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Monday
May072018

Why your next sports car will be an SUV

Porsche(NEW YORK) -- It all started with the Porsche Cayenne.

In 2002 the German carmaker sent shock waves through the Paris auto show when it presented the Cayenne, a bulkier version of its venerated 911 sports car.

Porsche executives assured automotive analysts that the brand’s racing heritage and prowess on the track had not been compromised in its newest model.

A sports car disguised as an SUV? Was it possible?

“At the time the Cayenne seemed ludicrous, almost heresy, to the Porsche enthusiast community,” Bob Gritzinger, associate editor at Wards Auto, told ABC News.

Then reality set in.

“The Cayenne took off in sales and is credited with saving Porsche,” Gritzinger said. “That kicked it off. Porsche showed that a sports car brand can be reflected in a high-performance SUV and everyone started reading the tea leaves.”

Earlier this year the famed Italian automaker Lamborghini planted its flag in the SUV market with the $200,000 Urus. Boasting 650 horsepower and a top speed of 190 mph, the Urus already has a two-year waiting list and could soon become the company’s top-selling conveyance.

“It’s much more practical than any other Lamborghini vehicle,” Tony Quiroga, senior editor at Car and Driver magazine, told ABC News.

Utility and ride height were always the hallmarks of the traditional SUV. No more. Now it’s an arms race to produce blindingly fast models that are more suitable for the race track than the highway.

“Everything that has already happened in the car world is coming to the SUV world,” Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, told ABC News.

Both Jaguar and Maserati are rolling out performance-oriented SUVs in the coming months in addition to their other SUV models. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan makes its global debut on Thursday. In 2019 Aston Martin will formally enter the SUV market. Ferrari may be next.

One of the newest contenders is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The 505 hp crossover from Italy is a modern interpretation of the company’s storied race cars. It roars to life when the light turns green, forgetting that it’s traversing local roads and not competing on a racetrack. It’s hard not to fall in love with its enthusiasm.

To prove that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio was as good (if not better) than its advertising, the company flew journalists to the Circuit of the Americas, a Formula 1 certified racing track in Austin, Texas. Ben Lyon, head of product for the Alfa brand in the U.S., said any doubts that an SUV could perform or handle as well as a sports car were extinguished that day.

“The Stelvio Quadrifoglio was an absolute dynamic beast on the track,” Lyon told ABC News in March.

BMW tests all of its nine performance vehicles, known as its “M” division, on the famous Nurburgring race track in Germany. Its X5 M and X6 M models, both SUVs, are powered by twin-turbocharged eight-cylinder engines, and each can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds, an acceleration that equals any pure sports car on the market, according to Oleg Satanovsky, a BMW spokesman.

Driving an X6 M, for example, can be a refined or sporty escapade, depending on the driver’s mood. It obeys speed commands when required, or snaps into track mode with a stab on the throttle, propelling the driver forward with 567 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque.

“The steering, brakes and suspension were all designed to not only provide track-ready capabilities, but also comfortable street driving at the same time,” Satanovsky said.

The most extreme high performance SUV right now belongs to Jeep. The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk gets its 707 hp from a supercharged Hemi V8 engine, the same engine found in a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, aka the most powerful production car known to exist.

Mark Allen, head of Jeep design, told ABC News the decision to build a high-performance Jeep was not taken lightly.

“The brainiacs here said it would be cool to put a Hellcat engine in a Jeep. A lot of us were questioning the move. It’s not an obvious place [for Jeep] to go. This is out of the realm of what Jeep is known for,” he said.

For years the company’s bread-and-butter has been the Wrangler, the off-roader that has taken over suburbia and recently got a refresh.

The Trackhawk premiered at the 2017 New York auto show. At first Jeep decided to limit production to 600 vehicles. They “flew out of dealers,” Allen said.

“This is easily the most expensive Jeep,” he added. “But it has a dual purpose — a luxury SUV with 700 hp that fits in a garage neatly.”

Allen would not say how many Trackhawks will be produced this year. He does, however, acknowledge that horsepower does not matter to the majority of SUV drivers.

“It’s not a mass-market vehicle,” he said. “It’s a niche market. We would never survive just selling Trackhawks. But some people do want a thrill.”

Buyer beware: The excitement of a super powerful SUV comes with a huge premium.

Take the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It starts at $80,000 while a base Stelvio with 280 hp has an MSRP of $42,000. A Jeep Grand Cherokee with 295 hp sells for $30,695. The Trackhawk? $86,000 and up.

“As consumers have shown a continued willingness to pay higher transaction prices, manufacturers have looked for ways to increase margins,” said Brandon Mason, a director at PwC's Automotive Practice.

High performance vehicles provide “an additional revenue steam to [automakers’] bottom lines,” he noted.

Sure, these "souped up" SUVs may simulate a sports car on paper, but do they deliver a true sports car experience?

Generally not, according to Brauer. Aluminum bodies, super advanced active suspension and stiffer tuning have made them safer and lighter than older SUVs, but carmakers cannot totally ignore physics, he said.

“An SUV can never perform as well as a sports car because it weighs more and has a higher center of gravity,” he explained. “There’s always a disadvantage to the SUV in pure performance.”

Quiroga said performance die-hards will still want a traditional sports car. Everyone else will be happy with these SUVs.

“High performance SUVs make the commute more fun,” he remarked. “They’re safe and more luxurious and nice things to drive. They make more sense than a sports car.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May072018

How to bring an airport security line to a halt (and get it moving again)

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are two simple ways to bring an airport security line to a halt: Ignorance of the old rules and failure to learn the new ones. You probably went to the trouble to find the cheapest possible ticket for your flight, so don’t miss it by getting stuck in a long line at security. This will help; a list of security dos and don’ts.

1. Ignorance of three new rules

All electronics come out of the bag: It used to be only laptops but now everything from phones to tablets to handheld games, anything electronic, has to be removed from a carry-on bag then placed in a bin to go through the X-ray. Tip: Put some kind of identifying mark or label on each item; the TSA’s lost and found has plenty of electronic gizmos folks forgot to retrieve. Don’t add yours to the pile.

Food rules: This may not happen every time but you could be asked to remove all food items from your carry-on. Remember, if you’re bringing anything that could be described as even somewhat liquid-ish (perhaps a gift of homemade jam over the holidays) it will be dumped unless it is in a container that holds 3.4 ounces or less. As for other, more solid food items, they’ll simply be inspected and returned to you.

De-cluttered bags: You may be instructed to keep cords neatly tied up and remove items like powder (this might be powdered makeup or a dietary supplement powder), all in the name of making it easier for X-ray machines to get a better view of what’s in your bag.

2. Chainsaws and other weird items

Actually, chainsaws have been brought through security in the past and may be approved for carry-ons if they are not gassed up and there’s no fuel residue inside them (but this depends on the airline). Forget weapons, though, but the real thing and all those replicas people keep trying to bring through security in carry-ons such as rifle-shaped umbrellas and "decorative" hand grenade replicas. When in doubt, check the TSA’s list of banned items.

3. Bad jokes

You want to bring security line to a screeching halt? Make a joke about a bomb or terrorism. It doesn’t matter how obviously silly it is, doesn’t matter if you’re not anywhere near security, just make the joke in the airport and there’s a good chance you could be detained. It happened in April to a Green Bay Packers player who allegedly made a joke about explosives in a bag; ultimately no charges were brought but not everyone is so lucky. Tip: When it comes to bomb jokes, people who work in airports have no sense of humor whatsoever.

4. Assuming security personnel can read minds

Maybe you’re required to take certain medications on a daily basis, need certain medical equipment such as needles or have a piece of metal in your body; the TSA officers don’t have the power to read your mind so you’ll have to tell them about this before you reach the metal detector or risk slowing things down. Even better, call the TSA Cares hotline 72 hours before departure at (855) 787-2227; by letting them know about special needs in advance, you can get additional assistance during the screening experience.

5. No PreCheck

I’m all about saving a buck, but sometimes it pays to spend a little and the TSA PreCheck program is a very good deal. For $85 you get a five-year membership ($17 per year) which allows you to keep shoes on, toiletry bag stays in the carry-on and best of all, you get to use the PreCheck-only line. If you fly overseas much, try Global Entry; it costs a little more but makes returns through customs so much faster, and it includes PreCheck.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
May062018

Woman wins $1.2 million on $18 Kentucky Derby bet

iStock/Thinkstock(SALEM, Texas) -- It's called the sport of millionaires -- and horse racing just added a new one.

A Texas woman reaped $1.2 million on an $18 bet on a series of Kentucky Derby day races, officials told ABC News on Sunday.

The Austin woman, who did not want to be identified, made a Pick 5 wager at the Retama Park racetrack in Salem, Texas, on Saturday and watched as each of the ponies she picked ran on a rainy, muddy day at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, some 1,100 miles away.

Not only did she pick Justify to win the Kentucky Derby, she selected the winners of all four races leading up to the main event, Rachel Bagnetto, spokeswoman for Retama Park, told ABC News.

"It's extremely rare," Bagnetto said. "To bet that little amount of money and win $1.2 million is unheard of. In fact, it's the first time it's happened at Retama."

The woman's winnings nearly matched the $1.24 million prize Justify won in the famed thoroughbred Run for the Roses.

Her hot streak started with the eighth race on Saturday at Churchill Downs when 6-year-old gelding Limousine Liberal won the Churchill Downs Stakes.

She picked Maraud to win the American Turf Stakes in the ninth race, and Funny Duck to take the Pat Day Mile race despite 39-1 odds. Her selection in the 11th race was 9-1 longshot Yoshida, who beat out favorite Beach Patrol by a nose in the Old Forester Turf Classic.

The woman's easiest bet was Justify, who was the favorite at 3-1 odds and won the 144th Kentucky Derby by 2 1/2 lengths.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May052018

Fiat Chrysler readies for new Jeep Wrangler model

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – The Jeep Wrangler is iconic for its rugged, outdoor image and historical ties to World War II. Fiat Chrysler will still produce the vehicle, but will no longer manufacture its Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited Rubicon, which began in 2006.

Instead, as USA Today reports, the parent company of Jeep will turn its attention to a new Wrangler model.

The parent company is set to make the change after more than two million JK Unlimited Rubicon were sold. Production of the old Wrangler model lasted for 12 years.

The new Wrangler is advertised as being more fuel efficient and will include a backup camera and hood vents.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May052018

California surpasses United Kingdom to become the world's fifth-largest economy

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Federal data released on Friday reveals that California's gross domestic product surpassed that of the United Kingdom, making it the world's fifth-largest economy.

The Los Angeles Times reports
California's GDP grew by $127 billion, while the United Kingdom's slightly shrank, if it is measured by the dollar. Financial services, real estate, information, and manufacturing led the way in sectors that experienced growth in the state.

California trails just the US, China, Japan, and Germany in terms of GDP.

The Golden State's reached this plateau before, according to the Los Angeles Times, becoming the world's fifth-largest economy in 2002. The state fell to tenth in 2012, but has since rebounded with its booming tech sector, among other factors.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
May052018

Water line break floods fifty rooms on Carnival cruise ship

Carnival Cruises(NEW ORLEANS) -- Cruise ship passengers likely prefer to do their swimming once they're off the boat. But one group of passengers got an unwelcome surprise on Thursday when a water line break on their ship flooded 50 staterooms.

The Carnival Dream was on a seven-day cruise in the western Caribbean after departing from New Orleans last Sunday when the incident happened, according to Carnival Cruises. The water came from a break in the ship's fire suppression system, the cruise line said.

Video showed gallons and gallons of water rushing out of pipes in the hallway on Deck 9. Passenger Maria DeAnn Haase shared video of the flooded hallway as well as crew members attempting to bail it out with buckets.

"We are flooding on a cruise," Haase wrote on Facebook. "We heard the violins and the silverware all come crashing down. What in the world."

The cruise line was quick to clean up the mess, and said the next cruise would not be affected.

Passengers who were impacted by the water line break will receive a full refund, 50 percent credit toward a future cruise trip and were given the option to fly home on Friday, according to Carnival Cruises.

"We appreciate our guests’ understanding and sincerely apologize," Carnival said in a statement. "We also thank our crew members for their quick action and hard work."

The cruise line shared photos of the ship's hallway all cleaned up following the flooding.

The Carnival Dream was launched in 2008 and can carry more than 3,500 passengers. Trips to the western Caribbean can include stops in Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; or Belize, according to the company's website.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May042018

Data usage, insurance and family plans? Tips on saving on your cellphone bill

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With T-Mobile and Sprint opting to merge and promising lower prices, wireless wars are starting to heat up -- but consumers don't have to wait to start saving on their wireless bills, according to experts.

On Sunday, the two titans reached a $26.5 billion merger agreement to take on rivals Verizon and AT&T, touting lower costs and benefits for small businesses. The deal still needs regulatory approval.

Brianna McGurran, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, told ABC News recently that a lot of cellphone customers are likely paying for services that they don't really need or use.

First, McGurran suggested that customers look at their data usage over the last three months to see whether they're using the data they're paying for. She also advised that customers consider their insurance plans.

"Go for the very basic one (plan)," she said. "That's probably all you need."

She said that free websites like NerdWallet, Whistleout and WirelessButler allow consumers to compare plans and find out whether a cheaper plan is available.

McGurran also said consumers should consider adding lines to a plan with friends and family because that could actually save everyone money.

"It's a great option. You can actually pay less per person," she said.

According to McGurran, how customers pay their bills can also determine what they pay in fees. She said that signing up for automatic payments and paperless billing can shave a few dollars off cellphone bills.

And finally, McGurran said consumers should beware of paying their cellphone bills by phone -- and speaking to a representative -- because three of the four wireless carriers charge a fee for that option.

"It's just all about advocating for yourself as a consumer," she said. "You need to know what you're paying and how you can save and sometimes it takes a little digging to figure that out."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
May042018

Inexpensive lightning cables could harm your phone

Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) -- We spend so much time on our phones that one of our biggest concerns is keeping them charged. But could grabbing some of those inexpensive cables to charge our iPhones put your phone at risk?

They’re known as lightning cables, and they seem to be available everywhere we go now, from gas stations to drug stores. And when you’re down to a low battery, you might just grab what’s convenient. But many people don’t realize that, in some cases, this move could end up doing some serious damage to your phone.

We’ve seen the reports and home videos of damaged iPhones when cables overheat or catch fire.

Jessa Jones, owner of iPad Rehab in Honeoye Falls, New York, gets phones shipped to her from around the country that she said have been damaged by bad cables.

“Fake cables can and do kill iPhones all day, every day,” Jessa said.

But what keeps your phone safe from this happening? There is a little protective chip inside Apple-approved lightning cables that guards your iPhone from a power surge or potentially overheating.

Experts say many cables on the market don’t have that chip.

Apple has a certification program called Made For iPhone, or MFi. MFi cords made by other manufacturers have to include the protective chip, but how do you know what’s an MFi-certified cable?

Apple has a database on their website where you can search brands and models to see if they’re certified.

To see what we would find, GMA Investigates bought eight cables: three from gas stations, one from a popular discount store chain, one from CVS, one from Walmart and two from Amazon.

We took those cables to Jessa to examine. She said, “You could maybe use [them] and be lucky your entire life, but that one time a noisy voltage goes up the cable and damages the inside of your phone, your phone may be just totally dead.”

Jessa first opened our cables from Walmart and CVS, and found they have the proper protective chip and are Apple-certified. Jessa pointed out, “That is what a certified cable should look like.”

But our cable we bought from the discount store chain is a different story. It said on the box it “works with” certain iPhones, and it doesn’t claim to be MFi-certified. When Jessa opened up the lightning end of the cable to check for the protective chip, she said, “We can tell it’s the same copy style, non-certified. Probably should not use it. Cheap cable.” And it is missing that protective chip.

Next, Jessa checked the three different cables we bought from gas stations. All of the cables were under $8. The first two are missing that important protective chip, and the third, ABC News’ Gio Benitez pointed out, “Everything sort of looks legit when you’re looking at it.”

 At first glance, the packaging looks like a real Apple product.

Jessa laughed. “Maybe you guys got the deal of a lifetime,” she said. Jessa pointed out that we only paid $7.99 at the gas station, while the cable directly from Apple’s website is $19.00.

But Jessa confirmed the deal is too good to be true when she opened up the cable and there wasn't an Apple-certified protective chip. She said it is counterfeit.

Our last two cables were sold on Amazon and claim to be MFi-certified in the listing and on the packaging, but when she checked for the chips, she found that neither has the protective chips.

“That’s in direct contradiction to what we are being told by the advertising. It said it was certified. And it is not, clearly not. The chips really can’t lie.”

Out of all of our cables, Jessa found that six out of the eight cables we bought did not have the protective chip and could pose a hazard.

So now that our expert has taken a look, we sent them off to Apple to see what the company had to say.

And after examining the cables, Apple confirmed that those six cables were counterfeit or otherwise problematic and could damage your phone. They told us, “The safety of our customers is our first priority, and our teams are constantly working with law enforcement, merchants and e-commerce sites around the world to remove counterfeit products from their stores. We encourage customers to buy directly from Apple or Apple Authorized Resellers."

We reached out to all the stores where we bought our cables and the manufacturers. We only received comment from Amazon, which told us, “Customers trust that they will receive authentic goods when they shop on Amazon, and anything that diminishes that trust is unacceptable. Counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one that we will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands and sellers.”

UL, one of the world’s largest product safety lab, which tests and writes standards for lightning cables, said the issue of uncertified cables is concerning. “You can potentially overcharge the battery, which can cause a fire or explosion -- which is a safety issue. You can damage the phone to the point that you won’t be able to use it or get the data off it anymore,” said Randy Ivans, UL Wire and Cable program manager.

While Ivans and other experts said you could be fortunate and never have a problem, they also said it’s best to play it safe. “They are readily available, easy to get, nice on the pocketbook -- but they have to be aware that you are going to get what you pay for, and these cheap chargers may or may not have safety certifications on them. That’s a big concern,” Ivans said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May032018

Volkswagen ex-CEO indicted in emissions defeat device scandal

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has been charged with alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States and VW customers in the so-called "defeat device" scheme, the Department of Justice announced today.

Winterkorn, who served as chairman of the board from 2007 to 2015, is the highest ranking Volkswagen official indicted in the government's three-year probe.

The automaker in 2015 admitted it had installed software designed to cheat U.S. emissions standards in around half a million diesel cars sold in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015.

The computer program would detect when the car was undergoing emissions evaluations and decrease its nitrogen oxide emissions to comply with American standards. When the software recognized the car was on the road, however, it would allow emissions up to 40 times higher than standards permit.

The company agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines, and settled with consumers for $15 billion.

According to the Winterkorn indictment unsealed today, the ex-CEO presided over the whole operation, including a "damage table meeting," in which employees outlined exactly how Volkswagen was deceiving U.S. regulators. Instead of ordering his subordinates to disclose the defeat device, Winterkorn instead allegedly "approved the continued concealment of the cheating software." the indictment says.

Winterkorn, then 68, resigned in 2015, just days after news of the scheme broke, saying in a statement "I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group ... As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part."

He's just the latest in a string of employees felled by the government probe. Two former VW engineers, Oliver Schmidt and James Liang, pleaded guilty and are serving time in prison. Five additional defendants were indicted last January, but like Winterkorn, are believed to be in Germany, which does not extradite its citizens to countries outside the E.U.

“If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed in a statement. “The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company."

Volkswagen did not immediately respond to ABC News request for comment.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
May032018

Tequila boom rooted in traditional farming techniques

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A growing thirst for tequila from New York to Tokyo has made the sale of the drink into a multibillion-dollar industry, but its production remains rooted in centuries-old methods of farming using hand tools and packmules.

Mexico's western state of Jalisco is the heartland of the tequila industry, where 'jimadores,' the farmers of the agave cactus from which the spirit is distilled, have worked the fields for generations.

"I am so proud to be a jimador, we are the first in the chain of the tequila industry, without us there is no tequila," said Mario Perez, a 39-year-old jimador.

But the popularity of tequila has driven a worsening shortage of the agave, while some of the younger generation shun what was once a highly respected job.

"In the old days to be a jimador was a respected job, now you are a simple worker," said Perez. "But it is a work of great tradition." Video Player

Jimadores use a tool called a coa to cut the spiky leaves off the plant, leaving a heart that looks like a giant pineapple.

"We have to cut it in a certain way so that it is perfect for cooking. It's not an easy job, you can cut your legs," Perez said.

In the past, the agave hearts were cooked below ground, the way mezcal is still produced in other regions of Mexico. But much of the export tequila is now made in industrial distilleries run by Britain's Diageo, Bacardi and Mexico's Jose Cuervo.

Most of the agave harvest is collected by workers using mules in the rocky terrain. Jose Luis Flores, 41, inherited a team of seven mules when his father died late last year.

"I helped my dad for 20 years and I love it," Flores said. "No one can replace us, not even a machine. My mules can get past any cliff or difficult path."

He hopes to pass down his trade to his four children. "I think I'm going to buy more mules. This is a family business now," he said.

Each spiky-leaved plant requires seven to eight years to mature, but demand is pushing producers to use younger plants.

Nearly 18 million blue agaves were planted in 2011 in Mexico for harvest this year, well below an estimated demand for 42 million to supply 140 registered companies.

Shortages are likely through 2021 until improved planting strategies bear fruit.

"Tequila is a good business but there is so much demand for it. I hope the agave lasts for a long time," said J. Cruz Reinoso, the owner of the Don Blanco distillery, a family business he has been building up for 30 years.

Jimadores worry machines could eventually replace them but harvesting agave by machine would be complex, since it is difficult to predict the size of the heart from the size of the plant.

"This is my life and I am very proud of it. I know how to do it well. I hope technology does not replace us, it will be devastating," said Francisco Quiroz, a 57-year-old jimador.

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