Ford agrees to sell Volvo to Chinese automaker

Officials with Ford have reached an agreement to sell the company’s Volvo brand to China’s Geely Holding Company in an effort to streamline their business and become profitable again.

The sale marks the second time in as many months that an American automaker had agreed to hand over one of its divisions to a foreign power at a reduced price due to financial difficulties. Last month, General Motors sold its Saab brand to the Dutch supercar maker Spyker after nearly shutting down the division just weeks before the deal was signed.

As part of the agreement, Geely will pay Ford approximately $1.8 billion by the end of the third quarter, and the Detroit-based automaker will continue to build powertrains, stamping and other parts for Volvo after the sale is completed, according to Auto Week.

As for Volvo, which has become a hallmark for quality engineering and vehicle safety, Geely plans on “liberating” the Swedish brand by aggressively developing and marketing vehicles on a worldwide level.

“China, the largest car market in the world, will become Volvo’s second home market,” Geely chairman Li Shufu said in a statement. “Volvo will be uniquely positioned as a world-leading premium brand, tapping into the opportunities in the fast-growing China market.”

Shufu added that his company plans to invest at least $900 million of new capital into Volvo in the near future, and will open a new production facility in China to increase development in the East. However, Geely will not move Volvo’s main development offices nor its Swedish headquarters, and plans to keep the two companies completely separate, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, the sale will allow Ford the financial flexibility to develop and manufacture new lines and to concentrate on the domestic market, where they have always had the most success.

Unfortunately, the agreement might spell the end for Ford Company veteran Steven Odell, who is expected to step down as the chief executive officer at Volvo soon after the sale is completed. However, many believe that Odell, who has been a major player within Ford’s organization for years, will stay on with the company after being relieved of his duties, Business Week reports.

“Odell’s been with Ford so long and is loyal to it; that’s where his heart is,” said Thomas Ivonen, a board member with Volvo. “I feel certain he will remain with Ford.”

New York Auto Show to open this Friday

Following two days of press conferences on Wednesday and Thursday, the annual New York International Auto Show will open this Friday and will showcase some of the most innovative vehicle designs of the coming year.

Early media reports indicate that the theme of this year’s auto show will be fuel efficiency and sustainability. In fact, the majority of the hyped cars to be shown off this weekend are hybrid or green vehicles.

Ironically, the Obama administration plans to announce the finalized fuel economy mandates for 2012-16 model cars on the eve of the event. Although hybrids still only account for less than 3 percent of the market share in North America in 2010, automakers are gambling that the current administration’s standards will make fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles the wave of the future, according to The Globe and Mail.

Car manufacturers who plan on unveiling new hybrid versions of some of their premium models include Ford, Porsche, Nissan and Hyundai.
The event will be held at New York’s Javits Center and will run through Sunday, April 11.

2005 Toyota Tacoma proves up to the long haul

If there’s one thing that most drivers require from their trucks its dependability. As the workhorse of the automotive industry, trucks have to be rugged and tough to catch a driver’s eye, and according to MotorTrend Magazine’s Long-Term Verdict trucks don’t come much more reliable than the 2005 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner V-6.

The 2005 Tacoma was indeed a step up from earlier models, standing taller and wider than its predecessors and featuring a slightly re-sculpted exterior. Among the more common models including extended and crew cabs, one of the most popular styles was the sporty PreRunner – a sleek redesign that offered the look and suspension of a four-wheel drive vehicle to the compact truck driver.

Drivers fortunate enough to get a hold of the V-6 PreRunner are gifted with a 4.0-liter engine that pushes 245 hp at 283 lb-ft of torque, giving this truck the chops to hang in the same league as its larger counterparts like the Dodge Dakota.

The Tacoma’s interiors also grew substantially larger than earlier models creating a spacious driving experience, and with the added storage space and a 440-watt electrical outlet, the Tacoma’s bed is one of the most versatile in its class.

New Jersey economy on the mend

Even as a multitude of snowstorms hammered the east coast in February, the state of New Jersey had its most economically successful month in more than two years.

Over the last six months, experts have said that the recession has ended and the economy is back on track. However, significant improvements in the job market had not been felt by the majority of residents.

Fortunately, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported on Wednesday that the state added 3,700 jobs in February, all of which came in the private sector, APP.com reports. The unemployment rate is now at a five-month low of 9.8 percent.

“I’m starting to get interviews, maybe once every two weeks, whereas before it wasn’t that much,” said Justine Nardone, 54, of Ocean Grove, who is currently unemployed.

The state of New Jersey saw the jobless rate increase for 23 consecutive months from December of 2007 to the end of last year, more than doubling the unemployment rate in that time. However, as the state and the nation have put together a string of economically vibrant months, consumers and job seekers are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s certainly a positive sign,” said James Hughes, an economist and dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, quoted by the news source. “I think we’re going to see an erratic pattern going forward, which happens at the end of recessions.”

Overall employment in the state grew to 3,853,400 in February, with the largest gains seen in the financial activities industry, the professional and business services field as well as the health and education sectors, according to Business Week.

Meanwhile, Michael Drewniak, press secretary for Governor Chris Christie, reiterated on Wednesday the administration’s pledge to reform the business climate in the state of New Jersey and make job creation the number one priority.

While calling the Department of Labor report “reassuring,” Drewniak also noted that the governor and his staff have plenty of work still to do.

“The governor and his entire administration are committed to restoring fiscal stability, growing our economy and reforming our business climate to secure New Jersey’s place as a place for strong, ongoing business growth and job creation,” he said in a statement.

Dwight Gooden arrested after crashing car in New Jersey

Former New York Met ace Dwight Gooden was arrested in New Jersey on Tuesday after being involved in a two-car accident in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

Gooden, who won the 1985 Cy Young Award at the age of 20, was placed into police custody after crashing his vehicle, with his five-year old son sitting in the passenger seat, while being under the influence of drugs.

The former Met and Yankee great faces a slew of charges, including endangering the welfare of a child, driving under the influence of drugs, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident and reckless driving, CNN reports.

Gooden, 45, has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention an extensive criminal record. The three-time World Series champion most recently pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless driving in 2002 and driving with a suspended license a year later. He also did a stint in prison in 2006 for drug charges.

In November of last year, Gooden discussed his substance abuse problem with the New York Daily News and wrote a book describing his 20-plus year addiction.

“I’m not out to prove everybody wrong,” he told the news source. “I’m taking it day by day. I’m clean and sober and just trying to make good choices for me and my family.”

New Jersey teen drivers forced to identify themselves beginning May 1

Teenage drivers in New Jersey will soon be easily recognizable. Following through on legislation approved last year by former Governor Jon Corzine, the Motor Vehicle Commission recently introduced red decals that most motorists under the age of 21 will be forced to display on their license plates.

The new law requiring decals, which will begin to be enforced on May 1, will alert police of anyone who is driving on a learner’s permit or a probationary license, according to KYW1060.com.

Pam Fischer, director of New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety, says the law will help police enforce “things like a curfew, making sure they’re not having too many passengers in the car, they’re complying with the ban on hand-held and hands-free cell phones and so forth.”

After drivers have completed the 12-month provisional-license period, they will no longer be required to display the decal.

Meanwhile, local teenagers are speaking out against the regulation, stating that it unfairly targets a specific age group.

“It’s already scary being a new driver, but to know that you have a scarlet letter on your car can make you even more nervous,” said Christina Lombardo, the chapter vice president of Students Against Destructive Decisions at Old Bridge High School, quoted by Philly.com.

The decals cost $4 and will go on sale April 12 at Motor Vehicle Commission offices statewide.

Remembering the Ford Mustang

Donald Frey, the former senior product manager at Ford and the co-creator of the transcendent Mustang coupe, passed away on March 5 at the age of 87.

Frey was hired by Ford in the early 1960s to lead a low-cost campaign to develop a powerful sports car following the historically colossal flop known as the Edsel, Auto Week reports. To cut costs, Frey, Lee Iacocca and the rest of the executives at Ford decided to borrow the platform and instrument panel from the Falcon, and just 18 months later the Mustang was born.

The very first Ford Mustang coupe was unveiled on April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair. Although Ford expected to sell just more than 80,000 Mustangs in its debut year, over 400,000 were purchased in the first 8 months of production.

More than 45 years later, the Ford Mustang is still a hot commodity. In 2007, the Mustang GT shook up the automotive world with an aggressive exterior redesign and a shockingly powerful new engine. The ’07 Mustang GT is equipped with a 300 horsepower, five-speed V8 engine that can move from 0 to 60 in just 5.5 seconds.

Sandra Bullock’s husband involved in highway dust-up with the paparazzi

Just a few days after being forced to publicly admit his near year-long affair with a notorious former stripper, bad boy celebrity Jesse James was recently caught on tape fleeing the paparazzi in his black Dodge pickup in a wild chase taken right out of a movie script.

James, who is the host of the television program Monster Garage and the owner of West Coast Choppers, was busted last week for cheating on his wife of many years, actress Sandra Bullock.

Soon after the news of the affair hit the Hollywood press, local paparazzi have been camped out around Bullock’s mansion, where James currently resides by himself.

On Saturday, in an effort to evade the swarming paparazzi while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, James reportedly increased his speed to more than 90 miles per hour, Entertainment and Showbiz News reports.

“At one point, he went off road into the dirt and made this huge dust bowl,” an eyewitness told E News. “It was crazy.”

James then allegedly took a hard right down a dirt path, throwing his custom-built spare tire from the back of his pickup before peeling into his garage, according to the Examiner.

New Jersey Nets guard walks away unharmed after one-car accident

Late last month, New Jersey Nets star Keyon Dooling received an assist from the Closter Police Department after crashing his Infiniti sports utility vehicle during one of February’s most violent snowstorms.

The Nets backup point guard was on his way to practice on February 25 when he hit an ice patch, slid over the curb and blew one of his tires before colliding with a stop sign, according to NJ.com. Ironically, the Nets had cancelled practice just minutes before Dooling’s accident due to the inclement snowstorm, but he had left early to try to beat the weather and was not home to receive the call.

“I have to get here at least two hours before practice to get my body going,” laughed the veteran, who has been bit by the injury bug during each of his four stops with NBA teams.

Luckily for Dooling, who walked away unharmed after the accident, the Nets sent an intern driving a GMC SUV “with some good old American muscle” to pick up the club’s second leading assist man.

Dooling indicated to reporters after the accident that he planned to ditch his SUV for a Ford pickup, which is better equipped to handle the winter conditions in New Jersey.

How to know if your car is properly aligned

Although the majority of American car owners have their wheel alignment checked by an auto care professional during routine mileage checkups, there are a few tips that can help you know whether or not it is time to have your vehicle inspected.

Wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angle of the wheels so that they are completely perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other, Family Car Parts reports. While a recently purchased used car will be perfectly aligned, normal wear and stress can cause the front wheels to slowly become crooked, whether or not your vehicle is equipped with an adjustable or non-adjustable rear suspension.

The easiest way to assess whether your car is misaligned is to visually inspect the tire itself. If there is uneven or especially rapid tire wear, take your vehicle into the shop immediately. While tire wear is the simplest way to diagnose poor alignment, it is often the last symptom to appear. If you let the problem go unattended for too long, you may find yourself being forced to purchase four new tires.

When your vehicle is not aligned properly, you may also feel that it does not naturally drive in a straight line, or is pulling or drifting to one side of the road on its own.

A final, more comprehensive examination of your wheel alignment can be conducted using just a coin. Take a quarter and place it in the tread at the inside, outside and middle of the tire, the news source recommends.

If you find that the tread is deeper on one side of the tire than the other, it’s time to take your car to the shop. Also, if it is deeper on the edges, your tire is overinflated. If the treads are deeper in the center, you should inflate your tire as soon as possible.

Proper wheel alignment is important for a variety of reasons. Improper alignment can lead to premature tire wear, decreased gas mileage, poor handling and can even cause accidents, Hunter Engineering reports.

Industry experts recommend that you have your vehicle’s tires checked every 10,000 miles or once every year.