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Automotive News – February 10, 2011

Government clears Toyota.   Auto sales due to increase by 1M.   Nissan to build all-electric sports car.  These and other stories from the automotive world in this week’s Automotive News.

Toyota Runaways Not Caused by Bad Electronics, Government Reports

Prius TestToyota’s much-publicized problems with runaway cars were most likely the result of easily fixable mechanical problems or driver error, not glitches in the cars’ electronics or software. This is the conclusion of government investigators who spent the last year exploring the hundreds of reports — and numerous deaths — blamed on stuck accelerators in Toyota’s 2009 and 2010 models, including those under the Lexus brand. NASA scientists were enlisted in the search, which found no evidence of any high-tech failures. Sticky accelerators or misaligned floor mats were the most likely culprits in most cases, the investigators said, coupled with mass hysteria triggered by continuing news reports of out-of-control vehicles. Toyota recalled thousands of cars last year to fix any mechanical issues, which appears to have solved the problem.

New Models Will Accelerate Sales, J.D. Power Predicts

Auto ShowAuto sales in the U.S. should increase by approximately 1 million in 2011, according to a report from J.D. Power and Associates. This jump in sales should be spurred by the release of more than 60 new or substantially redesigned models from American and foreign auto manufacturers, the company said. “New models are critical to sales,” said Jeff Schuster, Power’s executive director of forecasting. “It drives floor traffic. Customers might end up buying the new model, but they come in to the store to look at it. It creates buzz. It helps sell other models.”

Chevy Unveils 550 hp Camaro at Chicago Auto Show

2012 Chevy Camaro ZL1The highly anticipated 550 hp Camaro ZL1 made its world premiere at the Chicago Auto Show, which is currently in progress. As the highest-performing Camaro ever produced, it has a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine that produces 550 lb.-ft. of torque (677 Nm). Built on GM’s all-aluminum, small-block V-8 architecture, and the engine features an intercooled supercharger system, premium heat-resistant aluminum-alloy cylinder heads, and other details designed to deliver optimum performance. The Camaro ZL1 is scheduled to hit showrooms in 2012. No price has been set yet.

Nissan to Build All-Electric Sports Car

Nissan ESFLOWNissan Motors has announced it will build an all-electric, high-performance sports car to compete with the Tesla Roadster. Dubbed the ESFLOW, the car will have a rear-wheel drive with two electric motors, one for each wheel. Its laminated lithium-ion batteries will allow the car to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just five seconds. (That’s two seconds slower than the Tesla.) The ESFLOW should have a range of about 150 miles per charge, according to Nissan. No price or release date has been announced.

Ford Adds $1 Million to Its Teen Driving Program

Teen driverFord Motor Co. has announced another $1 million investment in its “Ford Driving Skills for Life” program, which tours American high schools teaching young drivers the importance of auto safety. Founded in 2003 in partnership with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the program focuses on such issues as driver distraction, speed-space management, vehicle handling and hazard recognition —the four areas that account for the more than 3,000 teenage vehicle deaths that occur in the United States annually.

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