Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

 Look at this picture, and tell me if it looks like a Miata that t-boned a VW Jetta square in the driver's side.

Bigger pictures here...
Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5

 You can check out the story here. Looks more like a Miata that hit something cylindrical, like maybe a tree? What do you think?

Being Nosey

 Finally saw one of GM's new minivans on the street a couple of days ago. The main styling feature is the nose, long and extended more than it has to be to simulate the look of an SUV, it doesn't work.

 I can understand the motive behind this, trying to ride the SUV bandwagon to increase sales, but this is not the direction I thought GM was going to go. Instead of looking like an SUV, they look like minivans with swollen noses. In fact, they remind me more of GM's first attempt at FWD minivans than new SUV's.

 I'm probably one of the fe who actually like the look of the original Trans Sport. They never lit the sales charts on fire, but it was a bold styling decision, a different route than the competition was taking, just like the current models. GM does not lack innovation, it's just the follow through that seems to fall short. Pushing the minivan mold to look more like an SUV is a smart move, but just a nose job does not get it done. The rest of the body just screams minivan, and the SUV look is lost before it even begins.

Good News Is Bad News

 ...if you are a safety advocate. The safer our highways get, the more likely that your job is no longer required. Take this article, titled SUV Deaths Rose In 2004. Yes, more people died in SUV accidents in 2004 than in 2003, but the real headline should be this line...

 the nation's overall highway fatality rate -- deaths per miles traveled -- fell to its lowest point ever

 That's the lowest it has been since the NHTSA started collecting data, alomst 40 years ago! That's great news. 1.48 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles travelled, which means you have a better chance of winning a pick-4 lottery (1 in 211876.00 if there are 49 nubers to choose from) than dying in your car. Are the safety groups cheering though? No, we get statements like this...

 "We are in the midst of a national epidemic," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said. "If this many people were to die from any one disease in a single year, Americans would demand a vaccine."

 Consumer advocates say additional safety requirements under consideration are justified since the overall number of deaths has remained steady for a decade.

 "The cold, hard reality is we are stuck in neutral," said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a Washington consumer group.

 It's getting safer to drive your vehicle, but we're stuck in neutral? Sounds like the safety advocates are running out of things to improve, and need to generate fear and loathing to justify their continued existence.

Caveat Emptor

 Living in an apartment, car maintenace in the parking lot is frowned on upon by the management. Not having a garage also makes it difficult, so most of the time I usually end up getting oil changes at one of the many "quick change" stores in the area.

 For many of us our car is more than just an appliance. No one spends a sunday afternoon washing and waxing their dishwasher, but their car is another matter. When you have maintenance performed on your "baby", you hope whomever is performing the task has at least a shred of respect for your automobile. Such was not the case where I went recently. I was a little annoyed when the tech took the dipstick and was poking another tech with it. Maybe he thought since the hood was up that I couldn't see him, I don't know, but I belive he really didn't care. That was my property that he was playing around with, and I knew had no respect for my car. It may not seem like much, but that carefree attitude towards customer's automobiles makes it much more likely that mistakes will happen, expensive ones.

 One of the wiper blades I had installed last week had worked it's way loose, an error on my part. The tech slid it back into place, no big deal. At leadt I thought it wasn't. The service manager came up and explained what was being done. She showed me the air filter (recently replaced) and said it was good, "but the wiper blades, not so good. They need to be replaced." A quick look at the blades would have prevented her from making the error, and it was then that I realized what I actually represented in her view.

 I was not a customer, I was a rolling wallet that she was trying to get as much out of as possible. Since she couldn't get the extra dough with a new air filter, the wiper blades became the next target. If she had really cared about my car, and me as a customer, she would have noticed that the wiper blades were new and noticed that my two front tires were going bald (checking tire pressure is part of the basic service), instead of trying to sell me something I didn't need.

 I've worked at a lube express before, and I could only take it for three months. If an oil filter was in a location that was difficult to reach (1st Gen Pontiac Transport minivan, for example), it was nothing for many techs to just leave the old filter on, or to "change" the filter on an automatic tranny by cleaning the bottom of the transmission so it looked like it had been changed. It was the same thing when I worked for a dealer delivering parts to bodyshops. Parts would be ordered that were not really needed, then returned because the shop had repaired the damage instead of replacing the part, adding to the estimate and the amount the insurance company paid for.

 Caveat emptor (buyer beware) still applies to just about everything you do with your automobile, from the initial purchase to all the maintenance needs. Most businesses have moved away from predatory practices against their customers, as it is ultimately self defeating when your competitors stop the practice. Unfortunately it still hasn't happened in the automotive industry.

Saying Goodbye

 Relegated mainly to fleet sales now, the Ford Taurus is nearing the end of it's production life. 6.7 million in sales is something Ford can be proud of. Too bad the replacement (the 500) is such a disappointment.

 The car that proved America can build a stylish, reliable sedan, the Taurus achieved best-selling car in the US for four years. The style was way ahead of it's time, and like the Chrysler 300 of today proved that design is one of the major factors in sales success. Literally the car that saved Ford, there looks to be no final "special edition" planned. Sad for such a historically important vehicle. Goodbye Taurus, you were a friend to both families and enthusiasts (in SHO form) alike. Not many cars can say that.

Dynamic Duos

 Batman and Robin, Bonnie and Clyde, some of history's most dynamic duos. To this list I would add the Toyota Camry and Corolla, and the Honda Accord and Civic. These four cars have caused more headaches for Detroit than any other vehicles ever made. What has Detroit offered as competition to these perennial best-sellers? Let's take Chevrolet from 1983 to 2005 for example.









 Eight nameplates in comparison to two each from the Japanese. Only the last three are around today, the rest having faded into obscurity. If you owned a Celebrity or Corsica,and liked the car, what does Chevy offer you today? My mother has owned three Corolla's, she doesn't even bother to test drive 'em anymore. When it's time for a new car she goes to the Toyota dealer and picks the color and options she wants. There's no wondering if new model will meet her needs, no trying to decipher what name is the equivalent of the last car.

 The reason the Camry and Corolla, Accord and Civic are still around is that the manufacturers never stop improving them on a timely basis. Each generation has been better than the last (although the loss of the double-wishbone suspension on the Civic is really a downgrade), instead of leaving the cars the same to get as much profit from the design as possible.

 In other words, the profit comes from the continual advancement of the product, not a continous focus on the profit. Letting a vehicle get stale in the marketplace, and redisigning only when profits start to fall (a la Ford Taurus) or bringing out the next model while keeping the old in production ( Celebrity to Lumina) only diminishes the value of the name. GM has been smart by bringing back the Malibu and Impala names, but the Citation, Celebrity, and Lumina names should never have existed in the first place. The new Cavalier has to be called the Cobalt to avoid the negative association with the previous version. A car's name should be timeless, not a flash in the pan.

Curing Symptoms Does Not Cure The Disease

 Superbike Blog has an article about a new law in Arkansas that bans the use of nitrous in vehicles. This is supposed to stop street racing. OK. I didn't know you had to have Nos to street race. I thought all it took was a vehicle and a lack of intelligence.

 One more case of lawmakers curing the symptom, but not the disease. And we pay them for this....
 It makes a great headline, GM Hit by Chapter 11 Rumors, and it's just what the General does not need right now. These rumors are just that, rumors. Things will have to get drastically worse for GM to declare bankruptcy.

Finally, Some Good News

 The Pontiac Solstice is looking to be a hit. One thousand people have preordered the fist batch. It took only 41 minutes to sell out of this special edition model.

 For once I am enthused about a GM product. From all accounts the Solstice looks to be a winner, a vehicle Pontiac desperately needs to polish it's performance image. Unlike the Fiero, which was half-baked at the start, the Solstice is ready from the word go. It's an actual roadster, Frpm GM of all places!

 Unfortunately, I'm not convinced this will be a catalyst for the rest of the Pontiac line. It would be one thing if Pontiac was it's own seperate company, but being part of the conglomerate GM makes the chances slim that the spirit of the Solstice will infuse with Pontiac's other models. The shared platforms are all designed at the same time, instead of having Pontiac designers taking a platform and tweaking it to their needs, with no contact whatsoever with the Chevrolet or Buick teams. GM should have individual design centers for each brand, where the teams get the same basic platform but are free to go their own way. Then you would have people who work for the division, not GM.

 It'll never happen if GM's past is any indicator.


 While the resurgance in the popularity in chopper-style motorcycles is providing plenty of good coverage of motorcycles, they're not the most practical of machines. Fortunately, there's another design style that's gaining in popularity, the Streetfighters.

 Suzuki is the latest to join in with supposed production plans for the B-King concept bike. Taking cues from the cruiser and sport genres, it meshes both styles together to make something completely different. While the chances of the B-King (the name is supposed to be changed, thankfully!) coming to the U.S are slim, like Yamaha's MT-01 it signals a new direction in styling, a bike with eye candy and performance. I want one!

Add Another Brand To The Mix

 By 2006, each of GM's eight brands sold in the US will carry a GM logo in addition to the division logo. Since GM is marketing OnStar and StabiliTrak under the GM brand instead of each division marketing the features on their own, this makes sense.

 "The GM corporate name has a stronger public image than some of the brands that make up the company," said Joe Barker, with CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills. "It tells consumers GM is backing this vehicle."

 I don't totally agree with that statement, I believe consumers will equate the GM logo as a maker of the features associated with it, not as a parent company that is "backing" that vehicle, kinda like the stickers Ricers put on their cars to let the world know who makes their exhaust, suspensions, and tires. Is that a good, or bad thing?
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