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Sleuth: The Week of November 2

November 06, 2008|By Wheelbase Communications

The electricity is in the air at Audi: A few months ago, the Sleuth shed a little light on the plans for Volkswagen Group’s premium Audi brand to produce an electric car. Now your faithful gumshoe has a bit more meat. The Audi electric vehicle will be based on parent VW’s Up! concept car and would go against the Ford Ka and Fiat 500 in Europe and Chevrolet’s Volt in North America. Engine choices are rumored to be a pair of 0.6-liter two-cylinder turbocharged units, one a diesel and the other fueled by gasoline. Audi’s new small car is rumored to be capable of 95 mpg. An all-electric version has already been given the go-ahead and Audi might test the waters in Canada and then send the car to the United States.

Smart sells to the tune of 20,000 units in the United States: When Smart parent Daimler decided to work with legendary dealer giant (and racing legend) Roger Penske to get the Fortwo model going in the United States, some wondered if Penske could work his magic again. Indeed, it seems he can. Recently a Dallas, Tex., resident took delivery of the 20,000th Smart ForTwo sold in the United States, marking an early milestone for the small car. The sale comes just 10 months after the brand was introduced to U.S. buyers, well ahead of the distributors’ expectations. Of course, the uncertain price of fuel might have more than a little impact on the small car’s chances these days.

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Hyundai breaks into a new segment: There has been a growing interest by automakers to offer niche vehicles that are somewhere between sport-utility vehicles and minivans and Hyundai wants a piece of the action. The Sleuth hears that the Korean automaker will launch a vehicle within two years called the Portico that will be more along the lines of a tall wagon. Hyundai first showed the Portico as a concept three years ago with the goal of filling a similar niche to the Mercedes-Benz R-Class and Chrysler’s Pacifica. A flexible layout means three rows of seating for up to six people. While the Portico was slated to be built in Alabama, production has been shifted to Korea and will begin in the third quarter of 2009.

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