Category: Editorials

By on March 3, 2017

Fictional Autonomous Ford in Super Bowl Commercial

They roll in weekly. We watch them. We rub our hands together with schadenfroh glee.

I’m speaking of Tesla Autopilot crash videos.

Like a train wreck, we seem unable to avert our eyes from videos depicting the Silicon Valley darling’s sheetmetal kissing concrete dividers and other animate and inanimate objects. Time and time again, owners of Tesla’s Autopilot-equipped Model S and Model X vehicles throw caution to the wind and let the computer issue orders in situations when it’s imperative there be human intervention.

And it’s not going to change — not tomorrow, not ever — until we alter course. That’s because we’re trying to answer the wrong question when it comes to autonomous mobility.

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By on February 23, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It wasn’t long ago that the Detroit Three were fending off the Japanese on home soil as the Land of the Rising Sun cranked out reliable car after reliable car for the American masses. Then came the Koreans — Kia and Hyundai — who brought over cheap metal to win market share but quickly turned around their quality and reliability woes and produced some of the best products in the industry.

So why is it that, after 108 years of building automobiles, General Motors still manufactures abysmal garbage?

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By on February 23, 2017

Jiffy Lube in Durham, Image: By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, I told you that your quick-lube place was probably snitching on you to your insurance company — and to Carfax. Did you make any changes in the way you have your car serviced because of that? I’m thinking that you did not, because you probably have nothing to hide. A surprising number of the commenters on that article were on the side of the insurance companies and Carfax, and their rationale was generally some variant on “I’m not going to commit insurance fraud, nor will I commit odometer fraud, so why should I care if my car’s mileage is in a database somewhere?”

Earlier this week, Scott Adams learned the hard way what you, the TTAC reader, already know about the relationship between small auto business and Big Data. For him, however, the lesson might come at a major cost. Because this time, the data was wrong.

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By on February 17, 2017

2017 Buick Model Lineup from Buick Website

“Buick revealed its Cascada convertible, an elegant four-seater that will go on sale in the USA in the first quarter of 2016. This marks another example of the two brands’ successful collaboration, which already includes the jointly-developed Buick Encore and Opel Mokka, the Buick Verano and Opel Astra notchback as well as the Buick Regal and Opel Insignia,” proclaimed Opel in January 2016, just ahead of the Cascada’s reveal in Detroit.

One paragraph. Four products that intrinsically link Opel and Buick.

It’s no surprise, then, that General Motors’ possible sale of Opel to Peugeot has those in and out of the RenCen wondering: What of Buick?

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By on February 15, 2017

audiad

You might not have heard about it, but Audi ran a rather controversial advertisement during the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago. If the Lords Of The Four Rings wanted to get people talking, they certainly succeeded, although not all the reaction was positive. Right-wing websites screeched that the ad was a “SJW hugbox” or a “feminist fantasy.” At the same time, the decidedly lefty Twitter hive mind was attempting to crucify Audi for offering a weasel-word response to queries about its own compensation policies for women. One rather suspects that the company did not forecast this kind of bipartisan draw-and-quarter when they were laying out their goals for their $10M Super Bowl spend.

My brief analysis of the ad spot was remarkably popular and it was linked out from all over the Internet. It was also very far from the only think piece generated by Audi’s gorgeous but problematic mini-film. The day after the Super Bowl, you could go anywhere from “Arf-com” to the “Last Psychiatrist” sub-Reddit to find a vigorous discussion on the merits of the ad. You’d be hard-pressed at this point to find someone who didn’t have at least a casual opinion on the subject.

With that said, I can give you a few names of some people who clearly didn’t see Audi’s paean to empowered, independent young women who are worth just as much as their male counterparts in the only scale that has ever mattered — cold, hard cash, naturally. These people, rather surprisingly, appear to work for Audi Atlanta’s promotional team.

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By on February 13, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si Manual, Image: Austin Hartman

This is my new 1992 Honda Prelude Si five-speed, which passed 100,000 miles last week while I was driving it home from Tampa to Tucson.

The car was for sale on eBay and I was in the market for a vintage stickshift Prelude as the ultimate souvenir from my Honda days. In addition, my wife and I had always wanted to do a cross-country drive. My sister and her husband recently moved to Florida, a hundred miles south of where the car was located. My wife had never been to New Orleans. We decided, what the heck, let’s buy the car and drive it home.

Did I mention that this Prelude was the closest thing to a barn-find car I’ve ever bought? Read More >

By on February 3, 2017

1960 BMW 700, Image: BMW

Following in the footsteps of last week’s Karmann Ghia article, it seemed natural to take a look at two other lesser-known German alternatives to Volkswagen’s Type 1 Beetle and the ‘Beetle-in-a-suit’ Karmann Ghia.

Like the Karmann Ghia, both were attempts to capitalize on a new and expanding market for automobiles in Germany during the postwar economic boom times. That meant that the models had to incorporate existing technology, yet also appeal to a crowd increasingly interested in performance and style. However, both had to be at least somewhat economical and practical as family cars.

The result was a series of interesting and mostly forgotten air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-drive sedans, coupes and convertibles from both BMW and NSU.

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By on February 2, 2017

The Internet is in the proverbial tizzy about Audi’s “feminist” Super Bowl advertisement, in which the automaker comes out in favor of equal pay for women.

At first blush, the spot seems to be nothing but the usual corporate slacktivism, a feel-good fluff-vertorial making a “brave stand” in support of an issue that was decided long ago. I’m reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator, arriving in full armor as soon as he can do so without any risk. “Father, have I missed the battle?” Well, Audi, you’ve missed the war; if there’s a place in the United States where women are actually paid significantly less for doing the same job as men, it’s not evident from what I’m reading.

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

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By on January 26, 2017

1994 Ford F-150 XLT Regular Cab, Image: Ford

“You two boys come back now, you hear,” the Waffle House waitress said with a smile, putting one check in front of me and one in front of Rodney. “Especially you, hon,” she stage-whispered in my colleague’s direction. As she walked away, I gave the lady a critical look-over. At least 45 — a solid decade and a half older than Rodney, 20 years older than I was — and something told me if she and I both sat on a teeter-totter, I’d be keeping my head to the sky like Maurice White. One of the moles on her linebacker’s neck had sprouted a neat trifecta of thick, dark hairs. I turned back and put my head in my hands.

“When?” I asked.

“Three nights ago,” Rodney replied, “during her break, in the men’s room. And don’t give me your bullshit,” he preemptively snapped, “that woman is a treasure. Some day you’ll appreciate a little meat on the bone, once you get over being an adolescent who is just older. Or maybe you don’t have the requisite equipment to visit all of the territory, and I truly think that I don’t have to be any more explicit than that in a family restaurant.”

“Close your eyes,” I slowly exhaled, “and tell me her first name.” After affecting a chin-on-knuckles pose oddly and perhaps deliberately reminiscent of an African take on Rodin’s infamous sculpture, Rodney threw up his hands.

“Quiet is kept,” he admitted, “it’s temporarily escaped me for now. But you have bigger problems than whether I can or cannot remember the exact details of my many conquests. Don’t you have that idiot kid coming back in with his father on the XLT regular cab? Uh-huh. I thought so. We need to head back. And since I reminded you of your job, of which no grown man should have to be reminded,” Rodney declaimed, his midnight-blue Ralph Lauren overcoat already in his hand as he headed towards the door, “you can pick up this breakfast for me.”

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By on January 26, 2017

Ford Ranger 3.2L TDCI Wildtrak exterior beauty shot, Image: Radek Beneš/The Truth About Cars

On September 5, 2006, Alan Mulally moved into the corner office at the Glass House. He brought with him a simple management philosophy he developed over three decades at Boeing Commercial Aircraft. After a short time at Ford, he formalized his philosophy, which continues to guide the company under Mark Fields.

He called it One Ford — and along with a lot of hard work, that philosophy transformed the Blue Oval into the profitable, future-oriented automaker we know today.

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By on January 19, 2017

2018 Ford Mustang

“Somewhere out there, a mom or dad is explaining to Mustang-loving children they didn’t get to see the new model because Ford was playing ‘I’ve Got A Secret’ when the family spent its time and money on a day at the show.”

The Detroit Free Press is madder than the proverbial hatter over Ford’s decision to delay the introduction of the 2018 Mustang until the Tuesday of the NAIAS public week. But you can ignore all the hysteria, including Freep’s suggestion that Ford offered refunds to everybody who attended the Charity Preview and the first three public days, because once again, Ford’s got a better idea — and it’s one that is going to be used everywhere from Audi to Volvo in years to come.

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By on January 18, 2017

Hyundai Sonata Rental with broken rear window, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

I closed the driver’s door and the back window of the 2017 Hyundai Sonata simply fell into the passenger compartment, a thousand little pieces sprinkled over my luggage, my spare pair of shoes, my son’s child seat. It was about 10:45 on a Saturday night. Danger Girl, my son, and I were nearly 400 miles away from home. It was 26 degrees outside. And we were about 40 miles from the nearest town with more than one stoplight.

Did I mention that the car in question was a rental?

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By on January 17, 2017

FF 91 Reveal, Image: Seth Parks

After much anticipation, Faraday Future finally revealed its production car, the FF 91. The presentation introduced the FF 91 as “the smartest car you’ll ever drive” and described capabilities of advanced sensors, machine learning, and autonomous driving — all great buzzwords. We saw a live demonstration of the FF 91’s ability to drive itself with the “driverless valet” feature. The car successfully parked itself in a parking lot outside the reveal and we were told to “never worry about parking again.”

Except, I watched the rest of the reveal and I’m pretty worried.

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By on January 13, 2017

1974 Simca-Matra Bagheera, Image: Matra Sports

The French have always had a penchant for doing things a little differently. Take Matra, for example.

The Matra R530 is a medium range air-to-air missile normally fitted to the Dassault Mirage fighter jet.

The Matra M530, on the other hand, is a mid-engine sports car. Of course, that was no coincidence, as the first real Matra sports car was named after the missile built by the same company’s weapon division.

Yet the company’s abnormal conventions didn’t end at naming a mid-engine sports car after an infrared homing missile, making Matra one of the more interesting — albeit obscure — footnotes in French automotive history. The company went from producing front-line weaponry to winning the Formula One title in five years, won Le Mans three times on the trot, and produced some of the first minivans. Yet, at the height of their power, they hung up their automotive jacket and today they produce….bicycles? Read More >

By on January 11, 2017

SYNC 3 AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, and displays their unique graphics and branding, Image: Ford

Ford, Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, PSA (Peugeot, etc.), and Suzuki are now part of an automotive alliance concerning your dashboard. The SmartDeviceLink Consortium, as they’re styling it, is apparently all about muscling around Google and Apple’s forays into the automobile, and is based on Ford’s existing “AppLink” software project, which has been around for several years.

I’ve written about smart dashboards before for TTAC. Particularly, in 2013 after Apple’s original announcement, I was amazed automakers were willing to cede so much control over the precious dashboard real estate. I later noted people are likely to be more loyal to their phones than cars and to make buying decisions around what cars support their phones “properly,” especially because Apple and Google fundamentally know a lot more about you and can do a much better job of knowing what you want to listen to and where you want to go.

But what exactly is the SmartDeviceLink Consortium all about? You might think it sounds like it’s a rejection of your smartphone driving the screen in your car, as with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Curious as to what was really going on, I then dug into the giant pile of software and specifications they’ve posted on Github. What’s really going on here isn’t as much in opposition to what Google and Apple are up to as it’s an attempt to standardize it and refactor it.

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Recent Comments

  • stingray65: BHPH lots are not necessarily bad places to buy if you want something unpopular or common as dirt,...
  • rrhyne56: I would imagine that finding a non-thrashed one of these would be a rarity indeed! Sounds like fun.
  • mikey: @ tres.. I was told “never flush an automatic”..I’m not sure if the same goes for a stick ?
  • TR4: OP’s car is a manual, where all the fluid drains out. Flushing is for modern automatics where the torque...
  • mikey: Me too, Josh. Didn’t do my due diligence , and got burned . A certain 2000 Firebird convertible. It was...

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