Posts By: Edward Niedermeyer

By on December 27, 2011

Need an engineering project? Got 1,200 hours to kill with nothing to do? Take a tip from this heroically patient Spaniard, and hand-machine your own tiny (12 cc displacement) V12. This would be amazing feat of handwork even if it weren’t fully operational (using compressed air injection), but the fact that it works, runs and was made without a single CNC machine is nothing short of astounding.. If, as the book suggests, Shop Class is Soulcraft, this guy is like an engineering bodhisattva, inspiring us with his precision, patience and skill. In a world where not much is made by hand anymore, this achievement is worth taking a few minutes to marvel over… [Hat Tip: Dean Huston]

By on December 23, 2011

From our family to yours, TTAC wishes all its readers the best of holiday wishes. We’ll be enjoying the company of our loved ones for the next few chilly winter nights, but we’ll return to regular service on Tuesday. And who knows, maybe Santa will leave something for your reading enjoyment over the weekend…

 

By on December 23, 2011

Editor’s Note: Be aware that photos are larger than the usual format. When I told friends that my European vacation would give me the opportunity to test a few European cars, their reactions fit a certain pattern: “So you’re going to be running around Europe in Porsches and Audis?” they asked. “Can I have your […]

By on December 23, 2011

Another day, another disappointment for American fans of the Indian automaker Mahindra’s rugged, diesel-powered trucks. Earlier rumors that Mahindra might build its trucks with Navistar in Alabama turn out to be false, as a press release published at MahindraPlanet notes

MUMBAI, India, December 17, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — “There have been reports in certain quarters of media and online space stating that Navistar USA will produce Mahindra’s T20 and T40 pick ups in Alabama, USA in 2012, which are completely baseless & incorrect. If & when there are any material developments, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited will communicate them directly and transparently.”

If you haven’t given up on the Mahindra dream, now might be a good time to consider it…

By on December 22, 2011
Automaker 2008 model year 2025 model year % Change
Aston Martin 1,370 1,182 -13%
BMW 353,120 550,665 56%
Chrysler-Fiat 1,659,950 768,241 -54%
Daimler 287,330 441,786 54%
Ferrari 1,450 7,658 428%
Ford 1,770,893 2,224,586 26%
Greely/Volvo 98,397 143,696 46%
General Motors 3,095,188 3,197,943 3%
Honda 1,511,779 1,898,018 26%
Hyundai 391,027 845,386 116%
Kia 281,452 460,436 64%
Lotus 252 316 25%
Mazda 302,546 368,172 22%
Mitsubishi 100,729 109,692 9%
Nissan 1,023,415 1,441,229 41%
Porsche 37,706 51,915 38%
Spyker/Saab 25,956 26,605 3%
Subaru 198,581 331,692 67%
Suzuki 114,658 124,528 9%
Tata/Jaguar-Land Rover 65,180 122,223 88%
Tesla 800 31,974 3897%
Toyota 2,211,500 3,318,069 50%
Volkswagen 318,482 784,447 146%
TOTAL 13,851,761 17,250,459 25%

Reasonable minds can disagree about the wisdom of the auto bailout, but according to analysis by the EPA and Department of Transportation (based on data from the Department of Energy and auto forecasters CSM), the Government’s rescue of GM and Chrysler may not have been the best idea (at least from a market perspective). According to data buried in the EPA/DOT proposed rule for 2017-2025 fuel economy standards [PDF here], Fiat-Chrysler is predicted to be the sick man of the auto industry by 2025, losing over half of its 2008 sales volume, while GM is expected to improve by only 3%, the second-worst projected performance (after Aston-Martin). In terms of percentages, even lowly Suzuki and Mitsubishi are projected to grow faster than The Mighty General. Ouch.

On the other hand, the proposed rule notes that data will be finalized before the final rule comes out. Besides, the agencies appropriately admit (in as many words) that projecting auto sales so far into the future is one hell of a crapshoot. Still, with the obvious exception of “Saab-Spyker” and with some skepticism about the projection’s optimism about overall market growth aside, these are not the craziest guesses I could imagine. Who knows what the future holds, but it certainly is a bit troubling that the government’s own data suggests the two automakers it bailed out may well have some of the weaker performances of the next 14 years. At least the Treasury could have sold off their remaining GM stock before this report was released…

By on December 22, 2011

  Editor’s note: be aware that the images are extremely large, in order to show off TTAC’s rare opportunity for amazing photo shoot locations. What makes a flagship? It’s a question that gets to the heart of one’s philosophy as a car reviewer, and no better example exists to explore the issue than Hyundai. Here […]

By on December 22, 2011

Editor’s Note: The image above is from Autobild (and is posted elsewhere in the German media), and is not labeled as a rendering, a spy shot or an official image. An anonymous tipster who has seen the upcoming Buick “Encore” (which GM has shown to select fans and journos under embargo for years now) says the vehicle shown here is “basically the same design” as the Encore. 

At first glance, it’s fairly obvious that there’s something not quite right with this picture. Better than most photoshops or renderings, but not quite convincing as a real picture, this car seems trapped in the Uncanny Valley, as if it were photographed undergoing winter testing on the set of the film The Polar Express. In any case, this little Corsa-based CUV (allegedly to be named “Mokka”) will debut at the Geneva Auto Show, and will take on such B-segment crossovers as the Nissan Juke, Suzuki SX4 and Ford’s forthcoming new Ecosport.

Meanwhile, GM’s American-market interpretation of a B-segment CUV is likely to be quite different from these little rough-and-ready softroaders [Ed: Or, not]. Buick is slow-strip-teasing its forthcoming Encore on Facebook, and it’s already looking like the Baby Enclave rumors were well-founded in terms of its exterior design. On the other hand, this isn’t a wildly detailed photo, so who knows? Either way, both the Mokka and the Encore are based on a jacked-up version of the Gamma II subcompact platform, and based on a video of what appears to be some relatively early chassis testing, the short-wheelbase and tall suspension took a little taming. Hit the jump to see for yourself…
(Read More…)

By on December 21, 2011

One question that Bertel and I find ourselves returning to again and again in our regular conversations is “what will be the first Chinese-made car sold in North America?” We’ve agreed for some time that the groundbreaking first Chinese-made import would come from an established non-Chinese brand, rather than one of the many newer Chinese brands, but our usual suspects typically ranged from GM to Volvo (EV maker Coda builds what are essentially “knock down” Chinese made-cars, but technically they qualify as US assembled, as does Wheego). I don’t think the name “Honda” ever came up in these discussions, but sure enough, the NY Times reports

the Japanese automaker Honda is crossing the threshold by importing subcompact cars into Canada from one of its plants in China. This month, Honda Canada began receiving its smallest model, the Fit, from China instead of Japan, as part of a strategy to produce more vehicles outside its home country.

The decision allows Honda to eke out higher profit in a segment of the auto market where margins are extremely thin, especially since the high value of the yen cuts into all Japanese automakers’ overseas operations.

“The yen has been getting stronger and stronger,” Jerry Chenkin, executive vice president of Honda Canada, said on Tuesday.

Of course, Honda has yet to bring a Chinese-made Fit to the US, where antipathy towards Chinese products is greater and automotive diversity is lesser than in the Great White North. Also, the importation of Chinese Fits is seen as a temporary response to the high Yen, while Honda builds a new plant in Mexico for Fit production, scheduled to open in 2014. Still, this is a significant development, presaging the inevitable importation to the US of Chinese-built vehicles.

By on December 21, 2011

The rise of the internet has had myriad effects on everyday life, not the least of which has been its profound impact on consumer behavior. With ever more data being made available online, and with the rise of independent alternative media outlets like TTAC, car buyers in particular are fundamentally changing their relationship to the car buying process. Dealers have been noting for some time that the internet has created better-informed buyers who, armed with more information, are demanding the car they want at the best possible price, wreaking havoc on traditional car dealer tactics like upselling and opaque pricing policies.

But as the eternal dance between supply and demand shifts in favor of consumers, some dealers and OEMs are having a tough time adjusting to the new reality. At the same time, the need to make money off of online consumer education has created some tension for the new breed of consumer-oriented websites. This conflict has now broken out into the open, as the auto transaction data firm TrueCar has found itself locked in a battle with American Honda over the downward pricing pressure created by more widely accessible transaction data. And the outcome of this conflict could have profound impacts on the ever-changing face of the new car market.

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By on December 21, 2011

Ever since Steve Girsky an his “merry band of hatchet men” touched down in Rüsselsheim, Bertel has been warning that GM’s European division was about to embark on a serious cutting binge. But our worst fears, namely that Opel could go away entirely, have yet to be realized. Instead it seems that self-destructive mutilation will be attempted first, in order to stem the gushing red ink at Opel where at least €1b in losses are expected next year. Automotive News Europe [sub] reports that the first round of cuts will hit Opel’s Internationalen Technischen Entwicklungszentrum (ITEZ, “International Technical Development Center), as an IG Metall union document foresees some 1,420 product development position cuts (from a staff of some 6,000).

(Read More…)

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