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Bret Michaels Poisons Nissan's commercial trucking ops

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Commercial Trucks, Nissan, Celebrities

Bret Michaels for Nissan Commercial

Mötley Crüe isn't the only 1980s hair-metal band getting into the world of auto promotion. Poison frontman and reality show star Bret Michaels is following their lead and doing some advertising of his own. Where the Crüe have been all over the airwaves in recent years with a Super Bowl ad for Kia and music licensing with Dodge, Michaels has taken a very different route by becoming the pitchman for Nissan Commercial Vehicles.

The videos run the gamut to advertise predominantly the NV line of full-size vans, but the NV200 shows up a few times too. The star of this new campaign is Michaels' full-length music video (above) for the song Tough Love. It's basically a parody of all of those '80s rock ballads where the bands would slow the tempo down a little and reveal their softer side. Michaels rocks out at the Nissan proving grounds in Stanfield, AZ, while showing off the evaluation process and strutting around like a proper rock frontman. There are also a bunch of shorter videos (below) with the singer highlighting each part of the vans' torture testing. Although, the dialogue in these come off a bit more stilted. With these '80s metal bands getting into advertising, can it be long before Warrant is shilling for Fiat or Ratt for Mazda?

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Nissan to pursue FWD Nurburgring lap record with Pulsar Nismo

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Euro, Hatchbacks, Nissan

2015 Nissan Pulsar

Europeans get very serious about their hot hatches. So do the Japanese. In fact there's been a whole back-and-forth lately over who makes the fastest one, and now Nissan looks set to throw its racing hat into the 'Ring.

That would be the Nürburgring, of course, where automakers trade bragging rights like baseball cards - only they don't give them up willingly. Renault set the front-drive lap record in 2008 with the previous Mégane R26.R then set the bar even higher with the Mégane RS 265 Trophy. That was before Seat stole the honors with its Leon Cupra 280, only for Renault to take them back again with the Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R. Seat is rumored to be considering a renewed assault, but it won't be the only one nipping at Renaultsport's heels in the coming years.

Honda, for its part, has made no secret of its ambition to set the record with the upcoming Civic Type R, and now word has it that Nissan is planning an assault of its own. Its weapon of choice would be an upcoming Nismo version of the new Pulsar hatchback which is just hitting the European market now as a rival to the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, et al. There's no word on what its specs would be, but if it's going to challenge these players, it's going to need between 270 and 300 horsepower, a stiff suspension, big brakes and probably some sort of trick differential.

Now if you're thinking that Nissan would only be stealing the record away from its own sister company, consider first of all that, despite their alliance and common CEO, Renault and Nissan operate as two separate companies. If anything, one could end up lending its expertise to the other, much like Audi did with Bentley at Le Mans where the latter interrupted the former's winning streak in 2003. Not that Nissan needs any tips on how to tackle the Nordschleife: with the GT-R it has, after all, been trouncing everything this side of the record-holding Porsche 918 Spyder.

7:54 is the time to beat. Game on.

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What you missed on 7.30.14

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Time Warp, Coupes, Hybrids/Alternative, Sedans/Saloons, Sports/GTs, Trucks/Pickups, Auctions, Chevrolet, Nissan, Rumormill, Electric, Diesel

Daily U-Turn

Nissan Frontier diesel muleNissan lets us sample a diesel Frontier prototype

Hey. You. Yeah, you. Do you think Nissan should build a midsize pickup truck with a diesel engine? Yeah, so do we. And we just got the chance to drive just such a beast, though it's anything but a production model at this point. This particular example is fitted with a 2.8-liter four-cylinder from Cummins, and it puts out 200 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, enabling it to tow as much as 7,000 pounds.

2016 Chevy Volt spy shot2016 Chevy Volt coming soon to an auto show near you... probably

There sure is a lot we don't know about the next generation of Chevy's extended-range electric vehicle. What we do know, though, is that it ought to be making its auto show debut sometime soon. How soon? Likely either Los Angeles later this year or else Detroit, Chicago or New York in early 2015, according to an anonymous source.

Blood muscle auctionBlood Muscle auction? Sounds terrible, looks awesome

It's nicknamed the Blood Muscle auction because the cars, which will be sold each to the highest bidders on September 12, were attained by the president of a blood-testing company who is now incarcerated for alleged bribery. There's a Boss Mustang, a trio of Yenko Chevrolets and our personal favorite, a Plymouth Superbird, among others, up for bidding.

Top Stories

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2014 Nissan Frontier Diesel Mule [w/poll]

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Nissan, Diesel, Off-Road, Quick Spin

2014 Nissan Frontier mule with Cummins diesel engine - front three-quarter view

Last August, Nissan shook the truck world when it officially announced plans to source a diesel option from Cummins for its long-overdue Titan replacement, its full-size pickup that's slated to drop this January at the Detroit Auto Show. The 5.0-liter V8 turbodiesel is expected to make somewhere around 300 horsepower and north of 500 pound-feet of torque. This combination of an all-new truck with this new powerplant promises to dramatically change the competitive landscape, splitting the difference between the heavy-duty goliaths from the Detroit Three and the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel. And the intrigue moved a step further when the Frontier Diesel Runner Concept showed up at February's Chicago Auto Show, as it displayed a growing relationship between Nissan and Cummins in a very interesting potential future product.

That concept would melt its clear acrylic hood if the engine ran too long, but this month, we got a chance to test drive a production mule, an otherwise normal Frontier with a Cummins 2.8-liter diesel four-pot under the hood and a ZF eight-speed automatic changing gears. The powertrain figures to be a direct competitor to the 2.8-liter Duramax promised for General Motors' Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, but will Nissan build it? All signs point to probably. Officially, Nissan is taking no position on the future of this program, but a concept followed by putting journalists into a test mule suggests the company is considering the option very seriously. Here's what we gleaned from a brief drive around the posh suburbs of Nashville:

  • Before we get too deep into this Quick Spin, realize this Frontier is absolutely a mule, not a prototype. More or less cobbled together with duct tape and baling wire, it's not meant to be representative of a finished product, or even a started product. The transmission and shifter is straight out of a Chrysler 300 and the shifter surround is cut out of a panel of plastic. The "Low Sulfur Diesel Only" sticker is, well, just stuck on. We're looking at a "What if?" mockup.
  • The engine is essentially a tweaked version of a Chinese-built, gray-iron 2.8-liter four cylinder. With 16 valves, the obligatory turbocharger and common-rail injection, this Cummins engine is already used for on- and off-highway applications. In things like generators, small earth-moving machines and large turf-management equipment (giant lawnmowers) it carries the "QSF" label, and for cabover trucks in Asia and other on-road applications, it's dubbed ISF. Some tunes offer as few as 49 hp, but it'll run until the sun explodes.
  • This truck gets an intercooler up front wedged behind the grille, and combined with the base software, it develops 200 horses and a stout 350 lb-ft of torque, but this is not yet the smooth, quiet modern diesel we've come to expect. She's a rough character, albeit with a caveat: There has been zero software tuning done for the Frontier mule. Smoothness in a diesel comes from precisely controlling combustion, and while the engine is capable of eight fuel-injection events per cycle, there are only two with this software. Clatter, clatter, clatter, clatter.
  • It may be loud at idle and under acceleration, but this dog offers bite to match its bark. Tons of torque and eager throttle response at times overwhelms the ZF gearbox (which also hasn't really been tuned) and a "ka-chunk!" shift squawks the rear tires. Midway through full-throttle acceleration, the turbo's wastegate locks closed and the engine really takes off, revving ahead quicker than the bottom of the range.
  • At cruising speed, though, this is a surprisingly smooth and easygoing engine, almost quiet even. That shouldn't really be a surprise since tugging the weight of a truck and passengers is akin to a quarter horse pulling a little red wagon.
  • Although nobody ever confirmed the product plan before Nissan's PR team put the clamps on its engineering staff, we were able to gather a few juicy tidbits about the program. One unnamed official let slip that engineers are targeting 2019 diesel emissions and particulate requirements for the rig, which may indicate potential production timing. Another interesting item is Cummins would consider shifting to a compacted graphite iron block with an aluminum head to cut down on weight and improve performance. Finally, Cummins prefers to build where it sells, so US domestic production for the engine would be seriously considered if a Frontier Diesel gets a green light.
Keep an eye on this space. A modernized Cummins ISF in the next-gen Frontier would offer buyers good power and fuel economy without needing a step stool to reach the seats. It all comes down to price.

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Nissan recalls 226k vehicles over airbag inflators

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, SUVs, Recalls/TSBs, Safety, Crossovers/CUVs, Infiniti, Nissan, Luxury

2002 Nissan Maxima

Nissan and Infiniti are the latest automakers to issue recalls involving faulty airbag inflators from Takata. The Japanese automakers have announced campaigns covering about 226,326 units from seven models built in the early 2000s because they contain the bad part in the passenger-side, front airbag. The affected vehicles include the 2002-2004 Nissan Sentra, 2002-2003 Pathfinder and 2002-2003 Maxima, and it also covers the 2002-2003 Infiniti QX4, 2002-2003 I35, 2003 FX45 and 2003 FX35.

Like the other vehicles with the faulty inflators, it's possible for the part to rupture during airbag deployment and spray metal shrapnel at occupants. Nissan and Infiniti have even included vehicles with replacement airbags in this campaign because those parts also could have been defective. Both companies were also part of the earlier regional campaign to fix cars in high-humidity climates where the problem has been found to be the worst.

As is the usual response, Nissan and Infiniti will notify owners of the affected vehicles and will make the repair at no charge. According to the filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these fixes will commence around August 11. Scroll down to read the report from NHTSA, or read the full defect notice as a PDF, here.

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Weekly Recap: New bosses try to jump-start Cadillac and Lincoln

07/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Hirings/Firings, Aston Martin, Cadillac, Dodge, Ford, GM, Infiniti, Lincoln, Nissan, Luxury, Read This

Cadillac and Lincoln

Both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.

It's ironic that Cadillac and Lincoln got new bosses within days of each other this month. It's also a commentary on the fact both of America's domestic luxury brands seem to be stuck in neutral.

Cadillac has received barrels of good ink in recent years, thanks to its sporty, fun-to-drive cars with gaudy horsepower figures and eye-catching designs. The problem is sales have been uneven, and this year they've fallen 1.9 percent to 82,117 vehicles.

Enter Johan de Nysschen. You know him from such roles as the head of Audi in the United States and more recently, as the global boss of Infiniti. Both brands have somewhat underdog status compared with segment leaders Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, and de Nysschen was lauded for his work at his previous stops, overseeing sales and product successes.

Cadillac went out and got a "name" with a proven track record. The 54-year-old South African brings strong leadership and industry credibility to a brand that needs both. He'll be tested right away, as 554,328 Cadillac CTS and SRX models were recalled in June in the United States for ignition switch problems. More recalls involving Cadillacs and other General Motors vehicles for a welding problem was also announced in July.

He's taking over for Bob Ferguson, who had been dividing his time between Cadillac and handling GM recall response on Capital Hill. Ferguson moved to a full-time role as GM's top public policy and government relations executive in July.

Meanwhile, Ford tapped a relatively obscure engineer, Kumar Galhotra, to lead Lincoln. He's replacing an industry star, Jim Farley, who's giving up the reins at Lincoln to focus on his other job - overseeing Ford's global marketing efforts.

Galhotra doesn't have as much name recognition as Farley or de Nysschen, but that means nothing. Lincoln needs momentum, and the only way Galhotra will ultimately be measured is through increasing sales and strengthening the product portfolio.

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Nissan commits to adding 'iconic' design after Cube killed off

07/25/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hatchbacks, Nissan, Design/Style

Nissan Cube

The Nissan Cube is on its way out here in the US and Canada. In a way, that's too bad, simply because the Cube's styling was nothing if not distinctive - much like the company's own Juke. However, the flame for uniquely styled models is indeed still burning over at Nissan.

We might never see an exact replacement for the Cube in the brand's lineup, but product planning boss Andy Palmer says that its retirement leaves a spot open in the Nissan lineup for something else. "To be clear, we will morph this space in our portfolio into something iconic," said Palmer to Automotive News. Unfortunately, he wouldn't hint at what that could mean.

However, his lack of suggestions makes it fun to speculate about what oddity could replace the Cube, especially since two of Nissan's more recent quirky concepts might have problems hitting the road. The Bladeglider is mired in Nissan and Deltawing Technologies' ongoing patent lawsuit. Alternatively, the retro-inspired IDx might be too expensive to build profitably. Still, this is the company that created both the (nearly dead) Murano CrossCabriolet and the very successful Juke; it can probably come up with something else delightfully weird.

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Nissan: We lose money on each Leaf replacement battery

07/25/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Nissan, Electric

nissan leaf

Nissan has been playing its cards pretty close to its chest when it comes to the production costs for Leaf battery packs. The company recently put a price on replacement batteries for customers at $5,500 plus the requirement to return the old battery. If the decommissioned battery is worth $1,000 to Nissan, as they have stated, that means the battery costs about $6,500 to make, right? Maybe even less if Nissan wants to turn a profit, as automakers are wont to do? Wrong.

Green Car Reports spoke to Nissan about these battery costs, and found that the automaker actually loses money on selling the replacement battery for the Leaf at the current price. Jeff Kuhlman, Nissan's vice president of global communications said, "Nissan makes zero margin on the replacement program. In fact, we subvent every exchange." All you English majors will know that "subvent" is a fancy way to say "subsidize." Kuhlman added, though, "We have yet to sell one battery as part of the program."

The fact that Nissan offers its replacement batteries for less than it costs to manufacture them is telling of a company both cares about what its customer needs and is dedicated to the success of its product. In this case, both of those things encourage people to give up fossil fuels and adopt electric mobility, which is heartening. As more people switch to battery-powered driving, though, battery technology should become better and cheaper, and the scale of production should cause manufacturing costs to decrease. Eventually, Nissan could easily see itself breaking even selling the Leaf battery replacements.

Nissan Leaf replacement battery is covered under the same eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty as the battery in a new car.

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MotorWeek proves '90s were awesome with Supra, Stealth, RX-7, Corvette, 968, 300ZX comparo

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Time Warp, Coupes, Sports/GTs, Videos, Chevrolet, Dodge, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche, Toyota

Motorweek 1993 Sports Car Test

Oh, the heady days of 1993, back when the Clinton Presidency was just getting underway, and it seemed like every hot new rock band was coming out of Seattle. Sports cars in the US had finally shaken off the shackles that slowed them during the '70s and '80s, and you could buy any number of legitimately quick vehicles again. MotorWeek recently went digging into its archives to find this six-model test from 1993 showing off some of the best semi-affordable performance coupes that money could buy at the time, and it's priceless.

Featuring the 1994 model year Toyota Supra in twin-turbo guise and MY 1993 versions of the Porsche 968, Nissan 300ZX TT, Mazda RX-7, Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo and Chevrolet Corvette LT-1, MotorWeek definitely covered all of the bases. One thing that might surprise younger readers is these cars' performance. The video only provides 0-60 acceleration times, but several of these vehicles would still be considered pretty potent today - over 20 years since going on sale. The Supra is especially impressive, hitting 60 miles per hour in just 5 seconds. Even today, that's nothing to sneeze at.

Given their performance potential and still-attractive looks, it's amazing that some of these coupes are old enough to drink now. The progress of interior design and safety equipment in the intervening years is pretty shocking, though. In most of these models, having two airbags is touted as a big deal. Scroll down to watch a Throwback Thursday blast from the past about some of the '90s best sports cars.

Continue reading MotorWeek proves '90s were awesome with Supra, Stealth, RX-7, Corvette, 968, 300ZX comparo

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Nissan Note getting a little louder with Nismo versions this fall

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Japan, Hatchbacks, Nissan

Nissan Note Nismo

Nissan's Nismo performance division has been getting more chances to shine recently with tuned models like the Juke Nismo RS and GT-R Nismo. But its latest creation moves closer to the bottom of the Japanese brand's lineup to make a hot hatch out of the (Versa) Note.

At least in Japan, the new model is due this fall, and Nismo is keeping a lot of the details about its latest creation a secret for now. What we do know is that it'll be available in two trims - the Note Nismo and the sportier Nismo S. "The development concept of this model was to build a car that makes you want to keep driving, no matter where your destination may be," said the division's chief product specialist, Hiroshi Tamura, in the company's announcement.

Aesthetically, the Note Nismo looks the way a tuned Nissan should, with the division's signature red trim outlining the car. It also wears a new, mesh grille, lower air dam, red side sills and rear spoiler. Inside, the S gets standard sport seats with full Recaro buckets as an option. Nissan didn't release technical specs for either version, but it promises that the S also gets a tuned engine with a five-speed manual.

But now, allow us to burst your bubble. Autoblog spoke to Nissan North America Product Communications Director Dan Bedore about the hot Note, and he told us, "There are no plans currently for a Nismo Versa Note in the US." That's too bad; if the specs turn out to be competitive, it could be an interesting rival for the Ford Fiesta ST. Scroll down to read the official announcement.

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