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Today’s Rare Ride is kind of like a more modern and luxurious version of the Honda Civic Wagovan sold in North America in the Eighties. Offered by Nissan only in the Japanese domestic market, a case for the Rasheen in North America could’ve been made. Let’s check it out. Considered an SUV in its home […]
The post Rare Rides: The 1995 Nissan Rasheen, a Boxy Off-road Wagon appeared first on The Truth About Cars.
A crash involving a Tesla Model S in Texas killed two passengers. We say “passengers” instead of “occupants” because it appears there was no one in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash. At least, that’s what authorities claim. “I can tell you our investigators are certain no one was in the […]
The post Authorities Claim No One Was in the Driver’s Seat in Tesla Crash appeared first on The Truth About Cars.
Unveiled at the Shanghai auto show, Volkswagen’s ID.6 is reportedly ready for the Chinese market as the manufacture strives to present itself as an EV firm. Originally known as the spacious ID Roomzz concept, the three-row crossover will be the VW’s largest product on the Asian market and come in two distinct flavors — each the offspring […]
The post Volkswagen ID.6 Readied for China, Perhaps North America appeared first on The Truth About Cars.
The General had a healthy sales hit with the GMT360 platform in the 2002 model year, when the new Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and Oldsmobile Bravada hit the showrooms. Since GM had devoured Saab in 2000 and most American car shoppers wanted trucks or truck-shaped machines by that point, it seemed to make sense to […]
We continue the Cheapest Of series today on Buy/Drive/Burn, and check out the least expensive full-size truck-based SUVs on sale in America in 2021. And we’ve been generous today and equipped each of them with four-wheel drive to avoid any usability concerns. Today’s trio is very close in price but diverges elsewhere. Let’s go. Chevrolet […]
The post Buy/Drive/Burn: The Cheapest Full-size, Truck-based SUVs in America for 2021 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.
Tesla could be in for a shock as far-eastern rivals use cheap money to gain traction among affluent western car buyers
Tesla boss Elon Musk is not known for admiring his competition, but when Chinese manufacturer Nio made its 100,000th electric car last week, he offered his congratulations.
It was a mark of respect from a chief executive who had been through “manufacturing hell” with his own company. Yet it is also a sign of the growing influence of China’s electric carmakers. They are hoping to stake out a spot among the heavyweights of the new industry and bring a significant new challenge to Tesla – and to the rest of the automotive industry as it scrambles to catch up.Continue reading...
China dominates supply of the elusive metals, which are vital to modern technology, but finding new sources is becoming a global priority
There are an estimated 1.4bn cars on the world’s roads today. Around 78m new cars are sold every year. To head off the worst effects of climate change, every single one will need to go electric eventually.
Whether it rolls off a production line in Fremont, California, or comes together in a vast megafactory in Qinghai, China, a colossal amount of human effort must go into building the components and obtaining their base minerals. In each car, for instance, there is roughly a kilogram of magnet providing the motion needed to fire engines and electrify windows. Roughly 30% of this material is made up of rare earth material known as neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr).Continue reading...
A Sydney company plans to import electric hatchbacks that will sell for almost $10,000 less than the cheapest models currently on the market
The race to bring an affordable electric car to Australia is about to kick into high gear with a Sydney-based company’s plan to import a new passenger car for less than $35,000.
Among the cheapest zero-emissions vehicles now on the market in Australia is the Chinese-made MG ZS EV, which sells for $43,990.Continue reading...
Extreme E is a new, sustainable racing series which aims to showcase the performance of electric vehicles with events in countries affected by climate change. The first event, the Desert X Prix, took place in Saudi Arabia this weekendContinue reading...
Peter Rawlinson says Lucid, which is about to list for $24bn, has drawn interest from big carmakers
The Lucid Motors boss Peter Rawlinson is fluent in the language of the new breed of electric carmaker: he wants to save the planet and he wants to do it fast.
The California carmaker is only starting production of its hotly anticipated first model in the second half of this year but it has quickly come to be seen as one of the leaders in the pack of would-be rivals to Tesla. A recent $24bn (£17bn) deal to list on US stock markets will give it $4.6bn in funds to play with.Continue reading...
The Japanese brand plans to launch 15 new battery-electric vehicles by 2025, seven of which will wear the bZ (Beyond Zero) nameplate - which is comparable in its conception to Mercedes' EQ brand, Hyundai's Ioniq models and Volkswagen's ID family.
"We have decided to create what we can call a 'sub-brand': a new breed of vehicles [...] with quite consistent design language and, ultimately, a consistent consumer experience," explained marketing and product development boss for Toyota Europe, Andrea Carlucci. "And fundamentally, this breed of vehicles will belong to a family which cannot be associated to other vehicles."
That means that, while the new bZ4X concept is of a similar size - and bears a considerable resemblance - to the conventionally fuelled RAV4 SUV, bZ cars are not intended to replace legacy models, nor are they set to be sold as electric versions of existing models. Each will be based on the new e-TNGA electric vehicle architecture, which Toyota has developed in partnership with Subaru.
There are four 'pillars' underpinning the bZ brand and which will be common to all models: renewable energy usage, advanced connectivity, spaciousness and positive societal impact. They will also have a "quite consistent design language" and "consumer experience", according to Carlucci.
"The vehicles will give a strong priority to the interaction between man and machine: the meter [digital display] is positioned above the wheel, the concept has the butterfly-shaped steer-by-wire device, there's the driving position.
"But also, because of the dedicated platform, the interior space can be managed in a different way versus ICE or even hybrid vehicles. All the occupants in the vehicle can share the same experience, and have the same point of view, as the driver in certain elements."
Under the surface, Toyota's electric cars will be marked out from rivals, Carlucci says, by giving "what is promised" in terms of range. The brand has considered a range of possible usage patterns and operating environments for its EVs, and claims to offer "reliable, lasting performance" even in cold climates. The bZ4X
"This is where, fundamentally, we want to say: 'if you promise X kilometres, it's not about promising something which - on paper - is hard to get in reality. That, for us, is quite critical, and this will be the signature of this new breed of vehicles in the bZ sub-brand," he said.
A range for the bZ4X has not been given, but a solar panel has been integrated into the roof for off-charge energy top-ups, and will likely be carried to production.
Back in 2013, Allan McNish finally won the FIA World Championship that he had always craved, in what turned out to be his final season as an active racing driver. Clinching the World Endurance Championship (WEC) with long-time partner and friend Tom Kristensen and Frenchman Loïc Duval was the perfect sign-off from a long, varied and monumentally successful career as one of the world’s best sports car racers.
Now, eight years later, the three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner has the chance to chase another world crown, this time as team principal of Audi’s Formula E team, which will quit at season’s end – just as the electric single-seater series has gained bona fide FIA World Championship status.
“Clearly you go into every year wanting to be successful, but there’s an extra focus when you already know that it’s your farewell season,” says the 51-year-old Scot, who has already tasted (non-World Championship) Formula E success with the Abt-run Audi team when it won the title in 2017/2018. “You want to deliver in your last race, as I know. There’s no doubt that we have extra energy because of that. You’ve only got one final run at it.”
Audi’s decision to withdraw from Formula E was announced in December, awkwardly just as the team was preparing for a pre-season test in Valencia, Spain. Two days later, BMW went public on its own pull-out, also at the end of this season, to complete a double body blow for a series that’s used to luring manufacturers rather than losing them.
“Obviously I knew the Audi one was coming, but I didn’t know about BMW,” says McNish. “We had a timeline for board meetings and decisions, as everybody does. When it came out was unfortunate, but the timing wasn’t possible to change. It’s a realignment of the motorsport strategy that came from a high level of where we are and where we’re going.”
While Audi will continue to support customer team Envision Virgin until at least the end of next season, its decision represents a snub to Formula E’s more powerful Gen3 regulations, which are set to be introduced for 2022/2023. Instead, its focus switches to an intriguing 2022 Dakar Rally assault with an all-new off-roader based on its E-tron electric SUV. Then in 2023, Audi will return to its old stomping ground, the sports car endurance racing scene, with a car built to the new Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDh) rules.
As for BMW, its future motorsport plans – if there are any – currently remain a mystery.
“Audi always wants to be ahead of the game in the championship they’re in and with the technology they’re bringing,” says McNish. “Remember, they came to Formula E and raced a complete season before they had the first E-tron road car even to be shown to the markets, never mind being sold. So it’s about where they’re going forward into the future.”
His perspective on Formula E’s present and future challenges offers further insight into the decision. “Every manufacturer has got their opinion on whether the new Gen3 regulations should be a little more open or closed,” he says.
“Formula E has some speed bumps to overcome. They have to maintain their growth and make sure there’s a return on investment for all teams. That’s the big one going forward. Formula E must have a sustainability message: not just environmentally – which clearly they have to push – but also in terms of the financial side. That’s something they’re attacking with cost caps.”
Change is something that McNish has always embraced, as his smooth transition from racing driver to team principal shows. But how is he handling the responsibility? “The pressure doesn’t bother me,” he says. “I wouldn’t say that it’s more than you have as a driver. It’s spread wider, though. When you’re picking up a trophy, you feel incredible pride, because it’s for everyone in Neuberg [Audi Sport’s base]. That was a strange sensation for me, to be honest. As a driver, I was proud for the team, but I was bloody proud of what I did; it was more personal. As a driver, you see a narrow view as you look through your visor.”
Also typically of his breed, McNish lives in the present – and right now, his eyes are fully trained on the Formula E prize. The end is coming, but it’s not here yet. The E-tron FE07’s all-new powertrain, produced in-house for the first time, is a clear signal that no one at Audi is taking their foot off the spark pedal – least of all the drivers.
How has McNish found managing them? Former champion Lucas di Grassi was an LMP1 team-mate, has vast experience and is known as a strong character, while René Rast is a three-time DTM touring car champion who had just one Formula E start to his name – his only single-seater experience – when he was drafted into the squad last summer following Daniel Abt’s sacking for cheating in an esports event. “They’ve been relatively easy so far, because they’ve not been racing on the same piece of track,” says McNish. “They’re different characters. Lucas is a known quantity, a street fighter. He does get into a bit of rough-and-tumble sometimes, but he usually comes out okay. You know he’s going to bag points, and that’s something any team needs.
“René coming in for Berlin last year [where six races made up for cancellations] was a relatively obvious choice, because he has been quick and has won in pretty much everything he has done.
“He’s extremely analytical and considers how he interacts with the car, not how the car interacts with him; then he will adapt and mould. Once he did that, I was super pleased and honestly a little bit relieved. Then in the last two races, he delivered in two consecutive qualifying sessions. Once it had clicked in his head, he could repeat it. And that’s what he did in the DTM.”
Both di Grassi and Rast are now vying for a World Championship, rather than a simple title. Does that make a difference? “It will when someone has won it, not before,” says McNish. “It’s a much bigger prize.” As an example, McNish won three American Le Mans Series titles during his stellar career: major honours and world titles in all but name. But guess which trophy takes pride of place in his collection... even if his 2013 WEC replica (the FIA keeps the real one) reached him only last year! Talk about a seven-year itch…
So how long before he gets to order another replica? If not this year, could it be as the boss of Audi’s triumphant LMDh team at some point in the still distant future? McNish laughs, having known all too well that this one would come up. “It’s the obvious question,” he says. “I know the LMDh situation very well and have been a part of it up until now. But that’s 2023, and frankly I’ve got enough on my plate for 2021 before thinking about that.”
That’s not a no, then… But as Frank Lampard predictably discovered at Chelsea, management is no picnic. Is this really McNish’s future? Silence. “I’m pausing with that one, because I once stated that I never wanted to run a race team because I didn’t want to deal with people like me!” he finally replies. “I will continue to push to do what is a passion – and motor racing is my passion. I need to have something that sparks me up in the morning, that makes me want to give everything. Even though I’ve stopped racing, it’s still a 365-days-a-year thing: I’m still thinking about it one way or another. And I love that. But I’m aware that things evolve. I don’t think you can say ‘that’s what I’m going to do for the next 10 years’, because 10 years ago, I was still a racing driver and there was no way I ever thought I would be a team principal. And there was no way I ever thought I would be the team principal in a bloody electric racing car series! I’ll take it stage by stage.”
McNish standing on the Le Mans podium, holding aloft that famous trophy with his trio of Audi drivers… it’s a romantic notion, and not exactly out of the realms of possibility. But dreams are for sleepers, and Audi’s Formula E team principal is wide awake to the challenge that he’s facing in the here and now. And in racing, now is all that really matters.
From sceptic to enthusiast
As the son of a car dealer, McNish understands electric car sceptics only too well. In fact, he used to be one. “From a sporting point of view, I was cynical,” he says, while happily admitting that he now runs an EV as his daily transport from his home in Monaco.
“I sat in a grandstand with my wife and two kids when Formula E first came here to race [in 2015]. I never went near the paddock, and I have to say I wasn’t impressed. The racing was quite good, although it was a bit crash-fest, but there was a bloody disco as soon as the race started to counteract the lack of noise. Still, I could see they were trying something new, and I’m always open to new ideas.
“Then I went to Berlin in season two and it had definitely moved on, no question. It just became more efficient and professional; it became real, something tangible – and something you could never do if it wasn’t electric. All these places that Formula 1 has always talked about... but you could never do this in the middle of Paris or New York.
“It brings racing to communities, too. Instead of asking people to drive somewhere, you take the event to them, and I’m a big fan of that. There are more families at Formula E races than I’ve seen at other motorsports for a long time, and that has to be a good thing.”
Insignia is not irreplaceable
Vauxhall designer Mark Adams has hinted that the Insignia could be reinvented or replaced entirely at the end of its lifecycle. “We’re thinking about all the vehicles in our portfolio, and the Insignia is no exception,” he said. “I’m excited by what we’re doing for that vehicle.” The current Insignia came out in 2017 and will be the only GM-designed mainstream car left in Europe once the Astra is replaced later this year.
Kia won't abandon roots
Despite the new Kia EV6 promising an acceleration figure to beat the entry-level Porsche Taycan, the Korean firm says it won’t abandon its roots. Global brand head Artur Martins said: “This car stands for what we want to be as a brand. We’re a mainstream brand and we want to keep being a mainstream brand. It’s about making cars that carry the character of the brand we want to build, the values we want to bring to our customers.”
Volvo snubs miniature EVs
Don't expect Volvo to follow Citroën and Renault in developing miniature urban mobility EVs such as the Ami and Mobilize EZ-1. Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson said: “There will be a market for access to high-quality premium mobility for a couple of days, and then more basic urban mobility. That’s a difficult market for a premium car maker to compete in.”
Efficiency is key for Mercedes
Mercedes-Benz cars boss Markus Schäfer says maximising efficiency is now the firm’s main development focus. “My key target is efficiency, to drive down the kilowatt hours per 100km,” he said. “Every design element and module is designed for this goal.”
Aston Martin will hit the ground running with its transition to electrification later this year when it unveils the production-ready Valhalla supercar, which will serve as a halo model for a new range of hybrid versions of the firm’s current models, as well as all-new fully electric cars.
The Valhalla is due to enter production in 2023. Revealed in concept form at the 2019 Geneva motor show, it was set to be the first model to use Aston’s bespoke ‘TM01’ hybridised 3.0-litre V6, before the set-up was to be rolled out across the line-up. However, development of that powertrain has now been put on ice in light of Aston’s strengthened ties to 20% stakeholder Mercedes-Benz, which will supply components at a “reasonable cost” to the British brand.
The mid-engined two-seater is now being substantially revised ahead of its 2023 launch date and will be shown again in its new form in the coming months. Aston has not revealed how many orders it has taken, but it has confirmed that “a chunk” of its deposit balance at the end of 2020 came from Valhalla customers.
The new supercar will still be a hybrid, but with CEO Tobias Moers keen to leverage the accessibility of components and drivetrains supplied by partner firm Mercedes-Benz, the V6 is now set to make way for an AMG power unit.
The most likely candidate is the electrified 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 shortly to make its debut in the Mercedes-AMG GT73 4Matic 4-Door Coupé. It’s not yet clear whether the packaging constraints of the mid-engined two-seater’s bodywork will allow for the fitment of AMG’s 201bhp electric motor on the rear axle, as will be the case with the German marque’s performance hybrids, but the combustion element will remain mid-mounted. Outright power is expected to approach the 1000bhp mark, in line with the Valhalla’s billing as a rival to the Ferrari SF90 and McLaren Speedtail.
By 2030, 90% of Aston Martin’s model line-up will be electrified, with limited production of pure-combustion engines continuing to serve the enthusiast sector and several overseas markets where such powertrains can still be sold.
The firm’s electrification efforts will kick off towards the end of 2021, with the unveiling of a new hybrid version of the DBX SUV. Autocar understands it is set to use a powertrain taken from the Mercedes-AMG portfolio. The most likely choice is the E53’s mild-hybrid straight six, which, if used in its current form, would endow Aston’s first electrified production car with 429bhp and 384lb ft – with the electric drive motor called on under hard acceleration to provide a torque boost of 184lb ft.
So equipped, the DBX hybrid should come close to offering performance comparable to that of the combustion-only car, with a sub-5.0sec 0-62mph time and a 155mph restricted top speed, but with official CO2 emissions brought down from 323g/km to below 250g/km and MPG boosted to the high-20s.
That version will pave the way for a plug-in hybrid variant – Aston’s first – in 2023, as revealed by Moers in a call with investors following the release of the company’s 2020 results. “We plan on that in the DBX platform before 2024, but we have to adopt all the Mercedes technology transfers,” he said. “That needs time. We are implementing technology faster than anything I have done before in my life, but it still takes time. So by 2023, we’re going to have PHEV with us.”
The DBX will also provide the basis for Aston’s first batteryelectric car, which Moers expects to have on sale by 2025. Most probably based on the second iteration of the DBX, the four-wheel-drive electric SUV will be built at the firm’s factory in St Athan, Wales, and is likely to use Mercedes’ new Modular Electric Architecture (MEA) platform, as pioneered by the new EQS luxury saloon.
Expect it to have a 100kWh battery, be capable of charging at speeds of up to 350kW and offer similar performance to the V8 car.
Sports cars not to be sidelined
Although the DBX is crucial to Aston’s short-term stability, traditional front-engined sports cars and GTs are forecast to comprise 40% of the brand’s ultimate target of 10,000 sales per year.
The silhouette will remain familiar for each, but heavily reworked styling, alongside infotainment, chassis and powertrain upgrades, will aim to ensure strong sales until Aston begins to phase out combustion. Moers has suggested plug-in hybrid technology could be ushered in at this point if Aston can find a way to integrate an electrified transaxle. AMG’s new P3 PHEV system could provide a solution, especially for the Vantage and entry-level DB11, which already share a V8 with AMG’s top-flight PHEV models.
Limited-run specials in the vein of the new Vantage F1 Edition and DBS Superleggera Concorde Edition will continue to play a key role in maintaining the sports cars’ market share and enthusiast appeal. The firm’s 110th anniversary in 2023 is likely to provide an opportunity for special editions of all models in the line-up.
Aston’s first electric sports car will arrive in 2025 and has been described as a “front-engined version of the DB11/Vantage” by chairman Lawrence Stroll. Although Mercedes is tipped to supply the drivetrain, Aston has vowed to take ownership of the styling, dynamics and interior. It will be built at Gaydon, where the company currently produces its sports and GT cars, but it won’t necessarily use the DB prefix.
Aston is also understood to be plotting a more performance-focused version of the DBX – likely to be badged DBX S – to arrive after the hybrid. It will serve as a contender for supremacy in the fiercely competitive super-SUV class, taking on the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
Expected upgrades include lowered suspension and bespoke styling details, while the more potent variant of AMG’s V8, as used by the GT63 S, could be deployed to boost the SUV’s output to 630bhp and 664lb ft.
Aston Martin will continue with plans to revive the long-dormant Lagonda name and is set to take the fight to Rolls-Royce with a family of ultra-luxurious stand-alone models from 2022 or 2023.
Plans to spin the nameplate off as a dedicated luxury EV sub-brand were originally due to come to fruition in 2021 with the launch of a new luxury saloon and SUV, based on the Vision concept and All-Terrain concepts respectively. It is not yet clear whether production versions of these cars will be the first Lagonda models to arrive, but the concepts’ defining characteristics – rakish side profile, styling influence from 2015’s limited-run Taraf saloon and advanced autonomous capabilities – can be expected to remain hallmarks of the Lagonda line-up.
Autocar understands that Lagonda branding will also be used for top-end versions of Aston-badged cars, similar to Maybach versions of the Mercedes S-Class and GLS. The first such model is expected to be a long-wheelbase DBX, pitched as a sporty answer to the Bentley Bentayga, but with heightened luxury appeal to go up against the pricier Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. When I last visited this theme a couple of years ago, the year 2030 was upon us. As I stepped out into the darkness in the throes of another sleepless night, I found myself wandering around in a world that looked remarkably as it looks today. I noticed a few stray autonomous vehicles doing their rote routines, with their blue LEDs indicating what they were. But they were – not surprisingly – insignificant, part of the thrum of a new reality, but only a bit part.
And as the darkness lightened slightly, I started to see the ebb and flow of traffic on Woodward Avenue. It was reassuring to see that it still hummed with activity. Some avant-garde designs were noticeable – aero shapes punctuated by their wildly diverse lighting systems – but they were clearly full-zoot luxury machines. Other cars were decidedly less adventurous, a mix of small- to medium-sized conveyances that really didn’t look all that much different from today. And yes, the traffic flow was dominated by SUVs and trucks still, the American consumer having long ago abandoned any thought of going back to a typical passenger car.
The sounds were diverse too. A mix of BEV whine, hybrids and yes, full-on ICE machines as well. It was obvious that the prognostications of a complete transition to BEVs were dead wrong. The “grand transformation” was clearly a work in progress, with scores of people happily clinging to their piston-powered vehicles for two reasons: cost and the freedom of movement with no limitations. I did notice that as I walked past the local Speedway gas station/convenience store, half the gasoline pump islands had been replaced by quick-charging stations for BEVs. They were empty now, but the gas pumps were already busy.
But as that dream began to fade, the realization that time had accelerated again overwhelmed me. It was with certainty that I could sense that things had fundamentally changed. As Don Henley once said, “Time keeps ticking… ticking away,” and I found myself immersed in a new world, ten years on.
But was it actually happening? As you get older, they say sleep seems to become more fleeting. There “they” go again. All-knowledgeable, all-powerful and all-tedious. It turns out “they” don’t know jack shit, a secret society seemingly dedicated to cluelessness and misinformation that wreaks havoc on everyday life with impunity. To borrow a catchphrase from John Boehner, “they” can go fuck themselves.
Despite the societal headlong rush into EVs, it turns out that my dreams are still not battery-powered. They are fuel-injected and raucous, a cacophony of thumping V8s, boosted flat-sixes and screaming V12s, playing out in a kaleidoscope of frenzied images and frantic video POVs that piece together a lifetime. There is little rhyme or reason, no detectable pattern and the furthest thing from a chronological order that you can possibly imagine. They are nightmarishly chaotic and, in some cases, achingly real.
It turns out that the leap from 2030 to 2040 is dramatic and for some, like me, frightening.
I found myself in a gray-tinged room, with a simple rectangular table in the center flanked by three chairs on one side and one on the other. Cameras were visible, as was a one-way glass picture window. I was facing two bureaucrats from the State of Michigan – a man and a woman (“Mr. Baker” and “Ms. Worley”) – and one representative from the Feds, a female agent named “Ms. Carmichael.” I had no time to figure out why I was there, before they began questioning me, but “Ms. Carmichael” said I could call her by her first name, which was “Tessa.” I declined.
Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo, on the night of April 10, 2040, you were apprehended on the I-696 expressway for speeding, is that correct?”
“Yes,” I said.
Ms. Carmichael: “We are joined today by the State of Michigan, represented by Mr. Baker and Ms. Worley, who have brought with them all of the salient details from this incident for the purposes of this meeting, including the visual and audio recordings from the State Police Robotics Division, which have thoroughly documented that night.”
Then without missing a beat, they played a series of HD color videos of the event. You could see my jet black 2024 Corvette Z06 as clear as a bell, with my registration and insurance information projected on the screen – along with my driver’s license labeled “RESTRICTED” - as I blew through the various camera angles and checkpoints.
I didn’t say a word.
Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo,” she continued in a voice free from nuance or tone, “Not only were you in an unauthorized vehicle, your speed was registered, verified and documented over a six-mile stretch as varying between 195 mph and 206 mph. Do you deny any of this?”
“No,” I said. I mean, what could I say, “It wasn’t me?” They even had enhanced video of me behind the wheel, slowed down and magnified. I looked super-focused at least.
Ms. Carmichael: “You are aware, of course, that this particular expressway is limited to three types of vehicles: the far-right Green Lane for piloted BEVs and Hybrids, the middle Orange Lane for guidance-optional assisted vehicles, and the left Blue Lane for fully autonomous vehicles. Yes?"
“Yes,” I said. The roadways had become heavily skewed to minimizing involvement behind the wheel, apparently, and I was clearly doing the exact opposite, flagrantly violating the rules in an extreme way.
Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo, you’re also aware that because of your age you’re no longer allowed to drive any vehicle of any kind. Your license says “RESTRICTED” because it is only functioning as a national I.D. But I’m not telling you anything new, correct?"
“I get tested twice a year,” I was agitated now. “I go through certified high-performance driving programs every year. I have a long list of recommendations and verifications from accredited sources. I’ve forgotten more than you people will ever know about driving." (I loved using the phrase “you people” with bureaucrats.) "I don’t understand why this is a problem, or why it is being held against me.”
Ms. Carmichael. “Nevertheless, Mr. DeLorenzo, those self-certification programs are irrelevant to this discussion. You have intentionally flouted the law, and apparently this isn’t the first time, according to your record, is that correct?”
Ms. Carmichael: “Because of your long list of transgressions behind the wheel, and this latest and most egregious incident, I have no choice but to send you to the Driver Attitude Redirection Bureau for no less than six months, or until we are satisfied that you have been redirected properly. Are you clear as to what is expected of you?”
My mind wandered. This was a death sentence. “DARB” was developed by the Masters of Silicon Valley and deployed in 2035 in Sacramento, and the results were so positive after a year – according to government operatives – that the program was expanded nationwide. At “DARB” they put you in EV simulators that are programmed to run a different course every day – a mix of residential streets, urban and suburban landscapes and freeways – and you’re required to drive by the book, while adhering to every law – with various surprises thrown in – for eight frickin’ hours a day. And each time you make a mistake you receive an electric shock through the steering wheel, which varies in degree depending on the perceived offense. An old friend of mine cracked up one day after four months of this torture, apparently. He stood on the go-pedal hard, and after five minutes of going flat-out through that day’s route, blowing through intersections and running cars off of the road, the shock delivered was so severe it vaporized him. The only thing they found was a trace of his right shoe.
Ms. Carmichael: “Mr. DeLorenzo? Do you comprehend what is expected of you? You have been ‘zeroed-out.’ You are being removed from the societal landscape until you demonstrate that you can function according to the rules. It’s completely up to you if you are able to return to the Real World.”
The Real World? Fuck me. I can’t wait to get a hold of that EV simulator. Rest assured, they won’t find a trace of me.
Then, I woke up with a start. The sounds of “The Beast in Me” by Nick Lowe (listen here) flowed from my phone.
And I was ready to face the day…
The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bondsRestless by day and by night, rants and rages at the starsGod help the beast in meThe beast in me has had to learn to live with painAnd how to shelter from the rainAnd in the twinkling of an eye might have to be restrainedBut God help the beast in meSometimes it tries to kid me that it's just a teddy bearOr even somehow managed to vanish in the airAnd that is when I must beware of the beast in meThat everybody knowsThey've seen him out dressed in my clothesPatently unclear, if it's New York or new yearGod help the beast in me, the beast in me
And that’s the High-Electron Truth for this week.
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Editor’s Note: That Peter has lived a charmed and at times crazy automotive life has been well-documented. The son of Tony DeLorenzo, the legendary GM PR chief who ruled from 1957 to 1979 – GM’s glory days – Peter was exposed to the business and the legends of the business from a young age. As he likes to say, “The legends that you read about in books today were either hanging out in our driveway or interacting with our family all the time.” People like Bunkie Knudsen, Ed Cole, Bill Mitchell and Zora Arkus-Duntov, just to name a few, and there were countless others as well. But that is just one dimension to Peter’s automotive life. Today, he recounts another one of his mind-bending stories from the formative years that made The Autoextremist who he is today. - WG
Detroit. To say that the ‘50s and ‘60s were a different era in automotive history is not painting a proper picture of just how different it was. Detroit was much more of a freewheeling mindset back then. Car executives were bold, decisive, conniving, creative and power-hungry personalities who inevitably went with their gut instincts – which could end up being either a recipe for disaster or a huge runaway sales hit on the streets. The only committees you'd find back then were the finance committees – and they never got near the design, engineering, marketing or even the advertising unless there was some sort of a problem. These Car Kings worked flat-out and they partied flat-out, too, ruling their fiefdoms with iron fists, while wielding their power ruthlessly at times to get what they wanted – and rightly so in their minds – as they were some of the most powerful business executives on earth. In short, it was a world that was 180 degrees different from what goes on today.
Growing up immersed in this business was indeed surreal, but even back then I realized that I had been dropped in an alternative universe – an automotive nirvana punctuated by V8s, open pipes, flashes of chrome and the hottest cars of the era. We reveled in it and made the most of every moment, whether it was me riding shotgun with my brother as he – ahem – was teaching himself how to drive fast, or me going for rides with Bill Mitchell in one of the latest GM Styling concepts – including the ’59 Corvette Sting Ray racer, to this day my all-time favorite car – to the times when I started getting behind the wheel myself.
We had borrowed an early production ‘66 Shelby GT 350 Mustang from Ford PR one weekend (GM and Ford PR swapped cars all the time back then – yeah, I know, talk about a different time and a different era), and my brother Tony decided it was time for me to start learning how to drive – and drive a stick at the same time – and the Shelby Mustang seemed like the perfect vehicle to accomplish that. So, we went to an empty shopping center parking lot, plotted out a course, and I drove for a good hour, getting more proficient by the minute. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it. The only problem was that I was a good eighteen months from being able to get my learning permit, and once I started driving, I. Could. Not. Stop.
Because of my parents’ GM travel schedules – they were away a lot – I found the cars sitting in the garage unattended to be too much of a temptation. Why not take them out for a few minutes? What could possibly go wrong? My favorite was an Electric Blue ‘67 Camaro SS coupe that my oldest sister had at the time. Even though it was an automatic, I found it to be quite entertaining, and I started taking it out all the time.
Now, given that I had been riding shotgun with my brother in countless exploits, I decided that I would set out on my own course of high-speed learning. And my absolute favorite thing to do was to take the Camaro out at night, especially during and after a fresh snowfall, so I could drift around corners in our neighborhood. What made it even better was that our little suburban enclave was patrolled by only two cops (one each shift), and since we referred to them as our “Barney Fifes” we knew their habits and their schedules better than they did, and you can guess what the likelihood of ever getting caught was. But, of course, those nighttime adventures weren’t enough, so, I started driving matter-of-factly, as if I already had my license. And I got bolder and bolder. My nighttime drifting exploits transitioned to me searching out construction sites for new neighborhoods during the day, because the roads were already laid out and paved, and there was usually no one around, a tactic my brother pioneered.
I found one neighborhood development in particular to be most tantalizing. If I turned off the main road, I could accelerate up to a sweeping, uphill left-hander and drift through it with the power on – in the dry, at almost 50 mph – and safely get through it. I did it several times and regaled my buddies about it. So, one day, as we were waiting for another interminable school day to end, one of my buddies said, “Hey, I want to see this ‘track’ you’ve been racing on. Why don’t we follow you so we can see you take the corner?” Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, so, why the hell not? So as soon as school let out, I went home and got the Camaro out and I proceeded to my private race track with two carloads of my buddies in tow.
As you can probably imagine, things didn’t work out as planned (No? We are shocked. -WG). I went barreling into the turn faster than I ever had before, because I was determined to put on a show for my friends. I was flying, all pumped up with teenage adrenaline, only to discover as I turned into the apex of the corner that a truck had pulled out of the construction site only moments before, leaving deep tire tracks of mud all over the road.
You can imagine what happened next.
My painful lesson in “zero grip” was about to unfold as the Camaro instantly washed out to the right, sending me off the road. And before I could do anything, I was staring at a four-foot high (at least) and twelve-foot wide mound of dirt with nowhere to go. I hit it square-on (fortunately), and I was launched into the air. It was one of those “hello sky” moments as I got a brief look at the cloudy afternoon horizon punctuated by an eerie silence, before the Camaro landed with a massive thud on the other side. To hear my buddies tell it, all they recall seeing was the bottom of the Camaro as it disappeared over the dirt pile. The car, amazingly enough, was only slightly damaged, with the front valance crushed and the left rear corner slightly banged up. Although I was highly embarrassed, my buddies thought it was the coolest thing ever, and we managed to convince a construction guy to help us pull the Camaro out of the mud with a rope.
The story gets even more surreal from there. I called Tony, told him what happened, and we hatched a plan to take the Camaro down to Hanley Dawson Chevrolet to get it fixed before my sister came home from out of town. The dealership did a terrific job, but it wasn’t ready by the time my sister got home, so we made up some story about an oil leak that needed to be fixed, and we brought the Camaro home two days later.
But, of course, my sister wasn’t fooled. She knew something wasn’t right, especially given the fact that the two of us were involved. But she wasn’t able to determine exactly what was wrong with our story. It was only later that we realized that the body shop put the wrong front valance panel on the car. Her Camaro had hideaway headlights. The valance panel was for a Camaro with fixed headlights. She never noticed and we never said a word.
It is just one of those stories that never gets old retelling, and the “Flying Camaro” will always be a memorable part of me.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. In the prehistoric days, you’d say that the news came over the wires – wow, that sounds dated now, right? – so let’s just say the news came down from the cloud like a lightning bolt on Monday afternoon. As first reported by CNBC, a leaked Volkswagen press release dated April 29th announces that Volkswagen in the United States would, from here on out, be called Voltswagen.
Yes, you read that correctly. CNBC goes on to report that this name change would be a “public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility,” according to the VW press release. Apparently, this is no April Fool’s joke, as several sources confirmed that the upcoming release was authentic. The name Voltswagen would appear as a badge on all EV models, while gasoline vehicles will only have the company’s instantly recognizable – and classic – “VW” emblem. The release also says that the iconic VW logo would appear on a light blue background on EVs, while the VW logo on ICE-powered vehicles would appear on a dark blue background.
I suppose now would be a good time to take a step back, do a few deep breathing exercises, and sit quietly in the corner to reflect on what exactly is happening here. Oh, who am I kidding? In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi, "What the Hell is going on out there?!?!"
I get the fact that these auto manufacturers are embracing the transition to EVs at a furious clip, but clearly VW operatives here in the U.S. have decided that hitting their once and future customers over the head with this twist on their iconic name will ensure that they know that these actually are electric vehicles. I would have been more understanding if they had gotten the rights to use an image of Reddy Kilowatt on their electric vehicles; at least a sense of the legendary VW whimsy would be present and accounted for.
But this? This smacks of a VW operative/ad agency brainstorming session gone completely off of the rails. What thought process brought them to this fresh hell? Taking one of the iconic names in the history of the automobile business, messing with it, and then smugly smirking to themselves – and you know they are – saying something like, “Wow, that’s pretty damn clever,” is a level of delusional hubris that can only be found in three places: Hollywood. Washington, D.C. And the Auto Biz.
And it’s not even all that clever. In the ad game, we used to describe it as “one of those ideas that should have never seen the light of day.” Or, “it should have never left the conference room.” And indeed, this is one of those ideas. It might have (weakly) passed muster as a digital headline, or for a show-pony billboard on Sunset Boulevard, but actually changing the name as it appears on their EVs? How about NO?
Listen, I know VW is still chasing the bad taste and the crushing financial hangover from the Diesel fiasco in their nightmares, but this is beyond ridiculous. VW operatives turning their backs on 90 years of history is akin to BMW relegating the “Bimmer” nickname to the dustbin of history and going with “Glimmer” to refer to their EVs instead. Or Bentley suddenly going with BENTLEV. It just doesn’t compute. Or, Coca-Cola going with “Electric Coke.” Or, “Arm and Hammer” going with “Knuckles and Sockets.” Or John Deere changing its name to, oh, I don’t know, let’s say, “Horace Conduit.”
As in why? What is the point, exactly? Consumers aren’t stupid. Does anyone actually think that in today’s tedious world of 24/7 information saturation, word won’t somehow trickle out that most, if not all, of VW’s new vehicles in this market will be EVs within five years? Not a frickin’ chance.
If VW operatives stopped with using the different color backgrounds on the VW logos to distinguish between their EVs and ICE vehicles I’d say, fine, makes sense, seems logical, do it. But putting all of their cards on the table and changing their legendary name to Voltswagen just to make a definitive point? It’s just flat-out dumb.
This move will buy two things for VW: 1. Confusion. And, 2. A Big Fat Yawn. As in, no one could possibly be bothered to give a shit. Judging by the boatloads of hubris flying around Herndon, Virginia, these days, I am sure VW operatives are so far down the road on this that they’ve forgotten what the brand even used to stand for.
Gimmicks don’t have much of a shelf life in this business. Never have, never will. But this is far beyond that. This is dumbassery of the first degree.
And that’s the High-Electron Truth for this week.
Editor-in-Chief's Note: On Tuesday (March 30th), VW confirmed that the company is not changing its name to Voltswagen and that it indeed was an elaborate April Fool's joke/prank. The free publicity was probably worth $25 million or so, but the damage to VW's relations with the professional automotive media is incalculable. This is the company, after all, that is still reeling from the DieselGate fiasco, when it purposely rigged its Diesel-powered cars to cheat on the EPA emissions testing procedure in order to pass the test, resulting in hundreds of thousands of cars being driven around that exceeded emissions standards. The VW Group did this, all the while touting - and heavily marketing - its "clean diesels" as if they had figured out what other automakers couldn't, or wouldn't, do. As it turns out, it was all a lie, and because of it VW has paid $40 billion - and counting - to settle lawsuits and damage claims resulting from the most egregious and calculated fraud in automotive history. The word as to why this "joke" happened is that VW operatives were feeling slighted by all the publicity that other automakers were getting for their EV vehicle plans, and they wanted to get attention for their efforts to go fully-EV by the end of this decade. Well, they got attention all right, the wrong kind. My informal polling with colleagues in the auto media suggests that this "stunt" has backfired, and in a big way too. VW is now not only mistrusted, it is flat-out loathed, and these working professionals aren't going to forget this anytime soon. In case you were wondering, are we going to take down this column now? No. Now they're even guiltier of dumbassery. - PMD
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. With those lyrics from one of Chicago’s early hits barely audible in the background at 1:30 Tuesday morning, I’m not sure the time is right to think about… time. But here we are.
We can make good time, we can attempt to compress time (yeah, right), we can use time to our advantage, we can watch the time and we can fret about time. We can change the time but only on our clocks, because it keeps ticking. And ticking. And ticking.
The time goes by fast, or so “they” say. But what about when things seem to take forever? What about when the guy in front of you at the bank is getting a boat loan? At the drive-through window? What about when time stands still? Then again there’s a time for everything, either that or the time is now, at least sometimes anyway.
We can glance at it, look at it, lose track of it and run out of it. We can schedule it and attempt to manage it, but who’s kidding whom? Time manages us. It dictates our days, weeks, months and years. It tells us when to leave, when to get there, how to plan ahead and how to save the date.
Yes, we can go back in time, if only in our thoughts and memories and images. Or we can certainly dream about time, should we choose to. I fantasize about time traveling between seconds, where I live for moments or years in a totally different time and place, and then I’m back a second later. I’d have drinks with Ulysses S. Grant. I’d be a fighter pilot in a WWI dogfight. I’d be a crew member for the Lotus Team at Indianapolis in 1963. I’d be there when Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein. I’d investigate the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through the fog-shrouded streets of London. I’d race a Ferrari in the Targa Florio. I’d be there when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. Tripping through time, lost between seconds.
There’s the inevitably of time, of course, as in the classic “time waits for no one.” Time is short, but is it really? Chris Rock famously said that life is long if you’re not happy. Truer words were never spoken. Time drags without passion or purpose. The drudgery of the day-in, day-out rote regurgitation of life can crush anyone’s soul.
You can lament bad times and remember good times. You can keep time, do time and squander time, but that wouldn’t be making the best use of your time, now, would it? What would we do without time? Would we live by the movement of the sun like our ancestors? Would life slow down if our lives weren’t dominated by schedules, appointments and… time?
(I’m somewhat amused by the impact of the TikTok craze. Frittering away time to the beat of social drums? What a perfectly contemporary concept, and monumental waste of… time.)
The inexorable march of time consumes our every waking moment; in fact, it looms over our heads like a giant Big Ben hanging in the sky. And what can we do about it, exactly? Not much.
Let me clarify that. Time shouldn’t hang over our heads, just the opposite in fact. Time should be cherished. It should be relished and exulted in. Savor every moment, because it turns out that is the best use of our time.
I’ll leave it to Chicago to close things out:
Does anybody really know what time it is?Does anybody really care?If so I can't imagine whyWe've all got time enough to die
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. I suppose it had to come to this. With the oversized vehicle frenzy reaching a crescendo in this market right now, the arrival of a new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer – which I assume will be able to proudly link their gigantic side mirrors with other parade-float-sized vehicles of their ilk to steamroll across the highways and byways of America accompanied by The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back – is proof positive that we have reached Peak Giant Stupid SUV in this nation.
While the Jeep press material for the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer seems to scream “heritage” and “Premium American Icon” every other sentence, these bloated Jeeps have about as much in common with their forebears as, oh, never mind, they have nothing to do with the Jeep brand persona at all. Suggesting that these blunderbuss-class vehicles have anything to do with Jeep “heritage” is a gross insult to Jeep Nation.
Why do they even exist? Jeep operatives are trying to milk the Jeep franchise for all it's worth, and if that means cashing in on the waning salad days of the Monster Truck phase that a large segment of American consumers seem to be bumbling through, then so be it. But please spare me words like “icon” and “premium” because they have nothing to do with these monstrosities.
No, these revenue-generating monster “Jeeps” are all about three-row seating, that elusive canard that manufacturers spend countless hours and hundreds of millions of dollars on so that they can shout from the tallest mountain top that they have it – even though the number of consumers who actually use the feature remains miniscule. In fact, I would argue that more money has been spent on this feature by the U.S. auto industry over the last decade – to less effect – than any other product feature offered.
Here’s a direct quote from the press release: “We are ready to start a new exciting adventure with a model that wrote some of the most iconic pages in the history of the American automobile,” said Christian Meunier, Jeep® Brand Chief Executive Officer. “Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are born from the Jeep brand, but they have a flair of their own, building on a rich heritage of craftsmanship and refinement, while offering new levels of sophistication, comfort and legendary 4x4 capability, as well as a new level of customer service.”
To that I say, “Huh?” I got lost somewhere between the “wrote some of the most iconic pages in the history of the American automobile” and “building on a rich heritage of craftsmanship and refinement.” Are we talking about the same history of the American automobile? The one that saw Jeep marketers glue “genuine wood-look” vinyl on the side of Wagoneers and call it good? And, what “craftsmanship” and “refinement” are we talking about, exactly? The buck-board ride, the slapdash levels of assembly quality, or not even a whiff of refinement? That’s rich, all right.
I’m not against auto companies making serious ca$h-money in this town, because that’s the name of the game. But we’re talking about a company that just dropped $12 million large (or thereabouts) on a two-minute Jeep movie/commercial on the Super Bowl featuring Bruce Springsteen and his own, personal, beat-up Jeep Wrangler. You remember, right? The one called “The Middle”? I somehow don’t think that the spot, which talked about “making it to the mountaintop” and “our light has always found its way through the darkness” and “there’s hope on the road ahead” has anything remotely to do with the brand premise of a $100,000+ Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Nope, not one bit.
Instead, what it says about the Jeep operatives out in Auburn Hills is that they’re adhering to the founding principles of their dearly departed leader, the Chief Carpetbagging Mercenary who didn’t hesitate to suggest that the American car buyers were dupes who will buy anything if wrapped in a good enough box.
I believe they have made a gross miscalculation, however. Yes, sure, they will make money off of the first-on-the-block types – you know, the American auto buying public with a predilection for gigantic in everything they consume and who just have to have the latest and biggest, but when that temporary euphoria wears off, then what?
And by the way, where is Stellantis when it comes to BEVs? Anyone? Bueller? It has to be said that one electrified Wrangler doesn’t constitute serious BEV momentum, in case you were keeping score. This company is nowhere when it comes to BEVs, and it is going to be a real serious problem by 2025.
I will say one thing about the ladies and gentlemen out in Auburn Hills who work on the Dodge brand, and that is when it comes to the Muscle brand persona of their Dodge cars, at least they’re authentic to their very core. They wave their Freak Flag high, and make no apologies for who they are and what they stand for. Even though we’re in the waning days of the ICE era, I commend that. Knowing who you are is half the battle in this business.
For Jeep operatives, however, it’s just the opposite. The new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are blatant, cynical ploys masquerading as the latest and greatest Jeep, when they have nothing to do with the Jeep brand persona, at all. The “authenticity” is completely missing in action. These two giant SUVs are, in fact, new low points in Jeep brand history.
They’re simply a Jeep too far.
And that’s the High-Electron Truth for this week.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
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