The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:03:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Ford Territory Gets A Final Send Off http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-territory-gets-a-final-send-off/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-territory-gets-a-final-send-off/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:03:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874465 2015-Ford-Territory

Just like its sedan sibling, the Ford Territory is getting one last refresh for its final year of sales in the Antipodes.

The Aussie-only SUV gets the same mild refresh as its Falcon platform-mate. No V8 was ever available, but Ford Australia’s mega-powerful turbo I6s (putting down nearly 330 horsepower in top trim) will hopefully remain an option.

Sadly, CAFE, market demand and a host of other factors likely kept us from enjoying the Territory in North America. As cool as it is, the business case for a rear-drive SUV packing sports car power levels was probably not there in 2004, and likely isn’t there today – unless you’re SRT, and have all the components sitting around, and you need to spread development costs around a bunch of model lines.

Beyond that, the Territory is even cooler because it was a unique, locally-designed and built solution to local tastes. In an era of One Ford, economies of scale and global product lines, that is something we’re likely never going to see again.

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Mitsubishi Motors: And Then There Were… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-motors-and-then-there-were/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mitsubishi-motors-and-then-there-were/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:51:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873330

1024px-Mitsubishi_Delica_D5_001

 

 

In April, when they released their FY2013 annual results, MMC (Mitsubishi Motors Corp) reported record profits; see Reuters and Automotive News for stories.

Don’t get too excited.

Mitsubishi Motors’ North American operations are struggling; MMC sells far less than any other Asian car company in North America. The next smallest, Mazda, sold almost three and a half times as many vehicles in April 2014. Only six firms sold fewer cars, and of those only Volvo is not a niche luxury marque. (The other five, in decline order of sales, are Jaguar/Land-Rover, Porsche, Tesla, Maserati and Ferrari.)

There are positive signs, with April sales up 46.6% over 2013 and year to date sales up 29%. Only Maserati had a larger increase, but they sold 753 vehicles last year, so that shift represents only a few additional cars. On the other hand, among manufacturers building cars for mainstream customers, Mitsubishi sells the least, so its percentage increase likewise represents only a modest absolute change. Nevertheless Mitsubishi has been improving its North American operation, with net sales up 53% from 2012 to 2013.

Such sales however mean that MMC’s Illinois plant – begun in 1988 as Diamond-Star during the era when Chrysler was a major shareholder – continues to operate in the red. Whether or not Mitsubishi will be able to mount a comeback from the brink of essentially complete failure in North America will depend heavily on the continued expansion of their share and the overall vehicle market. Summer sales are expected to be substantial enough to grow the car market in 2014 over 2013, but that increase won’t be enough to float MMC. Mitsubishi will likely see its sales cannibalized by the other automakers and go the way Suzuki, Isuzu and Daihatsu, Japanese firms that have completely withdrawn from North America. Ultimately it may prove a Saab story.

But their problems aren’t just the US. They’ve pulled out of production in Europe, selling their Nedcar facility. They’ve just restructured debt with their four main creditors – and largest shareholders – who took an average 25% haircut on their preferred shares, to the tune of ¥95 billion (US$950 million). [This is made clear only in their Japanese-language filings.] Perhaps MMC’s shareholders want a tax writeoff and figure their last bailout won’t be recouped. But it also provides MMC with a clean ownership structure that would make a sale easier. Whether anyone would want to buy them is less clear: the company has a stormy history that includes 2 failed sales and an unenviable strategic position. They aren’t unique in this; many other small firms have failed or changed hands in the past half dozen years. But my guess is they’re more likely to provide a Saab story than any of the other Japanese bit players.

Mitsubishi Motors’ origins saddled it with an inefficient structure. During World War II Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) made munitions ranging from warships to the Zero fighter. After 1945 the US Occupation split up the firm into 3 pieces, each of which made different sorts of motor vehicles – three-wheeled cars, scooters, commercial trucks – as they struggled to find things to sell in the grim 1940s and early 1950s. After the Occupation ended MHI’s former pieces merged. The end result was the Mizushima plant in western Japan producing minicars (“kei” cars), Okazaki in central Japan making passenger cars, and Maruko in Tokyo (eastern Japan) making trucks, all within the larger MHI with its industrial machinery, shipbuilding and heavy equipment operations.

Then along came Chrysler, wanting to source small cars in Japan to provide dealers with something to compete against the VW Beetle, which in 1968 sold 600,000 units in the US. (Ford and GM did the same thing, eventually ending up with controlling stakes in Toyo Kogyo – renamed Mazda to echo its brand – and Isuzu.) In 1970 MHI bundled together the three automotive pieces into MMC and set it up as an independent company, with Chrysler to take a 35% stakeholding (which under Japanese corporate law would give them veto rights and hence de facto control). But Chrysler entered one of its periodic crises and couldn’t raise the cash, leaving it with a 15% stake in an unwieldy company. MHI and its bankers remained as the dominant shareholders. While MMC and Chrysler set up Diamond-Star, a joint venture assembly plant in Illinois that opened in 1988, by 1991 Chrysler had sold its share in MMC and various joint ventures.

[An aside: Chrysler purchased its stake in direct contravention to Japanese industrial policy of preventing foreign ownership in the industry – when push came to shove the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI, now MEXT) lacked the clout to make such policies stick, cf. IBM's operations in Japan.]

Then in 2000 DaimlerChrysler bought into MMC, eventually holding 37.5% of the company. But MMC performed poorly, not helped by Daimler’s management, and by 2004 that stake was sold off, with Daimler keeping MMC’s truck division, Fuso, the one piece that made strategic sense for its Asian production base and array of drivetrains.

In the background is a rollercoaster history of a piece with Chrysler. The initial spinoff from MHI coincided with the success of the Galant passenger car in Japan, alongside a good position in the growing “kei” market and in the heavy truck and bus market – which by the way meant that the 3 original production bases remained fiefdoms. MMC then entered the US market, as did the partners in the other Detroit Three alliances. Unlike Isuzu and Mazda, both of which ceased production in the US, MMC has yet to shutter its plant in Illinois, despite low capacity utilization and poor North American sales. Inside Japan sales did well during Japan’s bubble, with MMC introducing new brands, including the luxury Diamante. Again, given the bubble context, that didn’t go well. Next MMC rode the sport utility boom with the Pajero, its Jeep-like product. It was the first firm to do so in Japan, and until rivals entered it earned a lot of money.

Meanwhile it expanded overseas, with assembly plants not just in the US but also NedCar in Europe (from 1991), Chrysler’s old operation in Australia (from 1980), a tie-up with Proton in Malaysia, an engine and later transmission plant and CKD operation in the Philippines, and stand-alone operations with a proper assembly plant in Thailand. Finally, on an ad hoc basis MMC also exported plant and equipment to various firms, including Hyundai and Proton.

Most fared poorly. Its domestic bubble-era brands are gone, as are NedCar (closed in 2012) and Australian (2008) operations. Domestically it turned out a bit over 500,000 vehicles in 2013, but 60% of those were exported. With the yen weak (today at ¥101 per US$) exports are now profitable. Exports are also the focus of their US operations, which currently turn out 70,000 SUVs a year. But exports are an expedient, not a strategy, only grasping at a short-term profit source. Meanwhile, 60% of domestic sales are of minicars. That’s good news, because sales of that segment are rising (up 10% over the last year) but it’s also bad news, because low-priced cars cannot possibly generate the profits needed to keep the company going.

International operations look better, centered in Thailand with joint ventures in China and Russia. In terms of production they are the same order of magnitude as MMC’s domestic operations. But because most of domestic production is exported, the international-to-domestic sales mix is closer to 90:10 than 50:50. What has tided the company over domestically were one-off OEM deals with Nissan, Honda and others. But again, that’s a temporary expedient; there’s no history in the auto industry over the past century, in the US or elsewhere, of sustained interfirm trading. Much more solid are its pickups in Thailand and SUVs in other developing markets such as Russia and China.

Jan-May 2014 change
Domestic Production 273,429 +41%
Domestic Sales 62,954 +14%
Regular Cars 21,376 -19%
Kei Cars 29,708 +104%
Commercial Vehicles 11,870 -16%
Exports 147,190 +12%
Overseas Production 257,781 -5%
Total Production 531,210 +14%
Domestic Sales/Total Production 12%

In Japan, Europe and North American its dealership networks remain weak. For example, in Japan it was late to expand into urban areas, and so had poor locations and poor franchisees. In order to finance its urban presence MMC resorted to supplying cash in turn for equity stakes in dealers. It then dispatched managers from the manufacturing side, who have not proved adept at selling cars – Tesla be warned! In North America and Europe it is hampered by years of poor sales and an uncertain product strategy. (TTAC product reviews of the Mirage and Outlander are less than stellar, while noting the lack of a clear lineup.) Only repeated infusions of equity from the Mitsubishi family of companies kept it afloat, and 25% of those have now been written off.

Thus MMC is a firm with a strong presence in Southeast Asia; it’s basically a Thai firm with lots of engineering facilities and a few underutilized factories in Japan. It has modest operations in China, though as typical of late entrants its factories are scattered from Manchuria to Guangzhou. Then there’s a production base in Japan. Its product lineup is good for the developing world, but in 3 of the 4 largest markets – North America, Europe and Japan – its product mix is weak. The company is thus claiming it will ride emerging market dynamism to success. Elsewhere – in developed markets – its proclaimed focus is electric vehicles, to me a dim idea. But where will it be able to generate profits sufficient to sustain its engineering operations and factories in Japan? Exports only work while the yen remains weak. And without a steady stream of new products, all facing the expensive engineering challenges of increasing demands for fuel efficiency, low emissions, safety and connectivity, it can’t survive.

So selling the firm strikes me as their last straw. There’s a problem: for whom would a purchase make sense? Its current alliances with Nissan-Renault make that a possible option, as they can potentially use MMC’s plants (though not its dealers) in the US and Japan). Perhaps a Chinese company can be tempted, as with PSA and Volvo. But as I see it, FiatChrysler is the one global player with a footprint in North America and Europe that lacks a strong presence in China and developing Asia, the regions where MMC is least weak. If so, this would be the third attempt involving some iteration of Chrysler. But remember, three strikes and they’re out. And that will be MMC’s fate, if it can’t sell itself before the yen again strengthens.

To reiterate: I believe they’re more likely to be a Saab story.

 

N.B. This draws upon a post by my student, Anton Reed W&L’14 in May 2014 for Economics 244. The Prof edited it and appended the global story.

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Jaguar Land Rover Recruiting Former British Military Personnel For Apprenticeships http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-land-rover-recruiting-former-british-military-personnel-for-apprenticeships/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-land-rover-recruiting-former-british-military-personnel-for-apprenticeships/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874353 2015-Jaguar-XFR-S-Sportbrake-01

With as many as 6,500 about to be made redundant in British military, and employers facing a skill shortage that hasn’t been seen since 1997, Jaguar Land Rover is leading the way to help former personnel gain the skills needed to compete in the civilian workplace.

Automotive News reports the Anglo-Indian automaker, along with Ford and Bentley, has developed an apprenticeship program aimed at so-called early leavers — those who served in the military for less than three years — meant to prepare them “for work in the automotive industry and to help them develop the skills that they need to apply to the recruitment process” within the company or inside the industry as a whole, according to Jaguar community officer Kate Birkenhead.

Programs such as this are becoming popular in every industry, thanks to an expanded budget of £765 million ($1.3 billion USD) for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills under Prime Minister David Cameron. In turn, 510,000 apprenticeships began between 2012 and 2013, though more will be needed to satisfy industrial and economic growth by 2020, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Aside from JLR, Ford and Bentley are establishing their own programs to help ready those seeking a career in the automotive industry, especially when 2 million vehicles might roll off the line in 2017, breaking the previous record set in 1972. Ford is building a training center in Daventry, where the Ford Masters Apprenticeship will be hosted, while Bentley aims to open a technical college with the help of Manchester Metropolitan University and Siemens AG by 2016.

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Piston Slap: A Rather Thirsty Escort? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-a-rather-thirsty-escort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/piston-slap-a-rather-thirsty-escort/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:01:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873833 20140618_104104

Alex writes:

Hi Sajeev!

The car I am writing about today is my winter beater, which is a 1999 Ford Escort SE sedan which says it has a tick over 155,000 miles. (Pictured above) The problem I’m having with it is it it getting dreadful gas mileage. My average tank is about 19 miles to the gallon (in comparison that is what my twin turbo straight six Volvo gets around town). Over the winter I replaced both of the o2 sensors and got a marginal improvement (about .4 mpg).

And here’s the kicker: the dumb thing runs perfectly. No error codes or anything. Idles smooth and everything (well as far as Escort refinement goes). When I go on the highway (which is fairly often) I can see upward of 21… If I’m lucky.

Help please! I’m debating on whether to sell it or not due to this gas mileage problem for something bigger (thinking an Oldsmobile Eighty Eight/LSS or if I’m feeling lucky … an Aurora if I do end up replacing the Escort.) Thank you in advance for your help.

P.S. Here’s a list of what has been replaced/cleaned since the fall.

Mass air flow sensor cleaned
New air filter
New spark plugs/ plug wires
New o2 sensors (both upstream and downstream)
New muffler
New tires

Sajeev answers:

It’s funny how well-maintained vehicles occasionally have an obvious problem that’s impossible to diagnose.  But going to the beautiful, enjoyable yet expensive and complicated Northstar powered Oldsmobile is the wrong move!

You’ve done the basics, kudos to you.  That makes our job easier. Considering your Volvo drives in the same manner (presumably) there’s certainly a minor problem outside of driver error. And I wouldn’t be so adamant if it didn’t happen to me:

Try changing the fuel filter first, then get new/reconditioned fuel injectors.

That’s it.  I know you’ve slooooowly been losing power and efficiency.  Perhaps you notice a mysterious fuel smell?  The injectors are no longer turning on/shutting off correctly. And when you get ‘em installed, ZOMG SON, note the instant acceleration improvement and the later MPG lift.

So go ahead and keep it, even if the cylinder head might be a problem in the future.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Kia In Talks With Mexican Officials Over $1.5B Nuevo Leon Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-in-talks-with-mexican-officials-over-1-5b-nuevo-leon-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-in-talks-with-mexican-officials-over-1-5b-nuevo-leon-plant/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874337 TTAC-2014_Kia-Soul-SX-Luxury-rear

With the need to increase supply to meet U.S. demand, Kia is in talks with Mexican officials about building a new factory in the country.

Reuters reports the $1.5 billion facility would pump out 300,000 units annually, and would be located in Monterrey. The output would consist of two small vehicles to start, augmenting the output at Kia’s sole plant in the Southeastern United States.

Nuevo Leon secretary of economic development Rolando Zubrian, along with other state and federal officials, began talks last week with the automaker, and hopes a deal would be made sometime during the first two weeks of August. The plant may also pave the path toward a resumption of bilateral free trade negotiations between South Korea and Mexico.

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Fired Ford Engineer Under FBI Spotlight On Espionage Claims http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fired-ford-engineer-under-fbi-spotlight-on-espionage-claims/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fired-ford-engineer-under-fbi-spotlight-on-espionage-claims/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874313 ford-headquarters

A former Ford engineer is currently under the gun amid espionage claims levied by the automaker with the help of the FBI.

Autoblog reports the Blue Oval called upon the agency in the former’s investigation of Sharon Leach after security found and seized eight recording devices used in her meetings with her now-former colleagues. In turn, FBI agents arrived at Leach’s home with warrants to seize more such devices — along with computers, jump drives and financial records — fearing whatever may be on them would be destroyed if the agency issued the former engineer a subpoena.

Though Leach has yet to state anything publicly, her attorney, Marshall Tauber, says she used the devices in note-taking:

I think you’re dealing with a person who was seeing how sharp the new kids are and maybe feeling a need to keep up with them. And maybe she realized that she’s not as attentive as she once was and needs a little assistance. Maybe her memory was failing her on the technology end but she didn’t want to admit it.

The case is now in the purview of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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DOT Dozen Call For Congress To Focus On Long-Term Of Infrastructure Funding http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dot-dozen-call-for-congress-to-focus-on-long-term-of-infrastructure-funding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dot-dozen-call-for-congress-to-focus-on-long-term-of-infrastructure-funding/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874273 New Mexico bridge ramp construction

Alongside 11 former U.S. Department of Transportation secretaries, current secretary Anthony Foxx urged both houses of Congress to find a long-term solution to the funding of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund beyond what is under consideration at present.

According to Autoblog, Foxx notes that while he and his comrades — going back 35 years and 7 presidents in total — are hopeful the upcoming funding bill will go through, he states that the current unpredictability of the crisis-to-crisis method of governance over the past few years “is no way to run a railroad, fill a pothole, or repair a bridge.”

The DOT Dozen are calling, instead, for Congress to consider the long game regarding the nation’s infrastructure: 100 million new people and 14 billion tons of additional freight by 2050. There, they see some hope among the Beltway leadership to come up with ideas to remedy the issue, though finding consensus within the houses will take some time.

In the near term, Foxx explains that as much as $1.8 trillion will need to be spent by 2020 to bring surface infrastructure up to an adequate state, including the group of structurally deficient bridges whose number is great enough to connect Miami with Boston if laid end-to-end.

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Challenger Week Outtake: 2015 Dodge Challenger V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-outtake-2015-dodge-challenger-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-outtake-2015-dodge-challenger-v6/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:44:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874017

Five seconds: that’s the lap time difference between the V6 Challenger Track Pack and the SRT Hellcat around PIR. How much money do you save by being willing to take it a bit slower?

ElectraFest 1362

Even if you doubt some of Chrysler’s math, there’s no arguing the fact that this year’s V6 Challenger is a much better proposition than it was previously. Coming straight out of Brampton, ON and featuring an available Super Track Pack with 13-inch front brakes and two-piston calipers, the V6 has 305 horsepower to push 3,834 pounds. That’s not quite an Accord V6 Coupe’s worth of power-to-weight, nor will it trouble the Camaro which is 180 pounds lighter plus offers a manual transmission to hurry things along.

Still, with the eight-speed automatic transmission providing remarkably snappy shifts across an optimized range of gearing, you’d be ill-advised to take the most modest Challenger lightly, particularly if you’re driving something from before the current era of HGH-fueled automobiles. Think of it as an LT1 Z/28′s worth of performance, with the modern telematics and 30mpg capability thrown in as a bonus.

Around PIR, however, the 8AT proved to be a bit of a problem. I rode along with the first journalist to drive the V6 on-track. During his second lap, the transmission decided that manual mode was no longer available. Sliding the shifter to the left produced an immediate upshift-and-hold in sixth gear. This happened when I tried the car approximately half an hour later, as well, and probably cost me a tiny bit of lap time. Left to itself, the Challenger isn’t brilliant at determining how and when to shift, and that slowed it down a fair amount. On the street, you’d be fine; a non-pre-production car would also probably not suffer from the same amount of difficulty.

It would be nice to have a manual-transmission V6 Challenger — but who’d buy it? In this day and age, it’s already a minor miracle that you can get a six-speed manual on all the other variants. Still… it would be a really decent car, the same way the V6 Mustang six-speed is a really decent car.

Chrysler’s careful to emphasize that that the Chally’s size is considered an asset by buyers, who overwhelmingly cite the interior space advantage over the other ponycars as a purchase decider. Still, the weight and the size don’t help it around PIR, where the Super Track Pack brakes simply aren’t up for the challenge, ahem, posed by the V6′s power. It’s a decent handler and it feels well-balanced, but something like a 328i coupe would be more rewarding on-track even if it didn’t offer the same amount of curb appeal.

The interior upgrades that impress in the other trim variants are present here and the cloth seats are surprisingly decent. If this was all the Challenger you could afford, you wouldn’t regret the decision. It’s a good solid personal-luxury-car with a lot of pace, a lot of looks, and a lot of technology on offer. The only real problem is this: you’d wish you’d gotten the HEMI, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Clockwise starting from top: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dod From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Front to Back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3 ]]>
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Michigan State Police Say Most Speed Limits are Too Low http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/michigan-state-police-say-most-speed-limits-are-too-low/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/michigan-state-police-say-most-speed-limits-are-too-low/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873681 laser2_302926_7

Michigan State Police photo

 

In his capacity as the former head of the MSP’s  Traffic Services Section it was Lt. Megge’s job to eliminate speed traps set up by local municipalities. A few years ago Megge told the Detroit News, “I’ve spent eight years in traffic services, and I was a crash reconstructionist for five years before that, so I’ve seen my share of fatal wrecks, and I can tell you: Deaths are not caused by speeding. They’re caused by drinking, drugs and inattentiveness. The old adage that speed kills just isn’t realistic. The safest speed is the speed that is correct for that roadway at a given time. A lot of speed limits are set artificially low.”

The state police were one of the groups who backed, against the lobbying of municipalities, a change in Michigan law that required speed limits to be set based on actual traffic data and engineering studies. That law, Public Act 85 proposed to set limits based on what is known as the 85th percentile rule, a widely used measure that sets speed limits at how fast 85% of drivers travel safely. “It just doesn’t seem right to me that we would enforce a law where 90-98 percent of the people are in violation of it,” Lieutenant Megge told the DetNews in 2008. “It’s not the way we should do business in this country.”

After that law was passed, cities, towns and villages, through the Michigan Municipal League, pointed out that the law didn’t specifically require traffic studies and lobbied against revisions to Public Act 85 that would force them to due such studies. At the time, Megge agreed with them, to a point. “There is nothing in the code that specifically requires a municipality to conduct traffic studies,” said Megge, “but enforcement of any law must match the criteria of the law,” technically making invalid those tickets issued on roads whose speed limits were not compliant with P.A. 85. The cities opposed using such studies because they almost invariably call for higher speed limits, potentially reducing revenue from speeding tickets. The revisions eventually passed in 2010.

Since then, Lt. Megge’s job has been overseeing such compliance. Over his career he’s had a hand in the raising of over 400 speed limits across Michigan (though in a small number of cases the studies resulted in lower speed limits). By now there’s more than a decade’s worth of data from those raised speed limits and Megge insists that higher speed limits don’t mean that people drive significantly faster. They drive just as fast as they always did before, and just as safely. They just do so without risking points on their drivers’ licenses. The lieutenant says, “Over the years, I’ve done many follow up studies after we raise or lower a speed limit. Almost every time, the 85th percentile speed doesn’t change, or if it does, it’s by about 2 or 3 mph.”

In addition to the fact that they don’t really do anything to promote traffic safety, Lt. Megge says that unreasonably low speed limits actually make roads less safe by diverting resources away from the kind of law enforcement that has measurable effect. Megge recommends, instead of zealous speed enforcement against drivers who are effectively safe, focusing on drunk drivers, red light runners, drivers and passengers who don’t buckle up, and, an important point, enforcing realistic speed limits against the small minority of drivers who unreasonably and excessively speed.

Alex Mayyasi, at pricenomics.com, has an extensive look at how speeds limits have been and are being set, including an interview with Lt. Megge. As the good Prof. Reynolds says, read the whole thing, then come back here and share your views.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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GM’s First Concept Car and the Influential Result: 1936 Cadillac V16 Aerodynamic Coupe by Fleetwood http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/gms-first-concept-car-and-the-influential-result-1936-cadillac-v16-aerodynamic-coupe-by-fleetwood/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/gms-first-concept-car-and-the-influential-result-1936-cadillac-v16-aerodynamic-coupe-by-fleetwood/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872994 Full gallery here

Full gallery here

This car at first may look to you a lot like any other 1930s coupe, but it was one of the most influential cars of the era, impacting both the way that cars were styled and promoted. You see, in addition to setting the pattern for the way that General Motors’ cars (and their competitors’ cars as well) looked in the immediate prewar period, the 1936 Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe was GM’s first production car that was based on what we now call a concept car. Back then, though, they were more likely to call those concepts “show cars”, and not only was the Aerodynamic Coupe GM’s first production car derived from a show car, that show car was the giant automaker’s first attempt at creating a one-off vehicle just for promotional purposes. It also represented the solidification of Harley Earl and his styling team’s important role in General Motors’ hierarchy and not so incidentally it helped Cadillac replace Packard as America’s preeminent luxury automaker.

The fact that there was an economic depression going on didn’t stop American car companies from participating in the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair exposition in Chicago. Ford’s pavilion featured a chandelier made of three full-size Ford cars suspended from the ceiling. Studebaker constructed a mammoth, 80 foot long wooden model of their Land Cruiser automobile. Chevrolet built and operated an actual assembly plant on the fair grounds where you could watch cars being assembled and even take delivery of a new Chevy at the fair.

A number of automakers prepared special cars for the exposition, particularly the luxury marques. Packard created the “Car of the Dome”, sometimes called “the most famous Packard”, a modified Dietrich style sedan. Pierce Arrow showed their radically styled Siver Arrow. Ford displayed an aerodynamic rear-engined prototype designed by John Tjaarda of the Briggs company called the Briggs Dream Car that was the original concept behind the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr, and Duesenberg created a Rollston bodied supercharged Model SJ Arlington Torpedo sedan designed by Gordon Buehrig and nicknamed “Twenty Grand”. That car’s named derived from it’s $20,000 price, the equivalent of over $350,000 today.

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Clay modelers working on the Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe show car for the 1933 Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago.

With that kind of competition, GM’s newly formed Art and Colour Section took their task seriously. Previewing the fastback rooflines of the 1940s the Cadillac coupe show car had a very long 154 inch wheelbase and a sloping tail. The long and smooth lines were supposed to convey the impression of power and speed. Those lines were accentuated by the sloping rear end and by tapered horizontal accents on the sides of the hood and fenders. Unlike most cars of the day that carried exposed spare tires mounted either on the back of the car or as “side mounts” where the front fenders flowed into the running boards, the Aerodynamic Coupe stashed the spare in the trunk. Actually, that “trunk” inside the bodywork was rather advanced in an era when many luxury cars still had steamer trunks on a rack behind the car to store luggage. Even the exhaust pipes were styled, an innovation that lasts till today, and the exhaust system was tuned to give the car’s V16 engine an appropriate tone.

That V16 engine, in production since 1930 and the first production V16 used for a passenger car, was possibly the first car engine that was styled for aesthetic reasons. The motor received finishes in enamel paint, porcelain, polished aluminum and chrome. Valve covers were polished and detailed. Wiring was hidden away and special attention was paid to how and where the accessories were mounted. The V16 looked so good that Cadillac would apply the same styling to its V8 and V12 engines.

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Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe show car

A “winged goddess” Cadillac hood ornament topped things off and even that received special attention, with a polished finish on its front, while surfaces visible to the driver were dulled, so as not to create glare. Per the coachbuilding terms of the day, the interior was done in”plain style”, about as plain as British “public schools” are public. A dark dashboard is brightened with two slanted strips of chrome, continuing the V motifs that abound on the car. Windows had walnut trim and the various knobs and handles were plated in a satin gold finish. The sun visors were shaped like abstract leaves, made of fine cloth and mounted with screws that had heads of imitation pearl. Instead of metal handles, the doors were closed with rope pulls mounted below the armrests. As would be expected, the deeply cushioned and broad seats were very comfortable.

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While the V16 engine didn’t survive past 1940, features of the Aerodynamic Coupe would find their way into production cars for decades, including the all-steel “turret top” roof, a recessed and lighted license plate housing, the fuel filler hidden in the taillight housing (a feature perhaps most famous for its use in the iconic 1957 Chevrolet sedan) and the use of chrome window surrounds and beltline trim to accentuate the coupe’s lines. The Aerodynamic Coupe itself would make it to production in 1936 more or less unchanged from the concept car.

In the following video, Steve Pasteiner, who runs the AAT prototype shop and who was a long time designer at GM, discusses Harley Earl and the influence of the Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe. I apologize for the video’s audio quality, for some reason it recorded at a low level and I had to boost the gain in editing, resulting in some distortion. It’s still a worthwhile listen for Pasteiner’s insider’s look.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The resulting product was an automobile that looked much more modern to 1930s consumers when compared to the conventional automobiles of the day. Remember, automotive styling was in its infancy in those days and many manufacturers in the 1920s and even later paid virtually no attention to making their cars distinctive. Retired GM designer Dave Holls explained what set the Aerodynamic Coupe apart from its contemporaries, helping to position Cadillac at the top of the American luxury car market:

“Cadillacs were much later than 1933 in form. . . . It was fine styling — if you hold your hand over the front end and look at the car from there back, you begin to see a fair resemblance to the Cord Beverly. . . . This was a time when Cadillac began to make bold, yet careful steps toward change, while Packard hung tenaciously onto its long heritage, making only limited changes. A lot of people went along with them at the time, but the practice established a position, and they were stuck with it, later on with disastrous results.”

This particular 1936 Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe was not just on display at the 2014 Eyes On Design show, it was featured on the poster for this year’s event. It’s owned by Bill and Barbara Parfet, who are well known among classic car collectors. Mr. Parfet has been president of the foundation that supports the great Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, a bit north of Kalamazoo. The ’36 is one of just 52 V16 Cadillacs made for the 1936 model year, each of them pretty much hand built by Cadillac’s Fleetwood body division. While that number of cars may not seem very significant, that year was the first time Cadillac surpassed Packard in annual sales to become the best-selling U.S. luxury marque, a position it still holds, though its leadership in the overall U.S. luxury segment has, in modern times, been eclipsed by foreign competitors, particularly brands from Germany.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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One Of The Best Jobs In The Auto Industry? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/one-of-the-best-jobs-in-the-auto-industry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/one-of-the-best-jobs-in-the-auto-industry/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:51:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873362 Click here to view the embedded video.

I’m honored to say that we have a few members of the B&B who are involved with Ford Australia, but sadly, Neil Trickey isn’t one of them.

Trickey’s official title is “Prototype Build Co-Ordinator”, and his duties include camouflaging new cars before they hit the road. While Trickey’s exact tactics are trade secrets, the short video above shows us how some tape, spray paint and special Lycra coverings are used to disguise design changes on prototypes. Trickey also mentions “transfers” being used – which are the technical term for the new type of camouflage with odd looking patterns that are meant to reduce how visible the styling changes really are. But since the Falcon only had minor changes to the front and read end, Trickey went old school.

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Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Confirmed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-charger-srt-hellcat-confirmed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-charger-srt-hellcat-confirmed/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:16:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873290 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat

Road & Track has found evidence, courtesy of an SAE paper, that the 6.2L supercharged V8 from the Challenger SRT Hellcat, will make its way into the Charger.

The SAE has apparently certified the engine’s output for both the Challenger and Charger, but R&T is left wondering whether the 6-speed manual will be an option in the Charger, when it has traditionally been automatic only.

Even so, the new ZF 8-speed auto, with launch control and thoroughly modern guts, is nothing like the automatics of yesteryear. A stick shift would be nice to have, but the Hellcat seems to get its best drag strip performance when equipped with the automatic. After experiencing the 8-speed in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, my own desire for a manual Hellcat is actually somewhat diminished.

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Aston Martin Revives The Lagonda, By Invitation Only http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/aston-martin-revives-the-lagona-by-invitation-only/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/aston-martin-revives-the-lagona-by-invitation-only/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:05:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873266 aston-martin-lagonda

 

If you want an Aston Martin Lagonda, you must meet two requirements

  1. Get an invite from Aston Martin
  2. Live in the Middle East

The new Lagonda will share its underpinnings and V12 engine with other Astons, but the sales and marketing process will be quite different.

Orders will only be taken from select clients who receive an invitation from Aston Martin. The Lagonda will be marketed in the Middle East only, and each car will be hand tailored to the buyer’s taste. It should also cost a bloody fortune.

One reason that bespoke cars are so popular in the region is that they are a rare chance for individuals to express themselves in a society that enforces conformity in most other areas of life. With dress, behavior, social customs and other outlets for expression under strict control, the automobile is one item that can be customized to reflect one’s personal tastes, though previously, this has manifested itself in option packages, paintwork or bespoke interior. This is the first time we’ve seen an all-new car conceived this this specific market.

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Outstanding Subprime Loan Balances Hit 8-Year Highs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/outstanding-subprime-loan-balances-hit-8-year-highs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/outstanding-subprime-loan-balances-hit-8-year-highs/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:24:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873226 445x350x20subprime-blog480-445x350.png.pagespeed.ic.uIhvuYIPjL

Buried in a feel good story about auto loans comes the news that subprime auto loans are at levels that we haven’t seen in nearly a decade.

Citing data from Equifax, Automotive News reports

The credit bureau also noted originations and total outstanding balances for subprime auto loans — defined as loans to customers with credit scores of 640 or below — also hit recent highs.

Equifax said subprime originations were 2.6 million units year to date through April, representing 32 percent of all auto loan originations. The total outstanding balance of subprime auto loans was $46.2 billion — the highest in eight years, the credit bureau said.

Don’t expect that 32 percent figure to let up any time soon. The glut of credit available for auto financing - driven by securitized auto loans sold as investment grade instruments – is going to keep the auto financing business alive and kicking for the foreseeable future.

But don’t worry, guys. This time, it’s different.

]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/outstanding-subprime-loan-balances-hit-8-year-highs/feed/ 103 Acura NSX Prototype Flame Broiled on Burgerkingring http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/acura-nsx-prototype-flame-broiled-on-burgerkingring/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/acura-nsx-prototype-flame-broiled-on-burgerkingring/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:35:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872898 acuransxfire

It’s been years now since Honda introduced a new generation Acura NSX as a concept and it looks like it may take even more time to reach production since the prototype that was recently spotted testing at the Nurburgring circuit has been pretty much destroyed, apparently the victim of an engine compartment fire.

 

The fire looks to have been unrelated to the electric drive that powers the all-wheel-drive hybrid supercar’s front wheels. Germany’s Motor Talk reports that the test drivers were able to exit the car without injury but that the NSX prototype appears to be a complete write-off. Though Honda would not comment, a photographer who witnessed the incident said that the fire started in the engine compartment and subsequently spread into the passenger compartment and trunk.

While fires involving the Chevy Volt, Fisker Karma and Tesla Model S have raised the issue of electric and hybrid vehicles’ fire safety (mostly out of proportion to the actual fire risk of EVs), the batteries that supply current to the two electric motors up front in the NSX were reportedly not involved in the fire.

The incident has incidentally has allowed us a look at the NSX’s construction. Composite body panels (which melted in the fire) are mounted to an aluminum unibody, not entirely unlike the Pontiac Fiero, thought the little mid-engine Pontiac had a superstructure made of steel.

More photos here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Ford Escort GT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1988-ford-escort-gt-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1988-ford-escort-gt-2/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872602 04 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost of the Escort GTs you see these days are the Mazda-based cars that came out starting in the 1991 model year. The first-gen North American Escort, loosely based on its European counterpart, was built from 1981 through 1990, and examples are becoming very rare in wrecking yards. We saw this first-half-of-1988 Escort GT last month, and now I’ve found this “1988.5″ model in a Southern California yard.
02 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou could get a 5.0 “HO” V8 in the Mustang and Continental Mark VII, and so Ford just had to label the 1.9 CVH engine as an HO as well. 110 horsepower out of this engine, which was two more than the ’88 Honda Civic Si had.
09 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI am experiencing an 80s flashback, looking at these tape graphics. Makes me want to loot an S&L.
10 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot much left of the interior. This might have been an interior-parts donor for a nicer GT.
14 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe rear wing, which did a fine job of trapping a couple of decades’ worth of dirt, won’t be going to The Crusher with the rest of the car.

01 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1988 Ford Escort GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Latest GM Recall Woes Hurt Q2 Results http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-digest-july-25-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-digest-july-25-2014/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873066 GM Renaissance Center

In today’s General Motors digest: The automaker takes it on the chin in its quarterly report; the analysts have their say; GM Korea could allow its workers to build the next Cruze if only they would put down the picket signs; 45 attorney generals are investigating the February 2014 recall; and CEO Mary Barra will be the keynote speaker for a connected-vehicle forum.

Autoblog reports GM made a net income of $200 million for Q2 2014, in comparison to $1.2 billion during Q2 2013. Speaking of $1.2 billion, that was how much the automaker paid in recall-related repairs this quarter, with a $900 million charge ready for future recall campaigns. Finally, $400 million has been set aside for the Feinberg compensation plan, though $200 million may be added down the road.

Meanwhile, Automotive News collected a number of analyst quotes regarding the poor Q2 2014 showing, including KBB.com’s Jack Nerad proclaiming that while the automaker may be handling recalls better these days, “it is paying for past sins in terms of the bottom line.” Michael Krebs of AutoTrader.com adds that GM “would have had an outstanding quarter” were it not for the ongoing recall parade, and both Brian Johnson of Barclays Capital (but not of AC/DC) and Morningstar’s David Whiston believing brighter days ahead in Europe and outstanding success in China.

Speaking of the Asia-Pacific, GM Korea management informed the employee’s union that if the latter calls off its impending strike over stalled wage negotiations, the next-gen Chevrolet Cruze would be built in its Gunsan facility. The factory — where the Orlando and current-gen Cruze are assembled — is one of four under GM Korea, and boasts a production capacity of 260,000 units per year.

Back at home, The Detroit News reports GM is under investigation by 45 attorney generals over the February 2014 ignition switch recall, as well as auto safety agency Transport Canada. On the federal level, CEO Mary Barra stated she hasn’t met with the prosecutors or the grand jury regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigations into wire and bankruptcy fraud related to the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy proceedings.

Finally, Barra will be the keynote speaker at the 21st World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems in Detroit September 7. The event, focused on connected vehicles, will attract 10,000 guests from 65 countries to share and discuss ideas, challenges and strategies regarding the burgeoning scene. Barra’s keynote will focus on the future of intelligent transportation.

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-rt-scat-pack-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-rt-scat-pack-6mt/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:08:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873114 ElectraFest 1365

This doesn’t feel like something I should admit in public, let alone in the electronic pages of this august publication, but I always had a tiny little problem with the Challenger SRT8, way down in my super soul.

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If you haven’t seen Vanishing Point, put your laptop down, get out of the bathroom, and go watch it. While it’s far from flawless, the movie that made the Challenger immortal has much to recommend it. I can imagine that modern filmgoers might have a bit of trouble understanding how it all comes together; were it to be remade today there would probably be fifteen minutes of explanatory voiceover a la Pacific Rim. “My name is Kowalski. I was a cop once, and I became disenchanted with authority, and so on, and so forth…” Thankfully, that isn’t the case with the original.

Of course, the Vanishing Point Chally is a white R/T. Which means that, by definition, the coolest possible Challenger is a white R/T. Unfortunately, until now that meant the coolest possible Challenger wasn’t much use on a track, particularly in the stopping department. Until now.
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Chrysler directly compares this new R/T “Scat Pack” to the old SRT8 Core. As you can see in the graphic above, there’s more equipment for less money. Another valid comparison might be to the old R/T 5.7 Track Pack, which was underpowered and underbraked compared to a 5.0 Mustang. Not so this new car, which has 485 horsepower and four-piston Brembos front and back.

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The track analysis I did earlier this week puts the Scat Pack 6MT neatly between the V6 and the Hellcat, as you’d expect. What’s less clear is that the Scat Pack is a massive, massive improvement over the old R/T as a dynamic proposition. It’s not just that it has more brake and better handling than its predecessor, it’s that it’s better-balanced despite having an additional hundred and fifteen horsepower. Yes, the nose feels heavier than that of the V6, but that’s a lot like saying that dating Monica Bellucci would pose a bit of a language problem compared to dating Lena Dunham. Who cares.

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It’s a decent car on the track, and I’d say it’s at least in the vicinity of the 5.0 Mustang, particularly in the way it sheds speed, but it’s hard to imagine most Scat Packs ever seeing a racetrack. Let’s talk street. In order to get to the rather truncated track time we were offered with the Challengers, I first had to drive and ride for three hours through the rural areas surrounding Portland in a six-speed Scat Pack. Much of that drive took place at 30mph or slower thanks to heavy concentrations of cyclists on the road, but that was a bit of a blessing because it gave me a chance to evaluate the Challenger’s low-speed manners.

The control efforts are absurdly low, and I mean that literally. This car has four hundred and eighty-five horsepower and it’s no more difficult to drive than a Mazda3. The shift action is fingertip-light and the Tremec TR6060 has clearly defined gating. I was never troubled by any skip-shift silliness. Your grandmother could drive this car, as they used to say in the car rags. Plus it’s quiet until you stand on the throttle and then it’s merely stirring, not annoying.

With this round of interior revisions, Chrysler’s finally bringing the Challenger up to the standards of its sedan siblings. I’d say that the brightwork and plastics quality place the Scat Pack about halfway between the dismal Charger and the enchanting 300C. There’s real stamped aluminum scattered throughout the interior and a fashionably thick steering wheel. My driving partner for the event was befuddled that the “shift paddles” didn’t work, but he eventually accepted my explanation that they were to control volume and track selection on the 8.4-inch uConnect.

“Yeah, I guess it makes sense that the shifter on the console would have to move while you’re paddle shifting,” he opined.

“Excuse me,” I said, “there’s something really important on my phone I have to pay attention to for an hour or so.” This latest uConnect is as good as it is elsewhere and I was able to complete a fairly detailed Bluetooth phone call while repeatedly throttling up and down through the gears. The climate-control knobs are a little wobbly, the same way they are in a Fiat 500L, but remember: this is an engine that you’d have to pay a significant tariff to get in a German car. My old Audi S5 was twenty thousand dollars more expensive and brought just three-quarters of the power to the table. The current Audi S5 has that candy-ass supercharged V-6, which is just as fast as the old V8 but that’s like saying that a Double Quarter Pounder weighs the same as a filet mignon from Ruth’s Chris. Who cares.

The car’s a middle finger to every CO2-restricted, low-testosterone, involuntarily-celibate German coupe out there. It will run twelve-second quarter-miles with no trouble and it gets attention everywhere it goes. The modest external changes for 2015 are improvements, particularly the “6.4L” logo. There’s now a set of Bimmer-style angel eyes on the thing, too, which will matter to someone.

You can get it in white and then you’ll have a proper Vanishing Point car. There goes the Challenger… the super-driver of the golden West. My test car was $44,875 including navigation and leather. Yeah, a Mustang five-liter will hang with it most anywhere but it’s not the same thing and we both know it. Go ahead and buy one with my blessing. It’s better than ever, and it’s finally got the right badge.

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Ford Falcon Receives New Face http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-falcon-receives-new-face-in-its-twilight-age/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-falcon-receives-new-face-in-its-twilight-age/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873042 ford-falcon-xr8-1

This will be the face of the last of the V8 interceptors for Ford’s Falcon, and that’s only the beginning.

Autoblog reports the Falcon’s new face is in line with the upcoming Mustang, as well as the Fusion and Mondeo. Unlike the front-drivers, however, the Falcon’s new look — beginning with the XR8 — will come with firepower in the form of a 5-liter supercharged V8, as well as a trio of six-cylinder engines and the EcoBoost four-pot.

Other touches include LED tail lamps meant to show off the Falcon’s backside to the Commodores trailing behind it, and headlamps with that are specific to the Australian sedan. Beyond this, the Falcon’s facelift is but a mid-cycle refresh for the record books.

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Nissan Loses Money On Every Leaf Replacement Battery Sold http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kuhlman-nissan-loses-money-per-leaf-replacement-battery-sold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kuhlman-nissan-loses-money-per-leaf-replacement-battery-sold/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873026 2011_Nissan_Leaf_SL_--_10-28-2011

In June, Nissan announced that Leaf owners could obtain a replacement battery pack for $5,500 upon trading in the old unit. While a boon to said owners, the automaker is losing blood on the deal every time a pack is sold.

Green Car Reports interviewed Nissan vice president of global communications Jeff Kuhlman, who explained that the low price for the new pack was the result of his employer subsidizing the price, though he declined to state how much Nissan spends per replacement. Thus, no profit is being made at this time off of the exchange.

However, Nissan isn’t yet hurting on this “customer-first” initiative. According to Kuhlman, no one has taken the automaker up on its Leaf battery replacement program.

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Audi Leaves CVTs Behind For Dual-Clutch Automatics http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/audi-leaves-cvts-behind-for-dual-clutch-automatics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/audi-leaves-cvts-behind-for-dual-clutch-automatics/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873010 34 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

CVT haters, rejoice: Audi’s latest set of Multitronic CVTs will be the automaker’s last.

According to The Motor Report, the automaker believes it has done all it can with CVTs, and will instead focus on the S-tronic dual-clutch automatic family of transmissions. Both the S-tronic and traditional automatic offerings will fill the void left behind when the models so equipped with Multitronic are updated or replaced.

However, Audi may also do away with the traditional automatic, as well. Currently, the automaker is hard work on an S-tronic built to handle the torque loads and AWD that are being handled by eight-speed autos at present. No word on when the traditional auto’s day may come to pass.

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Ford Loads The Scales With Apples And Oranges http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-loads-the-scales-with-apples-and-oranges/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-loads-the-scales-with-apples-and-oranges/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872970 15F150SnowPlow_01_HR

From Jalopnik‘s Andrew Collins comes the discovery that Ford’s “weight savings” between the 2014 F-150 Lariat and the 2015 Lariat isn’t entirely a fair comparison.

As Collins reports, Ford confirmed that the two trucks were not quite the same. The 2014 had a 5.0L V8, while the 2015 had the all-new 2.7L Ecoboost V6.

Collins writes

Their defense; the new 2.7 is meant to be comparable to a “mid-range V8,” which the 5.0 is (the 2.7 is just 5 lb-ft of torque shy of the 5.0′s output, but the V8 makes 35 more horsepower). They’ve also been suggesting that the 2015 V8 (and 3.5 EcoBoost) may get a power bump, for what it’s worth.

But the fact remains; a 2015 F-150 5.0 Lariat SuperCrew V8 exists, and that would have been a more direct comparison against the outgoing truck.

As I maintained earlier this week, a lot of this stuff isn’t worth much, until we see a full table of engine specs, curb weights, towing and payload capacities and fuel economy figures. For now, we’re getting carefully packaged tidbits of info from Ford PR.

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Chrysler’s Crossover Will Share Minivan Architecture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chryslers-crossover-will-share-minivan-architecture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chryslers-crossover-will-share-minivan-architecture/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:37:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872946 550x366x2014-Dodge-Duranto_00141.jpg.pagespeed.ic.pOnDvu-PCw

What’s obvious to us isn’t always clear to the rest of the automotive world. To anyone who frequents TTAC, the upcoming Chrysler three-row CUV was destined to be built off of the minivan platform, but some other corners of the auto world didn’t seem to get the memo. Chrysler brand boss Al Gardner took the time to clear that up.

Speaking to Motor Trend, Gardner all-but confirmed that the front-drive crossover will share the next-gen front-drive architecture that will be utilized by the next-generation vans. A close reading of FCA’s 5-year plan, as well as Chrysler’s overall product portfolio suggests that the three-row crossover is a great way to help lower their CAFE rating, especially with a plug-in hybrid variant – which the new minvan will have from the get-go. You can bet that the CUV will get this technology as well.

According to MT, the Dodge Durango was ruled out because “simply isn’t large enough for many customers in the segment and is too aggressive”. I can’t say I agree with the former, but even so, it’s a moot point. Leveraging the front-drive architecture, with its superior fuel economy, regulatory and packaging characteristics is a no-brainer for a company that badly needs to put a dent in its CAFE ratings.

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Exclusive: General Motors Working On Sonic EV With 200-Mile Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/exclusive-general-motors-working-on-sonic-ev-with-200-mile-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/exclusive-general-motors-working-on-sonic-ev-with-200-mile-range/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872874 450x337xSonic-LTZ-front-450x337.jpg.pagespeed.ic.JeJw11oIyx

The upcoming pure electric vehicle being discussed in the wake of the Opel Ampera’s demise will also be sold in the United States, in the form of a Chevrolet Sonic.

The Sonic-based EV will reportedly have a 200 mile range, which will presumably come from the new battery that LG Chem (battery supplier for the Volt) is working on right now. That will arrive in 2016, which suggests that the Sonic EV won’t be introduced until at least that date.

The Sonic EV will also be built in Michigan, which will allow GM to gain regulatory credits for selling a pure EV that is also made in America. The Chevrolet Spark EV, which is built in Korea, is not eligible, and has a range of just 82 miles.

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Buick Prepares For Rental Fleet Dominance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-prepares-for-rental-fleet-dominance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-prepares-for-rental-fleet-dominance/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:16:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872850 Opel_Cascada_Innovation_2.0_BiTurbo_CDTI-550x366

Automotive News is reporting that the Opel Cascada will make it Stateside in 2016. Aside from giving Buick a fresh new product that isn’t a crossover, the Cascada arrives at an opportune time to capitalize on a small but important niche: the rental market.

With the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible and VW Eos, rental fleets now have an alternative to the pony car twins for their convertible car class. Believe it or not, not all rental car clients want a Mustang or a Camaro, and the front-drive packaging of the Cascada allows for some packaging efficiencies that aren’t there in a rear drive setup (luggage space, anyone?).

Normally, fleet sales, and daily rental specifically, is treated as a last resort for undesirable product. But in this case, The Cascada is in a position to corner a market that, while declining, is currently wide open – something that GM is familiar with.

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