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BACK SEAT DRIVING - MAY 2007

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 Mon, Apr 30, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING AWARDS AVAILABLE FOR INNOVATIONS HELPING DISABLED DRIVERS May 28, 2007 Have you created something that can help a disabled person drive a car better? The ADA wants to know. The Adaptive Driving Alliance (ADA), a nationwide group of vehicle modification dealers who provides van conversions, hand controls, wheelchair and scooter lifts, tie downs, and other adaptive equipment for disabled drivers and passengers, is looking to identify the newest adaptive vehicle innovations. Headquartered in Glendale, Arizona, the ADA is offering several monetary awards for ideas that improve the state of the art and they can come from innovations in computers, miniaturization, and many other areas. The New Technology Award will be awarded by NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association) at their February 2008 conference. The purpose of the award program is to create an avenue to showcase new technology for the automotive adaptive industry that would otherwise not be able to make it to the market. With space age technology allowing people with quadriplegia to drive, the sky is the limit for creative innovation. Current examples in use include devices that work with plain knuckles, joysticks, voice or muscle activated controls, with other remarkable technologies in development. The technology must be related to the adaptation of a motor vehicle or a product that applies to the adaptation of a motor vehicle. The Adaptive Driving Alliance will donate $5,000 toward the award. Three finalists will receive $1,000 each to offset travel to the NMEDA Conference in February, 2008. NMEDA will provide the three finalists with registration to the conference as well as booth space adjoining the ADA booth for the finalists to exhibit their new technology to industry dealers and manufacturers. The winner will be announced at the conference and receives a $2,000 grand prize. Applications for the award can be obtained here or by contacting NMEDA at 800-833-0427 or the ADA at 877-853-1402. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING SO CAL DRIVERS FOCUS MORE ON THE BODY THAN WHAT'S UNDER THE HOOD May 23, 2007 LOS ANGELES - Summer is around the corner and Southland drivers are gearing up for their annual road trips. But it seems gearing up has more to do with washing and waxing than checking tires and changing oil. A recent poll of more than 500 Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino county drivers shows they may not be prepared to make the long haul. Nearly 95 percent said they're concerned with their car's appearance but only 20 percent pay attention to vehicle maintenance. Even though car washes and garages seem equally prevalent, 85 percent of the people surveyed wash their vehicles every two months while less than half check for tire pressure as often. In fact, 25 percent check it three times a year or less. The survey also found that almost half of the drivers didn't know whether their battery required maintenance or fluid. A dead battery is a surefire way to ruin a road trip. "We were surprised with the results of this survey" said John Kenyon, President of the Southern Californian Jiffy Lube group of franchises. "Nearly everyone indicated that maintenance tasks like oil changes and battery checks are a high priority, but a large percentage of them didn't actually carry them out on a recommended basis. We're hoping people will come in to our service centers and have their cars inspected so everyone can enjoy a safer summer travel season." According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, low tire pressure is the cause of approximately 260,000 accidents each year. All major tire manufacturers recommend monthly pressure checks and one right before going on a long trip or when outside temperature changes significantly. To save additional money on gas, Kenyon provides the following advice to drivers: Throw out junk - The Department of Energy estimates that drivers can save anywhere between 3 and 6 cents a gallon (based on $2.97 a gallon) just by removing excess weight from the car and trunk Learn to "Cruise" - Cruise control at highway speeds, especially on long trips, can offer an average fuel savings of 7 percent Don't idle - Sitting gets no miles per gallon Respect the law - Speeding, rapid starts and stops will all waste precious gasoline. Being a sensible and safe driver can help save anywhere between 15 and 98 cents a gallon (based on $2.97 a gallon) Follow the schedule - Drivers should refer to their owner's manual for maintenance information, e.g. tune-ups, oil changes, etc. Unclog filters - Whether it's air or fuel, cleaning can optimize fuel efficiency Renew the spark - Plug, that is. Worn ones cause inefficient combustion and wasted fuel Tighten gas caps - Keeping it loose will evaporate fuel Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING NUDE CAR WASH GETS GREEN LIGHT FROM POLICE May 19, 2007 A nude car wash offering an X-rated sideshow and topless cleaning in Australia's tropical Queensland state was given the 'all-clear' after police and officials said they were powerless to scrub it, according to Reuters. The Bubbles 'n' Babes car wash in Brisbane prompted a flood of complaints with a topless car wash for A$55 ($45) and a nude car wash with X-rated lap-dance service for A$100, reports the syndication. "If it was approved for a car wash then I can't imagine how we can stop them," Lord Mayor Campbell Newman told a council meeting with worried local lawmakers. "Professional car washes have boomed in most cities with drought-stricken Australians banned from washing their own cars due to tough water restrictions," says Reuters. "Queensland police denied any cover-up in a state where their image has been dented by past accusations of police corruption and involvement with organized crime." The raunchy wash, set up by a strip-club owner, was screened from the public and used recycled water to avoid breaching water use restrictions, they said. "We don't want any traffic accidents caused by people looking at the girls instead of looking at the road," Superintendent Colin Campbell told Reuters and local media. For LA Car's review of a car wash alternative, see Waterless Car Washing Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING SAKE MAY POWER CARS IN THE FUTURE May 12, 2007

If a pilot project to create sake fuel is a hit with locals in Shinanomachi, Japanese motorists may one day pump their cars full of sake. According to Risa Maeda of Reuters, the government-funded project at Shinanomachi, a mountain resort about 124 miles northwest of Tokyo, will produce cheap rice-origin ethanol brew with the help of local farmers who will donate farm waste such as rice hulls to be turned into ethanol. Yasuo Igarashi, a professor of applied microbiology at the University of Tokyo who heads the three year project, told Reuters, "We want to present the next generation a preferable blue print - a self-sustainable use of local fuels." If the project catches on with the local community, then it could pave the way for similar biofuel endeavors across Japan. "Japan, the world's second largest gasoline consumer after the United States, is entirely dependent on crude oil imports and it has been hit by the surge in oil prices," says Maeda. "With hefty carbon emissions reduction targets to meet under the Kyoto protocols, Japan is turning to biofuels. Yet motorists in Japan are still far behind drivers in Europe and the United States in their consumption of green fuels." Igarashi and his team hope to show that biofuels are feasible and inexpensive by developing a low-cost fuel and encouraging a local community of about 10,000 people to take part in producing that fuel. "Production has just begun at the facility at a former high school field in Shinanomachi and a sweet, sour aroma, similar to that of unfiltered sake, wafts into the air, reports Maeda. "We like the idea," said Shigehiro Matsuki, the mayor of Shinanomachi told Reuters. "The new fuels are renewable... instead of fossil fuels which are running out." Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING GAS STATION OWNER ORDERED TO RAISE PRICES OWNER TRIED TO OFFER DISCOUNTS TO SENIORS AND YOUTH SPORT SUPPORTERS May 10, 2007

LA Car

A service station that offered discounted gas to senior citizens and people supporting youth sports has been ordered by the state to raise its prices, according to the Associated Press. Center City BP owner Raj Bhandari has been offering senior citizens a two cent per gallon price break and discount cards that let sports boosters pay three cents less per gallon. But the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says those deals violate Wisconsin's anti-price war Unfair Sales Act, which requires stations to sell gas for about 9.2 percent more than the wholesale price. Bhandari informed AP that he received a letter from the state auditor last month saying the state would sue him if he did not raise his prices. The state could penalize him for each discounted gallon he sold, with the fine determined by a judge. Bhandari reported bought the station a year ago. He worries customers will think he stopped the discounts because he wants to make more money. About 10 percent of his customers had used the discount cards, according to Bhandari. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING THE MOST TRUSTED AUTOMOTIVE BRAND READER'S DIGEST'S EUROPEAN SURVEY May 8, 2007 For the past seven years, Reader's Digest has conducted a multi country study of consumer attitudes and opinions related to everyday products and services. This year, Romania was included - increasing the participating countries from 14 to 15. In addition to asking respondents to nominate their most trusted brand, Reader's Digest also asked them to indicate if they bought that brand themselves. A total of 24,213 questionnaires were analyzed, according to the publication. "Respondents were drawn from the Reader's Digest customer database of 4.5 million homes across these 15 countries," according to a statement released by the publication. "Sample selection and results were weighted where appropriate. This means respondent profiles reflect broad population demographics in each country the survey was undertaken." Among car makers, Volkswagen captured the most wins, topping the survey in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and VW subsidiary Skoda topping the Czech Republic survey. Mercedes and Toyota tied for second place, with three wins each. General Motors came in third, with its Opel Division topping the survey in Hungary and the Netherlands. One of the more interesting findings is that USA-based Ford topped the survey in the United Kingdom. The June 2007 editions of Reader's Digest magazine across Europe will carry a multi page section summarizing the results of this survey. Results: Austria - Volkswagen Belgium - Volkswagen Czech Republic - Skoda Finland - Toyota France - Renault Germany - VW Hungary - Opel Netherlands - Opel Poland - Toyota Portugal - Mercedes Romania - Mercedes Russia - Toyota Spain - Mercedes Switzerland - Volkswagen United Kingdom - Ford Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

GRAFMAN: BACK SEAT DRIVING FINE TUNED SPEED CHANNEL'S LATEST May 5, 2007 The pendulum swings both directions. After several years of programming involving auto reality shows that not only are askew from reality (but provided curious visions of what the auto aftermarket is all about), something new is on the horizon. Speed Channel's latest show, Fine Tuned, eschews soap opera drama for a back-to-basics approach. Focusing on a how-to-do-it format now gives enthusiasts a program that takes tuning seriously. Relying on the established and ever-burgeoning tuning community in Orange County, Californian and executive producer Chad Marshall has no shortage of quality talent to draw from. Chad is now a seasoned producer, with experience on other related shows. Chad and the other producers are taking the aftermarket (one of the fatter aspects of the industry as proven by SEMA), and giving us more reasons to indulge in tuning. Like we need any excuses! The first episode is a refreshing look at the business of modifying a car. A surprisingly polished show centers on the project build first and foremost. Naturally, the show does contain a bit of humor, insight into the builders in a respectful, honest portrayal, well-done graphics, and some high-speed exhibitions. Both Tyson Beckford and Jason "Lucky" Hess work as the shows hosts as they have a connectivity and a level of credibility that balances nicely with the work being done by the tuners. Drawing on such respected companies as Street Concepts, Super Autobacs, Meguiar's, Al and Ed's Autosound, as well as a whole host of others ensures the project builds will be done right. Consumers (I mean viewers) will be able to see exactly what differences can be achieved with aftermarket equipment in the hands of knowledgeable installers and modifiers. The show does portray some perhaps less-than-legal behavior, and an awkward approach to the show that's similar to other offerings, which rewards a dubiously suitable individual for tuning. The approach works on the home remodel program Extreme Makeover, but looks forced on another tuning program on a notable music channel. This show really doesn't need to fall back on this scripting. The lead-in to the tuning doesn't set it far enough from other shows, and this doesn't seem to add anything to the overall concept. It could all work just as well by pulling a lucky recipient's name out of a hat. Or better yet, raffle off the tuning with tickets going at five bucks a crack with the proceeds going to charity like AA - Aftermarket Anonymous In the plus column, the program avoids the far too colorful and bizarre behavior of other build programs, such as the one featuring a recognized hot rodder prone to wearing Hawaiian print shirts, and another former program that featured some of the more charismatic industry names in a competition format, or some blow-hard building cycles. Fine Tuned, as the name implies is a bit more of a give-back to the industry. Andrew Robinson, the show's director, bypasses infotainment in favor of serious wrenching - and this seems to be a good fit for the Speed Channel line-up. Will this show set the pace for shows the way Rides did? Time and future episodes will tell the tale. - John Grafman Find more info at www.speedtv.com Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING PRANCING EMPLOYEES FERRARI VOTED BEST PLACE TO WORK May 3, 2007

LA Car

One would think that working for an Italian sports car company certainly has its merits. One would be correct. It turns out that Ferrari has been voted Best Place to Work in Europe 2007 by the Great Place to Work Institute. Ferrari had already won the Italian title previously. "This award is a powerful endorsement of the enormous organizational and financial commitment made by the company in recent years to providing its employees with the best possible working conditions and to encouraging personal and professional growth," proclaimed the company president, Luca di Montezemolo. Over a thousand companies throughout Europe participated in the survey which measures the degree of satisfaction of employees with their place of work and picks out the best working environments. At the end of the 1990s President Luca di Montezemolo launched a major project known as Formula Uomo in Ferrari. The project took its inspiration from the company's Formula 1 ambitions and successes. It covers three basic areas: workplaces and structures, professional training and international growth, and personal and family benefits. "The principle underpinning the program sees human beings as the fulcrum of the company's work system and aims to enhance staff's abilities and stimulate their creativity by placing importance on the contribution each individual has to make," says di Montezemolo. Ferrari counts a number of achievements in terms of company structures since then: the Renzo Piano - designed Wind Tunnel was built in 1997, the Marco Visconti's New Mechanical Machining Department in 2001, the new GeS Logistics Area in 2002, the Massimiliano Fuksas‚ designed Product Development Centre and Marco Visconti's New Paint Shop in 2004, and the Maranello Village in 2006. The new Company Restaurant, also the work of Visconti, and Jean Nouvel's large Production Line building are both nearing completion too. Ferrari also credits it training program for the top rating. "Training is one of Ferrari's main focuses and this commitment to education has resulted in agreements with both Italian and international universities, specialist training programs and work experience stints abroad." In 2006, 2,376 individuals (or 88.5% of the employees) availed themselves of the company training courses which cover both managerial and professional skill-building. Other Formula Uomo initiatives center more on personal wellbeing and social involvement. These include: medical check-ups for employees and their children, specialist preventative medicine programs, participation in company events such as the "Finali Mondiali" and the unveilings of new cars, company stands at the various Grand Prix, sports groups and discounts in various commercial and service outlets. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

NAKANO: BACK SEAT DRIVING THAT HYBRID GOTTA HEMI? CHRYSLER TO DEBUT 5.7-LITER HEMI HYBRID May 1, 2007 That new Chrysler Aspen Hybrid gotta HEMI? Yes, it does, says Chrysler Group, as does the new Dodge Durango Hybrid. Both vehicles will soon be powered by a new 5.7-liter HEMI Hybrid powertrain, debut next year as the first volume-production hybrid offerings from the Chrysler Group and the first vehicles to feature DaimlerChrysler's two-mode hybrid technology. "The all-new Chrysler Group HEMI Hybrid will offer our customers the best of both worlds: renowned performance and significantly improved fuel economy" said Frank Klegon, Executive Vice President - Product Development, Chrysler Group. "With the new HEMI-powered Chrysler Aspen Hybrid, we are delivering the ultimate combination of fuel efficiency, overall performance and capability in a premium full-size SUV." Chrysler officials say the new 5.7-liter HEMI Hybrid is expected to deliver an overall fuel economy improvement of more than 25 percent, including an improvement of nearly 40 percent in the city. The HEMI powerplant, in hybrid form, will continue to feature Chrysler Group's Multi-displacement System (MDS), which allows the engine to alternate between four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand. Chrysler Group's two-mode hybrid powertrain - jointly developed by DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and the BMW Group - integrates electric motors with a fixed-gear transmission. As a result of the low- and high-speed electric continuously variable transmission (ECVT) modes, the system is commonly referred to as the two-mode hybrid. However, the fuel-saving system also incorporates four fixed gear ratios for high efficiency and power-handling capabilities in a broad variety of vehicle applications. The new Chrysler Aspen Hybrid and Dodge Durango Hybrid vehicles can be powered either by the electric motors or by the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine - or a combination of the two. During the two ECVT modes and four fixed-gear operations, the hybrid system can use the electric motors for boosting and/or regenerative braking. When full power is needed, the system automatically adjusts for passing, driving steep grades or hauling a trailer. The result is trend-setting hybrid technology that provides superior fuel economy, performance and load-carrying capability. Located in Troy, Mich., the DaimlerChrysler, GM and BMW Hybrid Development Center jointly developed the overall modular two-mode hybrid system and the individual components: electric motors, transmission, high-voltage battery, high-performance electronics, wiring, safety systems, energy management and hybrid system control units. In addition, the Hybrid Development Center is responsible for system integration and project management. Your Back Seat Driving comments can be sent to: Letter to the Editor

A JOURNAL OF LOS ANGELES & ITS CAR CULTURE

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That was LA Car's subtitle when it started back in 1997. It's original website address was about five times the size of lacar.com. 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 automotive spirit - much like one's own journal or diary. LA Car has always been a great source to come back to from week-to-week, 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 some reasons 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 Live Wires and the latest Back Seat Driving blog entry. In the meantime, welcome to the journal and journey from the heart of the car culture. - Roy Nakano

For past Blog entries, click the following: April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 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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