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How to tell if they're faking

John LeBlanc on how the spy shots are a fake, the killing of the most-unloved Jeep and a pint-sized sports car from Subaru.

Published April 16, 2008
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<strong>So they've been faking it all along?<br /></strong><p>
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If you believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or Transport Canada fuel consumption estimates, stop reading now — I have some potentially upsetting news. </p><p>
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You know those so-called “spy shots” of prototypes? The ones that pop up on auto news sites slathered in camouflage like they’re trying to avoid some kind of jungle warfare ambush? </p><p>
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Well, you might not know it, but most are about as real as Pamela Anderson’s chest.</p><p>
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It’s a little-known industry white lie that the majority of those so-called “scoops” are rigidly staged. In reality, spy shots can be part of an automaker’s tightly scripted media plan designed to ramp up interest in an upcoming product. </p><p>
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Most are either shot by the automakers, or generated by mysterious phone calls to the spy shooters with tips that a “certain car” may be passing by at a “certain time,” nudge-nudge, wink-wink…</p><p>
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But now, the spy shot metaphorical cat is officially out of the bag.</p><p>
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General Motor’s European Opel brand released a “how to camouflage” series of photos on the auto spy photo site, <a href="http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/04/2009-opel-insignia-new-image-gallery.html">carscoop.blogspot.com.</a> </p><p>
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The example is the 2009 Open Insignia, a mid-size front-drive family sedan we’ll eventually get as the next Saturn Aura.</p><p>
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Ironically, the very next day, <a href="http://www.autoweek.nl/nieuws.php?id=8713">AutoWeek</a> released photos of the final production Insignia, naked of any tape, well ahead of its public unveiling at the London Motor Show in July. </p><p>
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Or did Opel leak these shots as well?</p><p>
</p><p><strong>If a Jeep falls…<br /></strong></p><p>
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Ever wake up on a Sunday, gaze upon your new best friend across the sheets, and ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”</p><p>
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That’s pretty much how parent Chrysler feels about its disastrous Commander.</p><p>
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After a 43 per cent sales drop this past year, production of the large seven-seater SUV, (the worst-selling of Chrysler's six Jeep models) will end in mid-2009, said unnamed sources in a recent news article.</p><p>
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Only introduced in 2005, that’s well short of the usual seven- to eight-year lifespan of most vehicles.</p><p>
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Although the Commander was a lot more practical and drove better than a similarly priced Hummer H3, the lack of a diesel engine (its fuel economy ranged from 10.9 to 16.5 L/100 km with its V6 and V8 gas mills) and third-row legroom unsuitable for anyone over the age of 3, garnered some critics to label the biggest Jeep ever as “the answer to a question no one has asked.”</p><p>
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The pint-sized future of fun</strong></p><p>
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It’s back to the future time for driving enthusiasts.</p><p>
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Just like the 1980s, when 150 hp Chevy Camaro Z28s defined the original Malaise Era for performance cars, rising fuel prices are once again remodeling what we’ll consider performance cars.</p><p>
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So instead of 480 hp super cars <a href="http://wheels.ca/article/221098">over-laden with gadgetry </a>, try smaller and lighter on for size. </p><p>
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That’s where Toyota and Subaru are heading, with recent confirmation of an all-new small sports coupe. (Toyota has an ownership stake in Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries.)</p><p>
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In an official statement from Toyota CEO Katsuaki "Ken" Watanabe: "The compact rear-wheel drive sports car is envisioned to offer a new 'fun to drive' experience based on an all-new vehicle platform." </p><p>
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Expected by 2010, Subaru's boxer four-cylinder engines will be used in both models. </p><p>
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Logic would suggest that a Lexus version (smaller than the current IS) is also in the works, possibly using Toyo-, er, Lexus engines to take on BMW’s 1-Series.</p><p>
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Although the Subaru version would be virgin ground for the automaker, (the last Subie coupe was the mid-sized, high-performance sports-touring SVX GT sold from 1991 to 1997), Toyota’s version is clearly cashing in on the continuing cult status of the 1984 to 1987 Corolla SR5 and GT-S coupes.</p><p>
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Known by its internal codename, AE86, it lives on via Japanese manga artists, as well as all instalments of <em>Gran Turismo, Tokyo Highway Battle</em>, and <em>Tokyo Xtreme Racer</em> computer and video games, and can be found the boy racer flick, <em>Fast and Furious: 3 Tokyo Drift</em>.</p><p>
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