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Oil (Won’t) Be Back: Audi Confirms Diesel Is Dead for the US


Long-serving Volkswagen Group executives wince when they hear the word Dieselgate. As they should; the scandal has cost the company millions in buyback restitution and an as yet unquantified amount in damage to its reputation. But although the company remains committed to diesel technology in Europe, we now have confirmation from a senior source that there is seemingly no chance of Volkswagen, Audi, or Porsche diesels ever coming back to the United States, no matter how clean they are.

We spoke to Peter Mertens, Audi’s new development boss, at last weekend’s Formula E race in Berlin and asked him whether a relaunch in the U.S. market would be considered for the ultraclean next-generation diesel engines that the group is developing.

“Now you’re putting me in a corner,” he said. “I would say no, and why is that so? I do not believe that Americans in their true belief and heart, their cultural way of driving, are suited to diesel. They aren’t. Everybody tried—we Europeans tried to give an answer maybe to a question that wasn’t asked.”

We’ll leave aside the accuracy of some of the answers Volkswagen gave to the EPA’s questions. It’s worth noting that Mertens’s previous employment with Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz before joining Audi in May means he has no connection with any of the Dieselgate decisions.

The scandal is still raging in Europe, too. “Diesel can be clean with technology, but the problem is the image,” Mertens said. “People think that diesel is bad. It’s not helping us and it’s not helping the environment, speaking frankly. It would be great if we could come back to technical terms and realities instead of alternative facts when it comes to diesel, but it’s very difficult to fight them.”

With diesel struggling to justify its existence in Europe, there’s no appetite to try to relaunch it over here. So, beyond the cleaned-up 2015 TDI inventory that is now being sold off, it seems clear that no more VW Group diesels will be making the trip across the Atlantic.

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Picking Up the E-Pace: Jaguar Reveals Price of Compact Crossover SUV

Just the other day, we caught our first glimpse of the Jaguar E-Pace’s interior, and now the British brand is sharing its first official information about its new subcompact SUV. For instance, we now know that the shapely crossover will go on sale early next year with a base price of $39,595—$3465 cheaper than the bigger Jaguar F-Pace.

And while we’re still left to speculate that the E-Pace will share the front-drive-based platform used by the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar notes that the model will come to the U.S. market with standard all-wheel drive. It also will be motivated by Jaguar Land Rover’s new family of Ingenium four-cylinder engines. Expected to share its 2.0-liter displacement with the engines found elsewhere in the lineup, the turbocharged inline-four is likely to be offered in two power outputs: a standard version making in the neighborhood of 240 horsepower and a high-performance version at or around 290 horsepower. So far, there’s no talk of a diesel option, as in the XE sedan. While the E-Pace’s Jaguar siblings send their torque to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, the E-Pace is anticipated to use the nine-speed unit currently employed by the Evoque and the Discovery Sport.

We also get our first undisguised look at the new SUV—from the side, in comparison with the F-Pace and the electric I-Pace concept. We’ll see, and learn, more when Jaguar formally unveils the E-Pace on July 13.


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More Details Emerge on Hyundai’s N Performance Sub-Brand | Car …

Hyundai i30 N prototype

While a specific roadmap for Hyundai’s upcoming high-performance N Division remains a closely guarded secret, especially as it pertains to the U.S. market, our first look at the 2018 Hyundai Kona crossover in South Korea also gave us the opportunity to receive a few more lines of information on the project, and to read between them.

Firstly, the hatchback sold as the i30 in Europe and Korea, which is essentially our 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, will be the first N-branded model when it debuts at the Frankfurt auto show in September. This, we knew before. However, Albert Biermann, N-Division boss and overall head of Hyundai’s vehicle testing and high-performance development, confirmed for us that that car will not see American soil, saying only that the U.S. will get its own model sometime next year, and that it may be an even wilder creation.

Hyundai i30 N prototypeHyundai i30 N prototype

“We promise you will be happy (with it),” he told a gaggle of international journalists.

From that we can only assume he’s referencing the Hyundai Veloster, seeing that the funky three-door hatch is due for a redesign on the i30/Elantra’s front-wheel-drive platform, and we’ve already spied it testing in camouflaged N getup. Although Biermann stonewalled us on any further questions regarding such a vehicle, its similarities with the i30 make it a sensible and tantalizing move.

From what we know about the i30 N, a Volkswagen GTI-hunting Veloster would be propelled by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making about 250 horsepower in base trim and around 280 with an optional performance package. A six-speed manual would be the only transmission choice, although Biermann doesn’t rule out N-tuned dual-clutch automatics down the road. Other key bits would include a track-capable suspension setup, high-performance summer tires, a throaty performance exhaust, body-hugging sport seats, and an optional electronic limited-slip differential. As with the i30 N, this Veloster also would feature upgraded performance brakes, just not fancy Brembo units so as to keep costs reasonable. A competitive bang-for-the-buck with a focus “not on the finish line but how you get there” will be a hallmark of future N cars, Biermann told us.

Hyundai i30 N prototype

That last bit is interesting considering that a pair of pre-production i30 Ns fared impressively well in a 24-hour race at the famed Nürburgring—finishing fourth and ninth out of twelve in their near-production class (and 50th and 95th overall, out of 160)—and that Hyundai will compete in European touring car race series with it next year. Perhaps Honda’s introduction of the 306-hp Civic Type R has produced some trepidation ahead of the N brand’s big debut.

Hyundai had a couple of camo’d prototype i30 Ns on hand for brief test drives around the handling course at its Namyang proving grounds. But the press-handlers declined to let the American journalists in attendance join the throngs of international folks in getting a chance to see firsthand how the car behaves on a race track, so we still haven’t driven one.

There was little justification for this exclusion; even a brief sampling of the company’s first dedicated performance car would have enlightened us on how far the company as a whole has come in the ride-and-handling department, as well as how excited we should be for a hot-rod Veloster. As it is, we remain cautiously optimistic, and hope we’ll have more to go on once the i30 N hits the road this fall.


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2018 Toyota Camry: More Power, More Mileage, and More Money

2018 Toyota Camry

When the 2018 Toyota Camry was revealed back in January at the Detroit auto show, all the talk was about its wild new styling. But for buyers in this segment, price and fuel economy are still major factors. Now we have the figures for them (and we’ve also driven the car), and they’re both higher than before.

A 2.5-liter inline-four again is the standard engine, but it’s new and now pairs with an eight-speed automatic in place of the previous six-speed. Output climbs to 203 horsepower and 206 in the XSE (versus 178 before); torque swells from 170 lb-ft to 184, and 186 in the XSE (its quad exhaust outlets make the difference). Fuel economy climbs even more. Most versions are rated at 28 mpg city and 39 highway, increases of 4 mpg city and 6 mpg highway. A new base L model does even better, at 29 city and 41 highway.

2018 Toyota Camry

The Camry again offers an optional V-6, even as V-6s are falling out of favor in this segment (the 2018 Honda Accord is dropping its six). Toyota’s 3.5-liter pumps out a hearty 301 horsepower (an increase of 33 hp) and 267 lb-ft of torque (up 19 lb-ft). Here, too, the engine is paired exclusively with an eight-speed automatic, and EPA numbers improve despite the additional grunt. The V-6 XLE is rated at 22 mpg city and 33 highway, while the XSE has the same city rating but drops by 1 mpg on the highway. This is up from 21/30 for the 2017 car.

The biggest fuel-economy news is with the hybrid, which tops 50 mpg for the first time, putting it at the head of the class of gas-electric mid-size sedans. There is, however, an asterisk. The Camry LE hybrid notches EPA ratings of 51 mpg city, 53 mpg highway—beating the (current) Honda Accord hybrid’s 49 city, 47 highway. The Camry SE and XLE hybrids match the Accord’s highway figure but achieve 5 mpg less in the city. Why the big difference? Aside from equipment levels and tires, the LE has a lighter, lithium-ion battery pack, while the SE and XLE continue with a nickel-metal-hydride unit.

Money Matters

So the 2018 Camry offers more styling, more power, and better mileage, but it also costs more money. The 2017 Camry started at $23,955 for the base LE; for 2018, there’s an even-more-base L version (it drops the formerly standard power driver’s seat, 17-inch aluminum wheels, split-folding rear seat, and other items), but it’s $24,380, while the LE is now $24,885. The sportier SE, previously $770 more than its LE sibling, now commands a $1200 premium, at $26,085. At the ritzy “X” level, the XLE is $29,335, an increase of $2140, and the XSE is $29,885, a jump of $2690.

2018 Toyota Camry

The hybrid comes in three versions: LE ($28,685), SE ($30,385), and XLE ($33,135). Those prices represent increases of $1010, $1505, and $2110.

At the top of the heap are the V-6 models, at $35,285 for the XLE and $35,835 for the XSE. The XLE is a $3030 increase, while the XSE, the most expensive Camry available, costs $3580 more than last year.

The new cars, however, do have more standard safety equipment. Most notably, all Camrys—even the cheapie L—come standard with adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high-beams, a package dubbed Toyota Safety Sense P.


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It’s the true end of an era as ‘Car Talk’ counts its final days

If you’ve read or heard anything about the Click and Clack guys in the last few days, it’s likely because their NPR car-repair life-advice call in radio show “Car Talk” is going off air in many markets this weekend.

Like, forever.

Technically, brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi went into retirement in 2012, though they continued to release episodes of the show. When Tom Magliozzi died in 2014, the show was re-branded as “Best of Car Talk,” with new intros (voiced by Ray) and old unaired calls that had been pulled from the vaults, some going from as far back as the 1980’s. Eventually, those archives ran dry and NPR announced the show would be coming to an end, officially in 2017.

Which brings us here.

Technically, the show will be available to NPR stations until Sept. 30, but many have already chosen to stop airing the show. Locally, Valley Public Radio (KVPR) hasn’t aired the show since Jan. 1.

“We chose to make the move earlier, so we could start the new year with a fresh program,” says Joe Moore, the station’s Director of Program Content. The time slot (10 a.m. Saturdays ) has been filled by Ira Glass’ “This American Life.” The new addition has gotten such good response, the stations also air a rebroadcast 7 p.m. Wednesdays.

Fans of the “Best of Car Talk” will still be able to get weekly podcasts of the 30-year series after Sept. 30. And you can still donate your old car, too.

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Dodge Demands Owners Sign Waiver When Ordering Demon

2018 Dodge Challenger Demon2018 Dodge Challenger Demon

Ever since the maniacal Dodge Challenger SRT Demon arrived in a cloud of hoopla and tire smoke, pundits both amateur and professional have been gabbing about the sheer irresponsibility of Mopar’s street-legal drag car, a monster in the grand tradition of the 1968 Hemi Dart. Of course, the legal environment has changed markedly in the past five decades, which means you’re not taking a Demon home without signing a rather extensive waiver. Which we’ve now seen in detail.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon Customer Acknowledgement Form

The folks at Allpar have dug up a copy of what FCA calls the 2018 Dodge Demon Customer Acknowledgment form (see the entire document here), which the company requires owners to initial 15 times upon purchase. Of the more interesting highlights, a few involve the car’s specialized Nitto drag radials. While these are technically DOT legal, FCA points out that the meats wear quickly on the highway, suck in the rain, and should not, under any circumstances, be used in any way, shape, or form at temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. To wit, the document actually states, “Customer shall not move the Vehicle in temperatures below 15ºF . . . the Drag Tires can lose flexibility and that may lead to cracking and other tire damage” [italics ours].

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon Customer Acknowledgement Form

Aside from assuring FCA that you know exactly what purposes the tires are for (and not for), the company would also like to be sure you know that if the car is delivered with one or both of the seat-delete options, “in the case of a collision or other accident, people riding in those areas are more likely to be seriously injured or killed.” Furthermore, Dodge would like you to promise not to install a passenger seat if the car was delivered without one.

Presumably in the interest of pre-empting forum posts stewing about late deliveries from customers who’ve spec’d B5 Blue, Indigo Blue, Plum Crazy, or F8 Green paint, you’ll acknowledge that you know those colors won’t arrive until the first quarter of 2018 at the earliest.

And finally, Dodge wants to be sure that you know that only Demons sold at or below MSRP qualify for priority scheduling. If your dealer gouges you (or you opt for one of the colors listed above), be prepared to wait. There’s a “Hell Awaits” joke in there somewhere, but instead of lamenting missing out on a lazy attempt at metal humor, why not just crank up some Slayer and dream of all the wheelies you’ll do when your Demon shows up?

Just remember, you’ve agreed to hold FCA and your dealer blameless if it all goes terribly wrong. We’re pretty sure you can’t sue Slayer, either. Unless, perhaps, you’ve hired the reanimated corpse of Saint Thomas More as your attorney.


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No ‘car-free day’ on Alki this year, says SDOT

(WSB photo, September 2016)

In case you wondered too – since we hadn’t heard anything about a “car-free day” on Alki this year, we checked with SDOT, and they tell us that there won’t be one. What began with a Car-Free Day” in September 2008 moved to May the next year and was renamed Seattle Summer Streets. That continued annually through 2014. Nothing in 2015; Then last year SDOT brought it back to September and called it Seattle Summer Parkways. This year, in response to our inquiry about whether there would be a car-free day this year, SDOT’s Sue Romero replied:

Summer Parkways is taking a break this summer, and will resume in Summer 2018. As we consider the direction of the program, we are finalizing plans for 2018 and will share them with you when complete.

Instead, she says, SDOT’s “car-free” program is focusing this year on 10 Pike People Streets days in July and August and could spread here:

Resulting from the piloting done on the People Street concept in Capitol Hill, we’re starting to get inquiries from other neighborhoods, including West Seattle, that are interested in establishing their own regular People Street events. We see this as another promising development in our overall public space activation strategy.

Alki will of course be the scene of other events this summer, including the Seafair Pirates Landing on July 8th and the Alki Art Fair July 22-23, but the street stays open to all modes for those events, which are centered on the beach and/or boardwalk.

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The Prince of Parsimony: Squeezing 70 MPG from a Chevy Cruze Diesel

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

This is a simple hypermiling test. Take a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze diesel, turn off the A/C, keep the windows rolled up, get on a California freeway, set the cruise control at 55 mph (10 mph under the limit), and see what sort of fuel economy results. Touch the brakes and throttle as little as possible, and return with a mileage number.

In May, we published an instrumented test of a nearly identical Cruze diesel automatic and reported on how it performed on C/D‘s usual highway fuel-economy loop—200 miles at 75 mph over the Michigan flatlands. As Joseph Capparella reported, that Cruze returned a thick 52 mpg, delivering a beatdown to the Toyota Prius by a 6-mpg margin on a loop designed to be a “real world” test, not optimized for ultimate parsimoniousness. This time, we (by which I mean me) would actually try to get good mileage.

So I acquired a Cruze diesel sedan practically identical to what Capparella had reviewed. Both had the 137-hp, aluminum turbo-diesel 1.6-liter inline-four, both wore 16-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear tires, and both had the optional nine-speed automatic transmission.


On the ninth day of June, a Friday, the slate-gray Cruze was filled at pump 5 at the Winchester 76 in Goleta, California. The tank was topped off until the automatic stop on the pump handle snapped itself off twice (in between, it was left to rest for 10 seconds while fuel settled in the tank). Winchester 76 was chosen because it pumps diesel, it’s at the far northern edge of the Santa Barbara metropolitan area beyond the reach of likely traffic jams, there was a nice downhill entry onto the northbound lanes of the U.S. 101 freeway, and it’s close to where I live.

I started driving at 1:30 p.m., there was no wind, and the temperature was 72 degrees. Barely touching the throttle, I let the car get to 55 mph as slowly as it could. Once at 55, I engaged the Cruze’s cruise control, started playing the Tony Kornheiser Show podcast on my iPhone, and didn’t get off the freeway until the Traffic Way exit in Arroyo Grande about 77 miles later. After driving through Arroyo Grande, I feather-footed it back onto the freeway southbound. And at 55 mph I re-engaged the Cruze’s cruise. C’est la Cheeserie.

Except for a stop in Santa Maria at Central Coast Hot Rods and a late lunch in adjacent Orcutt, I stuck to my freeway troll. Back at the Winchester 76, I pulled the Cruze back up to pump 5 and again refilled the tank with diesel following the aforementioned procedure endorsed by C/D‘s tech wizards.


The driving experience? Utter, boring misery. Headed northbound, I was passed by clapped-out old Hondas, a Ferrari FF and a McLaren 570GT flying in formation, and trucks hauling stacked junkers. And on the way south, a ’64 Ford Fairlane blew by me. I only once had to slow, for a timidly driven Nissan Altima. The ventilation system in the Cruze works great with air conditioning, but with A/C off the interior got sticky and stinky with Pearley sweat.

While this long section of the 101 freeway is lightly trafficked, it has geographic challenges. There’s a long grade skyward south of Nojoqui Falls, and the road snakes up and down along the foothills that frame the Santa Ynez Valley. You want boring photos? I’ve got boring photos of fuel going into a gray Cruze.

The bottom line: I started this trip with 3346 miles showing on the odometer, and it ended with 3505. The trip odometer showed 159.0 miles. It took 2.257 gallons according to pump 5 to fill the car back up. The math is simple, but the result is astonishing. This works out to a gobsmacking 70 mpg. I was expecting 60 or maybe 65 mpg.


I stipulate to plenty of caveats here. The drive relied on the Cruze self-reporting its odometer, there are likely much better ways to measure how much fuel was consumed, and no one from C/D’s crack tech staff was on hand to add some subtlety and elegance to the exercise. This is back-of-the-envelope science performed by a guy with a poli sci degree from UC Santa Barbara. And despite all that . . . 70 mpg is an epic number. The official fuel capacity is 13.7 gallons, so go ahead and try to match it. You should be able to experience extreme boredom for more than 900 miles before needing to refuel.

The supertrick elements at play here are the turbo-diesel’s outstanding flat torque curve that peaks at 240 lb-ft at only 2000 rpm and the wide spread of gears in the Ford and GM co-developed 9T50 nine-speed automatic. Despite running a tall 3.17:1 final-drive ratio, the engine was able to stay in the deep overdrive of ninth gear practically the whole trip. That kept engine speed at a resolute 1500 rpm almost the entire trip. The one time the transmission shifted down was climbing the long Nojoqui Grade, and even then it only rose to the 2000-rpm torque peak.

There’s plenty to criticize about the Cruze diesel, as pointed out in that earlier full road test. The ride is unforgiving, the handling is uninspiring, and it’s not roomy. But the fuel mileage—EPA rated at 31 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway—is stunning. Hybrids—including Chevy’s own Volt—will beat its efficiency in stop-and-go traffic, where regenerative braking and batteries give them a definite edge. But for constant-speed highway commutes? Diesel kicks ass. In light of Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions debacle, it’s questionable whether diesel passenger cars have a future in America.

But . . . 70 mpg.


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Outdoorsy and Out Soon: Subaru Prices Its 2018 Legacy and Outback

2018 Subaru Outback

Refreshed for 2018, Subaru’s stalwart Legacy sedan and Outback wago-ute now have prices to go with their revisions. The reworked Legacy begins at $23,055 for a 175-hp four-cylinder–powered 2.5i model, while the freshened Outback with the same trim and powertrain starts at $26,810. Both are due in dealerships this summer.

2018 Subaru Legacy

The Legacy: Testament’s Minor Hit Single from 1990

The base Legacy 2.5i offers a 6.5-inch Starlink multimedia display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, Harman’s Aha suite, Pandora, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, as well as a USB port and an auxiliary jack. For $350, you can add alloy wheels. Make the $2100 jump to a 2.5i Premium, and the screen expands to 8.0 inches and adds SMS messaging connectivity, voice controls, HD radio, and USB ports for rear-seat passengers.

Aside from the larger screen, the Premium, which starts at $25,155, gets 17-inch aluminum wheels, heated front seats and mirrors, a wiper de-icer, dual-zone climate control, a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto up/down driver and passenger windows, plus an illuminated overhead console and interior front-door pulls. For $1545 more, Premium models bring navigation and Subie’s EyeSight bundle of driver-assistance technologies, which include collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. Premium also brings LED fog lamps and body-color folding mirrors with integrated turn signals. Opt for the $1195 sunroof package, and Subaru will throw in an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a HomeLink garage-door opener.

2018 Subaru Legacy

For $27,205, Legacy 2.5i Sport customers will find model-specific two-tone cloth upholstery with blue accent stitching and carbon-look trim (so sporty!), 18-inch wheels, chrome-accented rocker trim, a new three-spoke leather-wrapped wheel, a decklid spoiler, LED fog lamps, and an auto-dimming mirror. EyeSight, navigation, and high-beam assist add $2095 to the bottom line.

The $29,955 2.5i Limited aims to add a spot of luxury to one’s motoring occasions, with perforated leather-trimmed upholstery, a power moonroof, keyless entry with push-button start, heated rear seatbacks and cushions, rear-seat A/C outlets, and a 10-way power driver’s seat with two-position memory and power lumbar support, while the passenger gets a four-way power seat. LED fog lights become part of the equation, as do 18-inch wheels and Subaru’s Stablex suspension, plus body-color folding mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink. Standard driver-assistance features include blind-spot detection with lane-change assist as well as rear cross-traffic alert.

2018 Subaru Legacy

EyeSight-equipped Legacy 2.5i Limited cars also get steering-responsive LED headlamps with automatic height adjustment. The option adds $2095 to the sticker.

Opt for the flat-six–powered, 256-hp Legacy Limited 3.6R for $32,805, and Subaru throws in the LED headlights, paddle shifters, and stainless exhaust-tip surrounds. EyeSight adds high-beam assist and navigation for $1595.

2018 Subaru Outback

The Outback: (Paul) Hogan’s Hero

The Outback 2.5i offers a bit more standard equipment than the base Legacy—particularly 17-inch aluminum wheels—while the $28,910 Outback Premium models share the Legacy Premium’s upgrades plus body-color folding exterior mirrors and a driver’s window with off-delay operation (that means that if you forgot, you can still close an open window without turning the car back on for 10 minutes or so). For $3590, you can add EyeSight, a power liftgate, the sunroof package, high-beam assist, and navigation.

At $33,610, the 2.5i Limited gets the same upgrades as its Legacy counterpart, as well as matte wood-grain-look interior accent trim and LED headlights. Add EyeSight for $2085, and those LED peepers respond to steering inputs and get automatic height-adjustment control. For $36,310, you can opt for the 256-hp flat-six–powered Limited. Adding EyeSight to the six-pot Limited will run you $1585.

The top-of-the-line Touring model starts at $37,405 and is pretty much fully loaded, distinguished by silver low-profile roof rails, a dark-gray grille insert, 18-inch wheels with a machined finish, and dark-gray accents. All Outback Touring models feature a Java Brown interior with ivory contrast stitching. A heated steering wheel and auto up/down windows on all four doors are part of the package as well. And finally, those who require every last bell and whistle—and care to spend $39,605 for the privilege—can spec a Touring with the six-cylinder engine.


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A ‘free car giveaway’ next month

Jun 20, 201704:23 PMBlog

Kevin House and his employee team at Center Collision in Tacoma are making ready to award another free automobile to an individual who can really use it. 

Repeating a program the local business started last year, the public is invited to make website nominations for a deserving person in the South Sound community. The winner will be someone who contributes to the community, their family and friends despite struggles that are dealing with or have overcome.  Click here to make your nomination.

Keys to a well-maintained, good condition used vehicle will be handed over to the deserving winner on Saturday, July 22nd. Nominations must be received by no later than July 1st.

Jasmine Radeck (pictured on the right with Kevin Debbie House) received last year’s gift – a 2007 Kia Spectra.


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