• Mazda 2 wins Japan Car of Year Award

    October 19, 2014

    The Mazda Demio, soon to arrive on US shores as the next-generation Mazda 2, has won the Japan Car of the Year award.

    The selection committee, comprised primarily of members of the Japanese automotive press, awarded the Demio 423 votes, citing its affordability, strong design and fuel-efficient technology. The addition of a 103-horsepower, 71 mpg 1.5L SkyActiv-D turbodiesel engine option won points for fuel economy, while the continued presence of a manual transmission and good handling garnered it fun-to-drive accolades. The COTY committee summed up the Demio as “a compact car filled with charm and the ability to appeal to the global markets.”

    The Demio narrowly beat out the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which picked up 404 votes and won the Import Car of the Year award. The BMW i3 came in third with 290 votes, simultaneously winning the Innovation Award. Other finalists included the Honda N-WGN kei car, Subaru Levorg, Nissan Skyline (sold in the US as the Infiniti Q50), Suzuki Hustler, Toyota Voxy, Peugeot 308, and the Jeep Cherokee, the first American car to be nominated in the award’s 34-year history.

    This is the fifth win for Mazda, which last won in 2012 for the CX-5. The 2005 MX-5, 1982 Capella (sold in the US as the 626), and 1980 Familia (323) have also taken home the honor.

    The Toyota FCV received a special recognition award for its hydrogen fuel cell technology.

  • Billboards showing breasts cause 517 accidents in Moscow

    October 19, 2014
    A mobile advertising campaign showing breasts on a large billboard is being blamed for causing over 500 accidents in a single day in Moscow, the capital of Russia.

    The campaign was designed to as a clever way to showcase a new advertising format that put billboards on the side of delivery trucks rather than on the side of buses run by Moscow’s public transportation company. The ad shows a city car-sized picture of naked breasts accompanied by the caption “they attract” as well as the name and phone number of the agency.

    At least 30 trucks fitted with the billboard were released in Moscow last week. The distracting campaign unexpectedly wreaked havoc in the city, causing a total of 517 minor accidents. City officials asked the police to track down and impound all of the trucks.

    “I was on my way to a business meeting when I saw this truck with a huge photo of breasts on its side go by. Then I was hit by the car behind who said he had been distracted by the truck. It made me late and left my car in the garage, and although I am insured I am still out of pocket,” complained Ildar Yuriev, a 35-year old Moscow motorist, in an interview with British newspaper Daily Mail.

    Furious, drivers in Moscow have asked AdvTruck, the agency responsible for the ads, to help cover some of the damage caused by the mobile billboards. Surprisingly, the company agreed.

    “In all cases of accidents, the car owners will receive compensation costs from us that aren’t covered by their insurance,” promised a spokesperson for AdvTruck in a statement published online.

  • Ford considering selling plug-in hybrids in Europe

    October 19, 2014
    A new report suggests Ford could offer the gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid technology found in the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi in Europe in a bid to take on Volkswagen.

    Speaking with trade journal Automotive News, Uli Koesters, Ford’s line director for large cars in Europe, explained the Blue Oval hasn’t offered a plug-in hybrid in Europe yet because demand remains low. Buyers looking to save money at the pump generally turn to frugal diesels, and even standard hybrids have largely failed to gain traction on the Old Continent.

    Several companies have chosen to buck the diesel trend and offer at least one plug-in hybrid in Europe. Mitsubishi sells the Outlander PHEV, Toyota offers the plug-in Prius and Volvo recently introduced the diesel-electric V60. Volkswagen is entering the market with GTE-badged plug-in hybrid variants of the Golf and the new, Europe-only eighth-gen Passat.

    Koesters said Ford is keeping a close eye on plug-in hybrid sales in Europe and it stands ready to quickly respond if market conditions change and sales go up. That hasn’t been the case yet: Automotive News reveals the most popular plug-in hybrid in the first half of 2014 was the Outlander with a little under 9,000 sales across the 28 countries that make up the European Union.