s website. Sales of the Mini’s two main rivals – the PT Cruiser and the Volkswagen New Beetle, have slowed this year, prompting a $1000 rebate on the Cruiser. — Mac Gordon


2001 Kia Sedona

2001 Kia Sedona

Kia’s Sedona minivan posted $4305 of damage in recent rounds of testing performed by the Institute for Insurance Highway Safety, an organization underwritten by the major insurance companies. The Sedona’s airbags deployed in a 5-mph test and thus it earned a “poor” rating; in a rear collision, it racked up nearly $3000 of damage. The Subaru Impreza, the Mitsubishi Lancer, and the Volvo S40 earned a “marginal” rating for damage suffered between $2500 and $3100, according to Reuters. "It was the worst performance of any minivan we've tested," said Adrian Lund, the institute's chief operating officer. "The worst result was the airbag deployment in the flat-barrier test. This shouldn't happen." The Sedona earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2002 Kia Sedona by Sue Mead (7/30/2001)


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a group of recalls on Thursday. The vehicles being called back for repairs include:

·         Some 311,047 1998-2000 VW Passats and 1997-1999 Jettas, which could risk fuel-filler breakage if a tire blows;

·         2001-2002 VW New Beetles, Jettas and Golfs, which could suffer electrical fires in the ABS sensors;

·         273,743 2WD Toyota 4Runners built between November 1995 and February 1998, which could be prone to stability problems;

·         More than 120,000 Discovery IIs, for bad ABS units and weak accelerator cables;

·         And 71,677 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokees for a fuel-tank guard that could detach in a crash.


General Motors will fit its full-size SUVs equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8 with Stabilitrak, the company’s version of yaw control. Some versions of the 2003 1500-series Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, GMC Yukon, Yukon Denali, Yukon XL and Yukon Denali XL will offer a four-channel version of Stabilitrak, which GM says has been refined this year with two extra channels of input; previous versions made do with two-channel hardware. Stabilitrak uses anti-lock sensors and traction control to determine if a vehicle is sliding through a corner, and uses the brakes to reroute the vehicle on a more appropriate track.
Senate Scuttles CAFE Boost by Joseph Szczesny (3/13/2002)


Volkswagen Microbus Concept

Volkswagen Microbus Concept

Automotive News reports that Volkswagen might be closer to approving a production version of the Microbus concept. The industry weekly says VW Chairman-to-be Bernd Pischetsrieder indicated that the Microbus might be close to production as an American-targeted product and a companion to the sport-ute Volkswagen will sell in 2003. A final decision on the Microbus will come in June; VW may in fact build two vehicles, a wider one for America and a more compact vehicle for Europe. However, “BP” says that VW won’t be building a pickup truck of any kind.
VW: Pig in a Poke? by Jim Burt (1/21/2002)


Chevy SSR

Chevy SSR

A ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on plant construction standards in Michigan could delay the launch of the Chevrolet SSR hot-rod pickup, according to a Reuters report. The news service says the state of Michigan didn’t perform adequate studies on the types of pollution controls GM hopes to build at its new Delta Township, Mich., plant. While that plant isn’t scheduled to open until 2005 and won’t build the SSR, a similar permit for the SSR’s plant has been requested. GM officials suggest that the legal wrangling could delay or scuttle the vehicle entirely, since it only would be built in volumes of 10,000 to 15,000 a year and realistically might not be feasible to build in another plant.


Kmart’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy will result in the closure of 63 Penske Auto Centers along with the 284 Kmart store closings announced on Friday. Penske said in a statement that the 63 auto-service centers would close immediately and the estimated 300 employees would be put to work at other centers. A toll-free number -- 1-877-99-PENSKE -- is available for customers to locate an auto center nearest them, and Penske is online at


According to some reports, Ford and Firestone are trying to put their troubles behind them. How about under them, too? Ward’s Auto, a trade publication, reports that the new Detroit Lions football stadium will sport an artificial turf made up in part by ground-up, recalled Firestone tires. The new stadium — to be named Ford Field after the team’s owner, William Clay Ford Sr., the father of Ford Motor Company chief Bill Ford Jr. — is expected to open in August and will host the 2006 Super Bowl.


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