<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Cars]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/the-scene/cars http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Tue, 01 Dec 2015 21:10:30 -0800 Tue, 01 Dec 2015 21:10:30 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Automakers Set for Debuts at LA Auto Show]]> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 22:06:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/2014-SLS-AMG-Black-Series.jpg

Nearly 50 vehicles will debut later this month when the Los Angeles Auto Show opens at the LA Convention Center.

That number includes 24 world debuts and 25 vehicles that will be unveiled for the first time in North America. Some of the debuts are concept vehicles, others are ready for the road.

A look at some of the confirmed debuts:

Acura: The RLX is a tech-laden sedan from Honda's luxury division. The automaker says it "behaves not as a machine, but as an extension of your instincts."

Audi: Several North American debuts, all under what is usually one of the most appealing displays on the convention floor.  

BMW: The i8 Spyder Plug-In Hybrid is a concept car with design elements similar to the model featured in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." BMW also is set to make an "undisclosed world debut" and take the wraps off its X1 Limited Edition.

Chevrolet Spark EV
: The all-electric version of Chevy's Spark runabout, which looks like something you could pick up and hug after parking near your friend's loft apartment in a congested urban area.

Fiat: Add E and L to the end of 500 and you get the tiny Fiat in an all-electric version (500e) and another with five doors (500L). 

Ford: Updates for the compact Fiesta and extremely useful Transit Connect.

Jaguar: The automaker that blessed the automotive world decades and a few parent companies ago with the incomparable E-Type adds the highly anticipated F-Type roadster to its lineup.

Mercedes-Benz: The GL 63 AMG high-performance SUV, SLS AMG GT and SLS AMG Black Series -- the striking SLS on a high-carbon fiber diet -- all make debuts.

MINI: The Paceman, which borrows styling from the MINI coupe, offers more room and versatility. The Clubvan is MINI's take on the delivery van.

Nissan: Concept cars often point toward designs to come. The Hi-Cross provides an idea of where Nissan is headed in the crossover market.

Porsche: The 2013 911 Carrera will make its North American debut. A second Porsche, described as a "compact sports car," will make its world debut.

Editor's Note: Bentley, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Subaru, and VW also will present debut vehicles at the LA Auto Show, scheduled for Nov. 30 through Dec. 9 at the LA Convention Center. 

Photo Credit: Wieck]]>
<![CDATA[Tribute Features Cars of Carroll Shelby]]> Wed, 30 May 2012 16:33:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/carroll-shelby-cobra-hat.jpg

A tribute to an automotive world legend opened Wednesday at the Petersen Automotive Museum with a display of cars created by Carroll Shelby, who died May 10 at the age of 89.

Among the vehicles on display during the event -- a prototype Cobra CSX2000, the first production Cobra CSX2001, a Cobra Daytona Coupe, 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, selection of Shelby American's 50th anniversary vehicles, Series 1 and other Shelby cars.

The exhibit opened on the same day  as the "Rev Your Shelby" salute, in which Shelby owners start their engines at 6:55 p.m. PT, a fitting symphony of engine notes in honor of Shelby.

Born in Texas, Shelby rose to auto racing fame in the 1950s, reaching the pinnacle of endurance sports car racing with a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959. That was after he started a dump truck business and raised chickens during the 1940s.

Shelby competed in his first road races in the early 1950s before being asked to drive some of the biggest names in the business, including Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin. He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DBR1.

But Shelby's legacy rests with the cars he created after his driving career. His Shelby Cobra will be the featured marque at this summer's Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca.

The car was developed after AC Cars in England lost it source for engines. Shelby acquired a V8 engine and turned the car into a Ferrari-beater -- the first in a long line of iconic Shelby cars.

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Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Not Your Father's Auto Shop Class]]> Wed, 16 May 2012 07:59:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/auto-shop-class-puente.jpg

There are some things that haven't changed in auto shop -- it's still loud and it's still dominated by teenage boys standing under cars, working with their hands.

But in one La Puente High school, students also stand in front of a computer screen that displays information generated by a dynamometer.

"There's a chassis dynamometer which tests and diagnosis the whole drivetrain from the wheels to the engine," said teacher Mike McCarthy.

He proudly points out Nogales High School in La Puente has not one, but two dynamometers. No other high school in the state has one.

McCarthy makes the point that the state is requiring tougher emission standards, and "we need to have technicians trained to make cars pass smog."

The would-be technicians in this class will benefit from a $2.1 million upgrade that brought this auto shop class from its 1962 equipment to present-day technology.

Student Marco Dominguez is excited by the opportunity.

"Not every school gets these things and it's cool we get to experience and use this equipment," he said.

Half of the money came from a state bond passed by voters five years ago, and the other half from the district.

Mercedes Piedra is an auto shop student.  Her older brother went to Nogales High, too.

"He says when he was in auto shop, he didn't have the same things we have," Mercedes said. "He tells me to enjoy it, appreciate it, and pay attention."

It's good advice, that along with new technology, will give these students an advantage.

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<![CDATA[Honda MPG Small-Claims Ruling Reversed]]> Wed, 09 May 2012 12:52:36 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/civic+%281%29.jpg

A small-claims ruling in favor of a California woman who claimed her Honda Civic hybrid did not achieve its promised fuel economy rating was overturned this week.

Heather Peters was awarded nearly $10,000 in February after she opted out of a class-action settlement and took her case to small-claims court. But in a ruling released Wednesday, a judge overturned the small-claims ruling and cited federal regulations that govern fuel economy ratings posted on vehicles.

"The Defendant's fuel economy ratings for the vehicle were obtained using the test method mandated by the EPA," the rulings stated. "The EPA later audited those numbers and found them to be in compliance.

The judge also said that the ratings do not account for various factors that can affect mpg. During the small-claims process, Honda was not allowed to have legal representation in court, but Honda engineers testifed in court about factors such as tire wear and use of the air conditioner, traffic conditions and vehicle speed.

"The EPA's estimated miles per gallon rating are for comparison among vehicles," the ruling stated. "They do not take into account many factors that affect mileage at a given moment.

"Despite these many variables, most of the owners of the subject vehicle achieve fuel economy very close to the EPA estimate."

Peters was awarded $9,867 in February
after a small-claims court judge ruled in her favor. She argued her Civic hybrid did not achieve the claimed 50 mpg.

But attorneys for Honda were allowed to participate in the appeals process.

The company's class-action settlement was approved in March. Honda offered about 200,000 car-owners between $100 and $200, along with a rebate on the purchase of a new Honda.

"They used to go the extra mile in customer service, now they go the extra mile fighting customers in court,'' Peters said of Honda.

Honda said in a statement that it was pleased with the ruling.

"We are never satisfied when a customer is anything less than satisfied with one of our products, and the company does not relish the necessity to defend the truth in opposition to any of our customers,'' the statement said.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Life Connected: Driving Away Cancer]]> Wed, 09 May 2012 09:59:12 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cancerthumb.jpg

John Nikas is on a 50,000-mile road trip, crisscrossing all 50 states. It is a journey he expects will be hopeful and heartbreaking.

Drive Away Cancer: Follow Grace

Nikas said the thing he is most looking forward to is also "the thing I’m least looking forward to, and that’s actually spending time with the people that sign Grace."

"Grace" is a 1953 Austin-Healey. She is a slick gun-metal gray vintage British sports car, and she is covered bumper to bumper in signatures and messages. Each signature on Grace represents someone who has battled cancer.

On the hood, a brief message of encouragement: "For Marcy, Beat the Beast." Under the windshield, a daughter wrote, "To my dad, the gentle giant."

Last summer, in an effort to "Drive Away Cancer," Nikas drove Grace across the country and back again. He said many people had doubts that the nearly 60-year-old Grace could make the trip.

"Even our closest friends last year didn’t think we would make it out of the state," said Nikas, of Irvine. "In fact, most of my family."

Grace is not built for this kind of long-distance, rugged travel.

"Somehow, we’ve caught fire 14 or so times."

He estimates that Grace breaks down every three hours. But then, somehow, she gets back on the road and perseveres.

That metaphor is central to Nikas' passion for "Drive Away Cancer." He wants people with cancer to believe that like Grace they are capable of great things -- seemingly, impossible things -- despite the rust and difficult road.

Nikas says he believes in miracles, "and I think that this car is emblematic of those miracles. Sometimes when you are sick, you have to believe in those things."

At every planned and unplanned stop along the way, people ask about Grace. Many then take a moment to sign her. Nikas gives people privacy when they sign, but every time a name goes on the car he asks about that person. Who are they? How are they doing? What do they like to do? What kind of places do they like to visit?

At a gas station in North Carolina, Nikas was approached by a man who pulled from his wallet a picture of his wife. The man explained that Colleen had passed away from breast cancer the year before. He had always promised her to take her to California, but never got the chance.

He then asked John if he would take her to California.

Nikas says it was a privilege to oblige the man. He drove Grace and Colleen to the beach at Monterey. He convinced a policeman to let him drive out on access road so he could get Grace and Colleen right up next to the beach.

To this day, Colleen’s portrait smiles at John from the dashboard.

Then there was the woman in a Sonic parking lot in Tennessee who sobbed as she went to sign Grace.

"On the exact spot where she was going to sign her dad’s name, it was already on the car because her brother had signed it in Georgia the day before," he said. "And, she hadn’t talked to him. Just completely by accident ran into Grace."

Click here to learn about Amy, a young girl from Arkansas who asked Nikas to drive her to prom

was so inspired by his time on the road last summer that he and Grace are on the road again. This summer they are hoping to drive 50,000 miles and across all 50 states. This time, however, the trip is a bit more structured, because so many people have asked John and Grace to come visit.

Like Richard Astin from Portland, Maine. He lost his sister five months ago to breast cancer. He works Portland Motor Club, where he details cars. He has even offered to "clean Grace up … without taking off the signatures of course."

Peter Gordon from Hartland, Vermont is currently being treated for cancer. He has invited John and Grace to visit his home.

Click here to see Peter's video request for a visit from Grace.

"It’s just a wonderful feeling knowing that someone really cares," Gordon said.

Cindy Meitle wants Grace and John to visit her cousin in Kauai, Hawaii, and take him for "the ride of his life."

And that’s the thing -- cancer is a struggle that connects all of us. John can roll into any gas station or walk down any street and hand a marker to anyone he meets.

We all have someone to sign for.

During the course of NBC4's interview with John, in a small parking lot behind an automotive bookstore in Burbank, a man asked about Grace. Like many who first approach Grace, he was a car racing enthusiast.

Moments later, he took the Sharpie and wrote the name “Nell Strong” on the passenger door.

Patrick Strong said Nell is his mother. She lost her battle with breast cancer in 2006. The vintage Austin-Healey strikes him as particularly poetic because when his parents started dating, his dad had another model of Austin Healey that "he rolled with her sitting shotgun."

With an amused grin he continued, "Yet, she still married him."

Writing his mom’s name amongst the nearly 7,000 names made him feel part of something bigger, he said.

"I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who was as completely selfless as she was," said Strong.

These are the moments that motivate Nikas. The chance for a son to share a detail about his mom. Or for this writer to remember her cousin. Tucked on the back quarter-panel, I had a chance to honor Matt Gallagher, who seemed to always know, "It was about the ride."

Nikas says carrying these names cross country is a "noble undertaking" and every time someone signs, he promises to "take very good care of that person."

Nikas insists on making this trip about the people he meets. He keeps the focus on their stories -- and the inspiration they give him. But in certain quiet moments he admits that the ride can be really hard.

Grace is a small car with no roof and few amenities. When it is hot, it is really hot. When it is cold, it is really cold. When it rains, he gets wet.

In addition, "Drive Away Cancer" is a non-profit. When he left he said he had enough funding to get cover about 3,000 miles. He joked, "Only 47,000 to go."

Still this is a project he believes in with all his soul. You can see it in his face. You can hear it in his voice.

It is a simple but powerful concept. Nikas believes the simple act of signing a name -- and sharing a detail about someone who struggled with cancer -- helps us all to heal. He says that at the end of the day, cancer can only take your life, "But what it cannot touch are the people you leave behind and your legacy and the love of others.

"Every single name on this car… they all are loved by someone and the fact that these names are here reminds us of that."

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<![CDATA[Zipcar Culture]]> Fri, 04 May 2012 04:24:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/zipcar_722x406_2230576307.jpg

The car culture is changing in Los Angeles, as more people question whether they actually need to own a car, and one company in particular is trying to change the way people get from Point A to Point B.

Unlike traditional rental car companies, Zipcars are parked wherever customers tend to congregate.

The keys are left in the ignition, although the company says the cars can't be started without a client's access card. Once you have one of those, you just find an unused car and slip behind the wheel.

"If I do need to run an errand or go to a meeting or leave campus, Zipcars come handy," said USC student Lev Vanshelbaum.

Gas is included in the rate, as well as insurance, and memberships are sold on an annual basis.

College campuses like USC are a no-brainer, according to general manager Jeff Shields, because many students don't have or can't afford cars of their own.

There are 160 Zipcars in Los Angeles, but there will be many more in the months to come, as Zipcar expands to more communities, Shields said.

"You can live in LA without a car," he said.

It's an idea that appears to be catching on in a city where car culture once reigned supreme.

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<![CDATA[Ailing Austin-Healey on 50-State Lap]]> Wed, 25 Apr 2012 10:19:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/nikas-healey-grace-1.jpg

There are about 6,500 names written in black Sharpie marker on John Nikas' 1953 Austin-Healey 100 -- a vintage British sports car that, despite protest from every dashboard warning light and two fires, soldiered through a 5,800-mile coast-to-coast-to-coast drive last year that started as a way to inspire a friend diagnosed with cancer.

Drive Away Cancer: Donate, View Itinerary, Videos | Facebook | Twitter

Some of the names are those of people battling the disease. They found inspiration in a rickety odds-defying car that somehow sputtered from Orange County to South Carolina and back west to Monterey.

Fifty-six of the names are people who have died since Nikas and the car, aka "Grace," began their two-week journey last summer. For their families, the car became a rolling memorial.

"Last year, we thought we were going on a drive to raise cancer awareness," said Nikas, who races vintage cars. "We didn't understand at the time the Grace would become an instrument of healing. It's amazing to hear from people who are sick who think if this car can stay on the road, so can they. It's a good metaphor."

Nikas, of Irvine, and "Grace" will set out on another journey Tuesday from Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank -- 50,000 miles through 50 states as part of the Drive Away Cancer project. The trip includes scheduled stops at hospitals, car shows and meetings with people who heard about the little Austin-Healey that could.

[UPDATE: Wednesday, 11:18 a.m.] Nikas left Tuesday afternoon. Track his progress here.

Again, Nikas will bring his Sharpie markers and more names will be added to "Grace."

Some of the names have messages scrawled next to them. One father wrote to his daughter, "Fight like a girl." Another message reads, "Dad, you would have loved this."

A man in North Carolina signed his wife's name and asked Nikas to take her somewhere special -- California. In South Carolina, Hammond Edward added his father's name to the car.

"It's nice knowing my father's memory is along for the ride," said Edward.

There are celebrities' names on there somewhere, Nikas would have to look to find them -- but he can easily point to every name of a child. And, it's a horse drawn prominently on the center of the car's hood that gets the most attention. The horse was created by Amy from Arkansas -- a girl who coped with the agony of chemotherapy by finding comfort in her artistry.

Amy died in February, but their 45-minute conversation last summer and the horse on the hood will always be with Nikas.

"People always remark on the horse on the hood -- it's one of those things that you just never know what will have an effect on someone later on," said Nikas, who has taken the car to seven funerals.

Last summer's two-week trip was an array of glitches, fires, hysterical warning lights, nearly 300 quarts of oil and all-night repair jobs, some with help from strangers. Nikas estimates the car broke down about once every three hours on the road.

But out of drastic drops in oil pressure and other near-disasters came names and memories.

"Every signature last year was at a rest stop, gas station, or breakdown on the side of a road," Nikas said.

Along the upcoming 50-state journey, more parts will probably fall off. Pieces are placed in plastic baggies and sent to people who request a part of "Grace."

"The thought of not going back out would be a surprise because so many people expect us to keep it on road as long as possible," Nikas said.

Saving "Grace," and What Makes Her Special

At Bob's Big Boy in Burbank Friday night, the squat little Healey was hard to spot among bulging muscle cars and the substantial amount of metal and chrome used to forge American classics. People stopped by to ask about his plans for the British sports car. Was it going up for auction? Is he restoring it? What are all the names about?

No plans for a sweeping overhaul -- that would defeat "Grace's" purpose. Nikas and friends with the Austin-Healey Club of Southern California made Grace road worthy over the course of eight days before the 2011 drive.

He could have just used a Toyota Camry, but the Healey turns heads -- no matter that some of those heads are shaking in disbelief.

"I'd like to say it has improved, but honestly she might have gotten worse," Nikas said. "But if you talked to anybody involved, they don't want her repaired. So, the essential character of the car remains the same -- she still catches fire and still breaks down. You never know when the last mile is going to happen, and you shake your head that it's still here."

The most catastrophic -- there are several degrees of catastrophe when it comes to vintage British sports cars -- failure last summer occurred in Shamrock, Texas. But like many of Grace's breakdowns, it wasn't terminal -- thanks to a woman who heard about the car's plight from a Facebook friend, loaded up her husband's truck and trailer, and drove hundreds of miles to pick up the car so it could be brought to a repair shop.

"The best parts were the worst parts," Nikas said.

The car started out as an eBay purchase by the man who was the original inspiration for the restoration project that led to Drive Away Cancer -- Nikas' friend and Austin-Healey club member Mike Newsome. After Newsome was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Nikas and friends decided to restore the car. 

"We really just wanted to make Mike happy when he got sick," said Nikas. "When he got diagnosed, we weren't sure he would make it to the end of the drive -- now, he's doing great."

Drive Away Cancer 2012 is scheduled to end up in Monterey for the Rolex Motorsports Reunion weekend in mid-August.

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Photo Credit: Drive Away Cancer]]>
<![CDATA[Ferrari, Lamborghini Among Cars Seized at Port]]> Wed, 04 Apr 2012 08:07:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/227*120/ferrari-458-seized-carson.jpg A Ferrari 458 Italia and Lamborghini Aventador were among the high-value cars seized in a customs operation.

<![CDATA[Thieves Cashing in When You Fill Up]]> Thu, 15 Mar 2012 04:48:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gas_pump_generic.jpg

High-tech thieves are skimming debit and credit card numbers using a small device planted inside credit card devices on gas pumps.

Saving Fuel: Reminders for the Road, Find Gas Prices

The Torrance Police Department is seeing an uptick in the crime, but it is happening across the Southland.

"They’re actually coming back to get the device that they’ve put in the machine prior to," said Sgt. Steven Jenkinson with Torrance police. "There have been incidences where ... they’re using wireless capabilities or Bluetooth to obtain information."

It’s a sneaky rip-off. Most victims don’t even know they’ve been robbed until they open their bills.

Just this month, Torrance police arrested three suspects for skimming cards at the pump. About 130 credit cards were obtained, and police suspect more victims are out there.

"I traveled to China and came back and I had $18,000 worth of fraud," said identity theft victim Michael Frazier.

The scam is even forcing gas stations to put seals on their pumps. If the seal is broken, chances are the pump has been tampered with.

The best ways to avoid falling victim to a skimming scam are: paying inside; paying with cash; checking your bank account often; and checking seals on the pump.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images/OJO Images]]>
<![CDATA[Meals on Wheels Drivers Keep Rolling]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:56:57 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mealswheelslongbeachchen_722x406_2206559665.jpg Meals on Wheels driver Dan Sharp says gas prices have made it tough, but it's a price that seems worth paying if he can help others. Ted Chen reports from Long Beach.]]> <![CDATA[Volt Sales Down, but Other Car Sales Up]]> Tue, 06 Mar 2012 06:09:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/volt-plug-auto-show.jpg

Low demand has forced GM to shut its Volt factory until mid-April so inventory of the automaker's plug-in hybrid car will match demand. Ironically, it is increased fuel efficiency and the price of other cars that seems to be overpowering the Volt's plug-in novelty.

"We sold 22 (Chevrolet) Cruze's last month," said to Derek Hanson, of Tom Bell Chevrolet. "More than I can remember selling any kind of car in an awful long time."

The Chevy Cruze toys with 40 miles per gallon, making it an attractive option when compared to the more expensive Volt.

It is estimated GM has about 145 days of Volt inventory. Carmakers generally make and hold 60 days of inventory -- that's the reason for the temporary layoffs.

But Volt buyers do get some perks.

The 2012 Volt models sold in California will allow driver only car-pool lane access. Buyers will also get an extra $1,500 rebate.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Irwindale Speedway Cancels Season]]> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 09:53:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/IRWINDALE_722x406_2196934627.jpg Considered one of the best minor league short tracks in the world of NASCAR racing, setbacks have put the future of the speedway in jeopardy.]]> <![CDATA[California Might Consider Hybrid Settlement]]> Tue, 14 Feb 2012 19:12:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/peters-heather-honda.jpg

A class-action settlement involving fuel-efficiency claims that prompted one Honda Civic hybrid owner to pursue a case against the automaker in small claims court might be considered by the California Department of Justice.

Statement: American Honda Motor on AG Review | Settlement Details

The department is considering whether to object to the proposed settlement, which was the catalyst for Heather Peters' successful small claims case against Honda. The Civic hybrid owner was awarded $9,867.19 -- just shy of the maximum of $10,000 -- in a judgement earlier this month against Honda in small claims court, an alternative to the class-action avenue that did not allow Honda to spend money on legal help.

Under the proposed settlement, all settlement class members are entitled to either a $100 or $200 cash payment. The settlement also provides other benefits, such as rebate certificates and warranty extensions for the vehicle's hybrid battery system.

"Depending on the class member’s circumstances, this settlement provides for multiple benefits and paths of resolution," according to a statement from American Honda Motor Co. "We continue to believe that the class action settlement pertaining to the fuel economy of some early-model Civic Hybrid vehicles represents a very good resolution for our customers. We look forward to a discussion with the State Attorneys General concerning the benefits that our customers will receive from the settlement."

On Thursday, Peters filed a legal brief in San Diego Superior Court objecting to the settlement. The document includes declarations from nearly 40 hybrid owners regarding technical problems with vehicle batteries.

She attended Tuesday's court session in San Diego, where a Superior Court judge gave the attorney general until Feb. 29 to declare opposition to the class-action settlement. California officials remain undecided on whether the state will object to the class-action settlement, Deputy Attorney General Albert Shelden told the Associated Press.

Peters' case involved a Civic hybrid purchased in 2006. She argued that it failed to deliver on the posted 50-mpg rating and achieved closer to 30 mpg because of technical issues with the battery.

In an effort to convince others to consider small claims court, Peters launched DontSettleWithHonda.org.

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<![CDATA[Mysterious Heat Damages Cars]]> Thu, 09 Feb 2012 06:02:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/Window+Beam.JPG

What was to blame for the damage to Heather Petrone’s new Prius, and to other cars in her carport?

"I started noticing my side-view mirrors looking warped," Petrone said. "It kind of looked like somebody had taken a blowtorch on my mirrors."

Turns out it the culprit may be the sun's rays, bouncing off a double-pane window next door to Petrone's condo in Studio City.

Two winters ago, the side view mirrors on three cars in that carport, including Petrone's new Prius, basically melted. She thought it was a faulty defroster unit, but Toyota said no.

So she did some research.

"One guy happened to mention that he's read articles across the country of Low E (low emissivity) glass doing harm to other people's properties," said Petrone.

According to experts, the double pane window can become concave, causing it to act like a magnifying glass.

"It is literally creating a laser-type focused beam," said energy auditor Jerry Berberian. "It hit over 300 degrees at 10 in the morning."

The damage seems to be happening primarily in the winter months.

"In the summertime this will never happen, because it's going to be hot and the sun is higher in the sky," said Dan Thomsen, of the building doctors.com. "So the beam that it's creating is just coming across, moving across the vehicles."

But the irony of the whole thing is not lost on Heather.

"I think it's really funny that I have an energy efficient car," says Petrone, "and an energy efficient window is ruining it."

The building doctor said this can easily be remedied by either completely replacing the glass or going with the cheaper option of putting a film on the window to dilute the sun's reflection.

Neither of which has happened yet, so Heather continues to park in her garage.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Police Driving Instructor Turns to Teens]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 13:47:20 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/driving-academy-hemsworth.jpg

Automakers spend years and vast amounts of research and development money on improving the safety features of their vehicles, packing cars with innovations that might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction decades ago. But what about improving the most important safety component -- the driver?

Q&A: The State of Driver Training | CDC: Causes of Death by Age Group

That's where Marc Hemsworth, a 30-year LAPD veteran who served as a driving instructor at the Los Angeles Police Academy, helps teens and their parents help themselves.

He is one of the "driver coaches" at the new Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy (MBDA) in Los Angeles. The academy on 3rd Street near Sweetzer is the automaker's first in the United States, where motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 20, accounting for one in three deaths among people in that age group.

In 2009, eight members of that age group died each day from motor vehicle injuries.

During his career with LAPD, Hemsworth also worked as a collision investigator. He saw the consequences of poor decision-making on the road.

"This street was part of my beat," Hemsworth said, glancing out the academy's glass entrance toward 3rd Street. "It doesn't take much before you get very strong feelings about it."

Hemsworth starts his behind-the-wheel sessions at the academy with a driver "head-check." He wants to know how the student's day went. What's on his or her mind? Any distractions that might lead to inattentive driving?

It's about shifting into the proper mindset before even opening the car door.

"The best skill you have is the skill to not have to get out of trouble," said Hemsworth.

Classroom activities and online courses are integrated with the behind-the-wheel sessions. The curriculum, based on research by experts in Europe and North America, is built around the "driver coach" methodology -- instead of telling the teen driver what to do, a coach might let the teen come to a conclusion, then discuss that decision.

"They're a coach, not a teacher," said 16-year-old academy student Matthew Reilly, of Manhattan Beach, who found out about MBDA at the LA Auto Show. "They're really calm, and they're on your side. Even if it's a subtle correction. Even if the driving is going well, they will ask you questions. It's about learning how to react to certain situations, putting yourself in a situation where you and other drivers will still be safe."

Matthew is part of a group that, statistically, is at greatest risk. The motor vehicle death rate for males, age 16 to 19, was almost two times that of females in 2006.

Risk also is highest at age 16. The crash rate per mile driven for 16 year olds is twice as high as it is for 18 to 19 year olds, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safey.

"I learned in six to eight hours in one day. That was a different time," said Steven Reilly, Matthew's father. "Driving now is more challenging than ever. There are many more drivers and an increasing amount of distraction. Our desire was to have a better driving foundation so Matthew can respond to challenges as they might arise."

The academy's methods and partnerships involving educators, law enforcement and parents represent a shift in attitude toward driver training in the United States. Improving safety starts with understanding the consequences, said CHP Officer Leland Tang, who works with teen drivers, parents and groups like Impact Teen Drivers.

"I've heard the studies that say teens don't possess the maturity or understanding or faculties for driving," said Tang. "I tend to disagree. I think that it's not so much the lack of maturity, but a lack of understanding consequences.

"We've used Red Asphalt, and that's one thing, but kids are de-sensitized to blood and gore. When I bring a mother to an auditorium and she talks about what it feels like to lose a son and the pain and anguish she goes through, you can hear a pin drop."

Six Months That Can Make a Lifetime of Difference

Training young drivers involves making the most of California's Graduated Driver's License program, especially the six months after the new driver obtains a learner's permit, Tang said. GDL is the stage system by which a new driver advances from a learner's permit and a provisional license to become a solo driver.

Forty-six states have a three-stage GDL system. Prior to GDL, most states allowed teens to receive full licenses at an earlier age than most other countries. In states that adopted the GDL requirement, crash rates declined 10 to 30 percent by 2008, according to the IIHS.

California, which adopted its GDL requirement in July 1998, requires 50 hours of supervised driving after a teen obtains a learner's permit.

"That 50 hours is not a lot, but it's still something," said Tang. "Parents have to invest in those 50 hours. Think of it as an apprentice program. Some parents just go to the DMV and sign off, but you need to take that time very seriously."

The driver can then move on to the two final stages of the GDL program. But the process is only effective with an honest and accurate assessment of the young driver.

"As a mom, my biggest emotion is fear," said Matthew Reilly's mother, Michele Reilly. "I've never taught anyone to drive."

Matthew is among the first students enrolled in the MBDA's DMV-approved program, which works within the framework of the GDL timeline. The first MBDA opened in the UK in 2009, and freeway-centric LA seemed like the right place to open the first U.S. academy.

Matthew, for example, will be driving from his home in Manhattan Beach to school in downtown LA.

"The driving culture of Los Angeles, more so than any other city in the United States, forces young people on the road whether they want to be or not," said Carolyn Duchene, academy director. "Mercedes-Benz has always been at forefront of safety, and we saw the driving academy as the next logical step."

Students, parents and driving "coaches" participate in Saturday classroom sessions in groups of about six to 10 students. They talk about road safety, the laws of California's roads, recognizing distractions and the decisions that can mean the difference between a safe arrival and a crash that shatters lives. During a vehicle safety workshop, students are asked to identify how a car might be compromised, such as balding tires. 

The behind-the-wheel component -- the academy has a fleet of C and ML class Mercedes-Benz vehicles -- includes night-time lessons, freeway driving lessons and situations in other driving environments. It also means quality time with the driver coach at an off-site distracted driving course.

Distracted driving accounts for 25 percent of all reported vehicle crashes, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study. The number is probably higher because of under-reporting -- not everyone involved in a crash will admit they were texting, eating or grooming at the time of the collision.

Nearly 50 percent of teens ages 12-17 report they have been in a car when the driver was texting, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2008, California enacted a law that does not allow drivers under 18 to use a cell phone -- hands-free or otherwise -- when operating a motor vehicle. 

Hemsworth might introduce a cell phone or other electronic device during the distracted driving segment, but he also might create a situation involving a friend yelling in the backseat. The scenario demonstrates how a simple task -- braking to avoid a vehicle backing out of a driveway or slowing for traffic stopped at a light -- can become nearly impossible.

"We talk and talk about distracted driving, but then we do something to illustrate the point," said Hemsworth, the driving coach. "People make bad decisions for two reasons -- they either don't have enough information or they have the wrong information. In the case of distracted driving, they're not giving themselves enough information. They didn't see the car pull out, they didn't hear the siren."

The process often leads to an "ah-ha moment" for students and parents, Hemsworth said.

"It may be something simple. You're going downhill, gravity is working against you or scanning the road three to four blocks down the road," said Hemsworth. "You begin to realize there's a lot going on out there.

"We also talk to teens about how they learned something, and when we asked where they learned that, the parents realize that they learned it from them. Sometimes, it's difficult for a parent to take off the parent hat and put the coach hat on."

Parents and students can keep a driver's logbook that tracks progress in various situations -- canyon roads, freeway traffic, wet conditions. It all leads to a final assessment before the student takes the DMV provisional license test.  

The academy offers several programs, including a customized program for drivers over 18.Click to view larger

(Click above graphic to enlarge)

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<![CDATA[Inside LA's New Merecedes-Benz Driving Academy]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 12:25:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mbda-exterior-blurb.jpg A look inside the new Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy near 3rd Street and Sweetzer Street in Los Angeles.]]> <![CDATA[Q&A: Advice for Young Drivers, Parents]]> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 13:14:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/182*120/72558701-freewaylights.jpg

CHP Officer Leland Tang has been the West Valley Division's public information officer since 2002. As part of his job, he works with students at nearly 50 schools on issues related to road safety.

Automaker Opens First Driving Academy in U.S.

He's also a father who knows the responsibility that comes with preparing a young driver for Southern California's twisting canyon roads, busy freeways and the distractions that can shatter lives in just a few seconds. Motor vehicle injuries account for one in three deaths among people in the 15 to 20 age group.

Below, Officer Tang answers a few questions about what he has seen on the road and in the schools.

Q: What do you tell parents about preparing a young driver?

A: Even when you don't think your teen is watching you, they are. So if you think it's a good idea to eat and drive, you're setting that example to them. If you're doing something other than what you're supposed to be doing, they're going to emulate that. That's why I call (the six-month learner's permit  period) an apprenticeship program. If you take it seriously, then you're going to teach them right.

Q: What's it like for a new driver today? Are there issues they face that are different than what their parents faced?

A: We have 40 to 44 million registered vehicles and more than 20 million licensed drivers on the road. The vehicle environment is a technology-rich environment -- there are a lot of distractions built into the vehicle.

Q: How has driver training changed over the years?

A: We've used Red Asphalt, and that's one thing, but kids are de-sensitized to blood and gore. When I bring a mother to an auditorium and she talks about what it feels like to lose a son and the pain and anguish she goes through, you can hear a pin drop

Q: What major changes have there been when it comes to driver training?

A: The Graduated Drivers License program puts retrictions on teens early -- when you can drive, who you can drive with, not having passengers. When you put two teens in a car, they're going to talk. You know they're going to turn up the volume on the radio, and you have peer pressue, too. We do that to introduce them to driving slowly. In this state, our program is working -- we're not seeing an increase in teen fatalities.

Q: What about the cell phone? How do you break that habit?

A: The bottom line is, it's a distraction. You can't multi-task like that. The video game environment is completely different than reality. There's no reset button, no do-overs.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Arrests in Theft of Travolta's Benz, Other Classics]]> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 17:50:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/john_travolta_041211_722x406.jpg

Authorities announced the arrests of two men Wednesday accused in a vehicle-theft ring that was behind the theft of actor John Travolta's vintage Mercedes-Benz.

The suspects, identified as Michael Green, 58, and  D.L. Rayford Jr., 52, were taken into custody in December. The ring targeted classic and muscle cars, according to authorities.

Travolta's 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL was stolen in September after it was parked in a residential near a car dealership. Surveillance video and tips led to the arrests, police said.

Ring members "chopped up the car," police told the LA Times, adding that interior and exterior parts were recovered. Those items included seats, the speedometer and hubcaps.

The announcement of the arrests was delayed because the investigation into Rayford and Green was ongoing, according to police. As part of the investigation, police cleared eight cases involving stolen vehicles, said Sgt. Richard Lewis.

Green faces two counts of grand theft auto, including Travolta's car and another Mercedes-Benz. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 8.

Rayford pleaded no contest to a count of grand theft auto. He was sentenced Jan. 5 to 16 months in prison.

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<![CDATA[Honda MPG Dispute Back in Small Claims Court]]> Thu, 26 Jan 2012 06:54:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/peters-heather-honda-mpg.jpg

Honda was reprimanded by a judge Wednesday for having a lawyer accompany two technicians to a  small claims court hearing in a dispute over mpg ratings.

It was the second hearing in the unusual case brought by Heather Peters who opted out of a class-action lawsuit that involved thousands of Honda owners and filed a small claims lawsuit against Honda over her hybrid Civic’s mpg rating. She claims her hybrid Civic, which she purchased in 2006, failed to deliver on the posted 50-mpg rating.

The car achieved closer to 30 mpg because of technical problems involving the battery, according to the lawsuit. Peters is seeking $10,000. The hybrid model relies on the gas-powered engine when the battery is not operating, which can affect fuel economy.

“If the car was in my driveway and they broke into it and they syphoned out my gas that would be a crime,” said Peters. “They’d go to jail.”

The original class-action suit in 2007 claimed the Civic hybrid's actual mpg rating fell short of owners' expectations. The proposed settlement was rejected by a California judge in 2010.

But Peters took the small-claims route, which does not allow Honda to spend money on legal help. The commissioner in the case refused to consider a brief filed earlier this month by Honda's chief counsel because small claims court proceedings prohibit litigants.

"I spent 10 years dealing with hot-shot lawyers, I was a hot-shot lawyer," Peters said. "I don't want to do that. Life is too short. I really think justice is its purest form is done here, whether I win or not."

In Wednesday’s hearing two Honda technicians defended the Civic’s 50 mpg rating saying they believed that most  Civic hybrids earned the rating.

In an effort to convince others to consider small claims court, Peters launched DontSettleWithHonda.org -- a website that details the original settlement offer and how much of that would go to attorneys involved in the case.

A decision is expected next week.

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<![CDATA[Carmakers Show Off Their Goods at CES]]> Wed, 11 Jan 2012 10:36:12 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/161*120/audiconceptcar.jpg

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is known for gadgets but this year's convention in the desert has a heavy presence from carmakers.

Ford, Audi and Mercedes Benz are three of the major car manufacturers unveiling new features in their cars at CES this week.

But there are over 480 car technology exhibitors at the convention, according to automotive review site Edmunds.com.

For its Ford unveiled a mobile app that connects drivers of the official car of CES, the electric Focus, with electric charging stations, fellow drivers, Facebook and Twitter.

Mercedes introduced a new iPhone app that will sync with an in-dash display on 2013 model vehicles.

Fellow German luxury car-maker Audi not only held a fancy party at the celebrity-infested Ghost Bar at the Palms Resort on Tuesday night, the company also showed off some of its fancy concept cars.

Audi also introduced an in-dash display that projects three different images on a car's windshield and accepts hand gestures to control content.

One of the displays would be invisible to drivers but visible to passengers and it would be capable of playing movies and other forms of entertainment.

Audi said the technology was not currently being installed on its vehicles and it had no timetable of when it might go live.

General Motors also was present at CES and making news. The Detroit company announced a partnership with LG to provide drivers of the  with an in-dash system that uses apples to connect to cloud-based content.

<![CDATA[Gas Prices Start 2012 on the Rise]]> Mon, 09 Jan 2012 13:36:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/8455439_gaspricesadlerjan92_722x406_2184953354.jpg Fuel prices continue to climb in Los Angeles and Orange counties.]]> <![CDATA[2011 a Banner Year for US Auto Industry]]> Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:28:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/CARSALES_722x406_2183607511.jpg

The year 2011 was good to the U.S. auto industry with carmakers Volkswagen, Chrysler and Ford all seeing significant increases in sales.

At Ford’s top dealership, Galpin Ford in North Hills, sales were up 28 percent in December and 32 percent for the entire year.

There were 12.8 million cars sold in the U.S. in 2011, according to automotive research website Edmunds.com. That’s the highest number since 2008 when 13.2 million vehicles were sold.

Edmunds projects an even bigger 2012, with 13.6 million in car sales expected.

Big vehicles are also making a comeback. High-tech touch screens and improved gas mileage have made bigger cars more attractive.

Ford saw trucks like its F-150 post big gains last year.

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<![CDATA[Saab Nears Sad End for Loyal Owners]]> Mon, 19 Dec 2011 14:11:40 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Save_Saab_Caravan+106.jpg

Saab owners are lamenting the demise of an automaker that started out as an airplane company and went on to create some innovative and distinctive cars that were not going to be mistaken for anything else on the road -- whether that road was an icy ribbon of mountain switchbacks or a bustling LA freeway.

Swedish automaker Saab moved another step toward closing its doors for good Monday when the company's chief exec handed in a bankruptcy filing. CEO Victor Muller personally delivered the document to the Swedish court.

It was a move that seemed like a long time coming for loyal owners, who celebrated the simple fact that Saabs are not Audis, BMWs or Mercedes. Saabs, particularly the wedge-like 900s of the 1980s, stand out from the pack.

"That's particularly true in LA,," said Drew Price, of the LA Saab Club. "The market is a lot bigger on the East Coast and places like Colorado because Saabs behave the best in that kind of weather. But they're even more unusual here in the warm climates.

"I think a lot of the attraction is that it's a non-mainstream product -- you don't see a lot of them."

Unless you're a member of the Price family. He bought his first Saab, a 1985 900 SPG, at age 16.

Outside of an ill-fated affair with an Alfa Romeo GTV6, Price and his family have been devoted to Saab. He came home from the delivery room in one and has owned about 25 Saabs.

For Price, who managed a Saab service shop on the Westside, the 900 model from 1979 through 1993 represents the best of Saab -- stand-out styling, electronic innovations, advanced safety features and satisfying levels of performance.

"There was a high attention to detail to how people use their cars," Price added. "Cargo space, it's comfortable on a long trip. There was a usability aspect that went into that design. Everything on it just sort of made sense."

Price currently owns two 99s, two 900s and a 9-5.

Another club member, Orange County resident Jeff Kroeze, has owned five Saabs since he turned in his SUV in 2004. He currently has two 1980s 900s, a convertible and hatchback.

"They just have a great combination of everything I want in a car," said Kroeze. "They're fun to drive. They were pioneering turbo charging long before it was becoming a trend, and you get a lot of car for the money. And, Saab owners love to brag about how much they can stuff in the car."

Saab started out at an airplane company in the late 1930s and began selling cars in the late 1940s.

Matching the success of the 900s in the 1980s has been elusive. There was hope that a buyer would step forward to rescue the ailing company and resume making cars that people wanted to buy.

In early 2010, GM reached a deal to sell Saab to Spyker Cars -- a Dutch manufacturer of supercars. Saab had hoped for cash from Chinese investors, but GM did not support the deal, according to Muller.

There are "still parties out there that have expressed an interest," Muller told the New York Times.

A post on the LA Saab Club's message forum Monday took another optimistic view: "So this means we all own classics and they are worth twice as much!  Right?"

On its Google groups page, the club is described as "a strikingly attractive, fun-loving, and easy going group of Saab drivers."

Are there any other kind? They meet monthly for drives and anything else Saab related, such as a "Save SAAB" caravan two years ago.

One of the group's photos made it into a print ad that Saab ran in February (second row, second from left).

"It's hard to place blame on one thing, but it's probably a combination of GM's lack of understanding of the brand, trying to mainstream them," said Kroeze. "There was underinvestment there. People expect models every few years, and things started falling off people's radars after a while."

Despite what appears to be the end of the road, Price, Croeze and other club members still have cars that are reminders of better times.

"Saab was caught in an awkward position of trying to make a product for a very small market," said Price. "It never really had resources to compete on an international level."

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Photo Credit: Drew Price]]>
<![CDATA[NTSB Recommends Cellphone Ban While Driving ]]> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 22:55:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/8212977_N11PpkgCARCELLPHONE_722x406_2176516177.jpg

You are probably familiar with California's ban on the use of handheld cellphones while driving. Yet, a lot of states still don't have even that.

But now the National Transportation Safety Board is proposing a nationwide ban on drivers using cellphones -- even hands-free devices like the Bluetooth.

It's a bold proposal, and there's a real question whether any states are ready to take that leap. Only with reluctance have many drivers accepted California's ban on texting and handheld calling.

But that does not go far enough, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The board wants a ban on all calls while driving, even hands-free, with emergencies being the only exception.

"It's time to put a stop to distraction," says NTSB chair Deborah Hersman. "No call, no text, no update is worth a human life."

The bold proposal came with the NTSB's analysis of this horrible chain reaction crash that took two lives and injured dozens last year in Missouri. The conclusion: it was started by the inattention of the pickup truck driver who was texting.

Hersman says this type of driver is not unusual.

“This driver was doing something that many of his peers on the roadway do,"says Herman.

Hersman attributes 3,100 traffic fatalities a year to distracted driving. Thirty five states now forbid drivers while texting, but only nine forbid handheld calling.

The NTSB's call comes even as the auto industry has been making a big push for digital features in cars -- some of which would appear to run afoul of the NTSB's intentions.

The NTSB is not asking Congress to require the car industry to remove Bluetooths from autos, instead, the NTSB is asking all states to outlaw drivers from using those hands-free systems --except in an emergency.

But even the legislator who wrote California's hands-free law has doubts.

Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, says he welcomes the recommendation, but “it is a non-starter, politically.”

Simitian agrees with NTSB’s message that distracted driving is a life and death issue, but he doesn’t think the ban will actually happen any time soon.

What do you think about the proposal? Should all cellphone use be banned, including hands-free devices? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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<![CDATA[Museum Co-Founder Margie Petersen Dies]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2011 13:53:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/petersen-margie-robert-museum.jpg

Philantropist and co-founder of the Petersen Automotive Museum Margie Petersen died Friday at her Beverly Hills home.

Petersen died after a 20-year battle with cancer. She was 76.

Petersen and her late husband were co-founding benefactors of the museum, located at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, in June 1994. Robert Petersen died in 2007.

The couple donated millions of dollars to the museum, turning it into a four-level celebration of the LA's automotive history. It is home to about 150 rare and classic vehicles, rotating galleries and a learning center for children.

Margie Petersen also made significant contributions to several charities, including the Amazing Blue Ribbon of the Music Center, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, The Diadames, The Los Angeles Orphanage Guild, The League for Children and Childhelp U.S.A. In 2008, the couple gifted $15 million to St. Johns Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Institute, where the Margie Petersen Breast Center was named in her honor.

Petersen, born in New York, worked as a professional model and appeared on hundreds of magazine covers. She also appeared in TV ads, including campaigns for Coca-Cola dn Ivory soap, and acted.

Memorial services were pending.

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<![CDATA[Closer Look: Bentley]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:32:19 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/bentley-laautoshow-21.jpg Bentley's larger-than-life luxury cars are on display in all their stunning glory at the LA Auto Show.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Lloyd]]>
<![CDATA[Parkour-Inspired Car Wins Design Challenge]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:32:19 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/smart-parkour-laautoshow.jpg

An intrepid reporter and her little car that could drive, park, climb and fly won this year's LA Auto Show Design Challenge.

LA Auto Show: Images, Debuts | Map: Exhibitor List

The competition is an opportunity for auto design studios to present their takes on the future of persona mobility. Past themes required designers to present a creative automotive concept, but the car's design was just one element of this year's challenge -- Hollywood's next movie car.

"Not only were studios tasked with designing a futuristic Hollywood vehicle, but also the complex plots within which they starred," said Chuck Pelly, of Design LA. "The Smart 341 Parkour captured the essence of the Design Challenge by combining innovation and functionality with an adventurous plot."

Introducing reporter Annie Angle and her versatile Smart 341 Parkour, stars of "Annie, Get the Grannies." The "Grannies" are robots that knit together frames in a Smart production plant. And, in Cantpark City, efficient use of parking space starts with their skilled stitching.

Annie sets out to discover the truth behind the missing robots. Journalistic glory is within reach, thanks to her car's three mobility modes -- park, drive, climb and hover, presumably to scan the streets below for stolen granny robots.

Park might sound the least exciting, but check out the video below to see how it's done. The LA Auto Show continues through Nov. 27.

<![CDATA[Closer Look: BMW's New i3, i8 Models]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:32:19 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/188*120/bmw-i8-closelook-2.jpg BMW's delves into new powertrains with two models unveiled at the LA Auto Show. ]]> <![CDATA[American Muscle Cars at the LA Auto Show]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:34:02 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/laautoshow-musclecars27.jpg Chevy, Dodge and Ford flex their muscles.]]> <![CDATA[Natural Gas Civic Wins Green Car Award]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2011 14:00:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/honda-civic-cng-laautoshow.jpg

A car powered by compressed natural gas prevailed over several other powertrains Thursday when the Honda Civic NG was named Green Car of the Year at the LA Auto Show.

Natural Gas Fueling Station Locations | LA Auto Show News, Images and Updates

Other finalists included
the Ford Focus Electric, Toyota Prius V, Volkswagen Passat TDI and Mitsubishi i.

At $26,155, the Civic NG is more expensive than its gasoline counterpart, but CNG costs less than gasoline and burns cleaner.

"There is no other vehicle like the Civic Natural Gas on American highways, and this recognition has been a long time coming for Honda," said Ron Cogan, editor and publisher of Green Car Journal and editor of GreenCar.com.

The natural gas-powered Honda -- which looks just like it's gasoline-powered sibling -- has been around since 1998. It has long been one of the best-kept secret of the green car club, often overshadowed by better-known models like the Prius.

But this fifth generation features even better fuel efficiency that its predecessors -- 27 city, 38 highway. The NG can travel about 240 miles on a tank of compressed natural gas, which gives it a greater range than typical all-electric vehicles.

The Civic NG is the only assembly-line produced CNG passenger model for sale in the United States. It's stablemates in the Honda lineup include the just-unveiled Fit EV and several hybrid models.

The panel that voted on the Green Car of the Year included six environmental and automotive experts and Green Car Journal editors. They were presented with a range of technologies that included natural gas, diesel, electricity and a gasoline-electric hybrid.

"This year's Green Car of the Year finalists underscore that there is no single solution to our transportation challenges," said Cogan. "Virtually every automotive manufacturer is exploring green technology in several forms. The Honda Civic Natural Gas, is a prime example of an alternative fuel that is viable, efficient and practical."

The show opens Friday at the LA Convention Center. 

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<![CDATA[2011 LA Auto Show: Gadgets Galore]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2011 05:56:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/7950966_N11PPKGLAAUTOSHOW_722x406_2168238851.jpg The Los Angeles Auto Show opens on Friday, but an early look reveals lots of technology, much of it aimed toward women]]> <![CDATA[Sons Reunite Dad With Cherished 1965 Chevy Impala]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:34:02 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/impala-younger-1.jpg

A 1965 Chevy Impala SS's long road back to its original owner had plenty of twists and turns.

LA Auto Show: Images, Concept Cars

Herb Younger and his two sons, who tracked down the beloved Chevy that Younger sold 20 years ago, were part of Chevrolet's presentation Wednesday at the LA Auto Show -- bridging the automakers' history with its new car lineup.

Younger, of Redondo Beach, bought the car in the fall of 1964 in Fort Collins, Colo., but had to sell it in the late 1980s. After five years and seven owners, Derek and Jared, who remember riding in the Impala as children, found the car at a dealer in Canada and reunited their father with an old friend.

"It was overwhelming," Younger said Wednesday. "I had no idea. It's in the garage, and every day I go down there and touch it and think, 'Wow, it's really here.'"

The Younger brothers' search began about five years ago. They had no way of  knowing whether dad's Impala was scrap in a junkyard or passing the years comfortably in someone else's garage.

When they entered the vehicle identification number in an online search, it returned the address of an owner. Despite two letters, they did not hear back.

A multi-state pursuit ensued.

The car popped up in Arizona, Pennsylvania and New York. Then the Youngers heard from an owner in Maine, who said the car had recently been transported to Canada.

After considering the services of a private investigator -- this car meant a lot to the family -- they tried another online search. The search result: 1965 Chevy Impala SS for sale, Montreal, Quebec.

They called the dealer, confirmed the VIN and bought it over the phone. The car was in great shape when it arrived on a truck.

But the best part was yet to come -- reuniting the car with their father. The reunion was documented by a camera crew from Chevrolet that posed as a crew shooting a documentary on three generations of family members.

Watch the Youngers' story and the emotional reunion below. It is part of a series of car stories to celebrate Chevy's 100th anniversary.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Lloyd]]>
<![CDATA[Chevy Downsizes With a Little Spark]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 12:58:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/chevy-spark-laautosho.jpg

It's easy to miss the Chevy Spark tucked away behind all those imposing Camaros and Corvettes.

LA Auto Show: Images, Previews, Exhibitor Map

But that says more about the aggressive styling and popularity of those American Muscle cars than it does about the Spark, Chevy's new-to-the-U.S. entry into the subcompact market.

Maybe it's the oversized bow-tie grill and gigantic headlights, but the Spark still looks like a substantial hunk of car next to its bigger, more powerful distant relatives in the Chevy family. The handles to the rear doors are hidden, which makes the car look more like a stout little coupe than a five-door runabout. 

Expect fuel economy figures in the 30s for city, 40-plus on the highway. Although it's 1.2-liter, 4-cylinder engine gives up about 465 hp to the new 2013 ZL1 Camaro convertible -- also at the LA Auto Show -- it's much easier to park.

Add technology to gas mileage and parkability and you have a car designed to attract urban dwellers, college campus students or some previously nameless market base that nobody expected to buy a small, fuel-efficient car that's available in an array of colors.

The interior features a seven-inch screen touchscreen in the center console.

"All the technology that's available in the larger cars, now comes in a subcompact," said Richard James, of General Motors.

The Spark is not to be confused with Chevy's other tiny tot, the Sonic. The Spark is smaller than the Sonic, but still offers seating for four.

Pricing, yet to be announced. The Spark goes on sale in the United States in 2012.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

<![CDATA[Unveiling the New Chevy Spark at the LA Auto Show]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 08:54:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/7940819_jamesklemack_722x406_2167993148.jpg The incredible shrinking Chevys have arrived at the LA Auto Show.]]> <![CDATA[Q&A: Hooniverse.com Auto Blogger Jeff Glucker]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 08:56:57 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/189*120/camaro-resized-laautoshow.jpg

The 2011 LA Auto Show opens this week, so it seemed like a good time to check in with Jeff Glucker, of the Southern California-based auto blog Hooniverse.

LA Auto Show: Updates, Images, Previews

Below, he gives us his take on the cars he's excited to see in 2012, which cars might one day be considered classics and the future of "green" motoring.

Q: What is your blog?

A: Hooniverse.com. It's an automotive site born out of a love for all things related to cars. Driving them, photographing them, talking about them, racing them, buying them and selling them. It doesn't matter if the vehicle was built in 1910 or 2010, we're interested in it.
We strive to capture the feeling, familiar to all who love cars, of standing around a car immersed in gearhead babble. Not car enthusiasts in the typical "mine’s faster” sense. We seek out the obscure, rare and unknown to share with our readers. We seek out the stories behind these incredible machines. We don’t concern ourselves with the day-to-day auto news grind, preferring focus on what’s in the garage: ours, yours, or someone else’s. 

Our readers are automotive omnivores; their tastes range from the old and clapped out to the overengineered and decadent. One thing remains true: they are the reigning Car Guy (or Girl) wherever they go. Their friends ask them for automotive advice, advice likely based on what they read at Hooniverse.com.

Q: What do hope to achieve out of it?

A: My goal is to turn this into a full-time, paying job.  

Q: How do readers respond? Their thoughts about it all?

A: We're very lucky to have such an informed, intelligent readership. Hooniverse has turned into a community of men and women who spend their time on the site talking about something they're all extremely passionate about, and this in turn makes for a great place to spend time on the Internet.

Q: What tends to get more responses/comments on the blog?

A: Our "Hooniverse Asks" posts, which run first thing in the morning, typically generate a large number of responses. We pose a question to our readers, and let them answer and respond in the comment section below the post.

Q: How long have you been doing it?

A: I've been in the automotive industry since 2007, but I didn't get in to the editorial side until a year later. I initially started on the business side of the industry before getting a taste of what was just on the other side of the fence. I hopped over and fell in love.

Q: Why'd you start it up?

A: Hooniverse was founded by myself and Tim Odell. We're friends who like to talk about cars, and we were doing so through instant messages, texts and emails. Be it the latest bit of news or the very random stuff we find for sale on Craigslist and eBay, we shared it with each other. We felt that others out there might like to talk about this stuff too, so we started the site and immediately got a sizable following.

Q: Is it a money maker?

A: It makes enough money to sustain itself but nothing more than that.

Q: What your top picks for 2012?

A: Personally, I'm really excited to see the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, BMW M5, updated S vehicles from Audi, Cadillac XTS, and the BRZ Concept from Subaru. I think the new M5 will be a hit, as will the high-powered Camaro. It's great to see Cadillac bringing out an all-new full-size sedan. The Subaru concept will be interesting because the brand's faithful prefer the AWD layout found on all other Subaru offerings, so this RWD sports car could bring new folks to the automaker's showrooms, or annoy those who are already loyal.

It's not just about performance and luxury cars though. Since General Motors has decided to put a real effort into the compact and sub-compact segments, it will be great to see the all-new Chevy Spark up close, and see if it's a little car that people will actually want to buy. Also, it's fun to see Fiat back on U.S. soil, and the all-new Abarth 500 is a car that I'm dying to spend some time with.

Q: What are the future classics? The cars on the road now that we'll consider classics in the future?

A: Obviously, we live in a great time for fans of horsepower and performance. It's not just American Muscle that's leading the way though, as automakers from Asia and Germany are also producing future classics. Perhaps in 50 years, however, the Nissan GT-R or Audi RS5 will be Barrett-Jackson or Mecum Auctions darling. The Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca will be a future classic, as will the Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon. Would you ever have guessed that you could go buy a brand-new Cadillac station wagon equipped with a 556 horsepower motor and a manual gearbox?!

Q: Where do you see technology going in cars?

A: I see efficient technologies merging with our ever-increasing desire for style and substance. Automakers continue to add features to vehicles, and these items will be seen as standard items in cars down the road. It's almost strange to get in a car today that doesn't have satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Soon, it will be weird when a new car doesn't have laser-guided cruise control and an around-view monitoring system. Still, we can't just cram the latest tech into the car's cabin - it has to be easy to use, and be wrapped in a good-looking package.

Q: What about green vehicles? Still a big deal? Getting bigger?

A: I think we'll eventually reach a point where there are no more green vehicles because nearly ALL vehicles will employ some sort of highly efficient powertrain. Sales of the Nissan Leaf show that there is a growing market ready to own a fully electric vehicle, and sales of range-extended electrics like the Chevy Volt will begin to increase as well. Companies like Tesla and Fisker are showing us that these vehicles don't need to look boring either. Additionally, enthusiasts will enjoy the instant torque provided by an electric powerplant or the flat power curve of a diesel vehicle.

It would be ignorant to ignore the need for vehicles that run cleaner and more efficiently, however, that doesn't mean we should turn our backs on the machines that stole our hearts, and continue to do so on a daily basis. There should be a balance, and the more green cars out there, the easier it will be to achieve that balance.

<![CDATA["Alternative" Cars Merge With the Mainstream]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 06:12:10 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/nissan-leaf-plugin-2.jpg

There's an ad for the LA Auto Show that welcomes visitors to experience an "electric runabout" from Detroit that proclaims the car the "sensation of the show."

LA Auto Show: Previews, Images | Map: "Alternative Fuel" Stations

But it's not an advertisement for the 2011 show. It's for the 1909 LA Auto Show, an event confined to the basement of Hamburger's Department store.

Two cars at the first LA Auto Show two years earlier also were electric. About 3,000 people showed up at Morley's Skating Rink on Grand Avenue to see the latest in personal transport -- the majority of which was powered by gasoline.

It's easy to think of electric, hybrid and non-petrol "alternative fuel" cars as newcomers to the automotive industry. But in the early 1900s, gasoline was in competition with electricity, steam and other sources as the fuel of choice.

Technically, the horse was in the running, too.

Eventually, gasoline powered the automobile and the country's wanderlust through the remainder of the century. It offered power, came at a relatively reasonable price and benefited from necessary infrastructure.

But it wasn't as if people just gave up on alternative ideas as the decades passed. In 1917, a Chicago company built a gas-electric hybrid called the Woods Dual Power. In the late 1950s, the Studebaker-Packard Astral was a design that offered the thrill and Cold War-era mystique of atomic power.

Related: Lessons from the Past, Inspiration for the Future

And in 2011, almost every automaker has a vehicle in its lineup -- usually with an "e" or "i" attached to its name -- that does not solely rely on gasoline. More than 70 new "green vehicles" will be on display at the LA Auto Show, starting Friday.

The number of show vehicles that use some form of electrification has increased 25 percent since last year. Some cars, like the Nissan Leaf, run only on electricity. Other vehicles have hybrid systems that use some combination of gas and electricity.

"I think we'll eventually reach a point where there are no more green vehicles because nearly all vehicles will employ some sort of highly efficient powertrain," said Jeff Glucker, of Southern California auto blog Hooniverse.com.

And, vehicles that rely on gasoline also are part fo the "green" conversation. A switch won't be flipped tomorrow that turns everything on the road into an affordably priced vehicle that runs on an unlimited zero-emission fuel readily available when and where it's needed.

So automakers have turned to technology that uses gasoline more efficiently. The number of vehicles on display that can achieve more than 40 miles per gallon of gas or diesel has doubled since last year's show.

"It's a matter of having your cake and eating it, too," Glucker said. "We still want to have the power, but there is an understanding that we need to be more efficient. And, automakers understand that."

Here's a brief rundown of some of the technologies you'll see at the 2011 LA Auto Show:

Hybrids: The benefits of gasoline and electricity in one package. An electric motor typically assists the engine, allowing use of a smaller, more efficient engine. Under some conditions, such as low-speed city driving, the electric drive alone powers the vehicle. These vehicle also take advantage of technolgies like automatic stop/start and regerative braking -- power usually wasted under braking is stored in the battery until needed. They usually cost more than base-model gasoline models.

Examples at the LA Auto Show: BMW ActiveHybrid X6 and i8 Concept; Buick Lacrosse eAssist and Regal eAssist; Cadillac Ciel Concept and Escalade Hybrid; Chevrolet Malibu Eco and Tahoe Hybrid; Ford Fusion Hybrid; GMC Yukon Denali Hybrid and Yukon Hybrid; Honda Civic Hybrid, CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe and Insight; Hyundai Sonata Hybrid; Infiniti M35 Hybrid; KIA Optima Hybrid; Lexus CT 200h, GS 450h, HS 250h, LS 600h L, EX 450 h; Lincoln MKZ Hybrid; Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid and Panamara S Hybrid; Toyota Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid and Prius Hybrid; and the Volkswagen Toureg Hybrid.

Plug-In Hybrids: These hybrids can be plugged into a electric outlet or charging station. In some, only the electric motor powers the wheels and the gasoline engine generates electricity. Vehicle cost remains an issue, and consumers need to weigh that against such benefits as lower fuels costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Examples at the LA Auto Show: Chevrolet Volt; Ford C-MAX Engergi Plug-in Hybrid; Toyota Prius Plug-in-Hybrid; Honda Plug-in Hybrid Concept

All-Electric Vehicles: EVs have shorter ranges, and the range varies depending on the car, but manufacturers typically target a 100-mile minium. That's fine for most trips to the grocery store, school, work and othe errands. They produce no emissions, although the same cannot be said for the plant that produces the electricity used to power the vehicle.

Examples at the LA Auto Show: Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i, Ford Focus BEV Prototype, DOK-Ing XD, CODA Sedan, BMW i3 Concept, Toyota RAV4.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell: When automakers want to know whether a car will work in the real world, Southern California is a good testing ground. A limited number of FCXs are being leased in the region. The vehicle -- in a complicated process that requires diagrams to explain -- converts hydrogen to electricity that's used to power the front wheels. It's encouraging to think about the simplest and most abundant element in the universe powering a car, but there are challenges when it comes to efficiently producing hydrogen from water, hydrocarbons and other organic matter

Compressed Natural Gas: An alternative fuel that flies under the radar. We're used to seeing those diamond-shaped blue CNG stickers on buses, but Honda has a CNG version of its popular and competent Civic -- the Civic Natural Gas. The United States has an extensive natural gas distribution network and there are more than 100 public refueling stations in California, but availability in other parts of the country would need improvement. The Civic NG costs more than the gasoline-powered Civic. It's a finalist for Green Car of the Year at this year's LA Auto Show.

E85 Vehicles: Produced by blending 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Several automakers offer vehicles designed to run on gaoline, E85 or a mixture of the two. E85 delivers lower gas mileage and its cost varies depending on where you live.

Examples at the LA Auto Show: Chrysler 200 and 300 E85, Chrysler Town and Country E85, Dodge Avenger E85, Dodge Challenger and Charger E85, Dodge Durango, Caravan and Journey E85, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler E85.

High-Efficiency Engines: These petrol-powered cars get 40-plus mpg by using various technologies to improve fuel economy.

Examples at the LA Auto Show: Audi A3 TDI (diesel); Chevrolet Cruz Eco and Sonic; Ford Fiesta SFE and Focus SFE; Honda Civic HF; Hyundai Accents, Elantra and Veloster; KIA Rio; Mazda 3 SKYACTIV; Volkswagen Golf TDI, Jetta Sportwagen TDI, Jetta TDI and Passat TDI.

The 2011 LA Auto Show is scheduled for Nov. 18-27.

Related: Alternative Fuels Pros and Cons

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

<![CDATA[Zipcar Expands in Southern California]]> Fri, 11 Nov 2011 10:28:13 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/zipcar.jpg

The car-sharing company Zipcar announced Thursday that it plans to open a new regional office in Hollywood and make more cars available around Southern California.

Zipcar has been in southland since 2006, but the cars have mostly been limited to the campuses of USC and UCLA and the Hollywood area. The company has now also added vehicles to several other schools, including Loyola Marymount University, Occidential College, UC Irvine and Pomona College.

The Zipcar model includes gasoline, reserved parking spots, insurance, roadside assistance and up to 180 miles per day, which is all included in the hourly and daily rates. Those rates will run drivers roughly $8 per hour or $70 per day. Members can also reserve short-term day or hourly rentals online.

Zipcar will open its new office early next month.

The company has about 650,000 members and 9.500 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

<![CDATA[LA Auto Show: North American Debuts]]> Thu, 10 Nov 2011 11:54:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/LA-2012_SLS_AMG_Roadster_e_02.jpg Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Ford all have some exciting cars that will make their North American debuts at the LA Auto Show.

Photo Credit: Wieck]]>
<![CDATA[Built on Imagination: Concept Cars at the LA Auto Show]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 06:04:35 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/11_concept_Ciel_018.jpg

Concept cars offer automakers an opportunity to use their imaginations with the understanding that whatever pops out of their heads will be considered a work in progress.

LA Auto Show: News, Exhibitor Information, Images

Some of those ideas will be hidden away, stored in an office drawer at corporate headquarters to serve as a reminder of what not to do.

But other concepts will progress in different forms, perhaps lending their most appealing elements to a vehicle of the future. Others will become, with a few variations, full-on road vehicles.

And, there's always an outside chance that a superhero needs a cool ride.

Concept cars provide automakers with an opportunity to place products of their imagination in front of the public -- and to place a nuclear reactor behind the passenger cabin. They're supposed to be unlike anything we've seen before, but it's not just about what we can see that matters at this year's LA Auto Show. This year's concept cars not only offer radical styling, but you'll also find some interesting technological applications and interesting takes on the driver's environment.

Click on the image gallery (left) to see images.

BMW i:
Possibly two of the most important cars at the LA Auto Show. One of the great automakers will go electric with its BMWi sub-brand. The BMW i3 is an all-electric small car designed for moving up to four people around an urban area. The i8 is not -- it's designed to re-define what we think of when it comes to sports cars. The i8 uses a small petrol engine and a electric motor to create high levels or torque and excitement.

Cadillac Ciel:
After honing its performance credentials at Germany's Nurburgring with the lightning quick CTS V, Cadillac shows it can still do what Cadillac was once known for doing -- creating larger-than-life cars with a commanding presence. The Ciel is an audaciously designed car, but not a reckless exercise in excess -- it rolls with purpose and a hybrid system that uses lithium-ion batteries and a 425-bhp twin-turbo V6.

Jaguar C-X16: One of the best looking cars at the show, this is what auto enthusiasts might expect from the makers of the beloved E Type Jags. The way the roofline melts into the rear haunches makes it hard not to stare. Under the hood -- a 375-bhp supercharged six mated with an electric-dive system. On the steering wheel -- a button that activates boost from the electric dive, similar to Formula 1's "push-to-pass" button.

KIA GT: Most non-Kia owners know two things about Kias -- Blake Griffin jumped over one and dancing hamsters enjoy going places in them. The GT, equipped with rear-hinged "suicide doors," would be going up against a list of heavy-hitters in the "four-door coupe" market, such as Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes. But at the Frankfurt Auto Show, a Kia designer described it as the "kind of car Kia should be making."

Land Rover DC 100/DC 100 Sport:
One has a fixed roof, the other is an open-air model, both appear to get back to Land Rover's rugged-vehicle roots, inching away from the well-equipped castle-on-wheels approach. Land Rover has called the DC 100 the beginning of a journey, suggesting it's not production ready. 

Subaru BRZ:
Early reviews have praised this front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car as the best of Subaru and Toyota -- the two automakers who joined forces to create the BRZ. After agreeing that handling should trump straight-line speed and horsepower figures, engineers set to work on a fun-to-drive car that expands both company's product line.

Volvo You: Ford sold Volvo last year to China's Geely, which has indicated it wants a more upscale brand. The four-door fastback You is a major change in styling for Volvo, and the changes are evident inside, too. An iPad-like center touchscreen eliminates the buttons, knobs, levers, dials and anything else that might offend the smooth interior lines.

You can check out this year's concept car at the LA Auto Show Nov. 18 through 27.

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

Photo Credit: Wieck]]>
<![CDATA[Opening Ford's New Liftgate is a Kick]]> Fri, 04 Nov 2011 18:37:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/208*120/ford-escape-liftgates.jpg

An SUV liftgate won't be the most exciting thing at this month's LA Auto Show, but it's likely the gate on the new Ford Escape will make a few people stop, stare and struggle to figure out how it opens.

Imagine arriving at the rear of your vehicle with an armload of groceries or kittens. Placing the groceries on the ground is a mild inconvenience, but nobody wants to spend all afternoon rounding up a litter of frisky kittens. 

No need to drop anything with the Ford's next Escape. Just kick your foot under the rear bumper and sensors tell the lifegate to open. Scroll down to see how it works.

Just make sure the keyfob is nearby and take a few steps back when the gate opens. Then, kick to close.

It's not the only hands-free lift-gate out there, but as you can see in the video below, the method might confound your friends.

The new Escape makes its debut Nov. 18-27 at the LA Auto Show.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Auto Show Design Challenge: Hollywood's Next Movie Car]]> Thu, 03 Nov 2011 04:57:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/subaru-la-auto-show-design.jpg

The path to automotive stardom in Hollywood depends on where a car starts its journey.

More Coverage: LA Auto Show, Beginning Nov. 18

Some cars designed for the real world become stars after a few modifications -- James Bond's Aston Martin DBS, the Mustang from "Bullitt," Danny Zuko's Ford Deluxe, James Bond's Aston Martin Vanquish and the Trans Am from "Smokey and the Bandit."

Others were designed with Hollywood stardom in mind -- Doc Brown's DeLorean, Mad Max's Interceptor, Batman's Batmobile, the cars from "Cars."

This year, the LA Auto Show's Design Challenge casts off convention in pursuit of big-screen fame. Organizers asked six automakers for their takes on what would make a great Hollywood movie car.

Short descriptions of the script were submitted with each entry.

The car will be judged on the following: How the vehicle reflects its brand attributes relative to the movie plot; how the vehicle relates to the targeted audience or brand; the level of imagination; the character development of the vehicle; and the uniqueness of the combination of story, car and character.

Suspend traditional notions of car design for a moment and meet this year's entries in the LA Auto Show Design Challenge (Click gallery, left, to view images): 

Honda IH: A giant comet has changed things in the future, basically setting the technology clock back to zero. Two scientists plan to help by creating a vehicle that "serves as a companion and protector in the inhospitable and lonely environment." It's not a talking horse with Secret Service training. It's the Honda IH.

Hyundai Stratus Sprinter/DB Atlant Airship: Born from vampires, Countess Elena (1829-????) has super-human senses and super stealth-capable vehicles. The light-combat ready Stratus Sprinter can go anywhere -- a grocery-getter for an uncertain world. But when the countess feels like staying in for the night, she retires beyond the clouds to her DB Atlant Airship.

Maybach Berline: Cinderella trades her pumpkin carriage for a Maybach, but not just any Maybach, which is not just any luxury car. This one allows Cindy to watch a 3D laser projection suspended from the ceiling and make a grand exit through stylish gullwing doors.

Subaru HORIZON: Here's a reason to remember the good ol' days -- in the future, Earth's rotation has stopped. It gets worse. Earth has split in two, forming a Daysphere and Nightsphere. A team of four, including a magical cat, must retrieve a crucial mineral found only in a place from which no human has returned. Fortunately, they're driving a Subaru.

Smart 341 Parkour: Reporter Annie Angle has a big scoop and the right car for the job. The 341 Parkour can even fold up its wheels, a must amid the clutter of Cantpark City. It also features three different modes -- drive, fly and climb. Your move, BMW M3.

Mercedes Silver Arrow: Sleek and intimidating with the features you'd expect from 125 years of automotive design and safety excellence. Follow the adventures of Hans05 and Franz02, two enlightened crash test dummies who value safety and performance without compromise.

The LA Auto Show is Nov. 18-27. Winners of the Design Challenge will be announced Nov. 17.

Is there a movie car that revs your engine? Tell us about it: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

<![CDATA[Germ Encounters: LA's Filthiest Surfaces]]> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 17:12:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gas_pump1.jpg

A team of hygienists swabbed hundreds of surfaces around Los Angeles and five other cities and discovered filth was everywhere.

But one surface -- gas pump handles -- really fueled concern. The tests by Kimberly-Clark showed gas pump handles top the list of the dirtiest surfaces people touch every day. 

"It comes down to the fact that nobody cleans the things that you're going to touch on a daily basis," said  Dr. Kelly Arehart, program leader of Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project.

Such everyday objects are breeding grounds for the worst bacteria and viruses, according to researchers. And, they could be transmitting illnesses.

Germs from hands can transfer seven times before leaving the skin. With all the cars on LA freeways, that's a lot of germs moving around -- from the steering wheel to your home to the office, and everywhere in between.

As terrible as this sounds, Linda Dickey, a Nurse at UCI Medical Center, says it doesn't mean you'll necessarily get sick when you touch everyday things. She advises hand-washing and the all-important advice your mother may have given you -- keep your hands away from your  mouth.

"Our bodies are built to protect us," said Dickey. "You have to have enough organism that you come in contact with to even get sick in the first place... for every day, a little dirt won't hurt you. "

Below, you'll find the filthiest public surfaces tested and the percentage of which were found to have high levels of contamination:  

  • 71 percent of gas pump handles
  • 68 percent of mailbox handles
  • 43 percent of escalator rails
  • 41 percent of ATM buttons
  • 40 percent of parking meters/kiosks
  • 35 percent of crosswalk buttons
  • 35 percent of vending machine buttons

Follow NBCLA for the latest LA news, events and entertainment: Twitter: @NBCLA // Facebook: NBCLA

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[LA Auto Show: Green Car of the Year Finalists]]> Thu, 17 Nov 2011 10:58:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/autoshow-cng-fuel-green-car.jpg A look at the different technologies that go into the five finalists for Green Car of the Year at the LA Auto Show, Nov. 18-27.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>