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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 Fri, Jul 1, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

The Toyota Prius almost qualifies LA CAR BLOG FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION BILL CLEARS HYBRIDS FOR CALIFORNIA HOV LANES - ALMOST July 31, 2005 On July 29th, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Transportation Bill, which (among other things) will allow states to carve out single-occupant HOV-access legislation for hybrids. The President's signature is virtually assured. For California, however, a few glitches remain, as explained by the author of the California hybrid HOV-access legislation, Fran Pavley: Dear Friends, I am writing to update you on the implementation status of Assembly Bill 2628, which would allow single-occupant hybrid vehicles that achieve at least 45 mpg and a clean air standard to use carpool lanes. AB 2628 became state law on January 1, 2005. However, because carpool lanes in California have been built with the use of federal funds, and federal law governing federally-financed carpool lanes prohibits single-occupant vehicles from using the lanes except in certain instances, federal law had to be changed to allow California to implement the provisions of AB 2628. The Federal Transportation Bill, which passed on July 29th, 2005 and is awaiting the President Bush's signature, allows Hybrids to access HOV lanes, but may not be consistent with the two requirements signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger. The Federal Law will allow states to set a standard for miles per gallon that Hybrids must obtain in order use carpool lanes. In California, under AB 2628, that standard is 45 miles per gallon. The Federal Law, however, is silent on the emissions standards a Hybrid must meet. AB 2628 requires automobiles to meet a very high clean emissions standard in order to reduce air pollution. Right now the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and Honda Insight meet both requirements. State Air Resource Board (ARB) Officials are currently reviewing the federal bill to see if California can go ahead and implement the program. With approval from the ARB and federal agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can start granting permits to owners of the qualified Hybrid models. A motorist will have to apply for the permit through the DMV and pay for the special decal, which will be placed on the car prior to being allowed to access any State HOV lane. In the meantime, single-occupant hybrid vehicles are still not allowed in HOV lanes. I will continue to update you as more information becomes available. You may also check my website for the latest updates. Fran Pavley California State Assembly 41st District Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

CONGRESS APPROVES HIGHWAY BILL July 29, 2005 Congress passed sweeping highway and mass transit legislation that will send nearly $300 billion to the states to build and fix roads, create thousands of new jobs and - lawmakers hope - save lives and cut hours wasted in traffic jams, reports Jim Abrams of the Associated Press. The bill "will affect every American in some way," said Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt. "The impact of this bill will be felt for decades to come." The 91-4 vote in the Senate came hours after the House approved the measure, 412-8. Under the legislation, each state would receive a share of federal highway funding depending on their contributions - through the federal gas tax - to the Highway Trust Fund. The bill, running more than 1,000 pages, also specifies thousands of projects requested by individual members, reports Abrams. The bill expands toll pilot projects for new roads as a way to ease congestion, and it gives states authority to set rules for access to car pool lanes by single-occupancy hybrid vehicles. The legislation covers 2004-2009 and comes nearly two years after the 1998-2003 act expired. Congress on Friday had to approve the 12th temporary extension of the old act to keep money flowing to the states while it tried to come up with a new, more generous bill. Information on the bill, H.R. 3, may be found at Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

WOMEN PUSHING CAR CHARGED WITH DUI July 25, 2005 Two women who took turns steering a broken-down vehicle face drunk driving charges after their slow-moving car crashed into a parked car, says the Associated Press. According to AP, Kaylyn Kezy, 34, of Gary, Indiana was pushing the disabled car, while Melissa Fredenburg, 32, of Chesterton, steered from the passenger seat, police said. The two were moving the car into a parking lot at a nearby motel early Friday in the city about 10 miles east of Gary. Police said both women had a blood-alcohol levels of 0.17 percent, more than twice the state's legal limit to drive. Even though the car's engine wasn't working, authorities assert the women were operating the vehicle while intoxicated. A prosecutor acknowledged the charges could be difficult to prosecute in court. ''The statute and case law supports (a DUI charge) ... but it will be interesting to see,'' said Deputy Prosecutor Adam Burroughs to the NWI Times. Burroughs evidently authorized the charges. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Nobody accuses the XC90 of being tipsy VOLVO ASKS SWEDEN FOR PERMISSION TO DRIVE DRUNK July 21, 2005 STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Car maker Volvo has asked the Swedish government to waive the country's strict drunken driving laws to allow its test drivers to booze on the job, the Associated Press reports. The safety-conscious automaker evidently wants to test a new technology that is designed to make the car take control of steering when a driver's reaction time is slowed because of intoxication or fatigue. If the request is granted, it will be the first exception to Sweden's drunken driving laws, which are among the world's toughest, according to national broadcaster SVT. The testing will be done on a special track near Goteborg, on Sweden's west coast, where Volvo's parent company, Ford Motor Co., has a safety development facility. According to AP, just one beer or glass of wine in Sweden can land a driver in jail for up to six months. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Kia's KCV3 concept car WHO ARE THOSE GUYS? July 19, 2005 "Who are those guys?" If you're of a certain age (or a movie buff), you recognize this as the recurring line from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." As Butch and Sundance were being pursued up and down across the territory, they kept looking back to see that the posse was edging ever closer. In the late 1960s and into the 70s, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler (along with the now defunct American Motors) should have been asking themselves that question about the Europeans and especially the Japanese. Fast forward 35 years. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Europeans and the Japanese have all established their niches. In Toyota's case, it's more than a niche. It's only a matter of time before they overtake GM to become the biggest auto manufacturer in the world. And GM, in particular, is wondering just how long they'll be around in their present form. Well, boys and girls. There's a new posse in town, and this time they come from Korea. First it was Hyundai, in 1986, followed by Kia in 1993. Let's take a look at Kia in particular. Just 12 years ago, it was easy to dismiss Kia as anything but a serious player when it placed 1,800 Sephias with Budget Rent-a-Car in the Fall of 1993. Did anyone really think that car could be sold to Americans? The unspoken yet understood answer was, of course, no. But, when the first Sephias went on sale in Portland, Oregon in February of 1994, people bought them. It wasn't hard to understand why: They stickered at $8,495, and Kia even offered Roadside Service. Kia has been selling cars in the USA for just over 11 years now, and they've come a very long way. The manufacturer offers four sedans (in a variety of model iterations), two SUVs, and a minivan. They've established a design center and a desert-proving ground in California. Today, it's not unusual to see the Korean brands right up there at the top of the myriad of J.D. Power quality surveys. One can't ignore the fact the things have not always been rosy for Kia. There was that uncomfortable period in 1997 when Kia was forced into bankruptcy and came very close to liquidation. Instead, Kia was merged into the Hyundai group and began their climb back to profitability. It should be noted that Kia was hardly alone in having major financial troubles at that time. The Korean government itself was forced to turn to the IMF, hat in hand, for a bailout. Unlike their North American brethren, the Koreans suffer no illusions that they're the last in line to sell cars here. On the other hand, they don't have to ask "who are those guys?" Hyundai/Kia (along with the other car makers) should be able to see that China and India are both gearing up to make the move from the minors to play in the major leagues. - Bill Wright Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

THUMB AND DUMBER July 15, 2005 Wanted Woman Asks Police Officer for Ride A woman who tried to hitch a ride from a police officer in Santa Fe got a ride to jail instead, according to the Associated Press. Police say 26-year-old Melissa Chavez waived down an officer, and the officer who stopped conducted a warrant inquiry. Authorities say the inquiry showed Chavez had an outstanding warrant for failure to comply with provisions of a prior charge of criminal damage to property. The officer took her to the Santa Fe County jail, where she was booked and bond was set at $500. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

CELL PHONE USERS FOUR TIMES MORE LIKELY TO CRASH July 12, 2005 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Finds Cell Phone Users Four Times More Likely to Crash##21st Century Insurance Urges Motorists to 'Just Drive' WOODLAND HILLS, Calif.##(BUSINESS WIRE)##Drivers who use cellular phones while operating their vehicles are at an increased risk of crashing, according to a recent study commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The fourfold increase in crash likelihood was consistent among drivers, with male and female drivers experiencing similar levels of risk, as well as senior drivers and drivers under 30. The study, which used cell phone billing records and interviews with crash victims to form the basis for its data, also found that generally, weather played a nearly non-existent role, and that there was no distinction between hands-free and hand-held cell phones. "This isn't intuitive. You'd think using a hands-free phone would be less distracting, so it wouldn't increase crash risk as much as using a hand-held phone. But we found that either phone type increased the risk," said Anne McCartt, IIHS Vice President for Research and an author of the study. "Distracted driving also contributes to one in four traffic accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "The results of this study clearly indicate that drivers should concentrate on the road when driving their cars," said Joyce Prager of 21st Century Insurance. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

SNAILS-PACE TRAFFIC IN LOS ANGELES CALLS FOR SLUGS July 7, 2005 In the Virginia suburbs near Washington DC, commuters have taken to picking up strangers in order to take advantage of the state's HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes. Some cities have even established pick-up spots, where commuters can go to find potential carpoolers seeking a mutual destination. In Virginia, they call the one-time carpoolers "slugs" - a term purportedly coined by Virginia bus drivers, since "slugs" congregate at certain bus stops, but really don't want the bus (hence, they are "fake" bus passengers). Slug pick-up spots are not unlike the day-worker pick-up spots that grace most Home Depot stores. For commuters, slugging means not being tied to the same commuting schedule every day. With regular carpooling, partners must adhere to a strict schedule and call fellow carpoolers on any days you can't make it (doctor's appointment, etc.). Sluggers have no such obligations, since they can be carpooling with a different driver every day. Moreover, it costs the slugger nothing, since drivers are more than eager to pick up the requisite number of passengers to qualify for carpool lane access. The long-term savings in transportation expenses to sluggers is enormous. If any city is in need of slugging, it's Los Angeles. As the population in the City of Angels continues to grow, so will traffic congestion. The municipal benefit to slugging is that it'll decrease the number of cars on the freeways. One location that is ideal for starting a slug pick-up spot is the entrance to the Eastbound 10 carpool lane off of Alameda Boulevard, just north of the freeway and just south of Los Angeles Union Station. That carpool lane requires three occupants per vehicle. Commuters who take Metrorail into the city from San Gabriel Valley can be the prime candidates to slug their way back to the Valley. So, what are we waiting for? We have a new mayor. Support from the City and its planners will certainly go a long way to making this a reality. Los Angelenos, let's get it started.

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

HYBRIDS AND THE EMOTIONAL FACTOR July 4, 2005 I remember being at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show's Motor Press Guild event just after Bob Lutz took the reins as GM's North American operations chief. After he gave the keynote speech, one of the journalists in the audience asked him what he thought of hybrid vehicles. Lutz summarily dismissed hybrids. GM, he declared, didn't see any future for hybrids. That was then. Subsequently, gas prices started rising at an alarming rate, ultimately piercing the $2 per gallon threshold. In late 2003, Toyota introduced its second-generation Prius gas-electric hybrid car. Sales for the new Prius went through the roof. Suddenly, there was a six-month waiting list for the car. At the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Lutz admitted that General Motors make a mistake in underplaying hybrids. "From a strict business proposition, this is not where we would make an investment," said Lutz. "It's not clear that you'll ever be able to recapture the cost of a hybrid in the pricing. But what we forgot in the equation was the emotional aspect of it." What Lutz was talking about is that many car buyers judge a company's commitment to the environment and to new technology by the number of alternative fuel offerings, even if they're not rushing out to buy a hybrid themselves. "The marketing advantage of having a stronger hybrid lineup probably justifies the investment in the technology itself," Lutz said. "Whether the cars economically make sense or not, we cannot not be in that market," he said. Lutz is right in more ways than one. For many consumers, it'll take years to recoup the added cost of purchasing a hybrid. The hybrid versions of the Civic, Accord, Escape, Highlander, and Lexus RX are significantly more expensive than their more conventional counterparts. Depending on how much driving is done, a consumer may need to own the hybrid vehicle for close to seven years before recouping the added initial cost via savings at the gas pump. Hybrid vehicle purchasers are not solely interested in savings at the gas pump, however. They want to play a part in protecting our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Of course, hybrids also offer buyers a good dose of the high-tech "gee-whiz" factor, which can be undeniably attractive in this era of i-pods and text-messaging. Even LA Car had to re-think its title for its review of the Ford Escape Hybrid. We originally entitled it, "Going Down The Road, Saving Money." Considering the price that many Ford dealers are commanding for the Escape Hybrid, we think you can save more money by buying a conventional Escape. Hence, the re-titled review, The Environmentally Conscience SUV . The Escape Hybrid is a bit pricier than the regular Escape, but some of its added tangible and intangible qualities may tip the scale for when the emotional factors are included in the equation. These same factors certainly add to the attraction of other hybrids as well. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Do you really want people you love to be back there?. THE THIRD ROW July 1, 2005 A relative of mine wants to get a Yukon or Tahoe with third-row seating. The reason? Once a year, his in-laws are in town, and having to drive two cars for a family get-together is too much of a hassle. Of course, it should come in handy some other times as well. Third-row seating has certainly become a popular option on SUVs. Some manufacturers late to the party are scrambling to retool their vehicles to accept a third row. Even some wagons come with third-row seating. The option is becoming a virtual must - sort of like what cupholders went through a few years ago. Well, I'm here to tell you that third-row seating is highly overrated. Getting in and out of the third row is a major nuisance for every single vehicle that currently offers it. And almost without exception, that third row is quite uncomfortable - both in terms of leg room and ventilation. There's another problem with the third row: Safety. Third row seating is usually an option on SUVs, most of which are classified as commercial vehicles that don't need to meet the stricter rear-end collision requirements of passenger cars. Recently, one of our staff members was rear-ended at a stoplight by a Ford Expedition traveling 50 mph. The staffer and four passengers ended up in a hospital. The brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee the staff member was driving doesn't come with third row seating. If it did, and had one of his passengers been in the third row, one wonders how she would have fared. So, here's my advice: Live without it. Use a second car on those infrequent occasions. Your passengers might be grateful.

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


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 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: June 2005 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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