Mazda designers and engineers faced a big challenge: How to pack more content into the new MX-5 Miata while keeping its weight at the same level as the 1998-2005 models. Some savings were easy: Switching to an all-aluminum engine cut 42 pounds. Others were more difficult: Redesigning a rear-view mirror shaved only a few ounces, executives of Mazda North American Operations told Washington reporters last week. Weldon Munsey, manager of dealer affairs, says product developers even ordered shorter bolts so that tips would not extend unnecessarily beyond nuts. Finally, the car, if equipped with 16-inch wheels, weighs the same as its predecessor.
THE $50,000 NAME CHANGE - Car dealers are famous for their publicity stunts. They climb atop billboards. They stuff people into cars for days on end. But one Texas Ford dealer has created a rather unique way to promote his new Houston store. Mike Baches, general manager of Southern Ford, is offering $50,000 to any full-time radio or TV personality who will legally change his or her name to "Southern Ford" and refer to himself or herself as that during broadcasts. To qualify, the broadcaster must work for an English-language radio or TV station in the Houston-Galveston area. In return, the dealership will pay $2,000 a month for 25 months. And, no, the broadcaster can't endorse another dealership. As of late last week, Baches had not been taken up on his offer. As they say in the broadcast industry, stay tuned.
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD! Toyota is going to help drivers who can't keep their eyes on the road. The company has developed computer technology that uses a camera near the steering wheel to detect when the driver stops looking straight ahead, according to the Associated Press. When the driver's eyes wander to check out, say, what's going on in the car in the next lane, the system flashes a light on the instrument panel and beeps. If the driver still doesn't respond, the car brakes to slow down. Toyota will offer the feature in Lexus models sold in Japan next year. The automaker would not say if the technology will be offered in other markets.
On a Wing and an airbag
Airbags are no longer just for cars and trucks. Honda Motor Co. has developed an airbag system for its Gold Wing motorcycle with a 1.8-liter, boxer 6 engine - a first for that industry. The airbag system comprises the airbag module, crash sensors and an electronic control unit. U.S. sales of the motorcycle begin in the spring.