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THE LA CAR BLOG - FEBRUARY 2005

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, Feb 2, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA CAR BLOG

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL February 28, 2005 Half of American Drivers Admit To Taking The Wheel While Drowsy

Ford Mustang Stamp

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that at least 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel each year, according to a report by Jeanne Wright of the Los Angeles Times. The Automobile Club of Southern California estimates that at least a third of all accidents in the USA involve drowsy driving. A poll conducted in 2002 by the National Sleep Foundation in Washington, D.C., found that 100 million motorists - about half of American adult drivers - drive while drowsy, NSF spokeswoman Marcia Stein informed Wright of the Times. Stein told the Times, "Nearly two out of 10 drivers in the poll admitted to actually having fallen asleep behind the wheel." "Fatigued driving is not a new revelation. It has been claiming precious lives for decades," says Rita Monroe of Victims of Irresponsible Drowsy Drivers, a New York nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and pushing for tough laws on the issue. Monroe's daughter was killed in a 1993 accident, by a driver who was short on sleep. New Jersey has made it a crime to kill someone as a result, according to Wright of the Times. "New Jersey is the only state that has passed legislation directly addressing the hazards of drowsy driving," says Wright. Falling asleep at the wheel can be viewed as reckless driving under the state's existing vehicular homicide statute. The law was passed in honor of Maggie McDonnell, a 20-year-old college student who was killed in 1997 in a head-on collision. The driver of the other vehicle told New Jersey police that he hadn't slept for 30 hours, according to Wright. The New Jersey threshold for fatigue is being deprived of sleep for more than 24 consecutive hours. A motorist who falls asleep at the wheel and kills someone can be charged with vehicular homicide and face up to 10 years in prison and substantial fines. Passage of the New Jersey law led Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York to introduce similar bills, none of which has yet passed, according to the Times. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

KRAFT'S ROAD KILL CANDY RUNS INTO OPPOSING TRAFFIC February 25, 2005 Animal rights activists fail to see the humor by a new candy from Kraft Foods Inc. that's shaped like critters run over by cars - complete with tire treads. The fruity-flavored Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy - in shapes of partly flattened snakes, chickens and squirrels - fosters cruelty toward animals, asserts the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Society spokesman Matthew Stanton says, "It sends the wrong message to children, that it's OK to harm animals. And that's the wrong message, especially from a so-called wholesome corporation like Kraft," the Associated Press reports. The society is considering petition drives, boycotts and letter-writing campaigns to get the candy pulled from the market, Stanton said. After receiving a complaint from the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Kraft officials pulled an animated advertisement from Trolli's Web site that featured car headlights and animals, says AP. No other decisions on changes have been made, according to Kraft spokesman Larry Baumann. "If you look across the Gummi category we certainly have many products that are offbeat, and that's what we were doing in this case," Baumann said to AP. "We didn't mean to offend anyone." Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

World introduction of the Advanced Lightweight Coupe (M Dapoz) THE CASE OF THE ONE-EYED JAG February 24, 2005 Is That A Headlight Missing On The New Jaguar?

Ford Mustang Stamp

Would Jaguar really conduct a world introduction of their new sports concept car with a burned out headlamp? At the North American International Auto Show, no less? Naysayers will jump to the conclusion that Jaguar dropped the ball on this one. We have it on good authority, however, that the company has a valid reason for introducing a one-eyed cat - and it's one of the following: a. The concept car is equipped with independent toggle switches for each of the headlights. This not only serves as a courtesy to pedestrians walking about in parking lot and driveway surroundings, it also cuts the headlight energy usage in half. b. Part of the reason why Jaguar names this vehicle the Advanced Lightweight Coupe is because of the advanced light beam used on one side of the vehicle. Jaguar has developed a headlamp that projects as much light as two normal HID lamps. With the stronger light beam on one side, vision obstruction to oncoming traffic is mitigated. b. One headlamp instead of two saves weight, and this is in keeping with the theme of the Advanced Lightweight Coupe. d. All of the above.

e. None of the above. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

OOPS, WRONG CAR February 22, 2005 Key West Prosecutor Faces Streaking Charge Wouldn't it be funny to run naked across a parking lot and hop into a friend's car? Neither do we. According to the Key West Citizen, however, a Monroe County prosecutor has been arrested as a result of such an attempt. It turns out that the prosecutor jumped into the wrong car, according to the Associated Press. Albert Tasker, who works for the Monroe County State Attorney's Office, told authorities he had been drinking with friends and thought it would be funny to shed his clothes and run to a friend's car in the parking lot of a Key West motel, according to a police report. But, according to AP, Tasker apparently got in the back seat of a car occupied by a woman waiting for her boyfriend. "The woman screamed and her boyfriend appeared. After the woman called 911, a Key West police officer found Tasker in the middle of the parking lot," reports AP. Tasker was arrested Monday morning and faces charges of disorderly intoxication and indecent exposure, according to the report. Officials with the State Attorney's Office said a request has been sent to Governor Jeb Bush's office to appoint a special prosecutor to handle the complaints to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Be careful where you toss cigarettes LA CAR BLOG

DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT February 18, 2005 A man barely escaped serious injury Thursday after a lit cigarette he tried to toss out the window while driving across the Bay Bridge blew back in and ignited the vehicle, according to the California Highway Patrol. The unidentified man was driving westbound at about 10:40 a.m. when he tossed the cigarette out the window of his Ford Expedition, said CHP Officer Shawn Chase to the Associated Press. Carried by the wind, the cigarette landed in his back seat and almost immediately burst into flames. The man quickly pulled to the side of the road, and leapt from the flame-filled SUV, which continued rolling into a guard rail, Chase said to AP. "He thought he had thrown it in park, but he didn't and it just kept going," the officer said. "It was in flames by the time he got out. He had some of his hair singed on the back of his head. It burnt down to the frame. There was nothing left." The incident forced the closure of the Harrison Street off-ramp and one lane of traffic flowing into the city for about an hour. He said the man will likely face a misdemeanor charge for littering. "We see people throwing cigarettes out the window all the time but never a situation like this where it comes back in," Chase said. "This guy was lucky." Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Dressed to ill NYC SUED BY WOMAN WHO DRESSED UP AS A HUMMER February 16, 2005 A woman who was arrested while dressed as a gas guzzling Hummer sued New York City on Tuesday for putting the brakes on her one-person protest in front of an SUV dealership during the Republican National Convention, reports Reuters. Georgianna Page, who spent eight hours creating her large cardboard box costume, charged the city violated her civil rights when she was arrested and detained for several hours on August 31st. No charges were ever filed against her, the suit said. The complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court by the New York Civil Liberties Union, seeks unspecified damages. According to the suit, Page heard there would be a peaceful protest in front of the Manhattan Hummer dealership that day and she arrived wearing her "Hummer" costume and a hand-lettered sign that read "Vampire Utility Vehicles: This is Your War." Police arrested her for obstructing traffic, but Page said she had never left the sidewalk and did nothing wrong. Page was arrested on a day that the police picked up 1,100 other people, most of whom have since had their cases dismissed, the NYCLU said. A spokeswoman for the city's legal department informed Reuters it had not received the suit and could not comment. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Toyota's FJ Cruiser unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show THREE MORE REASONS WHY TOYOTA MAY TAKE OVER THE WORLD February 12, 2005 With Toyota riding the crest of the hybrid wave, dominating Intellichoice's "best car value" ratings, hovering at the top of the JD Power overall quality ratings, and enjoying all-time high sales worldwide, it seems to be in good position to surpass Ford Motor Company once and for all as the world's second largest automaker.

Toyota's FT-SX concept vehicle may be the replacement for the Highlander What's next on the horizon? How about usurping General Motors for the number one spot? It's starting to look more like a reality now than ever before.

The question was posed to Toyota CEO Fujio Cho at the Detroit Auto Show. " very difficult to answer," replied Cho, saying that sales volume is not a part of the company's overall strategy. The long-term key to industry domination, however, will be found in new and emerging markets, such as China, suggests Cho.

The new Avalon aims to be the new benchmark in its class In the meantime, Toyota recently introduced two new production vehicles and a concept vehicle that look to make significant inroads into the North American market. One is the all-new Toyota Avalon, which is now on sale and aims to set a new benchmark for large family sedans (the old one was already Consumer Reports' top-rated large family sedan). The second is the FT-SX concept car, introduced at the Detroit Auto Show. The FT-SX is based on the Highlander, and could very well be its replacement in concept car disguise. Last, but not least, Toyota introduced the production version of the FJ Cruiser at the Chicago Auto Show happening right now. With a predicted base price of around $25,000, the Internet boards are already going wild about the FJ. I'm not a betting man, but absent any unforeseen developments, I'll give Toyota six years to reach numero uno. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

WINNERS OF THE LATEST INTELLICHOICE AWARDS February 10 , 2005 Toyota, Honda Dominate Best Car Value Ratings; Chevy Dominates Truck Awards IntelliChoice, Primedia's source for automotive ownership cost and value analysis, announced the winners of its 19th annual "Best Overall Value of the Year" awards for 2005 model year cars, trucks, vans and SUVs. IntelliChoice's Best Overall Value of the Year awards recognize vehicles whose cost of ownership is significantly less than that of other peer models and provides a quick reference to finding vehicles that promise the best return on investment. A listing of this year's winners and additional information on the awards are featured in the Spring issue of IntelliChoice Magazine, on newsstands April 5, 2005 and can be found online at www.IntelliChoice.com. This year, from the vehicles analyzed, IntelliChoice has identified 37 winning models for segment and class accolades. Among the notable winners: The Toyota Prius is considered the best car value under $23,000, despite the premium owners pay for having hybrid technology. And despite some quality control issues, Volkswagen scored three wins (their TDI models). However, the most significant news is the near-total domination of all the car awards by Toyota and Honda. For the truck awards, Chevrolet is nearly as dominant. Here's how the overall category winners shape up: Best Car Value Under $23,000 - Toyota Prius Best Car Value Over $23,000 - Lexus LS 430 Best SUV Value Under $28,000 - Toyota Highlander 2WD Best SUV Value Over $28,000 - Toyota Sequoia SR5 2WD Best Truck Value Under $26,000 - Toyota Tundra Regular Cab Best Truck Value Over $26,000 - Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab LS 2WD Best Van Value Under $25,000 - Honda Odyssey LX Best Van Value Over $25,000 - Honda Odyssey EX "Cost of ownership plays a significant factor in the vehicle purchasing decision and IntelliChoice's resources provide consumers a valuable service by analyzing all the necessary data that consumers are not capable of calculating on their own" said James Bell, publisher of IntelliChoice. "As the only data-driven cost of ownership awards, we're able to give our readers the ability to feel confident and assured they have chosen their car wisely." The IntelliChoice evaluation process aggregates and analyzes data from auto manufacturers, the U.S. government, and third-party data resources to determine the true costs of ownership of new vehicles over a five year period. IntelliChoice also assigns a rating to more than 1300 mainstream vehicles sold in America. This insightful value rating factors the accumulated ownership costs of depreciation, maintenance, repairs, fuel, fees financing, and insurance to identify the true standout models in each class. In addition to the eight category winners, IntelliChoice also recognizes the following vehicles as class winners: Cars Subcompact Class - Honda Civic Coupe Compact Class under $16,000 - Honda Civic Sedan Compact Class over $16,000 - Honda Civic Hybrid Midsize Class under $21,000 - Toyota Prius Midsize Class over $21,000 - Volkswagen Passat TDI Large Class - Chrysler 300 Near Luxury Class - Lexus ES 330 Luxury Class - Lexus LS 430 Small Wagon Class - Volkswagen Jetta TDI Midsize/Large Wagon Class - Volkswagen Passat TDI Base Sport Class - Toyota MR2 Spyder Sport Class - Lexus SC 430 Sport Utilities Compact Sport Utility Class under $21,000 - Toyota RAV4 Compact Sport Utility Class over $21,000 - Honda CR-V 4WD Intermediate Sport Utility Class under $28,000 - Toyota Highlander Intermediate Sport Utility Class over $28,000 - Lexus RX 330 Full-Size Sport Utility Class under $36,000 - Toyota Sequoia SR5 Full-Size Sport Utility Class over $36,000 - Toyota Land Cruiser Trucks Compact Pickup Class 2WD - Toyota Tacoma Compact Pickup Class 4WD - Toyota Tacoma Full-Size Pickup Class 1/2 Ton 2WD - Toyota Tundra Full-Size Pickup Class 1/2 Ton 4WD - Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended Cab Full-Size Pickup Class 3/4 Ton 2WD - Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Full-Size Pickup Class 3/4 Ton 4WD - Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Full-Size Pickup Class One Ton 2WD - Chevrolet Silverado 3500 DRW Full-Size Pickup Class One Ton 4WD - Chevrolet Silverado 3500 DRW Vans Mini-Van Class under $24,000 - Honda Odyssey Mini-Van Class over $24,000 - Honda Odyssey Full-Size Van Class - Chevrolet Express 1500 Passenger Van and GMC Savana 1500 Passenger Van Founded in 1986, IntelliChoice is designed to empower consumers to make better purchase decisions by providing independent and essential automotive information and tools. Its parent company, Primedia, owns over 50 automotive brands, including Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, Super Street, Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Hot Rod, and European Car. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Legends cars at Irwindale

IRWINDALE'S MINORITY DRIVER & PIT CREW SEARCH PROGRAM February 8 , 2005 In our January 17th LA Car Blog entry, Breaking Through Barriers in NASCAR, we reported on the newly published memoir of auto racing veteran Leonard Miller. The book offers an inside look at the struggles and triumphs of one of the most conspicuously absent groups of men and women in motorsports - African Americans. Doug Stokes reports on Irwindale Speedway's efforts to rise to the occasion: NASCAR Track Launches Program Aimed at Exposing Local Racing Talent NASCAR's "Drive for Diversity" program is catching on in the Los Angeles area. On Wednesday, February 23, Irwindale Speedway will roll out a new program aimed at putting a minority youth into the driver's seat of a brand-new Legends race car for the 2005 season at the well-known western raceway. The program will also send a youngster to Jeff Hammond's "Pit Crew U" in Mooresville, North Carolina for training as an over-the-wall crew member. "We are very proud to announce Irwindale Speedway's 2005 Minority Driver and Pit Crew Search Program" said Irwindale's GM Bob DeFazio. "Irwindale has been involved with NASCAR's diversity program for a number of years now, hiring minority youngsters into our racing officials program. Now we're going to give a deserving young driver a chance to get into entry level racing with a Legends Car right here at the Speedway as well as starting another off on the road to being part of a NASCAR pit crew." Irwindale's new Minority Driver and Crew Search program will introduce young candidates to the world of NASCAR and the exciting career opportunities available throughout the motorsports industry. Like NASCAR's national diversity imitative Irwindale's program is designed to support deserving youngsters with an interest in the motorsports industry, who are of Alaskan Native, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Island, African American, Hispanic, or of other racial minority descent. Those men and all young women between the ages of 14 and 20 will be eligible for this unique driver and crew person search. Applicants will fill out questionnaires and face an in-depth interview held at the Speedway. Academics will be part of the consideration as will personal desire driving ability, and physical agility. "We want our candidates to be able to express themselves well and possess good people skills. It's something that NASCAR drivers and crew persons must have today and something that we plan on helping our candidates master." The top candidates who make it past the first written and oral hurtles will find themselves suiting up for an accelerated driving school using Legends Cars supplied by Irwindale's own on-site Performance Race Training Center (PRTC) and Legends & Parts Sales (LAPS). "As the Southern California Legends Car dealer, we could not be more supportive of this program" said Joe Oddo, owner of LAPS. "This is a great opportunity for us to reach out to the minority community as well as a terrific way to get some great new racing and wrenching talent on the road. We're very pleased to be an integral part of this adventure." A blue-ribbon panel of racing administrators, veteran drivers, local educators, motorsports journalists, and civic leaders has been assembled to evaluate specific stages of this process, which will not only include driving talent and physical ability, but, as previously mentioned, communication skills as well. "We know that the young men and women that we'll see in this search will very quickly be looked to as role models in their communities" DeFazio explained. "We'll be giving the finalists a short course in community relations and be expecting them to be able to carry the word to other youngsters as the 2005 competition season progresses. The winning candidate on the pit crew side of the wall will receive a complete course at Jeff Hammond's new and very exciting PIT Instruction and Training Academy in Mooresville, North Carolina. The total-immersion course will cover everything that an over-the-wall racing team member will need to know from mechanical training to the all-important physical and mental conditioning for the tough job. The winning youngster on the driving side will be given a "full ride" in a brand new Legends Car supplied to Irwindale by 600 Racing, LLC and H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, the CEO/GM of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "Irwindale Speedway has a reputation for creating leading edge programs and this is a great example, we're very pleased to be a part of this project. We believe strongly in what they are aiming for and commend them for their foresight" said Wheeler. The 2005 12-race Legends Cars season will begin on Saturday, March 19 and conclude on Saturday, September 17. PRTC/LAPS will house and maintain the race vehicle on site at their Speedway shops (with the driver and the newly-minted crew person assisting and learning the ins and out of the mechanical side of racing). Impact Racing, racing safety legend Bill Simpson's new company, will provide the new racer with a custom Impact driving suit, along with driving shoes, gloves, and helmet. Impact will provide the crew person candidate with work gloves and sport shoes. The driver's safety ensemble will be augmented with a HANS device provided by the manufacturer to complete the safety side of the equation. "We know that there's a wealth of young driving and crewing talent out there and we want to find it and bring it before the fans. In this case, we also now that some of these minority kids only need a chance to prove themselves behind the wheel and in the pits. That's why we've teamed up with the people who produce Legends Cars, 600 Racing cars to put a young driver in one of the most competitive and cost-effective racing divisions on the race track today" DeFazio concluded. - Doug Stokes

Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Chrysler's award-winning 300C

A TALE OF TWO 300Cs February 6 , 2005 Jack Dill of Blanchard, Oklahoma wrote to Consumer Reports about the Chrysler 300C, which has been getting a lot of praise from the automotive press: "I received my January Consumer Reports and Motor Trend magazines the same day. Motor Trend gave the new Chrysler 300C its Car of the Year award, while CR rated it just in the middle of the pack for tested large sedans. A completely different standard of testing?" Consumer Reports responds to Dill in their March issue: "Our vehicle evaluations are more comprehensive and include 46 tests conducted over several months. The 300C received low scores for limited outward visibility, a stiff ride, and low fuel economy. We don't consider a vehicle's market significance in our Ratings because we don't think that should affect your buying decision. Nor do we consider styling, which is a matter of taste." As a reader of most of the major automotive enthusiast print publications based in the USA (Automobile, Autoweek, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, MPH, Road & Track, among others), I'm fascinated by their differences. One is clearly more focused on exotic cars. Another is more politically conservative, and really seems to like Hondas and BMWs. One has more sex appeal, and publishes articles with more edge than the others. Still another seems to favor Audis and VWs more than its colleagues. In most cases, however, the differences are subtle. They generally all like the same vehicles, and all complain about the same ill-conceived features of a particular car. And then there's Consumer Reports. Lately, CR's recommendations often mirror that of their enthusiast publication colleagues. Witness, for instance, the praise they give to the Acura TL, BMW 3-Series, Subaru WRX, and Volkswagen Passat - all cars that have received similar accolades in the buff magazines. Every so often, however, Consumer Reports reveals that it marches to the beat of a different drummer. Their lukewarm reception to the Chrysler 300 is the latest example of this. In their January 2005 issue, the magazine tested two versions of the Chrysler 300 (the 300 Touring and 300C) as well as two versions of Ford's new Five Hundred (SEL FWD and SEL AWD). The buff magazines have showered the new Ford with faint praise - admiring its European flavor, but criticizing its conservative design and horsepower. On the other hand, CR clearly prefers the Ford over the Chrysler, citing its interior room, enormous trunk, good access, visibility, and rear-seat comfort. I must confess that I've fallen for the style and power of the Chrysler 300C. However, CR does have a point. Much of the appeal of the big Chrysler is subjective and emotional. In the world of automotive journalism, there is room for different points of view. I, for one, am glad that Consumer Reports is around to state theirs. - Roy Nakano

Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Lincoln's new Mark LT

CAN BAD PUBLICITY STILL BE GOOD PUBLICITY? February 4 , 2005 Two commercials just received a ton of publicity - and neither will be seen on television. One is the commercial for Lincoln's new 2006 Mark LT pickup truck, which was schedule to air during Super Bowl XXXIX. The 30-second commercial features a clergyman who discovers an unusual offering in the collection plate: The keys to a new Lincoln Mark LT. The cleric takes the keys to the Mark LT and finds it seductive. But then the owner arrives to say his little daughter put the keys on the plate by mistake. The clergyman then notes on the church marquee that next week's sermon will be on "lust." Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sent a letter Wednesday to Ford Motor Co., urging the firm to withdraw the ad, contending it trivializes and exploits the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, according to the Chicago Tribune.. "We are appalled at how insensitive this ad is," Barbara Blaine, SNAP president, said in a prepared statement. "It just rubs salt into an already very deep and still hurting wound for many of us." Several other groups##both religious and secular##joined SNAP in criticizing the commercial, which was supposed to be the Lincoln division's first foray into the Super Bowl spotlight in more than a decade, said the Tribune. As late as Wednesday mid-afternoon, Ford was insisting it had no intention of yanking the ad, according to the Tribune. By the late afternoon, however, Lincoln issued the following statement: "Lincoln has decided not to run the Lincoln Mark LT ad on the Super Bowl this Sunday. Of course we had no intention of offending anyone - and we are frankly surprised there is a negative reaction. We are most interested in making sure that as we launch our new Lincoln Mark LT pickup truck that attention is focused on the vehicle and not on any controversy." Small But Tough Although Lincoln was forced to pull its ad, all the television news shows covered the controversy - virtually insuring the new Mark LT's status as a water cooler conversation piece. In terms of controversy, however, the Lincoln ad pales in comparison to the spoof Volkswagen ad that's been circulating the Internet. The ad - unauthorized by Volkswagen and its advertising agencies - shows a suicide bomber detonating his explosives in a VW Polo parked outside a busy cafe, only to have the car completely absorb the blast. The 20-second commercial ends with the Volkswagen logo and the Polo's actual advertising motto, "Small but Tough." According to CNN, Volkswagen responded by lodging a criminal complaint over the ad, which it called "an attack on Volkswagen's good name." Reuters reports that VW was able to get the creators of the commercial to apologize and promised not to repeat it. Volkswagen said in a statement it had received sworn statements from the two creators - Dan Brooks and Lee Ford - acknowledging that they made the ad but had not intended for it to be distributed. "The creators regret the distribution of the film, will not publicize it further and apologize unreservedly for the damage caused to Volkswagen," it said, adding that the company would now drop legal action against the pair. Within a few short days, the spoof Volkswagen ad has become one of the most widely circulated on the Internet. Notwithstanding its offensiveness, the ad served to reinforce Volkswagen's image as a maker of solidly constructed vehicles. In turn, it has elevated Dan Brooks and Lee Ford out of obscurity and into the public light as effective ad makers. Sometimes bad publicity can still be good publicity. - Roy Nakano

Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

GM conducts its 16,000th crash test

GM'S NEXT BIG STEP IN SAFETY... February 2 , 2005 Recently, General Motors announced its plans to make OnStar (the satellite information and security service) and StabiliTrak (GM's vehicle stability control) standard on every GM car and truck sold in the United States. The General Motors website ("Who Will Help Keep Us Safe On The Road") is touting this commitment as a GM exclusive. Needless to say, be prepared for the typical General Motors onslaught of advertising and, yes, spin regarding this supposed advancement in safety and security. While GM's intentions are indeed admirable, the truth of the matter is that the safety and security plan won't even be 100 percent in place until 2010 at the earliest. While OnStar is forecasted to become standard on every GM vehicle by 2007, StabiliTrak, arguably a more important and more decisive safety advantage, won't be spread across the entire GM range until, yes, 2010. As GM's press release states, "Only GM offers a full range of cars, trucks, and SUVs that offer protection before, during, and, thanks to OnStar, after a crash." Well, folks, until StabiliTrak makes its way across the range in 2010, that is most certainly not the case. GM shouldn't be able to advertise OnStar AND StabiliTrak on every vehicle they sell until they actually offer it on every vehicle they sell. It seems like we are going to endure another five years of GM promising that it's "on the way." When I see is all come together, circa 2010, then I'll actually congratulate General Motors on its crowing achievement. I've got a few "crowning achievements" I'd like to see from GM. While I do think that GM has made many recent definitive improvements in its products, they still have not done all they could to really present an appealing alternative to all the dedicated import buyers in Southern California. For example, GM, how about a DOHC, "high feature" 2.8 or 3.6 litre V6 engine for the Pontiac G6? And please don't cry to me about limited production capacity for those engines. Leading manufacturers find a way to increase production capacity, not whine about it. Also, GM, while you are at it, how about a new Chevrolet Cobalt "premium" compact that doesn't rely on brittle, hollow, thin, and cheap plastic door and dash panels? GM, how about a new STS sedan that actually improves on its predecessor's interior fit-and-finish and quality-of-materials, instead of going dramatically backwards? Hey, GM, what about designing, building, and executing a winning minivan platform that sends Honda and Toyota back to the drawing board, instead of just (basically) rebadging the same minivans you've offered us for so many years as a "Crossover Sport Van?" Yo, GM. How about a Corvette that finally has an interior that you don't have to apologize for? Message to the General: What about a Buick that actually resembles one of those stunning Buick concept cars we've seen over the years? That actually would make the Tri-Shield division more of a competitor to Lexus. Today, Toyota employees must be laughing at the thought that GM thinks Buick comes close to competing with Lexus (not to mention competing with Toyota). GM, I really like the thought of a V8-powered Grand Prix or Impala SS. However, what about a nice, tight-handling rear-wheel drive platform to go with it? (Can anyone say 300C?) I can go on and on. However, I think you all get my drift. For all my ranting and raving over GM's issues, I really do wish them luck. Nothing will make me happier than to feel good about buying an American car, and specifically a GM car, again. - Christopher Huddleston

Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

Ford Mustang Stamp

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 LA Car 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

For past LA Car Blog entries, click the following: January 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

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