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
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