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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, Jun 30, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



"Kick The Oil Habit Road Trip" Runs Out of E-85 Fuel Earlier this month, the Kick the Oil Habit Road Trip ran out of E-85 ethanol as it crossed into Utah from Wyoming, illustrating that while it may be possible to drive across the country on ethanol, it certainly is not easy. The event demonstrates the lengths to which consumers have to go to travel across the nation using alternative fuels like E-85. Currently, only about 750 of America's 170,000 gas stations currently offer this alternative fuel. Road Trip team leader Mark Pike said, "I don't see it as a setback. The fact that there weren't enough ethanol stations to get us from coast-to-coast just proves our point to irresponsible oil companies." Pike went on to say, "Wealthy oil companies should pledge to double the number of E85 pumps over the next year and provide E85 at half of all gas stations by 2016." The Kick the Oil Habit Road Trip is a ten-day adventure launched by Senator Barack Obama from Washington, D.C. ending in Los Angeles, CA. The goal of the trip is to promote alternative fuels as part of the Kick the Oil Habit campaign sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Along the way the drivers are chronicling their trip and interviews with station owners, ethanol producers, elected officials, and celebrities through interactive maps, blogs, video and other electronic mediums available at the Kick the Oil Habit Road Trip website. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.



"Why Didn't You Tell Me It Was So Big?" Japanese carmaker Nissan announced it has pulled a commercial starring "Sex and the City" actress Kim Cattrall from New Zealand television after complaints over its content. Cattrall, who gained fame as the sexy Samantha Jones in the HBO television series, appears in the ad overcome with excitement about Nissan's new Tiida sedan (known as the Versa in the USA). "Why didn't you tell me it was so big, I just wasn't prepared for it?" she gushes. "The all-new Nissan Tiida makes you feel really, really, really good inside." She tells a salesman: "Ah! That was amazing. Absolutely fabulous! I mean the great body and the way you moved it." According to the Associated Press, the double-meaning ad was approved by New Zealand's Television Commercial Approvals Bureau before broadcast. It sparked a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board, reports AP. Nissan said it was taking the commercial off the air before the board could consider the objections. "We made this decision in the interest of self-regulation and in response to public feedback," Nissan said in a statement. To view the commercial, click here. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.



Despite Increasing Gas Prices, 2006 Shows No Improvement in Overall Fuel Economy First the good news: The overall corporate average fuel economy for 2006 vehicles is no worse than last year. The bad news: It's no better, and gas prices continue to spiral upward. That's the summary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's report on fuel economy released yesterday. Since 1992, average real-world fuel economy has ranged from 20.6 to 21.4 miles per gallon. For 2006, cars and light trucks sold in the USA average 21.0 mpg. This 21.0 mpg value is actually five percent lower than the fleet-average fuel economy peak value of 22.1 mpg achieved in 1987-1988. Something else that hasn't changed: Of the major carmakers selling vehicles in the USA, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors rank at the bottom of the corporate average fuel economy scale - with DaimlerChrysler ranking dead last at 19.1 miles per gallon. Who ranks at the top? Honda again, at 24.2 mpg, followed by Toyota at 23.8, and Volkswagen and HK at 23.5. These figures combine car and light truck performance. Viewing strictly cars, Toyota comes out on top with a corporate average fuel economy of 29.1 mpg, followed by Honda at 28.0. DaimlerChrysler still ranks last among cars at 21.8 mpg. The EPA's report does end on a positive note: "Recent technology developments, such as hybrid-electric vehicles, clean diesel technology, improved transmission designs, and engines equipped with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation, hold promise for stable or improving fuel economy in the future." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.



Today, a continuation was granted to the defense team of Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish business man charged with crashing a Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway along the Malibu coast this past February. A motion hearing is scheduled on Friday, August 18th at 8:30 am in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center before Judge Veals. The trial date is to be determined on this day. Eriksson's defense team are expected to be available for commentary and questioning outside the courtroom. Among the motions to be heard is one which could help set a legal precedent for immigrants to the United States who have had prior legal troubles in their homeland. "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," said Imhoff & Associates spokesperson Shannon Mayock to LA Car. Imhoff & Associates is the lead firm representing Mr. Eriksson. The legal defense team 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. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.



The United States has some of the best trial lawyers in the world. One of the ways to cut your teeth on trial lawyer experience is in the area of class action tort cases. A case in point: Susman, et al. v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC et al., a class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The Susman case involves a lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz for failing to provide front license plate brackets for new vehicle customers. All persons who purchased or leased a new Mercedes-Benz vehicle between March 1, 2000 through December 31, 2004 are potentially part of the class. Never mind that virtually any Mercedes-Benz dealer will voluntarily install such a bracket at no cost. The sharp lawyers at Milstein, Adelman & Kreger found an opening in the way MB USA handled license plate brackets, and went in for the kill. Coincidentally, DaimlerChrysler's Associate General Counsel Steven Hantler is leading the charge for tort reform in this country. He's one of the three founders of the American Justice Partnership, a national organization active in legal tort reform. According to Hantler, tort cases in the United States costs $240 billion annually. "That's settlements, judgments, legal fees, to both sides , expert witness fees, cost of administration, says Hantler. "That's suppose to rise to $264 billion this year, and nearly $300 billion next year. If we were to view the U.S. tort system as a country it would rank 27th out of 180 countries in the world based upon GDP." That's just mind-boggling. In any event, if you're a member of the aforementioned class, you may be entitled to a free license plate bracket. Or, you might want to just ask your dealer for the bracket - they'll probably give it to you anyway, along with a free license plate frame - all the better to advertise the dealership. For more information about the class action lawsuit, contact Milstein, Adelman & Kreger LLP. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.



The July 1st Back Seat Driving entry on The Race For The First Mass Market 100-MPG Car generated some interesting comments. LA Car reader Robert Castro writes, "I wonder which American car companies qualify for Congressman Lundgren's $1-billion prize? Certainly it's not DaimlerChrysler. Its most recent string of ads make it abundantly clear that DC is a German company. If Nissan and Renault end up purchasing a controlling share of General Motors, doesn't that knock GM out of the competition? That leaves us with Ford. Unlike its truck production, much of Ford's car production is conducted outside the USA. It seems Toyota actually builds more cars in the USA than does Ford. When all is said and done, it doesn't look like any company will be able to qualify." Joseph Lee wrote in to remind us that Clinton-Gore offered a similar reward when it initiated the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) program. "Did that produce anything more than crushed EV1s and more SUVs?" Noted Prius guru John 1701a reflects even further on the LA Car article in, "What about emissions? Some dirty technologies are more efficient. And how the heck will 'prove itself commercially' be judged? Why a sedan? What not any vehicle capable of seating five people? After all, requiring it to be a sedan could impair sales. Why 100 MPG? The PNGV goal of 80 MPG still hasn't been reached, so setting the threshold even higher makes it pretty unrealistic. Why must it be gas? How come the gas-equivalent amount of ethanol isn't allowed? After all, isn't the point to not depend on oil anymore? And why no electricity? "Most importantly, what about continuation?," John adds. "Shouldn't there be some type of requirement to continue production? Automakers have been known to produce just a certain amount, then abruptly end the model. What's preventing them from doing the same thing after collecting the prize? Then comes the silly question... how exactly will the 100 MPG be measured? Prius has already been demonstrated to actually exceed that if you drive it in a very particular way. Of course, that is perhaps the very reason non-American automakers have been excluded from participating.".

Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE RACE FOR THE FIRST MASS MARKET 100-MPG CAR July 1, 2006 A challenge has gone out for the first American automaker to take fuel efficiency to the next level. No, it's not from the Sierra Club or It's from Republican U.S. Congressman Dan Lungren from California's 3rd District. Specifically, Lungren wants the United States to offer a $1-billion prize for the first American automaker to sell 60,000 midsized sedans that can travel 100 miles on one gallon of gasoline. "It wouldn't be a panacea for our energy problems, but it would stimulate the development of viable technologies to reduce oil consumption while we develop alternatives to petroleum," says Lungren. The Congressman points out that there's a long history of offering prize money for important inventions. "As Amory Lovins and E. Kyle Datta point out in 'Winning the Oil Endgame,' the Orteig Prize for aviation, offered in 1919, was awarded to Charles Lindbergh in 1927 for his flight across the Atlantic. In fact, the 1895 Great Chicago Car Race - which was really a test of innovation rather than speed - played an important role in giving birth to the American automobile industry." Lundgren has, in fact, introduced the New Options Petroleum Energy Conservation Act in Congress to establish a prize for a 100-mile-per-gallon car. To win, a vehicle has to prove itself commercially viable and meet all federal safety standards. "It is critical to the U.S. national interest to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, urges Lundgren. "The growth of the Chinese and Indian economies increases global demand for oil, while the vulnerability of our supplies has been spotlighted by Venezuelan unrest, veiled Iranian threats to disrupt Persian Gulf shipping and the attempted attack on Saudi oil facilities by Al Qaeda. Our economic lifeblood must be immunized against the dictates of a global petroleum cartel. We must not allow our potential energy vulnerability to become the Achilles heel of our status as a global superpower. Our ability to pursue our interests and promote our values in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy must not be encumbered by our petroleum dependency." Some members of the British press say such a car is already in the works, albeit not from an American automaker. Press sources indicate that Toyota is readying a version of the next-generation Prius that aims to go 100 miles on a gallon of gas. How can this be done? With lithium-ion batteries and, possibly, through a plug-in option. The boost in electrical resources will allow the car to operate in pure electric mode, with the gas engine kicking in only for rapid acceleration assist and high speeds. Alas, the Brits measure their miles per gallon a little differently than we do. So, if the reports are correct, we're looking at more like 94 mpg than 100 mpg. According to David Gow of the UK's The Guardian, Toyota is working on plans for plug-ins for the battery from the grid at fuel stations, with future hybrids carrying a traditional power-point for domestic appliances to be used outside the home. Shinichi Abe, head of Toyota's hybrid division, informs The Guardian that the next Prius model will be able to do a nine-mile commute to work without using any petrol or diesel. One thing is for sure. If the next-generation Prius does indeed do 94 miles per gallon, the waiting list is going to be even longer than it is now.

Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor.


Flying Spur

That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. Since then, La Car became LA Car. Its subtitle 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 one's own journal or diary. Now, the diary section 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 Back Seat Driving, a.k.a. BSD (note the similarity to two well-worn abbreviations, BS and BFD) and Live Wires - Hot & Tender News From the Car Culture (co-located with Back Seat Driving, and updated at least daily), 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 We'll be sure to always provide a link to Live Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving 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: June 2006 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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