2013 Detroit Auto Show news

The annual North American International Auto Show will showcase the state of the art in big pickups. The public will get its first look at General Motors Co.’s new Chevrolet Silverado, as well as Ford Motor Co.’s concept for the next Ford F-150. No wonder stocks of both companies are trading near 18-month highs. Cars will make big news, too: Toyota Motor Corp. is unveiling a model that hints at the look of its next Corolla, one of the world’s best-selling vehicles, while GM will unveil the much-anticipated seventh-generation Corvette

I’ve been a car nut all my life. That’s carried me through more experience than most in a range of vehicles – from wheels that are competitive and fun to race like Corvette and Morgan to mid-size luxury like the Cressida and Jaguar – and smartly-styled econo-wheels like the new Fiesta and every year’s latest Prius.

Can’t pass up several looks at the newest of the new. And I recommend CNET’s car geek podcasts, as well. I have them automagially downloaded along with the other IPTV shows I watch via iTunes and AppleTV.

Ferrari sales drop [in Italy] as coppers track tax evaders

Italy in the winter of tracking tax evaders

Police fanned out across Milan in late January halting more than 350 vehicles, mostly luxury SUVs and Porsches.

At checkpoints, including one adjacent to the fashionable Corso Como, the police got the driver’s license and registration, which they passed on to the national tax agency. The tax authorities will use the data to check if the cars’ owners had declared enough income — and of course paid the right amount of income taxes — to justify their lifestyles.

It was at least the fifth raid targeting wealthy Italians since a Dec. 30 sweep at the posh Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where 251 high-end cars were stopped, including Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars… Rome, Portofino on the Italian Riviera and Florence have also been targeted…

Italian authorities are applying to luxury-car owners the same logic they displayed more than a year ago, when tax agents started tracking down the owners of yachts berthed in Italy’s harbors to see if they were current on their tax payments.

In the raid in Cortina D’Ampezzo, tax agents found that 42 luxury car owners had declared income of less than 30,000 euros for 2010 and 2009. Another 19 luxury cars were owned by businesses which posted a loss in the previous year. The sweep in Florence discovered a builder with no tax record who was driving a Mercedes with his wife who was receiving social assistance. Tax officials also found a German owner of a BMW X5 SUV with no declared income, according to the website of the tax agency’s Florence office.

This is serious stuff for the government, which estimates that tax evasion costs the country about 120 billion euros a year in lost revenue…

The collection effort is part of Prime Minister Mario Monti’s plan to curb record borrowing costs on Italy’s 1.9 trillion-euro debt and avoid following Greece, Portugal and Ireland which all had to seek bailouts.

Demand for vehicles from the likes of Ferrari and Maserati brands and Lamborghini slumped 53 percent in January, with just 66 supercars sold, according to Anfia, the association of Italian carmakers. The new taxes and high-profile dragnets have also sent exotic-car prices down 20 percent, according to dealer association Federauto…

Still, for Ferrari, which earns higher profit margins than any other Fiat unit, it’s not the end of the world. There’s plenty of demand outside Italy for the company’s sports cars.

“Italy isn’t a concern for Ferrari as it sells its cars abroad,” Marchionne said last month in Detroit.

I wonder what people like John Boehner and Harry Reid intend to drive when they retire from Congress – and they no longer have to lie quite as much as they do now about what they really care about.

Where else might you find a babe who crashes her Bentley into a Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin?

When in Monte Carlo, everything is done in style. And that includes crashing your car.

This was the moment when a woman driver caused a £700,000 five-car pile-up as her Bentley collided with a Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.

Disaster struck as the hapless blonde negotiated the traffic around the Place du Casino in her £250,000 Bentley Azure. The driver of a white Mercedes S Class worth £75,000 was the first victim as the 2.7-ton Bentley scraped down the side of it before ploughing into a £143,000 black Ferrari F430.

Hope you’re insured, madam: A policeman tries to sort out the chaos beside Monte Carlo’s Place du Casino
An Aston Martin Rapide worth £150,000 and an £80,000 Porsche 911 also came a cropper. The driver and her two passengers then suffered the embarrassment of being surrounded by tourists as they were unable to open the doors of the convertible.

It is estimated the crash will cost more than £40,000 with the Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin requiring new front wings and bumpers. The Bentley will need the same repairs, plus a new door.

Chaos: A staggering £685,000 worth of supercars were involved in the inpromptu game of demolition derby
Ruud Poot, editor of European motoring website Autogespot, said: ‘You probably couldn’t find a worse place in the world to crash your car than outside Monaco’s Place du Casino in the middle of the summer.’

Maybe she thought she was practicing for next year’s Formula One race – everyone was supposed to get out of her way.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Sebastian Vettel is youngest-ever Formula One world champion

Vettel carrying his race trophy back to the changing room
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is the new Formula One world champion after winning the title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The German produced a peerless drive from pole position to take the checkered flag ahead of the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who led the championship standings going into the final race of the season, could only manage seventh place to see his title hopes ruined.

The 23-year-old Vettel is the youngest-ever world champion in motorsport’s premier class, claiming his fifth victory of the year to take the lead in the standings for the first time in a topsy-turvy season…

“I’m a bit speechless. I don’t know what you are supposed to say in this moment,” Vettel told the official post-race press conference.

It has been an incredibly tough season, physically and mentally especially. But we have always believed in myself, my car, the team…”

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The victory left Vettel on top of the standings with 256 points, just four clear of Alonso. Webber finished the season on 242 points with 2008 champion Hamilton on 240.

Red Bull had already clinched the constructors’ title after the penultimate race in Brazil, but a solid display from McLaren left them in second place ahead of Ferrari.

Bravo, Vettel. I’m still a McLaren fan; but, Sebastian Vettel has been knocking at the door for a while, now. His talent couldn’t help but bring him to the top.

Ferrari has a recall! Huh? Wha?

Ferrari recalled more than 400 luxury Italia cars today after reports that a design fault could cause them to catch fire.

The first incident occurred in July, when the driver noticed the rear panel of his 458 Italia was on fire while he was driving in Paris. A passerby used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames.

A few days later the engine of an Italia driving up a mountain pass in Switzerland caught fire. Last month a 458 in China and one in the US burst into flames.

After sending its engineers around the world to investigate the reports of “thermal incidents”, Ferrari asked the owners of more than 1,200 of the supercars, including around 50 in Britain, to bring them in for modification work. Louis Saha, the Everton footballer, Eric Clapton, the rock star, and Chris Evans, the broadcaster, are among the car’s owners.

Ferrari said the problem had been traced to adhesive used in the wheel-arch assemblies. In certain circumstances the glue can begin to overheat, smoke and even catch fire. In extreme cases, the melting of the adhesive can lead the heat shield – the liner protecting the engine – to deform and move closer to the exhaust, causing the lining to catch fire.

The owners who first reported the fires will now receive a new car.

That’s over a quarter-million dollars apiece.

Motorist fined $290,000 for speeding

Same model and make – different owner

The Swiss legal practice of fining offenders according to their means has proved painful for a millionaire motorist who has been hit with a record fine of $290,000 after Swiss police caught him racing through a village at 100 km per hour in his red Ferrari Testarossa, Swiss media reported on Thursday.

A court in the northeastern Swiss canton of St Gallen gave the millionaire the hefty penalty, which outstripped the previous record of 111,000 francs handed a Porsche driver in 2008 in Zurich, after a string of previous traffic offences.

“The accused ignored elementary traffic rules with a powerful vehicle out of a pure desire for speed,” the court said in its judgment of the motorist, who clocked speeds of up to 137 km per hour on country roads, said daily Blick…

So, if I get caught speeding in Switzerland – they’d only dock me a chunk of my social security check?

Ferrero [Bros] Rocher in possible deal with Cadbury – UPDATED

Italian brothers Pietro and Giovanni Ferrero, whose grandfather invented the chocolate hazelnut gloop inside every Rocher that sticks to your teeth, have been linked to a deal with Cadbury that could keep the British confectioner out of the clutches of the US group Kraft, the world’s second biggest food company.

Kraft, maker of Oreo cookies and Toblerone, has tabled an unwanted £9.7bn takeover bid for Cadbury which the Bournville-based group is determined to fight off. Now the Italian brothers, who are based in Belgium, could wade in to offer support in a link-up that would see Ferrero’s famous nut chocolates, together with its Tic Tac mints, lined up alongside Wispas, Dairy Milk and Bertie Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts on the ambassador’s table.

Anyone who invents treats like Nutella is OK by me.

An Italian newspaper said the Ferreros, backed by other financial investors, could form a “friendly” alliance with Cadbury to stop Kraft in its tracks…

Despite its kitsch reputation in the UK, Ferrero has grown to 18 factories with 22,000 employees and has annual sales of more than €6bn. The ambassador’s favourite chocolates, with their distinctive crispy shells, ostentatious gold wrappers and badly dubbed adverts, did not come along until 1980 but have helped turn the Ferrero family into one of Italy’s richest dynasties…

Cadbury also refused to comment but a source close to the company said: “…Cadbury is not up for sale, but the company would give proper consideration to any offer that valued it properly and would be of interest to shareholders.”

C’mon guys. Stop with the lawyerly answers!

You’re dealing with the guys who sponsored Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. That’s enough class for the whole world.

UPDATE: Cripes. Hershey is getting into the act, too. There must be a sexier way to sort this out.

Todt elected as Mosley successor

Jean Todt and one of the chauffeurs who endorsed him

Jean Todt will succeed Max Mosley as the new head of motorsport’s world governing body, the FIA, after winning the presidential election in Paris…

The vote brings an end to Mosley’s controversial 16-year reign.

Mosley had agreed he would not stand for a fifth term as president as part of a peace deal struck in July to end the threat of a breakaway championship by Formula 1 teams.

Among Todt’s proposals is the introduction of a new commissioner to oversee the running of F1, as well as the other FIA championships.

The Frenchman also wants to examine improvements to the stewards’ decision-making process.

“As the regulator of a hugely competitive and technically complex sport we will also establish an independent disciplinary panel to investigate breaches of the rules and to recommend the most appropriate response.”

Mosley’s presidency has become identified with a period of political strife in F1, with a series of damaging rows in recent years…

What little Moseley accomplished was negated by the expense of his impulsive annual changes – always characterized by his excuse that they would make every aspect of motorsport more exciting for the fans. Which is patently absurd. The excitement drew from the drivers and technicians of the sport getting round his crap, most of the time.

I’ve always felt he was obsessively dedicated only to his own petty self-image. His sexual pecadilloes seem to reinforce that aspect of his personality.

What I find interesting is Todt’s concept of commissioners dedicated to standalone divisions, e.g. F1, WRC, etc.. It’s rumored his choice for Formula One is Michael Schumacher. Which ain’t half-bad in anyone’s book.

Google brand value rises faster than all in Top 100

Google has notched up the biggest rise in brand value, according to Interbrand’s latest listing of the 100 most valuable global brands.

The internet search company’s value grew 25% over the past year to reach nearly $32bn. In growth terms, it was closely followed by Amazon, which saw its brand equity boosted 22% to almost $8bn.

There were double-digit rises in the technology sector for BlackBerry and Apple, which made it into the top 20 global brands for the first time…

The top five brands, however, have held onto their positions. Coca-Cola remains at the top for the ninth year in a row, with its value up 3% to $69bn followed by IBM, Microsoft, GE and Nokia.

Luxury brands have also held onto their value; Ferrari was the best-performing automotive brand. However, Harley Davidson was one of this year’s biggest losers dropping 43% of its brand value and slipping from 50th to 73rd in the table.

I’m not concerned about acquiring a Ferrari anytime soon. I don’t drink carbonated beverages anymore. And there’s nothing in my home from the 4 brands following Coca-Cola.

My wife and I both Google – and sometimes I think we keep Amazon in business on our own.

Renault agree with Ferrari and threaten to quit Formula One

Hey, at least QPR is in the top half of the table…

Renault have today joined forces with Ferrari by confirming their intention to withdraw from the 2010 formula one world championship unless recently-adopted regulations are revised. The motor sport’s world governing body, the FIA, and its president Max Mosley, now face critical talks with all the teams if they are to save the sport.

The Renault president, Bernard Rey, said: “We remain committed to the sport, however we cannot be involved in a championship operating with different sets of rules, and if such rules are put into effect, we will be forced to pull out at the end of this season.”

The Renault team boss, Flavio Briatore, added: “Our aim is to reduce costs while maintaining the high standards that make formula one one of the most prestigious brands on the market. We want to achieve this in a co-ordinated manner with the regulatory and commercial bodies, and we refuse to accept unilateral governance handed out by the FIA. If the decisions announced by the World Council on the 29th of April 2009 are not revised, we have no choice but to withdraw from the FIA formula one world championship at the end of 2009.”

If Mosley and Bernie don’t get their act together, I presume the manufacturers will pull together their own series of circuits and racing schedule – and that’s that.

Most lifetime gearheads like me will follow the talent – not the bureaucrats.