Archive for December, 2009

Save the Earth Sues Honda for Trademark Violation

Green marketing runs over property rights in a complex case?

by on Dec.29, 2009

“American Honda merely depicted the commonly used expression ‘save the earth’ in our Civic ad."

An environmental marketing company, Save the Earth Enterprises, has sued American Honda Motor Company and its advertising agency, Rubin Postaer & Company, for allegedly using its “Save the Earth” trademark without permission in an advertising campaign for the Honda Civic.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks to recover Honda’s profits from the ad campaign and to stop future use by Honda of the Save the Earth trademark.

“The Honda ad campaign confused people into thinking that we endorsed Honda or were affiliated with Honda. We aren’t affiliated with them and don’t endorse them,” said Save the Earth Foundation president and founder, Neal Pargman in a statement.

Such claims will have to be  proven during an actual legal proceeding. And not surprisingly there are two very different versions of what is in contention here. Honda says the ads used the phrase “save the earth.” Save the Earth says, not so, the ads prominently depicted people wearing its trademarked t-shirts. has thus far been unable to view the advertisement in question. We do note, however,  that Honda does not have the commercial available on its website, otherwise we would link to it and let you decide.

Can a phrase be a trademark?

Pargman says that he has been selling merchandise bearing the Save the Earth trademark since 1972 and holds a U.S.-registered trademark. He claims that Honda’s commercial, “showing several uses of Save the Earth trademark,” used the Foundation’s trademark without permission.

Honda ignored “cease-and-desist” letters from the Foundation, Karl Olsen, the attorney representing  Pargman told  “Litigation is not something we take lightly,” said Olson. “We tried to work it out, but we were left with  no choice.”

With all companies now trying to portray themselves as “green” this matter of the commercial use  of a trademark that involves environmental claims is larger than this particular case. Green marketing claims as they increase will likely come under closer scrutiny in matters similar to this one.

“American Honda merely depicted the commonly used expression ‘save the earth’ in our Civic ad to communicate the concern for the environment felt by many people who purchase fuel efficient and low emission vehicles,” Jeff Smith from Honda told me.


“We are surprised and disheartened to learn that the plaintiff is attempting to claim sole ownership of a phrase which for decades has been a popular message employed in everyday use by environmentally conscious individuals and organizations around the world, as well as on numerous radio and television commercials and on many types of merchandise, including t-shirts,” he claimed.


Tips for Teens Coping with Dangerous Winter Roads

Slick, snowy roads can fool even the more experienced driver.

by on Dec.29, 2009

Slow down! Antilock brakes and all-wheel drive won't help you stop faster.

Now that winter is firmly entrenched in our northern latitudes, drivers are trying to cope with the ice, snow, and other hazards that turn roads treacherous and contribute to the more than 1.5 million annual weather-related car crashes, according to the National Research Council.

Teen drivers, many of whom facing wintry conditions behind the wheel for the first time, need guidance to safely navigate the roadways through the upcoming months. To help, Liberty Mutual Insurance has a host of winter safety resources for teens .  And if TDB’s experience is representative, more than teens need to think about navigating a two-ton car through the slop.

“Driving in wintry conditions is no easy task, even for seasoned drivers, and it is especially difficult for younger drivers with limited experience to adapt to slippery roads and poor visibility,” said Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.

“Teen drivers need to take extra steps to protect themselves this winter, and parents need to promote and enforce safe driving habits to keep their teens safe.”

Driving Tips!

Before getting behind the wheel, a driving safety video at the site will help teens and parents get winter road-ready and ensure their cars are safe and in good working order.

Website visitors also will find car maintenance tips and a checklist for a winter driving safety kit. These tips include:

  • Before you get on the road in bad weather, check your local news stations and their websites for detailed, up-to-the-minute weather and traffic information.
  • If your trip is absolutely necessary, give yourself extra time.
  • During inclement weather put extra distance – at least five or six seconds -between yourself and the vehicle in front.
  • Antilock brakes, all-wheel and four-wheel drive won’t help you stop faster.
  • Turn on your headlights so other drivers can see you. In snow, fog and rain, don’t use high beams – they increase glare for both you and other drivers.
  • Signal your intentions early; don’t surprise other drivers.
  • Do not use cruise control when roads are hazardous.
  • And, slow down!
  • Did we mention slow down!


NHTSA Opens Distracted Driving Web Site

Will common sense prevail, eventually, against profits?

by on Dec.29, 2009

Electronics and car makers resist fixing a clear safety issue, putting profits ahead of people.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has started a for anyone who wants to learn more about what the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, calls the  “deadly practice.”

The site has news, statistics, the latest research, a summary of state and local laws, and answers to frequently asked questions.

LaHood says his favorite part of the site is the public service television ad in the upper right corner. This 30-second spot–”Calling Plan”–airs nationally this week and makes its point in the clearest possible terms: driving without distraction should be common sense.

Money versus sense

Well, there’s common sense. And there’s money. Electronics, cellphone suppliers and automakers are resisting fixing what is a clear-cut safety issue, putting profits ahead of people, while NHTSA undertakes symbolic actions that do not effectively deal with the growing problem.


In 2008, nearly 6,000 people died on American roadways in crashes that involved distracted driving, according to NHTSA. Distracted driving involves anything that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds, takes your hands off the steering wheel, or interrupts your concentration while driving.


Blind Artist’s Volvo Painting Sold

Picture of Volvo S60 sets record on eBay.

by on Dec.29, 2009

Blind Turkish artist Esref Armagan's impression of the 2011 Volvo S60 set a record when it was auctioned on eBay.

The painting of the new 2011 Volvo S60 might not have been the most precise in its details, but it’s easy to appreciate the feeling Turkish artist Esref Armagan’s put into the work, especially when one considers that he’s blind.

Created as a collaboration to aid the charity, the World Blind Union, Armagan and Volvo auctioned the painting off on eBay, as first reported, earlier this month. In all, 52 bids were placed and the winner will get Armagan’s work for $3050, the highest figure ever paid for an art piece sold on the auction site to benefit charity.

View the World!

“I’m really impressed with the artist, and with the video, which we couldn’t stop watching. I figured it would be good for a dealer to have it, and as long as it was a dealer, I thought it might as well be me,” says Rachel Léonard, General Director of Volvo de Quebéc.

(Click Here to see a video on the making of Armagan’s painting.)


Recalls: Audi Q5 Trim Defect

Trim cover is dangerous during an airbag deployment.

by on Dec.28, 2009

Airbags are explosive devices that need to be carefully managed.

Audi is recalling more than 6,000 model year 2009 vehicles for a defective trim cover piece that is mounted on the A-pillar.

During an accident where the head airbags deploy, a loose trim piece could injure the front seat occupants of the vehicle.


Audi dealers will inspect the clip in the middle of the left and right a-pillar covers and replace it free of charge.


Recalls: Chevy Corvette Removable Roof Failures

Panels can fly off during driving because of a bad adhesive.

by on Dec.28, 2009

Better in front than behind of the Corvette has removable panels.

Better to be in front than behind, if the Corvette has a removable roof panel.

Chevrolet is recalling more than 22,000 Corvettes from model years 2005-2007 for defective roof panels. It seems that the glue used to bond the panel to the frame fails.

In a complete failure, the panel may fly off at speed, crating a hazard for following vehicles or anything in its path.


If there is a partial separation, the driver may notice one or more symptoms, such as a snapping noise when driving over bumps, wind noise, poor roof panel fit, roof panel movement/bounce when a door or hatch is closed, or a water leak in the headliner.


Is Toyota’s Image About to Crumble?

Safety issues with new Prius, if confirmed, could be devastating to maker's reputation.

by on Dec.28, 2009

Storm clouds on the horizon? A potential safety problem with the 2010 Toyota Prius could devastate the automaker's once-shining image.

What a difference a year makes, especially for Toyota.

As 2008 drew to a close, the headlines highlighted the fact that the Japanese giant had finally toppled its American arch-rival, General Motors, to become the globe’s largest auto manufacturer.  It seemed, for at least a brief while, that almost nothing could go wrong.

Now, it’s fair to say that 2009 wasn’t a good year for just about anyone in the auto business.  With the American market plunging to its lowest level in 30 years, only three niche players will end up posting sales gains from already weak ’08.  But few have suffered the humiliating body blows that have hammered away at Toyota, plunging the maker’s balance sheet deep into the red and which are, perhaps worse long-term, threatening to shatter Toyota’s image as the maker of the industry’s safest and most reliable products.


There’s no question that Toyota has had a few key successes over the past 12 months, including the launch of the compact Venza crossover.  And after the collapse of the hybrid market once U.S. fuel prices plunged in early ’09, the debut of the third-generation Prius promised to not only kick-start the segment but lock down Toyota’s standing as the world’s top-selling hybrid brand.

So, it’s ironic that the Prius could scrape the chrome off Toyota’s shining image.  As is reporting, a sizable number of Prius owners are reporting potentially serious problems with the hybrid’s brakes.


Ford Brings Back the Boss

A “ready-to-race, turnkey race car”

by on Dec.28, 2009

All you need is $79,000 and you can take the Ford Mustang Boss 302R racing.

Have a hankering to turn some high-speed laps?  All you need is $79,000 and you can sign up for what Ford officials are calling their “ready-to-race turnkey race car.”

It also goes by the name of the Boss.  The Mustang Boss 302R, to be more precise.  Four decades after the original Boss Mustang, with Parnelli Jones behind the wheel, burned its way into the record books, Ford is bringing the name back, this coming year, at Daytona.  But the automaker will also offer a production version, a factory-built race car ready for track days and road racing in a number of Grand-Am, SCCA and NASA classes.


The 302R will share the same basic 5.0-liter V8 block and engine architecture that will  be used in the upcoming, 2011 Ford Mustang GT, though with obvious performance modifications.  The 32-valve powerplant will be mated to a six-speed manual transmission, and the street version of the GT will get a roll cage, race seats, safety harness, data acquisition and race dampers/springs, 14-inch Brembo brakes and a track-specific tire package.

“This is a car you can walk into any Ford dealer and order,” says Jamie Allison, a racing legend of his own and the new director of motorsports for Ford.

Ford’s Boss 302R will make its formal debut at the Detroit Auto Show, in January.

(For a look at the 5.0-liter, 412-horsepower 2011 Ford Mustang GT, Click Here.)

First Look: 2011 Ford Mustang GT

The 5.0-liter returns.

by on Dec.28, 2009

The 5.0-liter V8 returns with the upcoming launch of the 2011 Ford Mustang GT

The pony wars are heating up.

For the first time in decades, the reborn Chevrolet Camaro is outselling the Ford Mustang.  But neither maker seems ready to settle in and accept the status quo.  While Chevy hopes to increase its appeal with the long-anticipated Camaro Convertible, Ford is putting a premium on performance hoping to out-muscle its cross-town competition and regain its position as pony car king-of-the-hill.

Ford pulled a rabbit out of its corporate hat at the Los Angeles Auto Show, revealing an all-new V6 pumping out an impressive 305 horsepower – and, equally impressive, 30 mpg on the highway.  Not all that long ago, that would have been a solid figure for the bigger, V8-powered Mustang GT.  So, with that in mind, the automaker is pushing into what, not that long ago would have been supercar territory, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT –which debuts at next month’s Detroit Auto Show — will pump out a solid 412 horsepower and a tire-spinning 390 pound-feet of torque.

Consider that the 1995 Mustang GT, which heralded the return of V8 power, made what was, at the time, the seemingly impossible 215 horsepower.  When the pony car was switched to the 4.6-liter eight-banger, in 1995, the numbers jumped to 300 hp and 320 lb-ft.


To get there, Ford engineers came up with an entirely new big-block engine, abandoning the unremarkable 4.6-liter powertrain for an all-new 5.0-liter V-8.  Yep, the big 5-point-0.  It’s the displacement Mustang has long been known for, says Bob Fascetti, who oversees large engine development at Ford, “but with the technology right for today.”

(For a look at the all-new Boss 302R, Click Here.)


Volkswagen Cancels Toyota Distribution Deal

World’s largest automaker goes it alone in Japan.

by on Dec.24, 2009

The real battle for world dominance will be in China where VW is firmly entrenched.

The fight for world dominance is in China where VW is entrenched.

Volkswagen Group Japan is canceling its agreement with Toyota Motor Corporation on car imports. As a result, Toyota will no longer distribute VW brand cars in Japan after 2010, as the two giant companies fight for the title of world’s largest autmaker.

Existing Volkswagen dealers under a Toyota distributorship, called DUO, will move to a new direct dealer contract with VWGJ.

Toyota said the shift to the new structure would be accomplished without any inconvenience to existing Volkswagen customers.

In 2008, of 45,522 Volkswagen cars sold in Japan, DUO dealers sold 21,774 units, thus contributing to making Volkswagen the largest import brand there, a title VW has held for nine consecutive years.


The Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) predicts the market will be 4,798,400 vehicles in 2010, compared to about 4,611,500 this year as sales fell 9%, the sixth straight yearly decline.