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    • Ford launches new parts guarantee

      Anyone who considers themselves part of the world of off-roading has likely pushed their vehicle to the limit. While this is mostly an enjoyable experience, encountering obstacles in the midst of your off-road driving could lead to damage to your car. There also may be instances when you notice something is wrong with a vital part of your vehicle, and if the problem didn't arise during one of your adventures, the car itself may be at fault.

      If you're driving a newer automobile, you'll want to take advantage of a warranty to replace these parts. Luckily for many new truck owners, Ford has enhanced its warranty system to provide more comprehensive coverage to all drivers. With the new protection plan, parts and labor costs of Ford vehicles are covered for 24 months from the time of purchase and installation with no restrictions on mileage. That is certainly good news for fans of off-roading who often take their automobiles across long distances in a short amount of time. 

      "Ford is dedicated to constant improvement in all we do," said Fredereik Toney, president of Ford Customer Service. "Ford Genuine and Motorcraft replacement parts are approved by Ford engineering. In the unlikely even a part fails, our new warranty demonstrates our commitment to quality, our customers and our intent to provide greater peace of mind and in improved ownership experience." 

      While a warranty may not help complete the truck mods you've been considering, it could provide the peace of mind you need to tinker with a vehicle. Ford claims that its new warranty service will cover the cost of a part when an owner chooses to finish the installation themselves, and beginners who feel the need to take the car into a dealership for repairs can have the cost of parts and labor reimbursed. 

    • GM designer receives Lifetime Achievement Award

      For years, drivers have looked to Chevrolet vehicles for some of the most advanced and sophisticated designs on the market. Whether it was an old-school Silverado or the newest Corvette Stingray, these automobiles are among the most distinctive on the roads. Now, the brain behind these innovative creations is getting the acknowledgement it deserves. 

      An impressive career
      Tom Peters, one of the masterminds behind years of Chevrolet automobiles, is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. The institution, which is Peters' alma mater, presented Peter with the award during the annual Car Classic, held each fall on the Art Center's campus. 

      Peters has been a part of the General Motors family for more than 30 years. He led the design team for full-size pickup trucks and SUVs for the automaker, and his designs can be seen on the upcoming 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, among others.

      "Through your efforts to promote the very best in automotive design, as seen in examples like the 2014 Corvette Stingray, you continue to represent Art Center in the best way possible and serve as an inspiration for our graduates following in your footsteps," said Stewart Reed, the chair of the college's Transportation Design Department.

      More about Peters
      Peters began working with GM in 1980, and after a brief stint at another company, he returned to the automaker in 1982. Since then, he has worked on some of the most popular vehicles produced by the company, ranging from sleek sports cars to large machines primed for off-roading. 

      "The list of Art Center alumni at GM is long, but Tom Peters is without a doubt the most visionary designer I have ever known or worked with in my more than 40 years at GM," said Ed Welburn, the vice president of global design for the auto brand. "The men and women who work for Tom share his desire and thirst for winning, and they create incredibly spirited designs."

      Although this Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes all of the valuable input Peters has shared over the years, he is still heavily involved with GM and should continue to impact auto designs. Anyone who gets behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle from Chevrolet or install a Chevy lift kit on one of the brand's trucks likely has Peters to thank for their ride. 

    • Toyota praised for adopting towing standards

      For many truck owners, towing is a part of life. Whether it's for heavy-duty work or to haul around recreational equipment, it's incredibly common to see pickup trucks using their strength in this manner. Unfortunately, while manufacturers regularly release towing capacity, there are not any formal regulations or standards for testing. This can leave drivers wondering what a truck's real towing strength is or what a vehicle's limits are. 

      To remedy this problem, Toyota has implemented towing standards into its line of pickup trucks. The brand has started adhering to the Society of Automotive Engineers regulation, known as J2807, which provides guidelines for real-world testing of towing capacity. All trucks and SUVs from Toyota since 2011, including the newest 2014 Tundra, will work with these SAE standards. That makes the Japanese automaker the only manufacturer of full-size pickups to do so, although Ford has said it will adopt the system beginning with the 2015 F-150, reported. 

      "Toyota owners look to us to develop vehicles that meet the highest safety standards, and our voluntary adoption of J2807 helps us deliver on that promise," said Mike Sweers, chief engineer of the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma. "Tundra owners can tow confidently knowing that the published tow rating has been verified by the industry's foremost engineering authority. With Tundra, what you see is what you get." 

      The efforts from Toyota to streamline towing standards even led the Texas Auto Writers Association to present the automaker with its Distinguished Service Award. 

      "We appreciate the acknowledgement from TAWA, whose membership includes some of the industry's most truck-savvy automotive journalists," Sweers continued. "This recognition underscores the importance of this standard in helping keep truck owners safe." 

      While the Tundra may not be a traditional choice for off-road driving, those drivers who want a rugged off-road vehicle known to be capable of towing heavy loads may want to give the machine a second look. 

    • Chrysler's earnings grow thanks to pickups and SUVs

      Chrysler recently released its third-quarter earnings, and it had plenty of good news to share with fans. The automaker saw its profits rise 22 percent in the three-month time period - largely in part to a surge in popularity of its Ram Truck brand and Jeep SUVs. As 2014-year models from these lines enter the marketplace, Chrysler hopes to capitalize on their popularity and continue growing revenue while enhancing their reputation. 

      In total, revenue jumped 13.5 percent to $17.6 billion. That is significantly more than the $15.5 billion mark it hit at the same time last year, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

      "Chrysler Group's ninth consecutive quarter of positive net income highlights our commitment to producing award-winning vehicles for consumers, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ram 1500," Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. "We also are pleased to introduce the already award-winning Jeep Cherokee to the lineup, as it launches into the largest SUV segment in the United States." 

      Although there were approximately two months worth of delays facing the Jeep Cherokee, the SUV was still able to be unveiled in the third quarter and immediately started attracting attention. The Cherokee is replacing the Jeep Liberty in the lineup - a move that should please those who are drawn to off-road driving, as the Cherokee has a strong reputation as a top-notch off-road vehicle. 

      As the Ram Truck continues to receive accolades, Chrysler's earnings will likely keep growing. Fans of off-roading will certainly want to take a look at the brand's options for both pickup trucks and Jeeps, as all of the vehicles present an option that is capable of handling rugged terrain and rough conditions. 

    • Ram teams up with country music star for latest farm-centric effort

      Pickup trucks have always been associated with farmers. With the automobile's rugged characteristics, heavy-duty capabilities and strong reputation, it has been a staple of rural life for decades. That tradition is at the forefront of the latest joint effort between an automaker and an organization. Ram Truck is teaming up with the Future Farmers of America and country singer Easton Corbin to highlight the importance of farmers in the U.S. 

      Year of the Farmer
      As part of the celebration of the Year of the Farmer campaign, Ram is striving to spread the word about the positive effects farmers have on the U.S. Ram began these efforts with a memorable Super Bowl commercial and is continuing the initiative throughout 2013. 

      Easton Corbin was chosen as a partner because of his history with farming. Corbin was once a member of the FFA and understands the role that farmers play in communities across the country. He will head to FFA chapters in 12 locations to show appreciation for farmers and bring some attention to the cause. 

      "It's clear that Easton, like the Ram Truck brand, cares passionately about 'Year of the Farmer,' the FFA organization and its mission," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of Ram Truck. "Through his tour of local FFA chapters, he's personally connecting with this special group of kids to help us further the notion that there's a 'farmer in all of us,' while reminding everyone that we all have a role in reducing hunger in America." 

      A comprehensive partnership
      The partnership between Ram Truck and the FFA will do more than raise awareness. A webisode series featuring footage of Corbin's tour and visits with the FFA will be broadcast online, allowing fans from all over to take part in these special concerts. 

      Ram is also hosting a contest that will give three lucky winners a chance to head to the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. From now until February, interested parties can enter to win a trip to Sin City as well as tickets to major events surrounding the award show. 

      Farmers are just one of the segments of drivers that are frequently drawn to pickup trucks. Everyone from construction workers to fans of recreational off-road driving get behind the wheel of these rugged automobiles, and they all have a chance to reap the benefits of this latest campaign. 

    • Nissan creates an off-road vehicle primed for water

      Off-roading frequently takes drivers to wet environments. It doesn't matter if you're mudding or just happen to come across a stream during a trek through the wilderness - there is always a good chance you'll encounter water. That's one of the reasons drivers make truck or Jeep modifications that outfit their vehicles for this damp terrain, but few take it to the degree that Nissan recently did. 

      The 'Note Boat'
      To honor the debut of the new Nissan Note, the automaker created a version of the vehicle that can handle some extensive water depths. Dubbed the Note Boat, the automobile features a brand new technology that is capable of transforming itself into a floating machine. 

      The Note Boat includes a sliding rear seat that creates more room for a rower, while the doors open out to almost a 90-degree angle to provide plenty of space for oars or paddles. A comprehensive video system allows the driver to see everything around the vehicle at all times as well. 

      Nissan made sure to show off the capabilities of the finished product. The Note Boat was sent to Eton Dorney Lake, the site of the 2012 Olympic rowing competition, and put to the test in the ultimate environment. The manufacturer even recruited some experts to handle the vehicle, getting three stars of Great Britain's official team to control it down the waterway. 

      "It's certainly a novel experience rowing down Eton Dorney Lake in a car," said Olympic rower Polly Swann. "I'm amazing at how wide the doors open - I could achieve almost a complete rowing stroke, which produced more than enough power to push the Note down the lake." 

      What you can do
      Not every driver will want - or need - to transform their vehicle into a boat, no matter what kind of intense off-road driving they are doing. Many motorists opt instead for installing a lift kit. By adding more ground clearance and potentially even larger, more capable tires, auto owners are reducing the chances that water infiltrates the undercarriage and rusts their machine.

      Others choose to install armor to guard the weak points of a vehicle. This can come in handy when you're driving through water and can't see what is lying below the surface, which may include rocks or other obstacles that could cause damage. 

    • Could a Tesla pickup be on the horizon?

      Tesla made a lot of headlines in 2013, mostly for the stellar performance and safety ratings of its Model S. While the manufacturer is sticking with what it knows for now, there are rumors that the automaker could soon enter the world of pickup trucks. 

      An analyst at Seeking Alpha, an investment research website, recently brought up the idea of Tesla joining the pickup truck revolution. Trucks have already staked their claim as one of the most popular auto segments, and the segment is predicted to continue expanding in the future. 

      A Tesla chief designer did comment on the possibility of a pickup once in the past, claiming that the torque of an electric motor - such as the one Tesla produces - would be an excellent option for pickups, according to Seeking Alpha. Elon Musk, the free-speaking brand CEO, has also discussed a potential Tesla truck, saying that it would feature an impressive air suspension and torque, the news source reported. 

      If a Tesla pickup is anything like the Model S, drivers can expect big things. Not only does the electric vehicle boast a range of up to 265 miles with zero emissions, but it also offers superior safety features. An innovative aluminum design cuts down on weight while creating a rigid frame, and the lack of an engine makes it easy to optimize the vehicle for passenger protection. The Model S received top scores on almost all of its safety tests.

      With a strong exterior, wide range and premium features, an off-road vehicle from Tesla could change the industry. Of course, that is all speculation, but it is certainly something for fans of off-road driving to consider as they mull over the latest news from the sport. 

    • Auto industry could face parts shortage in 2014

      While most of the auto industry has big dreams for 2014, there is one section that is wary of what is to come: the suppliers. Many companies that make individual components for vehicles are facing extreme pressure to keep up with high demand, and as a result, they are not sure if they will be able to match automaker's expectations in the next year. 

      The outlook
      A recent survey from IRN, Inc. found that many manufacturers are concerned about a potential shortage of car parts in 2014. With demand for new cars on the rise, many suppliers are being forced to increase their output - a fact that few are prepared for. 

      "Capacity may finally be at the breaking point," the survey said, according to Automotive News. "If current projections ... are correct, expect this to be one of the top issues for the industry in 2014." 

      According to the survey, those suppliers who made electrical components were most concerned about a potential shortage. As many as 38 percent of survey respondents who made these devices were worried about not meeting capacity. Following those companies were suppliers of chassis and suspension components, of which approximately 30 percent were concerned, the news source reported. 

      "This suggests that the industry is maxed out," Melissa Anderson, IRN vice president, told Automotive News. "Among most suppliers, there is a fair amount of scrambling going on. It's not always pretty." 

      What you can do
      There is not much drivers can do to prepare for a potential parts shortage in 2014, especially because they have no way of knowing what type of auto repair they could need or even what vehicle they'll be driving in the future. If you have an off-road vehicle that you intend to keep throughout 2014, it may be a good idea to give the automobile a thorough inspection and make sure everything is functioning as it should. That way, if you find something that needs to be tinkered with or replaced, you have plenty of time to properly address the issue. This also provides you with some leeway in case a problem is bigger than you expect and requires a new investment. 

      Those who plan on doing some extreme off-roading in the next year will also want to take steps to ensure their automobiles are strong enough to handle whatever comes their way. Installing a lift kit to add more ground clearance can prevent any type of obstacle from interfering with the undercarriage. Similarly, installing Jeep armor or other protective plates may also guard exposed areas from harm. 

    • Esquire praises the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

      Esquire magazine recently handed out awards for its "SUV of the Year," and many off-roading enthusiasts will likely be happy with the automobile that took the top spot. The men's style publication rated the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as the big winner in this year's Esquire Car Awards, awarding it the title of Sport Utility of the Year

      Multiple editors drove the new Jeep model, testing out its refreshments and updated amenities. While the 2014 version was not a complete redesign, it didn't need a total overhaul to compete. The few touches that were expertly applied to the edition enhanced the driving experience, and the vehicle itself is excellent for either day-to-day or off-road driving. 

      "The new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT combines impressive performance and luxury wrapped in a muscular and stylish exterior," said Ralph Gilles, the president of Chrysler's SRT Brand. "Winning Esquire's 'SUV of the Year' award continues to help set us apart from esteemed competitors by appealing to the passionate, performance-enthusiast consumers with its unique blend of value, technology, power and character." 

      Not only did Esquire select the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT as the best option for SUVs, but some of the individuals who provided input to the test said driving the vehicle was an excellent experience. It is an automobile that you'll want to drive, and just as important, an SUV that is fun to handle in any situation. 

      "The one sonic experience of the year that I will not forget is engaging the ignition on the SRT," David Granger, editor-in-chief of the magazine, wrote in his review. "This is the sweetest-sounding, most reasonably prices engine note of our time." 

      With a vehicle this great, some drivers may even be hesitant about making Jeep modifications. However, the extreme durability of the Grand Cherokee brand, combined with the reasonable costs, certainly make alterations a viable option. 

    • Motor oil not always up to standards

      Anyone who has taken a look under the hood of a car knows what an integral role motor oil plays in the functioning of a vehicle. The liquid is essential for auto engines, and it is incredibly important for drivers to make sure they are using the oil properly - especially if they plan on braving the elements in an off-road vehicle in the near future. 

      Motor oil falls short
      The American Petroleum Institute recently conducted a comprehensive study that looked at the quality of motor oil. Research found that 1 in 5 samples of bulk motor oil purchased within the past five years do not meet performance standards, which can have a drastic effect on the vehicles it is used in. 

      "API is concerned about the high levels of failure we are finding in our results," said Kevin Ferrick, manager of API's Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System. "API is sharing these audit findings with the public as part of its new 'Motor Oil Matters' program, which will help reduce the risk of consumers receiving oil that doesn't meet their cars' performance requirements." 

      The organization took samples from more than 1,800 motor oils, with almost 20 percent failing to meet quality standards. These standards are in place to protect consumers and their vehicles, so the fact that so many drivers are heading out on highways and off-road routes with less-than-stellar materials in their automobiles is concerning. 

      Importance of motor oil
      There's a reason why so many experts cite changing motor oil at regular intervals as one of the keys to preventative maintenance. It is an essential part of the vehicle's engine, and filling the system with the right oil can go a long way toward preventing harmful build up of dirt and sludge.

      Those who put off oil changes or use low-quality motor oil may have to replace an engine or undergo costly repairs sooner than expected. That kind of work is the last thing many fans of off-roading want, especially as the fall weather is ideal for recreational driving, so the only solution is to utilize the proper materials. 

      "The Motor Oil Matters program reminds consumers about the importance of using quality motor oils in their cars and trucks," Ferrick continued. "The Motor Oil Matters program also calls on certified oil change locations to go the extra step to verify the quality of the oil on invoices and receipts." 

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