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LA CAR BLOG - JUNE 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, Jun 1, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA CAR BLOG CELL PHONES POSE GREATEST DISTRACTION CRASH RISK June 29, 2005 NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Cell phones and other wireless devices contributed to the most automobile crashes, near-crashes and other incidents, according to a published report of a government study due to be released shortly. The Wall Street Journal reports that the study done by Virginia Tech for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration videotaped 100 cars and their drivers for a year, covering about 2 million miles and 43,000 hours of driving. The use of wireless devices were involved in what the report said were 644 "events," which includes crashes, near-crashes and having to take evasive maneuvers. There were six actual crashes while drivers in the study were on the wireless devices, according to the newspaper's report. The majority of those occurrences, including all crashes, happened while drivers were on the phone talking and listening, rather than dialing a phone number. The next-biggest distraction, with 411 events, came from "passenger-related" issues, including talking to a fellow passenger and placating children in rear seats. A spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association questioned the report, saying its findings were out of line with earlier studies. "Acknowledging that cell phone use in a car can be a potential distraction ... we've been very clear on that," a spokesman for the industry's trade group said. "At the same time, cell phone use is one of what appears to be a number of behaviors in there." The newspaper said another NHTSA study that looks at driving and phone usage, presented at a traffic-safety conference last week, raises questions about the added safety benefits of using headsets and other "hands-free" devices. Drivers kept both hands on the wheel only about 13 percent of the time when not on the phone, according to the Journal. While those with "hands-free" phones kept both hands on the wheel about the same percentage of time, it fell to only 1 percent for those on the phone without such equipment, according to the report. But the newspaper said that the NHTSA, while it can make regulations about some auto safety equipment, does not have power to set rules about cell phone use in vehicles. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MSRP STICKER June 23, 2005 Although it might be hard to believe today, there once was a time when car makers weren't required to post the Manufacturer's Suggest Retail Price (a/k/a MSRP) on vehicles. Dealers were free to sell cars without disclosing any such MSRP. That all changed on June 23, 1958, when The Automobile Information Disclosure Act was passed in 1958. The bill was authored by A.S. "Mike" Monroney, a longtime Oklahoma congressman. Today, the Monroney sticker (often mispronounced as the Maroney sticker) graces the window of every vehicle sold in this country. Every Monroney sticker contains the following information: * Make * Model * Serial or Identification Numbers * The final assembly point * The name, and the location of the place of business, of the dealer to whom it is to be delivered * The method of transportation used in making delivery of such automobile, if driven or towed from final assembly point to place of delivery * The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP or "sticker price") of the base vehicle * The MSRP of optional equipment installed on the base vehicle * The transportation charges for delivery of the vehicle to the dealer from the manufacturer * The TOTAL MSRP of all the above. * The EPA mileage estimates are also normally included on this sticker The law is now codified as Title 15, Chapter 28, Sections 1231-1233 of the United States Code. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Ford Freestyle FEDS FIND NEW VEHICLES BECOMING MORE STABLE June 22, 2005 The number of SUVs with a four-star rollover rating had increased substantially since U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began rating them in 2001, according to new findings by the NHTSA. That year, just one SUV earned four-stars, whereas in 2005, 24 earned a four-star rating as part of the newly released rollover test results for 2005 model year vehicles. Assessing static stability factor (SSF) values - the predominant factor in NHTSA's rollover ratings - the agency found a significant improvement in SUV ratings; passenger car and pickup truck scores have remained relatively constant. For 2005 model year tested vehicles, the highest rated SUV was the Ford Freestyle 4x4, earning four stars and a 13 percent chance of rollover, if involved in a single-vehicle crash. The Freestyle matches the 2005 Chrysler Pacifica, a carryover vehicle from 2004, which also earned four stars and a 13 percent chance of rollover during the 2004 model year testing. For pickups, the highest rated vehicle was the Chevrolet Colorado 4x4 and its twin, the GMC Canyon, the Dodge Dakota 4x4, and the Dodge Ram 1500 4x2 - each earning four stars and a 17 percent chance of rollover if involved in a single-vehicle crash. For vans, the highest rated vehicle was the Chrysler PT Cruiser, earning four stars and a 13 percent chance of rollover if involved in a single-vehicle crash. For passenger cars, the highest rated vehicle was the Ford Mustang, earning five stars and an eight percent chance of rollover if involved in a single-vehicle crash. "It is encouraging to see the positive impact our rollover rating program has had on making vehicles more stable, particularly on SUVs," said NHTSA Administrator, Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. "Today we have twenty-four MY2005 SUVs with a 4-star rollover rating whereas 2 years ago, we had only five". The complete list of 2005 vehicles rollover results, including carryover results from previous model years, is also available at www.safercar.gov . Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Slumping design? HONDA TO REDESIGN SLUMPING ACCORD June 16, 2005 Carmaker Plans Substantial Changes to the Exterior Styling Bloomberg News - Honda Motor Co. said Tuesday that it planned what it termed substantial modifications to its Accord model in an effort to reverse a slump that might lead to the company's first U.S. sales decline in 12 years. "We're planning some fairly major refreshes coming this year," said John Mendel, sales chief for American Honda Motor Co., the Japanese company's Torrance-based U.S. arm. The changes will address what customers view as the current Accord's shortcomings, including exterior styling, he said. The latest Accord is about halfway through its four-to-five-year model life. In its attempt to boost U.S. demand, Honda is trying to regain share in a market that has accounted for 43 percent of its global sales. Accord sedans and coupes, which made up 25 percent of Honda's total U.S. sales through May, have fallen 9 percent to 143,304. Honda's annual U.S. sales haven't fallen since 1993, the longest growth streak in the market. "Accord is Honda's symbol in this market. They'll do what they have to to protect it," said Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president of Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "It doesn't cost much to bend the sheet metal a little differently to improve the looks, so that's an easy option." The drop for the Accord as well as the Civic - a small car that is Honda's second-biggest-selling U.S. model - cut the company's U.S. sales 0.7 percent this year through May to 565,948. Civic sales are down 15 percent this year, in part because Honda has reduced production ahead of the release of a redesigned version due in about three months. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

CYCLISTS BARE ALL IN OIL PROTEST June 12, 2005 More than 100 cyclists rode around London naked in a mass protest against dependency on the oil industry, according to BBC News. Protesters on The World Naked Bike Ride cycled past Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and the US Embassy on the 10km route. Riders in 54 cities were protesting at the "destructive effects of car culture" and celebrating "the power and individuality of their bodies." The ride ended at the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Rider Melissa Evans, 32, said: "This shows how serious we are in opposing oil dependency. "Like many people, I'm afraid of showing my body in public, but I'm more afraid of relying on environmentally-destructive fuels." The event is part of London Sustainability Week 2005 and National Bike Week 2005. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Paris Hilton and Bentley's Arnage SNATCHING VICTORY FROM THE JAWS OF A SPICY BBQ BURGER June 8, 2005 It's one thing to make all the right moves. It's another when you make a wrong move and have the moxie to turn it into a right move. There's no better example of this than what Volkswagen AG did with the Bentley brand. Flashback to 1998, when BMW and Volkswagen got into a bidding war to purchase Rolls Royce. Just when it looked like BMW sealed the deal to purchase Rolls Royce, VW made an offer that the Rolls Royce shareholders couldn't refuse. Unfortunately, VW failed on the due diligence end. It appeared VW purchased the factory without obtaining the rights to the Rolls Royce name, which remained with BMW. To avoid a protracted legal battle, the two auto makers agreed to allow VW to own Rolls Royce until 2003. Thereafter, BMW would take over Rolls Royce ownership, while VW retained rights to the Bentley brand. Bentley and Rolls Royce would then go their separate ways. By all accounts, VW was on the losing end, having lost the coveted Rolls Royce ownership it sought. Or so it seemed. What ultimately developed was hard to predict. After the agreement between BMW and VW was struck, Volkswagen AG went hard at work to uplift the Bentley mark to a level it hasn't seen since its early years. First on the agenda was the development of the Continental GT. Second was to win the creme de la creme of auto racing: The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bentley dominated Le Mans back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but effectively retired from the event thereafter. To come back and take the checkered flag would be an historic event, not to mention a monumental task. In 2003, however, Bentley made history by taking first and second at Le Mans. Thereafter, Bentley went back into retirement as the undefeated champion. The new Bentley Continental GT turned out to be a stunning design and a runaway sales success. In contrast, the new icebox-like Rolls Royce Phantom, introduced in 2003, has been met with a mixed reception and less-than-stellar sales. The Bentley brand has emerged from all of this at the top of the coolness pyramid, with rap artists, superstar sports figures and actors gravitating toward the brand. Rolls Royce, in the meantime, seems to be stuck with an old (albeit rich) people's car image. The most recent indicator that Bentley has become the "it" car comes in the form of the controversial Paris Hilton commercial for Carl's Jr. The fast food company uses sex to sell its latest commodity, the Spicy BBQ Burger. That Carl's Jr. used Paris Hilton as its sales vehicle is understandable. Of significance is the vehicle that Ms. Hilton used as the object of her desire: A black Bentley Arnage. Thus, the transformation is complete. With the Bentley brand, Volkswagen has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. - RN You can view the extended version of the Paris Hilton commercial at Spicy Paris Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

THE SCENT OF DANGER June 6, 2005 Having the wrong smell in a car can cause speeding, dozing, road rage and potentially even serious accidents according to the RAC Foundation. Having the right smell can help a driver to recognize dangers earlier, stay focused on the road ahead, forgive other peoples' driving errors and even find a bit of romance. Following the release of a study into odors and driving conducted at the West Virginia Wheeling Jesuit University, the RAC Foundation has conducted an extensive research and literature review into effects of smell on driving. Sue Nicholson, Head of Campaigns for the RAC Foundation says, "It's astounding how much the smell in a car can affect a driver's mood and actions. Smell is a very powerful sense and could result in a lack of concentration or over-reaction to minor irritations on the road - which can turn into potentially life threatening incidents" While the West Virginia research appears to identify peppermint and cinnamon odors as being the best cure-all, the range of smells that can help or hinder driving are said to be enormous. Conrad King, the RAC Foundation's consultant psychologist, who conducted the research review adds: "More than any other sense, the sense of smell circumnavigates the logical part of the brain and acts on the limbic and emotional systems. This is why the smell of perfume can turn men into gibbering idiots, the smell of baking bread can destroy the best intentions of a dieter and the smell of baby powder can make a child averse individual become quite broody" "When we bring cars into the equation, however, the ability of various smells to over or under stimulate us as drivers can have catastrophic results." The RAC Foundation's dangerous smells to be aware of: Camomile, Jasmine, and Lavender - these are all used to treat insomnia and can cause drivers to become over relaxed behind the wheel, according to the Foundation. They are also present in many "flowery" air fresheners. The smell of fast food wrappers, fresh bread or pastry - these can cause driver irritability, a preponderance to speed and an increased chance of involvement in road rage because they can all make drivers feel hungry and in a hurry to satiate their appetites. The smell of fresh cut grass, pine woods or roadside flowers - while relaxing some drivers, this can put others into a nostalgic frame of mind where they daydream of swooping down country lanes and fail to appreciate the speed at which they are traveling. For hay fever sufferers there may be the added problem of streaming eyes and sneezing. A combination of leather seats and oil - this can make some older drivers remember the thrill and sense of freedom that came with their first cars. They could potentially then unconsciously adopt the risk taking behavior of much younger drivers. Certain perfumes and aftershaves - these can have a strong sexual association which may make both male and female drivers more interested in carnal matters than motoring matters. Whole memories, complete with all associated emotions, can be prompted by smell. Drivers tend to become de-sensitized to the smell of their own cars so become less aware of how it might affect their mood and also the mood of any other person that drives in it. The Foundation's smells beneficial to driving: Peppermint and cinnamon - improves concentration levels as well as making drivers less irritable. Lemon and coffee - these smells are good for clear thinking and high concentration levels. New car smell (a combination of cleaning products and organic solvents etc) - tends to make people concentrate better and also take more care with their driving. Sea ozone - a blast of salty sea air can encourage deep breathing which relaxes the muscles, relieves stress and calms the mind. For those people who think that a neutral smell in their car would be best, studies of astronauts found that a lack of odor was often profoundly disturbing, leading to irritability and even olfactory hallucinations. A pleasant smelling car can also enhance the driver's appeal to a partner. In earlier RAC Foundation research, when asked to name the things about a potential partner's car that might add to his attractiveness, the car's scent came out as one of the top answers. The smell of a car can adversely affect its resale attractiveness and price too. The turn-offs include: Pet odor - there is nothing quite like the lingering smell of wet dog. Stale smoke - no one wants to but a car that smells like an old ashtray. Dirty, unkempt smelling interior - reeks of neglect, what else has been ignored? Smelly gym gear and trainers - they may only reside in the car temporarily but the reminder of them can stay permanently. Kids' accidents - you may think you have cleared up but the smell of vomit or urine lingers. Sickly air fresheners - smell is very subjective. A powerful scent may do it for you but could leave a potential buyer reaching for the sick bag. Spilled drinks - anything milky can be especially rancid and hard to shift. Food wrappers - may make you hungry when they are fresh but several weeks on....? Mildew from air conditioning - even a new car smells old and dirty. Three years ago, research for the RAC Foundation's Motoring towards 2050 report discovered that designers were working on an in-car system capable of detecting a driver's mood and state of anxiety and automatically altering the vehicle's seating position, lighting and temperature to accommodate this. This system also altered the smell in the car to help to calm or invigorate the driver. "Before 2050, however, motorists can help do this for themselves. A small cinnamon or mint scented room freshener sachet placed in a car could help to keep drivers alert, refreshed and focussed, " added Nicholson. Editor's Note: The RAC Foundation for Motoring is an independent body established to protect and promote the interests of United Kingdom motorists. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Hau Thai-Tang ALL THINGS CONSIDERED June 3, 2005 Yesterday, I heard one of the most thoroughly satisfying car-related stories on radio. In "Ford Mustang Designer Revives An American Classic," National Public Radio's Michele Norris interviewed Ford's Special Vehicle Team Director Hau Thai-Tang for NPR's "All Things Considered." Thai-Tang was responsible for designing and engineering the acclaimed 2005 Ford Mustang. For the radio segment, Norris probed Thai-Tang's childhood in war-torn Vietnam, where he was introduced to the Mustang at the age of five. "It was a white Mach 1 Mustang, brought over as part of good will tour to promote safe-driving in Vietnam. It really left a lasting impression on me...it reinforced all those positive images of America: It was big; it was powerful. And it really stood for freedom." One of the more amusing parts of the story is when Norris describes how much care was taken to make sure the car appeals to the many baby boomers that remember the old Mustangs and will be naturally drawn to the car. "The seatbelts are wider to accommodate an abundant waistline. And while the Mustang still has the silhouette of a sports car, the frame has been lifted to help ease the strain on aging knees and hips when drivers step into and out of the car," explains Norris. "Even the sound of the car was carefully calibrated to tap into a potential buyer's memory bank," says Norris. Thai-Tang confesses that they actually digitized the soundtrack from the movie "Bullitt," and tuned the exhaust to match the sound of Steve McQueen's Mustang romping through the streets of San Francisco. If you haven't heard the piece, you can do so here via Real Player or Windows Media Player. Folks, this is automotive radio journalism at its finest.

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

The main reason why SUVs are taking a hit. "DIE, DIE SUVS, PLEASE DIE" June 1, 2005 In It's Not Easy Being Green, we explored that rarity of automobilia: The left-of-center car journalist. Most members of the automotive press seem to gravitate toward liberteria - i.e., "keep big brother off the backs of car makers and car drivers." Thus, when we encounter an automotive journalist that takes a sharp turn to the left, we're like bright-eyed scientists who just found a rare species. Well, we recently discovered that liberal SFGate columnist Mark Morford is a car nut. He drives a Mini Cooper, and in today's column, he's in rare form: "You hear that? That cheering and rejoicing and heavy exhausted sighing? Why, it's coming from the massively fatigued Prius-happy enviro-green set and it's all about the fact that sales of huge bloated oil-belchin' SUVs are in a major free-fall, down nearly 20 percent for the year and dropping faster than Jenna Bush can slam a bottle of Cuervo." If you get a chance, be sure to check out his rank, Die, Die SUVs, Please Die. You may not agree with everything he says, but I guaranty you will be entertained.

- RN 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: May 2005 April 2005 March 2005 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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