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THE LA CAR BLOG - AUGUST 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, Aug 3, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LA CAR BLOG LIFE IS GOOD IN THE CARPOOL LANE August 31, 2005 One week with an HOV sticker, and it feels like a whole new world. The commutes are shorter and the speeds are faster - sometimes too fast. Two days ago, two race bikes speed past me at 160 miles per hour during rush hour traffic. I see few other hybrids taking advantage of this new access. Most hybrids can still be seen occupying the non-carpool lanes, sans stickers. Sure, the stickers are big, but given the choice, I choose HOV access. Our managing editor suggests that Prius owners who whine about the stickers being too ugly should forfeit their privileges. All-in-all, they're worth whatever aesthetic appeal they may not have. For those with the newly found HOV access, the quality of life has just increased by a substantial margin. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

STICKER SHOCK FOR PRIUS OWNERS August 26, 2005 No, it's not the price of the cars that has them in shock. It's the size of the stickers. More specifically, owners of the Toyota Prius are not happy about the size of the new decals required to travel solo on California carpool lanes. Prius owners were elated a few weeks ago when Congress allowed states to pass carpool access laws for hybrid vehicles. California had already passed such a law, and the state was waiting for the Federal government's blessing. Prius bulletin boards on the Internet were all a buzz about the stickers (which where not exactly beautiful), and trying to figure out the least conspicuous place to affix the stickers within the letter of the law. And then the stickers arrived. Says Amanda Covarrubias of the Los Angeles Times, "A growing number of drivers are now protesting because the California Highway Patrol is requiring that four bright yellow decals - 7 by 3 inches and 5 by 2 inches in size - be displayed on their cars." One owner has set up an online petition protesting the policy, according to Covarrubias. Hey, it could be worse. Federal standards allow identifying stickers to be as large as 12 by 18 inches. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

WEST COAST STATES UNITE ON CLEANER CAR REGULATIONS August 22, 2005 It looks like Oregon and Washington are getting ready to adopt California's new vehicle emission standards to reduce greenhouse gases. "When that happens, California's newly implemented emissions standards ## the toughest in the country ## will be in effect along the entire West Coast from Canada to Mexico., reports Brad Cain of Associated Press. Cain reports that all new cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in the West Coast states will have to comply with the tougher standards on emissions of greenhouse gases by 2016, These gases, such as carbon dioxide, which are believed to be a leading cause of global warming. AP also reports that at least six states in the Northeast are also moving to adopt California's new tailpipe standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars. "It's an environmental squeeze play - with states on the two coasts working to try to force the auto industry to turn out cleaner, more fuel efficient cars, since those states comprise nearly a third of the U.S. car market, says Cain. "People realize that having more advanced-technology cars on the road will enhance our oil security and begin to address global warming issues," says Rob Sargent of the Boston-based National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups. "Most northeastern states have followed California vehicle emission rules for years, and now those states are making the change to reflect California's latest rules regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles," says Cain. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

VOLKSWAGEN'S NEW PASSAT August 19, 2005 Jewel-like. Alpha Drivers Manager Addi Gaash asked what three words came to mind when describing the new Passat. From Volkswagen's new signature grille, to the new, 10-spoke alloy wheels, to the chrome accents all around, the new Passat has a jewel-like quality to it. It makes the car look decidedly upscale, which is exactly what VW wants you to think. It's common for onlookers to over-estimate the price of the car. I had the car for 24 hours as a part of Arnold Communications' Alpha Drivers campaign. Arnold's intent with the campaign is to get the car out to the car nuts that typically make vehicle purchase recommendations to friends and family. Ride-and-drive programs are now more common, but the Alpha Drivers campaign does the ride-and-drives one better: The alpha drivers get the chance to show the car to other potential buyers. Pretty. Who says family sedans have to be homely looking? Evidently some carmakers think so, although they probably prefer to use the term "conservative" to describe the design of their family sedans. In contrast, the new Passat looks like Jessica Alba next to them. You know which cars I'm talking about. Enough said.

Refined. Even the cheapest Passat, at around $24,000, looks like a million. It has the same exterior trim as the most expensive Passat. The interior shot above? That's the base model, which is finished in a high-tone, perforated leatherette. This time around, both the center console and glove box are air-conditioned (adjustable), allowing you to keep your beverages and other items cool. The emergency brake is now electronic, the doors unlock even if you leave the "key" in your pocket, and you push a button to turn on the ignition. In the power train department, the Passat now comes with a great 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged motor that exhibits virtually no turbo lag, and substantially more refinement and muscle than the excellent 1.8T motor in the "old" Passat. If you opt for an automatic transmission, it once again comes with the Porsche-licensed, Tiptronic manu-matic gate. This time, however, you get six forward gears. Does Volkswagen have a hit on their hands? "If you're wondering whether the new Passat will be a hit, wonder no more, reports Auto Spies. "Believe it or not, they're already in dealers in California and the orders are backing up as we speak." It looks like we might be able to add a fourth word to describe the new Passat: Winner. - Roy Nakano Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

LA Car's Project Prius

HYBRID OWNERS, GO GET YOUR CARPOOL STICKERS! August 15, 2005 The day has finally arrived for California owners of the Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight, and Toyota Prius. The enabling legislation that allows the state's hybrid single-occupant carpool access law to go into effect has been signed by the President. Yours truly took LA Car's Project Prius to the State's Department of Motor Vehicle office in Santa Ana to turn in the form and $8 for the special decals needed for single-occupant access. The DMV office didn't open until 8:00 a.m., but I was there at 7:30. Coincidentally, so was the DMV staff, who were there to help the people in line get started. Santa Ana just may have the best DMV office ever. The last time I was here was for a license renewal, which only took twenty minutes - without an appointment(!). "You're our first hybrid applicant," said the DMV's Kathy Grivanos. Ordinarily, you don't need to go to a DMV office to apply for the carpool access sticker (Form REG1000). However, DMV records had Project Prius classified as a gas vehicle, so it went in for re-certification. After a quick once over and a peek under the hood, DMV issued a certificate, designating the car as a hybrid ("Q"). It'll be around 30 days before the stickers get mailed. One wonders what will happen after the cadre of 75,000 (the maximum number of stickers that will be issued) Prius, Insight and HCH owners climb on board the carpool lane. For more information about acquiring California's single-occupant carpool sticker, go to Application for Clean Air Vehicle Stickers. - Roy Nakano Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

A Detroit prayer (Alan Warren, )

BLESSINGS FOR MOTOWN August 11, 2005 Some of the sharpest minds in business have struggled to reverse the fading fortunes of Detroit's auto industry. A Michigan man offers a novel approach: prayer. That's right, divine intervention. Lanny L. Johnson, a 71-year-old retired orthopedic surgeon, has bought space on four billboards in Michigan for two months to carry an appeal to The Almighty, reports Thursday's New York Times. The billboards read, "Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, Forgive us our sin of being dependent upon the Automobile Industry and not on You. Please restore invention, productivity and prosperity. In Jesus Name, A Michigan Citizen." Johnson sees three factors affecting the world: the mental, the physical and the spiritual. "It seems to me we exhausted the mental and physical, so we needed to explore the spiritual aspect," said Johnson, who calls himself a born-again Christian. According to the Times, a spokeswoman for the billboard company won't reveal the cost to Johnson, but she said the range was $16,000 to $40,000. Who says Detroit carmakers don't have a prayer? - Chuck Dapoz Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

TWO STORIES August 10, 2005 Two stories from Reuters. The first is amusing. The second is sad; is there insurance to protect against this kind of thing? - Chuck Dapoz Sure, I Was Speeding, Officer - I'm Insured! Tired of parking fines and speeding tickets? A Swedish company offers insurance against both, claiming to be the first in the field. Swedish drivers who register with the Bisso company at the Web site www.bisso.se and pay an annual fee of 850 crowns ($112) are covered against three speeding tickets a year, as long as they are not more than 30 km an hour (19 miles an hour) above the limit. For an extra fee, drivers can buy cover against parking fines. Fines in Sweden, which has one of the best road safety records in the world, range from 800 to 2000 crowns for speeding and 425 to 700 crowns for parking offences. "We believe drivers are under economic pressure and there is no room in household budgets to pay fines. We offer economic protection," said Dan Glimmeras, head of marketing at Bisso. Glimmeras told Reuters insuring against speeding fines was not illegal, but repeat offenders could still lose their license. Several thousand people had signed up for the insurance since May, Glimmeras said. Man Accidentally Runs Over Wife - Twice A 75-year-old German was so shocked he had accidentally run down his wife he started forward and drove over her again, authorities said Wednesday. According to Reuters, police in the western town of Bad Nauheim said the man compounded his 73-year-old wife's misery after an onlooker told him he had just run her over while backing out of a parking space. The woman was rushed to hospital and survived. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

Lee Iacocca and Snoop Dogg (Charles V. Tines, The Detroit News)

IT'S LEE IACOCCA AND SNOOP DOGG August 5, 2005 It all started when rapper and language innovator Calvin Broadus, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, put in a call to then Chrysler Group CEO Dieter Zetsche: "Yo, what up? This is big Snoop Dogg, trying to put these new legs down for this new 300C. What I gotta' do to get that brand new 300 up outta' you? Get back in contact with my nephew so you can make it happen, then it's official like a referee's whistle. If you want this car to blow, give it to me. This is Snoop Dogg. Preach! (300C Doggy Style, LA Car)." It turns out that DaimlerChrysler did more than give Snoop Dogg a 300C. According to Bill Vlasic of The Detroit News, Snoop Dogg is now appearing in a commercial with former Chrysler icon Lee Iacocca. "It's a big company and a big-time rapper doing big business together. We are bringing the generations together and it's a beautiful thing," said Snoop Dogg to Vlasic. The 30-second spot is the fourth and final commercial in Chrysler's $75 million ad campaign featuring Iacocca. "I don't know what the hell Snoop is saying," Iacocca said to Vlasic with a smile. "But he called me 'nephew,' so I guess that means I'm in." To view the Snoop Dogg-Lee Iacocca commercial, click here. To view The Detroit News article, go to Chrysler pitchman proves he's still master of the deal. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to : Letter to the Editor.

TOYOTA'S PREEMPTIVE STRIKES ON DESIGN August 3, 2005 Despite a reputation for building some of the most reliable and technologically advanced vehicles, Toyota has traditionally been dogged in the styling department. The popular Camry, for instance, has always been remarkably unremarkable in the design department. The flagship Lexus LS seems to invariably follow the design of the previous-generation Mercedes S-Class. Even the beautiful Toyota 2000GT is a rather blatant rip-off of the XK-E Jaguar. That was then; this is now.

Expect to see a little Solara in the new Mercedes CL coupe Having excelled at execution, emissions, efficiency, quality control, and countless other categories, Toyota has been turning its attention more to design. One of the best examples of this are the new line of Lexus vehicles that are emerging this year and next. Actually, Toyota's new attitude toward design has been underway for a few years already. Not happy with its reputation for derivative styling, Toyota has recently been successful at preempting some of the designs of its European competitors.

Volkswagen's new Jetta One of the most well-known examples of this is the current Toyota Corolla, which borrowed styling from both the Volkswagen Phaeton and previous-generation Volkswagen Jetta. Volkswagen did the same for the new Jetta, and some critics are saying it looks too much like a Corolla. Score one for Toyota.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class If you think Volkswagen has it bad, take a look at some of the new vehicles from Mercedes-Benz. The new M-Class SUV from Mercedes looks substantially better than it's predecessor, but who could have anticipated that Toyota would be taking the same styling cues in its RAV4 - a vehicle that preceded the new M-class by several years?

Toyota RAV4 Mercedes is about to take another design hit when it introduces the new CL coupe. That car bears a remarkable resemblance to the current-generation Toyota Solara. Even the beautiful new Mercedes CLS 4-door coupe has more than a touch of the Solara in it - from its side character line, to the headlight design.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Toyota must be flattered. If this keeps up, Toyota will be able to add another category to its list of conquests: Design. - 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: July 2005 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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