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31st August 2009

Ex-Toyota Lawyer Accuses Automaker of Destroying Rollover Evidence

According to CBS News, an ex-lawyer for Toyota of North America has filed a racketeering suit against his former employer. ToMoCo’s former managing counsel Dimitrios P. Biller accused the automaker of illegally withholding evidence in hundreds of rollover death and injury cases, in a “ruthless conspiracy” to suppress evidence of its vehicles “structural shortcomings.” Further, “Biller’s 75-page complaint [download pdf here] says that when he came to Toyota after nearly 15 years in private practice, he was ’surprised and alarmed’ to discover that the company was not producing e-mails and other electronically stored information to plaintiffs as he said was required. According to the lawsuit, Biller repeatedly complained to supervisors that the company was illegally withholding evidence. The lawsuit further states that the resulting conflicts ultimately caused Biller to suffer a mental breakdown and led to his forced resignation in September 2007. He left with a $3.7 million severance agreement, court records show.” [thanks to Dennis for the link]

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31st August 2009

Québec & Nova Scotia Drivers: BEWARE

On April 1st, 2008 significant modifications to road safety regulations in the Canadian provinces of Québec and Nova Scotia went into effect. CTV.ca reports that handheld cellular phones are now verboten while at the wheel, though hands free devices are still tolerated. Nova Scotia will begin ticketing the offense immediately, while Québec has allowed for a three-month grace periods in which offenders will only receive stern warnings and moralizing sermons. The first offense in Nova Scotia will cost $165, while costing $80-$110 and three demerit points in Québec. Still not satisfied, road safety advocate Jean-Marie de Koeninck argues that “[h]ands-free is just as dangerous. (But) by forbidding the hand-held it does send a signal that there is a problem with the cellphone, there’s a problem with concentration”. Meanwhile, the same traffic safety bill in Québec also doubled all speeding fines , with new suspension of license provisions for those caught traveling at 40 km/h over the limit in under-60 zones, 50 km/h in 60-90 over zones, and 60 km/h over in 100+ zones. All in the name of safety, presumably.

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31st August 2009

UK retail gloom lifting?

UK retail gloom lifting?


25th August 2009 15:56

Interesting to hear the other day about the testing times in the UK retail sector when Pendragon’s latest results came out. Golding’s analysis suggests that the grand design has been traded in for simple survival, with the axe taken to the cost base. The share price trend for Pendragon – below chart – shows that sentiment has perked up a bit lately.

At least the gloom has been lifted a little by the UK car scrappage scheme and higher margins on used cars. Will more money be found for the scrappage scheme (in danger of running out of funds by November) from UK Gov’s coffers? I’d be surprised if not. We can’t afford it but it’s probably a case of ‘what the hell’.

GOLDING’S TAKE: The bigger car retailers are, the harder they fall



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31st August 2009

24 Hours of LeMons Recap–the Fiat X1/9 Perspective

I have a checkered past with the Fiat X1/9–as checkered, in fact, as is possible with a relationship that is limited to lusting and blogging. You see, I wrote a post about the X1/9 back in 2007 in which I detailed both the high points of the car (its gorgeous designer looks and nimble handling) and the low points (slow straight-line performance and dubious durability reputation).

In July of last year, the fine folks at Xweb, an online X1/9 community, stumbled across that post. They quickly registered the criticisms I made of their beloved Italian wedge and expressed a range of emotions ranging between bemusement and righteous indignation. I was startled by the response and headed over to Xweb to try to clear things up. My explanatory post was fairly well-received by most Xwebians, with one exception–Bernice, who described herself as “the lioness that ends up biting you on what you wrote about the X1/9.” Bernice, quite simply, brought the pain.

Well, as it turns out, Bernice and some other X1/9 fanatics entered a X1/9 in this year’s 24 Hours of LeMons–a hilarious and surprisingly intense 24-hour endurance race contested by beaters worth $500 or less. In short, just like the similarly named Concours d’LeMons, a Car Lust-type of event. If you’re still doubtful of the weirdness quotient present here, consider that this race was won by a 1984 Volvo 244.

Bernice and her fellow X1/9 fans entered under the name Italian Stallions Racing, and they dubbed their X1/9 The Flyin’ Spaghetti Monster. In an attempt to bury the hatchet with this fine protectoress of origami Italian sports cars, I present to you a recap of the 24 Hours of LeMons, as told by Bernice. For more comprehensive coverage of the 24 Hours of LeMons, check out Jalopnik or any of the sources here at the official site.




Bernice:




Last weekend we ran our Bertone/Fiat X1/9 at the 24 Hours of LeMons at Buttonwillow Raceway. We finished trouble-free and running
well. Two hours in we were in third overall and contending for the lead, but as the race went on the more powerful cars (like the V-8-powered Volvo) got us.
The end of the race was exciting; on the last lap the leading Acura Integra was fighting off the Volvo and rolled the car. The driver is OK, but the car fared less well–video at the end of the post.

We finished 16th overall, first in class L3, tied with the class L2 leader. We were 15th overall, one of four cars tied at 244 laps completed.We got a trophy for our class win and one from Grassroots Motorspots, “Most From The Least.”

It was hot during the day, about 100 degrees. This caused many cars to die from overheating, blown head gaskets,
flying con rods, exploding hoses, leaking water pumps, electrical problems,
and fried brakes. One BMW’s brakes ran so hot, the pad backing fused itself on to
the rotor and piston. Many teams were working hard to put their cars
back together all event long.


All of our drivers (Chris, Pel and Mike) had cool shirts which helped a lot during
their 1.5-2 hour driving stints. Our X kept its cool well enough, under
a constant load of 6,000 to 8,200 RPM hour after hour.

Here are our class win and “Most from the Least” trophies.



Our Team, left to right–Mike, Pel,
Bernice, Chris, and Jen. The car is the #69, Flyin’ Spaghetti Monster, a 1980 Bertone/Fiat X1/9.


Here’s Chris in the car.

Here’s Chris, Pel, and me–Pel is in the car.

 

Chris: Here’s the final finishing order–the team names and car list are entertaining, so it’s worth clicking to expand the picture.

The first two photos here came from Flickr user karamia29. The rest are from Bernice.

Bernice: Here’s the video–the first video is of the flip on the last lap. The second is some in-car video from team “Formula BMW 325e.” Their driver, Rahul, tried to get past our X with Pel driving. The BMW has 2.5 liters of engine versus the Fiat’s 1.5 liters.Both cars and drivers are very well matched.. Rahul finally got by after Pel got caught in a dust cloud caused by another car going off course.




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30th August 2009

Criticism Forces Ferrari’s Badoer To Ignore Newspapers Ahead of Belgian Grand Prix

Criticism Forces Ferrari’s Badoer To Ignore Newspapers Ahead of Belgian Grand Prix

Date posted: 2009-08-28 15:35:00.0

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SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — All eyes will be on Ferrari’s Luca Badoer at this weekend’s Belgium Grand Prix, to see if he can take the sting out of last weekend’s humiliating performance at the European Grand Prix. Badoer replaced Felipe Massa, who sustained life-threatening injuries in a crash during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Badoer said in a statement issued by Ferrari on Thursday that he has not “read the newspapers, because I imagined I would come in for criticism after the first race. I was aware of it because the Ferrari Press Office kept me informed.” So he presumably knew that racing writer Ian Parkes said: “To describe his three days behind the wheel of one of the fastest cars on the planet as an embarrassment would be an injustice as the 38-year-old’s performance epitomized the first three letters of his surname.”

Badoer, whose brief Formula 1 career began in 1993 with little-known Scuderia Italia and ended in 1996 with the ill-starred Forti Corse, was the last of 17 finishers at the European Grand Prix, which Parkes noted “stretched his ignominious F1 record to 49 starts without a point.”

For his part, Badoer’s statement said, “I found it hard to understand all the criticism I came in for.”

He added: “Valencia was very difficult for me. It combined the three worse things together: It was a new track for me; it was a street circuit, with walls just centimeters away; and I hadn’t driven the car for 10 months or even raced for 10 years.” But going into the Belgian Grand Prix, Badoer says: “I now know the car, which should also be a help.”

The overriding question is whether Badoer, who formerly was a Ferrari test driver, will be able to hold onto the second Ferrari seat for the rest of the campaign or whether he will be ditched by Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo. It appears unlikely that Massa will return anytime soon. He was due to be in Miami on Friday for further medical tests.

Inside Line says: As they say, it is hard to take your eyes off a train wreck. — Anita Lienert, Correspondent

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30th August 2009

2010 Saab 9-5 at 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show

Competes with: Acura TL, Cadillac CTS, Volvo S80
Looks like: The 9-3’s wealthier – and more rotund – uncle
Drivetrain: 300-hp, turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 and likely a less powerful turbocharged base engine; front- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Late 2010

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