• The California Air Resources Board has once again called for stricter emissions rules to reduce greenhouse gases in the state. According to the Los Angeles Times, the new regulations would require automakers to produce more zero-emissions and very-low-emissions vehicles—battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell—by 2018. By 2025, one in seven vehicles sold in California must be ultraclean, said the paper. Automakers are generally in agreement with the new rulings, which will add an estimated $1,900 to the cost of a new car in 2025. According to CARB, those costs should be offset by fuel savings over the life of the vehicle. Building clean vehicles is one thing, but getting people to buy them is another, said experts interviewed in the story. Kelley Blue Book’s Jack Nerad, for example, noted that the added cost and reduced capabilities of these non-emitters may make them less desirable, forcing manufacturers to sell them at a loss to meet the state’s requirements. That would mean “buyers of conventional cars will pick up the remainder of the tab.” So will truck buyers, we’re guessing.
Ram Introduces Laramie Limited
For those truck buyers with a little more coin in their pockets, Ram has introduced a new high-end trim level, the Laramie Limited. Ram calls the Limited a “refined luxury alternative to the popular southwestern-themed Ram Laramie Longhorn,” as it features “understated exterior badging”—meaning the usual Hemi, Cummins, and Ram’s head badges have been replaced by a small “Limited” badge on the tailgate. The 1500 models feature 20-inch wheels, while 2500 and 3500 trucks roll on 17s. Inside there’s full leather upholstery, piano-black interior accents, and Berber floor mats, plus a nav system, a backup camera, and remote start. At press time the truck had yet to launch, so pricing hadn’t been set. But a 1500 4x4 version of the Laramie Longhorn carries an MSRP north of $46,000, so this new truck should be in that (pricey) neighborhood.
At the Houston Auto Show, Jeep debuted a model of the Grand Cherokee called a “production-intent concept version,” designed to test the public’s reaction to the Grand’s monochromatic styling cues. The stealthy Jeep is based on a Laredo X package but with black front and rear fasciae and black 20-inch wheels. A day later, Jeep unveiled a similar Grand at the Washington, D.C., auto show, but that one was a monochrome cherry red.
“If the level of excitement is what we anticipate, this new Grand Cherokee will be in Jeep showrooms this spring,” said Mike Manley, Jeep president and CEO.
Baldwin, MacCachren Win Desert Challenge
SCORE International kicked off its 2012 season with the two-day Laughlin Desert Challenge in Nevada. Each day of racing counted as a separate event pointswise and had its own victor. On Saturday it was B.J. Baldwin (seen here) who piloted his Baldwin Motorsports Silverado to the Trophy Truck and Overall victories, running eight laps of the 61⁄4-mile desert race course in 53 minutes 45 seconds, for an average of 55.81 mph. Baldwin, fastest qualifier of the day, battled Rob MacCachren for five tough laps before a flat tire slowed MacCachren, who eventually finished Ninth.
MacCachren came back on Sunday and picked his way through the crowded field for the Trophy Truck and Overall win, turning the eight laps in 54 minutes 16 seconds, averaging 55.28 mph. Baldwin, who suffered a mechanical issue on lap two, did not finish. Mexico’s Juan Carlos Lopez finished Second in the Trophy Truck class both days, an effort that put him at the top of the Trophy Truck points chase after the weekend was over. Next stop on the SCORE calendar is the San Felipe 250.