Smart Bows New Model on the Beach

Smart Bows New Model on the Beach

Smart sand carIt's a strange way to give the world a first glimpse of a new car, but then smart has always been a bit different. Carved out of sand at a German beach volleyball tournament, this is the next generation smart fortwo. It's the work of Pavel Zasanyok, the three-time world sculpting champion. It clearly shows the revised front end of the car, and the slightly more pronounced hood that's designed to meetU.S. crash safety regulations.

Zasanyok used special sand to build the smart, and completed it in less than a week. The two-seater will make its debut in the metal on 9 November in Europe, and is due on sale there early in 2007. It will hit American showrooms the following year.-Richard Yarrow

Find out more on smart's U.S. debut

Clinton Gets Mariner Hybrid

President Bill ClintonThe next time you see an SUV passing by the local gas pumps and making a beeline for McDonald's, you might be right to assume that it's former president Bill Clinton's Secret Service detail on the move. On Thursday, Ford showed off Clinton 's staff's new wheels-a new Mercury Mariner hybrid the company is donating to his protection detail. Clinton apparently has a nonprofit called the Clinton Climate Initiative which focuses "on American cities' energy use and greenhouse gas emissions." Clinton will accept the gift formally on Sept. 20 in New York at a global conference for his nonprofit.

GM Upgrades Warranties

General Motors is backing up talk of better product quality with new warranties. Starting with all 2007 models, GM will offer a 100,000-mile/five-year powertrain warranty on its lineup. In addition, consumers will also get expanded roadside assistance and courtesy transportation, GM CEO Rick Wagoner said at a press conference.

For non-powertrain components, GM's standard warranties remain in effect: four years or 50,000 miles for Buicks, Cadillacs, HUMMERs and Saabs, and three years or 36,000 miles for Chevrolets, GMCs,Pontiacs and Saturns, GM officials said.

Wagoner credited the expanded warranty coverage to the company's ongoing improvements in quality. GM's warranty costs have dropped by roughly 40 percent in the past five years thanks to a concerted effort to ensure the company's vehicles are reliable, he said.

"We've been telling everyone how strong GM's cars and trucks are in terms of value, design, quality and durability. Now we're going to back it up," Wagoner said.

Wagoner also said the warranty improvement will mean that GM warranties are now better than those offered by key competitors such Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Ford increased its basic warranty to five years and 60,000 miles earlier this summer.

"The bottom line is GM now has the best coverage in the industry," Wagoner said. "It includes the best warranty of any full-line automaker, equally compelling roadside assistance and courtesy transportation programs," he said.-Joe Szczesny

MORE: August Sales Steamy for Toyota, GM by Joseph Szczesny (9/4/2006)
Ford and Chrysler drop, along with Honda and Nissan.

GM Boots Itself Off "Survivor"

General Motors Corp. said Wednesday that it will not sponsor the next installment of CBS's Survivor as it has done the previous twelve seasons since 2000. Survivor has run two series at a different exotic locale per calendar year.

GM, though, said the decision was reached at least three months ago, and was not done because Survivor recently announced the upcoming season would pit teams against each other by race. That move prompted several complaints from politicians and civil rights advocates who say it sends the wrong message. For its seventh season, Survivor will begin its contest with 20 people grouped into four "tribes" of five, each team divided by race. The teams are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and white.

GM spokesman Ryndee Carney said GM pulled out of Survivor because of more sweeping change to its ad buys that is built around media properties that allow GM's vehicles to be integrated into the show. GM has given away vehicles to show cast members and had the vehicle on location to show off. But the return on investment on those deals after the first season when prices went up, says GM, wasn't very good. In the first season, for example, GM gave away a Pontiac Aztek in the show.

Still, Survivor would seem to be a media venue, albeit an expensive one, that GM should be cultivating. It is a mainstay of Thursday nights and is consistently one of the highest rated programs in prime time, especially with the 18-to-49-year-old audience. -Jim Burt

Sebring, Aspen Priced

Chrysler announced pricing for its two new 2007 models on Wednesday, pegging the Sebring sedan at a base price of $18,995 including destination and the Aspen SUV at $31,490, including destination. The Sebring comes standard with a 173-hp four-cylinder and a four-speed automatic, as well as curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and tire pressure monitors, and a CD player with MP3 capability. The $20,195 Touring edition adds premium trim and 17-inch wheels, while the 2.7-liter, 189-hp V-6 is an option. The Limited model begins at $23,995 and has a 235-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic standard. The Aspen also comes in a $34,265 4x4 "E" model, and a "Limited J" edition with a HEMI V-8 that starts from $36,905 for 4x2 versions and $39,225 for 4x4s.

OnStar Navigation is Standard for '07

OnStar, GM's telematics system, is expanding the reach of the navigation system it announced earlier this year. GM says that the Turn-By-Turn navigation system being outfitted to its vehicles will be offered free on a wide range of its lineup, including most of the Buick and Cadillac lineup. The service also will be available as an optional $100 upgrade on other models. After the first year, GM plans to offer navigation for $299 a year. The OnStar service sends turn-by-turn instruction to the car's audio system, which plays it back as needed.

GM Adds Spiffs

2006 Chevrolet ImpalaGeneral Motors on Tuesday put cash rebates that range from $500 to $1,500 on many of its 2006 and 2007 models. In most cases, the rebates are in addition to low-interest financing programs GM has been offering. The one-week program, timed to coincide with the Labor Day holiday, started today and is scheduled to end Tuesday, Sept. 5. In general, the bonus rebates are $500 for cars, $1000 for pickups and crossovers and $1500 for SUVs. Hot sellers like Pontiac Solstice, Chevy Suburban and HUMMER H3 are excluded from the program.-Jim Burt

GM Plans Diesel Expansion by Joseph Szczesny (8/28/2006)
Fuel-frugal powertrains no longer a dirty idea at GM.

Nissan, Ecko Team Up for Fashion

Ecko ArmadaMake it work? That's what Nissan and sportswear stylist Marc Ecko are trying to do with new runway-ready editions of the Pathfinder and Armada. Ecko's clothing lines will divvy up the vehicles and create a new exterior trim for each. The *ecko unltd. Nissan Pathfinder gets a new grille, black and gray camouflage paint, and orange details, along with molded wood backs for its seats and a gloss console treatment with orange details and a wood steering wheel. The Cut & Sew Nissan Armada, meanwhile, wears a more "sophisticated" off-white landau roof, smooth wheel covers, and whitewalls tires, with orange exterior panels and a cream-and-tan interior. Coordinating clothes will be sold online at the Nissan/Ecko Web site.

Ford Focus Wearing PZEV Badges for Fall

Meanwhile, things are a bit more prosaic, a little more ready to wear over at the Ford Focus dressing room - but definitely, green is in for the fall. The Focus is getting a new badge to denote its PZEV four-cylinder engine. PZEV, or partial zero-emission vehicle, means that the Focus with the 2.0-liter engine is more than 80 percent cleaner than average 2007 model-year vehicles and carries an extended emissions warranty. The engine also is available in the Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans.

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