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THE LA CAR BLOG - NOVEMBER 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, Nov 2, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ROY NAKANO LA CAR BLOG ARE PRIUS OWNERS A 'SPECIAL' BREED? November 30, 2005
Ford Mustang Stamp

In one of the more memorable episodes of Larry David's HBO series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David proclaims, "We're Prius drivers. We're a special breed." According to the Los Angeles Times, that's part of the problem. In a tongue-in-cheek editorial last September, the LA Times suggests, "While SUV drivers can be irritating behind the wheel, Prius owners can be irritating once they get out of the car." The irritation centered around the new yellow decals being issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles that allows certain hybrid vehicles (the Prius included) to travel in the carpool lane without a carpool. Rather than whole-heartedly embracing the stickers, many Prius owners complained that they were too big and ugly. "You'd think they were being required to affix 'Global warming is a myth' bumper stickers," exclaims the Times in half-serious disbelief. "Some owners have called their representatives in Sacramento in protest. Others have gone online to vent. A few have tried using Velcro (or, with less success because the bumper is not metal, magnets) to attach the stickers so they can be easily removed when the Prius is not on the freeway." The Times had opposed the law that allows single-occupant hybrids into the carpool lanes. "We are now considering reconsidering our position in view of the reaction of Prius owners," says the newspaper in its most recent editorial on the subject. "Anything that annoys them this much can't be all bad." However, on the popular Internet forums devoted to Prius owners (e.g., PriusChat.com, PriusOnline.com), there were a number of owners taking the vocal protesters to task for whining about the decals. "I agree with the Times editorial," proclaimed one owner. A closer look at the demographics of the owners who frequent the Prius forums reveals a wide spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds. True, a lot of Prius owners favor a cleaner environment, energy independence, world peace and other causes often pegged as being left-of-center. Yet, there's a number of self-proclaimed conservatives who own the car and frequent the forums. A handful of Republican Prius owners with 'Support Our Troops' magnets affixed next to their HOV lane decals can always be counted on to keep the discussions lively. Then again, a number of Prius owners on the forums clearly purchased the car purely for its geek factor, as opposed to any political or environmental reasons. In the end, Prius owners may indeed be a special breed, but they are far from being a monolithic mass of like-minded commuters. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

2006 Passat key ROY NAKANO ANTI-THEFT TIPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS November 21, 2005 Help Eliminate Auto Thefts (H.E.A.T.) offers a few tips for the holiday shopping season: 1. Park in well-lit areas, near sidewalks or walkways. Avoid parking near dumpsters or large vans or trucks. 2. Consider using the valet service if you are at a shopping center alone at night. 3. Place gifts in the trunk and out of view. Use a trash bag, blanket or cardboard box to camouflage packages in the back of a van or SUV. 4. Try to keep one hand free with the other hand holding your car keys as you approach or leave your vehicle so you can maneuver if you encounter a thief or carjacker. Here's a few more for good measure, courtesy of the Blog: 1. Keep loose change away from view. 2. Put an auto alarm decal on your window and/or a flashing red alarm light in your vehicle as deterrents (both are available at your local Pep Boys store). 3. Close your windows and lock your doors. 4. If you can, keep your vehicle parked in your garage. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Soldiers participating in the HE Humvee's assessment at Fort Campbell A HUMMER THAT REALLY HUMS November 21, 2005 For years, owners of the gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius have enjoyed cruising around in full-electric mode at low speeds. Hybrid hobbyists call this the stealth mode, since its silent operation can startle pedestrians not aware that a car is approaching them. Some hobbyists in North America have even modified their vehicles so that their cars will stay in full-electric mode at the flip of a switch (a feature that comes standard in European models of the Prius). Stealth mode has caught the eye and ear of the Department of Defense. The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, Michigan has developed prototype hybrid electric Humvees that can operate in silent mode on batter power alone. The Hybrid Electric Humvee (or HE Humvee, as it's being called) is a bit heavier than a normal Humvee; it runs quiet on electric prowl power and can go 10 kilometers on battery power alone, said Maj. John Williamson of the Soldiers Battle Lab at Fort Benning to Gary Sheftick of Army News Service. According to Williamson, one of the limitations of the vehicle is that it can't ford a deep stream because the power-generating batteries are located low on the vehicle's frame. The HE Humvee ran through a number of field assessments in September through October by soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky, according to Sheftick. "Soldiers drove the Humvee for six miles on only battery power, convoyed in the hybrid (electric-diesel) mode, and used the vehicle's electrical system to power a battalion tactical operations center." Follow-on assessments for the HE Humvee are scheduled to begin this week at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Army News Service reports that the HE Humvee has a small, lightweight 2.2-liter diesel engine and a 75 kW brushless DC generator to provide electric power for the wheel-drive motors. "The vehicle also has an onboard 75-kilowatt generator and two lithium ion batteries as part of its energy management system an auxiliary power distribution system for export of clean power in the amount of 10 kW," says Sheftick of Army News Service. If additional power is required, provision is made to install a second APDS, TARDEC officials told ANS. The HE Humvee has exhibited a few glitches that need to be worked out. "It's a prototype and has faults" admitted Staff Sgt. Michelangelo Merksamer of HHC, 1/506th Infantry to ANS. Merksamer experimented with the vehicle at Fort Campbell and manned the exhibit at AUSA. He explained to ANS that the field assessments were designed to work out the bugs. Spc. Jeffrey Hammes of the same unit said to ANS that the vehicle just doesn't yet quite handle like a Humvee. In the silent electric mode, the vehicle crawls, and in the hybrid mode the throttle sometimes sticks at 25 miles per hour, said Hammes. On the other hand, soldiers evidently like the "Silent Watch" or stealth mode capability that allows the Humvee to set in a battle position at night and operate radios, battery chargers and other devices without the need to periodically run the engine to charge the battery, according to Merksamer and Hammes. - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

FUEL EFFICIENCY MAJOR FACTOR FOR FEMALE CONSUMERS November 18, 2005 PRNewswire - A recent survey conducted by Impulse Research Corporation shows that about 20 percent of women rank fuel efficiency as a top priority in the car-buying process. Fuel efficiency ranks above other major influences in cars, such as safety, body style, carrying capacity and options. The survey was designed to pinpoint the many factors that influence women's car-shopping behaviors. When asked about the top priorities outside of cost when choosing a car, more than 26 percent of respondents said reliability was their top priority. Reliability and fuel efficiency (20 percent) were followed by safety (15 percent), body style (12 percent), utility/carrying capacity (9 percent), handling and performance (9 percent), and options (3 percent). Only 1.9 percent of women listed engine size as a priority when shopping for a new car. "Reliability has always been a top priority among both men and women shoppers when it comes to purchasing a vehicle," said Joe Wiesenfelder, senior editor for cars.com, the entity that commissioned the survey. "However, the fact that fuel efficiency ranks second really shows us how the enormous rise in gasoline prices is affecting shopping behaviors." Impulse Research Corp. conducted the online consumer car-shopping survey and used a random sample of 1,515 U.S. residents over the age of 25 at least share decision-making responsibilities in the purchase or lease of their cars and trucks. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

FATE OF THE PHAETON November 15, 2005 Volkswagen AG announced that it will pull sales of its premium luxury sedan, the Phaeton, by September 2006. The car was the brainchild of former VW CEO (and now the Chairman of VW;s supervisory board) Ferdinand Piech. The Phaeton was the centerpiece of a vision to take the Volkswagen brand further upscale. From the very beginning, skeptics said it would never work. The image of Volkswagen as the "people's car" was said to be too ingrained in the minds of the car-buying community. Ultimately, the skeptics proved to be correct. Volkswagen never found enough luxury sedan customers who didn't care about the badge it carried. It's unfortunate, since the Phaeton is a remarkable piece of work. The quality of its components and the execution of its interior are second to none. The premium sound system was judged to be the best in the industry last year. Even the trunk hinges look like a work of art. The car itself feels as solid as a bank vault. In the end, all this was not enough to succeed in the luxury car market. The upside to this turn of events is that you can now buy a Phaeton for a steeply discounted price. If you can find a used one (there weren't that many sold in the USA), the prices are even better. As fate would have it, the slow-selling Phaeton has arguably become one of the all-time best buys in its class. Let's put it another way: For the prices they are now selling this car, you cannot buy a better luxury sedan. Eventually, the Phaeton will be regarded as a collector car. Owners will parade it at classic car shows, and show goers will be amazed at what the makers of the "people's car" once made. Mark my word: It will happen. Unfortunately for Volkswagen, it won't be soon enough. - Roy Nakano Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

GAS PRICE FREEFALL CONTINUES November 13, 2005 LOS ANGELES##(BUSINESS WIRE)##Hey, maybe you can keep that Hummer H2 after all. Gasoline prices tumbled this past week, as ample supply and low seasonal demand combined to relieve motorists who endured record high prices just two months ago. According to the Automobile Club of Southern California's Weekend Gas Watch, the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $2.669, which is 8.9 cents lower than last week, 31 cents lower than last month and 29 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the price is $2.697 ## 7.1 cents below last week's price, 32 cents below last month and 29 cents above last year. On the Central Coast, the average price is $2.765, down 10.2 cents from last week, 29 cents lower than last month and 26 cents higher than last year. In the Inland Empire, the average price is $2.685, down 8.7 cents from last week, 31 cents below last month and 28 cents higher than last year. "Motorists have experienced significant relief during the past month with pump prices falling about 30 cents per gallon," Auto Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp said. "As long as supplies remain strong, motorists can expect this lower price trend to continue for at least the next couple of weeks." - RN Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Nissan's current headquarters in Gardena, CA IT'S OFFICIAL: NISSAN MOVING NORTH AMERICAN HQ TO TENNESSEE November 10, 2005 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nissan Motor Company finally made the announcement feared by its employees in Gardena, California: It is moving its North American headquarters from Southern California to the Nashville, Tennessee, area. The announcement was made at the Tennessee state capitol by Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn was joined by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and United States Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander. The headquarters, which has been based in Gardena for decades, will move to the Nashville suburb of Williamson County. Nissan currently employs about 1,300 people on its headquarters campus in Gardena, California, about 15 miles south of Los Angeles. Corporate functions managed from that site include, among others, sales, marketing, product planning, corporate planning, communications and training. Nissan operations at the Gardena facility began in 1960. Ghosn says the company will invest 17 million dollars to build a new headquarters building. The first employees (willing to relocate) will transfer to Tennessee next summer. The nearly 13-hundred people employed at Nissan's Los Angeles-area headquarters work in management, marketing, advertising, sales and distribution and dealership development for North America. Locating its headquarters in Franklin, 15 miles southwest of Nashville, will allow much closer collaboration with Nissan's manufacturing, purchasing, product quality and supply chain management functions based 30 minutes away in Smyrna, Tenn., where the company has a $2.1 billion vehicle assembly plant and 6,700 employees. Another 1,300 employees work at the powertrain assembly plant in Decherd, Tenn. Citing reasons behind the relocation decision, Mr. Ghosn mentioned the lower costs of doing business in Tennessee; the favorable business and taxation climate that exists in the state; the potential to improve operational efficiencies among its North American functions; and Tennessee's central location. For employees, the relocation is expected to create more operational synergies and nurture employees' creativity and innovation. By bringing California headquarters and manufacturing functions closer together, there is a potential for higher levels of cross-functional involvement and better communication. Nissan directly employs more than 24,000 people in the United States, Canada and Mexico and generates an additional 70,000 jobs at about 1,200 Nissan and Infiniti dealerships in the United States. In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at www.NissanUSA.com or www.Infiniti.com. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

SEMA Import Auto Show in Long Beach SEMA's CD OF STATE LAWS IMPACTING SPECIALTY VEHICLES November 8, 2005 As part of its efforts with the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) and Antique Restoration Market Organization (ARMO), the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Government Affairs office has compiled all of the state laws governing specialty motor vehicles. Available on CD to SEMA members, the document is a collection of state statutes and regulations that lists each state's specialty vehicle definitions, registration and titling provisions, inspection criteria, and other requirements and exemptions. "For years, the SEMA Government Affairs office has been researching the statutes in order to identify states that don't have registration and titling classifications for the variety of specialty vehicle classes or have laws that are lacking in some way" said SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "Using these statutes as an information resource and reference tool, we drafted legislation to both create titling and registration classes for street rods/custom vehicles and to create tax breaks, emissions test exemptions, backyard restoration opportunities and use allowances for older cars. SEMA's legislation has been enacted into law, in one form or another, in several states around the country." One can can use this CD to determine if their state provides adequate specialty car protections and, if not, seek assistance from SEMA's Washington DC office in proactively changing their state law. The state law information on the CD is current for 2005 but subject to change in the future. SEMA advises members to also consult the statutes and regulations for states of interest, to ensure the accuracy of the information. The state laws are available on CD to SEMA members. SEMA members interested in obtaining the CD of state laws applicable to specialty vehicles should contact Jan Desma at [email protected]. The Hot Rod Industry Alliance is a SEMA council designed to protect and develop the street rod and street-modified hobby. Its members include manufacturers, fabricators, publishers, dealers and car clubs. The Automotive Restoration Market Organization is a SEMA council dedicated to addressing the many challenges facing this segment of the aftermarket. ARMO directs its efforts toward preserving and promoting the automotive restoration industry. SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association founded in 1963, represents the $31 billion specialty automotive industry of 6,466 member-companies. It is the authoritative source for research, data, trends and market growth information for the specialty auto parts industry. The industry provides appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles. For more information, including how to become a SEMA member, contact SEMA at 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765, or visit www.sema.org and www.enjoythedrive.com. Your LA Car Blog comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, IT'S STILL GOT IT November 2, 2005 The Volkswagen Beetle is entering it's sixth year on the market. Although much of the hoopla that surrounded the car early on has worn off, it still attracts plenty of admirers - especially the convertible version. I had the fortune of driving the new 2006 convertible on a couple of occasions. The first time was along the beaches of Southern California, where owners of Beetle convertibles wave at each other (they did). The second time was on Halloween night. On that night, I go pick up my 13-year old daughter, who proclaims, "I'm not riding in a chick car!" But her voice is drowned out by her 'chick' friends, who proclaim, "This is so cool!" One of the friends, Jaimie, says she wants one in five years. Driving down residential streets on Halloween at night proves a bit tricky with all the pedestrians. After apologizing to one group for my failure to yield (I didn't see them crossing the street), they respond, "That's okay, we love your car." In this day and age, it seems like many a car and SUV are intentionally designed to look big, bad and mean. Not this one. Even after all these years, the Beetle Convertible still has the ability to make people smile. By the way, that new 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that comes in the 2006 Beetle? What a nice addition - great low-end torque; good gas mileage, and clean burning to boot. Thumbs up, VW. - Roy Nakano To see David Gardner's amusing LA Car review of the VW Beetle Convertible, go to: The Love Bug. On a related topic (happy cars), see Whatever Happened To "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda"? 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 more often (all opinions, by the way, are those of the respective author). 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: October 2005 September 2005 August 2005 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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