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Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber
This Friday I hope to cover the Detroit Autorama and the competitors for the prestigious Ridler Award for what many consider to be the best new custom car. It’s a great show but because the show was originally organized by a Detroit area hot rod club to whom go was as important as show, the rules say that during judging the engines have to be exposed. That’s a pet peeve of mine because nobody has ever drawn a car with a hood up, either in junior high study hall or in an automaker’s design studio. I understand the desire to show off the cars’ motivating force, not to mention all of the chrome (or gold plated) eye candy, blowers and ancillaries, but it doesn’t make for great photography of a car as a whole. Still, with some cars, you just gotta see what’s under the hood. For the first time in its history, the Henry Ford Museum is popping the hoods of about 40 of its historically significant cars in its Driving America display to let us do exactly that.
Note: There are about 80 photos after the jump so the page may load slowly.
A team at Princeton Optronics working on replacing conventional spark plugs with laser igniters has produced a running engine and they claim that replacing spark ignition with lasers could improve the efficiency of gasoline powered engines by 27%. Considering that the basic design of the spark plug hasn’t really changed in over a century, this would be a revolutionary step, frickin’ lasers or not. (Read More…)
Ferrari dice: $105 at the Ferrari Store
I’ll have to dig up the press kit to double check but I seem to recall that more than a dozen years ago, Puma and Fila were already selling about $250 million a year worth of Ferrari branded shoes and apparel. While a lot of people mocked Cadillac brand-strategy-whatever Melody Lee for her recent comments about turning Cadillac into a luxury brand, not just a seller of cars, licensing deals and brand extensions like the Porsche Design retail shops are now big business in the car biz. (Read More…)
Hans Greimel of the Automotive News is reporting that Takanobu Ito will be replaced in June by Takahiro Hachigo as president and CEO of Honda Motor Company. Ito’s replacement comes after a spate of recalls in its home market of Japan led to a delay in a number of new product launches, followed by the even more image corroding recall of millions of cars worldwide due to Takata supplied airbags that can detonate which have been linked to six deaths.
Henry Blodget publishes Business Insider. Blodget is a former managing director of Merrill Lynch who rose to fame in the late 1990s on his timely and correct prediction that Amazon stock would reach $400, then lost his $12 million/year job following the burst of the dot.com bubble, and then was permanently barred by the Securities and Exchange Commission over fraud allegations*. Blodget still has outstanding sources and contacts within the tech sector. In a post at his website, Blodget discusses the current excitement about tech companies like Google and Apple exploring automotive ventures, which some say are aiming at becoming the next Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG. Not only does he say that the tech sector is cyclical, that the current bubble will also eventually burst and that Apple’s outsized success with their smartphones has been anomalous even for that now routinely successful firm, he makes some sound arguments the next Porsche AG is not likely to come from the Silicon Valley. (Read More…)
Alan Zibel and Annamaria Andriotis of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) report that consumer loans to borrowers with bad credit, including those for cars and light trucks, are now approaching 40% of loans issued, the highest percentage since the start of the financial crisis in 2007-08.
Almost four of every 10 loans for autos, credit cards and personal borrowing in the U.S. went to subprime customers during the first 11 months of 2014, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by credit-reporting firm Equifax.
That amounted to more than 50 million consumer loans and cards totaling more than $189 billion, the highest levels since 2007, when subprime loans represented 41% of consumer lending outside of home mortgages. Equifax defines subprime borrowers as those with a credit score below 640 on a scale that tops out at 850.
In an op-ed in USA Today, headlined “Electric car benefits? Just myths“, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjørn Lomborg, calls for people to “stop our green worship of the electric car,” arguing that EVs end up costing society a lot of money while doing little to cut emissions of carbon dioxide. Even more provocatively, Lomborg claims that because EVs are, for the most part, ultimately powered by coal fired electrical generating plants, the pollution associated with cars that run on electrons will end up killing almost twice as many people as that created by gasoline powered vehicles. (Read More…)
With the return of two storied nameplates like the Ford GT and Acura NSX, it’s easy to understand why the only Chinese automaker with a display at the North American International Auto Show last month in Detroit, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., didn’t get much attention. For the past decade or so, a number of Chinese car companies have had displays and press conferences at the media previews to the Detroit show, some of them with plans to export cars to North America, but so far little or nothing of substance has come to fruition from those plans. Whether or not they end up selling Chinese cars here, it does make a little bit of sense to take advantage of the presence at the NAIAS of thousands of members of the international press. That’s probably why GAC used the 2015 NAIAS to have the world premiere of their GS4 compact SUV. In addition to the GS4, which appears to be more of a car based crossover than a serious SUV, GAC also showed their GA6 sedan (which they say was developed for “the higher end market”) and the WITSTAR concept (that included it’s own built in aquarium between the back seats). (Read More…)
Last month, Dodge announced the Viper GTC model. The “C” part of the name presumably stands for “custom” as paying the $10,000 premium over the base Viper give customers access to literally *millions of custom paint, interior trim, striping and wheel combinations. I’m tempted to say that truly custom, or as our British cousins like to say, bespoke, items can’t be ordered from a list, but the heart of what Dodge is promoting as the Viper 1 of 1 program is a color palette of 8,000 hand-sprayed exterior color paint options. I worked in an automotive paint research and development lab for more than 20 years. Eight thousand colors is a huge selection and one of the features of the 1 of 1 program is that once an exterior color is picked, that will be the only Viper painted that color for the model year, making it a true one of one collectible. Ironically, though, the rainbow colored Viper they used to promote the program at the Chicago Auto Show wasn’t actually painted. (Read More…)
I don’t know if it will help them sell cars are not, but Cadillac’s decision to move it’s business headquarters to the trendy Soho district of New York City has certainly gotten some attention as have Cadillac marketing maven Melody Lee’s comments related to the move and the potential customers they hope to reach by making Cadillac into a more general luxury brand, not just a car company. When I saw that Lee’s boss, Jim Vurpillat, Global Marketing Director for Cadillac was going to be participating in a press event for the 2015 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, because Cadillac has factory based teams running racing versions of the ATS in the Pirelli World Challenge, it seemed like a good opportunity to ask him how racing and the high performance V cars in Cadillac’s portfolio fit in with appealing to New York’s trendy set, a group not known for their love or horsepower or what they see as environmentally questionable motorsports.