31st August 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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31st August 2010

Aug. 30 Weekly Open Thread

As always, this is the place for random conversation that doesn’t really belong anywhere else.

This weekend I had the opportunity to drive a rental Chevy Cobalt and was surprised by how competent it was. It certainly wasn’t anything special, but it drove home the point that there really isn’t such a thing as a bad car nowadays. My favorite rentals have probably been either the new Ford Fusion I drove around Las Vegas last year–it was shockingly good–or the zippy little Mitsubishi Mirage I mercilessly thrashed around Memphis about a decade ago.

Do you have any interesting rental-car experiences you’d like to share? What’s your favorite rental car?

–Chris H.

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31st August 2010

Vote For Your Favorite Subaru Repair Shop Here

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We are competing for the best repair shop again this year, your vote would be greatly appeciated


Justin & the Crew

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31st August 2010

Nissan Ellure Concept, Murano CrossCabriolet Bound for 2010 L.A. Auto Show

Just the Facts:

  • Nissan will call its four-passenger convertible the Murano CrossCabriolet.
  • Murano CrossCabriolet will join a sedan concept on the stand at the L.A. show.
  • New Quest and production Leaf will also debut in L.A.

LOS ANGELES ‚ÄĒ Nissan has some major firepower planned for the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show, confirming that it will debut the Nissan Ellure concept and the Murano CrossCabriolet, as well as providing a first look at the production version of the 2011 Nissan Leaf.

The Murano CrossCabriolet will go on sale in early 2011, said Nissan in a statement.

The CrossCabriolet is the name of the four-passenger Murano convertible. Nissan is calling it the “world’s first all-wheel-drive crossover convertible.” Details such as pricing are not yet available.

Nissan says the Ellure concept is its “new-value sedan exploration.” It said the concept is designed to add “passion and emotion to traditional sedan efficiency.”

The redesigned Nissan Quest makes it world debut at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show and will go on sale in early 2011.

Inside Line says: Nissan will be a major player at the upcoming L.A. show. ‚ÄĒ Anita Lienert, Correspondent

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31st August 2010

Lexus IS Convertible

Media Source: Toyota USA Newsroom

‚ÄĘ Convertible Top Provides Sunshine or Shelter in Less Than 21 Seconds

‚ÄĘ Noise, Vibration, Harness Characteristics Expected of a Sedan in Hardtop Convertible

‚ÄĘ Available F Sport Performance Accessories

The Lexus IS 250C and IS 350C seamlessly blend the expressive stylishness of a hardtop convertible with the quietness and comfort of a coupe. After its introduction in 2010, the IS convertible continues to please driving enthusiasts with an exceptional ride and receives interior and exterior updates for 2011.

For improved efficiency, the optional High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps are now packaged with new LED daytime running lamps. Deep Sea Mica enriches the IS convertible exterior color palette as it replaces Ultrasonic Blue.

Inside, the IS convertible receives black metallic and silver finished trim to complement its sophisticated and sporty style. Vehicles with the optional Luxury package can now be equipped with Saddle Tan or Light Gray interior selections in addition to Black.


The IS convertible models feature the same powertrains as the IS sedans. The IS 350C’s 3.5-liter V6 delivers exhilarating performance with outstanding 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm along with 277 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. The IS 250C’s 2.5-liter V6 engine has a great combination of fuel efficiency and performance. The IS 250C‚Äôs V6 produces 204 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 185 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,800 rpm. Both engines utilize aluminum cylinder blocks and heads, while employing dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which controls timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts.

A direct-type fuel-injection system provides a cooling effect in the cylinders, enabling the high compression needed to extract maximum energy from the fuel. Aside from its larger displacement, the 3.5-liter V6 differs chiefly in that it augments the direct fuel injection with port fuel injectors. In light- and medium-load conditions, these additional injectors help produce a precise burn, increasing power and efficiency, while reducing emissions. A dual exhaust system reduces backpressure at higher engine speeds. Both the IS 250C and IS 350C meet the Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle II (ULEV II) certification.

An advanced six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is standard on the IS 350C. The IS 250C comes with either a six-speed manual transmission or the paddle-shift, six-speed automatic transmission.


The convertible’s three-piece hardtop provides open-air freedom with the top down through the operation of a convenient single switch. Constructed primarily of lightweight aluminum, the hardtop also provides surprising storage space but with low noise and increased security not typically found in soft-top convertibles. In addition, the top completely retracts with no elements remaining in view.

The four-link roof assembly, also made of aluminum for a lightweight design, provides smooth even movement. Engineered to operate in an easy, efficient manner, each component is motor driven with detection switches, allowing the control unit to know their exact position at all times. In addition to the two main roof panels being constructed of light-weight aluminum, the back window’s reinforced glass construction also lends itself to reduced weight. Weather-strip changes in areas around the doors and windows ensure tight seals.

A roof-speed brake-control system decreases the roof speed especially as it approaches the end of the closing operation in either direction, ensuring an elegant and quiet movement. On models equipped with available Intuitive Park Assist (IPA), sonar sensors in the rear bumper will stop the movement of the luggage door at the start of operation if it detects an obstacle will interfere. Also, a visual warning will appear on the instrument panel if a detected obstacle may soon interfere with top operation.

When the IS convertible’s top is opened or closed, the power windows will automatically lower if in the closed position, and raise back up when the operating switch is held. Also, when the top is up, the door windows automatically lower 15 mm when the door opens, and then raise back into a fully closed position when the door closes. This ensures the doors’ clean open/close function while also maintaining a tight seal around the glass. The aluminum hardtop features an automatic front lock assembly that provides the interior security not found in soft-top convertibles. When the top is stowed in the down position in the rear of the IS convertible, the lock assembly is engaged to keep the panel in a fixed, stable position.

The IS convertible’s body structure has excellent rigidity and strength, achieved by effective structural changes and additions to the existing IS sedan platform. Areas that received modifications or additions include the rocker area; A and B pillar under structure; side collision crossmember, and upper and rear-floor crossmembers. In addition, underfloor braces were added both in the front and the rear. Additional bracing was implemented to help provide excellent handling control, ride comfort and body durability while also minimizing weight gain.

The transformation to a convertible also required reevaluation of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics in order to meet Lexus standards. All body and chassis revisions went through extensive testing to ensure that the IS 250C and IS 350C have nearly identical NVH characteristics as the IS sedans. High-rigidity damping materials and asphalt sheets were added to help minimize vibration effects. Redesigned rear-suspension-mount bushings help reduce noise and vibration associated with the changes in body characteristics from a sedan to a convertible. Additional sound absorption and insulation materials were optimally positioned to create a quiet, comfortable cabin.

The IS convertible features two wheels unique from the IS sedan line up. Standard 17-inch wheels utilize two multi-layered five-spoke patterns for a contemporary 10-spoke design with a clean liquid-graphite finish. Optional 18-inch wheels have an athletic five-spoke design with asymmetrical changes in shape and a liquid-graphite finish. Both feature the tire pressure monitor system found on the sedan models. In addition to standard all-season tires, an optional 18-inch wheel with run-flat tire is available without a spare, adding to the available luggage space.

The IS 250C and IS 350C provide a consistent blend of driving performance and comfort in either convertible or coupe configuration. They share common double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension systems with the IS sport sedan models.

Engineers tuned and optimized specific features for the convertible including the double-wishbone front suspension for handling control and ride comfort; the torsional rigidity of the suspension bushings, the spring constant on the coil springs, and the shock absorber damping force; the stabilizer shape and the Electric Power Steering (EPS) gear ratio for control; the suspension bushings, coil springs and shock-damping force of the multi-link rear suspension; and a lowered rear-suspension tower with enhanced rigidity to help provide rear control, linear yaw response and improved trunk space.

Standard Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System (VDIM) governs all of the vehicle‚Äôs dynamic handling systems ‚Äď the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) ‚Äď employing them collectively and seamlessly to make corrections while helping provide higher dynamic capability. VDIM also interfaces with the electronic throttle control system. The IS convertible features large, ventilated four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and BA. The IS 350C is equipped with 13.15-inch front and 12.20-inch rear rotors with aluminum four-piston front calipers to aid in heat dissipation and stopping power and reduce unsprung weight. The IS 250C has 11.65-inch front and 12.20-inch rear rotors.

Lexus Safety and Security

Passive-safety technology begins with a number of body-structure changes integrated in the IS 250C and IS 350C to help augment strength and torsional rigidity. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters are used for the front seats, while the rear seats adopt emergency locking retractor seatbelts with an automatic locking retractor.

In addition to the dual-front airbags, the Lexus Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) for the IS convertible includes front-seat-mounted head and torso side airbags, and knee airbags for both the driver and the front passenger. The front-passenger airbag features two chambers, creating an indentation in the center impact area that helps to provide overall occupant protection.


The IS convertible emphasizes easy access and rear-seat comfort. In addition to front doors that are 11.8 inches longer than the IS sedans, two convenient fold-forward lock-release levers are standard on both sides of the front passenger seats, making it easier to operate from any location inside the vehicle. The passenger seat features a power slide button on the top of the seatback to ease rear seat ingress/egress. An available automatic one-touch, easy-entry power-seat mechanism provides even easier egress and ingress through quick-acting, front-seat fold-and-slide activation. The two passenger doors also have three open-stopping positions (rather than the normal two) to add convenience in various parking situations. The IS convertible also is equipped with a standard power tilt and telescoping steering column to help the driver quickly get into a comfortable position.

The IS convertible’s air conditioning system automatically adjusts for the outside temperature when the top is lowered, improving interior temperature consistency and comfort. The system adjusts the air outlets, temperature and air flow exiting the outlets. The airflow volume adjusts to outside temperature and vehicle speed, while the temperature control adjusts to outside temperature, amount of sunlight and vehicle speed. The system also includes a pollen filter and variable-control compressor.

The standard SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button-start/stop allows the driver to keep the access key fob in a pocket or purse. The standard HomeLink¬ģ programmable garage door opener also operates home security devices and other systems.

Standard Hill-start Assist Control helps prevent the vehicle, whether equipped with an automatic or manual transmission, from moving backward when the driver moves their foot from brake pedal to the accelerator.

The standard Lexus Premium Audio System features a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, eight speakers, integrated XM Radio receiver (complimentary 90-day trial subscription included), Bluetooth¬ģ hands free phone capability and music streaming, and USB/iPod¬ģ connectivity. An equalizer system maintains the same acoustic field when the top is either open or closed, compensating for the natural loss of bass sounds when open. When connected to the USB port, the iPod can be controlled through the audio system or steering wheel controls, while information such as names for the artist, track and album is displayed on the headunit or navigation screen.

Luxury Options

Lexus’ Hard-Disk Drive (HDD) navigation system is available on the IS convertible and is complete with a seven-inch VGA touch-screen, and back-up camera. The navigation system also includes Voice Command casual-language voice recognition system. With Voice Command users avoid having to speak commands in a specific order. The Voice Command system also works to control many functions of the audio system, heating and air conditioning, and the navigation system.

Like all Lexus models, the IS convertible offers a Mark Levinson¬ģ Premium Surround Sound Audio system which is available in conjunction with the optional navigation system. This 12-speaker audio system features discrete 5.1 multi-channel playback with 5.1-channel speaker architecture. Its nine amplifier channels provide 270 watts total output at 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion (THD). From 20-20,000Hz, the Mark Levinson system plays conventional CDs and specially encoded DVD audio and DVD video discs, plus MP3/WMA-formatted CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW. DVD movies can be viewed on the optional navigation system’s color touch screen when the parking brake is engaged.

The optional Intuitive Park Assist (IPA) system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects close to the car’s front and rear bumpers, alerting the driver and showing distance to objects in the multi-information display within the speedometer. When equipped with the optional navigation system, information on objects detected in the rear are shown in greater detail on that system’s display via the backup camera.

The optional Pre-Collision System (PCS) is packaged with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and help maintain a set distance from a vehicle traveling ahead. PCS relies on the radar sensor to detect obstacles in front of the car, and a PCS computer with sensor inputs from vehicle speed, steering angle and yaw rate is designed to determine whether a collision is unavoidable. In such a situation, PCS alerts the driver via sound and visual warnings while preemptively retracting front seat belts and pre-initializing BA so that increased braking will be applied the instant the driver depresses the pedal.

The IS convertible also offers a telematics system, Lexus Enform¬ģ with Safety Connect¬ģ, available by subscription. Safety Connect¬ģ is standard on all vehicles while Lexus Enform with Safety Connect is on all vehicles equipped with the optional Navigation system. Complimentary one-year trial subscriptions are included on all purchases of new Lexus vehicles equipped with these features. The Lexus Enform and the Safety Connect response centers operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week‚ÄĒevery day of the year.

Lexus Enform vehicles are factory ready for subscriptions to a variety of innovative XM services including XM NavTraffic¬ģ, XM NavWeather‚ĄĘ and XM Sports and Stocks services. XM services require separate XM subscriptions. The XM Sports and Stocks service is included with an XM Radio subscription. All XM services offer complimentary 90-day trial subscriptions.

F Sport Performance Accessories Available for IS Convertible
The IS convertible F Sport Performance Accessories include performance enhancing parts such as 19-inch forged alloy wheels, brake upgrades, suspension systems, air intake, exhaust systems and more.

F Sport Performance Accessories by Lexus U.S.A. are engineered by Toyota Racing Development (TRD). When installed by an authorized dealer, the accessories are fully warranted for 12 months or for the balance of the new car warranty, whichever is greater.

Exterior Design

The IS 250C and IS 350C’s exterior design has its lineage in the IS sedan but possesses its own dynamic styling, including unique characteristics when interchanging between convertible and coupe configurations. With the exception of the hood, all other body panels have been specifically designed to blend seamlessly with the three-panel folding roof.

The convex shoulder lines distinguish the convertible’s profile, while the top-up configuration provides a sweeping cabin silhouette. With the top down, the belt-line draws up around the rear deck lid, providing a muscular look.

In the front, hood lines flow into a unique chrome grille shape, then continue down into an air inlet before flowing outward past the more distinctive elliptical fog lamp design.

The rear view features a clean, continuous design, with flowing bumper corners and a strong bumper shape that flows inward towards the exhaust. The combination taillamp clusters feature LED lights and two distinct horizontal lines that emphasize breadth, while the LED brake light integrated within the standard rear spoiler imparts a sporty impression.

The IS convertible has a best-in-class 0.29 drag coefficient (Cd). This is accomplished with the help of underbody covers below the engine (with aerodynamic steps), the full floor, and fuel-tank covers, as well as a rear-floor diffuser with vertical fin and airfoil. Other areas that contribute to the low Cd include the design shape of the outer mirrors, high-mount stop lamps, and the rear taillamps. Fender fairings before the front and rear tires reduce airflow into the wheel house, improving aero characteristics and reducing air turbulence.

Interior Design

The IS convertible interior maintains the luxury touch points associated with the IS sport sedans, while additional comfort and entertainment features provide a consistent atmosphere regardless of top configuration. Special attention was given to providing an attractive interior design when viewing the convertible externally. The door and side trim is fashioned to create continuity and continuous flow from front to back.

A four-seat configuration provides each passenger with their own comfort space, and the rear-seat console enhances the rear-passenger amenities with cup holders and storage. Soft padding on the sides of the console and the outer trim areas improve comfort. The rear headrests are retractable for improved visibility and the lever located on the front of the rear console can easily be accessed from the driver’s seat. Rear-seat comfort is enhanced by shifting seat position inboard, providing for sizeable headroom.

Ten-way adjustable power front seats, including power lumbar support are standard, and the available heated/ventilated function has a heating range that includes the shoulder areas and increases airflow in ventilation function. Front-seat backs are scaled inward, and slim, leather-trimmed seat-back pockets help to maximize rear-seat legroom.

The gauge cluster is similar to that of the IS sedan, but there are some additions on the IS convertible for style and function. The convertible features a high-contrast multi-information LCD and decreased surface-glass transmittance for enhance visibility when the top is down. The multi-information display includes status of the hardtop while in transformation, providing a bar graph showing its progress. It also shows a warning to inform the driver if the roof is not completely open/closed, a rear obstacle may impede proper open/close operation, or the open/close function is not available while the vehicle is in motion. Metallic trim around the two main gauges contribute to a premium look.

The interior adopts recycled materials in 13 various areas including door and side trim.

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30th August 2010

2011 Buick Regal at IIHS

The 2011 Buick Regal has been examined by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the results have netted ‚ÄúGood‚ÄĚ ratings for front, side, rear and rollover impact protection.

The 2011 Buick Regal is the seventh vehicle from General Motors to earn a Top Safety Pick award, which includes the aforementioned rollover test where the Regal excelled. Buick’s Euro-born sedan (known as Opel Insignia in Europe) was able to withstand almost five-times its weight Рup from the federally-mandated standard of 1.5 times.

The Regal joins its Buick sibling, the LaCrosse, along with the 2011 BMW 5 Series, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis, Toyota Avalon and Volvo S80 as a Top Safety Pick in the large car segment.

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