Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber

By on November 2, 2016

christopher-walken-adds-pizzazz-to-kia-motors-super-bowl-commercial-for-the-all-new-2016-optima-midsize-sedan-4357f5e2d2e092f6

Normally at this time of year, between Halloween and Thanksgiving, we start hearing about automakers’ television commercials for the upcoming Super Bowl. For decades, the National Football League’s championship game has been the marquee venue for car companies trying to make big impressions on consumers.

As Super Bowl ads became an item of interest all on their own, many automobile manufacturers have crafted entire campaigns around their commercials for the “big game”, with teaser ads leading up to the event and long form and other alternate versions released once the primary ads are broadcast on Super Sunday.

While it’s the highlight of American football, automakers from around the world pony up big bucks to display their wares before more than 100 million viewers. This year, though, with television ratings for the NFL in serious decline, it remains to be seen if the Super Bowl will continue to attract automakers’ advertising dollars, marks, pounds, lira, yen, yuan, and won. (Read More…)

By on November 1, 2016

Michigan State Police cars at the Training Academy, Image: Joe Ross/Flickr

In Michigan, you can’t get a car with a salvage title on the road legally without first having it inspected by a state certified salvage vehicle inspector, typically a specially trained police officer. The officer inspects the car for safety and checks the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) to make sure the VIN hasn’t been reported as stolen. The car’s owner pays a $100 cash fee to be forwarded to the state government, the inspector signs off on the forms, and the state issues a new, clean title.

That is unless Seth Swanson was your inspector, allegedly.

Former Michigan State Police trooper, Swanson, 31 of Royal Oak, has been charged by the state attorney general with felony counts of embezzlement and forgery for pocketing over $170,000 in fees in what appears, based on the large number of cars involved, to have been an organized title washing scheme. (Read More…)

By on October 28, 2016

google prototype-early

Every now and then, a critical mass of clever, ambitious folks excited about a particularly good idea coalesces, often in a particular geographic region, and humanity gets lucky. The American colonies in the late 18th century and Detroit in the early 20th century are historical examples. Silicon Valley, starting in the 1980s, is probably our best contemporary example.

In recent years, those modern titans of technology have turned their futurist eyes towards personal transportation. Whether explicitly or in sotto voce tones, they’ve indicated that the traditional auto industry personified as “Detroit” was a dinosaur about to go extinct. Not knowing the auto industry metaphor of becoming an obsolete buggy whip manufacturer, the tech industry saw Detroit’s future as “making handsets” — i.e. low tech assemblers.

Tesla was going to show us the new electron driven future, Google was going to make cars that drove themselves, and the Apple of the tech world’s eye was going to do nothing less than completely reinvent the automobile, just as it had done with music players and telephones. The push towards self-driving, autonomous cars and trucks was only going to accelerate the ascendancy of Silicon Valley as the new Motor City.

Just because you’re good at one thing, however, doesn’t mean you’re good at another. (Read More…)

By on October 12, 2016

Sondors Electric Trike, Image: Sondors

Last year, Storm Sondors, a Malibu-based entrepreneur, used an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to launch a very basic $499 electric bicycle. He’s since sold 15,000 of his Asian-made electric bikes.

Buoyed by that success, Mr. Sondors has announced the creation of the Sondors Electric Car Company, which he says will sell an electric-powered, aluminum-bodied, three-passenger, enclosed reverse trike with a variety of battery pack options that offer 50 to 200 miles of range.

The Sondors electric trike is supposed to have a starting price of $10,000 and will be called the Model Sondors, more likely a nod to Tesla than to Henry Ford.

The folks over at Gas2.org think the Model Sondors is everything the proposed Elio is not. I agree with that statement, though not in the same way as Gas2go’s Steve Hanley. (Read More…)

By on October 11, 2016

1991 Spartan Fire Truck

My four-year-old grandson Aryeh wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. He’s got a full fire chief’s outfit and his ears perk up whenever he hears a siren. That’s probably due to the influence of Fireman Sam cartoons and the fact there was a fire in one of the buildings in the apartment complex where he lived until just recently.

There are worse things he could do when he gets older. For example, scouring auction listings of oddball vehicles he can’t really afford — like his grandfather. (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2016

Auto Polo - Bain's New York

People do strange, dangerous things to entertain themselves and others. Real lawn darts were once sold as children’s toys. Almost as soon as automobiles became somewhat practical, people were figuring out dangerous and fun things to do with them.

The earliest automobiles were typically rich folks’ novelties, which may explain why, in 1902, Joshua Crane, Jr., a polo enthusiast active with the Dedham Polo Club of Boston, decided to put on an exhibition polo match wherein Mobile Runabouts replaced horses.

That it might not have been the safest endeavor can be seen from a surviving photograph of the match catching one of the drivers/mallet men doing a header into the ground, about to be run over by his own steed.

(Read More…)

By on September 22, 2016

Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has authored a series of books he labels Incerto, that Amazon tells us is “an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand.” The best known work in the series is “The Black Swan,” which teaches that highly improbable things happen frequently. His most recent work is “Antifragile,” which explains how successful systems deal with the random disorder of reality.

A recent essay by Taleb on Medium talks about how a small minority* of just 3 or 4 percent of a greater population can force accommodations by the majority. Taleb uses a broad range of examples — business, cultural, political, religious and culinary — to make the point that if a minority is large enough and intransigent enough in its needs or wants, that what it wants in specific doesn’t really matter to the majority, that minority’s wishes will prevail.

What does this have to do with cars? How many customers really want an illuminated vanity mirror in their sun visor?

(Read More…)

By on September 15, 2016

Nigel Mills of Brentwood, Essex, UK, has owned a 1982 DeLorean since he bought it at auction for £22,000 in 2004. With only 13,000 miles on the odometer, the car is rarely driven, with Mills taking it for a spin three or four times a year and displaying it at a couple of car shows.

Any DeLorean will attract attention from the public and police alike, but Mills’ DMC-12 really stands out because its tinted blue stainless steel exterior.

Mills was out for a “run around” on the A12 highway when, “I saw the guy with the speed gun and thought I better check my speed and low and behold, the letter turns up,” Mills told the Telegraph. The summons said the he was clocked at 89 miles per hour. That speed is significant both to fans of DeLorean, and a certain movie. (Read More…)

By on September 14, 2016

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

The U.S. federal indictment of Volkswagen engineer James Liang, stemming from the automaker’s effort to cheat on emissions testing of their supposedly “clean” diesel engines, mentions an as-yet unindicted co-conspirator, “Company A”.

That firm allegedly helped Liang and his team at VW develop the software routine that only activated emissions controls when vehicles were being emissions tested. Company A was identified in the indictment as a Berlin-based automotive engineering company that is 50 percent owned by the Volkswagen group, which is also Company A’s biggest customer. (Read More…)

By on September 12, 2016

Volkswagen TDI

On September 9th, Volkswagen engineer James Liang pleaded guilty after being indicted on a variety of crimes related to VW’s deliberate use of a software routine that cheated on government diesel emissions testing.

Until his guilty plea was entered in United States District Court in Detroit, Liang’s indictment was under seal. Now that it has been made public (full PDF version here), we know more details about VW’s cheat and it turns out that the German automaker even updated the original software cheat — apparently to work more effectively — with a patch delivered in the guise of fixing emissions related warranty claims.

As the scandal was breaking, Volkswagen also deliberately supplied government agencies with false data to make the problem appear to be the result of a mechanical malfunction, not a defeat device. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2016

Ethanol Plant In South Dakota.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, the Obama Administration has failed to live up to its legal obligation to study the environmental impact of blending ethanol with gasoline.

Those findings, the result of an inspector general audit, confirm what the Associated Press reported back in late 2013, prompting the audit.

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was and signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush. Among other things, the 2007 legislation increased the Renewable Fuel Standard that mandated biofuel production, primarily ethanol, and the blending of at least some of that ethanol into the gasoline supply.

The law also stipulates that the U.S. EPA must conduct studies every three years and report to Congress on the air and water quality benefit, or lack thereof, by adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline. The purpose of that part of the law is to make sure solutions to the country’s energy needs don’t adversely affect the environment. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2016

For the past few years, startup Elio Motors has said that the “target price” of their enclosed tandem three wheeler was $6,800. As the company and their vendors finalize the design of the production vehicle and seek financing for that production, Elio has announced a “locked in” base price of $7,300, though that price for now only applies to the first 65,000 reservation holders (and it appear that those who already have placed reservations may pay as little as $7,000).

Since more than 56,000 people have already put down reservations for the Elio trike, if you want to buy an Elio and lock in that $7,300 price, there are fewer than 9,000 slots remaining. There was no word on what the price will be after the first 65,000 are reserved.

The pricing announcement is tied to the company’s still active application for a $185 million loan from U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. (Read More…)

By on August 4, 2016

Dodge Viper Conner Ave , Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

After Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that 2017 would be the last model year for the Viper, I suggested a wealthy collector, or perhaps a group of Viper dealers, could conceivably keep the V10-powered supercar alive.

It turns out that suggestion wasn’t too far from the mark.

According to James Glickenhaus, the former movie director, actor and financial professional who owns a significant collection of rare and unique collectible cars, a group of well-heeled enthusiasts attempted to buy Viper from FCA several years ago, but the group decided against the move after due diligence.
(Read More…)

By on July 5, 2016

Elio E1A Prototype, Image: Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

While it’s still a $200 million dollar question if Elio Motors will raise enough money to start production of its low-cost, high-mile-per-gallon tandem enclosed reverse trike, the automotive startup took a major step towards building vehicles for sale with completing the first (of 23) E series prototype. Elio will use it for testing and refinement of the final production design.

Though it looks very much like the P5, the E series trikes have fully engineered unibody construction made of stamped steel panels, unlike the previous five Elio prototypes that were scratch built with tubed space frames. The E series prototypes aren’t what the industry calls validation builds (there will be a 100 of those assembled at Elio’s Shreveport factory by the end of this year, Elio claims), but they’re very close to production designs. (Read More…)

By on July 1, 2016

Dodge Viper Conner Ave - Source: Ronnie Schreiber / The Truth About Cars

Some cars don’t die when they are discontinued. The tooling and intellectual property associated with those models are sometimes sold to automakers in the developing world. It’s not a new phenomenon. That’s more or less how the world got the Yugo. Fiat offloaded some of their aging gear to the then Eastern Bloc.

Fiat now owns Chrysler and the corporate entity known as FCA has announced that 2017 will be the final model year for the Viper. As part of his rapprochement with Iran, Pres. Obama’s administration has been encouraging American firms to do trade with that country, but I doubt that we’ll see a Khodro Viper anytime soon, or ever. However, if FCA head Sergio Marchionne was indeed willing to sell, I think it would be possible for a well-financed individual or a small group of dealers to keep the Viper alive here in America.

I believe it because something like that has happened before. (Read More…)

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