Category: Editorials

By on June 1, 2017

Mazda MX-5 Cup Coolant Neck, Image: © 2017 Bozi Tatarevic

Our race weekend at New Jersey Motorsports park was months in the making and the MX-5 Cup car known as Marylin finally felt solid. We arrived late, so the plan was to pull the car off the trailer, complete an ABS calibration, and then head back to the hotel to get a little rest before the afternoon qualifying session.

The MX-5 had other plans and started steaming from the back of the cylinder head after the ABS test.

The qualifying session was just a few hours away and the leak appeared to be coming from an unreachable spot between the cowl and transmission bellhousing. Online diagrams showed an O-ring at the joint that was leaking but the closest Mazda dealership had none in stock. If we were home in North Carolina, the move would be to go to the sole local mom-and-pop store and raid their case full of various o-rings until we found the right one, but a quick Google search showed that all we had around us were national parts chains.

These stores had no such case and their computer system showed no rear water outlet o-ring for the MX-5. Time was running out. We had to qualify. We put the car back together and sent it out on track. When it came back, the bit of steam had turned into a waterfall coming down over the bellhousing and our race weekend looked like it had come to an end.

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By on May 17, 2017

Chevrolet Corvette C7 convertible roof gif - Image: giphy

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet. Read More >

By on May 16, 2017

#HondaFamilyOdyssey

Ripples on a pond. Waves on the ocean. On the surface, they’re innocuous. But make enough waves and you know’ll you’re either doing the right or wrong thing, taking the right or wrong action, getting the right or wrong result.

In this particular case, the waves were building in the form of private messages and an email from a public relations representative from an OEM. It read:

From: <OEM PR flack>
To: <Mark Stevenson>
Subject: Seriously?

Honda…

That was it.

Even with only two words, the email was a no-brainer. The flack was talking about the Honda Odyssey launch.

Just weeks before that email, some members of TTAC had an at-length discussion on our participation in the event as TTAC’s invite to the program sat unanswered in my inbox.

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By on May 16, 2017

1999 Nissan Z Concept, Image: Nissan

I fell in love for the first time as a 10-year-old boy in tiny Pella, Iowa. She passed me and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her until she turned the corner and ran away.

That babe was the 1970 Datsun 240Z, and it was driven by one of the coolest cats in town.

Little did I know then that I’d have a hand in bringing the Z back from the dead some 28 years later.

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By on May 15, 2017

2017 Car Wash Show, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

Some trade shows embrace the purist of missions, refraining from creating pointless content in hopes of mindless media coverage. The Car Wash Show caters to professionals in the car-care business with nary a sensationalist notion and not an autoblogger in sight on the show floor. This show isn’t about clicks, reach or engagement.

Which was precisely why I attended, embedded with my Mumbai-based cousin in the trade to learn more.

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By on May 12, 2017

Confident car dealer giving a handshake car showroom on the background, Image: stockasso/bigstock.com

I spent 33 years in the automobile business, the equivalent of 96 human years. Having worked for car dealerships, manufacturers, an auction house, and an auto finance company, I’m convinced there is no other industry that attracts such a diverse cast of characters. Many of them defied stereotypes: I met car sales people who were honest, ethical and hardworking. I also worked with senior executives of well-respected automobile companies who were total sleazebags.

Throughout the years, I kept meeting the same set of six people over and over. These are their stories. Their names have been changed to protect the guilty. Read More >

By on April 28, 2017

Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

After the reveal of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Dodge Demon at the New York Auto Show, I thought all the hooplah would be over. We all did. Little did I know Automotive News’ editorial board would pen a screed calling for the Demon’s banishment from American roads, which then caused others to cry foul at the bylineless editorial, and subsequently triggered Larry Vellequette — the author of the original piece — to double down on his thoughts, name attached.

In the last piece, Mr. Vellequette claims, “It is still a stupid idea for Fiat Chrysler to outfit the Dodge Demon as a high-performance drag racer and then sell it to the motoring public in a form that makes it inherently more dangerous off the track.”

He’s not wrong. Drag radials come fitted to the Demon from the factory, and he claims they’re “prone to lose traction in even a light morning mist under that much torque — regardless of electronic intervention.” I won’t argue with that.

But I will argue with the logic upon which Mr. Vellequette bases his call for exorcising this Demon from America’s roads, and who he thinks should do something about it.

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By on April 26, 2017

bdp

Yesterday, we discussed one automotive journalist’s rather hysterical reaction to the Dodge Demon. That writer contacted TTAC shortly after the article was published to request a particular sentence be removed.

In the interest of complete clarity, I’ve elected (and Mark has agreed) to publish this correction instead.

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By on April 25, 2017

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, Image: FCA

Update: We’ve redacted a sentence from this editorial. You can find an explanation here.

Jay-Z and Beyonce got nothing on the marketing people from Dodge. The last low-volume vehicle to get this kind of publicity and raise this kind of ruckus was probably the LaFerrari, which was definitely not based on a $29.99/day rental car. (Trust me, I’ve driven the LaFerrari.) It will also toss, by my back-of-envelope estimation, somewhere between $100m and $200m into the company coffers, even if you don’t take into account all the lower-spec Challengers — even Hellcats — the Demon will sell just by drawing traffic into dealers.

The media response to the Demon has been half predictable and half rather refreshing.

The predictable part is the Motor Trend-style cheerleading, which in this case has spread far beyond MT because — let’s face it — anybody can get excited over a nine-second street car. (By contrast, it takes a seasoned hack, erm, a real pro to get excited about the Bolt.) The refreshing half of the commentary has come from the half of the media that likes to style itself as an un-elected and un-appointed fiscal watchdog of the industry. These are the people who whine a certain car “won’t sell” or “doesn’t make money” as if they are major shareholders of GM instead of underwater-basketweaving-degree-holders sitting in rent-controlled apartments on a mountain of student debt.

Normally, these people would be up in arms that an automaker has taken time off from the critical business of building suppository-shaped RX300 clones to briefly indulge in a bout of misguided enthusiasm about automobiles. In this case, however, the Demon is so obviously going to be wildly profitable that they’ve been forced to shut up and/or join the chorus of approbation. Except, that is, for one crusty old relic of the legacy media who’s found a new tune to play.

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By on April 18, 2017

Out of Patience Fuel Gauge Mug

Not to go all political on you, but it’s amazing how President Obama acted more like a bitter foreclosure victim — one who goes nuts and destroys as much of the house as they can, just short of being arrested for vandalism — during his last days in office, and not a graceful man given two terms as the leader of the free world.

Mr. Obama did this in two ways: one action affected a short list of government folk, and the other impacted one of the most important industries in our lives — the auto industry.

The short-listed government victims are those affected by Obama’s order to share dirt on people talking with “foreigners.” It’s against the law — but when did that stop the former President? What’s worse, and perhaps deadly, is Mr. Obama’s decision to renege on his promise to check and perhaps re-adjust the daunting future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard his administration first put in place in 2009, which the administration made even wackier in 2011.

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By on April 17, 2017

Fate of the Furious

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. The Fate Of The Furious is the eighth installment in what has become a surprisingly important cultural touchstone for an entire generation. With its lack of reliance on old comic books and/or Nicholas Sparks novels, the Fast/Furious saga probably ranks as the closest thing to original, innovative storytelling on the modern silver screen. That’s depressing, because you don’t exactly have to be Joseph Campbell to spot the multiple debts these films owe to everything from Henry James to James Bond.

In my previous reviews of installments five and six, I suggested the odd-numbered movies tend to be better than you’d expect, and the even-numbered ones tend to be worse. The Fate Of The Furious is in no danger of breaking this pattern; it’s a by-the-numbers action flick, half-hearted both in the sense that it’s missing Paul Walker and that it often feels like everybody involved is simply grinding out a paycheck. It’s very far from the worst episode in the series; that would be either the cartoonish 2Fast2Furious or the confusing, needlessly dark fourth film.

The irony, if you can use “irony” within shouting distance of a flick where a Russian nuclear submarine engages in battle with an all-wheel drive, Chevrolet powered, bulletproof Seventies Charger, is that Fate Of The Furious owes both its best and worst moments to the strength of a particular idea, one that has been at the heart of these movies since the very beginning.

(Mild spoilers ahead)

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By on April 6, 2017

Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Car at Long Road Racing, Image: © 2017 Bozi Tatarevic

The Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car is one of the most affordable, ready-to-race cars on the market today. The racer starts as a fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 and receives over 250 changes to become track ready. Mazda wanted the cars to be built to a single spec, so it tapped Long Road Racing to be the sole builder of the car.

I paid them a visit to see just what goes into building these race-ready roadsters.

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By on April 5, 2017

Toledo Ð August 23, 2010 Ð Chrysler Group LLC CEO Sergio Marchionne, center, Complex Manager Mauro Pino, right, and more than 800 UAW-represented employees welcomed Vice President Joe Biden, left, to Chrysler's Toledo Assembly Complex, home of the new 2011 Jeep¨ Wrangler, Image: FCA

About half a decade ago, FCA honcho Sergio Marchionne welcomed then-Vice President Joe “Lunch Bucket” Biden to the Jeep Toledo plant to celebrate all things Jeep. It was rather warm August day outside, but even hotter in the assembly plant where everybody’s favorite “uncle,” hair plugs and all, was decked out in a suit and tie. Marchionne, on the other hand, was “sporting” his signature blue wool sweater.

I was writing a politics blog for the Detroit News at the time, and I urged Mr. Marchionne to give his sweater shtick a rest. Why? Well, when the “Number Two” for the United States shows up in a suit, you look disrespectful in a sweater … even if it is from Nordstrom. Worse yet, I pointed out, it had to be hotter than hell in a wool sweater in an assembly plant humming with new vehicle production.

Up to that point, I was duly impressed with the Canadian-Italian and his rescue of my former employer. He was smart, funny and all-too-quotable. Most importantly, he had asked his Chrysler colleagues to work their butts off to save the company, and his minions quickly saw nobody worked harder than Sergio as he chain-smoked his magic on the often down-and-out company.

Marchionne did what former CEO Bob Nardelli couldn’t do in the former Home-Depot-throw-off’s two-year “Reign of Error.” Marchionne didn’t just lead the members of his team. He got in the trenches and inspired them.

Fast forward to late 2016 through today, and I’m asking myself: Is Marchionne a “loon” or a “boon” for FCA’s future?

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By on April 4, 2017

Mark Stevenson's Former 1995 Ford Bronco, Image: © 2011 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Over the past few weeks, Jack and I have driven down the road of nostalgia as we contemplated the fate of our past fleets. Thanks to TTAC’s resident wrench and automotive P.I. Bozi Tatarevic, we were able to find closure; Jack’s Oldsmobubble went to the great crusher in the sky, while my Bronco continues to ply the roads of Oklahoma City before it meets a similar fate in a not-so-distant future.

Now it’s your turn to play “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

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By on March 30, 2017

Tesla on Flatbed, Image: Brian Fowler

The disproportionately smug owner of this Tesla Model X is having a bad day.

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