30th April 2009

Car Lust Classic–Pontiac Fiero

Originally posted by Chris Hafner on Jan. 23, 2008.

When GM announced in the early 1980s that it would be introducing a two-seat, mid-engined sports car under the Pontiac nameplate, the automotive world rejoiced. Trim two-seat, mid-engined cars have superior weight distribution for the best possible handling; a mid-engined layout is the configuration used in most serious race cars and supercars.

The consensus was that GM was going to build a younger brother for the Corvette; in fact, possibly a Corvette updated for the 1980s – light, trim, agile, and efficient. The name–Fiero–also implied a car with some of the performance pedigree of Pontiac’s Firebird.

Danger signs first began to appear when GM insisted on calling the upcoming Fiero a “commuter car”–a laughable designation for a two-seat, mid-engined sports car. Red flags also popped up when GM revealed the Fiero would be based on an economy car front-wheel-drive chassis and would be initially available only with GM’s antiquated, wheezing Iron Duke four-cylinder engine–a heavy hunk of low-horsepower boredom.

The Fiero debuted in 1984 to initial gasps of delight at the sexy, daring styling and comfortable interior, only for that delight to lapse into sobs of disappointment. The Fiero offered all the space, comfort, and practicality of a dedicated high-performance sports car–with the fun-to-drive quotient of a clunky Citation.

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30th April 2009

Shanghai Auto Says Its Profit Plummeted 86 Percent in 2008

SHANGHAI, China — SAIC Motor Group has reported an 86 percent decline in net profit for last year. The auto giant blames slowing vehicle sales in China as well as the entry into receivership of the company’s Korean unit Ssangyong Motor.

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30th April 2009

2009 Ferrari 599XX Prototype

The Ferrari 599XX, now in concept stage but nearing production as a special Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano high-performance variant, is perhaps more exciting than even the hallowed Ferrari Enzo in the track performance department. While the Ferrari Enzo earns the highest marks for exclusivity and sharp-creased style, the 599XX looks like a Ferrari is expected to but taken up about 7 notches. The Fiorano on which the bold new Ferrari 599XX track car is based is not the most expensive Prancing Pony, but it is certainly the most exciting large production model from a driver’s standpoint.


The 599XX is officially labeled a prototype, but industry rumors have pointed toward the new razor-sharp Ferrari track car seeing a very limited production run to “loyal Ferrari customers” or some such thing. While the engine and transmission are the same basic units found in the 599 GTB, Ferrari has raised the redline all the way up to 9000 rpm, with some new internals allowing a power increase to a cold 700 horses.

Carbon fiber is used extensively in the 599XX, even underhood, where carbon intakes and other bits save weight and add a little visual flair. The F1-style transmission also gets a reprogramming, with shift times now coming in a miniscule 60 ms, far quicker than even the most skilled clutch-and-lever operator.


The 599XX, which should be getting an official production announcement sometime in the near future, rides on 19 inch racing slicks and also a dedicated suspension different from that employed in standard 599 donor cars. Another interesting Ferrari 599XX feature is that even the brake discs are covered in carbon fiber “doughnuts”, said to help with both aerodynamics and cooling. Were this not a Ferrari, they could be mistaken for something from the Autozone parts aisle.


Some serious airflow direction tricks are employed. The 599XX features fans in the trunk and synthetic jets along the rear ductwork, and even tiny wings poking out sideways just in front of the C-pillars. Not as extreme as the Enzo, but the 599XX certainly looks ready to take off and fly somewhere. 599XX pricing, if it makes a short production run after all, will be… well, you know.

-RSportsCars

Official Ferrari Press Releases


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The new 599 GTB Fiorano Handling GTE Package and the world preview of the ‘laboratorio tecnologico’ 599XX


Maranello, 27th February 2009 – The 79th Geneva International Motor Show provides the venue for Ferrari to announce two new pieces of good news: the arrival of the sporty, dynamic Handling GT Evoluzione (HGTE) Package for the 599 GTB Fiorano and the world debut of the 599XX which is a technological laboratory aimed at a select group of clients. The latter new car incorporates the most advanced technologies resulting from Ferrari’s road-going and F1 research. Many of the technological solutions it carries are being used for the first time and have been developed exclusively for this special car.


The two new arrivals will be introduced to the international media by Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo on the opening day of the Show, March 3rd, at 10 am.


In addition to the 599 GTB Fiorano equipped with the Handling GTE package and finished in a new three-layer metallic Rosso, and the 599XX in a colour matching the F2008, Ferrari clients and enthusiasts will also be able to admire this single-seater that recently won the Prancing Horse its 16th Constructors’ World title. On the stand there

will also be the full range of Ferrari road cars: the Scuderia Spider 16M in a Grigio Titanio livery, the 430 Scuderia in Rosso Corsa and two Grand Tourer models, the Ferrari California in Nero Metallizzato with a Sabbia interior and the flagship 612 Scaglietti. The latter will be displayed in the Atelier, a dedicated area where owners can get a taste of the virtually endless personalisation options on offer to them.


**


While based on the 599 GTB Fiorano with the same transaxle layout and engine type, this prototype is an extreme track car. Ferrari’s engineers have carried out extensive work on the engine’s combustion chambers and inlet and exhaust tracts. These modifications, combined with the fact that internal attrition has been reduced and the maximum revs have been boosted to 9,000 rpm, helped achieve the target power output of 700 hp at 9,000 rpm. Particular attention was also paid to cutting the weight of the engine unit components. This was achieved both by optimising forms – as in the new crankshaft – and adopting exclusive materials, as in the carbon-fibre used for the intake plenums. A new gearbox shift strategy cuts overall gearchange times to 60 ms.


The 599XX is characterised by an innovative electronic concept called the “High Performance Dynamic Concept” which has been designed to get the maximum performance from the car by managing the combination of the car’s mechanical limits with the potential of its electronic controls. The mechanical and electronic systems work together to get the maximum performance from the car under extreme high performance driving, for consistent lap times. The sporty handling has been improved thanks to the adoption of second generation SCM suspension system. Track usage is also made easier thanks to the new “virtual car engineer”, a screen in the car that provides a real-time indication of the vehicle’s efficiency.


The 599XX’s aerodynamics were honed in numerous wind tunnel test sessions with the result that the car now boasts 280 kg of downforce at 200 km/h (630 kg at 300 km/h). The front underside of the body is completely faired-in and the vents that channel hot air from the engine bay have been moved to the bonnet.


The “ActiflowT” system increases downforce and/or cuts drag depending on the car’s trim cornering conditions, courtesy of the use of a porous material in the diffuser and two fans in the boot which channel the air flow from under the car out through two grilles next to the tail-lights. Winglets have been added to the rear buttresses to increase downforce. while synthetic jets have also been incorporated into the rear of the car to control and smooth the air flow and to reduce drag.


Ferrari’s engineers have also used F1-derived “doughnuts” which partly cover the brake discs and wheel rim. These have the dual function of improving both aerodynamics and brake cooling.


In terms of the bodywork, composites and carbon-fibre have been widely used and the engineers drew on their experience in working with aluminium to reach the weight target. The development of increasingly high-performance materials has also benefited the carbon-ceramic material braking system. The brake pads are now made from carbon-fibre which means that the calipers are smaller whilst guaranteeing the same efficiency. The new racing carbon ceramic braking system also delivers shorter braking distances and is generally more efficient due to the weight saving.


The 599XX comes with slick tyres (29/67 R19 Front and 31/71 R19 Rear) specifically developed to maximise stability in cornering and increase lateral acceleration. They are fitted to 19 x 11J wheel rims at the front and 19 x 12J at the rear.

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30th April 2009

VIDEO: Lamborghini Diablo Crash

Look at this hit from Youtube. As you can see, the Lamborghini Diablo driver attempts to make a flashy exit from the starting point and amuse the crowd by pushing the pedal to the metal as he turns into a side road only to lose control of the Diablo smashing it on a parked truck.

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29th April 2009

With Saturn Gone, GM Loses a Quarter of its Hybrid Sales



Saturn accounts for a quarter of GM’s hybrid sales, so when that brand goes away later this year, there go all those fuel-efficient vehicles the Obama administration wants to promote.



Vehicles like the Saturn Vue Hybrid and Aura Hybrid will be no more, and because Saturn sells the second most hybrids for GM (behind Chevrolet), they’ll have to be replaced with other fuel-efficient vehicles in order for GM to meet increased CAFE standards. In 2008, Saturn accounted for 3,205 of GM’s 11,454 hybrid vehicle sales, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.



The hit to GM’s CAFE average will be partially mitigated by the shuttering of Hummer and Pontiac, but sources told Automotive News that Saturn’s hybrid technology will still likely need to be used in cars from the remaining brands. That’s because hybrid versions of the Chevy Malibu and Silverado and the GMC Sierra Hybrid probably won’t cut it when it comes to CAFE, and the much-hyped Chevy Volt will make up only a negligible portion of the market when it’s released.



This likely means the introduction of new fuel-efficient models down the line, but how soon that happens will depend on how well GM can get its house in order.



When Saturn Goes, So Does a Quarter of GM’s Hybrid Sales (Automotive News)

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29th April 2009

Grim future for Holden as major export program axed

I a struggling to think of anywhere else in the universe where you will read so much uninformed, useless BS. If I wasn’t so used to it, I’d be staggered. It’s not worth responding to individual motes of stupidity, so I’ll just make a few points:
– Holden is far to entwined with GM to be easily untangled and still remain viable. e.g. V8 engines come from Mexico and all of Holden’s exports go under GM brand names. Holden also build GM engines that are sold all over the world. If GM sell Holden, they will need to license all kinds of technology and restructure a lot of deals to make it viable for a new owner.
– OTOH, Opel is largely self-contained, especially in the light of GM shedding Saturn. In fact, buying Saturn and Opel as a package deal could make great sense for someone like Fiat.
– Daewoo is part of GM, exactly as Holden is.
– Buick is not being killed off because it is highly profitable for GM, whereas Pontiac has been running at a loss for years. Whether Buick is propped up because of China, I’m not sure, but it apparently does well for GM.
– Ford are phasing out the Crown Victoria, probably the most ancient car still being sold anywhere in the world, and have no plans to replace it in their model line-up. They sell around 60,000 a year to police forces and the like in the US. A local company here has been working hard trying to sell a G8 police car over there, so with sales in the region of 60,000 units a year, I don’t think it would take much to convince GM of the value of a Chevrolet branded Commodore. I imagine seeing your cars being used by police is seen as good for the brand image too, and GM don’t have anything else that could fill that role.
– The fact that 80% of Commodore sales are to fleets is largely irrelevant, beyond accounting for the low-tech drivetrain of the Omega. I am sure the margin is still worthwhile and the fact that so many people have a company Commodore in the driveway must hurt their private sales. i.e. Not too many families need two Commodores. Take away fleet sales and it is likely private sales would increase dramatically.
– Toyota have said several times that if any one local manufacturer goes, the others will become non-viable, so if Holden goes, so do Ford, Toyota and 200,000 jobs. That is not an insignificant percentage of the workforce and it would have a huge impact on the Australian economy. So it cannot be allowed to happen.
– The situation is similar in the US – if GM goes under, 2 million people will lose their jobs, directly and indirectly, and bring the whole US economy down. For that reason alone, the US government will ensure that GM makes it through this crisis in a recognisable form, with as many jobs intact as humanly possible. At the same time, they will not relent until they have gained significant concessions from the unions who have contributed in no small way to this situation.

The bottom line is that GM and Holden need each other, they are too closely entwined to be split and remain viable. At the same time, both are important to the health of each country’s economy, so their respective governments really have no choice but to keep them afloat. Makes a good story though, doesn’t it?

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