Charge It

 The new Dodge Charger that's coming soon is generating a lot of controversy, but I think Dodge is doing the correct thing. While there may be no direct styling cues from the original Chargers,and it's a sedan instead of a coupe, it's the right car for the market.

 Nostalgia is a great, but the market that dictated the design of the original CHarger no longer exists. Sedans are the new muscle cars, with only the Mustang hanging on in the original form. Everything else in the class has either morphed into something else or is no longer made.

 For the third version of one platform (Chrysler 300,Dodge Magnum), Chrysler has garnered a lot more attention for the Charger than they could have asked for, and I don't think it will hurt sales of the CHarger at all.

Toyota The New Buick?

 My uncle used to own a Buick Roadmaster, an absolute boat of a car. While it was extremely comfortable to ride in, there wasn't much there to get your blood pumping, unless you got into a corner too fast. Then it was like trying to keep the Titanic from striking the iceberg.

 He recently replaced the land yacht, with a Toyota Camry. It's a fine automobile, and I'm glad he picked it out of the many possibilities in the market. It should prove to be a faithful companion, but it illustrates the problem facing Toyota, aging customers.

 In the ongoing quest to improve the breed, cars like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are now larger than the original Camry and Accord. It's been a successful strategy so far, but with the advent of the Scion Brand, Toyota has recognized that it needs an injection of youth, else it ends up like Buick and Oldsmobile, with vehicles that only appeal to older customers.

 While Scion has been successful so far, I don't know if it will translate into eventual customers for Toyota. During the 80's, Toyota offered much for the young driver, with the Tercel anchoring the bottom, the Corolla GT-S, MR2, and Celica covering the middle, and the Supra on the top. The Tercel became the Echo, which has flopped, the Corolla GT-S has been gone for quite some time, along with the Supra, and this is the last year for the Celica and MR-S. The only car that can claim to be sporty in the Toyota line-up is now the Solara, basically Toyota's version of the Thunderbird/Cougar personal luxury coupe.

 For someone like me, a teenager during the 80's, I still remember the sporting side of Toyota, and Scion just doesn't fit the bill. The new TC is a fine replacement for the Corolla GT-S, but it ends there. What I'd like to see is a return of the original MR2, based off the Echo/XA-XB platform. Keep it light and simple, and don't move it upmarket. I know the MR2 went upmarket partially because insurance ona two-seater is outrageous, so maybe Toyota could offer insurance as part of the loan or lease (at least a year's worth), lessening the price shock.

 The sporting side of Toyota appears to be on life support right now, hopefully Scion can light a spark under the bosses at Toyota. Without sporting vehicles, an automaker faces a long and painful decline a'la Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and Mercury.

Christmas Down Under

 An interactive Christmas card designed for Toyota of Australia. Happy holidays!

Merry Christmas

The Truth About Transmissions

 There's a debate going on at The Truth About Cars about which is the better tranny, auto or manual. The automatic side points out "he main premise of my article was simple: it takes a higher level of driver attention to operate a manual transmission than an automatic." Because of this, it is deemed safer to use an automatic rather than a manual.

 In a perfect world, that statement would ring true, but it's far from a perfect world. There's a technique employed by big-rig drivers when they're caught in stop and go traffic. They move at a constant speed whenever possible, and the skillful almost never touch their brakes. They just coast along, while everyone else using their slushboxes speed up, apply the brakes, stop, then start the cycle over again.

 Because of the manual transmission in an 18-wheeler, the driver does have to pay more attention to what they are doing, otherwise they'll be shifting gears constantly. The driver is scanning ahead, and matching their speed to the general flow of traffic. Instead of adding to the traffic problem, they're doing their small part to alleviate it.

 I've tried, and there's no way to achieve this technique with an autobox. Below 35 mph there's just no way to regulate your speed precisely enough, the transmission fights you every step of the way. So what does all this have to do with safety? It's precisely because the manual transmission forces you to be an active participant in the act of driving more than an automatic that makes your average manual driver safer than your average auto driver.

 You have to scan ahead,rewad the road, and comprehend what's going on around you so you're not caught in the wrong gear. An automatic driver just hits the accelerator and goes, and to most it really doesn't matter what's happening five or ten car lengths in front of them, they'l happily let the tranny decide what gear to pick after they have to break because they didn'y\t predict that car merging into their lane. Again, in a perfect world, the auto has the advantage, because it frees you to worry about other things, the only problem is human nature takes that to mean that you don't have to worry about what's happening on the road ahead, while manuals force you to care. Your attention is more focused on the job in front of you, not what's happening at the office, in your marriage, and with the kids.

 If something forces a driver to pay more attention to what they're doing on the road, that's a good thing, not a hinderance.
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