Page 1

Monday, May 14, 2012

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Ford to boost output by 40K vehicles

By Tom Krisher The Associated Press

DETROIT — Rising car and truck sales have prompted Ford Motor Co. to add a week of production at 13 North American factories so the company can make another 40,000 vehicles this year. Ford said Tuesday that it would cut in half the normal two-week summer shutdown at six assembly plants and seven engine and parts plants. Auto plants normally close for two weeks around the July 4 holiday as they switch over to make vehicles for the next model year. Through April, U.S. auto sales ran at an annual rate of more than 14 million, substantially higher than last year’s 12.8 million. Ford sales were up 5 percent. Total U.S. car and truck sales rose 10.3 percent through April to 4.65 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. Many analysts are forecasting sales of about 15 million new vehicles in 2013. At Ford, most facto ries have been running at capacity, and the company is adding third shifts at three plants just this month to meet higher demand, said Jim Tetreault, vice president of North American manufacturing for the company. “Requiring more capacity from our plants is a good problem to have, and having the flexibility to add a week of production in our plants goes a long way toward solving it,” Tetreault said in a statement. Factories that will work the extra week include Chicago Assembly, which makes the Ford Explorer SUV and

M. Spencer Green/The ASSociATed preSS

In this 2010 photo, plant employees put an engine block in a 2011 Ford Explorer on the assembly line at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant. The plant is one of 13 North American factories where Ford Motor Co. will be adding a week of production in 2012, so the company can make another 40,000 vehicles this year and meet the needs of rising car and truck sales. Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS large cars; Dearborn Truck, in Dearborn, Mich., which makes F-Series trucks; Louisville Assembly in Louisville, Ky., which makes the new Ford Escape small SUV; Kentucky Truck in Louisville, which makes heavy-duty pickups and the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition big SUVs; Michigan Assembly in Wayne, Mich., which

makes the Ford Focus compact; and Kansas City Assembly in Claycomo, Mo., which makes F-150 pickups. Other factories with the added week include Dearborn Engine, Chicago Stamping, Cleveland Engine No. 1, Lima Engine in Lima, Ohio; Essex Engine in Windsor, Ontario; Sterling Axle in Sterling Heights, Mich., which makes transmission

and engine parts; and the Rawsonville parts plant in Ypsilanti Township, Mich. Ford now has the capacity to make 2.6 million vehicles in North America, but the company plans to add shifts and make other changes to push that up to 3 million this year, spokeswoman Marcey Evans said. The 40,000 increase announced Tuesday is part of that plan, she

said. Ford shares fell 13 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $10.53 in afternoon trading. Its shares are up from a 52-week low of $9.05 in early October but down 31 percent from their high of $15.35, reached almost a year ago. Ford is the second U.S. automaker to raise production this year by cutting summer downtime.

In the past two weeks, Chrysler announced that it would cancel the two-week summer shutdown at the Jefferson North plant in Detroit, Toledo Supplier Park in Toledo, Ohio, and at plants in Belvidere, Ill., and Toluca, Mexico. Chrysler also plans to take only one-week shutdowns at factories in Sterling Heights, Mich., and Saltillo, Mexico.


Page 2 / Monday, May 14, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Large cars get a makeover for young buyers By Larry Printz The Virginian-PiloT

For decades, Americans embraced the full-size car. It was the heart of the new car market. But in recent decades, it’s been supplanted by the midsize car. Typically, these cars are front-wheel-drive and are powered by four-cylinder engines, with some buyers opting for the optional V-6 offered on many models. But the V-6 engine, once a common option on midsize cars, is becoming scarce. Due to looming fuel economy standards, automakers are using V-6 engines only on their fullsize cars. You won’t find a V-6 on the midsize 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, 2012 Hyundai Sonata or 2012 Kia Optima. The 2013 Ford Fusion will have four cylinders under its hood, but no V-6s. If you prefer a V-6, you’ll have to opt for a large car. That thought might give you visions of senior citizens heading to Florida in a Mercury Grand Marquis with a clothing bar strung across the back seat, but that’s as out of date as a VCR. Several automakers have recently revealed newly revamped large cars that add a needed dose of style, technology and fuel economy in an effort to woo younger buyers. Take a look. n 2014 CHEVROLET IMPALA: On sale next spring, GM is hoping to shed the Impala’s rental fleet image with this dramatically redesigned model. A 195-hp 2.5 four-cylinder and a 303-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine will be offered alongside GM’s 2.4-liter mild-hybrid system used in the smaller Malibu. Chevy says the hybrid returns 35 mpg in highway driving. A six-speed automatic transmission will be standard. Adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and a

Morgan J Segal/CourTeSy of hyundai/MCT

Hyundai revived the Azera large sedan for 2012 after a yearlong hiatus. The front-drive sedan gets a 293-hp V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that’s good for an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. rear camera will be among the car’s new options. A neat touch: the Impala’s eight-inch touch screen — its first — flips open to reveal a concealed storage compartment. —Wheelbase: 111.7 inches —Length: 201.3 inches —Cargo space: 18.8 cubic feet n 2 01 2 H Y U N DA I AZERA: On sale now, the 2012 Azera shares its name with the anonymously styled 2011 model, but little else. This front-drive sedan gets a 293-hp V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. That’s good for an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. Like other cars in its class, the Azera can be outfitted with options typically reserved for luxury cars, such as side window shades and front seat cushion extenders for taller passen-

gers. The car’s kinetic style takes its cues from the company’s “fluidic sculpture” design theme first seen on the Hyundai Sonata. Such niceties as touch-screen navigation with backup camera and a handsfree Bluetooth phone system are standard. —Wheelbase: 112 inches —Length: 193.3 inches —Cargo space: 16.3 cubic feet n 2013 TOYOTA AVALON: Another car looking to change its image, the Avalon’s new styling rides atop a wheelbase that’s unchanged from 2012, although the 2013 car is 2.3 inches shorter and 120 pounds lighter than the 2012 model. Developed in the United States, the frontdrive Avalon is the first vehicle in Toyota’s U.S. line overseen by Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda. The

car’s V-6 engine can be controlled through steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters and three drive modes: normal, eco and sport. Inside, the front seats get more aggressive side bolsters and a lower seating position. The center console is equipped with a USB port, auxiliary input and three power outlets, while the dashboard gets touch-sensitive switches. Look for it in the fall. —Wheelbase: 111 inches —Length: 195.3 inches —Cargo space: 16 cubic feet n 2013 FORD TAURUS: The 2013 Taurus is not a completely new design. Instead, it gets a facelift and some serious refinements under the hood. The front-drive Taurus’ most fuel efficient engine will be a 240-hp EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which Ford says delivers fuel

economy of at least 31 mpg in highway driving. At the other extreme is the EcoBoost 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6, which pumps out a prodigious 365 hp. It’s standard on the high-performance all-wheeldrive Taurus SHO. Most Taurus models will use a nonturbo 288-hp 3.5-liter V6. An updated version of MyFord Touch is standard, while “Active Park Assist,” which parallel parks the car automatically, is optional. SHO models get a unique grille. —Wheelbase: 112 inches —Length: 202.9 inches —Cargo space: 20 cubic feet n 2012 DODGE CHARGER: Like the Ford Taurus, the Charger receives significant upgrades for 2012, building on its attractive sheet-metal redesign that debuted for 2011. Although most Char-

ger fans are familiar with the Charger’s Hemi V-8, it’s the 292-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine and a new eight-speed automatic transmission that will be more popular with buyers, delivering fuel economy of 31 mpg in highway driving. Chrysler is the first domestic automaker to offer the new gearbox, which can be fitted with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a sport shift mode, for spirited acceleration. Unlike other cars in this group, the Charger is rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional. —Wheelbase: 120.2 inches —Length: 199.9 inches —Cargo space: 16.5 cubic feet —Larry Printz is automotive editor at The VirginianPilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at larry.printz@ pilotonline.com.


Monday, May 14, 2012 / Page 3

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

231,000 miles down and many more to go By Brad Bergholdt Mcclatchy-tribune news service

QUESTION: My car has now reached 231,000 miles and is running fine so far. I’m liking it and not seeing any reason to replace it as long as it remains reliable. I have started to wonder sometimes when I’m running a little late for work if I’m being realistic about its reliability. Should I be worried? How much longer do you think I can go? —Olivia M.

ANSWER: There are quite a few factors here to consider. If the car has received regular maintenance and hasn’t suffered any serious boo-boos such as running

out of oil or becoming overheated, the odds are decent for more trouble-free miles to come. Modern engines and transmissions can often make to it 300,000 miles or more, with a few minor fixes along the way. Here are things I’d consider to be the highest priority to inspect, replace or service in order to avoid a date with a tow truck: Your fuel pump is going to fail someday, and it will strand the car. Modern vehicles employ an electric fuel pump, typically mounted inside the gas tank. This gadget spins at about 3,000 revolutions per minute and can’t be expected to last forever. Lifespan

ranges from around 100,000 to 150,000 miles. If yours is still the original, or you aren’t aware of when or if it’s been renewed, proactive replacement may be worth considering. Your cooling system is also a potential stranding issue. A ruptured hose or broken drive belt can also seriously damage the engine. If belts and hoses are more than five years old, I’d renew them, and have them inspected regularly. If your engine uses a timing belt to operate its camshaft, this should be renewed at the recommended interval, usually around 100,000 miles. A snapped or stripped timing

belt will stop the engine and may cause serious internal damage. Chain-driven camshafts aren’t likely to suddenly fail. Your starter is also going to wear out. If your driving habits involve lots of starts and stops as opposed to longer freeway stints, it’s likely on borrowed time. Batteries also don’t last forever; perhaps 5 or 6 years. Slow cranking and dimming lights may signal the end is near. There are many other parts that may wear or deteriorate at 200,000 miles or more, but the symptoms will typically appear gradually or give some warning. Fluid leaks, worn suspension and

steering parts, water pump leakage, alternator failure, worn or pulsing brakes, and air conditioning blowing warm — there are quite a few, but these won’t leave you at the side of the road. Alternator failure — a glowing red battery light — will usually allow you 1-2 hours of driving before engine shutdown. Sometimes an engine near this mileage may burn an exhaust valve, resulting in a rough-running condition. It could perhaps develop a leaking intake manifold or cylinder head gasket, with coolant leaking into bad places inside the engine. These can be a chore to fix, but they aren’t the end of the

world. A valve job or gasket replacement is far cheaper than a replacement engine. Since the bottom two-thirds of an engine is almost bulletproof, a top-end repair can make a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be concerned about your odometer reading at all. With some proactive checks and renewals, you may be good to go for another 70,000 miles or more. —Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at under-the-hood@earthlink. net; he cannot make personal replies.

BMW earnings up 18 percent Fiat’s return sees delayed reaction on boost in China, US sales – but US sales are finally rising By Jerry Hirsch

By David McHugh The Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany — Booming sales in China and new versions of key models pushed automaker BMW AG’s earnings higher by 18 percent in the first quarter to (euro) 1.35 billion ($1.77 billion). Sales were flat in Europe where the economy is slack, but the Munich-based maker of luxury cars and SUVs saw a 36 percent jump in deliveries in China, where it now sells more vehicles than it does in the United States. Revenue rose 14 percent to (euro) 18.29 billion, the company said Thursday. Sales worldwide rose 11 percent to 425, 528. Top performers were new versions of the 1-series compact and the X3 smaller SUV. The larger X5 SUV and the large 7-series sedan, both of which reap big profit margins, also saw better sales.

Sales in China outpaced those in the United States, 80,218 to 75,931. But deliveries in Europe, which is struggling with a slow economy and a crisis over too much government debt, only edged up 0.5 percent. Analyst Max Warburton said a strong product mix emphasizing expensive vehicles with high profit margins helped alongside the higher sales numbers. He said more profitable vehicles, defined as the mid-size 5-series sedan and up, represented 50 percent of sales. “BMW’s sales mix, pricing and profitability remain superb,” Warburton said. BMW’s profit margins — measured as earnings before interest and taxes as a percentage of sales — came in at 11.6 percent, down slightly from 11.9 percent but ahead of 11.4 percent posted by Volkswagen unit Audi AG and 8.4 percent for Daimler AG’s Mercedes brand. Germany’s luxury car-

makers are making fat profits, much of it on export sales to emerging markets and the United States, while Europe’s mass-market carmakers such as GM’s Adam Opel AG and Fiat are struggling with tough competition and weak sales and pricing. BMW’s workforce grew by 5.4 percent over the past year and it employed 101,260 people at the end of the quarter. Part of the increase came from the acquisition of the ICL Group car leasing unit, but the company said that “skilled workers and engineers continue to be recruited in order to keep pace with persistently strong demand for BMW Group vehicles, to push innovations and to focus on the development of new technologies.” BMW makes cars under the BMW, Mini and RollsRoyce brands. It also sells BMW and Husqvarna motorcycles.

los angeles tiMes

LOS ANGELES — Fiat returned to the American auto market a year ago with great expectations but is only now starting to shift into gear. The Italian car brand, which fled the U.S. almost three decades ago after developing a reputation for subpar quality, is seeing sales accelerate after getting off to what its U.S. sales chief, Tim Kuniskis, conceded was a slowerthan-expected start. Fiat is filling gaps in urban regions where sales of its fashionable Fiat 500 sedan would expect a good reception. Fiat’s first San Francisco dealer is expected to open this year. It has built its dealership network to 142 franchises and expects to have 200 by year-end. “They certainly have picked up some momentum,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. “It is a sporty drive and

has a nice upmarket European interior. It fills a nice niche.” Next year Fiat, a Chrysler Group sibling, will bring out a larger car to complement its only current U.S. offering, the tiny 500, and at some point the stores will add Alfa Romeos to the lineup. “We are picking up steam, no question about it,” said Marc Cannon, spokesman for AutoNation Inc., which operates 260 car franchises and is the country’s largest dealer chain. AutoNation has opened five Fiat franchises in the last year and has two more planned. He said Fiat has worked “kinks” out of its sales and distribution system, has plenty of its 500 in the pipeline and is getting a push from rising gas prices. Fiat 500 sales were just short of 20,000 last year, less than half what the automaker expected. The bestselling small subcompact last year was the Nissan Versa, with sales of

nearly 100,000. The Ford Fiesta at 69,000 and the Honda Fit and Mini Cooper, both at just slightly less than 60,000, also were popular small subcompacts. But Fiat sales are growing as it expands distribution and signs up new dealers. It sold more than 5,000 units of the 500 in the first two months of this year and expects to sell at least 3,000 this month. Kuniskis said consumer awareness of Fiat has rocketed from about 8 percent a year ago to more than 45 percent now. Moreover, seeing cars on the road is reminding people that Fiat is back in the U.S. market, he said. The company also is making headway pitching cars as a fashion or lifestyle statement. While the base model starts at just $15,500, a special $23,500 Gucci designer edition of about 2,000 vehicles will sell out, and Fiat is negotiating with the fashion house to produce another run.


Page 4 / Monday, May 14, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

SkyActiv, whatever that is, adds zing to Mazda3 By Barry Spyker McClatchy Newspapers

The first couple of times I heard of Mazda’s new SkyActiv powertrain system, I shook my head. Did he say “sky active”? What does that mean anyway? And why don’t they spell it right? But we’re going to have to get used to it. It’s taking the Mazda line by storm, spreading like a wildfire. But that’s a good thing. Introduced for 2012, the SkyActiv technology has revolutionized the Mazda3, the bread-and-butter model for Mazda. The 3, introduced for the 2004 model year, represents two-thirds of the company’s global sales. As I understand it, SkyActiv technology is geared to streamlining and refining Mazda’s powertrain and, thus, performance. Engineers removed anything that stood in the way. Every inefficiency they could find was wiped out. The result: 15 percent better fuel economy and 15 percent more punch from the stoplight. The SkyActiv-induced Mazda3i starts with a new 2.0-liter engine that stables 155 horses and hands out 148 foot-pound of torque. The old 2.0-liter and 2.5 are still available, too, for anyone interested. A 6-speed manual is said to be tight and smooth; the 6-speed automatic that I drove was breezy yet decisive, sending you into high gear at the earliest for better mileage, and managing smooth and even downshifts. Acceleration is decenthitting 60 mph in 8.5 seconds- but not what you would call dazzling. What is dazzling: Highway mileage figures reach that magical number — 40 mpg — with the automatic tranny. Just a tad lower with the manual and hatchback version. Now, in all honesty, you have to really behave to squeeze 40 out of the 3i. That

Mazda/MCT

The 2012 Mazda3 has free-spirited styling, but a less powerful engine than its predecessor. means no AC, and keep it around 50. But you can get an honest 35 or 36 with normal highway driving — say, 70 mph with AC. And check this out: After I burned a tankful, I calculated that I managed dang close to 30 mpg combined. Tackling corners is nearly sports car-like, with good, firm grip thanks to a performance-tuned chassis. It’s a fun car to drive with a spirited performance. From the driver’s seat, the 3i Grand Touring feels like a nice fit. The dash has a soft feel and dials and knobs are laid out within easy reach. A gated shifter guides you into the gears.

Seats are comfortable and roomy and controlled with eight-way power. But the leather upholstery is less than rich and supple. It felt more like vinyl, actually. The navigation screen is tiny, and graphics are basic and simple. But you can operate the nav system and information panels via redundant controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction-control system and brake assist. Also standard are front-side air bags and side-curtain air bags. You can get a blindspot warning system on the

Grand Touring trim. Speaking of trims, there is a dizzying array of 3s offered. First, know that the 3 is available in a sedan or hatchback. Then you go with the 3i or 3s. And then you can further break it down into SV or sport trims — the former is decently equipped with power windows and mirrors and tilt-and-telescoping wheel. But it does come with steel wheels, too. The Sport trim adds AC and power locks. But it gets much better with the 3i Touring, which adds the Skyactiv-G engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity. The Grand Tour-

ing gets leather seats with eight-way power, heated front seats, sliding center armrest and that little nav system. And a tech package for the Grand Touring trims adds blind-spot warning, plus satellite radio, rainsensing wipers and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps. Mazda is taking good care of the popular 3 series and with a new engine and more trim levels there’s a version to please most everyone. But, no question, the Skyactiv powertrain is the star of this show. Expect this new star to make more public appearances along the Mazda line.

As I understand it, SkyActiv technology is geared to streamlining and refining Mazda’s powertrain and, thus, performance. Engineers removed anything that stood in the way. Every inefficiency they could find was wiped out.


Monday, May 14, 2012 / Page 5

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

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Page 6 / Monday, May 14, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Motoring Q&A: Synthetic oil a good choice By Paul Brand Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

QUESTION: I purchased a new 2012 V-6 Ford Escape. The vehicle is just over halfway to the 5,000-mile oil and filter change recommended by the dealer and owner’s manual. We do not usually drive more than 8,000 to 10,000 miles per year, and most of our driving is in urban areas. Am I OK with using synthetic oil in the Escape for the upcoming oil change and future oil changes? We keep our vehicles a long time, so I figure any way I can extend the life of an engine is worthwhile. Any thoughts? ANSWER: Sounds like a good plan to me. To paraphrase a popular advertise-

ment: Difference in cost of oil change using synthetic oil? $25. Difference in oil change costs per year? $50. Peace of mind from using synthetic oil? Priceless. With two oil and filter changes per year, the additional cost for synthetic oil is nominal and insignificant in the overall total cost of owning, operating, fueling, maintaining, repairing, licensing and depreciating the automobile. Q: I am the original owner of a beautiful garage-kept, dealer-maintained 1996 Honda Accord EX with 115,000 miles. I’ve had a problem with the engine running rough only when engaged in drive, air conditioning on, and foot on brake. I’ve replaced motor mounts, timing belt, condenser fan,

water pump and belts in the past 5,000 miles. It runs perfectly otherwise. Turning the A/C off eliminates the problem, but the engine shuddering is still obvious. I’ve been told that “those four-cylinders always shook when A/C is engaged.” Any suggestions? A: At this stage of the vehicle’s life, I don’t think this is a significant problem. It doesn’t affect dependability or utility. Having replaced the engine mounts, the only other item I would check would be the vacuum system for the power brake booster. A leak or low engine vacuum at idle due to age and mileage would certainly amplify the roughness. A cylinder balance test might identify a somewhat weak cylin-

der as a contributing factor. Regardless, I’d be very hesitant to spend any serious money on additional diagnostics or repairs. Q: My problem is a low brake pedal on my 2008 Ford F-150. I have had the brakes bled; no help. I can press the pedal down and hold it while I start the engine and then release it. This brings the pedal up a little, but not where it should be. Within a few days it’s back down again. There are no leaks that I can find. I thought about adjusting the rod between the booster and the master cylinder, but I will wait for an answer from you. A: I don’t think the master cylinder pushrod is mechanically adjustable, so I can’t recommend trying to mod-

ify it. Start by making sure the master cylinder bolts aren’t loose or the firewall flexing under brake pressure — either would contribute the sense of a low pedal. Secondly, it may be worth having the dealer or shop bleed the hydraulic control unit, or HCU, for the antilock braking system. This requires a scan tool to actually operate the solenoid valves in the HCU to expel any trapped air. If this restores pedal height but it eventually fades again, the HCU is suspect. To test the master cylinder itself, disconnect, plug and bleed the two outlet ports, apply pedal pressure and see if the pedal still drops lower than it should. If so, the master cylinder is the likely suspect. Q: Can I put a half-gallon

of leftover oil-gas mix from my chainsaw into a full tank of gas my car? A: Yes. Assuming a 32-to1 mix, that would be about 2 ounces of two-cycle oil in perhaps 15 gallons of gasoline — roughly a 1,000-to-1 mix ratio. No harm, no foul. Consider it a small dose of upper cylinder lubricant. –Paul Brand, author of “How to Repair Your Car,” is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488 or via email at paulbrand@startribune.com. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. It isn’t always possible to send a personal reply.

Wood-sided cars have roots in horse-and-buggy times By Larry Printz The Virginian-Pilot

Even if you have never lived in California, there’s a good chance you know what a woody is, thanks to the song “Surfin’ Safari” by The Beach Boys: “We’re loading up our woody with boards inside / and heading out singing our song.” Simply put, a woody is a car with visible wood construction, and it dates to the birth of the automobile, when wood was used for both frame and bodywork — just like the carriages that preceded them. Although automakers turned to using steel body panels, wood framing continued to be used in many custom bodied luxury cars and, more importantly, in trucks, where specific needs dictated the continued use of wood bodies. The most common were depot hacks, which were used to shuttle passengers from train stations and resort hotels. Station wagons

were also common — and wood-bodied. Their names derived from their mission: to shuttle people and cargo to train stations. But even as steel gradually supplanted wood, demand for wood-bodied cars continued. This body style was considered traditional yet glamorous, and was priced accordingly. But that price brought with it a need for constant maintenance. Owners were instructed to strip the car’s varnish and refinish the wood every year, paying special attention to the joints and corners. Otherwise, the car ended up — as most did — resembling an old produce crate. Ultimately, Detroit automakers ceased building true woodies by the mid-’50s. In their place were steel wagons with wood-tone stickers affixed to their sides. It fooled no one, but was seen as a status symbol in many a suburban driveway until the 1980s.

Simply put, a woody is a car with visible wood construction, and it dates to the birth of the automobile, when wood was used for both frame and bodywork. In honor of this week’s Arbor Day, here’s a look at some classic woodies. n 1940 Buick Super Estate Wagon: Buick President Harlow Curtis was dining at film director Norman McLeod’s home, which was decorated with Buick banners. When Curtis noticed there was no Buick parked in the garage, McLeod’s wife Bunny replied, “You don’t build a station wagon, and I need one.” This model was the result. n 1941 Packard 120 Deluxe Station Wagon: Among luxury automakers, Packard was perhaps the most traditional. So it’s little surprise that wood-bodied cars would be offered. Known officially as the Nineteenth Series Packards — the company didn’t

use model years — the Packard 120 was among the lowestpriced models. But the Deluxe Station Wagon’s body was built by the Hercules Body Company, which was known for framing dark mahogany panels in white ash. A mere 358 were built that year. n 1947 Chrysler Windsor Town & Country: The Town & Country name, which first appeared in 1941 affixed to a wood-bodied station wagon, was used for a line of woodbodied sedans and convertibles for 1946. The sedans were based on the smaller Windsor model, employing white ash and mahogany veneer. Priced at $2,366, the 1947 model cost $755 more than its all-metal sibling, and was the second-most

expensive Chrysler model. Still, 4,049 Town & Country sedans were built from 1946 to 1949. n 19 47 Ford Spor ts man convertible: Over two decades, Ford Motor Co. became the market leader in wood-trimmed station wagons by 1947. But it was the postwar steel shortage that provided Ford designer Bob Gregorie with a convenient excuse to build the Sportsman in 1946. Boasting maple and mahogany wood trim, the Sportsman was a limited-edition model meant to enhance Ford’s image, trading on the reputation of woodies as the ride of choice among the wealthy country set. n 1947 Nash Ambassador Suburban Sedan: Like other automakers ramping up production after World War II, Nash’s new models were little more than warmed-over pre-war models. In an effort to produce something different, Nash offered a wood

body on its top-of-the-line Ambassador, the Suburban Sedan. While parent company Nash-Kelvinator was raking in record profits in 1947, the same year an Ambassador paced the Indianapolis 500, Nash moved a mere 595 Suburban Sedans out of 113,315 cars built. n 1969 Morris Minor Traveller Estate Wagon: Three years after the end of World War II, The Nuffield Organization, which built Morris cars, introduced an all-new version of their low-priced car, the Morris Minor. It was designed by Alec Issigonis, who would later create the Mini. The Traveller Estate Wagon debuted for 1954 sporting ash-framed bodywork and its design remained largely unchanged through 1971, when production ended. The Traveller was the last car to feature exposed wood bodywork. –Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at larry.printz@pilotonline.


Monday, May 14, 2012 / Page 7

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

Electric, hybrid cars seek sales traction

By G. Chambers Williams III The Tennessean

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Richard Peterson bought a battery-and-gasoline-powered Chevrolet Volt three months ago, just as gas prices began to spike. Since then, he has managed to drive it on electric power only for his about 10 -mile daily commute between home here and work in Franklin, Tenn. His total gasoline consumption the past 90 days has been a mere 1.2 gallons. He laughs every time he passes a gas station and sees prices tick higher by another dime or two. The Volt, when operating only on electricity, costs about 50 cents a day to operate. The only thing electric and hybrid car enthusiasts need now is more Richard Petersons. Only the Toyota Prius has turned in stellar sales totals recently, finishing among best-selling autos of all types in March. Other alternative vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt don’t come close. The Leaf was delivered to fewer than 600 buyers in March nationwide, while the Prius tallied more than 18,000 sales. The Volt, which is the most expensive of mainstream hybrids and electrics, registered just less than 2,300 sales last month. “Consumers aren’t ready to embrace pure electrics such as the Leaf in significant numbers yet, even with the higher gas prices,” said Jim Hall of auto consulting firm 2953 Analytics in Detroit. “It’s a new technology, and it requires too many compromises. You have to have your own charger and your own garage, and you have to plug it in.” Among alternative-fuel cars, Hall gives the edge to hybrids like the Prius and Volt because at least they can run on gasoline as need-

MCT file phoTo

The Nissan Leaf, shown above, was delivered to fewer than 600 buyers in March nationwide, while the Prius tallied more than 18,000 sales. The Volt, which is the most expensive of mainstream hybrids and electrics, registered just less than 2,300 sales last month. ed, and it’s easier to find a gas station than a recharging unit. For some buyers, the hybrids and the all-electric Leaf are practical enough. That’s the case for Stan Blaylock, a commercial pilot who drives a Leaf from his home in Franklin to the Nashville, Tenn., airport every day. He bought the car about a year ago and has logged nearly 12,000 miles. “I don’t worry about fuel prices, but I do still have to pay for the car,” Blaylock said. “My wife is still a little anxious that the battery might run down while we’re out.” Hybrid buyers tout fuel savings as well. “My wife just loves it because she hates stopping at the gas station,” said Peterson, who runs his own medical supply firm, HighTideHealth.com. He drives only about 20 miles a day, well

within the Volt’s advertised 40-mile range on battery power between charges. Still, sales of most alternative vehicles are lagging, mostly because of their relatively high price, limited availability and a general misunderstanding of their technology, auto industry experts say. Leaf prices begin around $35,000, and the Volt goes for about $40,000. Federal and state tax rebates and incentives can knock off thousands of dollars, up to $10,000 in Tennessee. In the past 16 months, General Motors sold 11,912 Volts, while Nissan delivered 11,426 Leafs. The Nissan Altima, a bestseller nationally, has sold nearly 21,000 cars on average every month in that time span. Nissan and General Motors say they expect sales of electric and hybrid vehicles to

get better. Nissan recently dropped the requirement that Leaf buyers first make a reservation on the company’s website, along with a $99 deposit. Now, the Franklin-based Nissan North America lets dealers stock the vehicles so customers can buy on the spot. Chevrolet has sold the Volt that way from the start although supplies were severely limited until recently. At Action Nissan in Nashville, three or four Leafs are “on the way” this month and should be available for walkin customers, said Eric Blihovde, the dealership’s electric-vehicle specialist. Volts were so scarce in the first few months of sales that some dealers marked up their sticker prices by several thousand dollars. But GM temporarily stopped production of the vehicle in March

because of an oversupply, and it just cranked the assembly line back up again this week, spokeswoman Michelle Malcho said. Ben Freeland, chief executive of Freeland Chevrolet Superstore in Nashville, says he still has too few Volts in stock. Monday, Freeland had three Volts at his showroom, including two that he bought used last week from GM’s corporate fleet. “It’s nice to have some here to show people,” the longtime car dealer said. GM believes the Volt will outsell the Leaf even though it costs more because of fundamental differences between the two. The Leaf runs on battery power alone and must be recharged from an external power source when the battery runs down -- usually after less than 100 miles on the road.

By contrast, the Volt has a small gasoline engine that can extend its range by about 300 miles after the battery has been depleted. “We’re looking for numbers to grow as more people understand what the Volt is all about,” Malcho said. “People don’t have to change their driving habits because of the extendedrange backup.” Nissan remains upbeat about the Leaf, whose U.S. production will begin in December at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant. Stocks are limited right now because the Leaf is still imported from Japan, and that factory has a capacity of only about 40,000 units a year to serve Japan, Europe and the U.S. “We’re right on plan,” said Brendan Jones, director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy for Nissan North America.


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