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John O'Dell

is an AutoObserver Senior Editor. Follow @AutoObserver on Twitter.

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Fisker Karma, A $96,000 Subcompact?

October 25, 2011

Nobody likes to always be the butt of jokes, but sometimes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just makes itself too easy a target. The latest? The agency, which determines size classifications for cars in order to apply CO2 reduction goals (that would be fuel economy standards to those of us not in the EPA), has determined that the 2012 Fisker Karma (above) range-extended plug-in hybrid, despite a length of 16.5-feet, width that exceeds 6 feet and sumo-like weight exceeding 2.5 tons, is -- wait for it -- a subcompact. more

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Plug-In Day Spotlights EVs, EV Issues

October 14, 2011

Supporters of electric cars have declared Sunday to be National Plug-In Day and have been organizing grass-roots convoys -- parades, if you will -- to show off the growing number of EVs in the country. As the owners (well, lessees) of a 2011 Nissan Leaf, my wife and I will be participating in one of them, boastfully displaying a placard that says our cayenne red hatchback has traveled 1,970 miles oil free since we picked it up at the dealership at the end of May. I can attend the parade because it is being staged in the town in more

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Poll Says Small Biz Backs 60 MPG

September 20, 2011

America’s small business owners think Washington ought to require the auto industry to meet a tough 60 miles per gallon fuel economy standard for new cars, according to a newly released poll. The same Internet-based survey of 1,257 business owners found that most small business owners are far more concerned about the economy and the financial health of their companies than they are about government regulation. It’s enough to turn the Tea Party into latte drinkers and to make Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner weep. The small business poll’s findings seem to fly in the face of more

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EV Charger Law Spawning New GM Image Woes?

August 25, 2011

It looked for a while as though its embrace of electric-drive technology with the Chevrolet Volt and upcoming Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrids had closed the gap that separated General Motors Co. from the vociferous cadre of electric-vehicle fans in the U.S. that accused the automaker of blocking EV growth in the U.S. But GM's push for a new law governing use of public electric-vehicle charging stations and parking spots in California appears to have laid bare and scraped raw some of those old wounds. The measure, California Assembly Bill 475 by Torrance Democrat Betsy Butler, was approved by the more

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CAFE Rules Inked Before Consumers Have Much Say

August 9, 2011

I've just finished reading the 33-page Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules "supplemental notice of intent" posted on Web sites of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s been published in concert with the Obama Administration/U.S. Auto Industry joint love-fest at the end of July announcing an agreement on a 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for 2025. First thing to note is that most of the document is background and boilerplate. Second is that the few details provided are, at this point, suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules. Still, there's little doubt about their more

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What's Hidden In 2012 Nissan Leaf Price Hikes?

July 21, 2011

When Nissan North America announced 2012 pricing for its Leaf electric car (above), the automaker justified the relatively hefty increases in terms of added standard equipment. Makes sense -- if something that previously was an option, or wasn't even available, is now going to be standard, the cost of the equipment should be reflected in the car pricing. But a deeper look at the 2012 Nissan Leaf pricing raises an issue that' s not unique to Nissan. How accurately do automakers explain their car pricing decisions and how much pure revenue is hidden under the guise of "additional standard equipment?" more

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Something Missing In Plea for Better Fuel Economy

June 23, 2011

A group of former Republican officeholders has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to see to it that his administration sets a tough new national average fuel efficiency standard of as much as 60 miles per gallon for automakers to achieve by 2025.  The letter is good news for backers of such a policy because it adds a conservative voice to the argument that the government should be able to demand that our personal transportation fleet lend a hand in the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on imported oil. more

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Adios, Altima Hybrid

June 14, 2011

Nissan North America has decided to go without a gas-electric hybrid model in its 2012 Nissan brand lineup. Should anyone care? The automaker quietly has dropped the slow-selling, limited production Nissan Altima Hybrid from its 2012 catalog after five years in the lineup and in an interview spokesman John Schilling said that while the new Infiniti M35 Hybrid will remain, there will be no hybrid model at all for Nissan. – at least for next year. That's because the Nissan brand is concentrating its alternative vehicle marketing muscle – and money - on the national rollout of the all-electric more

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Chevy Volt Tax Credit Flap's A Flop

June 6, 2011

Are Chevrolet dealers taking advantage of uninformed customers by selling them used Volts with the implied promise that they'll get the $7,500 federal tax credit? Are they gaming the system by buying Volts from other dealers and keeping the tax credits for themselves? A right-leaning blog with longstanding opposition to the idea of government subsidies has said so, and the allegations have been picked up and spread all over the blogosphere. But our own research shows that the column by a blogger for the National Legal and Policy Center was more about politics than fair play. more

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Dreams Count, Size Doesn't

May 25, 2011

Michelin’s annual Challenge Bibendum is an encyclopedic and often Disneyesque treat for green vehicle enthusiasts. Consider, there were nearly 300 cars, trucks, vans, buses, bike, mopeds and motorcycles using gasoline, diesel, sunlight, pedal-power, hydrogen and electricity for fuel on display at the 11th running of the event, held this year at the famed Berlin-Templehof Airport – decommissioned in 2008 and now used as a sometimes convention center. Berlin was chosen for the Challenge because it is heralded these days as a center of alternative transportation. Germany is promoting widespread use of wind and solar power, and of clean diesel more

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