Car Culture

Car Culture

Dan Parker, a blind racecar driver, achieved the Guinness World Records title for the “Fastest Speed for a Car Driven Blindfolded” on March 31. Parker set a new speed record of 211.043 miles per hour on the runway at Spaceport America in his custom-built Corvette, which included an innovative audio guidance system designed to his specifications. The previous record was held by Mike Newman of the United Kingdom, who achieved a speed of 200.51 miles per hour in 2014. Parker went blind as the result of a racing accident that took place 10 years before, on March 31, 2012, and he graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind seven years ago on March 31 as well.

The record attempt was made as part of the acceleration of the National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Driver Challenge — an initiative that aims to call attention to the importance of breaking barriers in mobility and to demonstrate the incredible achievements of blind people. It was sponsored by San Francisco-based zero emission self-driving company Cruise and certified by Guinness World Records official Michael Empric.

The effort built on the inaugural Blind Driver Challenge event that took place on Jan. 29, 2011, when Mark Riccobono, now president of the National Federation of the Blind, independently operated a modified Ford Escape hybrid on the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. Riccobono navigated the course’s turns and steered the car around dynamic obstacles by following prompts generated by input from the vehicle’s GPS, cameras, and LIDAR sensors.

Launched in Kansas City as Universal Underwriters in 1922, Zurich North America began by providing fire insurance to 85 auto dealers. Marking 100 years serving auto dealerships across the United States, Zurich has kicked off a multifaceted celebration that looks back on a century’s worth of milestones with a keen eye focused on the future.

Universal Underwriters was acquired by Zurich in 1981 and today Zurich  is one of the nation’s leading providers of Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance and Finance and Insurance (F&I) solutions for auto dealers.

“It is exciting to think about how much automotive history we as a company have witnessed firsthand,” said Vince Santivasi, head of direct markets. “As the auto industry has evolved, so too have the needs of auto dealerships. We have developed new and innovative products and services over the past 100 years and are proud to have been — and continue to be — evolving along with our auto dealer customers as new needs emerge.”

In 1968, Zurich became the first insurance company to introduce a single package policy offering monthly premium billing for automobile dealerships. In 1984, the F&I offering was expanded to include vehicle service contracts and income development services for auto dealers; and in 2021 – a sign of the times – Zurich launched a suite of vehicle protection products for electric vehicles.

The Reynolds and Reynolds Company announced that Chris Walsh, formerly the executive vice president of sales and marketing, has been named president of Reynolds and Reynolds, and that Willie Daughters, the executive vice president of operations, has been named chief operating officer. Both promotions are effective immediately. Walsh succeeds Tommy Barras, who will continue serving as company chairman and chief executive officer.

“Chris is a proven leader who has delivered consistently excellent results throughout his career,” said Barras. “He keeps one eye on the future of our industry and understands the challenges and the opportunities facing automotive retailing today.

“His passion for helping our customers succeed, as well as his knowledge and expertise in various areas of the company, will help drive our growth.”

Walsh has been with Reynolds for more than 35 years, holding various leadership roles in business development, operations, quality control, sales, marketing, and support.

“Moving forward, we will be more focused than ever on expanding our footprint in retail automotive, making it easier to do business with us, and helping our customers achieve new levels of profitability,” said Walsh. “Reynolds is uniquely positioned to help dealers. That means equipping them to retail anywhere, without sacrificing anything.”

Daughters has been with the company for more than 30 years. Previous leadership roles have included working directly with automotive manufacturers (OEMs), directing the Canadian and European support organizations, overseeing product quality assurance and testing, and leading the technical assistance teams.

The world’s largest traveling car show, HOT ROD Power Tour Driven by Continental Tire, will return Monday, June 13 through Friday, June 17.

Additionally, HOT ROD Drag Week Presented by Gear Vendors Overdrive, the fastest streetcar competition in America, is back beginning Sept. 18 through Sept. 23. The two events combined boast upward of 6,000 participating vehicles.

HOT ROD Power Tour ’22 Schedule:

  • Kickoff / Day 1: Monday, June 13 - Memphis International Raceway, Millington, Tenn.
  • Day 2: Tuesday, June 14 - Nashville Superspeedway, Lebanon, Tenn.
  • Day 3: Wednesday, June 15 - Hoover Met Complex, Hoover, Ala.
  • Day 4: Thursday, June 16 - Pensacola Fairgrounds, Pensacola, Fla.
  • Day 5: Friday, June 17 - Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.’

Registration, Tech Day, and Test ’n’ Tune: Sunday, Sept. 18 - Memphis International RacewayMotorTrend also announced a return to four classic tracks for the 18th annual HOT ROD Drag Week, when the “Fastest Streetcar in America” will be crowned beginning Sept. 18 through Sept. 23. The event puts competitors to a grueling test over five days of drag racing, requiring racers to drive their vehicles on a specified route from city to city, upward of 1,000 miles, while securing the quickest possible elapsed time across the five days. During the competition, drivers provide photographic evidence to prove they have adhered to the prescribed route. Some of the nation’s top racers participate annually, including past champions Tom Bailey and Dave Schroeder.

  • Racing Day 1: Sept. 19 - Memphis International Raceway, Millington, Tenn.
  • Racing Day 2: Sept. 20 - World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill.
  • Racing Day 3: Sept. 21 - Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, Ky.
  • Racing Day 4: Sept. 22 - Alabama International Dragway, Steele, Ala.
  • Racing Day 5: Sept. 23 - Memphis International Raceway

Fleet Complete, a global provider of telematics technologies and solutions for fleet, asset, and mobile workforce-based businesses, has named Frank Friesacher as the new chief product officer. Friesacher will spearhead the company’s global product innovation and long-term market opportunities, bringing with him over 25 years of experience in leading the development and market introduction of innovative software and hardware technologies.

“This is an important addition for our global business, and we are excited about the journey ahead,” said CEO Tony Lourakis. “Frank is an experienced leader. He has a sterling reputation, massive experience, and ingenuity in areas like SaaS, PaaS, IoT, Blockchain, AI, telematics, electric fleets, and other connected, industrial IoT products. We are thrilled to welcome him to the Fleet Complete team.”

A former CEO of an M2M and fleet solutions company for seven years, Friesacher has a long professional pedigree in product innovation. This includes the QNX real-time embedded operating system, the first eCheck payment processing, the introduction of self-serve online banking portals, telematics-based insurance, and AI-based predictive maintenance solutions for aircraft and trucks.

He also headed the Digital Accelerator for advanced solutions in heavy-duty on-road, off-road and electric fleets at Cummins.

If you’ve heard rumors of a new Bronco EV in the pipeline, you heard right. Except it’s a pint-sized version for kids. The company Kid Trax unveiled its mini Bronco EV designed for riders ages 2-7 and it's got almost as many bells and whistles as the adult-sized Bronco. 

The mini EV Bronco features running lights and working LED headlights, bucket seats, functional side mirrors, removable doors and bed cover, Power Trax rubber traction strip tires (along with a spare), FM radio and MP3 input, and horn and engine sounds. And when it’s time to refuel the Bronco, a one-step plug-in system recharges its 12-volt battery.

The Kid Trax Bronco has a top speed of 5 miles per hour and seats 2. It will be available at Target for holiday gift giving. MSRP is 499.99.  

For the adults wanting to get in on the electric Bronco their kids are driving, don't worry. Based on an unconfirmed report from last August, a Bronco hybrid is in the works and will pair a 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine with an electric motor and a ten-speed automatic transmission. 


Kia America made a donation of $200,000 to the American Red Cross to assist with disaster relief efforts and provide shelter, food and comfort to those affected by Hurricane Ida. In addition, Kia Motors Finance customers affected by Hurricane Ida may be eligible for payment relief solutions. Impacted Kia Motors Finance customers can call that company's customer service line at (866) 331-5632 to learn more about their options during this difficult time.

"Helping individuals and communities in need is part of Kia's brand purpose and these funds will support people impacted by this devastating storm," said Sean Yoon, president & CEO, Kia North America and Kia America. "Responding to disasters is a team effort and Kia applauds the American Red Cross and its trained workers from across the United States who quickly mobilized emergency supplies into multiple states."

Kia's support of the American Red Cross is the latest extension of its "Accelerate the Good" initiative, which has provided more than $2.5 million to those in need since 2019.

Toyota’s first wholly-owned vehicle plant in North America, Toyota Kentucky in Georgetown, recently produced its 10 millionth Camry, representing one of America’s best-selling vehicles of all time.

The white 2021 Toyota Camry SE rolled off the line to cap a milestone year for the plant, which also celebrated 35 years of operation in the Bluegrass State.

“It gives us a great sense of pride to imagine where our 10 million Camrys have carried people over the years,” said Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. “This is a great opportunity for our team to celebrate the successes of the past 35 years and look forward to what the next 35 years will bring as we continue our drive to make mobility for all a reality.”

The 2021 Camry is currently in its eighth generation.

In March, the Kentucky plan produced its 13 millionth vehicle, a blue RAV4 Hybrid. 

The 2020/2021 Automotive Hall of Fame’s Induction and Awards Ceremony will recognize innovators and influencers from across the global mobility industry. This year’s class mirrors the evolution of the automotive industry and is comprised of a diverse group of visionaries.

“This class of inductees is the Automotive Hall of Fame’s most diverse in terms of geographical region, race, gender and industry sector. Also, we have added a new award – Mobility Innovator Award,” said Ramzi Hermiz, chairman of the Automotive Hall of Fame Board of Directors. “It is our goal to recognize all individuals who have made clear and compelling contributions that helped shape the automotive industry.”

Since the postponement of the Induction and Awards Ceremony in 2020, three additional inductees have been added to the Class of 2020/2021: C.R. and Frederick Patterson – C.R. Patterson & Sons (later the Greenfield Bus Body Company) and Charles Wiggins, who was barred from participating in white-only events, including the Indianapolis 500. He was also a leader in the parallel Colored Speedway Association championships, becoming a four-time winner of the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes. Known nationally as the “Negro King of Speed,” Charlie was a notable driver and an exceptional mechanic and engineer.

The previously announced inductees of this year’s class include: Honorary Chairman Mong-Koo Chung, the innovative leader and former chairman, who grew Hyundai/Kia into the world’s fifth largest car manufacturer and established the Hyundai brand synonymous for quality and reliability; Thomas Gallagher, the former chairman and president of Genuine Parts Corporation who successfully championed the independent owner model of NAPA stores, promoting distribution models that kept stores competitive and rooted in their communities, and advocated right-to-repair legislation; Jay Leno, founder of the Emmy Award-winning series, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” Leno is capturing generations of automotive enthusiasts through his passion for all things automotive; Helene Rother, known for her impeccable taste in design, Rother moved the post-war car market from interiors designed for utility to ones designed for luxury and sophistication. She was also the first woman hired in the styling department of General Motors.

The Mobility Innovator Awards recognize the outstanding work an individual has accomplished to introduce new technologies and services that are redefining mobility. This year’s winner is Harold Goddijn, CEO of TomTom and a member of its management board.

The 2021 Distinguished Service Citation, recognizing individuals who have had a significant positive impact on the industry or their respective organizations, go to; Sir Lewis Hamilton, professional driver, Formula One; and Ray Scott, CEO, Lear Corporation.

The  2021 Industry Influencer Awards, which recognize individuals who are influencing and leading through their actions, innovations and visible positions on issues pertinent to the automotive industry and its future, go to; Jim Baumbick, vice president, enterprise product line management, strategy, and planning, Ford Motor Company; Laurent Borne, president & CTO, Stoneridge; Nelda J. Connors, founder & CEO, strategic partner, Pine Grove Holdings, LLC; Chris Ludwig, vice president, EPIC Experience Team, HARMAN International;  Ben Volkow, CEO, Otonomo and Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer, General Motors.

The July 22 private ceremony will be held at the museum, located in Dearborn, Mich.

State Line Auto Auction ownership recently celebrated employee Child ‘John’ Williams on his 20th anniversary at the auction.

Williams started out in the body shop at State Line Auto Auction in 2001. His 20th anniversary was June 28. During his career, Williams has been a stalwart by exhibiting his versatility regarding various tasks and procedures, according to SLAA President Jeff Barber.

“Our body shop is renowned for its high-quality workmanship,” Barber said. “John is very valuable in that he can repair and refinish any project that comes along. Our shop is comprised of a very responsible, mature group of technicians, and John has been a big part of our success. It is always a pleasure to walk through the Body Shop and admire their expertise.”

“For instance, John was part of the crew that created our award-winning Pedal Truck in 2014. His handiwork has also been featured in our annual State Line calendar.”

“Our family is very grateful for the many dedicated employees that we have at State Line.”

A ceremony took place before the sale on July 2, where Williams received his 20-year solid brass ship’s clock. This is a tradition for each employee reaching this important milestone at SLAA.

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