Anyone who’s spent any time around preschoolers knows they can ask some really hard questions. Fortunately, even questions like “why is the sky blue” or “where do babies come from” can be answered to their satisfaction with a little thought and careful wording. Questions from gearheads are a bit tougher and aren’t as easily answered. Here are nine questions I’d love for someone to answer. That is, if there really are answers to be had.
Posts By: Frank Williams
It’s been a while since we gazed into the crystal ball to see what’s beyond the horizon on the automotive landscape. A lot has happened in the intervening eighteen months or so: GM and Chrysler are closer to bankruptcy, Ford is the only American auto company likely to survive the decade relatively unscathed, the market for hybrids peaked then bottomed out as gas prices did the same, and the only thing flowing out of Washington D.C. faster than bailout money is political BS. Join us as we check the tarot cards to see where it’ll all lead. Here are the headlines of the future.
First impressions can be misleading. Maybe it’s the new car smell. Or the hallucinatory effects of automotive anticipation. But there are times when a thrilling first date can turn into the marriage from hell. That’s why I’m all in favor of pre-purchase rentals and. . . press cars. Yes, carmakers’ fleetmobiles are often pampered ringers. But a week with a car is an excellent way to decide if it deserves a major portion of your/my hard-earned money and ongoing patronage. Quite often, I’ll find that my initial perceptions weren’t quite on target. After sojourning with a Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, I can report that first impressions last.
Marketing to a particular demographic is a tricky business–just ask Honda or Toyota. Honda introduced the Element in 2003. Toyota brought us the Scion xB in 2004. Both machines were designed as funky vehicles to fit the twenty-something lifestyle. Needless to say, their room and versatility immediately found favor with the quintagenarian crowd. Now Kia’s taking a shot with the Soul. Our own Eddie Niedermeyer, squarely in the demographic Kia’s aiming for, liked it. But then there are us pesky demographic-bustin’ Boomers. Will we see more Souls parked at the old farts’ home than on college campuses?
There’s a big brouhaha brewing between an organization called Think Progress (TP) and Fox News Analyst Bill O’Reilly. After Billy Boyz ambushed ThinkProgress.org Managing Editor Amanda Terkel, TP is urging advertisers to pull their ads from Billy’s show. Here’s a response from a Ford spokesman who wasn’t spoking on behalf of Ford, but felt free to use FoMoCo’s imprimatur:
Thanks for the heads up. And while I agree with you about the rantings of the hopelessly pig-headed Mr. O’Reilly, recognize that I am just an innocent bystander in this email letter silliness. I work at Ford and support Ford, but have no idea how the decisions are made on where we advertise. Frankly, as a mainstream company, we advertise everywhere there are good ratings. That is not an endorsement of the show — that is recognition that people are watching the show. Don’t know why they watch that mindless ranting. But they watch in droves. Welcome to America, I guess.
I’ll come right out and say it: It’s my parents’ fault. You see, my mom’s just a couple of inches over five feet tall and my dad’s only a bit taller than she is. But for some reason they passed genes to me resulting in me growing to 6’3″. It makes for interesting family portraits but when it comes to cars, it sucks. I grew up riding with my knees shoved in the dashboard of whatever bench-seat-equipped sedan they happened to own at the time. And now I’m given a Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring to review. Genetics is a bitch.
Imagine you’re looking for a $41k imported sports sedan. You want something fun to drive. Sayonara Lexus. You were traumatized by an orthodontist. Aloha to Acura’s tin grin TL. You appreciate the difference between having it and flaunting it. Auf wiedersehen BMW and Mercedes. That leaves the Audi A4 3.2 Audi and Infiniti G37 6MT. Oddly enough, I recently sampled those two exact cars. Funny how these things work out.
When Nissan introduced the Murano as a 2003 model, the styling raised more than a few eyebrows. In 2008, Nissan embarked on a Quest to redesign the machine as a less visually “intriguing” CUV. They tried to thread to proverbial needle: keep the Murano instantly recognizable while updating every body panel and adding one of the most bizarre snouts available on any automobile at any price. As the pimply-faced high school geek cum dot-com billionaire proved, looks can be deceiving. Does the same hold true for the “It Came from Outer Space (or France)” Murano S?
Last year, Toyota bought 16 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru’s parent company. Those who care about such things immediately began speculating about Subaru’s influence on Toyota. Rumors of all kinds of wonderful sporting Toyobarus emerged, from a replacement for the Scion tC to a resurrected rear wheel-drive Celica using just the rear half of the Subie AWD drivetrain. The highly-anticipated (in some quarters) cross-pollination is well underway. Unfortunately, the result turns pistonheads’ dreams into a nightmare. With the arrival of the Impreza 2.5GT, the Toyotization of Subaru has begun.
You’ve seen the list of TTAC’s Ten Worst nominees and discussed their merits or lack thereof. Our crack team of freelance writers have surveyed your list of losers and narrowed it down, from 119 crapmobiles to 23. (There was a four-way tie for position 20.) Make the jump to savor the list of finalists. And then, the moment of truth. Click at the link at the bottom of this post to select your ten choices for TTAC’s Ten Worst Vehicles for 2008. [Multiple voting or clever geeky cheating will result in a permanent site ban.] Other than not buying these machines, this is your best chance to send their creators a simple message, as espoused by Roomful of Blues: “that will never do.”
The nominations for TTAC’s Ten Worst Vehicles 2008 are in. All of last year’s winners [still in production] garnered repeat nominations. In total, there are 121 automobiles that TTAC’s Best and Brightest consider to be the Worst and Dullest. Our capable writing staff (and the rest of them) now has the difficult task of separating the merely bad from the inexcusably execrable. While we wait on their verdict, here’s a summary of what we have so far, and why.
With all the industry news we’ve been covering, the Ten Worst Vehicles Awards got pushed to the back burner. But now that the meltdown is underway and seems to be running on autopilot, it’s time to take a look at the jaundiced jalopies that contributed to the fiasco formerly known as the auto industry. For those of you who are new to the site, the Ten Worst Vehicles is TTAC’s homage to excessively egregious examples of vehicular vomitus the automakers puked on the car-buying public during the year. TTACs Best and Brightest (that’s you) make the nominations, our crackhead team of writers narrow the field to 20 or so of the crappiest and then you vote on the top (or bottom) ten. Just to refresh your memories, here are the buckets of bolts you selected as the crème de la crap in 2007:
The previous gen Jetta was one of the few small station wagons available in the U.S. It garnered a dedicated following amongst those who needed extra space but didn’t have to prove anything to anyone by driving an SUV. When the bulbous fifth generation Jetta debuted, the wagon was missing– but promised. Three years later, it’s finally here. Was it worth the wait?
Almost a quarter-century ago, Chrysler rocked the automotive scene by putting a two-box body on the K-car platform, calling it a minivan and inventing the soccer mom. Unfortunately, the intervening years haven’t been kind to the concept; the mini minivan is no more. In fact, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is almost two feet longer than the full-sized 1984 Dodge Ram van. If you’re looking for a three-row people mover that won’t max out your garage, you can always go the CUV route– if you’re into poseurmobiles. Or you can consider the Mazda5 or Kia Rondo. But do these reborn minivans carry the torch, or has the genre’s flame fizzled-out?
In Finnish, August is elokuu, the “month of life.” Automakers selling vehicles in the U.S. market missed the irony, as most A) don’t speak Finnish and B) finished one of their worst sales months ever. Even company-wide sales promotions didn’t do anything to put paddles to chest. Ford asked us to “Drive One” (wouldn’t it be more effective if they asked us to “Buy One”?), and GM shared employee pricing (maybe if they threw in the employee health program… ) while Chrysler invited us to “Shop until you drive” (again, where’s the “buy” part?). Toyota and Honda aren’t showing that kind of desperation. Yet. But they still felt some pain. Let’s take a closer look at the katastrofi.