Glass Menagerie

 The Volkwagen Phaeton may not be the most successful vehicleever, but the factory where it is assembled has to be seen to be believed.

Click for large view

 There's an article about it in the latest issue of Autospeed, a weekly web publication ($34.26 for 50 Issues), so you have to pay to read the full article, but I find it a good magazine worth the subscription.

 The building is mostly glass, the floors ar wooden, and the cars are individually hand assembled.

 The bins that you see in the pictures are automated, moving to different stations around the car, guided by magnetic sensors under the floor. The factory is located in Dresden, Germany, though the article doesn't state if you have to be purchasing a Phaeton to take a tour. Let's hope not.

Pulse In Volts

 Your turn the key in the ignition, but nothing happens. No click, no idiots lights are illuminated, nothing. Chances are it's a dead battery. Of course, you get out, flip open the hood, and fiddle with some stuff. Maybe it will magically start working again, but you know better. If you're lucky, it's only the battery that's dead, and not a failed alternator that's caused the problem.

 As you return to the driver's seat, you run your hand along the front fender. The steel (or maybe plastic, depending on your car) feels strangely cold, lifeless. The spark of life is missing, and that's closer to the truth than is often realized.

 On most cars the frame and sometimes the sheetmetal itself acts as a wire, completing the circuit for the electronics. With your battery dead, billions of tiny little electrons have stopped travelling through the frame and sheetmetal. Like a terminal patient in the hospital, there is no pulse.

 Fortunately for us car nuts, all it takes is a new battery to bring our baby back to life.

The Future's So LED Bright

 LED tail-lights are showing up on more cars and motorcycles, and there's a simple reason why, but probably not the reason you think.

 It's not cost,as they are more expensive than regular lights, although they do last a great deal longer than conventional lights. It's because of the plethora of electronic devices showing up in our vehicles. Navigation systems, tracton control, stability control, ABS brakes, all of this plus the more sophisticated computers runnig cars are taxing the electrical systems of modern vehicles. Today vehicles operate on 12 volt electrical systems, which are rated at 800 to 1500 watts, but it's estimated that future cars will require 3,00 to 7,000 watts, something a 12 V system just can't handle.

 The next step up will be 42 Volts, which is the equivalent of three 12V (12*3=36) batteries, since todays batteries are actually 14V (14*3=42), even though it's stated as 12V. Bigger batteries are on he way, and during the transition you might see cars with two batteries, one to provide power to the systems that require 42V (power steering, traction control,brake, and engine cooling systems) and a regular 14V battery to provide the spark to power low-load systems (lights, power door locks, radios).

 Imagins trying to jump-start a car with two batteries!

The Forgotten Mustang

 It was only made for a few years, and is the antithesis of what a muscle car should be, but the Mustang SVO showed that Ford could think differently.

 My Ford Dreams has a link to a story about the SVO. It's worth a read, and check out the saga of the Wankel rotary powered Stang, too!!

Umm, Wow

 Volkswagen has updated the new Beetle. Ta da...

 Wow, look at all the differences from the old new Beetle...

 If you can't really tell, why do it?

New Additions

 There's been several additions to the link list lately, and it seems almost every month I find a new automotive or motorcycle related blog. When I started RIDE on September 1st, 2002, most blogs were of the "geek" variety. The bloggong avalanche was just starting, and I blogged about cars and motorcycles alone. There was only 14 websites that I linked to that were even remotely associated with motor vehicles.

 It's nice not to be alone anymore!

Sobering Numbers

 Read an article that sums up GM's problems quite nicely. This part puts it all in a nutshell...

 GM execs doled out $7 billion for capital spending and research and development last year, vs. $15.3 billion for Toyota. The portion of that spent in North America gets spread over GM's 89 auto models and eight divisions, compared with Toyota's 26 nameplates in three divisions. Toyota models average sales of 80,000 units a year in the U.S., whereas GM squeezes out just 52,000 sales per model on average. And Toyota models stay on the market for an average of three years before their next redesign, compared with nearly four for GM's cars.

 The basic point is that GM is just too big, and needs to shrink. I've seen reports that killing off Oldsmobile has not helped GM, but looking at the numbers it now seems that the death of Oldsmobile was just a drop in the bucket, and keeping the division around would have only diluted the R&D dollars even thinner. To truly reach parity it looks like GM would have to kill off several divisions, not just one or two.

 Every month the news about GM seems to grimmer and grimmer. It's looking more likely that the automotive industry in America is going to be changing, massively, and that's without considering the impact of a Chinese invasion of cheap cars.

Car Wars

 With the release of the final Star Wars just around the corner, here's a bit of car related Star Wars memorabilia, the Star Wars Celica.

 Created by a Southern California dealership as the grand prize for a "Space Fantasy Sweepstakes", current whereabouts are unknown. There's now legions of wannabe Jedi's who are going to search all over for this thing.
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