Posts By: Ronnie Schreiber

By on February 22, 2014

Reading Alex Dykes’ review of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, I was reminded of something by Alex’s description of the Accord’s drivetrain layout. Unlike the Toyota and Ford parallel hybrid systems (similar in function but arrived at independently), or the Chevy Volt’s Voltec drivetrain (a different spin, no pun intended, on the same basic idea that allows the Volt to operate mostly in pure electric or serial hybrid modes), which all connect electric motors and a gasoline engine to a planetary gearset, the Accord now uses an inline serial/parallel hybrid system, a concept that actually goes back a century to the Woods Dual Power automobile. (Read More…)

By on February 22, 2014

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Unhappy with his team’s performance this year in general and at the 2014 winter Olympics in particular, a German bobsledder compared the team’s slow sleds to the Trabant, the primitive 2-stroke powered cars sold in the former East Germany. ABC News quoted bobsled pusher Kevin Kuske, who has won four gold medals at previous Olympics, as saying, “If in 2010 we were sitting in a Formula One car, then this time we were sitting in a Trabby.” At the same time, German bobsled enthusiasts are a bit unhappy with BMW because the German car company helped make the sleds for the America bobsledders, who so far have done well in Sochi. (Read More…)

By on February 20, 2014

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The photo illustrating Zombie McQuestionbot’s query about what would it take to get you to buy a hybrid was of a Chevy Silverado hybrid pickup truck. I bet some of you seeing that picture didn’t know that Chevy even sold fullsize hybrid pickups and those of you who are familiar with them, may have dismissed the concept. It was called the 2-Mode hybrid system, introduced with great promise and fanfare but in the end it became the Rodney Dangerfield of hybrid drives. That’s too bad. Had the 2-Mode system been embraced by consumers on a wide scale, it might have saved more gasoline than all the Chevy Volts and Toyota Priuses put together. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2014

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BMW has reportedly spent billions of dollars so far on developing various aspects of its carbon fiber intensive and electric powered i series of cars. The Bavarian automaker obviously wants to get that money back and more so it is now using high profile events to launch the i subbrand in North America, including buying ads during the opening ceremony and other broadcasts from the Winter Olympics currently being held in Sochi, Russia. The first of three ads that BMW will be running during the NBC network’s coverage of the Olympic games is called “Hello Future” and uses a 1964 recording of futurist Arthur C. Clarke to promote the $136,000 i8 hybrid super car. A second ad for the i8 is called “Sighting“, showing people’s reaction to first seeing the car. The more mass market $41,300 i3 is being sold with “SHHH“, depicting a teenager using his father’s silent i3 to sneak a nighttime joyride with a girl he’s trying to impress. He gets the girl but dad has been tracking the car with BMW’s i remote app. (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2014

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Carroll Shelby rather famously derided the original Ford Falcon-based first generation Mustang as a “secretary’s car”, and he wasn’t far from the mark. Young, single working women were one of the original target markets for the original pony car and you can see that from period advertisements for the Mustang. In 1964, as the Mustang approached its official sales date of April 17th of that year, Gail Brown was 22 years old, just graduated from the Chicago Teachers College, still living with her parents, and exactly the kind of young woman Ford wanted as their customer. In today’s hindsight, her mom’s ’57 Ford Fairlane that Gail drove to work every day was a pretty cool car, but she wanted her own wheels. She wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted, but it had to be cool and it had to be a convertible. Since the Browns were a Ford family, on April 15th, 1964 Gail went to Johnson Ford in Chicago. (Read More…)

By on February 5, 2014

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When the word “truth” is in the title of the publication, there’s an obligation to keep things factual. Also, I have an ego and don’t like to make mistakes in public. Much of what I write about involves automotive history one way or another and it annoys me when I come across inaccurate sources. Someone may use my work as a reference, I want it to be accurate. Due to a press release from the Detroit Grand Prix that was in error, and some inattention on my part, there were some inaccuracies in my recent post about the Tudor and Shinola watch companies racing sponsorships and how they might conflict at this year’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. (Read More…)

By on February 3, 2014

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Sergio Marchionne and crew surprised everybody by using the Super Bowl to premiere a long form ad (below) for the new Maserati Ghibli. One might question the wisdom of using the “big game” to promote a niche brand, but Sergio says he wants to sell 50,000 Maseratis a year and the Ghibli, which starts at ~$65,000, is a big part of that plan, so putting the entry level Maser in front of the biggest tv audience of the year makes some sense. The thing is that the ad is one of those that’s heavy on the stirring dramatic and philosophical voiceover and not quite so product intensive. You don’t get to see the actual car until more than a minute into the 90 second spot and then it flashes on screen for less than 10 seconds. The Ghibli site and configurator apparently crashed earlier under Super Bowl levels of traffic, but as of the middle of the third quarter of the game, it’s up and running. In case it crashes again, and you’d like to see what the Ghibli looks like, you’re in luck. (Read More…)

By on February 3, 2014

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Chrysler marketeer Olivier Francois has been a master at getting enormous buzz from Chrysler’s Super Bowl commercials. Two years ago, they launched the memorable Imported From Detroit ad for the Chrysler 200, using music by Detroit area rapper Eminem. That ad was said by many to be more memorable than the 2011 200, a warmed over Sebring, every car writer’s favorite whipping boy. Chrysler has an all-new 200 that it just revealed at the Detroit auto show less than a month ago and to get the buzz going on the new car, Francois has tweeked the 200′s tagline to “American Import” and instead of hiring someone contemporary like Mr. Mathers, Chrysler’s Global Hue ad agency went old school and engaged Bob Dylan to appear in, provide music and perform the voiceover for the Chrysler 200′s new Super Bowl spot. I’m also wondering if Bob didn’t also write some of the ad copy. (Read More…)

By on February 2, 2014
Ben Pon (left) and the first VW Beetle imported to the United States

Ben Pon (left) and the first VW Beetle imported to the United States

In one of those weird coincidences, Volkswagen of America is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Beetle in the United States just as the last VW Type 2 (aka the Volkswagen bus) ever made, which was assembled in Brazil on December 20, 2013, arrived at the vintage vehicle museum in VW Commercial Vehicles’ headquarters in Hanover, Germany. The coincidence is that importing VW Beetles to America and building the VW bus were both ideas that originated in the mind of one man, someone who didn’t even work for Volkswagen, Dutch car dealer Ben Pon. (Read More…)

By on January 27, 2014

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Let’s say that you’ve had a large enough measure of material success that you have budgeted fifty thousand dollars for a car that befits your socio-economic status, something that makes you feel good while announcing to others that you’ve arrived at a certain social station. Perhaps the obvious choice would be a 5 Series BMW. The base 528i starts at $49,500, though that means you get a 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder engine. For fifty grand you can also get a 2014 Cadillac CTS with an option package or two, but that also comes with the now ubiquitous turbo two liter. Those are both nice cars and at that price point you have many other choices, but for the same $50K, you could have gotten something with considerably more panache, cachet and exclusivity than you can garner with a new Bimmer or Caddy. (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2014

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Starting with the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race, the highest levels of sports car and prototype road racing in the U.S. will operate under a single series. The Grand Am and American LeMans Series racing organizations have merged and are now operating as the United SportsCar Championship, sanctioned by IMSA and controlled by the France family that owns NASCAR and a number of first tier racetracks around the United States. Tudor, Rolex’s less expensive (but still costly) brand of luxury watches, signed on to be the USCC series title sponsor, which will create an interesting situation when the trophies are handed out after the USCC race in Detroit on May 31st. While the USSC has Tudor as a series sponsor, another company that makes watches, Shinola, is a sponsor and “key partner” of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2014
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Aston Martin Vanquish Volante

To paraphrase Ian Fleming, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is already a fad. Car designers (or their bosses) are among the most faddish people on the planet, it seems sometimes. Don’t believe me? The new GMC Canyon midsize pickup truck has Altezza tail lights. One of the most widely proliferated fads in interior design has been the use of so-called French stitching, the use of contrasting colored running stitches along seams on leather upholstery. As someone who does machine embroidery on leather for a living, I know why it’s become popular. It looks good. The stitching slightly quilts the leather and gives it a three dimensional texture, a luxury touch. However, is it still a luxury touch when the latest Toyota Corolla has contrasting French “stitching” molded into the dashboard plastic? (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2014

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When we asked our readers what you wanted us to cover at the 2014 NAIAS media preview, one of the requests was about swag and perks. There was a time, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, when automotive press kits and related items distributed to members of the media at major auto shows were special enough and collectible enough that a decent number of literature and toy dealers would bring entire crews to those shows to get inventory to sell on eBay. The former communications director of the Chicago Auto Show would publicly bemoan the presence of what he called “press kit thieves” who’d manage to get past the credentials committee to get in the show and then out past security with boxes of press kits and cases of die cast models. There were so many things that would be collectible to car enthusiasts one could make a business out of it. (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2014
Upholstery inspired by Marlon Brando's made-in-Detroit motorcycle jacket.

Upholstery inspired by Marlon Brando’s made-in-Detroit motorcycle jacket.

As a colleague said to me the other day, the NAIAS media preview is for networking, interviews, and asking questions, not covering reveals. You never really know ahead of time who exactly you’re going to run into but you will run into friends, colleagues and industry insiders. 2014 is the Dodge brand’s 100th anniversary. In November it will be a century since Horace and John Dodge started selling cars under their own names after more than a decade of being Henry Ford’s primary supplier. While looking at a display of Dodge memorabilia adjacent to the brand’s centennial editions of the Challenger and Charger, I got to talking with a guy when I noticed he was wearing an Alexander Brothers lapel pin. I’m a big fan of the legendary Detroit custom car builders and have interviewed Mike Alexander. Someday I’ll publish my work on the Dodge Deora. Right now it’s somewhere between TL:DR and a book. Anyhow, the guy with the A Bros pin turned out to be Dan Zimmermann, who is the interior design manager for the Dodge brand at Chrysler, and it turns out that the 100th anniversary Dodge models coincidentally celebrate another Detroit contribution to gearhead culture.

(Read More…)

By on January 16, 2014
Can you spot the Chevrolet SS in Chevy's display at the 2014 NAIAS?

Can you spot the Chevrolet SS in Chevy’s display at the 2014 NAIAS?

Unless you’ve lived through it, you have no idea what it’s like to slog through the colossal Detroit auto show media preview. There were something like 50 new vehicle reveals spread out over two days, a press conference every 45 minutes or so. In the blur it’s easy to miss something. Fortunately, I live in the Detroit area so if I manage to not get photos or video of an important reveal or new-to-the-NAIAS vehicle, I can always go back during the Industry Preview that follows the press days. While reading Derek Kreindler’s NAIAS recap I realized that one of the cars that I missed was the Chevrolet SS performance sedan. A couple of months ago our colleague Bark M speculated that General Motors was not trying very hard to sell the new $44,000 SS. After photographing the SS at the NAIAS, I think that Bark M might have been on to something. (Read More…)

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