I once had a vehicle that sat on my lot for over 9 months. It wasn’t anything too bad. A 1998 Plymouth Grand Voyager in the tannest shade of brown. But no one wanted the thing.
I couldn’t figure it out. Did it have too many miles on it? Did brown all of a sudden become the new purple, orange or lime green? It did have four doors instead of the three door minivan albatrosses that were common during the pre-Y2k era. But I couldn’t get so much as a nibble on it for months on end.
Denial can be a hard pill to cough up. Lo and behold, this is what I figured out.
“Look, when we started the Prius project in 1993, we did not even think of a hybrid system for the Prius. We did not set out to build a hybrid. We studied what was needed for the 21st century, and two things were certain: The need to protect the environment, and the need to bring consumption down. That’s all we knew, and you did not need to be a clairvoyant to know it.”
The man who told me this last Friday better become clairvoyant. On Satoshi Ogiso’s shoulders rests the future of Toyota. Ogiso is responsible for all new technology at Toyota. As Chief Engineer, he is in charge of the Prius and its many siblings, he is responsible for plug-in hybrids, EVs, fuel cell hybrid vehicles, anything apart from the aging internal combustion engine is his.
I meet Ogiso at the world headquarters of the (still, officially) world’s largest automaker in Toyota City. Read More >
[Editor's note: This piece was originally published in February 2009, and like so much of TTAC's content, it's timeless enough to deserve another moment on the front page. Enjoy!]
Rolls-Royce used to advertise the fact that their cars were so quiet that the loudest sound you heard was the [analog] clock ticking on the dash. Who said the British don’t do hyperbole? As a quiet car connoisseur, I’d have to say a Clinton-era Cadillac provided the quietest ride I’d ever experienced; if the time was one of peace and prosperity, then so was the car. Nowadays, automakers are telling us that their cars are quiet, or at least quieter than ever before. I’m not buying it. A number of recent drives have been notable for their aural uncouthness. So I set out to find the truth about automotive sonic signatures. Has nostalgia dimmed my memory (if not my hearing)? Is progress on the noise suppression front been less impressive than industry propaganda would have you believe?
Yesterday, we ran a story about Art Ross. Ross was the Oldsmobile Chief Designer in the post WW II heydays. He was also a prolific and gifted pornographer. Cars and sex have always been related for some reason. Did you know that in Germany, where the car was invented, “Verkehr” can mean both “traffic” and “intercourse?” I render the guess that there are more people that begun their life by the dashboard light than those who passed away in the passing lane. Many are convinced that autos have aphrodisiac qualities. Many heavily object and say that a car is just a conveyance. Then there are some who think cars are just as vile as porn, and both should be banned. Where does the dear TTAC reader stand in this discussion? Read More >
As a boy in the pre-internet early sixties, I became obsessed with unveiling the secrets of that inexplicably alluring object of male interest. I had a general notion of what transpired within: the rhythmic in and out motions, the frenzy of moving members, the rapid inhalations, the (hopefully) synchronized explosions, and in their wake, the murmur of exhalations. Yes, life’s most intimate mysteries sang their siren song, and I was powerless to resist. Read More >
[Note: This piece first ran in May 2007. It seems particularly relevant again in light of the current Toyota unintended acceleration (UA) situation. But please note that the circumstance that caused the Audi UA may, or may not be very different, depending on the circumstances. In the early eighties, electronic gas pedals and complex engine controls and other interfaces such as with ABS/brakes were still on the horizon. Nevertheless, the rules of physics have not been repealed. And an unknown percentage of Toyota UA events undoubtedly are the result of pedal misapplication. Audi's near collapse in the American market after this incident remains a painful lesson in the power of the media, the slowness of the NHTSA, and the critical PR choices manufacturers make in the wake of a crisis like this. PN]
When I first heard about the Audi “sudden unintended acceleration” segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1986, I knew instantly that they were blowing smoke. Literally. Read More >
[This piece first ran in 2007 as part of a five-installment series. I've added some pictures, but note that the ending was written at Buick's all-time product low]
Buick was the special child in the GM family: the beautiful and temperamental second-oldest daughter that somehow always got the most attention from Daddy. Sure, oldest daughter Caddy got to wear the family jewels and formal gowns, but Buick was lavished with style. Whether it was Harley Earl or Bill Mitchell, GM’s top stylists always blessed Buick with their best efforts. For decades, Buick was maintained in the style to which she had become accustomed, and remained America’s fashion-conscious upscale buyers’ wheels of choice. And then, not. Read More >
It was the mother of all drifts. Forty feet behind me, the back of the passenger bus was coming around fast, threatening to wipe out a block’s worth of cars parked across the street. By the time I caught the first slide, I had overcompensated. My arms were a whirling dervish on the giant steering wheel, flying back and forth, until the bus straightened out. No need to stop for coffee THAT day; I was wide awake on a triple-shot of adrenalin. Read More >
Note: Since there’s been several questions about my truck today, and it is Truck Thursday, here’s everything and more you might ever want to know about ‘Ol Yellow: (Gallery at end)
Twenty years ago, I was a well-heeled young exec. One day, I decided to indulge in a four-wheeled “weekend toy.” Instead of a Dino or XK-E, I dropped $500 on a 1966 Ford F-100 pickup. Sure, I’d harbored fantasies about Ferraris and Jags for years. But I didn’t want to be saddled with an expensive toy that offered temporary or unreliable escape. My dream has always been about real freedom. The freedom to wake up in the morning, sniff the air and go… berry picking! Lumber hauling! The simple, rugged, frugal Ford represented my ideal life. And I knew it would get me there. Read More >
It’s a little problematic having me make selections for The Best Of TTAC, but in keeping with the new Saturday truck theme, I offer up this from the vaults.
It was a successful launch, and I was going for the record books. The 534 cubic inch Ford V8 bellowed and roared through the two short pipes exiting under my feet. The wide-open Holley four barrel noisily sucked the cool morning air. The air-scooped hood rose and dropped on the passenger side with each banging shift, a visual testament to massive torque. As my speed approached record territory, I had my hands full keeping the snorting beast under control. I glanced down on the big round speedometer and confirmed my victory: ninety miles per hour. Read More >
The archives of TTAC contain some real gems. Since probably quite a few of you weren’t here three years ago or more, we’re going to mine them occasionally for our weekend reading pleasure. This piece originally ran on November 19, 2006.
Please note that the author is actually Steve Smohlenkamp. I am unable to reinsert his name due to technical difficulties (otherwise known as operator error). My apologies. PN
As a six-year-old growing up in the rich farmlands of northern Illinois, I spent my days playing in the creeks that meandered along and across Flansberg and Orangeville roads. One day, I was ambling home when a thunderous roar jolted me from my reverie. A black car came out of the curve behind me and sped past. The passenger waved. Convinced that I’d seen not one but two ghosts (restless souls at that), I ran home. Read More >