Henrik Fisker. Editor-in-Chief's Note: The designer/CEO/entrepreneur/ego tripper is still insisting that his former company would survive if it only received new funding. Yeah, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance would have been a blockbuster movie if they had just spent more cash promoting it. You've been given a very clear and concise message, Henrik. Sit down. Be quiet. Abandon your DeLorean-infused dreams. And then maybe, just maybe, you can get another design job that matters one day.
Ford. The Denizens of Dearborn delivered $1.6 billion of profit in the first quarter, led by the highest profit in North America since 2000. Lest anyone thinks otherwise and despite Ford's stellar, revamped passenger car lineup, there's gold in them thar pickup trucks and crossovers.
Motorcycle riders. Deaths while riding motorcycles are increasing across the country, up at least 4.3 percent in the first nine months of 2012, according to a report. The Detroit News reported that the Governors Highway Safety Association said that record-high temperatures last spring helped boost motorcycle deaths in 34 of 50 states. In the first three months of 2012, motorcycle deaths jumped 24 percent. Michigan reported the third-highest number of increased rider deaths. Motorcycle deaths have more than doubled nationally from 1997 to 2011, from 2,116 to 4,612, while overall traffic fatalities fell in the same period by 23 percent from 42,013 to 32,367. The safety group is projecting that motorcycle deaths will top 5,000 in 2012 and will account for more than 14 percent of all traffic deaths, the highest-ever percentage of total road deaths. Michigan repealed its mandatory helmet law over a year ago.
NHTSA. The safety group is recommending that manufacturers avoid offering in-car devices that display text messages and web page content. Location info and two-dimensional mapping are okay, but not photorealistic or 3D images. Sounds reasonable to us. We would pool together all the money spent on developing in-car connectivity and spend on it seriously upgrading this nation's driver training and licensing requirements. Yeah, we know, like that would ever happen.
The new Buick Riviera concept vehicle has made its global debut in Shanghai. GM PR minions say that, "The coupe combines avant-garde aesthetics and advanced technology, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicle propulsion, in a single package." It is the fourth global concept vehicle jointly developed by GM’s Shanghai GM and Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) joint ventures in Shanghai. The new Riviera’s designers took inspiration from the Chinese saying: “The greatest good is like water,” according to the release. "The vehicle’s sweeping design, which goes from thick to thin, has the vibrant nature of a moving river embodied in its athletic shape, elegant ambience and deeply sculpted lines." Um, okay. "Riviera is a design study of the future expression of Buick design with its elegant athletic shape, sculptural beauty, and precision execution," said Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design. "It is a great opportunity to share Buick's future design language and technology strategy." The concept has a bunch of new electronic stuff jammed into it that further removes the driver from the act of driving, which we're not going to bother mentioning.
The Game Changer: The original 1963 Buick Riviera production car.
Maria Sharapova has taken on a new role as brand ambassador for Porsche AG. The 26-year-old world-class player is already very familiar with the vehicles from Zuffenhausen. As last year´s winner of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Sharapova not only took home prize money, but also a white 911 Carrera S Cabriolet. The three-year agreement involves a global communications campaign. Born in Russia and living in the United States, Sharapova has achieved victories at all four Grand Slam tournaments in women's tennis and she was ranked number 1 for a total of 21 weeks.
Earth Day in the Smart Electric.
By Tom Pease
In honor of Earth Day and saving a few bucks I did not singly pilot my 13 MPG (premium only, natch) Cadillac to Santa Monica Place; I took the bus. Two actually. After only an hour and a half I was there and checking in. I was told that if I drove both the gas and the electric version I'd get a $10 gift card. Giving me money to drive a car is pretty much my life's ambition, so drove both I did.
First the electric. I honestly think that this powertrain is what the smart always needed in the USA. It takes out of the equation one of the things that was most annoying about the gas-powered smart - the transmission. Since the rear engine is not there heating things up, you might actually get a pint of Blood Orange ice from Di Dio's to your home in Ocean Park and not end up with soup. It's a peppy little thing, with enough torque to set you back in your seat and it's actually kind of fun. It will do about 100 miles on a charge and take a long-ish six hours to charge fully on 220 (I was quoted 8 on 110, but the website says it's a whopping 16) and it's qualified to get credits from both the Feds and the state of California, which would knock $10k off of the $25k base price.
The downsides are ones that are shared by all For-Two smarts. The interior is fairly, er, spartan. The controls do not exactly exude quality and I'm afraid that the radio and HVAC are screaming “2002” and “aftermarket.” While you will be able to take parking spaces that would normally only hold shopping carts or pets, you won't be taking this to Costco, or a passenger and a pet larger than a toaster, for that matter.
Driving the gas-powered version next made the electric one really shine. The gas engine sounded comparatively like a lawn mower with glass-packs and while the transmission is better than the 1.0 version, that's like writing that getting shot is more comfortable than having the bullets inserted manually. The gas mileage isn't as stellar as the kidney-bean size promises and the Scion iQ I tested last year (not to mention a bunch of far more conventional compacts) will deliver more useable space and about the same economy for not a lot more money.
The electric version makes more sense in a way, even for someone like me, as long as the incentives are there. Were I more well-heeled, I could see having this as a commuter car and something more entertaining for weekend trips to Santa Barbara or Palm Springs. I'd take the cabrio, thanks. In white with the Green Tridion cell.
But without the incentives the smart electric falls apart. At 18k I can see it: no gas used and the occasional weekend walk-of-shame to charge at the library along with the added gloss of telling people I can't pick them up at the airport. At 28k it becomes “not so much.” If I worked in the smart marketing department I would suggest that they do a Zipcar-like deal for owners: keep a couple of gas For-Twos on hand at the dealership for owners who need to go say, to Palm Springs for the weekend.
They might get a reminder of how great the electric version they chose is.
Editor's Note: Gary Vasilash sums up last Thursday's discussion on Autoline After Hours in his Auto Field Guide blog, here. - WG
Showcasing the theme "Revolution over Evolution," the commemorative poster for the 2013 EyesOn Design Automotive Design Exhibition was unveiled Tuesday at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan. By noted automotive artist Steven Macy, the poster shows a revolutionary car, a green 1948 Tucker, in front of the gatehouse of the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. This year's car show - the 26th annual - will be held on the mansion's grounds on Father's Day, Sunday, June 16.
Editor's Note: Watch the new 14-minute video for the new Jaguar F-Type here, starring "Homeland" lead actor Damian Lewis here. - WG