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Sun, 05 Aug 2018 12:00:07 +0000
Surf and Safari with the 2018 Jaguar E-Pace Along South Africa’s Sunshine Coast

JEFFREY’S BAY, South Africa — “DAMN, SKUNKED,” I thought as I looked at the nearly flat water of the famous World Surf League championship tour spot. That’s the risk you take when you travel to the other side of the world and plan just one day to score some waves. Not all was lost. About...

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Not since Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” has an infestation been so fowl. The offenders are marketed by various brands—Bird, Lime, Spin—but essentially they’re the same: dockless, stand-up electric scooters that can be rented, via smartphone app, for as little as $1, plus 15 cents per minute. Seemingly overnight, they’ve descended upon metro areas from San Francisco to Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. But the plague may well be at its worst where I live in West Los Angeles. From Santa Monica to Westwood, you can’t walk so much as one block without ducking a swooping Bird.

Come to L.A., and you’ll see them: dorks whizzing to and fro on their skinny scooters at speeds up to 15 mph. Almost all the riders are teens and 20-somethings (legally, you must have a driver’s license to ride), and every one wears the same smug, self-satisfied, “My smartphone and I are gliding into the future!” look on his or her face. Of course, 90 percent of them are zooming along amid pedestrians on sidewalks. Many times I’ve yelled, “You’re supposed to be in the street!”—that’s the law in California. Exactly zero riders have given a flying fig. Usually, as they rush by, I get a bird from the Bird.

Given my profession, it’s obvious I love automobiles, especially for recreation. That said, I’ll be the first to admit, after a few hours dealing with the horrors of L.A. traffic, I also love putting the car away and taking a good walk. Most days, I try to get in 3 to 5 miles. You notice and appreciate things on foot you simply can’t while being attentive at the wheel: an artfully landscaped home, a red bloom of narrow-leaf fuchsia, the enticing aromas emanating from a sidewalk espresso stand. Walking is a respite from the tensions of the road.

Or was. Just the other day I was crossing the pedestrian mall of the UCLA campus—where signs specifically prohibit riding bicycles, skateboards, and scooters. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye and instinctively stopped short. A blink later, a very tall girl on a Bird whooshed past at top speed a mere inch away. Avoiding me, she lost control, leapt off the scooter, and, after a few awkward skips, managed to land on her feet. The Bird crashed into a bank of bushes. The girl uttered not a word and merely turned to untangle her mount. “What are you doing!” I demanded. “You’re gonna break someone’s legs—or worse!” Without so much as looking at me, she remounted her Bird and, as she zipped away, turned and yelled, “Kiss my ass, jerk!”

Even at a standstill the scooters are a blight. Riders can find Birds via GPS using the app, so they can pick up and drop off the scooters anywhere. And I mean anywhere. Walk in West L.A., and you’ll see flocks of Birds on their kickstands in the middle of sidewalks. Or in front of business doors. Or blocking crosswalks. Or jammed into shrubs. Sometimes riders don’t even bother with the kickstand and simply drop the Bird on its side right where they get off. The scooters are just another sorry manifestation of human self-absorption.

Birds and their ilk are answers to a question nobody asked. Devotees will tell you, “With a scooter I can get to class 15 minutes earlier,” or, “This takes care of the last mile from the commuter train!” Uh, right. How did you survive six months ago? The average person can walk a mile in around 16 to 17 minutes. How much time do we need to save? Do we really need another device to rescue us from the “chore” of putting our sorry bodies to actual use?

And Silicon Valley thinks it’s playing savior. Scooters are environmentally friendly! They’re not cars! They’re yet another reason to use your phone! But it’s a sham, basically just another “breakthrough” startup that aims to build a ton of hype and, whether it ends up working or not, reap a ton of capital for its creators. (Bird is already worth $2 billion.) The Bird people even claim users can make money, too—the company will pay $5 for every Bird you pick up on the street and recharge yourself. A writer for Slate tried being a “Charger.” After two weeks and 10-15 evening hours scouring his neighborhood via the app for parked Birds (most of which were gone by the time he got there), he’d made $125.

At press time, San Francisco has temporarily banned e-scooters pending the distribution of permits for a one-year pilot program. Meantime, I’ll be diving right back into my own urban-transport innovation. Feet-first.

The post L.A.’s Sidewalks are Suffering from Scooter Blight appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Sat, 04 Aug 2018 12:00:36 +0000
L.A.’s Sidewalks are Suffering from Scooter Blight

Not since Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” has an infestation been so fowl. The offenders are marketed by various brands—Bird, Lime, Spin—but essentially they’re the same: dockless, stand-up electric scooters that can be rented, via smartphone app, for as little as $1, plus 15 cents per minute. Seemingly overnight, they’ve descended upon metro areas from San...

The post L.A.’s Sidewalks are Suffering from Scooter Blight appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

Early last year, two uniquely American,self-proclaimed super patriots met at a much-publicized White House event for a good-natured discussion of U.S. trade policy.

In this corner: Donald Trump, the fast-talking, hard-nosed businessman and president of the United States. In the other: rough and ready Harley-Davidson, maker of the quintessential American motorcycle and one of the world’s most iconic brands. Its message, emblazoned on the company’s Facebook page: “115 Years of Freedom.”

In his remarks during the ceremony held shortly after his inauguration, the president was effusive in his praise of the venerable Wisconsin firm: “What a great, great group of people, and what a fantastic job you do.”

Now the Trump and Harley brands are back in the news, together again, only this time because—just like in reality TV—now they’re at war.

Why? Because Harley is pointing to the Trump administration’s trade policies as justification for its recent decision to move more of its production offshore, almost certainly leading to American job losses in the process. Harley claims the move is necessary in order to remain profitable in the wake of 31 percent counter-tariffs just levied by the European Union on motorcycles and certain other American exports, such as bourbon. Stiff and punitive, they were retaliation for U.S. tariffs that have dramatically raised the prices of imported steel and aluminum, among other new levies being bruited by our trade warrior in chief, including ones on imported cars and car parts. As I write, this is giving pretty much the entire automobile industry conniptions, for understandable reasons.

Like it or not, the global auto industry (like most industries) relies on supply chains premised on the largely free movement of parts and goods. Car companies and their suppliers and dealers have businesses based on this premise. So even given the automobile industry’s historic penchant for overstatement, and one’s healthy ambivalence about NAFTA and the new world trade order, a neutral observer finds himself worried.

General Motors said the proposed tariffs could lead to job losses in the U.S. and the new levies might end up “isolating U.S. businesses like GM from the global market that helps to preserve and grow our strength here at home.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing domestic and foreign automakers with U.S. operations, predicts the Department of Commerce’s proposed 25 percent tariffs on imported cars might hike the average price of an imported car by as much as $5,800.

“Tariffs will lead to increased producer costs, increased producer costs will lead to increased vehicle costs, increased vehicle costs will lead to fewer sales and less tax receipts, fewer sales will lead to fewer jobs, and those fewer jobs will significantly impact many communities and families across the country,” the alliance fretted in a letter sent to the Department of Commerce.

Illustrating how transnationally complex the modern industry is, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which runs 23 plants and employs some 56,000 people in the U.S., is actually by law an Italian-American company incorporated in the Netherlands with headquarters in Britain. Its popular Jeep Renegade is built in Italy, China, and Brazil. According to one estimate, it could lose as much as $866 million in profit if a proposed 25 percent tariff on cars from the European Union is enacted.

Foreign carmakers with factories in America—including BMW, Volvo, Mercedes, Hyundai, Subaru, Toyota, and Honda—also stand to suffer, along with their suppliers. A study by the Peterson Institute predicted that 195,000 jobs will be lost if the tariffs are enacted, and 624,000 will be lost if retaliatory tariffs follow.

Volvo, whose new plant in South Carolina is just opening, said its jobs depend on customers from outside the United States. “Thus, half of the 4,000 direct jobs at the factory that we aim to create are related to exports, and if we cannot trade freely, those U.S. jobs may not be created at all,” the company said in a statement.

The prospect of tariff-induced job losses isn’t just scare talk. While Harley-Davidson has had production outside the U.S. for some years, there’s no doubt it will pin its latest round of projected American job losses directly on the new tariffs. But as the salvos from his Twitter feed have shown, Trump isn’t having Harley’s response to Europe’s actions. “A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never!” the president tweeted. “Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!”

Big, noisy, and technologically backward, Harleys undoubtedly have their charm, but the marque has begun to suffer in the coolness stakes as its core audience gets distinctly older. U.S. sales have been in decline for several years. Critics say the company has been too slow to make lighter, more modern motorcycles that cater to younger, technically savvy buyers.

To be fair, motorcycle sales in general have been on the decline in recent years. As young people grow increasingly less interested in bikes, manufacturers have been struggling to adjust to the generational shift in consumer preferences. Yet, ironically, sales of Harley-Davidsons in Europe (the company’s second biggest market) fell less than half a percent in 2017 while dropping more than 9 percent in the U.S. But when you’re selling Americana, actually making your product in America helps.

In this context, some have observed with disappointment, the windfall Harley enjoyed courtesy of the GOP tax cut did not go to bolster American production, or save American jobs or raise wages, or develop electric offerings more quickly. (They might have even helped weather the European tariffs.) Instead, the money reportedly went to stock buybacks, meant to prop up dwindling earnings per share.

The president did not previously see any of this as grounds for excoriating Harley; nor did the company’s facilities in Australia, Brazil, India, and Thailand seem to bother him until the tariff flap. Trump was also silent when Harley decided to close its Kansas City plant in March despite appeals to the president from the plant’s union to save the factory and its 800 jobs—amounting to roughly 15 percent of the company’s labor force.

It used to be a regular refrain of the Republican faithful that the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. (The GM and Chrysler bailouts come to mind.) But if such agnosticism ever were the case, it’s that way no longer, the new wrinkle being that it’s not clear anymore whether the government has any real idea of who it’s setting up to triumph or fail.

The post Trump’s Tariffs Could Have Unintended Consequences appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Sat, 28 Jul 2018 10:00:26 +0000
Trump’s Tariffs Could Have Unintended Consequences

Early last year, two uniquely American,self-proclaimed super patriots met at a much-publicized White House event for a good-natured discussion of U.S. trade policy. In this corner: Donald Trump, the fast-talking, hard-nosed businessman and president of the United States. In the other: rough and ready Harley-Davidson, maker of the quintessential American motorcycle and one of the...

The post Trump’s Tariffs Could Have Unintended Consequences appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

A friend of mine recently posted photos of a Ford Focus RS that met an unfortunate demise via a rather forceful impact with a large tree in his quiet neighborhood. The driver was young and it’s clear he was travelling far too quickly on the residential road. It’s also clear to me that a 350 hp hot hatch isn’t remotely an appropriate automobile for a young, inexperienced driver. Which got me thinking—what is the right type of vehicle for a new driver, anyway?

First, you must remember that pretty much all modern cars are very quick. Gone are the days of properly slow vehicles. My first car was a 1983 Audi 4000 S. I badly wanted a 1983-1984 Volkswagen Rabbit (Golf) GTI but my dad, having owned one, smartly knew that the pocket rocket VW wasn’t a good idea for round one of car ownership. Under the hood of my Audi sedan was a not-even-remotely-lively 74-horspower, 1.7-liter engine. Extra-long gearing in the five-speed manual gearbox added to its leisurely demeanor but the boxy Audi never had any issues keeping up with traffic and cruised happily and efficiently at 80 mph on the highway. Today, the base Audi A4 in North America has 252 hp and hits 60 mph from a stop in around 6 seconds. That’s similar performance to a late ‘80s Porsche 911 Carrera. Even your average modern crossover/SUV would blow away the majority of vehicles on the road 25-year ago.

Speaking of crossovers, there’s the natural assumption by many parents that new drivers need all-wheel drive, especially in the snowbelt. They don’t. Power to all four wheels isn’t necessarily a good fit for educating drivers from scratch. The extra traction can give a false sense of security, especially in inclement weather. Front-wheel drive (with winter tires, of course) is the right setup for the snow as the forward momentum is better aligned with the grip levels when turning and braking. I also recommend buying a car instead of an SUV or crossover, as their lower stance means they tend to handle better and provide drivers more of a feel for the road.

Then we come to the transmission choice. There are many reasons why a manual gearbox is a good idea for a new driver but I fully understand the difficulty in finding a car thus equipped. Plus, finding a parent who actually knows how to drive a manual transmission and, therefore, is able to teach the skill to a new driver is getting more and more difficult. I prefer the three-pedal setup as it keeps drivers focused on the task at hand—driving. You’re less likely to reach for a smart phone or multitask if you have to shift gears. Again, the manual gearbox route isn’t an easy one for most people but, if it can work, I highly recommend taking the path and teaching your child the life-long skill and pleasure of dipping a clutch and shifting gears.

There’s also the matter of who pays for a teenager’s first car. Even if you can afford it, you should share the costs with your child. This includes insurance, which can be crazy expensive for a new driver. That 1983 Audi came with 144,000 miles (one-owner, with flawless service records from new) on the clock and cost $1,900 to purchase in 1991 (equivalent to about $3,470 today). I paid for half and my dad paid for half. He also made me a deal: if I kept the car nice and got good grades, he’d pay me my $950 portion when I graduated from high school. I took excellent care of my Audi and got the money from my dad in 1993. I continue to take OCD-like care of my cars to this day because I started off with that mindset from the beginning. My cars are worth more when I sell them and people often ask me to get in touch when I put one of my cars up for sale due to the meticulous maintenance and well-kept condition.

Given all of this, what vehicles make sense for the new driver? Well, the easy route is to not worry about it and simply trickle-down a current family vehicle. I don’t recommend that path. It’s important to go through the process of hunting for a used vehicle with your child. Teach them the process of finding a quality, pre-owned automobile. If one of my kids were ready for their first car, I’d be digging through Craigslist ads for a $5,000-7,000 (or maybe less) car outside of the salt belt (read: a rust free car) featuring a manual gearbox, a well-written ad and good photos. I’d make sure to confirm service records, ownership history, etc. and, if all checks out, I’d invest in having the car inspected by a reputable mechanic.

Maybe a Mazda3 or a Ford Focus would be good, as I’m partial to the utility and style of a hatchback. Or a Toyota product like a Matrix—or its twin, the Pontiac Vibe. Even though I like the German engineering, I’d stay away from an older VW Golf due to potential expensive repairs. They seem to lack simplicity and reliability. I like Honda products too, but most are sedans and their high resale values make them more expensive to purchase. Again, the rarity of a manual gearbox means I’d stay pretty open to what specific vehicle to hunt for and concentrate on service records, ownership history, condition, etc.

I’m glad I have quite a bit of time before I need to worry about this process with my kids. It’s not an easy one, but it’s never too early to begin chatting with your children about the process, costs of car ownership, maintenance routine, insurance, etc. Car enthusiasts sometimes take for granted that many of us understand the world of buying of good car. Many people don’t, especially the youth. So start by teaching your kids early. Maybe they’ll grow up to be responsible enough (and interested enough) to eventually to enjoy the ownership of a crazy-fast hot hatchback without imbedding it into a tree.

The post Choosing an Automobile for a New Driver appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Thu, 26 Jul 2018 19:36:08 +0000
Choosing an Automobile for a New Driver

A friend of mine recently posted photos of a Ford Focus RS that met an unfortunate demise via a rather forceful impact with a large tree in his quiet neighborhood. The driver was young and it’s clear he was travelling far too quickly on the residential road. It’s also clear to me that a 350...

The post Choosing an Automobile for a New Driver appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

To be frank, I didn’t relish the thought of leaving the office a bit early last Thursday to put on a tux in 85-degree weather, and schlep to a downtown Detroit casino/hotel to attend the Automotive Hall of Fame 2018 Induction & Awards Gala Ceremony.

There would be no Formula 1 drivers, exotic car designers or genius engineers tonight, but instead Toyota Motor Company founder Kiichiro Toyoda, Multimatic and Magna International founder Frank Stronach, AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson, and “Car Talk” hosts Tom & Ray Magliozzi.

[The Hall of Fame’s 2018 Distinguished Service Citation went to General Motors executive Steve Kiefer, who established the Kiefer Foundation after his 18-year-old son, Mitchel, was killed in a crash caused by a texting driver.]

An august group of men, but not exactly an enthusiast’s dream. And it was hot. Anyway, Volkswagen of America invited a few other auto journalists and myself to their table at the ceremony, which as it turns out was next to Drew and Alex Magliozzis’. They accepted the honor for their fathers, Ray Magliozzi and the late Tom Magliozzi, respectively, riffing on their parents’ shtick in arguing over which was “Click” and which was “Clack.”

As one of the 4 million regular “Car Talk” listeners over the 25 years their show was on NPR, I admit I was looking forward most to this acceptance speech. After the ceremony, I told Alex and Drew how I spoke to their fathers on the phone some 30 years ago, freelancing a story on the then-newly national show for San Diego station KPBS’s On Air magazine.

“Car Talk” producer Doug Berman at first allowed me something like 15 minutes, on a weekday, to interview them by phone. Then he cut the time to 10 minutes, then eight minutes, and then only on a Saturday evening (Boston time) when they were in the WBUR studio to do the show.

Click & Clack just laughed for half of the eight minutes. The other four minutes, I tried to figure out whom to quote—was that Tom, or Ray, just now?

“Yes,” they’d answer in unison.

In a video produced for the ceremony, Ray Magliozzi said he thought the show’s contribution was to make people feel comfortable about going to the repair shop. But his nephew, Alex, took this thought much deeper.

“I think what made it special is it wasn’t a show about cars, it was a show about people and relationships, and they used cars to get people to talk about their innermost feelings. There’s a real intersection between cars and life in this country,” and Click and Clack brought that to radio.

Akio Toyoda also used video, making his grandfather’s induction as entertaining as the Magliozzis’. The grandson was born a few years after Kiichiro Toyoda died, but the short video brought the two together, with Akio playing both parts. Watch the video here.

“You may be surprised to know that Toyotas are made in America, now,” Akio tells his grandfather. It wouldn’t be the only remark tonight to address current politics.

Frank Stronach, the Austrian-born Canadian who founded Multimatic in 1957 and purchased Magna Electronics in 1969 to eventually form Magna International, addressed the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S.

“I really admire, and I like the United States,” Stronach said. “Especially in the last 10 years, I spent a lot of time here. It’s a great, great country. It’s the last country, I think, where the free enterprise system, maybe, has a chance to survive. Maybe.

“Without free enterprise, we can’t have a free society,” he continued. “But it’s got a major problem. More and more capital is held by fewer and fewer people. That means we have less and less capitalists.”

“In essence I would like to see a law, which would be passed on a national level which will guarantee the workers a percentage of the profits. Because we have to make capitalists out of them. That’s the only way the free enterprise system will survive,” Stronach said.

Mike Jackson, who started his career working for Mercedes-Benz dealerships after he lusted after a 300 SL Gullwing, but had to settle for a used 190 SL, spoke of how he went to Vienna, Austria, to manage a dealership as a young man. His new boss saw Jackson as a green, inexperienced American who knew nothing of the world, so they went for a drive behind the Iron Curtain.

“We spend the next two weeks in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Russian occupation, Communists everywhere. And everything is gray. The people were gray, the sky is gray, the food is gray, the mood is gray,” Jackson said. Subtly referencing the president’s recent Helsinki meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, he continued, “It’s absolutely the most depressing thing I ever saw. Too bad Donald Trump couldn’t make this trip…

“That’s when I realized free enterprise can do the most good for the most people. … Because it can make us equally miserable. It took a German to introduce me and understand the greatness of America.”

The post Scenes from the 2018 Automotive Hall of Fame Ceremony appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:50:47 +0000
Scenes from the 2018 Automotive Hall of Fame Ceremony

To be frank, I didn’t relish the thought of leaving the office a bit early last Thursday to put on a tux in 85-degree weather, and schlep to a downtown Detroit casino/hotel to attend the Automotive Hall of Fame 2018 Induction & Awards Gala Ceremony. There would be no Formula 1 drivers, exotic car designers...

The post Scenes from the 2018 Automotive Hall of Fame Ceremony appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler and of Ferrari until Saturday, died Wednesday after complications from shoulder surgery. News reports say the exact cause of death is unknown. He was 66.

“Unfortunately, what we feared has become to pass,” Agnelli family scion and chairman of Fiat Chrysler’s holding company, Exor, said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Sergio Marchionne, man and friend, is gone.”

Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari suddenly replaced Marchionne as their CEO citing a sudden downward turn in his health after shoulder surgery earlier in July. His replacement at Fiat Chrysler was Jeep and Ram chief Michael Manley at Fiat Chrysler, while his Ferrari post was assumed by former Philip Morris European chief Louis Carey Camilleri at Ferrari. Marchionne was set to retire from Fiat Chrysler by early next year, though he had committed to remaining Ferrari chairman and CEO until 2021.

“I believe the best way to honor his memory is to build on the legacy he left us, continuing to develop the human values of responsibility and openness of which he was the most ardent champion,” Elkann’s remarks continued. “My family and I will be forever grateful for what he has done. Our thoughts are with Manuela [his longtime companion], and his sons Alessio and Tyler.

“I would ask again everyone to respect the privacy of Sergio’s family.”

Marchionne’s health problems became known after news reports in recent weeks that he would not be able to lead Fiat Chrysler’s second quarter earnings report. He was last seen in public June 25, and shortly after had shoulder surgery, according to news reports. We should have seen him in the Ferrari garage at the French, Austrian, British, and Sunday’s German Grands Prix, but he was nowhere on camera.

I last saw him at Fiat Chrysler’s Investor Day, better known to automotive press as the Five-Year Plan, Marchionne’s third since he brokered a deal to fold Chrysler into Fiat in 2009. Marchionne’s Fiat saved Chrysler from certain death following the Obama administration’s forced bankruptcy of the American automaker, with no money down on the deal.

In the ensuing years, Marchionne held a sprawling, optimistic Five-Year Plan before the press and financial analysts in Auburn Hills, Michigan in November 2009, and again in May 2014. His third and his last outline, held this June in Balocco, Italy, was far less-detailed in terms of in which model year certain new products would arrive, and concentrated on Fiat Chrysler’s global brands, Jeep, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati, plus the U.S.-centric, moneymaking Ram brand.

Marchionne held a sort of mortgage-burning ceremony at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights assembly plant in June 2011, where he announced Fiat Chrysler was paying off Chrysler’s $7.5-billion in U.S. Treasury, Canadian, and Ontario loans, six years early. Sterling Heights, which had returned to midsize sedan production, is now switching to truck production.

He’s had his share of setbacks in the decade since Fiat saved Chrysler, and then itself was saved by Chrysler’s Jeep and Ram-fed profitability. In 2015, Marchionne emailed General Motors CEO Mary Barra requesting a meeting to discuss the merger of the two automakers, even though a decade earlier he got GM to pay more than $2 billion to not have to buy Fiat. Barra didn’t return his emails. There’s Fiat’s troubled re-entry into the U.S. market (though its first year was about as good as BMW’s reintroduction of Mini), costly, and delayed development of the Alfa Romeo Giorgio platform, consistently low quality scores for both Fiat and Chrysler marques, and a 2017 federal lawsuit accusing it of cheating on diesel emissions.

Through it all, Sergio—as everybody calls him—endeared himself to employees and press alike. A native of Italy who came to Canada with his family at age 14, Sergio is certainly one of the most quotable and forthright executives in the history of the auto industry. He studied philosophy and law in college, and it shows.

His employees say he works them hard, expecting long hours including weekends and holidays, and they consistently say they’d rather not work for anyone else.

In late 2012, Marchionne and his PR guy sat down with me after a factory event, giving me a scoop on how the Dodge Charger and Challenger would migrate to Alfa’s Giorgio midsize rear-wheel-drive platform within a few years (I had asked). My last question to him, at the Investor Day press conference in Balocco, was to ask how those plans had changed.

“I’m convinced that we don’t need to go as far as the Giorgio architecture” for the next Dodge Charger and Challenger, he answered. “Certainly by the time we’re finished with [the 15-year-old Charger/Challenger/Chrysler 300] architecture, you will not recognize it.”

He and his then-public relations chief in the U.S. once participated in an Automobilemag.com April Fool’s feature story. Sort of. When I asked his PR person whether we could get Sergio to pose in a suit and necktie for a story that he was imposing a strict dress code, the flak responded, “no way,” so we had to very obviously photo-shop a current, then-60-year-old Marchionne head over a photo of his body in a suit from the mid-1990s.

How will Fiat Chrysler be different under its new CEO, Mike Manley? The dress code certainly won’t change.

The Five-Year Plan introduced June 1 was not the work of Marchionne alone. Concentration will be on more electrification of powertrains, an area in which Fiat Chrysler is lagging well behind its competitors, with future Ferrari-powered Maserati hybrids and electric vehicles, and Alfa Romeo hybrids leading the way. Jeep will become even more Jeepier with the Desert Hawk offroad packages, and Ram gets the Raptor-fighting TRX and a new midsize pickup to be shared with Fiat.

Will Fiat Chrysler rename itself? There has been a lot of talk about that from outside Fiat Chrysler, as both names become regional marques, along with Dodge, and each with a limited number of models. This is a trivial diversion. When did you last see a GM-branded vehicle? What about Mercedes-Benz’s parent, Daimler? Conversely, Fiat Chrysler is still building Lancias, with few of its single model, Ypsilon, sold outside Italy.

By the end of the current Five-Year Plan, the Chrysler marque will sell mostly autonomous transportation pods while playing catch-up to that technology by partnering with Alphabet’s Waymo. Fiat will sell commuter EVs and, I hope, still, the 124 Spider. Jeep will continue to be to Fiat Chrysler what the F-Series is to Ford, while the parent automaker tries to build Alfa into a credible BMW competitor—its toughest product challenge. Its biggest financial challenge will be to increase its profit from the current 6 percent of revenue to a level closer to GM’s 11 percent.

Manley has led the Jeep brand since Fiat saved Chrysler in 2009, and the Ram brand since late ’15—I had little doubt he would be named Marchionne’s successor (though at the end of this year) instead of fellow Brit, chief financial officer Richard Palmer, another leading contender. Manley is quieter, as many of my cohorts have pointed out, than Marchionne, but he has a similar wit, and similar enthusiasm to hold court in press conferences.

I’m looking forward to those Fiat Chrysler pressers with Manley. I’m sorry that Sergio won’t be holding them the next three years at Ferrari.

The post Sergio Marchionne Dead at 66: His Legacy at Fiat Chrysler appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Sun, 22 Jul 2018 19:00:13 +0000
Sergio Marchionne Dead at 66: His Legacy at Fiat Chrysler

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler and of Ferrari until Saturday, died Wednesday after complications from shoulder surgery. News reports say the exact cause of death is unknown. He was 66. “Unfortunately, what we feared has become to pass,” Agnelli family scion and chairman of Fiat Chrysler’s holding company, Exor, said in a statement Wednesday...

The post Sergio Marchionne Dead at 66: His Legacy at Fiat Chrysler appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

I’ve always wondered if sticking with the original-equipment (OE) tires on a car like a Porsche is worthwhile. “It’s like shoes,” answered Dr. Carsten Hoffmann, director of tire development at Porsche AG. “If you go to the store and buy a pair of shoes in a certain size then maybe they fit your feet. But if you have shoes custom made for your feet then it’s a much better fit. We develop tires with specific properties so that a Porsche drives like a Porsche.” Well, it’s clear Porsche thinks so. But what goes into the development?

Porsche OE ‘N-Spec’ tires carry a specific stamp on the sidewall—N0, N1, N2, etc. The latest generation of a specific tire carries a higher number than the previous version. Development takes roughly 2


Sat, 21 Jul 2018 10:00:03 +0000
Developing Porsche Original Equipment Tires

I’ve always wondered if sticking with the original-equipment (OE) tires on a car like a Porsche is worthwhile. “It’s like shoes,” answered Dr. Carsten Hoffmann, director of tire development at Porsche AG. “If you go to the store and buy a pair of shoes in a certain size then maybe they fit your feet. But...

The post Developing Porsche Original Equipment Tires appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

SONOMA, California Have you ever attended a NASCAR race? Better yet, when did you last tune in to a motorsport event on television? If you are anything like me, it was probably that time you were cruising through the channels in search of another sporting event. With that being said, I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend at NASCAR event and the experience altered my perception of the sport.

When Toyota extended a special invitation to a handful of women automotive journalists (myself included) to attend a weekend of NASCAR in Sonoma, I decided to give it a shot and signed up. There were two races taking place at Sonoma Raceway: the Carneros 200 of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on Saturday and the Toyota/Save Mart 350 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday—the latter included entry to the Toyota Racing suite for a total VIP experience.

The Toyota team and us women auto-journos striking a pose with Kyle Busch during our meet and greet at Sonoma Raceway.

The exclusively planned program granted us access to behind the scenes of NASCAR comprised of a FOX Sports studios guided tour with producer Pam Miller, a Q&A with Jill Gregory, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for NASCAR, and a garage tour with Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson. We were also treated to a meet and greet with Kyle Busch, a hot lap in a pace car with Erik Jones, and dinner with the fierce and up-and-coming Hailie Deegan.

I had never considered attending a NASCAR race prior to the invitation from Toyota. To me, NASCAR had always been that sport from another planet that I merely caught a glimpse of from a flat-screen mounted on the wall of a pizza parlor or sports bar. I could not fathom how any person had the attention span to watch a televised NASCAR race in its entirety.

Jeff Gordon was the only name I knew of in NASCAR. When I was growing up in the 90s, there was a plethora of commercials that featured Gordon promoting some product or just being a heartthrob. I can still vividly remember seeing his DuPont racing uniform on TV. A classmate that wore his DuPont jacket almost every day in eighth grade also helped reinforce it. Gordon dominated in the mid 90s, winning the Winston Cup Series championship in 1995, 1997, and 1998, and finishing in second in 1997

Though do not qualify as a loyal racing fan, I decided to give NASCAR a chance to shift my opinion­ rather than drag my feet to Sonoma Raceway in utter apathy. In doing so, I hoped to learn more about this motorsports’ culture, gain some general racing knowledge, and enjoy a sport I normally don’t watch. The fact that there was a 16-year-old female driver competing against 25 men also struck a chord with me.

Weee! A hot lap with 22-year-old race car driver Erik Jones.

We arrived to the 2.52-mile road course tucked away in the Sonoma Mountains on a blazingly hot Saturday morning. As we entered the venue, the onslaught of activities playing out caused my eyes to wander wildly. The air smelled of a mixture of exhaust fumes, hot dogs, and funnel cake. I felt like I was at a county fair, rock concert, and on the set of a movie all at the same time.

After a brief perusal of the grounds, we were taken on a tour of the FOX Sports broadcast compound. Have you ever been curious about what it takes to broadcast a live motorsport event? Neither had I, but if you were there to witness what I describe as a group of tech-savvy scientists working magic in mobile facilities, you would be intrigued.

I learned that nothing in a live motorsport broadcast is scripted. The production team goes by instinct and experience to produce the live broadcast in a spontaneous manner. Those on-screen graphics and statistics that inform us of the latest developments are handled entirely in one room. The tape room is responsible for replays, features, camera angles, and has access to all the cameras on the track. Then there is the onboard camera room, which controls the angles that are transmitted from a race car’s four cameras.

An inside look of the FOX Sports broadcasting compound.

That monumental amount of information put me in the mood to watch drivers duke it out on the racetrack. The sound of rumbling engines, impact wrenches removing tires, and scent of deteriorating rubber seemed very appealing.

There were 26 drivers competing in the 64-lap Carneros 200, a total of 127 miles. I was given a pair of ear plugs but opted for the raw and deafening noise coming from the snake of cars turning right on the track. The stock cars trailed one and another within inches. By the time the qualifying race ended it was outrageously hot in wine country. Fortunately, we had seats in the shaded area of the grandstands. Deegan was the only female participant in the race and qualified third; she finished the race in an impressive seventh place. Will Rodgers took home the victory, making his first win in Sonoma.

Deegan is the youngest of nine drivers in NASCAR’s Next class. This teenage phenom from Temecula, California received her high school diploma at the racetrack before the start of the race. Deegan is the type of driver this sport needs more of. Women are uncommon in professional racing and an increase in their participation has the potential to attract a broader audience and increase viewership. It was both empowering and inspiring to witness this young driver step up to the challenge and compete against veteran Cup drivers.

On Sunday I was instructed to hop into the back of a Toyota Camry pace car for a ride on the track. I had no idea who the driver was and minutes later I realized it was Erik Jones, an up-and-coming 22-year-old that won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2015 and was the Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2017. The value of the thrilling hot lap skyrocketed. My cold pit pass placed me in the fan zone where I saw several professional race car drivers walk on the red carpet. Caitlyn Jenner also made an appearance, as did Guy Fieri and MC Hammer.

Oh snap! It’s Guy Fieri.

Following our meet and greet with Kyle Busch and Q&A with Jill Gregory, we made our way to the Toyota Racing suite for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 main event. With all the amenities the suite had to offer, I felt like royalty. I did my best to survive watching the entire 218.9 miles of the race in one setting and inevitably broke somewhere in the middle of the 110 laps. Going for a walk in between really helped. When I returned to the suite, Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 78 Toyota Camry had a strong lead that he held on to, going home victorious.

For all of my life I had assumed that going to a NASCAR race would be boring. However I was wrong. What you get on a flat-screen does not compare to what you see in person. A live race is a totally different experience—one worth having at least once in your lifetime.

Additional photography courtesy of Toyota Racing and Deegan Family

The post A Weekend in Sonoma and My First NASCAR Race appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Fri, 20 Jul 2018 22:00:14 +0000
A Weekend in Sonoma and My First NASCAR Race

SONOMA, California — Have you ever attended a NASCAR race? Better yet, when did you last tune in to a motorsport event on television? If you are anything like me, it was probably that time you were cruising through the channels in search of another sporting event. With that being said, I recently had the...

The post A Weekend in Sonoma and My First NASCAR Race appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

All of the great grand tourers were turned into one-off coachbuilt stunners at some point. The cars from Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, and Aston Martin were common bespoke fodder, offering a blank canvas to anyone with a big enough checkbook. Jaguar is less known for their design-house specials, but don’t tell Cartier that. At this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, a small field of low-production coachbuilt Jaguars comprised a portion of the Cartier Style et Luxe concours. Not content with picking favorites, here’s the entire showfield.

1956/1963 Jaguar XK-D (D-Type) by Michelotti (Top Photo)

If we had to pick just one, it’d be this. In photos, it’s stunning – in person, it’s spectacular. To our eyes, this is one of the design greats, challenging anything from Aston or Ferrari. As the story goes, a ’56 D-Type crashed out at Le Mans in 1958, prompting the team to sell the scrap to designer and engineer Giovanni Michelotti. He stripped away the ruined bodywork to find an undamaged D-Type chassis, which was draped in the aerospace-grade shape you see here today.

1955 Jaguar XK140 SE Coupe by Ghia

Inspired by a love for Ghia-bodied Fiats and Alfas he saw at auto shows, Jaguar’s Lebanon distributor commissioned Ghia to build a car of his own. After a few years, the car moved to Switzerland, where it remained until the 1990s. This isn’t the only Ghia Jag–superstar actor Ricardo Montalban owned one back in the 1960s.

1954 Jaguar XK120 by Pininfarina

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this car. The lovely Italian-Brit hybrid was also in attendance at this year’s Villa d’Este festivities. The car was ordered new by legendary importer Max Hoffman, and changed hands over the years until it sat in extreme disrepair. Now, it’s looking wrapper-fresh thanks to 6,700 man-hours of restoration work.

1952 Jaguar XK120 “The Flying Jaguar” by Stabilimenti Farina

That’s quite a name, both car and design house alike. This was one of three one-off Jags commissioned by the aptly named Mme. Bourgeois, the primary Jaguar importer for Belgium. Despite being intrinsically British, its time spent on the Style et Luxe lawn was the first time the car had ever been shown in the U.K.

1955/1963 Jaguar XK140 Coupe by Michelotti       

Boy, that Michelotti sure liked his crashed Jags. After an unfortunate wreck in 1957, the donor car was shipped off to Michelotti’s shop for repair and rebodying, resulting in this intriguing shape. At one time owned by Brigitte Bardot, the car has clearly seen better days, but the fine folks at JLR seek to remedy that by restoring not only the coachwork, but the rare C-Type engine found underneath the bonnet as well.

1958 Jaguar XK150 Coupe by Ghia-Aigle

Working with a subsidiary of Carrosserie Ghia, Pietro Frua penned new lines for an XK150, resulting in a handful of bespoke cars. Here’s one of them, looking very much like a Maserati from the same era.

The post Six Coachbuilt Jaguar Coupes From the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed appeared first on Automobile Magazine.


Tue, 17 Jul 2018 10:00:57 +0000
Six Coachbuilt Jaguar Coupes From the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed

All of the great grand tourers were turned into one-off coachbuilt stunners at some point. The cars from Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, and Aston Martin were common bespoke fodder, offering a blank canvas to anyone with a big enough checkbook. Jaguar is less known for their design-house specials, but don’t tell Cartier that. At this year’s...

The post Six Coachbuilt Jaguar Coupes From the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed appeared first on Automobile Magazine.

As the old saying goes, records are made to be broken. But before you can break them, you gotta make them.

That’s part of the reason why I’m here sitting shotgun in a specially prepped Subaru WRX STI during a pouring rainstorm on Romania’s National Road 7C, aka the Transf



Attack Time: Subaru Makes a Record in Romania on ‘The Best Road in the World’

As the old saying goes, records are made to be broken. But before you can break them, you gotta make them. That’s part of the reason why I’m here sitting shotgun in a specially prepped Subaru WRX STI during a pouring rainstorm on Romania’s National Road 7C, aka the Transf
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