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THE LA CAR BLOG - MARCH 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 Tue, Mar 1, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Will the Pontiac GTO be orphaned? LA CAR BLOG

BUICK AND PONTIAC IN THE DEAD POOL? March 31, 2005 Maybe GM Chief Lutz Got It Half Right It all started when General Motors Vice Chairman Robert Lutz mused about the automaker possibly killing a brand. At the recent Morgan Stanley Automotive conference in New York, Lutz said if one of GM's "troubled brands" failed to turn around, "then we'd have to take a look at a phase-out." Published reports linked Pontiac and Buick to Lutz's comments. One day after the comment, Mark LaNeve, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for GM, told Automotive News that the automaker is investing heavily in all eight brands. Phasing out a particular division is not under consideration. "We have no plans, or even discussions, of killing any brands," LaNeve said to AN, "We're investing more heavily than ever in product and marketing programs." LaNeve reemphasized his message to dealers Thursday that both brands are safe. On the other hand, LaNeve told AN's Jason Stein that GM is managing Buick, Pontiac and GMC as one channel and providing those divisions with a product portfolio "to service that channel and to focus " the lineup. This represents a key difference from Oldsmobile, which GM killed last year, he said. Many dealerships already sell multiple lines of GM products. Cherry-picking the best from Buick, Pontiac and GMC seems like a good way to go. Maybe they can even flirt with bringing back the popular Cutlass from the now-defunct Oldsmobile line. One thing appears certain. Being able to sustain the full line of GM products in each of the divisions makes less sense today than it did back in the glory days of the 1960s. Back then, the US manufacturers had virtually no competition from abroad. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

NEW PLUG-IN PRIUS SAID TO GIVE DRAMATICALLY BETTER GAS MILEAGE March 29, 2005 New Concept Car Also Claims More Zero Emission Driving Than Existing Hybrids Monaco & Austin, Texas - At the 21st Worldwide International Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition (EVS 21) being held next week, Valence Technology Inc., a developer of large-format Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, and EnergyCS, developers of integration control systems, will showcase a new concept plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Powered by the Valence U-Charge Power System, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a fully functional concept car based on a 2004 Toyota Prius. Because the Valence battery offers much more energy than batteries traditionally used in hybrid vehicles, it allows significant amounts of zero-emission driving with the concept PHEV. With a fuel efficiency that can reach up to 180 miles per gallon for an average commute of 50-60 miles per day, the PHEV claims superior gas mileage and fewer trips to the gas station. Using the U-Charge system, the PHEV is said to offer the best of both worlds: zero-emission electric mode (up to 33 mi/h, 53 km/h) and an efficient gas motor for long trips. Valence will exhibit in EVS 21 Booth C128 and the Valence-EnergyCS PHEV will be on display at the Ride and Drive area throughout the EVS 21 show. The vehicle will also be part of the Rallye Monte-Carlo Fuel Cell & Hybrid on April 2. "Valence's phosphate-based Lithium-ion batteries have substantially higher energy density than competing batteries for hybrid electric vehicles. And, unlike other types of Lithium-ion batteries, our Saphion technology offers the longevity and safety needed for both hybrid and pure electric vehicles," said Stephan Godevais, president and CEO of Valence Technology. "The Valence-EnergyCS plug-in hybrid vehicle is a breakthrough in the industry. It allows renewable energy to displace gasoline, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, which is increasingly important given today's environment and economic concerns." The U-Charge battery system used in the Valence-EnergyCS PHEV is based on Valence's Saphion(R) technology, the only one like it on the market today. It replaces toxic heavy metals with phosphates, creating an energy storage battery that is chemically more stable, and therefore safer, than traditional oxide-based Lithium-ion batteries. Saphion technology's chemistry yields a battery that is not only environmentally friendly, but requires virtually no maintenance and offers long life and low total cost of ownership. About EnergyCS Energy Control Systems Engineering (EnergyCS) is a privately held company based in Monrovia, California. It provides consulting, design and prototyping services for system integration, management and monitoring of electrochemical energy systems such as batteries and fuel cells. The company is focused on and particularly interested in applications in the areas of EV and HEV transportation and alternative energy on systems from 24 to 1000 VDC. About Valence Technology Inc. Valence is a developer of Saphion technology, a large format Lithium-ion rechargeable battery technology. Valence holds a portfolio of issued and pending patents relating to its Saphion technology and Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. The company has facilities in Austin, Texas, Henderson, Nevada and Suzhou and Shanghai, China. Valence is traded on the NASDAQ SmallCap Market under the symbol VLNC and can be found on the Internet at www.valence.com. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

CALLING ALL CAR CLUBS March 25, 2005 Dear journalists and all ... This is a personal appeal from yer old buddy Stokes. I have just inherited the task of lining up car clubs for our Saturday night events. 'Great fun, but a bit hard to get the word out on. So, I turn to you and I attach the below copy. Car clubs always have a great time at Irwindale. They get in free. They get a very cool rolling lap of honor. And they get a free car show wherein they can promote, recruit, and just generally have a good old time at the speedway on a Saturday night. If you know of any car clubs (that are close enough to Irwindale for this to work of course) that might like to participate give 'em my name. Thanks very much! Calling All So Cal Car Clubs! Irwindale Speedway Wants You! Your top 30-40 cars can be one of the special attractions of the NASCAR races under the lights Saturday night at nearby Irwindale speedway! Free! Here's the deal: 1. Your club brings 30 - 40 of your hottest, coolest, wildest, strongest, most beautiful, most colorful, superest cars! 2. Each car and two persons gets free admission to the speedway and becomes part of your club's very own exclusive "mini-car show" in the Irwindale Speedway Chalet Village area. 3. Right before the night's races, your club takes a special paced "lap of honor" around the high banks of Irwindale Speedway while your club representative is "upstairs" with track announcer Bruce Flanders talking about the cars, your club, its activities, etc. Here's a great (free) way to promote upcoming shows and public events: Make a fund-raiser out of it... Each member bring a less-fortunate youngster to the races... Have a poker run on the way to the track ... This show is yours to make something important out of! Now here's the small print: Clubs must arrive at Irwindale at 3:30pm on Saturday (we need to be in place - motors off when the gates open to the fans at 4 pm). Additional club members, family, friends (Irwindale gives two tickets to each car on display - up to 40) may purchase tickets at half-off the regular price. We're now booking Saturday car club shows from now through the end of October ...to take advantage of this offer call Doug Stokes at (626) 358-1100 x 206 now! We're filling up fast! Thanks! Stokes Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Carroll Shelby and the new Shelby Cobra GT500 LA CAR BLOG

NY AUTO SHOW: RETURN OF THE GT500 March 23, 2005

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The press preview for the New York International Auto Show kicked off today, and it was good to see a familiar face together again with a favorite familiar car - i.e., Carroll Shelby and the new Shelby Cobra GT500. The newest Mustang is already a solid performer - particularly in GT form. With the new GT500, horsepower and torque both go up in the neighborhood of 450, thanks to a boosted 5.4-liter engine (a slightly detuned version of the one in the Ford GT). The car retains the live rear axle of the GT, but the folks at SVT say drive it before you start whining over it. Development of the new GT500 was conducted under the supervision of Mustang GT guru (and Ford's new Executive Director of Performance Vehicles) Hau Tai-Tang. The current Mustang GT can outperform any of the GT500s from the 1960s. From all indications, the new GT500 will be the most powerful factory Mustang in history, and will even out-perform the new Mustang Saleen. Prices have yet to be announced, but production models are expected to be ready for the 2006 model year. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

INVENTOR'S INTERMITTENT CRUSADE COMES TO AN END March 19, 2005

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Intermittent windshield wiper inventor Robert Kearns' battle with the automakers is finally over. Since 1978, Kearns has been in court against various car companies for patent infringement over his invention. Last month, however, Kearns died in a Maryland nursing home of brain cancer complicated by Alzheimer's disease, reports Matt Schudel of the Washington Post. Kerns was 77 years old. "All he wanted was the chance to run a factory with his six children and build his wiper motors, along with a later invention for a windshield wiper that was activated automatically by rainfall," says Schudel. "In the end, his courtroom battles cost him his job, his marriage and, at times, his mental health." He got his idea on his wedding night in 1953, when a champagne cork struck him in the left eye, reports Schudel. The blinking of his eye led him to wonder if he could make windshield wipers that worked the same way - i.e., that would move at intervals instead of in a constant back-and-forth motion. His former wife, Phyllis Hall, told the Post, "If it ever rained, I had to drop everything and go out with him in the car." After Kearns believed his invention was ready, he mounted his new invention on his 1962 Ford Galaxie and drove to Ford's headquarters. "Engineers swarmed over his car, at one point sending him out of the workroom, convinced he was activating the wipers with a button in his pocket," says Schudel. Although Ford initially had great interest in Kearns' invention, they eventually stopped answering his calls and Kearns was left on his own. According to the Associated Press, Kearns received numerous patents for his intermittent wipers in 1967. Two years later, Ford became the first U.S. manufacturer to have intermittent wiper systems available on their products. A few years later, other carmakers followed suit. After 12 years of litigation, Ford finally offered to pay Kearns millions of dollars to settle the case, reports the Post. His attorney at the time, William Durkee of Houston, told the Post that Kearns could have received at least $50 million from Ford and comparable amounts from other carmakers. Kearns refused the offer. "He wanted to be a manufacturer and supply that system to the automotive industry," said Richard L. Aitken, a Washington patent lawyer who had worked with Kearns since the 1960s. "That was the most important thing to him," Aitken said to the Post. AP reports that Kearns eventually got federal courts to award him approximately $30 million from Ford and Chrysler combined. Having gone through five law firms, ultimately tried to manage his multiple lawsuits on his own, reports Schudel of the Post. "When he missed deadlines for filing papers in his cases against General Motors Corp. and German and Japanese auto companies, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, who presided over all of Kearns's trials in Detroit, dismissed the remaining cases." Kearns' patents expired, having passed the 17-year window of ownership then in effect. "He bought a house on the Wye River, near Queenstown on the Eastern Shore, and entered an uneasy retirement. In his final years, he drove around in two aging vehicles: a 1978 Ford pickup and a 1965 Chrysler, says the Post. "Neither had intermittent wiper." Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

2002 Chevrolet Blazer 2-door ZR2 CHEVY BLAZER RANKED DEADLIEST VEHICLE IN THE USA March 16, 2005 The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) research group reports that the two-door Chevrolet Blazer from General Motors has the highest driver death rate of any passenger vehicle on U.S. roadways. The IIHS bases its conclusion on a new study of passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs from the 1999-2002 model years. The IIHS study focuses on the rate of driver deaths in various types of crashes, including both single- and multiple-vehicle accidents. The overall driver death rate, for 199 models studied during the 2000-2003 calendar years, is 87 per million registered vehicles annually, according to the IIHS. Weighing in at more than three times the overall rate, the IIHS says the two-wheel-drive Blazer 2-door - a mid-sized SUV - has an average of 308 driver deaths per million. The Blazer also had the highest rate of driver deaths in rollover accidents, at 251 per million, according to the report. Remarkably, seven of the 14 deadliest passenger vehicles in the report are Chevrolets, with the Blazer 4-door, Camaro, Tracker, S10, Cavalier 2-door and Cavalier 4-door sharing the spotlight with the Blazer 2-door. The vehicle with the lowest overall rate of driver deaths, according to the IIHS, is the Mercedes E-Class, at 10 per million. The Toyota 4Runner, a mid-sized SUV, is second lowest at a rate of 12 per million. The third lowest - and the lowest of all four-door family sedans - is the Volkswagen Passat, with 16 deaths. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTO COLUMNIST DAN NEIL JOINS KCRW March 14, 2005

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The first and only automobile columnist ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, Dan Neil of The Los Angeles Times joins public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica (89.9 FM and KCRW.com) as a commentator beginning March 19. "The Road Less Traveled" a three-minute weekly commentary on cars, people and their relationships, will air Saturday mornings at 7:35 and 9:35 am, integrated into KCRW's broadcast of NPR'sâ„¢ Weekend Edition/Saturday with Scott Simon. Like all of KCRW's programming, the feature streams live, is available "on demand" and as a podcast, at www.kcrw.com. Neil has a unique way with words, topped off with a snap of Southern sass. Cars were part of his North Carolina childhood: "My dad was an engineer so we were always disassembling something and leaving it in the yard; we had the typical car-on-blocks yard sculpture." But his passion for pistons grew as he began writing about cars for newspapers. "The Koran says you will be judged in this life by all the permissible pleasures you have not availed yourself of. One of those is cars...people should drive something that makes them happy." About his commentaries, Neil says: "Cars are machines, but it's people who drive them, and people who design them and people who love them, so it's almost tangentially about the automobile as mechanical object, it is really our relationship with them. Just as art can be paint and canvas, it's also our relationship to it and our emotional memories attached to it that make the difference." In addition to his Pulitzer Prize-winning "Rumble Seat" column, Neil began a new weekly pop culture column in the Los Angeles Times Magazine on February 24th called "800 Words," about arts and pop culture, emphasizing connections ## high and low, avant-garde and old guard, ancient and modern. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

DMV DIRECTS LICENSE RENEWAL CALLERS TO PSYCHIC LINE March 10, 2005

Ford Mustang Stamp

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the state sent notices to about 25,000 truckers and motor home owners, directing them to a psychic hot line to renew their registration. The telephone number printed on postcards was one digit off the state's registration renewal line for truck drivers, said Jane Zarada, director of the state Bureau of Vehicle Services. According to the Journal, the number connected callers to "the nation's most informative psychic connection service, helping you with love, money, health and romantic encounters." The Division of Motor Vehicles spent $1,500 sending letters to the truckers Friday after someone called about the typo, Zarada said to the Journal. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Early entry

A SEARCH FOR THE UGLIEST CAR IN AMERICA March 6, 2005 "Some cars are so hideous and disgusting they bring down real estate values in the neighborhood ...We wanted those, and we found those." - Spokesperson for Car Donation Processing Center, Inc. The bad news is that there are plenty of ugly cars to go around. The top candidates can be seen at www.DonateCarUSA.com. And the good news? There is still just a couple of weeks to get your last-minute submission into the contest by March 20, 2005. Who's Eligible? Neighbors give you that look. Friends ask you when you plan to purchase your next car. Your girlfriend insists on driving. These are clues but does your car really have what it takes to be crowned the Ugliest Car in America? Lime green paint job. Bumper stickers everywhere. Four different styles of hub caps. Tangerine colored suede interior. Hanging wires. Rust covered exterior. Multicolored hood. Wood paneling. Do you have the macabre vehicle required to win this contest? "This would be a great contest to run around Halloween, but we don't want to wait until October," says Spokesperson for Car Donation Processing Center, Inc. "Some of these Ugly Car submissions are truly scary, and we couldn't believe people actually drive these cars around town." First Place: The Gold Pinto Award The Car Donation Processing Center, located in Fontana, California, is searching for America's Ugliest Car. This nationwide contest will identify three winners, after the finalists are shared with the public online: First place is the Gold Pinto Award; Second place is the Silver Pacer Award; Third place is the Bronze Gremlin Award. "While people continue to donate their cars for a variety of reasons - IRS tax deduction, avoiding headaches in selling a used car and confusing DMV paperwork and smog hassles - another reason is that their cars are downright ugly and obnoxious," says a spokesperson for the Car Donation Processing Center. "The Ugliest Car in America Contest is a fun way to spread the word that car donation continues to be a viable option for those looking to save on their taxes while avoiding the hassles of selling their heaps." If you think your car has what it takes to take home the prize, you can still submit your digital photos to [email protected]. For more information on The Car Donation Processing Center and the search for the ugliest car in America, go to www.DonateCarUSA.com and check out the finalists. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

How about a Hemi sequel to the Viper-powered Tomahawk?

SEARCHING FOR THE MOST CREATIVE HEMI-POWERED INVENTIONS March 2, 2005 Are you a frustrated inventor? The Chrysler Group has just set up an avenue to channel your creativity. It has just established the "What Can You Hemi?" contest to celebrate the marketing success it's been having with their HEMI engine mark. Fred Diaz, Communications Director of Chrysler Group Global Marketing, says, "In our contest we actually asked consumers, 'If you could infuse the power and torque of the 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI into absolutely anything you wish, what would it be?'" Contestants need to write a brief essay and provide a sketch of their HEMI-powered invention. Diaz says to make it to the finals, be prepared to impress the judges with your design. "The judges will be looking for creativity, engineering feasibility, functionality and most important, safety (Ed.: Okay, so much for the Tomahawk sequel)." This brings up some interesting possibilities. If Demi Moore wants to submit an idea, it can be called the Demi-Hemi. Or how about the ultimate Hemi-powered car designed for women called the Femi-Hemi? A monster truck appealing to the same can be called the Semi-Femi-Hemi. You get the picture. "We're gonna pick five semi-finalists who'll see their HEMI-powered designs really brought to life. And from there we'll pick a Grand Prize winner who'll get a HEMI-powered vehicle of their very own," says Diaz. For more contest information, go to www.whatcanyouhemi.com. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

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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: February 2005 January 2005 December 2004 November 2004 October 2004 September 2004 August 2004 July 2004 June 2004 May 2004 April 2004

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