Do Your Kids Attend a LAUSD School? Petersen Automotive Museum is Offering Free Admission
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As of today, negotiations resumed to settle the teachers’ strike in the Los Angeles Unified School District. (LAUSD), but student attendance is down to about 1/3 of the usual student body. The Petersen Automotive Museum, rated by CNN, Octane, and Top Gear as “the world’s greatest automotive museum” is offering a place for your kids and parents to go and learn about cars while school is in recess. With several unique exhibits and a 1910 Ford Model T guests are invited to sit inside, the museum is a cool place to go.

The Petersen Automotive Museum has announced it will offer free admission to LAUSD students Monday through Friday until February 2, 2019. Students will have the opportunity to enjoy special programming in the Rob and Melani Walton Discovery Center and throughout the museum. Students will also have access to the museum’s latest exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences ranging from the CARS Mechanical Institute featuring crafts and games based on the popular animated movie for younger visitors, to the Forza Motorsports Experience and the “Cars of Film and Television” exhibit in the Hollywood Gallery.

Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges said in a press release this week, “Our founder Robert E. Petersen’s passion project was supporting Los Angeles schools, so it makes sense to open our doors to these kids this month. It is our distinct pleasure to give back to the community that has given us so much. We’re thrilled to give these kids a place to go when school is out that is both fun and educational and will inspire the engineers, designers, racers and tinkerers of tomorrow.”

Visitors of the museum will have access to interactive exhibits including “The Porsche Effect;” “Legends of Los Angeles,” which features the most famous race cars built in the city, “The Roots of Monozukuri” and “Fine Tuning,” which focus on Japanese car culture; and “Cars of Film and Television” in the Hollywood Gallery, which includes the Batmobile, the Back to the Future DeLorean, and more.

In addition to free admission, children and teens will have the opportunity to experience supplemental educational programs designed to help them learn about the history and future of the automobile. Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. STEAM-based tours and design projects, book readings and other activities will keep students engaged and provide opportunities for learning about the math, science and artistry behind cars.

Other informative exhibits include the Art Center Design Studio, where design students are working on concepts for the future of transportation; the Alternative Power Gallery that studies the history and future of alt-fuel technology; and “Auto-Didactic: The Juxtapoz School” in the Armand Hammer Foundation Gallery that looks at the uniquely Southern California art movement that formed from the roots of hot rods, lowriders, skate/surf and comic book culture in the second half of the 20th century.

In order to be eligible for free weekday admission through February 2, 2019, elementary and middle school students must be accompanied by an adult with a valid legal ID indicating they reside within the following LAUSD cities. Qualifying cities include: Cudahy, Gardena, Huntington Park, Lomita, Maywood, Vernon, San Fernando, West Hollywood, Bell, Bell Gardens, Beverly Hills, Carson, Commerce, Culver City, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Lynwood, Montebello, Monterey Park, Rancho Palos Verdes, South Gate and Torrance.

For more information about how the community can help support the Petersen Automotive Museum’s mission and education initiatives, please visit To learn more about the museum, please visit

Kristin Shaw
The Ford Edge is a Computer Geek, and We Like It

by Kristin Shaw

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Technology Drives the Autonomous Trend… and Safety

In 2006, Ford debuted the brand-new Edge at the Detroit Auto Show, launching their first edition as a 2007 model year. For 2019, the company is laser-focused on driver confidence with the new Edge, and says it has the most available driver-assist technologies in its class. Not doubt, the Edge is the techiest Ford we’ve ever seen. (And do we also like the name because it shares a moniker with the guitarist of U2? Perhaps.)

Although cars safer than ever, roads in America are getting more and more congested, and many drivers are still stressed about potential accidents, says Ford’s Jim Farley, President, Global Markets. That’s one reason Ford is making these technologies accessible to customers.

The other is a little deeper and more future driven: Ford believes this work also will help people become more comfortable with the idea of autonomous vehicles.

“Many people question the idea of autonomous vehicles,” Farley said. “But those who use advanced driver-assist technologies today say they are more open to cars doing all of the driving in the future.”

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Detest Parallel Parking? This Will Help

As someone who loves cars and loves to drive, I don’t know that I want the car to drive for me. However, the opportunity for safety enhancements is not a bad thing, and driving the new Edge is undeniably a confidence-boosting experience. On the roads in Dallas, I had a chance to try out the driver-assist technologies in the Edge.

Sensors and cameras are mounted at specific locations on the Edge to enhance the driver’s awareness of other vehicles and objects that are beside and behind. I tested the car’s active park assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear of the vehicle to guide the driver into a parallel or perpendicular parking space. It’s kind of a weird feeling, and my pride at being a parallel parking champ was a little bruised that I’d trust those skills to the machine instead of my own eyes. Once you understand how to use the feature, it’s spot on. For anyone who doesn’t enjoy parking as much as I do, it’s definitely a plus.

Co-Pilot360: the Back-Seat Driver You Want

Their safety platform is the Ford Co-Pilot360, which includes standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot information system, lane keeping system, rear backup camera and auto high beam lighting. Ford Co-Pilot360 rolled out on the new 2019 Ford Edge and Edge ST in the fall, and will be added to Ford’s new passenger cars, SUVs and their truck line up to the F-150 in North America.

The technology addresses Ford research showing a growing trend of people worrying about hitting pedestrians – and will be standard on 91 percent of Ford vehicles in North America by 2020. Ford Co-Pilot360’s pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection can help drivers avoid collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians. If a potential collision is detected, a warning flashes and an alert sounds; if the driver doesn’t respond quickly, the system can automatically apply the brakes.

Ford says it will continue to introduce new driver-assist technologies. In 2019, it plans to debut automatic emergency braking for when drivers are in reverse for the North America and Asia Pacific markets. The company is also investing $500 million the next five years to continue developing new driver-assist and safety technologies. They’re working to simplify the technologies so they work as drivers expect, especially as driving controls become more automated.  

We’re on board with the direction Ford is taking in technological updates to their fleet. The investment they’re making in safety technologies will benefit the industry as a whole.

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Community Focus: Ford Driving Skills for Life

At Thrills and Wheels, we are strong supporters of safe driving and manufacturer programs to help teenagers develop better driving skills. If you have a teenage driver, check out dates and locations for the Ford Driving Skills for Life (Ford DSFL) to your home. Established in 2003 by Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and a panel of safety experts, Ford DSFL was designed to teach new drivers the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs.

Ford Driving Skills for Life was created to help teen drivers - for free, by the way - to recognize and overcome distracted driving and develop sharper driving skills. Over the past fifteen, years, this program has taught a vast number of teenagers how to be a better driving, and parents learn alongside them.

A few months ago, we joined a Ford DSFL class in Chicago, and the instructors and curriculum were impressive. Drivers are asked to don special goggles that simulate impaired driving, and the other occupants of the vehicle are encouraged to heckle, distract, and yell while the driver is navigating a coned course.

Kristin Shaw
Steel Market Development Institute using virtual reality at NAIAS to illustrate future mobility and steel connection

*This post is sponsored by SMDI. All opinions expressed in this piece are my own.

We just returned from the CES, the Consumer Electronics Association’s gargantuan trade show that spans just a shade under a dozen venues and attracts about 180,000 people from all over the world. It was clear that autonomous driving was going to be a big focus, with notable displays from OEMs and companies like HERE and Magna. Aptiv partnered with Lyft to give CES attendees a taste of Level 4 autonomous driving. We took a ride and the interface was impressive.

We expected the autonomous driving hype to be strong, and it was. However, right on the heels of that message and jockeying for position were the topics of connectivity and mobility. Without connectivity, none of this new automotive technology will work. And mobility is going to make a difference for drivers of all ages and status; automotive manufacturers are taking note of mobility requirements and they’re well down the path to jump ahead of the curve.

Photo: SMDI

Photo: SMDI

Next week at the North American International Auto Show, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) will offer a three-minute virtual journey through a futuristic city landscape. To start the journey, the (virtual) steel body of an autonomous vehicle builds around the rider before taking off on the road. NAIAS Media & Industry Preview attendees will be able to explore the key components of the vehicle and learn how advanced high-strength steels in automotive design can address the potential challenges of autonomous transportation.

In 1970 - the year I was born! - only a few grades of steel were available to automakers. Now there are more than 200 grades of steel, ensuring manufacturers have the right grade for the right application. We know that safety is important to consumers, and steel plays a major role. But what I find most interesting about steel that I didn’t know until recently is that steel is recycled more than all other materials combined. Steel is magnetic, making it easily and affordably recycled. And one steel product can be recycled into another without loss of quality, contributing to its high recycling rate.

Photo: SMDI

Photo: SMDI

SMDI's exhibit will also feature a 2019 Acura RDX body-in-white. What’s a body-in-white, you might ask? Body in white (BIW) refers to the stage in automobile manufacturing in which a car body's components have been joined together, using one or a combination of different techniques. Essentially, the BIW is the chassis before painting and before the engine, chassis sub-assemblies, or trim (glass, door locks/handles, seats, upholstery, electronics, etc.) have been assembled within the frame structure.

SMDI’s RDX BIW will show visitors the advanced high-strength steel structure of a current vehicle and compare it with the autonomous vehicle in the virtual reality experience. Experts from SMDI and its member companies will be on hand to answer questions at the SMDI booth on the show floor at NAIAS.

Are you going to NAIAS? We can’t wait!

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Kristin Shaw
Nissan's 2019 Altima and the New Mary Poppins Movie Share a Common Goal: Creative Innovation

by Kristin Shaw

Photo: Nissan

Photo: Nissan

When Disney animators are sketching out a design for a movie like Mary Poppins Returns, they may start with pencil and paper, transfer their work to storyboards and then to digital files. It’s a process guided by the creative vision, and the outcome is a result of all of the iterations along the route (and maybe a spoonful of sugar, too).

In the same vein, the designers at Nissan have combined technology and art to create the new Altima, the manufacturer’s mid-size sedan.

“At Nissan, innovation means taking something everyone knows and making it new and exciting again,” says Nissan’s Ken Lee, Program Design Director, in a special video tying the auto manufacturer to the movie. “In the same way that filmmakers combine artistry and technology, this is how we’ve created the impossibly smart Altima.”

With a bit of automotive-industry magic, Nissan has invested time and energy into the updated Altima to make it stand out in its class. Recent popularity surges in the crossover market have forced manufacturers to get creative; the efficiency of the Altima’s new engine* (see footnote) and available all-wheel drive give this sedan an opportunity to compete while staying true to its roots.

On that note, the return of Mary Poppins is much the same: the new movie keeps the sweet whimsy of the 1964 original, and enhances it with incredible new animation techniques, songs, and modernity. Nissan’s Vice President, Marketing Communications and Media Jeremy Tucker, a former Disney Consumer Products executive, saw the potential for partnership and led the creation of two videos to show the similarities of car and movie design.

“The reality is, five million sedans are sold in America every year,” Tucker told us just before the red-carpet premiere of Mary Poppins Returns in LA in late November. “There’s a tremendous opportunity that we see here. How do we take what we love about a sedan… one of our best models and a tremendous nameplate for Nissan, and modernize it, without losing who we are?”

Photo: Nissan

Photo: Nissan

Billed as “impossibly smart”, the 2019 Altima is touted as the most fuel efficient all-wheel drive sedan in its class, and the company has updated several exterior and interior elements of the vehicle. Technology is also a major focus, and Nissan’s marketing team has done a good job on its site outlining which features outperform competitors, item by item.

Available since October of 2018, the Altima is offered in five trim levels: S, SR, SV, SL, and Platinum. The 2019 Altima also offers available Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (on all trim levels equipped with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine) for the first time ever on a Nissan sedan in the U.S.

You can expect to pay starting at $23,750 for Altima S, up to $35,750 for the Altima Edition ONE. Edition ONE offers 24/7 Nissan Concierge service live assistance, which is included for three years. If you’re on the road quite a bit, like to explore, and enjoy having access to a live person to guide you for restaurant recommendations and travel assistance, this is the package for you.

If you think about what Disney has done with Mary Poppins Returns, they had a similar challenge to take something well-loved by its fans and offer a fresh and innovative approach. Animation technology has changed tremendously in the last 50 years; while the newest Mary Poppins movie seamlessly blends animation and live action in a way the original could not have at the time, it still retains what made us all fall in love with Mary the first time. It’s Mary Poppins 2.0… plus the Altima 2.019. Each practically perfect in its own way.

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What to know about the new Altima:

Standard on every 2019 Altima:

  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto,

  • Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System

  • Streaming Audio via Bluetooth

  • Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant

  • Siri Eyes Free voice recognition

  • Key fob remote engine start

  • USB Type-C outlets (faster charging!)

  • Also available (for additional cost): Bose Premium Audio System

Safety features available:

  • Rear Automatic Braking: alerts the driver to potential collisions with approaching vehicles and stationary objects when reversing, and braking to help avoid impact.

  • A symbol on the dash will alert the driver when tire pressure is low, identifying which specific tire is down. Then the Easy-Fill Tire Alert taps the horn when the tire is at the right pressure.

  • By monitoring the distance and velocity of the vehicle in front of you, and the one in front of that one as well, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning alerts the driver to potential risks ahead of what he or she can see.

Engine note:

The industry is very excited about Nissan’s VC (variable compression) Turbo engine. This shape-shifting piece of machinery increases fuel economy and zip by responding to the driver in real time. The way Nissan explains it is like this: “When you press on the gas, the piston moves to produce a lower compression ratio. Similar to when a sprinter crouches to launch off of the starting line, it results in instant V6-like power from this mighty 4-cylinder turbo engine. When you cruise at lower speeds, the rotating assembly transforms to produce a higher compression ratio. And like the more relaxed stance of a long-distance runner, it conserves energy and increases your fuel economy.” The result is a miles per gallon average of 25 in the city and 34 on the highway.

Photo: Nissan

Photo: Nissan

Kristin Shaw
Mazda Gives $1500 in Wish List Items to SAFE Alliance in Austin to Help Families in Crisis

by Kristin Shaw

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When your work gives you the opportunity to give $1500 in wish list items to the local children’s shelter and shop for the goodies with fun friends, it’s a GREAT day.

On December 12, Thrills and Wheels had the honor of leading an event with Austin Mazda dealership Roger Beasley Mazda to help SAFE Alliance. The SAFE Alliance is a merger of Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace, both long-standing and respected human service agencies serving the survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence.

With the help of local influencers Wendi Aarons, Susanne Kerns, and Jamie Doborek, along with talented and acclaimed photographer Elizabeth McGuire, we picked up two beautiful new Mazda CX-9s for the trip. Chelsea Bancroft from Roger Beasley Automotive joined us, setting up the red and white Santa sleighs – the CX-9s, that is – to transport the gifts to SAFE.

Our event in video (by Susanne Kerns): watch.

Chelsea Bancroft of Roger Beasley Automotive with Michael O’Donohue of SAFE.

Chelsea Bancroft of Roger Beasley Automotive with Michael O’Donohue of SAFE.

A charity close to our hearts, SAFE runs a variety of programs that are critical in our community. The Early Childhood and Teen Parent program, which is a residential program for pregnant and parenting teens in the foster care system with their children, helps families build successful and resilient children through strengthening parents and preserving families. The Strong Start program empowers families through early childhood services and family support. The shelter provides a number of services, including:

  • Parent education to enable parents to increase positive behaviors in children and use appropriate strategies to decrease children’s challenging behaviors.

  • The Children Support Services program, offered within Strong Start’s educational home visiting program, provides families the opportunity for their child (ages 3-5 years old) to participate in 1:1 positive social and emotional development with a Child Support Specialist.

  • Crisis intervention services, which may include immediate crisis assistance, parenting education and support, home and community visits, and more.

  • Mental health services for both children and parents.

  • Support services in addition to parenting classes and counseling by parent support specialists.

Thank you Jamie Kincaid TinsleyRoger Beasley Mazda Austin, and Mazda USA for sending us on this shopping spree to help kids in need in Austin. We are grateful for the chance to make the lives of a few kids a little bit better this holiday season.

Want to see us loading the back of the CX-9 in rapid speed? Check it out here.

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About Roger Beasley Mazda

Roger Beasley Mazda is the #1 Mazda dealership in the Austin area. In 1972 Roger Beasley opened his first car dealership. Roger Beasley Mazda on Burnet Road. In fact, it was one of the first Mazda dealerships in the entire country. Now Roger Beasley Imports includes 3 top tier brands and 7 separate dealerships in and around Austin, Texas. The success and expansion of the Beasley brand can only be attributed to Roger Beasley's consistent belief in his founding principles: take care of the customer no matter what, provide quality products and service, and be an active supporter of the local community.

Read more about the CX-9  here, on Kristin’s site .

Read more about the CX-9 here, on Kristin’s site.

About the Mazda CX-9

Mazda's CX-9 is a 3-row, 7-passenger SUV. The base model starts at $32,280 and is available in four distinct trim lines: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature. The top of the line, Signature, starts at $45,365. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are both available for this model, making communication a breeze. In regards to fuel economy, it logs 28 highway miles per gallon (MPG). When the third row is not in use for seating, there is a *lot* of room in the back for road trips… or gifts for kids and families who need them.  

Kristin Shaw

by Steve Wheeler, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)

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Toyota engineers, armed with marching orders to use “adventure” and “refinement” when designing the company’s best-selling car, went to work on the 2019 RAV4 way back in 2015.

With the boom in smaller crossovers, the engineers became aware that sales of the car they were redesigning have doubled in the last five years.

No pressure, right? Those engineers were probably sweating bullets for every one of those one thousand four hundred and sixty days.

Well, Toyota engineers, now that the 2019 RAV4 has finally been launched y'all can take a breath. Exhale.

Your new RAV4 is nice. Really nice.

There aren’t any guarantees, of course, that it will continue to be the company's top dog. But a betting person would give it good odds. I know I do.

"The RAV4 is huge for us," said Lisa Materazzo, Toyota's vice president of Toyota vehicle marketing and communications. Speaking to journalists gathered for the west coast launch of the RAV4, Materazzo said more than 400,000 RAV4s were sold last year.

Smaller SUVs and Crossovers are all the rage today, and Toyota says the RAV4 was the creator of the compact SUV segment when it was first introduced four car generations ago, which in real time is about 22 years. It was intended to combine the best of bigger SUVs with the best of cars. "Crossover" became the new industry buzzword and is now an official car category.

The new RAV4 has more of a carved, chiseled look rather than a smooth, flowing look, a deliberate move by Toyota that brings it back toward the SUV end of the spectrum. The new RAV4 has edges and geometrical lines.

Powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops 203 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, the RAV4 is EPA-rated at 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg combined.

There is also a RAV4 Hybrid that adds electric motors to a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter gas engine to combine for a net of 219 horsepower. The Hybrid version promises to take you 41 miles down city streets or 37 miles on the highway using a single gallon of gasoline. The Hybrid is also actually quicker off the line than the gasoline RAV4.

The base LE RAV4 starts at $25,500, and the base LE Hybrid RAV4 starts at $27,700. AWD is available on all trims for $1,400 more. Other RAV4 trims are the XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure and Limited. RAV4 Hybrid trims include LE, XLE, XSE and Limited.

At Toyota's launch of the RAV4 near Big Sur -- one of the few places in California not affected by smoke from the horrific wildfires -- I was able to drive each RAV4 trim. And for my money, I'd take a mid-grade Hybrid.

I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the RAV4. The cabin had quality materials and soft surfaces in the all the right places. The only real ding I'd give the RAV4 is that more road noise filtered into the cabin than I'd have liked. Otherwise, it's a quality interior, especially in the higher trims.

Out on the road, the RAV4 gave me a feeling of confidence and felt planted and secure. Diving into hard corners, the RAV4 was composed and relatively flat.

The RAV4 even has off-road game thanks to the AWD availability. During the mild off-road portion of the test drive, Toyota set up an articulation course that left one or two wheels of the RAV4 off the ground at a time. The car balanced diagonally on two wheels nicely without bending. Toyota says the RAV4 unibody is 57 percent more rigid than the outgoing model.

Connectivity and infotainment on all RAV4 models are via Toyota's Entune 3.0 multimedia system with a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen atop the center stack. It supports Wi-FI Connect by Verison, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and Apple CarPlay, but not Android Auto.

Safety testing on the 2019 RAV4 hasn't been completed, but last year's model got a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There's no reason to think the 2019 won't do as well. Toyota's Safety Sense system is standard in every RAV4 and includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracking assist and road sign assist. The RAV4 has eight standard airbags and a backup camera that features projected path and a bird's-eye setting.

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Steve Wheeler is an award-winning journalist with decades of experience in the newspaper business. Wheeler was a reporter, senior reporter and special sections editor at The Baton Rouge Advocate for more than 25 years before being named the editor of the daily newspaper’s automotive and real estate sections.

Wheeler has won numerous auto writing awards, including the International Automotive Media Competition of the ISVP, and the Excellence in Craft Competition of the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA). He is the first vice president of TAWA, and has been writing about cars for more than 12 years. He is currently the editor of the WHEELS section of The Baton Rouge Advocate.

Kristin Shaw