Remember the ’86 Acura Legend Coupe, the definition of elegant muscle? Or how about the ’97 Integra Type R, the weekend racer you couldn’t break? These were Acuras that inspired passion, joy, and a special place burned into my long-term memory. Even though it’s been 24 and 12 years ago respectively since I drove these [...]
Posts By: Michael Martineck
There are guys at my gym that work out hard, three times a day, chiseling their chests and abs to perfection, compensating for the fact that God didn’t give them High School Musical faces. They are masterpieces of strength, structure – everything other than looks. From now on, I will secretly call them Crosstours.
There was, back in the 70s, a Saturday morning cartoon in which the heroes could push a button on the dashboard of their van and turn it into a fire truck, dune buggy or stretch limo – whatever they needed. They don’t really make this vehicle. I know because I’ve looked. I need one. On [...]
The giant panda has been largely unchanged for millions of years. Evolution made some nips and tucks, but mostly let the species be. Perhaps because the design is right. Strong, capable, cute as . . . well . . . as a Mini Cooper, also largely unchanged since last we looked. So, is no news good news or has the Mini been left behind?
The short answer: 31,362 Btus per pound. That’s the average energy cost for constructing a modern motor vehicle – rubber, fluids, glass, metal and battery. Can that number tell you if it’s better, environmentally speaking, to keep your ’85 Renault Fuego or pick up a Honda Insight? That’s a longer answer full of scary science and scarier math. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab has attempted to analyze the energy consumed manufacturing vehicles. Their creation is called Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation models. GREET. No really.
The CAR Allowance Rebate System—C.A.R.S—sounds like a ‘70s Saturday morning cartoon about guys in striped jackets using trick vehicles to save the world. In fact, that would actually be preferable to the program currently airing, at cost of three billion and counting. Cash for Clunkers may be popular with a healthy segment of the population, but that group doesn’t include a lot of economists. In terms of economic policy, C4C would benefit from a little C4, if you know what I’m sayin’.
What Car? magazine’s award for the year’s greenest car goes to the Volvo S40 DRIVe. The British magazine picked the diesel because its CO2 emissions are basically the same as a second generation Prius, but it’s considerably more fun to drive. The car is not available in the States, and the Honda Insight and 3-gen Prius were not available across the pond in time for eligibility. Still, it makes one wonder: Is the hybrid really the way to save the planet. I’ve driven both the S40 (regular gas) and the Insight, and, well, it’s like comparing apples and ice cream. If I could get all my vitamins in a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s, I’d never hear a crunch again, know what I mean?
The Volvo puts out 104 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Toyota is claiming the 2010 Prius puts out 100 grams of CO2 per kilometer. For comparison sake, that’s half of what an Audi A8 emits.
We the people now own about 60 percent of General Motors. Thank God. I know the old joke about being from the government and here to help; I’m familiar the anti-socialist swell that’s been rising since Obama’s inauguration. I am also convinced that right now federal control of what was once the world’s largest car marker could be the greatest thing to happen to the company since Alfred P. Sloan.
Less than a generation ago, speed was the name of the game. Hands-on automotive enthusiasts would swap their car’s two-barrel carb for a four, replace the manifold, straighten the exhaust, anything and everything to make their ride go faster (at least in a straight line). Even the mechanically ignorant knew that power equalled status, whether under-hood or at their fingertips (windows!). These days, consumption is no longer a disease; it’s an addiction. Where once we laughed watching my buddy Artie’s ’69 Camaro’s fuel needle fall, the new Honda Insight has a needle showing me how much fuel I’m saving. It’s not a very clever insight, but the Insight is a very clever car.
One of my long-standing disagreements with the editor: the Porsche Cayenne is a dangerous diffusion of the Porsche brand. I never believed that. I’d call Robert up and tell him— if I could dial this new Porsche Design P’9522 phone with its razor thin buttons. Or use it stateside for that matter. Perhaps I’ll e-mail my review. Nope. The gorgeous new touch screen gizmo lacks that feature. It does have a 911 GT3 ring tone, though.
The Wall Street Journal and CNBC are reporting that sweet little ‘ole Saab Automobile AB—one of the many motors that is General—has not one, not two, but twenty, count ‘em twenty, suitors at the door. GM expects to part with the Swedish car-maker before the end of June. The Vanersborg district court has agreed to extend a period of protection from creditors in order to give it more time to restructure. No creditors objected so Saab now has until May 20 to find a new stranger on who’s kindness she can rely. Saab lost about $370M in 2008 and predicts similar luck this year. Court-appointed administrator Guy Lofalk said, in a court filling, “During the reorganization Saab plans to begin negotiations with creditors on writing down the company’s non-prioritized debts by about 75 percent.” With that, Saab expects a positive cash flow in 2011 on production of 150k cars. Of course, no one is naming any of the supposed twenty interested parties. The Swedish bureaucrat in charge of Saab, Joran Hagglund, said he believes Saab has three to five “serious” suitors. GM says these things need to be secret. So keep it under your hat, will ya?
The New York Times is reporting a deal struck by the Treasury Department and Cerberus Capital Management which will lead to Chrysler’s second failed marriage in three years. Cerberus (and the co-investors it convinced to come along for the wild ride) will give up their 80.1 percent stake in the company. Anyone who thought Rick Wagoner got the bum’s rush at GM can now say, Wow. Obama’s kicking out the whole freakin’ parent company. Cerberus stands to lose billions. Just how many is tough to glean at the moment. Plans to shore up GMAC and Chrysler Financial—Cerberus’ other Detroit darlings—might help them turn some kind of profit in some kind of future. The dog would like to merge the two lenders into a new hybrid financial institution. The feds aren’t all that thrilled with the idea, but who knows. The word “hybrid” usually gets their attention.
Honda announced March 31 that it would cut production in North American by 204,000 units, aiming their yearly output at 1.25 million. For the first time ever, Honda is also slashing salaries. Hourly employees and executives all the way to the top get a trim; and bonuses get bounced. Honda’s US sales dipped 7.9% in 2008 (compared to 2007) but the American market overall fell 18%. Honda wasn’t in terrible shape and seemed to have a good product mix. Then the first quarter spreadsheets began to fill in—a 33% drop in sales is a plunge of a different color. Carving will take place at all North American facilities.
Aptera Motors has pushed its first street-ready prototype out of the cradle. Yes, it’s a tricycle, with a drive train a la Fisher Price PowerWheels, and a name that sounds like a one-year-old pointing out the cruise director on Love Boat, but the 2e might prove to be the car the Chevy electric- gas plug-in hybrid Volt and lithium-ion-powered Tesla long to be: the future.
All recessions recede. Eventually. In the case of this recession, it may be the car driving us out of the economic bog. Pent up demand could soon stoke the car market and relieve the general dearth of demand putting downward pressure on the economy. You can see it in our turnover ratio: the total number of registered vehicles in the U.S. divided by the sales rate. As of this quarter it’s 23.9 percent. That’s the highest ever, because it’s ridiculous. Americans are not planning to replace their vehicles once a generation. It can’t be done. My father tried it and the salt-covered roads of upstate New York put holes in that plan. Rust always wins.