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Survivor “car curse” continues, Ford drops ads under pressure

Christian Wardlaw
by Christian Wardlaw
December 14, 2005

Survivor: Guatemala, The Maya Empire” contestant Cindy Hall paid no heed to the so-called “car curse” on the popular reality program last Thursday night, opting to keep a 2006 Pontiac Torrent SUV for herself after winning a reward challenge. In ten seasons, no “Survivor” contestant who has won a car on the program has gone on to win the one-million-dollar prize. Hall, a Florida zookeeper, elected to keep the Torrent rather than give four fellow contestants each a new Torrent – and the “curse.” She was voted off the show moments later. But now, Pontiac has four unclaimed Torrents. Jumping on the opportunity to capitalize on the TV show’s plot twist, Pontiac created the Torrent Reward Challenge. Last weekend, visitors to Pontiac dealerships were given a special “Survivor” scroll with a unique ID number that could win one of the four unclaimed Torrents. The contest ended on Monday, and all four people who dropped by a Pontiac dealership during the four-day, free-car promotion were pleased. Maybe next year Ford can perpetuate the Survivor car curse. The automaker released a sketch this week of the new 2007 Ford Edge, which will go up against the Pontiac Torrent when it arrives on the market next year. The Edge is based on the same platform as the new Lincoln Aviator, is powered by the same 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine driving the front or all four wheels, and will be available with an optional third-row seat. The Edge replaces the Freestyle in Ford’s lineup. No word on whether U2's famed guitarist will be involved in an ad campaign to promote the Ford Edge. Mercedes-Benz also has a new SUV coming soon to showrooms. The 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is based on the same platform as the M-Class and R-Class but features more conservative styling as well as a standard V8 engine and third-row seat. The new GL-Class is a real off-roader when you need it, and a capable pavement pounder when you don’t. Key features include the 335-horsepower V8 engine, standard 4-Matic all-wheel-drive, and a two-speed transfer case with locking front and rear differentials. The GL-Class can ford up to 23 inches of water, can tow up to 7,500 pounds, and can carry up to 83 cubic feet of cargo. Communities from Pacific Palisades to Pompano Beach are quaking with enough excitement to register on the Richter scale. Can’t quite afford a new Mercedes GL? Maybe the similarly boxy Scion xB is more your style. But you’d better get one now…by the end of the month, prices go up $150 on this roomy and efficient little wagon. Or, you could grab one of the last extended-length mid-sized SUVs from General Motors before it pulls the plug in February. GM will shutter its Oklahoma City assembly plant, which builds the Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, the GMC Envoy XL, and the Isuzu Ascender – each of which is fitted with three rows of seats. Once these models have been snapped up, consumers looking for a seven-passenger GM SUV will need to select the redesigned Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, or GMC Yukon – at least until new crossover sport-utes arrive later in the decade. GM’s cross-town rival Ford announced this week that it is pulling all Jaguar and Land Rover advertising from gay and lesbian publications after a threatened boycott by the American Family Association. The AFA’s Donald Wildmon, who has criticized Ford for being too “gay-friendly,” said that while his group still has a few differences with Ford, he feels that the AFA’s concerns are being addressed in good faith. A group of 19 organizations supporting the rights of homosexuals is reported to be “deeply dismayed” by Ford’s decision. With this move, conservative Christians can continue buying the Fords, Mercurys, and Lincolns that were never advertised in gay publications, while wealthy, educated, trend-setting gay and lesbian consumers will purchase a BMW or Lexus instead of a Jaguar or Land Rover. In related news, Sirius announced the launch of a new Christian Talk satellite radio channel that will carry the 700 Club, Pat Robertson, and other evangelical talk personalities. No word on whether the Christian Talk programming on channel 159 will feature a tie-in with shock jock Howard Stern’s new Sirius talk show on channel 100, which launches in January. Ford had better hope that American Family Association members stream back into showrooms now that they’re virtually ignoring 10 percent of the consumer populace. According to Reuters, Al Hubbard, President George W. Bush’s top economic advisor, said that Ford and General Motors don’t need government assistance to become viable, profitable companies again. The automakers are seeking tax breaks while they restructure and streamline operations, but no help is coming from the feds, unlike with Chrysler Corporation in 1979 or the airline industry after 9-11. Hubbard said, “Obviously GM has some challenges right now, primarily because they make automobiles that are less fuel efficient.” That statement just goes to show you how out-of-touch the government is with reality. According to GM and the EPA – a government agency – the world’s largest automaker makes the most cars and trucks that get more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Hubbard further bolstered spirits by adding, “It is unfortunate that General Motors is going to have cuts at the same time Toyota and other companies are expanding in the U.S. The important thing is that the overall economy is strong.” Yeah, tell that to Detroiters, who are wandering the desolate streets of that city with a shell-shocked look on their drawn faces. At least fuel economy has become a less pressing issue – a good thing since GM, after marketing it’s fuel-saving cylinder deactivation technology as Displacement on Demand for two years, tossed that brand equity out the window and announced that it would now be called Active Fuel Management. After free-falling for weeks, gas prices rose by three cents to a national average of $2.16 per gallon for regular unleaded as of last Friday, according to the American Automobile Association. Rumors that excessive pre-dawn holiday spending by crazed lunatics trampling one another for 10 bucks off on a DVD player gave Big Oil executives pause about declining prices could not be confirmed. But it makes sense that if you can stuff a Ford Expedition to the roof with gifts, then you can pay more for every gallon of gas it burns on the way to the mall.

Photos courtesy of General Motors


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