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Ford races to beat Chev to `blind-spot mirror'

Fordwill introduce its new blind-spot mirror this fall on the 2009 Ford Edge crossover, which is built in Oakville.

  • transportation, future technology and vehicle concept - man using car control panel

Ford said this week it will introduce its new blind-spot mirror this fall on the 2009 Ford Edge crossover, which is built in Oakville.

The automaker had planned to bring the mirror to market next year but moved up the date after getting so much positive feedback, said Kelly Kohlstrand, a member of Ford’s advanced product marketing and technology planning team.

Ford also is in a race with General Motors to bring the technology to market. Blind-spot mirrors will be a standard feature on the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse crossover, which will start production in September, according to GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan.

Kohlstrand said the mirror will be a standard feature on the Edge and will be added to other vehicles in 2009.

On both the Edge and the Traverse, small mirrors that give drivers a view of the “blind spot” alongside the vehicle sit flush in the outer corner of the side mirrors.

Kohlstrand wouldn’t say how much the feature will cost Ford, but he said it’s less than the retail cost of the small convex blind-spot mirrors that many drivers attach to their vehicles.

NISSAN TO SELL ELECTRIC IN 2010

Nissan showed this week a spiffy electric car packed with a battery developed by the Japanese automaker to deliver more power than the type common in today’s hybrids.

The electric vehicle, set for sale in 2010, carried a 300-kilogram lithium-ion battery and still zipped around a Nissan test course, accelerating more quickly than comparable gas-engine cars.

It was extremely quiet, absent of typical engine noise.

Details such as cruising range are yet to be determined, Nissan officials said.

Having fallen behind Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda in hybrids, Nissan has made the electric vehicle the pillar of its green strategy.

Last month, Nissan, with French partner Renault, announced a partnership with the Portuguese government to sell electric vehicles there in 2011. Separately, Nissan has announced deals with Project Better Place, based in Palo Alto, Calif. to mass-market electric vehicles in Israel and Denmark in 2011.

Nissan’s electric vehicle is being promised to go on sale in Japan and the U.S. in 2010 and globally by 2012.

MITSU BUILDS BATTERY FACTORY

A Mitsubishi Motors affiliate will build a factory in Japan to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries for its upcoming all-electric car, the company said this week.

Mitsubishi has been developing the iMiEV car since 2005, planning to launch sales to fleet customers such as rental car companies beginning in mid-2009 and to the general public in 2010.

The lithium-ion battery for the car will be produced by Lithium Energy Japan, a subsidiary of Japan’s biggest battery maker, GS Yuasa, at a newly acquired site in Shiga in western Japan, the companies said in a statement.

GS Yuasa is already providing lithium-ion batteries to customers including Boeing, which uses them in its 787 jets.

Mitsubishi initially planned to produce batteries for 2,000 iMiEVs in 2009 and 5,000 the following year at GS Yuasa’s existing factory in Kyoto.

But the company changed its plans in order to boost production targets to meet rising demand for electric cars amid soaring fuel prices and the growing appeal of environmentally friendly products, the automaker said.

A new battery plant will be ready in April 2009 to initially produce batteries for 2,000 units of the electric car, Mitsubishi said. The company will then boost battery production up to 10,000 a year “shortly afterward,” but did not specify the exact timeline for a planned production increase.

SMART HOT SELLER FOR MERCEDES

Carmaker Daimler said this week its Mercedes-Benz Cars division sold 105,100 vehicles globally last month, a 1 per cent increase from a year earlier, with demand for its fuel-efficient, two-seat Smart setting a new record.

Stuttgart-based Daimler said that Mercedes-Benz Cars, whose brands include Mercedes-Benz, Smart, AMG and Maybach, saw sales from January-July rise 7 per cent, with 773,200 cars sold, up from the 721,400 it sold in the first seven months of 2007.

Daimler said Smart, builder of the ultra-compact Smart fortwo, saw its sales increase 27 per cent worldwide in July, with 12,400 cars sold compared with 9,800 a year ago. The car went on sale in the U.S. this year for the first time.

Monthly sales were strongest in Asia, including China, with demand there leading to 11,500 cars sold, up 10 per cent from last year. In China, sales last month were up 69 per cent to 3,300 Mercedes-Benzes sold, compared with 2,000 vehicles sold in July 2007.

MONITOR CAN CUT INSURANCE

Auto insurer Progressive Corp. has begun offering its drivers the chance to cut their costs based on how they actually drive, not only on their age, credit score and number of tickets or accidents on their record.

The monitoring device – sort of like a black box for cars – tells Progressive what time people drive, how many miles they’ve driven, how fast they accelerate and how often they hit the brakes. It does not track where people go.

Under Progressive’s program, customers can earn a first-term discount of up to 10 per cent just for signing up. When they renew their policy, their rate could decrease by up to 60 per cent based on their driving habits. But it could also increase by up to 9 per cent.

FROM THE STAR’S WIRE SERVICES

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