Happy New Year

Merry Christmas

Mazda Madness

 I've often wondered why Mazda did not become a bigger player in the US market during the 1990's when Toyota, Honda, and Nissan all solidified their position here, but Mazda seemed to falter. I think I've discovered the reason, and it makes an interesting parallel to what GM is facing now.

 Mazda thought 8it could increase it's sales by creating several different marques. In Japan they created Autozam, Eunos, and Enfini. Europe received Xedos, and North America almost got a version called Amati (an anagram of Miata). By 2000 none of these brands existed, Mazda focusing solely on Mazda, with the results being a stronger Mazda and increased sales.

 Now, GM is not Mazda, by a long shot, but the lesson is the same. If you cannot devote the resources to a brand, there's no point in having that brand.

Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 7

 We've come to point # 7 in the eleven points debate, and here it is...

Fully fund public transit, especially rail. Focus on intra-city transit (e.g. SF MUNI) over commuter rail (e.g. BART or Caltrain) but promote both when possible. Develop high speed rail for long distance travel. Use a hub and spoke model for bus lines, incorporating computers, GPS, and mobile phones into their scheduling so that buses are always full.

Result: commuters do not need to drive to get to work.

 When I was a child growing up in Cleveland, my parents could only afford one car. My dad would drive my mom to the train station so she could ride the "rapid" to work, what the RTA called it's commuter trains at that time. It was a neat experience for us kids the few times we went along with mom to ride the "rapid", but it stopped once we became a two car family.

 Why did we stop using RTA? It was not cheaper using a car instead of the "rapid", and my parents were not ones to just throw money away. It all came down to meeting needs, and the car won. Ever try to go grocery shopping using public transportation? Forget about saving money with buying in bulk, you're gonna get only what you can comfortably carry, which means another trip to get more items sooner than later.

 Public transportation is one of those ideas that works great for a few people, is the only choice for a few people, and is disliked by the majority of people. There's a town near me that runs a trolley, a bus made to look like an old fashioned rail trolley. It's always near empty, even though there are plenty of convenient stops on it's route and it covers the town very well. People would rather use their cars, even when gas was over $3.00/gallon. Everyone in town pays for this service, but no one really uses it.

 At school we have about 1900 students. The majority live on campus, but about 10% are commuting to school. Of those approximately 190 students, how many do you think use public transportation? There's only one. I wave to him every day on my way home as he sits at the bus stop on campus. Now admittedly it's Nashville Auto Diesel College, which means the students probably own their own vehicle, but the point remains that given a choice, most people would rather use personal rather than public transportation.

 People vote with their feet all the time, and it's pushing their gas pedal, not walking onto a bus or train. Pushing more funding towards public transport doesn't make it any more appealing, it just makes it more expensive for the taxpayer. It gives people another choice, it's just not a choice many make.

Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 6

 The eleven points debate continues. Here's John's sixth point of action...

  In U.S. (and everywhere else where petroleum is cheap) raise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to match those in Europe.

Result: driving becomes more expensive and less practical.

 First off, the notion that we somehow get off paying less for gasoline than Europe because we consume more has got to go. The price of our gasoline is determined by the free market, not some government bean counter trying to influence the public. The market tends to balance things out all by itself (ie. declining SUV sales), and works best when the government keeps itself out.

 As much as 75% of the cost of gasoline in some European countries is tax. Paying four times the cost of something is just not gonna fly in the US. It's hard enough to raie taxes for education, let alone gasoline, and would be political suicide for any politician that really tries to push for a huge increase in the gasoline tax.

Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 5

 Life just loves to get in the way. Lately it's been one thing after another, leaving no time for blogging, but then what do you expect when this is a hobby and not a job. Anyways, back to the debate...

 Point 5: Hold automakers, fossil energy companies, and motorists responsible for the externalities of petroleum use (e.g. pollution deaths, property damage due to climate change).

Result: the expense weakens the auto industry, raises the price of petroleum, and encourages greater transport efficiency. The victims of climate change are compensated for their real economic losses.

 One of the basic tenants of civilization is that it spreads risks out among a larger population, allowing us to accomplish feats that the simple family unit could not. Farmers grow more food than they need so someone can design a better tractor instead of trying to grow their own food, and so on. We accept this as part of life, including the externalities of everything that we do. Motorists already shoulder the vast majority of the externalities of petroleum use, since motorists vastly outnumber non-motorists.

 Weakenng the automakers on purpose is just not going to fly in America. There's too many jobs that are tied to the automotive industry to get the public behind something like that. "let's make our economy worse!" is just not going to be an effective rallying cry, and that's exactly how it would be viewed by most.

Happy Thanksgiving

The Debate Grows

 If you're following the 11 points debate, make sure you check out the Bavarian Falcon, (love that name!), as Croak has joined in with some excellent points about a PR campaign I didn't consider. Dorri from IF It's Got An Engine... has also joined in in my comments section, as has Stephen (no website, but the one who pointed out the cool Opel car commercial). Croak tried to post in my commentc section, unfortunately it won't accept over 2500 characters, and it's not somethin I can change. The debate grows, why not join in?

Eleven Ponts To Nowhere, part 4

 We've come to the 4th point in John's plan for eliminaring the personal automobile...

 Start a PR campaign to discourage automobile use. Mimic the anti-smoking and anti-DUI campaigns of recent decades. Make driving unpopular.

Result: driving becomes less appealing.

 There's not much to argue about here, a solid PR campaign is a logical step in getting any mesage across. So, we'll move on to some of John's responses.

  Again I appreciate the helpful critique: this is fun. I should probably remove the part about pork barrel highway spending because it detracts from the purpose of the point. As for the HOT/no new freeways part of the idea, that needs a little revision.

What about a freeze on new, toll-free highways? Currently, highway planners envision what they think traffic will be like in, say, 2020, and then build lanes accordingly. What if they maintained the existing highway infrastructure as is but put a moratorium on new free roads? That is, if you want a new lane, it will have a toll on it. In the longer term, I would advocate changing free highways to toll roads, gradually.

Anyway, the point of this would be to remove a government subsidy on driving, which encourages waste. If you have to pay for something based on how much you use it, you have an incentive to conserve. This is why I think moving to a toll highway system would cause people to drive less, in aggregate.

 Stoppng road expansion altogether, or making any new roads toll roads would have an immediate effect on the popularity of driving, but in my view it's rather draconian and would have an impact on the economy as well. Anyone know of any kind of research done on this, research that was not poliically motivated either way? There would be so many factors involved in stopping freeway expansion, and a lot of unintended consequences could arise. We need some good data to see if this is a valid idea or something that could trigger more problems than it solves.

 I've thought of something I didn't consider with the car-sharing idea. I've been analyzing it strictly as a numbers game, and in that aspect I still think it doesn't make enough of an impact on personal car ownership. It does, however, introduce Americans to the idea of life wthout a car, and the best advertising there around is word-of-mouth. In that regard it does have some value to John's argument, and could have a bigger effect than numbers alone suggest.

Debate Later, Exam Now

 There won't be an installment of the 11 points debate this morning. I have an exam today, covering automatic transmissions, and I just don't have any extra brainpower left right now. Once class is over I might post something, we'll see. So far the debate has been a lot of fun for John and I, each of us pointing out things the other has missed, strengthening both our arguments.

 Credit must be given to John. Unlike most who want to change the way the world works, he actually has a plan, has thought it through, and is open to criticism so he can refine it. That's damn rare in today's world where a lot of activists seem to function solely on emotion. Doing something without thinking it through for possible unintended consequences is rather popular among activists and poloticians, and while it may make them feel better, solving problems by creating new problems is not waht I would call progress.

 Of course, automobiles rank right up there among unintended consequences, as I'm sure Henry Ford never imagined the problems of today when he brought out the Model T. Enough rambling for now, I've got an exam to study for and in case you're wondering, since I've never really mentioned it on this blog, I'm a student at NADC (Nashville Auto Diesel College) studying to become an automotive technician.

It's The Simple Things

 Thanks to Gaijinbiker, here's possibly the coolest motorcycle t-shirt ever.

 You can get yours from Autumn Riders.

Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 3

 John's third point is...

 Stop expanding freeways. No more bridges to nowhere. Develop self-funding toll lanes for people who want to stay in their cars but get out of the traffic.

Result: driving becomes less appealing and more expensive.

 The three links are to articles about the wasteful spending included with the latest highway bill from congress, and an article about the rise of toll lanes. The pork-barrel spending by congress doesn't seem to be either for or against the elimination of the private automobile, perhaps John will expand on this more, so I'm going to assume he's for decreasing highway funding overall. This would require the states to shoulder a larger burden of highway construction and upkeep, something that would logically be funded with higher taxes levied against drivers.

 What form thoe higher taxes would take is anybodies guess. More tax on fuel, higher registration costs, upping the sales tax or income tax, the list is endless. Whatever the form, the result is as John predicts, driving a car becomes more expensive. Unfortunately, it would also effect the economy, making it more expensive to transport the goods that we need and want. Taxes would have to be raised rather high to make a significant impact on car ownership, with a resulting bigger hit to the economy, and very few politicians suceed by making higher taxes one of their agendas.

 The third article about toll lanes is an example of how to increase the cost of car ownership, especialy if you make entire freeways toll roads, which is not likely. We went through three years of road construction on I65 here in Nashville so an HOV lane could be added that no one uses. Three years of conjested traffic wasting fuel to add a lane that could save fuel, but doesn't, because no one car pools. Brilliant. It would make more sense as a toll lane and have a bigger impact on fuel useage, but driving people away from their cars? Not unless they turn the entire interstate into a toll road, and I don't see that happening.

John Responds

 John has responded in the comments sections to point #2, and he makes some very good points. Here's his response...

  According to this car sharing site, "Car sharing organizations typically maintain a ratio of 20-50 members for each vehicle in their fleet . . ." I agree with you that car sharing is not for everyone. For example, it is not a viable solution for commuters, who drive a long distance, park the car at work, then drive home. For people who don't leave a city often -- stay-at-home moms who use their cars for shopping trips, for example -- it makes a lot more sense.

I don't understand your scalability argument. Typically car share programs have parking locations where cars are stored. You walk to the lot, pick up your car, drive it to your destination, and then drive back to drop it off. If your membership increased in number but not in area, you could simply increase the number of cars available at each location. If the membership increased in area, you could get more pickup/drop off locations. As long as your pool of cars doesn't get too diffuse (too many locations), I don't see why your ratio has to change as your program grows.

Some of these car sharing organizations are private clubs/businesses (others are nonprofits) so clearly it has some financial viability!


 20-50 members per car?! Wow, that makes the service just about useless for the average driver. You would have to be someone like a stay at home mom to ever benefit from it. If 20 members per car gives you maximum profit (all other things being equal), then there's no way to scale car sharing up to a level that would make a real difference. It's not even worth mentioning.

Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 2

 John has responded to criticism of his eleven point plan to eliminate the private automobile. He points out that cars that can automatically drive themselves take away the feeling of being in control that drivers enjoy now. If you don't have to command the vehicle you might as well be riding the train. For someone like me, who enjoys the act of driving itself, yes, it is a loss of control and I would probably want a manual override for the auto-drive system, but to the average driver it gives them even more "control" over their life.

 No longer is your commute time dedicated solely to the act of driving, now it's extra work time, play time, you time as the advertisers would call it. It combines the independance of the personal automobile with the convienance of public transportation without many of the drawbacks. Forgot something at the office ? No problem, just turn around instead of trying to figure out which train you need to take. Staying late at work? Don't worry, you set the schedule, not some nameles transit authority. Going to grandma's out in the country? Just turn off the auto-drive when you get off the interstate. It won't drive peopke away from personal automobiles, it will only reinforce the attachment people have towards them.

 Now on to point #2...

 Expand car sharing programs (e.g. City Car Share) and make them more convenient. Car sharing is a step towards eliminating auto dependence entirely. Use RFID, GPS, and mobile phones to make sure shared cars are always available in convenient locations. Provide lockers where users can store child car seats, shopping bags, et cetera. Make a child car seat that's easier and quicker to install on the go.

Result: take the "private" out of the private automobile. People share cars rather than owning them. People who use car sharing programs also use public transit more often than car owners.

 Car sharing is a neat little program that allows you to "rent" a car when you need it instead of owning one. For some people it works extremely well, but it does have a problem when you try to apply it to a large portion of a population, scalability.

 The more poeple who use the system, the larger the infrastructure that is needed to maintain it. The more users, the greater the ratio of cars to users ha to become to meet demand. Ten people in a population may require that 15 vehicles be available, scale it up to 100 users, and you'll need somewhere around 200 vehicles, and it just gets worse the bigger you go. More cars per person equals less money made per user, requiring higher prices to maintain a profit. A neat idea, to be sure, but not something that is going to make a dent in private auto ownership.

Another Good One

 Stephen posted a comment about the high quality of some of GM's comercials, especialy ones we don't see here in the US. He posted a link to an Opel commercial, and it's damn good! Here's the link.

 Opel Commercial

 Thanks Stephen!

Eleven Points To Nowhere, part 1

 Some people just hate cars. Hate them so much they want to eliminate the personal automobile from the planet. John Markos O'Neill is one of those people, and has an eleven point plan to do just that. Let's take a look at this plan, point by point. Today we tackle #1.

Invent self-guiding cars that can't crash into pedestrians, cyclists, and each other. Regulate auto speed with governors. Tie use of these technologies to insurance premiums. In the future, private autos may evolve into "pod cars" that link physically to form ad hoc trains.

Result: you're not really driving any more. Driving becomes less appealing because motorists lose the feeling of control that comes from being behind the wheel. Safety is improved for pedestrians and cyclists.

 John is not paying attention to the trends in the automobile business. This is exactly what the industry is moving towards, eliminating the need to drive your car manually when a computer can do it for you. Many people face a long commute, and it's dead time for them, but if you car drives for you, then it's time you can accomplish other things, such as work, playing videogames, watching a movie, reading a book, or surfing the internet. Far from making driving less desireable, it would be seen as a way to improve your standard of living. Us car nuts, of course, prefer to control our vehicles ourselves, but to the majority of the population a car is just another appliance.

 Sorry John, but this point doesn't help your argument. Maybe you'll do better with point #2 tomorrow.

Adding Another Decade To The Excuse

 Reading some articles about the Domestic nameplates catching up to the Japanese in terms of quality, I've noticed a disturbing trend. Back in the disco days of the 70's, American cars had some major quality issues. Then came the 80's, and articles at the time said that the domestics had learned from their mistakes and were catching up, but that it would be difficult to win back customers that experienced the earlier vehicles. In the 90's it was the same story, except the articles said that it would be tough to win back customers that owned the cars from the 70's and 80's. Now we're in the 2K's, and it's the same spin, except the articles are now throwing in the cars from the 90's as mistakes too. Three decades of cars that drove customers to the import nameplates, but somehow the domestics are always catching up to the Japanese.

The Relentless Pursuit

 Toyota showed off a pursuit version of the Avalon at SEMA, and it should serve as a warning sign for the domestic manufacturers.

 The Japanese are relentless. First the attacked the economy car market and now rule it. Then came midsize sedans, and we know how that ended. They took Chrysler's baby, the minivan, and fumbled for a bit, but never gave up and are now starting to dominate that field. The assault on the full-size truck market is already underway. Now comes this Avalon, a preliminary shot at another domestic dominated market.

 It's all long-term thinking on the part of the Japanese manufacturers. Whatever segment they take on, they believe they will have the best car for it, and just don't give up until they achieve it. Toyota calls it Kaisen, which means continous improvement, not sure how Honda and Nissan term it, but whatever it's called it spells trouble for the Big Three.

Happy Halloween

Drift Event

 Check out SouthEast Drift Association for more details. I'll be there, but only from the sidelines since I don't have a RWD vehicle at the moment.

The Next Scion xA?

 Scion's little xA, a competent little car, has not exactly lit the sales charts on fire.

 The xB stole it's thunder at launch, and now there's the tC stealing the limelight. I know what the next xA should be, something that would solidify Scion's image as the hip car company, and it's an older Toyota model. It was never imported into the US, even though Car and Driver virtually begged Toyota to bring it over. Know what it is? It's the Sera, of course!

 Imagine a two-door xA with those doors, and tell me it wouldn't be a hit.

Best Car Commercial Ever

 Since I posted about Pontiac's G6 commercial, it reminded me of the best one I've ever seen. Pontiac ran an ad showing one of it's cars driving across a desolate landscape, sliding through turns with abandon. Behind the wheel was a woman wearing dark sunglasses, with a man in the passenger seat. At the end of the commercial the car stops, and as she gets out of the driver's seat she grabs her white cane. She's blind and the man took her out so she could drive the car and feel what it was like. Friggin' awesome concept! Anyone know where there is a downloadable version of the commercial?

Building Excitement

 The new Pontiac G6 coupe commercial is one of my favorites, perfectly capturing the essence of a sporty coupe in the music and visuals. For once, you can actually find out what the music is, as Pontiac now has a music section on their website. There is even a link to buy the song at Virgin Digital. For all the bad news about GM, they do get some things right.

Please Bring It Here

 Nissan has a microsite up for the GT-R Proto, the concept car for the upcoming skyline GT-R. There's not really much there, just a few wallpapers as of now, but at least you get a glimpse. Not so sore about the styling, looks great from the back, but the front could use some work. Best thing I can say right now is that it's not just a warmed over 350z. Now all that remains is to see if it's brought over to the USA. Many are saying it will be an Infiniti, but I think it makes more sense as a Nissan.

Those Crazy Japanese!

I have not the words to describe this.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

 There's a car I've been seeing a lot more of recently. Every time I turn around I another one pops up, bright and cheery. It's not a car that gets a lot of press attention. It's the Chevrolet Aveo.

 I don't know if someone actually decided to bring the Aveo over because they predicted the rise of a gallon of go-go juice, or if it was just a happy coincidence for GM, but talk about the right car at the right time! The first eight months of the year saw sales of 47,947 units, a 48.7% increase over 2004, the first year the Aveo was available. Wow, GM actually made a smart move!

Rotary Diversion

 For a sunday diversion check out iluvmyrx7.com, a site full of Mazda RX7 pictures, article scans, manuals, and how-to's. Nothing like reading an old article from the Car and Driver to get a perspective on today.

It Taks All Kinds

 My parents used to own a 1985 Toyota Van, that weird wedge thing with the engine under the front seats.

 There's a web resource for this vehicle, ToyotaVanPeople.com, and they also cover the Previa and Sienna. Not much there, but it's a start if you're into these vehicles. While not exactly an enthusiasts firsy choice in vehicles, there's a soft spot in my heart for 'em, and driving it was a ball with the seats pushed all the way up to the front.

Brake For Art

 Cruising the inter-web tonight I found something rather interesting. It's a site called Cardboard Box, an artist's site. This guy is Japanese, and has a thing for cars.

 Check out the section called Garage for all the goodies. Too bad I can't read Japanese!

Been Nice Knowing You

 Isuzu is pulling out of the Detroit auto show, claiming "The Detroit show is a big show as far as the press is concerned, but Detroit is not a big market for us." Instead, they're going to have exhibits at shows where their market is larger, such as Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; Raleigh, N.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Knoxville, Tenn. None of those shows get major media attention, and it looks like Isuzu is really going to pull out of the US market. A lot of people will say "so what", but Isuzu holds a special place in my heart, having made quite a few unique and fascinating vehicles.

 The Trooper was ahead of it's time, predicting the demand for SUV's. It was even used to give Acura an SUV (the MDX) until they could develop their own.

 A cute 'ute before everyone jumped on the bandwagon, the Amigo was another vehicle ahead of it's time. Before the RAV4, before the CR-V, your only choice was the Jeep Wrangler, Suzuki Samurai, Daihatsu Rocky, and the Isuszu Amigo, and c'mon, how could you ask for a better name than Amigo for a cute 'ute?

 The Rodeo was a viable alternative to the Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Cherokee, and Ford Explorer. It was Isuzu's best seller for a long time, and was even built in the US. Unfortunately it never received the updates it needed to remain competitive.

 A turbocharged, AWD coupe that undercut the Diamond Star trio, the Impulse was a car that should have been more successful. It was also available as the Geo Storm, and there where a million of those on the road. Isuzu got out of the car business just before releasing the next Impulse, a shame we never got to see it.

Take the Impulse and give it four doors, and you have the Isuzu Stylus. The only thing it lacked was the turbo motor and AWD. Why there was never a Geo version of this car is beyond me. It was way more entertaining than the Geo Prizm.

The last Isuzu-made vehicle sold in the US, the Axiom is still one of the most interesting SUV styling designs yet. Basically a Rodeo with a designer 'do, the platform was too old to really make a difference.

And finally, the Vehicross. THE most unique SUV available, it's basically a concept car come to life, the Vehicross showed that Isuzu has balls and wasn't afraid to try something new. Own one of these and you'll get all the attention you can handle.

 For some reason GM is letting Isuzu die. They've sunk money into Saab, money into Suzuki (with the Daewo built models), but poor Isuzu has been left out to dry. Some gratitude for Isuzu giving Chevy some viable cars for years.

Losing Youth

 Here's a picture of a Toyota Corolla, a model not available in the US. Note the two-door hatchback bodystyle, the sporting trim, the youthful attitude it conveys.

 There were two-door versions of the Corolla available here all the way up to 1991, and then it was dropped for 1992. Sure, there was the new Paseo to replace it, but that didn't last very long. Toyora's average buyer's age has been creeping higher and higher, and they have created Scion to try and offset that. They should never have abandoned the youh market in the first place. Honda has kept a 2-door Civic a reality continously, and they are still a top choice among younger buyers. They don't have to create a whole new brand.

 As I go over Toyota's US website, there's not a car available anymore that I am interested in. Solara? Too big, Corolla? No two-door. Echo? No performance version. With the demise of the Celica and MR-S, there's just nothing left. All that remains is the Scion tC. Whatever happened to the Toyota I grew up with, where sporting models were a staple of the lineup? I may have gotten older, Toyota, but that doesn't mean I want to drive an older person's car. Don't fall into the same trap Buick has!

 The picture at the top of this blog features Toyota's triumvirate of sports, the Corolla GTS, MR2, and Celica Supra. That's the Toyota I know and love. The picture comes directly from a Tpypta ad. When's the last time you saw and ad witj that kind of imagery from Toyota?


 Dodge is ending Neon production, switching to the Caliber, a mini-SUV type vehicle. Does it make any sense to replace a car with an SUV when the price of gas is so high, and won't this compete directly with the Chrysler PT Cruiser? Hello Chrysler, anybody home?

 Chevy has the Cobalt, Ford has the Focus, and now Dodge has, umm, nothing. Abandoning a whole market segment just seems dumb. If Chrysler can't make a competitive small car they should do what they have done in the past, get a captive import from Mitsubishi. Mitsu could sure use the help, and Dodge dealers really need something other than trucks and SUV's to sell if they're going to weather the upturn in gas prices. Oh well, it's been 11 years for the neon, not a bad run for a domestic nameplate.

Good Advice

 VW Vortex has a guest editorial on why you don't want your wife/girlfriend to be a car chick.

 Fifth. I know how to fold a map. You don’t. You are a lesser being.

Speak Of The Daihvil

 Autoblog has shots of two Daihatsu concept vehicles shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The first is the HVS, a little roadster that seems underpowered to me. Probably very slim chance of being produced, and it's fugly styling sure doesn't help.

 The other model is the D-Compact, looking much closer to production and something, with a little more powerful engine, would make a fine vehicle in the USA. Maybe, just maybe, little Daihatsu is looking to make a splash back into our market. High mileage vehicles may just be the next big thing, and Daihatsu is a master at them.

Future Scion?

 Scion would be the best choice for introducing Toyota's new citycar, the Aygo. It's got a 67bhp three cylinder motor, weighs 1740 lbs, and gets 51mpg in the european test cycle. Of course, 0-60 takes a little while, 14.9 seconds, but in a city car when are you going to get up to 60mph anyways? If mileage is what you're after, along with a sense of style, a Scion Aygo would be perfect.

 Scion has the hip, urban image among Toyota's marques, and I believe this would compliment the curent line up. If there's one thing that Scion has accomplished, it (along with Mini) has made a small car be seen as more than just basic transportation. There's been the Subaru Justy, the Ford Festiva, Geo Metro, Dodge Colt, Toyota Tercel, up to Chevrolet's current Aveo, and they have all been produced and marketed as basic, low-cost transportation. Scion has changed that, making entry-level cars into objects of desire, not something you bought because it was the cheapest thing on the lot.

 The current cost of fuel just makes it even more compelling to bring this car over. There's not a lot of fuel misers for sale, most having died out as the SUV craze took hold. It's time to bring them back.


Timing Is Everything

 There's only one major Japanese car manufacturer not represented in the United States, and that's little Daihatsu.

 Focused solely on compact vehicles, they tried entering the US market in the late eighties (1988-1992), but were unsuccessful. The Charade was an unremarkable machine, although the Rocky SUV garnered some attention before the brand faded away. With the recent upsurge in the price of a gallon of the go-go juice, might not now be the time to re-enter the largest automobile market in the world?

 If gas stays above the $3.00 mark, it just might be. With Toyota holding a 51.2% stake in Daihatsu could there be some future Scions based off Daihatsu models? Chances are nothing will happen, especially since it was recently announced that Daihatsu would be pulling out of Australia due to dismal sales, but I kinda miss little Daihatsu. They make some funky little cars, especially the Copen.

Bold? More Like Bland

 Here's the Fusion, Ford's supposed next big thing.

 According to Ford, this is bold, passionate design. Sorry, three vertical bars making up the grill does not make people want a car on an emotional level. What's really sad is that the basis for the Fusion does have passion, the Mazda 6.

 The Fusion is not going to be the equivalent of the 1986 Taurus in terms of style impact, anf that's what Ford really needs right now. Back in the eighties Ford led in styling while Chrysler cars were all formal and frumpy. It's reversed now, something Ford should never have let happen. Hell, even Volvo's have a dash of passion in their design, who could have predicted that? C'mon Ford, you're better than this.

Picture Worth A Thousand Words

 In response to Aaron's comment, it's always mystifying when one misses the point of a post entirely. Here's Aaron's comment...

Place the blame where it actually belongs? How about Bush slashing the budget for repairing levee breaches year after year, and $45M this year alone. Yes, the local government has known about this for years. That's why they've been telling the feds, for years, that they needed help fixing the levees. That's why the Army Corps of Engineers agreed with him. Bush stuck his head in the sand and now claims "no one could have know" the levees would be breached by a major hurricane. I place the blame squarely on his administration and party.

 Levees breaching is part of the worst case scenario, something the local government knew would happen, so they called for a mandatory evacuation. Over 10,000 people showed up at the Superdome to use it as a "shelter of last resort", while just a mile away were sitting these.

 Would it not have made sense to evacuate people with these, considering it was a mandatory evacuation? The estimates were over 10,000 people showing up at the 'dome, why weren't the busses lined up and taking people out of New Orleans then, instead of making them suffer. For that matter, if you didn't plan on bussing people out, why wasn't there a supply of food at the 'dome? Surely there was a supermarket they could use to get a bunch of canned goods and bottled water. I don't care what you feel for Bush, the local government failed in their job, to the point of being criminally negligent. We deserve better from our local elected officials.

Katrina Planning

 With all the blame games going on about the disaster in New Orleans, it's important to realize that this event should not have been a suprise for the local government. They have known since hurricane Georges in 1998 what the results of a worst-case scenario would be, but apparently no one planned on what to do once it happened.

 If you've ever had to go fix something that someone else messed up, you know how much harder it is than if you could have done it right from the start. That's what the federal government is now facing, fixing the situation after the local government dropped the ball. If you want to lay the blame, put it where it actually belongs, or evevn better, stop worrying about blame and just get busy helping out fixing the problem.

Washing Away, special report from the Times-Picayune, 5-part series published June 23-27,2002

What Ford Used To Be

 The Ford Iosis, it's everything the 500 should be, but isn't.

 This would have been a worthy successor to the Taurus styling legacy, instead we get the plain Jane 500. Ford really needs to stop dropping the ball and start leading the way again.

Ten Commandments Of The Renault Owner

These are so applicable for almost any car...

I Thou shalt have no other cars before me.

II Thou shalt not make for thyself any graven images of Chevys, nor of Pontiacs nor of Oldsmobiles, nor of anything that is made by GM; Thou shalt not bow down to them or serve them, for the Renault is a jealous car.

III Thou shalt not take the name of the Renault in vain, even though they forsake thee and send thee no parts.

IV Remember thy oil changes, and keep them faithfully. 3000 Miles shalt thou drive and do all thy errands, but then shalt thy Renault rest and have its oil changed.

V Honor thy 13mm wrench and thy Phillips screwdriver that thy Renault's days may be long in the land of the living.

VI Thou shalt not kill Renaults by driving them in the salt.

VII Thou shalt not commit adultery in the back seat, lest thou hurt thyself, for it is far too cramped back there. And remember ye the benefits of reclining bucket seats.

VIII Thou shalt not steal engines from Chevys for use in Renaults, for this is an abomination.

IX Thou shalt not bear false witness about thy 0-60 time.

X Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's Miata, nor his Del Sol, nor his BMW Z3, nor his Mercedes SLK, nor his Volkswagen Cabriolet, nor any Renault that is thy neighbors. Thou shalt fix up thine own instead, and make thy neighbor covet it.

Pray For New Orleans

 Here is the National Weather Service warning for hurricane Katrina. This is going to be a major disaster.









Pinto Bashing?

 It has a nice logo. After more than a week that's the only nice thing I can think of about the Ford Pinto. I've searched the web, gone through my mental databank, and talked to other enthusiasts, all to no avail. It's the first car that's stumped me. Sorry Big Ford Fan, maybe if someone out there owns a Pinto and wants to take me for a ride I can come up with something!

Related Sites

Ford Pinto.com

Ford Truck World's April Fools Pinto Page

We Hardly Got To Renault You!

 The French are not very popular in the US today, and they make some quirky little automobiles that most Americans just don't understand. If you're feeling like some French motoring, but don't want to support the surrender monkeys, I've got the car for you!

 It's the Renault GTA, designed by the French but built by UAW members in Wisconsin, it's French pastry baked by Yankees. Only made for one model year, 1987, it's a truly rare vehicle. It's 2.0 liter engine puts 95 horses to the ground, not exactly awe inspiring, but from all accounts the car's a hoot to drive.

 If you actually consider purchasing a GTA, there's some things you'll need to know. Reliability, or lack of it, haunted the Renault Alliance, the basis for the GTA, which means you'll probably be doing repairs, often. Just getting the parts can be a challenge also. Are you up to it?

Related Links

AMX Files info on the GTA

AMX Files info on the Renault/AMC alliance

Cartography, Part 2 : Alpha

 The first one is always special. It matters not what kind of car it is, the fact that it's yours is what makes it significant. Ideally, it should be something that you've worked for, sweat and tears, scrimping and saving every penny until the day of attainment arrives. If your parents outright buy it for you, it's just not the same and your appreciation is diminished as a result.

Good ole' American Iron

 Powder blue was her color. The engine bay housed a 302 cubic inch V8 mated to a four speed automatic transmission. Not a Ford Mustang, my first baby was a 1977 Ford Granada 2-door coupe, a vehicle that ford touted as a domestic equivalent of a Mercedes-Benz. Ad agency hyperbole aside, she was a sweet ride to this once 16 year old driver.

Click for larger view

 A decade had passed under her tires by the time she resided in my driveway, which in northeast Ohio meant rust. It wasn't too bad, but it did irk the hell out of me. I purchased chrome polish to try and remove the surface corrosion from the bumpers, and it polished so well it removed the chrome itself. It was your typical blue-haired old lady car, never venturing far from the Cleveland area. Never abused, she was broken in gently and thus balked at the heavier right foot of it's new owner. Full throttle produced a plume of black smoke from the exhaust, but damn did that V8 sound sweet.

If only mine looked this good

 I can still remember sweltering summer days spent detailing my precious, caressing the sheetmetal. The vinyl bench seat was splitting in a couple of areas, so my first "mod" was a set of seat covers. My next mod was much more radical, the quintessential late 80's accessory, a suction cup Garfield on the driver's side opera window. I was cruising in style!

Vinyl was king in those days

 Two years of my life were spent with that car, taking me through high school and my formtive driving years. I learned what hydroplaning was, how to get unstuck in snow by using the floormats, the unadulterated joy of donuts on an empty parking lot in winter, and that E really does stand for empty. Never once did she fail me, a miracle for a late 70's domestic model.

 One day I'm going to buy another Granada and restore her to her original glory, reunited once again with my first car.
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