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31st March 2010

Lifestyles & Trends: MotherProof.com Covers the New York Auto Show

While we’re curious to see the redesigned 2011 BMW 5 Series, we’re most looking forward to seeing:

• 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman: It was love at first sight when we saw the first photos of this crossover . The Countryman doubles the cargo space of the Mini Cooper. It has a roomier backseat and is available with all-wheel drive.

• 2011 Volkswagen Touareg: This SUV will sport a new look featuring aggressive styling after undergoing its most significant redesign. VW also will introduce a Touareg hybrid that’s capable of 29 mpg, according to the automaker. 

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31st March 2010

Chrysler Gets Down With The Dealers

Chrysler’s awkward, year-long fandango with unwanted dealers is poignantly encapsulated in a strange little anecdote hidden in the back of today’s Automotive News [sub]. Headlined, “Rejected-store worker’s chat with Sergio was just smoke,” the piece told of a chance encounter several weeks ago between Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and culled dealer Jim Casper, while enjoying a smoke at a seafood restaurant bar.

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31st March 2010

How To Make Hundreds Of Millions Without Even Trying

Last week, we shared with you an ingenious method of the U.S. Department of Justice to contribute to the deficit-afflicted holdings of the U.S. Treasury. The method involves shaking down foreign companies who grease the wheels to get deals in even more foreign lands. Or who even think about greasing the wheels. Caught between European laws and U.S. laws, these companies pay and promise to sin no more.

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31st March 2010

Manufacturing Troubles Remain a Drag on Recovery, Trade & Jobs

via The Seattle Times

by Jon Talton

Top of the News: The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index seems consistent with recovery, coming in at 53.6 for November; any number above 50 signifies expansion in the sector. Unfortunately, the reading sagged from 55.7 the month before, tripping up what economists had hoped would be a steady climb out of recession.

A deeper look shows that the index provides no relief for the biggest immediate problem facing Americans, unemployment. Only six of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in employment. Only 11.7 million Americans worked manufacturing as of October. That compares with 17.3 million in October 1999.

Not only do manufacturing jobs pay better than their counterparts in service industries, they tend to add real value to economic activity (as opposed to selling mortgage swindles). They are also twined with our trade issues. Even fewer manufacturing jobs are now in industries that export, a key part of our huge manufacturing trade deficit.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon was happening even before the Great Recession. A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that manufacturing employment between 1965 and 2000 never dipped below 16.5 million. This even as manufacturing shrank as a share of the economy (take out Boeing and it would be much smaller). This changed as imports surged after China joined the WTO and other Asian factory centers upped their game. By 2004, the number was lower than any time since 1950.

“It is often claimed that declines in manufacturing employment stem entirely from productivity growth,” according to EPI economist L. Josh Bivens. “However, rapid productivity growth is the norm, not the exception, in manufacturing. What is new about the manufacturing job crisis of the last four years is the sharp downturn in the ratio of domestic production to demand.”

Indeed, American steelmakers are shrinking yet again.

The Back Story: The official unemployment rate including discouraged workers and part-timers seeking full-time work is 17.5 percent. But Shadow Government Statistics, a provocative and reliable site, argues even this underestimates the problem. Try…22 percent.

Complete Article

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30th March 2010

Our Cars–VAZ 2101 (Lada)

Submitted by Kaloyan Ivanov

(Chris: Kaloyan is a new co-worker of mine on the Amazon Auto Parts & Accessories team; he originally hails from Bulgaria and as a result has a slightly different perspective on Car Lust.)

Car Lust has featured quite a few Bond cars, and technically the VAZ 2101 is one, since it appeared in The Living Daylights and Goldeneye. But really, I’d call it From Russia With Love. It would have been a big change of pace for James Bond, but as a child coming of age in Eastern Europe, this vehicle was a ubiquitous part of my childhood. As with many Europeans living on the other side of the Iron Curtain during the 1970s and the 1980s, the VAZ (known as the Lada when exported) conjures up memories of my youth.

The Lada was first introduced on Sept. 7, 1970 as the VAZ 2101–or, as many Russians know it, the Jiguli. Based on the 1966 Fiat 124, the VAZ 2101 had a 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder, 62-horsepower engine, a 4-speed manual transmission, and a weight of just more than 2,000 pounds.
It was an iconic car that practically flooded the Eastern European market. Once the Soviet auto manufacturer understood this vehicle’s popularity, it subsequently developed several new models.

In Bulgaria, the country of my birth, my father purchased the first model sometime in the early 1970s. Due to the high demand of this immensely beloved vehicle, would-be owners were placed on wait lists that spanned several years (usually about 5-7 years). My father was willing and fortunate to wait a mere five years for his number to be called; he still passionately recounts receiving the notification and going down to the dealership to make his claim.

As the popularity of the vehicle grew, so too did the demand for it. My father, disenchanted by the long waits, placed me on the wait list as soon as I was born, with the hope that my number would be called by the time I was 18. However, that wasn’t meant to be. The fall of the communist regime brought about new rules for the open market– as long as you could afford it, you could have your new vehicle that day!

It didn’t take long for the car to become a prominent member of our family. Our Jiguli was handled as delicately as a newborn baby. She was named Maria and was almost treated better than a live family member. My father washed her daily and detailed her monthly. No food or drinks were allowed in the car, and we had special seat covers to protect the upholstery for life.

Almost every summer we would take Maria on a two-day, 700-mile journey from Bulgaria to visit my grandmother in the U.S.S.R. Essentially, my sister and I would live in the backseat for two days on the road; it would almost seem like we never left home. This was before DVDs, CDs, video games and iPods; we had no form of entertainment, save for my sister singing non-stop, and simply reveled in the beauty of the ride. It was a memorable time, and VAZ has definitely shaped many of these memories. I got my license after learning to drive that car, and it was with Maria that I first hit 100 km/h (62 mph). In 2005, my father decided to sell our beloved car after almost 30 years in the family.

For some, the Jiguli was just an automobile; for me and maybe for some Car Lust readers, it was an experience to remember.
The VAZ 2101 was discontinued in 1984, to be replaced by more modern models; in 2004 the manufacturer, AutoVAZ, produced its 22-millionth vehicle, Lada 110 model.

Well, Mr. Bond, the VAZ 2101 isn’t exactly an Aston Martin DB5, but in its own way it had its character too.

The first photo is from OldRussianCars.com, the second is from AmericanDreamCars.com, and the third image is a screenshot from The Bourne Identity, courtesy of IMCDB, the Internet Movie Cars Database.

–Kaloyan Ivanov

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30th March 2010

2011 Nissan Leaf: Pricing, Purchase Options Released

Just the Facts:

  • Nissan released full details on pricing and equipment options for its 2011 Leaf.
  • With a pre-tax credit MSRP of $32,780, the Leaf will be available for purchase or lease.
  • Leasing a Leaf will require a $1,999 down payment, and cost $349 per month.

FRANKLIN, Tennessee — Nissan released full details today on pricing and equipment options for its 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car. Available as a traditional purchase or three-year lease, the Leaf will be priced at $32,780 without delivery fees, which have not yet been announced.

But the Leaf’s starting MSRP is before the federal tax credit, which could bring the price down $7,500, to $25,280. Plus, certain states are eligible for additional credits. Of course, buyers will need to consider the cost of installing a home charging dock, which Nissan estimates will cost $2,200 before a 50-percent tax credit.

Leasing a 2011 Leaf will require a $1,999 down payment, plus $349 per month, prior to the cost of the charging dock. As the lessor and therefore actual owner of the Leaf, Nissan receives the applicable tax credits, factoring the savings into the customer’s monthly payments.

Available in two trim levels, standard SV and uplevel SL, all Leaf SVs will come with navigation, remote start and remote charging operated through a smart phone app or laptop computer, LED headlamps, Bluetooth, Intelligent Key, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, six airbags, XM Satellite Radio and 3 years roadside assistance.

For an additional $940, the SL trim adds a rearview camera, solar panel spoiler which provides a trickle charge, cargo cover, auto headlamps and foglights.

Nissan says more than 80,000 “hand-raisers” have already registered on the Leaf’s dedicated Web site to show interest in the electric car. On April 20, all registrees will have three weeks to make a purchase reservation for a refundable $99 fee. On May 15, Nissan will open up the purchase reservation process to the general public.

Confirmed buyers will eventually be able to place official orders through the Nissan dealer of their choice, provided the dealer has already completed the mandatory Leaf certification process, which is open to the entire Nissan dealer network.

Leafs are expected to begin arriving in dealerships in December. Nissan says it currently has a global capacity to build 50,000 units for the first two years, with plans to increase production substantially in 2013.

Inside Line says: Buy or lease: Nissan plots out a Leaf purchase program to appeal to the masses, even if the idea of an electric car may not. — Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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