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Have you seen Obama's new ride?  In an earlier post, we took a guess at what his new limo would look like.  Well, now it finally has appeared in yesterday's Inauguration and it's a Cadillac with some new styling.   Naturally, the vehicle is heavily armored and the windows are nearly 6" thick!  Apparently the Secret Service refers to this car as "The Beast."  The NYTimes notes a few changes from the Bush limo: the side mirrors look like they're from the Escalade, the wheels are now black (vs. white) wall, and unfortunately, the wheels were abandoned for the chintzy 'chrome plated' wheel covers. 

It looks like Chrysler is getting remarried! This time it's to an Italian bride. Fiat will be taking a 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for no cash or stock. The Italian automaker (also owner of Ferrari and Maserati) will help Chrysler develop smaller cars and revamp their production techniques with the latest technologies. Chrysler will gain access to Fiat's European distribution network while offering up the Chrysler distribution channel in the US to help reintroduce both Alfa Romeos and Fiats. Let's hope this marriage is better than Chrysler's last one to Daimler - that one ended in a bitter divorce after 10 years in 2007. For those who didn't figure it out, the above image is a what the Chrysler/Fiat baby will look like (2009 Dodge Ram 1500 and a Fiat Qubo).

We often hear complaints about loud, squeaking brakes, and customer often wonder what can be done and whether this indicates that anything is wrong. Most often, nothing is wrong.  Brakes work by rubbing metal against metal, and that is a recipe for squeaking.  One way to address this may be to use Ceramic Brake Pads.  Ceramic brake pads are marginally more expensive than traditional organic or metal pads, but they have a number of attractive qualities, including being quieter.

Every week when I explain to a customer what a diagnostic inspection has revealed about their vehicle and what needs to be replaced and/or repaired in order for the vehicle to run or operate properly, I always recommend factory quality parts in the estimate. I don't do this because the business I work for makes more money on factory parts (or original equipment manufacturer -- "OEM," for short), because I get a potential bonus for selling these parts, or even because they save the customer money.  In fact, using factory quality parts probably missing on all three counts, and selling a universal aftermarket parts probably would do all three.  There are a couple of useful things customers should know about factory quality parts and auto repair.

Since you never know when you are going to need help with your car, we wanted to make RepairPal available in all places. Today we released a free iPhone App called "RepairPal: Auto Repair Expert". We are really excited to make this available to everyone and we think you will like it too. Our iPhone App allows you to get the same estimates as RepairPal.com from your iPhone. You can also search for a repair shop in your area using the iPhone's GPS, and you can view ratings and reviews to find the right shop on the go. If you happen to break down, you can search for a tow truck or roadside help in the RepairPal directory, or call your manufacturer's helpline.

We here at RepairPal have been receiving tons of feedback from you about the complexities that revolve around the automotive repair process. Many of you have commented on the difficulties involved with having to return to the shop several times to have a problem addressed, sometimes without a resolution. This often results in wasted time and money, and you may still have a vehicle with the original problem! What we at RepairPal will continue to do is to provide you with the tools necessary to increase your chances of resolving these difficult problems. While there are many automotive repair shops that strive to "Fix it Right the First Time", this is not always an easy task. Providing the service advisor, and thus the mechanic working on the car with the appropriate information is a major step toward resolving vehicle problems. One of the tools we will be providing over the coming months are questionnaire sheets that will ask you, the person experiencing the problem, about the symptoms related to the problem. When you can provide this valuable information from the start, your chances of a speedy, less costly resolution are greatly increased.

One of the hot topics about next week's Inauguration celebration in Washington D.C. is the incredible number of visitors - the city is clearly going to be packed.  What's interesting is that chauffeur services are also overwhelmed with requests for black Lincoln Town Cars.  Apparently this is the "IT" car for society's who's who of Washington D.C.  While I wouldn't be caught dead driving this beast of a car, it's remarkably inexpensive to maintain.  When I looked up an oil change on the RepairPrice estimator, it's just $22-$40 in the Washington D.C. area.  That's about a third of the price for the same service on my Audi. 

Today marks the launch of the Skycar Expedition.  The Skycar is, for the most part, a high-tech, flying dune buggy.  The 42 day, 3,600 mile Expedition starts in London and ends in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu. There's an entire ground crew following the Skycar to keep it in tip-top shape.  I wonder what kind of repairs and maintenance this fancy dune buggy will need along the way -- there probably won't be any issues with the air conditioner or power windows.

Fisker Automotive's public relations machine has been busy during the Detroit Auto Show, as Fisker unveiled the production-ready Karma. The Karma is a staggering achievement if it ultimately lives up to the numbers that Fisker has released.  The luxury sport sedan will drive its wheels with electric power exclusively, using a gasoline engine only to charge lithium batteries.  The car is a plug-in hybrid, and if driving ranges are kept under 60 miles, the gasoline engine will never be needed.

According to Automotive News, recent comments from GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz indicate that after putting Saab under "strategic review", no potential buyers have surfaced. GM has been privately looking for buyers for Saab as the company looks to shed all but its core brands. One potential option for Saab is to take money from the Swedish government, which said in December that they would make 25 billion kronor (equivalent to $3.19 billion) available to Saab and Ford's Volvo division as a loan. The folks in charge of Saab have yet to decide if they will take the Swedes up on the offer but given Saab's nearly 35% decline in sales year over year, I'm betting they do.