Share This Article

THE LA CAR BLOG - JULY 2004

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Jun 30, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE LA CAR BLOG

WE GET FEEDBACK July 31, 2004

Now Proof That Dogs and Cars Don't Always Mix - Part 2

In our July 29th LA Car Blog, Chuck Dapoz reported on a dog that was seen biting, clawing and otherwise vandalizing a Louisiana woman's Mustang convertible. The dog left extensive scratches to the car's body, teeth marks on the molding, a chewed-up windshield wiper and saliva dripping from car, according to a sheriff's deputy who investigated.

What can possess a dog to attack a Mustang convertible? We asked for an explanation from our readers, and we got it.

One of the more plausible explanations was related to the dog reacting to a scent. Ultra150 of Autoweek magazine's Combustion Chamber surmises, "Another animal had left its scent." Sling Shot suggests it was, more specifically, the cowhide leather interior of the car. "The dog smelled beef. Remember when the dog attacked Ashton Kutcher's beef-laced underwear in "Cheaper by the Dozen"?

Bane of Blue Oval News suggests, "Them damn Chevy owners are training their dogs to attack our Fords now." But, Blue Oval News' Ron Stabb thinks the dog was a reincarnated Ford Tech fed up with warranty labor times in his before-life.

Sixteen members of VWVortex.com, the group of extremely devoted Volkswagen owners, confessed that it probably wasn't a dog at all, but was "one of those crazy Vortexers that think all Mustangs suck."

Alas, the most sobering explanation is from the Vortex's Obin Robinson. "Rabies man. A rabid animal will attack the tires on your car and try to shred them. Their brains are literally being eaten away and all senses and reasoning is lost. It's a really sad way to go."

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

NOW PROOF THAT DOGS AND CARS DON'T ALWAYS MIX July 29, 2004

Ford Mustang Stamp

Okay. We can understand why the German woman attacked her neighbor's car, mistaking it for her husband's (Editor: See July 28th Blog below). Blame it on passion, madness or a lapse of judgment. Now comes a story we don't understand, out of Amite, Louisiana, about 70 miles north of New Orleans. According to the Associated Press, Tuesday morning a woman was wakened by noises outside her house. It sounded like an animal assaulting her car. And that's what was happening. A tan dog was biting, clawing and otherwise vandalizing the woman's Mustang convertible. The woman went outside, and the dog bolted, leaving extensive scratches to the car's body, teeth marks on the molding, a chewed-up windshield wiper and saliva dripping from car, according to a sheriff's deputy who investigated. Did the dog love the car - to an extreme? Hate it? Is this about revenge? Mistaken car identity? A shaggy dog story? If you've got an explanation of what happened or why, please let us know.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Ford Fiesta (in blue)

MORE PROOF THAT ANGER AND CARS DON'T MIX July 28, 2004

She loves me. She loves me not. She takes out her anger on my car. Or what she thought was my car. Oops. A report out of Germany today, from Reuters, tells of a 43-year-old women from Essen who argued with her husband over the telephone. In a rage, the woman stormed out of their house. With a hammer. She headed for her husband's car, a blue Ford Fiesta. She smashed the windshield. Knocked out the headlights. And pulled off the outside mirrors. The damage done, she went back into the house. After thinking about what she had done, she was struck with remorse - the remorse that comes from realizing she had assaulted the wrong car, a neighbor's blue Opel Corsa. Damage is estimated at $1,200. There's no word on reconciliation with her husband. Or the neighbor.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Hyundai will go even further up-market than the Bentleyesque XG350.

HYUNDAI TO LAUNCH A LUXURY BRAND - AND A HYBRID July 27, 2004

Hyundai is thinking big. Maybe bigger than big. The Korean manufacturer will introduce an all-new line of luxury vehicles in the US, potentially as early as 2007, though 2009 may be more likely, according to Automotive News. "Our plan is to launch a brand that is strong enough to compete with BMW and Audi and Lexus" said an unnamed Hyundai executive. Hyundai has aggressive plans not only to increase US sales but also to earn the hefty profits that luxury vehicles can generate. A TARGET OF 1 MILLION SALES Hyundai had previously announced a goal of selling one million vehicles per year in the US by 2010. Last year Hyundai sold 400,000 vehicles, an increase of 6.7% from 2002. Selling an additional 600,000 vehicles within six years will require annual growth of more than 12%. To put Hyundai's aspiration in perspective, only five brands sold a million vehicles last year: Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Dodge and Honda. Automotive News reports that Hyundai's South Korean executives are eager to launch the luxury brand while those in the US are hesitant. Perhaps some of the reticence of US executives is due to the challenge of establishing a new luxury dealer network - on top of the current job of significantly adding Hyundai dealers. Hyundai currently has 630 dealers, averaging 635 sales annually. The company's goal is to have 1,000 dealers selling 1,000 vehicles each - in other words, grow the dealer body by 60% and increase sales per dealer by 60%. Calling that ambitious is an understatement. ALSO A HYUNDAI HYBRID Automotive News also reports, in a separate story, that Hyundai will introduce a gasoline-electric hybrid by the end of the year for sale to commercial and government fleets. Sales volumes will be small, as will be the vehicle, likely based on the supermini Getz, which currently is not sold in North America. After a launch in the US, the Hyundai hybrid will be introduced in South Korea. REACHING FOR THE STARS Hyundai's goals are lofty: ● Launch a luxury brand and a luxury dealer network. ● Achieve a million sales per year. ● Significantly increase the size of the Hyundai dealer body while at the same time significantly increase sales per dealer. ● Begin production next year at new assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama, with annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles. ● Introduce a hybrid vehicle. Hyundai is reaching for the stars, and that's admirable. But is it reaching too high and moving too fast? It has before. A REFRESHER ON HYUNDAI'S HISTORY Hyundai began selling cars in the US in 1986, and the next year sales topped a quarter million vehicles. That success led to construction of an assembly plant in Bromont, Quebec, with production beginning in 1989. But even before the plant opened, sales had fallen sharply due to poor product quality. The plant was closed in 1993, and Hyundai sales dropped to under 48,000 in 1995. IT LIKELY WILL GRAB A FEW STARS Hyundai has become a formidable competitor. We have no doubt it will continue growing. It may not achieve all of its goals. But Hyundai is reaching for the stars And we suspect it will grab a few.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Will the DC Razor concept car make the youth brand grade?

DAIMLERCHRYSLER MAY EMULATE SCION AND CREATE A SEPARATE YOUTH BRAND July 26, 2004

In an effort to increase sales to young adults, DaimlerChrysler is considering the launch of a low-cost brand. The new line of vehicles could be sold by one or more of the Chrysler Group's current brands but marketed separately, similar to the way Toyota sells its Scion products, according to the Detroit News, quoting Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche. In addition, the vehicles may be developed with a low-cost partner, possibly Korean or Chinese. At least three concept vehicles have been designed, says an unnamed source at Chrysler, and a decision whether to launch the brand will be made by the end of the year. If a new brand is not created, the vehicles still may be built and sold as Dodges and/or Jeeps and/or Chryslers. DaimlerChrysler's move is consistent with an industry trend of product proliferation. Watch for other manufactures to follow suit, not necessarily with new brands but by launching more products, more often, in more niches and in lower volumes.

- Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Acura TL/ELS DVD Audio system

SURVEYING THE BEST NEW CAR SOUND SYSTEMS - PART 2 July 25, 2004

Acura TL/ELS DVD Audio System Acura's new TL offers, as standard equipment, the first automotive application of a multi-channel DVD-Audio System. The Acura/ELS Premium eight-speaker surround sound system with DVD-Audio, DTS and CD, six-disc changer, AM/FM tuner and Dolby cassette delivers a new level of audio fidelity. This DVD-Audio system, developed with Grammy-winning music producer Elliot Scheiner, utilizes six distinct channels (compared with two on the typical premium sound system) to deliver sound resolution 500 times greater than CD. The premium system plays standard CDs, DVD-A discs, and DTS-enabled CDs and incorporates XM Satellite Radio for over 100 channels of premium quality sound.

Elliot Scheiner of ELS

Playing anything other than DVD-Audio discs on this system yields good, but not extraordinary sound quality. Even using DVD-Audio software is no guaranty that you'll be blown away by this system's sound. However, with the right material, there are levels of spatial realism heretofore unheard of in a mobile sound system. In some ways, the cabin of a sonically-insulated motor vehicle offers an ideal medium for DVD-Audio. This first application of DVD-Audio in a car is a success. We have little doubt that the medium will flourish in mobile audio.

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

LAWSUIT CLAIMS BMW SUV AIR BAGS DEFECTIVE July 22, 2004

BMW X5 sport utility vehicles have defective air bags that deploy for no reason, and the German carmaker's U.S. subsidiary requires owners to agree to secrecy before performing free repairs, according to a Miami-based lawsuit seeking national class-action status. AP's Catherine Wilson reports that the plaintiff, Lisa Vale, asserts that she suffered a chemical burn on her left arm when the driver's side bag exploded with a blinding puff of white powder as she was driving on a busy thoroughfare south of Miami in April. Vale also claims that her 2001 BMW was still under warranty, but the dealer who sold her mother the SUV planned to charge her $3,840 for repairs if she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to the Associated Press report. "She balked, took the X5 to another dealership for less expensive repairs and sued Friday in Florida state court in Miami-Dade County," said the AP's Wilson. Vale's attorneys called a news conference Wednesday to announce the lawsuit covering the 2001-2004 model years. "There's no problem with air bag deployment in these vehicles that we're aware of," BMW spokesman David Buchko said. Buchko said there was evidence of impact damage on Vale's SUV, and he had no comment on the request for confidentiality, said Wilson. Vale's attorneys evidently deny that her X5 sustained any impact damage. According to the AP report, the lawsuit seeks money for the cost of repairs, towing, depreciation, lost use of the vehicle and lost personal time. It also seeks court orders to force BMW to honor its warranties, inspect air bags, perform any needed repairs, ban the confidentiality agreements and cancel any signed agreements. Vale's attorneys contend the confidentiality form violates Florida's 1990 Sunshine in Litigation Act barring secrecy about public hazards and the company is violating a state law banning deceptive business practices. The Associated Press says BMW ordered two recalls to reprogram side air bag controllers on its 3-Series cars built between 1998 and 2001. Federal regulators opened an investigation in 2002 after reports of 41 injuries, 265 complaints and 212 warranty claims.

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Mark Levinson: The benchmark

SURVEYING THE BEST NEW CAR SOUND SYSTEMS July 20, 2004

It's been many moons since LA Car, in conjunction with its sister publication, LA Audio File, ran its last survey of the best factory sound systems. That article was one of the publication's most widely-read, and copies of it still turn up on Internet search engines. Can high fidelity be found in a sound system offered by new car manufacturers? Back then, the answer was a qualified "yes." Today, dare we say it's unqualified. Factory car audio has come a long way, and some of the most discriminating names in home high end audio are now taking the art and science of car audio quite seriously. Unless you're willing to spend a great deal of money, it's questionable whether it's worth attempting a custom system in a car that offers some of the premium systems we've evaluated. To do so will be to negate the considerable research and development already expended by some of these manufacturers for their premium sound systems. Mobile audio has come a long way. Stereo imaging, long the domain of home audio, has become an important factor in car audio - particularly now with the advent of DVD-Audio in car systems. The best systems are capable of a solid, stable stereo image from the driver's position as well as the passenger's position.

If there's a weakness in mobile audio systems, it's in the spectral balance. Many car audio systems tend to overemphasize the bass and treble, because manufacturer think that's what impresses most consumers. In the long run, however, the 'boom-hiss' sound is tiring. The best sound systems present a neutral tonal balance (so long as you resist the temptation to crank up the bass and treble controls). With Los Angelenos spending more time on the road than in their living rooms, a good sound system in the car has becoming a virtual necessity for maintaining sanity during the commuting hours. With this in mind, we will (during the next few weeks) showcase the best systems offered in American and imported new cars:

Mark Levinson Audio Systems We start with the benchmark of factory mobile audio sound systems: Mark Levinson. Levinson gained fame by offering a breakthrough solid state preamplifier back in the 1970s (the JC-2). Since then, Mark Levinson, the company, has been associated with some of the most expensive high end home audio gear on the market. The company made its mobile audio debut in the Lexus SC430, and has since taken over the premium sound system for seven of the top Lexus vehicles: The LS430, GS, ES, SC, LX, GX and RX.

The Mark Levinson systems carry on the state-of-the-art tradition first pioneered by the Lexus-Nakamichi systems of the 1990s - i.e., they exhibit some of the cleanest sounds ever to emit from the interior of an automobile. They may lack a bit of the sonic dazzle offered by some recent surround systems, but what they offer is honest, uncolored sound. Common to all Lexus-Mark Levinson systems: You can crank the volume all the way up, and the sound will hold up without obvious distortion. The large LS sedan offers the quietest cabin, and hence the best acoustics. However all of the Lexus-Mark Levinson systems are excellent.

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

A cottage industry in the making?

WE GET FEEDBACK July 17, 2004

"Hurry, Hurry - Get Your Hybrid Badges Here"

Some of the recent entries on the LA Car Blog have been getting some good buzz on the Internet boards. In the July 13th entry (see below), we reported on the City of Los Angeles' efforts to provide free metered parking to hybrid vehicles. "Initially, hybrid owners will not need to do anything different to take advantage of the policy" says the Mayor. "Parking enforcement officers reportedly will be trained to recognize hybrid vehicles and will simply not cite owners of such vehicles for not paying at parking meters," according to Los Angeles Major Jim Hahn.

Enterprising members of VWVortex.com wondered if they can start a cottage industry to make non-hybrid vehicles look like hybrid vehicles. The natural target of such an industry are the vast number of four-door Honda Civics in the city. A few badges, and presto! - a Honda Civic Hybrid look-alike. The Vortex's 16volt doesn't want to stop there. He wants a Hybrid Synergy Drive badge for his Volkswagen Scirroco, while Y2KRiceBoy says, "Hey, anyone want some JDM Prius/Civic hybrid badges? They work good on Navigators and H2!"

Zapped! Vortex members also chimed in on Chuck Dapoz's piece, "LAPD to Test Gun That Immobilizes Cars" (see below). Chuck reported that Protech is working with the Los Angeles Police Department and the US Marine Corps to develop a prototype electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) gun that will immobilize a car by shooting a narrow beam of intense radio waves. The Guardian had reported earlier in the week that the results of such a device had been unveiled at a scientific conference in Magdeburg, Germany by Protech's Dr. David Giri.

Vortex's PokeyD16Z speculates, "What happens if the car used in the pursuit is stolen? The original owner will never see his car again (working at least...all the electronics are fried), whereas with the current methods, the original owner may have some damage, but most times, the car will run after and not require extensive repairs (and electronics are expensive to repair/replace). Insurance rates will definitely go up." Vortexer Vlksdragon wondered, "I can't imagine the potential havoc an EMP would create on a car with steer-by-wire or brake-by-wire while doing 90 in a pursuit."

Vortexer Xanthazar remarked, "I'm smelling 'lawsuit' the first time they accidentally hit the wrong car on the freeway at 70, disrupt someone's ECU causing the fuel-flow to stop, and the car goes lean and the engine pops." "I can't wait until someone other than the law gets their hands on this. I can see it now, kids emptying random cars on the freeway for the hell of it," said Vortexer ar10.

LordJax had a different kind of concern, "I really would be worried about what the effect of a small EMP would have on my nervous system and my sperm count." The best comment, however, is seen on the Bimmerfest.com forum, where MR325iT observes, "BMWs already have an electronic device which can be used to immobilize the car and render the driver senseless. It's called i-Drive."

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Republic air ship saves the day in Star Wars: Episode II (Doug Chiang)

LAPD TO TEST GUN THAT IMMOBILIZES CARS July 15, 2004

Last week in the Blog we reported on military radar or other radio signals causing automotive electronics to fail. Devious-minded readers wondered if that technology could be harnessed, such as for police stopping high-speed cars. It's already being worked on. This week at Euroem 2004, a scientific conference in Magdeburg, Germany, results of a test were unveiled in which a device stops a vehicle up to 55 feet away by shooting a narrow beam of intense radio waves, according to The Guardian. When a vehicle is hit, a surge of electricity interrupts the fuel injection, causing the engine to stall. The device was developed by Dr. David Giri, a former physics professor at University of California, Berkeley, who has founded a company called ProTech to produce his invention. "It works on most cars built in the past 10 years, because their engines are controlled by computer chips," said Dr Giri. "If we can disrupt the computer, we can stop the car." ProTech is working with the Los Angeles Police Department and the US Marine Corps, and a prototype is promised by next summer. At LA Car, we're not opposed to technology or innovative police tactics, but we wonder what will happen if the beam of this radio gun hit an iPod, pacemaker or airplane. We also wonder if sophisticated criminals might come to favor carburetors and classic American muscle for their getaway cars. Sounds like something out of the next sequel to The Fast and the Furious. - Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

FREE METERED PARKING FOR HYBRIDS IN LOS ANGELES? July 13, 2004

Just when you thought you've heard the last possible perk for hybrid vehicles (so far, you've heard about tax incentives, single-occupant use of the HOV lanes, and smog check waivers), Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn and Councilmember Eric Garcetti announced a new one: A proposal to make parking at city meters free for hybrid vehicles.

"We want people to have just one more incentive - besides helping to reduce air pollution - to drive a hybrid vehicle," Mayor Hahn declared at a press conference along a busy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard.

"This pilot program would mean the end of fishing for quarters beneath the seats of your car, the end of digging in the bottom of your bag, and the end of paying a quarter to park for seven minutes...but only if you drive a hybrid," Mayor Hahn added, speaking against a backdrop of hybrid vehicles parked at city parking meters.

"This motion says to LA drivers: Don't worry locally, be happy globally," said Councilmember Garcetti. "At the same time that you can be happy you're polluting ninety percent less than other drivers, you don't have to worry about whether you just put your last quarter in a tip jar when you're parking on city streets."

The City of Los Angeles currently provides free parking at city meters for electric and natural gas cars and trucks designated as "Clean Air Vehicles" by the State's Department of Motor Vehicles. Based on the perceived success of this initiative, and in an effort to promote cleaner air, the Mayor developed a plan to extend this program to owners of hybrid vehicles for a six-month period. Councilmember Garcetti will introduce the motion in the City Council that will direct LA Department of Transportation to begin implementation of the program.

"Initially, hybrid owners will not need to do anything different to take advantage of the policy" says the Mayor. "Parking enforcement officers reportedly will be trained to recognize hybrid vehicles and will simply not cite owners of such vehicles for not paying at parking meters," according to Hahn. However, vehicle owners would still be required to comply with posted time limits. In addition, if the State of California and DMV decide to include hybrids as "Clean Air Vehicles," then hybrid owners will need to receive a sticker from the DMV to qualify for free parking, just as electric and natural gas vehicle owners currently do.

According to the City, California has twice as many hybrid as any other state, and over 4,700 hybrid vehicles were registered in Los Angeles in 2003 - more than any other city. The City of Los Angeles is currently converting its fleet to hybrid and electric vehicle, and also maintains a small fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The free hybrid parking pilot will last for six months. At the end of that period, LADOT will analyze the program and make a determination of whether or not to continue the program.

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

WHO TO BLAME WHEN YOUR CAR WON'T START OR THE KEYLESS ENTRY FAILS July 10, 2004

Something's knocking out vehicle electronics. Keyless entry systems don't work. Car alarms go off. Some vehicles can't be started. For the fifth time in a year, motorists have been inconvenienced and stranded in Waldorf, Maryland, southeast of Washington, DC, according to the Washington Post. A store clerk looking over a shopping center parking lot exclaims, "If every single one of those cars has a keyless entry, every single one will not work." Residents have plenty of theories about who or what is to blame. Space aliens. Solar flares. Mobile phone transmitters. The Taliban. And Uncle Sam. Especially Uncle Sam. Keyless entry systems, antitheft devices and other radio-emitting components operate on narrow bands of frequencies. Because of their low power, these devices are unregulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Unfortunately, the same radio frequencies are licensed for use by the military and federal government. It may not be coincidental that Waldorf is about 15 miles south of Andrews Air Force Base. For some people, the failure of a keyless entry is a minor inconvenience: in many cases a key can still open a door and turn over an engine. But drivers are out of luck if their vehicles have an alarm or an immobilization system requiring a radio emission from the key. Then there's nothing to do but call a dealership or locksmith. The Post story tells of similar instances around the country. Three years ago it happened twice within a month in Bremerton, Washington, home of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, both times as an aircraft carrier arrived in port. In February this year, motorists were stranded in Las Vegas. In May, garage door openers wouldn't work in the Florida Panhandle, near Eglin Air Force Base, when a radio system was being tested. And this doesn't happen only in America. The current AutoWeek reports that cars, trucks and motorcycles regularly are incapacitated in the northern English village of Goathland. A deliveryman says he's been immobilized three times in less than two weeks. In many cases, vehicles have to be towed out of the village in order to start. Most people blame the nearby Fylingdales base of the Royal Air Force, home to a powerful radar facility on the lookout for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and space objects. All of the equipment at the station is owned by the US military, according to news reports, and it currently is being upgraded as part of America's National Missile Defense program, sometimes referred to as "Son of Star Wars." The British government repeatedly has told local residents the electromagnetic radiation emanating from Flyingdales poses no health risk to humans. Apparently the same can't be said for the health of automotive electronics. - Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

The new Xterra should serve to sustain Nissan's truck sales

AUTO INDUSTRY SALES TRENDS IN 2004 July 8, 2004

Automotive sales continued at a brisk rate in the first half of 2004. Car sales were down two percent, but truck sales rose six percent, giving the industry a net gain of more than two percent compared with the first six months of 2003. Some trends: ● Trucks continue to take an increasing share of the US market, accounting for 54 percent of the market. ● The distinctions between cars and trucks are blurring further. A few years ago who would have guessed Porsche and Lexus would sell more trucks than cars? They do. ● Sales of big, gas-guzzling trucks remain strong. ● What sells is what's new. That has been demonstrated clearly this year, with many brands reporting sales declines for every model except for those recently introduced. ● The Big Three share has fallen below 60 percent. The Japanese brands are coming on strong - with the Korean brands growing even faster. - Chuck Dapoz

For an in-depth look at 2004 sales, including brands that are hot and brands that are not, check out LA Car's Sales Scorecard for the first half of 2004. - RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

The Civic Hybrid and Insight can, but the Accord Hybrid can't.

GROWING SENTIMENT AGAINST HYBRIDS IN THE HOV LANES? July 5, 2004

It seemed like a reasonable idea back when it was first proposed. To many, it still does. The bill, introduced by California State Assembly Member Fran Pavley, will amend the state's vehicle code to allow owners of certain hybrid vehicles to travel on the carpool lanes even without a carpool. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger supports the bill, as do a wide range of lawmakers.

The aim of the measure is to serve as an incentive to manufacturers and consumers alike in the direction of ultra clean (emissions) and ultra efficient (gas mileage) vehicles. With the waiting lists for Toyota and Honda hybrids growing and manufacturers scrambling to get hybrids on the market, some wonder if the measure is still needed.

VWVortex.com, the largest automotive forum on the planet, is conducting a poll on the following question: Should California allow single-occupant hybrids in the HOV (high-occupany vehicle, a/k/a carpool) lane? To date, the 'nays' are edging out the 'yeays'. Of course, some of the 'nay' votes are not entirely straight-faced ("only VWs in the HOV lanes"). Also, some of the comments accompanying the poll indicate some misunderstanding of the measure.

State law already allows CNG (compressed natural gas), LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and pure electric cars that meet the Federal government's ILEV (Inherently Low Emissions Vehicle) standards (you must acquire an AB71 decal from your local Department of Motor Vehicles office before you can actually travel in single-occupant mode).

As presented, the bill proposes to temporarily extend the privilege of single-occupant presence in the HOV lanes to vehicles that (1) meet the state's advanced technology partial zero-emission vehicle (AT PZEV) standard for pollutant emissions, and (2) have an EPA highway rating of 45 miles per gallon or higher or are gas/electric hybrid vehicles produced during the 2004 model year (or newer) and carry a combined EPA rating of 45 mpg.

Under this bill, only three hybrid vehicles qualify for single-occupant HOV lane status: The Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Honda Insight. The upcoming SUV hybrids from Ford, Lexus, and Toyota will not qualify, since they don't meet the mpg threshold. Similarly, the new Honda Accord Hybrid, scheduled to be on sale later this year, will not qualify for single-occupant HOV status.

Survey participants mentioned various reasons for not supporting the measure, but the most novel one is from one member of the Vortex. In reference to the Prius, RJetta8V more efficient in stop and go traffic? By putting them in the HOV lane, we're decreasing their efficiency."

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

Above: 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid

HYBRIDS EXEMPTED FROM CALIFORNIA SMOG CHECKS July 2, 2004

The state of California just made life a bit easier for owners of hybrid vehicles. Wednesday, the Department of Consumer Affairs announced that all hybrids are exempt from smog check inspections, at least until 2010. The exemption applies to the three hybrid models currently on the road ## the Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius ## and will be expanded as new hybrid models are launched. Two issues seem to have prompted the decision: ● Hybrids spout miniscule emissions, and those on the road today likely will remain clean machines for a long time. ● It seems Smog Check stations have a hard time or find it impossible to test some hybrids because they're not designed to meet current test criteria (e.g., emissions can't be measured at idle because the internal combustion engine doesn't idle when the car is stopped). If you own a 2000 model-year hybrid and recently have received a registration renewal notice, contact a DMV field office for instructions on how to complete your registration without a Smog Check certificate. - Chuck Dapoz

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

"Who in the world paints their driveway red?"

WE GET FEEDBACK July 1, 2004

Some of our articles have been the subject of much discussion on the Internet boards. We can always count on VWVortex.com (the world's largest automotive bulletin board) to have something to say. On It's Not Easy Being Green (subtitled "Are Liberal Automotive Journalists An Endangered Species?"), the Vortex's Reflex 5.5 observes, "And that's a bad thing?" Teebees on the Car and Driver forum remarks, "As someone who writes political essays on occasion for various small mags, I can tell you that quite a bit of the garbage they spew is exactly that. With the electric car debut in NY that tops out at 145 mph...a hybrid Ford SUV that gets 30 mpg with no discernible performance difference and little price premium...a hybrid Hummer not far behind - so what's the friggin problem? More performance, less gas, fewer emissions, what's the downside that these "journalists" spouting NewsMax quotes would have us fear from 'those Greenies, those tree-hugging weirdos'?" John Retsek, honorably mention in the "Green" piece as one of the unique critics in the land of automotive journalism, told LA CAR, "I am what I am and proud of it. What that is and my location relative to a imaginary centerline has little to do with my position on most issues. ...And 35 years in public broadcasting (31 in KPFK) tends to hamper one's vision to the right. P.S. They should give a Pull-It-Surprise to online journalists."

The Hummer & the Hybrid has been generating comment as well, with Prius boards describing it as a fun read and Hummer H2 boards crying foul (the Prius squeaked by with a win in the tongue-in-cheek comparison test). The Vortex's AZGolf calls it a "pretty well thought out analysis of apples and oranges. They actually did a fair job of comparing vehicles that are pretty difficult to compare fairly." However, he adds, "The first thing that hit me though was.. who in the world paints their driveway red?

That's terra-cotta, pal.

- RN

Comment on this blog: Letter to the Editor

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE That was LA CAR's subtitle when it started back in 1997. Since then, it became Reporting From Car Culture Ground Zero, then From The Heart of Car Culture, to today's The Cars and Culture of Southern California. At all times, however, we aimed to chronicle the Southland's spirit - much like a journal. Now, the diary goes daily. LA CAR has always been a great source to come back to from month-to-month, to see what articles and reviews have been added to our rather staggering database. With the blog, we give you a reason to come back virtually every day, as we will be posting new blog entries virtually every day or two (well, there will be occasional vacation breaks).

So, go ahead and bookmark www.lacar.com. We'll be sure to always provide a link to the latest blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey into the cars and culture of Southern California.

- Roy Nakano

Past LA CAR Blog entries: June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

You Might Also Like These Articles:

volkswagen art car jetta mountain alltrack

#TBT: Five Volkswagen Art Cars

toyota supra 3.0 premium grey car misty night

Car Review: 2021 GR Supra 3.0 Premium

quattro book group b rally car

Book Review: Quattro

917 restaurant waiter food burger

917 (K)afe

Porsche 356 made by Reutter

Book Review - Porsche 356: Made by Reutter