While we don't know much about the upcoming Dodge Dakota, from the looks of the prototype seen here, it will sport a front end freshening with a grille similar to the Nitro. We expect the Dakota to offer the Nitro's 4.0L V-6 in place of the current 3.7L as well as an updated (and hopefully more competitive) version of the 4.7L V-8. The '08 Dakota should be available by fall.
After an intense analysis of the data, and sending a team of engineers to our test site to recreate a deployment, General Motors has determined that the airbag deployment that occurred during our Pickup Truck of the Year test (March '07) was within the parameters for the vehicle and that there was no malfunction; the system operated as designed. The following is the official statement from General Motors' assistant chief engineer Jully Burau regarding the side curtain airbag deployment that occurred in our 2007 GMC Sierra Crew Cab:
"The RRAB deployment that occurred during the sand dunes driving event by Four Wheeler was a commanded deployment. This occurred during aggressive off-road driving.
"GM immediately responded to the incident by sending a team out with instrumentation and an experienced driver to try to recreate the event. Thirty seven runs with a seasoned off-road driver were made (in an attempt) to recreate the event. In none of these runs did a deployment occur. Within the data there were 99 occurrences where the airbags were 'enabled' (made ready to deploy) should additional data indicate the need to deploy, but again no event commanded a deployment as in the original incident.
"The deployment was due to a unique set of circumstances, which included the amount of roll the vehicle had at deployment and the amount of change of angle over the previous period of time. The sand surface (very deformable surface) that allowed the vehicle to side slide down some of the incline also contributed. The deployment that occurred was just inside the parameters that would trigger a deployment.
"GM feels we understand the deployment and the parameters of the event, which allowed the deployment to occur as expected.
"When it comes to safety systems, GM errs on the side of safety for its customers, and that is why the RRAB deployed in this circumstance.
After 30 consecutive years as America's best-selling pickup truck, Ford has announced some changes for the 2007 model year that will keep Ford trucks at the top of the heap. For starters, the '07 F-150 is now rated to tow 11,000 pounds, more than any other 1/2-ton pickup. It also retains its class-leading 3,050-pound payload rating. Also new for the '07 F-150 are standard tire-pressure monitoring, auxiliary input jack, and navigation. On the Super Duty side of the fence, the redesigned '08 model began production in December and will be available as you read this and has been priced lower than the outgoing truck while offering a broader range of models, such as the F-450. Key options will include an all-new 6.4L Power Stroke turbodiesel engine, navigation, tailgate step, and power telescoping and folding mirrors.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised the tests used to calculate the fuel economy of cars and light trucks in an effort to better reflect "real-world" driving conditions. As a result, the new measurements are expected to reduce the fuel economy ratings for most vehicles by an average of 8 percent for highway driving and 12 percent for city driving. At issue is the methodology the EPA has used since 1985 to estimate fuel consumption for highway and city driving. The new testing procedures incorporate higher road speeds, rapid acceleration, the use of air conditioning, and operation in cold temperatures. It also includes other factors such as varying road grades, wind resistance, tire pressure, vehicle load, and different fuel properties. The new standards will take effect with the 2008 model-year window stickers.
* Hummer has announced that within the next three years, every Hummer product will offer biofuel compatibility. Keep in mind, this doesn't necessarily mean diesel, as it could include such fuels as E85.
* For an extra $11 a day, Avis will make your car a Wi-Fi hot spot using cellular technology at speeds that range between 400 kbps to 1 mbps (faster than dial-up, but slower than DSL)
* The next-generation Ford Explorer will lose its trucky roots with the elimination of body-on-frame architecture and will become a unibody crossover on the same platform as Volvo's XC90. (Bring it on!-Ed.)
Federal IssuesEndangered Species Act: The Senate was unable to agree on a bill to update the Endangered Species Act. The law impacts SAN members because the ESA has been used to close millions of acres of lands to four-wheelers and the equipment that they purchase, without direct benefit to the endangered animals and plants.Most lawmakers agree that the current law needs to be revised to provide more direct protection without closing so much land. However, it has been difficult to craft a bill that will garner the 60 bipartisan votes necessary for Senate passage. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last year that would focus more attention on fostering species recovery rather than simply locking up land preserves. The bill also calls for compensating private property owners for land-use restrictions due to the presence of an endangered species. Many Senators believe the House bill is too generous in compensating property owners and may not set aside enough land for protection.
Roadless Rule: A Federal court in California reinstated the so-called "roadless rule," issued by the Clinton Administration to prohibit development within 58.5 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands. The court ruled that the replacement rule adopted by the Bush Administration in 2005 violated existing federal environmental and endangered species laws. The ongoing political and legal debate over roadless designations is important to SAN members as it potentially denies access to off-highway vehicles. The court ruling conflicts with a 2003 decision from another federal court to strike down the Clinton roadless rule on the grounds that it was an illegal attempt to create wilderness areas. That court set aside its decision when the Bush Administration implemented a state petition plan to allow local input in making decisions on how each forest is managed. The Bush Administration intends to move forward with this process. The Supreme Court may ultimately need to decide the fate of the Clinton rule.
Wilderness Bills: House and Senate leaders crafted a compromise approach for designating as wilderness 300,000 acres in Northern California's Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa counties. Although OHV use is traditionally restricted in wilderness areas, provisions were included in the SAN-supported new law to establish adjacent or nearby areas that would be open to OHV use. This included "cherry-stem" roads as OHV corridors within the wilderness areas. Wilderness legislation is consequential since it potentially denies access to four-wheelers and the equipment that they purchase for off-pavement use. The SAN opposed other measures to expand wilderness areas in central Idaho and around Oregon's Mt. Hood on the grounds that they lacked local community support and did not sufficiently protect existing OHV roads and trails. The Idaho and Oregon bills died at the end of the year.
OHV Use in National Forests: In 2005, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it would begin regulating OHV use in national forests. The agency is now implementing the policy to designate roads, trails, and other areas for OHV use. Under the new policy, local agency officials are required to seek public comments from state and local officials and other stakeholders in determining OHV routes. Currently, only half of the 155 national forests and 20 grasslands have designated roads and trails, which include more than 200,000 miles of forest roads and 36,000 miles of inventoried trails. The USFS anticipates that it will take up to four years to complete the route designation process. The SAN has urged OHV enthusiasts to actively participate in the route designation process.
California OHVs: Following recommendations made by SEMA, the USFS announced new land management plans for four southern California national forests that open up more backcountry trails to OHVs. The management plans are for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests, which encompass 3.5 million acres. The new plans provide OHVs with greater access to roadless areas-allowing motorized recreation on approximately 25 percent of these inventoried areas, but only on designated roads and trails.
A comprehensive list of active issues and matters which are still pending can be found online at www.semasan.com.