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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 Sun, Oct 1, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Soon to become a dinosaur? ROY NAKANO BACK SEAT DRIVING CALIFORNIA NEEDS A NEW HYBRID CARPOOL LANE BILL October 31, 2006 California has issued its full allotment of 75,000 stickers for single-occupant carpool lane access to owners of 45 mpg+ hybrid vehicles. An additional 10,000 stickers will soon be issued, allowing a total of 85,000 hybrids onto the carpool lanes until January 1, 2011. In the meantime, rumors abound that the Toyota will introduce a version of its Prius that will achieve over 80 miles on a gallon of gas. That model is expected to arrive in the Fall of 2008, as part of the next-generation of Prius hybrids. Unfortunately, that model will not be eligible for a carpool lane access sticker - and neither will any other future-generation hybrid, no matter how much better gas mileage it gets. Alas, between now and 2011, it appears that California will have a flock of hybrid dinosaurs roaming the carpool lanes, while newer, more efficient and cleaner hybrids will be left out. That's why California needs a new hybrid carpool lane bill - one that will allow current holders of stickered hybrid vehicles to transfer their stickers onto future hybrids that get even better gas mileage. Of course, once you pull the sticker off, it can't be re-used. Accordingly, there should be a trade-in program, whereby one can turn in the old stickers to the Department of Motor Vehicles for new stickers to be placed on qualified higher mpg vehicles. Attention, hybrid lovers: You might as well get this going now. Contacting Assembly members Fran Pavley (author of the original bill) and Ted Lieu (author of the extension bill) about this will be a good start. By the time the bill gets passed, your 80-mpg Prius should be ready to be picked up at the dealer. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD LOTUS GETS INTO THE RENT-A-RACER ACT October 29, 2006 Lotus Cars USA, Inc., the distributor for Lotus sports cars in the United States and Canada, announced the addition of Enterprise Rent-A-Car contracting for an initial fifty (50) Lotus Elise exotic sports cars. These particular vehicles are being targeted for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and select South Florida locations. "The adoption of the Lotus Elise by the rental companies is a strong confirmation of the desirability and durability of our car" commented Lotus Cars USA, Inc. President and CEO, Robert A. Braner. "We know from discussions with our dealers that they have had numerous requests to rent exotic cars and the Elise is right there at the top of the list, having Lotus cars in rental fleets nationally will give many more people the chance to experience a truly amazing automobile." Due to limited availability, the first group of cars are to be available only in California, Florida, Nevada. On a national rollout basis, more states will be added in the coming months. Lotus is one of the better-known British performance brands with a reputation for winning racing cars and memorable sports cars. The first Lotus car was built in 1948 by founder Colin Chapman (1928-1982). The Lotus Engineering Company has pioneered numerous automotive systems and components still in use today.

For more information about Enterprise visit For further information about Lotus, go to Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD MOTOR VEHICLE VIOLATION DEFENSE: 'ALL CHINESE CAN LOOK THE SAME' October 25, 2006 A Scottish judge cleared a student from China of a motoring offense after claiming that "all Chinese people can look the same," The London Times has reported. According to an AFP report, Sheriff Margaret Gimblett dismissed the evidence of two police officers who had identified Hui Yu, 23, who had been charged with driving without insurance. Yu was quoted by The Times as telling Greenock Sheriff Court, near Glasgow: "Without wanting to be derogatory in any way, sometimes it is said that all black people look the same at first glance and the same can be said that all Chinese people can look the same to a native Scot. "It's only when you have time to look that you begin to see the differences." Two police officers identified Hui as a man they stopped at a petrol station but Hui denied the offence, saying he was at his girlfriend's flat at the time, reports AFP. Seemingly agreeing with Gimblett, Hui said to The Times after the case: "It is true that people from one nationality or race can look the same to people from another nationality or race. It is the same for Chinese people - we find it quite hard at first to tell the difference between groups of Scots." A spokesman for Britain's Commission for Racial Equality watchdog said that the sheriff's comments were "not particularly helpful," reports AFP. But both the Chinese headteacher of the Chinese School in Glasgow and the chairman of the Scotland-China Association backed Gimblett, saying the comments were not meant to be derogatory. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD IN SEARCH OF THE LAST TAURUS October 22, 2006 Truett Cathy says he owes a lot to the Atlanta-area Ford plant that produces the Taurus. He credits the success of his first restaurant to business from Ford workers across the street. That's why the Chik-fil-A founder is seeking the last Ford Taurus to roll off of the assembly line when production of the model ends Friday.

Chick-fil-A spokesman Don Perry told Daniel Yee of the Associated Press that Cathy has "a commitment from the plant" to receive the last Taurus. "Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said the details were not completely settled, although the company is 'working to make it happen,'" says Yee. "We want to sell him that last vehicle because we know how much it would mean to him," she said, adding that the deal was undecided because the last vehicles scheduled for production were meant to go into a rental fleet. According to Yee, Cathy plans to display the last Taurus with many of his other collectible cars at his Atlanta headquarters and at his restaurants. The Chik-fil-A founder opened his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill, in 1946 with his brother, according to Yee. "In 1961, he developed Chik-fil-A's trademark chicken sandwich and asked diners from the Ford plant in Hapeville to try it." Cathy opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant in 1967 in Atlanta. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE POPE GETS A PHAETON October 20, 2006 VATICAN CITY, Italy- Pope Benedict XVI has been presented with a specially equipped Phaeton by the Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, Dr. Bernd Pischetsrieder. "It is a particular honor for us to have the privilege of providing Pope Benedict XVI with a fitting limousine", said Pischetsrieder during the presentation in the Vatican City on Wednesday. The extended wheelbase version of the Pope's black Phaeton is powered by a 450 horsepower, 6.0-liter W12 engine. The limousine has been specially equipped to meet the security requirements of the Holy Father. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor


ERIKSSON PLEADS NO CONTEST TO DUI October 19, 2006 Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish businessman charged in the highly publicized crash of the million-dollar Ferrari Enzo in Malibu pleaded no contest Thursday to drunk driving. Eriksson agreed to the plea deal to clear the way for his trial next week on grand theft, embezzlement and firearms possession charges, according to his lawyers. "We want to fight the battle where the battle is. It makes no sense to chase windmills and waste the jury's time and the court's time," said attorney James Parkman. Judge Patricia M. Schnegg will sentence Eriksson for the drunk driving offense at the conclusion of his trial. Ericksson's trial on the remaining charges will resume tomorrow. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor


NEIMAN MARCUS M6 SELLS OUT IN ONE MINUTE AND 32 SECONDS October 18, 2006 The holidays came early for 50 Neiman Marcus customers who managed to place their calls into BMW to order the new 2007 BMW M6 Convertible that was featured in this year's Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, as it went on sale today at 12 PM, EDT. As the clock struck noon, the 1-866-303-2696 phone lines were completely lit up with buyers who wanted to be sure they were among the first in the U.S. to own the just-introduced Limited Edition M6. The Convertible sold out in a mere one minute, thirty-two seconds. The luxury convertible made its U.S. debut at the unveiling of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book in Dallas on October 3rd. Only 50 of these new U.S. limited-edition models, built especially for Neiman Marcus, are being produced in the inaugural year. They feature a Ruby Black exterior finish accented with Piano Black trim elements, and power sports seats wrapped in a custom Gold Brown shade of BMW Individual Merino leather. The Limited Edition 2007 BMW M6 Convertible is featured on pages 96-97 of the 2006 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, and retails for $139,000. To see the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, go to Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD ERIKSSON TURNS DOWN INITIAL PLEA DEAL October 17, 2006 Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish businessman who authorities say crashed a stolen Ferrari sports car worth $1.5 million on Pacific Coast Highway, turned down a plea deal Monday, reports the Associated Press. The plea would have had Eriksson spend two years and four months in prison. Judge Patricia M. Schnegg asked Eriksson to confirm he was turning down a "very generous offer," saying he would likely face much stiffer penalties if convicted. Eriksson responded through an interpreter, "I cannot agree that I stole the car because I didn't," according to the AP. In the reported deal, Eriksson would have had to plead guilty to embezzlement of a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and a black Enzo Ferrari - two additional vehicles from the red Enzo Ferrari that was crashed. He would also have to plead guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon, a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, and pay a $25,000 fine. Eriksson is charged with three counts of embezzlement, three counts of grand theft and illegal gun possession. In addition, he faces two misdemeanor counts of drunken driving. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD MALIBU FERRARI DRIVER ERIKSSON'S TRIAL BEGINS TODAY October 16, 2006 Today, the trial of Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish business man accused of crashing a Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway along the Malibu coast, commences in Los Angeles. Judge Patricia Schnegg was assigned to the trial. Judge Schnegg presided over Courtney Love's recent case, as well as the Catherine Zeta Jones stalking case. Eriksson's defense team consists of high-profile attorneys Jim Parkman, William White and Martin Adams of The Cochran Firm-Birmingham, the law firm founded by the late Johnnie Cochran. In 2005, Parkman, White and Adams infamously defended former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, where their client was acquitted of over three-dozen fraud and money laundering charges in a massive $2.7 billion earnings overstatement. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD ROGUISH October 15, 2006

Nissan announced it will hold the world debut of a new crossover vehicle at NAIAS 2007 in January Nissan likes to provide partial photo teasers of future production vehicles. It did so with the taillights for the 350Z and with the latest Altima. The latest to receive this treatment is a production vehicle that will be called the Rogue. Not too many details are available at this time. An abundance of information will be released when the vehicle debuts at the North American International Auto Show in January of 2007. Nissan does say that the Rogue will go on sale in the fall of 2007. My guess is that the Rogue is a crossover utility vehicle, slotted below the Nissan Murano in both size and price. The partial photo indicates that the Rogue also takes a number of styling cues from the Murano. We will know soon enough. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor


Up until now, the ultimate MINI tweak was the John Cooper Works version of the Cooper S. However, Wired's Michael Spinelli reports that the UK's PML FlightLink does the JCW one (make that four) better. The MINI QED is a gas-electric hybrid with a separate 160-horsepower electric motor for each wheel. "That's a total of 640 hp - more giddyap than a Lamborghini Murciélago," says Spinelli. PML FlightLink asserts that the QED can do 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, has a top speed of 150 mph, and gets up to 80 mpg from its two-cylinder gas engine. "You may be able to talk PML into selling a prototype - for $380,000," says Spinelli. PML says the QED was developed in conjunction with its partner, Synergy Innovations. So far, two vehicles have been produced - the result of approximately eight months of intense effort following PML's four-year product development program. PML chose the MINI platform because of its broad appeal and iconic styling. However, the MINI is not a light vehicle by UK standards - and has limited space to integrate the substantial component set required for a top performance electric vehicle. PML believes that if it can successfully convert the MINI, then most others should be easy by comparison. According to the PML people, the development on the QED will continue for some time, especially in the area of engine/fuel options and GPRS services and features. Here's how the Mini QED stacks up:

  • Independent Quad Electric Drive
  • Traction control and anti skid built into each wheel
  • Regenerative braking recovers almost all energy
  • Blistering acceleration and high top speed
  • Around 80 mpg via onboard engine / generator
  • No need to recharge ( although you can if you wish)

BMW (makers of the MINI) wants it made clear that it has no involvement with the QED project, and that such conversions will invalidate the car's warranty. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO BACK SEAT DRIVING A STRANGELY COMPELLING REASON TO BUY A VW October 12, 2006 Volkswagen may have come up with one of the most strangely compelling reason to buy its cars: First Act has teamed up with VW to present the First Act GarageMaster guitar, a guitar that plays through the audio system of select models. From now until December 31, 2006, each new Jetta, GLI, GTI, Rabbit, New Beetle, and New Beetle Convertible will come with a custom-designed First Act GarageMaster guitar. Owners of the new VW models can transform their cars into mobile amps. New rockers will hit the road with a First Act GarageMaster guitar in the trunk, ready to stop and dispense riffs wherever the mood strikes.

The key to the guitar's design is a special built-in pre-amp that allows the guitar to plug directly into the VW model's auxiliary jack. The pre-amp was developed with First Act's V-Stack Technology, a revolutionary analog modeling technique that emulates the tone of sought-after vintage guitar amps. The guitar comes in four VW-complementary colors. An engraved plate on the back of the headstock features the same Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as the newly purchased car. "The partnership with First Act is the next iteration of Volkswagen's longstanding history with music," said Volkswagen's Director of Brand Innovation, Kerri Martin, "The Volkswagen brand is culturally known for its celebration of music and all things creative, this exciting collaboration makes a statement that Volkswagen is much more than just a car but a brand with innovative ideas and an unparalleled ability to create unique and appealing connections with its consumers."

"We are excited to be working with Volkswagen because of what our two brands can generate together. Like Volkswagen, we value technological innovation and inspired design," said Bernard Chiu, First Act's Chairman of the Board. Volkswagen's supporting ad campaign includes TV spots featuring John Mayer, Slash of Guns N' Roses, and Christopher Guest (as Nigel Tufnell of Spinal Tap), with original music produced by Josh Abraham and CJ Vanston. For more information, visit Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

Nissan's newest Altima ROY NAKANO: BSD UNDERWHELMED October 8, 2006 A lot has been written about Nissan's economic turnaround, led by Carlos Ghosn. Much of it had to do with the strength of new products, like the third-generation Nissan Altima and first-generation Infiniti G35. For 2007, both the Altima and the G35 have been completely redesigned. Rather than push the envelope any further, however, Nissan chose to play it safe. Most consumers, in fact, will be hard put to tell the difference between the old and new - and it's not entirely clear that the new designs are improvements. Time will tell if Nissan played its cards right. In the meantime, I remain underwhelmed. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

ROY NAKANO: BSD THE BIG ORANGE October 4, 2006 The show former known as the California International Auto Show has arrived. The Orange County Autoshow, goes from today through October 8th at the Anaheim Convention Center. The emphasis is still on new vehicles, but with a heavy dosage of concept cars, exotic vehicles, and lifestyle vehicles. Among the major attractions at The OC Autoshow: A concert by Foghat, the Hyundai Challenge Ride & Drive, a Fuel Cell Vehicle Ride & Drive sponsored by the California Fuel Cell Partnerhisp, the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Pageant, the Auto Show Underground, a host of DJs, and multi-million dollar exotic car displays by Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati, SSC and Mosler. For more on the show, see The OC Autoshow. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor


ANAHEIM, Calif.##(BUSINESS WIRE)##Amid screeching tires from an IndyCar driven by Danica Patrick, booming pyrotechnics and colorful confetti, the Arrowhead Pond became Honda Center today. The name change was made official by executives from Anaheim Arena Management, LLC (AAM), the management company of Honda Center, and American Honda Motor Co., Inc. during a ceremony in the arena parking lot. Danica Patrick, 2005 IndyCar Rookie of the Year and driver of the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Dallara Honda, made a flashy entrance in her IRL race car. At the podium were Henry and Susan Samueli, owners of AAM and the Anaheim Ducks; arena President and CEO Tim Ryan; American Honda Senior Vice President, Auto Operations John Mendel and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle. "We are thrilled to welcome American Honda Motor Company into our family and to have their name on our first-class venue" said Ryan. The arena naming-rights deal is the first such agreement for Honda and the first name change for the 13-year-old venue. The agreement, which has an initial term of 15 years with the opportunity for a 10-year extension, was originally announced on July 19 by AAM and Honda. "This amazing venue is in Honda's very own backyard, where our associates work, live and play, and it is an important sales market for us" said Mendel. "The naming of Honda Center grants us the opportunity to increase Honda's involvement with the community that has welcomed us with open arms for more than 40 years." In addition to the building signage, fans will notice Honda product displays at events, branding on the two arena marquees, in-arena graphics on the video boards and a new web site at This is the second big change for the arena this year, as the Mighty Ducks became the Anaheim Ducks on June 22 and unveiled a new logo and new colors. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor


Starting September 1, 2007, there will be a new addition on the MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) sticker on new car windows: Crash ratings. "The safety displays must be on all vehicles, except pickups, no later than September 1, 2007, which will cover the 2008 model year. They must be prominently displayed and convey the government's five-star ratings that includes data on front and side crash protection and rollover risk," reports John Crawley of Reuters. The requirement could prompt voluntary changes by automakers if they fail to meet consumer expectations, government officials and safety advocates say. "By placing safety ratings directly on new car window stickers consumers will have the ability to make more informed decisions right there on the car sales lot," said Sen. Mike DeWine (Ohio R) at a news conference. DeWine sponsored the congressionally mandated requirement that is being imposed by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Joan Claybrook, president of consumer group Public Citizen, expects the stickers will influence consumers and automakers. "If one (vehicle) has a bad rating they will be worried about it because it's going to be right there in the consumer's face. Dealers will be worried about it," Claybrook told Reuters. Although it might be hard to believe today, there once was a time when car makers weren't even required to post MSRP stickers on vehicles. Dealers were free to sell cars without disclosing any such MSRP. That all changed on June 23, 1958, when The Automobile Information Disclosure Act was passed in 1958. The bill was authored by A.S. "Mike" Monroney, a longtime Oklahoma congressman. Today, the Monroney sticker (often mispronounced as the Maroney sticker) graces the window of every vehicle sold in this country. Every Monroney sticker contains the following information: * Make * Model * Serial or Identification Numbers * The final assembly point * The name, and the location of the place of business, of the dealer to whom it is to be delivered * The method of transportation used in making delivery of such automobile, if driven or towed from final assembly point to place of delivery * The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP or "sticker price") of the base vehicle * The MSRP of optional equipment installed on the base vehicle * The transportation charges for delivery of the vehicle to the dealer from the manufacturer * The TOTAL MSRP of all the above. * The EPA mileage estimates are also normally included on this sticker You can add crash ratings to the list after September 1, 2007. The law is now codified as Title 15, Chapter 28, Sections 1231-1233 of the United States Code. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor



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: September 2006 August 2006 July 2006 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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