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  • Chrysler/Toyota Win Top Spots at TAWA Roundup

    OEMs bring over 50 vehicle entries to March ride-and-drive event

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Major League Photography

    Photo courtesy of Major League Photography

    Everything is bigger in Texas. From bighorn steers to ten-gallon hats, the Lone Star state is the land of supersizing.

    This includes the weather. Because north Texas lies in the path of the Jetstream, the area gets a lot of wintery weather other sections of the southwest miss. People who live in north Texas are used to this, so Plan A always includes a Plan B.

    When pouring rain, wind and forty-degree temperatures on the day of the Spring Roundup put the kibosh on hot laps at Texas Motor Speedway, members of the Texas Auto Writers Association donned their thinking caps and executed Plan B.

    And although journalists missed the opportunity to drive supercars such as the Dodge Viper, Nissan GT-R and Chevrolet Corvette on the track, neither the cars nor program attendees spent much time in the garages. Everyone had a good day of driving. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show fills McCormick Place

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Press Conference

    Nissan Press Conference

    The history of the Chicago Auto Show dates back to 1901: the same year Walt Disney was born on a cold December day, Winston Churchill made his maiden speech in the British House of Commons and baseball’s American League launched its maiden season.

    During its 107-year history, Chicago has become one of the four biggest auto shows in the country and the most heavily attended by consumers. The Chicago Auto Trade Association reported sales of 250,000 tickets for the 2015 show prior to the box office opening.

    Sandwiched between the holiday season and the onset of spring, the Chicago Auto Show entices parents and their kids to break free of the confines of their homes at a time when the weather is frigid and daylight scarce. The McCormick Place convention center is large enough to hold something for everyone, from indoor test tracks to a special edition SpongeBob Toyota Sienna minivan for the kids.

    Media days for the 2015 show took place on February 11-13. The show opened to the public on February 14 and runs through the 22nd. Read the rest of this entry »

  • In-Car Weather Forecasting Moves Forward

    New technologies connect the driver with the road

    By Nina Russin

    Real-time weather updates warn drivers about unsafe road conditions.

    Real-time weather updates warn drivers about unsafe road conditions.

    It won’t be long before your car can warn you about an ice patch on the road ahead. Whereas today’s real-time weather alerts give drivers general information about climate conditions, emerging technologies will provide real-time road and atmospheric conditions in the driver’s exact location.

    The new advances are made possible by connected car technology that includes a GPS indicator for the vehicle. Baron Services currently provides weather data for news broadcasts. The company that has been in business for a quarter of a century also builds radar systems for defense contractors and the U.S. National Weather Service.

    Chris Carr, a meteorologist and director of business development for Baron Services, explains that the company acquires raw data that it applies to a global map divided into one-kilometer squares. Combining this with ground surface information about urbanization, geography and the type of road surface, scientists can predict how weather will impact the road surface in real time. They can also predict how fog, for example, can settle into a valley and cause visibility problems or how a wind tunnel through the mountains can make high-profile vehicles such as semi trucks unstable. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Pro Athlete Chamber of Commerce

    NFL vet John Bronson helps fellow athletes find paths to success

    By Nina Russin

    John Bronson

    John Bronson

    Former Arizona Cardinal, John Bronson knows from personal experience how hard it can be to transition to civilian life after retiring from the NFL. The former pro football player and Penn State University graduate is helping fellow current and retired pro athletes with a new chamber of commerce designed to help them network with vetted members of the business community and not-for-profit organizations.

    The Pro Athlete Chamber of Commerce currently has one chapter in Phoenix, Arizona, and soon will have two additional in Seattle, Washington and Cleveland Ohio. Bronson, who is based in Phoenix, has recruited a team of marketing and business specialists to help him build his new network. After only seven months, the Chamber has 330 members. Bronson expects the number to increase to 500 by the end of this calendar year and have a spike of activity during the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona.

    One of the keys to Bronson’s success is that he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. By partnering with existing programs such as the Pro Athlete Franchise Initiative and the Sports Financial Advisors Association, his organization can focus specifically on networking, rather than replicating the legal and consulting services other groups already have in place. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

    Compact crossovers rule at the season’s first major show

    By Nina Russin

    Scion Press Conference

    Scion Press Conference

    Pistons pump, wheels spin, exhaust pipes growl and the auto industry moves forward. From new propulsion systems to connectivity inside the car, technological advances occur at warp speed.

    But since the economic downtick of 2008, evolution in the car industry has changed. OEMs have become risk averse. Aha moments, when the blankets come off to reveal something startlingly different, are few and far between.

    As one of four major auto shows in the United States each year, Los Angeles sets the tone for the season. While LA is the last of the shows during the calendar year, Detroit being first, it is considered the first show of the auto show season coming closest to the traditional beginning of the industry’s new model year.

    Porsche Display

    Porsche Display

    The 2014 show was arguably the best attended by media in its history, with press conferences attracting standing room only crowds. New product ranged from the powerful Mercedes-Benz AMG GTS sports car, Porsche 911 Carrera GTS and Ford Shelby 350 GT Mustang to a gaggle of compact crossovers, including the Mazda CX-3, Honda HRV, Fiat 500X and Scion iM concept, the production version of which debuts in New York next spring.

    The show, filling both halls of LA’s expansive convention center, seems to have something for everyone, from the dyed-in-the-wool driving enthusiast to pragmatic first-time car buyers. But what it lacks, in this writer’s eyes, are any real surprises.

    While manufacturers flood the compact crossover and sedan segments, others, such as the compact pickup truck are largely ignored. Although each press conference in LA threatened to take us to the brink of the ship and jump into uncharted waters, those waters were, in most cases, rather shallow. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2015 Toyota Camry, Yaris and Sienna

    Toyota pumps up the style with three mid-cycle refreshes

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Toyota Camry

    2015 Toyota Camry

    The 2015 Toyota Camry doesn’t look like a mid-cycle refresh. All new sheet metal with the exception of the roof panel gives the Camry a dramatically different exterior. A new model called the XSE appeals to younger buyers with a unique grille, larger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. Pricing for the four-cylinder LE starts at $22,970.

    The subcompact Yaris changes significantly as well. Styled at Toyota’s European Design Studio and produced in France, it stands poised to capture millennial buyers purchasing their first car. While value remains one of the Yaris’ key attributes with a starting price of $14,845, the new three and five-door hatchbacks are more than pretty faces, with restyled interiors and new technology including Entune infotainment, HD radio and Bluetooth interface.

    Changes to the Sienna are less dramatic, focusing on interior refinement. Designers revised the instrument panel using softer, more appealing materials and added a thin-film-transistor information display in the gauge cluster. Upholstery offerings have also been updated, and customers can opt for lounge-style second-row seating on upscale models. Pricing for the front-wheel drive base car starts at $28,600.

    Engineers enhanced torsional rigidity on all three models by increasing the number of spot welds throughout the bodies. New acoustic materials reduce NVH for quieter, more comfortable interiors.

    Although the drivetrains are carryover, retuned electric power steering systems, new wheel and tire combinations and retuned suspensions give the 2015 models sharper steering response and a firmer ride. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Change of Seasons

    Now is the time to winterize your car

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Bridgestone Winter Driving School

    Photo courtesy of Bridgestone Winter Driving School

    Although autumn officially begins in late September, October is the time when most of us see the weather start to change dramatically. While we enjoy watching the leaves turn fiery red and gold, it’s also time to start thinking about how winter will affect our cars and our driving.

    In a series of #eBay buying guides, I’ve gathered some information about the best way to winterize a vehicle as well as tips for driving safely on ice and snow.

    “Five Ways To Winterize Your Car” focuses on mechanical issues that can lead to cold-weather breakdowns such as dead batteries, old coolant, bad belts and hoses. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Cars, Art and Architecture

    Why car design is part of a much bigger picture

    By Nina Russin

    XPEL Runner by Cosmin Mandita. Photo courtesy of Local Motors

    XPEL Runner by Cosmin Mandita. Photo courtesy of Local Motors

    Before I became an automotive journalist I went to art school and received a graduate degree in sculpture. Because of that I’ve always taken a keen interest in car design and the places where designers find inspiration.

    We live in a connected world. While the Internet facilitates such interaction, artists have looked outside the box for centuries. Car design has been influenced by painting, photography, sculpture, industrial design and architecture since the internal combustion engine was invented over 150 years ago.

    As part of our eleventh annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year program, our host and sponsor Local Motors hosted its second ALV design competition. Members of the Local Motors community were challenged to design active lifestyle vehicles incorporating athletic gear and the competition sponsor’s protective film. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Active Lifestyle Vehicle Winners

    Athletes and journalists reveal top picks from thirty vehicle entries

    By Nina Russin

    Photo by Chris Dodson

    Photo by Chris Dodson

    The Carspondent.com Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year’, the only car-of-the-year competition that combines the input of automotive journalists with elite and area athletes, announces winners for the 2015 model year competition.

    This year’s event that took place at the Local Motors’ micro-factory in Chandler, Arizona was the most competitive in program history, including thirty vehicles from over a dozen auto manufacturers, automotive journalists and close to 100 athletes. Winners were often decided by hundredths of a point.

    Athletes on hand for the October 18 finals included members of Arizona Legends, retired NFL players of Arizona, representatives from Sole Sports Running Zone, Fit Mom Diet and Fit Fathers, elite runners, triathletes, paddlers, cyclists, swimmers and more. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Buying and Selling

    Smoothing the transition into new wheels

    By Nina Russin

    Photo courtesy of Tempe Dodge

    Photo courtesy of Tempe Dodge

    Back in the day September was the official start of the new car model year and with it, the beginning of car-buying season. Late in the summer the automakers would host full model previews that every journalist with a press card in his or her fedora attended. Dealerships covered their windows with paper to block the public’s view until voila! The new models debuted.

    Today the automakers introduce new car models year-round, and a shopper is as likely to sign on the dotted line in June as in January. The beginning of auto show season at the end of September is the last remnant of the good old days described above.

    What has not changed is the anxiety many car shoppers experience as they begin the journey into a new set of wheels. This doesn’t necessarily start at the dealership. Car owners are as nervous about selling their existing car as they are about shopping for a new one. Read the rest of this entry »