X Prize Awarded to 100 MPG Car

The Washington Post reports that a Virginia development team has won the bulk of the $10 million purse offered by the X Prize Foundation to develop a passenger car which can go 100 miles on a single tank of gas. The Edison2 team, headed by developed Oliver Kuttner, received the top honors in the international contest sponsored by Progressive Insurance and the United States Department of Energy.

The team’s Very Light Car was able to achieve incredible gas mileage by using ultra-lightweight materials and a lighter combustion engine instead of the bulky batteries found in most hybrid or electric cars. In addition, the team turned to race cars for their design tips, creating an aerodynamically refined car with minimal drag.

The car produces gas mileage which is twice that of a Toyota Prius. However, there could be obstacles before the design sees the road. One major concern is safety: the design which won the X Prize did not have air-bags, side safety mirrors or other mandatory safety features.

New Online Community Unites Car Junkies

Do you love cars? Do you spend every waking moment thinking about fixing up your car or dreaming about that vintage sports vehicle you want to purchase? You’re not alone! And what better way to share your passion than through the Web?

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Car enthusiasts around the world are always searching for a new place where they can come together and share their passion for all things automobiles. From online car clubs to social networking sites dedicated to cars, the Internet is cluttered with plenty of sites to choose from for all types of car lovers. Here is a look at a new, but popular website that is bringing together car enthusiasts and car clubs alike, Car Junkies.

If you’ve ever wanted an easy way to show off your pride and joy (a.k.a your car), CarJunkies is the place for you. Car Junkies is an exciting online community for people who love automobiles. The website makes it possible for users from around the world to meet other car enthusiasts, share photos, connect with clubs, find out about car-related events and watch videos.

Once you become an online member, by creating a user name and password, you can sign in to Car Junkies and start uploading your car pictures. Users can share photos and view other albums created by people who share the same exciting passion for cars.

Another great feature about Car Junkies is that you can find out about the latest car events in your area. From automobile shows to car auctions and everything in between, the website is a crucial hub for people looking for the hottest car shows and events in town.

90 Percent of Nissan Leaf Reservations are Conquest Orders

The pre-order numbers for the new all-electric Nissan Volt suggest that the next-generation vehicle is exciting people who aren’t normally Nissan buyers. Automotive News reports that Nissan has received more than 14,000 reservations from individual customers for the Leaf, and that 90 percent of these orders were so-called “conquest” orders from people who weren’t already Nissan owners.

Of course, that might not translate to 14,000 sales for the car. In order to “reserve” their Leaf, people simply needed to pay a $99 fee and register online. The fee is refundable for any reason, including if the charging station can’t be installed in a person’s home or if they simply decide that they don’t want it. Part of the challenge that Nissan will face when the car launches in select markets in December is making sure that customers who paid their $99 decide to go through with a sale.

Nissan also stated that a key element of the advertising campaign for the Leaf will revolve around the car’s lack of an exhaust pipe – highlight how environmentally friendly the car is.

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Honda CR-Z Attempts to Redefine Hybrid Vehicle Styling

AutomotiveNews.com reports that Honda is trying to push the limits of what a hybrid vehicle can be. The company’s new CR-Z is a sporty two-seater on August 24 for less than $20,000, creating a potentially attractive option for new car buyers looking for a fun and sporty hybrid alternative without breaking the bank.

Honda has been able to keep the costs down on the CR-Z by integrating the engine and the bulk of the Integrated Motor Assist system from its Insight hybrid hatchback. The car is available with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission option.

The performance has been enhanced with several featured. Honda made the car as light as possible by reducing weight in various areas, including the 16-inch wheels and forged aluminum front suspension parts. Drivers can also toggle between a “sport” and “eco” mode to increase power or fuel efficiency.

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Maserati Continues Traditional Growth Methods

The esteemed car company is showing no signs of slowing down.

Maserati continues to exceed expectations in both the automotive and business industry. Their consistent growth and trend-setting launches have provided a foundation for other car companies to follow.

Realistic Expectations

Each year, millions of people expect to see a new model unveiled with the latest features and some type of technology that blows away old models. It has become a trend in today’s ever-growing automotive industry. Car enthusiasts raise expectations each year to a higher standard. Combine that with the competitive nature of other car companies trying to scratch and claw their way to the top and you have an all-out sales brawl.

Structural Strength and Growth Factors

Maserati has always focused on their internal structure. With continuous investment back into the company, it’s no wonder they’re a premiere class in a league of their own.

Steve Doctrow, Executive Vice President of Rogers & Cowan, has worked with Maserati on marketing campaigns in the past. He understands the fierce competition that the auto industry faces every day. This is why global marketing and widespread reach is so crucial for car companies. Maserati’s triumphant profitability margins have skyrocketed because of their consistent focus on “reaching for success”.

Each year, Maserati never fails to impress. With their core business reaching new heights and their fundamental marketing strategies focusing on broader audiences, one would expect there to be continued success for this prestigious company. One thing that you can expect, however, is that they have no plans of slowing down.

NHTSA Launches Probe into Jeep Grand Cherokee Fires

Automotive News reported on Tuesday that federal regulators have launched a probe to investigate a possible fuel tank issue with 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is attempting to determine if more than a dozen post-crash fires involving the vehicles are the result of faulty placement of the SUV’s fuel cell. Any problem has the potential to impact more than three million cars currently on the road.

Preliminary information released on Tuesday by the NHTSA suggested that at least 13 deaths in 10 separate crashes were “most likely associated with the alleged defect” in the Grand Cherokees. However, the NHTSA stopped short of blaming the fuel cell’s placement for the fires, stating that the accidents and fires did not necessarily “establish a defect trend” and that a review of early warning data did not find the subject vehicles to be over-represented for post-crash fires.”

The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety petitioned the NHTSA to investigate the fuel tanks in the Grand Cherokee, which they say are improperly positioned to absorb an impact and are known to tear off during crashes. Jeep’s parent company Chrysler Group said it is cooperating with the NHTSA investigation but remained confident that “that a study which considered all factors in all collisions — including rear collisions with fire — would show that the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees perform as well as or better than other vehicles in their class.”

Report: Ford to Shut Down Mercury Line

The Ford Mercury might be a thing of the past. Bloomberg is reporting that Ford Motor Co. is instituting a plan to shut down the Mercury product line. According to two anonymous sources with familiarity with the discussions, plans to shutter the entry-level luxury car line will be presented by Ford’s top executives to its Board of Directors in July.

The line has been in decline for several years as it has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. Sales of Mercury cars have plummeted 74 percent since 2000. Ford recently discontinued the Mercury Sable product line and will also stop production before next year on the Mercury Mountaineer SUV and Grand Marquis lines, leaving the company with just the Mercury Milan and Mercury Mariner SUV next year.

According to John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, Mercury had become a “forgotten brand” within Ford, particularly after the company decided to stop giving Mercury exclusive components and technology. This eventually made them too similar to the lower-priced Ford models and ultimately ignored by car buyers.

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Nissan Leaf Cheaper in the U.S. Than Europe, Japan

When the Nissan Leaf debuts in America this year, its MSRP will be comparatively less than the same model selling in Japan in Europe. Automotive News says that Nissan officials are explaining this by stating that differences in local taxes and additional incentives will make up the difference in cost within the U.S. market.

Trisha Jung, chief marketing manager for Nissan’s U.S. electric vehicle sales, said that analysts who are suggesting that the Nissan Leaf is priced to low “don’t have all the information” such as the long-term impact of incentives received to build the electric car at its plant in Symrna, Tennessee.

“We are the first affordable, mass-market electric vehicle,” Jung said. “We’re pricing appropriately to ensure that.”

However, analysts like John Kluza, a battery analyst at Lux Research, claim that the estimated MSRP in the U.S. market of $32,780 is too low when considering the costs of the battery pack, electronic components and production.

“It seems the goal was to price Leaf to get sales volume even if there’s some initial loss,” Kluza said. “In the first year or so, perhaps they’ll take a hit of $2,000 on each car, maybe more. Over time, as battery production scales up, that price will start to look more appropriate.”

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Hummer Maker AM General to Produce Electric Vans

AM General might be the last company that you would think would be involved in building eco-friendly cars. After all, they are the company that produces the Hummer, the massive, gas-guzzling SUVs that have become punch lines for cars that are anything but green. However, that perception might be changing as Automotive News reports that the South Bend, Ind. based company will be starting production on a new line of commercial electric vehicles.

Specifically, AM General will be responsible for the final assembly of Ford’s Transit Connect commercial vans, which will launch next spring. The announcement was made on Tuesday by Azure Dynamic, the company charged with producing the electric driving system.

Despite the seeming incongruity of the company that produces Hummers making electric vehicles, an AM General spokesperson pointed out that this isn’t the company’s first foray into the space. AM General produced 350 electric Jeeps for the U.S. Postal Service in 1975 and developed prototype Humvees for military use that ran on compressed gas.

Chrysler’s Fiat-Based Sedans Might Hit U.S. in 2011

AutoWeek reports that Chrysler’s Fiat-based compact cars could be coming to America sooner than anticipated. During a conference call on Monday, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne said that the cars could potentially be on the market as early as the fourth quarter of 2011. Previous predictions had placed the cars as not being available in the United States until early 2012.

“We’ve run extensive clinics on the first vehicles. We’re 98 percent there on styling,” he said. “My expectation today is we’ll be able to get this car into the market Q4 2011. We continue to work pretty aggressively on timing.”

The Fiat-based cars would help Chrysler become competitive in an area of weakness for it in the American car market: the compact sedan. Marchionne also said that Chrysler Group is planning on addressing one of its other pressing needs before the launch of the Fiat-based compact. According to him, by the end of 2010 Chrysler plans to come out with new versions of its Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger lines.

“We have carried out significant surgery on the architecture of those cars and made significant improvements of the interiors,” he said.

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