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BACK SEAT DRIVING - JUNE 2006

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 Thu, Jun 1, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

ROY NAKANO BACK SEAT DRIVING COULD THE STEFAN ERIKSSON CASE SET LEGAL PRECEDENT FOR IMMIGRANTS TO THE US? June 30, 2006

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Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish business man who police say crashed a Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway along the Malibu coast this past February could help set a legal precedent for immigrants to the United States who have had prior legal troubles in their homeland, if Eriksson's attorneys have their way. "Although California penal code section 12021(a)(1) forbids possession of a firearm by persons convicted of felony crimes in the United States or other countries, there is no reported case where a person has been prosecuted in California for firearm possession on the basis of a foreign conviction," says Imhoff & Associates spokesperson Shannon Mayock. Imhoff & Associates is the lead firm representing Mr. Eriksson. In legal papers filed yesterday by Stefan Eriksson's legal defense team, they requested that the court set aside and dismiss the accusation against Eriksson, which states that he violated California firearm laws. According to his attorneys, the basis for this request is the fact that the convictions occurred in a legal system that lacks the due process guarantees that are guaranteed by the United States and California constitutions. Among the attorneys that Eriksson has hired for the case is Jim Parkman, whose past client, former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy was acquitted of three-dozen fraud and money-laundering charges in a massive $2.7 billion earnings overstatement last year. Parkman and his Alabama law partners, Martin Adams and William White; both of whom worked co-counsel on the HealthSouth/Scrushy trial are included in the defense, which includes California Criminal Law Specialist Alec Rose, Esq. of Imhoff & Associates, PC. Motions will be heard on court on July 7th. On May 30th of this year, Eriksson's attorneys entered not guilty pleas and denials on all charges. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD DELAYED GRATIFICATION June 28, 2006

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I'm currently driving the new-for-2006 fifth-generation Volkswagen GTI with the DSG transmission. It's an awesome vehicle. If I can lodge one complaint, however: The car is new here in the USA, but the fifth-generation Golf (on which the GTI is based) has been selling for a couple of years already in Europe. Now, the word is out that the sixth-generation Golf is just around the corner. This is not all that uncommon with certain vehicles. The Freelander, for one, had been selling in Europe for years before Land Rover decided to bring it over here. Of course, it could be worse. In the People's Republic of China, Volkswagen sells what appears to be a version of an early-generation Passat as the Santana (see photo). We called it the Quantum when it was selling in the 1980s in the USA. VW also markets a Passat in the China, which is based on the previous (fifth)-generation Passat, which sold here in 1998-2005. Did you know that the Focus sold in Europe is a newer platform than the one sold here? For whatever reason, Ford decided that we can make do with a re-skinned version of the older Focus platform. Even Toyota sells a sportier Prius in Europe than they do in The States. The Euro version actually includes an EV button that allows one to lock in electric-only drive mode at low speeds. It might make its way over here, eventually. So, gratification will come. In more than one case, however, you can count on it being delayed. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

Chery M14 sports car, with retractable hardtop ROY NAKANO: BSD CHINESE CARS HEAD TO SAN GABRIEL VALLEY June 24, 2006

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It looks like the first landing of imported automobiles from China might be to California's own San Gabriel Valley - the heart of the import tuner community. Visionary Vehicles Founder and CEO Malcolm Bricklin announced that Rothrock Motor Sales is part of the Visionary Vehicles dealer network. Rothrock Motor Sales runs two dealerships in Pennsylvania's Lehigh and Delaware Valleys. The Rothrocks plan to begin selling the line of vehicles manufactured by Chery Automobile Company in San Gabriel Valley as soon as the first models arrive in late 2007. Rothrock has also evidently purchased territories in Palm Beach, Orlando, Delray Beach and Winter Park, Florida, as well as in Arlington, Virginia. "The Rothrock family has built wonderful franchises in Pennsylvania and its dealerships have been honored with the highest customer service designations that an automaker can bestow on one of its dealers. The Rothrocks are precisely the type of partners we are looking for at Visionary Vehicles," said Malcolm Bricklin. David Rothrock of Rothrock Motors said, "Chery and Visionary Vehicles are bringing together the best global talent to develop a truly extraordinary product line with a commitment to aftermarket support that fits perfectly with the Rothrock tradition of excellence." Rothrock Motor Sales currently runs Nissan, Dodge, Chrysler, Daewoo, Isuzu, Chevrolet, and Lotus dealerships and operates out of two dealerships, in Allentown and nearby Springfield, Pennsylvania. "Clearly, we believe in Malcolm's vision. And we've put a considerable stake in the ground by purchasing 8 territories," added Bruce Rothrock. Automotive entrepreneur, Malcolm Bricklin established Visionary Vehicles as an automobile company with a mission to introduce the USA to a line of automobiles from the People's Republic of China. "Visionary Vehicles discovered the ideal manufacturing partner in Chery Automobile Company. With Chery, and its leader, President Yin Tongyao, Visionary Vehicles will be creating an unprecedented synergy between dealers, importer, and factory that has never existed," says Bricklin. "Together, VV is creating a long term partnership where dealers have real input on which products are brought to market, in what order, with what content and at what prices." VV is hoping that Chery and its dealer network will be ideally suited to American consumers. Italian coach designers Pininfarina and Bertone (of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati fame) are working on design and engineering for Chery. The engine and powertrain company AVL in Austria is involved in Chery's developing engine configurations. First products are expected to be available in the North America as early as late 2007. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD SUZUKI COOL June 18, 2006

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Following up on the attractive and popular new Grand Vitara, Suzuki is about to crank up its coolness factor a couple of notches with the introduction of the SX4 compact sport crossover hatchback. The -new SX4 is a handsome, Italian-designed five-door hatchback design, featuring standard intelligent all-wheel-drive (i-AWD) system. . "Suzuki designed the SX4 to be a year-round standout on the road under any driving condition" said Osamu Honda, chief engineer, SX4. "The team approached the SX4 with the intention of creating an eye-catching vehicle that would grab the attention of customers who appreciate price, performance, features, styling and safety." Coming in the fall, the SX4 will feature a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, DOHC engine matched to a five-speed manual transmission or a specially tuned available four-speed automatic transmission. Top track speed is said to be 120 mph for the manual transmission model. Preliminary engine specifications and tuning figures indicate the 1995 cc engine will deliver 143 hp and 136 lb-ft of torque, while early fuel consumption estimates show the SX4 will deliver outstanding EPA fuel economy of 24 mpg/city and 30 mpg/highway. The SX4 features a rigid steel unibody and a chassis that was fine-tuned in Europe. Suzuki promises good stability on the highway along with crisp and responsive handling and braking and minimal body roll. "High body rigidity along with reinforced suspension mounts allow the front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam suspension to work to their full potential," says Honda. The interior amenities include a standard AM/FM/MP3/CD audio system, with an optional AM/FM/MP3 in-dash six-disc CD changer with six speaker plus subwoofer system. Practical rear split-folding seats offer 60/40 seating to allow for stowage of longer items. The second- row seats also can be tumbled forward for maximum cargo carrying ability. Luggage room is 9.5 cubic feet (270 liters VDA) and increases to 22.0 cubic feet (625 liters VDA) with the rear seats folded forward. The SX4 is riddled with discreet storage compartments located throughout the cabin. The SX4 is said to offer customers an extensive array of standard safety features. Active safety features include four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock brake system, which are standard with electronic brake-force distribution. In addition, Electronic Stability Program® (ESP) (including traction control)*, standard on the Premium package, generates compensating yaw moment in the event of rear-wheel or front-wheel slip to help the driver return the car to its intended path of travel. Manufacturer suggested retail prices are expected to start at around $15,000. For more information on the SX4, go to www.suzukiauto.com. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

JOHN GRAFMAN: BSD FOOLISH OR FUELISH? June 13, 2006

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While the world explores the possibilities of various fuel sources to save the day, the story is far more complex. I hear rumors of everything under the sun rising to the occasion to save our wallets. Certainly, we can find salvation in diesel, ethanol, E85 or bio-diesel, or all of the above to fill the tanks of cars everywhere across this country. All of the named choices have great possibilities for the future, yet none are the keystone to a glut of cheap fuel. All of the systems rely on one common denominator, one that already has shown itself as flawed. Sadly, the infrastructure relies on our current petroleum fuel filling stations, commonly known as your local gas station. Even if the oil cartel or anyone else could produce a fuel that costs half the price to produce of gasoline, why would the fuel stations offer it for less than gasoline? Remember, this is a capitalistic society. Our non-bias government (ha-ha) did allow the petroleum companies to consolidate to just a few, creating a defacto monopoly that is unregulated - unlike utility companies. Society does depend on them the same way as utilities, so it would seem to make good sense to treat the oil producers and distributors the same, but the political climate doesn't seem too conducive to resolving this. And while the gas companies today can charge less than they do for gas, they don't, and why should they? After all, they're in it for the money. The record profits speak for themselves. Our doom is sealed. They know we need the products they sell, and we can't get it any other way, at least not in bulk. So, if gasoline is $3-4 a gallon, maybe you'll be able to find E85 for less, but don't count on it. Again, the fuel hungry world needs them just a bit more than they need us. Only a different means of delivery that offers a competitive advantage can put the ball back in our court. Its not the fuel, it the delivery infrastructure, stupid! Electric systems offers that hope, less the fact we can't produce enough juice to cover our bases currently, without beginning to consider adding one to one hundred million vehicles to the mix. The best short-term suggestion I have is beat them at their own game. Never buy at any fuel but at the lowest priced stations in the region. Competition has proven the best way to keep prices in check. Drive the prices down by making them earn your business. I want to believe in the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and that gas stations are there to serve the public interest, but a good, cold, hard, rational look at this might just be better than living in a fantasy world. - John Grafman Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO:BSD IT'S NICE TO BE WANTED June 10, 2006

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Cadillac Escalade and Mitsubishi Evolution Top List for Theft Claims It's nice to be wanted. In the automotive world, the Cadillac Escalade and the Mitsubishi Evolution are among the most wanted vehicles on the market - by thieves. Versions of the 2003-05 Cadillac Escalade, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and Dodge Ram 1500 quad cab pickup have the highest rates of insurance theft claims. The three vehicles have claim rates 4 to 5 times the average for all vehicles. These are the latest theft loss results for passenger vehicles 1 to 3 years old published by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Overall losses for pickups have increased sharply since 1999. This is mainly because of high theft claims for the Dodge Ram and Ford F-250/350. In contrast, losses for cars and SUVs increased slightly in 2003-04 but declined in 2005. The rate of theft of pickups in 2005 was nearly twice as high as for cars or SUVs. This is the fourth year in a row that the Escalade has topped the list of vehicles most likely to have a theft claim. In fact, 4 versions of the Escalade (EXT, a specialty pickup, plus 2- and 4-wheel-drive versions of the short- and long-wheelbase Escalade SUVs) head the list of the worst overall insurance losses for theft among all passenger vehicles. The EXT has overall theft losses that are 16 times higher than the average. "The overall results show the Escalade has not only the highest rate of claims but also very expensive claims when they are filed," says Kim Hazelbaker, HLDI senior vice president. "In fact, almost one-quarter of theft claims for the Escalade are for $40,000 or more, indicating that thieves often are stealing the whole vehicles and not just their parts." The Escalade's theft losses have been the highest in recent years even though this vehicle is equipped with a standard antitheft ignition immobilizer. An immobilizer is built into a vehicle's electronic ignition system. It's supposed to prevent the vehicle from being started without the proper key. Cadillac redesigned the Escalade for 2007 and upgraded its antitheft system. It's too soon to know if the new model will have a lower theft rate than the previous ones. The high-performance Lancer Evolution is new this year to the list of vehicles with the highest theft losses. Investigators say this model may be attracting the attention of thieves because its parts can be used to customize standard Lancers. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR June 8, 2006

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Interior of Year Winners Announced Automotive industry employees and automotive journalists gave there votes on the seventh annual "Interior of the Year" awards, presented at the Ward's Auto Interiors Show in Detroit. As usual, domestic auto makers made an impressive showing, with DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. taking home the bulk of the awards. Awardees as determined by voters working within the auto industry included: Pontiac Solstice (popular-priced car), Lincoln Zephyr/MKZ (shown - premium-priced car), Chevrolet HHR (popular-priced crossover utility vehicle) Subaru B9 Tribeca (premium-priced CUV), Chevrolet Tahoe (popular-priced truck), Cadillac Escalade (premium-priced truck). Automotive journalists picked a somewhat different set of "best interior" awardees (I'm afraid the journalists got it right): Audi A3 (popular-priced car), Lincoln Zehhyr/MKZ (premium-priced car), Mazda CX-7 (popular-priced SUV), Audi Q7 (premium-priced CUV), Toyota FJ Cruiser (popular-priced truck), and Land Rover Range Rover Sport (premium-priced truck). Industry and journalist voters agree the Ford Mustang has the best instrument cluster, while both groups vote Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s Acura division as the winner for best navigation system. Journalists and industry employees also agreed on the best cupholder. Mercedes-Benz M-Class. For best sound system, however, industry employees choose the Boston Acoustics-supplied setup in the Dodge Magnum, whereas journalists selected the Bang & Olufsen system in the Audi S8. "Vehicles eligible for the seventh automotive Interior of the Year competition had to be new or redesigned for the '06 model year or an '07 model on sale in calendar year 2006," says Bill Visnic of WardsAuto.com. "Winners were selected from a field of 53 finalists selected by Ward's editors. In addition, 991 industry members voted for each category, while 69 automotive journalists logged votes." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE STEFAN ERIKSSON LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND June 3, 2006

WAlabama Team Representing Malibu Ferrari Driver Los Angeles, CA - Attorney Jim Parkman, who represented former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy last year will help represent Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish business man who allegedly crashed a Ferrari Enzo into a telephone pole while driving close to 200 mph on PCH along the Malibu coast this past February, according to Shannon Mayock of Imhoff & Associates, PC. "Parkman's former client, Richard Scrushy, was accused of directing a massive $2.7 billion earnings overstatement and was later acquitted of three-dozen fraud and money-laundering charges," says Mayock. Parkman and his Alabama law partners, Martin Adams and William White; both of whom worked co-counsel on the HealthSouth/Scrushy trial will be working with California criminal law specialist Alec Rose of Imhoff & Associates, PC. The Alabama attorneys and Mr. Rose met one another in a business meeting earlier this year. "The gentlemen discovered and came to believe that they could work together as a great defense team, and looked forward to finding a case where their combined legal talents could be of great help to a client with a unique case," says Mayock. "The lawyers stayed in touch, and were mutually both surprised and delighted to receive a call from the friends & family of Mr. Eriksson." The Alabama lawyers flew out to California in mid-May to meet with Mr. Rose, later meeting with Eriksson supporters and then with Mr. Eriksson himself, according to Mayock. "When the defense team met with Eriksson, the potential client and lawyers found that they could all collaborate very will with one another." Alec Rose became the attorney of record at Eriksson's arraignment on May 30th and immediately moved for the admission of the attorneys Parkman, Adams and White, pro hac vice to join Mr. Eriksson's team. While these motions will be heard on court on July 7th, the defense team is evidently already working together on Mr. Eriksson's defense strategy. On May 30th, Eriksson's attorneys entered not guilty pleas and denials on all the charges. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD GM FUELS FLAMES FOR ITS LATEST PRICE PROTECTION PROGRAM June 1, 2006

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Critics Say Incentive Keeps Buyers Hooked on Gas Hogs "It says a lot about GM and their dire financial straits that they are so desperate to sell the gas guzzlers that no one wants, that they are paying for the gas to drive them home," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming Program, to David Shepardson of the Detroit News. "When did you ever hear about a junkie giving up his subsidized fix?" The comment is in response to General Motors Corporation's offer to defray the costs of gas for some buyers of new SUVs and sedans. Under the new program, GM is reimbursing buyers in Florida and California for gas costs above $1.99 a gallon for one year. The program, which runs through July 5th, includes GM's thirstiest SUVs such as the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, Hummer H2 and H3, and the Cadillac SRX. "While GM has stepped up its promotion of alternative fuels, critics say the new gas program is a cynical attempt to keep selling gas hogs without regard to the environment and America's dependence on foreign oils," says Shepardson New York Times columnist Tom Friedman took the criticism a step further in his Wednesday column. "Is there a company more dangerous to America's future than General Motors? Surely, the sooner this company gets taken over by Toyota, the better this country will be," Friedman wrote, comparing GM to "a crack dealer looking to keep his addicts on a tight leash" by offering the fuel program. In response, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told Shepardson that Friedman "is so 'over the top' that it borders on psychosis." Lutz said his hope "is that the majority of Americans, not being extreme liberals, and harboring a deep-seated distrust toward the media, will see his piece for what it is: the product of an unusual, but not altogether well, mind." GM spokeswoman Deborah Silverman told the Detroit News that the fuel-savings program has been successful, based on reports from dealers. She said there are no plans to expand the incentive program nationally. "To say GM is like a crack dealer trying to get people to buy gas guzzlers is just patently ridiculous," GM spokesman Brian Akre said to the Detroit News. "We sell a full range of vehicles, just like Toyota and just like the other large auto companies." Akre questioned how an incentive would "addict" customers, said Shepardson. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

Flying Spur

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 semi-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 Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD), 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 Blog entries, click the following: May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 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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