Monday, May 19, 2014

Mercedes MLC spied again, this time as an AMG

Mercedes-Benz MLC AMG

First BMW, now Mercedes-Benz. The German luxury manufacturer appears hard at work on its very own challenger to BMW's four-door coupe/crossover, the X6. It's called the MLC, and we've shown it to you before. Just a few weeks back, in fact.

Unlike the last set of spy photos we showed you, though, this particular tester gives us our first glimpse at the MLC's brawnier AMG variant. Our spies report that under hood will be the same 5.5-liter, biturbocharged V8 found in the ML63 AMG, and that it will sing its boisterous song with the tune of 557 horsepower. That means Mercedes is set to challenge the BMW X6M for the title of most unlikely ridiculously fast vehicle on the planet.

Beside the extra boost in power, we can spot a number AMG styling cues here. Most noticeable are the more substantial wheels and tires, bigger brakes and the larger front intakes. AMG-style exhaust tips jut out the back, which are accented with larger vents in the rear bumper and swollen fenders at all four corners.

According to our spies, we should expect to see the regular-strength MLC at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, while the AMG model will arrive a few months after that. So basically, we should have all the details on the MLC AMG in about a year.

Take a look up top for our full run of spy photos from the streets of Europe.
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Land Rover planning at least four new Discovery models

Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept

It should come as no great surprise that Land Rover is planning to group its lineup into three "families": one luxury lineup centered around the Range Rover, another utilitarian range around the Defender and a third somewhere in the middle centered around the Discovery. But just how many models will form each of those groups?

Reports emanating from the UK seek to answer that question, and get us at least part way there - as far as the Discovery family is concerned, anyway. Previewed by the Discovery Vision concept at the New York Auto Show just over a month ago, the new Discovery family will include a replacement for the current LR4, a smaller version to replace the LR2 Freelander and a three-row, seven-passenger version to bridge the gap between them. But that's not all.

Auto Express, whose reports we tend to take with a grain of salt or two, has it that Land Rover is planning "more than the three models we first anticipated" for the new Discovery family. Just what that fourth or even potential fifth model would entail, we don't know, but Auto Express speculates that something smaller than the Evoque or Freelander could be in the cards. Giving the Discovery range something with a sportier, more rakish roofline along the lines of the Evoque or BMW X4 and X6 could foreseeably be in the cards as well, but at this point we're just spit-balling.

What is certain is that Land Rover will continue to develop new off-road assistance systems to make traversing difficult terrain that much easier. It's working at bringing the Vision concept's Transparent Bonnet system to market, and is reportedly working on an "off road guidance coach" system to offer video and audio instructions on how to get a Land Rover over that next big obstacle as well.
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NASCAR Nationwide driver graduates high school then qualifies 6th

NASCAR Texas Auto Racing

For the average 18-year-old, school and work take up the majority of free time. In that respect, then, Chase Elliot is like pretty much any other 18-year-old. He graduated on Saturday, and then went to work. The only difference is, his work involves him flying around the country and driving a really loud car in circles.

Yes, Elliot, son of Winston Cup champion Bill Elliot, doesn't spend his free time working retail, but as a rookie driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Following his Saturday graduation from King's Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, GA, Elliot caught a flight to Iowa Speedway where he qualified sixth for the Get To Know Newton 250 (seriously NASCAR, these race names need to stop). He ended up finishing fourth, and currently sits at the top of the Nationwide Series leaderboards, two points ahead of NASCAR veteran Elliot Sadler, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne.

Despite his young age, he even sounds pretty wise when asked about being free to focus on just racing.

"I think it is important to have a balance of what you do racing-wise and what you do during the week," Elliott told ESPN. "It seems like all the Cup guys are having kids right now, and they're all having them at about the same time. They all talk about that balance away from the race track, and I can understand where they're coming from."
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MV Agusta loses license to sell motorcycles in California

MV Agusta F3 800 Ago

If you live in California and were planning on buying a new MV Agusta, we're afraid we've got some bad news for you. The Italian manufacturer has lost its license to sell its motorcycles in the Golden State.

This according to a list published by the California DMV obtained by motorbike news site Asphalt & Rubber. The list mentions MV Agusta USA as one of the companies no longer licensed to operate in America's third largest and most populous state. As a result, the company is precluded from selling its latest machinery in the state. Although the status of unsold motorbikes from previous model years remains unclear, it does not appear to preclude dealerships in California from selling used models.

The license reportedly lapsed at the end of last July, and though the company is reportedly working on rectifying the situation, it may take several months to be resolved. In the meantime MV Agusta may take a serious hit in sales without doing business in one of its largest markets.
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New Fisker owner ready to go broke building EVs, challenging Tesla

Wanxiang Qianchao Co. Ltd. Chairman Lu Guanqiu poses for a p

Now this is the kind of fighting spirit we like to see. Lu Guanqiu is a Chinese billionaire who has visited the White House alongside Chinese president Hu Jintao in 2011. He's worth an estimated $3.1 billion. And he wants to take on Tesla Motors and other EV makers with his newly purchased company, Fisker Automotive.

Lu is the chairman and founder of China's Wanxiang Group Corp., which bought Fisker for just under $150 million earlier this year. It also purchased battery supplier A123 Systems last year. Speaking to Bloomberg recently, Lu said that EV technology is at the top of his list of ways to go broke. "I'll put every cent that Wanxiang earns into making electric vehicles. I'll burn as much cash as it takes to succeed, or until Wanxiang goes bust," he said. Ahhh, inspiring.

"I'll burn as much cash as it takes to succeed, or until Wanxiang goes bust" - Lu Guanqiu

Exactly how and when new Fisker vehicles come to market - or if they'll even be Fiskers when they do - has been the subject of some debate. As part of the Fisker bankruptcy auction, Lu and Wanxiang now own an old, empty General Motors plant in Wilmington, DE. Lu told Bloomberg that Wanxiang has plans to first start building EVs, including the Karma plug-in hybrid, in the US (which suggests that restarting Karma production at Valmet is not going to happen) and to later build them in China. Right now, Lu's company only makes one type of electric vehicle: buses. Lu told Bloomberg he knows it will take a while to get his electric cars to market: "The road is still very long. We want to concentrate for now on manufacturing in the US. If I don't succeed, my son will continue with it. If he doesn't make it, my grandson will."

Currently, emails sent to the "New Fisker" website are met with an automated response that promises a more personal touch later. It also says that the company is "very well funded and have a great plan to create a world class automotive company." That the new owner is ready to go broke doing so is not mentioned.

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GM ignition switch recall gets documentary treatment with Failure to Recall

GM Ignition Switch Recall Documentary

General Motors' recalls have hit critical mass in the media. Not only is the company being mocked by comedians like John Oliver, Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live, but it's getting the documentary treatment from CNBC in a special called Failure to Recall: Investigating GM. The doc talks to families and individuals directly affected by GM's ignition switch recall and shows firsthand (with assistance from Consumer Reports) what it's like to drive one of the vehicles when it turns off.

The documentary attempts to explain why GM took so long to begin recalling the affected vehicles. It follows the timeline of events from the initial service bulletins to the eventual recall and identifies some of GM's alleged errors along the way - like not changing the ignition switch part number. It also looks at what role the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration played. If you haven't been following the situation closely, the film provides most of the major details. The real highlight might be that the film shows the amount of force necessary for the switch to change position before and after the fix.

Scroll down to watch four clips from the documentary. The third one is the demonstration of what it's like when the ignition switches off. The entire film can also be streamed on CNBC's website, here. Finally, if you prefer not to watch on your computer, it airs on TV again on Monday, May 19, at 10:00 PM ET/PT.
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F1 legend Sir Jack Brabham passes away at 88

Hockenheim 1970

There have only been about a dozen people who have won multiple Formula One World Championships. Thankfully the lion's share of them are still among us - names like Vettel, Alonso, Hakkinen, Lauda, Prost, Piquet, Fittipaldi and Stewart. Michael Schumacher is hanging on, but Senna, Fangio, Ascari and Graham Hill have all since departed this Earth. And we're bereaved to report that they'll have company as Jack Brabham has passed away.

The Australian driver started his career in midget racing and hillclimb events, working his way up to his F1 debut at the British Grand Prix in 1955. By 1958, after a few years in Formula 2, he was a permanent fixture on the F1 grid, winning the Monaco Grand Prix the next year en route to his first world title. He won a second with Cooper the following year, but after a fruitless 1961 he returned with his own team. In 1966 he won his third and final championship, putting him on equal footing in the history books with Lauda, Piquet, Senna and Stewart, but setting him apart by one notable metric: he was and remains still the only driver to win the championship in his own car.

Sir Jack won another handful of grands prix before retiring in 1970, selling his team (which went on to win another few championships with Denny Hulme and Nelson Piquet) initially to his collaborator Ron Tauranac, who in turn sold it to Bernie Ecclestone. Several of Jack's sons and grandsons have since gone on to race professionally. Jack Brabham died peacefully on Monday at his home on Australia's Gold Coast at the age of 88.
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FTC staff comes out in favor of Tesla, direct vehicle sales

Tesla Motors' showroom in Short Hills, New Jersey.

On the subject of Tesla Motors and its efforts to legally sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers without franchised dealerships, the FTC has taken aim at Missouri and New Jersey. The Commission hasn't made any nationwide decision on the subject quite yet, but in a May 16 statement it encouraged the two states to reconsider policies that would further prohibit automakers from selling directly to consumers. And the FTC didn't mince words, calling such laws an example of "protection that is likely harming both competition and consumers." This is much further than the FTC has ever gone before in support of direct vehicle sales.

FTC didn't mince words, saying such laws were "likely harming both competition and consumers."

The statement follows an April blog post from three FTC officials, who wrote that the anti-direct sales mandates were "protectionist" and "bad policy." Tesla has been doing battle with a number of states as well as lobbying efforts from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), which represents 16,000 new car and truck dealerships representing about 32,000 domestic and international franchises. The NADA has been supporting dealers who oppose Tesla's direct sales for years.

In fact, Jonathan Collegio, vice president of public affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), maintained that the states need to retain the right to regulate the automobile sales distribution channel.

"These arguments ignore the fact that fierce competition between local dealers drives down prices both within and across brands. When three Ford dealers compete for the same customer, the customer wins, period," Collegio wrote in an e-mail to AutoblogGreen. ""Finally, it's a major fallacy to compare buying cars with buying other goods, like books or computers. New cars are major purchases that require licensing, insurance, complex financing involving trade-ins, contain hazardous materials, and if operated incorrectly can cause serious bodily injury."

Tesla representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from AutoblogGreen.

New Jersey and Missouri have both been in the news lately. Garden State politicos have created a bit of a grey area, first voting in mid-March to stop Tesla stores from selling cars starting April 1, then extending the deadline to April 15. Tesla appealed the ban with the state Superior Court last month, and the FTC says the " limited, selective set of exceptions" are "very likely anticompetitive and harmful to consumers." In Missouri, Tesla appears to be winning the on-the-ground fight, but if a proposed bill against direct sales there becomes law, it will "amplify the adverse effects of the current prohibition" and "discourage innovation," the FTC says. Read more below.
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California bill would ensure used cars with recalls are fixed

Recall Repair

It seems that 2014 may go down as the year of the recall. As of April, the US was already on pace for record levels, and that was before millions of more cars were called in for various repairs by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in just the past few weeks. But how many of those vehicles will actually get their necessary fixes? GM claims that it has 80 percent of its vehicles mended in the first year, but the industry average is only 66 percent. That is a lot of faulty automobiles left on the streets, but California thinks it has a solution. A bill there would mandate that dealers must complete all pending warranty repairs on used vehicles before they could be sold to customers.

Federal law already forces dealers to keep new vehicles up to date, but it excludes used cars. California's dealerships don't want that to change and are fighting against the new rules. They call the bill unfair because it excludes private sales, and rental agencies don't have to keep their vehicles up to date, expect when selling them, according to The Los Angeles Times. The sellers also say its too hard to keep track of the individual repairs necessary for each used model that comes onto the lot.

The showrooms may be winning this battle. According to The LA Times, the bill passed the state's Senate last year, but it has been stuck in the California State Assembly since then. Expect a political fight before California's used cars start seeing any repairs from dealers.
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Nissan reviving Pulsar name for Euro market

Nissan Pulsar Teaser

The Nissan Pulsar doesn't have what we'd consider a rich history in the US, other than on some models decades ago. However, the nameplate has been part of the Nissan lineup globally since 1978 and has proven popular in Asia and Australia. Now, the brand is teasing a five-door hatch to revive the name and hit European showrooms this fall.

The new Pulsar will be built at the company's recently renovated factory in Barcelona, Spain. It's not clear from the teaser whether this is the same model that is already sold in other parts of the world or a brand new vehicle. Although, Nissan says in the announcement that the car "has been designed to meet the specific demands of European car buyers."

With competitors like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, the European five-door hatch market is seriously competitive. It will be interesting to see if Nissan will have something special to bring to the table.
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2015 Nissan Micra

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2015 Nissan Micra

Several years ago, poutine started showing up on the menus of a number of Detroit-area restaurants. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian specialty, it involves serving up french fries, gravy and cheese curds all in one artery-clogging heap. It's not really my thing, but the comfort-food dish has caught hold here in The D, and many absolutely swear by it. In a country where we happily serve Double Down sandwiches, and where competitive eating qualifies as sport, it's hard to believe le poutine isn't spreading like wildfire.

Given Detroit's proximity to Canada, it's not surprising that this culinary creation has managed to find its way across the border. The same thing goes for cars - we Detroiters are routinely privy to lots of Great White North imports. No, we can't buy not-for-US vehicles like the Nissan X-Trail, Mercedes-Benz B-Class (at least, the gasoline version), or now-discontinued products like the Honda Civic-based Acura CSX or EL before it. But Ontario-plated examples of these cars can be seen all the time here in southeast Michigan - it's a far more common occurrence than you might think.

These days, it's rare that an automaker will introduce a model to Canada without offering it up in the United States - especially a car that stands to do big things for a company's presence in North America. But with this 2015 Nissan Micra, that's exactly what's happened; Nissan's US arm has repeatedly stated that there are no plans to offer the car in Yankeeland. Why is the Micra so important? This five-door hatchback enters Canada with the coveted title of being the most affordable new car in the country: just $9,998 Canadian (CAD) to start. In fact, the Micra launches to our north just as the larger, four-door Versa Sedan is phased out in Canada - a vehicle that holds the lowest-cost title here in the US, at $11,990 USD.

To see what all the budget-friendly fuss is about, I headed to Montreal to sample Nissan's latest offering. Is this subcompact hatch better left as a Canada-only special, or should we Americans be allowed to have our poutine and eat it, too? Read on to find out.

Continue reading 2015 Nissan Micra

2015 Nissan Micra originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 19 May 2014 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Cosworth teases upgrades for Subaru BRZ

Cosworth FA-20

Subaru may or may not produce an STI version of the BRZ. Things seem to go back and forth on the subject. But Subaru Tecnica International isn't the only company with a history of tuning Subies. So does Cosworth, and now the British racing firm appears to be turning its attention to the BRZ and its Toyota- and Scion-badged siblings.

For those unacquainted, Cosworth is more than your average tuning company. It's a racing firm first and foremost, having made F1 engines under its own name as well as Ford's (chief among them the all-conquering DFV 3.0-liter V8 of 1960s and 70s fame), not to mention engines for Indy, rally and even high-performance, road-going versions of the Ford Sierra, Chevy Vega and Mercedes 190E. The list goes on and on, but you get the point.

Now withdrawing from Formula One, Cosworth is focusing its attention on tuning road cars again with the launch of the Cosworth Power Package line, the first of which will focus on the Toyota GT86 (aka Scion FR-S) and Subaru BRZ. We don't know just yet what will be included in the packaged dubbed FA-20, but from the video teaser below, it seems there'll be upgrades to the exhaust, suspension, aero and - if we're lucky - maybe a super- or turbocharger for the 2.0-liter flat-four engine. We'll have to wait and see, but we get the feeling that with Cosworth on the job, it'll be worth the wait.
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VW's Tony Cervone named head of GM global communications

Tony Cervone, Senior Vice President of Global Communications at GMVolkswagen may be one of the world's largest automakers, but its American arm is going through a serious rough patch. VW of America might cut back sales targets, and has an ongoing fiasco about where to build its CrossBlue crossover. Now, it's also losing Tony Cervone, its executive vice president of group communications, who is taking over as senior vice president of global communications at General Motors - effective immediately.

Cervone is an industry veteran in corporate communications with stints at United Airlines, Chrysler and 10 years previously at GM as leader of its European communications team and other positions. His new role will be to oversee the company's global communications, including all of its brands and products, and he will report directly to CEO Mary Barra. "I've worked with Tony in the past and he has my trust and respect. I know he'll be another catalyst for change on our leadership team," she said in the company's official announcement.

Volkswagen of America told Autoblog in an email that a permanent replacement for Cervone hasn't been named yet. Scott Vazin, vice president of brand communications, will take over his role in the interim.
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Bultaco reborn to make electric motorbikes

Bultaco Rapitan

Motorbike riders looking for something with a little Latin flair have had plenty of choices on their hands, but most of them come from Italy: marques like Ducati, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi. But what if you wanted something more Spanish than Italian? That's where Bultaco comes in. Or came in, we should say, because the Barcelona-based motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1958 closed in 1983, but now it's staging a comeback.

Instead of returning to the market with internal-combustion motorbikes like it made for decades, the new Bultaco is working on a line of motorcycles with electric propulsion. The revival effort has stemmed out of LGN Tech Design SL, a Spanish startup established that, among other activities, competed in electric motorcycle racing and has now grown into the rebirth of the Bultaco brand.

The company has several electric motorcycles under development, but is starting with the Rapitán (pictured above) and Rapitán Sport, powered by a brushless electric motor with 54 horsepower and 92 pound-feet of torque on tap, a 90-mile-per-hour top speed and regenerative braking to keep the lithium-ion battery topped off. The on-board charger will fill the battery from empty in three and a half to five hours for a combined SAE range of 87 miles, and without a gas tank between the rider and the handlebars, will even store a full-face helmet on board.

The team behind the revival, having benefited from the guidance of the late former BMW, Rolls-Royce and Maserati executive Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, aims to bring its first vehicles to market sometime this year, initially to be distributed in select markets across Europe.
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British military developing GPS navigation that works without satellites

HMS Astute

Did you know that GPS doesn't work underwater? Neither did we. But apparently it's a big enough problem that the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense is working on a futuristic solution that will allow more precise navigation by the Royal Navy's submarines and surface ships, while eventually trickling down to consumer-grade mobile devices. That all sounds great, but its abilities aren't anywhere near as cool as its name - the quantum compass.

Using subatomic particles that interact with the Earth's magnetic field (which is a phrase I never though I'd write while working at Autoblog), the accuracy of submersible navigation could be drastically improved. When a boat surfaces, pinpointing its exact location can be off by as much as half a mile. With a quantum compass, its location would be accurate to just three feet.

Not only is the quantum compass highly accurate, but it's also virtually impossible to tamper with, unlike the overworked system of GPS satellites. Because quantum mechanics. Not surprisingly, the applications for the civilian world could be immense. Cars and phones would be able to deliver pinpoint-accurate navigation information in a form that is totally constant. Hop over to GPSDaily for the details.
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Honda to power new Formula Lites open-wheel racing series

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Honda K24 Formula Lites EngineOpen-wheel racing is almost always incredibly exciting to watch, whether it's the constant passing of the Indy 500 on an oval or the technological tour-de-force from Formula 1. However, both of those disciplines are essentially impossible for a normal person to enter. Of course, there are already cheaper, more amateur-friendly open-wheel competitions, like Formula Vee. A new SCCA Pro Racing series called Formula Lites aims to be a step in the ladder between those, offering a development opportunity to young drivers who want to be professionals.

The series already has some impressive backers. One of the biggest needs is now filled, as Honda has signed on as the engine supplier. All of the cars in Formula Lites will use the company's K24 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The automaker didn't specify power output for the competition engine, but in production models the K24 has made in the neighborhood of 190-200 horsepower in many applications. That should make the racers plenty potent.

All of the cars are using the new carbon fiber FL15 chassis from Crawford Composites, and Pirelli is the series' tire supplier. The organizers' goal for the cars is to keep racing costs down, while offering a reliable platform. Formula Lites plans to start racing with a few events later in 2014, and the full calendar begins in 2015.
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Mahindra plant and engineering ops comes to MI, electric bikes planned

Mahindra GenZe electric scooter, side view.

Depending on who you speak to, India's Mahindra & Mahindra might be best known in the States for the six-year saga of huge hopes and dashed dreams embodied in a small, diesel pickup truck, as a tractor maker pushing its way into a US market ruled by John Deere and Kubota, as the owner of Ssangyong, as one of the companies that tried to buy Aston Martin or as an automotive engineering firm providing product development services to almost every carmaker out there. It's that last division that gets headlines now, Mahindra announcing an expansion of its facilities in Troy, Michigan on top of the news that it's setting up a factory in Ann Arbor, Michigan to build its GenZe scooter.

The Mahindra North American Technical Center (MNATC) is an outgrowth of the first tech center set up by Mahindra Engineering Services (MES) in 2012, now called Tech Mahindra. Mahindra Engineering is - obviously - the contract engineering services arm that serves a variety of industries, including transportation companies from Navistar to McLaren to Seat. Rick Haas, the president and COO of the MNATC, told Autoblog that he had five subject matter experts working out of the Tech Mahindra building doing product development for Mahindra in Chennai, India. Those experts weren't involved with Tech Mahindra, simply "squatting" in the building while they worked on products in the home market. About a year later it was deemed that the product development team "was exceeding our expectations, [so] we decided to turn this small group into a proper PD team and start full vehicle Product Development out of the Detroit area."

Those five engineers have moved into their new building and are now, Haas said, "up to 42 heads, on our way to about 100 this year, and more after that as we build a proper automotive PD center here to support the global aspirations of Mahindra in our auto business worldwide." They'll be "100% focused on supporting Mahindra's OEM auto business," supporting the engineering team in Chennai, India. "No work will ever be done for other companies" out of the MNATC, Haas said.

The Ann Arbor facility will build the GenZe, an electric scooter with a 30-mile-per-hour top speed and a price tag of $3,000. The plant is scheduled to manufacture 9,000 scooters per year, with the ability to increase that to 20,000 per year if sales take off. They will be sold direct in California, Florida, Oregon and Virginia, and through dealers in other states.
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Long winter means most automakers won't curb summer shutdown

Ford Launches Fifth Plug-In Hybrid Car At Michigan Plant

A lot more happened during this latest brutal winter than days of snow and Netflix binges. Automotive sales took a battering. After all, going out car shopping when it's eleventy-billion degrees below zero isn't a good time.

Because of this Old Man Winter-induced sales slump, inventories are abnormally high as we head into the summer car buying season. That's led some analysts to predict that automakers will be more inclined to idle factories this summer, in a bid to trim some of the built-up inventory. Traditionally, American manufacturers offer up a two-week break in the middle of summer, although the burgeoning sales of the past few years have seen this practice become less popular.

"We're likely not going to see an acceleration this year," Jeff Schuster, a senior vice president at LMC Automotive, told The Detroit News. "We'll see production increases in 'pockets' but I don't know if it will be as widespread as in recent years."

According to The News, inventory levels currently sit at 69 days. That's down from March, but still a few days above desirable levels.

As of now, neither Ford nor Chrysler had set their summer production plans in stone, although the Blue Oval said it would make a decision after Memorial Day. General Motors wouldn't comment for The News' story.
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

What to do if you run out of juice in your Tesla Model S

Tesla Sightings

After writing about their Tesla Model S running out of juice on the side of the road between Las Vegas and Barstow, CA recently (read about it here), the fine folks at Teslarati figured they had some 'splainin' to do. The brief explanation is headwinds. Yes, headwinds.

A Model S has about 10 miles of range even after it shows a big fat "0" on its dash.

Thankfully, the drivers took notes about what to do if your Model S is about to shut down like C-3PO in A New Hope. Step one is to know that the EV has about 10 miles of range (maybe 20) even after it shows "0" on its dash. Once that distance is used up, it's time to pull the car over, and even then there is enough reserve juice to power the screen for a half hour. After that, all that works are the door handles and the flashers.

So, before everything goes completely dark, it's best to remember to put the car into "tow mode" and get it into neutral so that the EV doesn't have to be jumpstarted just to get it onto a truck. Also, once the Model S has been recharged from empty, it needs to be powered off in order to reset the system and not keep it in "depleted power" mode. Now you know.

The way Teslarati learned all of this was that, after using a Las Vegas supercharger to give their Tesla Model what they thought would be about 240 miles worth of range for the 160-mile drive, the car unfortunately provided them with just 157 before shutting down. The culprit was a sand storm that sent 35-mile-per-hour headwinds (and probably a bit of grit) into the car as it maintained a 75-mph cruising speed. Teslarati also said elevation changes were part of the problem. Las Vegas and Barstow are both about 2,200 feet above sea level, but there are a bunch of hills in between, and we guess the declines giveth less then the inclines taketh away. Happens to the best of us.
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Watch this real-life Transformer turn into a car and drive

Real-life Transformer street performer

We're sure this human-size Transformer would say that he does it for the kids, but somehow we think there's just as much adult-spec geeking out for anyone so in love with Transformers that they would be willing to build a costume and walk around wearing it in public. And, if we're honest, we ourselves are just geeky enough that we'd probably do it, too. For the kids, of course.

Check out this real-life Transformer street performer from Ann Arbor, Michigan convert from a walking and talking robot into a bright yellow Hummer/Cadillac thing that's actually capable of moving under its own power in the video below. After all, it's significantly more entertaining than the last couple Transformers films you probably saw in theaters...


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Mobius Motors back-to-basics SUV almost ready for Africa

The Mobius II, an inexpensive SUV developed for Africa.

Having secured $50 million in funding thanks to the Pan-African Investment Company, Mobius can finally put the latest evolution of its low-cost SUV into production. Things have changed some in the two years since the Mobius Two was first announced as a form of inexpensive, go-anywhere transport for Africa: the initial price of $6,000 has risen to $10,000 and it's now called the Mobius II.

The local price of 950,000 Kenyan shillings makes the Mobius II about one-third the cost of a new subcompact like a Toyota Corolla and about the same price as a ten-year-old Corolla. For that, buyers will get an eight-seater, zero-frills - no air conditioning or windows - machine powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with 86 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque. The tubular-framed SUV with a top speed of about 75 miles per hour weighs 2,805 pounds, has nine inches of ground clearance and can carry 1,375 pounds worth of cargo.

The funding enables the company to build its first 50 trucks. We've reached out to Mobius to find out if the vehicle itself has been modified and when production will begin, and we'll update the post when we get a response.
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Jaguar shows off production XE body in camo

Jaguar XE in camouflage, front three-quarter view.

Jaguar turned to Twitter and Facebook to reveal the production form of its coming XE sedan that we'll see for real at the Paris Motor Show. This is the first of a series of show-offs, Jaguar planning to wrap the bodywork in see-through camo that shows off the aluminum monocoque and other internals the company will use to promote the XE over its German rivals. That aluminum structure, which Jaguar calls iQ[Al], will also be used for other Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.

Underneath that long bonnet and ahead of that terribly short trunk will come a series of Ingenium engines, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines in diesel and petrol forms that will come in a variety of power options, and the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that can also be found in the F-Type. Before the XE goes on sale early next year, you can click the image above to get a slightly larger view of what the The Leaping Cat's near future looks like.
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Audi CEO Stadler gets 5-year contract extension


Audi CEO Rupert Stadler will keep his seat at the top thanks to a contract extension. Volkswagen didn't divulge the length of the new contract, but German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the term is five years. Stadler took over the current position in 2007 when current VW CEO Martin Winterkorn left it. That year the brand sold 93,506 in the US and 964,151 in total worldwide; last year it sold 158,061 in the US and 1,575,480 in total worldwide.

Even though the brand has managed only about half the US sales of its two main rivals, it led the charge globally through the first two months of this year. Over the next few years we'll see its US efforts increase with a $30.3-billion investment, 11 new models and the opening of its first North American plant. And right now it can make hay with its World Car of the Year award winner, the A3.

In addition to Stadler, VW sales boss Christian Klingler is said to have received a five-year contract extension, and VW China head Jochem Heizmann has earned another two years on the job.
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NYT asks what happens when self-driving cars break the law

Autonomous Nissan Leaf, front three-quarter view.

Here's the line to remember: "As robots become mainstream, lawmakers will have to grapple with how to govern machines and hold software accountable." That comes from a New York Times piece on what kind of legislation will be needed to deal with the inevitable accidents that autonomous vehicles will get into. The lawyers, naturally, will go after everyone with money, but who do the authorities charge when a self-driving car parks itself in a no-parking zone, and who will the jury hold responsible when it rolls the wrong way down a one-way street and, heaven forbid, injures or kills someone?

The academic world has already begun devoting white papers and test tracks to the subject, but it will be up to our elected leaders to - hopefully - start filling in some legally binding answers before the hard questions get asked in court. The earliest projections figure we have six years until autonomous cars drive themselves onto dealership lots, but once they show up, healthy public trust could make them quite popular. Head over to the NYT to read the piece and start thinking about who'll have to clean up the mess when you hear the phrase, "You have 20 seconds to comply..."
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Lauda irked at Red Bull for dropping circuit corner that bore his name

Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Race

Austria hasn't hosted a Formula One grand prix since the 2003 race at the old A1 Ring. Since then Red Bull bought the track, renovated it and returned it to the calendar this year as the Red Bull Ring for a race on June 22. We could look at this as a quaint story of a historic F1 track finally returning to the series after a long delay. However, there is a very angry Austrian who is not happy about how things are going - namely, three-time F1 World Driver's Champion Niki Lauda.

According to Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, as part of its renovation of the track, Red Bull sold off the naming rights of the corners to sponsors. The former Niki Lauda Kurve is now the Pirelli Kurve. Fellow Austrian F1 driver Gerhard Berger also lost his turn, and it's now the Würth Kurve. Only famous racer Jochen Rindt has retained his name on the track.

Lauda was furious when he found out about the change and demanded to know who made the decision. He told the paper that he suspects that the renaming has to do with his current position at the Mercedes-Benz F1 team, which is beating the Red Bull squad soundly this year. Lauda already has plans to get back for the perceived slight. He said that Mercedes would be celebrating a 1-2 victory for this year's return of the grand prix to Austria. Given Lauda's past and his team's season, that might not be too big of a boast.
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Nissan Quest under investigation for inaccurate fuel gauges

2007 Nissan Quest

After receiving 12 complaints in the last 14 months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun a preliminary investigation into a fuel gauge issue with the 2007 Nissan Quest. Drivers have reported that the fuel level gauge will show there's gas in the tank when there actually isn't - in two cases, the digital distance-to-empty gauge indicated more than 70 miles of remaining range - and it will stall out.

This is the second time the 2007-model-year Quest has been involved in the same fuel gauge issue. In 2010 Nissan recalled seven models, including the Quest, from the 2005-2008 model years because of faulty fuel readings. The 12 vehicles in this latest complaint could have slipped through the cracks then, but we'll find out more when NHTSA updates its progress with the investigation into the estimated 37,656 units.
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Ayrton Senna's first kart to be featured in new Gran Turismo 6 DLC

One of Ayrton Senna's first karts, built by DAP, is available in a new DLC package for Sony's Gran Turismo 6 video game.

For you Gran Turismo 6 players out there, May 27 is when you'll be able to put more Senna in your game with a new DLC package. An Ayrton Senna section in the update menu will offer an Ayrton Senna Tribute that includes new races, video and cars, such as one of the Brazilian's first karts. Also included is the 1985 John Player Special Lotus 97T that he put on pole position seven times that year, just his second in Formula One.

You can get the car the hard way, by securing at least a bronze rating in one of the Senna Challenges with tests like trying try to come close to his actual times on real F1 tracks. Or you can get it the easy way, with in-game credits.

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Latest Transformers 4 trailer has Lamborghini getting in on the action

Transformers 4 trailer

If any modern movie franchise defines spectacle, it has to be Transformers. All instantiations are about inviting audiences to sit down, fill up popcorn and turn off their brains because the next 90 minutes are nothing but shiny robots, explosions and loud noises. Oh, and cars... lots of cars. The latest trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth film in the series, has just hit the web, and it checks all the boxes of what makes the films stand out.

The last trailer showed off a plethora of the movie's cars. This new one aims for action and focuses mostly on robots beating each other up in various international locales. Although, there is a great look at the movie's Lamborghini Aventador (pictured above) transforming and even briefly fighting Optimus Prime.

From the previous trailer and other releases, we know that the latest movie features a ton of vehicles, including a new look for Bumblebee, the Chevrolet Camaro, plus a Bugatti Veyron, C7 Corvette, Freightliner truck, Pagani Huayra and many more. Transformers: Age of Extinction is scheduled to hit theaters on June 27, 2014.

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Caterham Seven 160 vs. Morgan Three-Wheeler, which is quicker 'round a track

Morgan Three-Wheeler

Caterham 160Morgan Three-Wheeler or Caterham? That is a decision we desperately wish we had to wrestle with. Both are truly iconic vehicles, boasting a cult-like following. With the Morgan, it's unique layout and vintage look make it one of the single most interesting vehicles on the road, even if its V-twin engine doesn't deliver a ton of grunt.

With the Caterham, though, we have a known performance icon. In this 160 variant, though, there's only 80 horsepower at work, courtesy of a turbocharged, three-cylinder engine.

So, which would you choose? The seriously cool Morgan or the classically styled, entry level Caterham? Evo is here to help you figure that out. The Brit mag has taken the two cars to Mallory Park circuit in Leicester, UK, to see which is best.

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2015 Chrysler 200 nets 10,000 orders in first day

2015 Chrysler 200

Chrysler is having a "crazy impressive" launch for its 2015 200, claims company spokesperson Rick Deneau. Within the first two days of opening the order books, the Pentastar took over 17,000 requests for its swoopy new family sedan - 10,000 of them in the first day. The company says that's enough to keep its Sterling Heights, MI, factory running at full capacity through mid-July.

Deneau tells Autoblog that the last time he saw such an immediate popularity for a model was when Ram launched its 1500 EcoDiesel pickup. That truck sold out of its initial order allocation in just three days earlier this year. As you'd expect, "most of these are dealer orders," Deneau admits. In other words, they're not necessarily coming at the behest of individual customer, but that's standard operating procedure as dealers look to fill up their showrooms.

For the moment, it's too early to know which trim or engine will prove most popular in the new 200. At present, most of the ordered
models are highly optioned. That's normal for a new vehicle launch, as early adopters tend to want all the bells and whistles and dealers want to show off their new stock by putting their best foot forward.

The early order spike suggests some pent-up enthusiasm for the 200, at least among dealers. If actual consumers like it as much, the 200 should go some way toward helping Chrysler extend its growing market share.

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Car Magazine samples all-new Eagle Low-Drag GT Coupe

Eagle Low Drag GT

We really like the idea of resto-modding: taking something old, fitting modern components and accouterments and putting it back on the road. It's the single best way to preserve classic designs for future generations while making sure that the horrible, antiquated driving experiences aren't there to scare people off.

Eagle, in the UK, is one of the best in that respect. The small firm takes old Jaguar E-Types and transforms them into modern creations that can brake, handle and accelerate like they never could from the factory. Eagle's latest creation is one we've seen before - the Low Drag GT Coupe.

With its beautiful looks and intoxicating engine note, can you really blame us for posting another video on this 700,000-pound ($1.17 million in a straight exchange at today's rates) masterpiece? Car has a video review of the new model, and it's really worth a watch

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Nissan recalling 104k Juke models over faulty timing chain<P align=center><A href=""><IMG alt="2011 Nissan Juke" src="!/format/jpg/quality/85/" data-mep="259084" data-credit="Copyright 2014 AOL"></A></P><BR><BR><A href="">General Motors</A> isn't the <A href="">only manufacturer that gets to issue a recall</A> today, as <A href="">Nissan</A> is set to announce a voluntary <A href="">recall</A> of the 2011 to 2013 <A href="">Juke</A> due to a fault with the timing chain. 104,439 units are affected by this recall. The timing chain in some Jukes could deteriorate over time, leading to a warning light in the instrument cluster. In extreme cases, the chain could snap.<BR><BR>Owners of affected vehicles are being notified, and will need to report to their local dealership. The free repairs will replace the timing chain, chain guides and crank sprocket.<BR><IMG src="" width=1 height=1>&nbsp;

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

2015 Scion FR-S gets suspension, appearance enhancements

2015 Scion FR-S

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about some suspension and appearance changes for the European-market Toyota GT86 - a car that's better known as the Scion FR-S (and Subaru BRZ) here in the United States. At the time, our US contacts at Scion told us we'd have final confirmation "soon" as to whether or not these upgrades would make their way to our FR-S, and now, we have those official details.

For 2015, the FR-S features a more rigid front suspension setup, and the rear shock absorbers have been retuned, all of which has been done to reduce body roll and improve feedback. Other upgrades include a new shark-fin antenna and larger exhaust pipes that are now flush with the rear bodywork. Inside, buyers will be treated to an updated interior panel with a carbon fiber look, the addition of automatic on/off headlights, and a new key design. All of this comes at very little additional cost, with the manual transmission-equipped 2015 FR-S starting at $24,900 (not including $755 for destination) - an increase of $400.

Elsewhere in the Scion range, the tC coupe has been updated slightly for 2015. The not-as-sporty coupe now features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on automatic transmission-equipped models, and a couple of new colors are offered: Cosmic Gray and Blizzard Pearl. The 2015 tC starts at $19,210 - the same as the 2014 model.

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Mercedes opening up new C-Class convertible

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet

Mercedes-Benz is expanding its lineup, and not just when it comes to crossovers: it's also growing its array of cabrios. Setting aside two-seat roadsters like the SL, SLK and SLS, it wasn't that long ago that the CLK was Benz's only four-seat convertible. But that's since been replaced by the E-Class convertible, which in turn will soon be joined not only by a larger S-Class droptop but a C-Class as well. And that's just what we appear to have here.

Spied undergoing development testing, this prototype appears to be pretty darn close to completion, shedding its black body-cladding in favor of the swirly camo that typically covers near-production body panels. Though the test vehicle is wearing a fixed hardtop, the production version is expected to pack a fabric roof mechanism.

Expanding on the previous C-Class family that included a sedan, wagon and coupe, the new C-Class convertible looks like it'll be ready to launch in time for next summer, with many of the same engine options as the fixed-roof versions.

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Nissan 370Z Nismo freshening coming tomorrow

Nissan Nismo teaser

Nissan is set to bring a special to the Fairlady faithful at the annual ZDAYZ fest. Based on the sole teaser and the event it's being unveiled at, it's pretty clear that Nissan is going to be issuing some kind of update to the Nismo version of its 370Z.

What that update is, though, is unclear. We can see a few small visual tweaks, like the horizontal LED running lights and their associated vertical vent. The grille looks reformed as well. Beyond that, though, it looks like we're stuck waiting for the full details until tomorrow afternoon.

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2015 Cadillac ATS Coupe priced from $37,995

Cadillac ATS Coupe

Cadillac has released pricing details on its new-for-2014 ATS Coupe. The new model, which will be available with buyer's choice of a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter V6 (the ATS Sedan's base 2.5 won't be making the trip) can be had with optional all-wheel-drive in place of the standard rear-wheel setup, while customers can also snag a six-speed manual or six-speed auto.

Prices start at $37,995, which represents a $2,900 premium over the 2014 ATS Sedan (pricing on the 2015 four-door isn't available yet) with the same 2.0-liter engine. Still, the ATS Coupe starts at just over $2,500 less than a base BMW 428i, which is also less powerful and offers less standard equipment. The Caddy is also less costly than the Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe, although only by about $200. It's even cheaper than the Audi A5, which starts at $38,105, but that model includes all-wheel drive as standard. It should be noted that these prices are without their respective destination charges (*$995 for the Caddy, $925 each for the BMW and the Mercedes and $895 for the Audi).

Unfortunately, Cadillac hasn't released any additional pricing information beyond what we have here, so we can't tell you how much things like all-wheel drive, an automatic transmission or the 321-horsepower V6 will cost. That makes it difficult to figure out just how reasonable the ATS Coupe will be relative to its challengers, but so far, the value equation looks to be in the car's favor. When those full details roll in, though, you know where to look. Scroll down for the official press release from Cadillac.

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Next VW CC could get A7-like fastback bodystyle

2013 Volkswagen Passat CC

It appears that despite slowing sales, Volkswagen isn't ready to give up on its dapper CC sedan yet. VW of America CEO Michael Horn says that a sleek, new design is being worked on and could be here in about two years.

Horn tells Motor Trend that there are two ways for the next CC's design to go at the moment. One of them would be a four-door coupe with a fastback hatch design like the Audi A7. He didn't indicate what the other possibility was.

Units sold in North America may even be built locally. "With the cost of production going up, we're looking at the business case, but maybe there's another option, of waiting 2-3 years and getting the CC built here in the US or in Mexico," Horn says. He goes on to note that the same might happen with assembly of the next Tiguan as well.

The CC has always been the fancy, more stylish brother to the Passat - in fact, it was originally known as the Passat CC. But with that extra flair comes a wicked price increase. At the moment, the two models differ by over $10,000 in their base retail prices, a reality that has likely has something to do with the fact that the current CC is still built in Germany and is based on the far more costly European Passat, not the larger, lower-cost North American architecture.

Sales have been sluggish for the CC recently. In April, VW sold just 946 examples, down 42.8 percent, and sales so far this year have totaled 3,920 units, down 31.7 percent. That's about a tenth of the numbers of its sibling, which itself isn't doing as well as Wolfsburg would like.

In the MT piece, Horn also comes close to verifying our suspicions about the Golf Sportwagen. When VW sent out photos of the new wagon, some of them included the 4Motion badge, yet no all-wheel drive model has been announced. While he didn't confirm it, the CEO admits an AWD variant is likely to make it to North America.

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Brabus tunes Mercedes E63 to 850 horsepower

Brabus 850 6.0 Biturbo

If you're in the market for a super-sedan, you could do a lot worse than a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG - one of the most capable four-doors on the market. But if even that's not enough for you, there are always tuners eager to squeeze out more. And when it comes to Mercedes, few can come close to Brabus.

The German tuner made a name for itself swapping a 6.9-liter V12 into the E-Class to give it, in its last iteration, as much as 800 horsepower, propelling the rocket sled up to 230 miles per hour. But these days everyone is downsizing their engines, and that includes Brabus - at least, that is, in relative terms.

Its latest modification to the E63 ditches the heavy twelve in favor of a V8, albeit bored out to 6.0 liters, twin-turbocharged and cranked up to a massive 850 horsepower and just as much torque. The resulting Brabus 850 6.0 Biturbo is said to be capable of rocketing to 62 miles per hour in just 3.7 seconds, but opt for the 4Matic all-wheel-drive version and you're looking at a 0-62 time of just 3.1 seconds, with a top speed as high as 217 mph.

Of course if all that sounds like too much, Brabus will gladly modify your E63 to 611, 650 or 720 horsepower, and in the process fit it with updated aero, rolling stock and a retrimmed interior according to the buyer's specifications.

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In hindsight, Musk wouldn't use Lotus for Tesla Roadster

2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5

The world will be a different place after Elon Musk builds a time traveling device (don't ask us how we know that will happen). For one thing, the Tesla Roadster of the rewritten future will not have been built using the chassis of the Lotus Elise. Also, verb tenses will be becoming even more confusing and, possibly, awkward.

"We ended up changing most of the damn car" - Elon Musk

We know about the not-using-the-Lotus thing because the Tesla Motors CEO said as much yesterday at the World Energy Innovation Forum at the Tesla Factory in Fremont. The two-day event, which also offers Model S test rides and a factory tour for attendees, featured a fireside chat with the electric automaker's CEO and Ira Ehrenpreis. During the discussion, Musk revealed that if he had to do it over again, he would have built the Roadster from the ground up instead of using the Lotus Elise chassis. "We ended up changing most of the damn car, so we thought later, why did we do that," he said.

Another problem with the original idea for the car was the drivetrain. At first, Tesla had meant to use the motor and other propulsive bits from AC Propulsion, only to find that powertrain didn't work well in a commercial application. Instead Tesla only licensed the reductive charging patent, which allowed some integration of the inverter and charger.

Besides knocking Tesla's own early efforts, the outspoken entrepreneur took a couple swings at other technologies with quotable quotes such as: "The internal combustion engine is a ridiculous thing!" and "Current lithium ion technology is better than theoretical fuel cell limits. So, game over. Why bother with fuel cells?" Looks like there are some things Musk is not interested in going back in time and changing.

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