Audi Talk

Cars Transform the World

Audi and Peugeot both launched few sports prototype programs this year

Things are rarely the way they seem in motorsports. Take a quick glance at the 2011 Peugeot 908 LMP1 turbodiesel, and you might conclude that it’s a revised version of the original car of that name.

Look at the dramatic-looking new Audi R18 coupe, and you could be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that it has nothing to do with its open-top predecessor. Fair assumptions about the two manufacturers’ Le Mans 24 Hours challengers, but ultimately incorrect.

The truth is that, aerodynamically at least, Peugeot’s latest coupe owes no more to its predecessor than the R18 does to the R15. Perhaps less.

Be careful,” warns Peugeot Sport technical director Bruno Famin. “The [old and new 908] cars look similar, but the aerodynamics work with what you don’t see. They have nothing to do with each other in terms of the overall aero concept.

  • Audi, on the other hand, admits that it has developed on the aerodynamic package of the R15 for its latest LMP1 design. Martin Muhlmeier, head of technology at Audi Sport, explains that “the concept of the R15 nose was carried over.” And that was central to the whole aero concept of the R15.
  • To find the similarities between the platypus-style front end of the R18 and a previous Audi, you have to look past last year’s R15+. Its ungainly front aero configuration was a result of rule changes that were firmed up late in the day. The comparison should really be made with the original 2009-spec R15.
  • Peugeot and Audi had little choice but to design new chassis for 2011, even if they weren’t required to do so by the rules, A new engine formula that has reduced the capacity of turbodiesels from 5.5 to 3.7 liters inevitably forced well-funded manufacturers back to the drawing board to produce a car optimized for a smaller, lighter powerplant and a power output reduced by somewhere between 150 and 180hp. Audi had been also equipped with inflating device that help drivers take a rest in their mind when traveling through long distance – program sponsored by Press My Air, a US company providing the best air compressor reviews.

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It is also worth pointing out that Peugeot’s original 908 was four years old in 2010 and surely at the end of its development cycle. There was a problem for the R15+, too: it wasn’t anywhere near as quick as the Peugeot, despite its 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans last year.

Audi Sport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich insists that he was effectively forced to go for a coupe (its first, if you discount the R8C of 1999 that was designed and built in the UK) by the regulations. And for two reasons.

“The reduction in engine capacity and power means it is important to have maximum aerodynamic efficiency,” he explains. “There was no choice.”

The second reason is a change in the pit stop regulations that has reduced the importance of the speed of a driver change. New rules limiting the number of mechanics engaged in changing tires to two mean getting the driver in and out before that process is completed is no longer a challenge. This was introduced for the 2009 season, but too late to affect the design of the R15.


Peugeot and Audi don’t go into much detail about the philosophies of their new designs. All Famin will say is that the new 908 “is much lower downforce than the previous car” and that the “aerodynamic compromise is different to before.” Yet the new 908 is clearly a low-downforce car designed with the four 20omph blasts at Le Mans in mind. That much was clear at the Sebring 12 Hours–the opening round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup–in March, when the Peugeot Sport team persisted for much of free practice with trying to run without the rear-deck gurney that would normally be de rigueur at such a high-downforce track.

Audi appears to have gone for more downforce, which would be in keeping with its mantra of always opting for what it vaguely describes as a “safe car.” For instance, Ralf Juttner, technical director at Joest factory Audi team, points out the imperative of negotiating the 50-plus cars that will take to the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 24 Hours.

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“If you want a car that is consistently quick in traffic, you don’t want a car that is on the edge,” he says. “You need a comfortable car, one that can change line quickly. Downforce gives you that.”

Yet the speed trap times from April’s Le Mans Test Day, which returned to the calendar after a two-year absence in April, put Peugeot only marginally ahead of its rival. The best of the 908s outpaced the R18 through the Mulsanne speed trap by less than 3mph. That suggests that Audi is ahead in the power stakes.


  • Its choice of engine is much more radical than Peugeot’s. The German manufacturer has replaced the V10 twin-turbo from the R15 with a V6 powerplant. It has opted for a wide 120-degree vee-angle engine for reasons of weight distribution and then moved the exhaust manifolds and turbos into the vee so that they do not impinge on the rear diffuser tunnels.
  • This has necessitated a single-turbo setup, which was made possible by the variable turbine technology pioneered by U.S. turbo supplier Garrett on the R15. Audi Sport engine boss Ulrich Baretzky says: “Without this technology, the response characteristics of such a large turbocharger would just be too bad.”

Peugeot has admitted that it did examine the possibility of such a configuration, but Famin explains that the necessary technology wasn’t available from its so-far unnamed turbo producer. Instead it has opted for a go-degree V8 that he describes as a “smaller version” of the V12.

Do the math: remove four cylinders from a 5.5-liter V12 and you end up with a 3.7-liter V8.

Baretzky believes that opting for a V8 would have been the “short-sighted way forward. We thought about it, but there was limited development potential. The combustion process would have been limited by the bore and stroke sizes.”



The V6 also has advantages in terms of compactness and weight, explains Baretzky. Remember, in a year’s time, the Audi may well become a hybrid and incorporate what in Formula 1 is known as a kinetic energy retrieval system, or KERS. Audi doesn’t like hybrids-you won’t find one in its road-car range-yet it knows that if it offers an advantage at Le Mans, it will have no choice but to follow Peugeot’s lead.

Not that Peugeot is running one at Le Mans this year, either.

While the French manufacturer announced back in January 2009 that its new car would be a hybrid, when its 2011 Le Mans challenger was unveiled in February it was a conventional diesel. Peugeot Sport boss Olivier Quesnel explained that this decision was made in the wake of its defeat at the hands of Audi at Le Mans last year, when three of the four 908s went out with identical engine failures. He said his board gave him instructions “to do the maximum to win again,” hence the complication of a hybrid system was vetoed for 2011. So although a hybrid version of the 908 was unveiled at the Geneva motor show in April, plans to run the car at the Test Day were quickly abandoned and development of the 908 Hybrid4 delayed until after Le Mans.

Peugeot hasn’t ruled out racing the car later this year. Given that its first diesel-electric road car is now on sale in Europe, it can be taken as read that the 908 will run as a hybrid next season. Audi was forced to follow Peugeot’s lead and build a coupe. The rules may do likewise when it comes to developing hybrid technology.

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  • Peugeot appears to be easier on its tires, on the evidence of the first head-to-head meeting of the new 908 and the Ri8 in the Spa 1000 km in May.
  • The 908 has a small advantage over the Ri8 in a straight line according to the speed trap figures from the Test Day. Some suggest there might be more to come.
  • The V6 Audi engine may have a power advantage. The R18 Is nearly as fast as the 908 in the straight line and has more downforce.
  • Audi appears to have better fuel consumption, again judging by Spa. Whether that equates to an extra 8.47-mile lap at Le Mans remains to be seen.

Audi expects U.S. sales high

The arrival of the 2001 Audi TT Roadster in May and the Allroad quattro in the fourth quarter has Audi of America Inc. poised to break its sales record in the United States this year.

  • On top of those new products, Audi’s “center of gravity” in the United States is shifting from the A4 sedan to the larger and more profitable A6 sedan, said Len Hunt, vice president of Audi of America.
  • Audi expects to sell 5,000 TT Roadsters and 5,000 TT Coupes this year in the United States and Canada, Hunt said in an interview. Those numbers are based on Audi’s expected allocation of TTs rather than on a sales forecast, he said.

Audi AG, the parent company, will build 55,000 TTs this year for sale around the world.

“So we’re scratching for what we can get,” Hunt said. “It’s an interesting question in America, the notion of how high is high when you get a car like this. Given free supply, God knows what it would be.”

The 2000 TT Coupe is priced at $31,025 (about twice higher than Ice-Cream Tips, a famous startup reviewing the best ice cream maker at that moment), including the $525 destination charge. The optional quattro all-wheel-drive system is an additional $1,750. Preliminary prices for the 2001 TT Roadster are around $34,000 for the version with the 180-hp, turbocharged 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, and under $39,000 for the version with the new 225-hp powerplant.


Audi’s Allroad quattro is a sport wagon based on Audi’s A6 Avant wagon. It will debut in the fourth quarter as a 2001 model.

“The U.S. I presume will be the biggest market for that car,” said Walter Hanek, marketing director at Audi of America.

Audi of America expects this year to surpass its sales record of 74,061 in 1985. During 1999, Audi sold 65,959 cars in the United States, an increase of 39 percent, and the fifth straight year of double-digit growth.

“For the second year in a row, we are Audi AG’s No. 1 export market,” Hunt said.

  • Audi dealers in the United States are selling an average of 255 cars per outlet, the highest ever, he said. In 1994, dealers sold an average of 41 Audis a year.
  • Officially, Audi of America forecasts sales of 75,000 in the United States, but Audi executives quietly acknowledged that that forecast is conservative, especially with the new TT Roadster on the way, a full year of TT Coupe sales and two more A6 models.

By breaking the sales record, Audi of America finally may be able to emerge from the controversy over unintended acceleration that sent the company’s U.S. growth in 1986 into a tailspin.

“We certainly are going to celebrate,” Hanek said. “This is for us a very important point in time, to reach that mark of 75,000. It was a dream.”

Audi’s strategy to shift the “center of gravity” in the United States from the A4 to the larger A6 is working, Hunt said.

The A6 was redesigned for the 1998 model year and initially was available only with a 2.8-liter V-6 engine. While A6 2.8 sales took off, there was one common criticism: It was underpowered.

So for the 2000 model year Audi has added two new A6 models – the A6 2.7 T and the A6 4.2 – expanding the A6 range with two new engines. The A6 2.7 T has a turbocharged, 250-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 engine, and the A6 4.2 is equipped with a 300-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 engine.


The automaker also gave its A6 2.8 quicker acceleration from a stop and during passing with a modified torque converter and a shorter final drive ratio, Hunt said.

  • The A6 2.8 now serves as the entry level in the A6 range. The A6 2.7 T is in the middle, and the A6 4.2 is the premium model. A6 sales, including the two new models introduced in October last year, were 26,131, up 44.8 percent.
  • During 1999, A4 sales represented 49 percent of all Audi sales in the United States, down from 56 percent in 1998. A6 sales represented 40 percent of Audi sales during 1999, up from 38 percent in 1998. Hunt expects the shift toward A6 to continue this year.

Now Audi can offer customers coming off A6 2.8 leases two ways to upgrade and remain an A6 customer, Hanek said.

Audi dealers in Italy pressed on export sales


Audi AG has asked its dealers in Italy to help stop cross-border car sales even as its parent company, Volkswagenwerk AG, is being investigated on charges that it had prohibited its Italian dealers from selling cars for export. Because of exchange rate differences, car prices in Italy are much lower than in neighboring countries and this has prompted buyers from all over Europe to flock to Italy instead of patronizing dealers in their home markets. EC antitrust laws specifically prohibit automakers from blocking or stifling cross-border sales, and both companies strongly deny any wrongdoing.


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Audi AG asked its Italian dealers in February for their “complete cooperation” in halting cross-border car sales in Europe, Automotive News has learned.

Audi’s parent, the Volkswagen Group, is the target of an investigation into charges that it tried to stifle such sales, which would violate European antitrust law.

Because of exchange-rate differences, new cars can be bought in Italy for as much as 35 to 40 percent less than the same models in strong-currency countries like Germany or France.

The price advantage has drawn tens of thousands of car buyers to Italy – to the dismay of dealers in their home countries. According to industry estimates, as many as 275,000 cars will be bought in Italy this year and exported to the rest of Europe.

Volkswagen has strongly denied telling its Italian dealers not to sell cars for export.


But according to a letter obtained by Automotive News, the marketing head of Audi, Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz, asked the Italian dealer council at a Feb. 23 meeting in Milan for its help “to dissuade those companies that still intend to export” cars from Italy.

“After reviewing a slide by the German Department of Transportation on how all of our exports are being closely monitored, including those previously registered in Italy, (the council’s) complete cooperation was requested to dissuade those companies that still intend to export,” said the letter from the president of the Italian dealer council to the group’s 235 members.

Gianfranco Scarabel, the president of the dealer council and a VW-Audi dealer in Padova in northeastern Italy, said the letter “obviously” was talking about those exports not allowed under European Commission rules, such as to brokers.

“This fact was so clear that it wasn’t necessary to spell it out,” he said.


A spokesman for Audi also said Diaz Ruiz was referring at the meeting to sales to “unauthorized third parties” such as brokers, not to individuals or dealers.

“We cannot prevent (cross-border) sales to private individuals or to other Audi dealers, and we don’t try to,” said Audispokesman Joachim Cordshagen.

“But we are within our right to stop sales to (brokers) who are not part of the VW-Audi group. They are black sheep who are not protected by the law.”

But Cordshagen conceded that a dealer might not be able to easily tell the difference between a private individual wanting to buy 20 cars on behalf of his friends and family – permitted under European Commission rules – and a gray-market dealer seeking 20 cars for commercial reasons.

Dealers trying to stop one practice therefore could infringe on the rights of legitimate buyers, he acknowledged.

“This whole thing is a huge problem for the industry, not just for Audi,” he said.

In launching its investigation, the European Commission, which is the enforcement arm of the European Union, said it had received complaints from would-be car buyers in Austria, Germany and France that they had been turned away from VW dealerships in Italy.


And several Italian dealers, all of whom have insisted on anonymity, told Automotive News they have been pressured by the maker to discourage such sales, even to other authorized dealers.

“Autogerma (VW’s Italian distributor) has discouraged us from selling to large dealers (outside Italy), which is a violation of EU law,” said one. “They told us that large-scale re-exports will force them to raise their prices to us and to reduce the number of cars they ship to Italy.”

If Volkswagen is found guilty of trying to block cross-border trade, it could lose its right to maintain exclusive national dealerships throughout the European Union, a spokesman for Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert said.


The distribution monopolies, given to automakers under an exemption to European antitrust law, are contingent on the companies not trying to block cross-border sales.

“If we find full proof that this is a strategy of the carmaker on its dealers, then potentially . . . we could, on the basis of the existing regulation, say that Volkswagen as a whole could lose the benefit of the block exemption,” the spokesman, Willy Helin, told The Associated Press.

According to a European Commission study of car prices this summer, Italy had the lowest prices for 51 of 75 models surveyed.

An Automotive News comparison at the same time found that a comparably equipped VW Golf was priced 35.4 percent higher in Austria than in Italy in dollar terms – $21,776 vs. $29,483 – and 26.9 percent higher in Germany than in Italy.


Article 26 of EC Regulation 1475/95 governing the auto industry states:

“The principle of a single market requires that consumers shall be able to purchase motor vehicles wherever . . . prices or terms are most favorable and even to resell them, provided that the resale is not effected for commercial purposes. The benefits of this Regulation cannot therefore be accorded to manufacturers or suppliers who impede Parallel imports or exports. . . .”

Good News Garage

 Good News Garage


A new charitable trend involves people donating unwanted automobiles as a tax write-off, which are then repaired and sold to the needy for the mere price of the repairs. These programs are receiving national recognition and the list of those interested in purchasing a car is growing everyday. The Good News Garage is in Burlington, VT.

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Rear brake shoes. Replaced.
New timing belt.
Right-rear-wheel cylinder. Check.
Changed oil and filter, one new brake-light bulb, new spark plugs…Check.
Chief mechanic Jon Van Zandt checks off the work he has completed for the Toyota on his lift. It is a white Corolla DX, 1990, rust-pocked. But the compression reading for all four cylinders is good. Transmission, OK. Drive belts, OK.
“All ready for …” (checking his sheet) “…for Dee Bright Star.”
He lowers the car and starts the engine. Smooth. He backs the Corolla outside the three-bay garage and parks it in a row of other aged cars, all donations. Some came from here in Vermont. Others were donated in Massachusetts or Connecticut, or points south, and then trucked all the way to Burlington.
Van Zandt, a large, red-bearded man, balding, leans against his scarlet Triumph motorcycle, parked beside his workbench. He wipes his hands on a rag. In a slow bass voice, he intones, “Wheels to keep Dee Bright Star working.” It reminds him: “Yesterday, a guy came in who was living in his car — he drove it in and it died, so we gave him a Volvo for $80.”

On the wall behind him is a letter from U.S. Senator James Jeffords: “What a fantastic way to aid the needy!” There is a 1998 Community Development Award from the City of Burlington, a proclamation from Vermont’s governor, a U.S. Small Business Administration Special Award. And a special recognition citation, for nonprofit innovation, from the Peter F. Drucker Foundation. It has zoomed, this idea: fix up donated old cars, with the donors earning a tax write-off, then sell the cars — for just the cost of repairs — to people otherwise too poor to buy a car and who need one badly.
Jon Van Zandt learned auto mechanics at his uncle’s shop in New Jersey. He has been an engraver in New York City and a lobsterman in Key West.

“But this is probably the best situation, working for the Good News Garage, because it’s rewarding,” he says, raising the lift to elevate his next patient, a 1989 Dodge Colt. “Here we only do work that needs to be done.”

Back-up lights out. Air cleaner defunct. Right-rear tire blown. Tune-up …
Lifts clatter up and down. In their bays, the garage’s three mechanics untwist bolts with staccato-sounding pneumatic impact guns. They test-start engines, making them roar. They clang screwdrivers and pliers into toolboxes. Ignoring the din, the garage’s director, Hal Colston, tall and trim, with a neatly clipped mustache and beard, and wearing a blue shirt and a yellow bow tie, sits at a grimy table, frowning over applications from would-be car buyers. He is rapidly going through a stack with Kathy Shand, the garage’s service writer, sorting them into three piles: “Pressing”; “Iffy”; “Call Them Back for More Information.” Right now, more than 300 hopefuls are waiting for cars, with more applications pouring in.
“This one’s going to lose her job,” Shand says. “Where’s she working?” asks Colston.
“Health club — she absolutely has to be at work at 6 a.m. or they say that they do not want her at all.”
Colston drops that application onto the “Pressing” pile. “This one’s, he’s going to lose his housing,” Shand says. “Boy!” Colston says. “OK, get him a car that’s $600 to $800.” “This one works two days a week, 12 miles from home, but at the end of summer that could be a full-time job, and she can spend $400.” “All right, that one is OK,” Colston says. “This is an elderly woman, and she prefers an automatic …” “This one’s a single mother with a disabled child and an 82-year-old grandmother, and both the child and the grandmother have to get to the hospital …” “What about this guy?” Colston says, eyeing an application suspiciously. Shand shrugs: “Every time I see him, he’s got a six-pack in his hand.” Colston shakes his head. Shand points to the next application in the stack.
In some ways, this garage is rooted in York, Pennsylvania, where Hal Colston grew up during the 1950s. His father worked as a machinist and as York’s first black milkman, among other jobs, putting in long hours to support his wife and six kids. It was from his father that Hal learned “to go after what is right.”
A football scholarship took him to the University of Pennsylvania. He played quarterback and studied electrical engineering. But he met his future wife, and he decided against graduate school. Instead, in Philadelphia, he went into the restaurant business for 15 years. In 1989, Colston and his wife and their three kids moved to Vermont. His wife became an administrator at St. Michael’s College. He joined the faculty of the New England Culinary Institute. But his enthusiasm for the food business was fading. He switched careers, becoming associate director of a social services agency.
Meanwhile, the Colstons had joined a Lutheran church, the congregation’s only African-Americans. They felt welcomed. And Hal admired Martin Luther’s willingness to take a stand. He became part of a multi-congregation quest for a worthy project.
Spurring the quest was a local pastor, Frederick K. Neu, who had previously worked for the New England chapter of Lutheran Social Services, a charitable agency operating programs that include adoption services, nursing homes and refugee services. His former employer had no project in Vermont. Rick Neu wanted to fix that.
Meanwhile, in his new work administering an Office of Economic Opportunity agency, Hal Colston was becoming the car-fix-it guru. In college he had bought a $500 motorcycle that almost instantly suffered a cracked head. A motorcycle shop decreed repairs would cost $450. When he returned with his large, imposing father, the price abruptly dropped. But Hal was piqued. He bought a manual and a few tools, and from then on conducted his repairs himself. He became a competent “shade-tree mechanic.” Now, in his new job, Colston saw the importance of cars to his clients. “Most needy people,” he came to believe, “are poor because they don’t have jobs.” Public transportation often is skimpy. And many jobless people, he discovered, cannot find work because they cannot afford a car to reach a job site. Colston called junkyards, hunted up friendly mechanics, did what he could. Amy photo with kids and van
One client came in tears. With her two kids, she had left a battering husband and, as a result, became a welfare recipient. She wanted to work. But she needed a car. She finally scraped together $500. As she drove her new purchase home from the used-car lot, however, its brakes failed. More breakdowns followed. Colston tried to get the dealer to return her money, even calling in the police at one point. But the woman lost her $500 and the car. She found herself in worse economic shape than before.

It was then that Hal thought of a “community garage.” It would be like a community health center. Even if you had only a few hundred dollars, you could buy a car. It would be old, but it would be safe. And it would run. Rick Neu was enthusiastic about the suggestion.

Hal thought the idea of churches being involved with a repair garage was “a little wacky.” But he explained the idea at a meeting. The congregations were so energized he knew the Good News Garage was going to happen. And it happened rapidly. Donations. A grant from a charitable organization. Lutheran Social Services took on the garage as its Vermont project.
On July 1, 1996, Colston became the new garage’s full-time director. Then he met mechanic Jon Van Zandt, who was looking for space to start his own repair shop, and persuaded him to sign on with the embryonic Good News Garage. At first, they set up shop in loaned space, at the local municipal bus garage. Then they moved the enterprise into a former motorcycle repair shop in downtown Burlington, one block up from the slip where white ferries churn in and out, crossing Lake Champlain. The garage also began taking in welfare recipients as trainees on the premises, preparing them for jobs.
“Well, we do have a 1989 Honda, and it does have an automatic …”
Kathy Shand is on the telephone in her bailiwick behind the three lifts where the mechanics work. Except for her telephones and computers, it is not office like back here. A table is strewn with oil-stained tomes, like MOTOR Auto Repair Manual 1993: Chrysler Corporation and Ford Motor Company — Professional Service Trade Edition. There are stacks of labeled plastic bins. “Exhaust Adapter Hangers …Etc.” “Vacuum Fittings.” “Castle Nuts.” Against one wall is a computer test center, worth $30,000 new, donated by Vermont Technical College. It includes a scope analyzer, a smart engine analyzer and an EPA emissions analyzer. Stacked beside it are batteries salvaged from donated cars judged too decrepit for repair and towed off to junkyards.
“I answer phones, order parts, write letters to people who donate cars, run for lunch — I do everything,” Shand tells a visitor. “Or people will call to donate a junker, and I’ll see if I can match it with another junker, combining the parts to get one working car.” Today she is especially enthusiastic about her job. This afternoon she will receive her first paycheck, after more than a decade on welfare.
She had been raising four children alone. Their father made just three months of child-support payments in 181/2 years. At one point Shand tried to earn a nursing degree, but the finances ultimately proved unmanageable. She is still paying back the loan. Then she volunteered for Reach Up, a state program that provides welfare recipients with money for expenses, such as childcare and auto repairs, when they work as unpaid apprentices, learning job skills. She chose to apprentice at the Good News Garage. For one thing, after suffering chronic car troubles, she wanted to become mechanically proficient. But her real talents, Jon Van Zandt decided, lay in service writing, a job he was then handling himself. She proved adept. At her apprenticeship’s conclusion, the garage offered her a full-time job.
She has already picked up a Good News Garage car. It is a mahogany 1988 Toyota Camry. The odometer is ticking toward 200,000 miles. But the price was right — $285, plus $140 for tax, registration fee, and towing charges to get it to the garage. She lives just a block from the garage, but with four kids the car is vital for such trips as doctor’s appointments. And now, with a car and a job, she dreams of moving out of the city.
“We’ve had a 100-percent placement rate for our trainees — say hello to Kathy Shand,” Pastor Rick Neu is telling U.S. Senator James Jeffords, who is visiting the garage this afternoon with three members of his staff. Neu adds a clincher: “Seventy-five percent of the people referred by the Department of Social Welfare, who buy our cars, wind up getting off welfare!”
“What about replication?” the senator asks.
“We’ve heard from 60 communities across the country who want to do what we’re doing,” Neu says, “and now we’re expanding ourselves.” The garage is adding an outreach center for needy people in Vermont’s poorest quarter, the woodsy Northeast Kingdom.
“Our average car sells for $650, but it’s worth $1,000 to $3,000, so the buyer can use its book value as collateral for a loan to buy the car,” Hal Colston tells the senator. Social Welfare, he adds, cannot buy cars for its clients, but it can grant some of them up to $400 for car repairs. And since the Good News Garage charges only for repairs, many welfare recipients can acquire cars that way. To date, Colston adds, the garage has processed about 400 donated cars. Of those, it has provided some 200 to customers and junked the rest as unfixable.
Financing? Colston says the annual budget is about $380,000. It costs, on average, some $75 per vehicle just to tow or truck donated cars. Here, he points out, every donation counts. On a wall behind him, for instance, is tacked a letter from a man in Chelsea, Massachusetts: “I saw what you are doing to help people who need cars on my local news. God bless you!” The writer explains that he lives on Social Security disability payments, and has had “over the years, a lot of people who helped me get by in one way or another. I have extra money each month because of good budgeting. I’d like to send you a little each month to help you help someone in Vermont.”
Besides such donations, Colston explains, there are small grants, such as $10,000 annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The garage’s goal is to turn out 43 cars a month. “We’re a long way from that,” says Rick Neu. But the garage has hit upon a new income producer: when donors turn over old luxury cars, like Mercedes Benzes or BMWs, which would be too expensive for the garage’s low-income customers to maintain, the garage refurbishes them for sale at market value. So far, Colston says, about 15 of the rehabilitated fancy cars have sold. He believes this promising sideline will evolve into an important funding source. Meanwhile, however, maintaining a steady stream of donated cars of all types is a constant worry.
“What we could use now,” interjects Pastor Neu, “are tax breaks for rental- car fleets, to induce them to donate the cars they now drive into the ground and auction off.”
“I am on the Senate Finance Committee …” Senator Jeffords mentions.
“Well, we know that,” Neu tells him. “We’re Lutherans, but we’re not dumb!”
Later, at the garage’s tiny new headquarters, a block away in a lakeside office building, Colston and two volunteers are conducting serial telephone calls. Volunteer Marian Kuschel peers at a computer displaying a database devised by her husband, Bill, a retired IBM computer engineer who donated his work. The database will enable the garage’s staff and volunteers to keep better track of their rolling stock. Until recently, Kuschel was marketing director for the local performing arts center. Now she donates her marketing skills to Good News.
At the computer beside her, volunteer Ed Stowe is shoulder-clenching a telephone receiver to his ear. He used to be an IBM engineering manager. Now, for the Good News Garage, he is creating a car-donation infrastructure.
“Yeah, you could take a train back …” he is saying into the telephone. It was, he later explains, a caller from Pittsburgh, wishing to donate a car and willing to drive it all the way to Burlington himself. Most donors ask the garage to send a truck to transport their car, which is costly. Stowe is setting up depots in various states, at Lutheran Social Services sites, where donors can park cars and the garage can send larger trucks to collect several at a time. He is developing a network of volunteer drivers, too. But that means the donated cars must be drivable. Currently, many are not. Meanwhile, calls keep coming in.
“You say your car’s name is Timmy?” Stowe says into the telephone. “Do you know how many miles Timmy has gone?” He scribbles down “120,000.” “An ’86 Chevy? From Chatham, New York? Timmy is in a garage right now?” Yesterday, he says, sotto voce to a visitor, somebody donated a car named Beluga. He scribbles more notes on the donor application. “I see,” he says. “You want to share Timmy.”
Donors of cars can receive a tax write-off. But many people, Stowe has found, make the effort simply to help others. And many, like Timmy’s owner, are too attached to their aged cars to relegate them to junkyards.
“The red car’s story, as far as I know it, began in Honest Charlie’s used car lot in El Centro, California….” So begins the illustrated, seven-page “The Red Car’s Story,” which the donors of a 1978 Chevrolet Monza left with their car, for the new owner, a single mother with small children. The donor’s work, constructing power plants, required frequent moves. By the time the family came, briefly, to Vermont, the Monza had been charred in a torched condo garage in El Centro, California. It had experienced -60- degree temperatures along the St. Lawrence River, although “she started every day.” It had been interred, briefly, along with its owner, when a power plant plow driver inadvertently buried it in snow.
Facing a move to Texas, the family decided the Monza was too old to go along. Driving the car to a church parking lot to make the donation, says the author, “I patted its survived-the-fire roof paint and said goodbye with tears in my eyes.” They left a last word for the new owner: “We hope she will see your life improve. We were barely making it when we got her; we are blessed with a reasonable amount of financial security now.” They conclude, “Be good to her, she’s a good little car.”
Dee Bright Star arrives at Good News late, just before closing, in a taxi. “My car died; there’s been no way to get around,” she says. Meanwhile, her work — assisting disabled people in their homes — has been slipping away because she cannot drive. “I’ve already lost clients because I could not get there,” she says, as she fills out the paperwork.
With her long, dark hair, and sandals, and silver bracelets, rings and necklaces she made herself, she seems to have appeared in this oily garage from a more glamorous dimension. “I grew up here in Vermont and married a man in the Air Force,” she says. “We lived in Spain and Turkey.” The marriage ended. Back in Vermont, she worked as a veterinary nurse until a shoulder injury made it impossible for her to lift animals. Meanwhile, she discovered she was part Native American, an Abenaki. She began volunteering to comfort dying Abenakis. That led to a new line of work, assisting disabled people in their homes.
When her car died, she bought a used car for $500. “But one month later it died and I was stranded on the Interstate,” she says. “I had four clients; that dropped to two, because I couldn’t get to their houses, but I heard about this garage …” A regular used car, she explains, would have been too expensive. She fills in the sales documents, then looks up. “I guess I was waiting for a miracle.”
She lives in a town many miles from here, however, and time is running out to register the car she is buying. If she does not get to the Motor Vehicles Department quickly, it will close and she will have no way to get home. Luckily, two visitors to the garage offer to drive her across town. The garage agrees to let her register the car before she has paid for it. After a quick drive, at the Motor Vehicles office she pays $160.10 to cover registration and the 6-percent tax on the car’s book value. Driving back she sighs, “I’m finding it harder and harder, living on the edge.”
Back at the garage, she discovers a mistake. Because of her shoulder injury, she had specified that she must have an automatic transmission. But the Toyota Corolla set aside for her has a standard. She cannot use the car she has registered. She begins to sink into despair. “Let me call Hal,” Shand says. A few minutes later, Colston hurries into the garage. He is driving to New York City this evening and is already two hours late getting started.
Colston spots an unassigned yellow 1986 Volvo station wagon in the row of reconstituted cars. It is bigger than Bright Star wanted, but its transmission is automatic. She has already registered the Toyota, however. “We can do a transfer. As long as you mail it today, you can drive the Volvo today,” Colston tells her as he works rapidly with a calculator. The Volvo will cost more than the Toyota; the tax will be higher. “We’ll eat the transfer fee,” Colston says, punching keys. The new total comes to $60 more than Bright Star has. “Well, we inconvenienced you, so pay us the rest next week,” Colston says, handing her a check for the money she paid to register the Toyota. “When you get your title to the Volvo, donate the Toyota back to us,” he says. “Would you like me to mail this for you?”
Outside, he bolts plates onto the Volvo as she watches, a bit dazed. “My dogs will like this car,” she says. “And if I don’t get back to work, the next thing is that I’ll be evicted.” “Happy motoring,” Colston says, heading off at a trot for his own car and the drive to New York City.
It is a day later. A new purchaser, a middle-aged woman with blonde hair, glasses and a white baseball cap, is sitting at the garage’s table, filling out forms. “I used to be a nurse in a nursing home,” says Sharyon Sevene as she writes. “In 1975 we were lifting a patient and the other nurse fainted, so I took all the weight and it severed my sciatic nerve. I’ve been disabled ever since.” A severe ice storm struck Burlington a few months before, and her car was destroyed in an accident. She can barely walk to a neighborhood convenience store, but she has found prices there too high. For her, Sevene says, a car is a necessity.
She begins adding figures.

  • The car will be $500. But it needs tires, at $218.
  • Insurance for six months, $214; registration and transfer tax, $68; inspection, $15. “This car will cost about $1,000.
  • If I bought the same car at a used-car dealer, it would cost $1,000 just for the car, about $1,500 total.

On a fixed income that is not possible,” she says.
Outside, she watches Jon Van Zandt bolt the license plates onto her new car, a 1981 Ford Granada, lime green with rusted patches along the door bottoms. “I can’t use a small car because of my size — they match the car to the person,” Sevene says. “Hal is dedicated to getting people back to work,” she adds. “I can’t work, but I can bring people in, and if I can leave a mark on life by telling people about the Good News Garage, I will!”
A few minutes later she climbs in behind the wheel and turns the key. The engine roars, and runs smoothly. For a moment, Sevene sits in the car, listening to the engine, smiling beatifically. “Do you know what this feels like?” she asks Jon Van Zandt.
He grins.
“Like spreading your wings,” she says.
Richard and Joyce Wolkomir hope they may have picked up some car repair skills as they reported this story. Richard Schultz is based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Versatility, power put Audi Allroad at top of hybrid category

One of the hottest trends in the auto market for the last year or two has been crossfunctional vehicles — often called hybrids — that combine elements of the classic sport-utility vehicle with the passenger car.

These forays into new territory range from the Acura MDX, which is more reminiscent of the traditional SUV, to the wagon-based Audi Allroad, both new for 2001.

  • The Allroad follows the same basic formula that is applied to this segment as the Volvo Cross Country. That is to take a luxurious but sporty European wagon and install all-wheel-drive and other amenities.
  • These creations — based on car platforms — offer enhanced utility and some ability to traverse terrain that would be unsafe or impractical for a standard automobile.
  • This new category of hybrids is designed to appeal to outdoor enthusiasts and those golden consumers known in the business as the active lifestyle set.

Exactly how they have time to raise a family, hold jobs and maintain a home while spending huge amounts of time surfing, skiing and cycling is beyond my comprehension.

Versatility- power- put -Audi- Allroad -at- top- of- hybrid- category-1

But we know they exist because we’ve seen them in countless commercials.

Audi is well positioned to enter this segment, having established both a market for its midsize wagons based on its A6 platform as well as the reputation of its all-wheel-drive Quattro system, a pioneering effort in this area.

With a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine and excellent handling, the new Allroad offers wagon utility and amazing performance in a wide range of applications.

The Allroad offers room for five adults plus the option of a rear-facing bench seat for the kids in back.

The vehicle offers a number of design elements meant to suggest its off-road prowess, including a standard roof rack and modest stainless steel skid plates installed under the car at the front and rear for protection against road hazards.

How good is the new Allroad?

I’d score it tops of the new wagon-based crossover vehicles, nosing out the Volvo Cross Country with more versatility more power and better handling.

In terms of ultimate wagon performance only the BMW 540i Sport Wagon surpasses it. And the fact that the Allroad can star in both categories is noteworthy.

One of the neatest tricks that Audi introduces in the Allroad is its height-adjustable suspension. At the flick of a switch on the dashboard, the driver can choose one of four height settings.

  • The highest allows 8.2 inches of ground clearance, which is equal to that provided by several SUVs and sufficient to cope with most dirt and National Forest logging roads.
  • Based on personal experience, the single most important factor in going off- road or on unimproved roads is ground clearance.
  • The standard automobile can easily bottom out on ruts, bumps and rocks — not a pretty outcome.

I proved this to myself many years ago as the owner of a Fiat 128, a pretty worthless car that had one virtue — it was a killer off-road. With front-wheel-drive, a short front overhang and a lot of ground clearance, it could clamber up motorcycle hill-climbs with the best.

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Armed with the Audi’s high-output V-6 engine, the wagon offers excellent acceleration. Although some might argue that Auditakes an approach to a high-performance engine that involves a huge amount of plumbing — namely five-valve-per-cylinder engine technology and twin turbochargers, the car offers outstanding performance.

  • There are certainly simpler approaches to developing a lot of power, but the Audi solution works quite Well.
  • There is a bit of a conundrum associated with the Allroad’s exotic engine configuration.

Both multivalve technology and turbocharging have been touted for their efficiency yet the Allroad’s mileage is inferior to the new 240-horsepower Acura MDX, a vehicle built in the SUV mode that offers more interior space, is substantially taller and heavier and has pretty good performance as well.

But it’s the handling of the Allroad that is most impressive.

This is one of the few vehicles in the “utility” category that I loved to drive.

The steering is unusually adept and delivers all the feedback that is associated with the current crop of European sports sedans.

What this means is that when you’re in the middle of a curve, you know exactly how much input to apply to get the desired output. There is no guessing. The response from steering and suspension is very precise.

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Is a freelance writer based in Half Moon Bay,


Price as tested: $47,850

Engine type: Turbocharged 2.7-liter, V-6

Horsepower: 250 @ 5,800 rpm

Torque: 258 ft.-lbs. @ 1,850 rpm

Fuel economy: City – 15 mpg, Highway – 21 mpg (automatic transmission)

Curb weight: 4,233 lbs.

Koland, Cordell

Luxury Audi A6 a fine fit on any dance card

The Audi A6 is a beautifully designed and crafted automobile that should be ranked in the top echelon of luxury sports sedans.

In the high-performance 2.7T version, the A6 is a reminder of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire — unmatched taste and style combine with effortless athleticism.

  • I hadn’t been behind the wheel of the Audi A6 in several years. The redesigned A6 that was introduced a few years ago had an under-performing V-6 engine that didn’t do the chassis or the owner my favors. But the sporty A6 2.7T bolts dual turbochargers on to a V-6 engine and, when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, estabishes a new era for Audi sedan performance.
  • So now I have a dilemma. What should emphasize in this review, the A6’s design or performance? After much deliberation, I’ve elected to equivocate and highlight both attributes — each is world class.
  • Audi‘s styling partakes in a long tradition of German industrial design that has its roots in the Bauhaus school, which operated in the 1920s and early 1930s. The Bauhaus developed an industrial aesthetic that favored clean, spare lines devoid of excessive ornamentation and historical reference.

The Bauhaus principle that form should be derived from function can be seen in the development of the legendary mid-engine 16-cylinder racing car developed by Ferdinand Porsche (yes, the patriarch of that Porsche family) for Auto Union in 1934, a car that is an important part of Audi‘s history

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  • The Audi A6 mid-size luxury sedan is an evolution of the design principles that Audi has refined for more than a decade. The design boasts a state-of-the-art 0.28 aerodynamic coefficient of drag, which means it moves quietly and efficiently through the air.
  • The A6 is the cleanest design in its category There is no one excessive embellishment, line or gesture. The whole automobile from the taillights through the grille is an integrated whole. Fortunately, the overall component quality, the fit and the finish speak volumes. Audi can now go toe-to-toe with the best from Europe and Japan.

While I wouldn’t say that the A6’s interior is an example of understatement, it is quite handsome and functional. The positioning of seat, controls and excellent visibility make it a very easy car to adjust to.

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  • The A6 offers interior choices generally not seen outside of the premium luxury market. Audi has created what it calls “atmospheres” that create different interior environments — named Ambition, Ambiente and Advance. Each is distinguished by such variables as choice of seat upholstery, the color and type of wood and aluminum trim, and even the sewing pattern on the upholstery
  • Our test A6 bore the Advance interior, featuring burled walnut wood trim and upholstery in warm earth tones. Perhaps of equal importance, the Advance interior harmonized well with the striking midnight blue exterior. Although Audi, like other German manufacturers, seems to have a bias toward silver exterior paint, the A6 looks best in dark colors such as dark blue and black.

On the road, the A6 2.7T was a revelation. Audi claims that when equipped with the manual transmission, it will jet to 60 mph from a dead stop in six seconds flat. This is exceptional performance for a luxury sedan.

In practice, the Audi seems to hesitate for an instant while the turbochargers find their pace. But once on the turbo boost, the AG 2.7T leaps forward, reaching its torque peak at a mere 1,850 rpm. This means that once you are under way, hitting the acceleration delivers full power, which is nice when passing traffic on a two-lane road.

Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard equipment on the A6 2.7T, a nice confidence booster for drivers who want to really push the car’s performance limits on slick roads, or desire an additional edge against ice, snow and inclement weather.

Built on a strong chassis, the A6 2.7T is exceptionally agile and, once up to speed, the A6 can slice through twisty sections of road about as well as anything comparably sized with four doors. My experience tells me that only the BMW 5-Series might have a slight edge in the luxury-sedan-handing department.

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Is a freelance writer based in Half Moon Bay.


Price as tested: $45,200

Engine: 2.7-liter, turbocharged V-6

Horsepower: 250 @ 5,800 rpm

Torque: 258-ft. lbs @ 1,850 rpm

Fuel eComomy: City-17 mpg;highway-24 mpg (manual transmission)

Curb Weight; 3,759

Koland, Cordell



Texas – It is a rare treat to catch a top-level auto executive dancing with some of his staffers at the back of a roomful of reporters.

  • But there was Audi of America’s chief, Len Hunt, boogieing to beat the band. This energetic display came after a day of driving the new Audi TT Coupe through the hills of West Texas with members of the press.
  • And it would seem Hunt had something to dance about.
  • For one thing, he had avoided getting a speeding ticket that afternoon. Hunt said he got lucky because the officer was far more interested in check-ing out the head-turning lines of the TT than he was in issuing a citation.


Hunt’s real cause for celebration? With the introduction of the TT Coupe, Audi’s “brand-defining moment” has arrived. “The car says everything that we want to say about Audi,” Hunt said. “Everything is wrapped up in that single car.”


  • The TT Coupe – in U.S. showrooms the first week of May – is Audi’s range-extending foray into the sports car market. It is intended to manifest the brand traits of advanced technology, high performance, distinctive design and emotional appeal.
  • That brand halo is meant to surround the entire Audi lineup and to stimulate traffic to showrooms that – with Hunt’s particular attentions – will be at increasingly exclusive Audi dealerships.
  • Audi of America’s annual sales goal for the TT is a modest 10,000, once the Coupe is joined by the TT Roadster next spring. Before then, a quattro version will arrive this fall, and a 225-hp engine will join the introductory 1.8-liter, 180-hp turbocharged four-cylinder.
  • Hunt acknowledged that the 10,000 figure for North America seems low for the huge demand Audi expects. The carmaker projects 50,000 TT Coupes and Roadsters will be built each year in Gyor, Hungary.

Aimed at such rivals as the Porsche Boxster, the Mercedes-Benz SLK and the BMW Z3, the TT Coupe can be had for $31,000, including destination, a price at the very low end of that field.

The typical buyer of a TT Coupe, according to Audi, will be a married 40-year-old male college graduate whose household earns $80,000 a year. Three-quarters of those in this target market will have Internet access, and 40 percent already will own three or more other vehicles.


Backing up that last prediction was a phenomenon noted at an April meeting of about 70 members of a regional Porsche owners’ club near Detroit. Three of the attendees were eagerly awaiting delivery of TT Coupes to add to their stables of other Teutonic icons.

To reach buyers like these, Audi plans a strong TV presence with some quite serious, rather existential ads beginning May 17.


The first thing that will keep viewers in their seats during the TV ads and make drivers crane their necks on the highway is the TT Coupe’s high style. From the almost retro roof line (think Karmann Ghia) to the way the wheel wells hug the wheels, the car’s silhouette and its low, crouching stance are super-sporty and unmistakably German.

A bold and high-tech styling theme pervades the exterior and interior. The racy aluminum fuel-filler cap with its countersunk Allen screws is a quirky touch. The matte aluminum theme is repeated inside on the gear shifter, the air vents and even the cupholders.

This 2+2 has typically stingy rear legroom, but a welcome feature is that the back seats fold down to provide the TT Coupe with the same cargo-carrying space as the Audi A4 sedan.


The TT’s sensual appeal also extends to its road performance. Throttle response is immediate, turbo lag is absent, shifts are smooth and easy, and the sound of the engine is a pleasing low rumble.

The TT handled the dips and curves of Texas two-lanes with ease, and, as Hunt would attest, obeying the speed limits required some effort.



- Len Hunt, the new head of Audi of America Inc., is developing a five-year plan for U.S. sales to top Audi’s high-water mark of 74,061 set in 1985.

  • Audi will have the product necessary to surpass that figure, but that is just one facet of his strategic plan, Hunt said during an interview with Automotive News.
  • Hunt, 43, was director of Audi UK for nearly five years. He began his new assignment Jan. 4 as vice president in charge of Audi of America in Auburn Hills, Mich.
  • While setting a sales record is an enticing prospect, Hunt’s goals go beyond building sales. Hunt wants to add models, improve the dealership network and hone Audi‘s brand image.


“I’ve got to not only get the numbers but put an infrastructure in place that sustains it, because the worst thing we could do is mismanage that growth,” Hunt said.


Hunt, a native of the United Kingdom, takes over for Gerd Klauss, who was named president of Volkswagen of America Inc.

Now, with record Audi sales in reach, Audi of America will not rest, Hunt said.

“The worst thing that could happen is you could sell 74,000 cars and I’m reading in all my research reports, `Hey, that’s terrific, I can’t get it serviced anywhere, I can’t get a spare part, (and) every time I turn up at an Audi dealer, he’s dealing with 28 other people. This is an Audi experience?”‘ Hunt said. “We can’t do that, because that is lethal.”

  • To top the record, he needs critical mass in product and sales to persuade 258 U.S. dealers to open more exclusive dealerships.
  • Audi has rebounded in the United States with its trio of A4, A6 and A8 sedans and wagons during the past five years. Audi of America sold 47,517 units during 1998, its best year since 1986.

Audi’s target is 60,000 units by the end of 1999, Hunt said.

  • The Audi lineup expands in May with the 2000 TT Coupe. It has a turbocharged, 180-hp, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. A quattro all-wheel-drive version will be offered in summer, and a more powerful 225-hp engine will follow in 2000. Audi’s TT Roadster arrives late this year or in early 2000.
  • The lineup gets deeper with more horsepower. The Audi S4, a high-performance version of the A4 sedan, debuts here this fall packing a 250-hp V-6 engine. The A6 gets a second engine in late summer, a 4.2-liter V-8 with 300 hp.

“I think on the product side, all of us in Audi of America are pretty excited about that conveyor belt, dare I say, of product coming through,” Hunt said.


Audi now has 25 exclusive dealerships in the United States, and 39 dealerships have separate Audi showrooms. Audi dealers have committed to another 113 stand-alone dealerships or separate showrooms.


It is easier to make a business case for exclusivity with critical mass – hot product and more coming in the near future, he said. But Hunt wants dealers to invest in more than just concrete, glass and mortar.

“The most important thing we can invest in during this next phase of our strategy is our people, the people who live, eat, breathe and sleep Audi,” Hunt said. “We need to be absolutely committed to training all these people. There’s no point in having an exclusive network if the people in it aren’t all trained.”

After four consecutive years of double-digit growth, Audi will see a growing number of cars coming back in for service, parts and accessories, Hunt said. Dealership personnel must be well trained in Audi product, he said.

“I’m going to be putting a huge amount of effort into that, almost trying to wrap it together in a school or academy,” Hunt said.


Brand marketing also is in his plan, possibly centered on feelings triggered by the TT Coupe.

“If ever a car was the embodiment of what Audi is, it’s that,” Hunt said. “The purity of it, the simpleness, the emotional content, the almost uniqueness of that car. It says it all.”

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