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  • Truck Trend News, Rumors, Trends, Stuff

Truck Trend News, Rumors, Trends, Stuff

MaxPower - March/April 2008

Editors of Truck TrendFeb 1, 2008
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500,000 and Counting
GM announced it has produced more than 500,000 rear-drive six-speed automatic transmissions at its Ypsilanti, Michigan, transmission plant. Many of the six-speeds go into sports cars or sedans, but the majority of the heavier duty models go into Cadillac and GMC SUVs as well as Chevy and GMC heavy-duty pickup trucks. These Hydra-Matic transmission variants are the evolutionary successors to the rugged and prolific 4L80-E trannys, which are still produced today at the Willow Run plant. Look for these transmissions to become more widespread as the half-ton models get their version soon.
IT FIGURES - NEWS BY THE NUMBERS
According to SEMA, 86 percent of light-truck owners surveyed answered in agreement to "I customize my vehicle to increase performance." Most (nearly 80 percent) also did customizing as a way to set their truck apart from others and express themselves, while a smaller group--but still more than half--said they prefer to modify for looks rather than performance. With millions of new trucks sold every year, it's no wonder the aftermarket industry is so big.
Looks like we're not the only ones that like the new Tundra (see our "Truck of the Year" coverage in this issue). The Toyota Tundra became the first and only full-size pickup truck to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick Award. To earn this recognition, Tundra had to pass three crash tests: a 40-mph frontal offset crash, a 31-mpg side impact, and a test that simulates another vehicle hitting the stopped subject at 20 mph. To pass the broadside crash test, side airbags were a necessity. To even compete in the evaluation, electronic stability control was required. Among Tundra's standard active safety equipment is vehicle-stability control, active traction control, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, automatic limited-slip differential as well as roll-sensing side curtain airbags with cutoff switch.
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2009 Honda Pilot
We're expecting the new Pilot to carry many of the same chassis and suspension advantages the Acura MDX had last year when it made its debut. Look for a powerful 3.8-liter V-6 to be the top-level engine choice. From these angles, no doubt the new Pilot will be bigger, still offer three rows of seats, and carry a version of the Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system that first appeared in the Acura RL and MDX. We're hearing the Pilot may appear at the Chicago or New York auto shows this spring, but not go on sale until later in 2008.
LWB Hummer H2 SUT?
Judging from this shot taken during desert testing, it appears the next-generation Hummer H2 SUT will get a longer wheelbase, with all the extra length going into what looks like a 5.5-foot box. In faux army paint beige, we expect the H2 pickup truck, which could logically be named the H2T, to grow about 22 inches in wheelbase length, to 145 inches. Additionally, after seeing what Hummer has in mind with the H3T (elsewhere in this issue), we'd expect a full complement of dealer accessories to make their way onto this full-size truck as well. As to what heavy-duty frame the new Hummer will use, we'd guess it would be some kind of modified version of the Chevy Avalanche frame or cut-down Silverado HD frame. We'd also point out that if you look closely, the tailpipe looks a bit large, implying this may have the new 4.5-liter Duramax V-8 turbodiesel inside. If that's the case, expect towing and payload numbers to climb as well.
inQUOTES
When announcing the H3T will be built in the Shreveport, Louisiana, plant, GM said the "larger than a midsize and smaller than a full-size H3T is unique for Hummer because it's the brand's first true pickup." Are the four-door open-bed H1 and H2 SUTs true pickups? They are as far as we're concerned, as are the Avalanche/Escalade and others like them.
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Darpa
Carnegie Mellon University's 2007 Tahoe 4WD staved off Stanford University's Passat wagon to drive off with the $2 million first prize at the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. The VW that won in 2005 took home $1 million for second place, and Virginia Tech's Ford Escape, carrying number 32 in memory of those slain in last year's massacre, took home $500,000 for third.
The winner covered nearly 60 miles averaging around 14 mph and stuck to California traffic laws. The vehicle was named Boss, after Delco co-founder Charles F. "Boss" Kettering, inventor of the all-electric ignition.
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Color Is Out
Paintmaker DuPont's annual survey on car colors has found, well, we really don't care for it. White (including White Pearl as on this F-150 Lariat Limited), black, and silver all duked it out for the top spot in North America, except in Mexico where white had the lead with gray and red as runners-up. Brazil's most popular colors are silver, black, and gray, and Europe prefers black, silver, and grays. In the Far East, Japan chooses white, with silver a close second, while in China, silver leads black by one percentage point.
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CHALLENGE X
Universities have been competing in another automotive event, this one known as Challenge X. Each school was given a Chevrolet Equinox and the goal of making it a hybrid. Entrants included biodiesel power (B20/electric), E85, reformulated gasoline, hydrogen, and plug-in hybrids. The biodiesel hybrids get around 35 mpg and aren't that far from becoming reality.
Torrent Out, Terrain In
Rumor has it 2008 is the last model year of the Pontiac Torrent. And, no coincidence, GMC is getting a small crossover on an updated version of the same platform for 2009. Sources say the new vehicle will be called the Terrain and will have unique sheetmetal and a different interior. The switch makes more sense for both brands--GMC being the truck/SUV mile, Pontiac more associated with performance cars.
NUTS&BOLTS
Web Find
Eighty-one years ago an American automobile company developed what is believed to be the first controlled access auto test track, a facility now operated by a major brake technology company. On Google Maps look up "32132 State Road 2, New Carlisle, IN" then zoom in, switch to the satellite/hybrid view, and scroll down. You'll find the name of the car company spelled out in 5000 pine trees planted there in 1937; and the name of the nearby park is not the same company that currently runs the park.
Chrysler Drops Plants and Models
Not long after cost-cutters and product mavens were put in place at privately owned Chrysler Corp., the announcements began. Chrysler will close certain manufacturing facilities and kill off four slow-selling models that likely will include the Chrysler Crossfire, Pacifica, PT Cruiser convertible, and Dodge Magnum. The Jeep Compass could be next.
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Vatican's New Ride
Mercedes-Benz introduced Pope Benedict XVI to his new ride in December, an odd time for the vehicle design for fine weather but if anyone can change the weather...The latest Popemobile is based on the G500, has the requisite folding rails and parade arrangements, and is painted in Mystic White. H3 To Help Louisiana
Not directly, but the "Union, Justice, Confidence" State got a new dose of it when General Motors announced it'll invest $73 million in the Shreveport truck assembly plant, where the H3T will be built, on top of the $1.5 billion already invested, and the plant will generate $160 million in yearly payroll and $4.5 million in tax revenue. For more on the H3T, see our story in this issue.
Who Buys Hybrids
A consumer/media research firm has completed an analysis of hybrid vehicle owners in the U.S. and determined 42 percent have a household income greater than $100,000 and are twice as likely to have a college degree, buy organic food, and belong to a health club than the average U.S. adult. Twenty-seven percent have a post-graduate degree, skew older than average, and areƑpredominantly Democrats or Independents who identify with Democrats. Size Matters
As of press time, European regulators were still discussing potential standards for particulate matter that would require actually counting the number of particles that leave the tailpipe. Automotive engineering teams are currently trying to determine how to do it and of what value the information is once they get it.
LEGAL WATCH
Good Hands Means Big Money
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights took the Allstate Insurance Company to task in San Francisco late last year, arguing that drivers insured by Allstate deserve an 18.8-percent rate cut under recently enacted legislation limiting excessive profits in the insurance industry. Allstate was seeking exemptions to those rules citing financial hardship if held to the new standards, and in written record submitted for the hearing Allstate suggested they might have to cut services or leave the state altogether. However, according to FTCR, Allstate netted about $5 billion for 2006 and total shareholder return was 590 percent between 1994 and 2006, and Allstate's 2006 Corporation Annual Statement shows Allstate common stock "consistently outperformed both the S&P 500 Index and the S&P Property/Casualty Index (an index that measures stock performance at companies with similar risk to Allstate)." A decision had not been reached at press time.

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