1st Gear: We mentioned yesterday Ford's slump in the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, but at first glance the rest of the industry didn't have such a great year, either. While the overall level of complaints fell a tick to 107 problems per 100 vehicles, all the gains came from old models; new vehicle problems rose 10% to 122 per 100 vehicles. The reason? Complicated entertainment technology — i.e. Ford's Sync — and "hesitation" due to weird shift patterns in vehicles tuned for maximum fuel efficiency. This is where we note that what J.D. Power calls "quality" is not just things that physically break, but things that annoy drivers. (The biggest quality complaint used to be wind noise.) Lexus took top honors this year, followed by Honda, Acura, Mercedes and Mazda.
2nd Gear: Volkswagen unexpectedly unveiled an autopilot system for vehicles that it says is close to production-ready. VW's "Temporary Auto Pilot" can maintain distance between vehicles in traffic, slow before curves and keep a car in lane. The system also observes overtaking rules and speed limits, plus can handle stop-start driving — all at speeds of up to 80 mph. VW says drivers still have to pay attention to intercede in case of emergency. Wouldn't want them distracted while not really driving, now would we?
3rd Gear: Chrysler's SRT brand will be a real brand, says new brand chief Ralph Gilles, and not just a collection of badges and gadgets thrown onto a car under a similar heading. Gilles, the former brand head of the Dodge brand, told the Detroit Free Press at a Chrysler brand gathering yesterday that SRT "was a trim line" in the past, but will now be the home of "special and exclusive models." Which will make it a brand, like Ram, which used to just be Dodge pickups, but now is its own brand, because Chrysler says so. Mmmmm. Brands.
4th Gear: Pixar's Cars 2 opens today, and already the backlash against cutely rendered talking vehicles has come from the oil industry, which is portrayed as a villain in the movie's plot. Bill Bush, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute — the place where the phone rings when old people dial information and ask for "Big Oil" — says he hopes people don't walk out of a movie theater taking the movie's plot literally. (Something about an oil magnate blocking alternative fuels.) "We understand movies need villains but hope people attending, children and adults alike, would come to appreciate the world needs oil as well as alternatives," said Bush. Also in Big Oil's back pocket: Movie critics, who've given Cars 2 only a 39% approval rating according to Rotten Tomatoes.
5th Gear: In other news of world domination, BMW reportedly wants to sell 2 million vehicles around the world within five years, a sizable jump from the 1.46 million it sold last year. To do so, according to a German magazine, BMW will focus on small cars and build new plants, including the possibility of an additional U.S. factory. The report comes on the heels of a Volkswagen executive telling Reuters earlier this week that it expects Audi to hit 2 million sales by 2020.
6th Gear: This one-of-a-kind 2011 "Blue Angels" Mustang GT will be auctioned during AirVenture 2011 on July 28. Created by Ford Design, the exterior of the "Blue Angels" Mustang GT features a unique blue chrome finish with a yellow gloss accent and "Blue Angels" scripted along with its iconic crest. The Blue Angels' crest is also stitched into its leather Recaro seats. Under the hood lies a supercharged 5.0L V8 engine producing more than 500-hp, Ford Racing handling pack, performance exhaust, and racetrack brake components. The auction benefits aviation education programs.
⏎ Jeep wants a pickup. We want Jeep to have a pickup. What's the holdup? [AutoNews]
⏎ Rhys Millen is burning up Pikes Peak. [Rhys Millen Racing]
⏎ Go Daddy.com in talks to be sold for $2 billion. Danica Patrick wins again. [Bloomberg]
⏎ Lexus puts Prince Albert in a can — a hybrid, plastic-roofed can. [Evo]
⏎ Catch Jalopnik editor Ray Wert on Saturday in Silver Spring, Md., after a screening of "Revenge Of The Electric Car" at the Silverdocs film festival. AFI serves alcohol, so this should be fun. [AFI]
On this day in 1966, the United States Senate votes 76-0 for the passage of what will become the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, creating the nation's first mandatory federal safety standards for motor vehicles.
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