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Tom Torbjornsen

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.

The other day while I was gathering news items for my syndicated radio show it occurred to me that you, my readers, never get to hear about these select items I reserve for my radio show listeners. Alas! I was stricken with grief and guilt having never fed you the “meat and potatoes” of the automotive news world and how it relates to you, your vehicle and your driving experience. So let’s enter the theatre of the mind: A sound comes over the radio… beep, beep, beep ... imagine the sounds of the presses running like the newscasts of old! Next, a voice comes over the radio:

Automotive News Flash!

Cars under warranty can be serviced by non-dealer shop. It's a common misconception that only car dealers can perform routine maintenance and repairs on a newer vehicle that is under warranty. In fact, it is law that consumers can patronize their neighborhood repair shop or do the work themselves without violating the manufacturer's warranty. Consumers are protected by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, which prohibits a manufacturer from voiding the vehicle warranty because a non-dealer did service.

According to the FTC, "It's illegal for a dealer to deny you warranty coverage simply because you had routine maintenance or repairs performed by someone else. Routine maintenance often includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt replacement, fluid checks and flushes, new brake pads and inspections." Just make sure you keep good records to prove maintenance was done in the event of a warranty claim arising.


This next one is a little comical. It reminds me of the George Carlin bit entitled: “Let’s Get Small.”

How long should marijuana users wait before driving? It's an open question in pot-legal Colorado and Washington.

When Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in November, both states' lawmakers were forced to consider whether to update their DUI laws. "Marijuana and alcohol affect users very differently, so it doesn't always make sense to simply lump a marijuana DUI with an alcohol DUI," says Edmunds Features Editor Carroll Lachnit.

The state of Washington made the first attempt to set that standard with a new law that makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood level of 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — as detected by a blood draw. If a driver exceeds this threshold, he or she will face the same conviction as a driver under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Colorado is considering a similar law, but its still up in the air.


Audi to offer autonomous driving system?

A report coming out of Germany indicates that the next generation of Audi's A8 sedan will be available with an autonomous driving system when it makes its debut in 2016. If the rumor proves true, the A8 will be the first self-driving car on the market. The system will use a host of lasers, cameras and sensors to scope out the road ahead and automatically move the car along in dense traffic. Engineers involved with the project say that the upcoming "autonomous" system is very promising. "So far, our test car has logged about 23,000 miles without requiring human input," said Audi engineer Björn Giesler. After debuting on the A8, the autonomous driving system will gradually be applied to other members of Audi's lineup. Pricing for the option has not been released.

By the way, the definition of the word autonomous according to Dictionary.Com is: Self-governing; independent; subject to its own laws only. (Let’s see how they handle a good ‘ole Western New York blizzard! That’ll derail their altruistic mission!)


Honda recall

Honda is recalling 748,000 Odyssey minivans and Pilot crossovers due to a problem that may prevent their driver’s side airbags from deploying. The automaker says that the driver’s-side airbags may have been assembled without some of the rivets that secure the airbag’s plastic cover. Should that be the case, the airbag may not deploy properly in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury. The affected vehicles include model year 2011-13 Odysseys and 2009-13 Pilots. Honda will begin notifying owners of the recall in mid-February, at which time dealers will inspect, and if necessary, replace the driver’s side airbags free of charge. In the meantime, concerned owners can contact Honda at (800) 999-1009 and select option four. When you call, make sure you have your vehicle’s ID number handy for the rep.


Peugeot plans battery-free hybrid to rival Toyota

PSA Peugeot Citroen unveiled a pioneering hybrid vehicle concept combining a conventional engine with compressed nitrogen propulsion, which it said would halve the cost of cutting emissions compared with current gas-electric hybrid. The French carmaker said the so-called "Hybrid Air" system developed with auto parts supplier Robert Bosch would be lighter than a hybrid running on petrol and battery power.

Peugeot said the technology would be launched around 2016, with vehicles priced below $26,600. "The cost per gram of CO2 reduction is going to be very competitive," Bosch automotive chief Bernd Bohr told reporters at a press conference outside Paris recently. Unlike Toyota's Prius hybrid, which supplements a conventional engine with an electric motor, the new Peugeot will use a separate hydraulic motor driven by compressed nitrogen by energy recaptured from braking and deceleration. In city driving conditions, the vehicles can travel on the compressed gas power as much as 80 percent of the time with the three-cylinder gas engine shut off. Sweet!

Original Batmobile sells for $4.6M

Auction house Barrett-Jackson has sold the Batmobile that was used in the very first Batman TV show for $4.6 million. Based on the Lincoln Futura concept that bowed at the 1955 Chicago Motor Show, the Batmobile was created in 15 days with a budget of $15,000. The work performed by George Barris and his team was widely acclaimed and the car became an instant icon that has inspired every Batmobile since.

Built in late 1965, the Batmobile is powered by a Lincoln-sourced 390-cubic inch V8 engine. It sends power to the rear wheels via a push-button automatic transmission. The car is equipped with a long list of Bat-gadgets that helped it become the most advanced car on television in the 1960s. No longer functional today, these include a Bat Ray Projector, a Detect-o-scope, a Remote Batcomputer and two ten-foot long parachutes that help the driver perform 180-degree turns. George Barris has held on to the Batmobile since the show ended in 1968. Now 87-years old, the King of The Car Customizers walked on stage in Scottsdale, Arizona, to bid his famous creation before passing it on. "It's difficult to part with,” said George Barris in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I hope the new owner has as much fun with it as I did.” The buyer's identity was not disclosed… perhaps Bruce Wayne?

The voice on the radio comes to a close and then you hear: “Transmission ended! Adios!”

‘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.

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