- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Auto show headed for convention center

More than 700 new vehicles from 37 manufacturers will be on display at the “63rd Washington Auto Show,” slated for the Convention Center from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2.

In addition to flashy wheels, the show offers contests, giveaways, special guests and other attractions for families.

One particularly popular feature, the “Hands On Contest,” gives participants a chance to drive home in a new Toyota on Jan. 2 if they can hang on long enough.

For more information about show times and ticket prices, call 866/WASH-AUTO or 202/237-7200 or visit www.washingtonautoshow.com on the Internet.

Shelby soups up Ford Expedition

Celebrated car-builder and former racer Carroll Shelby is working on a new venture with Ford Motor Co. — a high-performance version of the Expedition sport utility vehicle.

The so-called performance utility vehicle (PUV) will be powered by a supercharged 550-horsepower version of Ford’s 5.4-liter, 32-valve V-8 with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The PUV will feature exterior body accents and 22-inch wheels. A custom interior with navigation also will have CD and DVD systems as well as TV screens in the headrests, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“The Expedition is the first in a series of products and concepts we have on the drawing board.” said Brent Fenimore, vice president of Shelby Automobiles.

New Acura RL tops in crash, roll tests

Honda Motor Co.’s 2005 Acura RL is the only one of 18 vehicles tested by the federal government to win its highest rating — five stars — for front- and side-impact tests and rollover protection.

All the vehicles performed well and none earned fewer than three stars on any test, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency is testing 2005 models as they become available.

The new Jeep Grand Cherokee 4x2, Mercury Mountaineer 4x2, Chevrolet Tahoe 4x4 and GMC Yukon 4x4 were the poorest performers in the rollover test, getting three stars. The rating means the chance of a rollover in a single-vehicle crash is 20 percent to 30 percent.

The new Ford Mustang showed the lowest chance of rollover at 8.7 percent.

The best-performing sport utility vehicles in the rollover test were the Lincoln Navigator and the Toyota Highlander, which got four stars. They showed a 17 percent chance of rolling over.

The Nissan Altima, Pontiac G6, Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix were the worst performers in the driver-side-impact test, getting three stars. No tested vehicle got fewer than four stars in the frontal-crash test at 35 mph.

GM will team up with rival for hybrids

General Motors and U.S.-German rival DaimlerChrysler AG will join forces on hybrid-auto technology in an effort to catch up with the Japanese.

The two auto giants announced this week they have signed a “memorandum of understanding” and will enter a formal agreement early next year, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Our planned cooperation will draw on the technical expertise of two of the largest auto companies in the world,” said Thomas Weber, head of research and development at the Mercedes unit of DaimlerChrysler.

The automakers expect the advances to reach showrooms in 2007 in hybrid versions of GM’s Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon sport utility vehicles.

The hybrids are expected to be 25 percent more fuel efficient than the regular, full-size Tahoes and Yukons.

DaimlerChrysler is expected to use the technology on its Dodge Durango SUV.

Ford, which has licensed hybrid technology from Toyota, released its first attempt at the hybrid earlier this year with a gas-electric version of its small Escape sport utility vehicle.

‘Fair market value’ ends with new year

Time is rapidly running out for vehicle donors to get “fair market value” as the basis for a tax write-off.

On Jan. 1, a new law will require that a vehicle’s price at wholesale auction be used as the basis for a taxable-income-reducing claim.

The reason for the change: The federal government decided that too many taxpayers were taking advantage of the system by overvaluing donated property — vehicles in particular.

Kelley Blue Book offers advice on how to get a fair-market-value write-off one last time.

1. Donate your vehicle by Dec. 31.

2. Determine the fair market value using Kelley Blue Book’s used vehicle condition quiz on its Web site. Print out the quiz and value report for your income-tax return.

3. Make sure that the charity taking your vehicle is one you recognize and trust. You can call the Better Business Bureau to inquire about any charity.

4. Find out how much money your chosen charity receives from vehicle donations.

According to a government report, more than $34 million was donated in automobile revenue in 2000, but only 32 percent of the gross revenue was returned to the charities.

Visit www.vehicle-donation.com to learn more about this issue.

5. Sign the vehicle’s title over directly to the chosen charity or its agent. Don’t leave the title blank. Many illegitimate charities ask that the title be left blank. This practice could leave you liable for the vehicle months after it has been donated.

6. Get a receipt. When you make any noncash contribution, you must get a receipt from the charitable organization including the name of the charity, its tax ID, date, location of the contribution and a detailed description of the donation.

Keep this information to justify your tax deduction.

For more Kelley Blue Book information and IRS tax forms, visit www.kbb.com/donation.

Fax or mail items of interest to Bill O’Brien, Auto Notes, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. Use fax 202/832-2167. The deadline is 5 p.m. on the Monday before publication on Friday.

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