(00:01 April 1, 2004)
General Motors and NPR Duo Team Up for Radical New Concept Vehicle



April 1, New York, NY (Reuters) -- Sources in Detroit report that in an effort to boost flagging sales, General Motors has teamed up with Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of the "Car Talk" radio program, to design and produce a radical new vehicle.

The new prototype, code named DUV (for Dart-Utility-Vehicle), reportedly combines the efficiency of GM's Cadillac Escalade Sport Utility, with the fashion sense of Chrysler's venerable Dodge Dart. Word of Project DUV confirms months of speculation. The project was so secret that many of GM's top designers were unaware of its existence.

According to the Magliozzis, who spoke for the first time about the project, the radical new design will shock and delight auto consumers, many of whom have been lulled into complacency by years of boring, copycat designs.

"What we've done," says Car Talk co-host Tom Magliozzi, "is taken the most desirable elements from each model, and given Americans everything they love in one vehicle." Magliozzi says numerous market research studies have concluded that what Americans truly love about SUVs is not their invulnerability or their high seating position. "What they love is the sheer wastefulness of these things. They send a message that says 'I don't care about anybody else, I'm using as much space, as much steel, and as much damn fuel as I want. It's a free country and you can't stop me!' And it turns out Americans love saying that!"

From the Dart, according to co-host Ray Magliozzi, the DUV has taken numerous styling cues. "The research also showed that what most Americans want from their cars is freedom from maintenance or worry. And when your car starts out looking as ugly as the Dart, how could you possibly care what happens to it?" The new vehicle reportedly features styling that harkens back to the early 60's Dodge Darts. "We're going a step beyond Saturn," says Magliozzi. "They use plastic body panels that prevent dents. We're pre-denting all body panels, and then we 'key' them as they move down the assembly line. It's a significant innovation. In a few years, everyone's going to have this."

One Industry insider who has seen the new vehicle says it looks like "a broken down Dodge Dart on steroids." But others were more generous. Said one engineer, who did not want to be identified, "It looks like the front and rear ends of a rusted '63 Dodge Dart welded onto an Escalade cabin, and then hit with a bag of chisels."

The concept vehicle features several bold, new innovations. On the safety front, it has what the brothers are calling a "Darwinian Safety Matrix." DSM eliminates front and rear bumpers, seatbelts, airbags, and integral crumple zones, and brings back the sharp, metal dashboard of the early 60s. The system is designed to force drivers to comply with Magliozzi's desire to keep road speeds to a minimum. "You get in an accident over, say, 35 miles an hour," points out Ray, "and, basically, you're corned beef." The brothers could not say how they expected the vehicle to meet current DOT and NHTSA safety standards. "Ah, we'll pay 'em off or something," said Tom.

In preliminary Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the passenger compartment was crumpled beyond recognition in crashes over 30 miles an hour. "One look at that, and you're going to think twice before you speed," assures a somber Tom Magliozzi, shaking his head.

The DUV also features what the Magliozzis call "Darwinian Telematics, With Theatre Seating." The focal point of DTTS is a 16:9 ratio wide screen LCD built into the front windshield. "It's switchable," says Ray. "So when traffic is light, you can flip to the LCD and watch TV, surf the web, or program your phone or navigation system. And since the screen covers the entire front windshield, all of the occupants can enjoy the entertainment. It also automatically leans on the horn as a courtesy to other drivers."

The announcement shocked many industry insiders, as the Magliozzi brothers and General Motors have been at loggerheads over countless issues in recent years. Most recently, the brothers took GM to task over its study of the safety of cell phone calls, which they claimed was flawed. GM threatened to sue. "That? Oh, that was just a little misunderstanding," says Tom Magliozzi, gesturing dismissively, as he stepped into his 2002 white Cadillac Deville DTS with "LUV-GM" plates.

GM Chairman John F. Smith, Jr., not on hand for the announcement, released a statement saying that he hoped this project would usher in a new era of cooperation between the Magliozzis and General Motors. "We're looking to our toughest critics for bold new ideas," said Smith. "This is exactly the kind of forward thinking that is going to catapult GM into a bold new century of vehicles."

The vehicle is slated for production no sooner than 2006.

See early reviews of the new Magliozzi DUV
Tell Tom and Ray what you think of their new DUV
Pre-order your very own DUV

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