Niagara Gazette

July 4, 2013

From the 'America's Car Show' newsroom

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Editor’s Note: The Gazette has partnered with local automotive expert Tom Torbjornsen to publish his weekly national column. Tom’s Corner will appear in Thursday’s editions. 

More research confirms the danger of talking oncell phone while driving

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety just conducted a new distracted-driving study, again confirming the presence and crash risk of cognitive distraction. The human brain is incapable of performing at the same time the tasks necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle while engaged in other cognitively demanding tasks such as a phone conversation or speech to text.

The NHTSA has observed 10 percent of all drivers at any given moment, are distracted by a cell phone. When this level of exposure to risk is combined with the degree of risk as defined in the AAA Foundation study, it is easy to understand why cell phone distracted driving has become a public health epidemic, poised to only get worse. If you see a person on a cell phone while driving, get away from them.

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Oh the price of parking these days!

In the ridiculous category: Lisa Blumenthal a Boston resident recently plunked down $560,000 at auction to purchase two parking spots within the city limits. The spots were up for auction because the IRS seized them from a man who owed back taxes. The former owner of the tandem spots paid $50,000 for them in 1993.

Bidding for the spots started at a relatively reasonable $42,000, but quickly shot up to $200,000. Just two bidders remained once the asking price crossed the $500,000 mark, with Blumenthal outlasting her only competitor. “I really wanted them, but there was a limit,” the losing bidder told The Boston Globe. Just four years ago a single parking space in the same neighborhood set a new record when it sold for $300,000.

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Ford recall

Ford is recalling 465,000 Ford Explorer, Taurus, Flex, Fusion and Police Interceptor utilities and sedans, and Lincoln MKS, MKT and MKZ vehicles from the 2013 model year. Ford issued the recall after receiving more than 600 complaints involving fuel leaks.

“The condition could result in customers detecting a fuel odor, or in some cases, observe evidence of a fuel leak on the ground,” Ford told The Detroit News. “While a fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source may result in a fire, there have been no reports of fires. We are not aware of any accidents or injuries attributed to this condition.” Nevertheless, call your local Ford dealer with your vehicle’s ID number and see if your vehicle is involved in this action from Ford as it may be dangerous.

If you have followed my writing for a while, you will know that I see diesel as a valid powertrain of future passenger cars. The next three articles are a testament of the fact that carmakers are seeing light at the end of the tunnel in selling the American motoring public on diesel power.

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Diesel hybrid Land Roverbound for US

Land Rover will sell a version of its diesel-hybrid Range Rover in the US after all a new report finds. Late last year Land Rover confirmed that a diesel-hybrid version of its all-new Range Rover flagship would debut sometime during 2013, but at the time the model was only confirmed for the European market. However, changing regulations and a growing acceptance of diesel engines has apparently convinced Land Rover to sell the Range Rover hybrid in the U.S.

According to Edmunds, Land Rover will begin selling the diesel-hybrid version of the Range Rover in the United States in about two years. The SUV will make its debut at this fall’s Frankfurt Motor Show and hit the European market shortly thereafter. That my friends, is good news!

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Paradigm shift taking place regarding diesel power

Nearly a third of new car shoppers say they will consider a diesel-powered vehicle when it comes time to buy, signaling a major shift in the acceptance of diesel powertrains in the US. Consumer Reports recently sifted through a new survey conducted by the National Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing and discovered that 31% of the 1,200 Americans surveyed said they would at least consider purchasing a diesel-powered vehicle within the next 2 years.

Not surprisingly, better fuel economy was cited as the number one reason for diesel consideration. Diesels typically get 20-25 percent better economy than their gasoline counterparts and return hybrid-like figures during highway cruising. Diesels were virtually non-existent in the U.S. market just a few years ago, but have now spread to most segments of the market.

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Diesel-electric hybrid wins endurance race

An Audi R18 e-tron quattro took first place in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. Audi’s diesel-electric hybrid race car finished the race a full lap ahead of the runner up, a Toyota TS0030.

The carbon fiber-bodied R18 e-tron uses a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain that uses an electric flywheel accumulator to store the kinetic energy that is generated when the brakes are applied. Active only above 75 mph, the system sends power to two electric motors that power the front wheels giving the car a noticeable acceleration boost. The rear wheels are driven by a 3.7-liter V6 turbo-diesel and are not linked to the hybrid setup. The powertrain cranks out over 626 lb-ft. of torque and about 500 horsepower. Audi credits the hybrid setup for enabling the car to come out on top.

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Jeep recall

Chrysler is recalling 2.7 million older Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs from model years ‘93 to ‘04 and Jeep Liberty SUVs from ‘02 to ‘07. The reason for the recall? The fuel tanks on these vehicles are situated behind the rear axle, possibly subjecting the tank in the event of a rear-end crash.

Chrysler dealers will install trailer hitches on affected vehicles that do not already have company-installed hitches as an extra added measure of protection and structural integrity from a rear-end collision that could result in a fuel leak and/or fire. The safety agency’s data shows that 51 people have been killed in rear-end crashes involving the two Jeep models affected. A company spokesman declined to estimate the cost of the recall. Owners are urged to call local dealers and get this done.

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Leaf battery replacement plan

Nissan has announced a new battery replacement program for its Leaf electric. The program is intended to provide Leaf owners with peace of mind regarding replacing the EV’s battery pack.

Set to launch during the first part of 2014, Nissan’s battery replacement program will offer Leaf owners the opportunity to swap out their battery pack for a new unit at about $100 per month. The program is a safeguard against a failed battery pack, which could end up costing a Leaf owner thousands of dollars to replace. Also a move to future-proof the Leaf, owners will be able to exchange older batteries for the latest technology available. If the replacement battery fails or cannot hold a charge above 70 percent, Nissan will replace it with a new unit. Details of the plan are still to be announced.

Well, that about does it for this week’s edition of automotive news.

‘Til next time ... Keep Rollin’

“America’s Car Show” with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.