Monday, June 2, 2008

Toyota denies decision has been made to build Prius in U.S. at joint GM plant

Responding to a Tokyo Shimbun
story that said discussions with GM were underway, Toyota says that no
decision has been made about potentially building the Prius at New
United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), the joint Toyota-GM plant in
California. The APToyota will build two new hybrid battery plants (and expand a third) in Japan for increased hybrid vehicle production. If the Shimbun
story is true, then major components (like those batteries) would be
shipped to NUMMI for final assembly. Something tells me we'll hear more
about this in the future.

reports that Toyota is stepping back from the rumor that the Prius
could be built in North America for the first time. The Prius is
currently made in Japan and China. Officially, Toyota's statement said,
"We are always considering the best places for production, but nothing
has been decided about producing the Prius at NUMMI." We do know that

Belgium: Dodge wants you to steam up the windows in the Journey

we read the tip from reader Thijs B. telling us that in Belgium, Dodge
is planning a Journey launch promo centered around backseat
baby-making, we thought it was a big joke. So we started using our
Google powers to see what else we could dig up. And guess what? It's

If you go to, you'll be greeted by the screen above, which features a play on those annoying "Baby On Board" window signs that were ubiquitous during the 80s.
It's paired with a countdown timer that will zero out on the weekend of
June 14, which is when the Dodge Journey officially launches in
Belgium. A quick WHOIS lookup on reveals that the site's domain name is registered to someone at the Brussels office of Proximity BBDO, a BBDO partner. BBDO is Chrysler's ad agency.

More Googling led us to a Dodge press release
posted on a Belgian media portal. The car is being targeted toward men,
and its launch slogan roughly translates to "Become a father, stay a
man." According to the PR, Dodge suggests that "everyone try out the
back seat of the Dodge Journey in a little unorthodox manner."
Well, that's one way of getting folks to look past Chrysler's
lamentable interiors. People whose "backseat trial" is successful and
subsequently produce a newborn child 9 months after the car's launch
weekend have a chance to win themselves a new Dodge Journey, and the
baby's picture will be posted to the website.

We don't think that Dodge really wants
people taking special test drives out of Belgian dealerships for the
purpose of steaming up the windows the old fashioned way (we can
imagine porters quitting en masse on June 13th if this were the case).
This particular assignment can probably be completed at home, too. To
help encourage people to take action, however, all Journey floor models
will have those "Baby Made on Board" signs in their windows. If you're
in Belgium, are planning a family, and are in the market for a new car,
you might want to (ahem) get to work on or around June 14. Maybe
earlier. After all, a little practice never hurts. Thanks for the tip, Thijs!

Strong sales not enough to save Nissan jobs


This seems to be the trend as of late and Nissan Canada is joining the club. The Japanese automaker recently announced that it has cut close to 10 percent of its employees despite record-setting sales performance.

Nissan Canada’s head office, located in Mississauga, is filled with a modest number of employees and roughly 25 of those people have taken buyout packages, reducing office staff to about 270 people.

The cuts took effect last month, which was coincidently the single best month for vehicle sales in the company's history in Canada and followed a 14.5 percent jump in sales last year to 76,446 vehicles.

Ford slashing salaried jobs in the U.S.


Ford Motor Co. will cut its U.S. salaried work force by between 10 percent and 12 percent in an effort to jump-start a turnaround plan stalling in the face of rising gasoline and raw materials prices. This could mean a potential 2,000 employees.

One detail that has been decided is that, unlike the last round of voluntary buyouts and early retirement offers, these will be involuntary layoffs. A Ford spokesperson acknowledged this was a bitter pill to swallow for a staff that has "been through a lot already," but said Ford cannot wait six months for people to make up their minds about whether to stay or go.

Ford announced last week it would cut production and no longer expects to return to profitability by 2009. The Detroit automaker didn't rule out layoffs and said it would release more detail about cost-cutting efforts in July.

Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG -1Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG -2Spy photographers have captured exclusive photos of the all-new Mercedes E63 AMG - the high performance version of the as yet unrevealed Mercedes E-Class. Both cars are still at least two years away from showrooms, with the E-Class not due to make its first public appearance until the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Codenamed the W212, Mercedes will be abandoning its Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC) system for the new E-Class in favour of conventional brakes.

Although it will boast other features such as wet-weather disc wiping and wheel-selective cornering brake control on all variants instead.

Optional ceramic-composite discs could be introduced from top-down, starting with the AMG model pictured here for the first time, on its way to the legendary German Nürburgring race circuit.

Driver assistance will be a major theme for the new E-Class which is likely to feature lane-departure warnings, an eye-movement monitor, traffic-sign identification, road-condition sensors, and stability control that accounts for crosswinds, camber changes, and tire wear.

The engine line-up will likely mimic that of the new C-Class with the usual V6 and V8 engine plus the 370kW-plus 6.3-litre V8 for the AMG model.

Audi R8: in arrivo le luci completamente a LED

2008 Buick Enclave

Buick wants to be known as a premium automaker, but none of the vehicles the brand has rolled out over the last five years have fully lived up to their luxury billing. The 2008 Buick Enclave could be the one that breaks Buick's mediocrity streak.

At first glance, the Enclave is just another new crossover SUV with a standard V6, a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and seven- and eight-passenger seating configurations. But step inside and it's a different story from other Buicks. The cabin doesn't look like it was built to a price; rather, it comes across as a product of thoughtful design, with artistic curves to the dash, shapely front seats and Tiffany Blue-inspired illumination. On the whole, the '08 Enclave is a step up for Buick and a viable entry in the premium crossover SUV class.

The Enclave still shares its underpinnings with GM's latest batch of crossover SUVs, including the Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia. All use fully independent suspension, and all have an all-aluminum 3.6-liter V6 good for 275 hp, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Interior dimensions are massive by midsize SUV standards. Not only can the Enclave accommodate adults in all three rows, it has a maximum cargo capacity of 116 cubic feet -- more room than most full-size sport-utilities. A 60/40-split, fold-flat third-row seat is standard in every Enclave, and in keeping with the Buick's upscale mission, twin captain's chairs are fitted in the second row. For families who need even more seating capacity, a bench seat is available for no extra charge, and conveniently, this seat also folds flat. Cloth upholstery and rich-looking wood-grain trim are standard in all Buick Enclaves, and leather is included on the upscale CXL model. All the expected safety equipment, including stability control and three-row side curtain airbags, is standard across the board.

We have no doubt that the 2008 Buick Enclave crossover SUV will be a practical family vehicle for buyers who have $35,000 to $45,000 to spend and don't want a minivan. However, its success as a luxury SUV is not as certain. Although more opulent in its design and furnishings than other Buicks, there are still a few questionable interior vinyls and plastics. That could be a liability against the upscale interior treatments of competitors like the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Lexus RX 350 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. However, the Enclave costs less than all of these rivals, potentially offsetting this weakness.

The Turkish designer has dreamed up the Corvette Z03 Concept, and before that brought the world his interpretation of what a modern Ferrari Dino might look like (he was a little off). It turns out that Sahin has been continually evolving his Dino design, however, and today we get our first look at the result of his extra doodling: the USD GT-S Passionata concept. Based on the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, the Passionata retains the grand sports tourer personality of its host chassis, but adds a body that's much more organic with swoops, bulges and soft curves everywhere the eye falls.

USD GT-S Passionata concept-1USD GT-S Passionata concept-2The mega hood scoop makes the car look a little insect-like, and we also see some cues inspired by the Corvette, Lotus and even McLaren F1 in the front end, but overall it's a knock out design and the connection to Ferrari's own design language is unmistakable. Truthfully, we just wish that we could draw cars this well. Sahin, however, is hoping to do more than just draw the Passionata, as he claims in his press release after the jump that "production will be arranged" if there's a demand for it.

Unfortunately, a brand new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano will have to be sacrificed to build the Passionata, which we think probably violates Ferrari's warranty.