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October 17, 2018

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On The Surface


On The Surface #445

May 14, 2008

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifToyota. A $4.3 million verdict originally rendered against Toyota in 2005 for infringing patents in order to bring its Hybrid Synergy Drive system to market has now been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The original ruling came from a federal trial jury in Texas, which found that Toyota had used a microprocessor design that accepts torque information from both an external electric motor and internal combustion engine patented by Paice LLC, a McLean, Va., company, for its Prius. Toyota may have to pay Paice royalties for any future hybrid vehicles produced. It's ironic that Toyota had to crib a U.S. company's technical expertise to become America's Jolly Green Car Company, isn't it?

arrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifarrowdown.gifMary Nichols. The Chairman of the California Air Resources Board insists that the state of California's divisive agenda that would have the state dictate to the rest of the nation stringent fuel economy and emission standards is not only perfectly logical but a point of pride. Funny, but the rest of the country doesn't quite see it that way. But in "The Delusional State," headed by the King of Delusion himself - Arnold Schwarzenegger (aka "Ol' Stoneface") - anything is possible, apparently.

arrowdown.gifThe CAW. The end of "The Buzz Hargrove Era" is going to prove to be costly - if not fatal - to the Canadian Auto Workers union. GM announced that it would be closing its Windsor, Ontario, transmission facility in 2010 as the company phases out production of its four-speed, front-wheel-drive, automatic transmissions. This announcement came on Monday, while GM and the UAW are in negotiations on a new contract. The technology may be being phased out, but the message is clear: GM isn't wedded to the idea of doing business with the CAW, and it will go elsewhere to get what it needs if necessary.

arrowdown.gifChrysler. The AE "Duh of the Week" goes to Jim Press and Chrysler for canceling plans to build yet another SUV crossover thingy in favor of devoting more attention to a new compact car that the company's bringing to market with the help of Nissan. The amazing thing is that Chrysler was hell-bent on building a Chrysler version of the Dodge Journey in the first place.

arrowup.gifGM. Last Friday morning at Germany's Nurburgring, Cadillac's new limited-edition high-performance 2009 CTS-V completed a lap of the legendary Nordschleife in 7:59.32. The lap time appears to be the fastest ever publicly documented for a production sedan. Cadillac achieved the lap during a final development run for the supercharged beast with John Heinricy, GM Performance Division executive, at the wheel. The car itself was equipped exactly as planned for consumer production, which is scheduled to begin this fall. SAE power ratings, acceleration specifications and U.S.-market pricing will be finalized in the coming weeks, but the new CTS-V has at least 550HP. Click to see a video of the car's Nordschleife performance.

(GM Photo)
The world's new bad ass, King of the Mountain high-performance sedan is a Cadillac!

arrowdown.gifCadillac, GM. Liz Vanzura is leaving her job as head of Cadillac marketing at the end of the month to move to Boston for family reasons. Speculation that she'll join her homeys at Boston-based Modernista, Cadillac's national advertising agency, is just that at the moment, but it would surprise no one if that happened. What GM does to fill the position is the most intriguing issue at the moment, because the likelihood of a mistake being made is extremely high at this point, given the company's so-called marketing "depth."

arrowup.gifTom Kowaleski, BMW. The ex-GM PR chief lands at BMW North America to become vice president of corporate communications. This is a good fit for Kowaleski, who excels at targeted PR events and promotions but who was never the corporate strategic/crisis guy that GM needed. It's a good fit for BMW too.

arrowup.gifFrederique Le Greves. Nissan North America's stylish PR chief is moving back to Renault headquarters in Paris on July 1. It's Nashville's loss.

arrowdown.gifBarack Obama. The candidate for President is in our town today in an attempt to make inroads with voters while trying to make nice with the auto industry after trashing Detroit repeatedly over the last eight months. Let's see, we (Detroit) sucked as an industry, we were bad for the country, bad for the environment, out of touch with reality and irresponsible to boot, and now we're supposed to forget all that while you go chasing votes in the state? Good luck with that, Barry.

The new Fiat 500 is one of our favorite cars, and NOVITEC has released an extensive customization program for the car, including engine tuning (with up to 131 hp/96.4 kW via supercharging), 16- and 17-inch tire/wheel combinations, matching suspension modifications (from sport springs to a complete height-adjustable coil-over sport suspension), stainless steel sport muffler and a front spoiler, making the little Italian star car even more desirable (even though, as one of our readers pointed out, it's built in Poland).

Ford is debuting a freshened 2009 Focus coupe on "American Idol" tonight on Fox, the first time the Dearborn-based automaker has ever introduced a new model on live, prime time television. Responding to early customer feedback about the car's design - which was underwhelming, at best - Ford tweaked the 2009 Focus coupe with new front and rear fascias, a new roof-line spoiler and standard 17-inch aluminum wheels on the SES series to further differentiate the Focus coupe from the sedan. The new SES coupe is equipped with a 2.0-liter, Duratec 20 DOHC 4-cylinder engine that delivers 143 HP with the 5-speed manual and 140 HP when paired with the 4-speed automatic. A sport-tuned exhaust is also part of the package. The SES coupe equipped with a 4-speed automatic will have a new 4.2 final drive ratio to deliver quicker off-the-line punch without any compromise to Focus' 35-miles-per-gallon (highway) fuel economy rating. A new option on the Focus for 2009 is electronic stability control (ESC). Focus posted an 88 percent increase in retail sales in April versus a year ago. The 2009 Focus Coupe, available later this summer, will have an MSRP that starts at $15,920. All Focus models are built at Ford's Wayne (Mich.) Assembly Plant.