Edition: December 2010 - Vol 18 Number 12
Article#: 3607
Author: Repertoire

Ring in the new

It’s true that over the years, carmakers have drifted away from the model-year calendar, in which all new models were introduced in October. Now, they roll out new designs throughout the year. Still, the end of the year is a time of anticipation for new-car buyers. According to, the 2011 offerings reflect America’s changing priorities after a spike in gas prices in 2008 and tough new emissions rules enacted by the federal government. Among the high-profile debuts are the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf all-electric vehicle. Other fuel-sipping entrants include the Chevrolet Cruze and the overhauled Ford Focus, set to go on sale in early 2011. Among the tiniest of the new models are the Fiat 500, which will be sold by Chrysler dealers in early 2011, and the Scion IQ, a small two-door, which is “about the size of a Smart ForTwo and only half as ugly,” according to Forbes.

Leave the driving to us

Search giant Google has outfitted some cars with artificial-intelligence software that allows the vehicles to drive themselves. According to a report in the New York Times, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. The only accident: One of the cars was rear-ended while stopped at a red light. The cars follow routes programmed into their GPS navigation systems. They know the speed limit, because their databases know the limit for every road. And the cars can be programmed for different personalities – aggressive or cautious (more prone to yielding to other vehicles). Google is using six Priuses and an Audi TT in the project.

Charge ‘er up

Best Buy Co will provide electric vehicle charging stations at selected stores, beginning with 12 stores in Arizona, California and Washington. Each store will have three charging stations, provided by ECOtality, a provider of transportation and storage technologies. The data gathered from the charging stations will be used to provide a profile of consumer charging behavior and identify potential incentives for electric-vehicle host sites, according to the companies. ECOtality intends to oversee the installation of as many as 15,000 commercial and residential charging stations in 16 cities and major metropolitan areas, as part of a U.S. Department of Energy grant.

Driven a Ford … or anything from Detroit … lately?

Detroit is recapturing the interest of consumers again. Sales of Detroit’s vehicles climbed 11 percent in 2010 through August, compared with an 8-percent increase for the overall market, according to a report in the New York Times. Ford was leading the pack with an 18 percent gain in sales. Part of the allure may be old-fashioned quality. For the first time since J. D. Powers & Associates launched its “initial quality study” of new cars 24 years ago, domestic auto brands posted better scores on quality than imports. Ford has surpassed Toyota on reliability in the eyes of new-car buyers.

Car Home for Android

Car Home for Android turns Android phones into GPS navigators. Google has released a new version of the app (currently for Nexus One and Motorola Droid only), which is said to allow the driver to quickly customize shortcuts. Car Home can be opened directly from the driver’s phone or by docking the phone in a car dock. The driver can automatically switch to Car Home when the phone pairs with any Bluetooth device.